The search for happiness is often the source of the greatest unhappiness
The very things we seek happiness in often sentence us to unhappiness. A pervasive yet tragic example is of addicts. Food addicts can’t live without overeating and can’t live with overeating’s consequences such as obesity and various health problems. The same applies even more consequentially to alcoholics.
Nature too furnishes examples of this reverse effect principle of “seeking-happiness-and-getting-unhappiness.” Fish go after baits and get caught, and mice run towards cheese and find themselves in mousetraps.
Where does this reverse effect principle come from? From misdirection, explains Gita wisdom. The Bhagavad-gita (05.22) phrases this principle thus: the sources of sensual pleasures are the wombs of misery. The context of this verse underscores the misdirection of our search for happiness from the spiritual to the material. The preceding verse (05.21) and a subsequent verse (05.24) urge us to seek spiritual happiness within. We are souls who are blissful parts of Krishna. When we act according to our spiritual nature and strive to lovingly serve him, we realize our innate blissfulness.
But unfortunately due to misidentification, we think of ourselves as our material bodies instead of as spiritual souls. And due to misdirection, we seek pleasure in worldly things instead of in Krishna. This misdirection takes us away from spiritual consciousness to material consciousness, where we subject ourselves to various material miseries. Thus, we become like animals that in pursuing a mirage go further and further away from the very water they are craving for. That’s how our search for happiness takes us instead towards unhappiness.
Gita wisdom helps end our misdirection. It guides us to seek happiness internally by practicing bhakti-yoga. Instead of chasing after outer pleasures, when we strive to serve Krishna, we gradually find within, in his loving remembrance, the happiness we had been seeking in vain without.
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