To be happy is possible, to be happier than others is impossible

We all want to be happy, but we often tie our happiness to certain conceptions. One such common conception is that we will become happy when we become better than others in the things we consider as sources of happiness. For example, as compared to others, if we get a slimmer body, a higher paycheck, a bigger house, a sleeker car, a smarter phone, we will be happier. Or so we believe. 

Even if we surpass others in such things, someone in our circle of comparison will soon surpass us. And with today’s interconnected world enormously expanding our circle of comparison, we will almost always encounter someone who surpasses us. 

Additionally and more importantly, we often believe that others are happier than what they actually are. Why do we believe this? Because we attribute to worldly things the capacity to provide far greater happiness than what they actually provide. 

Because of these twin misbeliefs – having more things than others can make us happy, and people with lots of those things are happy – our trying to be happier than others is a permanently doomed pursuit. 

Then, can we never be happy? We can be, provided we cultivate satisfaction as a mental discipline (Bhagavad-gita 17.16). To practice this discipline, we need to focus on the good things we have and relish them. 

The most important good thing we always have is our indwelling Lord, Krishna. Being the all-attractive Supreme, he is the ultimate source of all sources of happiness. When we connect with him by practicing bhakti-yoga, we start relishing a sublime inner fulfillment that doesn’t depend on externals. Moreover, that inner connection gives us access to divine guidance. Being thus guided, we learn to use the things we have to make worthwhile contributions and thereby gain meaningful satisfaction. 


Think it over:

  • Why is trying to be happier than others a doomed pursuit?
  • How can we cultivate satisfaction?
  • What causes you dissatisfaction? Does a comparison with others underlie that dissatisfaction? How can you free yourself from such dissatisfaction? 



17.16 And satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control and purification of one’s existence are the austerities of the mind.

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  1. JAPA brings you real happiness

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  2. First of all, a superb title for a superb article. secondly, you have very nicely summarized the popular wordly notion about happiness in two lines – “To have having more things than others can make us happy, and people with lots of those things are happy”. The way you ended the article is also very befitting – how Krishna is the best thing all of us have. However, I think the sloka shown here is 17.15. It should be 17.16

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