The Secret of Being Happy
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on October 19, 1972)

The nature of the Absolute is incomprehensible to the mind, which is another way of saying that Truth is incomprehensible and impossible to contain in the mind of a human being. We fail in our lives, whatever be our walk of life. We cannot contain the essence of the matter in the form it takes. Our minds are so constituted that they can visualise and conceive only forms, but not the substance of the form or the essence behind the form. Just as when we look at a person we cannot see their soul or intelligence and behold only their body, their external behaviour and conduct, the Absolute principle hidden behind the things of the world cannot be cognised and appreciated by the mind. Due to this difficulty we mistake the form for the content, and exhaust reality in our frail attempts when we mistake the particular, the discreet, the separated and the objective for the unlimited or the infinite.

All wonderful things in the world take place suddenly. They do not come with premeditation or a notice given to us some years before. Any miraculous event, for better or worse, takes place suddenly. There is sudden death, sudden catastrophe, sudden cataclysm, sudden rainfall, sudden earthquake, and so on; they elude the grasp of the mind, which is accustomed to thinking in terms of calculation. Truth is super-calculative. It does not come under the mathematical logic of the human mind. There is only one thing which cannot be measured through arithmetical or mathematical rules; that is Truth. It has no length and breadth, no depth, no size, no shape, and yet it is the only reality. That which is the Supreme Reality is incapable of measurement through the yardstick of human understanding, and yet we want to measure it with our own measuring chains, foot rulers, etc., and want to limit it to this comprehensive structure of our limited mind.

The mind is made up of certain formations of thought, and therefore, it can conceive only forms, whereas Truth is formless. Has anyone seen the form of Truth? Where does it exist? Nobody knows where Truth exists, how long it will exist, who created it, and what its shape and construction are. Nothing can be said about it, and yet everybody accepts, unwittingly though, that Truth is supreme. How do we say that Truth is supreme when we know nothing about it? We have not seen it, cannot hear it, cannot touch it, cannot taste it, cannot smell it, cannot measure it, cannot calculate it, cannot argue about it, and yet we concede it is the only existent value.

This goes to prove that the essential values of life are non-calculative, non-commercial and impossible of quantitative measurement. Quantities are different from Truth values. Truth is not a quantity. It is, perhaps, if at all we can call it a quality, the highest conceivable quality.

The quality involved and hidden behind the quantity is the Truth of that quantity. What is the worth of a human being? Not the size of the body, not the weight, not the structure which is visible to the eyes. How do we judge the value or the worth of a person? Is it by looking at the height or the width or the weight or the relationship the body has with other beings? It is nothing of the kind. The worth of a human being is the quality of the human being. The quality is different from the quantitative bodily structure. Though we know that quality is superior to quantity and the value of a human being is qualitative, we are unable to comprehend what this quality is. Inasmuch as we fail to understand the Truth value, or the quality of a human being, we make the mistake of judging the worth of a human being by riches, by possessions, and by objective relationships, which are all quantitative measurements.

To evaluate the worth of a person through the riches one possesses, the appearance of one’s body or one’s objective relationships would be to equate the person with a quantity, while a person is not a quantity. We are not a weight or a length or a breadth. We are something quite different from these measurements of space and time. There is some worth and value, some meaning, significance and connotation in us which we intuitively feel but cannot explain, cannot understand and, therefore, cannot appreciate. Inasmuch as we are unable to have a grasp of this quality in us, we run for quantities. We want a huge furnished bungalow to live in, a vast field, a garden and many possessions, which is a quantitative satisfaction that we are trying to achieve because we have lost the quality of life.

If we have a quality in us, we will not ask for quantities. We will not want riches, buildings, lands and properties. We run after properties and quantitative possessions because quality is missing. When quality has been lost, we want to possess quantity; but unfortunately, quantity is a perishable entity. It comes and goes. It never stays with a person. We cannot possess a building for all time. We cannot be rich or be a landholder for all time, nor even will we be able to possess this body for all time. So all quantitative associations of our personality are doomed to ultimate failure, and yet, unfortunately for us all, there is nothing in this world but a quantity.

The world is a huge body of mass which is a quantity. When we look at the stellar system, the solar system, we see a quantity. When we see earth and air and fire and ether, we see a quantity. When we see a human being, we see a quantitative body. Everything is a quantity. But quantity, being external, material and physical, has a beginning and an end, and therefore, those who depend on these quantitative values for their happiness suffer in life. An unhappy person is that person who hangs his happiness on a quantity of the world. It may be money, it may be a person, it may be an office, it may be land or a building; all these are perishable things which will desert us today or tomorrow. Ultimately, we cannot even have a friend in this world because friends, again, are quantitative relationships. It is one body connecting itself with another body. It will not last long.

So what is our fate, ultimately? To suffer, it looks like that. From birth to death there is a tension and agony and vexation in the mind. We do not know how to make a complaint and about what to make a complaint. It is all mystery and agony and sorrow from creation onwards. Why? Because the very conception of creation of the world is a quantitative concept. Even if we think of the whole universe at one stroke, it is a quantity that we are thinking in our mind, and therefore, even our logic of the cosmos is only a transference of these quantitative values which we attribute to the ordinary objects of the world.

The mind has four defects, on account of which it reads only defects in things. One is, first of all, that the item of quantity which presents itself before the mind is a source of unhappiness for the mind, as I have explained to you. Quantity – everything is a quantity, a mass, and a physical body. This is a source of trouble for us because we cannot possess them always, nor can we establish a relationship with them.

The second defect of the mind is to associate quality with a relationship. Though we know that quality is an inherent truth behind a quantity, we cannot understand what that quality is. For example, we say a flower is blue. Now, the blueness is a quality of that flower, but this blueness is incapable of perception unless there are other things different from blue. If everything in the world is blue, there will be no such thing as blue colour. So the existence of a quality of an object as we conceive it is only a relationship of one quantity with another quantity, so that even this so-called quality has become a camouflage of quantity.

The third thing is the relationship that we try to establish between one thing and another thing, which is very artificial. There is no such thing as a physical relationship of one thing with another thing because the moment one physical body relates itself organically with another physical body, the two bodies become one body. But that does not happen. We cannot see one body merging into another.

The fourth way of thinking is to conceive every quantity as existing in a particular condition. It is up or down, right or left. It is heavy or light. It is moving or not moving. These are the modes or conditions that we attribute to objects.

But the Truth value of all things is the undying value that is invisible to the physical eyes and incapable of cognition through the apparatus of the mind and the senses. There is something within us that we do not know ourselves – some mystery within us, on account of which we love life. What is the most dear thing to us? Life itself. All activities are for the sake of living. All possessions are for the sake of living. And what kind of living? We want a free and unhampered living, which we call a life of happiness.

Our aspiration, therefore, is to manifest in our life a quality called happiness which is unending in space and in time. This is only a theoretical and academic acceptance to most people. Learned men, scholars and protagonists of religion do accept that truth and righteousness are the supreme meanings of life. But no one knows what Truth is, and no one can define what righteousness is. Inasmuch as its very conception is difficult, it becomes more difficult to implement in one’s life, so that our learning is a waste. It has become a husk. It is a quantity that we are carrying on our heads as a kind of weight and a load which is of no value to us when we are actually in need and are suffering. When we suffer, we have to suffer alone. No one can help because suffering is a private condition of the mind which cannot be transferred to other people. It is brought about by circumstances beyond the control of the mind.

Though the sufferings of the mind, the agonies of people, are multifarious, they have a single cause. Ultimately all diseases come from one cause: a confusion of attitudes and relationships – which means to say, the laws of the Truth value of a thing and the hanging on of the body and the mind to the ‘untruth value’ in the object. That which is untrue is that which is perishable. Anything that is subject to destruction is untruth. The very nature of Truth is non-perishability. The moment it is subject to destruction, we do not call it true. “Oh, it is not true. It has gone. It is not real,” we say.

But what do we see in the world which is enduring? We cannot say anything in the physical cosmos is enduring. We say the creation itself has a beginning. Once upon a time God created the world, and so on; it had a beginning, and therefore, it will have an end also. It shall be withdrawn. But there is an underlying basic being which is within all and which urges itself forward as an unavoidable and irreducible minimum of existence in us. When everything goes, one thing will not go. When everything passes away, there is something which remains.

Just imagine for a few minutes that everything is gone. The sun has gone cold, the solar system has been smashed, the earth is pounded to powder, the whole ocean is dried up into the air, and all the air is merged into space. There is nothing here, not a single living being to see anywhere. Everything is gone. What remains? Can you imagine what remains? Nothing remains except the person who thinks that everything is gone. You remain as the contemplator of the fact that everything has gone. The earth has gone, the heaven has gone, the whole cosmos has gone, but you are there to imagine that everything has gone. This idea cannot be abolished. Though the whole cosmos goes, your essence cannot go because even if you imagine that you go, there is an imaginer of that fact of your going.

There is something very interesting behind us, something impossible of abolition and destruction. However much we may deny, there is something behind every kind of denial. Even if we think we are dead, there is a thought of being dead which cannot die. So there is a deathless, unabolishable, conscious meaning behind the transitory values of earthly quantities. When everything goes, something will remain. That is our friend. When all friends desert us, one friend will not leave us. Who is that friend? If the whole world goes, naturally human beings also go, and we cannot have human friends. Then who is that friend that is left? It is that thing which remains as the conscious contemplator of all these sources of everything.

It is impossible to imagine what this is because we have no time to think all this. We are busy with quantities, calculations, counting, measurements. These take all our lives. Where is time for us to think of this fundamental vital value which is keeping us alive in this world? This is the hope that is in our hearts. Even if we are in the worst of predicaments, we have a hope, “Tomorrow I shall be better.” But who gives us this hope? Not the things, because they are untrustworthy. Not one thing in the world can be trusted for long, and yet we have a hope, “I shall succeed.” Who told us that we will succeed? Something tells us from within. That something within us, which we are unable to see and yet are accepting unwittingly, is our real friend. This friend of ours is inseparable from us. It is our bosom friend, our alter ego. This friend alone will help us when we are in agony. When we are thrown to the winds and nobody wants us, this friend will come and help us, and nobody else. We have no father, no mother who will help us always, no friends, no relations, no riches. We cannot trust even the health of our own body, such is the untrustworthy nature of things. And yet we struggle and stress and work hard for something, we know not what.

We do not know what will happen to us tomorrow, yet we are very busy today. What makes us keep busy?  Nobody knows what our condition tomorrow will be, and yet we are so busy, very active, as if we are having an eternity in front of us, while it is not the truth. The breath can stop even in a minute for some reason. Nobody knows when their life will end, and yet there is a hope for eternal life. This hope keeps us alive. If this hope were not to be, life would have been impossible. If it were a fact that in a few minutes everything will crumble to pieces, how could life be possible? But in spite of the knowledge of the fact that anything can come to an end at any time, hope is secure.

We are like masters living in a precarious condition. Everything is uncertain, and yet we are happy. How is it? How is it that we are happy, smiling and laughing when everything is insecure, uncertain and untrustworthy? We do not know what will happen the next moment, and yet we are happy. We are smiling. We go to bed very comfortably. What is this? This is a secret within us. In spite of the whole world being perishable and untrustworthy, there is some very trustworthy, hopeful meaning in our inner personality. That is the Truth value of all things.

This Truth value is present in everything. It is in you and in everybody. Inasmuch as it is in all things, we try to love things. When we love an object, we are loving only the Truth behind it, not the form of it, because the form is untrustworthy. Yet, we mistake one thing for another. The Truth within that attracts our attention is mistaken for the body in which it is encased, and then, generally, we hug bodies, while really what attracts us is the meaning behind that body. It is not a beautiful flower that attracts us; it is the beauty that is in the flower. Yet when we smell the flower, we cannot smell the beauty within it. Beauty is different from the beautiful object, yet we cannot make this distinction. The beauty is the Truth behind it, whereas the object is perishable. The flower can fade at any moment but the principle of beauty cannot fade; it is eternal. The aesthetic value is as eternal a value as the moral value and the metaphysical value. So we are attracted by the eternal values present in things – philosophical, spiritual, moral or aesthetic, whatever we may call it. While these values attract us, we confound the value of form. Instead of loving beauty, we love a beautiful object and then come to grief because the object perishes, and then we think the beauty itself is dead. That is not so.

It is not the sound that a musician makes that pleases us. It is the music principle behind it. The principle of music is harmony, and harmony manifests itself in colour and sound. When harmony manifests itself in colour, we call it art such as painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. When art manifests itself through sound, we call it music. When art manifests itself through thought, we call it literature. That is the harmony of value manifesting itself through visual, auditory and intelligible mediums.

So what we love is not the musical sound that is made, but the harmony of the principle that is involved behind it. What we love is not a landscape or a flower or a painting or a sculptural image, but the harmonious element that is embedded in it dexterously by the artist. The mind gets attracted to the harmonious feature of the form. It is not the form that attracts; remember once again, it is the harmony that is implanted in that body that attracts our mind, whether it is through sound as music or through colour and form as in sculpture, painting, etc. We mistake the qualitative harmonious eternal meaning behind things for the form in which they are hidden. So our loves are also sorrows. Anyone who loves must also weep one day or the other. The reason is that love is connected to objects. Love itself is good because it is a principle of eternity, but it is connected with an object which is perishable; therefore, it beings grief.

If we are to be happy in the world, we have to learn the art of disentangling the Truth value, the harmony value, the eternity value from the forms of things. We must learn to love without an object in front of us. Having an object for our love is not necessary. When there is an object for the sake of love, it is temporary love, perishable love, mortal love. The supreme love emanates from Being itself, Pure Being. It is a quality. The sun can shine in the sky even if the earth does not exist. The sun does not necessarily need an object to shine upon, yet it can shine. Its glory cannot be in any way diminished merely because there are no objects to shine upon. Likewise, love does not get diminished merely because there are no objects in front of it. As a matter of fact, objective love is perishable, transitory, earthly love which will bring sorrow to us. There is bereavement after physical love, but in spiritual contemplation of beauty and love there is no such hazard.

Objectless love is identical with contemplation. It is not an emotion. While objective love, physical love is an emotion which runs towards a physical form, spiritual love is a contemplation of Being within itself; therefore, no one can be happy as long as one pins one’s faith on perishable forms.

Just have a glance over the field of thoughts and feelings that occur to your mind throughout the day, from morning to evening. Are they connected with forms or are they independent, unselfish, impersonal contemplations? When you assess the value of your thoughts, feelings and emotions throughout the day, you will realise that most of them, if not all, are connected to things. When you start thinking, you think of a person, of an object, of some perishable condition of which you are very much worried. The philosophical aspect of thinking is brushed aside on account of inadequate understanding of things, and we take to a purely objective form of thinking. That means to say, we live in an object world rather than the world of Truth.

Satyam eva jayate nānṛtam (Mundaka Up. 3.1.6): “That which succeeds, that which lives long, that which shall endure forever is Truth, and not untruth,” is the declaration of the Upanishad, and as Truth alone endures, and inasmuch as happiness is only the name that we give to the condition of our mind getting attuned to Truth, no human being in the world can be happy so long as the untrue becomes the object of dependence.

There is no hope of happiness in this world as long as we connect our happiness with an object of the world because no object can last long and no object can give us pleasure for all times. Today’s satisfying object is tomorrow’s object of detestation. What we like today, we may not like tomorrow. Also, even if we like the same thing for a long time, it may not last long.

Here is the secret of being happy. You can be happy or you need not be happy, as you like. It is in your hands ultimately, and nobody else can make you happy or unhappy. If you are unhappy it is your own making, and if you are happy also it is your own making. So do not complain, grudge and make remarks because all remarks are again quantitative remarks. It is a foolishness of the mind. Any remark that you make, any statement that you utter, is a statement or a remark made in respect of an object outside on which you have hung your faith and which you regard as final, which is far from the truth.

No human being ever said, “I am perfectly happy. I am okay in every respect.” If we go on probing into the mystery of the life of someone, we will find finally that he has some sorrow. Whatever be the social position someone may occupy, he is unhappy. We have a small unhappiness which worries us from within which assumes large proportions to spoil the value of our whole life. The reason is, there is a stigma attached to our every effort, a fundamental error of attitude in general, on account of which, life has become ultimately a kind of failure.

When we leave the world, we do not know in what condition we leave. We are not yet ready to accept the fact that the last day can be any day. And when we are to quit the world, with what attitude we are to quit, and where we are to go, we do not know, all because of the fact that death comes to us as a shock, a separation from things. We dread death because it separates us from all the objects of the world. We thought quantities are realities, and the quantity is the universe, so our reality itself has gone. It looks as if we are entering into nothing when we die. It is not so. After death we do not enter into nothing, but we enter into a condition or circumstance in which our unfulfilled desires for objects will find an avenue for satisfaction. It is called rebirth. It is the mind seeking a new channel of satisfaction inasmuch as its relationship with the body has been severed due to a sudden snapping of its tenement here.

Therefore, spiritual seekers, aspirants after God-realisation, students of yoga, should be vigilant, and not go with the waves of the world. They should be a different quality of people. They should not try to think with the herd or move with the masses. They should not ape the material progress of people and the temporary joys of the earth. These are very dangerous attitudes of the mind.

The spiritual seeker is a quality by himself or herself, something very strange and difficult to obtain. The spiritual seeker is a child of God, a ray of eternity manifesting itself in the world. Remember that a spiritual seeker is a rare gem in the world. He or she is not an ordinary human being as seen in the bazaar or on the streets. It is a quality that has manifested itself. It is a value. It is Truth seeping itself through the body and through the senses. That is spiritual aspiration.

So if you want to be spiritual, honestly speaking, you should not think with the world and think in terms of quantities, possessions and objective relationships. You are absolutely independent. A lover of Truth wants nothing else but Truth. A seeker of Truth is satisfied with Truth itself and does not want anything else in the world – no friendship, no possessions, no relationships.

Truth makes you silent. You close your mouth when you know Truth. Your mouth is shut forever when you have plumbed the depths of Truth because Truth will fill you to the brim and become overflowing. Truth alone will not leave you or desert you, while everything else will leave you. So a happy person is a Truth seeker, a spiritual aspirant, a lover of God, a yogi, which means to say, a person who is contented with the universal value in things and not the objects of the world. You can be happy merely by existing, without possessing anything. Let us remember that we become happy not because we possess anything but because we are something. What you are shall make you happy, and not what you have. So let us not put the cart before the horse and go for things to possess. There are many people who possess things, and they are worse than even children in their ignorance and their sorrow.

The art of seeking Truth, finding happiness in Truth, being contented with Truth, and daily meditation on Truth is the art of yoga. Yoga is union with Truth or Reality. It is said that yoga is union, but union of what? Yoga is union of the Truth within you with the Truth of that which is. The ‘Truth that always is’ is the object of the union of that which is within you as the Truth. The Truth within seeks the Truth without when the Truth communes with Universal Truth. This is called God, the Absolute, the Atman or Brahman, and various terms in different languages. This is what you are seeking. All your toil and fatigue is for this purpose. You travel from country to country and see many people and do many things for this single purpose of seeing what the Truth is behind the forms of things.

But no one has succeeded in seeing what the Truth is, because Truth cannot be seen. We want to see Truth as we see a cow grazing in the meadow. Truth cannot be seen like that because Truth is the seer of things, so how can we see it? That which sees the objects of the world is the Truth behind things, so when we become one with the Supreme Seer of things, we realise the Truth of things. Truth is not an object of perception, and therefore, it cannot be seen with the eyes. Even if we travel millions of miles through space, we cannot see Truth because Truth is the seer and not the seen.

Yoga is very difficult to practise. Very few have succeeded in its attempt. It is very difficult because one cannot even understand what it is. The more we think about it, the more crazy we become because it is not an ordinary way of thinking. It is a supernormal way of thinking that is called yoga. But we want to content ourselves with ordinary thinking, like a man on the street. We have the bazaar way of thinking, the commercial way of thinking, the shopkeeper’s way of thinking. That has not left us, and yet we want Truth. That is not possible. As long as we cling to the old, idiotic way of thinking which measures things in quantitative terms and establishes commercial relationships with the objects, so long happiness is far from us. Yoga is not for us.

We have to be very honest and utterly dispassionate in our probe into Truth. When we ask for Truth, we must be sure that we are asking for Truth alone, and not something else. When we say we want to learn yoga, we must be sure we want yoga and nothing else because we may say we want yoga but really want something else in our heart of hearts. It is an object of satisfaction that we are asking, though we say we want yoga. But satisfaction is not an object; it is a subjective universal realisation. The great art of yoga is a step taken towards the universality of things.

No one can conceive what universality is. It is not a total of particulars. The joining together of all the contents of the cosmos cannot give us the Universal. The total of multitudes of things is not the Universal; it is its quality, again remember. The Universal is the supreme quality behind the total of the quantities of the world so that even if we are the emperor of the whole world we cannot be happy because, again, it is a quantity. To possess the whole physical cosmos cannot make us happy because it is, again, a perishable quantity. The Universal transcends the cosmos. It is superior even to the totality of universal relationships. It is not a mathematical, arithmetical quantity; it is a supernal, inscrutable mysterious something, speaking in the language of infinity and eternity within you yourself. So the happiness is within you, and you can be happy if you want to be happy merely by revealing what you really are at the bottom of your being.

Thus, to reiterate, you can be happy merely by being, merely by existing, and not by possessing. Merely because you are, you are happy. God is; you are. All that which is in its essentiality is free, unhampered, and therefore, happy. God is Pure Existence, Consciousness and Bliss, Sat-Chit-Ananda. So happiness is Pure Being, which is identical with Pure Consciousness, unlimitedness of freedom. Happiness is spontaneous.

You will find that to contemplate in this way is next to impossible for most people. You would prefer to thank God that you are relieved of this yoga and go home, rather than think in this way and sacrifice your earthly joys for the sake of this eternity that is your ultimate quest of life. But this should be your contemplation. This alone can make you happy.