Happiness is the universal aim of human life. Man is in search of happiness from the very beginning. But most of the times, it has eluded him. The more one craves for it, the more it dodges him. Bhagavad Gita has dealt with the subject of happiness extensively and has given an unambiguous message of comprehensive well-being. Sri Krishna has begun his discourse with the assertion that there is no cause for grief ; because one’s essential nature, the self, is immortal and beyond any sorrow.
As per the three modes of material nature (the gunas), happiness has also been held to be of three kinds (shlokas from 18.36 to 18.39). The joy which springs from a clear understanding of the self is stated to be in the mode of goodness (sattvik sukha). Such joy, which results in cessation of all sorrow, is gained after long spiritual practices. Though at first it seems like poison, but its result is like nectar. The happiness which arises from the contact of the senses with their objects is considered to be in the mode of passion (rajasik sukha). Such happiness at first appears like nectar but its end result is like poison. And that which deludes the soul from the beginning till end ; and which arises from sleep, laziness and negligence – such pleasure is said to be in the mode of ignorance (tamasik sukha).
The kind of happiness, thus, varies according to the gunas. The pleasure that arises from gratification of the senses is tamasik sukha. Such momentary pleasures drive one to inertia and envelope the soul with the darkness of ignorance. The one attached to such pleasures, the tamasik person, remains tied to his evil deeds, throughout his life.
A rajasik person derives happiness out of his wealth, power and glory. Such happiness initially looks very attractive and pleasing as it gives comfort and pride of possession ; but in the end it proves to be a cause of distress because it gives rise to more and more desires which cannot always be fulfilled. Today’s enjoyment is the seed for tomorrow’s grief. The material happiness, thus, is short-lived. Therefore, even in the realm of worldly enjoyments, one needs to avoid over-indulgence.
The spiritual practices are initially painful as these call for lot of restraint and discipline. But ultimately they lead to cessation of the worldly woes. The sattvik sukha arises from the serenity of one’s own mind. When one stops worrying about the material pleasures, he finds the happiness within, the joy which is situated in the self. Such inner happiness is long-lasting because it does not depend upon any external factor such as an object, a being or a situation. Such a joyous person remains unperturbed in any situation and is not shaken by biggest of the miseries.
The three kinds of happiness are not exclusive to each other. All of these put together make one’s life enjoyable. Dominance of any one of these pleasures determines overall quality of one’s happiness.
Broadly speaking, two paths lead to happiness – the ‘easy but harmful’ and ‘difficult but beneficial’. These are the paths of transient and enduring happiness, respectively. The ignorant, who are attracted by the glitter of external pleasures choose the convenient path of self-aggrandisement and suffer in the long-run. But the wise do not allow themselves to be seduced by the allurements of material world, and follow the right path of exclusive devotion and unattached work. They attain to the long-lasting joy.
Bhagavad Gita has also enumerated the human traits which promote happiness. Tranquility of mind is a pre-requisite to true happiness. Without peaceful mind, there cannot be any happiness. It has further been stated that real peace can be attained only by the one who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires, who is free from longing, who has no sense of mineness ; and who is devoid of any false ego. Only such a serene person can experience real joy. The slaves of desires can attain neither peace nor happiness. No joy can be greater than the joy which one obtains from being at peace with oneself, and being one with the Divine.
Equanimity of the mind is an essential ingredient of a joyous living. One must cultivate an attitude of perfect equanimity and accept gladly whatever comes his way. The wise men, who possess an equipoised mind and who renounce the fruits of their actions, attain that blissful state, which is beyond any sorrow. Only the one who is capable of withstanding the urges of lust and anger, can be a happy man. Supreme happiness comes to the one whose mind is peaceful, who is free from evil, whose passions are pacified, who is free from traces of sin ; and whose mind is engaged in the self. It has also been stated that happiness can be obtained by the one whose faith is unwavering and who is not of a doubting nature.
To conclude, more than an outward voyage, journey towards one’s happiness is an inward pilgrimage. True joy can be experienced only by the one whose mind is steady, equanimous and serene ; and whose soul is purified. When one gains knowledge about his true nature, he attains contentment and experiences the supreme delight. He is neither perturbed by sorrow, nor he yearns for happiness. He is simply happy, contented.