THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS : Why are we not happy?



In the sacred text, Tripura Rahasya, the great Sage Parashurama, after self- introspection, remarks to Guru Dattatryea, “O Guru, Misery is not the absence of happiness, but limited happiness. For as happiness recedes, misery pours.”

Vedanta says that the biggest delusion that affects a man is the placement of happiness in objects. The delight that we get in owning objects is temporary and misplaced, and that is the reason people often complain that they are ‘not happy’ in life or ‘something is missing’ in spite of accumulating ‘stuff’ .The cosmic illusion or Maya smiles at a person who becomes happy with the hoarding of wealth or accumulating objects.

Maya smiles at this person’s happiness because she knows that it is like telling a man or woman who has been bitten by a poisonous cobra minutes ago, to be happy in anticipation of a sumptuous feast in the evening. The feast represents the short lived euphoria that is felt when we own a new object, and the slow acting poison represents the hollowness that will follow the euphoria and leave us dissatisfied and not happy again.

Men and Women in this age of Kali, are deluded and keep on performing actions in an attempt to hoard objects that will give them happiness. They keep on performing the same actions obsessively in their pursuit of happiness which is externalized. While they chase people and objects to be happy, the inexorable noose of death is dancing on their neck the entire time. Maya knows this and hence smiles at that person.

The scriptures claim that Happiness lies only in discernment of the real from the  unreal- Viveka and Vairagya. The gods become gods because they are able to discern the truth and they realize the true nature of their self.

 Based on what a person desires and the deeds performed, he or she will achieve a certain state of life. If someone wishes to pursue happiness while living in ignorance, they will remain in a state of ignorance. If someone wishes to know the real from the unreal, they will achieve the state of discernment.

Most people keep on running after the transient nature of happiness, just like a donkey pursues a she-donkey, even if he is kicked a hundred times in the process.  People confuse the placement of their happiness in the achievment of their transient desires, and keep on running after material pleasures. Maya makes the bond of delusion greater in such people.

The ignorant think that to have a spirit of self-inquiry is misery; the wise know that a spirit of investigation is the first step to enlightenment.

An affluent man is blessed with beautiful houses, a loving family, all material comforts and is yet worried about protecting and increasing his wealth; his happiness is in the surety of preserving and growing his riches.
A beggar without any material possessions, is worried about getting the next meal. His happiness is in the surety of the next meal.

The wise know that it is the nature of creation to sportingly, make the affluent man and the beggar experience each other’s birth in different lifetimes, until one of them gets the spirit of investigation and begins his journey into self-inquiry.

Suggested Reading

What is Karma? The Story of the Bowman

Who am I? Ancient story that explains the truth about creation

Why am I trapped? The story of the 2 birds

What is the self? Ancient story that explains the concept of Atman

The story of the caged elephant: How to break Free



I feel Trapped: The 2 birds on the tree of Life

i feel trapped
Why do we feel trapped?

I FEEL TRAPPED: The story of the 2 birds 

      “I feel trapped” – In this superficial and fast paced life, people place their happiness in material objects, especially during their early phase of life and career. They keep themselves busy in various professional and social distractions; the result of this ‘busyness’ is that they become numb to finding a purpose or meaning in their lives.

It is only when people are middle aged and the passions have ebbed a little, that they feel trapped in a bad job, a tiring relationship or feel intimidated by the monotony of life. It is then that people feel suffocated and remark I feel trapped.

Also Read: The Caged Elephant: What stops YOU from being free? 

Hamsa Gita (also referred to Uddhava Gita) is Lord Krishna’s final discourse to Uddhava before his departure from earth. The entire Hamsa Gita contains delighful statements from Lord Krishna and the full text can be found in the Bhagavata Purana.

In one of the statements in the Hamsa Gita, Lord Krishna mentions the two birds that reside in all of us. These 2 birds reflect the states of freedom and bondage that we get to choose in life.

Lord Krishna tells Uddhava, “O Uddhava, two birds live on a peepul tree. They have built their nests on the tree. One of them has its nest on the topmost branch of the tree and he is happily viewing the sky around him. This bird enjoys the freedom around it, basking in the cool air that blows around and is always joyful.

“The other bird has built its nest much lower down in the tree. This bird hunts for his food all day long and after working all day long, comes back and sits on a branch that is always dark due to the shadow cast by the tree.

“O Uddhava, The two birds have been greatly attached to each other. They have been like twins, each being the alter ego of each other. But the difference between the two has now sprung up because of the involvement of one with its surroundings. The bird at the topmost branch will not come down because it  has experienced the free state. The bird at the bottom branch does not want to leave its branch but feels trapped by its circumstances.

   The Vedantins compare the free bird to the emancipated soul and the other bird, to the man caught in the web of Maya. The bird on the topmost branch does not find any difference between himself and other birds but the other bird considers himself to be unhappy: that he is suffering and that he is different from his one-time friend.