What is happiness? Am I happy? Am I a happy person? A happy devotee? Am I unhappy?
Just as I was contemplating this topic yet another “chanting doesn’t make me happy” question popped up in my twitter stream.
The answer was that we are unhappy because we are trying to be enjoyers and that we can experience genuine happiness only when we understand that Krishna is the actual enjoyer and so we chant and do everything for his pleasure. When Krishna is pleased with our chanting we will become happy, too.
Nice and to the point, subtly suggesting a problem in our own consciousness before blaming our unhappiness on Krishna. I wonder, though, if it makes any immediate practical impact. It’s not like we can turn our devotion on demand. In fact, according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s comments on Siskashtaka and Sanmodana Bhashyam, a conditioned soul is so covered with anarthas and desires for karma, enjoyment, or jnana, renunciation, that he is incapable of rendering any devotional service at all.
So it’s not that I can start chanting for Krishna’s pleasure at will. It’s more like I have no such capacity at all, but let’s go back to happiness for a moment.
Am I happy? Well, it depends on how happiness is defined, doesn’t it?
Pardon me, but for some happiness is one never ending orgasm. Am I happy? Huh? No, far from it, and, judging by my age, never will be. However ridiculous, but this definition has its merits.
Others might think that happiness is an ever expanding world of opportunities. Younger people certainly get a buzz from these kinds of visions – career, girls, perks, traveling around the world, it’s all yours and the world’s your oyster. Am I happy in this sense? Hmm, no, and I don’t really care for any of those things, they don’t excite me anymore.
Contrary to the youth, older people might describe happiness as being content. I can relate to that, and it has a certain sattvic ring to it. So, am I content? Well, it depends.
I am generally content now, but if I expand the scope of my time reference – I’m in a hurry to finish this post, I’m worried that I’ll have to postpone it and will lose my train of thought. If I expand my scope a bit further I’d say I’m content with having the opportunity to chant so many rounds a day.
If I expand even further I might start to worry what is going to happen to me in the medium term, when the money will start running out and nothing continues to come in, it would create a certain pressure, so I’m not content.
Expanding further I believe Krishna will somehow or other arrange everything and all astrological predictions put a better future in front of me, I’m *only* six or seven years away from the best period of my life, so I’m full of hope and content.
On the other hand, there are certain changes happening with my body, the old age is not very far away, I’ve lost a spring from my step and it’s not coming back and much bigger problems are awaiting me very soon. Does that make me content? Of course not.
I also know that despite all my problems it’s very unlikely that Krishna will abandon me forever, I can always count on His mercy and protection, that’s the ultimate contentment, right?
Well, yes, when I remember about it.
It appears the feeling of happiness very much depends on my current perspective, and my perspectives change and fluctuate in a matter of minutes if not seconds. With a bit of practice I’ve learned how to keep myself in a permanent happy mood, ignoring some aspects of my life and concentrating on others instead, but is it a sign of happiness or just cheating?
Perhaps “Why am I not happy despite my chanting?” question is wrong and misleading in itself, and that’s why I’ve never seen anyone getting a truly satisfactory answer to it, however correct and well meaning.
My concern with my happiness has no relation to my chanting and pleasing Krishna. Happiness and distress come and go according to my karma and the laws of nature, and they will come and go no matter how far advanced I might become in my Krishna consciousness. Practically it means it’s wrong to expect chanting to have any effect on feelings of happiness and distress.
Sure, Hare Krishna mantra is absolute and can grant any kind of benedictions but a) it is not obliged to do so, as Krishna is also absolutely independent, He is not some kind of demigod who must respond to performance of sacrifices, and b) that’s not what we are asking for, is it? When we chant we are asking for devotion, asking to engage us in devotional service, and that has nothing to do with the happiness or distress experienced by our bodies.
What we should be concerned with, instead, is whether we are giving any pleasure to Krishna at all. It’s safe to assume that our chanting itself, being impure and mixed with all kind of anarthas, is not much fun for Him to listen to, but the efforts to purify ourselves and become ready recipients for the boon of devotion might please Him very much.
Again, it is not wise to expect Krishna’s feedback on our efforts to manifest itself as feeling of happiness. As long as we identify ourselves with our bodies all our happiness will be temporary anyway.
Thinking about it this way made me realize the value of my efforts. If I can’t chant Krishna’s names with devotion all that is left for me is to try, and that has led me to some interesting thoughts – is Krishna helping me in my attempts?
He knows the value of efforts better than me, so, is He making various arrangements to make me try more often and with more sincerity?
Let me see, is He making me think about sex because it easily reminds me to concentrate on Holy Names instead. This kind of thoughts are too provocative to simply ignore, they require an all out effort to listen to the mantra, currently I don’t know a better way.
Is Krishna consciously allows lust to enter my mind? Absurd, huh? Well, He regularly sends all kinds of troubles and tribulations to His devotees so that they come to Him for shelter, it’s a well known and time tested trick, ever since Pandavas stories.
I can easily think up a couple of cases from my own life that would follow the same pattern but they are quite large in scope, affecting my life for several months or years. If the scope itself is not important why not imagine that Krishna sends me little troubling thoughts every few minutes so that I can take shelter of the Hare Krishna mantra? It’s not such an outrageous idea, is it?
I would even say that lust attacks serve this purpose better than diverting my mind to possible topics for this blog or various other Krishna related arguments. Those kind of things can occupy my mind and keep me from listening to the mantra for hours, why wouldn’t Krishna send some female images to my brain instead to remind me of my precarious position and run back to the sturdy boat of the Holy Names?
Well, it seems like a nice cope out – blame my lust problems on Krishna, but it makes me try and that’s the only thing that matters, right?
Also, this explanation is guaranteed to purge any thoughts of achieving jata-rati stage of chanting anytime soon – my chanting is not born of attraction to Krishna, it’s born of Him prodding me with blasts of lust.
Should work miracles for my over-inflated ego.
There’s still a lot of stuff to say about the pursuit of happiness, though, will do it tomorrow or at the earliest possible opportunity.