When we take a look at the world, we see unhappiness around us as well as within us. Do we know what causes unhappiness?
Most of us will probably say that it is due to poverty or disease or loss or loneliness or oppression or war or hatred or intolerance or atheism and we will be wrong.
There is only one cause of unhappiness: The false beliefs we have in our head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to us to question them. Our minds get thoroughly conditioned by these false beliefs due to which we see the world and ourselves in a distorted way.
Our mental programming is so strong and the pressure of society so intense that we are literally trapped into perceiving the world in this distorted kind of way.
There is no way out, because we do not even have a suspicion that our perception is distorted, our thinking is wrong and our beliefs are false.
Let us look around and see if we can find even a single genuinely happy person – fearless, free from insecurities, anxieties, tensions and worries.
We would be lucky if we found even one in a million. This should lead us to be suspicious of the programming or the conditioning and the beliefs that we and they hold in common. But we have also been programmed not to suspect, not to doubt, just to trust the assumptions that have been put into us by our tradition, our culture, our society, our religion, our upbringing, our education system, etc. Moreover, if we are not happy, we have been trained to blame ourselves, not our programming, not our traditional and inherited ideas and beliefs.
What makes it even worse is the fact that most people are so brainwashed that they do not even realize how unhappy they are like the man in a dream who has no idea he is dreaming.
What are these false beliefs that block us from happiness? We will examine some examples.
1) First belief: We cannot be happy without the things that we are attached to and that we consider so precious.
False: There is not a single moment in our lives when we do not have everything that we need to be happy.
The reason why we are unhappy is because we are focusing on what we do not have rather than what we have right now.
2) Another belief: Happiness is in the future.
Not true. Right here and now we are happy and we do not know it because our false beliefs and our distorted perceptions have got us caught up in fears, anxieties, attachments, conflicts, guilt and a host of games that we are programmed to play.
If we can see through this we would realize that we are happy and do not know it.
If we are not happy here and now, we can never be happy anywhere any time.
3) Yet another belief: Happiness will come if we manage to change the situation we are in and the people around us.
Not true. We stupidly squander so much energy trying to rearrange the world.
If changing the world is our vocation in life, then we should go right ahead and change it, but we should not harbour the illusion that this will make us happy.
What makes us happy or unhappy is not the world or the people around us, but the thinking in our head. For example, say there are three people having exactly the same set of circumstances. Out of the three, one may be at peace, the second one may be bored and the third one may be miserable even though they have the same circumstances. What could be the reason? It is the thinking in their heads. It is the conditioning of their minds.
We can as well search for an eagle’s nest on the bed of the ocean, as search for happiness in world outside of us.
So if it is happiness that we seek then we should stop wasting our energy trying to cure our baldness or build up an attractive body or change our residence or job or community or lifestyle or even our personality. We should realize that we could change every one of these things, we could have the finest looks and the most charming personality and the most pleasant of surrounding and still be unhappy.
Deep down we know this is true, but still we waste our time, effort and money trying to get what we know cannot make us happy.
Unhappiness is not knowing what we want and killing ourselves to get it.
4) Another false belief: If all our desires are fulfilled we will be happy.
Not true. In fact it is these very desires and attachments that make us restless, tense, frustrated, nervous, insecure and fearful.
We should make a list of all our attachments and desires and to each of them say these words: “Deep down in my heart I know that even after I have acquired you I will not get happiness.”
Ponder on the truth of those words. The fulfillment of desire can, at the most, bring flashes of momentary pleasure and excitement. Don’t mistake that for happiness. Understand one thing very clearly that everything in this entire existence is impermanent, temporary and permanent happiness can never come from impermanent things and beings. Most importantly, the one who is experiencing the momentary pleasure himself is momentary, impermanent!!
What then is happiness?
Very few people know and no one can tell us, because happiness cannot be described. Can we describe light to people who have been sitting in darkness all their lives? Can we describe reality to someone in a dream?
Understand your darkness and it will vanish; then you will know what light is. Understand your nightmare for what it is and it will stop; then you will wake up to reality.
Understand your false beliefs and they will drop; then you will know the taste of happiness.
If people want happiness so badly, why don’t they attempt to understand their false beliefs?
A) First, because it never occurs to them to see them as false or even as beliefs.
They see them as facts and reality, so deeply have they been programmed.
B) Second, because they are scared to lose the only world they know; the world of desires, attachments, relationships, fears, social pressures, tensions, ambitions, worries, guilt, with flashes of momentary pleasures and relief and excitement which these things bring. They tend to cling to these things.
Most people would rather be certain they are miserable, than risk being happy.
We need to spend some time seeing each of the things we cling to for what it really is, a nightmare that causes us excitement and pleasure on one hand, but also worry, insecurity, tension, anxiety, fear, unhappiness on the other.
Our life as it is now is a nightmare. Every single thing we cling to and have convinced ourselves we cannot be happy without is a nightmare.
When we realize our foolishness about our clinging to things and beings, we will be indifferent to them and thus we will have destroyed their capacity to hurt us.
We need to get rid of the default programming in our heads and de-condition our minds of all conditionings.