Relative Happiness and Theory of Relativity…….!!

From 36 Bharttṛhareḥ Nītiśatakāt

A person, when he is very poor and starving and is running helter-skelter for livelihood, feels himself very fortunate and is happy like the richest man in the world, when he comes by a handful of barley to prepare the days gruel.

However, when he becomes richer by stages and when his barn is overflowing with grains, he starts to look down upon his landholdings and starts to yearn for diversions in life – the bliss of small possessions is lost on him now.

This is human nature.

The sense of importance of something which is so close to him varies in inverse proportions with acquisition of wealth. The state of a thing either magnifies or expands it or shrinks the same. Here the poet talks about affluence or lack of it. But the perception of importance of relationships, friendship and many other factors in life also undergo sea change with changing age, status and other factors.

The idea of happiness for a poor starving person is to have belly full of food every day. This idea of happiness of this poor person will start changing as his financial status changes. Then, eventhough he may have abundance of food, that doesn’t make him happy. Now he will seek happiness in things and beings according to his changing financial status.

For a newborn baby, its whole world is its mother. Till a person is able to stand on his own feet, the parents and elder relatives are important. Once he gets a young wife (or she gets a husband) the world again goes topsy turvy. As one gets older, the children get priority over spouses. As status changes old friends often become embarrassment. It’s a very realistic evaluation of human mind in its paradigm shift vis-a-vis changing environs.

Sometimes poetic words assume prophetic dimensions. Bhartrhari says that a thing expands or shrinks according to its state.

This is what exactly Einstein propounded in his special theory of relativity. His idea is also that when an object accelerates (gains speed) it has to shrink since the velocity of light is a constant.

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