Happiness is not something that can come from the outside. One of the things we seem to depend upon for our happiness is physical beauty. We don’t want to accept the fact that we will get old and our bodies will change. When we see others getting old we may think to ourselves, Oh, that’s natural. But me? No, I am different from others. Once a great king by the name of Dharmaputra was asked a question: “What is the most surprising or astonishing thing in this world? What surprises you the most?” He said, “Having seen people dying every day, I still feel as though I am going to live forever.” We all think that way. We see all kinds of things happening to other people but we find it hard to realize those things will also happen to us.

We continue to depend on many things for our happiness. Are we really free then? We call ourselves free people. There is freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of worship. But are you free within yourself? Are you having a free happiness—a happiness that depends on nothing? Religions and Yoga teach us that we can be free, without having anything. You can be happy without anything. Why? Because you are happiness personified. You are born with happiness. We can see it in babies; they have that beautiful, beaming smile. That smile is not based on the wealth of the family. Even a baby that is born in a very poor hut beams with that smile. We all seem to have that. That means we were born with that. It is our true nature to be happy always. But when we forget that true nature we look for happiness to come to us from the outside.

Imagine that you are standing in front of a mirror and that you see yourself as beautiful. What would happen if you think that the beautiful face comes from the mirror? You would be forgetting that the mirror only reflects your face. If your face becomes scratched, then that is what the mirror will now reflect. It can no longer reflect the beautiful face. In the same way, if you don’t have the happiness within you, nothing can reflect that happiness. All the happiness that seems to be coming from outside, is nothing but your own reflection.

If all of a sudden one morning you say, “Oh, I seem to be worried or I’m unhappy.” What would you say if someone asks you, “Since when have you been unhappy?”
“Oh, since this morning. Yesterday I was very happy.”
“So, yesterday, you were happy. This morning you became unhappy. Why?”
“Yes, it was that nasty telephone call. I expected that fellow to come and do something for me and he said he can’t come.”

There is a subtle but important point here: you were happy before, then you expected somebody to come. The very expectation disturbed your happiness a little. And then, when you heard that he is not coming, you became really disturbed and unhappy. If the person had come, you would still be happy. The mind was originally peaceful, or undisturbed. It is the undisturbed state of mind which is the real happiness. It is not the opposite of unhappiness that we are talking about. There is a supreme happiness or bliss, that is the original nature of the mind and also is your true nature. Even if you want to identify yourself as the mind it’s okay because the original nature of the mind is also peace and bliss.

You feel peaceful and then all of a sudden an idea comes into your mind: Hey, I would like to see a certain person. Or, I would like to get this or that. A thought comes in based on something you want. The minute that thought comes into your mind it is as if a stone has fallen into a peaceful pool. Immediately that stone, or that desire, creates a ripple or a depression. And as you know, when there is a depression in the water some of the water is dispelled and it tries to raise up. A depression is always followed by a crest. That’s what you call a wave. First there was no crest and no depression—it was a peaceful lake, a happy lake. A want fell in and it created a depression. So a want depresses you, and then the effort to fulfill or satisfy the want is the crest. When the effort is made, the want is fulfilled. You only try to fill something when there is an empty space.

Before you created the depression, or the desire, you were peaceful. Then you created the depression and so naturally you lost your peace. You tried to satisfy the desire or the want and then the depression got “full-filled” and so you came back to that peace. Then you say, “I am happy again.” Is it by fulfilling the depression that you got the happiness, or is it the effort that brought you happiness? Neither. The effort of fulfilling helps you to remove your depression. Once the depression is removed you are happy again.

You have to understand that you created the depression and you fulfilled it. Once there is no longer a depression, you are again experiencing the peace of your true nature. That means neither the depression, nor your effort, nor achieving things, brings the peace. Instead, you only returned to the peace that was always there. You lost it; you got it back. That’s why we say don’t expect things to bring happiness. It is the ignorance about your true nature—and the fact that you forgot your true nature—that makes you try to get it back. And you do that by getting things. Every time you get things, you are temporarily happy and then you want to protect that happiness and so you create another depression that must be fulfilled. One desire begets a thousand more desires. You keep on wanting, keep on fulfilling, and in between you experience a little bit of temporary happiness.

It is similar to the heart resting in between beats. In that same way, every second you come back to happiness. If things are going to make us happy then the people with more possessions would be more happy. But it seems that the people with more possessions seem to be more unhappy. Yoga, and all the scriptures ,teach us that if you want to be happy you should realize your true nature as being happiness itself. And, don’t depend on anything else. I am saying do not depend on anything. I am not saying that you have to reject everything. Things come and go; just let them come and then let them go. That means that you should be unattached to what you do. Perform your actions without any attachment behind them. Then your actions will always be filled with joy. Doing everything with joy will also bring better results.

To maintain your happiness, to maintain that peace in all the circumstances of life, is what you call Yoga or spirituality. Remember, it is the attachment or the depending on things for your happiness that causes all the problems because it makes you lose your neutrality. The Bhagavad Gita says: “Equanimity is Yoga.” So keep the mind peaceful and keep the mind clean. Don’t do anything that would disturb your mind. Then, you will experience your true peaceful nature which is happiness personified.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda