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Is Happiness Really All Relative?

By: on July 3, 2021
Opinion
Photo Credits: unsplach.com

Happiness....

The most sought-after experience that human society is striving to achieve, is still an underestimated and untapped experience beyond the reach of the majority.  Many believe they have reached that state of happiness, but have they?

It was a nice sunny tropical afternoon. On my daily commute back home, I was looking out through the window and my mood changed swiftly from jovial to a deep sense of pity. An old lady clad in a brownish-white outfit, ragged for the most part, was standing on the curbside with her merchandise on display and she was attending to her clients. Immediately a deep sense of discomfort overwhelmed me. So many thoughts came pounding on my mind:

Why are some people so miserable?

What can be done for such people? What can I do for such people?

How can I tolerate such a situation and not help?

I was helplessly witnessing the whole scene when I noticed something amazing. The lady was smiling from ear to ear! She was chatting with her fellow sellers and clients and going on about her business in a matter-of-fact manner.

I was catapulted into another mind battle. What was the meaning of this? It was unfathomable to me how a lady in her precarious situation, selling merchandise for a few pennies, could actually be in such a joyful mood. I drifted back to my experiences of homeless people living their carefree lives and sleeping by the road at night only to be chased away every morning by the police, yet they were full of jokes every evening when they gathered with their other homeless friends. The daily reality around the world appeared vividly in my mind where children were bathing with great joy in muddy water or having to journey hundreds of kilometers to go to school or work.

My very definition of happiness was challenged at that point. 

What was happiness for me: good education; more money; more facilities! What was happiness and joy for me was seemingly unknown to them. My logical mind could not comprehend. Frustration took over me.  I felt dissatisfied.

I then remembered Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in the Bhagavad-Gita about: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth. 

Actually what we are all experiencing is not happiness! It is simply the absence of happiness that we are experiencing and this temporary state feels so nice that we equate this feeling to happiness! This fickle friend has been eluding us for centuries. Srila Prabhupada explained in a letter in 1970 to Robert Karen the concept of relative truth:

The truth within this material world is relative. The Absolute Truth is outside the relative world. Just like when a child is born, he is relative—he is born by his father. Then you go on researching and you will find that his father is also born of his father and so on. In this way, if we go on searching out the Absolute Truth, we will find Him, the Supreme Person, not impersonal. Just like the child is a person, therefore the agent or the truth which begot the child is taken without any hesitation as a person. Therefore the Absolute Truth cannot be impersonal—that is a fact.

By the time I reached home, my frustration and restlessness subsided and I was enlightened by this amazing knowledge, which challenged the very definition of joy and happiness to me. I had the realization that even I am not happy; despite having a good education, a good job, and a nice home. I am simply experiencing a state of absence of suffering and misery in my relative truth. 

I am no different than the old lady by the curbside!

 

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