Monday, December 1, 2008

Happiness: A Difficult Choice (Part One)

Happiness: A Difficult Choice (Part 1)

Happiness is indeed a choice. However, the problem is twofold. 1) We don’t know what happiness is. 2) We don’t know who we are or what we need. Knowing who we are is pivotal in gaining both the knowledge, wisdom and finally the courage to choose happiness.

For the sake of this discussion I will take for granted that we agree on the existence of a soul or spirit that inhabits the material body. I will take this for granted for the simple reason that to delve into that topic would require an entirely different and far lengthier post.

The presence of the soul in the body, call it spirit, consciousness, the anti-material particle or whatever, is key in choosing happiness. All religions recognize the existence of the soul and science, while confounded in trying to measure or quantify the quality of the soul, is hard-pressed to deny that there is something more to life than the mere interaction of chemical compounds.

Even the most die-hard Big Bang theorists will agree the Big Bang theory is merely the best scientific theory, to date, that attempts to explain the phenomena of life and creation. It is recognized as merely a theory which must be proven, just like this theory of the soul thank you very much! So once again let’s take for granted the existence of the soul for the moment and move forward.

The soul and body are different; spirit and matter respectively. As described in Vedic thought the soul has three fundamental qualities that matter does not have.

1) Eternality
2) Awareness
3) Joy

Eternality differentiates the soul from matter in that matter, all matter, deteriorates over time. The soul exists unchanged forever. Matter does not have this quality. Matter decays, deteriorates, changes form and even its chemical properties.

Awareness differentiates the soul from matter in a most obvious way; consciousness. I know this brings up the Artificial Intelligence question and of Sonny in “I, Robot”, and while I liked the movie as well let’s not go there for the moment. It is this consciousness or awareness that gives “life” to matter.

Joy, a quality that requires sentience, consciousness or awareness, is not to be found in the realm of matter. Matter, bereft of spirit, is devoid of joy.

Now that we know the difference between matter and spirit we have come half way. Now we must come to know what Joy is. All human beings are essentially the same in terms of our physiological make up. However at the same time every human being, no matter how similar to another, is specifically and tangibly unique. So to with the soul, all souls share the same constitutional make up but are specifically and uniquely different.

Joy is attained when the soul experiences and exists true to its individual and constitutional nature. The constitutional nature of each individual soul is not for me to say. The journey of self-discovery is a highly personal one. As a personal coach I assist others as best I can but the uncovering the unique and constitutional nature of an individual soul is a personal undertaking. This is why I mentioned earlier that it takes knowledge, wisdom and courage to choose happiness.

Let’s recap. The body and soul are different; the qualities of the soul are eternality, awareness and joy; and joy is the realization and experience of one’s constitutional spiritual nature and uniqueness.

For simplicity’s sake let’s substitute the word happiness for joy going forward. Joy would be the proper translation from the original Sanskrit but in English the word happiness would do just as well. Besides I couldn’t very well title the article “The Choice of Joy”, sounds like the title of a badly written romance novel.

The Two Pleasurable Experiences:

1) Happiness
2) Gratification

Now there is one last bit of information we must know before we begin choosing happiness/joy. We are souls inhabiting a body of matter. As the soul experiences happiness; the body experiences gratification. Happiness and Gratification are two very different experiences, which in turn lead to very different consequences.

Gratification is based upon our external reality. Social standing, material possessions, power, relationships etc, all have sway in our external reality. We get gratification from driving nice cars, living in the best of houses, achieving status among our peers etc. However, the problem here is that because all of these things are based in our external reality, over which we have comparatively little control, when they are taken away we are distressed. The nature of gratification, as pleasurable as it is, is that it is not truly within our control. Gratification brings with it an underlying though undetected hint of anxiousness as we fear to lose the source or cause of our gratification.

Happiness is based upon our internal, spiritual maturity. Our external reality can and will, most definitely, vacillate from one extreme to another. Our internal reality, based solely on the level of our spiritual maturity, will not fluctuate, cannot be taken away and is not subject to the upheaval that may be our external reality.

Pain and Torture

This is not to say that our external reality has no impact whatsoever on our spiritual well-being and vice-versa. Only persons as spiritually elevated as Christ can endure an abominable external reality yet remain spiritually centered. Adverse external circumstances, such as dire financial straits, can certainly negatively impact our spiritual well-being.

Conversely, spiritual desolation negatively affects our external reality, no matter how affluent, powerful and successful we may be. The saying, “money does not buy happiness” comes from this principle. If we are spiritually under-developed we can gain no joy despite being surrounded by the tools of gratification.

Balance must be struck. We are spiritual beings in a material reality. We have to grow, mature and succeed equally in both realms in order to be stable, fulfilled and happy individuals. Let’s look at it this way, “money does not buy happiness; but it does buy gratification.” All we must remember is that gratification has a down side; it is beyond our control and subject to the inconstancy and inconsistency of the world and reality around us.

The Problem

This is the easy. The problem is that we have never been taught to identify happiness and we have not the courage to choose happiness. You see, that was easy. I guess we'd better go on to the hard part.

The Hard Part

Now that we know who we are, what happiness is and “where” to “find” it we can go about doing so. (I put where and find in quotations because we are, in essence, the embodiment of happiness. It is like asking you to find your sight. You don’t find sight, you experience it. Anyway, I digress.)

To be continued - Happiness: A Difficult Choice (Part Two)

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