Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness

Article of the Month - Aug 2015

This article by Nitin Kumar

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We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects. But everybody knows that after being in contact with an object for some time, the happiness terminates. Afterwards, one does not even desire to come into contact with it for quite some time. If it is true that happiness is the result of contact with objects, why should the happiness terminate even while the contact with object is still there? Or at the very least, why doesn’t the desire to come into contact with the object arise again soon after the termination of the happiness?

A non-believer may explain it like this: There is no question of reconciliation here, because that is the nature of the process. The only meaningful pursuit in life is to extend the duration of the pleasure by some means. Efforts should be made only to that end.

The True Happiness of Life

This is not correct. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him. It is known that the first thing he would seek is sleep and then food and then the pleasure from outside objects. Even when the pleasurable objects and food are in good supply and he is deprived of the pleasure of sleep, he would give up everything and take pills to get sleep. If there is an obstruction for sleep, he would rather reject his wife or children or wealth. Therefore, it is clear that the pleasure from outside objects, the pleasure from food and the pleasure of sleep are in their increasing order. Therefore sleep, known in Sanskrit as sushupti, is the greatest happiness.

Objection: How can there be happiness when there are no objects at all?

Reply: Are you not getting happiness in dreams where there are no objects at all?

Objection: The object of happiness in dreams is the vasana of objects.

Resolution: But you are happy in sushupti where there is not even a vasana?

Question: In that case it means that there is no connection at all between happiness and the objects. Then how is it that one gets happiness while in contact with the object?

The Vedanta Way to Peace and Happiness

Answer: Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life. One will have to make deep introspection to get the answer given by the Vedas to this question. One thing is certain however; in the presence of objects there may or may not be happiness. Therefore, it cannot be unambiguously stated whether or not the happiness comes from the object. But the experience of happiness in sushupti (deep sleep without dreams), where the objects are totally absent is well known. This shows that happiness has no connection whatsoever with external objects.

Without knowing this, the jiva in wakeful state hankers after pleasurable objects according to his vasanas. When he comes into contact with the desired object, he gets happiness because of his identification with it (tadatmya). At the time of contact he is unaware of everything, even the object. Indeed the transient happiness he experiences is a consequence of the removal of the veil on his own ananda during that period. This happiness was triggered by his past punya. The moment the punya that triggered this happiness is exhausted, the happiness terminates. The veil comes up again and the duality returns.

Taittiriya Upanisad (Set of 2 Volumes)

Therefore, the reason for happiness in sensual contact with an object is not the object, but the removal of the veil on one’s ananda swarupa (essential nature). Nevertheless, it is called vishaya-sukha, or happiness derived from external objects because because the process was triggered by contact with the external object (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.5.4). In this way, we realise that even sensual happiness is only a fragment of Brahmananda and is not the result of contact with the object of happiness.

The Nature of Dukha

In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief). It occurs when we are unable to attain a desired sensual pleasure or we are deprived of some pleasure which we already possess. We have seen above that material pleasure is the result of the temporary removal of the veil over one’s own swarupa.

Sukh- Dukh

This implies that grief or dukha is the result of the veil on our swarupa. Thus we realise a significant difference between grief and material pleasure. In material pleasure, though the notion that it is coming from a particular object is wrong, the pleasure is only his swarupa. On the other hand, grief has no connection with the swarupa at all.


This article is based almost entirely on the teachings of Pujya Swami Paramanand Bharati Ji. However, any errors are entirely the author's own. 

References & Further Reading:

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  • Really enjoy these articles and have learned a lot from them. Thank you.
    Van September 12, 2015
  • A liberated person sees no difference between happiness and distress as mentioned in the following Gita verse: [G:2.15] O best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation. Similarly a person who has acquired the true knowledge knows that there is no Pap and Punya, there is no good or bad karma. [G:2.57] In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge. Once we recognize that everything is part of destiny then it will be obvious that we do not have any free will, and therefore good, bad, pap, punya are all meaningless concepts. For more details you may want to take a look at Thus happiness is not the goal of life, finding the truth is.
    IdPnSD August 25, 2015
  • Thank you for such a clear approach.
    Dr Prithwindra Mukherjee, Paris August 25, 2015