The forest of our hopes and dreams, we desire more than to survive - our hearts long to thrive. The premium we seek is happiness, now the ultimate consumer product.
"Happiness is no laughing matter." Relationships, society, and the political economy should all somehow generate enduring chunks of it.
Is the hunt for sustainable contentment just confusion - a kaleidoscope of diverse illusion? Drawing upon the ancient yoga science of the self, Hiding ill Unnatural Happiness probes our contemporary approach to fulfillment and progress, and recommends another road, less traveled but timeless.
Devamrita Swami is an American-born educator, author and sannyasi, monk, in the Krishna bhakti tradition. For over 40 years, he has been travelling the world sharing the teachings and lifestyle of bhakti-yoga.
Upon graduating from Yale University, he began reading and relishing the classic bhakti texts translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Impressed by his impeccable erudition and saintliness, Devarnrita Swami became his official student and a member of the worldwide bhakti community.
Often addressing topics on spiritually based economics, sustainability, and environmentalism, his strategic guidance has proved invaluable to students and professionals seeking to balance their spiritual and professional life. With a unique ability to analyze modern problems through the .wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam (essential Vedic texts), he challenges audiences to understand that the quest for genuine personal and social upliftment is rooted in precise and comprehensive knowledge. Spiritual life, he often remarks, is a dynamic experiential reality, not a token subscription to a belief-system.
Adept at applying this spiritual science, he encourages others to enter the laboratory and perform the Krishna experiment, which enables us to fully realize our nonmaterial identity and ultimate connection.
While meeting and relishing the diversity of global humanity, he has also established urban and rural sanctuaries for the spiritually inquisitive, especially in New Zealand.
Other books he has authored include Searching for Vedic India and Perfect Escape.
Some people seem hard-wired for material success. Apparently on an endless winning streak, often since birth, they lead lives in a continual bubble bath of comfort, convenience, and gratification; they glory in wealth and acclaim.
Their polar opposites, at the dark end of the street, are the legions of the hard up and badly off. Seemingly born to lose, pinned under massive boulders of adversity, they experience only woe and punishing times.
The average Jane and Joe struggle to stay afloat in the storm-tossed middle class, dreaming of a secure upper perch while fearing falling back. They trudge dutifully through suburban routines, occasionally savoring peak feelings and gala moments.
"Anyway," we often hear, "money can't buy everything." Daily life, however, belies this old mantra. Happiness and even love often do seem to have a price tag, or at least a significant financial correlation. But whatever our level of income, we all long for happiness and well-being, however defined.
What about the special persons - those who, with wings of selfless magnanimity, soar beyond social pigeonholes?
Compassionate, empathetic, and noble, they radiate human sunshine in any kind of weather. Welcoming every encounter as an opportunity to benefit and nourish others, such heroes of the heart possess a magnetism of caring that makes them larger than everyday life. Their reason for living is to uplift; their life's mission, to inspire. They have found, somehow, inner fulfillment and peace.
Happiness, cheerfulness, satisfaction - however the subjective attainment is labeled - the twenty-first century has set off a gold rush to explain and attain it.
Happiness can be defined in a variety of different ways. Among them:
• An immediate, though short-term feeling of "life feels good"
• A zesty, though also short-lived psychological surge or jolt
• An upbeat, cheery disposition encoded in one's genes
• Sheer physicality and sensory stimulation
• The raw power of possession and control
• Capability and contentment
• Interpersonal connectivity and harmony
• Living in the moment and "letting life be"
Happiness scholar, UC Riverside professor, and author of The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky, lets people define happiness their own way, but clinically, she analyzes it as "a combination of frequent positive emotions, plus the sense that your life is good."
Known as Dr. Happiness for his pivotal role in advancing the field, Edward Deiner, a founding father of research into subjective well-being, informs us that the pursuit of happiness confers sweeping benefits. "Happiness doesn't just feel good," he writes. "It's good for you and for society. Happy people 'are more successful, have better relationships, are healthier and live longer."
Moreover, Deiner wants us to know, "Materialism isn't bad. It's only bad if we use it to replace other things in life like meaningful work, a good marriage, kids and friends. People are recognizing that those who make money more important than love have lower levels of life satisfaction."
Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of best-selling self-help books Authentic Happiness, Flourish, and Learned Optimism, describes the happiness search as a quest for activities that are absorbing and meaningful. Seligman defines "meaningful" activities as those that serve others, providing the doer with a sense of belonging to a cause greater than him or herself You know you've found the Holy Grail, he says, when you become so engaged in whatever you're doing that you lose track of time. In a state of flow, you're "at one with the music."
Searching for hereditary clues to happiness in the laboratory, geneticists scrutinize our DNA. Meanwhile, neuroscientists peer into our brain, seeking the mystery of happiness by tracking neurochemical balances and imbalances.
Crunching research data, social scientists aim to construct non-subjective measures for happiness. They dispel the popular belief that as nations increase their wealth, the citizens, benefiting from an improved quality of life, increase their happiness. The evidence shows that once societies attain a certain standard of living, happiness decouples from gains in wealth and luxury.
The present focus of Western happiness science generally lands on genetics. At least 50 percent of our personal sense of well-being, we are told, derives from our genetic makeup. Our circumstances, such as where you live or work, or your health or marriage - established situations that are difficult to change - weigh in at only 10 percent.
After the 60 percent predetermined by genetics and curtailed by situations, our personal choices and will - the "Life is what you make of it" factor - come into play, for the remaining 40 percent.
This book explores another perspective, suggests a different road, one less traveled.
Beyond the material obstructions of genetics and circumstances, surpassing the tiny potential of our material intentionality and will, we can aspire for the realm of pure spiritual consciousness. On that route, we have 100 percent access to genuine happiness and well-being - for both the individual and society.
Hiding in Unnatural Happiness is a contemporary presentation founded upon ancient but timeless yoga knowledge - empowering us to shed the shackles of material assumptions and conditioning and enter a dimension of nonmaterial equal opportunity.
The first three brief articles kindle reaction and stir the pot of reflection. The next three get to the heart of humanity's happiness search by first identifying mass illusion and then the applied spiritual technology that can dispel it.
Expanded from lectures at universities, these longer articles challenge the narrow-minded material conceptions of the self and its satisfaction - fallacies that pervade the First, Second, and Third World.
Economics, politics, and environmentalism can only benefit from allying with a comprehensive wisdom culture. India's greatest export today is its nonmaterial information technology from deep in the past. Offering a scope and breadth of profound spiritual knowledge, this treasure of Eastern antiquity can revitalize the entire planet. India's bhakti texts in particular - presenting devotion in pure consciousness, the Love Supreme, as the ultimate goal of society- can transform our mismanaged human civilization.
Who can truly attain happiness? As stated in a graduate study of bhakti-yoga, Srimad-Bbagavatam, "Only two types of persons can be happy in this world. One is the completely enlightened, self-realized soul. The other is the tragically faithful servant of materialism, thoroughly focused upon exploiting temporary matter, in all its permutations, for fleeting gratification. Everyone else, in between these two classes, must experience some degree of anxiety."
Only a practiced and seasoned spiritual expert can be genuinely happy, thriving in the spiritual freedom of pure consciousness. Fully self-aware, at the pinnacle of the yoga and meditation system, such a connoisseur of enlightenment would never seek fulfillment in matter and its kaleidoscope of impermanence and hallucinogenic assurances.
On the other side are the stalwarts of illusion, passionately dedicated to "Ignorance is bliss; what you don't know won't hurt you." Dulled by the massive programming that so blankets society, mistaking bewilderment and delusion for happiness, such prisoners of deprivation - whether or not they are educated or wealthy - rarely think outside the box, beyond the body and mind.
Unthinkingly focused upon strenuous labor - whether industrial or corporate - meagerly rewarded by moments of mind-numbing entertainment and exploitative sensuality, such inwardly poor participants in our material culture can- not persevere without the artificial succor that intoxication delivers.
Those in between are neither proficient enough in spiritual knowledge and experience nor blind enough in ignorance and matter-mania. Consequently, due to uncertainty about their self and its place in existence, they experience inner anxiety and turbulence.
This book is aimed primarily at those halfway - the neither fully enlightened nor the stubbornly bewildered. If advanced spiritualists happen upon this book, may their purity and grace uplift my efforts.
If the unfortunate but faithful servants of mass illusion turn the pages, may they glimpse a way out. I know what it is like, because I was once in that sheepfold. My heart goes out to its life members.
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