As long as you seek security from material things you will never be truly happy.
Back in 2002, someone introduced me to a ‘mover and shaker’ in Bengaluru. He was attached to the Shringeri Mutt. He is a Sanskrit scholar, a vaastu expert and an intuitive fortune-teller. He can accurately tell your past by merely looking at you. And he primarily worked with corporates in helping them ‘realign their energies’ for higher business performance. People usually paid him several thousand rupees as consultation fee. But the gentleman agreed to advise me and Vaani free.
In a few months, we became good friends. He advised us over phone, came and met us whenever he visited Chennai and promised to ‘engineer’ our business for ‘high returns’ in a few years’ time.
One day, I asked him why was he not taking any fee from us. He replied: “I have been told that you once worked at India Today (the magazine). I want a strong recommendation from you for being featured on their Most Powerful People in India list. Please help me.” It indeed true that I had worked in India Today group, in four stints, back in the 90s. It is also true that the magazine annually listed India’s Most Powerful People. But, given the magazine’s editorial protocols, I could not figure out how I was going to be able to recommend anyone to that list. But I pressed on with the gentleman and asked him why was it critical for him to be on that list. He replied, “I want to be seen as the most powerful man in India. It will make me happy.” “So”, I asked him, “Are you not happy with what you have now?” “No saar, I am not. I have money, I have position, I have a following, but I need power. And I must be seen as powerful. Only that will make me truly happy,” he replied.
Back then, I wasn’t as evolved as I am now. But I still withdrew from the gentleman and have since lost touch with him. I did not want to be obliged to him anymore because I was not going to be able to fulfil, in return, his expectation from me.
I am thinking about him this morning because I see a facebook post by a delusional friend in New York who claims he is happy because he is now the most influential Indian on the American poll scene! *$%*!!!!! And I am wondering what is it that forces us humans to go after all that is impermanent in search of happiness?
The truth is that nothing that is perishable, that includes this human body, can make you feel secure or happy. But the mind will convince you that just the opposite is true. So, you go on accumulating or trying to accumulate material stuff – a bank balance, jewelry, real estate and such – and the more you get, the more you have, the more you want, the more you are fearful and insecure. And, therefore, you are unhappy.
I met a farm-hand in Pune years ago who shared with me the secret of happiness. He was a very successful farmer owning several acres of land in the Bhandgaon area. He lost his only son in a road accident. So he gave away everything he had. And just took to living a frugal Life, working as an ordinary farm-hand. One day, I sat with him, on a charpoy, under a clear, starry sky, lit up by a full moon and asked him how he makes end meet, how he passes his time. Does he not, when he is old now, crave for some personal comfort, at least a health insurance? This was his reply.
“I enjoy living. I am happy.”
“Let me offer you some unsolicited opinion my friend. You can never be happy as long as you are restless. You can never be secure as long as you are attached to money, to fame, to social rankings and maintaining your stature in public. You think I have nothing. Indeed I have nothing that can be taken away from me. So, I don’t seek any form of security. At the most, I will die. Which all of us will have to, in any case. I am happy and I am living fully. I wake up each morning feeling great. I walk the fields that I work in. I pluck herbs and berries. I enjoy a fresh water bath in the stream. I sing to myself. I cook a hearty meal. I eat well. I sleep peacefully. I am living my friend, while all of you are earning a living!”
Our way of Life need not be as dramatic as the farmer-turned-farm-hand’s. We will do well to simply understand his message. Our material attachments, and our desires, are merely expressions of our continuous search for security in Life. The tragedy is that nothing that is impermanent can ever make us feel secure. Yet, because we are conditioned to believe otherwise, we keep on barking up the wrong tree. Only when we realize that we will feel truly secure when we have nothing, will we seize the opportunity and simply live!