Vedic Philosophy of Happiness and Sorrow: Sukham & Duhkham

Exclusive to Vedic Management Centre by U. Mahesh Prabhu

It is the nature of human beings always to strive to avoid Duhkham or pain and sorrow and to pursue Sukham or pleasure and happiness. All that humanity has sought from science to religion or philosophy, is for the sake of removing suffering and finding lasting happiness.  Usually, human beings have confused pleasure with happiness. Pleasure, gained through external circumstances, is not real happiness, which is an enduring condition of the mind and heart.

Pleasure is momentary and is a result of achieving something physically or emotionally or both. Pleasure is owing to impulses in mind caused by outer factors. For example, we experience pleasure when we achieve something, like getting a promotion. Once we’ve achieved something then eventually the pleasure fades away.

In Yoga Vashistha, Vashistha suggests “That which can cause pleasure will also lead to pain.” There is significant wisdom behind this axiom. Humans are naturally insecure beings. This insecurity breeds fears of various nature. All fears have their roots in mind afflicted with uncertainty. Whatever the mind cannot comprehend, it fears. This fear in us itself can be more detrimental than the object of fear itself.

To move away from fear towards something desirable – we seek anything that can give our mind a sense of security. Krishna in Bhagavad Gita declares that “The mind is verily the reason for bondage or liberation.” Bhartrihari in his Neeti Shataka declares, “He who has conquered the mind has conquered his fears.” Kautilya in his Artha Sutras suggests “He who has understood himself fears nothing and is capable of overpowering the mightiest.” Such words of wisdom all imply the importance of understanding our mind. They also make it exceptionally clear that “we are not the mind.”

If you believe that you are the mind, consider this. In the state of deep sleep when your mind is put to rest, you know nothing and have nothing, yet you are peaceful and content Strange, but true, you are most blissful in a state where you’ve neither expectations nor inhibition –  a state where mind is completely absent! The fact that you are there when your mind isn’t there – is a testimony to the fact that you are not the mind.

So, if you are not the mind, who are you? Vedic scriptures tell us that we are Aatmana or Atman, the Self beyond the mind. Knowing and understanding this fact through constant contemplation is the best way for you to keep your mind in check, letting go of all your fears and pursuing your tasks to experience inner contentment.

Unless you understand and accept yourself to be Atman, the Self beyond the mind – you will be dominated by fear. According to Vedic sage Dattatreya (in Avadhoota Gita) “Fear is evidence of ignorance.” No persons dominated by fear can be considered scholars of Vedic texts – let alone wise. “The wise neither brood about the past nor worry about the feature. They live in the moment without any sense of fear or pleasure.” Declares the Neeti Shastras.  Fear is the root of the dualistic mind, the first product of ignorance or Avidya.

Everything in life we experience, good or bad, is a result of our Karma. All dharmic schools of thoughts accept this. Everything is a result of Law or Karma, or Causation. We reap the fruits of our actions done in the past. There’s no escape from this. If we’ve hurt someone – we’re sure to experience the same pain ourselves, sooner or later. There’s no menu in the restaurant of karma – we’re served what we deserve. If we’ve done something good – we will also be rewarded for it. Various Dharma Shastras or Scriptures on Dharma talk about this in detail.

Fear is of little use. Even if you don’t accept the law of Karma – you can at least agree that fear is most often a figment of the human imagination. When you have hope, your mind sees some reason for happiness whereas fear instills only pain.

Remember, pleasure is not true happiness. Happiness better put consists of accepting all that is happening as if a game or a play. Consider you are playing a video game: You can enjoy a video game more when you know it’s only a game. If you think it to be a reality – then it becomes more pain and less pleasure.

Unfortunately, our culture deludes us to believe that we need to accept pain and sorrow as inevitable. Yoga Vashistha states “If you think the world is full of pain – you are correct. If you think the world is full of happiness – you are correct, too.” Adding “For those who know they aren’t their body or mind – the world is full of bliss. For those who are full of fears are deluded to believe that they’re the body and mind, sorrow is their final abode.”

We are all born into this body without possessing anything. All that we gain is after the birth of this body. We are also sure to die, after which all that we have accumulated and achieved must be left behind. So, we are neither born nor do we die possessing anything. More like a computer game. Given this why should we fear anything? Why not accept everything as a game and appreciate everything life delivers unto us? Neither pleasure nor pain is lasting. They all have an expiry date. Only those with wisdom live beyond pain and pleasure, happiness and unhappiness into a state of perpetual bliss.

February 6, 2019

5 responses on "Vedic Philosophy of Happiness and Sorrow: Sukham & Duhkham"

  1. Nice Article.Thanks for sharing.

      • It is true that our karmic life began at birth but i feel it is possible to change it through the choices we make in life. Just like a desease carrying gene need not get activated if right choices are made about food and lifestyle problems of karma need not be activated. You can be whatever you choose to be and need not be shaped by karma. Am i right in my thinking

  2. श्रीकांतFebruary 13, 2018 at 8:38 amReply

    It’s interesting to understand and acknowledge this that fear is a creation of the mind based on information, sensory inputs from around. This as when it is read makes sense but moment you face the real world you are back at your fearful self for you start thinking about your loved ones, your work, commitments, prestige… And you are consumed.. vack

    • A very valid point. Until you don’t uproot the false idea that you are the body and mind – completely – you won’t be able to act on this truth even if you know it to be otherwise. Vichara (contemplation), Sadhu Jana Sangha or Satsangha (companion of the Sadhus – those who are wise people) and Dhyana (meditation) are three ways to ensure you realize, and not just understand, the absolute truth that you are not the body or mind. Once you understand you’re sure to realize a commensurate change starting with curbing of all fears.

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