What are we searching for? This is a question we ask so often today, and this question has been asked for centuries. What is it that human beings look for?
We manage to keep ourselves occupied all the time, looking for more and more gratification, collecting things and trying to become – now that’s the catchword here – trying to become ‘what’?
I think, this is not just my thought since this is also what the scriptures say—this constant search is for happiness. Happiness is what all human beings—irrespective of caste, creed or religion—search for.
We search for happiness all our lives in our own way. We search for what we think are our ideas of happiness. A child has its own idea of happiness—like a toy, ice cream, watching cartoons. As human beings, we have our own ideas of happiness as we grow up, which are replaced by other ideas when we are middle aged and another set when we retire from an active life.
These ideas can extend to: How much money should I have in my bank account when I retire? How am I going to continue with my life and live with the same standards of living I had so far? Will I be able to live with the same luxury? So on, and so forth.We can see here that this search for happiness is what goads us on, leads us on to live a life.
The question here is whether we finally find it. It has a simple answer. Somebody says ‘Yes, I find it in this.’ and somebody says, ‘Yes, I find it in that.’ But then, if one finds it, why does one go on looking for it, searching for it constantly?
The answer suggests itself here. Although we search for happiness all our lives in material things—thinking that acquiring a big bank balance, a palatial house, a beautiful wife is the key—we never really find it.
We don’t find happiness because we are never ever satisfied with anything that we have. On acquiring an object of our desire, we may feel satisfied for a while but in the long run, we keep searching, looking for something else, even leading to a point of wanting to grab it.
The main thing here that the happiness we keep seeking seems to evade us. It seems slippery, staying out of our reach, and the moment we get hold of one bit of happiness, we try to hold on to it with dear life. Why? Because, somewhere, somehow, we know that it is so rare and it can vanish at any time.
Now, suppose that I have defined happiness as acquiring A or B or something similar. And, then I find it. OK! So I think I am happy but deep down, my subconscious mind knows that this happiness is going to disappear soon. So what do I do?
I try to hold on to it as firmly as possible because I fear it might slip away! Now, if I hold on to something and, simultaneously, if there is a fear at the back of my mind about losing it, where is the happiness now? There is only insecurity.
Tell me, can insecurity produce happiness? Can I ever be happy when I have this insecurity of losing? This is not happiness really. So, I keep my search on and it continues endlessly—flitting from one thing to the other.
Just so you know, I am not saying we should not enjoy the little joys that we find in day-to-day life. Please do so. They are the greatest and the most wonderful things that the world can offer us. Besides these little joys of life, we should remember that the lasting happiness we seek is not found outside oneself, in things material.
– Sri M