Happiness: The First Yogic Yama

From Yoga Chakra 2: Cultivating Spiritual Samskara, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Many thousands of years ago, Parvati asked Shiva, her consort and guru, “In this creation, this manifest dimension, this world, this nature, everything is transient, nothing is permanent. There is so much pain, suffering, anxiety and frustration here. What can one do?” Shiva replied, “There are methods and practices by which one can overcome pain or suffering, recognize the causes of pain or suffering in a particular moment and overcome them. However, the best way to manage any pain or suffering is to remain happy. Therefore, always be happy.” In this way, happiness became the first yama.

Any negative state of mind can be managed by being happy, by smiling and laughing. Even depression can be managed by being happy. You may wonder, ‘If I am unhappy, if I am suffering and depressed, how can I be happy?’ Yes, you can be – because happiness is your natural state of being. It is a limited understanding of happiness when you think that you need a cause or a trigger to be happy or that if the circumstances are difficult you cannot be happy.

This can be understood when you look at children. They also cry, become angry, don’t want to eat this or that food, but this state does not last. Immediately afterwards they are laughing with an innate happiness; the circumstances are superficial and irrelevant to their happiness. Think of the laughter of children. Why does it sound so beautiful? Because it is natural, and not a result of any circumstance or joke.

That happiness, which children express, continues to be a part of you. However, adult life makes you forget it. With the onset of teenage years, grumpiness comes. It may be a result of hormones, technically speaking, but this is when you begin to move in a different direction. Your awareness connects more and more with external circumstances, and they buffet you. To be spiritual is to move back into that natural state, which is happy without cause. That is what you have to learn to connect with, experience and express.

Happy without a cause

As long as you are dependent on a cause to make you happy, the absence of that cause will make you unhappy. For example, you sing a very nice kirtan, everyone praises you and you feel very happy. The next day you don’t sing well, someone else sings much better than you and receives all the praise, and you feel dejected and unhappy. Therefore, if you depend on external circumstances to make you happy, you will always be swinging between happiness and unhappiness. This is samsara. To develop samskara, to maintain equipoise between the opposites and become a yogi, you have to tap into the positivity without cause, which exists within.

If you can learn to consciously move into that natural experience of happiness, which is not dependent on any cause, then you will be able to change your mood, the behaviour of your mind, your character, traits and the whole personality. Your anxiety, tension, depression and frustration will disappear.

That is also the Niranjan challenge. Be happy for twelve hours of your waking time. If you can do that, I will write down in your diary that you have attained peace in life. If you can’t, then you will have to come back again and again, not only to the ashram but also to this life, until you find your peace.