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Enduring Happiness

Redirecting and transmuting desire is discussed for the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of Yogaswami's Mahasamadhi. How to pass on His wisdom to youth and children to inspire them to follow Hinduism, refine their desires, develop a higher and religious nature, and experience inner joy through kindness, seva, meditation and devotion is imparted. Gurudeva's statement: "If you want to attain happiness, make others happy" is a central theme.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. It's my trusty Gurudeva calendar, perpetual calendar. Struck me, I, sometimes I read a couple of days at once. So the night of Sivaratri I had read the following day and the day's message. And so when I was listening to Gurudeva's talk, as we all were who attended, when he said: "If you take one step toward Siva Siva takes nine steps toward you." That was in the talk, remember that? So that's an unusual way of saying it, Gurudeva doesn't usually doesn't say it in that phrase, but the message for the sixteenth, which was of course we ended on the sixteenth, has that right in it. So that struck me. "Saivites all over the world love God Siva. God Siva loves his devotees. For each step the devotee takes toward Siva, Siva takes nine steps toward the devotee." So there it was. Interesting timing.

Then today, today's the eighteenth, so we have a, reading a talk, which includes the idea of transmuting our desires or desiring something more refined. Which we'll talk about it in a moment so Gurudeva's quote for today is on that. It says: " Are not all persons on this planet driven by desire? [That's a big yes!] Yes indeed. Then let's redirect desire and let our desires perfect us."

So that's what we'll be talking about this morning, redirecting our desire. So synchronicity is always a good sign. So this relates to Paramaguru Yogaswami's annual Mahasamadhi which is in March. Think it's around March 25th or so. And so we're trying something different this year. I think in the last four years, one of them I went to London at the invitation of Indra Sivayoham, for Yogaswami celebrations there and the other three years I was in Toronto with the various Yogaswami groups there. There's about four different groups altogether in Toronto. So, every year I went, the first year there was snow there which was a bit of a shock. Hadn't seen snow for a while, cause we don't even have shoes you know so, we're very simple monks, so that just in case we did buy shoes for the trip which came in very handy cause we were walking around in snow.

So this year we're trying something different we're traveling digitally. It's one of our new themes, travel digitally. So it's, we're trying a very simple form this year, we're sending an audio CD of this talk plus a couple of files. There's a file like this which has the color in it, color pictures and so forth, and there's a file that's just black and white. So, it's giving the groups we're sending it to a chance to listen to the talk as well as they can print it out in either black and white for the devotees or in color if they have that facility. So in that way, we'll be present at all the groups digitally this year. So we sent it around the three or four groups in Toronto, we sent it to one in Edmonton, London, Sydney, I think one other place. And if you know of any groups besides that that you think would enjoy it, it is in English we don't have a Tamil translation of this, let us know we still have a few extra CD's we could send out for the occasion that would be appreciated anywhere.

So of course the challenge when it comes to Yogaswami devotees, it's a challenge all of us face. But I think they face it a little more strongly, is trying to convey to the younger generation what Yogaswami's teachings are all about. And in the case of Yogaswami it's a little hard because you know, he left us a group of songs. He didn't organize his teachings in a particular way. So when you talk to many of the Yogaswami devotees they're somewhat at a loss as to how to explain Yogaswami's teachings to their children. So this is taking a very simple idea. Something that all children, teenagers, young adults can relate to. It's the idea of happiness. So it's drawing on: What does Yogaswami teach us about happiness? You know, how can we really be happy? What is happiness from the Hindu point of view? So it's delving into that, which is I think you know, really the basic idea. If you can explain to children and youth how Hinduism makes you a happier person, wouldn't you want to practice Hinduism? It's that simple.

So, here we go. So this is written as if it's being read on the Mahasamadhi Day.


An Inspired Talk by Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami Honoring Satguru Siva Yogaswami on the 43rd Anniversary of His Mahasamadhi

Greetings and vanakkam on the occasion of Satguru Yogaswami's March 2007 Mahasamadhi Observance. Certainly an important challenge that all of Yogaswami's devotees face is passing on the great wisdom of our line of gurus to the younger generation so that they too find inspiration in the tradition that will help them live a happier, more successful and more religious life. Certainly all youth want to have a happy life. When we are young, we tend to think that happiness comes from fulfilling our desires. However, at a certain point in life we realize that this is not true. The happiness that comes from fulfilling desires is short-lived. Fortunately, the Saiva Samayam contains practices within it that do produce an enduring happiness. This talk explains in detail how enduring happiness can be achieved through understanding the nature of desire, refining our desires, (Sound familiar? Gurudeva's phrase there) refining our desires, developing a religious nature and experiencing inner joy through the spiritual practices of meditation, devotion and service to others.

But first let's turn to Yogaswami's Natchintanai to hear some of his thoughts on happiness from the section entitled "Seek the Profit of the Soul" (Pages 10 and 11 of the English edition):

So, it's Yogaswami.

"The wise, who have seen that the profit of the soul is what is truly of value, will not be carried away by the transient joys and sorrows of this earth, but will live in the world like water on a lotus leaf. On the other hand, those who are unmindful of the good of their souls will go through life confused and agitated by worldly pains and pleasures. But the wise, who, having the well-being of the soul as their aim, have rid themselves of the idea of 'good' and 'bad' and 'I' and 'mine,' will live in heavenly bliss beneath the holy feet of the Lord, free from birth and death. The ignorant, who do not know this, fall into an ocean of misery and put themselves in danger of entering the fiery mouth of hell. [Now he gets more specific.]

"If a man yearns wholeheartedly for victory in subduing the mind, let him practice Sivadhyanam daily. [Daily meditation on Siva.] Then he will see for himself that, step by step, his mind will become one-pointed. Serenity, forbearance, control and other such good qualities will arise in him. His mind will be always full of joy. He will not be dragged down by praise or blame, but will enjoy happiness in his inmost soul, and the thought that the well-being of others is his own will flood his heart." --Satguru Siva Yogaswami

So that's the idea. Happiness. Enjoy happiness in his inmost soul. So back to the talk.

The non-mystical approach to happiness is that if you attain what you desire, you are happy; and if you don't, you are unhappy. Win the lottery, get a great job, and you are happy. Miss the lottery, lose your job, and you are miserable. The dictionary tells us that happiness is "the emotion evoked by success or by the prospect of possessing what one desires." A reflective person knows that this kind of happiness is fleeting. When we finally possess what we have been desiring, somehow the happiness soon fades and, before we know it, we are back to our dissatisfied self again, desiring something new to give us that elusive happiness. The cycle of desire-fulfillment-pleasure-loss-pain-suffering--that is the cycle of seeking happiness in outer things, be they possessions or people.

What is the solution? Some say, "Give up desire!" Desire is causing the whole problem. It drives us to get what we want, and when the happiness of that getting eventually wears off we start all over again with a new desire. So, if you can get rid of desire, you solve the whole problem. Right?

Gurudeva looked at it differently. He decreed, "Desire is life, and the reason we desire things is because we are alive. Desire is energy expressing itself." The only way you could get rid of desire, he would observe, would be to get rid of life. Even if the physical body has passed on, even if we don't have a physical body, we are still "alive," still active on the inner planes of being in your subtle body, creative and motivated by what? Desire. So, trying to get rid of desire is not really a solution to the cycle of desire and fulfillment.

Instead, Gurudeva suggests we focus on lifting up our consciousness and changing the things we desire. That is how we solve the problem, by channeling or transmuting our energy, desiring things that are more refined. Also, instead of desiring just to make ourselves happy, we desire to make our family and friends happy, too. That is a higher desire.

When children go to school, they develop the intellect and gradually gain control over their natural instinctive impulses. The discipline of learning raises them up. As a child, first we memorize, bringing the energies up out of the chakras below the muladhara into the muladhara chakra, which governs memory. Then, as we develop our reasoning faculties, we enter the svadishthana chakra, we reason. We learn how to think, how to respond to life thoughtfully and not reflexively. Next, we learn how to push things through, how to accomplish projects, using the force of will in the manipura chakra. All this time energies are rising from memory into reason and from reason into willpower. Schooling is important, for it trains us to lift our consciousness, refine our character and harness the baser desires.

For youth, perfecting cultural practices, such as singing, dancing and playing a musical instrument, is another effective way of developing the higher nature and refining desire. These high-minded activities help raise the energies even farther than does basic study in school. In doing so, young ones raise their consciousness and learn to avoid the grosser states of mind--doubt, depression, discouragement, frustration, anger and resentment--and circumvent the syndrome of relying on the fulfillment of desires to make them happy.

The goal for the next generation is to claim the spiritual happiness that is inside them. Happiness is already part of their inner self, but they need to learn how to experience that part of them that is always happy. Once they have refined their desires through academic studies and cultural practices, they become religious enough to take the next step toward enduring happiness. Our Saiva religion gives them inner ways and outer ways to accomplish this.

The monistic or meditative way is to turn within through meditation, go deeper into the lotus of the heart and experience our inner self, our inner light, our spiritual energy. That's a wonderful way to find a permanent happiness.

There is also the theistic way. We go to the temple and open ourselves to the blessings of the Deities. Even if we enter the temple in an unhappy state, the divine blessings received send us away uplifted and happy. Why? Because we have reconnected with our inner self through external worship. Through devotion, we have connected with the same blissful state that can be achieved through meditation.

Gurudeva gave us a third way: "If you want to attain happiness, make others happy." That is an insightful statement. Quite often we are unhappy because we are in a selfish state of mind, concerned only about our own life, our problems, our challenges. "Life is not treating us fairly," we think, so we are miserable. What's the antidote? Do something for other people. Try to make them happy. A woman suffering from severe depression was told by her psychiatrist, "I have a sure remedy for your depression, if you follow it. Go out and make other people happy." Of course, she would not do that. We might say she actually wanted to be depressed. Or we could say she was stuck in the depressed state of mind, unable to change. She did not understand that happiness comes not from getting but from giving, not from having but from helping.

Gurudeva made an insightful statement about selfless service: "Go out into the world this week and let your light shine through your kind thoughts, but let each thought manifest itself as a physical deed of doing something for someone else. Lift their burdens just a little bit and, unknowingly perhaps, you may lift something that is burdening your mind. You erase and wipe clean the mirror of your own mind through helping another. We call this karma yoga, the deep practice of unwinding, through service, the selfish, self-centered, egotistical vasanas of the lower nature that have been generated for many, many lives and which bind the soul in darkness. Through service and kindness, you can unwind the subconscious mind and gain a clear understanding of all laws of life. Your soul will shine forth. You will be that peace. You will radiate that inner happiness and be truly secure, simply by practicing being kind in thought, word and deed."

We recently visited Auroville, the experimental spiritual community based on Sri Aurobindo's teachings outside of Pondicherry, in South India, and spoke to some of the teachers there about how they impart spirituality to their students. One teacher shared a practice that she finds effective. It is to have each of her students help another student every day, but without the other student knowing he is being helped. This certainly is an excellent example of the idea of attaining happiness through trying to make others happy!

Some parents get discouraged because they do the best they can with their children and the children don't respond in a way that seems reasonable. "Look, our daughter didn't follow my good advice, despite all my love and attention. She is still doing the same old immature things." The parents feel sad. But why should they? A wiser approach is to feel that you have done your duty to the other family members and earned good karma by doing the right things in a loving way. There is no need for their negativity to prevent you from enjoying your own enduring happiness, just as we don't have to be ill if those close to us fall sick.

Being surrounded by family and friends is important. It is a natural and positive state to live in. It helps us, children and adults alike, enjoy a fulfilling, dharmic life. The problem comes if we rely on family and friends to make us happy. This is a false concept. We want our happiness to come from within ourselves. Then we can share that happiness with our family and friends. Similarly, youth should not fall into thinking, "I am unhappy by myself, but if I get married, if I have children or if I have lots of friends, I will somehow be happy." It does not work that way. Any temporary happiness soon wears away. If, when we get married, we are an unhappy person, we may be happy for a while. But eventually we fall back into unhappiness, because that is our mental habit, the mode our mind operates in. That habit does not go away just because we associate with new people. It also does not go away by our getting new possessions. The happiness derived from acquiring things lasts for an even shorter time. New computer, new car, redecorate the home--these can be fulfilling for a few months, maybe a year for the home, but eventually the charm wears off. The state of unhappiness only goes away permanently by our remolding our consciousness, changing the way we look at life, by refining our character to the point where we naturally live in a state of fulfilled contentment all of the time, regardless of external circumstances.

A few years ago, I met a young man at a kumbhabhishekam in Illinois. He is in his late twenties, well-educated, intelligent, and is teaching yoga at the local temple. As a result of our visit, he started reading Gurudeva's writings on the yamas and niyamas, Hinduism's code of conduct, twenty guidelines for ethical and religious living. He ran across the statement that we must perform our duty to our community and asked me what that meant. He really had no idea to what it referred. I answered that the community in which we live is like a distant part of our family and as such we have a duty to them just like any other member of the family. We need to devote part of our time and financial resources to helping solve community problems, such as donating food and clothing to the poor, volunteering for after-school programs and so on. I added that he could encourage the temple management to develop social outreach programs of this kind. This encounter showed me the need to train Hindu children and youth in the fullest meaning of dharma, which includes our duty to the community in which we live, ideally by having them participate in volunteer service programs with other youth.

I would like to share a story about community service that I saw last year on television. It was about relief work in New Orleans, a city in which tens of thousands of families lost their homes due to flooding that followed hurricane Katrina. The story featured a group of college students who, during school break, traveled together to the crippled city, where they lived in humble conditions for about a week and during the day helped repair a number of damaged homes. They were doing hard, physical work, and it was all for strangers in need. The interesting part to me was their heartfelt testimony at the end of the segment. The common theme in all their statements was: they had never done anything like this before, were quite surprised at how good it made them feel, and hoped to have an opportunity to volunteer again for more rebuilding work in the near future.

In conclusion, discuss happiness with the younger generation. Share with them the wisdom of the Saiva Samayam that enduring happiness can be achieved through understanding the nature of desire, refining our desires, developing a religious nature and experiencing our natural inner joy through the spiritual practices of meditation, devotion and service to others. Remember to stress Gurudeva's trenchant statement, "If you want to attain happiness, make others happy."

There we go. Simple message make others happy.

[End of transcript.]