“I’m grateful to anyone that is happy or free,
For giving me hope while I’m looking to see,
The Light that has lighted the world.”
The Light That Has Lighted the World, George Harrison
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Dakota Sioux call the full moon in August “Moon When All Things Ripen.” When the harvests begin in August and the fullness of summer is here, we enjoy the fresh, local fruits and vegetables! Who could ask for more?
Well, most people could. And most people do want more, and more. We want more money and more things we don’t need. We want to travel, we want to party, and we want recognition. We want what other people have, we’re jealous if we don’t have it and we’re angry if we can’t get it.
Vedanta teaches that there are two types of happiness. Transient happiness comes from the material world. Internal happiness is earned from doing the hard work of spiritual practices. Simply put, we’re not happy because we’re looking outside of ourselves for happiness. The wise person will seek fulfillment or contentment within. Contentment, or santosha, is one of the internal observances, or niyamas, that Yoga suggests we follow to further our progress on the spiritual path.
While my English language dictionary equates contentment with happiness, Yoga distinguishes them saying we must first cultivate contentment then internal happiness will follow. The Yoga Sutras say, “From contentment happiness is gained.” But there’s more: “supreme happiness comes after the cessation of desires.” So, first be content with what we have then stop wanting more.
Vyasa, the esteemed Yoga Sutras commentator, said nothing in the world brings pleasure as much as eliminating all of one’s desires. Desires trap the mind and block it from spiritual progress. Once desires are removed the mind can stabilize and turn inward. Then the seeker moves towards internal happiness, or fullness. In Sanskrit “fullness” is purna, alternatively transliterated as “satisfied, abundant, fulfilled, complete, or perfection. One vedantic book, the Ishopanishad says that humans are perpetually seeking perfection or fullness. The problem is we’re looking in the wrong place. Vedanta teaches that fullness is always there and available if we look in the right place, within the heart.
Yoga’s basic tenet is mastery over the vast field of the mind through contemplation and meditation. We all need things in this life, but they don’t bring us long-lasting, unsurpassed happiness. Try to disconnect from the desires for them and train yourself to eliminate cravings. The more you do it the more it will work. By prevailing over them rather than letting desires prevail over you, your mind will attain satisfaction, contentment and fullness.
Jesus said, “No one can become my disciple if they do not give up all possessions” (Luke 14:33). Likewise, the Ishopanishad says to “not lust after any man’s wealth.” It goes on to say that we should see God in all things and all people, and never, at any time, stray from this concept. “In order to tread the path of divine knowledge, night and day the aspirant should imbibe the truth that God is omnipresent.”
“Take this fact unto thy soul,
God dwells in thee.
It is no metaphor, nor parable.
It is unknown to thousands, and to thee.
Yet there is God.”
Gnothi Seauton, Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Ishopanishad further teaches us not be jealous of anyone. “The wise man beholds all beings in the Self and the Self in all beings; for that reason he does not hate anyone.” We simply cannot be jealous if we regard the oneness of all beings. Jealousy for something another person has can be all consuming. Striving creates anxiety, which only distracts us from the inner work of seeking peace and a genuine, inner happiness. Train the mind to be content even during feelings of jealousy. Look to others who have truly achieved happiness as a beacon or example, as in the song above.
How often do you feel malcontented? Do you actively admit being jealous? Give up the attitude of jealousy, lest your spirit be burdened. Do you carelessly say “I hate” this or that. This only increases discontent. Practice self-awareness of these thoughts in the mind and do not let them stay rooted. Try not to yield to them, but abandon them. We suffer more from the process of coveting than we do from going without the things we desire!
Humanistic psychologists trust in peoples’ inherent goodness. They agree that people constantly strive for increased levels of functioning and that people have free choice. This is consistent with Eastern ideas. When I feel jealous, disappointed or malcontent, I exercise my free choice and appreciate the fullness of my life. I take some slow, deep breaths; adjust my thoughts; remember my loved ones and my duty toward them…my heart is full!
As I also enjoy the fullness of summer and the warmer days, I count my blessings. I enjoy and appreciate these few summer weeks that I long for in the middle of the cold winter. I am overjoyed by the fullness of the simple joys of summer when I look around at the lovely landscapes, the canopies of lush trees and the multitude of colorful flowers.
“The wind is low, the birds will sing, that you are part of everything…
Won’t you open up your eyes? Look around…”
Dear Prudence, The Beatles
Copyright Cynthia Gran 2015