Happiness is our heritage. Happiness is our birthright. All we need do is be in tune with our created divine nature. After all, we are made in the image and likeness of God, if the Judaeo-Christian scripture passage (Gen 1:27) is true and not just a dream. The Vedic scriptures of the Hindus also believe that we are “divine, infinite, and perfect.” It starts with the belief that these sacred writings are, in fact, Truth.
But, as I have commented on before, this is a hard thing for people to believe because of their past training and their past mental constructs (samskaras). Therefore, the “pursuit of happiness” is the path that most of us are on. The mistake is thinking that the pursuit of happiness is the physical pursuit of fame, wealth, and power. These are three of the four aims in life, yoga says, and people must grow past these aims to the fourth aim called “moksha,” (“release”) in order to find true happiness. Happiness is releasing ourselves from those attachments to fame, wealth, and power. In other words, freeing ourselves from our security, pleasure and control needs.
This path to happiness starts when we start loving ourselves, when we start restraining ourselves from our negative samskaras and start developing the “yama” samskaras by practicing ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (moderating the senses), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Practicing these restraints will develop the samskaras that lead to happiness. A personal story might help.
When I was growing up, it was hard for me to live up to my mother’s and father’s expectations. I always wanted to be perfect, always wanted to please “mom and dad”. I became very self-critical, never thinking that I was good enough for those people who really cared for me. I learned, as I grew, that this was a common experience for most children and still is.
The perfection preached by the Catholic Church at that time added to my negative self-image. It never made sense that I was made in God’s image because the image of God was perfect. Christianity’s emphasis on sin, especially the Ten Commandments, made it hard for most Christians to think that we were perfect and lovable. It started to turn around for me when I was told by one teacher that “God made me and God didn’t make junk.”
As I grew up, my study of the philosophy and science of the Yoga Tradition gave me the tools to love myself. All I needed to do was practice the five yamas. As I began to do each of them, my true loving being started permeating my ego consciousness. I started to like myself more and more. And now today, funny as this will sound, “I love myself.” I am smiling as I say that because it is so contrary to my past self-talk. I am smiling because I am not talking about my physical self, or even my roles as husband, father, grandfather, teacher. I don’t love many of the things that I do and how I act, but I love the core me, the true me. And I thank God for creating me in his image and likeness.
Now all I have to do is continue practicing the yamas so that I am not seen as a colossal hypocrite and so that I continue to realize how blessed I and everyone else is. During the next few weeks, I will share my learning from the practice of the yamas (ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha).
Pursing the practice of the yamas is the true pursuit of happiness.