Truth is simple. My selfishness and self-aggrandizement rob me of my natural happiness.
I’m happy and lively in a natural way only when I satisfy others’ needs over mine. When I serve others readily and always. When I’m mentally disposed to seeking the welfare of others. The happiness I get by focussing only on my needs and wants is tinged with a fear that I might lose that happiness anytime. It doesn’t give the peace of mind that the other type of happiness, sacrificing to live for others, does.
Neither through work nor through progeny nor through wealth, but only through sacrifice (tyaga) can the bliss of immortality be obtained.
Na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagaine ekena amrutatvam aanasuh
When I was young, I read a story told by Kanchi Mahaperiva that touched me deeply. It stays with me till today. It is a very simple story, as simple and easy as a whiff of gentle wind blowing by. But, it has had a galeforce effect in shaping my life. Later on, as years passed by, I realized it did so because it spoke the simple truth.
He said a hungry boy was getting ready to eat a banana. At that time, another boy, also hungry and starving, approached him. The first boy at once handed over the banana he was about to eat to the second boy. Then he watched the second boy eat that with relish. With his hunger gone, the second boy was very happy and expressed his gratitude to the first boy. But the first boy realized that he was the happier of the two. Not only that. He found that he no longer was hungry also. This simple truth that removing someone else’s hunger actually removes my own hunger is a beautiful thing. The simple act of sharing what one has, to fulfill the needs of another is sublime. After all, my heart sacrifices itself working continuously to fulfill the needs of the rest of the body. We are all part of the same cosmic body. I learned this truth from this story. I also learned that sacrifice (tyaga) is a better form of happiness.
The second story is also a simple one. From the Ramayana, told by Sri Sathya Sai Baba. One evening the children, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna were playing. Suddenly Bharata came running to Kausalya (Rama’s mother) crying. “Mother, Rama let me win in the game we were playing!”, he complained in-between sobs. A few minutes later, Rama walked in smiling, with a radiant face. He exclaimed happily, “Mother! Bharata won today!”.
The lesson I learned was to be happy for others’ victory and happiness. This gives peace of mind and expands my heart.
Tyaga, sacrifice, sounds more difficult than it really is. In fact, it is the most natural thing to do. I do it all the time. It kind of puts me at equilibrium with things. I breathe out so I get my next breath in. I give up the food I’ve taken in so I get health. I give up family time to get a paycheck. My life is not so much as the continuous stream of actions I do as it is the underlying sphere of sacrifice (tyaga) in which all these activities take place. The Purusha suktam calls this invisible sacrifice that is taking place all around, at all times, by all things as “sarvahutah“.
If I live for others and not so much for myself, I would have lived happy. More than happiness, what more from life I could ask for?