There is no easy answer to this. Maybe that’s because there is no single factor that contributes a wholesome happiness. Holy men say the more your expectation, the more distant is happiness – or real happiness (if you will) according to how they look at the so-called ‘vices’, like money, fame, power, and so on.
But are holy men happy? Not really. If you happen to visit places of pilgrimage it is not difficult to see that there are conflicts of interest even among them. That however doesn’t stop us from not realizing that people who are not happy themselves cannot possibly give you happiness.
An eternal question such as this would have remained unanswered in my mind but for today’s essay by Khushwant Singh in The Telegraph. It’s very aptly titled ‘8 Clues To Happiness‘. If you want to know who Khushwant Singh is, you may refer to a previous article of his in this blog in June, 2008.
Let me produce his article below:
8 Clues To Happiness
Having lived a reasonably contented life, I was musing over what a person should strive for to achieve happiness. I drew up a list of a few essentials which I put forward for the readers’ appraisal.
First and foremost is good health. If you do not enjoy good health you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct from your happiness.
Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores but should be enough to provide for creature comforts and something to spare for recreation, like eating out, going to the pictures, travelling or going on holidays on the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be only demoralizing. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own eyes.
Third, a home of your own. Rented premises can never give you the snug feeling of a nest which is yours for keeps that a home provides: if it has a garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, cultivate a sense of kinship with them.
Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. If there are too many misunderstandings, they will rob you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to bicker all the time.
Fifth, lack of envy towards those who have done better than you in life — risen higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be very corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others.
Sixth, do not allow other people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.
Seventh, cultivate some hobbies which can bring you a sense of fulfilment, such as gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks or to meet celebrities is criminal waste of time.
Eighth, every morning and evening, devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the morning, 10 minutes should be spent on stilling the mind and then five in listing things you have to do that day. In the evening, five minutes to still the mind again, and ten to go over what you had undertaken to do.
Nathaniel Cotton (1721-1788) summed up my views on the subject in one verse:
If solid happiness we prize,/ Within our breast this jewel lies;/ And they are fools who roam:/ The world has nothing to bestow;/ From our own selves our joys must flow/
And that dear hut, — our home.