What Does it Mean to be Truly Happy?

“We are at the threshold of yet another new year. On this occasion, it is customary to wish one another “Happy New Year!” Everyone really wants the coming year to be happier than the passing one. One also tries all ways that one is aware of to achieve this end. In fact, this quest for happiness is as old as humanity itself.


The pleasures of primitive man in the forest were few. Few were his problems, too. Except for the challenges of survival posed by danger from wild beasts and nature’s fury, his life was relatively problem-free. The forest provided the basic needs for both human beings and animals. But man was not satisfied, at least for long, even when his basic necessities were taken care of. He wanted to always be happy, without any inconveniences. While still in the woods, human beings made crude weapons with stones, woods and animal bones which gave them certain dominance over animals and ultimately one of the most important discoveries in human history: fire. “Fire power” enabled human beings to clear forests, build villages, towns and cities, and eventually modern civilization. So modern civilization is the expression of man’s quest for happiness.


The facilities, comforts and avenues of pleasure we have today were unimaginable for the primitive man. Yet can we honestly say that we are happier or more satisfied than the primitive man? If any thinks so, let him take a look at today’s problems. Man has become so destructive that he has become the greatest threat for earth and life on it. Terrorists have made life extremely insecure. There is cut-throat competition between people and ruthless exploitation of the weak by the strong. Corruption is rampant; stress and disease have increased by leaps and bound. Many diseases, unheard of in the past, have appeared. The mutual relationship between human beings has degraded to one of mutual utility.


Are these the signs of a happy, satisfied society? In no happy society will such conditions exist, for social conditions are extensions of relationships between individuals. When a man is happy, he will not think of exploiting or harming another. That social conditions are rotten can only imply that individual relationships are rotten, which means that individuals are not happy. Further, it has been observed that the deterioration of human relationships was directly proportional to the modernization of society. Therefore, the civilized man cannot claim that he is happier than the primitive man. Every scientific advancement, socio-political, administrative and economic theory, philosophy and reform has failed to bring peace and happiness to human life. All comforts and entertainments man has created provide temporary escapes from his inner turmoil but never enduring happiness. Like the primitive man, modern man’s search for happiness is still going on.

When we carefully examine the methods we employ to become happy, we see that they fall into 2 categories:

1. We try to gain objects, people or positions that we believe will make us happy.

2. We try to get rid of objects, people or situations that we believe will make us unhappy.


No one consciously chooses unhappiness. In both cases, we believe that happiness lies without. That is, we cannot be happy by ourselves, and therefore try to make external situations conducive to us. Since Man has little control over his circumstances, attempts to manipulate them for his happiness will almost always be unsuccessful. Even if success is met, it will be for a short while only. It is the experience of all, that objects, people or situations that gave us happiness at one time evoke aversion at another. Even the same object or person or situation will evoke different reactions in different persons at the same time. This clearly shows that happiness does not lie in any external factor; otherwise the factor would have made everyone who came into contact with it happy every time. Happiness lies within. Man’s mistake is searching for happiness outside.


The realization that happiness is within is an instant release from the stranglehold of the world; this is indeed tremendous freedom. Such a person’s relationship with the world will never again be one of a search for happiness; it will be the expression of his own happiness.


Without being happy within to some extent, our New Year greeting will be lifeless.

May we all be blessed to discover the happiness within so that the coming years will be truly happy ones.”

Adapted from Matruvani, January 2012

I felt ever so awakened after reading this article. Although it is something my parents have been trying to teach us from young, it has always been easier said than done, and sometimes we need stronger-than-usual reminders. This article come to me at a timely moment, and I just wanted to share it. Happy reading 🙂

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