For many of us, our lives are spent in pursuit of happiness. As children, we wanted new toys or a trip to the amusement park. As childhood passed into adolescence, we sought happiness in other things: doing well in school, the attention of friends. Young adulthood flies by in the quest for knowledge, a career, and fulfilling childhood dreams. For parents, happiness lies in the success and contentment of their children. At every stage of our lives, we are constantly searching for something – that one thing that we believe will bring us happiness. But it is human nature to always crave something more; we can never be completely content with what we have. The minute we attain our goal, we immediately start yearning for something else. These material things that we spend our lives in pursuit of can only bring us temporary satisfaction. The key to finding true happiness lays in something much more powerful and much harder to attain.
Hinduism teaches us that the ultimate goal of human existence is moksha, or becoming one with God. People suffer through many lifetimes trying to achieve good karma by following the path of dharma, or righteousness. Many times, the temptations of the human existence lead us astray. In trying to satisfy our smallest desires, thinking that these will bring us happiness, we succumb to adharma, unrighteous conduct. We must learn to put off these frivolous desires in order to achieve complete fulfillment in life. This fulfillment can only be attained through the realization of God.
While the things we seek in life may not bring us total contentment, we must learn to find satisfaction in following the path of dharma. In the simplest sense of the word, dharma means doing one’s duty in life. As we carry out our responsibilities, we are essentially performing the duties God has prescribed for us; and in doing so, we can obtain a sense of fulfillment. Following the path of dharma brings us closer to God realization, and in turn, closer to true happiness.
However, simply performing our duties alone will not lead us to God. Many times, life throws us obstacles that make it difficult to do the right thing. Conflict is an inherent part of human life, and there are always temptations waiting to lead us astray. In order to find the strength required to adhere to dharma, we must first put our faith in God. There is a beautiful poem that someone once gave me that I find myself reading whenever I need inspiration. The poem, written by an unknown author, is titled “The Difference”. It shows us how important it is to pray each day, and illustrates how difficult everyday tasks can become without God’s blessing.
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray
Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?”
I wondered. He answered
“You didn’t ask.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty.
But the day toiled on gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I tried to come into God’s presence;
I tried every key in the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”
I woke up early this morning,
And paused before started the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.
I know that I can personally attest to the sense of contentment I feel during my morning prayers, or the feeling of peace when I am singing bhajans at the temple. When I finish, I always feel stronger, ready to face the challenges of the day. I believe that having this devotion is the first step toward true happiness. At times, our faith is the only thing keeping us afloat when it feels like we are drowning in troubles. By realizing that all things happen by God’s will and by believing that our faith can and will get us through the hard times, we come ever closer to God realization.
My faith in God and in Hinduism has always helped me get through the challenges I have faced in life. Hinduism teaches us that no one path to God alone is correct; different people follow different paths, but as long as they have devotion, they may ultimately attain salvation. I feel blessed that my religion allows me to accept the beliefs of others along with my own. Without this sense of open-mindedness that Hinduism encourages, I would not have been able to draw such inspiration from this beautiful poem. By understanding that there is only one God, no matter what form he is worshipped in, we can accept the ideas of others and learn from them. In doing so, we come one step closer to the realization of God.
If devotion is the first step, then righteous conduct must follow soon after. Once we put faith God’s omnipotence, it becomes easier to carry out our duties and to follow the path of dharma. I was taught early on that within each of us there is a small part of God – atman – that can show us the right path in life. The difficult part is casting off the temptations of the physical body and allowing the atman to lead us to righteous conduct. The key to happiness in this life is realizing that by following the path of dharma, we are following God. Very few people can take the final step toward complete realization of God. Only those who are strong and dedicated can renounce the materialistic aspects of life and enter into the life of a sanyasi, or ascetic. Once they have freed their minds and bodies of the distractions of this world, they spend their days in God’s worship. Having achieved this last stage in the human life, these honorable ascetics may obtain salvation upon death.
For most of us, however, the duties and responsibilities of daily life prevent us from being able to renounce the material world. This is not to say that we cannot find happiness in the pleasures of day-to-day life. Rather, we must somehow be able to bring God into our everyday actions. When I was young, my parents taught me to always be respectful of other people – all people, whether they shared my beliefs or not. They wanted to teach me was that God was in everyone, and to disrespect someone would be disrespecting God. By understanding this fundamental idea – that God is in everything – we can take the first steps toward complete realization of the Almighty. Seeing God in those around us, as well as in nature, can help bring peace into our everyday lives. Faith and devotion can bring us closer to God by helping us carry out our duties and keeping us on the path of dharma.
In the great epic Mahabharata, even the noble Arjuna struggles to comprehend the meaning of human existence. Lord Krishna instructs him, telling Arjuna to simply do his duty, leaving the rest in God’s hands. Upon imparting the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, Lord Krishna reveals his true form to Arjuna as Bhagavan himself. Very few people will ever be blessed enough to experience God in all of his glory, as was the great warrior Arjuna. We can only pray that through our devotion, God will give us the strength we need to face the toils of life.
If we can make it through life following the principles of dharma, while continuing to have faith in God, we have done that all we can. During the good times as well as the bad, we must remember that by God’s blessing, we have been given the opportunity to experience human life. Life is a gift, and we should live it as righteously and honorably as we can. We must learn to cast aside the desires of the material world and seek to come closer to God in everything we do. By having faith in God’s will and by carrying out our responsibilities, we can hope to some day realize God’s great power and in doing so, achieve true bliss and ultimately, moksha.