Monday, 8 September 2014

The difference between happiness and bliss as explained by Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Every moment with the Lord is a beautiful one. A moment of beauty
is a joy forever. 
An impromptu interview with Swami

It was the Indian summer of 1980 in Bangalore. T.Ravikumar, a student in the final year MSc, stood outside a bungalow in Brindavan, Whitefield. The vacation had just begun and he had done what he used to do during any holiday - rush to be with his Divine Mother, Guru and God, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He was standing in front of the bungalow where his Swami was. That was when he received a message that he was being called inside.

He entered the first room of the bungalow and saw that Swami was there with some bureaucrats and officials. Without pondering over who the others were, Ravikumar focused his eyes and attention completely on the goal of his life - Swami. A smile came on his lips and joy filled his heart to the brim. Swami’s darshan always did this to him and it was his thirst for this joy that made him rush to wherever Swami was whenever he got the opportunity. Swami looked and him and asked,
“How come you are here?”
“Swami, the vacation has started and so I came here.”
“Why did you come here?”
“To have your darshan Swami...”
“Why do you want to have darshan?”
“...because it gives me bliss Swami... “

The others in the room were silently witnessing this interaction between the Chancellor of a University and His student. It was akin to an interaction between the Chancellor of the Universe and His devotee. Swami did not stop His line of questioning. He continued,
“Is it bliss or happiness?”
“It is bliss Swami...”
“What is the difference (between happiness and bliss)?”
“Swami, happiness is temporary only. Bliss sustains and grows on me...”

There was silence all around and everyone seemed to be listening keenly to Ravikumar. Ravikumar felt the need to elaborate.
“Swami, suppose I eat a Gulab Jamun (similar to a sweet dumpling) today. Ten years later, when I am hungry and don’t have a Gulab Jamun, the memory of eating it a decade ago will not appease me. In fact, the memory will enhance my feeling of lack and make me feel sad that I don’t have a Gulab Jamun now.

Today, Swami is talking to me. If ten years from now, I am in a situation where Swami is not talking to me, I can recollect these beautiful moments and feel the same joy. At such a time, the joy will, in fact, be greater. The joy will never recede and will only grow whenever I think of it. That is why it is bliss - ever growing and never declining.”

A broad smile blossomed on Swami’s face and His eyebrows raised in appreciation. He turned around to the others who had gathered in the room and said that Ravi (that is how Swami calls him) has an answer for everything.

When Ravikumar sir recollected this episode in 2014, he transmitted the same joy and serenity (if not more) that he had experienced that day in 1980.

Dr.T.Ravikumar with his Swami. Happiness indeed lies in union with God. 
Thoughts on happiness

Isn’t that such a real fact? Its not just the growing joy you get when you recollect moments with Divinity, that joy grows on others as well. I have seen that magic happening and that is what inspires me to keep writing and sharing experiences and memories with Swami. I have personally found that, when it comes to Swami, sharing others’ experiences also is as joyous as sharing my own. No wonder that Swami promised me greater joy and more experiences if I shared what I received from Him - because sharing is caring and sharing increases the joy.

In fact, this ‘growing joy’ is the basis for conducting satsanghs, study circles, Bhagawatha Saptahams (a week long study of the Bhagawatham which abounds in stories of Lord Krishna) and the like. When the Bhagawatha Saptaham was held in Prasanthi Nilayam in March 2010, I thought that I wouldn’t attend the 4-hour sessions daily because I knew most of the stories of Lord Krishna. However, I ended up sitting through most of the sessions because the stories were mesmerising even though I knew them already.

Happiness, indeed, lies in union with God.

“But hey! Wait a minute! When memories of Swami flood me, I feel very sad. I wish He hadn’t left the Physical. I long to see Him in the physical. So, the stories of the glories of Swami only make me miss Him more and feel low and sad.”

That is a valid complaint. And it seems to beg to differ from the ‘happiness is union with God’ statement. So, isn’t the result of union with God happiness always? Why does it get sadness then - at times?

The answer forms in my heart and I am sharing it because sharing increases joy! :)

(Even as I type this, my mail inbox gets a ping. There is a new message in the inbox. I open it. It is from a certain Z.N, a Muslim by religion. The person says, among other things:

Your articles bring tears of Joy in my eyes and they stirs my heart, somehow with Sai's Grace, I feel deeply the moments you were/are in His present as though I was there with all of you; it is His blessing to me indeed... I look forward to reading more of your reminisces with Swami... Oops! ‘Reminisce’ is a wrong word because it’s meaning implies that we rely on memory; with Swami He is ever present with or without the memory box being activated.”

I am convinced that this is Swami’s way of telling me that my ‘conclusion’ here is correct.)

The simple answer that my heart provided is this:

There is happiness only in ‘union’ with God - not ‘separation’ from God. So, whenever thoughts of Swami make me feel one with Him, they make me happy. Whenever any thoughts make me feel separate from Swami, they take me away from happiness.

Perfect and practical definition for bliss

Ravikumar sir’s answer was definitely inspired by Swami. He himself concedes that,
“Swami was so happy with the answer I gave. But I know for sure that it was not an answer I came up with. I am grateful for the opportunity to be the instrument through which the answer came.”

In that case, the answer came when Swami put the question to a student. What would have been the answer if a student had put that very same question to Swami? The good news is that there was definitely an instance when a student, Sri.Sanjay Mahalingam, put that question to Swami. Swami’s answer, as always, is so simple, lucid and deep. When asked for the difference between ‘happiness’ and ‘bliss’, Swami simply said,

“Causeless happiness is bliss.”

(This is a mantra that should be etched in our hearts.)

Bliss is something that should be beyond the reach of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’. Any happiness that has a ‘cause’ cannot be a lasting one; it cannot be bliss. This gives us a practical thumb-rule to see whether we are experiencing ‘happiness’ or ‘bliss’. Whenever we are happy, we just have to ask ourselves,
“Why am I happy?”
If we are able to answer that question, know for sure that the happiness is not of the permanent type. Lovely thumb-rule isn’t it?

This further means that to be ‘causelessly’ happy, one has to just ‘BE’ happy - experience the joy in just ‘being’. For that, one also needs to be constantly AWARE of one’s ‘BEING’. “Being’ and ‘Awareness’ leads to bliss. That is what is called as  Sath (Being) - Chit (Awareness) - Ananda (Bliss). When one is in this Satchitananda always, one is in union with God. How do I say that? ‘Coincidentally’ , it is there in the words themselves:

Being Awareness Bliss Always  = BABA = Union with God.

Lovely right?

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  1. Respected Brother Sri.Aravind,
    I felt really great reading your article. But you see I feel that you share because wants you to share your experiences. I was going through a book written by Swami Sri Prabhupada and he said, "One must not write on Lord Krishna without taking his permission and if Lord Krishna doesn't respond to you then you must ask your master for there is no difference between a realized soul and Krishna.Aspirant who wishes to write should be free from vices like anger and he or she should follow strict discipline." In our case Swami is both Lord Krishna and our Master. I have not regarded Swami as Guru as much as I have regarded him as my God. I see my Lord Krishna in him. Now, you can imagine, when I started writing my first story I had a very strict discipline to follow. If Swami grants me permission I don't mind going through the same, but the fact is that I never asked Swami anything. You are truly blessed because I think when you started writing it came to you as a grace from Swami and actually he made you his instrument to write and spread all over the world his glory. I hope you will agree with me on this point because at the end of the day. Karya Vohi Jo Kanha Man Bhaye-Work is that which pleases Lord Krishna. It is not necessarily if he is showering his grace on you in such a manner then that would be the same for all because there are few experiences which ordinary individuals(those who don't have faith or are beginners) can't comprehend. Then I think you might have asked Swami and he might have asked you to write or commanded you to do so. Moreover if you are writing then this proves the fact that it is the task provided by him to you.Even if you might not have asked Swami when you started writing it was because of him. Because Swami once said, "Nothing can happen without my will." Sai Ram. Keep writing and keep sharing for the joy of all and to give bliss to Swami.
    Take Care
    Sai Ram,
    With Love and Regards.

  2. Sairam sister,

    You overwhelm me with your appreciation. I am grateful for the same. I totally agree that nothing happens without His will.

    I shared the 'command' and 'blessing' received from Swami because some people have indeed been told by Swmai not to share some experiences.

    Thank you for your good wishes...

    In Sai Love

  3. Sairam,
    The difference between happiness and bliss is now clear. Thanks a lot sairam for giving us a chance to enjoy such bliss through your writing. It is indeed so peaceful to hear your satsung and reading your speeches. Feel so gifted for I have got this kind of opportunity. As so many people would have said, you are definitely one of the many ways of communicating to Swami. A ton thanks to you sairam brother.. :)

    1. Glad that the difference has become clear and we are all beholden to Swmai for having revealed it so simply.

      Thank you for your kind and appreciative words sister. Sairam

  4. Shankar Ramaswamy8 September 2014 at 19:21

    Sairam Aravind

    Another "human as a multidimensional existence" perspective to this

    At the level of the "body" an object is experienced by coming in contact with that object and this contact, usually in the form of a thought, bodily sensation or perception (seeing, smelling, tasting etc), is limited and finite.

    At the level of the consciousness, an object is experienced by "being" that object (name and form). The formless experiences form by being or becoming that form.

    Name and form is always limited and finite. However this knowing of "being" name and form is infinite and eternal. Anything, and this includes the knowing of being, that is infinite and eternal is bound to blissful. The knowing(chit which is formless) of our being (sat as name and form) is therefore blissful (ananda).

    In Ashtavakara Gita, King Janaka exults in knowing this truth and therefore exclaims- I am wonderful and beyond adoratation, I am in everything (i.e in every name and form) yet have nothing and beyond everything and nothing, I am that I am - This knowing of his being was the cause of his infinite and eternal blissful exultation


  5. oh my god.....i was looking at gulab jamoon picture and as a student of economics ..i wanted to write about theory of dimnishing marginal utility of material things.....the first gulab jamoon will give max joy....and inally after 6 or 7 you may not feel like taking at all....where as more and more divine leelas ..experiences they never satiate your hunger of the SOUl in fact they are reversely proportional..the more you hear and share..they increase more and more.....this is reall yet another leela of Swamy..

  6. Sairam Bro. Aravind,

    Another beautiful incident with profound message. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Somehow I missed this article and I am reading it after 5 days. But, His Master Plan ensured that I got the message when I needed the most! :)

    Thank you brother, Sairam


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