This essay should end here. But alas, finding happiness within the context of the ego is like trying to build a sand castle at the beach. Waves of discontent and sorrow will eventually reclaim it.
It is important to realize that there are two broad categories of meaningful actions. To understand this we will explore two Sanskrit words:
- The first word is “Artha” and relates to the first category of actions. Literally it means “meaning”. And it refers to action that leads to cessation of suffering. We spend our lives in “Artha” because we find it meaningful to act in a way that diminishes suffering and provides us with happiness. Sadly the actions related to “Artha” are ego centered and we never find lasting happiness.
- The other Sanskrit word is “Paramartha” and relates to the second category of actions. This word means “Supreme meaning”. Because of the futility of “Artha” we have to go beyond it to actions that provide deeper happiness that cannot be destroyed. Such actions are “Paramartha” and are actions that take place without the ego’s interference.
We are all naturally inclined to act in a manner that corresponds to “Artha”. Many will spend entire lives doing so. But our moment of awakening begins when we realize the futility of “Artha” and instead synchronize our actions towards “Paramartha”. This is when our journey into yoga begins.
This essay shows how to take our ordinary actions and orient them in such a way that puts us on a journey into Paramartha. If we take this journey to its logical end it leads to a permanent end of all suffering. But the journey into the extraordinary starts with the ordinary. Here are four ways to find deeper meaning in life:
1. Selfless action
A far more superior type of happiness unfolds in our life when our actions seek the happiness of others. Selfless action can happen if we can control our thoughts so that ego-driven thoughts are minimized. The challenge for us to change our orientation from “What’s in it for me?” to “How can I serve?”
2. Love and connection
Selfishness takes us away from love, while selflessness take us towards it. The happiness that comes from selfless love is far superior to the brief glimpses of happiness that arise in a love that is possessive and clinging. The challenge for us here is to build an attitude of forgiveness and let go small slights so as to not make mountains out of mole hills.
3. Knowledge and creativity
When we minimize our ego-based concerns we are able to free up tremendous amounts of energy. This energy allows us to be truly creative and gain knowledge and expertise that would otherwise be beyond us. The happiness of such creativity is far superior to the happiness gained by power and position. The challenge here is to go from “How can I prove that I am right?” to “What does this mean?”
4. Direct exploration of consciousness
We are conscious creatures and our consciousness is naturally outwardly directed. When we calm down our mind-body systems enough then we are able to direct our consciousness inwards towards itself. When this process starts we are able to gain knowledge of our true identity. The happiness arising from such knowledge is far superior to the happiness gained by being engrossed in our sensory world. The challenge here is to disengage from the sensory world and seek solitude and quiet.
Every moment in our life is an opportunity to permanently end suffering. Sadly we fritter away our lives trapped at the level of the ego unable to break free from the cycles of temporary happiness and suffering. Let us resolve to move away from this and turn our actions from “Artha” to “Paramartha”.
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