I was born and brought up in the presence of saints of India. By saints, I don’t mean the high profile world traveling, saffron robe adorning sadhus. My gurus were unpresuming people who had to shun the worldly things for one reason or another. Living with such people was a humbling experience, an experience that opened up my thinking about life and its purpose. As a child, in the ashram, I was taught to live differently, think differently, and eat differently. I never understood why we had to project ourselves in a different manner. However, as I grew older, it turned out that it was people of the world who were trying to be all the same and we were in a domain that was different from the world they were in. Nonetheless, the saints loved everyone around them. People would come to them with their problems and ask for their guidance. They enjoyed disseminating their knowledge and were almost always meeting people from different parts of the world. They were respected. They were the first one to personify happiness for me.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I traveled to a different part of India and got the chance to meet and live with the Buddhists monks. Continuing in on my quest for knowledge about life, I explored their world. I practiced meditation and tried to stay like them. As I went deeper, I realized that their philosophy was entirely different from the saints of Rishikesh. The Buddhists were inwardly focused. Everything they did was about reflecting on and improving their own self. They believed in the doctrine of emptiness- seeing things as they are. For them, Dukkha (pain) originated from being judgmental and focusing on the worldly things instead of one’s own self. They believed that happiness could be achieved by becoming disconnected from the world and that happiness began and ended in one’s own mind.
The sadhus who cared about being different from others were focused on the world. How they were perceived by others mattered to them. Perhaps because they were held high in esteem by the community and it was for them to live up to the standards. The monks, on the other hand, were focused on their own self. How the world perceived them was of little significance to their mind. They consistently focused on their own habits and thoughts. Both were happy. But who was happier?
Like every human, the way of achieving happiness is unique too.
Considering your other needs will be satisfied in very basic manner, if you had an extra 100 dollars and you could spend it either on special food or clothes, what would you spend it on? Food or clothes?
Outward focus or Inward focus:
There is only one way you can be happy, that is if you strive to make yourself happy. Like everything else in life, happiness doesn’t come to you by itself. You have to understand and work towards achieving happiness. So the next time you try to find a source of happiness, ask yourself: what makes you happier — inward focus or outward focus? satisfaction or appreciation? Food or clothes?
The story is originally published by our yoga teacher training school in Rishikesh.