Yes, Together We Can
by (Capt) Ravi K Mahajan
28. PLEASURE & HAPPINESS
Often, people confuse Pleasure with Happiness. Pleasure is felt outside on the surface & is Temporary,
while Happiness is there Deep Inside & is Permanent.
With so many Feelings and Emotions, our lives can be both simple and complicated. In fact, even if life is complicated, Happiness is Simple. It is entirely in our hands what to make of our life. Hence, it is very important for us to understand our feelings and emotions, so that we can get over our bad feelings, which give us perpetual trouble and enhance our good feelings, which give us satisfaction and much needed happiness. After having read and adopted lesson on ‘Happiness’, we analyze ourselves further, with regard to another common Emotion, which most of us want and seek, that is the relationship between happiness and physical Pleasure.
It’s a sign of immaturity when we mistake pleasure for Happiness. Pleasure is an outward emotion, which we get mostly from the use and owning material things and objects, while Happiness is a feeling deep inside us, coming straight from inner layers of our heart. Mostly, when our inner needs are met, we get that feeling of happiness, contentment and satisfaction, but on the contrary, when our greed is fulfilled, temporary and fleeting pleasure results. Pleasure, usually, is derived from contact with sensual objects. It is always changing, fleeting and illusory. Opposite of Pleasure is Bliss which, like happiness, is inner gratification.
For example, a small family with two children have been having a two wheeler for family conveyance. With lots of efforts and hard work, couple is able to buy a car. Now, owning and using this car, would bring that known feeling of happiness, pride and elation in the family, since their long standing need has been met. Now, we have another family, who already has a good car or two, for their needs but, since, they have surplus money, they buy a swanky new model car to show off to their friends and relatives, thinking that owning such an item of luxury, which most others do not have, would enhance their reputation. Buying this new car may bring some temporary pleasure to the family, but no true Happiness, since family’s real intention is to look down others.
Happiness results, when we give something without expecting returns, while pleasure results, when we get something. Pleasure is a temporary feeling of elation or joy. It is a feeling with a short expiry date and time. While Happiness, for an act of kindness or compassion towards a needy person, is a feeling of permanent nature, which you would cherish and relish in your heart for ever.
I would relate here a 55 year old incidence of my childhood, when I was in school in Agra,UP. Since, I was only about 12 years old then, I would take my lunch, cooked by my mother on my return from school at home, at about 3’O clock in the afternoon. One day before I left for school, my mother told me, that she had to go to meet some relatives in the afternoon. She said that she will keep my lunch in the kitchen and give the keys to the neighbors, from where I can collect them, when I come back from school. Well, those were the days of perpetual hunger. I could eat any amount of food any time, specially if the menu was of my liking.
Those were the days of hard coal ovens or Angeethies (crude cooking stove, made from an iron bucket with mud, heated with hard coke) which took more than an hour to light up. Kerosene stove, which came much later, was considered a luxury, when it made its first appearance, while no one had heard of present day gas, which we consider a part of our lives these days. Once an Angeethy was lighted in the morning, breakfast of mostly Paranthas was made first, then mother would cook the lunch, which everyone would have in the kitchen, sitting on the floor on mats. Since, I had to go to school, which was about three kilometers away by foot, I would again feel terribly hungry when I returned from school at about 3’O clock in the afternoon and have my lunch cooked by her in the morning. The Angeethy was again lighted in the evening for cooking dinner, which would be ready only at about 9’O clock. In our middle class family, there was almost no or very little money available for buying food items from outside. Daily, we would get one anna as pocket money to buy such things. So, we had to spend that precious one anna with great care and thought, to get maximum value.
Coming to this incidence, on my return home and throwing my school pack in the room and washing my hands, I rushed to the kitchen immediately for my lunch. I was overjoyed to find that my mother had cooked Rajma-Chawal (Red kidney beans curry with boiled rice), which I was particularly very fond of, for lunch. I took both the items in good quantity to a small table in the verandah and with great relish, when I was about to start eating, I realized the main door having been left open by me by mistake and a beggar family with two kids, looking hungrily and expectantly at me. My first reaction was to close the door and sit comfortably to have my lunch. But when I looked at the man, woman and their two kids, looking hungrily at the food lying on the table, it came to my mind that the unfortunate family might not have eaten for days.
Sheer out of an impulse or some divine action, I picked up the thali (steel eating plate with vertical sides) filled with my favorite Rajma-chawal and gave it to the family. When the children started eating hungrily out of the thali, I realized that the quantity shall not be sufficient for the family and gave all the additional rice and Rajma, which was there in the kitchen, meant to be eaten at dinner by our whole family, putting it in another thali, since the combination was very popular in our family and my mother would invariably cook Rajma-chawal both for lunch and dinner at one time only. Totally spellbound, I kept looking at the family, eating my lunch with great relish. I had completely forgotten about myself and how hungry I was.
In last fifty years or more, I have relived those unforgettable moments, thousands of times in my mind. After the family left with gratitude in their eyes, I realized my own hunger had vanished completely. Inside me, there was a feeling of great satisfaction and joy. When my mother came back, I told her the whole story as it happened. In spite of her best effort, dinner could only be ready after 8.30 PM, but it didn’t seem to matter to me.
I tell you frankly, that I take no credit for giving the food to that hungry family, which was not intentional as earlier mentioned. It was only some divine action. But the incidence has made me happy and joyful ever afterwards. It has given me immense self confidence and inner strength. Time and again in this book, I have asked you to fill your mind with positive thoughts and happy situations, whenever needed. I have done that thousands of times in last fifty years, filling my mind with this or such positive incidences, when you do good or are helpful and kind to someone needy, without any expectation of returns.
One hypothetical thought comes to my mind often. Supposing, as was my first natural reaction, if I had closed the door on their face and went ahead eating my favorite Rajma-chawal, I would have enjoyed my lunch thoroughly and would have received great pleasure from my act. But surely, by my next meal time that of dinner, I would definitely have forgotten about it, never to remember the incidence again. But, because of that divine interference and an unexplained impulse to give away my food in spite of my own hunger, has given me life long, perpetual happiness and ever present feel good factor in my life, which I cannot exchange with any material thing in life.
Difference between happiness and pleasure is, while the former is true feeling deep within, later is false outside only. Just imagine old times and how people were living then. Present day technology had not touched people’s lives or touched very mildly. When ego, pretentiousness and falsehood advents, happiness departs. Technology has, in fact, touched our lives in innumerable ways. And so have the problems, stress, one-upmanship, selfishness, social comparisons etc. Earlier, homes were full of guests and relatives. Now a days, normally people do not like to stay with relatives. If they do, host family is not very comfortable about it.
When I was a child, if I did not like what was cooked at our home, unhesitatingly, I would pick up a plate and go to neighbor’s house, and they would provide whatever is cooked in their household happily. These days, such things are unthinkable since most of the people do not know who their neighbors are. Pleasure of sharing-giving-helping has gone away. During marriages or functions, it was common for the neighbors to offer their accomodation for the guests from outside or for other uses. Nowadays, it is considered great inconvenience, to be avoided. Nearby hotels are there to fill in the need. During marriages in olden days, whole biradari (Community) used to come to the help and aid of the host family. Buffet meals were rare. Guests were served by relatives and friends. When I was a child, I used to be surprised that my father would participate wholeheartedly in girls marriages in biradari, be there almost whole of the day, serve the baraat (Marriage party), but come home late without eating because traditionally, most relatives and friends would not eat there since eating at bride’s side was considered taboo. Nowadays, such gestures are unthinkable with guests from bride side eating before the baraat arrives. No one cares to think of the immense pressure, financial and otherwise, this practice puts on the bride’s side. Bride’s side guests enjoy full hospitality as a matter of right without participating or extending even moral support to the host family. Where we are heading?
Pleasures have come but happiness has disappeared. Life presents us choices between what is pleasing and attractive in contrast to what is good and blissful. Former leads to instant gratification, which is fleeting, while later gives us inner happiness and satisfaction. Worldly wealth appears attractive bringing us lots of physical pleasures but no one is ever satisfied. Such pleasures often lead to pain, more pleasure to more pain. Rabindranath Tagore, great Indian nobel laureate poet, has said ‘Give me something to clasp, something that can last longer than pleasure, that can endure through suffering’. Pleasure is skin-deep and superficial while bliss is both sweet and enduring. All this does not mean that you abandon the world. It only means that you attach true value to things and happenings and work at being a better human being.
In fact, present day lifestyle is such that it has taken us away from nature, in the concrete jungles created by man. Previously, people were happy because they lived close to nature. For holidays, people prefer concrete jungles of Singapore, Bangkok or Dubai rather than serene and tranquil places, beaches and hills in our country, where one can really rejuvenate. Readers should themselves compare spending few days in those concrete jungles or in a small resort or hotel nearby or interiors of Ooty, Kodaikanal, Mamalapuram, Valparai, Shimpla, Gangtok or Darjeeling. Your return journey will tell it all, stressful or relaxing in true sense. Simply put, farther you go from nature, farther you are from true lasting happiness.
Adding material things to your life, often gives a very fleeting and false sense of happiness and joy, but your personal peace, happiness and sense of well-being is lying within you. Your effort to look for these feelings outside, will only bring frustration, disillusionment, and disappointment. Do not chase Desires and Pleasures, since they are all fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow. Man’s many desires are like small metal coins he carries about in his pocket. The more he has, more they weigh him down. Instead, experience the eternal happiness which is lying within you in abundance, by doing good, by being kind and helpful, by saying sorry and Thank you, where and whenever you can, giving a smile to a stranger on the street or during your morning walk, helping someone with a chore or running an errand, telephone someone lonely or offer to drive down someone, by easing some ones’ pain or hardship, any of these small small things and thousand others like these.
Mindless pursuit of Physical Pleasures and fulfillment of worldly desires, will often result in anger, vanity, hypocrisy, egoism, greed, jealousy, envy etc. which are all very negative factors bringing perpetual unhappiness, resulting in a very dissatisfied life. Lasting effect of all the physical pleasures and material things are limited. Within a short period, everything becomes routine and stops giving any pleasure. So, readers would do well to understand the difference between pleasure, which are all outer fleeting feelings and permanent soothing feeling of joy, happiness and satisfaction within, which are permanent and would make us proud of ourselves.
In the end, it does not really matter how much you have. What really matters is with whatever little or more you have, whether you spend it on your Pleasure or Happiness.