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The Biggest Picture of All

Almost everything I’ve ever done has been to make myself happy. I’m aware that looking after something or someone or working towards a goal is never an easy task but it brings me joy because I like the big picture. Thus, despite my worries, I’ve convinced myself that I am the cheerful person who works out at the gym, the one who’s tapping away gingerly on a laptop and the (trying to be) harmonious family member who plans gatherings. I tell myself that I’m blessed, which is true because I’m aware that the world is full of strife and I’ve learned to count my blessings. Yet, at a deeper level, I can feel a few sad spaces in my heart. It’s usually while staring at the stars or while driving past a landscape that my unrealized dreams surface to jolt me into accepting the obvious. It’s possible that I’m not always as happy as I claim. Anyhow, these thoughts hover over my consciousness until I leave them behind. My hopes and dreams lie scattered over seas, hillocks, mountains and clouds.

Yet, as we all know, happiness, or its source cannot be constant. Swami Chinmayananda, explains in his interpretation of the Isavasya Upanishad that our idea of happiness keeps changing. ‘That which was, in our childhood, a great happiness and joy may not again provide for us an equal happiness or peace in our youth. A blue glass marble or a tennis ball, would have been joyous presents when one was in one’s childhood. But the same presents would not bring any happiness to us if they are presented to us at our diamond jubilee: conversely, they may even be painful, inasmuch as, they would remind us of our old age and the impending ‘calamitous day’!’ Furthermore, he explains that each individual has four personalities-the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. Each of these have their own thoughts, desires and emotions, reveling in their own ideas and ideologies and consistently trying their best to escape into a nameless freedom, peace and joy. Thus, four distinct sets of demands are made by each individual at the same period of time and space. In his words, “However much we may try to bring about a perfect scheme of things in our life and a hope to gain out of it a perfect satisfaction, for all of the four personalities in us, we shall only end up disappointed.”

This explains why we feel angry at ourselves if we are treated unfairly in the process of acquiring wealth because it clashes with our spiritual ideals. Or maybe we worry about devoting far too much time towards our physical well-being as opposed to intellectual pursuit and vice versa. We often mourn the lack of time we have to meditate or some of us grow bitter about choosing to stay at home with less money for the sake of the children. It’s never fair and it’s never perfect so we try to find ways to make it so. Yet, it is difficult to sustain the pleasure we experience when we buy a luxury car and I don’t know why we think arranging books on a shelf in alphabetical order will make us feel complete.

A paragraph in the book also presents a solution. “There is a technique by which we can train, discipline and integrate all these, wild and madly revolting personalities in us, together into one unit.” The seers called it religion but Swami Chinmayananda advocates reading the scriptures with the aim of intellectual inquiry and not devotion. Over the centuries, sages, philosophers and scientists have peered into the human soul, explored our psyches and explained the reason why we are who we are. It is with this thought alone that I can find communion between my inner selves- a way to experience synchronicity with the world. It has been in moments of disillusion that I have turned to the words of poet Rumi or minstrel Mirabai. Or sought refuge in the Upanishads and hope in Biblical stories. It is through the findings of Darwin and Freud that I have gained a better understanding of myself. I appreciate anything and everything which helps me step out of my mind. Just as my daily drudgery takes a backseat compared to the big picture of my life, the reading of great works makes my entire existence pale in comparison to the magnitude of the world. The best way to find a lasting happiness is through the pursuit of greatness. It is the biggest picture of all.

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