The caption for today’s column is a less publicised quote attributed to the renowned monk Swami Vivekananda (1862-1902). The prescription, sounding almost like a diktat, sounds simple but is loaded with message that breaks out into the vast area of preparing oneself to lead a life of satisfied feeling as well as a feeling of fulfilment through the years until the final bow. The catch in that message is that nobody around has reason to feel dissatisfied because of one’s conduct in speech, deed and thought, which is a tall order. With that condition met without crossing the boundaries of courtesy and respect towards others, one may not be faulted to remark that the scope to be happy all the time in life is virtually infinite. The British philosopher, logician and mathematician, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), who authored a book titled Conquest of Happiness, has prescribed many maxims to be happy, of which two may be cited here: (a) Do not overestimate your own merits; (b) Remember your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself.
School teachers of yesteryears made it a point to impress their young pupils on the value of keeping away from six evils namely, ego, envy, anger, miserliness, laziness and unbridled passion in order to be balanced and mature in thought and deed ensuring happiness.
The line that justice must not only be done but also seem to be done prompts one to say that a person has to not only appear to be happy but also seem to be happy unconditionally. People can also be unhappy due to myriad reasons in a long list as a result of not conforming to the guidelines of the school teacher mentioned earlier. The quote “An idle mind is a devil’s workshop” from H.G. Bohn’s (1796-1884) “Handbook of Proverbs” means somebody who is busy with work — an occupied mind as opposed to an idle one — doesn’t have time to think about doing any evil has the same message quoting the 12th century social reformer Saint Basavanna, namely ‘Kaayakave Kailasa.’ A recently conducted study based on a sample of 156 countries in its World Happiness Report-2018 has accorded an abysmally low mark of 133 as a measure of happiness.
Whether India’s low score of happiness is justified or unhappiness exaggerated are points for people to ponder over the reasons for either feature. People who are blessed to be happy can raise the level of their happiness by helping others to mitigate their state of unhappiness, although it may need extra labour and some sacrifice of their interests, raising India’s score from its present low rating.