Excerpted from the newly published book, in the Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda series, How to Be Happy All the Time:
To seek happiness outside ourselves is like trying to lasso a cloud. Happiness is not a thing: It is a state of mind. It must be lived. Neither worldly power nor moneymaking schemes can ever capture happiness.
Mental restlessness results from an outward focus of awareness. Restlessness itself guarantees that happiness will remain elusive. The more widely we scatter our energies, the less power we have left to direct toward any specific undertaking. Octopus habits of worry and nervousness rise from ocean depths in the subconscious, fling tentacles around our minds, and crush to death all that we once knew of inner peace.
Happiness is a choice
Persons of strong character are usually the happiest. They do not blame others for troubles that can be traced to their own actions and lack of understanding. They know that no one has the power to add to their happiness or detract from it, unless they themselves allow the adverse thoughts or wicked actions of others to affect them.
A strong determination to be happy will help you. Do not wait for your situation to change, thinking that therein lies the trouble. Try to be happy under all circumstances.
Happiness depends to some extent upon external conditions, but chiefly upon conditions of the inner mind. Without internal happiness, one can be a prisoner of worries in a rich castle. Happiness comes from struggling against the difficulties of life with an acquired attitude of unshakable inner happiness.
The habit of preserving an internal happy attitude of mind should have been started when you were very young, but it is not too late to begin now. From today onward, make up your mind that when you meet your trying relatives, when you come in contact with your overbearing boss, and when you experience the trials of life, you will try to retain your internal calmness and happiness.
Always remain even-minded and cheerful
The most important condition for lasting happiness is even-mindedness. Remain ever calmly centered in the Self, within. As a child’s sand castle disintegrates before invading waves, so does a restless mind, lacking strength of will and perseverance, succumb to the pounding it receives from the waves of changing circumstance.
A diamond, however, retains its strength and clarity no matter how many waves crash down upon it. The man of inner peace, similarly, his consciousness made crystalline by inner calmness, retains his equanimity through even the storms of mighty trials.
A good rule to live by, and one that will take you sailing through many tests in life is, under all circumstances, to remain even-minded and cheerful. Tell yourself simply, “Whatever comes of itself, let it come.”
Toil and struggle are the norms of life on earth. They are blessings, not misfortunes, for they provide us with a testing ground for our own inner development.
As we hone our peace of mind—its pure metal forged in meditation—on the abrasive surface of outer difficulties, we develop the clear discrimination with which to slice through to delusion’s heart. Eventually we arrive at that blessed state where the very luster of our peace protects us during all our activities.
Why sneer at the world?
The worst pests that attack our plant of happiness are: lack of the desire to progress, self-satisfaction, and skepticism. The chill of inertia—or lack of definite, constant effort to know the Truth—is the greatest ill.
It requires only shallow wisdom to be disillusioned with life. World-weary metaphysicians pride themselves on their “aloofness from it all,” and turn up their noses at the mere mention of anything beautiful. Granted, life is riddled with inconsistencies. Earthly fulfillments are, in fact, short lasting. Recognition of these realities is not, in itself, a proof of profundity. Nothing of value is ever attained by negativity alone.
Wisdom must be approached with a positive outlook. Why sneer at the world? World-weariness is inadequate as a cure for life’s sufferings, for it fosters an attitude of indifference, the progenitor of spiritual laziness.
Pride and lust cause unhappiness
Evil is the absence of true joy. That is what makes it evil. Otherwise, can you say that a tiger commits evil in killing its prey? To kill is the tiger’s nature, given to it by God.
Evil comes into the picture when one has the potential for attaining inner joy. Anything that separates us from that divine state is evil for us, because it distances our awareness from what we really want in life.
Hence the scriptural injunctions against lust, for example, and pride. The commandments are for man’s welfare, not for the Lord’s gratification! They are warnings to the unwary that, although certain attitudes and actions may at first seem fulfilling, the end of the road for anyone pursuing them is not happiness, but pain.
Overspending leads to constant worry
Most people spend more than they earn, yet to spend more than you earn leads to constant mental worry. The extra money is acquired by borrowing, or by buying with promises to pay in the future.
Think for a moment: If you should get sick suddenly, how would you continue without the usual income, if you have no savings put away? Along with the art of moneymaking, it is well to learn the art of money saving.
Simplicity is the key. Simplicity is not grinding poverty. To live simply is to pursue a path of moderation. In a life of balance between extremes lies inner happiness.
Accept change as life’s only constant
Change is often approached with apprehension. In giving up something, people think, “Will I be left with nothing?” It takes courage to renounce a familiar pain for an unknown, therefore uncertain, happiness.
As long as one’s hopes for better things are opposed by fear of their attainment, the mind can never be at peace. Accept change, therefore, as life’s only constant.
Our lives are an endless procession of gains and losses, of joys and sorrows, of hopes and disappointments. At one moment we find ourselves threatened by the storms of trials; moments later, a silver lining brightens the gray clouds; then, suddenly, the skies are blue again.
Neither brood on life’s disappointments not revel in its fleeting victories. See God’s changeless beauty as the heart of all change.
The cause of all suffering
You are living directly by the power of God. Suppose God suddenly changed the climate of this country. Where would be the food? How would you live? Why not remember that God is the sole support of the life He gave to you?
Even though He made that life dependent upon food, He is the cause of everything. When you lose your connection with God you are bound to suffer.
The law of life is this: The less one lives in harmony with the truth within, the more he suffers; but the more he lives in harmony with that truth, the more he experiences unending happiness.
Nothing then can touch him, even though his body waste away with disease and people ridicule and persecute him. Through all the vagaries of life, he remains ever blissfully centered in the indwelling Self.
Millions of earthly joys crushed into one
The purpose of human life is to find God. That is the only reason for our existence. Job, friends, material interests—these things in themselves mean nothing. They can never provide you with true happiness, for the simple reason that none of them, in itself, is complete.
Only God encompasses everything. Divine joy is like millions of earthly joys crushed into one. Divine joy is the blazing Reality. Before it, earthly joys are but shadows.
The quest for human happiness is like looking around for a candle while sitting out of doors in the sun. Divine joy surrounds us eternally, yet people look to mere things for their happiness.
“He is always with me”
Yogis have learned that God can never be found outside. But when you go deep within your soul, in the temple of God, then you can say: “No one in the whole world cares for my health, prosperity, and happiness as my Father does. He is with me always.”