Withthe holidays just around the corner, brightly-lit stores display a mind-boggling variety of tempting products for sale.
“Buy! Buy! Buy!” scream the advertisements.
Showing you images of ecstatic people receiving gifts, the advertisements seem to tell you that the more things you buy, the happier you’ll be. Is it true?
Do things have happiness?
There are two reasons why you may want something:
- You don’t have it now and getting it will make you feel better or enhance your life in some way.
- You already have it, but not in the measure that satisfies you, so you want more of it.
These reasons suggest a sense of lack or incompleteness. They show that you’re not totally happy now.
You think that getting that dress, that beautiful piece of jewelry, the latest cell phone or a new car will make up for some lack in your life and make you happy.
But do things actually have happiness?
Well I admit, if you get something that you want, you do feel happy. But, is it the type of happiness that you’re looking for?
The happiness that you get from things is incomplete and temporary. If you’re like me, I’m pretty sure what you want is complete and permanent happiness. That happiness lies within you. But, because you don’t know how to tap into this inner source, you run into the outer world thinking that that’s where you’ll find it. (Read True Happiness is inside—really?)
With all the festivities and enticing products around you this season, you’re probably not convinced that things don’t contain happiness.
Let’s look a little deeper into this. . .
If Things Could Make You Happy…
1. Once you get what you want, you’d be totally happy and never want anything else again.
If happiness was inherent in the objects of the world, the remedy for sorrow would be pretty straightforward—simply go out and get what makes you happy, and that’s that. You’ll never be unhappy or want anything again.
In fact, giving people what they want would be the simple remedy for all sorrow. There would be no unhappiness in the world.
Obviously, it’s not that simple. You can get things that make you happy for some time, but a feeling of incompleteness soon returns, and you start looking for the next thing to fulfill you.
You can’t buy enduring happiness.
2. The same things would make everyone equally happy—at all times and under all circumstances.
Sugar is always sweet and seawater is always salty no matter when, where or who tastes them.
If happiness was the nature of things, like sweetness in sugar or saltiness in seawater, the same things would bring the same experience of happiness to everyone. But that’s not the case.
One person enjoys wearing jewellery while another prefers perfume. If you offer jewellery to the perfume lover, or perfume to the jewellery lover, each would readily turn it down.
As a matter of fact, if happiness was the nature of things, having them would make you happy at all times and under all circumstances. But this doesn’t happen. For example, if you love ice cream and I offered it to you when you had a tummy ache or just after you woke up in the morning, you’d surely not want it.
Jewellery, perfume, and ice cream don’t contain any happiness. We project joy onto these things based on our personal likes and dislikes which are formed from our previous experiences.
3. More and more of an enjoyable thing would bring you more and more happiness.
If you love chocolate cake and have a second helping, you’d probably feel a little happier.
But your joy doesn’t increase as you increase the number of helpings. For instance, you wouldn’t enjoy your third helping as much; the fourth even less and so on. By the time you’ve had your tenth helping, you’d be totally put off by even the thought of cake.
This shows that happiness isn’t in the chocolate cake (or any other thing, for that matter), because more and more of it decreases your happiness.
Even if you had the means to enjoy whatever you desire whenever you wanted it, the pleasures will eventually become “same old, same old”—boring and monotonous.
4. The wealthy would be the happiest people in the world.
We all know that having more material objects and comforts doesn’t insure us against sorrow. The rich and famous living glamourous lives experience unhappiness just like everyone else. In fact, many of them turn to drugs and other addictions, and even take their own lives. (Read: The Four Paths to Happiness)
Material objects don’t contain happiness. Teacher of Vedanta, Swami Tejomayananda teacher puts it beautifully. He says that when you had less, you were uncomfortably unhappy. And now, with so much more, you are comfortably unhappy.
Things do not and cannot give us a sense of completeness. It’s because of this that the spiritual masters tell us that material things are a source of sorrow.
Stop and think
I’ve learned these facts from my spiritual teachers. I try to stop and think carefully when faced with the tempting objects of the world—especially at this time of the year when there’s so much on display.
When I take the time to slow down and think, it helps to put things into perspective. I become more mindful about what I should buy.
If what you’ve read makes sense to you, you may be inclined to do the same. And with more money left in your pocket, you’ll probably feel lighter and richer too.
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