(Editor’s note: Brahma Kumari Shivani, an electronics engineers-turned Raja Yoga Meditation teacher and host of Awakening with Brahma Kumaris TV program, will visit Boston on July 4 and host a free program on awakening inner happiness in Foxborough, MA. Here are excerpts from a question and answer with Sister Shivani as provided to INDIA New England News by Brahma Kumaris. Here, Sister Shivani shares her insights on the key to experiencing unlimited happiness.)
Introduction and summary: The reason why there is so little happiness in the world is dependency. Happiness is not dependent on ‘anything’ or ‘anyone’ or found ‘anywhere.’ We keep delaying our happiness until things are just right in our life. We think we will be happy in the future and then wonder why we are not happy now.
Happiness is only possible when we are able to accept everyone as they are, at every moment, in every situation. That means an end to judging or resisting others, an end to complaining and blaming, an end to criticizing and controlling and an end to competing with anyone.
Happiness means the awakening and acceptance of self-responsibility. It is only when we choose thoughts and feelings that are aligned with our true nature of purity, peace and love that we can shift – from asking to sharing; from holding on to letting go; from expectations to acceptance; from the past and the future to being in the now. We can create a life of joy, contentment and bliss, because we have the choice and the power. Happiness is a decision.
Q: What is the meaning of happiness?
Shivani: If there is one thing that everyone is looking for — irrespective of whatever we are doing, whatever relationships we establish, whatever we are trying to achieve — if we just think about it, the bottom line is: We are looking for happiness.
Q: We are looking for happiness through what?
Shivani: Through different means, whether it’s through possessions, through objects, through property, through people, through achievements. Just keep asking yourself, “Why do I want this?” “And this?”
If you ask someone, “What do you want?” They would say, “Success.”
“Why do you want success?” “Because it makes me feel happy.”
“Why do you want to buy this?” They say, “It makes me and my family feel happy.” “What do you get out of this relationship?” “Happiness.” So finally, everyone is looking for that one word.
Q: But where is it unlimited? It is limited, isn’t it?
Shivani: It is, yes. In fact, we don’t even know whether it is there!
Q: Even if it is momentary. Like a child playing with a toy, and when it breaks, he wants to have another one. So what are we looking for? If we are looking for happiness, it should be solid, it should be permanent.
Shivani: Yes, permanent is most important. If it is something that I like, that I desire, and if it’s something that comes natural to me, then it won’t be dependent on anything else outside. Because if it’s dependent on something, then it can never be constant.
Q: How can you have something you desire and not be dependent?
Shivani: If you’re looking for it outside somewhere, then we are dependent on something. Let’s say I feel good if the weather is nice. Then my feeling good is dependent on the weather.
Q: How can you have happiness without a desire, without dependency?
Shivani: That is probably one of the oldest belief systems that we have been living with for a very long time, because we thought happiness is to be “got” from outside. Whether it’s from achievements, or from people, or from whatever we do. “I’m doing this so that I will feel happy” was always the equation. “When it’s done, and it’s done in the right way, I will feel happy.” Obviously, the dependency is on having the act performed in the right manner. Right from childhood, the child is trained by the parents to feel: “When you get good marks, or perform this, I will feel happy.” “When you look good, I will feel happy.”
Q: Isn’t that a burden on the child? “To make my father happy, I should do this. To make my mother happy, I should do this.
Shivani: The child is slowly conditioned to think, “If they feel happy, then I will feel happy.”
Q: You have to read well, study well, get good marks in class, to make father happy, and teacher happy.
Shivani: Yes, and with a deep conditioning that “when they are going to be happy, then I am going to be happy.”
Q: If they are not happy, then — in spite of doing so much — my parents are never happy.
Shivani: And if my parents are never happy, how can I be happy?
Q: This is very confusing. Can’t we have an easier method, or the right method, where we can explain to our readers the meaning of happiness, and how do you get happiness without so much dependency?
Shivani: First, let’s see where we are dependent. Let’s begin with the simplest layers. These are deep layers — dependence on performance or people — but the simplest dependency — which we experience the whole day — is on objects. “I will feel happy when I buy a new car . . . or a new property.” Even a simple thing: “I’m happy when I go shopping.”
Q: That’s what I feel. What’s wrong in this? Isn’t this natural?
Shivani: Is it true is more important.
Q: But honestly, I will feel happy if I have a new car.
Shivani: Yes. You will feel happy when you have a new car, but is it the new car that is giving you the happiness which is important.
Q: That’s something to think about.
Shivani: “I will feel happy when I have a new car.” Which means, if I don’t, then it’s a question mark. It also means that, ten days down the road, if the car gets a little scratch, or a little bump, then again my happiness is going to get affected. Because I have conditioned myself into believing that it is the car that is giving me happiness — which is not true.
Q: Then, what is true? What is giving me happiness?
Shivani: You buy a new car. It could be x amount, or it could be the most expensive car in the world. We sit in the car; it’s very nice, very comfortable. So who is experiencing the comfort? It’s the body. It’s got very good seats, a very lovely music system, a very powerful engine, very powerful A/C . . . Physical comfort. I am comfortable sitting in the car, and so I tell myself “I’m feeling good.” Just at that time, suppose I get a telephone call . . . saying something unpleasant has happened somewhere at home. Will I still be happy?
Shivani: But I am still comfortable. I’m still in the car. The car was designed to give me physical comfort, and it will give me physical comfort — irrespective.
Q: So happiness and comfort are two different things.
Shivani: Two different things. Because anything which is physical is designed to give me physical comfort. The chair we are sitting on is physical, and it’s giving me physical comfort. But I told myself, “This gives me happiness.”
Q: How did it start? Is this a wrong idea we have, or a false belief?
Shivani: We were conditioned into it right from childhood. So we’ve grown up with it. Now we need to question our belief system.
Q: When we were children, our parents would buy something for us, saying “We’ll buy this for him or her, to make the child happy.” “Let’s take him out, let the child be happy.” “Take him for a picnic, he will feel happy.” So that is the way we got conditioned?
Shivani: Absolutely. But now, we have to understand that I have the best house, I have the best car, and I have all the property and possessions at home. I have every gadget that I want. Then, why am I still looking for happiness if these were meant to give it to me? At least the search should have ended, because the list of all the objects is there at home. Name it, and I have it. And still I seem to be searching for that feeling. Which means the gadgets were not able to give them to me. The gadgets were able to give me comfort, whether it’s my computer today, my Internet, my mobile — whatever. They have made life comfortable.
Q: Going back to the example of sitting in the car: when the telephone call came saying that something unpleasant had happened at home, the comfort is also there.
Shivani: Physical comfort is still there.
Q: But you don’t feel the comfort because the other thing is more important . . . the pain overcomes that comfort too?
Shivani: You’re sitting in the car, your back is straight, your legs are very comfortable. They are still going to be comfortable. It’s the mind which has suddenly created the pain because of the new information that I received. Now when the mind gets uncomfortable, it’s mind over matter. When the mind is in pain, physical comfort is immaterial. I am still uncomfortable. Because who is the I? “I” am uncomfortable. The body is comfortable, fine, but I am uncomfortable right now.
Q: And who is that I?
Shivani: I, the one who is looking for happiness. At that time, the physical comfort doesn’t matter. Yet, it could be the other way around, that physically, I could be uncomfortable — I could just be sitting cross-legged on the floor — but internally I am very blissful, so I am very comfortable.
Q: How does one get there!?
Shivani: By understanding that physical comfort is separate from emotional comfort.
Not mixing the two. Because I was not able to experience internal comfort, internal stability, which we call happiness. We thought, “If I’m physically comfortable, then that means I’m happy.” That’s why we started to buy happiness. We are all trying to buy happiness today. “If I buy this, and this, and this . . . ” And the list is never ending . . . It’s fine to buy all those things. But just not to add “If I buy, therefore I will be happy.” We just have to remove that line. I buy because it’s useful, it’s comfortable, it’s productive. It’s happiness — No. At least I know then why I am buying. I am very clear about it. At least I don’t tell my mind, “When I buy this, I will be happy.” Then it’s again postponing my happiness.
Q: And also putting a condition to it.
Shivani: Yes, putting a condition to it. Let’s say I’m building a new house, and I say, “When this house is built, and when I shift into this house, then I will be happy.” Which could mean after a year, after two years . . .
Q: Then when you go into the house, you may say, “When I have beds, when I have these trees, when I have . . . “
Shivani: So then again, postponing my happiness into the future. Every time . . . Start childhood. We look at a child in school and say, “Student life is the best life.” But a child looks at his grown-ups, saying “They are so lucky. They don’t have to do homework, or take exams. I wish I was in their place.” He is looking to be out of school so that he can be happy. “I will be very happy when I go into college.” Then he gets into college. “I will be very happy when I get my job, and I’m married, and I have a family.” Then you do that. “I will be very happy when my children are settled and everything is fine.” “I will be very happy when I retire.” When will I be happy? I kept on postponing it to “I will be happy when . . . ” fill in the blank. Every time, there was a new blank to fill in there. We kept on telling ourselves, “When this happens I will be happy.”
Q: How sad!
Shivani: That’s we are not happy. Because it’s sad.
Q: That’s why we see so many people who are rich, they have private airplanes, their own boats, everything . . . and still they go around to temples, to gurus, who say go here, go there, do this [folding hands, bowing head] . . . Finally, what are they seeking? Happiness?
Q: And they’re still not getting it?
Shivani: This applies to all of us.
Q: And it started from childhood. Because my father did this, then his grandfather did that . . .
Shivani: And it can go on.
Q: How does one put an end to this, or change?
Shivani: First, understanding that happiness is separate [from physical comfort]. Second, understanding that it’s my internal creation. And that I can create it irrespective.
Q: That sounds a little difficult … “my internal creation”.
Shivani: See, I bought the car. Then I say, “I am happy.” The car is physical, so it does not have feelings, or emotions. Obviously, the car is not giving me happiness. What is giving me happiness: I create the thought “Wow, I bought a car.” I finally bought what I wanted. These are nice thoughts, aren’t they? These are very good thoughts.
Q: But honestly, when you see a child with a toy, he’s bubbling with happiness, enjoying . . a person with a new car, he’s enjoying . . . Isn’t that happiness?
Shivani: Yes, but is the car giving the happiness, or is he creating the thought – that having possessed that set — that’s creating the happiness?
Q: That cannot be created minus the car, right?
Shivani: Aha! That means I need an object as a stimulus to create a response [pointing internally to herself]. Right?
Shivani: So it’s the object. The object could be anything. I look at the object, and I create a thought inside . .
Q: It’s created? Or I create? It’s created, because I am seeing this . ..
Shivani: It’s after seeing it, who creates it?
Q: “I love it. I’m so happy.”
Shivani: Yes, but who created the thought, “What a nice car” ?
Q: That’s a difficult question to answer . . . I create, or because I look, it got created.
Shivani: A physical car, any physical object — it doesn’t have thoughts and feelings. It’s physical. I look at it, and I create the thought, “What a nice car I have bought, or been gifted with” — whatever. If, ten minutes later, someone walks by saying, “This car is not looking nice.” Now, who is creating the response? Now, “Really? It’s not nice? How dare she talk to me like this!” (etc, etc) Same car — different thoughts.
If the stimulus was creating the response, the stimulus will keep on creating that response — irrespective. That same car (or any object), I can show to ten people. Will all of them create the same set of thoughts after seeing that car (the stimulus)?
For someone, the thought could be, “Oh, it’s too loud. I can’t drive this. I don’t like this at all.” For someone else, the thought could be, “I’m sorry, I don’t like anything modern at all.” For someone it could be, “I really want this.” For someone, it could be, “How sad; I can’t afford this.”
Q: . . . my reaction to the object is my thought?
Shivani: It’s my thought.
Q: I am reacting, so I am creating. I am creating happiness or Do you mean to say that we are all the time creating on our own?
Shivani: All the time. We could create thoughts of pleasure. We could create thoughts of jealousy with the same car (object). Or I could create thoughts of hurt. Anything. The stimulus is the same. We need to be very clear. If the car is creating the thought, then it will create the same thought in everyone. Because the object hasn’t changed.
If the object is creating the thought, then it will create the same thought in every person. Different responses to the same stimulus. Stimulus – same, responses – many. The response is the choice of the creator. And I am the creator.
Q: I, the creator, is creating . . . unhappiness, happiness . . . whatever it is. A lot of my questions have been answered for this. But how does one do without a stimulus?
Shivani: Once I understand that I am creating a thought. As of now, we were not aware that we are the creators. We thought thoughts were “happening” because of something. One stimulus is an object. Another stimulus is if you just say something to me. Let’s say you say something to me which, according to me, is a little rude, and then I get hurt. I never ever thought that I am creating it. I very conveniently say, “You hurt me.”
Shivani: By your words. Whatever you said, the thought came that “You hurt me.” I thought it was all coming from outside. Then I say, “You need to talk nicely to me now for me to feel better.” “You better apologize, because once you apologize, I am going to feel better.” This is dependency. See, we can just go on and on: “I am hurt because of you” . . “I am angry because of you” . . . “I am upset because of you” . . . “I am jealous because of you” . . . “I am happy because of you.”
Q: My God! So everything is because of everybody around. . . What about me? I have no responsibility for myself?
Shivani: No responsibility, and no control. How helpless we are if we are always dependent on anything external.
Q: Isn’t that weakness?
Shivani: Isn’t that the way we are living our life today?
Q: Aren’t we weak that without so-and-so, I can’t do anything . . . without this, I can’t do anything . . . Aren’t we dependent? If you really go very deeply into this, don’t you feel weak? How sad that I am dependent!
Shivani: That’s why we’re not happy! Because it’s “how sad.” That’s why we’re not happy. The minute I understand that this is an illusion. They are not controlling me. I have a choice what I create — independent. The first thing spirituality gives you is freedom. You are liberated. You are liberated from all the dependencies that you thought you were dependent upon, which is not true. Not true at all. We kept on postponing our happiness. Then we conveniently told ourselves, “How can I be happy, if I don’t have this?”
Q: Yes, it’s very difficult to understand. How can I be happy without . . .
Shivani: OK, that’s objects (as stimuli). What about achievements? “Only those people who achieve will be happy.” “I wanted to achieve this particular goal. I had to reach here, and I haven’t reached there, so how can I be happy?” “Only people who will achieve what they want will be happy.” This is what we thought, because this is what we were taught when we were children. “If you get . . .”
Q: I always thought that it was very natural, and normal . . . that if I failed in getting a job three times, then I feel depressed, and it’s very normal. I used to think like that.
Shivani: Because we thought that my happiness is dependent on getting the job. So it’s very normal. That’s what we thought, that it’s normal. That’s why we thought that getting upset is normal, getting tensed is normal, to worry is normal, to fear is normal, to feel sad is normal, and to feel happy . . . is once in awhile.
Q: But supposing I tell this to somebody. He may just give me a slap, and say, “Don’t talk nonsense with me.” He would say, “This has happened to me, and that has happened to me. So many problems, and you say, ‘This is conditional, and false beliefs.’ “
Shivani: Problems, yes . . . Challenges, yes . . . Situations, yes . . . Upset — choice.
Q: Problems, yes . . . situations, yes . . . failures, yes . . . ?
Shivani: Absolutely, yes.
Q: Only upset is my choice?
Shivani: Because everything else is outside.
Q: But that outside is also disturbing me inside, yes?
Shivani: That’s a choice. Does it disturb everyone the same amount? One failure (stimulus): one person could go into depression, one could commit suicide, and someone would say, “OK, I’m doing it again.” And someone would just go way ahead the next time. Same failure, different responses.
Q: So the failure is the same, the object is the same . . .
Shivani: People are the same. The world is the same.
Q: But each person would react differently. So that reaction is in my hands.
Shivani: Yes. That’s why my thought and feeling is in my hands. Just this one mechanism will change the way I live my life.
Q: But isn’t it too quick? The moment something happens, and you react. There isn’t time in between to think that “Look, this is a thought, and this is something outside, and not inside.” All the things you have talked about just now: Where is the time between something happening and me to control my reaction?
Shivani: That’s when we are living our life in a very automated mode. It’s like a machine. What’s the difference between a machine and a human being? A machine has no choice: On, on. Off, off. No choice. Depending on the person who is using the gadget, so no choice. You press a button, and it’s on. Press the button again, it’s off. Human being: we have a choice. Someone comes and says something to me, they press a button. If I am a machine, I will say, “Obviously, I had to get angry.” What is obvious about it? “Obvious” is only for a machine . . . that “obviously” it had to get switched on.
Q: Even your friend would say, “Obviously, Shivani, anyone would have gotten angry in your place. I would have, too.”
Shivani: Yes, because we are all living in the automated mode.
Q: But everybody is living in that mode, except for a few saints.
Shivani: No, it’s not about being saints. It’s just about being aware that we are human beings. People are pressing the button, but we have a choice.
Q: Can you tell us something about the meditation that you do every day? Probably, because of this meditation, you have been able to understand the difference between what is happening outside and what I am creating inside. That what is happening outside doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to react that way. That we have false beliefs, and so many questions. Can you tell us how we can do this type of meditation? Most people think that meditation is sitting in a corner and not thinking, not thinking. People say, “It’s so difficult for us to not think.” Can you make this a little easy for us?
Shivani: To begin, very simply: Meditation is not to stop thinking. Meditation is just to be aware of what I am thinking, and to just choose what I am going to be thinking.
Q: To be aware of what I am thinking.
Shivani: Yes, like how we are aware of what we are speaking.
Q: I am not aware.
Shivani: You are not speaking in an automated mode. You choose what to speak. You choose your words.
Q: I will become aware as we continue this conversation!
Shivani: You choose your actions. You choose when to sit, when to get up, when to walk, when to sleep. We are choosing our action. We are choosing our words. Of course, we think it’s automated, because when the thoughts come out so fast, we feel even the words are automated. We say, “Oh, I didn’t mean to say it, but I just said it by mistake.” “This is not what I meant to say.” We say only what we mean to say, but we are not aware. One step further: to be aware of what I am thinking. That is the journey of this learning. To choose our thoughts, and thereby choose our responses. It’s a simple exercise — we begin every morning, and can do anytime during the day — to just watch my thoughts.
Let’s do the Exercise:
What am I thinking right now? Become aware . . . What am I thinking right now? It could be about friends . . . about family. . . It could be about myself . . . Just look at my thoughts . . . Now look at myself during the whole day . . . driving to work . . . reaching my desk . . . interacting with people . . . Situations . . . Work to be done . . . I am doing everything . . . but I am choosing what to do . . . and I am choosing how to be while I am doing that . . . I have a choice how to feel . . . while I am doing everything that I am doing outside . . . I have a choice how to feel . . . while I’m doing everything that I’m doing out there in the world . . . Situations come . . . targets . . . goals . . . people . . . external . . . Let me look at myself . . . how I think . . . how I feel . . . and then, how I respond . . . It’s my choice . . . I am the creator of my responses . . . I just have to be aware of this the whole day today.
- Happiness is not dependent on physical objects.
- Objects, possessions, and gadgets, are designed to give us comfort.
- Physical comfort is different from emotional comfort. Happiness is an internal feeling.
- Happiness is our internal creation and can be created irrespective of external comforts.
- We use objects as a stimulus to create a response, but the response is our choice.
- Different people create different responses using the same stimulus.
Happiness is a Choice that I can Create.