by Paramhansa Yogananda
Inner Culture, December 1938
Question: “Will you please tell us something about happiness?”—R.J.R.
Answer: There are many kinds of people in the worldgood and evil, restless and meditative, ignorant and wise, happy and sad. Tell the evil person to be good and the restless person to be meditative, and he will make you feel that he does not like to follow your instructions, or that he cannot do so. This is due to previous habits and not to the desire of the heart.
Although happiness depends to some extent upon external conditions, it depends chiefly upon conditions of the inner mind. You love the outward pleasures of the senses because you happened to be held up by them at first, and then you remained their prisoner. Even as some persons get used to jails, so we mortals like outer pleasures, shutting off the joys from within.
For the most part, the senses promise us a little temporary happiness, but give us long, lasting sorrow in the end, whereas virtue and happiness within do not promise much, but in the end always give lasting satisfaction. That is why I call the lasting inner happiness of the Soul, “Joy” and the impermanent sense thrills, “Pleasure.” It is better to be unhappy about your own ignorance than to die happily with it. Wherever you are, remain awake and alive with your thought, perception, and intuition ever ready, like a good photographer, to take pictures of exemplary conduct and to ignore bad behavior.
Persons of strong character are usually the happiest. They do not blame others for troubles that can usually be traced to their own actions and lack of understanding. They know that no one has any power to add to their happiness or to detract from it unless they themselves are so weak that they allow the adverse thoughts and wicked actions of others to affect them.
Without inner happiness, one may find oneself a prisoner of worries in a rich castle. Happiness is not dependent upon success and wealth alone, but real happiness depends upon struggling against the failures, difficulties, and problems of life with an acquired attitude of unshakable inner happiness. To be unhappy in trying to find the hard-to-acquire happiness, defeats its own end. Happiness comes by being inwardly happy first, at all times, while struggling your utmost to uproot the causes of unhappiness.
Pure love, sacred joy, poetic imagination, kindness, wisdom, peace, bliss, or meditation, and happiness in serving, are felt inwardly first in the mind or the heart, and are then transmitted through the nervous system to the physical body and outward. Do not camouflage your soul with the veil of sermons and solemn words. Understand and feel the superior joys of inner life, and you will prefer them to the fleeting pleasures of the outer world.