Over the last one hundred years of human history, the number of millionaires on the planet Earth has increased a thousand-fold. But have we read or heard anywhere that the number of happier people multiplied even tenfold? If not, then does it not mean that external luxuries and opulences are not correlated to inner happiness? On the 11th day of the Happiness Challenge, as we proceed deeper into learning the art of happiness, let us talk about the connection between becoming a happier person and becoming a better person.
If happiness lay in success, fame, and popularity, why then was Elvis Presley so unhappy? He holds the record of the maximum number of albums sold in the history of published music. In the 1960s, he was the icon of an entire generation and was called the ‘King of rock and roll’ or merely the ‘King.’ However, what was his public life? In his last few years, his daily routine went something like this—when he returned from his evening performance, he would tell his servants, “Give me the first hit.” They would offer him different colored crystals, barbiturates, and shoot a syringe under his shoulder blade.
Thus, he would just revive himself in time to go for his public performance with the help of chemicals. Again, when he returned from another performance, the same routine would repeat itself. When he died, people could not figure out whether it was a suicide or an overdose of drugs. Look at this person who had tremendous good looks, a golden voice, immense popularity, and a huge amount of wealth. Yet, he was bankrupt from the inside.
Now, let us contrast him with someone else who had practically nothing, and yet seemed to have discovered the art of happiness. This was Helen Keller—one of the very popular philanthropists of the last century. When little Helen was only 18 months old, she was stricken by an infection as a result of which she lost her sight and hearing together. When somebody touched her, she would throw a tantrum.
At six years old her mother took her to a nearby school for the physically challenged. Anne Sullivan, the principal of that school touched little Helen and she threw a tantrum as usual. Anne Sullivan told her mother, “Leave her here tonight. I will try to communicate with her.” Anne then placed little Helen’s hand under a water faucet and on the other hand, she wrote the letters— ‘water.’ All of a sudden, a light went on in Helen’s mind. For the first time in her life, she realized that physical objects have designations or names. She became so excited and wanted to learn more names. By night, she had learned the names of 30 objects.
Watch this interesting video by Swami Mukundananda –
After that, there was no stopping for her. She grew up and started reading books through Braille—language for the blind. She took admission in the women’s wing of Harvard called ‘Radcliffe College.’ She started touring and serving humankind. But she was still not satisfied and wanted to give lectures.
So, while Anne Sullivan spoke, Helen through kinesthetic understood how she was moving her throat and lips. And miraculously she was able to replicate those sounds. She started travelling the world giving lectures and died at the ripe age of eighty-seven. At the end of her life she said, “This world has been so beautiful. I have enjoyed every moment of my life.” Now contrast Helen Keller with Elvis Presley. What did Helen have that Elvis Presley did not?
One Western philosopher, John Milton, expressed it so well, when he said, “The mind is a place of its own, and in itself can make heaven out of hell and hell out of heaven.” This mind of ours is so powerful! Sitting in the midst of heavenly luxuries, it can make us experience the torments of hell. Sitting in the inferno of hellish conditions, the mind, if it is calm and peaceful, can make us experience heavenly pleasures. That is why happiness is not a function of the externals, but dependent upon the inner state of our own mind.
Now, let us think about how so many people are rushing for external enhancement in the illusion that it will bring them happiness, while actually, they are merely chasing a mirage.