By Ritu Khanna August 1996 It is easy to play, for the rules are simple. The game teaches you the properties of happiness. The goal is to reach home, happy. Yet, the stakes are high as you are playing with your own life. Are you ready to roll the dice and begin your quest for a new age of happiness? It slipped into our lives silently and became a part of our being before we even realized what had happened. There was no fanfare, no banner headlines heralding the Return of Happiness. In fact, there are many of us who would probably say that this is no big deal, for happiness has always been a part of our vocabulary and mental make-up. True, but the difference is that happiness is now playing a leading role, it is occupying the centerstage Just try this simple experiment. Take a day in your life. Keep your senses on red alert and look around for happiness. And suddenly it is everywhere. In the morning newspapers (my horoscope for the day reads: ‘Don’t bury disturbing emotions. Work through them. That’s the astro way to be happy’). In the music you hear (Sting is soulfully singing in Mercury Falling: ‘I’m so happy, I can’t stop s crying’). In the book you are reading (in my case, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, where one of its protagonists, Om, a poor tailor sewed in the politics of the Emergency, observes: ‘If time was a bolt of cloth, I would cut out all the a bad parts. Snip out the scary nights and stitch together the good parts, to make time bearable. Then I would wear it like a coat, always live happily’). In the copy of advertisements: ‘Good morning happiness!’ exclaims a recent advertisement for a a cooking range. Coincidences? Unlikely, for it is a given that we all want to live happily—the reason that, unlike most sequels, the Return of Happiness is running to full houses. It is no longer considered fashionable to wallow in unfathomable depths of despair and melancholy. A morose Meena Kumari is not worth mentioning, but, tell me, have you seen any pictures of hers laughing? Ditto for Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and other tragic heroes of the era gone by. Of the days when we went to the movies equipped 9 with our fathers’ largest handkerchiefs. Now we would rather opt for heroes who sing and dance, lustfully, joyfully, and sell us happy dreams. But, and here comes the first sad note of this story, happiness cannot be bought. Drugs such as Ecstasy (hailed as the LSD of the ’90s and fortunately not yet officially available in India), Prozac, so-called uppers, downers and alcohol may give you a high, a fleeting moment of feeling euphoric, but the side effects spell disaster. The user has to pay the price; he will have to cope with the nasty hangover of toxic happiness. Explains Dr Achal Bhagat, a senior consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital: ‘Taken over a period of time, these drugs make you pretty sad. They affect the serotonin cells, and lead to acute depression.’ That rules out all these quick fixes, the negative shortcuts to feeling happy. But if happiness is corning out for a rerun, where are we to find it? Or, who is there to help us find it? Well, have you tried playing the Game of Happiness? Modeled on the lines of Monopoly, it is a boardgame with a difference. For starters, you can play it alone. It is a game of the mind, it aims to alter your attitude. No trivial pursuit this, it leads you on through teaching stories on happiness, inspiring tips, and examples from the lives of others who have gone in search of happiness. Unlike Monopoly, there is no paper money here. Instead, you learn that true happiness lies beyond wealth. Pick a card from the Pleasure Chest—you’ll find different viewpoints on the subject. Each time you pass Go, you are rewarded with a teaching story and an easy D-I-Y solution to being happy from the Bank of Joy. Refusing to play the game in the right spirit? Miss three chances, and Go to Jail. And when do you reach the Goal, the winning post? Don’t worry, give happiness a chance, and you will, almost instinctively, find out when you are home, happy. Are you ready to begin the first round? Roll the dice… A teaching story awaits you. According to an old Hindu legend, there was a time when all men were happy, but they misused happiness. Brahma decided to take it away and hide it where no one could possibly find it. There were many suggestions-bury it deep in the earth, sink it into the ocean—but it appeared there was no place that man could not reach. Brahma’s decision: ‘We will hide it deep down in man himself, for he will never think to look for it there.’ And man goes looking for happiness in all unlikely places, circumstances or people, neglecting to look within. ‘If it was true that happiness lies in an object, then more of that object would bring more happiness,’ argues Rishi Prabhakar, a Bangalore-based guru who teaches Siddha Samadhi Yoga (SSY). He gives a simple example: If sugar makes you happy, then more sugar should make you even more happy. But that is not the case. One laddoo is fine, but the third one won’t taste so good. So where is happiness? The laddoo is the same, but your body’s craving for sweets is satiated, you need no more sugar. You are now refusing the same object (you can replace the laddoo with a car, color television, music system, designer outfit, whatever) that you thought was making you happy. ‘Happiness is non-doing, it is a state of mind,’ adds Rishi Prabhakar, who recommends yoga and meditation as ways to happiness which he defines as ‘being with the present just the way it is, being happy with whatever there is right now’. To return to our present, the Game of Happiness, and a tip given by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living courses that help bring harmony and joy to your life by transforming your physical, emotional and mental state of being: ‘If you are unhappy, go out and serve. You will become happy…Unhappiness comes when you sit and think about yourself and brood about yourself and worry about yourself. The candle is burning for you, you don’t have to do anything. The sun is shining for you, there is nothing to do. You have to be grateful, sit below it and serve. Be in love. It’s as simple as that.’ Ravi Shankar finds that laughter comes from the center of our being, from the core of our heart. For him, ‘true laughter is true prayer’. He adds: ‘In nature everything is just waiting for you to laugh. When you laugh, the whole of nature laughs with you. It echoes and resounds and that is re- ally the birth oflife…Just laugh, smile. Life has no purpose, no mission. It is a game. It’s a play. Life has no message. Life itself is an expression of joy. There is nothing you have to do. Every- thing is being done by the Big Mind. ‘ Here’s another teaching story, written by Dr Wayne W. Dyer in You See It When You Believe It: Imagine yourself going to your local grocery store and buying ing a package of frozen broccoli because you are attracted by the beautiful picture on the wrapper. When you get the broccoli home you are still so attracted to the picture that you empty the contents into the garbage and proceed to prepare the wrapper for dinner. As you put the picture of the broccoli on your plate, you suddenly realize that you are going to be very hungry if is all you have is the packaging. The container cannot give you the pleasure and the satisfaction and nourishment that the contents do. A lifetime of focusing exclusively on the package will result in a spiritually undernourished and quite unhappy YOU. A tip, also provided by Dr Dyer: Work each day to clear yourself of the two factors that do the most to inhibit your personal transformation: negativity and judgment. For when you are filled with negativity, you are kept from attaining higher and more bountiful levels of happiness. And the inclination to judge others also serves as a gigantic inhibitor to your growth. Getting rid of thinking and behaving in negative or judgmental terms leads to a happier you. Expect happiness and you ‘ll find it’s there for the asking. ‘If you believe in happiness and abundance, think only about them, talk about them with others, and act on your belief in them, it is a very good bet that you are seeing what you believe,’ writes Dr Dyer. We tend to smile and laugh when we are happy; depression fills us with remorseful thoughts. But try smiling and laughing in the midst of a dark mood. You ‘ll find your spirits soar, you will soon be what you believe. Physical work ( cooking, cleaning, gardening) also often serves as a catalyst and is recommended as a mood changer. Back to our game, and the first stop, the New Age Serenity Square. Every ideology, from Hinduism to New Age, seeks its own avenues to happiness. In fact, the New Age concept has probably come about to find new ways to reach a state of mental well-being. New Agers tend to accept happiness as something within, they look inwards, embracing techniques old and new— yoga and meditation, creative visualization, aromatherapy. They listen to subliminal tapes, repeat positive affirmations, read self-help books, attend personal growth workshops. They advocate a positive attitude as a way to being happy, quoting Dale Carnegie (‘if we think happy thoughts, we will be happy’), Norman Vincent Peale (‘you are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are’) and the like. They talk about tapping the divine energy, of feeling a sense of oneness with the universe, and are quite convinced that the mind matters, that spiritual riches lead to happiness. For a New Ager, happiness lies both outside (and can be ta
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