The Aim Of Life Is Betterment And Not Happiness

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Nov 7, 2020


What is Happiness? Scientifically, Happiness is a state of emotional well-being arising from positive gratification. But the caveat here is that because positivity is relative then so is Happiness. One man’s conception and experience of Happiness is exclusively different from another’s. A credulous pietist will contend that the intention behind an act is of more value than the results derived from the ensuing act arising from the intention. Happiness for such an individual lies in intention. But a Machiavellian pragmatist will argue that it is the results and not the intentions which hold considerable value. Happiness for a Machiavellian is in the result and not the intent. This is but one example of the hair-splitting which Happiness triggers.


Why is Happiness so incalculably different from one individual to the next? A range of factors come into play. Biological, psychological and social. But the overarching gradient remains the same, our wants are significantly different to the next person’s. What makes us Happy possibly saddens another. Is Happiness then a curse? Let us paraphrase the question differently, can excessive Happiness cause us harm?

Purpose Of Life:

The modern world emphasizes that we seek Happiness in all we do. If we are not joyfully buoyant we cannot reach peak performance and find meaning in our life. But men more wiser than us have forewarned in the past that if the sole aim of life is to pursue Happiness then life is insignificant. A young Miyamoto Musashi discarded his adolescent Happiness when he undertook the vows of a wandering swordsman. Marcus Aurelius rejected the necessity of Happiness for contemplative reflection on the nature of existence. Even today, Intelligence and Special Forces Operatives are taught to forego their creature comforts to succeed in their missions. A pattern emerges here, at some point in our life we have been fed a preconceived notion of what Happiness should be. In reality, this notion is erroneous.

ਜੇ ਲਖ ਇਸਤਰੀਆ ਭੋਗ ਕਰਹਿ ਨਵ ਖੰਡ ਰਾਜੁ ਕਮਾਹਿ ॥

ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤਗੁਰ ਸੁਖੁ ਨ ਪਾਵਈ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੋਨੀ ਪਾਹਿ ॥੩॥

“You may enjoy the pleasures of a hundred thousand women and reign supreme over nine realms but without the truth you will forever remain dissatisfied and keep on flitting ceaselessly from one (behavioral) form to the next.”

-Guru Granth, 26.

Effective military disciplinarians often work to break what brings their charges the greatest Happiness under training-food and sleep. The luxury of switching off the alarm clock is obliterated. Gone are the high-carb snacks. All this serves as a critical lesson which warriors of the past discovered during their heyday: what makes us Happy in the short-term renders us failures in the long-run. It is a lesson worth applying in our daily lives. We cannot make Happiness the sole purpose of our existence or the crutch on which to lean on in our lives. Our purpose in life should not be to seek Happiness but a higher state: Betterment.


We should not resist the fast food tempting us. We should sleep in just a bit longer. Let us forego our rigid discipline and indulge in self-pleasure. Maybe we are just too tired today to attend our daily martial arts class. Why? Because we are lusting for our short term dopamine hit. We are attempting to overwrite our neuron currents to incite effortless Happiness-something which we have not earned. All these actions and more result in short-term pleasure but long-term misery.

ਹੇ ਕਾਮੰ ਨਰਕ ਬਿਸ੍ਰਾਮੰ ਬਹੁ ਜੋਨੀ ਭ੍ਰਮਾਵਣਹ ॥

ਚਿਤ ਹਰਣੰ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਲੋਕ ਗੰਮ੍ਯ੍ਯੰ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਸੀਲ ਬਿਦਾਰਣਹ ॥

ਅਲਪ ਸੁਖ ਅਵਿਤ ਚੰਚਲ ਊਚ ਨੀਚ ਸਮਾਵਣਹ ॥

“Lust, what hells you push the indulgent into. You make them wander through countless (behavioral) forms over and over again. You defeat the self-conviction of the three worlds destroying all focus, piety and penance. You give only superficial Happiness but this is enough to make mere mortals weak and unsteady. You afflict both the elite and the poor.”

-Guru Granth, 1358.

The path to hell, it is claimed, is paved in good deeds and the ignorant masses cannot see that the pursuit of Happiness over Betterment while seemingly a good deed is possibly the last cobblestone before the pangs of agony. But what is Betterment and why is it more prized than Happiness?

ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਕਰਮ ਕੀ ਧਰਤੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਥਿ ਮਥਿ ਤਤੁ ਕਢਈਆ ॥

“This body of yours is the field of action. The Gurmukh reveals the essence of divine wisdom and uses their body to live it.”

-Guru Granth, 834.

Our physicality is more than just the sum of our pleasures. It is built for action; for pushing our limits. For dreaming of and reaching greater heights of potential in service of the truth. Why do we let it lapse for superficial pleasures which are only fleeting and damaging?

ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਸੋ ਸਭਿ ਗੁਣ ਜਾਣੈ ॥

“One who recognizes their true worth, they obtain all virtues.”

-Guru Granth, 1056.

Betterment is recognizing our true worth: our infinite potential. Our ceaseless resourcefulness and internal reserves of power. All these virtues only emerge when we forego our trivial Happiness for the pursuit of resisting temptation and strengthening both our inner and outer selves. True Betterment is finally achieved when we efface our inner victim, that vocal appendage of our ego, which averts us from (you guessed it) Bettering ourselves.

ਮੂਲੁ ਨ ਬੂਝੈ ਆਪੁ ਨ ਸੂਝੈ ਭਰਮਿ ਬਿਆਪੀ ਅਹੰ ਮਨੀ ॥੧॥

“Unable to recognize their true worth and ascertain their true potential, mere mortals wander entrapped in senseless delusions.”

-Guru Granth, 1186.

True Happiness:

We have discussed illusory Happiness. A trivial Happiness born out of our egoistic desires which leads us astray. A short-term dopamine infused high which aggravates our misery for the long run. Yet Happiness cannot be entirely done away with. We require it for emotional sustenance. Of course, even real Happiness is different from individual to individual. But it is more fulfilling; more potent given its origins in Betterment. Is true Happiness an award for Bettering ourselves? In reality, true Happiness cannot be earnt. It is built. How is it built? When one shoulders the responsibilities of life and pursues a worthy goal in pursuit of the truth. Then each and every mile unconceded is a victorious triumph which strengthens one’s mind and body. Bettering the mortal. Transforming them into a true warrior.

ਰੇ ਨਰ ਇਹ ਸਾਚੀ ਜੀਅ ਧਾਰਿ ॥

ਸਗਲ ਜਗਤੁ ਹੈ ਜੈਸੇ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਬਿਨਸਤ ਲਗਤ ਨ ਬਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਬਾਰੂ ਭੀਤਿ ਬਨਾਈ ਰਚਿ ਪਚਿ ਰਹਤ ਨਹੀ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰਿ ॥

ਤੈਸੇ ਹੀ ਇਹ ਸੁਖ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੇ ਉਰਝਿਓ ਕਹਾ ਗਵਾਰ ॥੧॥

ਅਜਹੂ ਸਮਝਿ ਕਛੁ ਬਿਗਰਿਓ ਨਾਹਿਨਿ ਭਜਿ ਲੇ ਨਾਮੁ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ॥

“Heed this advise mortal. This whole world rapidly passes one like a dream. Our delusions are like a wall of sand built up over a few days but crashing under its own weight. Why are you entrapped in them fool? Understand this-remember and live the wisdom bequeathed by our Maker.”

-Guru Granth, 633.

This wisdom entails the pursuit of perfection; of true Happiness arising out of Bettering oneself. Of living in consort with reality (Hukam) and not heeding our inner victim which misleads us into opposing it.


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