By Ashwini Mokashi
The International Day of Happiness is celebrated on March 20th to bring attention to this intrinsic human need that so frequently fails to find fulfilment. Whereas philosophical systems have frequently addressed the means to find individual solace and happiness, at the international level the question has been phrased more in terms of working more towards global peace than global happiness. The two are not unrelated as peace certainly brings happiness and lack of peace, unhappiness, yet happiness may not always be peaceful! Since these ideas have been the subject of philosophical speculation, one might usefully examine what light philosophy might throw on the global happiness crisis and whether there are any ways to bring the world to a certain level of calm, peace, and productivity.
Therefore, to illustrate the above, we have chosen as our topic the idea of Happiness as set out in a beautiful poem by Saint Kabir. Though born and raised as a Muslim in India’s holy city of Banaras/Varanasi, Kabir was deeply attracted to the spiritual and wisdom literature of Hinduism, as can be seen in this poem. Saint Kabir succeeded in bringing peace amongst the Hindu and Muslim communities of the 15th century, and who through his own deep mystical experiences remained in a state of blissful happiness. For centuries he has been an inspirational figure for anyone interested in spirituality or mysticism, regardless of religious affiliation.
The following poem ‘Sukh Sagar men aike’ of Saint Kabir was translated by the famous Rabindra Nath Tagore, a Nobel Laureate in Literature, in his book ‘One Hundred Poems of Kabir’ as follows:
When at last you are come to the ocean of happiness, do not go back thirsty.
Wake, foolish man! For death stalks you.
Here is pure water before you; drink it at every breath.
Do not follow the mirage on foot, but thirst for the nectar.
Dhruv, Prahlad and Sukhadev have drunk of it, and also Raidas has tasted it.
The saints are drunk with love, their thirst is for love.
Kabir says: ‘Listen to me, brother! The nest of fear is broken.
The original poem by Saint Kabir in Hindi is as follows:
सुख सागर में आइके, मत जा रे प्यासा
अजब समझ नर बावरे, जम करत निरासा
निर्मल नीर भरे तेरे आगे, पी ले स्वासुस्वासा
मृगतृष्णा जल छाड बावरे, करो सुधारस आसा
ध्रुव प्रल्हाद सुखदेव पिया और, पिया रैदासा
प्रेम की रस सदा मतवाला, एक प्रेम की आसा
कहे कबीर सुनो भाई साधो, मिट गयी भय की पासा
About the poem:
Saint Kabir describes human life itself as the ocean of happiness. He says, having been born as a human being, one might as well become happy. However, we tend to be foolish and forget that death is stalking us wherever we go. Life has a definite end, and we forget that. He advises us not to follow the mirage, which is the pleasure of all our senses. Our senses may provide us fleeting pleasures, but it is best to go for the real nectar of Happiness. Kabir substantiates his argument by giving illustrations that the mythical figures like Dhruv, Prahlad, and Sukhdev tasted this nectar, and so did Swami Raidas, a 15th century Saint poet. These saints, drunk on the love of God, remain happy. Kabir says, listen to me, O Friend. Such happiness also takes care of the fear of death or disease, and of the fear itself.
Saint Kabir equates love and happiness in this poem. Anyone who is experiencing love is happy and that we have seen in our lives as well, whether we have experienced love from our parents, friends, siblings, or partner. Whenever we have felt that we are loved, we feel happy. Saint Kabir refers to the divine love, which is always with us, which has propelled us to take the human birth. Even though human birth is finite, divine love is infinite. Hence the best way to experience happiness in this life by meditating upon God with every breath and reminding ourselves of the divine love. All that is required of us is to remember God, the first principle of Spirituality or the Ultimate Reality. Swami Raidas, the famous poet Saint and a big proponent of the Bhakti movement, is an example of how life is filled with love. A life of love is without fear or worries and is full of happiness.