We have the 3rd reader question from Shweta –

I want to know what to do when someone feels lost? No happiness, no goals, no direction, no aim, no wishes only so many pain ? What is the cause of all sufferings and how do we stop this?

This is one of the fundamental questions which has intrigued philosophers and thinkers of all times –

Why do we suffer? Is life just another name for suffering? Who is not suffering in this world? Who is happy?

Before we understand the why of suffering we must also understand two things.

  • That we all are different entities and have different definitions of life.
  • That we all have different definitions of what “suffering” really is.

To a millionaire, the beggar is suffering. The beggar is suffering from the lack of all amenities that life can offer. To the beggar, the millionaire is suffering. The millionaire is suffering from a disease of useless desires and is not at all Free.

Who is right? Both of them are correct from their point of view. You can not rule out the beggar’s point of view and neither you can rule out the millionaire’s point of view.

Coming to suffering, Vedanta philosophy states that “Kaam” is the source of all sufferings. (Kaam means desires of all forms and not just sexual desires).

The Elementary needs of a Human

Regardless of who you are or who you imagine yourself to be, you have just three elementary needs

  • The need of food and water.
  • The need of shelter.
  • The need of sleep.

There is a fourth need (the need of sex) but it is not elementary and it is possible to survive without this need and still be happy and content. The fourth need is not basic in nature and a manifestation of a human’s imagination. If you cannot imagine sex and the carnal pleasures that comes as a consequence, it is not a need. You will first need to imagine sex, love, romance and only then you will feel the need of it.

Hence the fourth need is not really a basic need. It is an imagined need.

Similarly, we have reproduced countless number of imagined needs somewhere inside our head. Most of these needs are born out of comparison and reaction of whatever is happening around us. When these imagined needs are not met, Pain is born.

One can go on and on with examples like below

  • I need to study hard so I can get admission in some college.
  • I need to get a degree so I can get a job.
  • I need a partner.
  • I need to get a job so I can get a good bride/groom.
  • I need to earn enough money to provide for my family
  • I need a child
  • I need a car
  • I need a big house
  • I need so many clothes/shoes.
  • I need to be famous and known in this world.
  • I need to start a business and earn lot of money.
  • I need the attention of my friends, relatives and other people.
  • I need validation of this whole world and attain Freedom.

And so on and so forth.

Notice that none of these needs are actually basic in nature. These are all “imagined” needs. You have imagined that you need these things, you will very well live without these needs being met.

However, in your imagination, you keep building castles and when reality demolishes the castles, you feel pain. Reality (nature) doesn’t really care about your imagined needs. This whole world runs according to its own whims and fancies and it has no consideration for every human’s “imagined” needs.

There are 7 Billion souls in this world. And there is just one world. How can the world satisfy everyone’s imagined need? Is that even possible?

And please note that your imagination has no limits. Today you want a Bicycle but tomorrow you will certainly want to own a private jet. What is luxury today becomes a need tomorrow. Then what? This world owes you nothing, mate.

Does this mean one should have no ambition, no direction, no goals?

No. One should certainly have goals and ambition in life. Ambition is necessary since life must always “seek” an objective.

In this game of hide and seek, the goal is always hiding and you are seeking it. You should always “chase” a goal, however small, however big.

But the thing to note is that one should not be deluded by the chase and by the desire. These are different things altogether which “Karma Yoga” teaches you.

Karma yoga tells us that ambition is one thing and desire is another. If someone is ambitious and has a goal to chase, he can achieve happiness, peace and bliss. However, if someone’s ambition is to fulfill some sort of “imagined desire”, he will not achieve peace.

Let us take an example.

The Yogi vs the Bhogi

There are two people. One man wants a job to feed his family. Another man wants a job to earn money and with that money he wants to build a big house.

The first man has a goal – to feed the family. He will take up a job, feed the family and his objective is met. However, the second man has a desire – to build a big house. This is not at all a need, this is plain “material desire”. His action is fueled by “kaam”, when he builds a big house, he will have another desire. He will then want to buy an island or something.

The first man is a Yogi. The second man is a Bhogi. Bhogis are never satisfied and always roaming from one thing to another to another, ending up in depression, stress and lament over their fate, not knowing that they are themselves responsible for their own misery they have created.

Let’s take another example.

There are two people. One of them wants to have a respectable job but another one wants to have a “specific” position in a “specific” organization.

The first man has no reservation for the organization he works for and what position is given to him. He is happy with a job and considers himself grateful. The second man has fixed set of criteria – that he wants this and this position in so and so organization and he wants to do this and do that.

Here, the first man is a Yogi. He is content with whatever comes his way and he performs his duty without getting affected by the result. The second man is a Bhogi, he has fixed set of rules which must be upheld and if it is not upheld, he becomes unhappy and starts cursing the world. This is the sole reason why most people hate their jobs – they don’t know the difference between “Yog” and “Bhog” and end up cursing the world for not giving them what they “desire”.

Why should the world care? The world has a simple message for you –

Be content with whatever I am giving you right now and make the most out of it. You shall get what you crave for in due time.

We can go on and on with such examples.

The other day I was talking with one of my colleagues and he said he is unhappy. I asked about the reason of his stress and he said

I don’t like the kind of work given to me. Most of the days there is no work and I don’t find it satisfying enough. Besides that, I don’t like the weather and city traffic. It is so much stress.

After some time I took him to the person who was mopping the floor. That person had a smile in his face and he seemed immensely gratified with his work. I asked the person – “Can we cross the floor you have just mopped?”. To this he said – “Please go ahead, I shall mop it again”

I told my friend that this person you just met is a more successful and complete person, despite being illiterate and doing work that is “Filthy” by your definition. He is happy with his job and is not complaining while you are not happy with whatever is given to you and you will always find some problem or the other. Work is not the pain, you are the pain, my friend.

The end of pain is achieved when a man/woman ends all the imagined desires. This comes with self actualization, with the knowledge of one’s own identity. We are always on the quest to “become” something. We are not happy with who we are, rather, we are always trying to become someone else, thinking that there lies a promised land and when we reach that place, all the suffering will end.

Truth is, there is no such “promised land”.

The only way to end pain is to end imagination of desires and be content with whatever you have. This does not mean one should abandon ambitions, goals, specific objectives and roam around like an ascetic. What this means is that one should try to achieve his/her goal, without being inflicted by desires or the fruits that might come as a result of obtaining the objective.

When you feel lost in life, it just means the straying of the mind. The mind is now looking for a new objective, a new direction, a new goal. The mind is always alert and it shall find its path. You do not control the mind, the mind controls you. Hence, your task is to clean your mind of useless imaginations and desires that are buried deep inside.

No Karma yogi can ever be discontent with his/her efforts. If you are depressed, discontent and feeling lost in life, it just means that you need to clean up your head of imaginary desires and accept reality. The only person you don’t know is yourself.  Pain ends with self actualization, while “imagination” is a tragedy that creates “Maya” and prevents you from self actualization.

 
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