Monday, October 17, 2011

Who is a happy man?

Every human being wants to be happy. We do not know about animals. But we can make out by their behavioral pattern that even animals want to be happy. The way they respond to our love or anger do indicate that they also want to be happy. Is there any human being who wants to be unhappy? Perhaps there is none. Any human being who wants other human beings to be unhappy? There are plenty. In fact many people are miserable not because of their own unhappiness. They are unhappy because others are happy! Some people do not mind even if they lose one eye if their enemy loses both the eyes. Of course, there are some great people who are prepared to lose both their eyes if their enemy loses at least one eye!  People do every thing in their control to be happy. They even attempt to do things not in their control also to attain their perceived state of happiness.  

"साधन में सुख होता नहीं है, सुख जीवन की एक कला है", says the movie song "कितने अटल थे तेरे इरादे"  written by Indeevar and composed by O P Nayyar for the 1982 film "Ek Baar Muskura do" meaning that happiness does not depend on physical things, but it is an art of life. Even if one agrees that happiness is an art of life and depends on the state of mind, there should be some elements or components of happiness for there should be some measure and understanding of even abstract things.

Who is a happy man? What is the measure of happiness? What are the components to be assessed to measure happiness? Has anybody attempted to measure this before? What are the answers? Is there any lesson for us from such efforts? These are questions that beg for an answers. These questions appears to have been answered by Vidura several centuries ago. Yes, Vidura of Mahabharata. He is never refereed as just Vidura. He is always referred to as Mahatma Vidur. He was one of the finest thinkers and philosophers of his time. And of course, his thinking is relevant even today. While advising King Dhritarashtra,  he says:

अर्थागमो नित्यमरोगिता च  प्रियास्च भार्या प्रियवादिनी च |
वश्यश्च पुत्रः अर्थकरी च विद्या षड्जीवालोकस्य   सुखानि राजन  ||

arthAgamo nityamarogitA cha priyashcha bhAryA priya-vAdinI cha |
vashyashcha putro'rthakarI cha vidyA ShaD jIvalokasya sukhAni rAjan ||

Vidura identifies six components or sources of happiness in this mortal world. ArthAgama (Cash flows). Health. Friends. Sweet (pleasant) speaking wife (spouse). Obedient Children.  Fruitful knowledge. Each of these can be discussed at length. But let us see them briefly.

The actual meaning of Arthaagama is Cash flows and not just Income. It is to be noted that Vidura did not use the word Sampatti which means Wealth. Wealth alone does not make a man happy. Imagine a man who owns a palace worth say 100 crore rupees or 100 million dollars. If he has no liabilities, a banker will put his net worth at a whopping 100 crores or ten million dollars. If he does not have any cash flows, how will he sustain himself? Another person who has a salary of 10000 per month but no other assets is happier since he can meet his daily needs. The palace owner cannot even maintain the palace without cash flows and in due course it will become Bhoot bangla or a haunted house. If he sells the palace and invests the money in fixed deposits (as for stock markets, better read "Stock Markets or Monkey business") the position drastically changes. His net worth would remain high, he will also have a regular income and he can live a comfortable or even a luxurious life. Liquidity is often a better indication of financial health than net worth. Hence bankers place a high value on Current Ratio. A person can lead a comfortable life as long as receipts on any day is equal to or more than the outgo of cash for that day. Cash flow may be comprising of Income, Capital Receipts or even borrowed funds. That is why Liquidity Management has assumed high importance now in Financial Management as well. Mahatma Vidur has rightly identified this as the first of the six sources of happiness.

The second source or component is good health. Vidura refers to daily health. Any human being may have an occasional cold or fever. Or headache and body ache. That is not sickness.  But there should not be any regular ailment or permanent disease. Something that requires frequent hospitalisation and surgery etc. Even if all other sources of happiness are available, an unhealthy person cannot be happy as his mind and body always suffer. We have to again agree with Vidura.

The third source of happiness is good friends. Volumes can be written or spoken about the happiness derived from good friends. This is something we all know from experience.

The fourth source of happiness identified by Vidura is a pleasant speaking spouse. He refers to a sweet speaking wife since he is addressing King Dhritarashtra. He may have used the word भर्ता  (husband) if he were addressing Queen Gandhari. Importance is usually given to facial beauty while fixing alliance for marriage. An advertisement for wrist watches once said  "The face you see often while waiting for somebody should not be a bore!". The voice you hear for the rest of your life (assuming that divorce is not on the agenda). Voice used  should also not be harsh, both in content and delivery. We know many men and women who have golden hearts but are very bitter in their talk. The voice should be sweet as well as the words used. Some spouses meet all the requirements of a good spouse, but there is an unnecessary bitterness in their words when they talk to the spouse.  Some spouses do not know giving a straight answer to any question of the other and the answer is always in the form of a counter question. A harsh spouse will make life miserable even if other five sources or components are available. Of course, a person without a spouse is compared to a blind man. Unmarried persons are denied the pleasure as well as pain of having a spouse and can be ignored for this analysis.We have to perforce agree with Vidura's statement.

The fifth source or component of happiness is Obedient children. This is something that Dhritarashtra did not have. And he was not happy even for a day of his life after his children were born, due to this problem. Instead of being under his control, he had the misfortune of surrendering to the wishes of his eldest son all his life. Definition of obedience may vary from time to time during the life time of a person. Children do need independence and should be allowed to lead their own lives. But parents find life miserable if they are to lead a life obedient to their own children. But as Vidur meant, a good relation with children and children who show deference to the parents is a vital component of happiness in life.

The sixth and last source or component identified by Mahatma Vidura is Fruitful knowledge.  The knowledge acquired by a person during his life time should be useful to himself as well as to the society. Considerable time and resources are spent in educating a man or woman. If the knowledge so acquired with much effort is not used for the benefit of the person concerned and the society, it is a colossal waste as well as can be a source of unhappiness in life for that person. Vidura is again right in his identification.

Thus when we consider the six sources or components identified by Mahatma Vidura, we can see that they are truly representative of the real happiness of a human being in this world. Not for nothing Vidura is recognised as a scholar and Philosopher for a long time.

Now that we know the six components or sources of happiness, we can evaluate ourselves against these yardsticks and decide where we stand; whether we are happy or unhappy or somewhere in between!


  1. I think happiness is a 'State of Mind'. There cannot be any yardstick to evaluate oneself with some components that might have come from wise men like Vidura.

  2. Don't these components contribute to create "that" state of mind?

  3. Good one! One more must read for today's generation!

  4. I think being happy is a continuous process where one tries to make an effort to enjoy a meaningful life and not judging oneself by what others have or do, but by ones own yardstick.

  5. It is easy to say, but it is difficult to practice, when a person is going through a bad phase, that is why many seek a guru or god like a support. There by State of mind is diverted.

  6. Good topic,
    A jealousy person by nature is never happy because he always compares with others.

  7. It is never too late to live happily ever after!

  8. It's never too late to live happily ever after

  9. Dear Keshavmurthy,
    I am a regular reader of all ur blogs,perhaps due to work pressure and time constraint I could not reciprocate ; and I am on holidays at Doha,Qatar now.Reading your write ups takes me to a different world altogether.Tackling a so called modern day today ticklish issues with a spiritual tool is really appreciable.It is said and experienced too,read and try to digest Bhagavadgita regularly, one would comprehend better and better as oneproceeds.Love,gratitude, and contentment have become scarce it's only our approach practical,pragmatic,and positive,shines up our life takes ahead.Thanks Keshu keep writing,sharing good thoughts and cherish everyone.

  10. Marriage and divorce are rated as top stressful events in a person's life, according to scientific literature.Marriage, irrespective of it's quality.Also, science has proven that unmarried persons are more prone to stresses of life than married people.Also, recovery from ill health is faster in married people.Happiness is now defined as a state of brain emotional circuits, sadness too.

  11. Anyone who has read Kannada book 'ANANDA' bY DR.SHIVARAM will realise the common substrate of all happiness, from sexual to spiritual, is a single area in the brain ( all brains, from rats to humans) is NUCLEUS ACCUMBENS.So, Animals can feel all emotions, including happiness...But we may never know the subjective quality of happiness in animals, as they cannot use language.

  12. It is really good. Every person should understand it and implement it.

  13. After gone through this beautiful explanation of Mahatma Vidur's philosophy, I can proudly say that I'm happy. One more thing I'd like to add in it that to make the needful person happy is also one way to be happy. Be the reason for others' smile always make me happy & satisfied.

    Thank you Sir.