Is pure, unending, ever-increasing, ever-interesting happiness possible? 

Happiness Without Distress - Back To Godhead

CAN WE FIND happiness in this world? For most of us, what we call happiness is the temporary lessening of distress or sadness. Prabhupada explains: 
"By temporarily stopping the cause of suffering, we are thinking that we are enjoying." (Lecture, Tokyo, January 27,1975) In a material conception of life, happiness has practically no meaning without sadness. "This material world," Prabhupada writes, "is the world of duality, and we cannot understand happiness without distress or distress without happiness. This is therefore called the relative world." (Teachings of Lord Kapila, Chapter 7, Text 13) 
All that we term happiness, therefore, depends on prior suffering. We enjoy eating because we feel the pain of hunger; without any hunger or appetite, eating will bring us no pleasure, no matter how tasty and well prepared the food. We find pleasure in sleep due to the distress of fatigue; a child who isn't tired rebels against going to bed. Sex is pleasurable because it temporarily extinguishes the burning of sexual desire. We enjoy the company of others to counter our own boredom or loneliness. 
Another characteristic of pleasure in this world is that it diminishes with experience. The great sage Narada explains that material happiness is like a flower that is attractive when fresh but disgusting when rotting (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.29.54). He says that all objects of material happiness become stale (4.28.9). As Prabhupada puts it, "Material subject matter becomes stale, and one cannot hear a certain subject for a long time; he wants change." (Krishna, Chapter 13) If we eat our favorite food-say, pizza-for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in a few days, or certainly weeks, we'll not only stop getting happiness from pizza, but we'll abhor it. Someone constantly surrounded by good friends will gradually stop enjoying their company and desire some time alone. 
All material pleasures, therefore, demand that we take a break from them occasionally so we can continue to enjoy them. Prabhupada explains: "Material engagement means accepting a particular status for some time and then changing it. This position of changing back and forth is technically known as bhoga-tyaga, a position of alternating sense enjoyment and renunciation. A living entity cannot steadily remain either in sense enjoyment or in renunciation." (The Nectar of Devotion, Preface) 
Our patterns of work and vacation, eating and not eating, and so forth, display this cycle of enjoyment and renunciation. No pleasurable activity will always give the same happiness, so there must be times of abstention to revive the original thrill. And even with breaks, the pleasure tends to diminish over time. 
Innate Desire For True Happiness 
Our desire for happiness not based on suffering or periodic renunciation indicates that such happiness may exist. We write and sing and dream of a happiness that will go on forever, increasing in intensity and pleasure, with no concomitant suffering at all. Our love songs are full of promises of eternal bliss that grows by the hour, and we imagine that as we progress through life gathering education, family, money, things, and accomplishments, our sense of satisfaction and happiness will grow. 
If never-ending, ever-increasing happiness doesn't exist, why do we look for it? 
The answer is that we are not of this world, but rather, as Lord Krishna explains in the second chapter of the Gita, are eternal spiritual beings unnaturally encased in a body of matter in a world of matter. The Saint Rupa Goswami explains that our spiritual heritage includes varieties of loving exchange with God. 
These exchanges are full of ever-expanding ecstasy, and they go on forever without a tinge of suffering. We seek and glorify the state where such exchanges exist because they are part of our nature. Just as a forest-dwelling animal in a desert craves shade and water, so we spiritual beings crave our birthright happiness in this land that conspicuously lacks it. 
Is True Happiness a Myth? 
Of course, the experience of fleeting happiness dependent on sadness persuades some people that all types of happiness must be boring and dull if they don't include periods of either lack or distress. They cannot imagine, however much they may want it on some level, that a perpetually happy world could exist or be interesting. They consider spiritual happiness either a myth or something dull. 
Many saintly persons, however, such as Sanataria Goswami and Rupa Goswami, describe spiritual happiness as dynamic and variegated. This happiness is based on an individual loving relationship with a personal yet unlimited Lord, Sri Krishna, who reciprocates with each devotee in an inexhaustible array of ways, in an endless variety of transcendent activities. Sanataria Goswami writes in his commentary on the Tenth Canto, Chapter 13, of the Srimad-Bhdgavatam that Krishna has innumerable qualities and a particular quality of the Lord attracts each of the innumerable souls. 
Variety in Spiritual Happiness
In Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu Rupa Goswami describes some types of spiritual bliss that look like suffering-fear, grief, anxiety, and so on. Because of the apparent similarity between these advanced stages of ecstasy and ordinary suffering, we may misunderstand many of the most elevated activities of the Lord and His devotees. By examining ways people try to be happy in material life, however, we can under-stand how normally disagreable things are pleasurable in the context of loving exchanges with God. 
For example, people pay for movies and books that frighten, anger, or even horrify them, finding some pleasure in these sensations. However misguided and unfortunate the search for happiness that drives one to see a ghastly horror movie, the point is that even materialistic people seek happiness in a great diversity of ways. Why should spiritual happiness be devoid of such variety? 
Because the material world is a reflection or shadow of the spiritual world, spiritual happiness has far more permutations and nuances than material happiness. These dynamically increase the thrill of those who love God. Indeed, love of Krishna, even in this world, can bring us to a life the Gita describes as a thrill at every moment, with no trace of sadness. 
Urmila Devi Dasi, a BTG associate editor, has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (USA). Her recent book is Dr. Best Learn to Read, a three-part series to teach reading to children.