The happiness enigma

"Give more than you receive"

“O Lord, with this corpse-like body, always full of fear, we bear the burden of the relative happiness of kings, which is just like a dream. Thus we have rejected the real happiness of the soul, which comes by rendering selfless service to You. Being so very wretched, we simply suffer in this life under the spell of Your illusory energy.”
    – Srimad -Bhagavatam (10.70.28)

Twenty thousand kings had been imprisoned by the cruel Jaräsandha. Through a messenger, they petition Lord Krishna to save them. This is one of their prayers, where they confess that in an attempt to seek happiness, they have foolishly pursued wealth, prestige and power and have forgotten the real nature of the soul – to be a selfless servant of Krishna . A true servant gives happily, and his happiness is in service.

The secret of sustained contentment in life is in giving more than receiving. Unfortunately many of us spend most of our lives seeking to receive more than we give.

Most people grow up in life calculating how they could get the best out of their jobs, savings, relationships, studies and career. They spend time figuring out on how to maximize results with minimum efforts. It begins in school: we cut corners in our studies, do last-minute studies, and get good grades. But have we really learnt the subject? We think it doesn’t really matter because we  get a decent job, draw a fat salary, and life goes on.

The happiness enigma

Happiness is visibly absent if we remain
predominantly absorbed in our own comforts

Then while at work, we think of putting as less as we can and get more money. Our boss manipulates to squeeze more out of us, more than we get out from him. In a relationship we focus on if my partner is giving me pleasure, and how I can be really happy in this relationship. As we spend our lives in getting a good bargain, we are constantly seeking the best value money can buy.

But happiness is visibly absent if we remain predominantly absorbed in our own happiness. The selfish men and women of this world may titillate their senses briefly, but their hearts are agonized. The mind would never be satisfied even if you had all the pleasures of this world. In the Seventh Canto of Srimad – Bhagavatam , Prahlad Maharaj instructs his classmates on the futility of pursuing selfish sense pleasures. “Endeavors merely for sense gratification or material happiness through economic development are not to be performed, for they result only in a loss of time and energy, with no actual profit. If one’s endeavors are directed toward Krishna consciousness, one can surely attain the spiritual platform of selfrealization. There is no such benefit from engaging oneself in economic development.”
   –  Srimad – Bhagavatam 7.6.4

Deep satisfaction is experienced only when we give more than we receive from this universe. Of course, it isn’t possible to fully reciprocate with the gifts we have got from Krishna . Yet our attempt to give back to God, nature and other fellow humans fills our own heart with spiritual richness. When we give ourselves in service, we receive inner happiness abundantly.

This is as natural a law of this universe as the law of gravitation. You throw an apple up, it falls down. Similarly you give love and kindness from the heart; you receive more of the same love and kindness.

Also when we align our lives with this principle of servitude, we are more effective as devotees, preachers, and leaders in all walks of life. Most people focus on being efficient – doing things right. However we need to also be effective – doing the right things. Being a servant is the right thing. That’s also our natural position. Just as salt is salty, sugar is sweet, and water is liquid in its natural state, similarly the living entity is naturally situated when he or she acts as a servant.

Chanting Hare Krishna also works great wonders when we cultivate the mood of being the servant of Krishna and devotees. An aspiration to serve helps us chant well and more. If, however, we are seeking some mental peace or material adjustment through chanting, it is at best a superficial approach to the greatest spiritual practise. It may also not be sustainable.

Let us therefore endeavor to be a servant in all circumstances of life. Let us now affirm, “I am a happy servant. I want to serve and please Krishna , my guru, all devotees and all living entities. I now gratefully give back to the universe in appreciation for all that I receive.”

Vraja Bihari dasa holds a masters degree in International Finance, and an MBA from Mumbai University. He serves as a monk at ISKCON Chowpatty, and is an active teacher of bhakti-yoga and a prolific writer on Krishna consciousness. He blogs over a dozen websites. You can read his daily reflections on