“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
Friend1: I have a question about happiness.
Friend1: The soul is supposed to be happy, right?
Friend1: There is a Sanskrit phrase that describes that.
Friend2: Ananda mayo ’bhyasat. The soul is full of bliss.
Friend1: There is also sach-chid-ananda. This means that the soul is eternal, knowledgeable, and full of bliss.
Friend2: These properties descend from God. He is the fountainhead of all energies. He is the original, and we are like samples. He is God, while we are God-like.
Friend1: Okay, but here is somewhat of a contradiction. I’ve also read that we shouldn’t work so hard to find happiness. We should be content with letting things come our way.
Friend2: Correct. Happiness and distress come and go like the winter and summer seasons. The bitter cold of winter is no fun, and the same goes for the scorching heat of summer. Yet we know that both come and go; it’s the working of time. We should just go with it; no need to act otherwise.
Friend1: I understand that, but it seems to go against the soul’s nature of being blissful. Or at least it means that we shouldn’t strive after bliss. Do you see the contradiction?
Friend2: You’re basically asking what is the point of following spiritual life if happiness already comes on its own?
Friend1: Exactly. And how is it in the soul’s nature to be blissful if there is the duality of happiness and distress?
Friend2: These are good questions. There are two words of note. Sukha and ananda. In this context sukha is that temporary happiness, the one that comes on its own through karma.
Friend1: How is ananda different?
Friend2: Karma means subjecting yourself to duality. It is work that has reactions related to a temporary body. We pretty much have experience only with karma. We understand ananda in terms of sukha, as well. Ananda is something that never leaves the soul, no matter where it may be. Sukha is a small taste of it, like opening the windows of a room during the daytime. You might feel some warmth already in the room, but when the windows are opened, you get a more complete experience. Ananda is the result of removing the influence of the material body.
Friend1: And that can only happen through spiritual life.
Friend2: Right. It’s a way to experience pleasure that is beyond the duality of happiness and sadness. This bliss is steady, since it is the result of a direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Nectar of Devotion talks about something called “impetus for ecstasy.” You just remember something about God the person and you end up feeling ecstatic all over. Since remembrance is the impetus, you can get that ecstasy at any time. You don’t have to sit around and wait for it. It doesn’t have to leave you, either, since Krishna is all-pervading. Ananda is every person’s birthright, and through devotional service they are able to find it, cherish it, and hold onto it going forward.
Like winter and summer seasons known,
Happiness and distress coming on their own.
No need separately to yearn,
To tolerate changes must learn.
Soul also as blissful the description,
Thus how to resolve the contradiction?
Ananda inside, sukha temporarily staying,
Steady happiness when for Lord’s company praying.