Earlier this month we celebrated Vyasa Puja, Srila Prabhupada's appearance day. It was a day to commemorate Prabhupada's tireless service and contributions to Lord Krishna and His devotees. Part of his daily routine included writing books about bhakti yoga, and translating and commenting the ancient Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada also encouraged all of his devotees to write. While only a few of us have the knowledge, talent and time to write full-length books and articles, there are many other short ways in which we can share scriptural knowledge, inspiration and illumination with others, such as through personal correspondence, facebook entries, comments on current events, letters to the editor for newspapers and magazines. Below is an article that was published by the Fort Collins Coloradoan in July of this year in the opinion section.
To find peace, let go of happiness, distress
How free are we?
In this country there is a lot of talk about freedom, especially around the Fourth of July. The United States grants freedom of speech and expression, religious freedom, the freedom to choose where we live and work, and how we live, to all of its citizens. Looking at all the freedom we are granted here, one would expect that we all must be a very happy bunch of people. Yet, as we well know, this is not the case: We get grumpy when there is no Coke or beer in the house, or the Coke isn't cold enough; we are rushing home to watch a favorite TV program, rather than engaging in a relaxing conversation with others who are dying for the attention; we are fearful of losing our hard-earned money and possessions.
All of the freedoms mentioned above are freedoms that others have granted to us. There is another freedom that only you can bestow upon yourself, namely the freedom from happiness and distress.
"Wait a minute," you probably say, "I want to get rid of distress, but why would I want to give up happiness?" The answer is simple: Because we can't have one without the other - just like a seesaw, they always go together. Let us look at a few things that make people happy. Most of us have favorite foods and beverages. When we are able to indulge in them to our liking, we are happy; when these same foods and beverages are not available, we become discontent or even grumpy and irritable. This is called sense gratification. We may do our best at work in expectation of a promotion and a raise. If this turns out to be true, we are happy; if our efforts do not pan out, we are disappointed and distressed, angry. This is attachment to outcomes or results.
Then there is the attachment to people and possessions: I am only happy when my spouse gives me his/her undivided attention; I must have an expensive car...the list goes on. Another common issue that interferes with our freedom to enjoy the moment is fear: Once we receive the things we want so badly, there is the fear of losing them and emotionally falling down. Not even the often-cited financial freedom can give us true freedom: What if there is a massive inflation, or if hardly anybody has the money to purchase our services and goods?
So how do we get off the seesaw of happiness and distress? As with so many things, the first step is awareness. Pay attention to what makes you happy, and notice how its opposite causes you distress. Ultimately, all of these mood swings are guided by the idea that we should be able to control what is going on in our lives, and the fear of being let down when we can't pull the strings. Letting go of the need for control can only be attained when we trust that there is a divine plan for everything; by knowing that a higher power will arrange what is best for us. The result will be freedom from happiness and distress, a life in peaceful equanimity. Peaceful people make a peaceful nation; peaceful nations make a peaceful world.
Annette Kahmann lives in Fort Collins. She can be reached at email@example.com