With every action we perform every day, we have one goal: happiness. But, when we work hard for a certain outcome and the end result is not what we pictured, we get upset. Even when we do get what we want, something else gets added to our list of desires, and we are never 100% satisfied. Even the most famous, wealthy people are not the happiest, nor those with the most family and friends, because we always want more than we have.
This means that there must be something inherently wrong with the way most human beings approach happiness, and that real happiness must feel a lot better than we think it does. The Bhagwad Gita discusses this phenomenon using the context of the story of Arjuna, a warrior-prince. As Krishna describes to Arjuna what the real meaning of life is, we realise that our idea of happiness is quite superficial compared to the eternal bliss that one can achieve.
Arjuna has to fight a war, but as he looks out on the battlefield, he begins to regret his decision to participate in the conflict.
Realising that either outcome of war would be disagreeable – as both sides involved family – he becomes anxious about which side will win. Finally, he experiences confusion about what his role is and whether or not he should even fight
I am not a warrior, so my personal experiences are of course not exactly the same, but I feel these emotions very often as well. What we don’t realise, and what I have not realised in so many situations, is that with every action, the past and the future don’t matter at all. What matters is the present, specifically what our job is in the moment and what we need to do in order to complete it. Both the Gita and my own experiences have taught me that by focussing on the present, we avoid agitation, which allows us to stay focussed so that we don’t mess up, and stay confident as we complete a task.
For example, the most relatable situation for me is playing basketball; I know that the 32 minutes of playing time, are 32 minutes in which I can mess up and make a fool of myself. However, the same 32 minutes are a time in which I can make good shots, play great defence, and become a better player. As I play, I actively choose to adopt the second mindset, and I find that doing so increases my overall performance. Even if I do make a mistake, or miss an easy shot, I tell myself to move on and not to worry; rather, I play in the present and remind myself that I can do better. With every action, if I act in the present and remember my responsibilities, I end up benefiting myself more and feeling happier with the end result.
Another example involves something I’ve learnt about myself in high school: that I have a horrible test-taking habit of calculating the score I might get after seeing a question that I don’t know the answer to. I then count how many questions I need to get right in order to get the score I want, all in the middle of an exam. By doing so, I not only lose track of time and decrease my chances of getting a high score, but I also become agitated about the test, increasing the chance that I will forget something while tackling a later question. I think that people are always worried about the results or fruits of their actions, and then when we don’t get what we want, we are quick to lose temper and sight of what is really important.
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