We are all always in search of happiness. There isn’t a single living being in this world that doesn’t want to feel happy. But the truth is that it’s not easy to reach this state completely, and many times the search can carry us to anxiety and desperation.
Walking through a popular mall in my city, I saw an ad that attracted my attention. It said: “[Name of the mall] wants to see you happy.”
This stuck in my mind for a long time, and I began to think about how consumerism is a big disguise of happiness. When I buy new shoes, I’m happy for a day or two; when I get the latest phone, I’m happy for maybe a week… but eventually the feeling begins to disappear and finally becomes emptiness. So I have to look for something else that can make that feeling return.
The generalized anxiety that reigns in our society is based on collective frustration at not reaching true happiness, and having it slip through our fingers.
But we live aspiring to reach a mistaken conception of happiness. Today’s society tells us that riches are happiness, that consumerism is happiness, that an unrealistic ideal of romantic love is happiness. We live trying to reach a mirage of what happiness is.
So what is happiness? How can we reach it?
Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith, always asked the people who visited him, “Are you happy?”. He would tell them, “Be happy!” And when someone harbored sadness in their hearts because of some misfortune, he would say “Forget them. When your heart is filled with the love of God, there will not be room for sorrow, there will only be love and happiness.”
If we want to reach true and lasting happiness, then, we must put our hopes only in God. Love towards God is the key that opens the spiritual door that leads to happiness.
As to spiritual happiness, this is the true basis of the life of man, for life is created for happiness, not for sorrow; for pleasure, not for grief. Happiness is life; sorrow is death. Spiritual happiness is life eternal. This is a light which is not followed by darkness. This is an honour which is not followed by shame. This is a life that is not followed by death. This is an existence that is not followed by annihilation. This great blessing and precious gift is obtained by man only through the guidance of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Divine Art of Living, p. 18.
When we love God, everything becomes easier. When we forget Him, however, everything becomes dark. Anxiety and disillusionment fill our being, although we can’t seem to understand exactly why. Every little problem appears gigantic, every disappointment feels overpowering. But when we have God in our hearts, we feel invincible.
We must love God first to find happiness in this earthly life. All our luxuries and attachments will never fill us completely; we will always feel that something is wrong. It is with the love of God that we will be able to find tranquility and spiritual peace. And then we will be able to reflect this great love in our behavior and in how we love our parents, siblings, friends, spouses; we will be more understanding with others’ mistakes, we will be more empathic, humble, and we will look for the wellbeing of all. We will worry about nature and contribute to end the suffering of the less fortunate. Because the love of God is reflected in the love of humanity.
Personally, I was able to perceive what I believe to be spiritual happiness when I was 15 years old and began teaching Baha’i children’s classes for the children in a small neighborhood near my home. Despite the difficulties I had in my life, every time I went to teach those children about love, kindness and patience, seeing how they developed and adopted those fundamental principles for the betterment of the world, my soul was revived. I felt happiness: that true happiness that we search for so anxiously. I understood that true happiness is spiritual happiness, one that is based in the love of God and which finds its expression in service to humanity.
No material goods can replace the smiles one receives when helping others. Learning to love humanity through the love of God is happiness. Nothing will ever fill us more than that love.
Despite all the distractions that we are bombarded with every day, that realization cannot be forgotten.
O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive to become the manifestations of the love of God, the lamps of divine guidance shining amongst the kindreds of the earth with the light of love and concord. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 28.
Like Abdu’l-Baha advises us, we must make an effort to become “the manifestations of the love of God” on this earth. That is how we will be able to find a greater purpose in this life. That is how we will find true happiness.