Devi and I gave a program this past weekend in Gurgaon, India. We were interviewed beforehand by a reporter who works for The Times of India, India’s largest newspaper, which has a reach of many millions of people. They then published an article of mine in a special section of the paper called The Speaking Tree, which gives wonderful spiritual teachings. It was a reprint of a blog I’d published back in April of 2016. Friends encouraged me to share it once again. I, too, thought you might enjoy seeing it, even if for a second time. So here it is:

Five Essential Steps to Happiness

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “I once met a very successful and wealthy man, who said to me, ‘I’m disgustingly healthy, and disgustingly wealthy.’ ‘However,’ I replied, ‘you are not “disgustingly happy,” are you?’ He admitted he was not. Soon afterward, he became a student of this path.”

Happiness is something that everyone searches for but very few are able to find. Here are five key steps that lead to permanent happiness:

  1. We must want to be happy.

  2. We need to accept guidance to achieve this.

  3. We need to apply self-discipline in order to follow the guidance.

  4. We need to shift the focus to making inner, not outer, changes.

  5. We need truly to accept that both happiness and unhappiness are choices we make.

Let’s look more closely at these five steps.

steps to happiness

Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? Yes, and no. On a deep level, of course, everyone wants happiness. Paramhansa Yogananda said, in fact, that this desire is the fundamental motivation of every living thing. But on a conscious level, very few people seek happiness. Rather, they seek those things they think will make them happy: money, possessions, relationships, power, fame, etc. The problem with this way of thinking is that nothing outside ourself can ever make us happy. Only we have that power. Why not, then, seek happiness itself, rather than the will-o’-the-wisps that society dangles before us? Happiness lies within.

We need to look for happiness in the right way. At first, many of the ingredients seem counterintuitive, or even counterproductive: non-attachment; serving others; letting go of instinctive patterns such as judgmental reactions, anger, jealousy, and the like. Finding happiness requires, in fact, that we transcend the very self that is doing the seeking. We need a guide who is more advanced to lead us along the path.

The need for self-discipline is obvious, but actually to train our will is not easy. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “True freedom is the ability to do what is good and right.” Swami Kriyananda’s mother once described a self-indulgent relative as having a “whim of steel.”

The need to change ourself, again, should be obvious, but most people put much more energy into trying to change others or change their environment than into making inner changes. You will begin to improve only after you accept that the improvement you seek starts within. And that there, too, is where it ends. You can exert at most a gentle influence on others. Remember, they have the God-given right to their own free will. Never make your own happiness dependent upon the behavior of others.

There is a joy appropriate to every situation, even those we think of as unpleasant or disastrous. If you can once really grasp that happiness is a choice, you will have learned one of the most important lessons of all existence.

Ultimately, true happiness is a spiritual quest, and comes from the expansion of consciousness. We must expand heart and mind until we break the chains of ego. These shackles keep us bound, and doom us to the vacillating waves of delusion that keep true happiness forever beyond our reach.

In divine happiness,

Nayaswami Jyotish