“Happiness and where to find it” sounds like the title of a self-help book you’ll find at the supermarket. However, we should ask ourselves this question each day, or at least when we feel the world is on our shoulders. We think that happiness is just about feeling good on a physical level. But actually that’s comfort, not happiness.
The market is full of products that promise total comfort, disguised as unending sources of happiness. But no matter how many of these artifacts we possess, we still feel empty. It’s time to open our minds towards new ideas where fulfillment is not linked to material things. Instead, we should strive to reach something beyond the monotony of consumerism.
If we think about the true reason for religions, we’ll find that most of them try to reach the same end: spiritual peace and communion with forces of nature and spirituality.
One of the best examples of this lies in the image of Hotei, also known as the Laughing Buddha. In essence, the key to happiness lies in freeing ourselves of the stress of material objects. Do we need them? Yes. But we shouldn’t hold on to these objects as if our life depended on them.
Buddhism is not the only philosophy that promotes detachment from earthly possessions. Hinduism also promotes transcendence in this form. The men who have been able to leave all materiality behind are known as Sadhus.
They leave their homes to spend the rest of their lives wandering cities with the sole purpose of meditating on human existence through observation. Rather than being seen as outsiders, they are respected holy men within the community who are often provided with water and food.
There are different kinds of Sadhus, but perhaps the most interesting are the Aghori, given their practice of eating the flesh of corpses floating on the Ganges or of those that are incinerated on the river bank. The reason behind this act of cannibalism is to show us how our physical bodies are a mere step in our existence. When this phase is over, our flesh becomes a lifeless mass, since the person has gone into an abstract plane.
Perhaps the only way we can achieve happiness without letting go of all our possessions is to stop placing so much importance on them, while asking ourselves if all the things we’ve done so far are truly satisfying.
The lives of these men should serve as a reminder that not all religions are negative, but that their true purpose is to help our journey through this life and this world.
Translated by María Suárez