By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
It often strikes me how lovely it is that the very young children seem to get so much pleasure out of little things in life. The joy of eating a dripping chocolate ice-cream cone on a warm summer’s day, or picking up butter-cups and parsley from the vegetable garden, seeing a worm wriggling and climbing over a stile, watching butterflies hovering over the flowers or hearing the cuckoo’s call, give them as much pleasure as we adults get from attending some grand function, getting a good job or some important achievement. Little children derive joy from the simplest things. They get delighted at the sight of a sparrow or with a box of building blocks, or with some broken toy car and things like that. A few marbles or scraps of coloured paper give them joy and they may spend hours in these innocent games. Even running around or pottering around the garden gives them abundant pleasure. Their primary concern is food, which they get without asking. How lucky they are and how happy they can be! If this biological need is satisfied, they put their mind on other sources of pleasure.
You can’t help being delighted with their beaming faces and cheerful laughter. Even if you are sad or depressed over something, the soft and innocent smile of a child turally gives a big boost to your sagging morale. I often look out of the window to observe the delightful laughter of the street children playing and running around. Children everywhere and from diverse backgrounds have the same innocence, same tendencies and the same attractive expression. Their demands are few and can easily be fulfilled. A bar of chocolate, a biscuit, a balloon, or some knick kcks have the ability to bring a smile to their innocent faces. They have no anxiety regarding anything and they trust everybody. They can lift the spirits of the dourest person with their smile and prattling talks. Truly divinity seems to reside in these innocent children. They can conquer the heart of anybody without making the slightest effort.
Of course the little children do not have to contend with mortgages, income tax, and growing bills, rates and so on. Adults do have many problems, which make them anxious and depressed. But nevertheless I think that the adults could benefit from taking their lead and sparing the time to appreciate the small pleasures each day has to offer. We often miss these simple delights of life. Our ambitions are sky-reaching and if they are not fulfilled, we become sad and feel that life is not worth living. In Indian Philosophy Lord Buddha has recommended a path to happiness. Siddhartha or Gautama, the prince of Kapilavastu had never known about the sufferings of mankind, while he remained cocooned in his royal palace. The story says that one day the prince went out of the palace in his chariot for a jaunt in the city. On the way he encountered certain things which he had never seen before. He saw a very old person taking faltering steps on the road with a stick in his hand. Next he saw a sick person sitting by side of the road. Then he saw the body of a dead person being carried to the crematorium. The prince had never seen such suffering and he became overwhelmed with grief. He had an urge in his mind to learn the cause of the suffering and wanted discover a way to get rid of suffering.
That night he left his royal palace and his family and went out into the world to discover a way to get rid of suffering and all the tragedies the humans had to bear. He went to various places to find a saint or a ‘guru’ who could show him the way, but could not find such a wise person. So, after wandering around for some time, and failing to get a true saint, filly he sat down under a Bodhi tree and became absorbed in deep meditation. Filly he realized the truth. He could fathom the cause of suffering and he also could comprehend the way to get rid of suffering. He became enlightened and came to be known as ‘Buddha”. He found out that desire is the main cause of suffering. Man desires many things; there is no end to his desires and if they are not attained he falls into a morass of despair.
It is true that we want many things and if we do not get the things we want we feel sad. It is necessary to curb our desires to be happy. Little children are always happy, because they do not have any feeling of want and they become happy with the simplest things life can offer. But we desire many things which may not be accessible to us and as a result of our disappointment we fall into acute misery. How much happier we would be if we stopped thinking that happiness depended only on big momentous achievements. The wise people say that happiness comes from within. I too think that we do not have to search for happiness outside. We can have it easily, if we realize that we can be happy if we wish to be so. People have to learn that they can be happy with the simplest things which are easily available. We would be much happier if we can grasp the fact that happiness is within our reach.
Surely, we have experienced many good things in life, which may not have been portentous or epoch-making. Everybody cannot attain very big things in life, but anybody can enjoy the simple pleasures of life. We can make ourselves happy with the small insignificant things if we follow the lead of the little children. People suffer because of their sky-high ambitions. Our wants are endless, all of which may not be fulfilled and that makes us depressed. It is only tural that all our desires cannot be satisfied. Yet we must have experienced many good moments in life of which we may not have been aware. If we add up all the small good moments that occur in our lives, I am sure that we would find that we have banked quite a large amount of happiness. It may have seemed that we have been having a dreary time of it, but that is because we have paid more attention to the pinpricks and aggravations. It is a fact that we remember only the sad events in life as we brood on them all the time. We never forget pain, but we forget the delightful moments of life. The reason may be that we become more affected by the painful things than by the small good things, which do not happen to be very important or remarkable, and hence they become insignificant to us. Yet in case of bad or painful things of life, we magnify them in our imagition and the pain becomes intense enough to destroy our happiness for life.
We are thankful only for the splendid peaks in our lives, the exciting moments, the important outstanding events that make us happy. If we thought more about all of life’s gifts, the small as well as the large, we would soon realize that it is the commonplace blessings, often taken for granted, that make every day worth living. Being conscious of them is the secret to enjoying life. They are like pennies from heaven. These pennies make pounds without our being aware of them. We count only the sufferings and never the happiness which we get every day. That is why we think that life is full of sufferings.
Indeed, I believe that, if any us were to make a list of all the pleasurable moments that occurred just in one week (that is free from genuine troubles or grief) we would be astonished to discover how often we had laughed, how often we had some heart-warming moment, how often we felt a glow of satisfaction at some achievement. It need not be a stellar performance and our achievement may not have been spectacular. After all, everybody cannot have extraordiry talent. But without doing anything great, we may have succeeded in doing something, which may bring some praise from friends and relations. For us surely that would bring immense pleasure.
There are many of these small delightful moments in everyone’s life but we perhaps do not acknowledge them. I have friends who say, “Nothing exciting happens to me these days. It is just one long, unending dreary stretch of the same boring old routine.” They are not counting the pennies as little children can do so easily and effortlessly. It is true that we follow almost the same routine every day. But we are bound to do that or life will be a chaos. We have to do the same thing each day. We have to serve food at the same time each day, send the children to school in time, help with their home work in the evening, and things like that. But if we reflect on the matter we can easily see that ture also behaves in the same uniform way. The logical “Law of uniformity of ture” states that ture behaves in the same manner. That is why the universe is maintaining a regular process, or there will be utter chaos. If the universe does not maintain the same routine, it may be extinct. The same is the case with the world and its inhabitants. So it is no use grumbling about our routine life. Still to get rid of our depressions let us make a list of all the pleasurable incidents we experience each day. The list will surely bring a glow to our lives.
What might our list comprise? Sights, sounds, and smells we take for granted. Hearing the birds singing at dawn, seeing the sun shining in a clear sky, the wonderful aroma of some delicious dish sizzling for breakfast or fresh coffee brewing? Don’t they give us some kind of pleasurable feeling? We may take these things for granted. But there are some who may be deprived of having such pleasure due to some kind of handicap. Then think how lucky we are. At least we possess normal sense organs to enjoy these pleasurable events which we get every day and we should be grateful to Providence for these small pleasure.
The day’s pleasures might include some unexpected event, such as discovering a letter from a dear far-away friend or finding that your bank balance statement reveals a healthier balance than you imagined. I myself was overjoyed last week when I found a few hundred rupee notes in an old bag which I had not used for a long time. Actually I was going to throw away the bag. Fortutely, I opened it to see if I had left some important papers there. Imagine my joy when I found the hundred rupee notes there, about whose existence I was not even aware. The unexpected booty gave me immense pleasure.
Perhaps some small thing may have given you that warm sense of satisfaction. It may be an unexpectedly favourable school report on your child, or it may be a prize in the school sports or in the cultural function. It may even be a few words of praise for your child spoken by the Head of the Institution or the class teacher. Or, perhaps the teacher has marked ‘good’ in your child’s class work. It may be a very small incident, but it does give you a warm feeling of happiness.
You may, experience joy at the bloom of the first flower from a cutting from a favourite rose. Don’t you feel proud when you pick your own peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce etc. from your own garden to make a salad? Your vegetable and flower garden (if you have one) must have given you an enormous amount of satisfaction. I know that some people would say that these small and ordiry things are nothing to rave about.
In a way it is of course true. But it is also true that these small pleasures do give us some warm feeling of joy and when added up they become quite impressive. It is strange that we ignore small every day pleasure, yet we magnify any ordiry painful incident. For instance, the absence of water and dry pipes, load-shedding or uvailability of LPG etc. may bring sadness to us. We may be eagerly waiting for some news from friends. When we do not get the news, we may feel sad and disgruntled. This fact does put a stamp on our mind and we get annoyed with the friend for not responding. This small incident may cause a major damage to our friendship. So, if a small unpleasant incident can give us so much pain, then why can’t we appreciate the small things of pleasure?
When people grumble about the depressing time they are having, they really believe that they are telling the truth. Yet if you press them to examine their days and examine the ups and downs in their lives, they often admit that there have been many bright little happenings. But they have passed them over, pushing them into the back of their minds, dismissing them as unimportant, because they are not earth-shattering events.
But I think that they should note that all pleasurable incidents are not epoch- making. Yet that does not mean that they are valueless. They have the power to lift our spirits and bring a ray of hope to us. These small incidents of pleasure keep life going and save the people from a morass of despair. We should certainly treasure them and remember them in our times of distress, which may give us a fresh lease of life.
Perhaps life is very like our climate. One day may be bright and sunny, but it may turn cloudy by the evening with rains pouring down. Climate changes and so does our life. There is nothing permanent in it. Even in the worst months of the year there are moments or indeed mornings of sunshine. And like our climate too, life is a target for our grumbles. When it is pouring, we say wryly, “Fine weather for ducks.” When the rain pelts down we may find ourselves without an umbrella, as we did not expect rains, when we left home. We forget that it is this country’s changeable ture that makes a precious garden of beauty.
But if we are thrifty, about hoarding the smiles, the laughter, the little every day blessings, that come our way, then we will surely find in balancing the account, that we have totted up quite a substantial store of happiness and pleasure.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)