Saturday, 23 July 2016

Seriously, India is getting happiness-savvy!

India can draw a lot from Sri Sri’s reputation and philosophy of practically bringing happiness to millions across the globe. He has proven that happiness can actually be learnt.  

M Rajaque Rahman

India is suddenly getting happy savvy. A BJP-ruled state to a premier IIT…, there is a newfound rush to institutionalize the pursuit of happiness. The day seems not very far when our politicians will be dolling out coupons for free happiness retreats instead of free TVs, mobiles, etc! But Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s idea of having a ministry for happiness is no political gimmick. It represents a shift in paradigm from ‘money cannot buy happiness’ to ‘happiness can be delivered and administered’.

Having stolen a smart march over his counterparts in these days of competitive political positioning, Mr Chouhan now faces the real challenge of coming up with a mechanism that would deliver happiness to his subject which not so long ago led the demeaning BIMARU pack.

Devising a few good-feel schemes for the new ministry is one thing, but making his subject actually feel happy will be quite another. Unless he finds an effective mechanism of delivering happiness as a practical experience, the joy of pioneering the happiness ministry in the country will leave Mr Chouhan sooner than other mayas of the world!

Like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, happiness is in the mind. And like all things mental, happiness is very subtle and delicate. It's impossible to measure or quantify it. There is no Sensex to plot its rise or fall. The old-school model of linking happiness to material gratification and possessions has fallen flat with many of the world's most developed countries topping in suicide rate and depression.

Despite it being the ultimate motivation behind all actions we do in this world, very few people genuinely experience happiness in today’s hectic and fast-paced world. We slog to earn thinking money will make us comfortable and happy! We run behind good food thinking the taste will makes us happy... And the baits are endless.

Mr Chouhan’s challenge will be to engineer a paradigm of happiness away from these baits! Instead of good-feel populism, he should focus on making a plan for teaching happiness to the masses. The nature is on his side for learning to be happy is no rocket science and everyone would be an eligible candidate. For sure, no entrance test would be needed! Just a few lessons on the mechanics of life and happiness will do.

True happiness can come only from learning and understanding simple things about life. The logic is very straightforward. Anything we have knowledge about becomes easy to handle. For those who have the knowledge of cooking, even making an elaborate and lavish meal is a child’s play. But to the one who has no knowledge, even making a cup of tea is stressful. Those who know driving, drive any vehicle with ease. And, one who doesn't, gets goosebumps sitting in the backseat.

The new ministry must focus on sensitizing people to the subtlety of happiness. That will come from making people acquire a little understanding about life -- how its different layers interplay, what controls our mind, what nourishes our soul, etc. That science of holistically looking at life is what is generally and collectively referred to as spirituality. Nothing more, nothing less!

So far Mr Chouhan seems to be on the right track. By seeking advice of the likes of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, he has shown the ministry will have a right set of advisors. Apart from being the most sought-after spiritual guru in the world today, Sri Sri also has the reputation of practically bringing happiness to millions across the globe. Incidentally, the flagship programme of his globally popular Art of Living is christened Happiness Program! His just-concluded tour under the banner of GetHappyUS drew huge crowds of happiness seekers across the US. It augurs well that the new ministry will have the counsel of someone who knows the subject well.

So what should the syllabus for training in happiness be like? Here also, Sri Sri’s Happiness Program could be a good guide. This life-skill workshop comes packed with wisdom, techniques and processes that make the abstract concept of happiness look more real and attainable. The soul of any class in happiness must focus on mind management. The students must be sensitized to the tendencies of the mind that robe it of its happy nature, and factors that make us postpone our happiness to the future need to be understood and addressed.

Sri Sri’s philosophy of happiness includes subtle lessons like appreciating the contrasting realities of life, handling mistakes and criticism, etc and facing challenges of life with equanimity. It looks at the mechanics of happiness in its totality. Take for example his revolutionary equations that establish the link between happiness and one’s personal attitude to life. In a nutshell, it teaches wisdom about life.

By combining with powerful breathing techniques, the Art of Living makes happiness a tangible proposition. The Sudarshan Kriya, which is the centerpiece of the breathing techniques taught in the Happiness Program, is known to free the mind of stress, fatigue and negativity. They make the mind focused in the moment and stops its vacillation between the anger about past and anxiety of the future, making one primed to operate from a heightened state of awareness.

That’s what the happiness ministry should aim for. Schemes like Kanyadan Yojana, Teerth Darshan and Ladli Lakshmi can boost the happiness quotient only in the short term. It will take much more than just ensuring access to food, clothing, education and medical facilities to realize the vision “inculcating a happier lifestyle” and “infusing positivity” into the lives of its citizens.

A ministry for happiness, a centre at IIT-Kharagpur to teach and research on the science of happiness…, India’s emphatic bid for happiness is far deeper than just seeking to improve her dismal rank in the global happiness index. The natural byproducts of a happy personality like good health, uplifted spirit, compassion, intuition, creativity and intelligence could work as the rocket to propel India to new heights. Tathastu!

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