A useful reflection about happiness, a short excerpt from Osho’s book Just Like That. I post this particularly because it speaks to the error in thinking that sadly permeates much of society, particularly North American society. There is an assumption of entitlement that pervades modern consciousness which misses the point of our existence – the very world itself is a jewel of wonder, if only we could stop our chasing and hurrying to reflect upon what is before us each and every day. Sufi philosophy is ecstatic, romantic and full of joy, as it apprehends that creation is a gift, our life here on this divine plane is a gift, and while we may suffer, and witness suffering, in each experience we have, however traumatizing, there is wisdom to be found – by us, or those who come after. Release and open to what life has to offer. You may be surprised at what you receive.
There was a man living by the seashore who loved seagulls. Every morning he went down to the sea to roam with the seagulls. More birds came to him than could be counted in hundreds.
His father said to him one day: “I hear the seagulls all come roaming with you – bring me some to play with.”
Next day, when he went to the sea, the seagulls danced above him and would not come down.
The greatest secret of life is – and remember it always – that life is a gift. You have not deserved it in the first place. It is not your right. It has been given to you, you have not earned it. Once you understand this, many things will become clear.
If life is a gift, then all that belongs to life is going to be a gift. Happiness, love, meditation – all that is beautiful is going to be a gift from the holy, from the whole. You cannot deserve it in any way and you cannot force existence to make you happy, or to make you loving, or to make you meditative. That very effort is of the ego. That very effort creates misery. That very effort goes against you. That very effort has destroyed you – it is suicidal.
In the American constitution, they have given a right, a basic right – and they call it the basic fundamental right – to pursue happiness. It is impossible to pursue happiness. Nobody has ever pursued it. One has to wait for it. And it is not a right at all. No law court can force you to be happy or force happiness to be with you. No government violence is capable of making you happy. No power can make you happy…Because the very idea that you can pursue happiness, that you can deserve it, that you can demand it, that you have the right to be happy, is foolish. Nobody has the right to be happy. You can be happy, but there is nothing like a right about it. And if you think that it is your right you will go on missing, because you have started to look in the wrong direction from the very beginning.
Why is it so? If life is a gift, all that belongs to and is intrinsic to life is going to be a gift. You can wait for it, you can be receptive to it, you can remain in a surrendered mood, waiting, patient, but you cannot demand, and you cannot force.
In life, only on the surface, in the marketplace, rights exist. As you move deeper. As you move deeper, gifts appear. This is one of the most basic things to remember always: you have not deserved life, and life is there! Absolutely undeserved, you are alive, with tremendous energy – alive!
How does it happen? And if life can happen without deserving it, without any right to it, why not happiness? why not love? why not ecstasy? They can all happen, but you have to understand the law. The law is: don’t try directly. Happiness cannot be pursued. It can be persuaded. Persuasion is indirect. It is not an attack. You move, but not directly, because when you are direct, you are aggressive. Nothing is as direct as violence. And nothing is as violent as directness.
I used to know an old man who was always complaining, always grumpy. Everything was wrong – he was a born critic. And of course, as critics suffer, he suffered, because sometimes it was too hot, and sometimes it was too cold, and sometimes it rained too much, and sometimes it didn’t rain at all. All seasons, all the year round, he was suffering. A negative mind, a negative attitude – and he was continuously making every effort to be contented and satisfied. But I have not seen a more discontented man than him; he was the very personification of suffering, dissatisfaction, discontent. In his eyes there was nothing but discontent. On his face many wrinkles of tension and discontent, all the grumblings of his whole life were written there.
But suddenly one day he changed. He had become sixty and the next day was his birthday; people came to greet him, and they could not believe their eyes – he had changed so suddenly, in the night. Somebody told me about it also, so I walked down to his house to inquire, because this was a revolution! The Russian Revolution, was nothing compared to it, The Chinese Revolution, nothing compared to it. A revolution! For sixty years this man had trained himself for discontent. How, suddenly…? What had happened, what miracle? I could not believe that even Jesus could have done such a miracle, it was not possible, because you never hear in the Bible…Jesus cured blind men, he cured the deaf and dumb, he even cured the dead, but you don’t hear a single story of Jesus curing anybody of discontent. It is not possible.
I asked the old man – he was really happy, bubbling with happiness – I said, “What has happened to you?”
He said, “Enough is enough! For sixty years I tried to be happy and could not, so last night I decided: Now forget about it; don’t bother about happiness, just live. And here I am, happy.”
He pursued happiness for sixty years. If you pursue, you will become more and more unhappy. You are going direct, like an arrow, and god doesn’t believe in shortcuts. You will attain to your target, but happiness will not be there.
Millions of people attain their targets: they wanted to be successful, they are successful – but unhappy. The richer they get, the unhappier they become, because now even the hope is lost. They were thinking that when they became rich they would be happy; now they are rich, and happiness – they cannot see any sign of it anywhere. Now, with unhappiness hopelessness also settles.
A poor man is never hopeless, a rich man always is. And if you find a rich man who is not yet hopeless it is certain he is not yet rich. Hopelessness is the symbol of being rich. A poor man can hope. Millions of things are there which he has not got. He can dream, he can hope that when these things are there he will have attained the target. Then everything will be okay, he will be happy.
In the very search you create unhappiness. When you don’t search, happiness searches for you. When you search, you search alone and you will not find. Where will you seek? How will you search? Mind can never be happy. Mind is your accumulated discontent. Mind is your accumulated unhappy past, the whole suffering that you have passed through: it is a wound in your being. And the mind tries to seek, to pursue, and you miss.
When you forget about happiness, suddenly you are happy. When you forget about contentment, suddenly it is there. It has always been there around you, but you were not there. You were thinking: Somewhere in the future a target has to be achieved, happiness earned, contentment practices. You were in the future and happiness was just around you like the fragrance of a flower.
Yes, god is a loafer. He is always loitering somewhere around. And you have gone too far, seeking. Come back home! And just be. Dont bother about happiness. Life is there as a gift; happiness is also going to be there as a gift – a gift from the whole, a holy gift.
OSHO International Foundation, Just Like That, 2008 pp. 165-173.