In the Light of Theosophy

Everyone seeks happiness, but the quest for it is, ironically, the cause of much unhappiness. Desiring happiness as an end in itself, say mental health experts, can keep it out of our reach. The only way to achieve real happiness, some teach, is by making others happy.

In the January/February issue of Psychology Today, psychologist Steven Reiss suggests that we can achieve happiness by clarifying our values and then living accordingly. We doom ourselves to misery, he says, when we confuse happiness with fleeting pleasures. After surviving a life-threatening illness, Reiss began to take a new look at the meaning of life. Based on a survey of more than 6,000 people, he offers insights about what it really takes to be happy:

Harvard social psychologist William McDougall wrote that people can be happy while in pain and unhappy while experiencing pleasure. To understand this, two kinds of happiness must be distinguished: feel-good and value-based. Feel-good happines is sensation-based pleasure. ...Since it is ruled by the law of diminishing returns, the kicks get harder to come by. This type of happiness rarely lasts longer than a few hours at a time.

Value-based happiness is a sense that our lives have meaning and fulfil some larger purpose. It represents a spiritual source of satisfaction, stemming from our deeper purpose and values....Since this form of happiness is not ruled by the law of diminishing returns, there is no limit to how meaningful our lives can be....

How can we repeatedly satisfy our most important basic desires and find value-based happiness? Most people turn to relationships, careers, family, leisure and spirituality to satisfy their most important desires....

Value-based happiness is the great equalizer in life. You can find value-based happiness if you are rich or poor, smart or mentally challenged, athletic or clumsy, popular or socially awkward. Wealthy people are not necessarily happy, and poor people are not necessarily unhappy. Values, not pleasure, are what bring true happiness, and everybody has the potential to live in accordance with their values.

In the same issue of Psychology Today, well-known therapist Albert Ellis insists that we manufacture much of our own misery and, more important, that we have the power, through rational thinking, to improve our outlook and feelings.

Happiness is not the same as satisfaction of desire. While we stake our happiness on getting what we desire, we remain the sport of circumstances. Most of us are not aware that it is only in their own nature that true happiness may be found. There is within each one a place of peace—a place unaffected by the turbulence and trials of life—but instead of turning within, we are forever searching for happiness outside of us. That which we truly are, that which forever stands, that which forever knows, partakes eternally of Bliss—the essence of happiness. A true philosophy and a new interpretation of our existence has to be looked for.

In this age, the state nearest to happiness is attained by those wholly devoted to right action. Duty, selflessness, is the "royal talisman," the final panacea. "If you can do no more than duty," we have been assured, "it will bring you to the goal."

It is recognized today that human rights inhere in every human being everywhere and are an international responsibility. Yet too many people in too many countries are still being denied these rights. Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO, writes editorially in Unesco Sources January-February 2001):

The persistent violation of basic human rights anywhere on this earth effectively means that they are being denied to us all: because human rights are universal. They cannot be divided. Wherever injustice degrades an individual, or group, of our human family, it necessarily affects us all.

States have committed themselves legally to respect, defend and promote human rights. But human rights depend on each and all. Concerned individuals, non-governmental organizations, institutions and civil society at large, need to help make human rights a living reality. Every one of us is a sentinel.

Today we consider extreme poverty, gender discrimination, social and cultural oppression to be offences comparable to the violation of freedom of thought and expression. We also regard the denial of education, of a decent standard of living, of individual integrity and social dignity, of individuals' right to develop their creative potential fully as unacceptable outrages that must be addressed.

The achievement of these rights necessarily brings to the fore the need to respect further rights. All rights are, in the deepest sense, interlinked. Poverty breeds the despair on which hatred and violence thrive. An adequate livelihood goes far to encourage tolerance—hence respect for the rights of others. Education is an eloquent case in point. Education in itself recognized as a human right must asolutely be made available to all, with no restriction based on gender, class, ethnic group, or creed. Moreover, it is through education that each and every one of us may from childhood on acquire wider awareness of universal human rights and abiding respect and tolerance for others.

Human rights are only effective if people know about them; many still don't. Education can change that. In this United Nations Decade of Human Rights Education, attempts are being made to promote a genuine culture of human rights through a variety of educational programmes.

The human rights struggle, based as it is on the inherent dignity of man, irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, birth or other status, comes within the wider purview of the Theosophical Movement. Mankind is of one species and forms one indivisible whole. If the concept of human rights is not to remain a mere abstraction, it needs to be demonstrated on logical, philosophical, metaphysical, and even scientific grounds that all human beings have spiritually and physically the same origin that mankind is essentially of one and the same essence and that essence is one. Nothing, therefore, can affect one nation or one man without affecting all other nations and all other men.

Just how old the universe is, still remains a matter of debate among astronomers and many conflicting theories have been advanced. Now, using a new chronometer, an international research team estimates the universe to be at least 12.5 billion years old (Science News, February 10). Timothy Beers of Michigan State University in East Lansing explains that the universe must be older than its oldest stars, which formed one to two billion years after the Big Bang. It is believed that the more precisely astronomers can determine the age of these stars, the more closely they can arrive at the age of the universe. Various methods are being tried to date these most ancient stars formed from nonradioactive elements.

The Secret Doctrine (II, 68-70) gives figures from an ancient Brahmanical calendar—figures that are not fanciful, but founded upon actual astronomical calculations. According to the esoteric doctrine, the age of our solar system alone is 1,955,884,687 years (this was in 1887). As for the whole Universal System, or "Brahma's age," it requires 15 figures to express its duration! "As we are now only in the Kali-yug of the twenty-eighth age of the seventh manvantara of 308,448,000 years, we have yet sufficient time before us to wait before we reach even half of the time allotted to the world." (Isis Unveiled, I, 32)

The theory that the remains of ancient cities exist under those of the present is not a new one. Marine archaeologists have recently found evidence that three Egyptian legendary cities once actually existed. Herakleion, Canopus and Menouthis were described by such chroniclers as Herodotus and Strabo; but, in the absence of any physical evidence, archaeologists and historians have wondered for centuries whether these cities did exist. Popular Science reports that a scientific team led by French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio has answered that question, discovering remnants of the cities beneath the sea near Alexandria, Egypt.

More than 2,600 years old, the locations date to when Egypt extended farther into the Mediterranean. The reuins were found four miles off the coast in 30-foot-deep waters after an electronic survey of the Bay of Aboukir.

The discovery gives archaeologists the first physical evidence that the three sites existed. Historians believe the cities were built in the 6th or 7th century B.C. Buildings, temples, monuments, and colossal statuary remains, evidence that the cities were once thriving urban centres....Temples to the Egyptian gods Isis, Osiris, and Serapis made all three sites a destination for worshippers....

How the three cities met their end is still a bit of a mystery. An earthquake seems the most likely cause, according to Amos Nur, a Stanford University geophysicist who mapped the area.

Mr. Judge explains in his article "Cities Under Cities," originally published in The Path for November 1892 (reprinted in The Heart Doctrine), the phenomenon of modern cities standing over ancient ones that lie buried intact many feet below the present level:

If we can imagine the first coming of a population to a place never before inhabited, the old theory asks us to believe that certain classes of elementals—called devas generically by the Hindus—are gathered over the place and present pictures of houses, of occupations of busy life on every hand, and, as it were, beckon to the men to stay and build. These "fairies," as the Irish call them, at last prevail, and habitations are erected until a city springs up. During its occupation the pictures in the astral light are increased and deepened until the day of desertion arrives, when the genii, demons, elementals or fairies have the store of naturally impressed pictures in the ether to add to their own. These remain during the abandonment of the place, and when man comes that way again the process is repeated. The pictures of buildings and human activity act telepathically upon the new brains, and the first settlers think they have been independent thinkers in selecting a place to remain. So they build again and again. Nature's processes of distributing earth and accumulating it hide from view the traces of old habitations, giving the spot a virgin appearance to the new coming people. And thus are not only cities built in advantageous positions, but also in places less convenient.

Why do some people, otherwise cool-headed, give vent to anger while driving a car? While some researchers say that "road rage," as it is called, is like any other form of anger, others believe that there is more to it—that "something about driving can unleash a monster in all of us."

Gerry Byrne writes in New Scientist on this problem:

What is it about the car that provokes such negative passions in normally meek people?...At Trinity College Dublin, transport psychologist Ray Fuller puts this down to what he calls deindividuation, the process that prevents us relating to the other driver as a person...."Face-to-face contact is vital for so much social interaction, and it tends to be taken for granted," says Steve Stradling of Napier University in Edinburgh....

Having got angry, why do a significant minority take their anger further? Sometimes it can go as far as getting out of the car to remonstrate, or even fight, with the other driver.

One view, more prevalent in some cultures than others, is that venting anger serves as a form of catharsis: keeping it in is harmful, while letting it out makes you feel better. Research by psychologist Brad Bushman at Iowa State University in Ames suggests that people who are emotionally distressed vent their anger to improve their mood....

Bushman has since shown that venting frustration can make people feel good in the short term—but at a price. It makes them stay angry much longer, which is hardly a good idea if you're driving....When people are angry they are not given to efficient thought processing, says Marcus Raichle, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis, and this could have a bearing on the road rage phenomenon....

These displays of anger might have other serious consequences. Connell, the AA psychologist, says it is well established that angry drivers are more likely to end up in an accident.

Anger beget more anger. We often suffer much more from anger than from the very thing at which we are angry. Psychological studies reveal that anger is often more destructive when it is allowed to erupt than when it is suppressed; and outbursts of anger rarely relieve whatever caused it and usually aggravate the situation, disabling the person from reasoning. We use many common phrases that show our recognition of this fact: "He was so infuriated that he lost his mind"; or, "He was so angry he could not speak"; and so on. Mr. Judge wrote:

There is no such thing as having what is called "righteous anger" and escaping the inevitable consequences. Whether your "rights" have been unjustly and flagrantly invaded or not does not matter. The anger is a force that will work itself out in its appointed way. Therefore anger must be strictly avoided, and it cannot be a avoided unless charity and love—absolute toleration—are cultivated. (U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 18)

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