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Three Types of Happiness

November 5, 2012 | 5 min read
Mentoring a New Yoga Teacher

‘This has been a rough year.’ I keep hearing this from different students and when I reflect on my own life since January I initially think yes, this year has kicked my ass: a gut-wrenching break up that also left me having to find a new home just months after moving to a new city. I was basically annihilated, thrust so far down into the darkness of my mind that I actually scared myself with the options I considered.

How does one find the path back to joy after feeling so destroyed?

Well, according to the Bhagavad Gita, there are three types of happiness. Lord Krishna teaches of happiness and spontaneous bliss through the gunas. The gunas are the three components of existence. They include tamas- impurity, lethargy, darkness; rajas- action, passion; sattva-  calm, intelligence, purity, light. Every individual is a mixture of all three gunas but the one with which we are most attached to permeates and we associate as that type of person.  The gunas help to illuminate the understanding of happiness.  The three types of happiness are:

  • Tamasic happiness is based in deluding oneself. This delusion comes from ignorance, negligence and indolence. Take for example, bad-mouthing or gossiping. We delude ourselves into thinking it is okay to speak ill of another persons actions, especially if they go against our beliefs, but then we cause that person harm by smearing their name, essentially inflicting more pain and suffering. Maybe we do this over coffee with our friends and derive a certain joy from thinking we are somehow better than this person. This type of low interaction may even lead the friend we are gossiping with down a dark path too, spreading our toxicity even further.Other forms of tamasic happiness include sarcasm; scandal; stealing; damaging another’s’ reputation, work or belongings; and insults. The list could go on. It could even include eating unnatural food instead of taking pleasure in pure healthy nourishment. It is the lowest form of happiness. Ultimately it is joy gained from pain and destruction.  True bliss could never come from such selfishness, but most of us are not even aware of when we are operating at this place.
  • Rajasic happiness is a bit more unclear to the inexperienced bliss seeker.  Most of us spend the majority of our time searching out and then recovering from rajasic happiness.  Based in attachment, passion, and action, rajasic happiness always leads to some form of disappointment.We fall in love with someone, but then they leave us for another.  We find our dream home, but then realize our neighbours ride dirt bikes at all hours of the day.  We eat healthy and exercise but still don’t seem to lose the extra weight. Years of being a good person, don’t seem to pay off. There are so many examples of this type of happiness/disappointment cycle, we begin to doubt that happiness even exists, because there is so much suffering. We become jaded, cynical and guarded. If we are continually placing conditions on our happiness- ‘if he just calls,’ ‘if I get the job,’ ‘when I have some free time,’ -then how can we call it true happiness? Won’t we always carry the potential to be disappointed?
  • Sattvic happiness is the purest form of joy. The perceived impossibilities, pain and sacrifice make it seem unattainable though.Sattvic happiness is derived from the joy we experience in the moments when we can disassociate from the delusions and dictates of the mind. Sattvic happiness comes from perseverance and acceptance. There is no expectation, no disappointments, and no blame. One invites an attitude of not minding what happens.Our lover is unfaithful and leaves us and we forgive them and continue to send love. We fall ill and remain healthy in spirit. We lose our job and remain grateful. At first when we stop eating sugar, we crave it; nothing is sweet enough. Eventually the simple carrot is sweet and cakes taste bitter.  Sattvic happiness requires discipline and trust.At times it may seem that you are depriving yourself, like the process of balancing blood-sugar levels. I like to call this new process balancing the love-sugar levels. Eventually we begin to cultivate a renewable source of love and joy.

Initially when my life seemed to fall into turmoil I found myself locked into a rajasic cycle, seeking pleasure of any form just to feel alive again. But inevitably this became redundant and purposeless. The path to joy would require different choices. And so I forgave and accepted. And every morning I wake up and remind myself to forgive and accept again. The good news is the more frequently we make choices in our life that reflect sattvic happiness the easier it gets and the quicker we are to recover when we do slide back to old habits. No matter what the outcome- even the worst possible outcome- we choose our response.

This has been a rough year and has offered many opportunities for growth. I am endlessly thankful and welcome all to enjoy ‘the spontaneous fountain of bliss within.’ Om shanti.

Written by: Meghan Aris

Certified in several disciplines of yoga, a pilates teacher and teacher trainer, Meghan is continually widening her path of body/mind studies. At a young age she began her journey into body movement through dance. After being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she shifted her practice to more rehabilitative yoga. In this discipline she found not only the resources to heal her body, but also a guide to living a life full of peace and joy. She can be found teaching on any given day at Fix Health Care

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