Addressing delegates on day three of Goafest 2014, Pujya Swami Paramatmananda Saraswatiji spoke about how one must always look to be happy.
After a short spiritual chant, the talk laced with humour began with a joke. Saraswatiji began his session by calling Srinivasan K Swamy, chairman of the Goafest organising committee, his half brother. He said: “He’s Swamy by name and I’m a Swami by lifestyle – that’s why I call him my half brother.”
'Happiness and comfort are not synonyms'
Saraswatiji urged people to think from a different perspective. “People say think disruptively and innovatively. I’m not thinking of those two ways of thinking and I’m just going to bring out a unique idea. Adam Smith (the economist) had spoken about increasing GDP and that’s growth, but for me growth should be in a holistic way,” said Saraswatiji.
He recalled an experience his teacher had gone through in the 1970s. He said, “My teacher had gone to the US in the 1970s and had a good trip. When he returned, he was asked by many what was similar and dissimilar about India and America. He said one thing dissimilar is that ‘Westerners are comfortably unhappy and we are uncomfortably happy’. The similarity here was ‘unhappy’. This shows that once you increase GDP, comfort increases. But comfort increasing doesn’t mean happiness will increase. Happiness and comfort are not synonyms.”
He elaborated, “When we were children we asked for toys – it was to make us happy. When we grew a little older, we hit the street to play – to make us happy. Then when one grew up – something like buying a motorcycle made one happy. Then a job came, which meant there was money – that made one happy. Further, you loved someone and married the person, to make you happy. Even if you looked for a divorce after that, it was to make you happier. So whether (or not) we increase resources and buying power, the bottom line for India right now is to make Indians happy. The vision of India should be ‘Making India Happy’.”
Saraswatiji then brought out a letter written in 1835 by Lord Macaulay.
The letter read: ‘I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in the country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation."
Saraswatiji said, “The British accomplished this and have made India believe that everything foreign is good and speaking in English is good. Whenever I spoke in English at Haridwar, I was praised and called a great Swami because I could talk in English.”
He further spoke on how ‘Growth of India means growth of Indians’. “Growth has to be in terms of material properties, high self-esteem, moral values, cultural heritage and spiritual heritage. We are endowed with the capacity to reach conclusions about ourselves. Every human sees himself or herself as a deficient person. The constant compulsive pursuit throughout life makes the sense of inadequacy very evident. We want validation from others to feel good about ourselves. People are not at home with themselves,” said Saraswatiji.
Philosophy of plenty
Saraswatiji touched upon another issue amongst people, something he terms ‘The Philosophy of plenty’.
He cited the instance of one not feeling good about himself or herself. “When a woman becomes Miss Universe, she cries in her acceptance speech. Now that she’s the most beautiful, she should stop applying make-up, but instead the opposite happens. She starts putting several beauty products and endorses several brands. This shows that there is a sense of inadequacy about her and it is dictated by fluctuating values. Plenty can improve the standard of living, but not the standard of life. Simply generating wealth does not make people happy,” surmised Saraswatiji.