“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.” – Ramana Maharshi

Is Desire Really the Root of Suffering?

Driving to the gym a few days ago, I looked around at the onset of winter. The dying trees, the darkening sky, the 4pm dusk. I felt a twinge of anxiety, a sinking depression about the onset of the season of darkness here in New York.

In that moment, I remembered a bit of wisdom that I’d heard from some Buddhists, a long time ago: “Desire is the root of suffering.”

In that moment, looking around at the gray and barren landscape, I was desiring happiness, and resisting unhappiness. If I simply let go of that desire, I thought, then maybe I wouldn’t suffer from it’s lack.

In that moment, I tried to let it go. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want happiness. I didn’t need happiness. I didn’t care whether I was happy or depressed. I tried to extinguish my desire by denying its existence. But alas, my desirelessness was never more than a half-hearted idea. I never reached full equanimity.

And by the time I arrived at the gym, I was still depressed.

Happiness Comes From Within

This morning I saw a quote from Ramana Maharshi that reminded me of a very important truth.

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.” – Ramana Maharshi

On my drive to the gym, I had been seeking happiness outside of myself. I’d been seeking happiness in the greenness of the trees, in the brightness of the sky, in the warmness of the air — in the environment all around me. I was seeking happiness outside of myself, when clearly, happiness comes from within.

Really, Really Deep Within

Upon reading this quote from Ramana Maharshi, I turned my attention inward, looking for the source of happiness inside of myself.

Moving my attention into the inner body — my stomach, my chest, my visceral organs — I could feel that there were still things that made me feel unhappy. The tightness in my chest. The anxiety in my stomach. The pain and the stress and the emotions in my body.

And in that moment, I realized that Ramana was talking about something deeper “within” than the sensations and emotions of the “inner” body. In fact, the inner body is still “outside” — it is part of the environment, the ever-changing conditions in which you (the experiencer of experiences, the witness of existence, the pure, clear, empty consciousness) live.

The sensations and emotions of the body are constantly changing. They will continue to do so until you die. You can’t expect them to just shift into “happy” emotions and sensations when you “look inside” and ask them nicely to “why aren’t you happy already?!?”

When Ramana talks about finding happiness inside, he’s not just talking about redirecting the attention from the trees and the sky to the emotions and the inner body. You have to look deeper than that. But if the body is still part of the environment — if looking at sensations and emotions is still looking “outside” — then what does it mean to look “inside?”

Where To Find The Source of Happiness

Meditate on this question: where, inside, is the true source of happiness? Is it in your stomach? Your heart? Your thoughts? The pure, clear, empty consciousness that experiences existence through your body and pervades the entire Universe?

The answer to this question is the fundamental core of existence and reality. But I can’t explain it to you, and you can’t understand it just from reading a description. You have to look inside, deeply — beyond the ever-changing conditions of the body — to experience it for yourself.

If you can find a way to describe and articulate the deep, abiding, fundamental Self (you know, the one that transcends the individual body and permeates the fabric of existence), please post it in the comments below this article 🙂

Author’s Note

Happiness comes from within. You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it.

The problem isn’t knowing it… the problem is remembering it. We all know that we should exercise, meditate, eat healthy, etc. But just because we know something doesn’t mean that we apply it, consistently, in every day life. We all have momentary lapses in mindfulness. We go for days without exercising, we eat things that are bad for us, etc. The same is true for remembering important insights & mindsets.

If we could remember, all the time, to seek happiness inside instead of outside, we’d be much happier people, on a day-to-day basis.

That’s why I wrote the “Reboot Your Brain: Daily Meditations” book series. I kept having powerful insights & realizations that had the potential to improve my life… if only I could get them to stay in my brain! So I started writing them down for myself. I jotted down hundreds of these insights over the past 10 years, and in 2017, I compiled them all into a series of books 🙂

I’ve uploaded the first book (“Reboot Your Brain: Daily Meditations for a Happy, Healthy, Awakened Life”) to my website, where you can download it for free (!!!) for a limited time. You can download it by clicking on the book below:

reboot your brain meditations for happiness