Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #18 – The Happiest People in the World

May 3rd, 2021

“They are the happiest people in the world!” Well, maybe not the happiest, but that was my spontaneous thought when observing Ricardo, our gardener, and Mireya, the housekeeper. Their smiles reminded me of the type of smile Krishna wears called smita, a closed mouth smile without any external impetus that simply reflects one’s inner contentment. Why are there so many simple people here in Colombia who seem so content and joyful when they have so little, especially compared to the first world?


Before trying to unravel this query, let’s first settle on a standard measure of happiness to gauge my observation. There are several ways to define happiness. Let me choose one: Happiness is a mind of good thoughts. What are good thoughts? Good thoughts are attachment to the qualities that elevate one’s consciousness, like devotion and humility, and the activities that inspire those attitudes, and aversion to the qualities that degrade one’s consciousness, like pride and avarice. In other words, the more a person’s mind is imbued with healthy attachments and aversions, and the less it is imbued with unhealthy attachments and aversions, or bad thoughts, the happier a person is. Now let us look at the attitudes that are naturally invoked in a modest life that elevate one’s spirits.


Santosh (Contentment)


Happiness is contentment that is expressed in the good thought, “Enough!” It seems that people with a humble life seem much more content with the simple joys in life and their modest possessions, while those who live in excess of their needs are more imbued with the mode of passion and never feel that they have enough.




There is certainly some truth in the Hebrew saying, “The more you have, the more worries you have.” One of those worries is the fear of losing any of the multitude of one’s attachments. All things being equal, people who live a modest life are less fearful.




Studies have shown that the more choices one has, the more difficult it is to make decisions. Sociologists have called this the paradox of choice.[1] As society becomes more “affluent” and the choices in food, clothes, and travel increase, there is a greater likelihood that people waver on the plane of indecisiveness, increase their material expectations, and even become more dissatisfied with their choices, fearing they have made the wrong one. Modest people who have less, therefore, tend to be more resolute in the minimal choices they make and are in less anxiety.


Emotionally Stable


The single greatest factor for general well-being, including physical health, is the amount of quality relationships one has.[2] Affluence in the modern world gives one a mobility in occupation and residence, which makes it more difficult to maintain community and family relationships. Often, modest people have no choice where they live and work. To take birth, live, and die in the same place creates the maximum opportunity to have the meaningful relationships in life that fill the mind with thoughts of stability and support.




The more you have, the greater your expectations are, and the less likely you will feel deep love and appreciation in exchanges with others. In contrast, simple people have modest expectations and are easy to please. In other words, people who live a humble life tend to have deeper thoughts of gratefulness and appreciation in their consciousness.


Devotion and Faith


Srila Prabhupada use to quote the British poet Cowper: “The city is made by man, and the country is made by God.” Modern civilization, in a myriad of ways, from the overdependence on technology to its postmodern view of education, tends to cover the Divine. By dint of the sheer simplicity of their lives, those who are more modest are less affected by the complexity of modern life and are therefore more likely to experience the beautiful impressions in the mind inspired by simple faith, a sense of the Lord’s protection, and the eternality of their existence.


Aristotle made the insightful observation that happiness is the goal, but it is never the means to anything else. You may counter his conclusion by offering some other goal, he challenged, but it would easily be rebutted by the simple observation that the goal proposed was simply the means to happiness.


So yes, happiness, is the goal, and we have a lot learn from Ricardo, Mireya, and the simple god-fearing people of Colombia.




[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choice?language=en

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KkKuTCFvzI


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