Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #19 – Pleasure is the Happiness of a Madman

May 9th, 2022

I haven’t been in New York City for a while. Our car was parked near the Bhakti Center. I proceeded down 1st Street towards Washington Square Park for the kirtan. Looking around me, I hummed a tune in my mind: “All the lonely people where do they all come from?” I can’t believe how attracted I once was to live here. I read somewhere that six out of ten Americans have either a panic attack or depression at least three days a week. I don’t know the accuracy of that study, but I can believe it.[1] I thought to my myself: “People here just don’t know the science of happiness.”


The title of today’s article is a partial quote about the science of happiness. Here’s the full quote: “Pleasure is the happiness of a madman, and happiness is the pleasure of a sage.”[2] There are two conceptions of happiness described here. Let’s explore them.


The first conception of happiness is pleasure, the stimulation of the senses and the inflation of the ego. It is a mad conception of happiness because it doesn’t deal with where true happiness rests—the state of the mind. In fact, pleasure may be the cause of misery. When pursued carelessly it will degrade or depress the mind.


I somewhat understood this point while still in college after coming to Krishna consciousness and reading the Bhagavad-gītā. It then dawned on me, and I could see it clearly in my college, how people who were most addicted to wanton pleasure, Sixties style, were not the happiest, and too many were seriously depressed. I remember sitting in one college philosophy class where the teacher directly correlated sense pleasure and happiness. I couldn’t help myself. I raised my hand: “If sense pleasure is happiness, then couldn’t we just cure depression by giving someone an ice cream cone?” The “stupid” professor was flummoxed.[3]


The second conception of happiness is not external stimulation, but the state of the mind, which is actual happiness. In fact, even if external circumstances are challenging in terms of the restriction of sense stimulation and ego gratification a person with an evolved mind can still be very happy. After writing this paragraph this morning, I began my morning reading of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and I came across a purport relevant to what I just wrote:


“If one is not trained to satisfy the spiritual senses and continues in material sense gratification, he will never attain happiness that is eternal and blissful. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.5.1) recommends:


tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ

śuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam


One must practice austerity so that his existential position will be purified and he will attain unlimited blissful life.” (Bhag. 8.19. 24, Purport)


So, what exactly is the science of happiness? The process of evolving the mind to a higher state begins with dharma. What is dharma? We have a myriad of choices to make in our daily life that determine our future or fate. Dharma is the science of making the correct choice, whether that choice is to reasonably satisfy some desire or to renounce it, that gradually evolves the mind to a higher level of perception and contentment. Without a life of dharma there is no question of molding the mind to a state of happiness.


And that lack is what I found so concentrated in Manhattan while observing the scene walking down its streets. People are mostly searching for happiness in pleasure and have little guidance or understanding of the type of life and decisions one must make to elevate one’s perception and contentment. My heart also welled with gratitude. By great fortune I met a bona fide teacher who understood and could inspire a life guided by dharma so that I can move more and more towards the platform where happiness is my pleasure rather than pleasure being my happiness.


I arrived at the park. Gauravani is leading the kirtan. Ananta Govinda is on the drum. Ah! The joy of sankirtan!




[1] I read this in an article that I no longer have access to.

[2] I remember this quote from a book called Happiness by Matthieu Ricard. It is not by him, but he quoted it.

[3] This foolish conception espoused by my philosophy professor is not at all representative of the philosophy professors I encountered in the Academy, whether theists and atheists. Rather, from my experience it is the department in modern education that maintains the highest degree of intellectual integrity.


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