This article is a chapter from the book Every Man’s Yoga.
Pleasure is a particular mental state. It is a kind of exhilaration. Raga (attraction) causes pleasure. Dvesha (repulsion) causes pain. The mind expands itself in a moment of pleasure. It contracts in a moment of pain. They both are only relative states of mind. Really pleasure and pain have no real, lasting existence. What is really pleasure for one man may be pain to another. What is pleasure to a man at a particular time is pain to the same man at another time. The first two cups of milk give you some pleasure. The third cup induces distaste, and the fourth cup nausea and retching. There is no real, everlasting pleasure in the objects of the world.
Pleasure and pain are not two separate entities by themselves. They are the obverse and the reverse sides of the same coin. The difference is not in kind but in the application. They are a pair of the opposites, each interacting differently. Both pleasure and pain are subjective. Both of them can be mentally converted through a strong will, by the change in your Bhavana or mental attitude. Many vegetarian students from India, who go abroad for higher or special studies, become avid meat-eaters. Meat was repulsive to them when they were at their homes. Mere sight of meat would then induce in them disgust. How is it that they are able to relish meat with avidity, now? All this takes place by simple change in the attitude of thinking caused by external influences.
There is fluctuation in pleasure and pain. There is no continuous wave of pleasure and pain in the mind. If there is a continuous wave of pain, man will not be able to live even for a few days. The mind cannot always dwell on pain or pleasure. It is a great blessing. If you are in constant anxiety of death, then you may actually die in a short time. The varied objects of the world serve as diverting agents for the mind.
Amidst all pleasures of various kinds, fear, foreboding, care and worry blight your happiness and give you pain. There is a wave of pleasure for five minutes, and then it is followed by a wave of pain for the next five minutes. This rhythm continues throughout the life of man. Watch carefully your feelings through introspection. You will find that they are a jumble of mixed emotions. Therefore, on the spiritual path, culturing of emotions constitutes a vital Sadhana. The man who has no control over emotions is like a dry leaf tossed about by the vagaries of the wind. Here self-control and sublimation play an effective role. Little elations should not make you lose your head. Little feelings of depression, caused by little things, should not break your heart.
Most mental sufferings are caused by ignorance. This is due to the identification with the physico-mental personality of man and attachment to the body and to those who are associated with it. When this erroneous notion vanishes, you attain freedom from mental suffering, by identifying yourself with the nameless and formless Reality. Mental suffering is only ignorance. In deep sleep, you do not experience any pain. It is because you had not been aware of your identity with your body, then. When another man’s son dies, you do not grieve. It is because there was no identification of your personality with that of the son of the other man.
Pain is caused by the injection of negative emotions into the brain. Absence of light is darkness. Darkness is not a real entity. Darkness has a negative existence. So, too, Maya has a negative existence. When light is brought, darkness vanishes. Similarly when knowledge comes, Maya disappears. Absence of pleasure is pain. Pleasure is the womb of pain. The pleasures that are born from contact with objects are truly wombs of pain. They have a beginning and an end. The really wise men do not rejoice in the pleasures wrought by the senses, nor grieve because of the miseries caused by worldly factors. They are rooted in the consciousness of their spiritual source, which is devoid of pleasure and pain, but is full of supernatural happiness.
You can never achieve absolute happiness in a relative, physical plane constituted of the pairs of the opposites. The pairs of the opposites rotate in their turn. Death follows life. Night follows day. Light follows darkness. Pain follows pleasure. If you really want God, you will have to rise above all objects of pleasure-sensation, and eschew the desire for them. If you really want God, you will have to crucify the desires of the flesh. You cannot have God and sensual enjoyment at the same time. It is only those weaklings and hypocrites, who cannot give up attachment to the objects of the world, think that they can realise God by leading a worldly life and doing a superficial type of Sadhana for a few minutes every day. God-realisation is not as easy as that.
Happiness comes from peace of mind. Peace of mind comes from a mental state wherein there are no mundane desires, no thoughts of the objects of enjoyment. You would forget all ideas of pleasure-sensation before you enter the actual domain of peace. Happiness is in Sattva. Happiness is also beyond Sattva. Happiness is in Atman. It is in meditation. It is in the study of the Upanishads.
The best method of getting rid of mental suffering is through the will-power to dissociate from body-identification, through diversion of the mind, or its withdrawal from the individual personality and fixing it on the limitless, attributeless, nameless, formless, desireless, deathless Atman, the source of real, everlasting happiness, the like of which is never known in this world of limitation. Tattvamasi–Thou art That.