Statistics don't lie, money can't buy happiness

For today's "Thought For the Day", I would like use one my articles published in the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers. Meditations: (printed on 18 May 2002) WHAT'S THE happiest place in the world? According to recent research led by the London School of Economics, the happiest place in the world is, would you believe?, Bangladesh. Interestingly the United States came in at 46th place in this World Happiness Survey, with Britain at the 32nd mark. India came in fifth. Not bad for a land of nearly a billion people with many different races, creeds, and ...well... castes. The study reveals how in general happiness is inversely proportional to peaks of economic development. Thus, although the British have twice the amount of money they did 40 years ago, their perceived quality of life has not improved. In fact, it has decreased, the survey tells us. According to one of the researchers. a financial colossus is seducing people all over the world and not meeting their essential personal needs. So, however amazing it may seem, some now prefer TV to food. The Gita confirms that "one whose happiness is within, who is active and rejoices within, is the perfect mystic. Such a person is liberated in the Supreme and ultimately attains the Supreme." Meditation doesn't mean other-worldly contemplation, or concentration on a distant future. It means happiness in this life, plain and simple. But, we argue, there's no thrill to meditation, no zap. There's no happiness in simply thinking about God and the spiritual world all day. Just what kind of joy is there in so-called inner happiness? Is that not the same kind of escapism that's been embraced throughout history and that's even been held responsible for massive violence, all in the name in the name of God? Is that happiness? On the other hand, we know we can be happy with good jobs, lots of money, TV pizza, ice cream, and by seeing our favourite films. How can hundreds of hermetic sages be happy? They see no one for years on end, have little to eat, dress in rags, never watch TV or go to movie theatres. They don't shop in malls, eat ice cream, or burgers, and they never wear blue jeans, listen to rock, or surf the Net. OK, so how to 'download' happiness into our lives? Where do 'I' fit in? For starters, let's read instead of staring at the TV for hours at a stretch. We can spend quality time with spiritual people, instead of with materialists. We can engage in some form of devotional service. Let us find the culture of life instead of what the Pope once called "the culture of death". The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commssion.