Happiness lies in thinking or doing that which one considers beautiful

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Discriminating Good and Evil

What is really good? The answer is, there is no such thing as good or evil. There is beauty. That which is beautiful, we call good. That which is ugly compared with the beautiful, we call evil: whether it is custom, idea, thought or action. This shows that this whole phenomenon of the universe is the phenomenon of beauty. Every soul has an inclination to admire beauty, to seek for beauty, to love beauty, and to develop beauty. Even God loves beauty.

In all ages the various religions have given different standards of good and evil, calling them virtue and sin. The virtue of one nation has been the sin of another. The virtue of the latter is the sin of the former. Travel as we may through the world, or read the histories and traditions of nations as we may, we shall still find that what one calls evil, another calls good. That is why no one can succeed in making a universal standard for good and evil. The discrimination between good and evil is in man's soul. Every man can judge that for himself, because in every man is the sense of admiration of beauty. But he is not satisfied with what he does himself, he feels a discomfort, a disgust with his own efforts. There are many people who continue some weakness or some mistake, or who are intoxicated by some action which the world calls evil or which they themselves call evil, yet go on doing it. But a day comes when they also are disgusted. Then they wish for suicide. There is no more happiness for them. Happiness only lies in thinking or doing that which one considers beautiful. Such an act becomes a virtue or goodness. That goodness is beauty. 

Follow Beauty

Man is always seeking for beauty, and yet he is unaware of the treasure of beauty that is hidden in his own heart. He strives after it throughout his whole life. It is as if he was in pursuit of the horizon: the further he proceeds, the further the horizon seems to have moved away. For there are two aims: the one is real, and the other false. That which is false is momentary, transitory, and unreliable - wealth, power, fame, and position are all snatched from one hand by the other. ... Man wants something in life upon which he can rely; and this shows, whether he believes in a deity or not, that he is constantly seeking for God. He seeks for Him not knowing that he is seeking for God. Nevertheless, every soul is pursuing some reality, something to hold on to; trying to grasp something which will prove dependable, a beauty that cannot change and that one can always look upon as one's own, a beauty that one feels will last forever. And where can one find it? Within one's own heart. And it is the art of finding that beauty, of developing, improving, and spreading that beauty through life, allowing it to manifest before the inner and outer view, which one calls the art of the mystic.

Karl's Comments

Happiness, like many of our attitudes, comes in forms of different value.  There is transitory happiness which, as with gains and losses, is false and does not last.  Such happiness may come from hedonistic pursuits, or from those illusionary rainbow-ends of power, sex, fame, money, and position.  Then there is true happiness.  Persistent happiness.  And when we think back, then whenever we have found something which reliably gives us some happiness, even in small measure, it has been associated with beauty.  A beautiful feeling, or a beautiful view, or a beautiful person or personality or friendship.  And the greater that beauty, the greater the happiness that its presence can confer.  So happiness is being able to see the beauty that lies around us, to discriminate in favour of it, and to follow it.  And if we feel we are missing something from our lives, then almost always that something is beauty.  And finding that beauty will make us happier.

Often we despair of finding such beauty in such an ugly, transient world.  But we need not.  First there is great beauty in this world if only we know where to find it and how to discriminate it.  And second, the source of the truest beauty is within us.  Some call it "Good", and some call it "God".  Both lie with us.  We need only learn to discriminate them.  And the way to do that is to concentrate, and encourage that which is beautiful, and discourage that which is not.  First in our actions, then in our words, and finally in our thoughts.

The Desires of the Soul

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The Realisation of Our Desires

There is a story in India of a man who was told that there was a tree of the fulfillment of desires, and who went in search of it. After going through the forests and across the mountains he arrived at last at a place where he lay down and slept without knowing that the tree of the fulfillment of desires was there. Before he went to sleep he was so tired that he thought, 'What a good thing it would be if I had just now a soft bed to rest upon and a beautiful house with a courtyard around it and a fountain, and people waiting on me!' With this thought he went to sleep, and when he opened his eyes from sleep he saw that he was lying in a soft bed, and there was a beautiful house and a courtyard and a fountain, and there were people waiting on him. He was very much astonished and remembered that before going to sleep he had thought about this subject, he found, 'The tree that I was looking for -- it was under that tree that I slept, and it was the miracle of the tree that was accomplished.

The interpretation of this legend is a philosophy in itself. It is man himself who is the tree of fulfillment of his desire, and the root of this tree is in the heart of man.

Thought and Feeling

There are dead thoughts, and there are living thoughts. To which class a thought belongs depends on the power called will power. When there is will power, the word is both spoken and done.

This idea is expressed by the words Kalpa-Vriksha, the tree of desire. The story is that whoever happens to sit down for a moment under this tree will have his wish fulfilled; yet nobody knows where this tree is to be found. The tree is the mind; its root is the heart. That which gives power to thought, gives spirit or life to thought, is feeling. A man without feeling is as though dead; with feeling he is living, and so is his thought. Thought with feeling is a much greater power than thought without feeling. Merely to say, 'I like your picture so much' will have no effect when there is no feeling behind it. It is just a string of words. There is no life in it. But when these words are uttered with feeling they go through your heart also; the thought becomes living. 

Analysis

Our desires are not given to us.  We choose what we desire.  The wise will choose their desires well.  And with the power of their feelings they will realise these desires.  It is therefore very wise to choose your desires carefully, but once they have been chosen by the power of your mind, to cherish them and make them grow.  The logical consequence is to choose only those desires that you have the power to fulfil, and that are permanent and may not be taken away from you.  And those are the inner desires; the desires of the soul.

The Truth about Gains and Losses

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A gain or loss that is momentary is not real

In life we discriminate between two things: the real and the false. We think more of the real and less of the false. We discriminate between imitation gold and real gold; we pay more for the real gold because it is more lasting. The two samples of gold may be equally bright; hence it is evident that the value we attach to things is in proportion to their lasting power. Similarly, if we could see what things in life are lasting or passing, we should discriminate between real loss and false loss, real gain and false gain. The gain or loss which is momentary is not real. So, too, joy or sorrow is a momentary state; the joy over a gain today may tomorrow prove to be a sorrow. If we knew the realities, we should never grieve over the loss of things which experience shows to be only of a transient character. ... For every gain, however, there is a need for sacrifice. To gain anything we have to sacrifice something; to pursue two gains is to lose both. Therefore it is necessary to decide once and for all what is false, and then to follow the real and leave the false.

If there is such a thing as saintly renunciation, it is renouncing small gains for better gains; not for no gains, but seeing with open eyes what is better and what is inferior. Even if the choice has to lie between two momentary gains, one of these would always be found to be more real and lasting; that is the one that should be followed for the time. When we take the torch of wisdom to show us our path through life, we will end by realizing what is really profitable in life and what is not.

Summary

We live our lives seeking gains and avoiding losses.  Most often we do not give more than a second's thought to the value of that which we call a "gain" or a "loss".  Yet if we do think about the value of what we cherish we realise that some rewards are inherently transient or illusionary and are not worthy goals of our lives, nor worthy of joy in gaining, or worth our sorrow in loss.

What is most valuable is lasting and cannot be taken away.  Consequently what can be taken away - what is "momentary" - cannot be most valuable.  So seek the true and long lasting, and avoid the seductive illusions of momentary gains.