Monday, December 15, 2008
Is Hedonism real happiness?
Ann Ryand one of the biggest proponents of egoism theory states
“whatever makes one happy" as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one's emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition. . . . This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism--in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective….”
Ann Ryand equates happiness to hedonism. Oxford dictionary defines hedonism as “the pursuit of pleasure or sensual self-indulgence as the highest good and proper aim of human life”. By this definition, pretty much the entire culture of modern man is based on hedonistic philosophy. Modern scholars, therefore, equate sense-pleasure to happiness and propound that the purpose of human life is the pursuit of maximum sense-pleasure thinking it will give us happiness. As a result, from religion to politics to environmental exploitation, this philosophy is man’s underlying motivating principle – hedonism! Anyways…this is a topic for a different post.
Is hedonism, therefore, the same as happiness? I think so…NOT! In other words, by fulfilling our sensual demands, are we happy? If we look around the world and make an objecting analysis, we have to only conclude that happiness actually cannot be derived from sensual pleasure. I come to this conclusion by seeing man’s state of living of constant oscillation between happiness and distress like a swinging pendulum. One day we are happy only to become sad or distressed the next day. Why then do we relentlessly pursue a life of sensual pleasure as our sole purpose and thinking it will make us happy always? For example, when I buy a nice car per my desire, I am fulfilling one of my sensual pleasures and this indeed gives me happiness. Then why do I not feel happy always at least to the point till I possess my car? Therefore, happiness I derive from possessing a car is temporary even if I still continue to own it. Then our logical conclusion should be that the car actually does not give me real and continued happiness. If the car is a proxy for a hedonistic principle then happiness is not hedonism. Indeed happiness cannot be derived by simply fulfilling our sensual and mental needs…it is deeper!
If not, how then can we explain celebrity people claim to live lonely lives or divorce a beautiful spouse or for that matter even attempt suicide. Material opulence leads to a hedonistic lifestyle…then should not all materially opulent people be continuously happy? On the other hand, we also see people who are materially less opulent live happy lives. We can only conclude that hedonistic pursuits and happiness are independent of each other. To put it in statistical jargon...their relationship is insignificant.
If hedonism is not real happiness then pursuing a sensual self-indulgence as the highest good and proper aim of human life is counter productive to our efforts. Our purpose, then, should be to seek happiness not in hedonistic ways…but How? The answer to this question can be found in the profound knowledge that is contained within the Vedas.
The Vedas declare that living entities by nature are anandamayo 'byasat – that is by nature living entities seek ananda or happiness. Vedas gives us a clear pathway to a state of existence where happiness does not dwindle with time but explodes exponentially with time without ceasing. This exponential ananda or happiness, the Vedas declare, can be achieved by seeking that object which is the reservoir of such endless happiness. That, the Vedas say, to be Lord Sri Krishna.
Therefore, when we repose our efforts in pursuit towards Krishna and not in pursuit towards self indulgence…we can be eternally be happy even without trying…something like becoming warm when we approach fire.
One such practical method in pursuance of Krishna, per the Vedas, is to practice yoga in bhakti (devotion) towards Krishna. The yoga of chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare will solve our problem of temporary happiness and give us eternal happiness in Krishna Consciousness.
Please chant and be Happy!