What does it take to be joyful

There was once a king who had the ability to foresee the future. As a result, he always remained prepared for war and surprised his enemies. He predicted droughts and had food grains and water stored for his subjects. The king grew very proud of himself for his prosperous kingdom now spanned the length and breath of the country & his subjects were very happy under his rule. However, the king was rarely happy. He discussed this with the scholars in his court and no one could understand what made him unhappy. One of them suggested that he go and meet a very wise sage who lived in the mountains bordering the kingdom. However, it was understood that the sage remained engrossed in deep meditation for most part of his life and rarely opened his eyes or spoke to anyone. In his burning quest for happiness, the king decided to take a chance.

It was an arduous journey over several days before the king finally stood in the presence of the sage. To his utter good fortune, the sage opened his eyes bit spoke no more than just one sentence before slipping into deep meditation again. The sage said ‘Look not ahead, but behind’. The King found no solution to this unhappiness for nothing made any sense to him. He returned deeply disappointed & pondered over the statement for several days.

One day, the King was enjoying a bowl of soup so much that he couldn’t resist asking who had prepared it. The chef was immediately brought in his presence. As the king stepped forward to reward him, the chef just made a mention that he was grateful to the grocer who supplied such tasty & fresh vegetables. When the grocer was summoned to court, he thanked the farmer. The farmer went on to thank his loving wife, his horses and his fertile farm-land. In a flash, the king suddenly realised what the sage’s words implied; he saw how much was going on behind a single bowl of soup.

He realised how he had spent his life believing he was responsible for the well-being of his kingdom. This led him to magnify his own greatness to such an extent that he virtually had no space for anyone else in his heart. Now, he could see how many people were responsible for his well-being and also that of the kingdom. He saw how innumerable factors in the universe were coming together to make life possible for him and was awestruck at the vastness of life. As he reminisced the contributions of his own family, of every member of the royal court, every citizen, every soldier in the army, nature and God, he felt deeply connected to everyone of them. For the first time in his life, he experienced a deep sense of fulfilment and happiness in his heart.

Human life in many ways could be compared to that of the king & particularly so in today’s busy and fast-moving world. We remain ever more engaged in securing a better future and ensuring we stay clear of trouble. Wouldn’t it be good to sometimes pause and reflect on how much goes behind each of our aspirations and achievements? Is life merely a never-ending conquest of success.

Everyone of us is gifted in some way but the question is, are our gifts in life going to make us more and more individualistic and disconnected or grateful and connected? It is very easy to assume that our life runs entirely on ‘our’ strengths and abilities but doesn’t really take much to see how the entire universe is constantly coming together to forge the reality we so easily claim as ‘our achievements’.

Gratitude isn’t about denying our efforts or disowning our achievements; it is about seeing our efforts as a continuum of the love and efforts of many more people. It is about seeing ourselves in a larger perspective, that ‘we’ are inseparable from the web of life and never really alone in this universe.

Here is a meditation that would lead you to inner spaciousness and a state of gratefulness. It has been my personal experience that the more grateful I am, more reasons I find to be grateful. Experience the spaciousness.

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