We all have different pursuits in life. The goals of these pursuits appear different, like position, fame, fortune etc. But in the end-analysis all of them will converge in the happiness of our ego self, the self that identifies with body-mind-intellect referred to as BMI in Swami Chinmayananda’s lectures. This happiness Lord Krishna grades into three categories Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic in Bhagavad Gita (Ch.18). We shall see them starting from Tamasic happiness.
Tamo guna is characterized by inertia, both mental and physical. Tamasic happiness is one which begins and ends in self-delusion that comes from sleep, procrastination and misapprehension (18-39). The happiness that one appears to derive in the state of intoxication, whether with drinks or drugs also falls into this category. Here the sense organs or/and mind and intellect are either not functioning or handicapped in their functions due to a deranged mind. This happiness is achieved by detaching oneself temporarily from reality and as this state wears off whatever unhappiness one escaped temporarily returns back with added vigour. In sleep we are not conscious of the happiness; only we can realize for a moment after we wake up that we had been happy forgetting our cares and worries, and again these cares and worries surface again. In procrastination we are only postponing what we fear as the pain/discomfort of action for us extending our illusion of being happy for awhile. So in all these cases happiness is not permanently achieved.
Rajo guna is characterised by activity. The Rajasic happiness is one derived from the contact of a sense object with sense organ/s (18-38). Here Lord Krishna sounds a note of caution that though it may appear to be nectar initially, it will prove to be a poison in its effect in the end i.e. pleasant initially but unpleasant later. For instance if one neglects studies in the student days spending time in entertainment and recreation, he may feel happy then, but as he grows into a nobody struggling to make a living, his life will be one of regret and frustration. Lord Krishna refers to these pleasures which are derived from external contacts, be they objects or relationships in another place (5-22) where He points out that these pleasures have a beginning and an end and also they are sources of unhappiness, which surface sooner or later.
Satva guna is characterised by wisdom. Satvic happiness is one in which one enjoys a tranquillity of mind as a result of gaining and staying in Self-knowledge, Athma Jnanam (18-37). Lord Krishna here warns that the path to Self-knowledge is a difficult one. Here the simile employed in the case of Rajasic happiness is reversed; deterring like poison in the beginning but uplifting like nectar in the end. It is deterring because to acquire Self-knowledge one has to have the four fold qualification of discrimination, dispassion, disciplines numbering six and desire besides engaging in the study of sastras under the guidance of a competent guru and complementing it with reflection on the teachings, to make it doubt-free. It is uplifting because when one acquires Self-knowledge and is able to stay in that knowledge without doubt and without effort, he is in a state of peace and bliss that passes all understanding. For he realises that his real Self is not the mortal samsara-afflicted “ego-self” that gives him the sense of individuality, giving him the identity of BMI but the eternal, ever blissful Cosmic Supreme, Brahman, with this BMI as upadhi. With this realisation comes the spiritual awakening that the ego-self is only the virtual self whose role is limited to transacting with the world during the stay with this upadhi. With Self-realisation one rises to the state of Jeevanmuktha, where he is not affected by opposites like pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow etc. as he considers all these are for BMI, which is only a dress worn in this birth. As he considers himself one with all in the creation, he has no sense of fear as fear arises only where you cognize a second thing. So this Satvic happiness, the happiness of Jeevanmuktha, is the only true happiness.