(adapted from the lecture of Swmi Paramarthananda)
All human beings without exception seek as their primary goal, happiness. “Sukam me Sarvadha Bhooyaath (May I enjoy happiness all the time)” is their constant wish and prayer. But they have a problem. The problem is that they do not know what exactly gives them lasting happiness. They assume that certain things will give them lasting happiness but when they analyze their experiences they find that it is not so. When one turns to scriptures for guidance, one learns Vedas divide happiness into three categories, based on the means by which the happiness is acquired by a person. Those three types of happiness, are kama ananda, dharma ananda and mokṣa ananda. Let us see them one by one.
Kama ananda / Kamananda - The word kama in this context means, all the sense objects in the world which are capable of giving one sense pleasures when one contacts them through one’s sense organs. So here, the word kama means, not desire; but, the desired or desirable objects i.e. kamyate iti kamaḥ. And the sense objects can give us ananda through sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, and gandha i.e. sound, touch, form, taste and smell.. That happiness is called kamananda. In simple English, all forms of sense pleasures will come under kamananda. This kamananda, sense pleasures, are not entirely condemned by the Vedas; but, are advised in moderation. All legitimate, dharmic, sensory enjoyments are accepted by Vedas. Vedas even prescribes pujas to get those pleasures. There is a homa, called avahanti homa that is mentioned in anuvaka 4. sikshavalli of Taittriya upanishad which is performed for prosperity that brings clothes, cattle, food and drink forever and also for good Brahmacharis as disciples. Kamananda is the most popular ananda, all over the world. In fact, when one talks about happiness, the world understands it only as kamananda!
Dharma ananda / Dharmananda - This ananda and moksha ananda are introduced by Vedas only. Dharmanandaḥ means the happiness that a person can enjoy by following a dharmic way of life. And, dharmic life means, a life style governed by dharma, a life style that is prescribed by Vedas. Dharma means, Vedic instructions or Vedic teachings. Swami Paramarthananda presents the vaidika dharma in 3 categories; sadbhavana, sadguṇa, satkarmaṇi i.e. healthy attitudes, healthy values and noble actions or activities. These three put-together is called dharma. All the three limbs are equally important and complimentary.
Sadbhavana - Healthy attitudes. While talking about healthy attitudes Vedas repeatedly mention, that we should have a healthy attitude towards the very world in which we are living i.e. appreciate the universe; admire the universe; revere the universe. The entire universe should be seen as Visvarupa Iswara. And Visvarupa bhakti is a part of dharmic life. And therefore, our attitude towards the universe must be one of love and reverence. So, the first component of dharma is a healthy attitude of reverence to the entire universe of things and beings, as an expression of Iswara, as a manifestation of Iswara, and as a gift from Iswara.
Sadguṇa - Healthy values. We can see that all the healthy values are derived from one fundamental principle, ahimsa. All the living beings, including human beings, have got two instinctive desires. Being instinctive, they are universal.. They are: 1) Sukam me Sarvadha Bhooyaath i.e. Let me be happy,always; 2) Dhukkam Maa Bhooth Kadhachana i.e. I should never have sorrow. And therefore Vedas say, dharmic life is a life which is led by taking into account these two universal desires. So, when one’s life is based on these two basic desires of every living being, and does not violate or contradict that, one’s life is in harmony with the universal craving i.e.Sukha bhava and Duḥkha abhava i.e. prescence of happiness and absence of unhappiness. Vedas say; since nobody wants unhappiness, let your aim be not to give duḥkhaṃ or pain to others; even by thoughts or words or deeds never give sorrow. In this context Swamii Dayananda Saraswati’s words are relevant. Swamiji says, 'all other values are nothing but an extension or derivative of ahimsa only' . When it is said, "satyaṃ vada", what is the message? By telling lies, by giving wrong information, one is hurting others; therefore, 'don’t tell lies'. So "satyaṃ vada" means, ahimsa. In the same way 'Don’t cheat others' means, ahiṃsa. Thus, all values are based on one fundamental seed value, which is ahimsa. Therefore dharma consists of ahimsa as the fundamental value.
Satkarmani – Noble actions. Noble actions are that which fulfills the basic desires of all living beings. Nobody wants sorrow. Therefore, what one does to alleviate or remove the pain of others is a noble karma. Even though one cannot spend money, a few nice words or whatever help one can give to alleviate the pain of others, duhkha abhavarthaṃ, will do Everybody wants happiness. So whatever help one can do to give or improve the comfort and joy of others comes under noble karma. So whatever one does for para duhkha nivrtti or para sukha prapti, directly or indirectly, they are all satkarmani.
Thus, dharma consist of three principles: sadbhavana = visvarupa bhakti; satguṇaḥ = ahiṃsa; satkarmani = para upakara. If these three one follows to the extent possible, that life is called a dharmic way of life. Vedas say, this dhārmic way of life itself will give immense joy; a joy derived by giving joy ! Because, in paropakara, one gives joy and through giving joy increases one’s joy. A win-win situation in which both benefit. This ananda is called dharmananda. And Vedas say, dharmananda is quantitatively and qualitatively much superior to kamananda. Materialistic society promotes kamananda and Vedic society promotes dharmananda.
Moksha ananda/ Mokshananda. - Just as In kamananda, kama is the means of ananda; in dharmananda, dharma is the means of ananda; in mokṣhananda, mokṣha is the means of ananda. Mokṣha means, liberation or freedom or release. This liberation is from self-ignorance and self-misconception that makes one think that one is a limited mortal, which gives rise to the thought that, to be happy one has to get happiness from the external world. Moksha is attained through knowledge of one’s Self, Athma Jnanam. With Athma Jnanam one realizes one’s identity with Brahman, which is described as Sat,Chit Ananda, pure existence, pure knowledge and pure happiness. The ignorance and misconception about one’s Self makes one believe that for one’s happiness one has to depend on the external sources Really speaking the external things are not giving one happiness; they are only bringing out the happiness which is already in one, as Athma. So, Vedas say those happiness-giving-objects are nothing but a mirror to reveal one’s own happiness. They are only reflecting one’s inner happiness! With mokshananda all the struggle for ananda will cease. Lord Krishna speaks of such a person who has attained mokshananda thus:
Yastwaatmaratir eva syaad aatmatriptashcha maanavah;
Aatmanyeva cha santushtas tasya kaaryam na vidyate (Gita 3-17)
For that man who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self, who is content in the Self alone, verily there is nothing to do.
That is Liberation; freedom from struggles to get happiness. So we can take Vedic formula for happiness as “Enjoy kamananda but always with dharmananda, keeping mokshananda as the goal”