Every day people go out, go to work, earn money and become more and more prosperous. Yet, at the end of the day, when they return home, they are not happy. At night, when they lie in bed to go to sleep, their hearts are not peaceful, their minds are not at ease. There seems to be no correlation between the amount of money we earn, the number of possessions we buy and our sense of inner peace. Yet, if you ask people what they want most deeply out of life, they will say, “To be happy.” How then can we find this happiness that appears so elusive? What is the true secret to internal peace and everlasting joy?
The secret is God and God alone. In India, in all villages, there is a temple. I remember when I was growing up, and it is still mostly true today, that first thing in the morning, everyone would go to the temple. Before beginning the day’s tasks, everyone went to the temple, did pranam to God and took three parikramas (walking in a circle around Bhagwan). The point of this was not merely ritual. Rather, the parikramas signified, “God, I am about to go out and perform my worldly tasks, but let me always keep You in the center, let me remember that all work is for You.” Then, they would take prasad―from their tongues to their souls God’s sweetness would spread―and they would leave.
In the evening, before returning home, once again everyone went to the temple. “God, if during this day I have forgotten that You are the center of everything, please forgive me. Before I go home to my family, let me once again remember to Whom my life is devoted.”
This still occurs in almost every village, especially the small ones, every day. People in those small villages have very little in terms of material possessions. Most of them live below the Western standards of poverty. Yet, if you tell them they are poor, they won’t believe you, for in their opinion they are not. They have God at the center of their lives. Their homes may not have TV sets, but they all have small mandirs; the children may not know the words to the latest rock and roll song, but they know the words to Aarti; they may not have computers or fancy history textbooks, but they know the stories of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other holy scriptures; they may not begin their days with newspapers, but they begin with prayer.
If you go to these villages you may see what to you looks like poverty. But, if you look a little closer, you will see that these people have a light in their eyes, a glow on their faces and a song in their hearts that money cannot buy.
So, what is the meaning of this? It means, acquire possessions if you want to. Earn money if you want to. There is nothing wrong with being prosperous. It’s wonderful. But, remember what is truly important in life, and that is God. Only He can put the light in your eyes, the glow on your face and the song in your heart.
Swami Chidanand Saraswati is the President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, one of the largest interfaith spiritual institutions in India. Swamiji’s religion is unity, and he is a leader in numerous international, interfaith summits and parliaments as well as guides and directs multifaceted and innovative solutions to address some of our world’s greatest challenges and threats to the environment. He is co-founder/co-chairman of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the world’s first initiative to bring together the leaders of all the world’s faiths to enable a water-secure future.