What is Misery? – Tripura Rahasya 2:19 and Hedonic Treadmill

tripura 2.19.png

Tripura Rahasya, an old text of Advaita talks about what we call today as ‘Hedonic treadmill’. Human beings are miserable not because they are not happy; but because their happiness is limited and they crave for more! One keeps chasing for happiness in the objective outcomes of life. But his happiness always remains limited, leaving him in discontent. If that limited happiness recedes,  misery creeps in. The text deals with the path to moksha (liberation), that puts an end to this misery.

Tripura Rahasya was an ancient text that Ramana Maharshi recommended seekers to read. Parashurama, an ancient sage,  is said to have got the essence of this text as a upadesa (teaching) from Dattatreya, in Gandhamadhana mountains situated in Pamban islands, Tamil Nadu, India. Parashurama then attained Atma Jnana (Self-realization or spiritual enlightenment) and then moved to Pothigai hills near Papanasam in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. (By the way, I live in Tirunelveli and it takes just about an hour to reach Pothigai hills by bike).

gandhmadha

The following lines from Chapter 1 of Tripura Rahasya explain how one gets a Vairagya Bhavana (an attitude of non-attachment) after looking at the hedonic treadmill, the inherent misery or Dhukka in life and finds his guru:

31. Even now I understand nothing of the workings of
the universe. Where does it rise from, in all its grandeur?
32. Where does it end? How does it exist? I find it to be
altogether transient.
33. But worldly happenings seem permanent. Why
should that be? Such happenings seem strangely enough to
be unconsidered.
34. How strange! They are on a par with the blind man
led by the blind!
35. My own case furnishes an example in point. I do
not even remember what happened in my childhood.

36. I was different in my youth, again different in my
manhood, still more so now; and in this way, my life is constantly
changing.
37, 38. What fruits have been reaped as the result of
these changes is not clear to me. The end justifies the means as
adopted by individuals according to their temperaments in
different climes and in different times. What have they gained
thereby? Are they themselves happy?
39. The gain is only that which is considered to be so
by the unthinking public. I however cannot deem it so,
seeing that even after gaining the so-called end, the
attempts are repeated.

40, 41. Well, having gained one purpose, why does
man look for another? Therefore, what the man is always
after should be esteemed the only real purpose — be it the
gaining of pleasure or removal of pain. There can be neither,
so long as the incentive to effort lasts.
42. The feeling of a need to work in order to gain
happiness (being the index of misery) is the misery of
miseries. How can there be pleasure or removal of pain so
long as it continues?
43-45. Such pleasure is like that of soothing unguents
placed on a scalded limb, or of the embrace of one’s beloved
when one is lying pierced by an arrow in the breast; or of the
sweet melodies of music heard by an advanced consumptive!
46. Only those who need not engage in action, are
happy; they are perfectly content, and self-contained, and
they experience a happiness which extends to all the pores
of the body.
47. Should there still be a few pleasurable moments
for others, they are similar to those enjoyed by one who,
while writhing with an abdominal pain, inhales the sweet
odour of flowers.

48. How silly of people with innumerable obligations,
ever too busy seeking such moments of pleasure in this world!
49. What shall I say of the prowess of indiscriminating
men? They propose to reach happiness after crossing interminable
hurdles of efforts!

50. A beggar in the street labours as much for happiness
as a mighty emperor.
51, 52. Each of them having gained his end feels
happy and considers himself blessed as if he had reached
the goal of life. I too have been unwittingly imitating
them like a blind man following the blind. Enough of
this folly! I will at once return to that ocean of mercy —
my Master.
53. Learning from him what is to be known, I will
cross the ocean of doubts after boarding the boat of his
teachings.
54. Having resolved thus, Parasurama of pure mind
immediately descended the hill in search of his Master.
55. Quickly reaching the Gandhmadan Mountain, he
found the Guru sitting in padmasana posture as if illuminating
the whole world.

(I will soon be making a video regarding Tirupura Rahasya; subscribe to my Youtube channel to receive my new videos on your feed: Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment – Youtube Channel )

 

Author: Shanmugam P

I am a blogger and a self-published author. My book "The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta" is a guide to the ultimate freedom, bliss and oneness. The book is based on my own experience. My book "Discovering God: Bridging Christianity, Hinduism and Islam" shows how all three major religions of the world lead to the same truth. I am a past student of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli District.

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