How to discipline your thoughts
Maximising pleasure and minimising pain has become the goal of most people in the modern world.
Maximising pleasure and minimising pain has become the goal of most people in the modern world. We hope it will make us happy. Hence, we want tastier food and wine, softer beds, jazzier gadgets, and so on. The multinational corporations sell us fun in the guise of happiness. The terms happy meals and happy hour in restaurants are popularly used. Entertainments venues are readily available, and catchy advertising seduces people to try new products and activities.
Yet the deep abiding joy they seek eludes most people. Those who sell you a fancy phone, a new car, or a bigger home might like you to believe that you can buy a lot of happiness with your money. But the truth it that money can only buy you fun; it cannot buy you happiness.
Difference between pleasure and happiness
Pleasure results from enjoying things outside of us, like food, movies, or games. Happiness, on the other hand, requires nothing from the outside. It is a state of inner joy and peace that comes from living up to our ideals. Or it could come as a sense of fulfilment on doing something worthwhile. You do not need to go around the world finding happiness; rather, it is experienced as a consequence of who you are.
Pleasure is a momentary feeling that remains while we savor these objects, but later it is gone. So, we have to get those objects again and again, to continue to feel the enjoyment. As a result, people get addicted to external stimulations, and serious problems result. Happiness, in contrast, is not ephemeral—it remains day and night. The more we savor it, the better we feel.
To achieve a state of fulfilling joy requires discipline and hard work. It is unlike pleasures, which you can get from an app or a purchase. If we wish to relish real happiness, the first thing we need to do is to stop being slaves of our mind and senses.
Freedom comes from discipline
What is freedom? The strength to stop getting knocked by our biological conditioning. Only that person can really claim to be free who has learnt to resist the urges of the lower nature. Let us learn from the popular tradition of kite flying during Makar Sankranti festival celebrations in January every year in India.
During one celebration of Makar Sankranti, a father was giving his five-year old boy his first lesson in kite flying. "Son, what is keeping the kite up," he asked.
"Father, it is the strong wind that his blowing," replied the boy.
"No, my child. It is the string tied to it."
"But father, the string is pulling it down."
The father asked him to release the string and see what happens. The moment the child left the string, the kite began gliding and slowly descending to the ground. "See," said the father. "It seems paradoxical, but the kite was flying high in the sky because the string pulling it was taut."
Like the string tugging the kite, discipline enables us to do what we want in life, because it liberates us from the need to listen to our mind. Hence, for any worthwhile accomplishment in life, we have to learn to break free from the grip of the mind and senses. Without the ability for self-control, we fall prey to every alluring distraction in the environment. And we are vulnerable to the trap of vices and addictions.
The virtue of self-restraint allows us to persevere in the face of difficulties. It empowers us to break old habits and establish new ones. With self-discipline, we can lose weight, study harder, and work more. We can control our speech, perfect our behaviuor, write blogs, and run marathons. Hence, it is called the king of virtues.