Happiness, health, and religiosity are significant co-determinants. Spiritual people are happier people.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
There are several recent theoretical and empirical studies emphasizing the different experiences and outcomes associated with diverse types of religiosity.
Foremost among them is the intrinsic (religiosity) versus extrinsic (religiousness) religious orientation.
Intrinsic religiosity is lived per se, as a personal and intimate value; extrinsic religiousness is social aimed at attaining personal goals by interacting with other people and institutions.
Intrinsic religiosity and extrinsic religiousness affect attitudes toward life and lifestyle, both value-expressive (e.g., expression of the individual self ) and social-adjustive (e.g., acceptance by and belonging to social groups).
Intrinsically religious persons have an inner self defined by their religiosity, so they do not necessarily require social approval.
They have less need for expression of their inner selves or manifest social connections; in contrast, extrinsic religiousness augments both value-expressive and social-adjustive functions of interaction.
Intrinsic religiosity decreases the value-expressive and social-adjustive functions of attitudes, whereas extrinsic religiosity increases both attitude functions.
A number of research projects found that religiosity and religiousness can suppress symptoms and resocialize the individual, encouraging more conventional and socially acceptable forms of thought and behavior.
It can provide resources for the development of broader perspectives and the fuller realization of individual capabilities.
Apart from the afterlife considerations, religiosity and religiousness provide many people with opportunities for living faith, devotion and prayer, community service, cultural tradition, social networking, social support.
But not many would list ‘happiness’ as one of their reasons, despite the fact that all of the reasons just given are components of happiness.
While many would include purpose and life meaning, few would directly associate spirituality or religiosity with positive physical and mental health. But fact it is.
Religiosity and spirituality frequently include reflective, contemplative, or meditative practices , which I have already discussed as having positive physical and mental health benefits.
A 2012 survey of more than 300 peer-reviewed publications of scientific studies found that 256 or 79% found significant associations between religiosity /spirituality and well-being.
Meditation, chanting, contemplation, journaling, study of sacred texts, and ritual practices all play a part in spirituality and the associated sense of well-being and health.
All are ways of connecting to the inner voice , the true Self , and the ultimate Self.
People are born into a world of uncertainty, impermanence, and suffering, and faced with experiences that they cannot explain; spirituality provides a guide to understanding life’s mysteries.
The world’s wisdom traditions have all viewed spirituality as a universal quest, and traditional and mainstream science has shown that spirituality works a powerfully positive effect on authentic happiness , physical and mental health, and in our relationships , of course.
Spirituality assures an order to the cosmos, generally cultivates optimism , and supports a meaningful purpose in life.
Spiritual people are more altruistic, compassionate, and forgiving of others, because they identify with the values of connectedness and unity.
Authentic spiritual traditions encourage belonging to a community a saṅgha (सङ्घ) or satsaṅga (सत्सङ्ग) of like-minded men pursuing a common path, and which promotes relationships.
In fact, positive psychology studies show that spiritual people have more positive relationships in general with their significant others and with others; most importantly with men of similar conviction and disposition.
In Homoerotic Tantra:Mascul-IN-Touch℠ and Mascul-IN-Timacy℠ we use a formula to describe happiness:
Happiness = Pleasure + Engagement + Meaning or translated approximately into tāntric terms:
Ānandasvarūpa (आनन्द स्वरूप) = Kāma (काम) + Artha (अर्थ) + Dhārma (धर्म)
Kāma (काम), artha (अर्थ), dhārma (धर्म), and mokṣa (मोक्ष) are called the puruṣārtha (पुरुषार्थ) or puruṣārthacatuṣṭaya (पुरुषार्थचतुष्टय) (“four ultimate ends of life”).
In homoerotic yogic Tantra we are urged to grow by pursuing the realisation of puruṣārthacatuṣṭaya , dharma (righteousness), artha (material well-being), kāma (enjoyment ), and mokṣa (liberation from worldly ties).
These four ends of life are goals which are desirable in themselves, and also required for fulfilment of human aspirations. According to Mīmāṃsā (मीमांसा) philosophy puruṣārtha (पुरुषार्थ) refers to a primary ethical precept (dharma) which is conducive to personal, social, and universal welfare, e.g., non-aggression (ahiṃsa) is the highest form of dharma.
But it should be noted that what we call ‘happiness ’ in English is also very broad and ambiguous; in Sanskrit, the language we use in homoerotic yogic Tantra we must differentiate between at least three different types of happiness:
- Ānanda (आनन्द) means spiritual bliss , ecstasy , joy or ultimate happiness.
- Sukhā (सुख), equates most with pleasure , satisfaction, in a state of comfort – those who are not affected with mental and physical ailments, who are endowed with youth, enthusiasm, strength , virility, reputation, manliness, boldness, knowledge of art and science, sense, object of sense, ability of the sense organs, richness and various luxurious articles for enjoyment , who achieve what ever they want and move as they like to lead a very happy life (compare, duḥkha (दुःख) pain, sorrow. affliction, distress, unhappiness).
- Finally, santoṣa (सन्तोष) , which refers to “positive contentment ” and forms part of the ancient Indian doctrines, which aimed at both the inner and the outer dimension of a person, and which comes closest to ‘meaning.’
So far our discussion has been about Western notions of happiness and health, based in part on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s psychology of “flow” and Martin Seligman’s “positive psychology,” both of which are in essence restatements of ancient wisdom found in the sanatanadharmic Upaniṣads. So let’s go directly to the source for our discussion of homoerotic tāntric happiness.
Our search takes us firstly to the Taittirīya Upanishad (तैत्तिरीय उपनिषद्) or Taittirīyopaniṣad (तैत्तिरीयोपनिषद), an Upaniṣad (उपनिषद्) of the Yajurveda (यजुर्वेद).
Unhappiness consists only in this fact — that in order perceive or experience anything outside of oneself, one must first of all forget himself.
This means that to bring an external object into awareness , one must let go of the Self. The more we cling to sensory objects — those objects perceived by the physical senses outside, the more one loses touch with his own consciousness.
The technical term for this is ātmanāśa (आत्मनाश) — annihilation or erasure of the spirit , soul, or self, or destruction of Selfhood —, in a very significant way.
Every time a man clings to or desires some object — whether it is a thing, a person, an idea, etc. — there is a transfer of part of himself to the particular object of interest, or towards which his consciousness is directed.
Selfhood means a quality or essense in a man’s being, which cannot be externalized or transferred to something else outside of his being.
In fact, any transfer that seems to occur between the Self or that which he is in reality and any external object outside is a false one; it is unreal.
Now you may ask, what is happening when I desire a particular object or feel love for a particular person or thing? You may claim that you feel happiness as it manifests itself from within you.
This is a very interesting philosophical as well as psychological question.
In Yoga (योग) , Tantra (तन्त्र) and generally in Sanātanadharma (सनातनधर्म) we are taught that the body or soul is enveloped in the in pañcakoṣā (पञ्चकोषा) or the five sheaths.
Of those five kośa (कोश) we are interested in is the innermost sheath in us, called the ānandamayakośa (आनन्दमयकोश) — the intuitive-superconscious or causal sheath.
This causal sheath, the most subtle and pervasive, and the innermost of sheaths in us, in our personality. It is called ānandamaya (आनन्दमय) because it consists of and characterized by blissfulness or happiness.
Ānanda (आनन्द) means happiness; maya (मय) here is used to indicate ‘made of’, consisting or composed of, full of, filled with.’
The happiness that a man feels when he is near the desired object is called the priya (प्रिय) or pleasure. It is not the epitome of happiness, because he does not possess or engage the object.
Up to this point, he has only seen or glimpsed it; he is near it and it is near him, but neither has engaged the other.
Merely seeing it from a distance is not sufficient, although the sight of the desired object also brings some satisfaction.
Whatever we desire or long for, we want to see it directly for as long as possible or even indefinitely.
A good example would be money. Of course, we can see a lot of money in many places but it doesn’t belong to us.
Even if we see money that doesn’t belong to us, we will have a sort of pleasure or ‘happiness ’ just seeing it.
That pleasure is a peculiar association that the mind has with the symbol called money.
It may not be ours, but we feel a sense of excitement if we see millions of dollars right in front of us.
But if we get a chance to hold and touch all that money, while it may not be ours, we imagine how happy we might become. This is all borrowed or stolen pleasure.
The pleasure -happiness becomes even more intense when we enjoy or engage the object, and not merely hold it or handle it.
These three states or conditions are degrees of the happiness of perception, possession and enjoyment or engagement are called priya (प्रिय) (pleasure ), moda (मोद) (delight), and pramoda (प्रमोद) (happiness).
This is the philosophical analysis of the nature of the happiness experienced from a desire for things outside oneself.
As anyone can see, this ancient analysis is very, very close to Seligman’s analysis of happiness! Now, either Seligman has had a revelation from the past or he’s plagiarized the Taittirīya Upanishad ! You decide.
But now comes the psychological analysis. Why is there such a thing as happiness ? What do we mean by happiness? How can we define it? Is it outside us or inside us? Or, is it somewhere in between? Where is it actually located? When experiencing some sort of happiness, it’s near impossible to say because we’re so enthralled by the desired object, or even overwhelmed by contact with it.
We wouldn’t have time to analyze the experience, even if we were interested in doing so. So we remain ignorant. Can that be where we get the saying, “Ignorance is bliss ?”
So we know nothing about the nature of our happiness and yet we are blissful, while remaining in utter ignorance of the process that is taking place within us with the experience of this ‘happiness.’
Obviously, if the happiness were a quality or a characteristic intrinsic to the object itself, everyone beholding it would experience the same happiness. We don’t need an analysis to persuade us that happiness is not in or radiating from within the object.
Taking this a step further, if a particular object, which attracts our desire, is the source of our happiness , then happiness should be intrinsic to the object, inside it, a part of its nature.
Then, just as the sun shines on everyone equally and not just on one person, the concerned object should be a source of happiness for everyone who beholds it. But common sense tells us that this is not true.
The object of our desire may or may not also be the object of other people’s desire; in fact, that same object may evoke indifference other persons for different reasons. So, it is not true that the object is the source of happiness.
If happiness does not come from the object, and someone is convinced that it is located in the object or the nature of the object, that person is a fool of the first order.
Once we possess or engage the desired object, the mind’s externality, which was present when it was directed towards the object, dissolves.
But why does the mind move externally, towards the object? Because the object is not present within us, it is not ours; it is not our possession.
For example, we don’t think of our own body as much as or in the same way as we think of another person’s body or other things, which we do not yet possess. Desire ceases on possession.
Desire self -amplifies when the desired object is not possessed. The man who feels he has enough wealth doesn’t think of his wealth as much as the man who not have it. Once possessed, the once desired object is taken for granted.
When we talk of withdrawal of the mind we mean the non-externalization of the mind. The mind was initially externalized for the purpose of seizing the desired object perceived by our senses.
But, once the purpose is served—when the object is possessed — the mind no longer needs to focus on it. Externalization of the mind ceases.
The mind stops focusing on the object because it has had the satisfaction of possessing it. The withdrawal of the mind is the cessation of externalization of consciousness (ānandasvarūpa (आनन्दस्वरूप).
The moment this occurs, the non-externalized Self within us breaks out, and happiness is nothing but the experience of non-externalized consciousness.
As can be understood from this explanation, the happiness has come from within us; it has not come from outside world.
We experience happiness only because the experience has arisen from within us; the external object is merely a stimulus, an agent of action. Metaphorically, the object has merely operated as a spade to dig out the happiness from within us. The spade itself is not the treasure; it is an instrument to dig out the treasure.
2] ↑ Spirituality can be operationally defined as: “An intrinsic capacity for self -transcendence , where the personal self is embedded in some higher level ‘other,’ called the sacred, which serves as the motivation for belonging, connectedness, purpose, and meaning.”
3] ↑ Our bare-bones working definition of religiosity reads: “A relationship with and established faith or belief tradition or doctrine about a sacred ‘other’ or supernatural power.”
4] ↑ Disciplines like meditation and journaling , and similar spiritual practice s have been associated with reduced stress levels and enhanced psychological well-being.
5] ↑ Koenig, H. G. (2012). Religion, spirituality , and health: the research and clinical implications. International Scholarly Research Network – Psychiatry 278730: 1-33.
6] ↑ I am applying broad connotations of these Sanskrit terms so that they coïncide with M. Seligman’s scheme.
7] ↑ We will encounter this term priya (प्रिय) again and again as we follow the path of Homoerotic Tantra ℠ and Mascul-IN-Timacy℠. Like so many of the Sanskrit terms we use, priya (प्रिय) has multiple meanings, depending on the context. While in this current context I am using it to mean ‘pleasure,’ we will use it in other contexts to mean something beloved, loved, or lusted after, while in other contexts it will mean a lover or an intimate partner, a lover, or even an intimate friend.