In the Indian culture, it is common knowledge that we, the anu atma, are a part of God, the Param Atma, who is sat-chit-anand. And because we are a part of God, we also desire to be like Him. In other words, we desire eternal life, knowledge, and bliss. But why have we not attained it so far? Let’s attempt to understand this better.

The great Sage Ved Vyas gave the answer for this in verse 11.2.37 of the Shreemad Bhagavatam:

bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syādīśādapetasya viparyayo’smṛtiḥ
tanmāyayāto budha ābhajettaṁ bhaktyaikayeśaṁ gurudevatātmā

This verse is one of the most important verses in the entire Bhagavatam because Sage Ved Vyas explains that man is running in the wrong direction for happiness. In fact, we don’t even know where to go for the ever-lasting happiness we are seeking. So, the question is how or why did this come to happen? Sage Ved Vyas continues to explain that this is because the veil of ignorance, Maya, is covering us. Because of this illusion, we have turned our backs away from God.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu goes one step further:

kṛṣṇa sūryasamo māyā hoya andhakār
yahāṁ kṛṣṇa tahāṁ nahi māyāra adhikār

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “God is like the sun (light) and Maya is like the ignorance (darkness). Maya has no right to be where Krishna is present.” In other words, if we just turn around and face God, because of His divine energy, Maya will flee and no longer trouble us.

We are ruled by Maya

Now the question becomes: why did this happen that we are under the rule of Maya? Have we moved away from God? That’s not true because God resides within all of us. If He is inside, how can He be far away? And God is omnipresent; He is everywhere. Hence, no one can be separated from God for even one second. He is continuously and eternally attainable to all meaning, Bhagavan nitya nirantar prapt hai.

So, if this is true that we cannot be separated from God, what exactly did Maya do? It made us forget our real/true self – that we are the soul. We believe we are the gross physical body. There is no realization that ‘I am a soul.’ Thus, instead of facing God (light), our backs are turned towards Him. As a result, we immediately got covered by Maya (darkness or ignorance).

And because we believe we are the body, we are busy engaged in keeping the body happy. In other words, we desire to eat foods like rasgullas and samosas that are pleasing to taste, we like to sleep on soft beds that are more comfortable instead of sleeping on the floor, we like to wear brand name or designer clothes instead of something plain and simple, etc. In this manner, we are running around for the happiness of this material body.

What are we really searching for?

But what is it that we are really seeking? Happiness. Happiness of the soul. This is why we keep hankering for happiness, lifetime after lifetime. The soul can never be satisfied by what we give to the body. But because we believe we are the body, we strive day and night for the happiness of the body. This is exactly what we have been doing for endless past lifetimes. Those who understand that the material world cannot provide the bliss the soul hankers for, turn around and run towards God. And those who fail to understand keep running around in the material world.

It is not wrong to run for bliss, even the great saints hanker for it. But we are looking for it in the wrong direction. So let’s Search for Happiness in the right direction.