Happiness is a Contradiction Understand the Mind

Wellbeing Narrative Illustration India Happiness Bliss Perspective Culture Rick StevesI wanted to share an excerpt from a Rick Steves interview** with Eric Weiner, who wrote a book about bliss around the world entitled Geography of Bliss.   Each chapter delves into a different country and its people’s unique perspective–and how that perspective affects their ability to feel bliss.

I was fascinated when Weiner’s described his chapter on India, entitled Happiness is a Contradiction.  At times, it seems difficult to feel joyful when we see injustice, corruption, suffering, and hypocrisy in the world. Yet Weiner found that Indians are able to maintain bliss despite life’s contradictory nature.

I think Indians are able to hold in their head two contradictory thoughts at the same time, and this is crucial, without their head exploding.  We in the West, it’s either A or B, X or Y, up or down, it can’t be both at the same time.

I’ll give you an example, I have an Indian friend name Manja and she’s a very levelheaded attorney, sort of proper and, I would say, very rational.  But she is a follower of a guru, he’s dead now, named Osho, or he was known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who has an ashram in Maharashtra state, and anyway he was famous for basically having 94 Rolls Royces when he was in Oregon in, I think, the 1980’s.  And I said to Manja, how can you read his books and listen to his tapes, I mean the man was a hypocrite, I thought.  He had 94 Rolls Royces and preached an austere lifestyle.  And she just looked at me and said, you know, that’s okay, I just take the good and leave the bad.  And I thought, wow, that’s interesting because, as an American, we get this sniff of hypocrisy and we just throw it all out and in India, they are able to take the good and leave the bad.*

What do you think?  How do you find and maintain bliss?

*Readers living in or originally from India, I would love to hear your perspective! Do you feel this represents India accurately?  

**If you enjoy learning about different cultures, or learning in general, these podcasts are  seriously amazing.  Rick is a great presenter on his Public Broadcast television show, but it turns out he’s also incredibly skilled in interviewing people.

Interesting facts from various guests:

  • Fred Plotkin’s description of a New Year’s tradition in Bologna, Italy:  “At the stroke of midnight, they throw furniture out the window.  It’s a way of purging yourself of something from the old year and starting for the new.” (Winter in Paris; International New Years Party, December 31 2011.)
  • Chilean Sea Bass is not sea bass but actually the Patagonian Toothfish from the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans. (Simon Winchester’s Atlantic, April 16 2011)
  • Bob’s Your Uncle is a slang term in the UK, meaning that’s it, you’re done.  Butcher’s hook means look, and baltic means cold.  (The Urge to Preserve: British Banter, January 1 2001)
  • Want more? Access all Rick Steves’ podcasts.

Steves, Rick.  Eric Weiner and the Geography of Bliss.  Travel with Rick Steves.  April 26 2008.