The Path To True Happiness

Vedanta scholar, Janki Santoke, through her new book ‘How Do You Know What You Know?’ which  was released at Goa Arts  and Literary Festival (GALF), analyses thinking and its effect on the quality  of one’s life

Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ

Through an interesting amalgamation of diverse subjects such as Indian epistemology; Vedanta and mythology; and Western psychology, logic and literature, Janki Santoke’s new book ‘How Do You Know What You Know?’ has a fresh approach on investigating real answers about being happier, more successful in work and in relationships, and most importantly being more peaceful.

“People learn many wonderful things in the attempt to improve themselves and their lives. But they seem to be piling things on without doing any discarding,” says Santoke, a Vendanta scholar. “Hence though there is so much spiritual and self-help wisdom floating around, there doesn’t seem to be much improvement in society. Our lives continue much the same way.”

‘How Do You Know What You Know?’ focuses on why we think the way we do, where we get our ideas and notions from, and which ones to keep and discard.

Talking further of how happiness is perceived, she says that if we have everything we want, we will be happy. But, “the problem is we don’t know… we want the infinite,” she explains before adding that there will never be a situation where we have everything we want.

“We want to get married. Then we want a child. We will also want a home and furniture. Even after that there will still be more!” she explains.

She believes that it is only a person who has achieved the infinite; who has achieved enlightenment, that is happy, fulfilled like Christ, Rama, Krishna, Mohammad, and Buddha. “They have achieved everything ie the infinite, and hence are happy. And this is not a happiness that can be lost in any way,” she states.

Everyone is entitled to being happy, but according to Santoke, we follow our minds and stop ourselves from being happy. Explaining this further she says: “We have two types of thoughts- the mind and intellect. The mind has desires, emotions, likes and dislikes, craving, greed, worries, and anxieties. The intellect is responsible for reasoning, discrimination and judgement.”

Santoke says that when we allow our minds to take over our lives we impose a barrier to our own happiness. “When our intellect holds sway, we are happy contented people. So basically it is our mind that stops us from being happy,” she says, before adding that the mind does it in two broad ways. 

“It thinks when it shouldn’t. And it does not think when it should. The mind prevents us from taking right actions. Then we get adverse results. Then the mind cries over these results,” she stresses. 

Santoke explains that instead of learning to take better decisions and actions, we should allow the intellect to learn new ways of thinking and doing things. “The mind only repeats past patterns and thus gets the same sad results repeatedly,” she says.

But isn’t it obvious that we tend to be worried about the future, and look back at our past? But, here Santoke says that the mind shouldn’t worry. And how is that possible?

“By developing an intellect and gaining an understanding. Discriminative thoughts should replace irrational thoughts and those beyond our control,” she says before saying that worrying is no solution, but if there is something one can do, one should do it. If not, get on with other things. Being anxious or worried impairs performance, she states. 

‘How Do You Know What You Know?’ doesn’t focus on happiness, but happiness is the by-product- as is success and good relationships and health and all other things. The key, she says, lies in our thoughts. 

“We must learn to spring them clean, just as we do to our cupboards. Once we have our thoughts sorted out, we will be more productive and more fulfilled. We will be able to achieve whatever we want and also be totally contented,” she says.