Man always tries to secure happiness and shun misery. The majority of these seekers after happiness do not make use of their reasoning faculties in the understanding of what real happiness is, but they, being deluded by their senses, set their whole mind on securing the unreal and transitory pleasures of this world. Let us now see what our shastras say on this subject. Happiness is divided into three classes:- (1) Lowest or Adharma, (2) Intermediate or Madhyama, and (3) Highest or Uttama.
(1) By lowest happiness or Adharma, is meant what is known in the Srutis as Manushyananda (pleasures of man). It includes the pleasures of music, of beautiful sights, of sweet scented flowers, of delicious foods, of perfumes applied to the body, of houses filled with wives, carriages and wealth, and of others of various kinds. It may be surprising to many to hear that these pleasures which have occupied the minds of a great many people are of the lowest class. From the following reasons it will be evident that they are really so:-
(i) These pleasures are not always enjoyable, for they exist only so long as the objects which give us these pleasures exist. Not only so, but the very pleasure we feel in them is more than counter balanced by the pains we suffer in our efforts to secure them.
(ii) These pleasures are not viewed alike by all, for what pleases one's senses does not please those of another. No two persons agree together in their ideal of sense-pleasure.
(iii) All these pleasures are not enjoyed by any one man. A king in the enjoyment of many pleasures is grieved by the absence of a son to inherit his kingdom after his death; a poor man, pleased to be the father of many children is grieved for want of means to support them; and a sick man, though he possesses immense wealth, is grieved because he cannot eat what his tongue desires.
Thus it is seen that man is never in the enjoyment of unmixed pleasure. These reasons clearly show that these sense pleasures are unreal and of the lowest sort. If then it is asked why it is that people call them happiness, no other answer can be given than that they are ignorant of the nature of real happiness.
(2) Intermediate or Madhyama happiness is known in Srutis as Devananda (pleasures of Devas). By performing the karmas enjoined on us by the Vedas, by founding charity institutions, by building temples and by various other good deeds, we obtain Devatvam and are placed in Swarga Loka. There we enjoy pleasures quite different from the worldly ones. There we enjoy unmixed pleasures; we are free from disease and pain. But in spite of all these advantages there is one defect in them, and that is, that they last only for a time. It is the force of our good Karmas that keeps us in Swargam and naturally when this force is exhausted we must return to earth to gather fresh experience. And it is because of their short duration that they occupy an intermediate position.
(3) The highest or Uttama happiness is known as Brahmanad or Moksha or eternal bliss. Moksha means liberation from the sorrowful Samsara of life and death which may be either on this world or in the higher worlds. From the moment of conception in the mother's womb to the moment of birth and from the moment of birth to the moment of death, man's life is full of miseries; he never enjoys happiness. Whereas moksha is a state of unconditioned bliss. This bliss has an existence independent of time, space and causation. That is the happiness which every one of us should strive after; and it is our duty to work for its attainment. There is no doubt whatever, that by our efforts, we shall be able to enjoy it either in this life or in some lives to come. The man whose mind is fixed solely on the gratification of sense-pleasures, never enjoy Brahmananda or eternal bliss. Our sacred books point out to us many paths that will finally lead us to that ocean of pure bliss. They are Sariya, Kriya, Yoga and Gnana margas, otherwise called Dasa, Satputra, Saha and Sanmarga. The various duties assigned to each are only such as our love of the master, or father, or friend, or lover will induce us to manifest tokens of our love. These duties are meaningless except as tokens of our love and as disciplining us to love and love more God and His creatures.
I quote below a verse from the Gita where all these four paths are set forth.
"Therefore with bowing and body bent, I ask grace of thee, Lord and Adorable, as father to son, as friend to friend, it is meet, O Lord, to bear with me as Lover to Loved." It may also be observed that Saivism of today which is regarded as the true modern representative of the historic religion of the Gita and Mahabharata period combines all these four paths unlike other religions which point out only one or other of these paths and the great saints St. Appar, Sr. Gnanasambanthar, St. Sundarar and St. Manickavachakar are regarded as teachers of these four paths. So Love is the essence of all real religion and real worship of God is the worship of God's creatures and loving them one and all without distinction of caste and creed and unless this is fully recognized and practiced, no real spiritual progress is possible.