Unhappiness in life, its reasons and solutions

Everyone in life wants to be happy. Unfortunately, happiness and unhappiness are two sides of the same coin. Vedic scriptures clearly state that lasting happiness is a state of aananda, for which there in no word in English and there in no opposite state.


The great war of Mahabharata is a story of immense pain and suffering, mainly a creation of misguided human thinking. The shanti parva (chapter) describes several reasons for the dukha or unhappiness. These are:


  1. Desires: trishnaat prabhavam dukham  22


We desire to achieve more enjoyment from the objects of nature and other beings. These are sensual desires. We are sad when the desire is not fulfilled. More intense the desire more is the unhappiness. The great sage Shankaraacharya said that the poorest person is the one who has the greatest desires. Need to do our duties to the best of ability is not the same as desires in above context.

  1. Ongoing desires         Prasrateerindriyerdhukhi  9


When we are preoccupied with fulfillment of our desires, there is unhappiness as well. Our mind takes over our wisdom and we sink deeper and deeper in the fulfillment of our desires. When this happens, our mind is so preoccupied in fulfilling those desires. Once we keep following our mind, our senses become polluted and are no longer able to act sensibly.

  1. Attachment (raga): naasti raga samam dukham  35


When mind has an unending urge to fulfill the same desires, it is called Raga(aasakti). Obviously no one can have his/her every desire fulfilled all the time. So when a desire is not fulfilled, the result is anger, which leads to hopelessness with loss of wisdom and the results can be disastrous.  Case examples of above statement happen all the time. Take the case of an intensely rich and famous person who seems to be having everything he/she wants in life and yet has to resort to drugs and alcohol and not too infrequently is depressed and may even commit suicide. There is a story of Emperor Akbar, who had one favorite minister in his court. Akbar asked for his advice all the time. One day, when the minister came, Akbar was very busy and did not give him any attention. He waited and waited and finally left the court. He came home and thought to himself that he really was unneeded and all his richness had no value. He made a general announcement in public that anyone can pick up anything from his house. When Akbar finally realized that his adviser had not come to work in last couple of days, he sent his messenger to go get him. By this time the minister had abandoned his home and was relaxing on the banks of a river. When asked by Akbar’s messengers, he refused to go & visit the Emperor. Finally Akbar himself came to request him to return back to his palace. He replied, “When I had everything I was waiting for you and now I have nothing and you are waiting for me”. Akbar got the message and thanked the wise man and left for his palace.

In the second chapter of Geeta, solutions of these problems have been detailed.

Dhyayato vishyanpunsah sangasteshuyajaayate.

That is: to eliminate those desires by rationale thinking can lead to lasting happiness

  1. The loved ones: dukhamishata viyojanam    63


Departure or being away from loved ones also results in unhappiness. Departure is the rule of nature after being with someone. Only after departure, one can have the pleasure of meeting the person again. Birth and death are eternal rules of nature as well. My father says:

Milbe te bichhuram balau, mil bichhuro sab koya, bichhuram aashaa Milan kee, mile te bichhuram hoy

  1. Loss of wealth: This obviously leads to insecurity and unhappiness. The last stock market crash was followed by many suicides and cases of depression. If one is asked, “can you give your one hand or eye in lieu of a large wealth”, arguably, the answer will be no to the wealth.
  2. Advancing age: Quality of life can be improved with proper diet, exercise and mental peace. Longevity can be even prolonged to some extent with these measures. No wonder, recently yoga has become very prevalent in the world.
  3. Being with undesirable people also leads to unhappiness. The seventh principal of Arya Samaj says that our conduct towards all should be guided by love, according to dharma and justice.


Our Rishis(sages) have divided the unhappiness or Dukh in three broad categories:


  1. caused by other beings- aadhibhotik dukhs (vyakti)
  2. b. caused by nature- aadhidevik dukhs (vastu)
  3. c. caused by our thoughts- aadhyatmik dukhs      (vichaar) 


These are detailed as follows:


Aadhibhautik dukhs:      Any unhappiness which arises from the action of other humans or other beings comes in this category. Examples are: snake or scorpion bites and attacks by wild animals, Harm or injuries caused by other people physically or emotionally. The ways to avoid these situations obviously is to take all necessary safety precautions and not be in the harm’s way and if confronted by injurious animals or people, it is best to react appropriately even if it means using force.

Scriptures state:         khalaanam kankaanaancha dwidheva pratikriya

                                      Upaanatto mukhabhango ba duraadevaapasaparnam.

Nowhere in our scriptures are we told to be coward. This is well exemplified in ramayana and mahaabharata. Both Shri Rama and Shri Krishna actions were clear examples of eliminating the unjust and wicked. A poet prakash has said,

 “paani bhare naav me, uchit he uleecha dena, laga jaaye yadi aag to bujhanaa hee uchit he,

   chhal se, bal se yaa kisi atkal se, shatru to sarvadaa mitaanaa hee uchit he.


Maharishi Paatanjali has suggested:

 Maître karunaa muditopekshaanam sukha dukha punyaapunya

 vishyaanam bhaavanaataashchittaprasaadanam  (Yoga darshan samashipad 33rd sutra)


Path to happiness is in being friendly to good and happy people, be kind to those who are sad, be pleasant to the holy souls and avoid and disregard the wicked ones. Saying bad things to wicked people is like throwing a stone in the mud which only results in splattering the mud on oneself.

Rahim Das ji said:

rahiman auchhe naran ton bair bhalo na preet, kaate  chaate khan ke dooun bhanti aneet.

The mening is that irrespective of whether the dog bites or licks, the fear of infection(rabies) never goes away. Such is the case in associating with wicked people.


Aadhidevik dukhs:       Problems which arise from nature, such as lack of or too much rain, storm, floods, earth quakes, extreme of cold or heat are a few examples in this category. Humans have disturbed nature in so many ways. Deforestation, mining, polluting the rivers, streams and the atmosphere. It seems likely that some of the problems are arising because of that. So we have to respect the nature and then act. Earth is our mother and should be respected accordingly. So many diseases which were unknown to us are now common. HIV is one example. On the other hand, humans have made major advances in protections from natural dangers and illnesses. Vaccinations against small pox and polio are clear examples of this. We need to stop deforestation, plant more trees, control pollution and keep or rivers, streams, ocean and environment clean.


Aadhyatmik dukhs:   These are sorrows one gets due to one’s own thoughts and worries. Some of these are real and some may be pure fears. Fear of disease, death, getting old are good examples of this category. Unhappiness caused by our sensual desires, attachment, anger, greed, jealousy, envy and the resultant unhappiness come in this category. Aaurveda says:

  Dhi dhriti smrati vibhrashtah karma yatkuruteashubham

  Prajyaparaadham tam vidyaat sarvadhoshaprakopanam.(charak samhitaa 1.1.02)

This means:   When a person commits and acts without wisdom, patience and use of memory, it can result in mental and physical illnesses. Being lost in desires, being disorganized, unusually postponing  bodily needs such as urination/defecation, working more that capacity, being up late at night, sleeping in the day time, ingesting undesirable things such as caffeine or taking drugs to alter thought process can cause in physical/mental illnesses, resulting in unhappiness.

Vidur neeti describes that 6 types of people are always unhappy:

  Eeshyeeghranee tvasantushtah kraudhanoo nityashankitah

  Para bhaagyoopajeevee cha shadete nityaa dukhitah.

The meaning is that a person who is jealous, hates, dissatisfied, angry, one who always doubts, one who does not trust anyone, and the one who livelihood is always dependent on others is always unhappy.


Maharshi Manu said:      Sarvam pavasham dukham

Being dependent forever leads to unhappiness and freedom if not misused, can be a one of the biggest sources of happiness.

According to nyaya darshan, the main reason of unhappiness is the birth itself. Birth is the result of doing actions in life with desire for the fruits of action. The reason for such actions is attachment and jealousy, which are the result of improper knowledge:


“dukhah, janma privratti dosha mithyajyaanam uttrottra

apaay tadanantraapaayaadapavargah.”(nyaya darshan 1.1.2)


In conclusion, the best way to be happy is to meditate and avoid running after sensual desires. This can even lead of salvation of some rare souls. Effort should be made to bring knowledge and preaching in to practice in day to day life.


My sincere thanks to Dr. Balvir Acharya, Professor and head of department of Sanskrit Dayaanand university, Rohtak India, for providing me with guidance.

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