Recently I received a postcard with something written on it by the Dalai Lama. I mean, the card was not sent by the Dalai Lama, but it had a statement of the Dalai Lama on the front picture of a beautiful lotus. There it said:
„Sometimes it's a great luck to not get what you want!“
A thought-provoking message! But there seems to be a contradiction here. How can we say that it is a great luck to not get what we want? Usually, we understand the opposite to be true: If I only would get this or that, then I will be happy! And if I do not get it I will feel miserable! I will be happy if I meet with this girl, I will be happy if I have a better job, if I earn more money, if I get this car or that new electronically devise.
But this is a very limited and materialistic understanding, and very typical for our modern consume oriented civilization. We think happiness depends on doing or possessing something outside of me, although true happiness is a state of being to be found within ourselves.
The way we understand happiness has a lot to do with how or what we identify ourselves with. The identification we have determines the way we think and desire. As long as I identify with this body, I naturally want to gratify my senses. When I realize that I am not the body, but a soul within the body, I take a different approach.
Of course, the bodily needs are there and they have to be taken care of, but it's not the all in all. The body has needs, it requires food, it requires sleep and there is need for protection and for sexual expression, that’s natural, but as a spiritual being, as a soul, I also have needs. That need is called atma dharma, the dharma, or the nature of the soul. Dharma means that which cannot be separated from something, that which is constantly existing with a particular object. Fire, for example, cannot be separated from the quality of light and heat. Sugar will always be sweet and the nature of chili is to be hot. Similarly, that which is the true nature of the soul is called bhagavat dharma. And what is that? To be connected in a loving relationship with the Divine and to express that devotion through service to the Supreme, that’s what the soul is striving for. This need requires attention if we only care for the external body but neglect the actual self we can't achieve true satisfaction.
Srila Prabhupada gave the example of the bird in a golden cage. If you clean the golden cage daily but neglect the bird inside, not providing any food and water, nor attention and love, that bird will die soon. Similarly, if we only care for our bodily needs, but neglect the requirements of the soul we kill our spiritual life. Self-realization means to understand the difference between the body and my true self and act accordingly. Spiritualists, in other words, will be satisfied with whatever is needed to maintain their body and by prioritizing spiritual life, they will acquire the wealth of true inner peace and satisfaction. After all, it’s the person who can tolerate the incessant flow of desire, who achieves peace, and not the one who strives to satisfy such desires.
With this understanding the Dalai Lama’s statement makes sense: „Sometimes it's a great luck to not get what you want!“
It means that whenever we forget our spiritual nature, whenever we overly identify with the body and desire more sense gratification then we actually require, at that time it becomes our good fortune if we do not get what we want!