Difference between Spiritual Bliss and Happiness


1. Definition of Happiness and unhappiness

  • A. अनुकूलवेदनीयं सुखम्‌ । प्रतिकूलवेदनीयं दु:खम्‌ ।
                                                                           – वात्‍स्‍यायन १.१.२

         Meaning: Happiness is a pleasant sensation and unhappiness is an unpleasant sensation experienced by the embodied soul through the five senses, mind and / or intellect.

  • B. यदिष्‍टं तत्‍सुखं प्राहुव्‍र्देष्‍यं दु:खमिहेष्‍यते ।।
                                                                           – महाभारत १२.२९५.२७

         Meaning: In this world what one feels favourable is happiness and whatever one feels like despising is unhappiness. – Mahabharat 12.295.27

         यद्यत्‍प्रियं यस्‍य सुखं तदाहुस्‍तदेव दु:खं प्रवदन्‍त्‍यनिष्‍टम्‌ ।।
                                                                           – महाभारत १२.२०१.१०

         Meaning: One regards what is dear to oneself as happiness and the same thing when it is disliked, as unhappiness. – Mahabharat 12.201.10

  • C. बाधनालक्षणं दु:खम्‌ । – न्‍यायदर्शन

         Meaning: Badhana (बाधना) means pain. That which has the form of pain is unhappiness. – Nyayadarshan

  • D. The total energy in the body is dhi. Leading the ‘dhi (धि)’ frequencies upto ‘kha (ख)’, that is upto the hollow in the Brahmarandhra [the highest position in the spiritual energy system (kundalini)], means happiness and opposition to its reaching there is unhappiness.

  • E. ‘अधर्मजन्‍यं सचेतसां प्रतिकूलम्‌ – भाषापरिच्‍छेद’ means that which arises from unrighteousness (adharma) and proves to be unfavourable for living beings is itself unhappiness. – Bhashaparichcheda

  • F. ‘Although initially it is necessary for the sense organs to have contact with external objects for generation of worldly happiness and unhappiness, yet man experiences them with his mind. Spiritual happiness or sorrow is always psychological. Finally the experiencing of all happiness or unhappiness is dependent solely on the mind; hence it is not impossible to restrain the experiences of happiness and unhappiness with the mind. It is with this very opinion that Manu (4.160) has described the features of happiness and unhappiness differently from those following a system of philosophy founded by Sage Gautam (nyayashastra), as –

    सर्वं परवशं दु:खं सर्वमात्‍मवशं सुखम्‌ ।
    एतव्‍दिद्यात्‍समासेन लक्षणं सुखदु:खयो: ।।

        Meaning: All that which is in the control of external objects is unhappiness while that which is in the control of one’s mind is happiness. This is the concise feature of happiness and unhappiness.’ (1)

2. Importance

  • A. The basic sensations of happiness and unhappiness are very important to survive and gain fundamental knowledge. Even an amoeba goes away if there is any undue particle in its vicinity as it finds it unpleasant and goes to another site where there are food particles. An infant too, reaches upto the mother’s breast to taste the mother’s milk. A young child runs away from fire and withdraws its foot on being pricked by a thorn. From this, one will realise that all actions of any organism are motivated by a desire to obtain happiness or to escape from unhappiness or an unpleasant event.

  • B. Happiness or unhappiness are great teachers. Difficulties and poverty teach us more than happiness and wealth respectively. Happiness and unhappiness are the reward and punishment respectively, which are bestowed upon man by nature for his progress.

3. Signs of unhappiness

‘Sadness and a downcast countenance are the effects of unhappiness.’ – Prashastapadacharya

3.1 Reaction to unhappiness

प्रायेण नीचा व्‍यसनेषु मग्‍ना निन्‍दन्‍ति देवं कुकृतं न तु स्‍वम्‌ ।।
                                                                        – महाभारत ८.९१.१

Meaning: Mean people blame The Lord instead of their own bad deeds when a calamity befalls them. – Mahabharat 8.91.1

4. Inevitability of happiness and unhappiness

Worldly life is an admixture of happiness and unhappiness. For example, one feels happy when one builds a house but feels unhappy when one has to pay its taxes or repair it. One feels happy when a son is born but when he is disobedient, there is unhappiness. When one’s daughter gets married there is happiness but when her husband ill-treats her, one is aggrieved. In this way most people go up and down in this vast ocean of happiness and unhappiness. This body has numerous aches and pains from the time of birth till death. This combination of happiness and unhappiness is called the image of worldly life. Hence in the holy text, Shri Dasbodh (2:10:40) H.H. Samarth Ramdas Swami has said,

He who feels happy in the world is the greatest of fools;
There is no sorrow like the ocean of worldly life.

सुखस्‍यान्‍तरं दु:खं दु:खस्‍यानन्‍तरं सुखम्‌ ।
व्‍दयमेतद्‌हि जन्‍तूनां अलङह्यं दिनरात्रिवत्‌ ।

Meaning: Just as the night follows the day and the day dawns after the night, unhappiness follows happiness and vice versa. This cycle is inevitable.

5. Confusion due to the usage of the words happiness and Spiritual Bliss with various connotations

The words happiness and Bliss are often used interchangeably in spiritual texts. That is, the meaning with which the word Bliss is used in this holy text, is happiness according to other books and vice versa. Sometimes the two are used synonymously. Examples of how various authors use the words happiness and Bliss with various meanings are given below.

  • A. ‘Bliss is of two kinds. Bliss in the presence of objects (that obtained from eating, drinking, clothes, ornaments, etc.) is termed as happiness. Bliss in the absence of objects, is termed as spiritual.’

  • B. ‘Happiness of three types, namely – worldly happiness, that in the subtle worlds and spiritual happiness are popularly known. The first is the happiness obtained in this world, the second is that obtained in the subtle worlds. Both these types of happiness are relative to some object. Spiritual happiness however is unrelative to an object. Since spiritual happiness is self-attained, it is considered the best type of happiness. Spiritual happiness is superior to worldly happiness and that in the subtle worlds because it is permanent and unrelated to any kind of unhappiness. This spiritual happiness is the ultimate. Such unparalleled happiness is termed as the Final Liberation (Moksha).’ (2)

  • C. ‘If in any way there is destruction of nescience, then there is separation of the supposed union of the soul and the world and the embodied soul is permanently liberated from the bondage of unhappiness. The attainment of this state itself is termed as “eternal happiness” by followers of the Sankhya Philosophy.’ (3)

  • D. When one is able to lead the ‘dhi’ frequencies upto ‘kha’, that is to the hollow in the Brahmarandhra, the opening in the Sahasrar chakra, one experiences happiness. If this does not occur, there is unhappiness. Refer to ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 38 – Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga)’.

6. Differences between happiness and Spiritual Bliss

6.1 Definitions of happiness and Spiritual Bliss

Happiness is a pleasant sensation experienced by the embodied soul through the five senses, mind and/or intellect whereas Bliss is a favourable spiritual experience of the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma) or the God realised soul (Shivatma) when the functions of the five senses, mind and intellect have ceased.

Each one of us has experienced happiness at sometime or the other. Since the experience is obtained through the media of the five senses, mind and intellect one can comprehend its definition. Contrary to this, since most of us have not experienced Bliss and since many are not even aware that there may be something to experience beyond the five senses, mind and intellect, most people find it difficult to understand the definition of Bliss. Just as one blind since birth will find it difficult to accept the fact that the world is visible or a child will not be able to understand the meaning of sexuality no matter how hard one tries to explain it, so also it is difficult to explain the meaning of Bliss. It cannot be expressed in words but has to be experienced.

However for the purpose of explanation of the meaning of happiness and Bliss let us use a gold bracelet as an example. The pleasant sensation that one gets from a formless object, that is the gold used to make a bracelet, in this case is termed as Bliss while that obtained from an object having a form, that is the bracelet, is called happiness. In reality, one gets only happiness from gold but since we could not find a better example to explain this concept, we have used it.

6.2 Comparison between happiness and Spiritual Bliss

  Happiness Spiritual Bliss
1. What is it called? Experience Spiritual experience
2. Who gets the
    experience /
Embodied soul (jiva) At a lower level –
Embodied soul
undertaking spiritual
practice (jivatma)
At a higher level – God
realised soul (Shivatma)
At the highest level –
Supreme God (Shiv)
[the Soul (Atma)]
3. From where is the
    happiness / Bliss
An external source. The
mind and intellect too
are external with respect
to the embodied soul.
Initially – From an object
to which one is devoted,
e.g. an idol of a deity, a
saint or a Guru.
Later – from one’s soul
4. Medium of
    obtaining the
    experience / spiri-
    tual experience
Physical body, five
sense organs, the mind
and intellect.
Embodied soul
undertaking spiritual
practice or the God
realised soul.
5. From what is the
    happiness / Bliss
A. Great Illusion
Brahman (God principle),
the soul (atma)
B. Ignorance Spiritual knowledge
C. Objects containing the
    three components
Objects beyond the three
components (trigunatit)
D. As Brahman exists in
    unlimited forms in the
    Great Illusion, e.g. in
    food, speech, sound,
    etc. the subjects are

The sole subject is the
eternal and infinite

E. Gross Subtle
6. Relative to and
    dependent on
    place, time and
Yes (very much) No (absolutely
7. Traces of
Present Absent
8. State in which
    happiness / Bliss
    is acquired
A. Waking
B. Dream
Deep sleep (sushupti),
nirbij superconscious
state (samadhi), natural
state of communion with
God (sahajavastha) and
Liberation when still
embodied (sadehamukti)
9. Awareness of the
Present Absent
10. Duality /
Duality is present betwe-
en the pleasurable object
& the one experiencing it.
Non-duality (advait) with
11. Duration Short A. Depends on the
    duration of the nirbij
    superconscious state
B. Continuously (in the
    natural state of commu-
    nion with God)
C. Even in the next birth
D. Externally (Liberation)
12. Quality Inferior Supreme
13. Quantity Limited Unlimited (if there is
happiness even in ignora-
nce, imagine how great
the Bliss in spiritual
knowledge will be!)
14. Truth / untruth Untruth (illusion) Truth
15. Awareness of
    (purnatva) / non-
Awareness of non-
Awareness of
16. Boredom Not just boredom, but
the one experiencing
the happiness may also
develop detachment for
it or may get dejected.
There is no boredom
because Bliss is the nature
of the soul, e.g. sugar
never tires of its
17. Contentment Temporary Depends on the duration
18. Site of the
Upto the Adnyachakra Beyond the Adnyachakra

* Hence this is like running after a mirage. Bliss is never attained through it.

What sort of happiness does a seeker experience to make him leave worldly happiness and turn to Spirituality?

Worldly happiness and sorrow are a result of one’s deeds (karma). Spiritual Bliss (Anand) is not a result of one’s deeds but originates from love. One who experiences spiritual Bliss is unaffected by worldly happiness and sorrow. Hence the Gita (2:4) terms spiritual Bliss alone as ‘yoga’. ‘समत्‍वं योग उच्‍यते । (Samatvam yoga uchyate)’.

6.3 Object pleasure, sensuous pleasure and inner Spiritual Bliss

Types When is happiness /
Bliss experienced in
wordly life?
From what is
happiness /
Bliss derived?
Which body
is nourished?
1. Object
When experiencing
pleasurable objects
Extroverted nature Physical body
2. Sensous
When thinking about
the desire
Attitude of the
Subtle body
(the mind)
3. Inner
The Bliss which is
experienced for a few
moments after waking
up, that is the transitory
state between waking
and sleep
Inaction even by
the mind
Causal body
(to a certain

6.4 Tears of sorrow and Bliss

Tears of sorrow are warm whereas those of Bliss are cold.

7. Bliss in relation to happiness and unhappiness

Bliss is not the neutral point between happiness and unhappiness, but lies beyond them. Bliss begins where expectations of happiness end.

Reference : ‘Spirituality’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.