Our happiness and unhappiness depend upon one thing: how we look at life, whether we appreciate and value all we have or depreciate and underestimate all we have.
If we think of what we have not in life, we shall find that there is so much that we have not got, and it will then seem that what we have got is not even as big as a bubble in a vast sea. And if we try to realize what we have, there also will come a time when we shall see that what we have not is like a little bubble in a vast sea. It is a matter of looking at it.
The general tendency is to see what we have not got in life, and rarely a soul is so blessed that he is awakened to appreciate all he has in life and to be thankful for it. When we think of what we lack, there comes a flood of that lack and it drowns the whole universe; we find ourselves entirely lacking everything that it is possible to have.
If we begin to realize what we have, it will be increased and be completed by abundance, so that in the end of our realization we shall be able to find that, really speaking, we have all. It is in this that lies the secret of spiritual attainment. The saying of Christ,
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added, unto you",
has the same meaning: when by our thankfulness, by our appreciation of life we arrive at the fullness of life, in that bliss we shall find the kingdom of God, and once the kingdom of God is realized all else will be added.
Once a dervish came before Sekandar, the great king, with the bowl of a beggar and asked him if he could fill it. Sekandar looked at him and thought, "What is he asking of an emperor like me? To fill that little bowl?" The dervish asked, "Can you fill this little bowl?" The emperor immediately said, "Yes", but the bowl was a magic bowl. Hundreds and thousands and millions were poured into it but it would not fill, it always remained half empty, its mouth wide open to be filled. When Sekandar began to feel poor while filling this bowl he said, "Dervish, tell me if you are not a magician. You have brought a bowl of magic; it has swallowed my whole treasure and it is empty still". The dervish answered, "Sekandar, if the whole world's treasure was put into it, it would still remain empty. Do you know what this bowl is? It is the want of man".
Be it love, be it wealth, be it attention, be it service, be it comfort, be it happiness, be it pleasure, be it rank, position, power, honour or possession in life, the more man can receive the more he wants. He is never content, he will never be content. The richer man becomes - richer with everything, with anything - the poorer he becomes, for the bowl that he has brought with him, the bowl of want, can never be filled, and is never filled.
The only secret of attaining happiness therefore is to learn how to appreciate our privileges in life. If we cultivate that sense of appreciation we shall be thankful, we shall be contented, and every moment we shall offer our thanks to God, for His gifts are many and enormous. When we do not see them it is because our wants cover our eyes from seeing all with which we are blessed by Providence. No meditation, no study, nothing can help in that direction, except one thing and that is to keep our eyes open to appreciate every little privilege in life, to admire every glimpse of beauty that comes before us, being thankful for every little love, kindness or affection shown to us by young or old, rich or poor, wise or foolish.
In this way, continually developing the faculty of appreciating life and devoting it to thanksgiving, we arrive at a bliss which no words can explain, a bliss which is beyond imagination: the bliss that we find ourselves having already entered the kingdom of God.