Abhinabha Tangerman is a freelance journalist based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Apart from contributing quite a few articles to the Jewels of Happiness website, he writes for Dutch newspapers and magazines on a variety of subjects. Abhinabha likes to meditate, play guitar, write poetry and run marathons. He gives regular meditation classes and enjoys sharing what meditation has taught him about happiness with the public.
1. How would you define happiness?
To me the perfect definition of happiness is gratitude. When I’m really happy there’s often a spontaneous feeling of gratitude that accompanies it. In those moments I’m just amazed at how beautiful life is, despite the hardships that there may be. I think life is a great cosmic adventure and I’m just grateful to be a part of it.
2. Describe a moment in your life when you felt really happy.
As a matter of fact, I was feeling really happy this morning. I was on my bicycle, riding the streets of Amsterdam. It was a real ‘Indian Summer’ day, just on the brink of autumn – which is my favourite season. Everything looked so beautiful: the trees, the blue sky, the canals, the houses. I felt totally one with my environment and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of happiness and gratitude. I should also mention that I had a good meditation this morning. That usually helps a lot.
Other times when I have felt really happy are when I have finished a project that I worked really hard on. In the process I try not to be too attached to the results, but when the project is successful, I am really elated. Many of those happy moments have come when I was busy organizing the Peace Run, a torch relay for peace around the world founded by Sri Chinmoy.
I also feel very, very happy at the end of running races – which I do quite a lot – when I cross the finish line knowing I have given it my all. I think that’s why people love running long-distance races, just because that tremendous feeling of joy you get at the end.
3. Whenever you feel unhappy, is there a particular thing you do in order to feel happy again?
I have found my daily prayer and meditation to be the best remedy against unhappiness. Singing spiritual songs or chanting a mantra also works wonders for me. Going for a run also pushes my happiness-buttons in a big way.
4. Is there any person or historical figure that stands out as a role model for you in terms of achieving human happiness?
Thomas Jefferson comes to mind. He was a real ‘renaissance man’, highly developed in many fields: politics, architecture, art, science, philosophy, gardening, you name it. At heart he was a really spiritual person. Reading ‘Light and Liberty’, a collection of his writings edited by Eric Petersen, I was simply overwhelmed by his wisdom, nobility and grace. He truly knew the secrets of a happy and fulfilling life.
As a contemporary happy person Neil Young comes to mind – mostly because I just finished reading his autobiography. What a great guy! Not only a great musician, but also a real idealist, humanitarian, inventor, writer and a genuinely loving and compassionate person. There is an overriding sense of gratitude in his writing, which makes me think he is a genuinely happy person.
5. How would you go about making the world a happier place?
I think the best way to make the world happy is to make yourself happy first. Happiness is contagious, in a good way. If you are happy, you’re like a flower spreading happiness-fragrance. My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy wrote, “Happiness shared is maximized.” It also helps to be kind and compassionate to others. Who knows, you may inspire somebody to be a better person. I think a better world comes from better people.
6. Was there a particular habit or regimen you introduced into your life that has made you happier? Please share it with us!
Absolutely! For me happiness-medicine number one is my spiritual practice. I pray and meditate and also I sing spiritual songs every day. I can honestly say these things have changed my life in a big way. Through my prayer and meditation I’ve been able to discover a source inside me where there is spontaneous and enduring happiness. It seems nowadays more and more people are trying this approach, seeking their source of peace and happiness by going within. Oh, and my daily run is also a great contributor to my happiness. Did I mention that already?
7. What inspires you most about the future?
I think the future is bright. I really do. It’s pretty obvious that a few things need to change in the world for everyone to enjoy an atmosphere of peace and happiness, but I think we’re taking the right steps by giving spirituality a chance. We have to change ourselves first – I believe that’s really the first step. In that light it’s very hopeful that more and more people are trying to discover their own inner source of happiness, which I like to call the soul. I’ve been giving meditation classes for over a decade and I can see the interest is growing. So I’m an optimist. I think the world needs hope and optimism.
8. Which personal qualities do you think are most important in obtaining happiness?
I think Sri Chinmoy summed it up very aptly when he wrote: “Perfect happiness is enthusiasm minus expectation.” You need to have enthusiasm, to be positive and dynamic, but at the same time you need a kind of never-give-up attitude. So even when things don’t go the way you wanted, you don’t give up doing the right thing. When you expect a certain result, you prevent life from springing its delightful surprises on you.
9. If you had one wish for the world, what would it be?
I would wish for all human beings to have real peace inside them, and to feel that we are all part of a oneness-world-family. If you are at peace with yourself, you’re not inclined to find fault with others or with yourself. I think many, if not all world-problems can be solved that way.
10. What was your most important life decision in terms of your own personal happiness?
My decision to lead a spiritual life. When I was twenty years old I became a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre. I started to follow a spiritual philosophy of daily meditation, physical exercise and a vegetarian diet. After a while I noticed all my problems, frustrations and feelings of unhappiness just faded away. I give most credit to meditation for this. I think it’s the real secret to a happy life.