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The phrase "follow your bliss" is a spiritual or philosophical statement advising individuals to identify the parts of life they are truly passionate about and pursue them wholeheartedly. The phrase originated with American mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), who most famously used it in the book and television program The Power of Myth, released after his death in 1988. The concept of following one's bliss derives from a Hindu sacred text, the Upanishads, among other influences.
Born into a middle class Catholic family in New York in 1904, Campbell developed an interest in Native American mythology at an early age. After graduating from Columbia University, he traveled to Europe to study languages and literature. He traveled and studied for several years before taking a position as a professor at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York in 1934. Campbell's interest in mythology continued, and he broadened his work, adding Tibetan and Hindu mythology to his study of Native American myths.
Campbell believed that although human mythology varied by culture, mythologies taken broadly share a number of universal themes. To Campbell, the purpose of mythology was to illuminate sacred truths that could only be revealed through analogy. He argued that myths served to explain the universe, validate the existing social order, create a sense of awe in the face of "the mysteries of being" and guide individuals through the stages of life. In Campbell's study of mythology and religion, he encountered the concept that would lead him to popularize the saying "follow your bliss."
Hindu thought includes the concept of "sat-chit-ananda" or "satcitananda." This is a fusion of three Sanskrit words: "sat," which means truth, being or the eternal; "chit," which means consciousness; and "ananda," which means bliss. In The Power of Myth, Campbell explained that he was unsure about his own being and consciousness and decided to focus on bliss.
The idea summarized in the phrase "follow your bliss" is that the path an individual ought to take exists inside him or her at all times. Bliss is the method by which this path reveals itself. To follow your bliss is therefore to identify your own purpose and pursue it. Campbell's phrase summarizes this philosophy of self-discovery and self-empowerment.
Some critics have interpreted "follow your bliss" as a statement that individuals should simply do whatever they like. By using the word "bliss," Campbell was attempting to describe a sense of purpose and wholeness greater than transitory desire. "Follow your bliss" was intended as an exhortation to others to examine their own lives, discover the path that leads them to a feeling of completeness, and pursue it whole-heartedly.