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What Does the Phrase "Follow Your Bliss" Mean?

By J.E. Holloway
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Jun 24, 2014

@stoneMason-- I'm not an expert on this topic but I think the most important thing when "following one's bliss" is to be persistent about it. Even if you just do it as a hobby now, don't give up. Continue and one day you will be successful.

By fBoyle — On Jun 23, 2014

Most of the phrases and idioms we use in our day to day life have an origin in some kind of incident. Someone coined it one day as per their situation and it became popular.

This is the first time I'm hearing about a phrase that has origins in spirituality, religion and philosophy. I think that's great because it adds even more meaning and importance to the phrase.

After learning about the origin of this phrase, I would like to find out more about the concept of satcitananda. It sounds very interesting.

By stoneMason — On Jun 23, 2014

I wish I could follow my bliss. I think I know what I'm passionate about and I do do it as a hobby. But I don't know how I could go about pursuing it more seriously.

We all have expenses and bills to pay. And many times, following our bliss isn't very realistic or possible. Those who have the means to follow their bliss definitely should. Such opportunities do not come often.

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