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Where does spirituality lead us

— Dr.G.Venkateswaran

There is a famous saying: “End of Education is Character; End of Spirituality is Wisdom”. What is Wisdom? Wisdom is not just knowing about how things work in this phenomenal world. That is purely knowledge. One earns one’s livelihood with such knowledge. Wisdom is much more than this. It is to know what the goal of life is.

Enjoying life as it is commonly understood in this material world is not the real goal of life. Such enjoyments are highly temporary in nature. Adi Sankara, the 7th Century AD Sadguru has characterized this phenomenal world as “Jagat Mithya” meaning an illusory world. This is because change is something constantly occurring in this material world. Whatever is born or created here has a definite life time and after a while it disappears. The saint poet Tiruvalluvar in his Tirukkural verses has described this material world as “Nerunal Ulanoruvan Inrillai Yenum Perumai Padaithu Ivvulagu” meaning that this world is renowned for saying that a person who was there yesterday is not there today. Such is the temporariness of men and materials in this phenomenal world. The world “Mithya or Maya” implies something close to the opposite of “Sathya” or Permanent. Since impermanency is the characteristic of this material world, all things happening here cannot give one any permanent happiness; rather this world of full of opposites like happiness-sadness, light-darkness, profit-loss, birth-death, truth-lie etc. But these keep happening to people in a cyclic way.

When one is born and as everyday passes one has to realize that he or she is approaching steadily his/her end. It almost looks like that sadness is waiting to catch after one is happy for a while. It appears as though one dies to be reborn again in some form. The rebirth and death cycle will not leave us if we are engrossed in this phenomenal world only.

It is also recognized that when one is young it is difficult to get detached from the attractions of this illusory world as we see it. The desire for material possessions very strongly grips the person. At this stage one is not bothered about the temporary nature of things, the sole aim being accumulation and fulfilling one’s desires. But the sad point is as one desire gets fulfilled, another desire takes birth since the perceived need is to improve upon what one has got already. This better and better attitude works like a never ending ocean ware. However, as one age one starts to reflect on the trials and tribulations that one undergoes in this life. Confinement in mother’s womb is worse than being jailed, then as child one is at the mercy of others to be taken care of and with old age one reaches infirmity and depends on others to pass the days. Therefore by being engrossed with the phenomenal world, one only prepares for this never ending birth-death-birth cycle. Adi Sankara Baghavatpada has put this fact nicely, “Punarapi Jananam Punarapi Maranam Punarapi Janene Jatere Sayanam” meaning the body dies and the soul enters another womb to be reborn again.

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How one sanctifies one’s life in the present birth so that one is not born again. In order to achieve this you have to attain “moksha” (Liberation) through “jnanam” (wisdom). But who will impart this “jnanam”. One has to approach a “Sadguru” (Spiritual Teacher), serve him and learn about the real goal of life. With his guidance and advice, one can achieve liberation. Even God will shower his grace on a devotee under the recommendation of a “Sadguru”.

The path to attain liberation is not easy. One has to shed his/her ego, minimize the desires, realize that you are in divine light and the divine light is in you, love all-serve all, help ever-hurt never, “sathyam vada” (speak truth), “dharmam chara” (follow righteous living) – all these injunctions described in “Dharma Shastras” are to be remembered and carefully put into practice in leading one’s life. What the law of “Karma” means? The law of “Karma” tries to draw a balance sheet of our benefic and malefic actions. Benefic actions are those that earn “Punya”. Malefic actions are those that earn “Papa”. Scriptures declare “Paroparaka Punyanam, Papaya parapeedanam” meaning mutually beneficial actions between person to person constitute “Punya” and actions which result in troubling others constitute “Papa”.

The path of liberation needs “Trikarna Shuddhi”, that is the purity of the three karanas of mind, speech and action. No doubt one may be bodily or externally clean and pure but it is not much of significance if internal purity is not there. It said that “Yeth Bhavam Tad Bhavathi” implying you become what you think. There is a saying in Tamil: “Ahathin Azhagu Mukathil Theriyum”, meaning the face reveals your mind’s purity. Good thoughts and transparency in behaviour add brightness and beauty to the facial appearance. Speech is a great weapon in one’s hand. Many times it becomes a challenge to talk less. Scriptures declare: “Sathyam bhruyath, Priyam bhruyath, Na bhruyath Sathyama Priyam” advising speak the loving truth and not the harsh truth. It is better to keep quiet if it is an unpalatable truth since the person who has to know that will come to know of it in some other manner.

In this connection, it is good to remember the Tirukkural verse: “Theeyinal Shutta Punn Ullarum Aradhe Navinal Shutta Vadu” that is a fire burn can heal but not a mental wound caused by a piercing spoken word. The last in this “three karna shuddhi” requirement is action which is a sort of final shape given to one’s thought and word. Actions are the visible end product of one’s thought / word and become irreversible to rectify. So the root is pure thoughts which lead to beneficial actions.

The essence of the four Vedas, the Ithihasas, Puranas etc., can be summarized as “Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha”. It is important to follow the order in which these words occur. Dharmic actions mean righteous actions as sanctioned by the Vedas. Since Vedas have come from the Parabrahmam, the path shown by the Vedas are the only righteous ones for leading the life. The material wealth that one requires to lead life has to be earned through righteous work. Wealth earned through wrong methods not sanctioned by the Vedas will now or later totally destroy the earner which is what we mean by the Scriptural saying “Anyayarjitha Vittham Sahamoolam Vinashyathi”. One has to fulfill one’s desires for this earthly living from rightfully earned wealth. Limiting the desires is a sure way to ensure ourselves adhering to the dharmartha way of life. What we achieve by such a living is mentioned in the end of this charter namely “moksha” which means liberation.

The world in which we live is a “karmic” world. When we are born we are born with an unseen garland that is nothing but the “karmic” garland. The Nature of which we are a part is constantly at work. For example the plants, trees, the bio-world is constantly at work to synthesize the food we require. So we cannot avoid doing work till our last breath. Even the sleep which our system requires is to be taken as some kind of work required to rejuvenate the body for getting involved in actions. This work we have to choose and in some way has to be beneficial to the Society at large. We cannot rest on our laurels and idle away our time. Time wasted is worse than money wasted since time cannot come back.

Hence Spirituality leads us to the right kind of living enabling us to have an equipoised mind doing the required things at the right time and place to the best of our ability without paying undue importance to the fruits of such actions. When one develops a strong foundation of good character as conferred by Spiritual living, everything else becomes a superstructure which will conveniently stand on such a foundation. Everyone in this world says “I want peace”. Really peace will result if we remove the words “I” and “Want”. Removing the ego and minimizing the desires for possessions is the right medicine for a great living. This cannot come if we do not have a Spiritual attitude to life.


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