|Saturday, October 27, 2001||
THE desire of every human is to somehow achieve happiness and every form of philosophy and religion endeavours to provide this recipe in some form or the other to its adherents. Vedic philosophy begins with the understanding that the happiness (and sorrow) of this material world is impermanent (maya) as it is dependent on material dynamics which keep changing.
So these philosophers
set out on the path of finding lasting happiness, which is to
eliminate its opposite unhappiness, dejection, anger and fear.
This philosophy has six steps: control desire, practice detachment, achieve renunciation, rationalise (one's) action, regulate (one's) energy and cultivate all-round knowledge.
The cause of unhappiness is the pursuit of desire, successful or otherwise. Unsuccessful pursuit of desire leads to anger and delusion which results in nothing but foolishness. Successful pursuit of desire only kindles this fire of desire more.
It is the result of the 'blind' fulfilling of everyone's desire for more money, more comfort, more power that has led to the ruination of our environment, more and more tension in society, wars, increasing personal isolation etc.
The cause of dejection is the expectation from the efforts that we put in. So, put in your best efforts always but don't depend on its fruits.
Possessions produce fear. Inversely, one who has no possessions, is completely renounced, is without fear.
So control desire, practice detachment to the fruits of one's action and, finally, renounce everything. Thus, one can achieve the blissful state of uninterrupted happiness.
Renunciation through knowledge
But renouncement is not as easy as walking away from everything. In reality, one cannot walk away. One cannot forget the obligations to one's physical self as long as one lives.
This process of renunciation is not of denial either. All of us are trapped in countless desires and needs.
It is the basic needs of food, shelter, sex and sleep that this human society is based on. All other needs and desires are but extensions of these.
One must render these extended needs unimportant one after the other. This can be done only through all-round knowledge.
Krishna in "karmanyevadhikaras te...", the most famous couplet in the Gita, instructs Arjuna not to depend on the fruits of his actions. He advises Arjuna to be ever-satisfied and act only for the bare necessities of life. All other actions should be independent of the result.
Apart from actions which fulfil the four basic needs for survival food, shelter, sex and sleep one shouldn't be dependent on the rest.
The idea is similar to what the industrial community does today create backups.
As Murphy's law states, "If anything can go wrong, it will." There is always a Plan B if Plan A fails; there is always another route if the first one is blocked; there is always another machine if the one working doesn't do so anymore.
Just as a householder takes up life insurance so that his family survives even if he doesn't.
Creating backups and preparing for the unforeseen requires all-round knowledge and foresight. Why all-round knowledge? Because if anyone wants to control a particular procedure, he has to know about all factors effecting it. The knowledge of only a few factors will not give him control
The worship of Ganesh is done by the breaking of the coconut which signifies the breaking of the thick skull of mere intellect. So with intellect has to be wisdom and common sense.
Detective Sherlock Holmes considers the brain to be an attic (with limited storage space). Vedic philosophy recommends all-round knowledge but also edits extra knowledge out by saying that knowledge not put to use only amounts to ignorance.
For example, the knowledge of the Chinese language to a person who is not going to China, nor going to read Chinese literature, nor meeting Chinese people nor interacting in Chinese ever is only a waste which has to be edited out.
Vedic philosophers have also revealed the two enemies of knowledge: lethargy and arrogance.
Lethargy comes under the mode of ignorance, and knowledge in this mode is limited and a person with this meagre knowledge can never be in control in an ever-changing environment.
Arrogance (of power, knowledge) is what makes people into demons. Ravana qualifies as a demon because he interferes with Sita's prerogative of choosing her husband. Duryodhana in his arrogance didn't accept Yudhishthira's right to the throne and made them suffer 13 years in exile and the loss of loved and respected ones through 18 days of war.
One's arrogance makes one feel that he knows too much and thus causes a blockage to further knowledge. It has led to many heads like Ravana, Hitler etc rolling in dust.
Importance of action
One gets knowledge through one's actions. Krishna's philosophy in the Gita recommends, "Always act using your ever-increasing determination, understanding and knowledge." Any action that doesn't lead to an increase in knowledge amounts only to inaction. So, actions have to constantly increase knowledge.
But all of us have so many actions to do (responsibilities to take care of) and Vedic philosophy recommends achieving perfection (See box: Achieving perfection...), how can one do it all in a lifetime? By rationalising actions and regulating energy.
Krishna defines intelligent as one who can see action in inaction and inaction in action. By using one's knowledge, one should optimise one's actions and thus regulate one's energy so that he can do more with what he is left with.
So, knowledge has to optimise actions constantly and actions have to contribute to knowledge always.
So illuminated by all-round knowledge and
then mentally achieving total renunciation, even though living normally and
doing all sorts of activities in this world, one can achieve the state of
Godliness, the state of uninterrupted bliss.