WHERE we have come from, where we are going to, what is it that keeps on changing in this cameo innings called life, where we have one set of members as our original team mates, new members come, venues change, allegiance changes and at the end of the never ending league, each one of us settles into a quiet retirement and finally just walks into the sunset, some honoured, but most in quiet obscurity.
Today, the mantra is, “live life to the fullest for tomorrow we do not know in what state we would be in.”
This line of thought explains much of the anxiety, the anger, feelings of raw envy, of insane passion, of hoarding wealth in all ways possible, deceit , and an almost maniacal urge to achieve and retain power , whether in the organisation or in the political sphere that we see all around us. Again, even for the mild mannered, good people, their life revolves and stops with a small circle of family and friends and they see nothing beyond. Is that all there is to life? Does this do justice to our intellect, our power of analysis, No .Clearly we have to engage ourselves with a greater truth, a greater question, where have we come from, where are we headed to. The human mind is a very powerful tool and there is nothing that cannot be established or achieved, with proper focussing. There have been many instances where great souls , be it in the spiritual or the material spheres have achieved extraordinary results, by proper usage of the mind power.( I do not want to get into the mind vs. intellect debate, but we could loosely use them interchangeably, because the focus of this essay is on something beyond both).
It is here that our golden saying comes to light. Our forefathers have beautifully summarised the essence of fruitful life in just four words. They are (In tamizh), ARAM PORUL INBAM VEEDU. In Sanskrit they are mentioned as DHARMA ARTHA KAAMA MOKSHAM.
They act as the steps to a normal person on the journey of life. Let us have a glimpse at each step and see how we can benefit from them.
Is nothing but ethics in day to day life. Each one of us plays many roles as family men or women, parents, children, spouses. Again at work, we are employers, bosses, workers etc. To whichever station of life we may belong, there are well defined ethical codes we need to follow. There are well defined laws laid down by the country/state we live in and we all know that by just following them, we have a hassle free life. To mention a few .all religions prescribe virtues like honesty, simplicity, helping the distressed, giving alms, avoiding envy, greed, anger, hatred and many more. There is a small value addition that all of us have to make here. Rather than just following the ethical codes mechanically, if each one of us can improve upon our following of ethics, follow it with all our heart and with deep conviction, what they call “beyond the call of duty”, aram or dharma will get into our DNA. Even in our wildest imagination, we would not even think about doing that is against dharmam. That state will slowly start refining our mind and the baser or animal instincts will slowly start leaving our minds.
Wealth generated through fair means is absolutely fine. The only thing is that all religions realise that wealth is important but one should not make it all important and the only focus of life to the detriment of everything else. Also if we follow the dictum “simple living and high thinking”, we would use our wealth wisely, prudently, and a portion of whatever could be set aside could be used for the less fortunate people around us, The more we give and the more the joy of giving is enjoyed, the less attached on becomes to wealth and one point of time becomes enlightened to the fact that whatever be one’s wealth, not an atom can be carried by anyone from this world.
The third step inbam refers to all the rightful material pleasures that a human enjoys in this world. Hinduism or for that matter any religion of the world does not ask us to avoid pleasures of the world, be it a glorious vision, happiness in hearing, tasting enjoyable food, smelling sweet perfumes . We are only advised to understand that rightful enjoyment in MODERATION is most conducive to a fruitful life. The biggest problem is that without a proper control of mind, we take these pleasures to be permanent, get engrossed in them. All religions emphasise on the need to moderate these enjoyments, so that as time goes by, we are prepared to look at life beyond them. In fact all Virathams (austerities), fasts, prayers, pilgrimages, practically explain to us the significance of moderating or temporarily reducing our enjoyment of the senses, and slowly but surely one starts to begin to look within.
So much for material enjoyment, which is transient in nature. There is a more everlasting joy, which is felt when one is engaged in spiritual deeds. Meditating, praying , giving away alms, serving without expecting anything in return, all these are sources of deep fulfilment, ,of a deep joy of a different kind, which is not transient like the material one, of which one does not get bored . This is referred to AS PERINBAM (SUPREME BLISS) WHEN COMPARED TO SITRINBAM (TRANSIENT BLISS)
The mind is a monkey, and keeps swinging towards transient pleasures of the senses. It calls for great focus, concentration to keep bringing the mind repeatedly towards our goal for the higher joy. While millions keep striving for it throughout many births, it is only handfuls who truly achieve it.
However, there is a consolation for each of us who tries. With each birth, we would start off from where we left in the previous birth and not from the beginning. So every minute of trying will not go in vain. This is what they meant when they coined the proverb “our destiny lies in our hands”. Yes .by focussing the infinite strength of our mind , towards reaching the higher goal, step by step, we would not only elevate ourselves but entire groups of families, friends who would look up to us ,at some point of their lives.
This is the final destination, called the Final Beatitude. I had started with a question “ WHERE DO WE COME FROM AND WHERE DO WE GO?” This question has bedevilled philosophers and thinkers down the ages. The answer is very complex but for simple people like us it is sufficient to know that the entire COSMOS is full of atmas (jeevatmas) which simply put is the LIFE FORCE, from the smallest known living creature to the largest creature, including all the devas, (celestials) up to Brahma. All The jeevatmas are but a speck, (a small infinitesimal part) of the ABSOLUTE ALMIGHTY WE CALL GOD.
Depending on various factors, the life cycle moves on , keeps changing form and as THE PINNACLE OF CREATION, THE HUMAN LIFE IS OBTAINED,ENDOWED WITH SIX SENSES, capable of discrimination between right and wrong, with a fantastic mind, helping to focus , concentrate, plan, meditate, ably assisted by a well evolved brain. With our keen sense of discrimination and by developing dispassion towards the transient worldly pleasures, one can slowly but surely climb the spiritual ladder, without in any way sacrificing the need to take care of the rightful needs of the family and friends. Then dear friends, we would smilingly walk our way towards our CREATOR accruing in the process a lot of positive karma , and even if reborn, we would have covered at least some distance towards our final destination GODS FEET.
Each brick builds the house; Each small step will take us closer to God.
Also if we see clearly, these four needs have been arranged in the nice chronological order of life. ARAM (DHARMAM) or Ethics needs to be inculcated in childhood, which lays the foundation for good behaviour later. As the proverb says, what can’t bend at five will not bend at fifty. Childhood is the best time to teach aram.
Youth and early middle age is the time one has maximum energy to pursue education and really work hard at ones profession. When rightful wealth is generated by this it gives us PORUL(WEALTH)
Latter part of middle age ,towards retirement, one has accumulated enough wealth to be able to use it wisely for prudent material pleasures and slowly to start to think about the greatness of spiritual pleasures. That is the phase of INBAM( BLISS)
The last phase is that of focussing on, acting upon all the goodness one has accumulated over the lifetime and maximising all the good qualities imparted by the previous three stages and when the final call comes, departing with a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment and not just fading into the sunset. Our good deeds would be known long after us.
When I took up this essay, I did not want to appear preachy, because all of us come from different backgrounds, different outlooks, but just wanted to share the significance of the small saying of our wise forefathers. There may be many loose ends; I do not claim to be knowledgeable at all. Rather it was just some loud thinking, which I thought may be significant in the context of today’s world