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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Childhood Youth and Oldage:a spiritual explanation

KAUMARAM YAUVANAM JARA (Childhood Youth and Oldage) – a spiritual explanation.

The wisdom of Sanatan philosophy lies in its total acceptance of the truth that everything that happens in the Lord’s creation has a divine purpose and is for the good of the creation. However, it has accepted that truth not blindly, without questioning, but intelligently and after the verification to the extent human intellect allows.

One such thing is the physical change that takes place in our physical body, which everyone experiences. Childhood, youth and old age (kaumAram yauvanam jarA) are eternal and inevitable. Why still we become fool enough to fight the change? The idea of eternal youth fascinates every one. Yet it has remained a myth.

But the wise, know the significance of each stage of the physical body and cooperate with the divine scheme of things and do not fight.

The underlying goal, all through out one’s life is attainment of Brahman or satchidananada - the absolute truth, its realization and the resulting bliss upon realization. The right approach to life has always been to orient and adapt the entire drama of life around this central theme.

Brahman is to be known and attained. The first requirement towards knowing of Brahman or Satchidananda is an ‘attitude of enquiry’ which we understand as Brahmajijnasa.

The triggering of this attitude of enquiry comes from vismay or a sense of wonderment about all things around you. What? Why? How? Who?- questions like these arise when the mind is full of wonderment or vismay.

A mind can only be seized with wonder when it is still comparatively clean and has not yet been contaminated and confused by dogmas, half-truths, set ideas and imposed restrictions. Such a clean mind is the mind of the young.

The young age is a wonderful gift from God providing the right soil where the seed of Brahmajijnasa can be planted. It is in itself a divine grace.

Wise sadhaks are of one voice extolling the virtue of maintaining a childlike innocence all through the sadhana. It is because childhood is the age of vismay.

Childhood is the age of parental guidance, teachers’ education, elders’ advice, all for the purpose of assisting that seed of Brahmajijnasa to germinate and grow.

As the Brahman consciousness grows, it calls for vigorous nurturing. Simply having the divine consciousness is not enough. It has to be cared for and strengthened with continuous effort. And for this nurturing, acquiring of support and ‘resources’ and deployment of those resources for the right purpose, becomes our next objective.

What are these resources? Our scriptures call them sampadas. They are catagorised into six types or qualities and known as sadsampadas. These are firstly jnyanan or knowledge – the true knowledge that helps one to develop discerning power to differentiate between sat(real) and asat (unreal), nitya (permanence) and anitya(impermanence), preyas (immediate pleasure but root of unhappiness) and shreyas (unpleasant to begin with but ending in lasting happiness), cetana (awareness) and acetana (ignorance) and all such like dualities. Knowledge is the most important resource for human existence and age of youth is the age to acquire it.

Secondly the next sampada is bala or physical strength. Not merely muscle strength but mental strength too. Being healthy in body and mind is being fit to pursue life’s all-important goal. That is the characteristic of the age of youth or the age of vigorous preparation for the sadhak for the onward journey. Its important role in yogasadhana is recognized by Patanjali’s eightfold yoga (astanga yoga) by devoting half of the eightfold process to physical and mental training. Its advanced technique in sanatan philosophy is the basis for hathayoga. Time of youth is best devoted to this.

Thirdly we come to aishvariya or elevated position in society as a strength indeed. A person who has not consciously worked for his self-respect and position in life, will always suffer from inferiority complex and live in constant fear. What kind of life will that be? What can such a life achieve? Right kind of freedom from fear and self- confidence is best cultivated in youth.

The next is Shakti or the intelligent awareness of constructive power. Brute force is not shakti. Destructive bulldozing is not shakti. But power coupled with intelligence, constructive and creative intent is shakti.

The fifth resource is tejas or the splendour of divine character. Power and strength are double edged swords. They can make you a divine being with divine qualities (daiviguna) or a demon out of you with asuri pravrtti. The world was, is and will have many misguided personalities who are bent upon ushering misery destruction and terror to others. The world also always had and shall always have, sensible souls to keep things balanced. The demons are under the influence of evil intents – asuri pravrtti. They eventually perish and easily forgotten. But the good intentioned people are revered always. They are the stronger ones.

And finally the sixth sampada is Virya or indomitability. The unyielding spirit against evil and steadfastness (dhrti) towards the qualities of dharma is what recognized as man’s original character. Those who do not recognize this, live an animal existence though in human form.

These are the basic resources to be acquired. Rest all are derived from these. These are divine qualities essential for our journey through life and lives thereafter. These are also referred to as Bhagas and God Himself is conceived as possessor of these qualities and therefore He is Bhagavan.

The state of life set out and conducive for acquiring these qualities is ‘youth’, not to be frittered away in pursuit of sensual pleasures. It is God’s grace that one receives the gift of youth to live through.

All these achievements in youth, if properly channeled (and that is the key), go to increase and progressively strengthen our Brahman consciousness and thereby facilitate our progress through purushartha. (Refer also March and April 2007 issues of AHWAN on Purushartha).

To acquire these resources, the need is of physical strength and youthful vigour, the fully flowered yauvana.

The Lord in his wisdom and grace transforms every physical body into this youthful stage. That is the way the Divine works.

The right approach to life in this young age is to enhance and strengthen this conscious knowledge. This is done by yogasadhana. Unless one is a yogi (linked to God consciousness by spiritual approach and dharma), he simply wastes this gift of youth. No matter what worldly achievements he acquires, they do not support his progress to his final destination and drag him to further cycles of birth and death to repeat again and again till wisdom dawns on him.

With a well-spent youth most worldly tasks and responsibilities for the present life are done. What remains now is a higher and increased intensity of pursuing the ‘knowledge’ by utilizing whatever has been acquired so far. With the reduction of worldly responsibilities one is better equipped for intensive yogasadhana. That partially explains why older people often show more spiritual inclination. It is a natural process.

If all has gone well with the jiva so far, he is ready to move into a stage of higher conscious being, capable of speeding up his spiritual progress. It is like having studied well in the lower class in the school, the student is fit to get promoted to a higher class to acquire more knowledge.

To have that higher experience and to be worthy of this promotion, so to say, the jiva has to be better equipped. A more conducive environment and better preparedness are called for. The present stage and conditions have exhausted their usefulness.

It is time to move on to the next phase of the process, to cross over from this life to another life and another set of conditions in another body.

Nature does not waste any time. The sapling which grew into a vigorous tree, did its job and now starts withering away. The old age or jara sets in as a natural process.

What perturbs people is that jara or old age is characterized by incompatibility with the rigors of the surroundings and manifested by aches and pains and diseases.

It is natural for all beings then to run to a vaidya or doctor who may relieve him of his discomforts. The aches and pains are sources of distraction for the mind and hence are impediments to yogasadhana. Yoga is for a healthy body. Sthireih angeihtustuvam sah tanubhih vyasema devahitam yadAyuh- the scriptures advise us.

At every stage of life, the pursuit of the ultimate goal is of paramount objective. There is no other goal for living. As we discussed earlier also, (see AHWAN April 2005 issue) many philosophical debates amongst the intellectuals, center around discovering the very purpose of life, the ‘why’ of our coming to exist. The sanatan philosophy on the other hand harbours no such doubts. Thousands of years back the thinkers and seers have conclusively arrived that the ultimate of aim of life is to reach the perfectness of total knowledge, to be one with Brahman, which is only source of all knowledge, the Satchidananda, the truth, its realization and the ensuing bliss. The aim is settled. The question is of the means to achieve that end. That is what justifies the emphasis of yoga in life.

When the purpose of all life is to reach out to that state of highest gnosis- the consciousness of Brahman-, then if you are not striving to know Brahman, you are simply uselessly alive.

This striving for knowledge then becomes the obsession of life. And as we move nearer and nearer to this perfect knowledge consciousness, all activities of life, all karma that we are engaged in, get metamorphosed.

People often wonder why then we have to suffer these discomforts of old age. Could this transition not have been smooth and painless?

Indeed it is. God has no intention of imposing suffering on us willfully. What will He gain out of that? It is we who are the cause. If the body, which is a mere tool, has been properly used for the purpose it has been gifted to us, through out our life and previous lives, then the suffering is kept at bay. That explains why usually the yogis comparatively maintain a healthier body free of ailments as opposed to bhogis the indulgent ones. Old-age physical sufferings are sure proofs of past misuse of the body.

There is another misconception about praying for prolonging the life by men. It is true that this divine gift of tool, should not be wasted and made use of as long as it maintains its usability. But endless life does not serve any purpose for normal humans. We extract convenient meaning from the Isavasya Upanishad’s words;

Kurvan eva iha karmAni jijiviset satam samAh.

Only by remaining indulged in action (the right actions, or the divinely ordained actions) one should desire to live hundred years. The number hundred is not important here. It only denotes ‘sufficiently long’. Nor this sloka is a recipe for warding off death for long years. The stress is on ‘right actions’, and the noble desire to be able to be in service of God for long many years, by using this precious gift of human life in its only worthwhile way and as long as possible, for who knows, whether one can get a human form in the next life or not?

So continuing to make the right use of our life, becomes our only justification for prolonging our physical existence. That is why we have this inbuilt mechanism to resist decay.

When we talk of ‘long life’, the meaning of life is not merely continuing with a particular form nor ‘living’ or immortality means remaining for ever as one Raghunath, or a Elizabeth or Ahmed as we are. It is the continuation of the ‘being’, and progressive betterment, even after changing the names and forms that is the essence of immortality. It is some what like your remaining the same ‘you’ whether you were wearing a yellow dress yesterday or put on a red tunic today. Like the dresses you change the ‘being’ changes bodies. But the ‘being’ within the body remains the same. To stretch the idea from Sri Aurobindo- the material immortality is understood through the constant reproduction as a means for self preservation, self repetition and self multiplication through forms after forms. It is that unbroken thread that runs through all my forms is my immortality. So who says ‘I ever die?’ (read AHWAN October 2006 issue.)

In Sanatan philosophy death is never recognized. In our continuous existence we have a wonderful word used when we change the body. It is called ‘sadgati’. That is movement towards sat or Brahman.

Change of body is not an occasion for sadness. We did not grieve when childhood changed to youth. That is because we understood the advancement of years. Why then we can not understand the next change and why be afraid of it?

If you have made your preparations, accept the next gift from God with humbleness and grace. A better life always awaits next.

Based on the lectures by Sri Bimal Mohanty

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

2 comments:

nidhi said...

Nice post....I think the crux of this article is that we should always accept the change and must experience the continuity in it...contradictory but true....This article has refreshed my memories of Pondicherry workshop...now I am realizing certain things which were difficult to understand at that time for me

People for Social Cause said...

Thks for the comment,you are right.