SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
People who are solely intent upon getting material wealth, worldly success, prosperity and power, plan and direct their lives in the manner suited to the achievement of their ambitions. They exert to their utmost in getting success and crowning themselves with glory. Eagerly they long to appear in the eyes of others as men of position and possessions. Everybody desires popularity, fame, social distinction and success in every undertaking. Everyone sets about equipping himself with all the modern accomplishments, moves restlessly in fashionable societies and ever devises ways and means for gaining predominance over all people and things–this seems to be the sole aim in life.
But after this height of success, which is unstable and fleeting, where are we? The apparent success is never sustaining and all our hopes seem to be shattered to bits; clouds of anxiety and pessimism begin to gather around us and threaten us with nightmare speculations of an undefined future. Set-backs and disappointments appear one by one at every stage. Man’s shrewdness and keen acumen fail to impress before the hard facts of life. He fails in the first few attempts and is forthwith plunged into despondency. His intelligence, smartness, refinement and adaptability fly away at the first test. He is discouraged, becomes restless, curses his fate and scowls at his brethren. He is completely disillusioned. He goes about with a woe-begone face, like one being called to his doom.
Man! Cheer up; it is not these trifles that are going to help you to the last. All these are perishable; you are the imperishable child of that Eternal; you have only lost the right track. Shake off all despondency and the allied misery. Free yourself from all imaginary pains. Realise that you are, in truth, meant for something grandeur, something more and higher than becoming the slave of the fleeting and short-lived pleasures of this world. Realise that you are meant for a more noble life of dedicated righteous service, true devotion and a life based on wisdom. Understand that this selfless service benefits both the server and the served. This alone makes life fruitful and paves the way for the other two. Have faith in the benevolent Lord. Who is the source of all sustaining happiness and real blessedness.
No one but the righteous can be truly happy. No one but he who has the correct sense of service and the will for its implementation can be said to live worthily. One must be imbued with a definite conviction about the supremacy of the moral principles, ethical values and spiritual ideals that should guide one’s day-to-day actions and serve as a powerful means for the culture of the human personality. This is the main aim and purpose of life. If anything justifies life, it is the law of righteousness. Righteousness is not merely something of a moral code; it is the basic principle which upholds life. It fulfils one’s responsibility as a unit of society, affirms the dignity of the human being and his dedication to the ideals of truth and justice, uplifting him from all that is vulgar, mean, evil and inequitable.
The pleasures of this world, born of the contact of the senses with their objects, are the sources of pain; they are fleeting and impermanent, and therefore men of wisdom do not take delight in them. Objective experience of all descriptions, both pleasant and unpleasant, pulls the mind out of its own source–the Atman within. Every moment of such separation of the mind and the Atman is one of pain only. Whether the sensation which draws the mind away is agreeable and therefore pleasant or whether it is disagreeable and therefore painful, the fact is that it keeps the mind away from the fountain, source of Bliss, the Atman; and hence (whether one feels so at the moment or not) all such experiences are truly painful. That is why the sages declared: ‘Sarvam Duhkham Vivekinah’,–Everything is ultimately painful in this phenomenal world! This is not a pessimistic attitude of life, but is glorious optimism. It is certainly the statement of a fact. Such declarations of the scriptures are intended to arouse dispassion in the mind of man, to fan the fire of discrimination in him. The true aspirant tries to free himself from the desire-filled activities, practises self-restraint and tries to attune himself to the Lord. In other words, the aspirant endeavours to discard his lower nature and completely resigns his personality to the Higher Nature.
Withdraw the mind and the senses from the objects. Collect all the dissipated rays of the mind and direct the concentrated beam of the mind-light on the inner chamber of the heart. It will rend asunder the thick veil of ignorance that hides the entrance to the chamber of bliss, the abode of the Atman. You will for ever enjoy perennial peace and eternal joy. Is this pessimism? No, it is the most glorious optimism. But he who would enjoy this ineffable bliss must pay the price; and that price is Vairagya, or dispassion born of discrimination between the Real and the unreal.
A sceptic may ask; if sense-pleasures are the sources of pain, then why does man not turn away from them as readily as he turns away from pain? This may appear to be a difficult question to answer. The mysterious power of the Lord clouds man’s understanding, hides the Real from his view and projects an unreality. Under its intoxicating influence man tries to grab the shadow and misses the substance. It deludes man at every step. Just as a frog in the jaws of death, being half swallowed by a snake, puts out its tongue eagerly to catch a fly that happens to be fluttering before it; man, who at birth brought with him the one certain event of death, clutches at every passing phantom and vainly hopes to quench his thirst in a mirage. The power of Maya is so formidable that it places obstacles in the path of even advanced Sadhakas. The aspirant has to be eternally vigilant till he enjoys the highest bliss, becoming one with the Supreme Being. The Sadhakas should generate Nirodha-Samskaras (impressions of suppression of evil impressions) and feel that the Self alone is bliss, all else being misery only.
Divine Life is the way to achieve this result easily. If the aspirant practises Ahimsa, Satya and Brahmacharya (non-injury, truth and continence) in thought, word and deed; if he is regular in his Sadhana (of Japa, Dhyana, Svadhyaya (reading the holy scriptures); Sankirtana and selfless service); if he tries to pierce through names and forms and see his own Self in everything; he will receive the Lord’s Grace quickly, and with this Grace he will cross the formidable ocean of this life. Divine life is, therefore, life in God. Wherever you are, you will actually feel that the Lord is ever within you and everywhere about you. Whatever you do, you will feel that you are doing it for His sake only. In everyone you see, you will see Him alone. You will love all as the manifestation of God. You will serve all as though you are serving Him. Here and now, living on this very earth, you will live in your own paradise made of the essence of God. Your life itself will become godly; your inherent nature that is unalloyed bliss will shine forth from within you.