The Secret of Life


Sri Swami Sivananda

What is life? Is it merely the act of breathing or respiration or digestion or excretion or the acts of metabolism, anabolism, catabolism, the constructive or destructive changes that ever go on in the physical organism or human body or economy of nature? Is it mere thinking or planning or scheming to earn money or name and fame? Is it the act of procreation to keep up the line? Is it the sum-total of all these processes? Or is it the movement of the protoplasm in the unicellular organism, amoeba, with its single nucleus? Scientists and biologists have a very different conception of life. Philosophers like Sri Sankara have quite a different conception of life.

Life is of two kinds, viz., life in matter and life in the Atman or the Spirit or Pure Consciousness. Biologists, physiologists and psychologists hold that life consists of thinking, feeling, knowing, willing, digestion, excretion, circulation, respiration, etc. This kind of life is not everlasting. This is attended with dangers, pains, fear, cares, anxieties, worries, exertion, sin, birth and death with their concomitant evils, viz., old age, diseases, etc. Therefore, sages and seers, Rishis, prophets and saints who have realised their inner Self by discipline of the mind and the organs, by Tyaga and Tapas, by Vairagya and Abhyasa, by leading a life of self-denial, self-sacrifice and self-abnegation, have emphatically, without a shadow of doubt, like an Amalaka fruit in the hand, declared that a life in the Atman or pure Spirit alone can bring everlasting peace, infinite bliss, supreme joy, eternal satisfaction and immortality. They have prescribed various definite methods for Self-realisation according to various temperaments, capacities and tastes of individuals. Those who have implicit faith in their teachings, in the Vedas and in the words of the Guru or spiritual preceptor march fearlessly in the field of spirituality or Truth, and obtain freedom or perfection or salvation. They do not come back to this Mrityu Loka (mortal world). They rest in Satchidananda Brahman or their own Svarupa. This is the goal of human life. This is the highest aim of life. This is the final destination which bears various names as Nirvana, Parama Gati, Param Dhama and Brahma-Sthiti. Self-realisation is your highest duty.

This does not mean, however, that we should ignore the life in the physical plane of matter. Matter is the expression of God or Brahman for His own Lila. Matter and Spirit are inseparable like heat and fire, cold and ice, and flower and fragrance. Sakti (power) and Sakta (he who possesses power) are one. Brahman and Maya are inseparable and one. A life in the physical plane is a definite preparation for the eternal life in Brahman. World is your best teacher; the five elements are your Gurus. Nature is your mother and director. Prakriti is your silent master. World is the best training ground for the development of various divine virtues such as mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, universal love, generosity, nobility, courage, magnanimity, patience, will-power, etc. World is an arena for fighting with the diabolical nature and for expressing divinity from within. The central teaching of the Gita and the Yoga-Vasishtha is that one should realise his Self by remaining in the world. ‘Be in the world, but be out of the world. Behave like the water on the lotus-leaf’. Give up the lower Asuric nature which consists of selfishness, lust, anger, greed, hatred and jealousy and assert the divine nature, a life of mental renunciation and self-sacrifice.

Is there not a nobler mission in life than eating, drinking and sleeping? It is difficult to get a human birth; therefore try your best to realise in this birth. Time sweeps away kings and barons. Where is Yudhishthira? Where is Ashoka? Where is Valmiki? Where is Shakespeare? Where is Napolean? Therefore be up and doing in Yogic Sadhana and you will enjoy supreme bliss. Can you expect real Santi if you waste your time in hunting after the momentary pleasures of the senses and this worldly life? Can you enjoy real happiness if you waste your time in fights and quarrels or in idle gossiping?

To live is to fight for the ideal and goal. Life is conquest. Life is a series of awakenings. Conquer your mind and the senses. These are the real enemies. Conquer your internal and external nature. You must conquer your environments, old evil habits, old evil Samskaras, evil thoughts and evil Vasanas. You must fight against the antagonistic, dark, evil forces. You must resist the forces of degeneration.

This life is meant for Self-realisation. Do regular Sankirtan and realise the Atmic Bliss. Do Nishkama Karma Yoga and purify your heart and mind. Control the Indriyas and rest in your own Svarupa. When you get knocks and blows in the daily battle of life, the mind is duly turned towards the spiritual path. Then come Viveka, Vairagya, disgust for worldly things and desire for liberation. Practise deep meditation.

Life is short. Time is fleeting. This world is full of miseries. Cut the knot of Avidya and drink deep the nectar of Nirvanic Bliss.

Spiritual life is not mere idle talk. It is not mere sensation. It is a transcendental experience of unalloyed joy and bliss. It is a life of fullness and perfection. There is a place of eternal peace and infinite bliss where there is neither death nor desire, neither sorrow nor pain, neither doubt nor delusion. Do you not aspire to reach this immortal abode of perennial joy and happiness?

Discipline the mind and the senses. Cultivate noble virtues. Try to know the nature of the soul. Practise regular meditation on the Self. Then alone you will attain immortality and deep abiding joy. Then alone you will reach that immortal abode. Give up identification of your Self with the physical body. Identification of one’s Self with the body is the greatest crime. Give up planning and scheming. Abandon speculation. Relinquish cherished hopes, expectations and worldly ambitions. Kill desires. Rise above desires.

Live intelligently. Study the Upanishads thoroughly. Meditate regularly. Come out of the dungeon of ignorance. Bask in the glorious sunshine of Brahman. Share this knowledge with others. You are swayed by unholy desires and Avidya. Self-realisation is the goal of life. This is the end and aim of life, of human existence. Wake up from the dream of forms. Give up this clinging to false names and forms. Do not be deceived by these illusory names and forms. Cling to the solid, living Reality only. Love your Atman only. Atman or Brahman is the living Truth. Atman only persists. Live in the Atman. Become Brahman. This is the real life.

The practice of Karma Yoga prepares the mind of the aspirant for the reception of the Knowledge of the Self. It moulds him into a proper Adhikari or aspirant for the study of Vedanta. Ignorant people jump at once to the practice of Jnana Yoga without having any preliminary training in Karma Yoga. That is why they fail-miserably to realise the Truth. The impurities still lurk in their minds. The mind is filled with likes and dislikes. They only talk of Brahman. They indulge in all sorts of useless discussions, vain debates and dry endless controversies. Their philosophy is on their lips only. In other words they are lip-Vedantins. What is wanted is practical Vedanta through ceaseless, selfless service of the country and humanity in some form or other with Atma Bhava.

Kindle the light of love in your heart. Love all. Include all creatures in the warm embrace of your love. Cultivate Visva-Prema or all-embracing, all-inclusive Cosmic Love. Love is a mysterious divine glue that unites the hearts of all. It is a divine magical healing balm of a very high potency. Charge every action with pure love. Kill cunningness, greed, crookedness and selfishness. The Immortal can be attained only by performing acts of kindness continuously. Hatred, anger and jealousy are removed by continuous service with a loving heart. You will get more strength, more joy, and more satisfaction by doing kind acts. You will be loved by all. Practice of compassion, charitable acts and kind service purify and soften the heart, turn the heart-lotus upwards and prepare the aspirant for the reception of Divine Light.

May you enjoy deep abiding peace and perennial joy by leading an ideal Divine Life discharging the duties of the world, singing His Names with Sraddha or faith and devotion!

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