Article and Book Extracts by Arun Kumar
Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the great master of Advaita who lived in the early part of the 8th Century said, “Brahma satya jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah”. It means Brahman (name of the Ultimate Reality) is the only truth, the world is illusory, and there is ultimately no difference between the individual Self and the Brahman.
Mithya means neither true nor false. The world cannot be false because we all clearly see and perceive it. Shankaracharya says that the world is not true either, because it is constantly changing and everything that the world has to offer is temporary, transient and impermanent.
A fine dining experience gives us joy. Try doing it continuously for a few days and one would start nauseating. A trip to a nice resort is highly relaxing. After just a few days the charm of the place wears out. Eagerly awaited vacation trip to someplace, after hectic running around and visiting various tourist sites for days, finally the heart cries “Home! Sweet Home!!” and longs for the comfort of the home.
That’s why Shankara calls this world as Mithya which means anything in this world can only give temporary happiness and not permanent happiness.
We forget the happenings in our dream very quickly. The experience we have in the waking world also we do forget but slowly over the time. This is what is conveyed by the adage “And, this too, shall pass away”. This temporariness, irrelevance, impermanence of everything related to the outer world and the similarity of the experience with the dream world is what made Shankara term the world as neither false nor real, but illusory and need not be given any importance apart from what is required practically to transact.
In saying “Jivo brahmaiva naparah”, Shankara is conveying that the realization of the individual Self, Atman, Life Energy in its purest form (without the ego) is nothing but realizing the Brahman, the Almighty Energy. The same opinion is echoed by the ancient Greek aphorism “Know Thyself” which is inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. These sayings assert that one learns more by studying oneself (Svadhyaya) by making the mind calm and quiet and directing the single-pointed concentration inwards.
To achieve the goal of Brahman, Shankara proposes “Sadhana Chatushtaya”, the four-fold qualifications namely; Viveka (Reasoning), Vairagya (Dispassion), Shad Sampath (Six Treasures) and Mumukshutva (Burning Desire). Shad Sampath (Six Treasures) are Sama (Control of the mind), Dama (Control of the senses), Uparathi (Internal dispassion), Titiksha (Endurance), Shraddha (Faith) and Samadhana (Focus and Concentration). More elaborate articulation on Sadhana Chatushtaya could be the topic of another article.
Now coming to the main point of writing this article. Should Sadhana Chatushtaya be used only to pursue the goal of Self-Realization, Moksha or can it be used to pursue any other goal as well? Does that mean one cannot have the ambition to achieve anything in this world just because world is Mithya?
For example, the same Shankara’s principles could be very well applied by a professional also to become a better professional and succeed in achieving the desired goals in one’s profession. Viveka means doing the necessary thinking, reasoning and meticulous planning. Vairagya means being dispassionate and disinterested in everything that is not connected with the goal. Shad Sampath is controlling the mind (Sama), controlling the action (Dama), internal dispassion towards distractions (Uparati), enduring the obstacles (Titiksha), believing or having faith and confidence in one’s abilities (Sharaddha) and having complete focus and concentration towards the goal (Samadhana). Finally, the Mumukshatva is having the burning desire to attain the goal.
According to me one idea used in one field could very well be used in another field if applicable. Arjuna in the Mahabharata was a warrior by profession. Krishna preaches Advaita through Bhagavad-Gita and does not ask him to run away, rather instills confidence in him to fight the battle valiantly to succeed, but all the time having the clear knowledge and understanding of Advaitic principles.
Vedantic literature also talks about four Ashramas that are mentioned in mentioned in Jabala Upanishad (4.1) and Yajnavalkya Upanishad (1.1). They are Brahmacharya (student life), Grihastha (household life), Vanaprastha (retired life) and Sanyasa (renounced life).
Grihastha is the married life and this stage represents most intense physical, sexual, emotional, occupational, social and material attachments. A human being is supposed to love the family, live the life cheerfully and fulfill one’s responsibilities as a parent, spouse, caretaker, breadwinner for the family, etc. Everyone is encouraged to pursue Artha (wealth) and Kama (desires) vigorously without crossing the boundaries of Dharma (righteousness). In this stage, Vedanta urges everyone to fully indulge in the world and enjoy all the worldly pleasures without violating any ethics or morality.
Swami Vivekananda concurs by saying, “Fulfill your desire for power and everything else, and after you have fulfilled the desire, will come the time when you will know that they are all very little things; but until you have fulfilled this desire, until you have passed through that activity, it is impossible for you to come to the state of calmness, serenity, and self-surrender”.
Interestingly this is exactly what Socrates says, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, urging us to indulge in the worldly things so that we can have a deep comprehension of the world, clearly understand and realize the transient and momentary happiness they provide. It was the same poverty-stricken Socrates while striding through the city’s busy central marketplace, looking at the mass of several things for sale, he would harrumph provocatively, “How many things I have no need of! “. That’s the sign of the wise who have developed Vairagya (dispassion).
Definitely, a Grihastha can fully engage with the world, accepting and discharging one’s responsibilities and at the same time be firmly grounded in Advaitic principles just like Arjuna did or king Janaka did. For such a Grihastha there comes a stage to move on to the next Ashrama which is Vanaprastha where the only responsibility or goal that remains is the pursuit of Brahman or Self-Realization.
Paragraphs in Blue font are direct extracts from my book “Pearls of Vedic Wisdom to Succeed”.
You can read more about the book at www.SentientLifeEnergy.com