Manual for Living Life
I am glad to note the overwhelming responses from you for the new topic on "Pragmatic Spirituality" which I did not expect as the modern mind is more engaged in indulgence and least interested in spirituality. In addition, there is a misconception about each concepts and spirituality is not an exception. I am of the view that spirituality is also a science like physics or chemistry, which has many material values. All of us without any exception have opinion about everything whether it is understood or not which Joel Barker called it as “Paradigms”. In fact for forming opinion, understanding it is not mandatory – In fact one who understands never forms any opinion!! One of the definitions of knowledgeable person is “One who knows what he does not know”.
When we buy a gadget we are given a ‘User manual’, which tells us how to use that gadget without which we cannot take the full benefit of that gadget. Similarly when we have born no one gave us any manual as to ‘How to live life?’ In the absence of this user manual, we keep committing mistakes and suffer till the wisdom dawns on us when we have almost finished our life and left with few overs to score! Unfortunately parents, teachers or society did not teach us how to live life in “Peace”. One thing we were well taught is to chase wealth, power and fame endlessly and pay the price. We always get confused between “Comfort” & “Happiness” as the later is the end objective and the former is the means. Many times we are “Comfortably miserable”. Whether one pursues material or spiritual both these path requires a ‘Use manual’. After getting exposed to few Vedic concepts I tend to feel it is the ‘User manual’ for our life irrespective of which path we undertake. Paradoxically we live in a country of Veda but ignorant of our roots while people from the west know more about our Veda than anyone in our own country.
As you all gave a go ahead let me share more practical concepts in this series which will help you to enhance your effectiveness in material pursuits at the same time ensure peace of mind. In this episode I wish to share the concept of KARMA, which has many connotations and understanding. Let us explore deep into this concept, which help you to focus on whatever you do during your waking hours.
What is Karma?
The simplest meaning of the word “KARMA” is "ACTION" or activity - the essence of life. When we were in the womb of the mother when the sperm took the shape of a living being the "Activity" started right at that moment by the way of cell multiplying into various organs and later the heart started beating on its own. As Swami Vivekananda once said, “If the wrist watch functions in a pre-determined way, there is a designer who designed it that way; if you believe that there is a designer for a wrist watch, there must be one who made this most complex universe”. The planets are in a continuous motion as the atoms in the subatomic levels. The scientist says, that if the atom becomes static, the material will disintegrate. Hence the creation manifest in many forms of life, which has one common phenomenon, which is “Activity” – which is in constant flux of motion. All living organisms are destined to ‘act’ as long as it is alive. Inaction is the epitome of ‘death’. Have you ever seen a fish without motion? Lord Krishna advises Arjuna when he was in a hysterical state in the Kurukshetra that “You have no escape from action as long as you breathe”.
These actions continue till we are alive. When we came to this physical World which mankind called it as "birth" we immediately started breathing unconsciously, which was absent while we were in the womb. If the newborn child is not breathing, the doctors hold it upside down and give a pat on the back! I don't know how we survived without breathing while we were in the womb floating in water! Ever since the birth the activity continues playing as a toddler, studying as a student and various other Activities there after. Veda calls these actions or activities as "Karma". In our adult life all activities are directed towards only one motive and that is "Making money" with a belief that some day we will be happy. For peace of mind through spiritual understanding one needs to know the effect of karma and with what frame of mind we need to indulge.
Types of Karma?
The actions we undertake belong to three types of Karma and they are "NITHYA KARMA", "NAIMITHYA KARMA" and "NISHIDDHA KARMA".
NITHYA KARMA as the name implies are the daily chors such as brushing our teeth, taking bath, eating our food, sleeping etc. which one has to do all the time till we are alive. These are looking like mundane but they are helping us to keep us physically healthy, as our body is the temple in which the divine essence resides. By looking after the temple we are keeping the sanctum of the deity.
NAIMITHYA KARMA is the activity we perform to give happiness to our fellow human beings such as helping others, attending social functions such as marriage or visiting some one when they are suffering due to illness or bereavement etc. Many of us are very weak in this department and resent spending our time seeing someone in hospital or attend marriage when invited. When we invite someone for a wedding we are very eager to see the people around during the occasion as that gives immense happiness. Similarly when we go through tough time in life, we expect our friends and relatives to enquire about it, which gives solace during distress. Alas! What a contradictory expectations – what we want is never extended to others! But someone invites us we think that our absence won't make a difference. This thinking is like the story where everyone poured water in the tank when the king requested each citizen to pour milk for feeding poor children. Each one thought that his cup of water would not be noticed when everyone would pour milk. Eventually the king found tank full of water!
NISHIDDHA KARMA is the activities we are not supposed to do which injures the other living beings or disrupt the social arrangement such as taking bribe, hurting someone, causing nuisance in public, gossiping etc. In Kaliyuga most of the activities belong to this category unfortunately. We will discuss how these karma lead to the outcome in the topics below.
We are always engaged in one of these Karmas during our waking hours and while we are sleeping the mind projects the effects of these Karma in some forms.
What is the effect of Karma?
Veda proclaims that every action leaves an impression in our being in the sub-conscious mind, which is referred as "VASANA" - the nearest English word for VASANA is ‘smell’. The reason why Veda refers this, as VASANA as it is like the fragrance of the flower, which permeates through the air – our Vasana’s permeate through our attitudes and actions. We can recognize the smell although cannot see it similar to recognizing the attitude of the person. As Sukhbodananda once said, “if you carry a jasmine flower in your pocket it's smell can be recognized even when others cannot see it”. Similarly, the VASANAS of a person can be recognized by their behavior. We are able to know intuitively the intention of the other person by merely listening to them. Our personality is the some total of our VASANAS.
How VASANA is formed?
The VASANA encrustations happen by the process described here. All starts with the quality of thought, which leads to actions that ends as VASANA and the cycle repeats. This could be observed in the criminals who once become a theief they remain as they are in spite of their punishments. The moment they are out of jail they repeat the same crime once again helplessly. If we have to improve the quality of our VASANAS we need to guard our thoughts. You may ask how thoughts are controlled? Human beings are empowered with “Rationale” to evaluate the implications of our actions. Using this intellectual faculty one can choose their destiny.
What is the effect of VASANAS?
The Hindu philosophy believes in reincarnation, which means that our soul will manifest in different life form after the death of our body and this will continue till it is liberated and merges with the divine essence. It is said, that this repetition of birth and death is the function of accumulation of VASANAS. The state of Nirvana is when there is zero balance of VASANA in our being which is the precondition for merging with divine which ceases the reincarnations. All those who are pursuing spirituality are aiming to find a way of purgating their VASANA so that they can get enlightened.
What is the application of Karma in material Life?
1. Don’t resent actions and that is all you have in your life.
2. Ensure that you don’t indulge in “Nishiddha Karma”
3. Understand your role in the society and ensure that you don’t miss your “Naimithya Karma” – you will enjoy it.
4. Carry out all activities with a “Devotion” to lord as you are carrying out His intentions.
5. Be passionate about the actions and it will make a mark.
6. Don’t have selfish motives in all your actions as it accumulates “Vasana”
7. At least do one “Act” a day that makes someone happy and smile.
8. Remember – “Vasana” will endlessly bring you back to this planet till you purgate them.
9. Vasana purgation will happen only when you act without any expectations!
10. What does this mean? We will see in the next episode.
May Lord bless you.