GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU THOUGHT

VISION AND PRACTICE

 

BEACH 10: HINDUISM FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

 

 

Wave 8:  Frequently Asked Questions

 

 Why does Hinduism spiritualise every problem of life?

 

The fact that, in Hinduism, spirituality enters the picture even in secular questions and matters, is one of the most remarkable, but at the same time not well understood features of Hinduism. Hinduism believes that man’s quest for ultimate happiness does not stop with the the pursuit of material prosperity (artha), sensual satisfaction (kama) and perfection in moral and social behaviour (dharma).  It believes that there is a fourth objective which has to be pursued. Beyond a moral life in which you do good to society and to your brethren, there is also a life on the mental and emotional plane and also a life on the spiritual and mystic plane. It talks of inner strength and happiness which is ultimate. In fact , to be a perfect do-gooder to society the inner strength has to come from something beyond the three goals of life. So Hinduism orients even the pursuit of your daily life and your moral and social life in such a way that when the time comes to seek beyond, either in this life or in a later one, your habits and vAsanAs will not come in the way.

 

The Ultimate goal being the release from the cycle of births and deaths, anything that brings us back to this ephmeral world of action and reaction  is not the suprememost dharma. The theme therefore in all scriptural injunctions is: Time is running, life may end at any time, therefore do your dharma immediately.

 

A shloka of Bhartrhari (Vairagya-shatakaM: 43) is relevant here:

 

aadityasya gatAgataiH aharahaH samkShIyate jIvitaM

vyApArair-bahu-kArya-bhAra-gurubhiH kAlo’pi na jn~Ayate /

dRRiShTvA janma-jarA-vipatti-maraNaM trAsashcha notpadyate

pItvA moha-mayIM pramAda-madirAM unmatta-bhUtaM jagat //

 

Meaning: The Sun rises and sets. Day passes into night and night into day. But what is really happenin g is they are taking away our lives. But we are not even aware of the passage of time. Such is our deep involvement  in the weight of our businesses.We do not get a jolt of fear even after watching, almost daily, the inescapable sequence of birth, old age, adversity, misfortune, disaster, failure and final death. We are just overdrunk with the delusion of attachment which is our own making.

 

It is therefore necessary to work for the spiritual elevation well before the body gets weak and unhealthy, well before old age overtakes us, well before the limbs lose their power, well before one’s life is exhausted.  To wait and postpone spiritual activity until old age  is like starting to dig a well for water when the house has already begun  burning.  Cf. (BhartRhari: Vairagya-shatakaM, #75):

 

yAvat svastam-idam sharIram arujaM yAvaj-jarA dUrataH

yAvac-cendriya-shaktir-apratihatA yAvat-kShayo nAyuShaH /

Atma-shreyasi tAvadeva viduShA kAryaH prayatno mahAn

saMdIpte bhavane tu kUpa-khananaM pratyudyamaH kIdRRishaH //

 

This issue oif ‘Death on the Wings’ is always in the background and that is the motivation to spiritualise a Hindu’s entire approach to life, at all times.

 

One classical instance where this has been very forcefully brought out is Rama’s sermon to Bharata (in the Valmiki Ramayana) when the latter pleads with Rama in the forest to come back to Ayodhya and take back the throne that he had forsaken for the sake of the father’s word. The circumstances have never been more dramatic. Instead of simply declaring that Bharata cannot be obliged, since Rama has already decided to go byt his father’s command, whatever the consequences may be, Rama chose to make to make the issue of ‘death on the wings’ as the motivation to spiritualise the whole discussion. ‘What is ultimate?’, asks Rama.  Is it the temporary benefit to the ruler and the ruled of Ayodhya or is it the more fundamental values of each man’s evolution towards the Ultimate Supreme? Does the individual self have a freedom to argue from a point of view other than that of the Infinite Self embedded in it?

 

Why are you grieving, says Rama to Bharata, over inessential things – while your greatest obligation in life, namely, to be in concordance with the Supreme Self, is the summum bonum of all  dharmas? 

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Copyright © V. Krishnamurthy April 15, 2005