The Vedic tradition advises that we should not become excessively attached to what we have nor accumulate more than we need. When we have more than needed we should distribute it, give it away, and not let it burden us down. And we should keep in mind that the ultimate time to lose is the time of death, when one is forced to lose everything.
The Bhagavad Gita says that so long as we try to exploit and enjoy the resources of the world as though they were ours to do with as we like, we can never have peace, individually or collectively. Only when a sincere search for truth brings us to acknowledge the higher owner of all the planets of the universe, the higher enjoyer of all that the world provides, the higher friend of all living beings – only then can we have a time of peace, within the world or at least within our own selves. Perhaps for you and me, if we’re serious and sincere, the time is not too late.
According to Vedic teachings, we all have four defects: imperfect senses, a tendency to make mistakes, a tendency to get carried away by illusion, and a tendency to cheat. Despite our imperfect senses, our proneness to make mistakes and get bewildered, we come on like we’ve figured it all out. Isn’t that cheating?
Direct experience and inductive reasoning may be fine within limits, but when we come to the ultimate questions these methods fail, and so we ” cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Even if we think that there is no God, that nature runs on its own course, we cannot be sure of either. Nor figure out how or why existence pops into existence, nor where it’s finally headed or why. Finally whatever we think and however much we think, the secret remains secret. As we find in the epic Mahabharata, acintyaa khalu ye bhaavaa na taams tarkena yojayet: ” That which lies beyond the power of thought cannot be understood by logic.”
The Bhagavatam refers to material pleasures of eating, drinking, accumulating, sex as “chewing the chewed again and again.” We try something and extract a little joy, and then try the same thing again, with diminished results, and then try it yet again. Soon whatever we are trying becomes dry, tasteless, and frustrating, but for lack of anything better we keep trying, “chewing the chewed,” imagining there’s still more joy to be had from it.
The Vedic sages advise that one not work for happiness at all. Happiness, they say will come of its own accord. After all, no one seeks misery – no one works for it or stands in line for it – yet misery comes anyway, on its own. Then why not happiness as well? By nature’s way, each time a living being is born his physical embodiment brings along with it a certain quota of happiness and distress. Both will find us, in whatever measure we are destined to receive. The Srimad Bhagavatam therefore advises the one work only to keep body and soul together, for the sake of the true human project of spiritual inquiry. That alone should be the purpose of one’s work.
This, the Bhagavatam says, is the actual gift given by God for a human being: the ability to inquire about our purpose for existing, about ultimate meaning. But if that’s not the gift we want, God( or nature, if you will) has others to offer – in essence, the same gifts offered to other creatures; some food, something to drink, some sex. And for such rewards a life of hard work.
Enjoyments born of stimulation for the senses are themselves the very source of misery. they have a beginning and an end, and one who is wise does not delight in them: says, Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Some may think a virtuous or religious life is worthwhile because it will bring us prosperity, which will enable us to enjoy in this earth or in heaven after death.But this is materially motivated and therefore spiritual fraud. The Bhagavatam rejects such fraudulent dharma and invites us to discriminate between reality and illusion for the sake of our ultimate welfare and the attainment of the highest truth.
Prana can be called the vital or living force. It is a force common to all living beings. And it is something other than an immortal spirit or soul. Prana is related with respiration, and yet it is different from mere air. It is more subtle. According to the Upanishads, the tiny atma, or spark of consciousness, rests on five kinds of prana, or the air of life moving in five subtle ways – moving upward and downward, shrinking and expanding, and so on. Pranayama is an exercise meant to control the movements of the inner prana in such a way so as to liberate one’s consciousness from all material contact. True pranayama is very difficult to practise. At death, the prana leaves the body and the body returns to dust for all living beings. So in life and in death many things are common to all living beings. The special feature of human beings is dharma, spirituality. Without this, the human being and the animal are the same. A human being devoid of dharma is no better than a beast.
For the Vedic tradition, the first topic of inquiry is: Who am I? The I is the spark of consciousness resting on the prana. The Mundaka Upanishad says, esho ‘nur aatmaa cetasaa veditavya: This tiny atma can be known by intelligence. That is, by sharp discrimination.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks to Arjuna about the nature of the atma. He says:
The knowers of the truth have studied two kinds of entities – the non existent( that which does not endure, is temporary) and the existent( that which endures, is eternal).
The one that endures is the atma which is indestructible and imperishable. There is never birth or death for that. It never comes into being: it always exists, birthless, deathless, permanent.
Life and matter are different, one conscious and eternal, the other temporary and unconscious. Life here means the atma. We can see that the person remains the same from birth to death though his body changes, his mind changes. Similarly when the body dies, this park moves to another body, another birth, another lifetime. Just like we change clothes but we are still the same.
The atma cannot be pierced by weapons, or burned by fire, or moistened by water or withered by the wind. Some see it as amazing, some speak of it as amazing, some hear of it as amazing, and some, despite having heard of it, just do not know what it is.
The Vedic literature, when speaking of the miseries we suffer in this world, under the sun, groups them into three: First come those caused by the great forces of nature: droughts, floods, typhoons, snow-storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, scorching heat, freezing cold and similar natural afflictions and disasters. Then there are miseries caused by our own bodies and minds: our myriad of physical troubles and diseases and the countless doubts, burdens, distresses, upheavals, embarrassments, confusions, and agonies the ind forces us to endure. And finally there are miseries caused by other living beings: flies, rats,
mosquitoes, viruses, poisonous plants, howling dogs and worst of all, our fellow human beings.