|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Unit - 05
Lesson - 0505: Five Steps to Attain Focused Mind
By Raja Subramaniyan
The initial parts of the Vedas prescribe Active Dharma, which is essential for the human kind to rise above the level of living like animals. However, it keeps them within the spectrum of material pursuit. Material pursuit will never lead them to fulfillment.
Those who are intelligent will soon realize the limitations of material pursuit and start looking beyond it. For such people Vedanta prescribes Passive Dharma and guides them in spiritual pursuit.
To graduate from Active Dharma and to progress into Passive Dharma, one has to do Karma Yoga. To do Karma Yoga, the mind should be focused on the destination (Joyful Living) and the path (Self-Knowledge). The minds that oscillate between multiple destinations (Professional growth or Family bonding or friendship) and multiple paths (earning money or trying to become famous or gaining power) cannot adhere to the strict prescription of Karma Yoga.
It is not possible for everyone to attain the mental focus that is required to commence Karma Yoga.
Example: In a school, the final year exam could be attempted only by those who have finished 12 years of study. A student in the eighth grade cannot attempt or hope to pass the final exam. However, he is not condemned to remain in the school forever. He has to do well in the eighth grade exam and then move on to ninth. In due course, he will also pass the final exam.
Similarly, depending on the level of intelligence, people have to cross five different steps to reach the eligibility to do Karma Yoga.
Step 1: Understanding the importance of sense objects
Those who live without any aim in life should get motivated to work hard and gain material comforts. One should not be satisfied with eating - sleeping and live a passive life. Importance of achieving material success should be understood and one should start working towards it.
In this step, people are expected to feed the physical body well and indulge in sense pleasures.
This is the lowest level and there are many people in this step. They need to cross at least two more steps before reaching the level of listening to the Gita.
Step 2: Limiting the necessity of sense objects
When one crosses the first step, he is likely to go at full speed in acquiring material comforts. In the second step, people should start limiting the urge to acquire more. Once money starts coming in, one will start investing and multiplying it as much as possible. This will become the prime occupation.
To progress to the next level, the aspirant should limit his personal requirements.
In this step, people should limit the indulgence in the physical and sense pleasures and should move on to seek mental satisfaction.
Step 3: Understanding the importance of knowledge
After crossing the first two steps, one should move on to gain more knowledge in the area of philosophy and religion. Up to the previous step, he would have gained knowledge and skill relating to his profession. In this step, one should gain higher level of level of intelligence to question the nature of life, world and God.
One should read, listen and discuss to gain knowledge that is beyond the routine professional knowledge that is required to do well in the profession.
Step 4: Understanding the dualistic nature of the world
The world will always oscillate between the pairs of opposites, namely, Gain and Loss, Pleasure and Pain, Prosperity and Poverty, Fame and Blame, Love and Hate, Friendship and Enmity, Victory and Defeat, Health and Ill health. By definition, all human beings are subject to this swing and there are no exceptions.
This is true at the macro level and at the micro level.
At the macro level, it is impossible to bring about a world, which is free of war, hunger, famine and such social evils.
At the micro level, our life will always cyclically bring about pleasure and pain. Every day we will encounter situations of varying degree of pleasure and pain. Every year will present varying situations. The whole life comprises of pairs of opposites. For example, in youth, we have better health and in old age we suffer from poor health. Just as birth and death are two sides of the same coin, the pairs of opposites are always connected.
We need to understand that it is impossible to change the world or our personal life to ensure that we encounter only the positive situations. The negative situations cannot be avoided.
This understanding is crucial for commencing Karma Yoga. If we do not have this understanding, we might continue to spend our effort to control the word and not commence Karma Yoga.
Step 5: Understanding the limitation of the sense objects
All of us want to live happily all the time and avoid suffering completely. There is no exception to this universal desire. However, most of us are not clear about how this Joyful Living, which is the ultimate goal in life, could be fulfilled.
Material pursuit means trying to be happy by earning money, wealth, name, fame, award, reward, people, property, position, power, status, comforts and companionship. Activities like praying to god and following religious rituals FOR earning money, wealth, name, fame, etc are also material pursuit.
Spiritual pursuit means trying to be happy through the practice of Bhakthi Yoga which includes Karma Yoga, Upasana Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
Most of us wrongly assume that the material pursuit is for the youth to live successfully in this world and spiritual pursuit is for the old to take care of life after death. This wrong assumption is due to insufficient exposure to the Holy Scriptures.
We need to understand that the spiritual pursuit alone can take us to our goal of happiness and the material pursuit is just a stepping-stone. It is impossible for material pursuit to give us everlasting happiness.
Example: Eating Ice Cream might give us pleasure, which is temporary in nature. It cannot give eternal fulfillment.
Nothing in the universe can give us eternal contentment.
Teaching 18: Spiritual pursuit ALONE can lead us to Joyful Living
There are three ways one can realize this truth.
One: By working hard in life, one can earn all the benefits of material pursuit. Eventually one will realize that he is chasing a mirage and the material pursuit will never lead to the ultimate goal of Joyful Living.
Two: By observing other people or studying the history, it can be seen that every possible goal is already accomplished by some. However, those who have accomplished what we want to achieve in life have not yet reached the destination. Therefore, it is not possible for us to gain Joyful Living even if we reach our goal.
Three: A great tragedy strikes us (as it happened to Arjuna) and then we realize the futility of prosperity. No material accomplishment can help us avoid that tragedy and then we turn our attention to spiritual accomplishment.
It does not matter which of the three ways helps us to see the limitation of the material pursuit. We must see it clearly. If we do not, we will attempt to do Karma Yoga as yet another means to our (material) goal. Karma Yoga is the stepping stone to gain self-knowledge which will enable us to reach our goal of Joyful Living. If we do not understand this statement, then we will not have the steady and focused mind to do Karma Yoga.
When a person crosses these five steps, he will gain the mental focus that is required to commence Karma Yoga.
Karma Yoga will promote one from Active Dharma to Passive Dharma. Passive Dharma does not mean he will be less active.
Example: After completing the school, one enters the university. The number of hours, one spends in the classroom, listening lectures may come down. However, one is expected to work much harder in the university than in the high school.
Similarly, one who enters Passive Dharma will be working harder than the one who is still in the phase of Active Dharma. Passive Dharma will lead one to Joyful Living. After attaining the goal of Passive Dharma, one will become independent.
Teaching 19: Vedas are irrelevant for those who know how to live joyfully
For those who know how to live joyfully there are no more rules and regulations. There is no need to work more or less. One can enjoy life all the time. Since Vedas have served their purpose, one will no longer require them. One will move beyond Active Dharma and Passive Dharma.
Example: In a place where tap water is available in plenty, no one will use the well.
Similarly, after entering the phase of Joyful Living (by completing Passive Dharma) one will not use Active Dharma or Passive Dharma since they have served the purpose and he has reached the destination.
Destination is a place where there is no need to travel any further. There is nothing more to do or learn. Karma Yoga will lead one to this destination.
Lord Krishna shows this destination and asks Arjuna to act and do Karma Yoga so that he can also reach this destination.
Chapter 2: Wisdom is the solution [Verses: 45 - 46]
2.45 The Vedas mainly deal with the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, Oh Arjuna. Transcend all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties of acquisition and preservation and be established in the Atman.
2.46 For a wise person, the benefit he can gain from Vedas is same as the benefit a small pond can give when there is flood everywhere.