|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Unit - 06
Lesson - 0602: The Destination - Joyful Living [Session: 075 - 079]
By Raja Subramaniyan
Mental suffering is unique to human kind. Educated people seem to suffer more due to the accumulation of many negative emotions in the mind. It can be said to be a mental malady.
Mental suffering is due to negative emotions or having a mind that is prone to negative emotions.
How the suffering sets in
Each individual has different sets of likes and dislikes. During daily transactions, his sense organs are exposed to various sense objects in the world. Depending on his likes and dislikes, he is attracted to some, avoids some and remains neutral to the rest.
He spends time contemplating about what he likes. This develops into desire. Once he has a desire he works for fulfillment of the desire.
One likes many things and therefore, there are many sets of desires. The desires pertain to professional, family and personal life. He assumes that all these desires have to be fulfilled to assure a happy life. Therefore, all his actions are directed towards the same.
This is the fundamental mistake. No object in the world can give happiness. This knowledge is missing in most human beings.
Therefore, they are continuously engaged in action trying to fulfill various desires. Although many desires are fulfilled, new desires keep coming up since even after fulfillment of the desire, there is no sense of contentment.
The life of most people follows this pattern of continuous inflow of desires and incessant action towards fulfillment of the desires.
This situation is similar to the presence of HIV virus in the body. There is no harm done by its mere presence. Only when other viruses afflict the body suffering starts.
If a person does action without thinking, there will be no problem because he will be involved in continuous action chasing an ever-growing number of desires. However, this is not possible. Thinking starts from the time the sense organ encounters a sense object. Craving for the object begins. Life will become intolerably incomplete until the desires are fulfilled. There will be anxiety (about the future) and stress (about the present). There will be expectation and hope that things will turn out in a favorable way and that people around will help. Minor provocation will bring irritation. He will become short-tempered. He will fear anything/ anyone who is potentially an obstacle to the fulfillment of his desires. Any potential obstacle will create anger. Any shortfall/ shortcoming will result in displeasure. If his colleague or neighbor is ahead of him, he will develop jealousy and animosity. There will be a tendency to take revenge against those who cause obstruction. Failure without reason will lead to frustration/ shame/ disappointment. If the failure is due to insufficient self-effort, he will have a feeling guilt. Even if the effort is successful, often the result is perceived to be insufficient and therefore there will be a sense of disappointment and disillusionment. After getting, what he wants there will be fear of losing it. If what is gained is lost, there will be grief. The efforts do not end when the desires are fulfilled. There will be more action towards protection/ maintenance/ sustenance of the objects of desire. One will feel insecure whether it is possible to grow or maintain the current status, since old age is fast approaching.
This is a mental malady and most people suffer from this misery.
As a result, of the continuous action, the likes and dislikes get stronger resulting in coloring of thoughts.
Sense organs perceive the world
Thoughts are created in our mind
Thoughts become desires
Desires lead us to act
Repeated action forms a habit
Habits set our preferences
Preferences color our thoughts
Colored thoughts give us wrong knowledge
Wrong knowledge leads to further desires
Desire leads to further action for getting the object of desire
Most people are caught in this thought-action-thought cycle and undergo the various negative emotions listed above. This is suffering. Even when people are happy, they are prone to this suffering.
This is not a healthy or desirable situation. We should find a remedy to this problem and be happy all the time. No matter what happens around us we should remain in a state of happiness. This is called Joyful Living.
Lord Krishna prescribed Karma Yoga to Arjuna as a stepping-stone to Joyful Living. Prior to commencing Karma Yoga, Arjuna wants a description of a person who has reached the destination of Joyful Living. He wants to compare himself with such a person and do a self-assessment. Lord Krishna responds to Arjuna by giving a profile of a 'Joyous Person' and prescribes the method to become one, in the verses 54 to 72.
Description of Joyous Person
1. He will not have any desires.
Desires can be classified as binding and non-binding.
Everyone has both types of desires. Binding desire means that which is important to be fulfilled. If it is not fulfilled, there will be sorrow and if fulfilled, there will be happiness. Fulfillment or non-fulfillment of non-binding desires does not make such difference.
Example: I desire that I get a promotion, which is already overdue. This is a binding desire since it makes a difference. I will be happy if I get the promotion and will be very unhappy if I do not.
I desire to go out for a walk in the evening. This is a non-binding desire since even if I am not able go for some reason, it does not matter to me.
A Joyous Person will not have any binding desires. It does not make much difference to him whether any or all of his desires are fulfilled or not.
2. He will always be fully contended.
Every one of us is contented whenever our desires are fulfilled.
Example: A man is contented after he won a big lottery.
Every time we feel contented, there will be a reason for the contentment. However, for the Joyous Person there will be no external reasons for his contentment. He does not need anything from the universe to feel contented.
Contentment that comes from a reason will always be short lived. When the winner of the lottery realizes that he has to pay income tax on the prize money, he is not so contented.
A Joyous Person will be always contented. He will never have a feeling of insufficiency.
3. He will remain unaffected in pleasure or in pain.
Like anyone else, he will continue to face varied situations that alternate between the pairs of opposites. However, he will face both with a balanced mind. His contentment is not affected by the environment. He will not be attached to favorable situations and he will not run away from unfavorable situations.
Example: Viruses will continue to inflict everyone. A healthy person remains healthy because he is immune to all types of viruses. Others fall sick when the same virus attacks them because they are not immune.
Similarly, a Joyful Person will be free and joyful, whatever the circumstance may be.
4. He is free of all negative emotions.
He will not fear anything nor will he get angry. (He will not have any negative emotions like worry, anxiety, jealousy, irritation, frustration, insecurity, guilt etc). This is because desire is the root cause of all these negative emotions and he does not have any binding desires.
5. He knows the difference between reality and illusion.
He knows that he is the only reality and rest of the universe (including his body and mind) is an illusion. However, while interacting with the world, he will appear to be a normal person. Therefore, it is not possible to identify a joyous person based on his words and actions.
He sees the universe as an illusion sustained by the only reality, himself. The same universe is perceived differently by an ignorant and a Joyous Person. The Joyous Person sees the universe as the expression of the reality and the ignorant sees it as reality.
Ignorant people think, "I am doing this". A Joyous Person knows that he is not doing anything. The body and mind are part of the inert universe and individuals have no role to play in it. They are part of the illusion. People cannot do anything nor can they enjoy anything. The Ignorant assume they do.
We are part of the light and sound show. Nothing exists except me!
6. He does not have any attachment.
He will not be attached to anything because his peace, security and happiness do not depend on anything.
Explanation on attachment: This shows the mental attitude. Physical attachment will not lead to mental attachment for the Joyous Person. This does not mean a Joyous Person will not give a police complaint if there is a burglary in his house. His external response will be like any other person but mentally he will not be attached to his possessions.
7. He possesses and enjoys sense pleasures but does not depend on them.
He may possess and enjoy unlimited money, wealth, name, fame, power, position, property etc but will not have any attachment to any of them. He may continue to work for earning more wealth and appear to be a person serious in material pursuit. However, he remains unaffected if all his efforts fail, since he does not depend on the external world for his happiness.
8. He loves everyone and hates no one.
He will not blame anyone nor will he praise anyone. He will not have any expectation from anyone.
He will not show sympathy to anyone nor will he condemn anyone.
He understands that the attitude of anyone will depend on the knowledge one has. Knowledge comes through effective use of intelligence. Not everyone is capable of acquiring enough knowledge to discriminate the reality from the falsehood. As a result, every one functions according to his limited vision. Therefore, there is no point in condemning anyone.
9. All his five sense organs will be under his control.
The sense organs of a Joyous Person will also have preferences. However, he is their master. A tortoise is able to withdraw its five body parts into the shell at will when it is about to meet an enemy. Similarly, a Joyous Person has the ability to withdraw his sense organs from the external world whenever it is warranted.
For ordinary people this is not the case. For them the sense organs are more powerful. Sense objects in the world have the power to attract their sense organs. As a result, they will indulge in sense pleasures uncontrollably.
The difference between a Joyous Person and others in this respect is the knowledge about the worldly objects (including other living beings). Objects do not have the power to give happiness to anyone. A joyous person is aware of this. He is not dependent on the external universe for his happiness.
10. He has a steady mind.
His intelligence will be in control of the mind all the time and his mind will always be in control of the five senses. However, an external observer cannot identify a Joyous Person based on his transactions with the world.
A Joyous Person is capable of withdrawing his sense organs away from sense objects at will. However, while he is involved in regular worldly transactions, he might have to use the sense organs and as result, the sense organs gain undesirable input. Even if this happens, the Joyous Person is not adversely affected, since his intelligence has complete control over his mind. As a result, he remains steady in his knowledge.
Example: A Joyous Person may not read the newspaper. Therefore, he is protected from unwanted news about the world. (This is the case of withdrawing the sense organs like a tortoise)
However, if he has to read the newspaper for some reason, he gets to read about unwanted news and advertisements for sense pleasures. Since, his intelligence is strong enough he is not driven towards them.
This information may trigger a train of thoughts in his mind making it oscillate. Such a train of thoughts will not be labeled as 'anxiety', 'worry' and such negative emotion since he is aware that the nature of the mind is to oscillate depending on the inputs received through the sense organs.
He will get involved in the worldly transactions to the extent warranted by his non-binding desires. When transactions gain power to distract him from his firm knowledge, he has the capability to withdraw from the transactions. He will reenter after he regains control.
Example: An expert singer may not listen to the tambura continuously while singing. However, if he has a doubt he will lean back, listen, and regain control and confidence.
Thus, the Joyous Person will continuously immerse in the knowledge that the world is an illusion even if he does transactions in it. He has control over his sense organs and his mind so that he is not carried away into giving reality to the world.
Example: A yacht may be powered by the wind to move forward. However when the wind becomes heavy, it has the capability to drown the boat. By rolling down the sail at the appropriate time, a skillful sailor keeps the boat going whether the wind is strong or weak.
Thus, a Joyous Person is capable of functioning well in the illusory world knowing it to be illusory and is not adversely affected by it. It is like being in a dream and knowing it to be the dream. We get to enjoy the dream whether the dream is good or bad. Similarly, the Joyous Person functions in the world and enjoys it all the time, whether the events around him are good or bad.
His mind will be always be steady and will be able to see with clarity without being clouded by any emotions. Since attachment alone can cripple the intelligence, he is free from negative emotions.
His intelligence has complete control of the mind and the mind has complete control of the sense organs.
11. He lives at ease.
One may attempt (with great difficulty) to gain control over mind and sense organs as a preparation to become a Joyous Person. However, for a Joyous Person, it does not require any effort to control his mind and sense organs. He can do these tasks with ease.
Example: During the initial period after learning to drive, the driver pays lots of attention to his driving. When expertise in driving is gained, no special attention is required for driving.
Controlling the mind and sense organs will come naturally for a Joyous Person. For a person working towards Karma Yoga, there might be desires in the mind but he will restrict his sense organs due to sheer control. For a joyous person it does not take any effort to control the sense organs since there are no binding desires in his mind.
Sense organs are very powerful and alive like wild horses pulling the chariot. It will be difficult to control them and safeguard the mind so that it can be used to understand the unreality of the world. For a Karma Yogi, during the initial stages it takes quite an effort to restrain his sense organs from the sense objects.
Example: 'Do not read this board' will attract many eyes to read what is written below.
A Karma Yogi may be able to control his eyes and may not read what is written on the board. However, his mind will continue to wonder what was written. For a Joyous Person, there will be no curiosity or interest in anything. He may ignore the board without any effort.
If the Karma Yogi reads the board, the contents may haunt him for a longer duration. If the Joyous Person had to read the board, the contents will not affect him because he knows even the board is part of the illusion.
12. He is totally independent and free from the world.
Nothing in the universe will affect him. He does not bother about the happenings in the world because it does not make any sense to him. However, in the process of fulfilling his non-binding desires, he may get himself involved in varied transactions in the world requiring contact between his sense organs and the external sense objects. He voluntarily keeps them to the minimum, because anything in excess will create an unwanted flutter in the mind.
Example: Children enjoy fireworks. It gives them great thrill to light a rocket or a cracker. There is a risk of getting hurt. The children take the risk because the joy surpasses the risk. For an adult, fireworks may not be as enjoyable. However, when an adult has to give company to children, he may light the crackers for them. He is doing it for the sake of the children.
Similarly, a Joyous Person involves in the worldly transactions for the sake of others. In the process, he may not be tempted to indulge in sense pleasures. However, just as an adult will not beg a child for crackers, a Joyous Person will not entertain any hope for fulfillment of any sense pleasures. If it happens, it happens. There are no expectations or hopes in the lives of a Joyous Person.
13. He is fully secure all the time.
He possesses his mind and it does not matter to him whether the whole world is against him. For others, even if they possess the whole world, since they do not have complete control over their own mind, they will invariably suffer in life.
14. He will be happy with himself.
For him, even the body-mind complex is a luxury. He enjoys every minute of life because he knows the value of the physical body. Others do not differentiate themselves from their body/mind complex. Consequently, they look for external stimuli for their entertainment.
15. He will be objective in all his transactions.
He will play all the roles properly. He does not have any hidden agenda in his actions. A flute allows the air to pass through creating wonderful music. Similarly, a joyous person allows the will of god to function through him without any resistance resulting in Joyful Living.
The personality (active or passive, introvert or extrovert) of a Joyous Person also will vary like that of ordinary people. He may or may not be very active in life depending on his nature. He will continue to encounter events in life alternating between the pairs of opposites like pleasure and pain. However, he remains joyful all the time.
Chapter 2: Wisdom is the solution [Verses: 54 - 72]
2.54 Arjuna asked: Oh Krishna, what is the description of a wise person who is established in Self-Knowledge? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?
2.55 Lord Krishna answered: Oh Arjuna, satisfied in himself by himself, when a man gives up all the activities arising out of desire in the mind, then he is said to be a man of firm knowledge.
2.56 One who is free from craving amidst pleasures, who is unperturbed in troubles and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of firm knowledge.
2.57 He who is without attachment, who does not rejoice in favorable situations nor does he repents in unfavorable situations, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.
2.58 One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is to be understood as truly situated in knowledge.
2.59 He does not depend on sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. Even such engagements drop off for he is fixed in consciousness.
2.60 The senses are so strong and impulsive, Oh Arjuna, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them.
2.61 He who restrains his senses and fixes his mind upon consciousness is known as a man of steady intelligence.
2.62 For a person who dwells on the sense-objects, an attachment towards them arises and from such attachment desire develops, and from desire anger arises.
2.63 From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, the discrimination is lost and when discrimination is lost he perishes.
2.64 One who can control his senses while moving amidst unavoidable sense-objects and who is free from likes and dislikes, enjoys tranquility.
2.65 In tranquility, the destruction of all miseries takes place. Verily, the self-knowledge of this serene minded person becomes firm soon.
2.66 For one who has neither a controlled mind nor steady knowledge, there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?
2.67 As a boat on the water is swept away by a strong wind, the mind which follows the wandering sense organs can carry away a man's wisdom.
2.68 Therefore, Oh Arjuna, one whose senses are restrained from their objects is certainly a man of steady intelligence.
2.69 The wise one is awake to the Atman, which is night for all beings and all the beings are awake to the world, which is night for the wise.
2.70 He is not disturbed by the incessant flow of sense objects just as the ever-filled calm ocean remains unaffected by the flow of rivers. He achieves peace, not the seeker of sense objects.
2.71 He who has given up all desires and who has given up all sense of ownership to the sense objects and functions without the notion of "I" and "mine" enjoys peace.
2.72 Oh Arjuna, this is the way of the person established in self-knowledge. Having attained this, he is not deluded. Being established thus, even at the time of death, he attains oneness with Brahman.