|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Unit - 07
Lesson - 0703: Milestones and Actions
By Raja Subramaniyan
All human beings are suffering from the disease called ignorance. Although they are aware that they exist, they are not aware who they really are. This ignorance is the root cause of all suffering. The only way to remove this ignorance is to gain self-knowledge. This knowledge can be gained only when the mind is prepared to receive the teaching. Therefore, preparing the mind is the first milestone and receiving the self-knowledge is the second. Once both these milestones are crossed, the suffering will stop resulting in Joyful Living.
Milestone 1: To prepare the mind
Without systematic teaching, we are living life with wrong knowledge about ourselves. Our mind should be cleansed of the wrong knowledge prior to gaining self-knowledge. After such purification, the mind is mature enough to receive the teaching on self-knowledge.
The only way to purify the mind is to do Karma Yoga. The Active Dharma prescribed in the Vedas gives the guidelines for doing Karma Yoga. The Professional Lifestyle is conducive to the practice of Karma Yoga leading to a mature mind.
Milestone 2: To learn about the self (gain self-knowledge)
Once the mind is ready to receive the knowledge, one should withdraw from Active Dharma and commence the practice of Passive Dharma prescribed in the Vedanta. Action in the popular sense of earning money is to be abandoned so that the series of steps involved in the process of gaining self-knowledge can be followed. The Spiritual Lifestyle is conducive to this process.
Example: To remove hunger we need to do two distinct actions. Cooking and eating. It is not possible to eat food without preparing the same. Activities for preparation of food will not solve the problem of hunger. Only after completing the first act of preparation we can move on to the next.
Similarly, getting a mature mind (cooking) and gaining knowledge (eating) are two distinct milestones involved in removing ignorance. Thus to live joyfully, one should strive to complete these two milestones as soon as possible.
The time and effort spent in the pursuit of these two milestones determine the success or failure in reaching the destination. The two life styles (Professional and Spiritual) are prescribed as an optional support mechanism.
The milestones cannot be reached by merely adapting to a particular lifestyle. Lifestyle is purely incidental and optional. Only the efforts in practicing Karma Yoga and Learning Self-Knowledge will enable us to reach the objective. It does not matter which lifestyle is chosen by the practitioner. It is possible to gain self-knowledge without entering into a Spiritual Lifestyle. Likewise, it is possible to gain a mature mind without going through the Professional Lifestyle.
Necessity of the two practices
Both the practices of getting maturity of mind and gaining self-knowledge are essential to reach the ultimate goal of Joyful Living. These practices are not optional and one has to perform extremely well in both the practices to reach the destination.
It is important that one converts Karma into Karma Yoga to make the mind mature enough to gain self-knowledge. Once Karma Yoga practice is commenced one can pursue the gaining of Self-Knowledge as well. However, one has to complete both practices completely to live life joyfully.
Both practices require lots of thinking, planning and action. However, in the case of Karma Yoga, there is more action dealing with external objects and such actions are to be performed in line with the prescription of Active Dharma. In the case of gaining Self-Knowledge, the action is restricted to learning from a teacher, reflection on the teaching and meditating on the knowledge. This is to be guided by the Passive Dharma as detailed in the Vedanta. Professional Lifestyle will facilitate Active Dharma and Spiritual Lifestyle will facilitate Passive Dharma. However, the lifestyles are optional.
Arjuna is confused and he thinks that by abandoning the Professional Lifestyle and adapting Spiritual Lifestyle, he can progress towards Joyful Living. This is a wrong but popular misconception.
Example: A student cannot move forward to post graduation until he completes graduation. Abandoning the college mid-way will make post graduation more difficult.
Similarly, unless one earns mental maturity through Karma Yoga, one cannot advance to gaining Self-Knowledge. However, one has an option to complete the course either by attending the regular college or through correspondence course. Similarly, one can practice Karma Yoga without following a Professional Life. It will be more difficult compared to attending regular college.
The appropriate practice for an individual is based on his current qualification. Arjuna asked Lord Krishna to suggest the appropriate path for him. Since Arjuna does not have the required qualification of mental maturity, the appropriate practice for him is to do Karma Yoga.
Therefore, Lord Krishna advices Arjuna to fight. If he does his duty as Karma Yoga, he will qualify himself for the next milestone of gaining Self-Knowledge. If Arjuna abandons his duty since he does not want to kill his elders, he will not gain mental maturity and he will not be able to move forward towards Joyful Living.
Teaching 28: Action, not inaction, leads us to Joyful Living
Nothing can be achieved through inaction. One must continue to act until one reaches the stage of seeing inaction in action.
It is important that one acquires a mature mind through intense action (Karma Yoga) prior to commencing the journey in the Passive Dharma phase. Without a mature mind, studying Vedanta will inflate the ego, instead of destroying it.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga [Verse: 4]
3.4 Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve liberation, nor by renunciation alone can one attain liberation.