What follows is intended to be an honest attempt by an average householder
on the verge of retirement trying to look back and take stock of the kind
of life he has led so far. It is NOT an attempt at personal aggrandizement.
The purpose is to judge for himself how far he has got in his endeavors
towards realizing the real 'purpose' to his life.
In spiritual terms this is an attempt to find out whether his life is
progressing as per the Laws of Dharma (Dharma in Sanskrit means 'purpose
in life') which, according to the scriptures, is said to be the sole purpose
for a human being to manifest in this physical form.
Should the contents of this page stimulate at least some among you to
make a small attempt towards honest introspection, to rediscover the dormant
'spirit' within you and enable you to take the 'first' practical steps
into spirituality then its purpose would have been served.
THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
Before embarking on such a 'spiritual' journey it was essential that
I understood the purpose to my life as well as the route to be taken to
reach my goal.
PURPOSE IN LIFE
According to the Law of Dharma the purpose of life consists of finding
answers to 3 questions.
(1) 'Who am I' ? The real goal of our lives is to discover our
'True Self'. Most people tend to 'exist' rather than 'live'. They go through
life with the assumption that they are ' mere' Human beings having occasional
Spiritual experiences (if any). Only a few who look inwards might come
upon the answer that man in fact is indeed a Spiritual Being having been
endowed with a Human Form in this birth!. This insight helps them to live
in the world without actually being of the world.
Understanding this is the fulfillment of the First Law of Dharma.
(2) 'What is unique about me'? Our intelligent 'creation' doesnot
create anyone or anything without a purpose. Obviously each of us possess
some 'unique' aspect that neccessiated our arrival in this form. Put simply
'there must be one thing one can do, and one way of doing it, that is better
than anyone else's in the entire creation'.
Discovering or attemting to discover this 'uniqueness' within
us constitutes the fulfillment of the second law of Dharma
(3) How do I express my 'uniqueness' ? : We have been endowed
with such unique talents not for our exclusive use but for the benefit
of the the rest of the 'creation'. And this one should do without seeking
'returns'. One has to convert the internal dialogue of the Ego from
'what's in it for me?' To the internal dialogue of the Spirit which
is 'How can I help?"
By doing this we fulfill the Third Law of Dharma.
THE PURSUIT OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Next I considered how I was going to try and pursue this Spiritual Goal
(a) Seeking my higher self, Which is beyond his Ego, through Spiritual
(b) Discovering talents unique to me by constantly looking 'inwards'.
(c) Planning a method of putting these ' talents' to benefit not just
myself but all that makes up our Creation BUT without raising my
usual question 'what's in it for me'? Because :
anasritah karmaphalam karyam karma karoti
Sa sannyasi cha yogi cha
na niragnir na cha kriya
(…he is a sanyasin and a yogin who performs his Bounden duty without
seeking its fruit and not he Who is without fire or rituals…) Bhagavad
THE MEANS TO LIBERATION: Then I looked at the two paths that
1. The path of Action (Karma Yoga)
2. The path of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga).
But these are NOT two 'different' means to self-realization in that
every spiritual aspirant HAS to progress from the stage of Action (Karma
Yoga) to the stage of Knowledge (jnana Yoga). There is no 'choice' between
LIFE STYLE OF THE ASPIRANT
The concept of Institutions (Ashramas) has been considered to be ideal
for the natural spiritual evolution of man.
There are 4 Ashrama (institution) stages. Each Ashrama has its advantages
and disadvantages. But first a look into these ashramas.
THE INSTITUTIONS ( ASHRAMAS)
The Hindu scriptures (Vedas) have envisaged a society in which the interests
of both the individual and the society are nurtured. If Social life has
to be harmonious there should not be any room for a clash between Individual
aspirations and the well being of the society. The Vedas mention a 4-fold
classification of Society (VARNAS) and 4 Stages in one's life (ASHRAMAS)
to promote the above.
THE 4 CLASSES OF THE SOCIETY
(A careful understanding of the class-system would make it clear
that the classes are not OUT there in the outer world. They are within
ones own BODY! A body has a head
(Intellectual area), Shoulders (giving strength to fight or defend
oneself), stomach (the in- come or business area) and the legs (the hard
work area). So when Hindu scriptures spoke about the society and the 4
so-called class systems ( Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and shudra) they were
referring to the BODY and the 4 parts Head, Shoulders, Stomach and the
Legs. Each one of us has capacity for hard work (Shudra), has the earning
area (Vaisya), has the self-defense area (Kshatriya) and the thinking area
(Brahman). A lack of understanding of this symbolism has caused and still
continues to cause much strife and suffering within the Hindu society even
Brahmin(intellectual community): Refers to the intellect part of
the body, the mind .
Kshatriya (warrior community): Refers to the 'strength' area of the
body, the shoulders.
Vaisya(Business community): Refers the earning and sustaining part
of body, the stomach.
Shudra (Labour community): Refers to the hard working and 'labouring'
part of body, the legs.
All are parts of the 'whole' body. All are necessary and inter dependent
on each other. Yet in our ignorance we considers some parts superior and
looks down upon the others!
THE 4 STAGES OF LIFE
These stages are meant to foster spiritual growth.
1. Brahmacharya: Meant for 'study' or 'education', which is essential
to equip the individual both for secular and spiritual life. This lays
the foundation to 'Spirituality' at a later stage.
Once the foundation is laid then there is a choice between opting for
a life totally devoted to 'spirituality' (sanyasa or renunciation ashram)
or to take up traditional path of 'family life' (grihastha or householder
2.GRIHASTHA or Householder: A stage when ones aspirations are
progressively realized. This usually is a period of intense activity and
hence the extrovertedness. This stage provides enough scope for the fulfillment
of secular aspirations. The pursuits of personal aspirations and desires
are legitimate and conform to the tenets of Dharma. Anchored in such values
one gradually graduates from self-centeredness to selflessness in one's
3. Vaana Prastha: This stage is a preparation for Renunciation
from worldly life. This is a period to be devoted to contemplation by slowly
detaching one self from family and Social Obligations. Scriptures permit
this stage to be lived within the family initially but eventually to retire
into the seclusion of an Ashram. Detachment or rather understanding and
shedding attachment would be the watchword during this period.
4. Sanyasa or Renunciation: Successful progression through the
above 3 stages would make one's mind mature and ready for spiritual life.
Just as a fruit-bearing tree serves others by providing fruits and also
takes care of its own interests by propagating itself, the seeker realizes
his personal goal and serve society by following this scheme.
Nothing in the creation is 'absolutely' good. So in this case. It is
the mental makeup of an individual, which makes him opt for a particular