Monday, June 26, 2023

Peace and jubilation amidst a dreadful ocean

 Original in Kannada by: Mythily Raghavan

English rendering by: Padmini Shrinivasan

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A gargantuan pile of water, torrential waves to top it, cavernous with an invisible floor, wild aquatic creatures residing within – all of this portrays an ocean as a fearful place. Isn't it? Very many realized souls (jnaanis) profess that – life too is such a frightful ocean. 

In the ocean of life, 'Desire' is that vast pool of water with roaring waves of 'attachment' dashing over it. 'Lust' is like the gusty winds perturbing these waves further. Relationships with spouse, son etc., engulf like monstrous crocodiles. All these views are no doubt a cent percent correct! Similar to successive waves, constant wandering and scrambling to fulfill the desires arise in the mind. Hurdles encountered through difficulties and deep distress in the three domains viz. material, divine and spiritual; sufferings arising from wife and children, inundate a householder's life. He would not even find time to find a way out to attain peace. Living thus, when would a householder surmount all these, to attain the Lord and become peaceful? How is it possible at all? 

But despite all these troubleshooters, stories narrate that a good number of Bharateeya sages led a householder's life, yet living in peace, having attained the Lord's vision. Attaining the rank of a Brahmajnaani/ Brahmarshi, through intense penance, many householders still enjoyed all the pleasures of a worldly life, begetting progeny as well. Sages like Chyavana-Soubhari-Vasishta bear testimony to this fact. Newlywed couples are blessed as - 'May you live happily adapting the ideals of Vasishta and Arundati'. Many kings and emperors ruling over big empires, nurtured and protected, not only their own small family, but all the subjects in the kingdom, considering them as their own children. While shouldering this much of responsibility laden with attachment, along with accountability, they would easily renounce everything in their old age, after passing it on to their sons and with total detachment, engage themselves in penance, to reach the Lord. 

Was their life unlike a frightful ocean?  How is it that it was free from formidable turmoils? How did they manage to create an island of tranquility, along with the comforts of mundane existence? Oblivious of how rough or frightful the ocean is, if the travel is enjoyed within the confines of a secure ship, one can even reach the other bank, continuing to be in that state of enjoyment. Isn't it? Hooray! What elegance! What happiness! Following these ideals, while enjoying the worldly pursuits, in order to sail across to the opposite bank, the sages of Bhaarata guided us to undertake the voyage in a secure ship viz. a purushaartha based lifestyle – following the four cardinal principles dharma (righteousness), artha (material means and purpose), kaama (lust) and moksha (emancipation from rebirth/ ultimate oneness with the Lord) – to sail through, as well as reach a dwelling of undiminishing comfort and eternal happiness. The education necessary to lead a householder's life was being imparted right from childhood and the permission to enter a householder's life  was accorded only upon mastering these principles. This is a unique feature of the education system ordained by maharshis. Even though the target for leading a righteous life is salvation, while leading such a life, material wealth and ambitions follow naturally, as by-products. If the primary goal is disregarded and an ambitious life is pursued with a desire to accumulate wealth, then it is like jumping, struggling and drowning ourselves in an ocean.

At this juncture it is appropriate to recollect the aphorism of Sriranga Mahaaguru –"wealth and desire are like a naughty cow. If you try milking it, it kicks you back. But, if you tie its legs onto poles called dharma and moksha, then it would milk, divine ambrosia".

If lust is not constrained this way, it ceases to be one among the four cardinal principles and becomes one among the six enemies (arishadvargas). In Bhagavadgeeta, Sri Krishna says thus "kaama esha krodha esha rajoguna samudbhavaha---vidyainamiha vairinam". These drown us in an ocean. When wife and children are protected and nurtured, considering them as a treasure entrusted by the Lord, then a mutual affection grows, together with a sense of detachment. This directive of maharshis should serve as our yard-stick.

Kulashekhara azhvaar speaks about yet another simple method to tide over the ocean called 'mundane life'. A ship called 'unstinted devotion to the Lord' is an amazing means to help us cross over. Association with pious people and the Lord's devotees strengthens this devotion. "Association with pious people is as pleasant as savoring the choicest honey." Having said all this, we cannot conclude that such people will never have any trials or tribulations in their lifetime. When difficulties do confront them, reminiscing on God they develop the courage necessary to face the challenges.

This was all about a palatable and nectarine tool which made the lives of rajarshis-maharshis comfortable and paved way to enjoy the ultimate state of peace-contentment-jubilation. Their lifestyles based on the purushaartha principles and their constant association with noble people should serve as a model for all of us.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.