Another Year, Another Journey

Journeys they say, end in lovers’ meetings, but journeys these days end before the immigration official in a nerve-wracking interview before we are allowed to enter a country. We have got so used to this that even after returning to India, standing before the immigration official causes a few flutters before we realize we are home, and  suddenly confidence courses through our veins and we stand a little more jauntily where we had stood as supplicants.

So we went on a trip – a shorter one this time – and before we knew it, we were back in India. Our absence had been noticed and was commented upon. Naw, not mine. I am the invisible partner, R. being more high-profile. Nobody even noticed I had been away.

S. says I have become quite the world traveler. Maybe so, because I seemed to be quite blasé about the journey itself. I no longer worry about how to manage the luggage or about the airport routine nor do I get excited about traveling halfway across the earth. Foreign faces do not make me nervous and I can walk into any place without feeling intimidated. I only worry about giving satisfactory answers to the immigration official.

It was cold, colder than I had expected but we did not let it deter us from taking the long walks that can be almost impossible to accomplish in our own backyard, so to speak. Have you ever tried walking down LBS Road? Which goes to show that the Nariman Point residents and the suburban Mumbaikars were not created equal. Over there, halfway across the world, we donned our jackets and shoes, stuck our caps on our heads, and set off on 6 km walks in a different direction, each day, wherever our moods led us. One day it was towards the lakeside, another day it was to the more hallowed academic settings of the university. No matter how far we walked, we were never tired or bored, but were energised rather, by the cold wind and the nearly empty roads, strangers in foreign climes.

Being with S. for an extended period was the reason for our visit and, like all Indian mothers, I enjoyed cooking all the favorite dishes of my youngest child, though putting together the ingredients was not easy! It required some amount of “jugaad” but where there is willpower, a way can always be found. During our stay, I made more kesari, kheer and potato curry than I normally make. In short, a lot of cooking took place in that pristine kitchen. S. must have been amazed at the utility bill that month!

We ate more Mexican food and even Thai food and burgers than we have ever eaten. We saw more movies and shows both at home and in the theatre, incuding plays, which were a new experience for us. S. kept checking to be sure that neither of us was nodding off, guilty as we were occasionally. But the cold and the unfamiliar accents and mumbled dialogues were very soporific, in our defence. One play kept us deeply engrossed while another, a Shakespearian drama, was rather too avante garde for our humble tastes and I cannot pretend I liked it. Standup comedy was more to my plebian tastes though R. was shocked by the extreme vulgarity in some of them. Well, anything goes, nowadays, and it would be politically incorrect to disapprove of something enjoyed by so many.

Whoosh, and we were back home. It is back to the mall and to Hindi cinema, but when we are tucking into our chole bhature at the Food Court, it is hard not to think of S. – he would like it.

Way Of Life – An Elaboration

First let me acknowledge that this is what I have garnered from Velukudi’s lecture on how a life must be lived. He has given us the benefit of his study of the Vedas to answer the question many of us have about how to live life, having been told about how not to live (hopefully) by our parents and various teachers in our childhood. At this point many people will turn away with a snort of derision – “Bah, we will decide how to live” or “It is for us to learn it our own way”. But sometimes it is better to be carried a little way down the road by others who have learnt through experience rather than having to chart our own way from the beginning. We might get a little further with the benefit of other people’s experience. The value of having a teacher – Guru, right?

Having said that, this is still a list of what to steer clear of, but by doing so, we will realize what we should set as our principles that will guide us. Each is described first, how it is fed, and how it must be eradicated.

  1. Kamam (Desire) – Icchha or Sankalp which means wanting to possess or acquire what seems desirable. Acquisition only feeds the desire for more and the mind is never satiated. Witness the story of Yayati. The only way to give up desire is to examine what we want and be strong enough to discard it.
  2. Krodham  (Anger) – This arises due to coveting what others have, and when our desire is thwarted, it gives rise to anger. Krodha also makes us find fault with others and we are unhappy that they are happy. The remedy is kshama (which does not actually translate into patience) but forbearance, forgiveness and patience even with those who harm us.
  3. Lobham (Covetousness) – Coveting is desiring what others have, whether it is wealth or happiness or possessions. This arises from Ajnana because we do not realize that everything belongs to God and we can only enjoy what has been given to us. We compete with everyone to acquire more and more without realizing that everything is transient. Once we realize that we will learn to be non-acquisitive.
  4. Moham (Being deceived) – We are deceived by illusion and unable to distinguish between the Truth and what is not. It is Ajnana or the mistaking of the body or Deha for the Atma and following Adharma instead of Dharma that fuels Moham. It can be countered only through Satsanga or associating with saints which will ensure that we become aware of Truth. Doing Kainkaryam or service for the benefit of others or of God is also another way of release from Moham.
  5. Madham (Pride in one’s education, caste, wealth and beauty) – This grows due to fame or becoming known for one’s accomplishments. If used for the good of the people, there is admiration from others, but pride leads to misuse of the four attributes even as fame is acquired. Real knowledge of the four attributes should always lead to jnana for one who possesses any of them, when he realizes that he has certain duties to fulfill or a certain Dharma which is his responsibility to follow.
  6. Matsaryam (Jealousy) – Being unhappy with other people’s happiness or well-being is nothing but jealousy. This is caused by a lack of belief in Truth and failing to realize that the world is rooted in Truth. Good people believe in Truth and their happiness is not affected by jealousy. By deceiving others and wanting others to be unhappy we deceive ourselves and make ourselves unhappy. Steering clear of friendship with the wicked and serving the Guru helps us to get rid of Matsaryam.
  7. Parasuda – Harming others due to Lobha and Krodha. The cure for this is compassion and non-violence.
  8. Nidhitsa (Disbelief in Vedas) – A belief in Vedas is essential to attain eventual Oneness with the Paramatma. Only a person who has attained Self-Realization can afford to discard everything else. For the rest of us, Vedas are an essential step on our path that we cannot leap over. A denial of the Vedas is the affectation of people who move in atheistic and misguiding groups and give more importance to the Deha over Atma. The Vedas lead one towards Tattva Gnana  which is the ultimate goal.
  9. Shokam (Sorrow) – Sorrow is a fear of something bad happening, an expectation of having to face loss or separation from what one is attached to. It is also a desire for pity and a wallowing in self-pity. Detachment is the only way out. Being attached inevitably leads to a fear of loss and a satisfaction in sorrow in some people. Sorrow does not help in any way. It only leads to stagnation. Be unattached and keep moving on. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says “Sarva dharmaan parityajya maam ekam sharanam vraja. Aham tvam sarva papebhyo mokshayishyami, maa shuchaha” Ma shuchaha means “Do not sorrow”. We cannot cling to the impermanent.
  10. Asuya (Envy) – This is akin to jealousy but more subtle in that is a feeling of unhappiness that others are happy even though we have what we have earned or deserve to have. It is envy of the achievements of others and being discontented with what we have even if they are more deserving than us. A discriminating intellect or Viveka gnana will help us to overcome this. Turning our thoughts to the greatness of God will deflect Asuya.
  11. Ninda (Slander) – Talking ill of others, being disrespectful or causing hurt to them by our talk is termed Ninda. Associating with inferior people encourages this trait to grow. It creates enmity and makes our own thinking inferior. Doing good to others and seeing and talking only about the good in people and also Satsanga destroys this habit.
  12. Dosha Dharisanam – Somewhat akin to Ninda but this refers to the habit of judging and finding fault with others and sometimes even taking it upon ourselves to punish them for what we perceive as faults. We do not have that right. Only three  Beings – Yama, Mahalakshmi and SriHari – have the right to see the faults in anyone. We must not judge others if we are to attain Moksha.
  13. Miserliness – rises from Mamakaaram or possessiveness. We believe that our wealth grows by hoarding but wealth is not ours to own. It is ours to use wisely for the good of all. Do Dhaanam (charity), follow Dharmam (virtuousness).

Dharma is what has been prescribed to us in this life as our duty/duties at different stages in our life and we must perform them with responsibility and love to our complete satisfaction. We must question ourselves whether we have done our duty at every step. If we have, we can be truly happy. If not, we look to transient sensory pleasures and deceive ourselves that we are making ourselves happy and we try to convince ourselves that we do not have to make anyone but ourselves happy.

Truth is the realization that this life is impermanent and that we are here to learn the lessons of love, duty and happiness, and the most important lesson is that we cannot be happy when we make others unhappy. Happiness does not exist in isolation, nor does love. The more you create or give, the more they grow.

These are the thirteen principles we must follow in daily life if we are to progress spiritually. Upasana (daily pooja), rituals of religion and a disciplined life may be looked down upon by many people, but they are essential for training ourselves for the tests that we must face in life inevitably. Adi Sankara and indeed all saints have said that they are the steps that lead to Oneness.

Instead of looking at the moment and living in it, it makes more sense that we look at life in entirety and see how much we have learnt and how far we have travelled every day, every month or year. No one remains the same age forever, why should our thinking remain at the same level in every stage of life? We cannot pretend to be young forever. We may fool ourselves but others are hardly likely to be fooled. Some day we may realize that it would have been better to have grown up and faced life squarely instead of having remained a Peter Pan and skipped through it. We owe it, if not to ourselves, to the other people in our life, to grow up and own up our responsibilities and fulfill them to our satisfaction.