What does the Vedic texts suggest?
Athāto brahma jijñāsā – “
Now is the time to inquire about the Absolute Truth”
If not for a major life threatening incident, the fast-pace of our life doesn’t allow us to to introspect on our own true identity. And this is perhaps disturbing and alarming.
We value a human life so much and loss of every single human life is lamented. Though very few of us give a thought on what it means to be human and why is a human life more valuable than that of any other species? Vedic texts and commentaries stress that compared to other animal species, a human life is precious only for the reason that it offers an opportunity to reflect upon our true nature and identity.
Human form of life offers the capability to analyse and understand that we are not material but spiritual beings. Spirit soul is separate from mind, intelligence and false ego that makes us falsely believe that we are this material body.
To help understand the notion of (jiva) spirit soul, Vedic texts highlight that while our material body keeps changing from birth to death, the presence of a single experiencer within these material bodies gives the impression of a coherent, single life-time. This experiencer is the spirit soul – our true self – that continues this journey through other material bodies even beyond destruction of our current material body.
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self- realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”
While the notion of our true identity being spiritual and not material is opposite to the more dominant materialistic world view, this is what Eminent French microbiologist Louis Pasteur (1822-95) had to say: “You place matter before life and you decide that matter has existed for all eternity. How do you know that the incessant progress of science will not compel scientists to consider that life has existed during eternity, and not matter? You pass from matter to life because your intelligence of today cannot conceive things otherwise. How do you know that in ten thousand years one will not consider it more likely that matter has emerged from life?”
We are all hard-wired for achieving material success – more money, bigger houses, better cars – as these define the typical success. This is the purpose or goal for a majority of our population. However, multiple researches indicate that people with all these things are still unhappy and feel emptiness in their lives.
So are we running the wrong race? Is material success not the true purpose?
While material pursuits are essential for survival but they can’t be and are not the summum bonum. Discovering our purpose is probably the most deserving pursuit for each one of us and Vedic texts highlight that our singular purpose is governed by our Dharma.
Dharma refers to the original nature or inherent character of something or someone. Discovery of our Dharma keeps us connected to our original identity and becomes the guiding compass that directs us how to lead our life.
Every thing or being has its own unalterable natural characteristic. For example sweetness is the inherent characteristic of sugar, so being sweet is its dharma. The moment sugar ceases to be sweet, it cannot be called sugar. It may be white and looking very much like sugar, but if it has a different taste, it may likely be salt. Similarly, brightness and heat are the fundamental, defining characteristics of fire and a fire without warmth and light would not be fire.
Similarly, the one characteristic which is common to all human beings is that each one of us is always serving someone – ourselves, our children, parents, employer, community.
Therefore, service is the dharma and guiding purpose which is common and universal to all human race. By virtue of being a spirit soul, not just any kind of service but spiritual service is what our Dharma is.
We should engage and act not to endlessly serve our material senses or those of our kins, family but utilize the opportunity of human form to advance forward on our spiritual journey. The intent behind our action should not be to accumulate material possessions but to enable ourselves and people around us to realize their own spiritual position & identity. This is the only way in which we can extend real and lasting help to people and do a true service to the Supreme Spirit Soul and our fellow human beings.
“Just imagine that the purpose of life is happinesss only- then life becomes a cruel and senseless thing.You have to embrace what the wisdom of humanity,your intellect and your heart tell you: that the meaning of life is to serve the force that sent you into the world.Then life becomes a joy.”– Leo Tolstoy
The Bhagavad-gita explains that spiritual life is not about stillness and contemplation; understanding should give rise to vigorous and practical activities dedicated to spiritual advancement.
Spirit soul manifests Consciousness. When we begin our spiritual journey and sharpen our consciousness, which was covered by materialism so far, we become more aware and mindful of how and for what purpose should we utilize our time and energy.
Vedic texts and commentaries guide us how to max out the advantageous opportunity of this human form. The wisdom captured in these ancient texts is often referred to as Jnana-dipena – ‘the lamp of knowledge’. The lamp of knowledge illuminates our path and warns us of the possible obstacles and impediments that we may encounter on our spiritual journey. Amidst many pressing demands, the shining lamp of knowledge keeps our consciousness awake to the ultimate goal of life, ensuring that we make decisions which will advance us towards fulfilling our Dharma, our purpose – Spiritual Service.
However, owing to the grip and illusion of material world we may find ourself floating between 3 modes of being & doing –
Mode of Ignorance(Tamas), one that attracts us to all kind of destructive habits/addiction; Mode of Passion(Rajas), one that get us hooked on to fame, money and keeps us busy in the never ending rat race; Mode of Goodness(Satva), one where we tend to dislike gross materialism and are inclined to materially help others.
With help of vedic knowledge and self-discipline, we need to gradually transition our activities and service from these material modes to our spiritual mode. Even though Mode of Goodness is the best material state, however service in this mode is also still material is nature and the benefits are also temporary and likely to create other material complications. Hence, the Vedic texts recommend aspiring for spiritual state of being where all activities assume spiritual nature.