Saturday, July 11, 2009
We, human beings, are unique species with distinctive capabilities, peculiarities, even abnormalities. We possess partial and half incorrect knowledge about who we are, what could be our purpose of life, where we are heading, what is this phenomenal world and our relationship with it. This ignorance is the main cause of human misery. And generally it is the misery rather than happiness that drives us to seek Vendantic knowledge. With my limited knowledge on this subject which I acquired during Gita Shibir classes, I am writing this article on how an individual can live intelligently and be happy.
What is living intelligently?
Human beings posses’ three body schemes: Gross Body (physical organs), subtle body (which includes- mind, intelligence, memory and ego), and Causal body (approximately equate to soul). Let’s look at the components of subtle body, which is important for our study here. The mann (mind) is constantly active with different ‘Vritis’ (thoughts). The buddhi (intelligence) judges the qualitative dimensions of experiences and evaluates possible responses. The chitta (memory) corresponds to conscious, subconscious & unconscious dimensions, with its embedded impressions (called Sanskaras) acquired from previous experiences. ‘Ahankar’ (ego) provides a wide range of self concepts form mere self awareness with extreme humility on one extreme and egoistic sense of doership on the other. All the above together provide an individual distinctive and unique disposition, which we call ‘swabhava’ i.e. ones nature.
Often in life one faces conflict between choices involving what is right (shreyas- dominated by intelligence) and what is pleasant (preyas- dominated by mind) is. ‘Shreyas’ represent long term gain (short term pain at times) and vice versa for ‘preyas.’ In such a conflict we tend to choose preyas. We sometimes fool ourselves by justifying our actions by using intelligence and logic to justify our wrong choices. Such wrong choices lead to frustrations, problems, sadness, guilt, regrets and other such negative feelings. Living intelligently means eliminating or minimizing such negative feelings. In the following sections to come, I will try to explain how Vedant shows ways for living intelligently and effectively.
What factors affect living intelligently and How to achieve it?
Human beings possess both animal instincts and divine qualities. Arising from this, human beings are engaged in one of three modes of living: Competition – The concept of ‘I me Mine’(characteristics: manipulative, calculative and reactive stances), Cooperation – The concept of ‘I mine and you’ (characteristics: Inclusive growth, corporate social responsibility etc), and Selfless Service – The concept of ‘us’ (example: The lives of social workers, saints and sages) – There is no difference between – You, Mine and Us. Living intelligently is about moving toward selfless service.
Let’s look at some of the factors by which we can achieve living intelligently:
1. Living in harmony: We don’t feel happy when we are insulted or hurt so we have no right to hurt others. Nobody wants failures or unhappiness. Life is about living in harmony.
2. It’s about being Successful: Each one of us lives in two worlds – The external world and the internal psychic world. External success mean sense gratification, material gains, name and fame while internal success mean peace, happiness and a sense of self worth. We give little importance to the internal success which in reality has greater significance. External successes lead to temporary satisfaction till new desires arise, which invariably happens. Intelligent living requires external activities that concurrently become a source of internal success.
3. Being Happy: We find inadequacy within us and seek acceptance for us from outside world through the external successes. Happiness is our nature and has to be merely exposed and not acquired, which means a non demanding and satisfied mind. ‘Acquiring’ happiness from the external objects on the erroneous belief that happiness is embedded in external objects and events is futile.
4. Be a contributor: The more we act out of self interest the more selfishness circulates in the mind. This is called “contributor” attitude. Attitude of consuming or grabbing creates further obstacles in our lives. More one become a “grabber”, more insufficient they feel with themselves. Thus, by contributing we are not obliging but doing what you should be doing.
5. Manage ambitions: Only human beings have a privilege to have ambitions. But it has to be managed. If we can manage an ambition, then ambition is an asset. We should be able to manage our desires and not desires manage us.
6. Be strong: Lord Krishna says that Kama (indulgence), Krodha (anger) and lobha (greed) are gateway to suffering. More you submit to these impulses, more ineffective, manipulative, vulnerable and weaker you become. Pratipaksh Bhavna (Bhavna = attitude. Paksh = position or side. Prati = opposite) is the method to overcome these. This means deliberately taking the opposite sides. For example, when anger arises, the opposite of anger is what we call Shama – forgiveness, accommodation. Forgive him. See the person behind the behaviour. Thus, Control when it comes to Kama, Compassion- when it comes to anger and Charity when it comes to greed.
7. Freedom and Responsibility: One of the important aspects of managing the self that Bhagwad Gita teaches is called responsibility.There is a very famous line in Bhagwad Gita - Adhikara means freedom or adhikara also means responsibility. Human being has ambitions, freedom of choice, free will. But, Lord Krishna says that a privilege or freedom will be a blessing to you only when that freedom is accompanied with responsibility. Call it responsibility or call it a duty, every individual has it. A responsibility/duty towards parents, teacher, others.
8. Relationship with others: When we rate two people in general, the relationship involves the two aspects; in Sanskrit called as anugraha (favouring) and nigraha (restraining). Sometimes you need to give favour and sometimes you need to restrain. That is called love. Restraint alone is not right, favouring alone is also not right. A judicious combination, of anugraha and nigraha, restraint and favouring, is required. For a healthy relationship, do not control unless necessary and do not give instructions unless necessary. But, when you give instructions make sure that they are followed.Create an environment of comfort and safety in your presence. A person’s creativity, initiative everything will find it’s way when person feels safe, comfortable, accepted, loved. If there is a relationship of trust, love and mutual respect, then, it itself is a great source of joy. Understand that help is an attitude not an action.
9. Be wealthy: There are two kinds of wealth. One is this worldly wealth, material wealth, which has its own usefulness in my life. Another kind of wealth is internal wealth. In Bhagwat Gita it is called the Divine Wealth. Divine wealth is in the form of goodness, kindness, compassion, love, all the things that I cherish, the noble qualities, etc. We can say with certainty that the more loving I am, more kind I am, happier I am, the more I contribute, happier I become. More you contribute more inner or divine wealth that you discover because fortunately we have infinite store of love and kindness and goodness within ourselves without exception.
Why living intelligently is important?
Living intelligently is important as it helps both at professional and personal level.
At personal level
• Decreased frequency and eventual elimination of negative feelings such as greed, anger, jealousy, hatred, guilt.
• Greater self confidence with humility
• Relate to others with empathy and love, improves our relationship with others
• Feel peace within
At professional level:
• Increase of deeper and lasting sense of peace increases sensitivity. Its improves SQ which automatically impacts EQ. SQ is most important determinant of sustained and superior leadership.
• It creates greater confidence to face crisis and exhibit creativity
• Fruitful interpersonal relationships build credible authentic leadership skills
• It makes us less bias, which helps to see the ‘realities’ of situations leading to better decisions through superior judgment skills
• Improves skills of leadership (Interpersonal and institutionalization)
• Gives strength to handle crisis
Spiritual growth entails movement from tamasik (with greatest impurities refers to inertia, ignorance, and darkness) tendencies to Rajsik (represent activities and ego related with it) and then towards satwik (represent purity, knowledge and all noble aspects of human life) state, with reference to thoughts, desires and action. It is accepted fact that higher levels of management require high EQ. For natural, sustained and effortless behavior, high spiritual quotient is what is required which automatically meets the requirement of characteristics of high emotional quotient. Besides, it also serves a larger purpose of living life more productively and more happily; this is what intelligent living is all about.
I am not an expert of this subject. I have just started learning about Vedant way of living. With my little exposure to it, I found it to be a perfect theory for life, as Vedantic knowledge have been developed over centuries and meets fourfold test: (i) comprehensive and integrative description (ii) explanation of all cause- effect relationships implicit in the theory (iii) verifiability of suggested cause-effect relationships and finally leading to (iv) prescriptions that would have acceptable logic arising from the previous three steps. Compare to our Vedantic approach, western theories are much younger and still in nascent stage of evolving.