Path to Joyful Living - Sadhana Panchakam
Path to Joyful Living - Part-2
[Based on Sadhana Panchakam of Adi Sankara]
By Raja Subramaniyan
1. Introduction to Life
2. Introduction to Joyful Living
3. Introduction to the Path to Joyful Living
4. Introduction to the Role of our mind
5. Introduction to the Nature of our mind
6. Introduction to the Solution
Step 1 - Getting a matured mind - Theory
7. Understanding desires
8. Understanding the role of God
9. Understanding the cause-effect relationship
10. Understanding the purpose of doing work
11. Understanding the rights-duties relationship
Step 2 - Getting a matured mind - Practice
12. Dynamic starting point
13. Overview of the path
14. Physical fitness
15. Mental fitness
16. Minimum qualification
17. Initial enquiry
18. Initial Action
19. Earning and spending money
20. Self-restriction/ penance
21. Developing Discrimination
22. Developing Dispassion
23. Developing Deep Desire
24. Shift the focus from material to spiritual life
Step 3 - Spiritual Enquiry - Practice
25. Restraining the sense organs
26. Restraining the organs of action
27. Farewell to material pursuit
Step 4 - Spiritual Enquiry - Theory
28. Commencement of spiritual enquiry
29. Enquiry on the Holy Scripture
30. Learning from the teacher
31. Reflecting on the teaching
32. Inner transformation
33. Glimpse of Joyful Living
35. Summary - Stage I
36. Summary - Stage II
37. Summary - Stage III
38. Summary - Stage IV
1. Introduction to life
If we are to take a birds eye view of our life, we will get a very clear idea on where we are heading. The purpose of doing this exercise is to decide whether any course correction is required.
We have been traveling from birth. The first part of our journey was under the influence of our elders. We need to take a critical view of the second part that starts from our adulthood.
During this period, our goal and priorities in life are constantly changing. In addition, the nature of our experience varies widely. If we observe carefully, we will find that life's experiences are like the pendulum of a clock, oscillating between pairs of opposites. Some of the pairs of opposites are
Prosperity and Poverty
Pleasure and Pain
Gain and Loss
Fame and Blame
Good and Bad
Love and Hate
Victory and Defeat
Brightness and Boredom
Enthusiasm and Frustration
When we are on the positive side of the oscillation, we enjoy life and when we are on the negative side, we curse life. In either extreme position, we forget the temporary nature of the experience. Whatever we experience, will pass over and change. Change is the only permanent feature of the universe. Every atom, every thought, every situation, every object, every person, every living being and every non-living being is constantly changing.
Without realizing this fact, we enjoy life assuming that it is going to last forever. When we undergo a negative experience, we assume that we are caught and powerless. We do not realize that we are equally caught and powerless when we undergo a positive experience as well.
Example: A cow tied to a pole, thinks that it is free when it is grazing the grass within the boundary drawn by the rope and it feels restrained only when there is no more grass within the boundary. The truth is it is bound all the time.
Similarly, we are caught by our attachment when we enjoy life and we are caught by the very same attachment when we suffer. Either way we are caught. We are not in control of our life as of now. We are under the mercy of the pendulum of the pairs of the opposites that keeps oscillating all the time. We do not seem to have any influence on the oscillation.
We need to take charge. We cannot allow our environment; objects, events and persons determine our happiness. The review of our life reveals that a course correction is required if we are to live joyfully.
2. Introduction to Joyful Living
We would like to be in charge of our life. External events, objects and persons should have no influence on our happiness. This is Joyful Living
If we are to describe a happiest day from our past, it will be from our childhood. It is quite possible for us to the make rest of our life happier than the happiest day in our life. If we do that, it is Joyful Living.
More important than having a good day, we do not want any bad events, persons or objects to spoil our day. We do not want a traffic jam or hectic work demands from the boss to push us down emotionally. Imagine that we do not ever get angry, worried, irritated, frustrated or depressed. Such a Sorrowless Life is Joyful Living.
If we are fully contented with life, having achieved whatever possible to achieve, we will feel happy, peaceful and secured. This is Joyful Living.
Joyful Living is possible only for those who are willing to work for it. It will not happen by chance. It is a result of hard and dedicated work done in a systematic way. Only those who desire to reach this goal will be eligible to participate in the path to Joyful living. Mere wish is not enough. One should have deep commitment and willpower to pursue the path, since the path is not an easy one.
Although every living being has an inborn urge to live happily and peacefully, only human beings are qualified to pursue the path to Joyful Living. Most of them are ignorant of the possibility of reaching such a goal. Those who come to know the possibility do not either believe in it or do not have the capability to undertake the journey. Those who are willing and capable, take up the journey and invariably every one of them succeed in reaching the goal. Few of them after reaching the goal, start guiding others in the journey.
Joyful Living cannot be brought about by Science & Technology, Economic Development or Political wisdom. This is proved by the history of the past 5000 years. Religion and Spirituality is the only path that will take us to Joyful Living.
All the religions in the world hold a view that there is something beyond the material world. Enlightenment, Nirvana, attaining liberation, being identified with God, Judgment day and such concepts are beyond science. Unfortunately, these concepts paint a picture that it is not possible to reach this goal here and now. The truth is liberation is not something that is to be gained at the time of death. It is possible to get liberation here and now. Liberation means Joyful Living.
The central theme of all the religions is to help human beings to pursue the path to Joyful Living, so that they get to enjoy life all the time.
3. Introduction to the Path to Joyful Living
A path is one, which takes us to the destination. This "Path to Joyful Living" shows the roadmap of the entire path that leads to Joyful Living. Obviously, tracing the path with the finger on the map will not take us to the destination. We should understand the intricacies of the path prepare for the journey and then undertake the journey to reach the destination.
Example: Trace a path from home to Mount Kailash in a map. Depending on where we are, we might have to go by train, flight and by road to reach the destination. We might have to stay many nights en route. The climatic conditions may widely vary between the origin and the destination. We need to make preparations accordingly.
Similarly, we should understand the path to Joyful Living as described in this book, mentally prepare for the long journey, plan for the required steps (depending on the starting point, which will vary individual to individual) and then START the actual journey. Mere reading and understanding this book will not take one to the destination.
The complete requirements in terms of theory and practice are discussed here. In addition, it describes the details of each step and gives the over all summary.
Like any travel guidebook, this book is meant only for those who wish to reach the destination. A casual reader who has no intention to travel will find a travel guidebook very boring. On the other hand, if one has already decided to travel to a particular destination, then the travel guidebook will be very useful and interesting.
The complete overview and the details of each step are given here. Although the descriptions in a travel guidebook are accurate, they are not as good as visiting the actual place. Similarly, the details of each step shown are only an indication of actual experience of the journey.
The destination of the path shown in this book is called Joyful Living. Alternatively, it can be called as enlightenment or liberation. It is essential that one should reach this destination as soon as possible so that the rest of the life could be joyful.
The ultimate destination of everyone in the world is Joyful Living and there is only one path leading to this destination. However, many do not have clarity on their destination and therefore, they are traveling in the wrong path. They will not reach the destination until they gain clarity on the destination and the right path.
This book describes the entire path from the beginning to end and the reader will benefit from this book wherever he might be starting his journey to Joyful Living.
4. Introduction to the Role of our mind
It is impossible to make the world perfect. Even if we assume that, we are successful in changing the face of the world by removing all hunger, poverty, pollution, war and all such social evils, still it is a not a guarantee that our life will be joyful.
Being rich and famous does not guarantee happiness. Whatever we want to achieve, someone has already achieved it. Even after reaching the goal, the happiness or contentment do not last for long. New goals appear when achieve our current goals. We seem to enjoy chasing the goals, without passing to think why we are chasing them in the first place.
Other than these external factors, there is one more aspect involved in making up a joyful living. Our mind. Even if we correct the whole environment that includes all the people, places, events in our life, still we may feel miserable. We may feel a deep sense of insecurity. Alternatively, we could have an unknown fear, an anxiety that everything could be wiped out.
The whole world is working on changing the external environment. The time and effort spent on changing our mind is comparatively negligible. As a result, even where the economic development has reached unimaginable heights, there is no sign of lasting happiness or contentment.
Therefore, we can see that joyful living does not depend on the external environment at all. The only factor that determines our happiness is our mind.
Example: A purchase manager of a company is highly corrupt. There are two competing vendors, one is concentrating on making quality products, and the other takes care of the purchase manager. Who is the successful vendor?
Similarly, our mind is corrupt. We need to spend most of our time and effort in taking care of our mind rather than spending time on correcting the external world. Changing the environment is necessary but incidental. We will see that we need to work on the environment for the sake changing our mind.
We need to maintain good relationship with others if we need companionship, which may not be the source of happiness all the time.
To live comfortably, is another purpose of our attempt to change the environment. The most comfortable man could still be unhappy. A man who has no comforts could still be happy. That is not to say that we do not need comforts in life. We need to be happy and comfortable.
To achieve such a scenario, our mind plays the major role. It is responsible for all the happiness, peace and security in our life. The role of external factors is limited to provide comforts/companionships to us.
5. Introduction to the Nature of our mind
Without our awareness, slowly we progress towards hunger. If we do not eat, our hunger grows. When we eat, the hunger goes and we are satisfied for the moment. It is not an eternal satisfaction. Soon we will feel hungry again.
Mind in a way is very similar to our stomach.
Mind functions exactly the same way. Like a hungry stomach, it yearns for fulfillment of a desire. Longer the desire is not fulfilled, more agitated our mind becomes. It drives us crazy and makes us run after the fulfillment of the desire at any cost. Once the desire is fulfilled, the mind becomes happy and peaceful. It is not an eternal satisfaction. Just like the stomach which feels hunger again in the lunchtime although it had breakfast, the mind is ready for the fulfillment of yet another desire. This happens without our awareness.
The hunger is caused by the need of our physical body. Since the physical body is gross, any food, which is also gross, can satisfy the hunger. However, the mind is not gross. It is subtle. Therefore, a gross object cannot fulfill the need of the subtle mind.
Example: A man is hungry. Food will satisfy his hunger. When he sleeps, he dreams that he is hungry. This suffering cannot be solved by real food. Only the knowledge that it is a dream can remove such suffering.
Similarly, the need of the mind can be fulfilled only by thoughts. Since knowledge (made up of thoughts) is also subtle, it will satisfy the mind and make it eternally contended. We are aware of this fact partly. We assume happy family, loving relationships, universal love, and such emotions can lead us to be fully contended.
Therefore, some of us will abandon our search for material progress and look for love/ companionship. Others will continue to earn money with the hope that companionship/ love can be bought. Both the groups will find that their search is futile. Mind will not be satisfied with love that depends on objects, persons, people or events of the world.
Without knowing this, we try to feed the mind by fulfilling desires of various kinds. The cycle of desire - fulfillment continuous eternally. This is due to a specific nature of mind. It is a bottomless pot. No amount of objects can fill it. We need to understand this very basic nature of mind that it cannot be fulfilled ever by worldly objects or worldly thoughts.
This understanding will be just a piece of irrelevant information if one does not have his own experience to validate this information. Only those who have spent much energy and efforts for a sufficiently long time chasing and gaining material objects and relationships, will be able to convert this information as knowledge.
6. Introduction to the Solution
Joyful Living means making our mind fully (and eternally) content by filling it with the right knowledge.
We have already seen that this cannot be achieved by worldly possessions (including money and love). We have also seen that the mind can be fulfilled only with the knowledge (thoughts) since both the mind and thoughts are subtle in nature.
Our hunger can be fulfilled only by food and not by any objects. Similarly, our mind can be fulfilled only by a right set of thoughts (knowledge).
The right knowledge is the answer to the questions "Who is God?" or "Who am I?" Both these questions are inter-related and one cannot be known without knowing the other. Therefore, if we get this answer, our mind will be filled up and we can live joyfully forever.
Thus, our final destination of Joyful Living can be reached only if we gain the knowledge on self/ God. Therefore, our immediate destination is to gain this right knowledge.
Any knowledge can come only when there is an enquiry. It is not possible to pass on any knowledge. One can pass on only a piece of information. It will be converted as knowledge only when the listener is in the enquiry mode.
Example: When a professor gives a lecture in a classroom, lots of information is given. Only when a student listen and has specific doubts on the information given, it will be converted as knowledge in the mind of that student. That is the reason why few gain knowledge and rest say the class was boring.
Similarly, one has to have the spirit of enquiry to gain Self-Knowledge.
Thus, enquiry is the next destination to gain Self-Knowledge
Not everyone will have an enquiring mind. If one is busy earning money to feed his family with the next meal, he will have no interest or inquisitiveness to initiate an enquiry. Matured mind is a pre-requisite for seeking Self-Knowledge.
Thus, gaining the matured mind is our next immediate destination. This book shows the path that is starting from method to make the mind matured.
Therefore, the solution is to get the mind matured, conduct an enquiry and gain Self-Knowledge. Once this is done, one will reach the destination: Joyful Living.
Step 1: Getting a matured mind (Theory)
7. Understanding desires
It is generally perceived that desires are evil. Nothing can be far from truth. Desire is a very much essential factor. The power to desire is the distinct power, which makes the human beings superior to all other living beings. Animals live based on their instincts. When they feel hungry, they look for food. They have enough knowledge to survive and they have enough capabilities to convert the knowledge into action to fulfill the need of survival and reproduction.
In case of the human beings, both the power to know and the power to act are driven by the power to desire. Desire is the motive power to know and act which makes human beings superior to animals.
However, this power to desire varies from individual to individual and from time to time. When we are young, we have enough power to desire toys. As we grow, our power to desire also grows. We start desiring to buy a car, house etc.
This power to desire determines the capabilities of the person. If one has the power to desire to reach the heights in the society, he or she will be willing to put the required efforts to reach such heights.
The ultimate power is to desire to reach God. Not everyone will have such desire.
Example: A child will have enough power to desire a chocolate and will not have desire to receive a high value currency note. This is due to the ignorance of the child. The child does not know the value of the currency note and desires the chocolate instead.
Similarly, most of us are ignorant of the power of knowledge to give us Joyful Living. Therefore, the desire to gain this knowledge is generally absent. As a result, we are contended with the desire for the worldly possessions.
Example: A grown up child chooses a currency since it knows many chocolates could be bought with that currency.
Similarly, when we get mental maturity we will grow out of the desire for worldly objects and start desiring to know God. This maturity comes only when one observes the limitations of the worldly objects. As and when a desire for worldly object is fulfilled the satisfaction lasts only for a while. Soon another desire comes up and makes us chase it. If one observes this carefully, he or she will be free of desires for worldly objects and shift the attention towards desiring the self-knowledge.
Like the currency, which can buy many chocolates, once the desire to know the God is fulfilled, one can enjoy the worldly possessions all the time without any risk/ fear of losing them.
8. Understanding the role of God
The key differentiating factor between human beings and animals is the thinking capacity. Joyful Living is not a dream goal for any animal. Only human beings can hope to achieve it using their power to think. One of the steps in the path to Joyful Living involves God.
It is necessary to have clarity on God. Among the thinkers, there are believers and non-believers. Essentially both mean the same. Both the types of people do not apply their power to think sufficiently to know God. They replace the need to think with blind belief. Even non-believers believe that there is no god. Neither group could prove either existence or non-existence of God.
God is an essential stepping-stone to reach Joyful Living. God is not the ultimate truth which 'grants' our wish. It is a truth, which needs to be understood. Once God is understood there will not be any more questions whether God exists or not. One will know God for sure without resorting to any belief.
Example: We know milk is white. We do not say 'I believe milk is white', we know it is white.
Similarly, we should know God and it is not enough just to believe or not believe in God. However knowing God is an integral part of the final step in the path and one is not yet ready for such an understanding. Therefore, it is necessary to 'believe' in god to complete the initial steps. For believers in God this is easier because they already believe in God. They should continue to believe and pray to God. For the rest it is necessary to modify their belief appropriately. They may have to assume God is nameless, formless power that is superior to man.
Why should we believe in God?
God can either be a truth or false. It does not matter to us either way if it is not connected to Joyful Living. By believing in God if we can live happily here and now, there is no harm in believing. Infact we will be fools if we do not, since the only other option is to sway between the pairs of opposites helplessly.
Fortunately, we do not know for sure whether God exists or not. In such a scenario, it is better to join the winning side. After all our goal is Joyful living and it is very difficult to reach our goal if we choose not to believe in God.
Example: Warm clothing is a necessary option if we are planning a trip to Mount Kailash. Without it, we can reach but the journey will be painful.
Therefore, we will believe God exists as a formless and nameless entity. If we want name and form, we have an option to choose from an array of gods ranging from Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu to Jesus and Allah. It does not matter which one we choose so long we believe in one sincerely.
9. Understanding the cause and effect relationship
Conventionally people are under the impression that there is a linear relationship between result and effort. This stems from the industrial experience where one can accurately determine the quality and quantity of the output. In the areas of material science, there is a perfect relationship between the cause and the effect. Such direct relationship is not fully transparent in the case of life.
It is obvious that many students work hard and prepare well for the exam. Nevertheless, it is possible only for few of them to remain in the top. In case of the mass production of any product, the output is uniform. There will not be any difference between the products comes out from an automatic production plant. However, in case of the human beings there is always difference.
This difference is conventionally assumed due to the adequacy or otherwise of the preparation of the participant.
Man is responsible only for doing action. The result of the action does not correlate directly to the action. Some unidentifiable factors influence the result.
Example: There are many unknown singers who are more talented and hard working than the most popular/ successful singers.
Similarly, in any given field not everyone who is qualified shines. Nor all those who succeed in life have done actions that deserve the success.
One has to recognize and accept the fact that the result is in God's hands. We are responsible only for our actions.
This fact is very difficult to comprehend in the absence of direct experience. Invariably everyone sees for himself or herself that sometime they fail to achieve their goal inspite of the best effort and sometime there are unexpected positive results without any corresponding action from their side. Some people talk about luck or ill luck, assuming that such events are far and few. The fact is that there is no apparent correlation between the action and the result. It will take a while for one to see this truth.
It is not that God plays a direct role in determining the result. There is a direct correlation between the action and the result of an individual. However, it is not visible and transparent as in the case of industrial production. Some of the results of the action are deferred and some results come about due to the accumulated effect of the past actions of the individual. Thus although one is fully responsible for the results they do not directly relate to the actions that precede the result.
Understanding this truth is essential to gain mental maturity, which will qualify one to the second step.
10. Understanding the purpose of doing work
The true purpose of doing any work is to polish one's mind and make it matured enough to enquire and understand the ultimate knowledge. However, without knowing this, people engage in various actions, expecting specific results. They assume that the results will bring them eternal happiness.
Example: People go to work to earn money on the assumption that money will buy them happiness.
This assumption is wrong. One is working not to earn money but to gain mental maturity, which will lead to joyful living. Without knowing this fact people spend lots of effort and time in earning money, which is counter productive. While earning the money they are unhappy (since they will be working hard) and after earning money they will find that the money is not enough. Once they gain the knowledge that, the purpose of working is to polish the mind; the work can be carried out more efficiently and more happily. Since there is no focus on the immediate results, one continues to be happy and not get upset during the journey.
Work is to be done as an offering to God. Work is worship and it should be done to the best of one's ability. One should also continuously develop one's personality by raising his capability to work. Proficiency is the gift from god and productivity is the return gift one gives to God.
There is no other separate prayer required. However, for reminding oneself that one is doing worship by doing the work, it is advisable to pray around five times a day. This will remind them that the work done during the entire day is done with an attitude of reverence to God. It should be done as a return gift for all the inputs we have taken from the environment for our survival and growth.
It is essential one should be engaged in a business or professional activity with an attitude to serve the God. Mere knowledge will not help. One has to actually do the work as worship for a considerable length of period before the mind is matured enough to move on to the next step.
Example: Walking around the god, in a temple, give better results than the morning walk.
Similarly, all our daily activities should be carried out with utmost reverence. Whatever we do, we are able to do due to God's grace. Therefore, we should be thankful that we have the opportunity to do the work.
When we eat, we should thank god for his gift. Our normal attitude that 'I am enjoying the benefit of my action' should be replaced by 'This is the alms from God'. Slowly this attitude should spread to all the results (like salary, increment, love, affection) one gets.
Once this attitude is firmed up, the mind will get matured enough to receive the ultimate knowledge.
11. Understanding the rights and duties relationship
The whole universe is well integrated. No living being is independent of the universe. As a corollary to the above, we can see that the life of every human being is intertwined with many duties and rights. One man's duty is another person's right.
Example: It is the duty of the employer to pay salary and he has a right to expect work. It is the right of the employee to expect the salary and duty to do work. Thus, right of one is the duty of the other.
People in general are accustomed to give undue importance to the 'rights' and ignore or be slack in the 'duties' part. To progress in the path to Joyful Living, it is recommended that one should change this attitude. One should concentrate only on one's own duty part and totally ignore the duties of the others.
Example: While walking on a road, the person walking ahead has dropped the valet. To pick up the valet and return it to the owner is our duty. When we do that, if that person does not thank us, we get upset or angry because we expect that it is our right to get recognition for our work.
This is wrong. Our duty ends when we returned the valet. We should not have any expectation for getting the acknowledgement.
If every one of us sticks to this prescription, then automatically our rights will be fulfilled. However, not everyone is interested in pursuing the path to Joyful Living. As a result, many will not do their duties properly. This should not deter us from continuing our best performance with respect to our duties. God holds the responsibility of matching the duties and rights. It is His duty to ensure that the right of everyone is fulfilled appropriately. It is beyond human comprehension to verify the calculation of God. We need to trust and accept God's work.
Trusting God, if one does all his duties perfectly his mind will mature fast.
One should start dedicating all the duties to the God and leave the rest to God.
Example: Mr A works very hard and sincerely for the organization and earns lots of revenue for his employer. However, Mr B, who hardly works, gets a huge bonus and promotion. Mr A was given only normal increment.
If Mr A does not accept the normal increment as a God's gift, he will have mental trauma. Therefore, to complete this step successfully one has to surrender to God. Offer all his action as worship and accept all the results as gift from God.
Step 2: Getting a matured mind (Practice)
12. Dynamic starting point
The journey towards Joyful Living is long. It is impossible for anyone to complete the journey in one birth; however, one may not know the distance already traveled in the previous births. Therefore, technically it can be said that everyone can reach the destination of Joyful Living in the current birth.
Example: When we traveling in a new place, we know neither where we are nor do we know our path to the destination. Therefore, we cannot read the map and assess the distance to the destination. Therefore, we ask a knowledgeable person, ascertain our current position and then estimate the time and effort required to reach the destination.
It is quite probable that we are standing right at our destination without being aware of it.
Similarly, one may be just few steps away from the destination of Joyful Living and it is quite possible to reach it in the current birth. Therefore, it is very important that one should consult the path and ascertain the current position. Depending on the progress made so far, one should continue the journey. One should comprehend all the steps in the path, assess their current position (be happy with the progress made) and then take appropriate steps towards the destination. Method of assessing the current position
Since the current position is somewhere between the origin and the destination we can locate it easily. The steps that appear below (to our standard) are completed steps and the steps that are above (difficult to comprehend or pursue) lead us to the destination. In this book all the steps starting from the origin is given. If one finds some of the initial steps easy, then it means those steps are already completed.
Example: A refugee child wants to be admitted in a school in a foreign country without any past records. If the child is admitted in a lower class, he will perform well and he can be given double promotion until he reaches a class that is right for him.
Similarly, when we start our journey, we will progress quickly and easily since we might have completed them in the previous birth. When we start struggling to make progress, we have identified the current position.
If we keep moving (working) without consulting the path, we will be going in circles without making any progress towards the destination.
Therefore, it is necessary to get expert opinion on our status and the next steps. Many do not get opportunity to know about the existence of the path and therefore they remain ignorant. Once we know, we should make progress.
13. Overview of the path
Knowingly or unknowingly, all of us are on the path that leads to Joyful Living. However, many are not aware that they are on the path. Only if one knows the destination and the path, the journey will be interesting and effective. Without this, we will constantly have a feeling of inadequacy, which will ultimately push us to find out all about the path and the destination. The destination is generally but not clearly known to everyone. (Everyone wants to be happy and all actions are performed for the sake of being happy) However, no one knows the right and only path.
The entire path requires one to live righteously. This means that we should be good and never be bad.
It is an absolute necessity that one to be good for pursuing the path to Joyful Living. To be good involves having good thoughts, good words and good actions all the time. If one slips away from righteousness consciously, he or she will also slip away from the path.
GOOD, is defined as, those thoughts, words and deeds, which one would like others to entertain.
BAD, is defined as, those thoughts, words and deeds, which one would not like others to entertain.
The entire path to joyful living and beyond consists of pure righteousness without any trace of bad thoughts, words and deeds.
During the initial phase of the path, one has to earn money and achieve economic progress. It does not matter in which field we work. We need to excel in our chosen profession and thereby achieve some degree of material success in life.
In the next phase, we should have many worldly desires and fulfill them. There need not be any limit on the desires so long they are socially acceptable. We should spend our time and money on enjoying life and not accumulate wealth. One should celebrate all sorts of functions and religious festivals. Obviously, the money will be spent on self, immediate family, extended family, friends, relatives and neighbors. As we grow in the economic status, we shall start contributing towards social causes that commensurate with our status.
During the final phase, we need to replace the worldly desires with the desire to know God. Once the worldly desires are fulfilled to a reasonable level, one tends to turn towards God for fulfillment. The limitations of the worldly objects in giving ever lasting happiness is realized and one desires deeply to lead a joyful life.
Once we get this desire to know God, we will progress towards Joyful Living.
14. Physical fitness
Our body is the basic tool to transact in the world. We need to maintain it in proper condition. Without a healthy body it is very difficult to perform any journey including pursuing the path to Joyful living. Therefore, one should first give utmost importance to fitness.
Intake of healthy food at regular intervals and appropriate exercises are the only way to maintain a healthy body. Normally amidst the demands from our profession, family and other pressures, maintaining the health takes least priority. Our body is a wonderful instrument but just like other instruments, it will also break down if it is not properly maintained. When we lose our health, it takes considerably more time and effort to become normal. Therefore, it is advisable that we should devote specific attention to the health when we are young.
People in general do not know that the physical body is independent of the sense organs. Our ability to hear sound or smell fragrance does not belong to the physical body. They are distinct functions of our subtle body, which is independent of the physical body. Subtle body can survive without the physical body but the other way around is not possible.
Being ignorant of this fact, people yield to the sense pleasures at the cost of spoiling the health of the physical body. The physical body reports that it is thirsty and does not demand any aerated drinks. Mere water will quench the thirst. However, our subtle body insists that we feed the physical body with a cola. If we yield to such temptations frequently, we end up spoiling our health.
Thus, we need to understand that the subtle body is not always concerned about the well-being of the physical body.
Example: The tenant of the house may not maintain the house properly since he is occupying it only for a short duration. Because of his negligence if the house reaches a stage of being collapsed, he will not hesitate to abandon the house and move on to a new house.
The relationship between the subtle body and the physical body is exactly like that of the tenant and the house. Therefore, we should use our intelligence and will power and restrain our sense organs. This is the only way in which we can protect our physical body.
The purpose of physical body is not to cater to the short term demands of the sense pleasures. Its main purpose is to enable us to reach our goal of Joyful Living. We cannot progress on our journey with poor physical health. Therefore, we need to maintain the health of the physical body to keep us in a fit condition for our journey.
15. Mental fitness
Many diseases can affect our mental fitness. Excessive anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, animosity, hatred and such diseases affect the well-being of our mind. We need to maintain our mind free of such diseases atleast for a sufficiently long duration during any given day. It may not be possible to eliminate all such qualities until one reaches the destination. Nevertheless, attempts should be made to reduce the frequency and intensity of such emotions to enable us to pursue the path to Joyful Living.
A mind clouded with negative emotions is unfit to gain any knowledge and especially the self-knowledge.
Negative emotions are normally the result of our life-style. If we are to live in a socially acceptable way, we should be able to avoid the influence of the negative emotions largely.
In addition to the above, we need to read good books, which teach us to progress us in life. We should stand in front of the mirror and say, "You are becoming better and better in all respects", everyday. All our efforts should be focused on such growth.
We should seek the company of good friends who help us to progress mentally, socially and economically.
Gambling, drinking, smoking and spending the time in clubs and pubs prevent us from growing mentally. Sharp and alert mind that is focused on growth is an essential requirement to pursue joyful living.
To maintain the mind in a fit condition one should continue to feed it with intellectual exercises. One should progressively seek for more challenges and strive to maintain jobs, associations, hobbies and pass time activities that demand higher level of intelligence.
We should participate in discussions and debates which are intellectually stimulating. Keeping a company of intellectual people also contribute to maintaining mental sharpness.
Anyone who can pursue and complete postgraduate level of education in any field has the required minimum level of intelligence. However, this is the minimum requirement. Mental sharpness, better IQ and the ability to concentrate for long time will help us to progress in the path at much faster speed.
If some one is not able to complete the high school education, then that person may not have the required level of intelligence to pursue the path to Joyful Living. Similarly, one who indulges in clubs (gambling) and pubs (drinking) is disqualified to join the path to Joyful Living.
Mental fitness is judged by the curiosity to learn new subjects and creativity. More fitness, better we are equipped to progress on the path.
16. Minimum qualification
One should lead a life of righteousness. This involves doing good actions and avoiding bad actions. Action here includes all our thoughts, words and deeds.
Good Actions are those that benefit others and will include the following.
Kindness and compassion to all
Respect to Mother Nature
Respect to elders in the society
Hospitable to all guests
Helping tendency towards neighbors, colleagues and fellow human beings
Feeding the poor
Providing shelter and clothing
Supporting education to poor
Cleanliness and Purity in all actions
Contentment with whatever we have
Willful self-denial of sense pleasure (Avoidance of over indulgence and learning to live within limited means although one cold afford to spend more)
In short, how an individual expects others to behave are called Good Actions.
Bad Actions are those that harm or hurt others and include the following:
Violence and killing
Stealing and misappropriation
Cheating, exploiting others
Harming others by untruthfulness
Violating the private space of others
Amassing wealth and to be greedy
Showing disrespect to elders or insulting people
In short, how an individual expects others not to behave are called Bad Actions.
The degree of success in avoiding all the bad actions and performing the good actions is left to the judgment of the concerned individual. Each person's scale may vary but it is essential that one should be satisfied with one's own performance.
For example, the meaning of the phrases, 'amassing wealth' or 'to be greedy', will vary person to person. Nevertheless, it is left to the judgment of the individual. If a person feels that he is greedy, then he should consciously avoid being so until he reaches a stage that he feels that he is not greedy any more.
On very rare occasions, one is permitted to do bad actions on meeting the following two conditions.
Elders and noble men in the society must decide such action is warranted
Such action should not have any selfish motives and done purely purpose of ensuring a larger good.
It is advisable to stay away from the bad actions, even if these two conditions are met, since it will invariably bring negative results to us.
All actions are addictive in nature and therefore one should do good actions continuously so that they become part of our personality. When that happens, we will enjoy doing good actions and we will meet the minimum requirement for traveling towards Joyful Living.
17. Initial enquiry
It is true that the entire human race is working for the sake of gaining everlasting security, undisturbed peace and non-diminishing happiness. Every one is involved in never ending action to achieve this goal. However, not every one knows the right exit, which will take them to this destination.
It is like traveling in circle. To reach the destination one may have to travel. Nevertheless, one should exit at the appropriate place to reach the destination and not continue the travel forever.
Until we understand the right path to Joyful Living, we will also behave like the majority. Since the destination (happiness) is common and the means of travel (working at an office) is common, we assume that following the majority will lead us to the destination. This assumption is valid only if the majority is not ignorant.
We are generally sure that whatever we are doing is the right thing to do since most of the people around us are doing the same. We find security in being with the majority.
Example: When one gets down from the train in a strange place, he will start walking along with the majority of the people to reach the exit gate of the railway station. Since he is sure that everyone is going towards the exit, he will not enquire the direction to the exit.
In Dadar West station in Mumbai, most people who get down from the train do not go to the exit gate but to Dadar Central Station to take the connecting train. If one follows the majority blindly, he will start doubting his decision to follow. When he sees that people are heading towards another train, he will start the enquiry about the exit gate.
Similarly, only when we see that we are not reaching our goal using our regular path we start questioning it. It will take a while to realize that we are not getting anywhere near the exit gate. Only then, we will wake up and start the enquiry. Some of us, who find much comfort being with the majority, may not want to wake up and take a different route all alone.
When we enjoy the whole world join with us. When we suffer in life, we are alone. Nevertheless, we console ourselves that every one has to suffer some time or other in their life. Therefore, we do not do anything about our suffering. If there is an option to avoid such suffering, we should be willing to take it. This will involve traveling alone and one may not have the security of traveling with the majority (in the wrong direction!). When we are ready to travel alone in the right direction, we take the next step.
We will start enquiring whether we are on the right path. We will know that monitory progress is not taking us to where we want and explore other options.
18. Initial action
So long we are sure, we do not enquire. When we are doubtful, we start the enquiry. Our enquiry shows us the only alternative to the material path, namely, spiritual path. However, pursuing spiritual path may not involve any change in what we are doing. We have to continue doing what we are doing but with a different attitude.
Everyone around is involved in action for the sake of correcting the world around them. We may have to do the same action for the sake of correcting our mind. To bring in such attitude in our action is the next step in our journey.
The regular work (with out the right attitude) will take us nowhere.
Example: A man is rowing the boat very hard all through the night. In the morning, he realized that he has not moved an inch from the starting point. The reason was the anchor, which was tied to the ground, is not removed.
Similarly, all our work in our business/ office is being wasted since we do not have the right knowledge why we are working. We are under the wrong assumption that we are working for earning money. We feel that money could be used to correct the environment thereby we can fulfill our mind.
We need to have right knowledge and then do whatever we are doing until our mind is matured enough to gain the knowledge of the ultimate.
Mere knowledge that we need to modify our mind will not bring about the required change. The knowledge has to be put in to action.
Example: A doctor prescribes certain medicine for an illness. Mere knowledge of the effectiveness of the medicine will not cure the illness. One has to take the medicines.
Similarly, the knowledge on the mental maturity is not enough to gain mental maturity. One should work hard and gain mental maturity, which takes long years of practice.
Everyone follows the truth. However, what the term 'truth' means, differs from individual to individual. It is not possible for everyone to understand the absolute truth because the level of intelligence varies. What is logical and clear for one person is illogical and absurd for another.
Nevertheless, everyone follows truth, as seen through his or her limited vision. When one starts to live by the truth, he or she progresses and sees the fallacy of their earlier version of truth. Thus, one should keep progressing until one reaches the ultimate truth.
How do we know which one is the absolute truth? Answer: It does not require us to do any further action. If we need some action to reach the truth, then it is at lower level. Absolute truth liberates us from all sort of action and make us live joyfully ever. This will come at the end of the journey. As of this stage, whatever lower level of truth that is acceptable to us, we need to put that in action.
19. Earning and spending money
The money one earns is the measure of material success. It is essential for one to achieve reasonable success in life and earn enough money to support the self and family. The quantum of money in absolute terms is not relevant. In relative terms, one should progressively earn more money.
The money thus earned should be spent. Money does more harm when one starts accumulating it without spending. One should according to the level of income, spend money on self, immediate family, extended family, friends, relatives, neighbors and society.
Spending money on a good cause is more important than earning money if one wishes to progress towards joyful living. The reason for this emphasis on spending is manifold.
Firstly, it enables a person not to be unduly attached to his or her wealth.
Secondly, it is essential to earn more money since it is one of the easy-to-use tools to measure the growth in one's personality. Growth in personality is essential to progress on the path.
Thirdly, it prevents a person to think that if more wealth is accumulated he or she will become joyful. It is a myth. One tends to sacrifice the present for a future happiness that is never going to come. Therefore, spending the money will save a person from being caught in the bottomless pit.
Fourthly, spending money will help a person to find out the true nature of the objects, events and persons in the world. There is no happiness in them. Nevertheless, the knowledge that there is no happiness in them cannot be assimilated without an actual experience. No amount of preaching on the deficiency of the worldly possessions and material wealth in giving happiness to a person will be of any help. One has to experience this personally to gain this knowledge. That comes by spending money and trying to fulfill our desires.
Finally, spending money on others will bring one lots of merit. This will indirectly help one to succeed in life. Success in life is not directly related to one's effort towards it. It depends a lot on the merit accumulated by a person. In addition, one requires a helping hand from the right teacher while progressing in the path to Joyful Living. This comes from the accumulated merits. Therefore, it is essential that one spends money on social causes and spend liberally on needy persons. It could be in the form of providing food, shelter or education to poor.
Donating money to the God as a compensation for the sins committed is strongly discouraged. The mind will convince itself to continue to commit sins since appropriate 'license fee' could be paid to God.
20. Self-restriction/ Penance
All the religions impose certain self-restrictive practices as penance. One has to follow such religious injunctions as prescribed in their respective religion. Those who do not have the habit of doing any such practices, may self impose any beneficial practice. For example, abstaining from specific type of food items may be a good practice. It can be in line with the doctor's recommendation to reduce cholesterol or blood pressure.
It is essential that the act of penance involves doing something which one generally does not want to do (getting up early in the morning and visit temple) or not doing something which one wants to do (not eating food).
Example: A king may collect taxes from the subjects just to emphasize his control over them. The tax money may not be required otherwise.
Similarly, the acts of self-restriction/ penance have the main purpose of establishing control over our likes and dislikes. The relationship between intelligence and mind is always dynamic. Some times our actions depend on the decisions of the intelligence, but most of the times they are in line with the wishes of the mind, which is under the influence of our sense organs. This is not correct. The intelligence should always prevail over the mind.
The mind is influenced by the likes and dislikes and such influences contradict the demand of the intelligence. This tendency is a big obstacle in our path to Joyful Living.
The sense objects of the world attract the sense organs. The more we enjoy the sense pleasures the more we get addicted to them. All our actions are automatically are focused on obtaining the objects of desire and avoiding the objects of disliking. Such actions become our habits and they reinforce our likes and dislikes.
As a result, we become prisoners of the external world. We are here to enjoy the world and all the sense objects are for our enjoyment. However, unfortunately instead of being the masters we are attached to the sense objects. This attachment brings us misery and prevents us from living joyfully.
Example: A bee visits the flower to drink the honey. However, it is caught in the nectar.
So long, the external world determines our happiness or otherwise, joyful living is impossible. It is never going to be possible for us to correct the world to our liking. Therefore, we need to practice self-restraint/ penance which will facilitate our release us from this bondage.
Connecting the God with such practices helps us to improve our self-control. However, it is not necessary one should practice such penances in the name of God.
21. Developing Discrimination
If we have followed all the steps suggested so far for a length of a period we would have gained enough mental maturity to discriminate between the transitory objects of the world and the permanent self.
If we are to think back about our life so far, we will see that there was not a single object, person, situation, which gave us complete ever-lasting satisfaction. If this is the case, what is the probability of we ever getting an object, person or situation that will fill the deficiency of our mind? Such probability is zero. This is so because the nature of the world is deficient.
Secondly, the pleasure we seem to derive from the worldly possessions (objects, persons and events) are addictive in nature. In course of time, we will stop getting any pleasure from them. Moreover, we become slaves to such possessions.
Example: We install an air conditioner. For the first few days, we enjoy the comfort. Slowly the pleasure, we derive from the air conditioner keep reducing. Then we forget there is an air conditioner running. After a while, we suffer if the air conditioner is not working. Thus, we do not get any pleasure from the air conditioner; instead, we suffer when it is not working.
This is true for all our possessions. All our luxuries become our necessities during the course of time and we keep looking for that object which will fulfill our deficiency of the mind.
While everything around us is false, the only thing that is real is within us. When we actually undertake the journey and travel thus far, we will realize the meaning of this sentence.
The definition of truth is that which is present at all times without any changes or modification. We will not be able to identify this truth, which is present in all of us, until we develop sufficient sense of discrimination.
Discrimination has two parts. Identifying the falsehood is the first part. When we gain this part, we start developing a sense of dispassion, which is detailed in the next step.
The second part is to know the truth atleast partly. It is not possible to know the truth fully since it involves long period of learning from a competent teacher. Based on the progress made so far, one would have gained enough wisdom to identify the truth, which is changeless, our self.
This will result in a deep desire to know it fully, which is detailed in the subsequent step.
22. Developing Dispassion
The limitation of the external objects in giving us happiness, peace and security is to be fully understood. This is possible only thorough practice of earning/ spending money to fulfill our desires. The more we do the more the desires grow and we never get a feeling of fulfillment. When we experience and realize this fact, we will develop a sense of detachment from the external objects of the world. This is quality is called dispassion.
We need to see the limitation as frequently as possible. Since our mind is trained to assume that the source of happiness is out there in the external objects, it takes lots of effort to convince the mind to see the limitations and deficiencies of the worldly objects.
If one sees and understands the limitation of the external objects to give lasting happiness, he or she is closer to joyful living.
The worldly objects appear to be the source of happiness until one enquires on it. On enquiry, their true status is exposed.
23. Developing Deep Desire
After knowing the limitations of the worldly objects in giving lasting happiness, we turn our attention to the permanent truth. This can happen in three different ways.
We can take a bird's eye view of our entire life and question the purpose of living. We wonder why and how this world is created.
Alternatively, we may want to know who is God or look for the answer to the question 'Who am I?".
Any one of these three pursuits will end up answering all the questions. However to embark on the quest to find these answers one should have deep desire.
Example: A disciple wanted to see God and the teacher kept postponing the day on which he will show God. When he becomes impatient, the teacher pushed him under the water and kept him there for a while. The disciple was struggling for breath. The teacher released him and told, "When you want to see God as frantically as you were grasping for breath, you will see Him"
Such deep desire is required before one commences the serious enquiry. Finding answers to such questions is not a pass time activity. It is a very serious affair. One should be willing to forgo everything else for gaining this knowledge.
24. Shift the focus from material to spiritual life
One should bid farewell to the busy life to which one is accustomed. Life will be more hectic in search of the internal soul and correspondingly the focus from the external world should be shifted.
Until this point of time, one is working for achieving success in the external world. When one gains enough discrimination, dispassion and deep desire automatically he will tend to move away from material pursuit. One should not abandon all the activities all of a sudden. All the activities should be reduced systematically in a planned manner causing least trouble to self, family and the society. This is called reduction of PORT as detailed below
Reduction of Possessions: One would have accumulated many worldly possessions. All these things are to be given away in charity either to one's own family members or to outsiders. More than physical and legal transfer, one should give up the mental ownership. If it is possible for one to give up the possessions in the mental level it is not required that one should give them away physically or legally. The reason for giving them away physically is for maintaining the possessions. Our possessions require constant maintenance and we may not have that much of time and effort to spare. Our main pursuit will be SELF or GOD and physical possession might be an obstacle to our pursuit.
Reduction of Obligations and duties: One should give up all the obligations and duties systematically so that enough time is available for spiritual pursuit. Our duties and obligations are some one else's rights. We should not cause them sufferings by abandoning everything. Therefore, one should consciously reduce the duties and obligations until one reaches the final stage of Joyful Living.
Reduction of Relationships and friendships: Unless equally oriented towards spirituality one should cut down on all relationships and friendships. Social obligations and maintenance of relationships will cause one to slip back in the spiritual journey.
Reduction of Transactions: All the worldly transactions are to be reduced to the extent possible since all the effort and time are now to be redirected towards the spiritual quest. Reading newspaper, watching television and such 'normal' activities are to be abandoned.
We should stop looking for sense pleasure (Detailed in the next section).
We should also stop using our organs of actions towards material pursuit. (Detailed in the subsequent section)
Step 3 - Spiritual Enquiry - Practical
25. Restraining Sense Organs
Sense organs (Ear, Skin, Eye, Tongue and Nose) are instruments through which we gain knowledge from the world. Due to ignorance, we assume that they are the source of happiness. Therefore, we seek fulfillment of sense pleasures.
Any experience depends on three distinct factors:
The availability of a sense object: There are many sense objects freely available for sense pleasures. Nevertheless, they do not attract us because they are available free. We are under the wrong impression that we need to spend lots of time and energy to obtain a sense object to derive pleasure. Therefore, it takes a while to get the 'desired' sense object.
The availability of the corresponding sense organ: Our sense organ should be in a perfect condition to enjoy the sense object. This may not be the case all the time. When one ages, the capabilities of the organs are bound to come down. If we are still clinging on deriving happiness through sense pleasures, we will feel miserable since our sense objects will soon start non-cooperation movement.
The availability of a mind: Even if both the above conditions are met, we may not be happy because the mind may refuse to cooperate.
Example: If we hear the news of a death of a person close to us, we may not be in a mood to enjoy the sense pleasures.
Thus, the status of the mind ultimately determines whether we can enjoy the sense object or not. It is quite possible to derive happiness even by denying the experience. It is all in the mind.
Example: If a sweet that we like is available, we may derive more pleasure from giving it to our loved ones than by eating it.
As it can be seen from the above, the mind plays the crucial role in our experience. Therefore, it is advisable to pull ourselves away from the desires based on sense pleasures. Initially we can moderate them and slowly we can switch over to higher level of pleasure. In any case, we must give up sense pleasures before we become old or incapacitated to enjoy.
If we do not do that, we will become progressively unhappy and feel miserable when we age. Therefore, even if one does not want to pursue the path to Joyful Living, it is better to restrain the sense organs.
One should gain enough freedom from the control of sense organs so that one could spend the required time towards progressing in the spiritual path.
26. Restraining Organs of Actions:
Organs of the actions (speaking tongue, organs of digestion, organs of reproduction, hands and legs) are the means to interact with the world. We mainly use it to chase happiness in the external world.
Thoughts are the origin for all our words and deeds. Our words and deeds have direct influence our thoughts. If we keep doing some act repeatedly, it leaves a mark on our mind, which makes us think more often about that act.
Our way of life and company in which we live influence our words and deeds. Therefore, we should ensure that we are in good company.
We should not do any bad actions (thoughts, words and deeds) willfully.
Firstly, they cause hurt to others and that is not good for us. It will bring us demerit and pull us away from the path to joyful living. Secondly, our mind will not be at peace when we do something bad.
Similarly, if we show love and affection to someone before it reaches the other person, it gives us happiness and peace. The other person getting benefit of our kindness is incidental.
Another aspect of good and bad actions is they come as a bunch. If we hold on to one good quality, it will bring along with it all other good qualities. Similarly, if we keep doing one bad action, it will influence us to do all other bad qualities.
Example: A lone bad habit of gambling will slowly attract a person into drinking, smoking and all such bad habits.
Desire is the cause of all our actions. The cause of the desire is our thoughts. The cause of our thoughts is our action. It is a vicious circle. We can break the cycle only by breaking at the action level. It is not possible for us to control our thoughts directly.
However, before the thoughts could be converted into actions, we can use our will power and prevent it from expressing as actions.
In the place of bad actions, one should plant good actions. Over a period, this will enable good thoughts to replace the bad thoughts.
Example: One visits bar everyday. If somehow he is forced to visit the place of worship everyday, instead of going to the bar, then it becomes a habit. Even when the force is removed, one will choose to go to the place of worship and not to bar, until he is forced again!
This is true for any action, good or bad.
Therefore, one should use the intelligence and willpower to restrain the organs of actions from doing any bad actions. It is important that we force the organs of actions to do something good and positive, lest they will stray back into the bad actions.
27. Farewell to material pursuit
Once the mind is matured, it can discriminate between the reality and falsehood. As a result, of this understanding one will develop complete mental detachment from all the worldly activities. In addition, one will have a strong urge and move towards understanding the only reality.
This drive towards understanding the ultimate reality will shape the environment, company of friends/ relatives and the nature of activities one undertake. He will consciously move away from 'normal' activities like reading daily newspaper etc.
Trust in God will become deeper. He will pray to God sincerely with the only request to show the correct way to the truth. Whatever happens in life will be looked upon as the desire of God and he will accept them with gratitude.
Example: A tourist ship was caught in a cyclone in the middle of the sea and the ship appeared to capsize. A newly married wife was thoroughly frightened; her husband was maintaining a cool all the time. When they reached the safety of their home, the wife asked her husband the secret of his calmness. He answered, "My knowledge" and explained by pointing a knife at her, "Are you scared now?" She replied smilingly "No. I am not. Why should I be scared of the knife in your hand?" He responded, "Cyclone is God's creation. God loves me. Therefore, I was not sacred"
One should stop completely all the work relating to earning money. The need for sustenance and survival will be taken care of by God. The only permissible activity is to surrender to a competent teacher and pursue the learning of Holy Scriptures.
Example: One needs to travel on a pony to reach the temple after reaching Mount Kailash. There is no option to do this part much earlier as the first leg of the journey from home. The sequence is important.
Thus, one should not stop working before reaching this stage. Nor work should be abandoned abruptly. It should be systematically handed over causing least trouble.
A father feels that the son should not undergo the troubles he had undergone in his childhood. This is not correct. Everyone needs to undergo all sorts of experiences to progress in life. Therefore, one should allow the near and dear to shoulder the responsibility of working and running the family by themselves. This will enable them to progress in their spiritual path.
All the responsibilities should be given away before others snatch it. The only duty is to fall on the feet of the teacher and seek for blessing in the form of knowledge.