Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

A Guideline for a Spiritual Life
Sundararajan Mohan

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Part III of III

Part I of III, Part II of III

Duty to family - dharmya kAma

In modern psychology it is said that the human brain operates in two modes. The left brain focuses on logic, rationality and thought. The right brain is oriented towards intuition, creativity and feelings. Our scriptures recognize these two aspects of the human psyche or mind, the rational and the emotional.

If 'artha' represents logical thought as largely applicable in one's career, 'kAma' represents the potential for human emotionality. Just as modern psychology suggests that success comes to the person who balances the left and right brain functions, in the puruShArtha strategy also, importance is given to balancing the rational with the emotional potential of the human being. As career is the means to operate in the realms of thought, the family is the means to express one's emotions.

It is significant that the Vedas do not talk of the 'Arthashta' Ashrama but call that phase of life as gRRihastha. The home is a very important aspect of life because it allows one's emotional potential to have a free play in a safe and sacred environment.

'kAma' is often described as 'lust' or 'desire'. There is another meaning (Monier Williams) that is, 'longing for'. kAma can be said to be a 'longing for fulfillment�. This longing for fulfillment or completeness or perfection is a natural, in-built trait in the human being. Human life is a search for fulfillment and that motivational impulse is kAma.

There are three expressions in Sanskrit: 'sphruha', 'akAnksha' and kAma'. 'sphruha' has a touch of envy associated with it. Monier Williams translates it as 'desire, longing for, envy'. akAnksha on the other hand seems to imply 'desire, longing for, endeavour to gain'. The word 'kAma' has a touch of pleasure and enjoyment.

These are natural characteristics of a human being. However, just as one can be obsessed with wealth no matter what the means is, similarly one can be obsessed with enjoyment no matter what the means is.

The puruShArtha concept prescribes the path of dharmya kAma instead of just kAma, just as it suggests dharmya Artha instead of just Artha.

dharmya kAma is that means of fulfilling one's desires which will permit one to evolve as a human being. That is the basis of family life and seeking the happiness not of oneself alone but of all members of the family. It sets out the parameters for one's relationships with spouse, children, parents and other members of the family.

By seeking the fulfillment of family happiness one paves the way to the ultimate personal happiness called Ananda. dharmya kAma teaches one to forget oneself in the affection and enjoyment of the family. There is no selfishness here at all.

Devotion to the family is the foundation for devotion to the Divine Principle or God.

The strategic objective - mokSha

Our scriptures define the strategic objective of human life as mokSha.

The term 'mokSha' derives from the same root as mukti, which means freedom. Freedom from what? The answer is freedom from re-birth. The strategic objective of human life, considered as the pinnacle of evolution of the soul, is to become completely free from the possibility of being born again.

How is this to be attained? The answer is inbuilt in the term mokSha when considered as a combination of two terms 'moha' (attachment) and 'kShaya' (destruction). Thus the means of attaining mokSha is said to be the destruction of attachment.

This is a conundrum which is typical of Indian philosophical thought and discourse. It calls for a great deal of careful analysis to accept that all that we enjoy and celebrate as 'life' with all its commitments, involvements and consequent attachments, has to be given up one day to achieve the very purpose of this life. But this apparent contradiction embodies within itself, the need to learn detachment. It is this attitude of detachment that is cultivated at every stage (or Ashrama) of human life.

'brahmacharya�, 'gRRihastha', 'vanaprastha' and 'saMnyAsa' are progressive steps in the cultivation of detachment. Everyone goes through brahmacharya; however, a small minority of 'evolved' humans jump straight to saMnyAsa because the requisite detachment has already been achieved in an earlier life. The majority of us go through gRRihastha and vanaprastha before reaching, if at all, saMnyAsa.

Career and family - one has to give up all attachments. This is expressed by Sri Krishna in Chapter 18, Verse 66, the chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that deals with saMnyAsa yoga, when He says:

  Sarva Dharman Parithyajya Mamekam Sharanam Vraja
  Aham TvAm Sarva Papebhyo Moksha Ishyami MA ShuchA!

  Abandoning all righteous duties, seek Me as thy Sole Refuge,
  I will liberate thee from all sins; do thou not grieve!


The puruShArtha concept thus not only gives guidelines for leading life but also prepares one for the ultimate discovery of Self. mokSha is not only freedom from the life of career and family but the realization of one's true identity.

Strange as it may seem, that identity is itself nothing other than dharma. The Self appears in human life as dharma. Thus parAdharma becomes the stepping stone for svadharma.

Some of the writings may sound different to what I have stated above. But as we observe from many recent writings on the etymological and other aspects of our scriptures many interpretations are possible and there is always the need to look at these thoughts from the fresh angle of current experiences. What matters is that by this process you discover your individual way of looking at it and that will take you to the truth!

There is no standard panacea for the problems. The world continues to struggle to correct its mistakes and seems to compound them sometimes with more mistakes.

But please keep your faith in the Self intact. Your innermost core is the Self. Become interested and develop closeness to the Self. Increasing awareness of your Self will make all external conflicts slowly fade away.

In the world, do your duty with dedication, sincerity and ardor, both to your profession and to your family. Be honest to yourself that you did your best.

That Self within you, Atman, Brahman, God or by whatever name you want to call it, will show you the way, guide you, protect you and bless you.

People like me, at the end of this mortal existence, depend on you and your generation to care for the world, to uphold dharma, to live an honest and dedicated life, to foster families, to guide the future generations.

VedAnta calls this approach to life as 'SanAtana dharma� or �Eternal Dharma�.

May that Brahman Himself bless you with Bliss Eternal!

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012