Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 4

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
ISBN: 978-81-7276-457-9
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VI - We are enslaved by our efforts to be free from being a wanting person

We may look into our problem with the help of the scriptures. They state that the human ends can be characterized as dharma, artha, käma and mokña [5].


Taking artha first, artha refers to resource of all kinds sought for providing us with security in any manner, like physical, emotional, economical or social. It may be in the form of food, clothing, shelter, cash, liquid assets, real estate, qualifications, relationships, reputation, recognition, title, influence, or power of any kind. These give us some security as also boost our I-sense.


Once we feel reasonably secure, we seek to enjoy life. This gives rise to pursuit of käma. Käma is anything that satisfies our senses, pleases our mind and touches our heart, evoking certain appreciation in us. It includes gratification through tasting, seeing, touching, smelling and hearing, intellectual like studying, solving riddles and playing certain games and aesthetic like music, dance, painting and other fine arts.


Exposure to the çästra [6] gives us the knowledge to pursue dharma and mokña. Dharma has different facets. Here, it means action in accordance with the injunctions of the çästra and in conformity with the universal values like non-injury, truthfulness. Through performance of acts of dharma, we derive a deep sense of satisfaction. Besides this visible result, dharma gives the invisible result of accrual of merit, called puëya. Puëya brings about a happy and problem free situation in this life and in the life after death. We also follow dharma not for getting this result but for refining our mind.


Mokña is freedom from bondage. Bondage is caused by our conclusion that we are limited in every sense, which makes us unceasingly exert to become self-adequate and self-satisfied. We come to know through the çästra that this conclusion is erroneous and that it arises because of the ignorance (ajïäna) [7] of the self. So, we pursue knowledge (jïäna) of the self for removing self-ignorance [8] so that we may become free from our wrong appraisal of self-inadequacy, which results in bondage.


After classifying the human goals in this manner, çästra significantly adds that our unhappiness arises out of the defects inherent in our pursuit of artha, käma and dharma for puëya [9]. As for dharma for refinement of the mind and mokña, they are defect free goals.


The first defect is the pain involved in making the effort and in accepting its result. Effort involves physical and mental strain and diversion of the available material resources and time. As for the results, they are unpredictable owing to impediments arising from oneself, the world and the natural and supernatural forces [10]. As a result, we may achieve less than what we intended or something entirely different from what we sought or even the opposite of what we wanted. Even in respect of what is achieved, we have to exert towards its preservation. What we gain is also not permanent as everything deteriorates and becomes unusable eventually [11].


The basic shortcoming is that the sense of adequacy, security and happiness that we get through our efforts is limited and temporary. In our activities seeking pleasure, we also discover that it is not easily obtained. The gain of pleasure depends on the convergence of three constantly changing factors of availability of the object, availability of appropriate means of enjoying it and presence of proper frame of mind for enjoyment. Even when it is fulfilled and we derive enjoyment, the mind discovers monotony in objects and we get tired of the very thing that we considered pleasurable and seek fresh avenues of gratification. We also soon find the aids for our comfort to be inadequate and we keep on increasing them. As for security, we feel that any amount of money and possessions that we accumulate is deficient and continue to seek them not only for ourselves but also for our future generations. Despite all our efforts to safeguard ourselves, we become apprehensive even when we encounter a small setback or an unexpected development.


The most detrimental defect is that we lose our freedom. When we engage ourselves in some activity but feel free to desist from it as and when we want, we enjoy the freedom of either doing it or of not doing it. But, if we feel obliged to have recourse to it and cannot stop doing it, then we are bound by it. For example, the hard drinker cannot stop taking liquor even when his health and finances do not permit it. In his case, he has lost his independence as far as liquor is concerned. In the case of all of us, our effort to become free from our sense of want is what the liquor is to the addict. We have the same disposition as the liquor addict that “without these, my life is empty”. We always have a long list of items to be accomplished based on our conclusions about ourselves. We do not feel comfortable unless we are attending to them. What is more, like the liquor addict, even when what we gain through our actions does not make us a satisfied person for long, we cannot desist from this activity and enquire into our problem for arriving at a proper solution. Our natural tendency is only immediately to try to be free from what we cannot accept by making fresh effort. Our urge to be adequate is as natural as the urge to be free from hunger. Thus, even when we come back to square one in this game of self-fulfillment, we invariably start it all over again. In the process, we become bound to the unavailing effort and our life becomes an endless struggle for attaining constant security and happiness [12].


Çaìkaräcärya compares us with the silkworm that spins a cocoon around itself for its safety not knowing that it will be trapped in that very cocoon [13]. And for generations after generations, it keeps doing the same thing, as it does not have the mind with discriminating ability. We, on the other hand, possess the mind having the capacity to analyze, discriminate and determine. Nevertheless, we do the same thing as the silkworm, as the immediate urge to succeed in our effort to be the secure and happy person overwhelms our discrimination and obstructs objective thinking. By this process, we lose our freedom and perpetuate unhappiness.


The root cause of our problem is our self-damaging self-judgment, which is made on the basis that we are what the body-mind-sense-complex is. This erroneous conclusion about ourselves is natural as we are born ignorant. That is why it is fundamental. Therefore, the fundamental problem is our inborn self-ignorance due to which we convert our life into a ceaseless struggle to overcome the sense of inadequacy, insecurity, and unhappiness caused by it.

5. These are known as puruñärthas, which means sarvaiù puruñaiù arthyate or what everyone pursues.
6. It means: That which protects through precepts (Säsanät träyate iti çästram|). In this context, it means Veda and other texts based on Veda like Manusmåti, Patañjalismåti, Yäjñavalkyasmåti, and sütras codifying their contents and clearly indicating the duties, like dharma-sütras, çrauta-sütras (vedic rituals) and gåhya-sütras (householder rituals).
7. Ajïäna is also referred to as avidyä.
8. The person who pursues mokña as the primary goal is called mumukñu (desirer of freedom).
9. The defects of the first three goals are duhkhamiçritatvam, admixture with pain, atåptikaratvam, dissatisfaction and bandhakatvam, dependence or bondage.
10. The three kinds of afflictions that the human beings are subject to are called   täpatrayam. They are ädhyätmika, those arising from oneself, ädhibhautika, those arising from our surroundings including the people and other living beings and ädhidaivika, those arising from divine or supernatural agencies.
11. The pain associated are:  ärjane duùkham, pain involved in acquisition, rakñaëe    duùkham, pain involved in protection and maintenance of the acquisition and näçane duùkham, pain due to loss of the acquisition.
12. This never-ending state of activity arising out of our sense of want is called saàsära. The person in saàsära is called a saàsäré. The saàsäré seeks that which does not end the seeking.
13. Çaìkaräcärya, Vivekachudamani, verse 139.

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Page last updated: 16-Jan-2014