Philosophy of Life
Who am I who speaks, walks, stands and functions on this elaborate stage known as the World? I should find this out.
What is this drama of life? One comes, another goes. From where to where? No one knows!
The entire creation is a stage. Diverse scenes arise and cease day after day. The stage is illumined by the sun, moon and stars accompanied by celestial music and the roaring of the oceans. Acting on this stage is a journey from unknown to unknown. Without any knowledge of past or future, we come here for a limited time, act, play and go. Neither the beginning nor the end, only middle becomes visible and that too vanishes like bubbles on water. Lost in the formation and extinction of life, we also fail to understand, who we are. Why we came as life in body and why we go? Answers to all these questions remain unresolved and humanity rolls over millennia on millennia. The wheel rotates and rotates forever. Only a few determined men, who understand the philosophy of life and live their lives in accordance with the cosmic principles, fly off the tangent and get released forever.
To understand the complete philosophy of life seems an intrigue proposition. It is so uncertain and flimsy, outwardly differing from man to man but inwardly within one’s own self also. In a given moment you think something and in the next moment thoughts get topsy-turvy. Swami Sivananda says, “Thought is a living dynamic power—the most vital, subtle and irresistible force existing in the universe.”Every one of us understands how thoughts dominate our lives and how tricky they are. Swami Vivekananda says, “From the very nature of things, it is difficult to understand anything of the world.”
Let us, however, involve ourselves more deeply in this drama and try to make an attempt to know something from the wisdom of great men of our times. Bit by bit we will try to understand how life comes about, takes birth, grows, plays, decays and then leaves and whether there is anything like liberation from this cycle of birth and death.
Death and Birth Principles
Swami Sri Yukteswar told Paramahansa Yogananda (Chapter 43-Autobiography of a Yogi) that human body is a matrix of thirty-five ideas required by God as the basic or causal thought forces. From these thirty-five ideas was formed the subtle astral body of nineteen elements (mental, emotional and lifetronic/*Prana) and the gross physical body of sixteen material elements supported and activated by nineteen elements of subtle energy. These nineteen elements comprise of intelligence; ego; feeling; mind (sense consciousness); the powers behind five instruments of knowledge–senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch; and powers behind five instruments of action—abilities to procreate, excrete, talk, walk, and exercise manual skill; and five instruments of life force, those empowered to perform the crystallising, assimilating, eliminating, metabolising, and circulating functions of the body. This subtle astral encasement of nineteen elements leaves for a higher realm (normally called heaven or Swarga) on the death of the physical body. The physical body which was made with the combination of sixteen gross chemical elements (“the dust of the ground”) merges back in its origin. The cohesive force by which all the three bodies, causal, astral and physical are held together is desire and the power of unfulfilled desires is the bond that keeps humans to seek birth after birth on earth.
According to the re-incarnation principles, the death in the earlier life is linked to birth in the new life. The scripture Yog Vashista says that at the time of death, when *prana is about to leave the body it already makes contact with those elements with which the next birth is to be fashioned. These elements are the crystallization of the vasanas (psychological conditioning, memory store, past impressions and predisposition) of the individual self and this is the reason why the individual-self clings to these elements. When the prana leaves the body it takes with it all the vasanas of the individual self.
We further learn from the scriptures that the souls of humans after their last death on earth stay in the astral world (Swarga) for a time determined according to their own karma (causes and effects of past actions).These souls consisting of nineteen astral elements remain invisible to the earth inhabitants. As the period of their stay in astral world nears conclusion, the unfulfilled desires of past lives start showing signs of revival. These then force such souls to seek rebirth on earth.
*1. Prana is the universal principal of energy or force. It is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe, all the forces in nature and powers which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us.
2. All forces, all powers and prana spring from the fountain or common source, known as atman.
3. Whatever moves or has life is but an expression or manifestation of prana.
4. It is prana that shines in your eyes. It is through the power of prana that the ear hears, the eyes see, the skin feels, the tongue tastes, the nose smells and the brain and intellect perform their functions.
5. Prana is the Force, magnetism and electricity. Radio waves travel through prana.
6. Prana is the link between the physical and astral body. When the slender thread-like prana is cut the astral body separates from the physical body; death takes place. The prana that was working in the physical body is withdrawn into the astral body.
7. The seat of prana is the heart, its function is respiration.
Source: Internet- Bihar School of Yoga
Conception and Growth of Foetus
Paramahansa Yogananda explains (Man’s Eternal Quest—Chapter on Man’s Greatest Adventure) that with the union of sperm and ovum to form a new human body (Embryo), a flash of light appears in the astral world. This flash of light transmits a pattern which attracts a soul according to that soul’s karma (the self-created influences from actions of past lives). Many souls vie to enter this new cell of life although only one is victorious. The heredity of past incarnations has led to your being born in the particular family and environment. Thus your environment is the result of your true heredity.
The successful soul (invisible till now) enters mother’s womb and starts guiding the formation of new human body through prana principle (in terms of modern science, it can be said, ‘through the programmed software of God’) from a microscopic organism to a well-defined form. The Prana starts its functioning from the very moment a child is conceived, whereas the organs of hearing, etc. begin to function only when their special abodes, viz. the ears, etc. are formed.
Within mother’s body the unborn child struggles against disease, darkness and periodic feelings of limitation and frustration as it remembers its greater freedom during astral rest. The soul within the embryo has also to contend itself with karmas programmed over it during previous births. Subtly, these karmas influence for good or ill the formation of the new body. Additionally, it encounters the vibratory influences that reach it from outside environment and actions of the mother, external sounds and sensations, vibrations of love and hate, peace and anger. This is how infant’s body takes shape in the mother’s womb. The process also explains why some children are born with not very good looking shapes while some have beautiful faces; some get angry so easily while others smile.
Research on Brain Waves in the University of Helsinki (Source: Internet) mentions:
“Be careful what you say around a pregnant woman. As a foetus grows inside mother’s belly, it can hear sounds from the outside world—and can understand them well enough to retain memories of them, after birth.”
Birth and Infancy
The infant arrives in this world crying. The saints say that the soul remembers its previous incarnations and does not like the thought of coming back to earth again to go through the struggle of life here. After birth the struggles of the infant are between its instinct to seek comfort and survival and the opposing helplessness of its immature bodily instrument. The instinct to survival brought forth from previous incarnations brings with it the fear element. As the infant grows into little child he is surrounded by the influences of mother’s and father’s guiding will, and the wills of other relatives as well. Each one wants him to be something different.
Everyone is the product of heredity and environment. If you born in America you reflect distinctive American characteristics. If you were born in China or England, you will reflect the interest of those nationalities.
As a child the conscious struggles start between desire to play aimlessly and desires to learn, study and pursue some course of systematic training. Brain starts adapting to learning the daily experiences and such experiences literally shape the brain as the child grows. Daily repetition of similar types of experiences makes fixed connections of axons and dendrites in the brain leading to long term memories and forming of habits. . Habits, especially those of food start taking root. During this period the child has great many struggles with such conflicting pressures.
The brain reaches 90 percent of its full size by six years of age.
Then adolescence period (between teen- age and adulthood) comes in. It passes through multiple transitions involving education, playing, arguments and helplessness to do bigger things which with repetitions start modulating into anger. Attachment to own body starts creeping in. The children want to do things in their own way leading to growing of ego. A stage is laid for onset of puberty also. On the physical side hormones start raging, sex organs develop, height, weight, muscles as well as major changes in brain structure occur. Increase in worldly knowledge, in the ability to think abstractly and reason more effectively comes. This is in fact the most crucial and difficult period in human development. Each day pushes man further and further into the battlefield of life.
The youth stage brings temptations of sex, greed, easy money making methods, good or bad company and other social influences. The adulthood is influenced by misery-making wrong desires, destructive habits, failure, ignorance, disease and unhappiness. From now onwards the story of our lives is almost the same—getting jobs for living, marriage, children, their bringing up at least till they reach adulthood and their settlement. Body starts showing weariness and getting easily tired. Signs of old age start to appear, deposit of uric acid in joints and other sluggish working of metabolism system starts affecting normal working. Struggling with diseases, loneliness, the life looks burden. Loved ones start departing and in all around aches and pains time comes to go back into the circle.
Paramahansa Yogananda says (Man’s Eternal Quest) it is wonderful to be alive. Man with his intelligence knows how to protect himself against animals, but he does not know how to protect himself against his own bad habits and evil ways. The greatest of all enemies of man is himself.
This way every human becomes a victim of the varied circumstances of life in which he is placed on the earth. The present day education helps him to grow intellectually only. It has not guided him to become a complete man. The truth however is that he is essentially a soul and possesses all the powers of nature hidden within himself. This very soul has guided (through intuition) his growth into body from the time of conception in mother’s womb. However, the successive development of his own mind working through his own free will has pushed him into worldly life of duality. Almost for sixteen hours daily a man remains attached to his physical body. Slowly and slowly the soul faculty gets suppressed and the individual becomes a fully material man. Playing with dualities every time, he finds himself in dark alleys showing no way to come out. In sheer ignorance he has himself distorted the rhythm of life at every step.
Master’s tell us that while on one side of human lives are the dark alleys of ignorance, on the other side of his life is the eternal light of wisdom or the guidance of the soul available within his own being. Egotism, pride, greed, anger and other ugly growths of self-centeredness have been barriers to seeing the light of wisdom. These have prevented his escape from the misery of sufferings.
Need for right Education
Dear Reader, what do you think is the reason for this plight of human beings? No doubt there are successful men also but if you could analyse their lives you will find that such people got the right education and right opportunities to develop and they had also been men of great concentration. Is it then not that the success or failure of a human life is dependent on the education he received from his parents, environment, and school /college teachers? Imagine the plight of a newly born child who is left in a forest for some reasons but somehow is able to sustain life. Will he not become a forest beast (Junglee)?
From the cradle to the grave to ascension in Spirit, the whole of civilization is based on passing down of knowledge from the learned to the learner. The infant learns from his parents, a child/youth from his teachers in schools/colleges, a worker from his trained supervisor and so on. The principle of teacher/taught or guru/disciple relationship pervades whole of our lives. From science to spirituality, from birth to death, the teacher/guru principle works. The level of attainment rises or falls with the aptitude of the student and the qualification of the mentor.
Thus the foundation for the whole structure of human life is the training/education one receives from his elders. Interestingly, elders/mentors can give only what they themselves have and if the parents/teachers themselves don’t possess the right intelligence how can they be expected to give it to the children.
Lack of right education at the primary stages of life largely results into misery of human beings as they grow older. All the religious teachings of the world, saints, sages and Avatars tell us that there is a Supreme Force (known as God) which governs every speck of creation including humans. Indirectly, even science accepts that there is a Force (God Particle) which is the basis for everything. Spirituality is the science which deals with the various aspects of such a Force. It is the only Reality and repository of all virtues. Everything has emanated from it. Spirituality thus becomes the mother of all sciences or the highest science to be known by man. This however does not find a place in any school/college curriculum.
Many people, in the later stages of their lives try to learn this subject from scriptures of various religions, from spiritual teachers, etc but then it is too late as almost a complete damage has already been done. At this stage every human finds himself dumped into his own habits and a victim of the circumstances in which he is placed.Paramahansa Yogananda mentions in his Autobiography of a Yogi (FN: Chapter 17) that an educational system that does not present Spirit as the central Fact of man’s existence is offering, avidya, false knowledge.
According to Swami Vivekananda also, *education does not mean the mass of information which is inserted by force into the mind of a child. Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man. Indian nationalism and spiritualism were the basic foundations for his philosophy of education and the philosophy of Vedanta and Upanishads. He was against the system of contemporary education which turned men into slaves. He emphasized that the aim of education was to be life-building, man-making and character-making. He also said that knowledge without culture was only skin deep.
Paramahansa Yogananda says in his book ‘Man’s Eternal Quest (Page 267)’ that the visible man is a delusion while the invisible man within him is real. When one comes to know of this he will know that he is not merely a mass of bones and flesh, but an indestructible invisible man. Whole of the universe has been created by the Divine Will, and when one makes efforts to get tuned to it, he starts getting whatever he wants just by mere willing.
Paramahansa Yogananda further mentions in his Autobiography (Ch.5, Page 42):
“Man can understand no eternal verity until he has freed himself from pretensions. The human mind, bared to a centuried slime, is teeming with the repulsive life of countless world- delusions. Struggles of battlefield pale into insignificance here, when man first contends with inner enemies! No mortal foes these, to be overcome by a harrowing array of might! Omnipresent, unresting, pursuing man even in sleep, subtly equipped with miasmic weapons, these soldiers of ignorant lusts seek to slay us all. Thoughtless is the man who buries his ideals, surrendering to the common fate. May he seem other than impotent, wooden, ignominious?”
“Few there be who solve her (Nature’s) mystery! Good and evil is the challenging riddle which life places sphinx like before every intelligence. Attempting no solution, most men pay forfeit with their lives, penalty now even as in the days of Thebes. Here and there, a towering lonely figure never cries defeat. From the maya of duality he plucks the cleaveless truth of unity.”
The right philosophy of life would be that we, as humans, are able to live healthy, prosperous, happy, contended and rewarding lives. Human body is a vehicle to work out our Karmas. We should reap the richest harvest from this gift of God. Our successful living in this vehicle of sixteen chemical elements will improve the working in the astral body of nineteen elements which will be our home when the vehicle of sixteen elements gets discarded and has to be abandoned.
- Source: Internet—Swami Vivekananda’s views on philosophy of education—Research Paper by P.Nithiya, Research Scholar.
The dominant thought running throughout the Isa- Upanishad is that we can not enjoy life or realize true happiness unless we consciously cover all with the omnipresent Lord. If we are not fully conscious of that which sustains our lives, we can not live wisely and perform our duties. When one sees all creatures within his true Self, then jealousy, grief and hatred vanish. Such a person alone can really love all and be in harmony with nature.
Bhagvad Gita, the most famous Indian scripture contains a complete philosophy of life and guides you how to practically achieve the freedom that one needs to enjoy his life fully on earth.
Paramahansa Yogananda says: “Have only two real ambitions in life. First is to know God and the second is to play your part on earth as his perfect child.”
Based on the guidance of the great masters of India, the author, in his book ‘Just 7 Days to Excellence’* has made attempts to practically guide the reader to achieve these two lofty ambitions.
The whole of Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings are a complete guide for the realizations of both the ambitions. These teachings are available to all truth seekers through his organization SRF/YSS**. Complete literature of Swami Vivekananda is also available through Rama Krishna Mission Centres*** in various cities in India and abroad.
Main essence of Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy of life is to become fearless through struggle and serve humanity with peace.
The vital question is seriousness on the part of seeker to understand the philosophy of life. It is a hard work but rewards start coming soon after one starts practising the teachings honestly. The key is living a balanced life and taking care of Body, mind and soul together as a package for fulfilment of our ambitions.
*Published by Unistar Books Pvt.Ltd, SCO 26-27, Sector 34- A, Chandigarh 160022 _India. Email. Unistarbooks@gmail.com
**SRF (www.yogananda-srf.org and YSS (www.yogananda-yss.org)
*** Ramakrishna Mission (www.ramakrishna.org)