How Should Human Beings Live In This World?
Human beings have a fully-reflected consciousness which makes them capable of independent action and also of distinguishing between good and bad. Good and bad is a relative idea; what is good and what is bad has to be determined.
The purpose of the Qualified Supreme Entity (Saguńa Brahma) in bringing about the creation is to liberate every unit being and make it emancipated like Itself. It is only with this intention that in the last stage of the evolutionary movement from crude to subtle, human beings, representing a few units only, appear with a fully-reflected unit consciousness. The influence of Prakrti on the unit consciousness decreases with its advance towards the subtle, as we find that the unit consciousness in human beings is under a lesser influence of Prakrti than the unit consciousness in animals. This decrease in the influence of Prakrti over unit consciousness is obviously at the mercy of Saguńa Brahma. The Qualified Supreme Entity (Saguńa Brahma) and Prakrti must have entered into an alliance at the very beginning of creation for this to happen; otherwise, Prakrti (whose very nature is to qualify Puruśa as much as possible) would not release Puruśa from Her influence. In the phase of creation where the movement is from crude to subtle, it is found that Prakrti releases Consciousness (Puruśa) from Her bondage at Her own will. Yet the unit consciousness remains under bondage, because the movement of the creation from crude to subtle does not come to an end. If, in this subjugated position, any conscious entity acts independently, it is the nature of Prakrti to punish it. As a result of punishment, the further evolutionary movement of unit consciousness towards subtlety is temporarily affected.
In the creation it is observed that the influence of Prakrti is less where the reflection of Consciousness is clearer. If the unit consciousness could expand and enlarge the reflection of Consciousness, it would be increasing its speed towards subtlety, as the influence of Prakrti on it would be decreased. It would then be possible for unit consciousness to get back to complete subtlety quickly. Therefore, good deeds are those which enlarge the reflection of Consciousness without leading one to go against the laws of Prakrti. Following the laws of Prakrti and working according to Her dictates will eliminate the suffering of the consequences of actions (karmaphala), while enlarging the density of reflection of Consciousness will diminish the hold of Prakrti. This enables one to go back to the supreme rank very quickly. Actions which make one follow the laws of Prakrti and also increase the density of reflection of Consciousness, are called uttama karma (ideal actions), and are also called Vidyámáyá – which is associated with vaerágya and viveka.
Vaerágya is commonly understood to mean retiring from the world and leading a life of strict self-denial by practising excessive austerity. Vaerágya does not mean this. It does not make one a recluse. It only means to attempt to understand the proper use of things and to use them correctly (of course without working under the control of the crude objects of mind only). For example, alcohol is an intoxicant which is harmful for both body and mind, and hence the use of alcohol as an intoxicant is to be given up. Doctors prescribe alcohol in medicine for various diseases, and the intoxicant alcohol then becomes a medicine which relieves the patients of their suffering. Thus the same alcohol through difference in its use, changes its character from a harmful intoxicant to useful medicine. The use of alcohol as a medicine is its proper use, and anyone using it for this purpose does not place himself under the dominant influence of alcohol. This right use of a thing is vaerágya. Right use of anything within the idea of vaerágya does not make one’s mind a slave to a constant longing for the object. One becomes indifferent to it. By developing indifference or not being constantly attracted by crude things, one’s mind becomes subtle. Mind’s movement towards subtlety means a decrease in the influence of Prakrti over it, and that is an advance towards liberation (mukti), as liberation is only possible when one is released from the influence of Prakrti.
Discrimination between good and evil is viveka. To consider the use of alcohol as an intoxicant to be evil and its use as a medicine to be good is viveka. The same thing by change in its use can become good or evil, and discrimination between the two is viveka. It is with discrimination (viveka) only that mind can determine the goodness or evil in a thing or in its uses. Viveka is, therefore, necessary for following vaerágya, and vaerágya is a great contributory factor in achieving emancipation (mukti). Thus vaerágya and viveka alone are good deeds or Vidyámáyá.
Evil deeds or Avidyámáyá are just the opposite of these. Actions which dim the reflection of Consciousness and also lead one to go against the laws of Prakrti are evil deeds. Evolution of unit consciousness only means that the reflection of Consciousness becomes clearer and greater in density because of the mind becoming more subtle. This would be possible only when the speed of movement towards subtlety is increased, as then alone will mind tend to become more subtle. The more the mind is absorbed in crude objects the more unit consciousness is dragged backwards, because the reflection of Consciousness becomes dimmer with greater expression of Prakrti. Mind being absorbed in crudeness remains more under the influence of Prakrti, with the result that the onward march of unit consciousness is halted. Then actions that lead one to go against the laws of Prakrti also halt the evolutionary march towards subtlety, because the consequences of the punishment inflicted by Prakrti for defying Her have to be suffered before progressing further, and unit consciousness is debarred for that time from gaining its subtlety.
Actions which draw mind to crude objects and lead one to act against the laws of Prakrti are evil or Avidyámáyá. Avidyámáyá is the creator of the śad́ripu (six enemies) and the aśt́apásha (eight fetters). Káma (longing for earthly objects), krodha (anger), lobha (avarice), moha (attraction), mada (vanity) and mátsarya (envy) are the six enemies, while bhaya (fear), lajjá (shame), ghrńá (hatred), shauṋká (doubt), kula (high descent), shiila (complex of culture), mána (vanity) and jugupsá (backbiting) are the eight fetters. Śat́ means “six” and ripu means “enemies”. These six faculties in human beings are termed as enemies, as they absorb the mind in crudeness and stop its march towards the subtle. The supreme rank for unit consciousness is subtle, and anything which holds it back from reaching the supreme rank, is its enemy. These six faculties are, therefore, termed as six enemies. Aśt́apásha means the eight fetters. Anyone bound by fetters will lose his or her capacity of movement. In the creation we find the movement of human beings is from the crude to the subtle. That is, human beings have to move towards the subtle, but by their leaning towards the eight fetters such as lajjá, bhaya, and ghrńá, they get absorbed in crude things only and their progress towards the subtle is stopped.
To follow Vidyámáyá would be a good deed while to follow Avidyámáyá would be an evil one. Vidyámáyá gradually leads one to the subtle and Avidyámáyá stops one’s progress towards the subtle. According to the rule of creation, human movement is towards the subtle, and everyone will have to follow Vidyámáyá so that their movement towards the subtle is accelerated and one gets back to the supreme rank quickly.
Those who follow Vidyámáyá can be put into four categories: First, those who follow the laws of Prakrti and make an effort for the progress of unit consciousness. They are the good people. Second, those who follow the laws of Prakrti but are indifferent to making efforts for the progress of unit consciousness. Third, those who do not follow the laws of Prakrti and are indifferent to making efforts for the progress of unit consciousness. These are called the low. Fourth, those who do not follow the laws of Prakrti and also become the cause of the degradation of their unit consciousness. Such as these are lower than the lowest.
The purpose of the Qualified Supreme Entity (Saguńa Brahma) in creating human beings is to make them follow Its course towards the subtle so as to take them back to the supreme rank. This forms the nature (dharma) of human beings. To get back to the supreme rank, effort for the elevation of unit consciousness is necessary, and actions should also be in keeping with the laws of Prakrti so that She does not create obstacles to progress. Hence the people of the first category, that is, good people, are natural (prákrta manuśya), as they work according to their nature (dharma), and they alone serve the purpose for which the Qualified Supreme Entity (Saguńa Brahma) made them.
Animals also follow Prakrti, but due to the absence of clear reflection of consciousness they are not able to make any effort for the elevation of their consciousness. Persons of the second category who only follow the laws of Prakrti are in no way different from animals. They make no use of a fully-reflected unit consciousness in them. They can hence be called nothing better than beasts in the guise of humans.
Those in the third and fourth categories are really lower than the beasts. Beasts follow the laws of Prakrti and do not make any effort for the elevation of unit consciousness as it is not clearly reflected in them. Being dependent entirely on Prakrti for all their actions, animals with the passage of time develop a clearly-reflected unit consciousness. While the low and the lowest of people in the third and fourth categories make no use of the fully-reflected unit consciousness in themselves and work against the laws of Prakrti, the lowest not only work against the laws of Prakrti but also bring about further degeneration in the reflection of unit consciousness through their actions. These two are not only beasts in human form but even meaner than the beasts.
In the preceding chapter it was shown that reactions of actions (karmaphala) have to be experienced. No one is spared from experiencing them; the reactions of all one’s actions will have to be borne by oneself alone. There are many who with the intention of escaping this suffering of reaction (karmaphala) try various methods. To what extent their attempts and methods are based on reasoning and logic, and whether they can succeed in escaping the experience of reactions (karmaphala), is discussed below.
Many believe that by neutralizing the influence of the stars (grahashánti) and by rituals of offering sacrifice in repentance (práyashcitta), they will be able to escape the consequences of their actions. This belief is not correct, because according to the rule of Prakrti every action has to be followed by its reaction. The mind has to regain its normality through reactions. This is the law of Prakrti and no one can set it aside. There is, however, the possibility of accelerating or slowing the speed of the reactions which will bring the mind back to normality. For instance, the reactions which would take one month to bring the mind back to normality may, with the help of Tantra, be completed in a day or a year by accelerating or slowing the speed of reactions, but it will never be possible to eliminate them altogether. One may borrow one hundred rupees on the condition that the same will be returned within a month. It may be possible to persuade the creditor to waive the condition of payment and increase the period to a year or even to two years. The period of the return of the money can be extended, but the return of the money cannot be escaped. Similarly, a person having 150 rupees’ credit in their account with a condition that they will spend all the money in a month at the rate of five rupees a day, may spend all the 150 in one day, or may follow the original condition and take one month to spend the money. The money will only be used by the depositor whether they do it in a day or a month.
The mode of experiencing the reaction can be changed with the help of Tantric practices, like the two examples cited above, but the experience of the reaction, or fate, cannot be evaded. Karmaphala, consequences or reactions of one’s actions, will have to be experienced by a person, and at best only the intensity of suffering at a time can be reduced or increased by slowing or accelerating the speed of reactions. It is possible that the condition of returning one hundred rupees in one instalment may be too hard for the debtor and he or she may have to suffer great mental agony, but if the same amount is returned in several small instalments the debtor may not feel it at all. The period of suffering is thus increased with the help of Tantric practices with the result that one does not feel the intensity of suffering and wrongly concludes that the experiencing of reactions (karmaphala) has been evaded or stopped because of grahashánti (that is by neutralizing the influence of stars). For example, if on reading the future of a person it is found that he or she has to bear the mental suffering of fracture of an arm, it may be possible to stop the fracturing of the arm with the help of grahashánti. But the quantum of mental suffering cannot be changed or done away with. The suffering could be spread over a longer time due to a number of minor incidents. For instance, the person’s hand might get scratched, and later on he or she might fall sick. The person would go suffering in instalments till the quantum of his or her suffering equalled the mental suffering he or she was destined to get from the fracture of the arm. To revert to our earlier example, it would mean that the debtor of one hundred rupees would have to keep on repaying his or her debt in small instalments of a rupee or so until they had paid off the full hundred. Here the payment of the debt of one hundred rupees represents the mental suffering from the fracture of the arm, which was supposed to be completed in one instalment; but through flattery and persuasion of the creditor, that is, by neutralizing the influence of the stars (grahashánti), it is being paid back in small instalments. Hence as the return of the hundred rupees is not complete, the payment will have to continue.
Just as it is possible to increase the period of experiencing the reactions with the help of grahashánti, it is also possible to decrease this period. For instance, some persons wear different stones such as blue sapphires which change the mode of their experiencing the reactions. It is possible that by this one may get a fortune by winning a prize in a lottery or may get a promotion in one’s employment. This makes people believe that all this has happened due to grahashánti, but it is actually not so. Fate, or the quantum of experiencing the consequences of one’s actions, can neither be changed nor evaded. It was explained earlier that one’s actions that give happiness to others will beget happiness to oneself to the same extent in mental measure. This quantum of experiencing happiness and pleasure cannot be changed. Only the time required for experiencing it can be increased or decreased. Taking again the example of the deposit of 150 rupees, we see that the money intended to be spent in a month at the rate of five rupees a day, can be spent in one day by shortening the period of expenditure and leaving nothing for the remaining twenty-nine days of the month. The change in fate brought about by grahashánti is similar to this. For instance, the one thousand rupees that one gets as a prize in a lottery due to the influence of the blue sapphire, is the person’s own money scheduled to be received by him or her in small instalments over a long period of time. This money is received in one instalment, leaving no balance for the rest of the instalments. Yet getting a huge amount at once makes one believe that grahashánti, or the wearing of a blue sapphire, has changed one’s fate.
In fact, fate or the experiencing of reactions (karmaphala) can never be changed. It is only the duration of reactions that can be changed. That is why those who carry on intuitional practice (sádhaná) with the intention of achieving emancipation, experience pleasure and pain, happiness and agony quickly, so that they may complete the experiencing of reactions in as short a period as possible. Those who desire liberation (mukti) want it in this life itself, and so they experience everything quickly, according to their potential reactions (saḿskáras), so that nothing is left for the future life and they can obtain release from the bondage of Prakrti.
Some believe that the results gathered due to evil deeds can be compensated or washed off by the good results earned by good deeds. According to them, if the bad and good deeds are the same in number, there should be nothing left as balance to be experienced. This neither happens nor is it possible. It has been seen earlier that all actions, whether good or evil, cause a deformity in the mind. In the process of mind regaining its normal form the deformity is removed by an equal and opposite reaction. Hence deformity caused by evil actions cannot be removed by good actions as they would only make the mind more deformed. There will have to be an independent, equal and opposite reaction to every action. When every deformity is removed by an independent reaction, one will have to experience the consequences of good and bad actions separately. Hence the results of good actions cannot help one to evade the suffering of bad results due to bad actions. Evil consequences of evil deeds and good consequences of good deeds will have to be experienced separately. This is the law of Prakrti.
Logically it has been proved that the experiencing of the reaction (karmaphala) of an action cannot be evaded. That being so, blaming God (Bhagaván) for the consequences of our actions or praying to be released from bearing the consequences is only foolishness. One who performs actions will have to bear the reactions also. If you plunge your hand in fire you will surely burn it. To blame God for burning your hand is merely ignorance or stupidity. It is the nature of fire to burn, and whatsoever comes in contact with it will be burnt. Similarly, it is a self-evident law of Prakrti or Her very nature that all actions will have reactions. God (Bhagaván) is not in the least responsible for it. The performer of the actions is responsible for it. The performer of the actions is responsible for the reactions also, since God has not performed the actions. He cannot be responsible for the reactions. It is only people who are responsible for actions as well as for bearing the consequences of these actions.
Prayer is the act of asking for a favour with earnestness. It also means a solemn petition addressed to the Supreme Being for certain benefits. One prays to God for something which one does not possess or thinks one does not possess. One asks God for these favours with the faith that He alone can bestow everything and by His mere wish all wants can be satisfied. By prayer or by begging one wants to awaken His wish so that one may be granted the things one lacks. Does not one’s attempt to rouse the wish of God to fulfil these needs, upon careful and rational thinking, appear to be a reminder to God to give one something of which God has kept one deprived? It would otherwise not be necessary to remind Him in prayer of that thing or to try to arouse His wish to give. For instance, if one is in need of money, one would, with the faith that God alone can give, pray to Him for the favour of giving one money. Does not this request show God’s fault in keeping one in want of money, when He alone can give it? God alone is blamed for it, and by praying to Him for money one is precisely pointing out to Him His partiality in not giving one the money one needed. Therefore, prayer or asking for favours from God is only pointing out to the Sole Giver His mistakes in the distribution of His favours. It only presumes lack of impartiality in Him, and that is why He is blamed for making some very rich and others very poor. Praying to God for favours is only to bring to His notice the charge of partiality levelled against Him. When prayer leads to such a conclusion, it is only ignorance to ask for favours. One who performs actions will also bear the consequences, and blaming God for it as His partiality is not going to save one from bearing the consequences.
A hand plunged in fire will surely get burnt. No amount of praying is going to save it. For God’s granting such a prayer would mean either removing the burning property of fire or changing the very composition of the hand so that it is not affected by fire and does not get burnt. This is not possible. In God’s creation there is no flaw, only because all things, small or big, follow their own nature (dharma). Otherwise there would have been disorder at every step. Prayers, which only serve as a reminder to God of His partiality, cannot induce Him to change the laws of His creation. Anyone who hopes to make God change His laws through prayer only displays utter ignorance.
According to the laws of Prakrti, every action has a reaction which has to be experienced by the person who performs the action. This law is unchangeable, and praying to change this law is only wasting one’s time. Prayers cannot change fate, and the experiencing of reactions (karmaphala) is inevitable.
Stuti is lauding or eulogizing the qualities of God in a song or hymn of praise, and it cannot be given a higher status than flattery. Flattery is usually practised on one who is capable of granting a favour and from whom one seeks something. Singing the qualities of God is obviously done with the intention of pleasing Him, or else there would be no use in telling God, who is all-knowing, that He is merciful, He is almighty and He is benevolent. The intention behind eulogizing these qualities is to flatter God so that He may bestow some of His mercy. He, being almighty, may exempt one from the consequences of one’s actions by His authority. Stuti or lauding the qualities is, hence, only flattery, behind which is hidden a prayer for seeking favours. Stuti is, therefore, just as ineffective as prayer and indulging in it is also a waste of time.
Prayer and stuti serve no purpose and indulging in them is only wasting time, since obvious begging and flattery is not likely to achieve anything. Bhakti, or devotion, however, is not like this. Let us see what bhakti is. Bhakti is a Sanskrit word derived bhaj + ktin, which means “to call with devotion”. It is not stuti or flattery. It is different from prayer also. It is only to call God with devotion. The utility of this calling has to be seen. The unit consciousness which follows the purpose of creation laid down by the Qualified Supreme Entity by making an effort to return to the omnipresent Cosmic Consciousness, or those who desire emancipation, have to take recourse to bhakti. The only path that leads to Cosmic Consciousness is to devote oneself to Him completely by calling Him.
The quality or nature of the human mind is such that it becomes like the idea or entity to which it is devoted. For instance, if one starts thinking oneself to be mad, one actually becomes mad, as one’s mind is largely given over to that idea. Similarly, if one is given to believe that one is suffering from consumption, one becomes so concerned with the idea that one actually develops consumption. The human mind is so made that it has the capacity of becoming like the object to which it is attached. The unit consciousness that wants to return to Cosmic Consciousness quickly has to become devoted to Cosmic Consciousness, and this is bhakti. “I am That” is the idea to which the unit consciousness has to be completely devoted in order to become That one day. Bhakti, devotion, or calling Cosmic Consciousness, thus leads one to become like That. Bhakti or devotion is neither prayer nor stuti. Some, however, say that wanting to merge with Cosmic Consciousness or wanting emancipation is also a favour that one seeks through bhakti, and so it is also a prayer. This is not so, because the very purpose of God in creating humanity is to make the unit consciousness emancipated like Himself and to return it to the supreme rank. This is the wish of God, and everything in this creation is with that purpose and is directed towards that. One who makes an effort through bhakti to achieve the purpose for which one was brought into being, or for fulfilling the wish of God, does not pray for any favour. For even if one does not make an effort and digresses from that path, one will sooner or later be made to follow it again. Bhakti or devotion is, therefore, neither prayer nor eulogizing God (stuti). These two do not help one to achieve any result and are merely a waste of time. Bhakti is the method by which one can be completely devoted to Cosmic Consciousness, and that is the only way to achieve the quickest return to the supreme rank.
The consequences of actions (karmaphala) have to be borne. There is no way to escape them. Even prayer and lauding the qualities of God is of no help. What then is the way out? The only way is to give up evil deeds, the consequences of which keep one bound to the influence of Prakrti, by taking a lesson from the consequences that one suffers. For instance, if a hand is plunged in fire, it is bound to get burnt. This is bound to happen, and even prayer cannot relieve one of such a consequence. The only way to avoid burning is not to plunge one’s hand into fire. Similarly, if there are no evil actions the question of evil consequences does not arise.
The rule of Prakrti that one has to bear the consequences of one’s actions must also have some purpose behind it for the welfare of humanity. The purpose of the entire creation is to enable every unit to become emancipated. That is the great object of the Qualified Supreme Entity in bringing about the creation, and hence It can only be called the Great Benefactor. Even though It is emancipated, It came under the influence of Prakrti for the welfare of every unit. Karmaphala or bearing the consequences of one’s actions has been made a very strict rule only for the welfare of human beings, as it is by means of this that He (Bhagaván) restrains human beings from evil actions and leads them to emancipation. God, by His punishments, teaches humans not to indulge in evil deeds, but humans out of their ignorance only blame Him for inflicting pain and suffering. Blaming God for being partial and unkind and for inflicting pain and suffering, or even prayer and flattery for relief from suffering, are not the correct courses to adopt. The wise take the pain and suffering as a lesson through which the Great Benefactor teaches them to refrain from evil actions and develop in them discrimination. Hence
abstaining from evil action is the action of the wise and the duty of every human being.
— P. R. Sarkar