Successful Living

On the stage of matter the soul is left to act. The purpose of our engagement in action is to help our fellow-actors to realise their own freedom, and to attain to liberation from the bonds imposed on them by matter in its various manifestations.

The stage-manager of this drama is the Lord omniscient and omnipotent. Both matter and soul are his two prakritis (natures). The one composed of matter is called the lower; the other is the higher. The stage and the acting are not real. It is His will which produces both the stage and the actor. Both being His nature, He Himself is, in fact, the all.

The play is governed by the laws which the Lord has created. Matter is governed by His eternal decrees called laws: the law which governs the actor is Dharma, to which the actor must conform in order to make the drama a success. The play is eternal. Both time and space are parts of the stage. The instrument of the play is the mind (antahkarana). Pleasure is an inducement to continue the drama, and pain is a warning that there is something wrong.

The ultimate purpose of the drama is that the actor, or soul (jiva) may realise its true nature and feel that the Lord is the producer, the stage-manager and the stage, and also recognise that the seemingly individualised existence is a mere reflection of the Lord supreme.

In this sansara, the illusory existence, the soul gets attracted to the stage and the acting, and is swayed by individual likes and dislikes, pleasure and power. Then, under the delusion that the play is purely to gratify the soul, the great and all-pervading Lord is forgotten, while the soul is convinced that the little drops of the honey of pleasure and pride that it experiences, are due to its own merits and accomplishments. The forgetfulness of the all-pervading Lord, the essence of beauty and sweetness, intensifies the delusion of separateness, and the soul goes from birth to birth, under the momentum of its karma.

But there comes a turning point in this pseudo-drama of the soul’s growth in maturity. It is through living in cheerful co-operation with others, and by reduction of the individual will and pleasure-desire, that the soul begins to feel, within and around it, the presence and reality of the Lord. This is made possible by the awakening of a higher faculty which serves as a source of right guidance. The soul now knows that its acting is not for the sake of individual power and glory, but to please the Lord. How ? By withdrawing the egocentricity and individuality from the acting, and playing according to the law of his being—Dharma, offering the fruits of action to the Lord for the right preservation of the world order.

The chief enjoyment of the actor must be in the right discharge of his duty to other living beings, to himself, and to the supreme Lord. To love all beings for the sake of the Lord, and because all are abodes of His existence, is the chief duty of each actor. But to love any man or woman or any object for our individual pleasure, unmindful of the greater good, is called moha or delusion, and the consequence is pain or suspension of right acting. ‘Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever’, is the unfailing remedy for successful living.

How can the actor acquire freedom and what is this freedom? It is by living for the supreme stage-manager and producer; by loving Him with an exclusive love and undivided heart. It is by knowing His nature and the relationship between Him and the individual self, that the jiva becomes conscious of the meaning of the play. He plays the role of greatest elegance and beauty, and invites the grace and compassion of the Lord.

The highest part in this drama is that of a devotee, a contemplative, a servant of the Lord. While living a life of detachment from the world and its objects, by keeping the mind in a state of balance and peace by a life of devotion, right identification and contemplation, the actor begins to see the Truth: God, the supreme Lord, is all.

No stage in life is entirely smooth and sunlit. Progress means overcoming obstacles. While engaged in this path to enlighten-ment, do not be dismayed to encounter opposition in the form of illness, reverse of fortune, anger of relatives, rebuke of friends. Our lower mind, prior to its subjugation and transcendence, will raise doubts, such as: ‘This way of study and discipline is not for me’, or ‘I am still young, and it is surely unnatural to ignore the stirrings of Eros in my heart.’ Such are the whisperings that conspire to lead the seeker of wisdom away from the path of inner progress. Such obstacles are actually a great blessing, because they signify that our inner being is charged with strength and vitality; and the more we meet these transient promptings with heroism, faith and patience, the greater and deeper will the light of our higher nature manifest in our mind, and pave the way for great advances.

Thrice blessed is the seeker who has access to the guidance of an illumined sage, and receives the higher wisdom through this source of help. But even if this facility is not available to us, we should always pray and be vigilant. We should be convinced that every action we perform is watched compassionately by the Lord. The only friend worth relying on is the Lord dwelling in our intellect. True freedom is the result of our resigning our self-will to the will of the Lord. When the time is ripe; when the individual ego has been rubbed out, and the sense of pleasure is directed to study, service of the guru and the spiritual community or group one is associated with; when the meditation on the Lord has become natural and continuous, the goal of life—Nirvana—is found as already achieved.

How true are the words of Shri Narada: ‘Love of God is its own reward.’ Death will claim each one of us one day. Our friends and relations will soon forget us. The graves of Alexander and Darius are not known. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to live wisely, and fulfil the purpose of existence? What hope is there for joy and satisfaction in the world, where the happiness we experience can never be complete so long as we are aware of the hardships and dangers that cloud the lives of so many others?

Life devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and power is only a fraction of the real life of light, benevolence, devotion, study, reflection and contemplation.

A child in school has games, friendship with his fellow students, jokes, laughter, outings to the sea-side and other diversions. But the main purpose of school is to acquire proficiency in learning. The same is the case with our life. The true purpose of living is missed, if we neglect the illumination of the soul through a direct knowledge of God as our real Self.

Hari Prasad Shastri

This article is from the Summer 2023 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.