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A Different Aim in Life

The basic aim in life is to get good food, shelter, and clothing. To enjoy these gifts or possessions, one strives to have and maintain good health. Still further, within healthy body sound mind develops. For a few, the aim shifts from bodily enjoyment to mental fulfillment. These include emotional and intellectual achievements.

Intellectual extension finds its expression in reason and rationality of science. The emphasis is on analyzing and studying the facts (both of external and internal worlds) on the basis of objective impartial criteria. This scientific pursuit is considered to be the highest bliss, and hence its importance and recognition in today's world of human progress.

Love, compassion, pursuit of excellence in art, literature, music, etc. are a few examples of emotional appeal of higher order. Application of scientific search, discoveries, and inventions in the fields of art and humanities bring forth higher universal values of ethics and altruism.

Thus we see wonderful social organization and culture in highly sophisticated section of the people. Highly developed technology creates comfort and luxury, as well as ease to procure food, health, and shelter. The power of human brain and mind knows no bounds.

But the most important gift of this scientific progress is the LEISURE that the human being is gifted with. Just by working for 6-8 hours in a day he can now fulfill his basic needs for survival. The remaining 16-18 hours is his cherished leisure.

What does a person do in his/her leisure? How does society pass/utilize the spare time? Answer to this crucial question may determine culture of the society and civilization of that age.

The honest answer to this question is : Most of us pass our leisure in gratification of senses.

(1) Sense of Taste: We try to bring variety to cooking by trying to create better and varied tastes by addition of spices and by finding additional source of the raw food (e. g. sea food and bigger animals). All this is done at the cost of ecological disturbance and peril to individual health -obesity and related disorders.

(2) Sense of Touch: We try to develop and create better and better cloth or such material as silk, cotton, artificial fibres and so on. The feel of these harmless sophistry is not as if enough, and hence, we kill snakes, leopards, pandas, crocodiles, and turtles to feel their skin under our belt, in our hands, and over our breast. This again is done at the cost of ecological plunder and creating a society of half naked children in other areas -third world and the slums.
The 'ultimate bliss' brought about by sense of touch is a kiss and sexual pleasure. Less said the better regarding this subject. Every adult knows how this sense of touch has led many a army to war. Will it be out of place to say that prostitution, adultery, polygamy, etc. are the product of this hankering after sense of body pleasure! And the logical catastrophe, as with any excess, is the specter of AIDS looming large over the entire globe!

(3) Sense of Smell: Just consider the variety of perfumes, sprays, toilet cleaners, lotions, aromatic luxuries that we see everywhere in the markets.

(4) Sense of Vision (Sight): T. V., movies, paintings, microscope, telescope, cameras, photographs, all these constitute gratification of this sense. It also includes desire to see our beloved ones, relatives, nature and its beauty and so on.

(5) Sense of Hearing: the sound of praise or criticism one cannot avoid. Attraction for music, both natural and artificial, is another way to enjoy this sense pleasure. The cry of a new born, a hello from the beloved, the moans and wails of suffering, the chanting of mantra, the silence of prayers, all these form the components of this sense.

(6) Mind as the Sixth Sense: This sixth sense encourages men and women to pursue research and excellence in various fields of interactions, both between human beings, and man and nature. The mind creates the whole universe through imagination, desires, language, ideas, and thoughts. The subtle mind and its pursuits give mental joy, considered to be higher than that obtained through other five senses.

Depending upon the intelligence, aptitude, impressions from the past, and the socio-economic conditions, a person engages himself/herself in extracting maximum and higher pleasures from any one or more of the above sensuality.

Lust, anger, selfishness, infatuation, pride, and jealousy originate from the attempts to cling to sense enjoyment. Similarly, at a higher level, love, compassion, altruism, and generosity also are the products born out of these sense pursuit. In the first case the person is more selfish, while in the second case less selfish.

However, bodily and mental pleasures can never be completely fulfilled. They lead to an unending spiral of more and more desires. One is never satisfied with sense gratification. The touch of silk and carnal pleasure are limited, because they come to an end after sometime. They lead to plunder of India and China by the British, they lead to war for the Helen of Troy. At lower level they lead to theft and robbery, rape and adultery.

Sri Ramakrishna used to say they bind the human race to 'lust and gold'.

The constant entanglement in the web of senses leads to the downfall of human nature. We see this all over the globe today. The women are not safe, and unnatural sex demands social sanction! The wardrobes of the rich overflow, but still they desire to rob the last piece of cloth from the semi-naked body of the poor. The bare breasts of the deprived African and Asian women expose the bankruptcy of sense pleasure as the aim in life.

A Different Aim in Life:

The solution lies in going beyond the senses. Renouncing the sense pleasure; an attempt should be made to seek permanent bliss. Is it possible? Yes. Vedanta says, yes. It is possible, nay, it is the destiny and goal of human birth.

There is another dimension to the human personality. May we call the seventh dimension, the dimension of 'Divinity of every soul'! The attempt to realize divinity within oneself, to get glimpse of the glory of the Self (Atman) present in the cavity of every heart can be a different aim in life.

This bliss of spiritual realization far surpasses the pleasures derived from the five senses and one mind. The beauty of this dimension is that it is not dependent on the senses. But it can be grasped. The ultimate bliss can be made our own. With the help of the mind, the senses can be controlled first, and then transcended. When directed to study and search the Divinity within, these senses become our friends. The faculty of reason is sharpened and the mind is focused to explore dark crevices and find the hidden luminous SELF. The faculty of intuitive knowledge opens up and reason is transcended. The experience is beyond the description by the mind and language.

The person experiences, or sees, or comes in direct contact with, or realizes Unity of Existence. There is no second to love or hate. There is no second to interact with. Here senses and mind do not exist to experience their limited pleasures. The limited individuality of a person merges into Infinite Existence. The drop of water merges with the Ocean Itself. Who can now tell whether the drop has become the ocean or the ocean had become the drop?

All this is possible if one strives to manifest Divinity within. The aim of life becomes different. It may appear very odd because only a few can grasp the utility value of pursuing this aim. All the same, this is another option as an aim in life so as to obtain lasting knowledge and bliss.

If we contemplate, discriminate between permanent and transitory, the necessary books, persons, and conditions would all come to us as per our level of progress.

This is all scientific, rational, and does not contradict reason. It is a higher pursuit for excellence, both artistic and scientific. Like research in physics or astronomy, like attempts to paint and sculpt the best, this science of spirituality also opens up doors to a new path to follow. It may appear lonely, but there were, there are, and there shall always be co-travelers with you.

We shall be led from untruth to Truth ; from darkness to Light; from mortality to Immortality.
c s shah
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