SUMMARY: Bhaja Govindam Class 5 - 05/02/23
Chinmaya UK Study Class, Śaṅkarācārya, Swami Chinmayananda
mūḍha jahīhi dhanāgamatṛṣṇāṁ kuru sadbuddhiṁ manasi vitṛṣṇām |
yallabhase nijakarmopāttaṁ vittaṁ tena vinodaya cittam ||
Oh, Fool! Give up the thirst to possess wealth.
Create in your mind, devoid of passions, thoughts of the Reality.
With whatever you get (as a reward of the past), entertain your mind (be content)
Verse 2: Wealth (dhanam) cont...
Śaṅkarācārya has very clearly stated that wealth is neither positive nor negative, it is required to live and to give, but the thirst to possess, acquire and hoard should be dropped.
Material objects are not to be condemned; rather, we should NOT place our happiness or identity in them.
When we see wealth and materials for what they are, we are able to have an intelligent and chaste relationship with them.
From our class discussion:
- In many Indian diaspora societies (or any society that has gone through such trauma), because of various colonial happenings, [for instance, the need for labour in Africa to help build railways, the Indian Indenture System that transported millions of Indians across the globe in substitution for the Slavery Abolishment Act or the Partition of India in 1947 which led to the world's largest forced migration to date], the last two generations have had to work their fingers to the bone to provide us with the kind of lifestyles we lead today.
- By acknowledging this, we start to understand it and heal it. Thinking about the physical and psychological trauma, our grandparents would have gone through to leave their lands, their homes, their possessions, and sometimes their families. The fear of the unknown, the rampant violence, of being killed or raped or abused. Then the courage to leave India for another country, and set up home in a foreign land, with completely different customs and norms, where they would have been looked down upon (especially in European countries and British colonies - that still had a colonial attitude).
- The necessity to work every hour of the day to feed, clothe, educate us and save for the future. This was the need of the hour, and these generations are our heroes! How many of us could do what they did?
- However, the mentality that seems to have developed in our parents from seeing the struggle and has been passed down to us is a 'refugee mentality' that places so much importance on acquiring money. (Again not to say it is not important, but in a different way than it was for our grandparents. They were working for their very survival in foreign lands.
- Just think of what we were conditioned to aspire for at school: doctors, accountants, business people, lawyers or engineers or to get married, have kids and take care of the family.
- These were the options, primarily because they paid the most money or supported the family and took care of the home.
- In most cases, we weren't given the luxury to figure out what we wanted to do as per what we loved and were naturally good at.
- Today, to a certain extent, that is no longer a luxury. It is the need of the hour if we want to really live life to the fullest potential and offer our gratitude back to those past generations.
- The 'refugee mentality' must now be healed and reconditioned, so we can live, thrive, serve, give and become positive members of society and that we pass on these values to the next generation.
Back to Śaṅkarācārya
After some reflection on the actual purpose of wealth, the mind becomes less preoccupied with it and stops thirsting for it unnecessarily.
Now there leaves space to meditate upon Reality.
CAVEAT: This, too, creates excess energy and 'infinite momentum' that, for all of us baby sādhaks, if not directed into a creative field, will dissipate into different sets of objects.
Śaṅkarācārya advises us to use this energy 'in fields of contemplation upon the Real, the Enduring, the Eternal.'
These ways can be karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga etc...even when we are acting/worshipping/contemplating, when done with a yogic attitude becomes a field for contemplation on the Real.
What are you saying Śaṅkarācārya? This is not practical!
Practical human: 'If possessions are not to be courted, if wealth is not to be acquired, how are we to live?'
Śaṅkarācārya (paraphrased): live joyously, oh human, in contentment and satisfaction with what you get as a result of your actions.
In other words, accept the fruit of our past karma with contentment and satisfaction in the knowledge that all is perfectly perfect as per our karma and NOW, in this moment, respond with a karma yoga attitude (as an offering to the higher, do our 100%, forget about the results, and accept the fruits...)
Law of Karma reminder
Everything that comes to us at this moment is a result of our past actions.
Today = amount of effort + sincerity + intention + past karma
How we respond will become our future karma.
Therefore we must be present in every moment to accept what is here (the good, the bad, the wonderful, the tragedy) and respond without conditioned likes and dislikes, but instead with intention and sincerity, giving our 100% (i.e., karma yoga attitude)
In this way, we exhaust the past karma and live our lives in the present moment.
Why should we do this?
When the student is ready, the teachings appear. Remember the original reason we started taking an interest in spirituality/philosophy? There was something not quite right, whether after all our years, we hadn't attained that happiness we were searching for, or we were stuck and not growing or...there will have been something that made us start to question our lives, our purpose here, God [fill in the blank].
- This is because desires never stop. Once we satisfy one desire, out sprouts another, and then another...we chase these desires because we have superimposed our happiness onto these things.
Desire is born out of ignorance of the Self.
This (1) ignorance leads to a strong sense of (2) ego (me, myself and I, my family, my beliefs, my things, my country, my people), which leads to (3) strong likes and (4) dislikes and (5) fear of death. And all of our actions are based on these five kleshas. In the best case, we live a life of service prompted by the want to do good for others because it makes us happy/feel good (notice the 'I' here) but still get disillusioned because the world doesn't make it easy to this, or worst case, leads to serious addictions and habit patterns that are very difficult to break out of alone.
We want to transcend these kleshas by removing ignorance with the light of knowledge:
Asato ma sadgamaya Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya Mrityor ma amritangamaya Aum Shanti Shanti Shantihi Lead me from untruth to truth Lead me from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowing) Lead me from death to deathlessness. Aum Peace Peace Peace
That's all very well, but how exactly is desire born out of ignorance?
Because in the moment of attaining that desire, the incessant mind is silenced and calmed, and in that space, our inherent happiness shined forth.
Example: You have been wanting/waiting for something for a while (an important email, results of something, a new job/car/house etc or the coffee/chocolate/chai/green juice [fill in the blank] ) and the mind goes to it at every conceivable (and inconceivable) opportunity. Now, think of the moment you get told you got the job/house or the email finally comes through, or you got the coffee/chocolate/chai/green juice [fill in the blank]
What's the emotion? Happy, excited, contented, fulfilled... lol!
How long does this intense feeling of happiness last for? A month? A day? A couple of hours? A moment? Until the mind wants the next thing and the thoughts start again...
This happiness we seek is our inherent true nature and is there permanently. That is why we are always seeking happiness and running away from things that may cause sorrow...happiness feels good because it is who we are.
Our ignorance comes from the fact that no one has told us and/or we haven't directly experienced our nature as satchitanand - existence-consciousness-bliss, (last time I checked, this was not taught in schools or in any professional development course) and so by default, we attribute that happiness to external objects.
Desires can never be fully satisfied and if we look exclusively externally for it, we remain unfulfilled and tragically dissatisfied.
This continues life after life until there comes a point when it's enough already!
Sw. C. used to give the example: the flavour in the chewing gum goes, and now it is giving us jaw ache, but because of unquestioned habit, we continue to chew.
Wealth in all its manifestations, can give us temporary sense-gratification but not permanent satisfaction. The tṛṣṇa (thirst) for something else soon returns until we examine and realise this never-ending cycle.
So, Śaṅkarācārya, how can true happiness and inner peace be gained?
To discover a sense of contentment, live on what we acquire with our honest labour, and don't feed our covetousness.
In such a heart we can contemplate the higher and discover new, unexplored, incredible dimensions of Spiritual Reality.
Śaṅkarācārya perhaps senses that we are not completely convinced and so he shows us how desire for wealth degrades a human being.
This we shall see in the next class. Until then....
Bhaja Gōvindaṃ, Bhaja Gōvindaṃ
Gōvindaṃ Bhaja Mūḍhamatē!