SUMMARY: Bhaja Govindam Class 11 - 19/03/23
Chinmaya UK Study Class, Śaṅkarācārya, Swami Chinmayananda (Sw. C.)
yāvadvittopārjana saktaḥ stāvannija parivāro raktaḥ |
paścājjīvati jarjara dehe vārtāṁ ko'pi na pṛcchati gehe || 5
As long as there is the ability to 'earn and save',
so long are all your dependants attached to you.
Later on, when you come to live with an old, infirm body,
no one at home cares to speak even a word with you!
Verse 5: Preparing for Independence
Are humans really selfish? :(
Swami Chinmayananda starts the commentary by declaring that "humans are essentially selfish". That, generally, we only give with hopes of getting.
Even in the supposedly purest love of a parent for a child, there are hopes in the parents that the child that they brought up will at the very least be a decent human (and that one day they will appreciate the sacrifice and love that we showered on them... etc. etc.)
The opposite may, perhaps, hold the truth of the statement: to be selfless is to be less self: less ego, less likes and dislikes, less expectation, less assumption, less all the things that form my individual 'self'. Until we can say that we have transcended our likes and dislikes and sense of I, we will, by the very nature of things, in varying degrees, be selfish.
Think: Is there anything you do at present that you do without any hope of getting something in return? This is for your own reflection, so be truthful with yourself.
Seeing things as they are
That being so, the ordinarily selfish nature of the average human being means that, more often than not, the 'earning-saving' member of the family/community is given deferential treatment. They are generally revered and adored by others who harbour hope of being benefited by a share of their wealth.
**Here, as with the other verses, the capacity to 'earn/save' is taken in the broadest scope - wealth encompassing "all things that can add to human happiness," thus includes all powers, both spiritual and secular, everywhere, within all strata of society: the capacity of the saint, teacher, thinker, artist, businessman, politician, speaker, sweeper etc. to give their function.
Wealth is respected.
This is true and not a bad thing per se. It is the opposite that is painful to bare. For, if wealth is respected and money is power, then a dynamic/wealthy person of yesterday, when their capacities dwindle, becomes an unrespected and powerless person of today. This is a mighty crash for anyone who has spent even a portion of their lives riding on the waves of that respect and reverence. There are many such examples; think about people we know who are attached to their positions, which would greatly benefit from younger, fresh thinking. This applies in both professional and personal capacities.
If wealth buys happiness, its absence can procure only sorrow!
This, again, is not speaking of money alone. We all know very monetary rich people whose lives are full of sorrow. The absence of love, kindness, wisdom, generosity, money (as well) etc. is a cause for sorrow. And when we can no longer give these things, no-one really, truly wants to hang out with us...if we are truly honest with ourselves, why would they? And, in the rare occasion that we find people who love us and, regardless of our state, want to spend time with us, in the work-a-day world, it proves difficult.
Ageing is a part of life.
The faculties and capabilities we have in human life, as with all life, must necessarily wane away. When we do not live rightly, age saps our physical and intellectual efficiencies.
Sad but, perhaps, true:
Once we, as 'earning/saving' beings, lose our capacities and if the body becomes old and infirm, our friends and dependants leave us because we are no more of any use to anybody. This, says Śaṅkarācārya, is the sad way of our world.
Śaṅkarācārya! Thanks for the rosy outlook! ... Do we really need to know this?!
Yes! Because to be forewarned is to be forearmed!
Having been told the natural tendency of the ordinary, comfort-loving human heart, we are advised to:
Earn as much as we can, distribute according to our abilities and enjoy as much as our dues BUT let us not mistake this for the goal of life.
At the same time:
Let us earn inner peace and self-sufficiency and save this inner peace and tranquillity, totally independent of the world around us that fattens our vanities and feeds our conceit.
Pratipaksa Bhāvanā against vanities of life!
This verse asks us to contemplate the false values and deceptive sense of security and turn our energies towards devotion to the higher.
***This can be done only here and now, in our youth, whilst our faculties and capacities are in their prime.
Try contemplating on the higher when we have spent our lives prioritising petty trivialities. Try contemplating on the higher when the back hurts or the mind is forgetful...it is not so easy. The time to think about such truths is now, whilst we have the capacity to do so.
So, in the final analysis, Śaṅkara suggests:
Seek success in life. Strive, struggle, adventure forth. Earn, save, give and serve as many as possible in our families, communities, nations and world BUT consider these as hobbies.
The main occupation in life should be the art of self-purification, the craftsmanship of seeking Perfection.
Real achievement is gained in our own personal inner contemplation. What is this world? Who am I? What's our purpose here in this life? etc., and acting accordingly.
So that long before the world comes to reject us, we can reject the world of activities (through sublimation and seeing things as they are, never suppression or repression) and retire into a richer world of serener contemplation and more intense self-engagements.
What a beautiful journey!
We continue onto the next verse, stanza 6, in the next class...