Each 'Choose-day' we will investigate the process by which we can reassess our activity and interaction with the world of plurality and become more congruent within our personality.
KINDLE LIFE. We continue exploring points raised by HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda-ji in the publication of this name. Remember, you can purchase, (very economically!), the book from Chinmaya Mission Publications or if you prefer, the Amazon Link. Thus you can read Gurudev's words directly and bring your own voice to the discussion.
The Kindle Life chapters are actually made from transcriptions of a series of talks Gurudev used as his introductions to complete novices in Vedanta - and indeed, to reach out to those who may not have thought of the possibility of leading any form of spiritual life due to having become disillusioned by 'religion'. At the time these talks were originally given, India was still very much resolving issues around being a nation free of British rule, so chapters 17 and 18 cover Gurudev's succinct and brilliant synopsis of 'what makes a nation' and 'what is culture'. We will not review these chapters here as they do not directly relate to your choice of reading on Vedanta - and whilst the chapters could apply to any nation and any culture, the key point from them is that, in the end, a nation and its culture are only as sound as the measure of the individuals who populate it. Thus we come to chapter 19… WHAT MAKES A MAN?
Herein, Gurudev elaborates on Man's place in the greater Creation. It cannot be argued that, as far as this globe we call Earth is concerned, Mankind is to be considered at the highest end of the creative cycle. Although essentially of the animal kingdom, Man stands apart due to his own ability to create. The rest of nature holds all other animal, plant and mineral creation. The Rsis, of course, gave much consideration to what sets Man apart, but they also came to understand that within the species itself lies the four categories. Man is capable of the very highest levels of thought and action, but not all men reach to these heights. There is a difference even between individuals and it comes down to the quality or texture of their emotional and intellectual conviction.
Inert objects, all things mineral (or synthesized) are neither conscious nor do they react to the external world. (Of course, over millennia, minerals can be altered and worn away, transformed, so they do change as a result of environment - but this is not the same as 'reacting' at a mental level which is what is being discussed here.)
The Rsis observed that there is a level of humanity which has a similar, non-reactive tendency. In such folk, there is indifference, an ignorance or total lack of awareness of what is going on externally, either in environment or circumstances. Such people lack any ambition, are slothful and overall might be described as 'stone-men'.
Plant life might also be described as lethargic, insofar as it does not much move around its environment, other than to reproduce (seed moving from the host plant) - and even this for many plants is with the assistance of other things and not necessarily though self-effort! Additionally, reaction to the world is limited. It is there, certainly - a plant can distinguish when sun is present and to open its 'arms', it responds well to rain and according to its species, even the wind is welcome. Poison is not welcomed and it will react badly. All of these things are at physical level. There is no intellectual involvement whatsoever. It doesn't go out to the world, it waits for the world to come to it. Equally, there are humans for whom life is purely lived in the physical realm. As long as there is no major event, they coast along, never over exerting themselves nor offering much to the world around them. They function only on a level of their immediate world and, thus, might be called as 'plant-men'.
Next up the scale is the kingdom of animals. Evolution has ensured a greater dynamism here, a wider awareness of the world around. There is to be found, now, a higher functioning at the mental level; some degree of discrimination around what is good, what is safe, what is edible… Mobility is strong, interactions and responses much improved. Further, we find rudimentary emotionalism, territorialism (attachment and 'myness') and constructs of 'clan' and such like.
Within humankind we find those who are full of desire, eager to work to provide for the desire and who have intense levels of 'I-ness' and 'my-ness'. They will work hard to build 'territory' and display intense emotion. Theirs is an 'extrovert' life in the full sense of the word - living for what is external to them; willing to put up a fight, always seeking to acquire, determined to rise through the pecking order; not always for entirely selfish reasons. Often it is for their family, friends, community. To this extent it might be perceived as positive. However, no matter how far up the technological or social tree, these 'animal-men' are driven still by hard-wired instinct and physical demands. Although, in our modern world, this requires high-functioning mental ability, it does not necessarily display true discrimination and understanding of the world. They remain defensive or reactive (offensive). Everything is done for material improvement and acquisition.
Our fourth category of Man, then, is that highest level of creation. These humans express the fullest range of emotion and have grasped the concept of Love with the capital 'ell'. True compassion is displayed, without sentimentalism. For these beings, all the universe, all of creation is theirs to hold and nurture. Within these folk, intellect and discrimination are at their peak; such people now see that the gross world must be dealt with but how this is done is according to the deep layers of his own personality. They understand that by bettering themselves, they better the world around and the key to this is to reach deep within, to access the fullness of his spirit. Truly introversion is not shyness, but knowing the world within reflects on the world without.
It is a rare few who can truly develop this Universal Love and hold onto it in every moment of living, allowing it to be their guide, exercising the totality of their intellect. Those who do are called 'man-men'… (or, by those who come within their presence and feel that love and thinking spilling out, 'god-men').
So much of humanity exists in the first three 'grades'; a lot of humanity is aware of the fourth and would like to think itself that high. In studying Vedanta, we come to know our shortcomings - here at least we may begin self-change and to reach to that pinnacle of human existence. Would we not be foolish, having come this far, to stop now..?