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.
The next text which will guide the Choose-day posts is "Tips for Happy Living - jIvnsUÇai[ /jiivanasuutraani", by Swami Tejomayananda (Guru-ji). Choose-days writings are here to prompt deeper thinking on the choices made on a daily basis and seek to provide prompts for raising the standard of one's thinking and living. This text composed in format of Sanskrit traditional teachings, speaks directly to this purpose. As ever, the full text may be obtained from CM Publications - or your local centre (see sidebar).
After the introduction of what to expect and draw from any suutra, we now enter the Jiivanasuutraani proper.
Atha jiivansuutraani prastuuyante ||1||
Now the aphorisms on life are presented.
A simple enough start, you may think. All things of worth must begin somewhere and that too with some level of announcement to enhance auspiciousness. At the temple, pujas are heralded with the blowing of the conch, church services are usually announced with the tolling of bells. Sanskrit prayers all begin with OM, Western prayers always address the Lord. For non-worship specific scripture, the Sanskrit tradition is the word 'atha', used in the same way that 'now' is used in English at the point when a teacher wishes the students to pay attention.
As has been mentioned before (and no doubt will be again!), Sanskrit has a complex structure which does not merely convey messages of communication, but also implies the philosophy within each word or combination of syllables, which in turn conveys the essence of the culture which underpins Indian society.
This text is essentially a self-help text but there is an element of humility from the author. Often if we pick up such books from Western authors, it will be written from the personal point of view and the personal pronoun "I" will appear quite often as the author seeks to present the case for their methodology according to their own personal experience; the idea to be that the reader is meant to feel some kind of empathy. Here though, no such thing is offered. Rather the reader is expected to take on their own responsibility for absorbing the message. Self-judgement ought to be that alone, and not by comparison to another. Thus the presenter simply states, 'Now..'; here it is about to be laid out for you, a method of helping yourselves.
Helping in what?
yJ}aTva_ySy c jIvn< suoay _avit.2.
Yaj-jnatvaabyasya cha jiivanam sukhaaya bhavati ||2||
Knowing and practising which, life becomes easy and happy.
A straight-forward message again. This text is here to help us make better choices in life in order to decrease the stresses and strains and thus increasing the level of happiness. It is a paradox that, at school, we have to learn lessons and then take a test, whilst in life, we are tested and are expected learn the lessons! The best we can do, therefore, is look to our elders and teachers for clues as to how best to prepare. We cannot always be certain how we will handle any 'test' which comes our way, but we can do our research and take up some training with a view to minimising impacts.
With this suutra we are therefore given a clue to another 'aphorism'… life is what you make of it. Three people can come into a room and be faced with a puzzle to solve. One may scratch their head and think that it is difficult and have no idea how to approach a solution. Another may think that it is difficult, yes, but in accepting that begin to work on a solution - which may be equally difficult. The third may look at the puzzle before making any decision about it and then think of it as simply something to be solved and set about doing that; quite likely coming up with a simple solution. What makes the difference between the three is not the situation, which is the same for all of them, but that each have a different mind-set. Our point of view - which is based upon our experience coupled with tendencies supplied from the vaasana store - is what determines the choices we make and how we tackle the various situations of life. Thus, if we are finding life difficult or hard graft, it surely would be a wonderful thing to work on improving our outlook and moderating our behaviour in order to improve outcomes.
Learning from our own experience is one thing, but if we know that others have faced the same sorts of issues, it is surely wisdom to find out how others managed and learn from their experience also. Additionally, we must listen properly so as not to misinterpret. Guru-ji gives the example of the teacher putting worms in a glass of alcohol and they all wriggle and die, then she says to the class "what is the lesson we learn from this?". A boy at the back who had been twiddling his pencil at the start when the teacher had been warning of the risks of drinking pipes up "yes, if we get worms we must drink a glass of alcohol!"
This happens all the time in life and even on the spiritual path; if we only listen to half the teaching, or interpret from our viewpoint without approriate thinking, we can end up causing more harm than good.
We must also remember that knowing and doing are two different things. We can know lots about swimming, but until we get into the water and work our limbs, the knowledge means nothing.
Think on the choices you make in life and how the effect the next part of life. Are we contributing to making life better for ourselves and others? Do we somehow land in 'hot water' on ever second move? Are we the 'complicator' or the 'simplifier' or the 'it is too hard why bother' type? Self-honesty is the biggest step to making changes.