Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
The essay which comes next in regard to transcending the swings of mood is a lengthy one from our very own Gurudev, Sw. Chinmayananda. For our purposes here, a summary of salient points will be attempted. It was written well over a quarter century ago, but remains fresh.
Nations which consider themselves the vanguard of civilisation are assiduously applyiing their scientific knowledge to make life more glorious and happy. The truimphs of technology have been marvellous and spectacular. Yet still, there is no peace or (general) happiness. The disaster of scientific knowledge divorced from moral principles has become a grave menace to the world. The stupendous folly is that the champions of materialism thoughtlessly conclude that the happiness of Man can be substantially increased by a steady improvement in worldly comforts. Yet the best of dinners served is but a bitter suffering to one who is running a temperature; however good a meal, if one is unwell it might be indigestible, therefore no happiness from enjoyment of the dinner can be attained.
To make individuals healthier in themselves so that they may come to lead a happier life is the task of philosophy and religion - they provide the substance for anyone to 'tune themselves' to a life more content. Philosophy rehabilitates the personality whilst religion reorientates one to live in harmony regardless of what life brings.
Function of Religion.
Religion possesses two important limbs - its philosophy and its ritualistic injunctions. Mere ritualism bereft of philosophy is little more than superstition; while bare philosophy without some ritualistic application holds no proofs and is therefore tantamount to madness. Religion reinforces the external practice of the philosophical tenets; together they bring out the meaning, significance and purpose of life. A universal renaissance of religion would be a wholesome corrective to errors and follies of a materialistic civilisation that has exalted knowledge and power and ignored the saving wisdom of the spirit.
The panacea for the miseries of the world is to be found in the discipline of a truly religious and philosophic practice in daily life. While the modern scientist in their preoccupation with the tangible realities shut their eyes to the intangible reality, the Rsis (the ancient scientists of life) in all their comprehensive vision, encompassed the permanent and impermanent, the tangible and intangible, in the varied landscape of life.
They found that life is nothing but a series of continuous experiences. An experience, therefore, becomes a unit of life, just like a brick in a wall; the strength or weakness of a wall depends upon the quality and the texture of the bricks used in its construction… from this we can construe that if the units of life are a stream of happy events, life is considered to be happy, and likewise if they are a stream of pain or suffering, life is perceived thusly. The conclusion of the Rsis therefore, was the solution to the problems of life lay in streamlining the experiences - and the method for this is to be found as the content of all religions.
What is Peace?
Materialism is wonderful, no doubt, but it burdens man with an endless anxiety and craving to possess more and more, to acquire, and aggrandize and to live with slavish attachment and longing. In this, one's powers are laid waste. We all want nothing but unadulterated, unbroken, absolute joy and peace; but sensual objects have a false glitter of joy about them. It is impermanent and dissatisfying in the long term. We have to keep topping up the joy factor with ever more acquisition.
What then is this thing called peace? Surely we must realise that it is not about any external thing, or else that would have taken effect by now! Peace is essentially a consequence of deep personal enquiry, it is subjective. By peace, we mean a mental condition in the subject, lived by him or her and recognised as a state of sorrowless silence deep within the being. Thus, enquiry as to peace can only truly be conducted by looking within ourselves and observing the happenings and occurrence and the mental conditions which arise from the experiencing. Self-analysis and introspection are extremely important for the person who truly seeks peace.
Is the driving force to our everyday. It provides the motivation to act in the world, to acquire, to travel, work and, indeed, to improve. In everything which takes us through a day there is a desire behind it. This can be as simple as the desire to look out the window in the morning and decide what to wear all they way up to setting goals to be aimed for over a period of months or years.
Desire is the seed deep within us which comes from our inherent tendencies (vaasanas); from that seed comes the sprouting of thought, then thought connects to another thought and we have the thinking which constitutes mind; mind left unchecked is rampant and all sorts of mayhem ensues! It constantly seeks joy by looking outwards, by assessing the biological feedbacks as joy and happiness, mistaking them for actual contentment. Mind, the breeding ground of desires, the dung-heap of contending thoughts, has the ability to become the castle of true joy… provided we can still it and take charge.
Culturing the mind.
Each and every philosophy worth knowing about advocates the focusing of the mind, keeping it from rushing hither and tither. Eastern religions in particular encourage the practice of 'mind taming', mainly through meditative processes. Conversely, materialists believe that by fanning up their desires and satisfying only those, they are living a happy life. Modern civilisation based upon industrialisation and large-scale production, is attempting to step up desires and to an extent has succeeded in that the average man has a million times the desire today that his ancestors of only a hundred years ago had. It's a consumerist society now. Use it up and throw it away. The 'prophets of profit' appear to rule the world. Unlike them, the Rsis did not conceive of an increase in happiness as being based on the numerator of how much is owned or can be consumed, but rather on the quality of the experience of any given thing. One who is in a constant state of desire can never know contentment.
It is not that the conveniences and easing of difficulties brought about by modern living is to be condemned; but our attitude to it and the effect it exerts upon us as a society is a dangerous and slippery slope. The only way to fix this is to centre oneself in a constant factor; an unchanging reality which stabilises life and enables to enjoy the impermanent without losing contact with the permanent.
Determining False and Real…
[in this section, Gurudev lays out the basic premise of Advaita Vedanta, using examples of the snake and the rope, which are propounded elsewhere in this blog, so we will leave this essay here.]