Continued from “Garland of Guilt”
Chapter 1, Book Two - Dharma and Moksha of Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life
Gautam’s search for a guru ended in Annavaram. When he reached Vanaprastham there, he was disappointed to learn that Sripada Swami, the seer of the ashram, was in mauna vratam. And the ashramites advised Gautam to make good the time at Satyanarayana Swami’s temple. Thus, climbing up the steps to the hilltop temple of the Lord of Annavaram, he felt he visualized the aura of bhakti before swamiji showed him the light of knowledge.
The next day, Gautam got the audience of the swamiji. Baring his troubled soul to the revered seer, Gautam beseeched him to take him under his wings. Moved by Gautam’s tragic tale, the swamiji agreed to make him his shishya and nurse him to moksha.
“But, swamiji,” said Gautam in apprehension, “given my past can I ever seek moksha?”
“It’s all about directing one’s passion,” said Sripada Swami. “If you probe the divine as passionately as you pursued the mundane then you won’t be far off moksha in this life itself.”
When a gratified Gautam wanted to donate his immense wealth to the ashram, the swamiji saw his disciple’s destiny differently.
“It’s one thing to chase the mirage of moolah and another to desert the oasis of wealth,” said the seer in compassion. “In either case, it betrays the lack of a balanced mind.”
“But then, swamiji,” said Gautam, “how can it be imbalance if after leaving my son self-sufficient I renounce the rest for the public good?”
“Won’t your largess to this ashram,” said the swamiji in smile, “dispossess your son to that extent?”
“Why, swamiji,” said a perplexed Gautam, “won’t my son be relieved of that much overburden?”
“Why do you see wealth as a bane when in reality it is a boon?” said the swamiji. “Why deny him of what is his by right and thereby induce in him a sense of deprivation? What if he covets wealth later with a vengeance? Won’t history repeat itself?”
“Swamiji, I’m confused really,” said Gautam in despair. “Pray show me the way.”
“Your confusion is the confusion of mankind,” said the seer, stroking his flowing beard. “Ironically, man’s existential confusion is caused by the two life-supporting elements—kama, the biological need, and artha, the mundane means. Kama is the innate urge for a mate accentuated as passion. And passion is but a manifestation of physical attraction between the sexes. When gratified by lovemaking, it occasions a fulfilled feeling for man and woman alike. But, sex sans love, kama is soulless mating.”
“How true it is swamiji,” said Gautam with hindsight.
“As for artha,” resumed the seer, “it helps nourish the body to sustain life. If kama is the heart of our body, artha forms the veins of our life. So, artha and kama in conjunction make an integrated life-support system.”
“Is man’s life, say, a twin-engine drone,’ said Gautam, “propelled by kama and artha?”
“True,” said the seer, “and maneuvered by mind.”
“What if one of the engines develops a snag,” said Gautam, “leading to a crash? Is there no way to avert that swamiji?”
“Why not, if only one trains his mind.”
“How that can be done?” asked Gautam.
“By studying art of being in the school of dharma,” said the seer, “to gain moksha, the bliss of being.”
“But then,” said a nonplussed Gautam, “moksha is getting rid of rebirths, isn’t it?”
“The concept of moksha as it has evolved is that the ultimate bliss lies not in being but in non-being,” said the swamiji. “As the state of paramatma is of pure bliss, it is reckoned that the merger of man’s atma with it is moksha. And so it is averred that it should be the goal of life.”
“Swamiji, but what’s the contradiction in that?”
“Why don't you see this concept deprecate the value of life itself?” said the swamiji, as a prelude to expostulate his theory of moksha. “Won't that amount to the celebration of the cessation of life? Why not we regard life as a benign happening and not a baneful existance? If only you value life then won't the classical theory of moksha be an anathema? Why fail to celebrate the beauty of life, of self-fulfillment and social enrichment? So moksha for me is all about leading a fulfilled life while hoping for the same in the births to come. It is the inability of man to appreciate the potentialities of life that makes him seek a refuge in the heaven.”
“Oh swamiji, wonder why man fails to appreciate this?” exclaimed Gautam.
“Why, simply put, it’s owing to man's lacking of common sense,” said the swamiji, impressed with Gautam's keenness. “If we allegorize life as a twin-engine drone as you said, the pulls of kama impede the right take-off and the pressures of artha hamper its safe landing. Thus, with an uninitiated mind, it could be a false take-off on the runway of lust or a crash landing on the roughs of greed. And with the vacillating mind, it might be a case of midair crash. Thus, it’s the ability to take precautions to avert these mishaps that makes one a competent operator. But, the hallmark of a veteran is the ability to cruise life on the course of moksha, the state of blissful living.”
“What’s that dharma which makes life in itself a moksha?”
“Sadly for man,” said the seer, “the diversity of life won’t lend to encapsulate dharma into a vaunted mantra to grant him moksha. Given the divisiveness of color, creed and culture, how can there ever be one universal dharma? Won’t the able-bodied, the handicapped, the haves, and the have-nots with differing abilities come to live together? Wouldn’t that by itself result in an unequal quality of life on earth? Why, even in heaven there are gods and demigods, going by our puranas that is. And one needs to reckon with the divergent male female psyches and the differing individual natures of men, women as well as children. Besides, the libido of the folks, the embodiment of kama, invariably varies to complicate life further. Won't the unique climatic conditions vary the way of living? More so, how could one ever reconcile the dogmatism of the religions?”
“How true swamiji,” said Gautam with a sense of learning, “God Himself, if there is One, couldn’t envisage one dharma! Won’t the alleged revelations of His to His prophets testify to that?”
“Let’s not digress into the perilous paths the religions had laid for man to his bane,” said the seer. “Why, won't social conditions and political arrangements affect the human condition? Well, the list of human dichotomies leads us to infinity? Thus, even among the people of a race or a nation, life is not a homogeneous proposition amenable for a common dharma. That’s why it’s absurd to suggest that there could be a monolithic moksha-enabling-dharma for the humanity at large.”
“That's true swamiji,” said Gautam, “but how is one to know what is his dharma?”
“Since dharma is a self-evolved moksha-enabling way of life,” said the seer, “it is for the individual to evolve his or her own dharma.”
“Won’t it be like groping in the dark?” asked Gautam. “After all, one needs to know what to aim at for him to get focused on it.”
“Grasping the facets of life governed by kama and artha enables man to come to grips with its delusions,” said the seer. “And that would lead him to visualize his own dharma. As kama is integral to the being, artha is essential for the living. While the impulse of kama is common to all beings, the inducement of artha is peculiar to the humans. Though the bestial pursuit of kama might occasion physical gratification for man and woman alike, it won’t accord them the emotional fulfillment of lovemaking. Likewise, mindless preoccupation with artha might help man accumulate wealth but it would hardly impart richness to his life. Thus, neither is kama nor is artha capable of occasioning that quality of life, which makes it joyous.”
“What’s the right mix then of kama and artha,” said Gautam, “for a moksha-enabling-dharma?”
“Dharma is not some physical compound that lends itself for the chemical formulation,” said the seer smilingly. “Why don’t you realize that we are dealing with the complexities of life? When it comes to the basics of living, even the wretched of the earth have their way. The handouts of charity would ensure their survival and the ratio of the sexes provides them their fair share of sex. Then, won’t the ‘eat and procreate’ regimen amount to an animal life in the human form? What are the human faculties for, if not for the enrichment of the quality of life? Thus, the evolution of dharma is seeded in the application of the mind. While the characteristics of our genes define the scope of our kama, the circumstances of birth shape our spheres of artha.”
“So swamiji,” said Gautam, “it all amounts to man cutting the coat of dharma according to the cloth of his life, isn’t it?”
“Won’t that amount to defeatism?” said the seer. “While giving up on hope is despair, not striving for betterment is self-denial. The dynamics of living lay in the limitations birth imposes and the possibilities the circumstances of life entails. Thus, lamenting over the limitations of birth and missing on the opportunities of life would only lead one to a state of frustration. And frustration paralyses the self and punctures the buoy of joy. What is worse, it breeds tendencies that are inimical to the social good. On the contrary, the precept of dharma is about trying to limit the limitations of birth and further the possibilities of life, all the while enjoying that engagement. This philosophy of living enriches the self and uplifts the soul, leading to a life of harmony, regardless of the restrictions one's environment imposes.”
“What stunts one's dharmic path swamiji?”
“It is artha, the alter ego,” said the seer. “Is it not the propensity of man to compare himself in arthic terms with others for his self-worthiness or otherwise? That is since the social niceties preclude one from making kama the measure of him or her? Well, culture would have us confine the nuances of romance to the precincts of the bedrooms. Leave aside kama, can there be a hallmark of comparison, of attributes of the creation, unique to the individuals. That’s how artha came to dominate the human domain as a common denominator for universal comparison.”
“How disastrous that is proving to our life swamiji?”
“Well, with artha having become the visible measure of human worth,” continued the swamiji with a sense of sadness, “man began to exert himself at acquiring wealth. It’s as if he doesn’t want to lose in comparison! If anything, the opportunities of our times opened the doors to all comers. So, the wayward crowd swelled up to trample upon the values of life leading to a cultural chaos of material acquisitions. It is as if the talent in all other spheres of human endeavor ceased to count. In this mad rush for moolah people fail to realize that it requires a great strength of character to give up what’s not one's due than to accumulate through questionable means.”
“Swamiji, do you mean materialism is a poison?”
“On the contrary,” said the seer as his face lighted up, “it turned out to be the narcotic of the downtrodden. Never in the annals of mankind did the meek have as good as in our materialistic times. Lacking in intellect and devoid of wealth, the multitude of humanity existed subhuman all along. Mercifully now, materialism enables them access to the goodies of life to fill up their alter egos. In that way, the majority of the populace have hit the highway of betterment.”
“Swamiji, it’s a new perception really!”
“But, the intellectual and the talented that are capable of experiencing the richness of life without wealth have come to naught,” the seer said, pained at that thought. “With their hurt egos at being slighted by the material minded, they tend to join the arthic bandwagon. The fall of these is the bane of today’s world. What is worse, their arthic greed has come to goad them to abuse their positions for self-aggrandizement. The corrupt tune they set for the materialistic culture became the hymn of humanity. It’s the tragedy of our times that the endowed get condemned in the new order.”
“What’s the dharma for their moksha swamiji?”
“What with the advancement of science and the availability of knowledge,” said the swamiji, “they are in a vantage position to shape their dharma to journey their lives in the carriage of cushions. But unfortunately most let jealousy hurt their joy ride. And that hurts their sense of bliss.”
“Can one ever overcome jealousy,” said Gautam, “when it’s man’s second nature?”
“On the contrary, I see jealousy as something alien to human nature,” said the swamiji to Gautam’s utter surprise. “Jealousy is but a manifestation of artha’s corruptive influence on man which in due course became the insurmountable hurdle for him on the path of moksha. It is in man’s power to curtail it to manage his passage to moksha. One needs only to understand the physics of jealousy to appreciate the chemistry of its affects on human nature.”
“Swamiji, with due regards to your profound wisdom,” said Gautam, “artha might be the abettor of jealousy but how could it be its source?”
“It is so simple dear,” said the seer with all affection. “Isn’t our persona fundamental to our identity? Don’t we come to accept the way we look? A Narcissus amongst us might even end up being in love with the way he was made. Would her handsome cousin give the plain lass any sleepless nights on that score? Won’t thus our self-love shield us from the perils of jealousy when it comes to how we are shaped? Why is that the neighbor’s delectable spouse is not so much a source of envy as it is an object of desire? Does that not prove that jealousy is not inherent to human nature?”
“Oh, swamiji,” said Gautam in excitement, “I’m seeing my past in a new prism now.”
“But, when it comes to things material, man is found wanting in maintaining his equanimity,” continued the seer. “Lacking in comparison, materialistically that is, man turns obsessive to better his lot or burns in jealousy, either way, upsetting the tranquility of his life! Is it not man’s stupidity that makes him a victim of jealousy? If only man could detour the mirages of jealousy in the sands of materialism, he could lay his own path of dharma that takes him to the oasis of moksha. And the karmic theory—to each one accordingly to his deeds in the previous birth—could come in handy for man to avoid the mishap of unhappiness.”
“But swamiji, won’t such a philosophy of contentment block mankind’s progress?”
“Well, the karmic theory has a unique bipolarity about it,” said the swamiji. “While imploring upon man to reconcile to his situation in life it exhorts him to excel at the station of his life for a better one in his rebirth. Thus, the karmic approach to life enables man to remain mentally tranquil even as he climbs up the material heights within his reach.”
“But swamiji,” said Gautam, “all that is fine for an unmarried, but, won’t the dynamics of marriage tend to upset the apple-cart of life?”
“A spouse could be an enlightened aide or a troublesome companion on the moksha-enabling path of life,” said the seer. “The dharma of compromise hauls the coupe of matrimony on the parallel track of contrasts. Well, marriage is all about striking a balance between the dreams of the spouses and the realities of their lives. Sans this balance, the carriage of marriage is destined for derailment on the parallel tracks of artha and kama. But, route deviations not withstanding, compromises maneuver marriages on the course of moksha. In your case, but for your arthic overdrive, the dharmic course of your marital union would have taken the karmic turn towards moksha.”
“Oh swamiji,” said Gautam prostrating before the seer, “how your words give me solace!”
“That would help you serve your cause,” blessed the swamiji.
“I need your blessings.”
“Is it barter?” the swamiji asked mysteriously.
“Oh, no, swamiji,” said a grateful Gautam, “let Suresh keep it all, save for the nityaannadaanam at Vanaprastham.”
“God bless you.”
Guided by the seer, Gautam could put his past behind to be at peace with himself. Moreover, before setting out to Vanaprastham, vowing never to return to Delhi, he had entrusted his assets with trusted men in New Delhi for their proper upkeep.
Continued to “Collage of Crime”