Mar 02, 2024
Mar 02, 2024
by T. A. Ramesh
Life and Literature
There is no end to the discussions about life in the world. Literature is the dictionary of life. To make expressions clear and meaningful through simple forms, the knowledge of great thinkers is essential. Literature is simply the expression of the refined ideas or the essence of the mature thoughts of such literary thinkers or social philosophers. Every nation has its own classical literary master pieces that are very helpful to develop one's mind. In India, Mahabharata and Ramayana are the best examples to quote for that purpose because it is true to say that what is not in them is nowhere to be found.
Yet, no dictionary is a permanent thing to rely upon. The experience alone rather than the past facts counts much in life. The reason is not far to seek, because life is a kind of exploration or an adventure when the intricacies and entanglements are confronted with a sense of wonder. What is needed is an open heart to accept the part one has to play and an alert mind to face life in the natural way. To see and study what life is nature is the only book which could be of much use to everyone.
Though everyone thinks to be living separately, each one is also part and parcel of mankind, the world and the universe. The body like the matter is perishable, but the soul or spirit in it is imperishable. The preparation of the mind for the liberation of the spirit at the end by training it free from all attachments of the world life should be started by gaining the true knowledge through meditation at the very early age itself is good. The end or the ultimate reality of each one is the destiny of one's life. So, if the end should be good, the means should also be good.
Necessity to have an Aim in Life
In short, it can be said that to lead a happy life a good aim is indispensable. Aimless life will fetch neither happiness nor peace of mind. If life is care free or indolent one will be like a moth rushing towards the fire of danger. Then it can only be called as a blind adventure. Indeed the purpose of man's existence on the earth is not exactly spelt out anywhere. Everything is going on under some principles or other called the Natural Laws.
Discovery of Talent and Knowledge
A bird's eye view of all the things that are going on internally as well as externally is essential for one to know and understand before one ventures to have an aim to go smoothly in the long or short journey of life. No man is perfect as far as mental maturity is concerned. It is commonly come across that even aged people, though they are physically well shaped, are not mentally well developed. The reason may be due to insufficient knowledge of the fundamental aspects of life or the surroundings or both. On the other hand, if the case of a small boy is taken it is naturally an accepted fact that he is immature. The type of aptitude noted in the childhood is usually seen elaborately developed at the age of ripeness, if one gets favourable chances to do what idea one has in mind. Not only has the guidance of the parents but also the knowledge fed by the educational institutions developed the mind of the youth. Therefore the fixation of aim is possible only when the education continues to give adequate back ground for you to think, analyze and understand independently about any issue concerned with your personal problem, your surroundings, your national problems and the matters you have to deal with later on in life.
Mind and Thought
In general mind is the cause for all the good or bad activities of mankind. The great historical personalities like Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin and Gandhi became popular in their own way because of the aim they had formulated in their mind. There was no conflict of thoughts. All thoughts were converged to the particular aim they had in their mind. That was why they could effect so much work in so short a period. Therefore your mind should be always in the direction of the cause for which your activities are started. There may be many follies and pit falls, yet the resolution of your mind should not be let loose, because that is the only way by which achievements could successfully be established. They say acts reveal the true nature of a person. Hence it is better you think well before you venture upon anything.
Miseries and Happiness
Life will be dull if there is nothing difficult in this world. The value of happiness cannot be comprehended without the existence of difficulties in life. Miseries are common in life. Without hope no work is undertaken. Ambition and desire are not rare for any one. Affection, love and peace are the rich ingredients necessary for a decent and civilized life. Beautifully useful things perfect as art are achieved only by the tireless and sustained efforts. Just the existence of peaceful atmosphere cannot be much appreciated by anyone, unless one undergoes a period of downfall or commotion in life.
Desire and Interest
Your interest is proportional to the intensity of your desire. Without desire you can do nothing in this world. Your desire to achieve something better is the root cause which kindles the curiosity of your mind. For, desire is the source for any sort of activity whether it is violent or non-violent. When opportunity joins hand with desire, your thought process develops without a break and you are able to achieve many things in the world. In such a situation there won't be much difference between interest and inspiration. When you undergo such a phase of life, you can be rest assured that the wheel of fortune is turning towards you.
Talent and Obligation
The development of one's ability is chained to one's own obligations. It has to be said that obligations fix or change the destiny of man. Though you have talent you cannot come up in life unless you get adequate opportunities to show your skill in action. If you fulfill your talent alone at the expense of your obligations you will be considered to be a selfish or self-interested fellow. That is the case with many people. But on the contrary if you sincerely oblige to your obligations and show your talent in the field you are fit for in the available time at hand, you will be considered to be a great person.
The persons who are capable of achieving great things are rare in the world. Perfection in life can be achieved only by a handful of persons whom you may call by different titles such as wise, noble, sagacious, genius, etc. From history, autobiographies and biographies you can learn how they lived their life. Their activities show you that it is not how life is utilized that is important but how life is lived that counts much, because destiny never sees whether you are high or low and whether you have achieved what you thought or are going to achieve what you think. So, it is good of you, if you desire to achieve what you deserve.
Liberty through Knowledge
The life of man should be like that. Moreover, the use of liberty reveals a person's profundity of knowledge or maturity. Without liberty no faith is acceptable. Liberty is understood and sought for through knowledge only. The importance of literature mainly lies in bringing out this sort of realization in everyone. Therefore the purpose of living is to attain the sense of liberty, love, joy and peace that in Toto constitute the mystery of and the satisfaction in life.
Types of Life Men Live
In his book, What I Believe, Bertrand Russell says that “the good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” Security and love are indeed needed for leading a safe life in the world. Human life is lived according to the types of men can be classified as 1.the emotional or sentimental type of life, 2.the intellectual type of life and 3.the spiritual type of life.
The emotional type of individual would prefer security for life some job, house with amenities, a good balance of money deposit in the bank, insurance policies, etc. and would love to enjoy sensual; pleasure for satisfaction in life.
The intellectual type of individual would like a good education, work which is not uninteresting, sufficient wealth to overcome difficulties, good community and a favourable govt. as security for life so that he can love to enjoy aesthetic pleasure in arts, literature, music, dance, etc. to get satisfaction.
The spiritual type of individual would like to lead a simple life with the barest necessities sufficient for security so that he can love to indulge in high thoughts in Nature and mystically commune with it to enjoy spiritual bliss.
But still higher type of men with some form of security for life love to think about creations, mysteries of the Universe, Nature, God to know the truth, Ultimate Reality and become one with the Universal Consciousness to enjoy Universal bliss.
Human Culture, the Expression of Literature
Animals don't lead a determined or planned way of living. But the life of human being is entirely different. From experience man learns a lot, gains knowledge out of it and gets wisdom as time passes on. From the usual activities he forms a routine for himself. In the routine life he follows a system without affecting the privileges, rights and liberties of other people or society. In the routine life he covers all aspects of human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, work, entertainment, arts, music, books, Nature, God, etc. and tries to achieve harmonious human perfection or a satisfying completion in life and this sort of living only is usually expressed in literature as human culture. Culture differentiates and ennobles human being from others.
Synthesis of Love and Knowledge for Freedom, Joy, Peace and Satisfaction
Knowledge, wealth and power are needed for the world life. Anyone of the three alone cannot solve and fulfil problems and commitments of life. But without knowledge other resources cannot be wisely utilized for the betterment of oneself or the world. With high knowledge, power may be gained but human perfection cannot be achieved. Therefore according to Robert Browning by the synthesis of love and knowledge only perfection of individual soul can be achieved. Also, according to Matthew Arnold harmonious human perfection can be achieved only by culture, since culture is nothing but the 'love for and the study of perfection' in thoughts, words and deeds.
It is a fact that human efforts in the field of science and technology, wonderful expressions in literature and religious services are various ways of doing works not for material benefits or recognition but for spiritual satisfaction. Further freedom got from the synthesis of love and knowledge leading towards perfection only helps man to enjoy life with joy, peace and satisfaction. In addition to that the main aspects of human nature such as the sense of goodness, beauty and truth are also fulfilled by way of culture and more than anything else the best thing to do in the world is to pass on such knowledge of culture to others generation after generation.
Knowledge, Vision, Ambition and Achievement
In general getting knowledge through education, doing a suitable job to accrue wealth, enjoying the pleasures of life by indulging in entertainment after work and devoting retirement life in spiritual pursuits in order to satisfy spiritual needs are the usual or settled way of living for all the people. But human nature is such that not satisfied with what man inherently has, tries for completion in life aspiring high due to his mind to break his limitations and achieves perfection in order to have a change in evolution. Just acquiring knowledge is not enough for one to become powerful to solve all problems of life and attain perfection and liberation.
Intellectually musing over things of life, man, world, Nature, etc., one is sure to get visions, dreams, ideas, etc. quite institutional in nature of the past, the present and the future. Without such dreams or visions one cannot become an ambitionist to lead a happy and successful life. In fact ambition is the driving force that helps to overcome hardships and difficulties and turn a dull and insipid life into an interesting and noble one because of its inspiring power that gives the hope that life is worth living at least to know the noble things of life if not to achieve noble things in the world for oneself or for others. Therefore it is clear that ambition based on intellectual Vision will certainly fructify into a noble achievement which we see in the great works of literature in the world. For example the poetic works of Robert Browning, W.B. Yeats and William Wordsworth can be quoted.
Browning’s Synthesis of Love and Knowledge for Perfection
At first Browning thought that the end and aim of life is attaining power by acquiring highest knowledge. He realized that knowledge can only be a means to reach the mind of God but with love, which is the creative cause of Universe and God itself, it is possible to touch the infinite power between God and man. So, with the synthesis of knowledge and love perfection of man can be achieved. Therefore the purpose of life is to achieve perfection in life through love, art, music, paintings, poetry, etc. if not in the world at least in heaven since 'arc' here is 'full circle in heaven.' If perfection is achieved here itself what is the use of the existence of a heaven at all? Hence the highest ideal for man could be only perfection in art, music, poetry, love, soul, etc. Even if the forces spoil the efforts towards perfection, highest goal or ideals should not be relinquished for earthly pleasures or material or trivial things, as failure to achieve perfection is not so important for God as the care, devotion and efforts involved for the achievement of lofty or noble ideals. This philosophy of life can be seen in many of his poems such as Abt Vogler, The Ride Together, Andre Del Sarto, etc.
Yeats ' Vision, Map of Inner Life
Man's thoughts, knowledge, love and life are bounded by space and time of the world and he is born to deal with the problems connected with it and die. There is no escape from it and this is his destiny. If he escapes he may reach a timeless and formless pure state of perfection in the other world. The Vision of W.B. Yeats is all about that, which he symbolically expresses as a spiralling cone with the broad base representing the mortal life of man and apex representing the spiritual life of man. The map of his inner life, philosophy and religion is his vision, basing which he wrote mostly all of his poems. Among them Sailing to Byzantium and Byzantium are the simple, philosophic and difficult master pieces nobody can fail to quote. For John Keats heard melodies are sweet but unheard melodies are sweeter. But for W.B. Yeats unheard melodies may be sweeter but the heard melodies are always sweet. Especially Sailing to Byzantium is expressed as the realized views of an old man who is about to die.
Sensuous Animate Nature and Permanence of Spiritual Art
The old man in this poem faces the problems of old age, death and regeneration and finally gives his decision. He says that this world is not for the old but for the young only. Here young lovers, birds on the tree and fishes of the sea, 'Fish, flesh or fowl,' etc. sing songs in praise of mortal sensual song without caring for the ageless intellect or wisdom, which is treated as monuments only. Here animate nature is devoid of spirit or spiritually passive. On the other hand the old man is both physically and spiritually impotent, a mere paltry thing, an effigy, tattered cloth upon a stick. But he realizes that all the monument like things are teaching him the magnificence of soul.
He rejoices by this realization and sails to Byzantium, the world of spirit. There he prays for the sages of God's holy fire, the singing masters to descend spinning in a circular motion to relieve the soul from the body by burning the heart with the holy fire without leaving it in the dead body so that the desire in it for sensual passion shall be totally eradicated and then the soul released from the natural thing can take birth not in the body form of some neutral thing but in the external form of an art. He wants the goldsmith to make him into a golden bird on the golden bough to sing the song of eternity to the Emperor (poet), lords and ladies of Byzantium (his native place) praising the eternal spiritual love forever. Yeats simply says through this poem that the animate nature is devoid of spirit and temporary only but the inanimate art, poetry created by him is full of spirit and is immortal and permanent.
Culture as harmonious Human Development
Tension built up by the Cold War between the two Super Powers had resulted into wide spread militarization in many countries of the world. The espionage activities of those powers had enlarged their networks in all parts of the world in such a way that no two neighbouring countries could coexist peacefully without any suspicion. Further terrorism, political upheavals and plane hijackings have become a routine thing. After four decades of arms built up and other activities America and Russia had started direct talks on elimination of Nuclear arsenals in order to sign a treaty on disarmament and destruction of Nuclear Weapons and promotion of peace and friendship between them after realising fully well that there would be no victory for anyone side except total holocaust of the whole world in the event of a possible Nuclear War being started by either of them in the future. Therefore the realization that peace and prosperity are more important for human existence than military domination over others has finally dawned on them.
Material Aids and Drug Culture
Indeed the usual human activities are very essential for ordinary human survival on the Earth despite the sophisticated developments have increased people's inevitable dependence on the material aid or scientific gadgets in the developed countries on a very large scale for their day-to-day life. But the people in the non-aligned or neutral countries by means of simple living and high thinking standards can achieve great things in the world. Now for them too the routine life has become insipid, meaningless, dull and dry due to lack of strength of the body, mind and spirit. As a result like in the Western countries people are very much affected by the drug culture and so, rules and regulations are getting tightened in order to curb the drug trafficking activities which are the harbinger of psychological diseases and other new diseases like AIDS, etc. in this part of the world too. So, what is the remedy for all these ills is the thing we all must think about immediately.
In fact the usual human activities make human life quite insignificant, meaningless and worthless. To make human life worth living everyone should have some ambition to achieve in the world as ambition is a great driving force which gives strength to the body, mind and spirit of man. Not the ambition to amass wealth and dominate the world to be had which will lead one to complete failure, but ambition to develop one's abilities in the fields one is best at and achieve something good and great to be had.
Human culture, the Means to Achieve Life Goals
In this juncture it is worth remembering the saying of Swami Vivekananda that “whatever work you do, do it as perfectly as you can and that is the best way to achieve happiness and peace of mind in this world.” This is the path of human culture to be followed as the best remedy to overcome the present malaise of human society in the world. In reality the purpose of all human activities is the achievement of satisfaction in life, which can be the final goal of human life. The only reliably best means is human culture to achieve that end. To arrive at such an end the other goals to be achieved through this means are knowledge, love, perfection, freedom, happiness and peace.
Human Culture for Perfection
According to the view of E.M. Forster in his essay, Does Culture Matter? human culture provides “the power to understand and enjoy” all the best things of life and so, without “tradition and culture the chance of connecting work and play and creating a life which is all of a piece” is impossible.
Another expert of culture, Matthew Arnold in his book, Culture and Anarchy says that culture for an individual lies in the love for and the study of perfection which is a harmonious expansion of all the powers which make the beauty and the worth of human nature and the pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of 'Sweetness and Light, the reason and the Will of God' and the Hellenistic knowledge of the Greek Classical beauty for the achievement of excellence in human nature and the Hebraic idea of Jewish action of fulfilling the Will of God. He also says that human spirit behind all the great works of literature, art, science and religion aims at harmonious human perfection leading towards the development of all sides of humanity.
Poet Robert Browning whose concern with the evolution of individual soul in his poems like Pauline, Paracelsus, Sordella and Asolando has worked out the idea of synthesis of knowledge and love leading to the perfection of man. Therefore it is clear to say that only when such a human perfection is achieved through human culture, real freedom can be obtained and as a result of that happiness, peace and satisfaction can be achieved in life.
Hence human culture simply means that it is the love for, the study of and the pursuit of all round human perfection and it can be completely interpreted that human culture is thinking about or knowing, speaking or expressing about and doing the best things of human endeavor in many fields like Literature, Arts, Science, Politics, Religion and Philosophy of the past relevant to the present and 'enjoying ourselves those unique and priceless things' and spreading such living truths to the intimates, friends and fellow men we love in order to make those precious things live in the future too.
Nature is simply the living scientific art revealing the philosophy of life. There is beauty everywhere. There is truth hidden in everything. There is the manifestation of love in all their activities. Naturally Nature is the friend, philosopher and guide to man. So, man gets inspiration, ideas and encouragement directly from Nature. Being a part of it he imitates nature and tries to overcome and excel it because of his wonderful mind. But can the part overcome the whole? For all the living beings- fish, foul and flower, there is birth, growth, decay and death. So also it is the same for man too. There is direct regeneration for plants, but for animals and man perhaps there are rebirths of different kind which needs to be studied further to have a correct conclusion. But the cycle of life goes on in the same way for all.
The duration of life between birth and death is unknown. But within the life-time how best one can live is the wise thing one can aim at. For that the only best way to follow is culture. Based on experience and knowledge the system we follow to live in love with good manners and morality can simply be called as culture which includes love of Nature, music and books cherished in humanism aiming perfection in thoughts, words and deeds.
Even civilization without the basis of culture is unreliable. That is why modern civilization has made human life to proceed in fear and anxiety in the performance of things, increased dangerous diseases deadly hazardous to health and driven the world to the brink of savagery and destruction.
Religion may make a cultured person a divine being but culture teaches tolerance, patience, hospitality and unity in diversity and converts a brute into a human being because of its humanism which is what most needed today in the world. Further for all the problems of the world we can say that the ultimate solution is the creation of one world through culture.
Then the question of life has to be solved. What is life? It is a great question because it is a difficult puzzle yet to be solved. For the present there is an answer from the Modern Theory on the evolution of life. After the Big Bang, slowly the Earth cooled down, atmosphere appeared around and life began or rather evolved on the Earth. First the blue-green algae appeared on the surface of the water, then evolved into a life-cell called amoeba to fish, birds, reptiles, animals and man. After that there is no physical evolution.
Only mind is evolving according to the Indian Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. From where life comes and to where life goes is scientifically unknown and will not be known, it seems from the Modern Theory. But the Indian Theory that says everything comes from and goes to the all pervading spirit, God gives a thought provoking answer which also cannot be scientifically proved as science itself has to be developed to a great extent! However one thing is clear i.e. all the matters in the Universe are made up of five elements called fire or energy, substance or solid, water or liquid, air or gases and ether or vacuum. Therefore the living matter, man is a product of these five elements only.
Process of Evolution
Creation, preservation and destruction or birth, growth and death are the stages in the process of evolution which go on continuously forever in a cycle. Energy is everywhere. From this all pervading energy matter has come and in matter life has evolved. Therefore life is a part of energy. Hence the link between the inanimate world and the animate world or lifeless things and living beings must be the all pervading energy or the heat in matter. The repeated cycle of births and deaths reveals that evolution aims at perfection. But how long will this cycle of evolution go on in the inanimate world and the animate or conscious world of the Universe?
Naturally the cycle of evolution will go on till perfection or the saturation point or the ultimate end or reality is achieved. In the whole world only in the Indian Shastras both the creation and the destruction period of the Universe has been predicted as 2 Kalpas i.e. 4,320,000,000 years for creation and 4,320.000,000 years for destruction i.e. 8,640,000,000 years. The truth of this prediction is left to the thought, calculation and guess of everyone! We know practice makes all perfect. Therefore we can say that creative or constructive evolution certainly makes all perfect.
Liberation, Nirvana, Moksha
So what is the way to achieve perfection or ultimate reality or ultimate destiny of creation? Man with mind is far superior to all he creations in the world. Only when the cessation of repeated cycle of birth, death and connected duties occurs the achievement of the ultimate reality is possible. Through the automatic process of evolution to reach the destiny is a long, long way to go. Therefore because of his intelligence it is possible for man to know the way by his own efforts and achieve the desired end in his own way. There are teachers such as Buddha, Sankara and Ramanuja to show us the way as guides.
According to Buddha desire is the root cause for all sorrows, sufferings, obligations, births and deaths and so self-restraint over passion, self-denial of sensuous pleasure and self-control of desires are needed to over come them. Wise thoughts, kind words and gentle action in love towards all are the way to achieve Nirvana or emancipation in life.
According to Sankara first the knowledge of the Universal Spirit should be obtained and the path of non-attachment should be followed to overcome the ocean of life, then only Moksha or the state of Brahma can be attained.
Finally, Ramanuja said that with total devotion in thoughts, words and deeds the living soul can ultimately have union with the Universal Spirit.
Whatever be the philosophies, they are all left to the individual's taste, understanding, belief and efforts. But one thing is certain, i.e. nude we come and nude we go. We come with nothing and we have to go with nothing i.e. only when we are perfect, clear and pure. Therefore though we achieve perfection in thoughts, words and deeds by our own efforts we have to be clear and pure too in heart, mind and soul, then only we can ultimately go to the desired destination successfully.
Next we have to see what we have with us by which the ultimate reality can be realized and reached. In the Universe man and all the matters are enclosed within the all pervading energy called the Universal Spirit. There is similarity between man and other things of nature and the Universe. The outer Space of the Universe is similar to the inner space of man. This shows there is certainly a connection between the two.
The outer Space starting from the Universe proceeds through Nature to the inner space through the human body or vice versa. Due to the (strong and weak) Nuclear Forces, (weak) Gravitational Force and (strong) Electromagnetic Force the Stars and planets in the Universe exist intact doing their duties without a stop. So also due to the Life Force in the human body, heart, brain, liver, kidneys, etc. function coordinately. In our closure vicinity things of nature such as clouds, mountains, rivers, plants and trees with leaves, fruits and flowers put together resemble the complex living organism called man with brain, heart, liver, hands, feet, etc.
Likewise there are so many things to compare. The only difference is that what is outside is within man and what is within is the outer form of man. The only thing that unites both within and outside man is the mind. The mind is within the body. The life force or the self or the reality or the soul or the spirit is within the mind. The part of the All Pervading Energy or the Universal Spirit is within the soul. That is the Ultimate Reality we can say and nothing else which has to be realized and reached by our own efforts! How?
Any organism whether it is alive or dead is judged by its consciousness only. The various stages of consciousness of the mind doing myriad activities of miraculous nature undoubtedly make man a superior kind of being of all the creations known. The kinds of consciousness with minor branches such as Blood Consciousness and Stream of Consciousness are divided into 1. Sub-consciousness, 2. Consciousness and 3. Super-consciousness.
It looks the knowledge got out of repeated activities of the past or the previous birth gets recorded in the blood and becomes a habit in the subsequent births. That is why perhaps due to the blood consciousness it is possible for the birds to build nests, the ducklings to get to the waters, the people to have a sort of fear over death and to do other instinctive activities. These are some of the evidences of rebirths or reincarnations of soul occurring in the world. Another thing is the stream of consciousness. Reflections over the memories of the past experience come in a stream of consciousness to some people who have a strong memory power as in a dream or a visionary mood.
The sub-conscious activities are pulsating of the heart, breathing, dreaming, visioning, intuiting, etc. Through intuition, which is not an instinctive activity but a strenuous or intensive intellectual activity, it is possible to know the Self or soul or reality or pure consciousness and the Soul of soul, the Universal Spirit or Universal Consciousness. Conscious activities are reasoning, thinking, doing all works with awareness, etc. Finally, super conscious activity is the top most super kind of mental activity by which meditation and still further mysticism are performed. Only in this highest state of mind with thorough knowledge total dedication, concentration and deep mediation realization of the inner spirit and the presence of the Universal Spirit in it can be possible and in that mood communion of the self consciousness with the Universal Consciousness the Ultimate Reality can be reached.
Actually the Self with the Universal Spirit within is like a prisoner kept in captivity. Only when the outer coverings are removed like the petals of the lotus open, the golden yellow of the whole spirit can be seen. That too though the fire with the luminous blue flame burning inside the empty space of the heart can be realized and reached, only after many a birth it can be freed so that the part would become one with the whole once and for all.
More by : T. A. Ramesh