Finding True Meaning in Life – An intriguing piece of Ancient Wisdom

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As most of our readers already know, ‘Ayurveda’ means ‘The Science of Life’. Naturally, though its major application is in heath and medicine, it encompasses knowledge about almost every aspect of life, even philosophy and metaphysics. Here’s one such jewel of a life advice.

स्वधर्मे स्थिरता स्थैर्यं,
धर्ममिन्द्रियनिग्रहः ।
स्नानं मनोमलत्यागो,
दानं वै भूतरक्षणम् ।।

Translation:
Remaining steadfast to one’s Dharma is true stability. Prevailing over the temptations of overindulging in one’s senses and actions is the true Dharma. Getting rid of the filth in your mind is the true bathing, and saving lives is the true charity.

Doesn’t make much of a sense? Here’s a short not-so-philosophical commentary.

Line 1:
Remaining steadfast to one’s Dharma is the true stability in life.
Commentary:
Dharma‘ is easily one of the most misunderstood concepts in Indian philosophy, even by Indians (Yes! How? Read on). The word is commonly interpreted as ‘religion‘ in most modern usages; but in Sanskrit, it means

धृ धारणात् धर्मः ।

or

धरति लोकान् इति धर्मः ।

‘The righteous way of life’ or ‘The sustainable way of life’, which is what it means in most old texts.

However, through the ages, religion has been popularized as the only righteous way of life, so the contemporarily used meaning.

Now, as a fact, almost everybody craves for a well-settled ‘stable’ life, which again, is mostly equated with financial stability. In reality however, a poor man is always worried about earning his penny,while a rich one is constantly worried about losing it! Thus, financial stability doesn’t really translate into emotional stability. So what can be a SMART measure of stability? It is how successfully you manage to remain stable on a righteous way of life, in a world that constantly tries to slap its own rules on you. That’s the stability which really counts, Ayurveda says.

Line 2:
Prevailing over the temptations to overindulge one’s senses and actions is the true Dharma.
Commentary:
Okay, Dharma means the righteous way of life; but how do I decide what’s righteous and what’s not? To understand it, we get into some Ayurvedic anatomy.

Ayurveda defines a special group of organs called Indriyas. They consist of –

1. Gyaanendriyas (Sensory organs)
– Nose
– Taste-buds
– Eyes
– Skin
– Ears

2. Karmendriyas (executive organs)
– Upper limbs
– Lower limbs
– Vocal apparatus
– Reproductive apparatus
– Anus

3. Mind, which is both sensory and executive in nature, and supervises other senses.

These Indriyas, when influenced by the internal Dosha forces and other external factors, give rise to involuntary urges/reflexes, that spell trouble for a man’s wellbeing; right from the taste buds causing indigestion from greedy eating, to abnormal libido leading to adultery or unhappy married life. Bottomlineuncontrolled indulgence in the whims of Indriyas is the direct/indirect root cause of almost every trouble in life, so keeping them under control is the ultimate sustainable way of leading a righteous life.

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How to do that? Always differentiate between a need and a craving. An Indriya’s need is a real physiological phenomenon and should always be fulfilled, for example, sufficient light is needed for clear vision to eyes. A need always creates craving, but craving need not always be a need. A craving may just be an outcome of imbalanced physical/mental Doshas (binge eating and narcotic addictions are classical examples of his). The proper way to handle abnormal cravings is to balance out the underlying Dosha so that the craving gets extinguished automatically; not trying to fulfill the craving, as it is never going to be fulfilled, but instead the overindulgence will create more and more Dosha imbalance. So to sum up, conquering the whims of your Indriyas (senses and actions) is the true Dharma (righteous way of life).

While Ayurveda tackles mainly the physical factors leading to Indriyas going bonkers, Yoga deals mainly with the mental factors. Pick your choice, or have both! Who prohibits that?

Line 3:
Getting rid of the filth of your mind is true bathing.
Commentary:
As the Greek philosopher Aristotle says, “No number of laws can bring order to a nation, the minds of whose people itself are universally corrupt.”

No doubt physical bathing is important, but unfortunately, it lasts only a day at most. Still further, if the mind is clouded by negative emotions, the body invariably gets neglected and filthy. So cleaning your mind off of these emotions is the Mother-of-all-Baths.

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What to clean off from the mind? Ancient Indian philosophy describes six main negative thoughts, called Shadripu (literally, the six enemies), namely –
1. Grief
2. Envy
3. Desperation
4. Greed
5. Anger
6. Irritation

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Just get this bunch of messy rascals out of your mind and you are set to play a clean sweep in Life’s game!

Line 4:
Saving lives is the biggest charity.

Commentary:
Giving something away that can be earned back again is a righteous but simple charitable act. If you really want to make a BIG difference, something totally selfless, save something that can’t be brought back once lost, protect somebody’s worthy life. You need not be a doctor for that and the life need not be a human’s; any living creature is equally as live as you, me and us.

Does that mean that we have to become a vegan (whether we can afford it or not), not kill even the cockroaches plagueing our kitchens, and stuff like that? No, it only means *respecting* all kinds of life.

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A notable side-reference goes here to a wonderful philosophical concept originally from Africa, named ‘Ubuntu‘. (Yes, the free variant of Linux OS is named after it). In a nutshell, it professes compassion and respect for all life, shunning unwarranted harm to anybody. If you have watched and appreciated the movie Avataar, you’ve seen it applied on an even larger scale by the Pandorans. It draws a very thought-provoking parallel to this line of thinking.

So these were some philosophical life hacks from Ayurveda. Please feel free to share your ideas, views, experiences, even criticisms on the article. We would love to hear everybody’s story.
Till then,

Stay Healthy, stay Happy!

Images taken with thanks from Pakse’s Tumblr.

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