Value of Life

Under the premises of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Ashrama, Hubli, I gave a talk in two colleges in Hubli as a part of the National Youth Day (Swami Vivekananda Jayanti) Celebrations. Here is an outline of the talk.

One of my relatives had a surgery. The old lady recovered slowly from the surgery with a lot of loving support from near and dear ones. After fully recovering and coming back home, what did she do? She spent her time complaining, worrying, watching TV serials, etc. Is this what she has come back for, as if from death itself?

The very fact that we are hale and healthy is itself a great blessing. But what value do we give to it?

Every 3.6 seconds, one person in the world dies of hunger.
80% of people in the world have not heard a dial tone on a phone.
If you are in India and you have used internet, you are better than 95%.

Having all this privilege, are we using it well?

What is a good life? What is an ideal life? What is the purpose of life?

Is it pleasures? Is it wealth? Is it name and fame?

Even after getting all these, would we be happy and satisfied?

If you go and ask Abhishek Bachchan or Aishwarya Rai, can they touch their heart and say “I am the happiest person”? Most number of divorces are in Bollywood, who are the “dream kings” and “dream queens” of the common man.

What is happening to Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani? They are quarreling over wealth. If that amount of wealth cannot give satisfaction, can it ever?

The most powerful people in the society like ministers and presidents are the people who need the most amount of security. And what happened to Indra Gandhi? Her security guards assassinated her.

This is the nature of the world.

Who can tell at the death bed, as the sage of a Upanishad says

dhanyoham, dhanyoham, tridhanyoham
kartavam kritam
jnaatavyam jnaatam
praaptavyam praaptam

I am fortunate, I am fortunate, I am thrice fortunate.
I have done what is to be done.
I have known what is to be known.
I have attained what is to be attained.

How many of the so-called successful people in life whom we admire that can say this? Death can come at anytime. So, unless you are able to tell this at every moment of your life, you cannot say this at the time of death. If this fulfilment is not there, can we call such a life as a success? Kena Upanishad calls a life in which a person has not attempted to reach this state of fulfilment as “mahati vinashti” – a great calamity.

Let us try a small exercise.

If you were to die in the next 15 minutes, how would you spend it?
Would you call up to your near and dear ones?
Would you go and make that apology that you wanted to make to your ex-friend that you kept postponing?
Would you just go and enjoy a nice meal?
Would you just go for a walk?
Would you spend the 15 minutes in fear and repentance?

Now let us modify this exercise.
If you were to die exactly 15 days from now. What will you do? How would you spend the rest of the days?

Now let us try another exercise.
Suppose you are allowed to change one thing that you did in your life, what would you like to change?

These exercises will tell you about the quality of the life you are living.

The first step in being a human being is to lead a conscious life.
Animals live. Human beings lead a life.

This quality is called Braahmanatva in the Vedas. Unless we live a disciplined introspective life, we won’t even know what we want and what we get.

Now, the question is how to live a good life?

“Don’t live a beggarly life. Live like a King.”

Once there was a fakir who used to sit outside a mosque everyday. People used to put coins into his bowl. The king saw him everyday. One day he asked the fakir to come to his palace as he wanted to give something to the fakir. The fakir went to the palace. At that time, the king was in his prayer room and was asked to wait. The fakir could overhear the king praying. The king was saying, “Oh God. Give me a lot of wealth. Make my army strong so that no one can rob my wealth. Give me a lot of pleasures. Give me good health to enjoy my wealth and pleasures. Give me long life. …” When the fakir heard this, he started to leave. The noticed it and came hurriedly and asked the fakir why he was leaving. The fakir said, “I thought you were a king. Now I know you are a beggar. I don’t want to take anything from a beggar.” Outwardly one is the king and the other is a beggar. But internally, it is the other way round.

Most of us are beggars. We keep knocking doors without begging bowl. We are begging for pleasures, wealth, security, peace, happiness, emotional support, etc. But alas, we never get what we seek. Even what we think are given to us is snatched away soon. Gita says “anityam asukham lokam”. This world is transient. This world is a sorrowful place.

If we want to live here, we have the choice to live like a King instead of like a beggar.

What does it mean? Don’t be a consumer of the world. Be a contributor.

You cannot be a controller. You can only be a contributor.
Gita says “karman yeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana”
You have the right only to contribute to a situation. The result will depend on so many factors. So you cannot control the result. But you can contribute to the result. What you do will contribute only to 10% of the result. But if you don’t put that 10%, the chance of success is 0%. But remember, it is only 10%.

You may have written an exam very well. But the person who corrects might have had a quarrel with his wife and you may get poor marks. There are just too many external factors. Don’t depend on the results.

Don’t look at the world, its people and situations as consumables. Some people always keep complaining. “Traffic is bad. Road is bad. It is cold. It is hot. People are bad. There is so much corruption. There is so much violence. …” We call them complain boxes.

Be sensitive to the environment. Be aware of poverty, corruption, violence, etc. But, respond in a contributory corrective action if possible. But don’t complain. There is a popular prayer.
Oh Lord,
Give me the strength to change what I can change.
Give me the strength to forebear what I cannot change.
Give me the wisdom to know the difference.

Gita says “aagamaa payino anityastaam titikshashva bharata”
Things come and go. They are anyway transient. Just forebear them.

What you can do, you have to do. “maa sangostva akarmani”. Don’t resort to inaction. Whatever is your duty in a given situation, you have to do. That is the worship of the Lord.
Gita says “svakarmanaa tam abhyarchya”

The Vedas, when describing the duties of varnas and ashramas, never talk about rights. Only duties. Duties of a student, householder, retired person, monk, teacher, trader, soldier, etc. Vedas talk about duties, duties and duties only. Expectation is always the nature of beggars. Just doing what is to be done is the nature of a King.

In his entire life, Rama never talked about his rights. He always talked only about his duties. So did Krishna. He did not do anything for himself. Everything that he did was for others.

This is the way to live life King-style. Swami Vivekananda says “They alone live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive.”

You will only get failure and disappointment if you live a beggarly life.
As Swami
Sastranandaji says in his song, “janmagalu kale kaledu dhukkamidi meerutide”
“Birth after birth will pass and only sorrow will be left for you.”

Now, you may ask, “By being a giver in life, what do I get?”

You get wisdom. Wisdom gives you peace and satisfaction.
That is exactly is Karma Yoga. “Do your duty, don’t expect the results”.
The immediate question is “How can we do anything without expecting the results?”
What Karma Yoga says is “Don’t work for immediate results. Work for long term development.” An example is “Don’t study to pass an exam. Study to gain knowledge.”

Slowly your concept of development will raise higher and higher. What is development at one level of understanding will automatically become result from a higher standpoint and you will have a higher concept as development.

Academic knowledge will become the result and personality development will become the actual development. From a still higher point of view, even personality development will be found to be only a short term result. You will seek moral development. At the highest point, even moral development will be seen as a short term result and real spiritual knowledge will be found to be the real development.

This growth will happen naturally. At every point you should give more importance to development than to results, inline with your perception and understanding. You will grow.

There will be success and failure in life. But you should not miss the lesson in both. That is Karma Yoga.

Gita says:
na iha abhikrama naashosti pratyavaayo na vidyate
svalpam api asya dharmasya traayate mahato bhayaat

Normal action has a few defects. There is loss of effort when the action cannot be completed. If a farmer plants seeds but does not water the plants or remove the weeds, he does not get the results. There is the chance of counter results. If a patient is allergic to a medicine, the medicine that was supposed to cure him can kill him. The results are not guaranteed because any action only contributes to a small percentage of the result. When done for development, these defects do not come. To whatever extent the work is done, that amount of internal development happens. There is no negative development. It is always positive. As long as the person is vigilant, the development is guaranteed. This karma yoga will save from the great fear of death.

People are afraid of death because of unfulfilled desires at the time of death. It is desire and regret that makes death painful. By following this Karma Yoga, a person can attain to the state of no desires and so can become free from the fear of death.

This is not possible if you are a consumer. It is possible only if you are a contributor.

This has been beautifully put by Swamiji in the motto he designed for the Ramakrishna Math. “aatmano mokshaartham jagat hitaaya ca” “For the liberation of the individual and for the welfare of the world”. Work in the world. Contribute to the world. This will give you self-development, which will lead you to the final liberation.

Life is precious. Live life like a King and not like a beggar.

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4 Responses to Value of Life

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Gokul,
    I am fortunate, I am fortunate, I am thrice fortunate. So, all the Souls (particulaly Students & Teacher) who heard this message. Indeed, a power packed message or simply “Vedanta Treatment”..sutiable for any part of India.You have done a good job as contributer.

    Idea is this outline of the talk can be blue-print for a powerful speech which hit a “Heart Cave” of any person.( At least,to a person who is writing this comment).

    Loving Brother,
    Chandra sekar

  2. A T says:

    My dear Gokul,
    What an awe inspiring speech! I wish I was there in Hubli to hear your speech live. I really consider you as a sthita-prajna. I thank you very much for having helped many souls. Please keep up the good work. May Goddess Saraswati always delve in your tongue.
    Om Tat Sat

  3. Gomu says:

    Thanks guys for your comments. As you would have seen, both the inspiration and content comes from the Sunday Vedanta classes by Anand Maharaj at Ramakrishna Ashram, Ulsoor. I am just a ladle taking from the pot and serving to the plate.

    I am blessed to have the opportunity to learn at the feet of the monks of the Ramakrishna Order.

  4. indu says:

    Amazing speech, truly inspiring and motivating the souls of the youth.

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