Sri Bimal Mohanty
WORK DETERMINES PROGRESS and THE CONCEPT OF MANY BIRTHS
Based on the lectures by Sri Bimal Mohanty
WORK DETERMINES PROGRESS
In the example of our own organizations, a person through the merit of his usefulness to the organization and his contribution, rises from a relatively junior position step by step to a higher position of authority and responsibility. Perhaps each one aspires to take the chair nearest to the owner chairman in course of time. He learns from and emulates his superiors, surpasses them, and slowly advances towards his goal. Such an aspiring person while doing his job with all the required and right techniques, improves himself day by day. He tries to please his boss, remains totally devoted to the organization and identifies himself with the Boss’s vision with single-minded loyalty.
What happens here, also happens in our universal organization, only in a much larger scale. A matter of one life’s span is like one position that one holds today. To reach the goal of nearness to the ParamAtma or The Lord, takes hard work of many lives, many rebirths.
As long as man realizes his unique role and makes contribution following the path of Dharma or righteousness, diligently keeping himself within the natural laws, constantly improving himself, employing satva (higher value based qualities and conduct) and above all maintaining unflinching faith and loyalty and devotion to the Lord, he goes up in the ladder of success. His resultant next birth is with a higher form of life or a human being with superior faculties, and in more conducive environment so as to enable him to shoulder larger responsibility and do more contribution. This is like clearly a case of getting a promotion.
On the other hand, if he demeans himself in this birth, he is demoted to a lower life form or a degraded human life, thus delaying his progress up in the organization. It is all in the hands of each of us really. Our own conduct dictated by our attachments to the types of actions; i.e. Satvik Rajasik or Tamasik determines our progress upwards or downwards.
KAranam Gunasangosya sad asad yoni janmasu
His attachment to the Gunas (the qualitative types of actions) is the cause of his birth in superior or inferior wombs.
THE CONCEPT OF MANY BIRTHS.
This simile of promotion and demotion needs to be clarified a little further. This is associated with the concept of Punarjanma or rebirth, which happens to be another concept unique to Sanatana Dharma or Vedantic philosophy. It believes in multiple births. The logic given in our scriptures justifying this concept is quite infallible. Let us go back to the earlier discussion on the journey of the soul. Beginning with the first spark of life that mine, yours or anyone’s body came to life with, our journey began.
Journey to what? To the final destination. This destination is never in question. Realization of Paramatma, The Lord – the ultimate truth consciousness- and merging with Him to rest in eternal bliss is the final goal. The ultimate achievement is Satchidananda the truth, its realization and the resulting bliss. There is no doubt about this in Sanatana Dharma.
Why does not the soul proceed straight on the path and meet the creator? Why is this intervening snare of attachment, misery and consequent delays and obstacles in the path? After all, I know my destination, I want to return back home. Why don’t I fly back straight like a homing pigeon?
To understand this we must then contemplate once more as to why in the first place we are born in this world. We have already discussed that the entire universe in its full entirety is held together by a grand cosmic master plan all linked as if in a chain of activities that binds everything. This is conceived as the work of the Absolute, the Supreme Creator, the Paramatma. The whole creation is based on actions and effects, never stopping and ever dynamic.
We also know from experience that any dynamic entity, for its smooth operation ought to have a system dictating its movements. Without a system it can not be held together. But a system alone is not enough. Along with the system we ofcourse need the active constituents or the functioning bodies to carry out the work itself. All living bodies are necessarily required to perform the demands of the system. The system that governs this creation, this grand cosmic design, is based on actions by all constituents that form the parts of the whole. To keep the system functioning without disintegrating into chaos, all beings created by the Absolute or the Paramatma are to perform their duties the right duties unceasingly and faithfully. The beauty of the concept of this grand design is that even these duties performed by the highest creation like humans must also be subjugated to the laws governed by Prakriti - the very nature of things. Individual deviations that may upset the smooth functioning is ruthlessly rejected by the nature itself.
How is this put into practice?
As we have also discussed earlier, the Vedantic philosophy conceives that this creation, although it flows from the creator, and detached from the creator, yet, all activities herein take place under His supervision.
Maya’dhyaksena Kaunteya jagat viparivartate
Under my supervision the world revolves Oh Kaunteya (son of Kunti)
What activities take place, are His actions only, even if not performed by Him directly. ‘Beings’ are created and through these beings only, ‘He’ performs. (or more accurately, His plan is set in motion). ‘Beings’ are functioning bodies and hence a ‘body’ is needed with its physical attributes to be used as a tool so that an action or a series of actions could be performed. The chain of activities in the grand design should remain unbroken. Like all other beings, we humans are also merely such bodies, forming links in the chain as it were, and essentially required for the very functioning of this dynamic universe.
The soul that provides the spark of life, dwells in the body providing the motivation so that the body keeps on functioning. The distinguishing feature between the body and soul is ofcourse that the former is degradable and the latter eternal and immortal. When the degradation of the body takes place, and there is possibility of the smooth functioning being upset, the soul needs to pick up a new body so that activities continue, lest the chain of activities gets broken.
Once the system for the grand cosmic design has been understood in mind, it is easy to comprehend that this creation follows set characteristics of Prakriti through its inherent Gunas or qualities. Every single ‘being’ without exception is ‘helplessly driven to action by the Gunas, born of Prakriti’. The bodies are in a manner of speaking, the tools or implements in the hands of the creator, which come to life when the divine spark enters them, and become an active constituent needed for running this organization.
As tools or implements get worn out, they are renewed. The work continues with the new set of implements. But the doer remains the same. When we get a re-birth, the Punarjanma we merely change our body or the tool or the implement and continue the work assigned to us and following the rules governed by the Prakriti.
And this process continues. There is indeed no way one can escape his ordained duties and stay away from the work that has to be done. No running away from action is possible. Only when one has completed his job and raised himself nearer to the goal by living his lives according to the Dharma, or the right conduct, only then he escapes the cycle of births and attains Satchidananda.
While we are at the job, it is incumbent upon us to do the job in the right way and what is more, it is also incumbent upon us to remain on the job and not to abandon the job. Did we not get the same advice in The Gita. The Lord explains to Arjuna - you can not run away from this war which is being fought for establishment of right order. That is your bounden duty. There is no way one can fly back home without completing his assignment and cheat on the system. Not even the God himself excuses himself from action and duty. To drive home this point He himself has declared it so beautifully –
Na me asti kartavyam trisu lokesu kinchana..
varta evacha Karmani.
usideyur ime lokA na kuryAm karma ched aham.
There remains nothing in these three worlds to be done by me, still I engage in action...if I did not, these worlds would perish.
In life as we or any other creatures continue to function, either one does a job well or found inadequate for the task in hand. If in a lifetime someone has acquitted himself well and has performed his functions in the rightful manner then obviously he befits himself to go higher up the ladder to shoulder more important assignments and advances further towards the ultimate goal. Such efforts are amply rewarded by God and in many ways too. The Bhagavad Gita explains this well in the chapter (Dhyana Yoga) In the next life one is reborn under more favourable environment which is more conducive to its further development and better contribution in the next life.
SuchinAm SrimatAm gehe.. athavA yoginAmeva kule bhavati dhimatAm
The rebirth takes place in families rich in pure thoughts and resources or even amongst wise yogis all designed to help him go higher and higher. Even while doing so, such people undergo short experiences of bliss that lies for them at the end of the journey in order to motivate and uplift their spirit As a result of their meritorious work they are allowed to spend time in the world of higher consciousness. After this experience, they return again to the cycle of Punarjanma to continue their journey.
On the other hand those who are found wanting and inadequate in their existing life or environment, by deviating from the right path, indulging in tamasic and rajasic pursuits, and thus retard their progress, are reborn in an inferior environment. The level of degradation is commensurate with the merit of their karma in this life.
A good simile is the system followed in our education system where a meritorious student is promoted to higher class and the unsuccessful retained in the same class and unsuitable student demoted to a lower class. Each is treated in accordance with his merit so that he is always put in an environment matching his intellectual ability so that he always gets another chance to come up.
Reference to another aspect of Hindu thought makes this understanding a little clearer. SanskAra or ritualistic activity at all-important events of our life is an integral part of Hindu religion. And so is the mrta sanskAra - the rituals that follow after a death or when the soul discards this body. We pray for the welfare of the soul. In some other faiths the prayer is for peaceful resting of the soul until perhaps the final judgment day. Although some modern Hindus subscribe to this thought and talk in the same language, the true Hindu concept is quite different. Praying for an inactive resting for the soul is no blessing really. We believe in continuous service to The Lord as a necessary requirement for our progress towards our ultimate goal. The only peace that we crave for is the permanent peace with Satchidananda, as our final reward. But then again, when this peaceful state is reached, where is the existence of the soul? It has already merged with the Supreme Soul - the Paramatma. Therefore the real blessing for the soul at this transition or transmigration is to remain ever worthy of Lord’s confidence to be able to carry out his tasks with better competence and credit.
The Hindus have a beautiful thought for this. They pray for the soul’s Sadgati the progressive movement of the soul for the better or towards the truth. We pray for a better environment and higher birth for the soul so that it can continue to serve The Lord’s purpose with dignity and merit and continue its progress beyond. Both the constituents ‘Sat’ and ‘gati’ in the word have significance. Not only we are talking of the right progress to a higher plateau but also emphasizing on movement and not stagnation. Movement towards what? Towards true knowledge and development.
Neither development nor knowledge can be acquired hastily. As we know from life it takes time to gather experience leading to knowledge and competence. Lord Krishna reminds this to Arjuna:
BahunAm janmanAm ante jnAnavAn mAm prapadyate.
It takes many births for the wise to know me.
In a broader sense, this concept of sadgati is to be understood as the constant characteristic of the soul's progress. We are always in a state of perpetual change. Everything about us, whether it is the body, the mind or the psyche is changing and developing. We are never the same being as we were a year before, a day before or even a moment before. We are always undergoing a change of state. The constant factor in all these changes is that we are changing for the better. With every change that takes place, in this life or in any previous or after lives, we are moving towards the Amrita- the changeless absolute, which is our source. Even if there is an apparent setback in life, and we fail to understand why this has happened to us, yet that change of situation is a change that was necessary for our upward movement. If not now, the future will always reveal how this setback eventually brought in greater good for us. How by losing some, we gained a much bigger reward. How we were saved from a major setback, by undergoing a minor mishap.
There is always sadgati- a movement towards truth, towards a greater good.
While these are easy to comprehend, there are a few unique features in the Lord’s scheme of things that always work in our favour. It is worthwhile to keep them in mind.
Firstly that the treatment one receives in life in the hands of the Lord has the characteristic of absolute equality of justice like nowhere else one can aspire. Every one gets exactly as he deserves and according to his doing. And not only one gets what he deserves but also what is for his own good.
Secondly no contribution however small, is ever forgotten. None is ever out of sight of the Lord even for a moment. He is watched all the while like a benevolent employer watches his employee.
Thirdly no matter how badly one performs there is absolutely no vindictiveness or victimisation in the Lord’s organization.
Fourthly everyone’s job is exactly according to the burden one can carry. Things may appear insurmountable or unbearable at times but one should rest assured that the Lord has that much faith in one’s potential.
And finally and this is significant every one is put under circumstances that continuously assist him in his progress and never to pull him down and never for his downward growth. It is as if helping His children is a full-time occupation of the Lord and the Lord has planned every thing else to help you move higher and higher.
In such a wonderful organization the man has been given his rightful place.
Often in moments of despair, which every one faces some time or other, we fail to understand the significance of our role and life appears meaningless. This is also natural. It is not for every employee in any organization to know the ultimate purpose and effect of all that he is asked to carry out. Can he deduce on his own that the job given to him is useful or useless? Even when a dry leaf falls off the tree its job is not over yet, although for all practical purpose it may be the end of the road for it. It still has to get mixed with the earth below, convert to manure, feed the sapling, grow a tree, bear a fruit, feed the hungry and it goes on. The leaf knows little about it.
This knowledge of man’s unique position and role of importance in this gigantic universe is the key to intellectual sanity and is the guiding principle in times of stress and happiness. This is never to be kept out of mind. In this context it is pertinent to accept two advices.
Firstly constantly churn in your mind this very awareness of which, where and why you are. It would lift the spirit instantly when you think of it.
Secondly, out of sheer gratitude of being such an important agent in running of this universe one should develop a totally positive attitude to all things. Negativity harms both the organization as well as the individual. While the organization can absorb it without any serious problem, the individual can only be thrown into lower depths in more sense than one.
This is then where man fits into this grand scheme of things of The Lord. Clarity of understanding of this aspect would now lead us to our individual efforts in conducting ourselves as well as self-development towards that ultimate goal.
To recapitulate, we have seen that:
1 Man is an active and important constituent in the running of this creation.
2 Each and every one’s role is well chalked out and is of paramount importance.
3 Man’s competence in playing his role is the direct result of his Karma.
4 Karma also determines the next life form or the next assignment. Neglect or misdemeanor in life results in inferior birth and setback.
5 Continuous development is inherent in life and God’s scheme.
6 Cycle of births is necessary for completing the ordained job and simultaneously getting fully developed.
7.Final liberation is assured for one and all.
8.Man himself is divinely powerful to lift himself up.
9.There is absolute fairplay at the hands of the Lord and He is supremely benevolent.
These nine convictions should be the guiding principle of life. If these are churned constantly in mind, ways and means would reveal themselves. Further these nine truths are also excellent topics for meditation and each has a very positive influence in shaping the life as we live it.
The feeling of being an important constituent in the running of this universe would lift the mind from pettiness and broaden the outlook.
Knowing that you have a specific job to perform does not let you feel less important than the others and worthy of The Lord’s confidence.
Everyone wants to excel. My very outlook towards the results of my work would therefore not let me do wrong things.
In my continuous pursuit of my final development, I need better and more conducive environment. I must earn it through my good work. Bad work would only pull me down. Therefore there is no place in life for any misdemeanor on my part.
Our existence in lives after lives is a continuous endeavor towards self-development and at the end of it absolute peace and bliss awaits everyone. What could be more soul lifting than this thought? It gives a meaning and attaches a value to life.
Can I achieve it? Yes, because I am endowed with divine qualities. It is a long journey but I have opportunities after opportunities spanning many many lives to achieve it. And what is more, I have The Lord beside me to help me constantly.
But the key objective here is that I must develop and achieve a state of permanent bliss and happiness.