Goals of Human Existence: Lest We Forget

I’m quite new to Facebook. In fact, I’ve only had it for nine months, and so far  #cargoals, #housegoals, #makeupgoals and other related hashtags have been dominating my newsfeed. Which got me thinking: how much time do we spend thinking about the goals of human existence? If life is about eating, sleeping and gathering objects for survival, then aren’t we leading lives that are akin to those of animals? What makes human life so special?

I mean, let’s think about this seriously for a second. There are hundreds of thousands of species inhabiting the world and out of all the possibilities out there, we were born as humans. Texts of all religions converge on the fact that once man was created, there was nothing higher left to create. Which I think is pretty on point. Of all the species, man is the only one endowed with manas( mind), buddhi (intelligence), chittha(reasoning faculty) and ahamkaara(ego/identification of self with the body) whilst the ego aspect is predominant in animals. With all these extra endowments,  it’s pretty safe to say that man would be in a grave predicament if he too centred his life solely around needs and desires for survival, much like his animal co-habitants.

It is embedded so deeply within Indian culture that obtaining a human birth is the result of accumulated merit of millions of births, and not using it to discover our higher purpose is a travesty.This raises an important question: how do you survive in this world that requires you to earn money and pay  bills AND also think about your higher purpose in life?

According to Hinduism, the four goals of human existence are;

  1. Dharma: Righteousness
  2. Artha: Accumulation of wealth
  3. Kama: Fulfilment of desires
  4. Moksha: Liberation via knowing the nature of the self, termination of the cycle of birth and death

So the solution to this question is pretty simple, really: accumulate wealth only for the sake of upholding righteousness(i.e. providing for you self and your family) , and redirect desires you have for things that give you temporary happiness, to that which will give you everlasting bliss( liberation).

Hinduism also prescribes 4 stages of life, which makes accomplishing these goals a whole lot easier.

Stage 1: Bramhacharya(0-25 yrs)

Accumulation of knowledge and skills

Stage 2: Grihastha(25-50 yrs)

Marriage, raising righteous children and creating a household that is fit for God.

Stage 3: Vanaprastha(50-75 yrs)

Retirement

Stage 4: Sanyasam(75-100 yrs)

Giving up all attachments and desires and turning the mind fully towards God.

Combining the 4 goals with the 4 life stages, you can see that Stage 1 involves Dharma, Stage 2 involves Dharma, Artha and Kama while Stage 3&4 pertain to Moksha. Pretty cool right?

Every aspect of Indian culture is pretty much a chapter fit to be a part of a “Moksha for dummies” guide. It has literally all been laid out for us. All we have to do now is sit back, relax and follow the path so easily marked out for us by this beautiful culture. I suppose we could challenge the knowledge given to us by the ancients, and test the waters by going against what has already been prescribed for the sake of our own affirmations and fancies, but I’d much rather stick to the tried and tested method. Why lose energy digging up so many different holes for the sake of experimentation to strike gold when we can so easily strike the same by persistent digging in one spot? I don’t know about #cargoals and #housegoals, but I’m definitely all for #humanlifegoals :p

What do you think? Is it so easy to get caught up within the ephemeral in today’s day and age? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! – Divya

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Musings of a born vegetarian

I’ve been a vegetarian since birth. I personally don’t think it’s a big deal, but the way people react to this statement is astonishing. If I were to describe their reaction in a nutshell, it would go something like this; eyes widen in horror. Jaw drops considerably. Brows furry in confusion. Then, the furious line of questioning: ” You mean, you’ve NEVER EVER tasted meat before? But, where do you get your nutrients from? Is there a  reason why you put yourself through this?” And of course, the inevitable concluding statement: “You don’t know what you are missing out on.”

All this before I reveal that in fact, in my household, we also do not consume eggs, onions or garlic! God knows what sort of reaction I would get then…I guess somethings are best left unsaid.Thankfully, these days, the vegan diet is very much in vogue and people are beginning to realise that it is quite possible to survive without eating meat.

Because vegetarianism had always been a part of my life , I didn’t put too much thought into why meat was not a part of my diet, or why all my family members were vegetarian. It was only during my teenage years, when I was subjected to the line of questioning mentioned above, that I began reading into why a huge chunk of the Indian population is vegetarian.I suspected that vegetarianism was prevalent in India because, much like every other element of Indian culture, it was a tool that would aid spiritual progress. I was right.

For starters, Indian culture recognises that every person has three bodies; sthula(gross), sukshma(subtle) and kaarana(causal). When the physical body is fed with pure food obtained without harm to a conscious, living being, the subtle body which contains the mind, is satiated with pure desires. In turn, the causal body which represents the antahkarana(conscience) becomes the birthplace of sacred thoughts.

In essence, we take the “you are what you eat” adage pretty seriously. This is not to say that all vegetarian food is pure. Food is actually divided into three categories;

Sathvic: Food that strengthens the mind and the body ( not too salty, sweet or hot- all elements are present in moderation)

Rajasic: Food that excites or intoxicates(  too salty, too sweet, too hot, too sour, too odorous)

Thamasic: Food that promotes dullness of mind( meat, processed food, old food etc)

Consumption of Sathvic food is highly recommended for one who is pursuing the spiritual path. The importance of the types of food we consume is even expounded in the Bhagavad Gita, where it is said:

s’rî-bhagavân uvâca
tri-vidhâ bhavati s’raddhâ
dehinâm sâ svabhâva-jâ
sâttvikî râjasî caiva
tâmasî ceti tâm s’rinu

This verse alludes to the fact that holy,passionate and dull qualities within us are affected by our food intake and that it would be advisable to regulate the type of food we consume, so as to limit animalistic tendencies and promote holy ones.

Looking at it from a Vedic view-point, refraining from meat-eating is  due to Dharmic law, as non-violence is seen as an obligation to God and His creation. Karmic laws also suggest that we accumulate karma through directly/indirectly inflicting harm to another being via the consumption of meat.

Of course, all this does not mean that being vegetarian automatically renders one with the spiritual awareness of a saint. If in fact, one is so highly spiritually evolved, then what one eats does not matter in the least. Vegetarianism is just a small step in the spiritual journey of those who are still subject to the dictates of the body and the mind.

As for me, I think I’ll take all the help I can get as far as spirituality is concerned. And really, being vegetarian is not at all difficult. There are so many varieties of vegetarian food that you really do not feel like you are missing out on anything. Also, to all those who worry about our nutrient intake, trust me when I say that we do just fine. Some of us can even afford to lose a few kilos. Sigh.

Have you ever had any interesting experiences with vegetarianism? Leave a comment below!

Glossary: Bhagavad Gita (holy text),Vedic(Body of Hindu Sacred writings ), Dharmic(righteous ), Karmic(pertaining to the law of Karma)

 

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! – Divya