by Swami Krishnananda
The suggestion, then, is that the aim of evolution is ultimately spiritual and the sense of the spiritual has to be comprehended in its proper significance. It is to be realised that there has to be a unifying blend of the fourfold Aim of Human Existence, viz., dharma, artha, kama and moksha; a coming together of the moral, the economic, the vital and the Infinite values in a concentrated focus of thought, speech and action. It is not infrequently that spirituality is regarded as ‘a phase’ of life, an aspect of human pursuits, and even an other-worldly aim, to be thought of at the fag-end of one’s life. Nothing can be a greater travesty of truth than this sort of erroneous thinking and evaluation. How can the Infinite value be relegated to an aspect, a phase of life, or an other-worldly concern? Does not the Infinite include all things—the other-worldly as well as the this-worldly, the transcendent as well as the temporal? Else, how could it be the Infinite? How, then, if spirituality is the process of the pursuit of the Infinite, can it be a segmented aspect of life? Would it not then embrace the whole of life within itself, and would not life itself be impossible without it? Yes; the spiritual value is not ‘a value’ but ‘the value’ of ‘all life’, without which life would lose its very meaning and be turned into an essenceless phantom.
It also follows from the concept of the Infinite that, if the Infinite value has to include the moral, the economic, and the vital values within itself, so that dharma, artha and kama get subsumed under moksha; then, the pursuit of morality, wealth and personal satisfaction in life has perforce to get included in the pursuit of moksha or liberation from the thraldom of life, i.e., the spiritual includes the temporal. The complaint of our communist friends and social-welfare workers against religion and spirituality, if there is any, is thus without any basis; for, it is founded on a misconception of the spiritual as well as the religious, which, latter, in fact, is but the outward expression of the spiritual. As it was pointed out, the human mind is not constituted in such a way as to enable it to comprehend this tremendous truth behind the drama of life, so that the human mind always complains against existing conditions and distrusts even the logically deducible consequences that could be reasonably inferred from the observation of the phenomenon called life. The great tragedy of human life has been the unwarranted isolation of the spiritual from the temporal and the consequent clinging to an over-emphasis of the material needs of this world, or to a supposed religious ideal confined to the other-world. It is due to a thorough-going misrepresentation of truth that we have among us materialists, atheists and hedonists on one side and the theoretically-idealistic religionists, priests and pontiffs on the other side, one contending with and opposed to the other and creating a scene of conflict in the world. There should be no wonder if either side gets frustrated in its pursuit because the demand of both the sides seems similar to the point involved in the humorous effort to keep half a hen for cooking and half for laying eggs.
Would people realise at least today that existence in the world cannot be bifurcated from the existence of the Central Aim of Life? Gathering the outcome of our thoughts expressed earlier, we may proceed further to the art and the enterprise of blending dharma, artha, kama and moksha into a single body of human aspiration. As was indicated, this is a difficult job, for, the mind is not accustomed to think in such an integral fashion. But it has to be done, and one cannot escape it, if life is to have any meaning and not be a mere desultory drifting from one objective to another, every moment of time.
Artha, or the material object of one’s pursuit, may be considered first, since it is this that seems to be the primary centre of life’s attraction in the immediately visible and tangible field of experience. The object is naturally the physical something that presents itself before a sense-organ—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching. It is impossible to have a proper notion of an object unless we have a correct apprehension of the structure of the senses themselves. Normally, it is supposed that the objects of the senses are variegatedly spread out in space and each sense grasps a particular object. It is also believed that the object is ‘outside’ the particular sense which apprehends it. Thus, two conceptions are involved in sense-perception, namely, that the objects are differently distributed outside in space and that they are external to the senses perceiving them. Without this twofold notion sense-contact and sense-satisfaction will lose their proper significance. It is on this stated assumption that the senses seem to be asking for their own respective comforts and pleasures. But their needs and askings of this kind automatically get grouped under what may be called the ‘vulgar view of life’, if it can be shown that the objects are neither variegated nor are they really external to the senses. Any satisfaction rooted in a misconception about it cannot continue for long, nor can it be considered a real necessity of life. A final investigation into the structure of things would not be within the range of the ‘vulgar thinking’ which goes hand-in-hand with the untutored assumption of the senses, but the purified reason coupled with a more acute observation will reveal that the truth of things is far removed from the sensory notions of the uneducated mind. We may say that our knowledge of things cannot be regarded as ultimately valid unless it becomes scientific in the correct sense of the term. It should be noted that an object is a concentrated group of characters brought together by factors with a universal implication. An object is only an outer form of the inner concrescence of forces which tie themselves into knots, as it were, into what we call as objects in space and time, and it is only the outer form that the senses can perceive, not the inner implication of this subtler activity that is going on within the structure of things beyond the ken of the senses. Physicists prefer to call objects as fields of force, rather than things or substances, by which what is meant is that an object is co-extensive with other objects, as a ripple in the ocean is substantially co-extensive with the entire body of the ocean. This fact is brought out in a more prominent manner in a famous verse of the Bhagavadgita where, in connection with a description of the way in which senses come in contact with objects, it declares that ‘properties’ move among ‘properties’ (gunah guneshu vartante). What this yoga text means hereby is that the ‘properties’ or ‘gunas’ of the Mother of all material formations known as prakriti, are equally present in the senses and their objects; or, in other words, the very same prakriti constituted of the forces of equilibrium, kinetics and dynamics (sattva, rajas and tamas) is present in the senses as well as the objects. What the substance is of the structure of the senses is also the substance of the structure of the objects, so that it cannot be said that the objects are external to the senses, just as there is no point in saying that the ocean is external to the waves upon it, though we may imagine that the waves have every right of imagining that the ocean is outside them. But how far this is from truth needs no iteration.
Moreover, it is not difficult to notice that everything in this world is made up of the five elements—Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether, - in a variety of permutations and combinations, wherein are included the objects of senses as well as our own bodies which are the receptacles of the senses. Even crudely speaking, what separates one object from another is space, and space, unfortunately, enters into the constitution of every object including our bodies. Where then comes externality of objects, the outsideness of things? If things are not outside, how can one pursue or long for them? kama, which is desire for objects, loses its ground when the structure of the objects is known to be inextricably woven into the pattern of one’s body and senses. That all this is not a part of the curriculum of our education in our institutions will only be an additional credit to the glory of our educational system, which leaves a student at sea the moment he comes out of his alma mater, in flying colours. Life begins to stare hard on one’s face when the educational course is completed. Truly, education seems to begin only then! The significance of artha and kama, the objects and the desire for them needs no large commentary to explain them in the light of the foregoing analysis. The objects and the desire for them, artha and kama, then seem to harass us only until we do not know dharma, or the Law of Truth.
Dharma, which is the name for the righteousness that is rooted in the make-up of all things in the universe, is the ruling factor that determines the significance and validity of both the existence of objects and one’s longing for them. This is why, perhaps, Bhagavan Sri Krishna mentions in the Gita that He, as the All-Pervading Presence, is kamaor desire which is not opposed to dharma or righteousness. But that desire cannot be regarded as being in consonance with righteousness or the rule of Nature, which regards objects as sheerly ‘external’ to the senses, a proposition which has been ruled out in the Bhagavadgita itself while it announced that ‘properties’ move among ‘properties’. The Bhagavadgita also mentions, in its 18th Chapter, that the notion which regards a particular thing as if it is everything is to be considered as the worst type of understanding, or knowledge. Every form of desire is usually of this character in the sense that desire clings to a particular object taking it for the whole value of life or sometimes a group of objects regarding them as the entire aim of existence. Such a desire which is associated with the lowest type of understanding is what usually goes by the name of karna or longing for artha or object. This is definitely not in agreement with the principle of dharma which is rightly defined as that which holds all things together as a sort of universal gravitational centre (dharanat dharma iti ahuh).