IN LIFE, THERE ARE TWO PATHS TO FOLLOW
There is a Wisdom Dialogue between Death-as-Acharya and Nachiketaa in the Katha Upanishad. It commences with a statement about Life and Its pursuits: We either live or we lead a life. If we merely live, then we do so like driftwood drifting with the Tide in the Stream of Life. We never struggle against the Tide to move in an opposite direction. We live instinctively, like animals do, without a plan. If, however, we lead a life, then we have a definite and viable destination in mind. If our destination is pleasure, comfort, and security – if we focus on having a beautiful and comfortable house, a strong, healthy, and handsome body, and a good social and economic reputation, – then our Path is that of Preya, of Pleasant Delight that arises from sense gratification. On the other hand, like stars getting dimmer as the Sun rises higher, human interest in mundane success as a sole priority begins to wane as the quest for a higher Reality dawns and becomes more and more intense. The Path now is no longer that of Pleasant Delight but of Virtue and Goodness, called Shreya.
These two Paths are so far apart that if we choose to walk on one, we cannot walk simultaneously on the other. Also, in pursuing the Pleasant, we become stuck in a round of organic satisfactions arising out of sense stimulations, and so, we lose our independence – there is neither forward movement nor upward climb, no evolution, and no growth. Consequently, man becomes a mere biological organism that responds only to instinct, unaware of the real Meaning of Life. It is precisely for this reason that Maharshi Kath in this Upanishad says that anyone who chooses Pleasant Delight fails to achieve the Final Goal. On the other hand, while walking the Path of Goodness and Virtue, man rises, step by step, from the organic to the mental, and then further on to the spiritual dimensions of his being. The Mundak Upanishad 3:1:3 says that in becoming ethically perfect, he transcends even Goodness and Virtue and moves further on. Becoming spiritually illumined, he experiences his immortal self. And, achieving Release from the revolving Wheel of Birth and Death, he roams at will in the Bliss of God. For this reason, anyone who chooses Goodness becomes blessed, says Maharshi Kath. This Goodness is not the end, but a means to the end. The end is Emancipation, Final Release, Salvation, or Freedom, called Mukti, Moksha, Swarg,aa or Nirvaan.
DR SATISH PRAKASH