23. How to apply spirituality in daily life?
Swami Vivekananda said “one ounce of practice is worth a thousand pounds of theory.” But many people are clueless about how to put spiritual theory into daily practice. They believe that spirituality makes us shun the luxuries of the world while materialism makes us neglect spirituality. Is it possible to blend both of them?
Most people believe that ‘materialism’ refers to a culture which is mainly motivated by the acquisition of money, possessions, material goods, and worldly success.
But materialism really means the belief that there is nothing above or beyond material life; and that the idea of Atman and Brahman are ignorant delusions.
The opposite of materialism is spiritualism, but this is yet another word which has become misused, far more so than materialism. To a modern mind it may bring up images of monks begging for alms or saffron clothed god-men living in mansions and performing cheap tricks for a living.
Spiritualism really means the belief that the ultimate reality is not something material and physical, but rather something purely spiritual and transcendent, and that this is the source and final destiny, of everything and everyone. It does not refuse the matter and physical phenomena but maintains that these are only impermanent in nature, and only to be used as instruments for spiritual experience and evolution.
To give a simple example, while a materialist loves things and uses people, a spiritualist loves people and uses things only as tools.
Gandhiji successfully blended the material or individual life with spiritual or collective life. As occasion demanded he emphasized one over the other. For instance he often quoted “I could carry God, to the poor, in a bowl of rice”.
It is easy to misunderstand and misinterpret him by focusing attention on onside and ignoring the rest of his thought thereby distorting his meanings and intentions. He has been often attacked by spiritualists and materialists alike.
The spiritualists accused him of lowering the spiritual life by mixing it with politics and economics. But most of them failed to guide masses in applying moral values in everyday life.
The materialists accused him of confusing masses by mixing political and economic issues with his ideas of Truth, ahimsa, asteya, aparigraha etc. But they too failed in giving real solutions.
For instance the capitalists encourage individual liberty and enterprise but that often lead to exploitation of the lesser fortunate. The communists declare that they are intended to achieve the economic equality of the masses and have nothing to do with the spiritual values at individual level. In many countries their experiments only led to oppression and equal distribution of poverty.
In analysing how Gandhiji blended the material with the spiritual, we must consider not only his spoken or written words, but also the way he lived. We need to observe how he handled critical situations, organized institutions and movements and dealt with co-workers or opponents. ‘To err is human’. He too erred on many occasions and corrected himself. Hence he advised readers, “if there are inconsistencies in my teachings, the latter prevail over the former”.
Gandhiji referred to Bhagavadgita as a guide in all his experiments. To teach the Bhagavadgita to Arjuna, Krishna chose battle field as the background, instead of a hermitage or forest retreat. Hence the Bhagavadgita is not a book that has to be kept locked in a box and worshipped, and to be opened only after retirement from active life. It is a guide that must be used at any time of our life. It does not tell us to renounce life and run away from problems. Instead it propels us to run head on into life’s battles with faith and fearlessness.
Had Arjuna run away from battle field, he could be termed as the so called ‘spiritualist’. Renouncing his duty to fight the evil and protect the good, would mean denying creation’s grand scheme of things, where each being must do his part. Were he to indulge in the war straight away without listening to the Bhagavadgita, he could be termed as the so called ‘materialist’, only intended to gain kingdom and riches. The gist of the Bhagavadgita’s teaching is that Arjuna performed his duty as a soldier without getting entangled with war’s karmic consequences.
Material success without spiritual foundation is bound to collapse. Hence every man must balance his life with pursuit of four purushardhas – dharma, ardha, kama and moksha.
An aircraft manoeuvres in several altitudes and directions. But it always follows a flight plan to reach the destination by taking instructions from the ground control tower. Suppose if ardha and kama are two wings of an aircraft, then moksha is the destination and dharma is the control tower. A person without spiritual compass is like an aircraft without flight plan and will be doomed in life.
But we need success in material life too. For centuries, pundits, in their sattvic arrogance scoffed down at rajasic people and misinterpreted that desire-less state is the highest state to be achieved.
During the middle ages endeavours such as sea voyages, scientific explorations, commerce and creation of wealth, acquiring army to protect the weak were all discouraged. Slowly the country slipped down into tamasic ignorance, dullness and slavery.
Desire is the fire, energy of life, and can be used for constructive purposes such as obtaining independence, inventing medicines, technological advancements, creating wealth and jobs and so on, and to explore all the marvels of God’s creation.
Desires, if used for destructive purposes or selfish gains, can lead to self-created fall, because ultimately dharma prevails and ‘Truth alone Triumphs’.
Our body and minds are instruments to attain liberation, pursue dharma, earn ardha, fulfil kama and be of service to other beings. Hence we need success both in proper use of material resources and in our spiritual evolvement.
In the chapter on ‘power of faith’ we have learnt the power of prayer. We must always pray God, the way great composer Thayagaraja pleaded, to let us serve Him as a royal guard. That is the closest one can get to God. An average servant may have fewer expectations, of his capabilities and commitment, by his master. A royal guard on the other hand strives to be pure, disciplined, capable and always vigilant on duty. This may not be the highest but certainly the best position one can aspire for in life and seek from God.
Constantly remind yourself that you are serving, supporting and protecting God’s creation. In any of your field of action, observe yourself, to find if you are truly doing these duties as a royal guard must do.
We can observe that Gandhiji truly served as a royal guard because he was free from the six vices and also was fearless to fight the British Empire. He gave up even his own life to stop people from killing each other during partition riots. He always enjoyed his work to the last moment, without either complaining or taking a vacation. The ultimate purpose of life is only to serve God and His creation. If you pray God to let you serve as a royal guard, He will guide and lead you in every moment of life. Then anything and everything that you do in any field of action can become sadhana (practice) towards moksha (liberation).
Uthara – Bantu reethi
Life is a school where we keep coming back again and again to learn lessons and evolve towards perfection. It is only the ignorant ego that is born again and again but there is no rebirth for true Self. Gandhiji once said “I have travelled so far, and yet all I have done is, coming home” indicating his journey of separation from God to finding God. But deep rooted tendencies such as greed, hatred, wickedness, laziness, irresponsibility, untruthfulness and fears cannot be removed so quickly and easily. Before trying to remove them from other people, we need to remove them from ourselves first and be an example to others. We need to cultivate positive tendencies such as faith, love, fearlessness, compassion, non-possession so that the influence of negative tendencies gets reduced.
Our objective in this e-book is not to put Gandhiji on a high pedestal and worship him as a god or saviour. Our objective is to take him as an example and follow him in the path that he walked.
Such path may be filled, not with roses and welcoming applauses, but with trials and challenges. One should be prepared to be a lonely fighter walking upon the toughest terrain. But certainly the journey is worth the efforts, if we just have faith that God is with us all along. Let us also make our individual life an experiment with Truth, the way Gandhiji termed his autobiography as ‘My experiments with Truth’.