(adapted from a new year talk by Swami Paramarthananda)
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in Gita (18-5):
Activity in the form of yajña, dhana (charity) and tapas (austerity) should not be given up. They have to be performed necessarily. Yajna, dhana and tapas are purifiers according to the wise (people).
The above three disciplines yajna, dhana and tapas that are emphasised by the scriptures for purification of mind also lead to a purposeful life. A purposeful life is a life lived with a conscious intentional goal. We shall see the three disciplines as can be followed even by an ordinary spiritual person, in a little more detail individually.
Yajna means worship. What we usually understand by worship is going to temple, offering puja, doing abhisheka etc. But the worship that acts as purifier of the mind is a higher form of worship where one converts one’s very life itself into worship. Swami Chinmayananda makes a wonderful statement “The life that we have is a wonderful gift from the Lord and what we do with this life is our gift, our offering to the Lord.” Lord Himself has earlier given the formula for such a life in Gita(9-27) thus.
O Arjuna, whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer (as oblation) whatever you give (in charity), whatever austerity you undertake --- dedicate that as an offering to Me
We should live our life in such a way that it is a worthy offering to the Lord i.e. It must be the best, i.e a dharmic life of love and positive emotions. This way let us start living from today itself without postponing it to a future date for every day spent is like a sword cutting into our life span as the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar says in his kural no. 334
நாளென வொன்றுபோற் காட்டி யுயிரீரும்
வாள துணர்வார்ப் பெறின்.
வாள துணர்வார்ப் பெறின்.
(Naalena ondrupor kaatti uyir Eerum Vaaladhu unarvapperin)
The wise get this : Time, that manifests itself as days; is a sword that slices off life.
As Swami Paramarthananda says while leading such a dharmic life of love and positive emotions let us love and enjoy what we have to do and that will be the best yajna to the Lord.
Dhana means a charity which we do for others. Lord Krishna defines a satvic gift thus in Gita (17-20)
That gift which is given to a proper person at the proper time at the proper place, with an attitude that giving is a duty, without expecting the person to reciprocate is considered to be satvic gift.
Taittriya Upanishad contains advice on dhana in a passage where Guru addresses the students on the occasion of their leaving gurukula after Vedic studies to start life in the outer world. This is similar to a convocation address and in this address guideline for dhana is given. It runs as follows:
Sraddhaya deyam – Whatever you give, give it with faith i.e. gladly and willingly
Asraddhaya adheyam - Don’t give without faith i.e. unwillingly
Sriya dheyam – Give with a sense of plenty i.e. to your capacity
Hriya dheyam – Give with humility
Bhiya dheyam – Give with sympathy
Samvida dheyam – Give with knowledge i.e. understanding of cause
Apart from complying with the above guideline governing a satvic gift there is a very important gift which must accompany all the gifts. Accompanying a gift, it makes the gift more valuable and also all people, rich or poor, crave for it at all times and in all circumstances. That is the gift of love. Without love all other gifts remain incomplete, while love makes all other gifts meaningful. Love is invisible; it is an inner feeling, a feeling of the mind. So when we talk of love, we mean expressed love. Love is both the consequence and cause of spiritual growth. The best expression of love is giving our time and attention to the other person, to share their stories and their feelings. It should start from one’s own family members in the house, especially the elders and children. One can share their happiness and unhappiness without judging them. Today when many families are nuclear families, the gift of giving quality time and to respect other’s feelings is the best dhanam. Giving time to others especially the elders is one of the indices of spiritual growth. Dhanam made without the gift of love is only mechanical and the gift of love regularly and continually made makes one’s scriptural studies also meaningful.
Tapas is the discipline of austerity. There are a variety of disciplines one follows in austerity like fasting on important days like ekadasi. Of all of them the most important tapas is vak tapas – austerity or discipline at the verbal level, as speech is an important instrument of communication between human beings and more problems arise from spoken words than even action. Sri Sankaracharya says in Vivekachudamani (verse 368) “Yogasya prathama dwaram vak nirodhaha” (The first doorway to Yoga is discipline of speech). Lord Krishna gives four criteria for speech to qualify as an austerity. They are:
- Anudhveshakaram - No verbal violence. One must avoid verbal violence which is the most powerful and worst form of violence.
- Sathyam - Truthful, sincerity in words, no hypocrisy. There should not be chasm between our mind and words. When we say something, it is because we mean it.
- Priyam - kindness. Our words must be soft, polite, and gentle.
- Hitham - Beneficial, to the other person. Before speaking any words we should pause and apply the filter whether it is beneficial to the other person. Better remain silent than speaking something not beneficial in the name of speaking truth.
Vak tapas requires that we remain alert to subject the words coming out of our mouth to a quality check always to ensure that they are sweet and good for the people, truthful and is for welfare of all
So a life that conforms to the cardinal principles of dharma where gift of love and vak tapas is practiced is a purposeful life and let us start living a purposeful life from today.