Most people in the world do not know the true significance of life. Many do not even seem to care about it. One in a million may be concerned about knowing the purpose of life. This concern is the first step in the journey towards the ultimate goal. Most young men are content to regard eating, sleeping, dressing and rearing a big family as the main aims of living. All these doubtless are necessary to some extent. But they alone cannot contribute to peace of mind or fullness in life.
The phenomena of the external world are what the eyes see, the ears hear, and the mind cognises. All these are sensory phenomena. Beyond the senses (indriyas) is the mind and greater than the mind is the Buddhi (intellect). The intellect is governed by the Atma (the indwelling Spirit). The human destiny is to realise the Atma.
Among the sense organs, the most powerful is the mouth (which has the powers of speech and consuming food). When the mouth is under control of the mind, all other senses can be controlled. Speech should be restrained as much as possible. Then, the attention of the mind should be directed towards the Buddhi (which has the power of discrimination). When the Buddhi is turned towards the Atma (the indwelling Spirit), it begins to recognise the all-pervading Spirit.
Bliss of the Spirit
The inextricable connection between the phenomenal world outside and the world of consciousness inside eludes the understanding of ordinary people. Immersed in the desire for enjoying worldly pleasures, they do not attempt to discover the boundless joy to be derived from the inner Spirit. This is because all the sense organs are open only to experiences from outside. It is not surprising that the common man is subject to the outward vision. Only a few develop the inner vision and enjoy spiritual bliss.
Is it the body that derives joy from looking at a thing of beauty? Or is it the Atma? What is it that relishes the food that is consumed? The body or the Spirit? What is it that enjoys fragrance or is moved by companionship? Enquiring in this manner, it will be found that it is the Atma that is the enjoyer and not the physical body. The body by itself is gross and is incapable of experiencing joy. It must be realised that the Spirit transcends the mind and the intellect and pervades the entire cosmos. The Spirit is the basis for the cognition of the external world and experiencing the inner world.
Para Vidya and Apara Vidya
The Vedas and Vedangas, music and literature, physics and chemistry, botany and biology - all these different branches of knowledge are related to the phenomenal universe. They belong to the category of "Apara Vidya" the lower knowledge. People devote their lives mainly to these studies. Only knowledge of the Spirit is "Para Vidya" - the Supreme Knowledge. "Apara Vidya" (worldly knowledge) is pursued mainly for earning a living. But even worldly knowledge exists to point the way to spiritual awareness. Without spiritual knowledge, all other knowledge is valueless.
Every man has to enquire every moment about the purpose and goal of life. Eating, drinking, sleeping, and passing on cannot be the meaning of human life. All these are common to birds and beasts. What is the uniqueness of man? He is endowed with faculties which can enable him to rise above the animal to the human and the divine level.
States of Consciousness
Speech (Vaak), Mind (Manas) and Breath (Prana) are manifestations of the Atma. Each is related to a state of consciousness. They are: the waking state (Jaagradi), dream state (Swapna), and deep sleep (Sushupti). In the waking state, man is awake and experiences the outer world through sight, hearing, speech and other senses. The phenomenal universe is what one experiences through the five sense organs. The experience in the waking state is known as "Viswa" because the experiences are the subtle form of the cosmic principle. "Viswa" has 24 constituent elements: the five organs of action, the five sense organs, the five basic elements and the five pranas (vital airs) and the mind, the Buddhi (intellect), the Chitta (sub-conscious mind) and Ahamkara (ego-sense). In the dream state, only the four internal senses (the mind, the Buddhi, the Chitta and Ahamkara) function. They constitute the Antahkarana (the psycho-somatic agency). In this state, the experiencer has an effulgent form (Tejas) and is known as "Thaijasa". "Sushupti" is the state of deep sleep. In this state, Prajna alone remains (The Principle of knowing). Hence the experiencer in this state is called "Praajna" (the Knower).
"Viswa", "Thaijasa" and "Praajna" are all different names for the Atma (in the different states of consciousness), according to the different forms assumed by the Atma in the various states.
"Prajnaanam Brahma" (declares the Upanishad). Jnaana, Vijnaana, Prajnaana, Sujnaana, and Ajnaana are modifications of one and the same principle of Consciousness. Prajnaana comprehends all that is experienced by the Antahkarana through impressions received by the sense organs, the eyes, the mouth, the ears, the nose, etc. Prajnaana is immanent in Antahkarana as the principle which absorbs and interprets the messages received through the senses. The eyes, for instance, are like the bulb in a lamp. the bulb cannot emit light. It needs the electric current to make it burn. Likewise the eyes cannot see by themselves. It is Prajnaana which sees through the eyes. The same thing applies to the ears and other organs. They all need the power of the inner current to do their work. All the sense organs are insentient by themselves. It is Prajnaana that animates them and makes them instruments of the Consciousness (Chaitanya).
The universe contains innumerable objects. In all of them, the one unchanging, eternal principle is the Atma. That is Prajnaana. That is Brahman. It is the power of this eternal principle which sustains the evanescent and ever-changing objects in the universe. "Asthi" (existing), "Bhaati" (shining) and "Priyam" (pleasing) are three indices of the Divine. Sat-Chit-Ananada are the attributes of the Divine. Sat indicates permanence. Chit indicates omniscience. Ananda is the state of unalloyed bliss. These three attributes of the Divine are changeless and have no form or name. When these three get associated with objects which have name and form, we have the Prapancha - the quintuple phenomenal universe. The cosmos is permeated by the Divine. Even if you are unable to see It, the Divine is present in everything. All our senses function because of the Consciousness that operates in every being. Without that consciousness man would be an insentient creature.
The different states of consciousness are mutually exclusive. You cannot experience in one state what you have gone through in another. For instance, in a dream you may weep over the death of a person. But when you wake up, you won't weep for the person who died in the dream. What happened in the dream is true only in the dream state. In the waking state it is unreal (Mithya). Likewise we do not lament in a dream over a person who died in the waking state. Each experience is real only in its state of consciousness. But the one principle that is common to all the states of consciousness - waking, dream, and deep sleep - is the Atma. Atma is not bound by the limitations of time, space and circumstance.
The body is impermanent. But it is the abode of the indwelling Spirit. It is a shrine and when it moves, the Divine moves with it. Hence the body should be cared for in the same way in which an iron safe which is of little value in itself, is safeguarded for the sake of the valuables kept in it.
What is it that binds man to the illusory world? It is not family or property. These can be given up when one wishes to do so. But what are the most difficult to renounce are attachment (Raga) and hatred (Dwesha). As long as these are dominant in man, he cannot realise his true self. And as long as man remains unaware of his true self, he is in bondage. For a man in bondage, there is no freedom from suffering or worry.
Students should remember that life is precious and should not be wasted in the pursuit of trivial and temporary things. Together with academic studies, they should cultivate spiritual sadhana. Even in academic studies, they should not confine themselves to merely transferring to the memory what is contained in books. They must digest what they have studied and put their knowledge to practical use in the service of society. Try to absorb what is contained in the books and make this knowledge a part of your life. Just as water stored in a reservoir is used for irrigation through canals, the knowledge acquired by you should be diverted to useful channels for the benefit of society.
Rights and Duties
Today everyone talks about his rights and "fights" for them. But they are forgetting their duties and responsibilities. Rights and duties are like the positive and negative ends of a battery. They go together. When duties are discharged properly, rights will be secured of their own accord. How can rights be ensured without the due performance of duties? Recognise your responsibilities as students. That will make you deserve your rights.
This country has inherited a glorious culture from ancient times. You must preserve this culture, while adapting it to suit modern conditions. Most of our students are totally ignorant of our spiritual and cultural heritage. This ancient culture laid stress on Unity and sought to raise the human to the divine level. It aimed at promoting religious and social harmony. Today unity and tolerance are absent and our society is riddled with conflicts. The country lost its freedom in the past because of divisions. We should regard Bharat as one nation, with one heart, and proclaim the Truth to the world with one voice.
Students! Develop largeness of heart. The heart is not a physical organ. It derives its name "Hridaya" from the fact that it is the seat of compassion (Daya). Develop compassion for all. Go forward from the narrow feelings of "I" and "mine" to "We" and "Ours".
It is not easy to comprehend the formless, attributeless, infinite Divine. The truth of the Divine has to be discovered and experienced by each one. The Divine is omnipresent. You must lead a life of truth and godliness based on this conviction. Strive to make the nation an upholder of truth and righteousness. This is the foremost duty of students today.
Discourse by Sathya Sai Baba at Sri Sathya Sai Institute Auditorium on the Commencement of the New Academic Year
June 22 1987 - (8/87) Issue, Sanathana Sarathi (The Eternal Charioteer)