by Swami Krishnananda
The whole of life is permeated with various conflicts and irreconcilabilities varying in nature from person to person. The aim of yoga is to resolve all such conflicts and make us perfectly normal in the absolute sense of the term. Whenever there is an inward feeling of irreconcilability in a family, there is a conflict, and when it gets deepened, it can become a malady, a disease by itself.
We have a rough idea of what these conflicts are, and they are the common difficulties that we face in our day-to-day life. We cannot bear too much heat or too much cold, we cannot bear hunger and thirst, we cannot tolerate the presence of certain persons, and so on; of an unending nature are our pin-pricks. But all these diversified conflicts of life can be boiled down to four conflicts finally, in the philosophy of yoga, or, we may say, the philosophy of the Vedanta. All problems are reduced to four fundamental conflicts.
The lowest or the immediately cognisable conflict is the social one, where people cannot get on with one another for one reason or the other, i.e., the immediately visible external conflicts. We are unable to face situations created by people outside; and others, too, cannot strike a reconcilability with our own conducts and activities. There is a mutual difficulty, one hanging on the other, each one attributing its cause to the other, thus making life a scene of sorrow. Everyone is unhappy, saying that the cause is somebody else.
Now, apart from this ostensible external conflict of a social character, we have internal conflicts in our own selves. We are not aligned in the layers of our own personality. We have the physical body, we have the pranas, we have the sense-organs, we have the mind with all its various functions, we have our reasoning capacity; we have so many things in us, which we study in psychology. These facts or aspects or layers of our personality are not in harmony, so there is an internal conflict apart from the outer social conflict. There is a psychological conflict in addition to social frictions.
There is a third type of conflict which is of a more serious nature. We cannot get on with the world itself. There is something seriously wrong with the very structure of things, and nothing does attract us. We cannot see any perfection or beauty in this creation of the physical Nature. The seasons, even the five elements, appear to be very defective to us. We are not happy somehow, and we have a feeling that we are harassed by the very make-up of Nature. The elements create a torturous irreconcilability with ourselves; we are grief-stricken.
And, finally, as the last but not the least, we have a tension with God Himself. There is no harmony between us and the Ultimate Reality. The truth seems to be made of characters which do not appear to be the characters which we exhibit in our life. We are at loggerheads with God, Nature and human society.
These four conflicts can be called the social, personal, natural and spiritual irreconcilabilities. In India we have a great scripture called the Bhagavad
While the Bhagavad
Before we go into the details of these peculiar conflicts which are to be resolved in yoga, so that we may become universally healthy and perfect, we have to consider another aspect which we observe in our life, viz., the aims and objectives that we are pursuing – the intention behind activities, which has something to do with the joys and the sorrows that we pass through in our life. We are here for some purposes and these may be called our desires, broadly speaking. We have certain basic desires, longings, and if they are not fulfilled, they create problems in our own selves.
Ancient adepts have classified these desires also in the same way as they have categorised the conflicts. The aims of existence, or the aims of human life with which we are concerned now, appear to be manifold on the surface, even as conflicts. Just as conflicts appear to be a hundredfold, or a thousandfold, but really they are only fourfold, likewise, our aims, too, are fourfold. They are not many as they appear on the surface. It is not that we have some millions of desires. We have four desires, to which every desire can be reduced finally.
The first one is the physical or the economic need of our personality. We have hunger and thirst, and we require clothing and shelter. To fulfil these requirements we have today what we call money or wealth. In ancient times, this money idea was not there. There was only the barter system. If you have some commodity which I need, I take it from you in return for some other commodity which I have but which you need. But as it was a very inconvenient system, we have created a new policy of currency, which is very helpful because we cannot carry commodities from place to place for purpose of exchange. This is the principle of wealth or the economic system of life. But wealth has only an instrumental value. Money is a means to the fulfilment of our needs which are primary. We do not require money as such. Nobody wants money only. It is a tool to the fulfilment of our desires. So, when we ask for economic fulfilment, what we actually ask for is the fulfilment of the bodily or physical needs, with all their social relations. However, it is not actually currency note, or money; that is not the requirement. Money is an instrument which is utilised as a necessary means to the fulfilment of the longings of man. All the material requirements of human life come under this particular category. This is one desire.
Then we have certain other stronger desires, at least as strong as the urges for material requirements. And they are our vital urges. These are the emotional needs of the human personality. It is not that we require only bread and jam and a house to live in and clothes to put on. We have also emotional necessities. With all the material needs we can be unhappy if our emotions are not satisfied. So this is another aspect of human longing or desire – the loves, the affections, the aesthetic promptings of human nature.
Now, in Sanskrit, there are certain technical names given to these desires. The whole of economic or material requirement comes under what is called artha. Anything that is material or economic comes under this head. In short, it means all material values. And the vital longings come under what is known as kama (not karma). kama as a desire of an emotional or instinctive type is different from the grosser ones that are material.
But there is a need for another regulative principle to assist in the fulfilment of these longings which are material and vital. These desires, when they arise from within an individual, come with a tremendous vehemence. They have a power of their own. They insist on satisfaction, and everyone has this urge from within. The peculiarity of these desires is that they are never satiable. They have an endless requirement. However much we may feed them, they do not appear to be satisfied, and this for certain other reasons which we shall not touch upon just now. It is well known that a person cannot be satisfied with any amount of material property. One wants more and more of everything. Similar is the case with the desire for emotional satisfactions.
One requires more and more, and as much as possible, and this strange devilish implication behind these desires bordering upon an endlessness of their longings affects the similar longings of other people. If each one wants things endlessly, what will happen to human society and life as a whole? One cannot have endlessness everywhere. If one wants endless things and another also wants endless things – and two endless things cannot exist – there would be a clash of desires and personalities. There would be battles and wars.
It is not possible to give a long rope, in an indefinite sense, to the desires of people. There should be a restriction, not in the manner of a pressure or subjugation by force, but a rational acceptance of the presence of similar needs in all people, everywhere. If I am hungry and I want food, a fact that has to be accepted, it is also to be accepted that another will also be equally hungry and he needs food. It does not mean that I am the only person who requires food. But the selfishness of a person can go to an inordinate extent and can violate the rationality of the presence of similar needs in others. Selfishness is a devil. If there is a Satan, here is he, violating law and asserting isolation. Such an impetuousness of the will conflicts with everybody else, because it wants everything for itself. And if each one is to project a similar attitude, there will be a complete chaos and an imminent destruction of human existence itself. Each one will fly at the throat of the other and no life will be there in a few days. This is not a happy state of affairs, and human beings who are selfish are also intelligent.
Intelligence is used even to fulfil the demands of selfishness, and when selfishness realises that its own purposes are going to be defeated by an excessive asking or an overdosed projection of itself, it accepts the necessity to collaborate itself with the similar needs of other people. This is the social side of the law or dharma that people generally speak of. We should be righteous. We must be virtuous. Righteousness, goodness, justice, rationality are essentials. These are only various terminologies indicating the need on the part of every individual to accept similar needs in other persons also. Only then, there can be social peace and human solidarity. We cannot get on in life, or even exist in this world, if we insist on an infinite satisfaction for our own selves, individually, personally. The law of mutual respect and co-operation is called dharma, or the righteousness of the law.
And our artha and kama are not going to succeed if dharma is not to be there. Their very purposes may be defeated without it. They defeat themselves by a wrong notion of their own good. Dharma has many other implications, but we are here concerned with the basic notion of it – namely that the longing of the human personality, material, vital, or psychological, cannot succeed unless there is a collaboration and co-operation with the vast creation called humanity. Dharma may extend even beyond humanity to other regions also, with which we have a secret connection. Dharma is the regulative principle of life which conditions or puts a limit upon the extent of satisfaction that one can have without detriment to the similar requirements of other persons.
This attitude of charity and regard is called goodness. If I can accept that you are in as much need of things as I am, I can be called a good person. "Yes, he is good, he knows my difficulties," say people. But if I refuse to accept your difficulties and insist on my own, then I would be called a selfish person. Thus, dharma is there as inviolable, inexorable insistent law, which is to be accepted on the very nature of things. Human rules, political laws, social customs, etc., are based on this natural law of the necessity for mutual collaboration and co-operation in life.
But what are all those for? Why should we fulfil all these desires? We have to observe the principles of dharma because our longings can receive a logical listening only if dharma is followed. Our material needs and our vital longings can have justifiable satisfaction only on the basis of dharma. Yes, dharma, artha and kama are the three absolute, categorical imperatives of life, without which we cannot live. But what are we living for? Why should we live at all? Let nobody live. What is the harm? Why should there be a law? Why should there be regulation and system? Why should we eat and drink? Why should we fulfil our emotional needs and have satisfactions? What is the matter? What is the point in all these? What is this great drama of life? Why stress? Why run about? Why work? These are more difficult questions to answer than anything else. We may with some acumen of our learning and education be in a position to answer the lower questions of immediate existence. But these latter poses take us beyond the human and even the natural realm of things. Here is a metaphysical question, if you would like to call it so. It is to enter the realm of philosophy. It is a bordering upon spiritual life, to put it in another way.