In our township in Montgomery, NJ, we have had some success running six blood drives during the pandemic and collected enough blood to save the lives of 474 people. It may be a drop in the ocean, but it is a formula for success to figure out how to improve the blood inventory safely and securely during these troubled times. Many news outlets have reported concerns about treating patients with a low supply of blood.
Recently the local newspaper published a piece on our work of the blood-drives in 2020.
Indian hagiographical literature is fascinating for students of Indian Philosophy. An undying literary art, it combines spiritual knowledge, poetry and music, thereby inducing bliss. We continue to read these writings century after century with awe and gratitude.
Saint Kabir Dasa was one such fifteenth century mystic poet from northern India who continues to fascinate, and till today Indian musicians take pride in singing his poems. One major translator of his Hindi/Urdu poetry into English was modern-day poet Rabindranath Tagore, a literary genius and Nobel prize winner who himself also wrote mystical poetry. His translation was entitled, ‘One Hundred Poems of Kabir’ and was first published in 1915.
Saint Kabir, an orphan, was adopted and raised by a Muslim family and later he became the disciple of a Hindu Guru. His spiritual poetry describes experiences which correspond to those of many other saints from all over India, while his poetry displays a unique synthesis of Hindu and Muslim spirituality, beautifully interwoven in the unique style with which his name is associated. Thus he has become a symbol for religious unity in 15th century India.
Here we will consider Saint Kabir’s poem ‘bago na ja re na ja’ in an attempt to bring out the beauty of that work for readers, either as re-lived joy or as an introduction to a fascinating world of mystical poetry.
Tagore’s translation is as follows:
Do not go to the garden of flowers!
O Friend! go not there;
In your body is the garden of flowers.
Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.
Usually, Saints speak of God as dwelling within us, and here Saint Kabir Dasa also speaks of an inner ‘garden of flowers’, confirming that what we are searching for lies within. One may call it God, spiritual experience, or self-realization – and it is indeed an experience of unfathomable beauty. That beautiful inner garden can be experienced by anyone who has spent time in meditation.
Saint Kabir describes it as a thousand-petalled lotus – or the ‘Sahasrara’ of the tantric yoga tradition. It refers to the awakening of the crown chakra of pure consciousness. The Bhagavad-Gita describes a similar blissful experience, while the Buddha speaks of the same as ‘Nirvana.’
The Saints of India made this knowledge, couched in simple language, available to all through their poetry; they also gave hints about what to expect, its feasibility and how to experience it, thereby arousing the interest of their listeners. Their own joy and peace were so palpable that even ordinary people, who themselves might never have had such experiences, found themselves attracted and engaged in the practice of searching for that flower garden within themselves.
The garden of flowers is a symbol of Love, Happiness, and Peace, which lies potent in ourselves.
We will continue to explore mystical poetry in future posts.
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As the year is drawing to a close, it is time for reflection. The pandemic and its aftermath influenced all walks of life. At the ‘Philosophy and Happiness, LLC’ we took a look at what we achieved this year. Here is a short glimpse of 2020:
Dr. Ashwini Mokashi’s book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ is recognised by American Philosophers Practioners Association as a text and reference book.
The book is also recognized by the Ancient Philosophy Society in the USA.
Dr. Mokashi’s Talks:
A Talk hosted by the Global Garje Marathi platform on ‘Pursuit of Happiness during the Pandemic’
A Talk hosted by APPA on ‘Wisdom Leads to Happiness’
A Talk hosted by Princeton University Hindu Life Program on ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’
A series of four Talks hosted by Gurudev Ranade Facebook Group on the book ‘Gita As a Philosophy of God-Realization’ by Gurudev Prof. R.D. Ranade
A Talk hosted by a group of Indian Philosophical Counselors on ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’
Led Monthly Discussions on a variety of books in the Humanities at the Humanities Group of the Princeton Research Forum, NJ
Dr. Mokashi’s 2020 Publications:
An e-book version of ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ by Ashwini Mokashi available online on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble websites
Various Blog Articles published on Philosophical topics.
Published a scholarly article for American Philosophical Practitioners Association
San Diego Independent Scholars’ Organization published a piece by Dr. Mokashi on ‘Ancient Wisdom Leads to Happiness in the Time of Covid-19’
Dr. Mokashi’s Teaching:
Designed and Taught a course ‘Wisdom Leads to Happiness’ at the Evergreen Forum at Princeton, NJ
Dr. Mokashi’s Social Work
Montgomery Emergency Medical Services team and Dr. Mokashi organized six Blood-drives during the pandemic and collected enough blood units that would save the lives of 474 people. Breaking news in themontynews.org
Dr. Mokashi’s Business Interests:
The popular blog has turned into a small business venture, with Dr. Mokashi as the Founder and President of ‘Philosophy and Happiness, LLC’.
‘Philosophy and Happiness, LLC’ in New Jersey offers
Philosophical Coaching and Counseling service
Workshops on various philosophical and social topics will start soon
Work with organizations on ethical concerns consulting will start soon
Dr. Mokashi’s HR Consulting Work
Business Partner and Advisor for ‘IMATMI.com’, Intellect Mind & Talent Management Innovations, an HR Consulting Firm.
Upcoming Writing Plans:
Translation of ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ in some regional Indian Languages – work-in-progress
Book on Meditation – work-in-progress
An article in the APPA journal – Indian Perspective – submitted
Network with various Universities and organizations for Philosophical Education and Talks
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Thank you, Ancient Philosophy Society, for giving my book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ the recognition on your website and placing the book among various well-known works by contemporary Western Philosophers. It is time to recognize the importance of comparative works and putting the research of comparative philosophy on the map of both Indian and Western philosophical writings. This way, we connect the two societies, admire the similarities, which will reduce the differences. So thank you for helping with that cause!
Namaste everyone! Thank you again for joining us today! We will discuss the second part of Gurudev R. D. Ranade’s book of ‘The Bhagavad-Gita – as a Philosophy of God-Realization’. These are the notes of the talk and the talk is available on the Gurudev Ranade Facebook Group. We will start with the prayer.
As you may know, this book was compiled from the lectures of Gurudev Ranade delivered on the Bhagavad-Gita at Nagpur University in 1928. These lectures were put together in book format subsequently and published in 1959 (and not during his lifetime, as previously stated). The book has the finesse of a writing material, but since these were lectures to begin with – they also give us the feeling of being spoken to.
For those reading Gurudev Ranade for the first time, it might be helpful to also refer to a couple of his other books. One is the most fascinating ‘Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy’ and another is titled ‘Vedanta – the Culmination of Indian Thought’. Anyone wanting a better understanding of the history of the ancient period, might enjoy reading the book Gurudev co-authored with Prof. S K Belvalkar called ‘History of Indian Philosophy’. This last book is more historical in nature, but also discusses philosophical aspects of various ancient texts. The books on the Vedanta and the Upanishads are totally devoted to the philosophical understanding of those texts with a superb creative and independent analysis by Gurudev. The book on the Upanishads is not only favored by the sadhakas and readers of the Upanishads, but also by the academic scholars of Indology or Philosophy or Religion, who rank it as one of the greatest analyses of the Upanishads.
Today, we will first start with a quick recap of the last talk. In the first part of the book on the Gita, Gurudev analyses the influences on the Gita from the ancient texts of the Upanishads, Samkhya-Yoga philosophy and the Brahmasutras. All these ancient texts were written prior to the Gita, which is indebted to them for providing a theoretical and philosophical background to its philosophy and we see that the Gita summarizes the arguments of the various Upanishads in a very compact format and provides clear and precise guidelines about how to attain Moksha (or liberation from the cycles of births-rebirths). We also saw various similarities and differences between these texts and the Gita, and also noticed that some common concepts were interpreted differently, like the illustration of the ashvattha tree.
One of those concepts that we touched on briefly is that of Vishwarupa Darshan of Krishna, and we will talk more about that today, referring to the Vedanta, Jnaneshwari, Nimbal sampradaya and also the life of Gurudev. We will also talk about the background of the Vedantic school of philosophy and discuss its concept of ‘maya or illusion’, which constitutes the essence of Vedantic Philosophy.
In her book ‘Jaisi Ganga Wahe’, Mrs. Vijaya Apte (Gurudev’s daughter and popularly known as Shakutai) mentions that her mother Shrimati Kakusaheb Ranade also had the mystical experience of Vishwarupa Darshan of God, and Gurudev was present at that time. Kakusaheb narrated the experience to him and to a few others who were in Nimbal at that time. Gurudev had realized that she was having this experience. The fact that she had this mystical experience also implies that all our Gurus had this mystical experience, since these experiences are passed on from the Guru to their disciples. It also gives us hope that when we are at that level of spiritual development, we may be able to experience that as well. Gurudev’s book also discusses how Narad Muni had the same mystical experience of Vishwaraupa Darshan. So we see how these mystical experiences are real for those who are at that stage of spiritual development. In this book, Gurudev keeps referring to this experience in many different conversations. In fact, for religious scholars of the Gita, chapter 11 of Vishwarupa Darshan really constitutes the essence of the Gita, along with the last chapter of the Moksha-Sannyasa Yoga.
As you may know, Gurudev’s books are extremely insightful, and his scholarship is very deep. He says about his work on the Vedanta, that he spent 25 years thinking about what to say in that book, and what fresh and independent thinking he could add to the concepts of the Vedanta. Thus the book may appear to be rather small, but it is mostly about what he is adding to current thinking. Gurudev’s books always assume that readers are knowledgeable about the philosophies under discussion. So for any new reader it becomes a challenge to understand his writings. On the other hand, Gurudev’s books are a source of tremendous intellectual pleasure for scholars who are familiar with the underlying philosophical concepts. My task here is to provide enough background for these philosophies and a summary of what Gurudev is saying in this book, so that new readers might find it easier to follow.
I was also asked to elaborate Gurudev’s views on the Gita or on other texts. So to clarify, the structure of these talks is totally based on the book of ‘Bhagavadgita As A Philosophy of God-Realisation’ by Gurudev Ranade. Whatever similarities and differences we have shown are all from Gurudev’s point of view. Also the conclusion of the book which we will discuss in the fourth talk elaborates his views and his interpretation of the Gita. For spiritual seekers like all members of the Gurudev Sampradaya, it boils down to the truth that meditation alone is what takes us to Moksha, along with the grace of the Spiritual Guru. We will talk more about this, when we discuss the philosophy of the Jnaneshwari.
Vedanta School of Philosophy
Every school of philosophy is built round some major concept. For example, the Samkhya school which talked about the creation of the world tried to put consciousness at the center of their philosophical understanding and marked consciousness or purusha as the most important aspect of this world. Vedanta considers Brahman to be the most important and recommends that our life should be devoted to the pursuit of Brahman through meditation. But since we don’t perceive the Brahman though our senses we get confused as to whether we should believe in it. What we see around us is what the samkhyas call prakriti or nature and the Vedantins call ‘maya’ or illusion. For the Vedantins, the whole world is nothing but maya. The world is illusory as it is impermanent, temporary, constantly changing and is not the truth. The real truth lies in the Brahman.
The idea of the Brahman or Ultimate Reality as modern philosophers describe it, is also known as the Universal Self. Each one of us is part of it through our soul, also known as the atman or individual self. So we have here two entities: one, an individual self, jiva or ‘atman’ and the other, the universal self, Ishwara or ‘Brahman’. They have the same essence or substance. Our life is a journey of the individual becoming one with the universal self, for which human birth is a vehicle. So when the Vedantinsthink that these are two different entities, atman as one and the Brahman as the other, they are then called ‘dvaita-vadins’ or dualists. When the Vedantins think that both the atman and the Brahman are essentially the same and there is no difference, they are called ‘advaita-vadins’ or non-dualists. But both agree on the reality of atman and the Brahman. They have no doubt about the existence of these metaphysical entities. They also agree on the existence of the world, or prakriti (in the terminology of the Samkhya), or samsara (in the terminology of the Gita).
Gurudev refers to four Vedantic scholars, so we will limit our conversation only to these four. Among them, Adi Shankaracharya, who lived in the 8th century AD is the most famous Advaitin scholar. Ramanuja is a Vishisthadvaitin and lived at the turn of the 10th century AD. Madhvacharya was a Dvaitin scholar from 13th century Karnataka, Vallabhacharya a shuddhadvaitin scholar from as late as the 16th century, living in Varanasi.
Absolutistic Reality (same as Absolute Reality)
Having covered some background, we will now look at the points that Gurudev wants to discuss regarding the Gita and Vedantic interpretations. The first point is about the Absolutistic Reality. In the 13th chapter, verse 13, God is said to have hands, legs, eyes, heads and faces everywhere. He pervades everything.
Both Shankara and Ramanuja believe this is unreal. But Shankara says that something unreal might be the cause of something real. So there may not be an actual entity with such giant features, but there might still be an entity we call God.
Gurudev says that Arjuna saw God with hands and feet everywhere, but this is a mystical manifestation. The verse quoted is from the chapter on the vishwarupa-darshan 11.16.
अनेकबाहूदरवक्त्रनेत्रं पश्यामि त्वां सर्वतोऽनन्तरूपम् | नान्तं न मध्यं न पुनस्तवादिं पश्यामि विश्वेश्वर विश्वरूप || 16||
Personalistic Reality (same as Personal Reality)
The second point Gurudev makes is about Personalistic Reality, indicating the importance given to the personality. The 15th chapter of the Gita describes two kinds of people, kshara (perishable) purusha and akshara (imperishable) purusha. So the entire manifestation including the sun, moon, stars, human beings et al are all perishable; but the akshara purushas though imperishable, are really an illusion or the maya of the Vedanta. So basically neither kshara nor akshara are real purusha. The real purusha is the uttam purusha. He is the transcendental self and the Ishwara.
द्वाविमौ पुरुषौ लोके क्षरश्चाक्षर एव च ।
क्षरः सर्वाणि भूतानि कूटस्थोऽक्षर उच्यते ।।15.16
उत्तमः पुरुषस्त्वन्यः परमात्मेत्युदाहृतः ।
यो लोकत्रयमाविश्य बिभर्त्यव्यय ईश्वरः ।। 15.17
Again in the Gita 8.22, it says and Gurudev points out, that the purusha can only be known through devotion.
Shankara and Ramanuja are both in agreement that the Uttama purusha is the paramatman, even though they have different interpretations on the kshara and akshara purusha definitions, according to Gurudev Ranade.
Asat – not-being
The next point Gurudev discusses is the concept of asat or not-being. Gurudev considers verse number 2.16, which says that non-reality does not exist and reality never ceases.
Madhva had trouble with this verse, because he believed that both prakriti and purusha, or the world and the consciousness always exist. Gurudev tried to defend him by saying that perhaps Madhva meant asat and maya (and not asat and sat). Vallabhacharya says that reality is beyond sat and asat and is incomprehensible. Gurudev returns to this question later in the book.
Nature of the Self
Gurudev points to Badarayana who says that God is present in the universe, in all animate and inanimate objects. In his Vedanta book he also discusses Jiva in detail, which is a part of God, – either an image, an illusion or a limitation of God.
Naishkarmya is going beyond Karma. From the word itself, it may seem to mean a denial of Karma, but that is not the case. What this means is the control of our sense organs to go beyond Karma. If we control the mind and do not fall into the trap of satisfying every mental and psychic urge, this is what it looks like. For example, let us say we are at a dinner party where we really want to eat shrikhand but say no thank you, when offered to us, wanting to practice the principle of detachment. But then we spend our entire evening thinking about the shrikhand and get very restless. So that is not an example of sense-control. Sense control is effected when we actually give up wanting to eat shrikhand, which is not easy.
We know from Gurudev’s life that he rarely ate much. He would always take a look at the food, bless it and make sure that the family and guests ate well. But he himself rarely ate much, just enough to survive. Nor did he spend time thinking about food. Instead, he focused on his meditation. That is the example of naishkarmya.
Now a karma-yogi transcends his or her actions by non-attachment to them. A bhakti-yogi will transcend actions by surrendering their emotions/actions to God. Shankaracharya and Ramanuja believe that when all actions are attributed to God, then we are only nimitta, (more like an excuse or an instrument) to carry out God’s desire, so we don’t attribute the actions to ourselves. For example, Arjuna is only a ‘nimitta’ of the Mahabharata war. The results of the war are already predetermined according to the Gita. Sri Krishna had already designated him to be the hero of the war and for the enemies to die, which Arjun gets to see for himself in the experience of Vishwarupa Darshan.
Another point of the Gita mentioned by Gurudev is ‘Sarvadharman parityajya mamekam sharanam vraja’ BG 18.66
This verse advocates going beyond religious rituals, and taking refuge in God alone. Gurudev thinks that Shankara and Vallabha along with Aurobindo Ghosh would interpret the statement as surrendering into God.
The last point here is Liberation and there are three Vedantic views.
Sadharmya: when a person rules everything, animate or inanimate. (We see an example of this in the legend of Sri Jnaneshwara, when he asks the wall or a building block to take him to meet Changadev.)
Brahmabhuyaya: when a person lives in God. (An example would be from the legend of Saint Tukaram, when God comes to meet him to take him to the heaven.)
Vishate: when a person enters into the Brahman. (The legens of Saint Meerabai, when she ends her life by entereing into the statue of Krishna in the Krishna temple)
Whether we believe in these legends or not, they provide us an example to understand these metaphysical concepts.
Gurudev says at such a point a person not only becomes Brahman but also takes part in the parmananda, or notion of Bliss – in simple terms the self- realized person enjoys happiness.
We conclude our discussion of the Vedanta and the Gita at this point. As I said, we can only do so much justice to these great philosophies given limitations of our time and understanding. But this is a short introduction to the chapter on this topic. Now we move to another major topic of Saint Jnaneshwara and his mystical interpretation of the Gita, according to Gurudev Ranade.
Mystical Interpretation of the Gitaby Shri Jnaneshwar Maharaj
Jnaneshwar Maharaj lived in Maharashtra in the 13th century, from 1275-1296 i.e., for about 21 years. He is roughly contemporaneous with other well-known Vedantic scholars: we know that Madhva flourished in the 13th century and Vallabha as late as the 16th century. Gurudev described him as ‘the last of the Romans’, meaning the last of the Vedantic scholars. Yet there is a sea-change in attitudes. With Jnaneshwar Maharaj, we see the birth of the Varakari Sampradaya, the beginnings of the Bhakti movement, continuation of the Natha Sampradaya. Bhagavan Krishna is worshipped as Vithoba and the temple at Pandharpur was erected sometime in the 12th or 13th century, before the birth of Saint Jnaneshwara.
The Vedantic scholars were mostly intellectual giants who spoke from platforms and podiums, but just a few centuries after Shankaracharya we see Jnaneshwar Maharaj mingling with the people, advising them to practice Bhakti, concerned about bringing the knowledge of the Gita into the vernacular, meeting with people, spreading philosophical tenets amongst all and sundry, while also instructing them about meditation and Bhakti. His interpretation of the Gita is totally mystical according to Gurudev Ranade. He also thinks that Jnaneshwari was perhaps the best interpretation of the Gita in any language. So Gurudev has a tremendous respect for this work. Another book by Gurudev called Jnaneshwara Vachanamruta, gives Gurudev’s views on the philosophy of Jnaneshwara Maharaj. The interpretation of Jnaneshwari in Gurudev’s book covers the following points:
Concept of Chitsurya, a Spiritual Sun
First, the concept of Chitsurya – which is the mystical experience of the spiritual sun. Gurudev briefly mentions the allegory of the cave in Plato’s Republic, (book 7) and how the cave-people who can only see shadowy reflections are liberated, when they finally emerge from the cave and see the sun. That is their great accomplishment because there is nothing greater than the sun, which represents real knowledge or wisdom of the most excellent kind. Likewise the idea of chitsurya is also connected to knowledge. Jnaneshwar Maharaj says that once the chitsurya shines, people’s ignorance just goes away. Just as the physical sun shines brighter than the stars and the moon, likewise the spiritual sun shines brighter and removes all ignorance, or avidya. Anyone who has seen the spiritual sun is known as a Jnani.
Jnaneshwara says that God is the primary mover of the world. He orders the sun, the moon and the earth to move in a certain way. He orders the mountains to remain motionless and the ocean to stay within its boundaries. Gurudev interprets this to mean that God is the sum-total of all forces of nature. According to Jnaneshwara, God is omnipotent, and for Gurudev Ranade that becomes the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
Mayanadi – Flood of Illusion
Gurudev says that the concept of Maya, first enunciated by Shankara, finds its best poetic expression in Jnaneshwari. Jnaneshwar Maharaj talks about Mayanadi –the flood of illusion in which we swim with all the shadripus. The philosophical pramanas also swim in it. Rational people using reason or buddhi-pramana are not able to swim through these floods, and they sink due to their self-conceit. Likewise, people who refer to scriptures for their defense can also fail thanks to their intellectual arrogance. So only those can swim through the floods and cross the river, who have the following three protections: one, a spiritual guru, two, devotion and three, mystical experiences. The most wonderful thing is that the moment we have put it all together and are ready to battle the floods, they disappear. Gurudev says, just as when the spiritual sun rises, ignorance disappears, the mayanadi disappears, when the mystical experiences, bhakti and the grace of Guru becomes prominent. In other words, when we are well-prepared to fight the battle of life, our problems vanish.
Saint Jnaneshwara’s description of miseries is another way of guiding people towards Bhakti, and Gurudev is reminded of Kabir’s song ‘re dil gaphil, gaphalat mat kar, ek din jam tera awega’. Jnaneshwar Maharaj says that histories and mythologies are merely stories of death. As the moon and stars decline and vanish, so does a human body. So why look for temporary happiness through the sense-organs? Instead, ‘O Arjuna, go by the path of Bhakti, so that you may reach my immaculate home’ translates Gurudev Ranade from owi 516 in the chapter 11 of Jnaneshwari. The famous owi says ‘tari zadazadoni wahila nigh, iye bhaktichiye wate laga, jiya pawasi avyanga, nijadhama maze’.
What Saint Kabir and Saint Jnaneshwar are pointing out here is that one of these days, death is going to come calling for you. When that happens, this life will come to an end. This life is the only opportunity available for us to complete our journey to Moksha. Hence while we have the life, it is best to keep trying. It is these miseries, the fear of death, which ultimately turn people towards Bhakti.
In chapter 11 Vishwarupa darshan, owi 245-252, Jnaneshwar Maharaj describes Arjun’s eight mystical emotions on seeing the virata-rupa of Shri Krishna, – these are part of a person’s spiritual development. The description given by Jnaneshwara Maharaj is of great poetic beauty. He talks about the composed mind, the feeling of joy, the fading of limbs, tears of joy, sweat and shaking, and surges of emotion. As Gurudev describes in his book, the mind of the mystic is seated on a throne of beatific joy.
Unison (same as Union)
Jnaneshwar Maharaj talks about surrender to God as a way to unite with God. This refers to the same verse in the Gita – sarvadharman parityajya, mam ekam sharanam vraja. Gurudev points out that the way Jnaneshwar Maharaj has described the surrender is scientific, material, psychological and moral. A couple of the illustrations from the Jnaneshwari are ghatakash – how the sky inside the pot, when broken, merges with and becomes one with the sky outside the pot; or how dreams pass into wakefulness and lose their feeling of reality. When union takes place, differences go away and the self sees the self. Gurudev gives the example of two mirrors placed against each other in which we see an infinite number of reflections. In devotional union, a devotee sees God everywhere and in mystical union, a devotee sees their achievement in the growth of their mystical experiences.
Gurudev credits Jnaneshwar Maharaj with an original contribution to the philosophy of mysticism which he calls the doctrine of asymptotism. Probably the term is an original contribution of Gurudev Ranade to the scholarship of mysticism and philosophy. The original theory of asymptotes comes from mathematics, where a curve and an axis infinitely approach each other and meet at infinity. Likewise a devotee gets closer and closer to God and as time goes on, becomes one with the God. As long as a devotee is in the body, he/she will fall short of divine attainment. Jnaneshwar Maharaj says in chapter 7, owi 114 – jaisa wara ka gagani wire… (how wind becomes one with the sky). Jnaneshwar Maharaj also talks about the big time gap between initiation and realization. Just as the Gods had to put in continuous effort to get realization, so also we by constant striving can achieve something over a period of time. Here he gives the example of Sri Shankara, who did tapasya for many years.
Nevertheless, spiritual warriors will gain the final spiritual victory, as Gurudev says. The battlefield for these warriors is life. Their weapons are Raja-yoga, dispassion (vairagya), and concentration (meditation). They fight the shadripus (kama, krodha, mada, matsara, lobha, moha) and win the battle. Once the battle is won and they have achieved liberation, they travel with their retinue –i.e., all the virtues – they are filled with joy and their banner is ‘Self-Identity’, which is identity with the Brahman. They are showered with flowers by all the Gods in the heavens and are crowned kings and queens on the throne of spiritual experience!
Gurudev Ranade concludes here his discussion of Saint Jnaneshwar’s interpretation of the Gita and so we conclude our discussion of the Gita and Jnaneshwari.
In the next talk, we will discuss some modern interpretations of the Gita, discussed by Gurudev Ranade in the part 3 of his book ‘The Bhagavadgita As A Philosophy of God-Realisation’. 
Business dilemmas, especially those involving ethical issues, have a far deeper impact on the employee morale, the business bottomline and sometimes even on the economy of the country, if the problem is seriously widespread. The dilemmas may seem trivial to begin with, but they have a potential to put the organization in a downward spiral. Below is an illustration:
Philosophical Consulting is meant to address ethical issues, so as to streamline the operations of a business and clear the air of any doubts in the minds of the employees, re-establish the trust between the employers and employees, which eventually helps improve the productivity of any organization. No matter how small or how big an organization is, ethical dilemmas need to be addressed to make the organizations more supple and competitive.
Following is a case study of an ethical dilemma, that played out in a big way in the US markets in 2008 economic downturn:
The recession was upon us in 2008. At the compensation department, the compensation committee was trying to figure out how to keep the company profitable and stop the executives from jumping ship and what kind of golden handshake can be offered to executives. While preparing these reports, one employee had a suggestion about how to retain most of the employees in the company instead of letting large numbers of employees go, when they would be jobless, as no other jobs were in sight. This member proposed to do a salary cut for all, phased by their earnings, such as greater percentage for high earners and small percentage for low earners, in short doing salary cuts and not job cuts.
It seems as if there were two categories of people in the company at that time: one category was those who were sure their jobs were safe and they were not prepared for any salary cuts, and the second category was those who were afraid that their jobs were at risk and they were willing to do salary cuts, so that they don’t lose the jobs altogether. They would still have the hope that the salaries would become whole, when the recession was over. The first category were not willing to make much changes to their lifestyle and financial goals, but they were also not 100% sure that their jobs were safe either.
There were multiple moral dilemmas in this situation. Should the company care for all its employees and for the general welfare of the society, so that the damage to the livelihood of the large numbers of people was not as bad as it could have been? Once the people lost jobs, there were no jobs to go to, unless they were willing to change their lifestyle to a great extent, either by moving to another location, or by taking up another line of work, or by giving up their current lifestyle. So altogether it was a difficult situation.
Another moral dilemma was whether the company should protect its low-income workers by leveling some compensation given to high-income workers. This would be an assurance to those low-income employees who have been with the company for a long time, but needed to be let go.
Another dilemma was how to safeguard the interests of the executives. Some executives did not have another offer from a rival company, but some executives did. In those cases, this company needed to match or exceed the offer to keep them on the job, for retaining the executives, for maintaining the company secrets and then to be fair, the company also needed to increase the salaries of the remaining executives, so they didn’t court offers from the rival companies.
The compensation committee consulted various other consultants who worked in the same field. But alas, it took the decisions that were in favor of the high-income workers. It gave a job-cut to a large number of low-income workers by either automating those jobs, or temporarily suspending those jobs, and saved a small percentage of the company profits. The large percentage of company profits lied in the salaries of high-earners. Some of them were let go and the others were kept either at the same salaries or given increases. This worked well for the benefit of the company at that time, but the economy suffered, people suffered, job losses mounted, a lot of people never went back to the same kind of job they were doing in 2008, some left the country, and some managed to find meaning in life in doing different kind of work.
Was the society better off, by focusing on a small number of people and their financial wellbeing? Or was it better off because it coveted the meritorious people and their earnings? Or was the society better off, because the elite knew how to look after themselves? It would have been better to address these questions head-on.
In this case study, we see how the financial decisions were ambiguous and unethical, how they first hurt the morale of the employees, created large unemployment and also ultimately hurt the economy.
IF YOUR ORGANIZATION IS FACING AN ETHICAL DILEMMA, YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER A PHILOSOPHICAL CONSULTING OPTION AND LET YOUR ORGANIZATION THRIVE AND NOT SUFFER. WE CAN HELP. PLEASE WRITE TO US AT PHILOSOPHYANDHAPPINESS@GMAIL.COM OR CALL US AT 609-250-2526.
My talk on ‘Wisdom Leads to Happiness’ covers a lot of details of my research, my course and my experiences in the field of Philosophical Counseling. I hope you will listen to it. Please like, share and subscribe to my blog.
Thank you APPA for giving me a chance to present this talk at the Annual Meeting 2020! Thank you President and Prof. Lou Marinoff!
What a nice way of celebrating the anniversary month!
If you would like to contact me for Philosophical Counseling, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic started, the need for blood-donations became even greater to help support the patients at the hospitals. Montgomery EMS, where I volunteer my time as an Associate and Blood-drive Co-ordinator has been doing what we can to alleviate this situation for the nearby hospitals. So far we have held six drives this year and successfully exceeded the donation goals in each drive. The team at the Montgomery EMS led by Carol Raymond is proud of their work for the community. I was delighted to get this letter today from our partner company Vitalant.
Our upcoming drives are scheduled for October 14th (1 to 7 pm), November 6th (1 to 7 pm) and December 12th (9 am to 2 pm). Please feel free to sign up, if you are local to this area. Thank you to all the local donors from Montgomery, Princeton and Hillsborough, who have enthusiastically supported the idea!
September 14, 2020
Ms. Ashwini Mokashi
Belle Mead, NJ 08502
Dear Ashwini Mokashi:
I want to thank you for volunteering your time to offer hope to those who are in need of blood and blood products. The blood donated by the donors you recruited save the lives of trauma victims, patients with blood disorders, cancer and many other life- threatening injuries and illnesses in our area hospitals.
The continuing efforts of the Montgomery EMS very sincerely appreciated as a life – saving community service.
Shortages occur throughout the year especially in this area of the country. This situation puts the lives of patients who need blood in danger. Please ask your donors who are unavailable to donate at your blood drive to make a donation at an upcoming blood drive in your area. Check our website (www.vitalant.org) for locations or contact me for information.
First of all, thank you all for being readers of this ‘Philosophy and Happiness’ blog! We are just a month away from finishing a one-year anniversary of the blog and we have already covered a long distance. As of now, more than 2200 readers have read the articles 3600 times and the readers are from 41 different countries on six continents. Besides, some of the articles have been published on various other websites, such as Pragyata Magazine, Twitter, Garje Marathi Newsletter, Appa.edu, Researchnet and Academia.edu attracting another 5000+ readers. YouTube views of various lectures have found 600+ viewers. LinkedIn views of various write-ups are about 12000+ in total. Not to mention, the op-eds published in Indian Express and Loksatta newspapers, which have a very wide circulation.
Thank you for your support and warm reception. It is very gratifying on several counts. I hear many stories from people, how this has been helping them soothe any ruffled feelings and bring some peace in their day-to-day lives. I have heard from some psychologists and counselors, that they like the articles and have used these theories with their clients. I have heard from psychiatrists that they like visiting the blog. I meet many people, who are atheists, but still use these principles, as the principles are based on logic and rationality. So altogether, this project of bringing the ancient wisdom to answer the modern challenges, seems to be helping people/society, which was the goal of the blog to begin with.
I would like to thank various friends from India and the US, as they also believe in the mission of bringing philosophy in our lives and fill our lives with happiness. My gratitude to them is forever.
Philosopher and Author in India, Mrs. Madhuri Sondhi for her philosophical guidance.
Corporate Lawyer in Pune, India, Mr. Amol Ghatpande for reviewing and editing my articles in Marathi and English.
Web Designer in Pune, Chinmay Dharwadkar for creating the banner for the blog.
Dhanashri Abhyankar from Pune for her editorial support for some Marathi articles.
Corporate Attorney and writer, Lina Genovesi for her legal and editorial advice.
Former Corporate Executive, Diane Borden for her marketing ideas.
Namrata Pandey, originally from Banaras, for her editorial support with the Hindi articles.
We would like to start a guest column to hear your stories of how philosophical wisdom has helped you in your life. If you are a scholar writing on the topic of wisdom or philosophical counseling or simply interested in sharing your stories, we would love to hear from you. Philosophy is not just for the scholars/philosophers or religious people. It is for everyone and it seriously enriches our lives, when we try to implement the principles of wisdom in our lives. Please send us your stories/articles to email@example.com
This blog is a labor of love and the goal is to synthesize the ancient wisdom to seek philosophical solutions to modern challenges. It is a free service provided as a part of giving back to the community. We will continue with more articles in English, Marathi, Hindi and German; also present public talks and keep you posted on upcoming books. My next book project on ‘Meditation’ is also near completion.
My second project, Philosophy and Happiness LLC, is a counseling and consulting service. This is a paid service project, if anyone would prefer to have a one on one counseling, or if any organizations would prefer to have a philosopher help them with their ethical and moral dilemmas. I would love to help.
Thank you again for being a reader, and I am especially grateful to the subscribers! Have a Happy Life!!!
Jedes Jahr wird am 20. März der Internationale Tag des Glücks gefeiert. Unter den gegenwärtigen Umständen der Angst vor Coronavirus, Ausgangssperren und sozialer Distanzierung, Arbeit oder Schule von zu Hause aus – glücklich zu sein scheint eine weite Strecke zu sein. Aber vielleicht hilft es, wenn wir die Idee des Glücks kennen, wie sie in der Gita und im Stoizismus zu sehen ist, wie wir unter diesen Umständen immer noch versuchen können, uns ausgeglichen, gleichmütig und daher glücklich zu halten. Die Antwort liegt darin, wie wir das Glück messen.
Wie messen wir das Glück? Wir sprechen häufig darüber, wie wir uns fühlen, ob wir uns gut fühlen oder nicht, so glücklich, glücklich oder unglücklich. Wenn wir also ein Glückskriterium festlegen würden, das die von der Bhagavad-Gita oder den Stoikern festgelegten Bedingungen erfüllt, würden sie so aussehen, wobei 1 am wenigsten glücklich und 5 am glücklichsten ist:
1. Ernsthaft unglücklich
2. Etwas unglücklich
4. Etwas glücklich
5. Super glücklich
Der erste Zustand, in dem man „ernsthaft unglücklich“ ist, würde sich darauf beziehen, von Trauer geplagt zu sein, einen großen Verlust zu erleiden, wie den Verlust eines geliebten Menschen oder den Verlust seiner finanziellen Unterstützung, was dazu führt, dass man aufgrund von zu viel nicht funktionieren und der Untätigkeit nahe sein kann emotionale Belastung.
Der zweite Zustand, „etwas unglücklich“ zu sein, würde sich auf den Zustand beziehen, gereizt, verärgert, nicht glücklich mit jemandem oder etwas zu sein. Einige Beispiele sind, dass das Telefon nicht funktioniert oder dass eine Software fehlerhaft funktioniert oder dass bei der Arbeit ein schlechtes Feedback eingeht oder dass Sie sich kritisiert fühlen.
Der dritte Zustand, „ausgeglichen“ zu sein, würde sich auf unseren täglichen Zustand beziehen, in dem wir uns auf unsere Pflichten und unsere Arbeit konzentrieren, ohne durch Ablenkungen gestört zu werden.
Der vierte Zustand, „etwas glücklich“ zu sein, würde bedeuten, über ein Ereignis aufgeregt zu sein, sich darauf zu freuen, jemanden zu sehen, eine Nachricht von einem Nutzen zu erwarten und sich einfach nur munter zu fühlen.
Der fünfte Zustand, „Super glücklich“ zu sein, würde sich auf die Art von Freude beziehen, die man nur einmal in einem blauen Mond empfindet, wie die Geburt eines Babys, den ersten Job zu bekommen, sich zu verlieben und erwidert zu werden und eine Millionen-Dollar-Lotterie zu gewinnen während der Arbeitslosigkeit.
Definition von glücklich sein
Wenn wir sagen, dass wir uns heute nicht so glücklich fühlen, sagen wir uns im Grunde, dass ich eine Definition dessen habe, was es bedeutet, glücklich zu sein, und dass diese Definition nicht mit meinen aktuellen Umständen oder meinem aktuellen Geisteszustand übereinstimmt. Daher bin ich nicht glücklich. Die Schlussfolgerung macht einen noch unglücklicher.
Was ist unsere Definition von glücklich sein? Vielleicht erwarten wir gute Nachrichten und das kommt nicht früh genug. Vielleicht erwarten wir, dass eine schlechte Situation verschwindet, und das passiert nicht früh genug. Vielleicht sind wir irritiert und die Irritation verschwindet nicht auf magische Weise. Es kann mehrere Gründe geben, warum es ein Missverhältnis zwischen unserem gegenwärtigen mentalen Zustand und unserer Definition von Glück gibt.
Die logische Lösung wäre also, unseren mentalen Zustand und unsere Situation in Einklang zu bringen oder unsere Definition zu ändern, wo wir jetzt sein wollen. Zum Beispiel können wir unsere Definition ändern, welchen Grad an Glück wir wollen, oder wir können unseren aktuellen mentalen Zustand als gut betrachten. Die Bhagavad-Gita zielt auf den Zustand des Glücks ab, der als stabiler Geisteszustand bekannt ist und den Gewinnen und Verlusten, dem Vergnügen und dem Schmerz gleichkommt.
Jetzt zielt die Gita wie die Stoiker auf # 3 für ihre Definition eines glücklichen Menschen. Wenn wir auf # 1 oder # 5 sind, sind wir nicht stabil. Ob wir aufgrund eines Verlustes von Trauer geplagt sind oder ob wir aufgeregt sind, eine Lotterie gewonnen zu haben. Diese Ereignisse ereignen sich einmal in einem blauen Mond in unserem Leben. Manchmal können sie in kürzerer Zeit auftreten, aber der Punkt ist, wenn Sie die Lebensdauer von hundert Jahren messen und Ihre großen Verluste oder Gewinne im eigenen Leben betrachten, statistisch gesehen treten sie nicht jeden Tag, jeden Monat oder jeden auf Jahr. Wie zum Beispiel verlieren wir unsere Eltern nur zweimal in unserem Leben. Oder wir haben durchschnittlich nur zweimal in unserem Leben Kinder. Die größten Gewinne oder Verluste, wenn wir sie als Geburt der Kinder oder Verlust unserer beiden Eltern betrachten, würden also nur zweimal über einen Zeitraum von hundert Jahren eintreten. Ganz zu schweigen davon, dass Verluste unvermeidlich sind und daher keine Überraschungen darstellen.
In der heutigen Zeit, in der wir aufgrund sozialer Distanzierung zu Hause bleiben oder von zu Hause aus arbeiten, ist es immer noch ein Zeichen des Gleichgewichts, wenn wir unseren Mut aufbringen, unser tägliches Leben am Laufen zu halten, den schlechten Nachrichten gleichmütig zu sein und dankbar für die Sicherheit zu sein und glücklich sein. Dieser Gedanke wird uns helfen, mit unserem Leben zufrieden zu bleiben.
Thank you APPA (American Philosophical Practitioners’ Association) for publishing my article entitled ‘Using Leisure to Improve Lives – Epictetus, Seneca and Indian Philosophy‘. The special double issue is based on the theme of how Philosophy can help during a global pandemic. Below is the pdf of my article.
SAPIENS & STHITAPRAJNA a Comparative Exploration of Seneca’s Stoicism and the Bhagavad-Gita
a wisdom talk by Ashwini Mokashi, PhD SP Pune University, Princeton Research Forum
Wednesday, June 24 | 6pm EDT on ZOOM
Click here to join at the time of the event. __ What makes one a wise person? How should one act in the world to be happy? What is a life well-lived? These central questions drive both the Stoic master Seneca and the sacred Hindu text Bhagavad-gita. Although the Gita and Seneca’s writings are centuries, continents, and cultures apart, might they share a common philosophical core?
Philosophy scholar and researcher, Dr. Ashwini Mokashi draws on her book on this subject to offer a thoughtful comparison between these two streams of philosophy, focusing in on Stocism’s ideal of the sapien and the Gita’s archetype of the sthitaprajna. All are welcome.
The recent news of a suicide of a young and talented Bollywood star, Sushant Singh Rajput is very tragic. Some highly talented people including artists and musicians in the film or music industry, talented academic people in the topmost academic institutions, or in any top visible field have fallen prey to the act of suicide. One would think that the talented and successful people would be proud of their success and enjoy their life more so than others. However, it is not easy for the highly successful to maintain their level of success and the feeling of acceptance in the world at multiple levels. The need to be seen and validated as well as maintaining the image of being a successful and respected person is so demanding, that accepting any kind of rejection becomes very hard. Is there a way to help this situation and these bright talented people?
Somewhere along the lines, we have forgotten that life is for living, not for winning, or for being rich, or powerful. The idea is to live one’s life as happily and productively as possible. One also needs to protect oneself both from external problems such as relative or absolute poverty, natural disasters, diseases, wars, terrorism, financial losses, or any kind of violence. Likewise, there are multiple internal enemies, such as lack of confidence, lack of sense of self, depression, anxiety, fury, emotional disorders, learned helplessness and many more, that keep us from being productive and demotivate us.
Coronavirus and lockdown have created the conditions of war and famine, and it has disrupted the flow of life. That confuses a lot of people. We do not have the skills of surviving in one place without any activity or social contact. We feel the pain of the migrant workers stuck away from their homes, but we detach ourselves from their situation. Until and unless we are in a dire situation ourselves – we don’t take the necessary measures of improving our thought patterns, such as how would we solve the problem if we were stuck without resources. However, this is where most improvement is needed. Even those who lead a decent life need to make sure their thinking is positive, so they can survive any dire situations.
Wisdom, perspective and taking good decisions are instrumental for living a good life. Without the help of these tools, people will not be able to fight whatever diseases or dire circumstances they may be in, or they may fall in. When things are going well, one assumes that this is how their lives will continue. But suddenly life throws you a curveball, whether it is a job loss, or losing someone near and dear, or lockdown, or some kind of rejection that causes one to question all their decisions in life. It becomes very difficult to deal with life, one loses one’s sense of self, goes into depression and becomes totally dependent on medicines, and their support system for their basic survival. If the support system is strong, one can recover. If the support system is weak or non-existent, then the frustration can lead people to taking drugs, or in some cases taking their own lives.
One simple question to ask from time to time is ‘is this necessary’? When we get into a fight, or when we get into a bad mood, or when we are dealing with a bad boss or a bully, our patience is tested, and we can say things we regret. Sometimes we are provoked to take drastic steps and then we regret. Very soon, we have a chain of regrets and we become defensive about our actions. In short, we acquire a skill of doing wrong things and defending our wrong actions. The right thing would be to accept the wrong, unlearn these negative skills and learn some positive skills. That process takes a lot of energy and is sometimes very painful to accept that we have been wrong. Hence, we stick to what we know by default and repeat our actions and reactions, which are proven to be unhelpful. We do not improve our tools. This is not very helpful.
We need to do some thought-cleansing occasionally, to see if our thought patterns can be more productive, more influential and if we are becoming good role models. When we unlearn our negative skills and learn something positive instead, it gives us a long-term perspective. However, replacing a negative skill with a positive one, takes a lot of effort, energy and sometimes causes a lot of confusion. People who are used to seeing us apply the negative skills will expect us to do just that and resist our new learnings. So, the best way to defend oneself is by having faith in oneself, that it is better to change one’s ways for positive outcomes, as that will help us in the long run. To give an example, if we are used to gossipping about others, we are going to attract other gossippers. But if someday we decide to stop gossipping and start saying only good things about other people, our gossipping friends will make fun or us and or would desert us. So we are in a dilemma of whether to keep gossipping and keep our social circle, or whether to try and do the right thing. It is hard to choose to do the right thing, but if we do succeed in doing the right thing, we also develop the power of influencing the others to do the right thing.
These new habits can not only make us wiser; they also substantially reduce our chances of anxiety and depression and ultimately reduce our chances of falling prey to suicide. When one develops a long-term vision, one can see solutions to every problem and not want to give up so soon on life, on our small issues, or our big concerns. Suicide is unnatural and is borne out of frustration, when one sees no other option available in life. Ups and downs are a part of life. Practically all the problems that we face, have been faced before in some fashion or the other, and hence there are solutions available on practical issues or emotional issues. One needs patience to figure out solutions, have the vision of possibilities and faith that some doors will open sooner or later. Life may look different than it did before, but it will continue and eventually also flourish.
(This is a revised version of an older essay I had published as ‘Wisdom and Suicide Prevention’.)
Covid-19 is challenging the mental health of many. I am here to help. I have a few spots open, if anyone needs help. Philosophical counseling is a great way to gain perspective on life’s issues and feel positive. Below is my profile on Psychology Today.
सध्याच्या परिस्थितीत करोना महामारीच्या भीतीमुळे आणि घरात सक्तीने बसावे लागल्याने चिंतेचे विकार वाढत आहेत. लोकांना एकूण जीवनाविषयी चिंता वाटते आणि ते निष्क्रियतेच्या टोकापर्यंत जाऊन काळजी करतात. निष्क्रियतेचे कारण भीती आणि असुरक्षितता आहे; उदाहरणार्थ पुढे काय होईल याची भीती, मृत्यूची किंवा दु: खाची भीती, फायद्याची किंवा तोट्याची भीती, अपयशाची भीती, ताणतणावांची काळजी, इत्यादी. काळजी केल्याने फायदा काहीच होत नाही, परंतु एखाद्या व्यक्तीची उत्पादनशीलतेची पातळी मात्र खाली येते आणि मानसिक शांती नाहीशी होते. चिंता हीच चिंतेचे कारण बनते. मी सध्याच्या साथीतून वाचू शकेन का? माझे आर्थिक नुकसान भरून निघेल का? या अशा प्रश्नांमुळे आत्मविश्वास ढळू लागतो आणि कधीकधी असहायतेची जाणीव निर्माण होते. या लेखात आपण चिंता किंवा भीतीची भावना याची कारणमीमांसा करून, त्याचे परीक्षण उत्क्रांतीवाद आणि उपनिषद यांच्या दृष्टिकोनातून करूया आणि या समस्येवर कोणते समाधान मिळते हे पाहण्यासाठी, उपनिषदातील परिच्छेदांचे विश्लेषण करूया.
उत्क्रांतीवादी जीवशास्त्राच्या दृष्टिकोनातून, शिकारी-जमातीतील मानवांना वन्य प्राणी किंवा इतर शिकारी यांच्या हल्ल्यापासून वाचण्यासाठी भीती वाटायची. भीतीमुळे माणूस सतत सावध आणि सतर्क राहतो, जेणेकरून कोणत्याही धोक्यांपासून स्वतःचे रक्षण करणे त्याला शक्य होते. जर जास्त आराम केला किंवा खूप आनंद झाला तर यामुळे माणूस निष्काळजीला बळी पडून मृत्यूस कारणीभूत ठरू शकायचा. आजच्या काळात जगात खूपच शांततेची परिस्थिती आहे. आता लोकं वन्य पशू आपल्यावर हल्ला करतील याची चिंता न करता शांत झोपतात. जर climate change मुळे काही महापूर आले किंवा साथीच्या आजाराने धुमाकूळ घातला, तर अशाप्रकारची नैसर्गिक आपत्ती किंवा कुठली युद्ध परिस्थिती सोडली तर आपले नेहमीचे आयुष्य नीटनेटके चालू असते. आपल्यातील बहुतेकजण अत्यंत सुसंस्कृत समाजात राहतात, तरीही भीतीची भावना आपल्याबरोबर कायम राहिली आहे. लोक किरकोळ गोष्टींपासून घाबरतात, जसे की त्यांची जीवनशैली, आरोग्य, संपत्ती किंवा तत्सम काही बदल झाले तर त्यांना चिंता वाटते. परंतु त्यांचे अस्तित्व नेहमी धोक्यात येत नाही. असे असून देखील भीती एखाद्याच्या मानसिक स्थितीला अस्वस्थ करून, त्यांना अस्थिर करते. लोक दररोज आपला जीव गमावण्याच्या भीतीने जगत नाहीत, तरीही त्यांच्या चिंता इतक्या खोलवर गेल्या आहेत की त्या लोकांना निष्क्रियतेच्या मार्गावर नेतात. कोणीही आता असे म्हणत नाही, की काय मजा आहे – कोणी पशु किंवा प्राणी इथे माझ्या वाटेला जाणार नाही. परंतु लोकं आपल्या बॉसला एखादा वन्य प्राणी समजून तितकेच घाबरून जातात.
तैत्तिरिय आणि बृहदारण्यक उपनिषदातील विश्लेषण
उपनिषदांच्या दृष्टिकोनातून बघितले तर, भीती आणि असुरक्षितता स्वतःवर विश्वास नसल्यामुळे उद्भवली आहे. आत्म्यास आणि आत्मशक्तीस न समजल्यामुळे आपण स्वतःवरचा विश्वास गमावून बसतो. आपण स्वतःला विश्वातील लहान कण किंवा अणू किंवा कस्पटासारखे समजतो, ज्याचा काही प्रभाव नाही, ज्याचा कोणाशी किंवा कशाशी संबंध नाही, जो विश्वाचा भाग नाही, जो जगाच्या निर्मितीमध्ये किंवा जगाच्या देखभालीमध्ये भाग घेत नाही, असे आपल्याला वाटते. तेव्हा अशी व्यक्ती आपल्या अस्तित्वास, आपल्या जीवनास किंवा आपल्या कर्मास जास्त महत्त्व देत नाही. आपण विस्तीर्ण जगाशी कसे बांधलेलो आहोत, हे आपल्या लक्षात येत नाही. आपल्या कार्यामुळे जगाचे कार्य कसे नियमित चालू राहते आणि जगाच्या प्रभावी कारभारासाठी प्रत्येकाने आपली भूमिका कशी चांगल्या प्रकारे पार पाडली पाहिजे, याविषयी आपल्याला जाणीव नसते. मग ते जग म्हणजे आपले कुटुंब असो किंवा आपले कामाचे ठिकाण असो, आपली शाळा किंवा आपला मित्रपरिवार असो, आपण स्वतःला आपल्याच जगाचा हिस्सा मानत नाही. अशा वेळेला एखादा माणूस स्वतःला इतरांपासून दूर, वेगळा ठेवतो. तेव्हा त्याला असा ठाम विश्वास वाटतो की ‘कुणाला आपली काळजी नाही, आपले विचार आणि भावना कुणाला कळत नाहीत आणि या जगात आपल्याला काही किंमत नाही’.
आपण या सृष्टीच्या अस्तित्वापासून वेगळे आहोत या भावनेतून भीती व असुरक्षितता उत्पन्न होते, असे तैत्तिरिय उपनिषदात सांगितले आहे. जर आपण स्वत:ला पूर्णपणे वेगळे किंवा अद्वितीय मानले, तर आपण आपल्या अस्तित्वाची व्याख्या, आपल्या इच्छेनुसार आणि आवडी-निवडीनुसार ठरवतो. मग आपण स्वतःला, आपल्या आशाआकांक्षांना, आपल्या वेगळेपणाला इतरांपासून कसे जपावे, याविषयी विचार करण्यास प्रारंभ करतो. या जगाच्या निर्मितीचा काही उद्देश आहे, यावर आपला विश्वास बसत नाही. हे जग ब्रह्मदेवाची निर्मिती आहे आणि ब्रह्मतत्त्व सर्वत्र अस्तित्वात आहे. स्वत: मध्ये आणि इतरांमध्ये आत्मन म्हणून ते अस्तित्वात आहे, असे जेव्हा आपण मानतो, तेव्हा आपण आपल्या जीवनाचा उद्देश, तसेच या जगाच्या हेतूवर अधिक विश्वास ठेवतो. असे तैत्तिरीय उपनिषदांचे म्हणणे आहे.
जेव्हा आपण विशिष्टतेच्या भावनेचे समर्थन करतो तेव्हा आपण स्वतःवर, आपल्या इच्छांवर आणि त्या पूर्ण करण्याच्या उद्देशावर आपले लक्ष केंद्रित करतो. इच्छापूर्ती सिद्धांत हा जन्म आणि मृत्यु या पुनर्जन्माच्या चक्राचे कारण आहे. या चक्रात अडकणे हेच एक भीतीदायक चक्र आहे. असा विचार करताना आपण हे विसरतो की आपण ब्रह्माचे एक रूप आहोत, त्याचा एक अंश आहोत. काही मोठ्या चांगल्या हेतूसाठी आपला जन्म झालेला आहे आणि त्याची पूर्तता करणे हे आपले कर्तव्य आहे. मी एक व्यक्ती म्हणून इतरांपेक्षा वेगळा आहे असा विचार करण्यापेक्षा, मी एक आत्मा असून ब्रह्मतत्त्वाचा एक भाग आहे आणि या ब्रह्मतत्त्वाचा वास्तव प्रत्येकामध्ये आहे – असा विचार करणे श्रेयस्कर ठरेल. आत्म्याचे सर्वांमधील अस्तित्व ही आपल्या सर्वांमधील समानता आहे.
ही समानता आपल्याला इतर कोणत्याही व्यक्तीसारखे बनवते असे नाही. आपली कर्तव्ये, आपले ध्येय, आपली पूर्वकर्मे आणि आपल्या मार्गांनी आपले व्यक्तिमत्त्व बनते. त्यायोगे आपले वेगळेपण दिसून येते. लोकांमध्ये मतभेद आहेत हे नाकारता येत नाही, तथापि आपण सर्वांशी जोडलेले आहोत हे सत्य आहे. उपनिषदांच्या मते आपल्या सर्वांमध्ये निवास करणारे आत्मतत्त्व (individual Self) हे ब्रह्मतत्त्वाचा (universal Self) एक अंश आहे. त्या दृष्टीने आपण समान आहोत.
बृहदारण्यक उपनिषदात एक रूपक कथा आहे. सुरुवातीच्या काळात आत्म्याला एकटेपणाची खूप भीती वाटायची. जेव्हा आत्म्याला समजले की तोच एक सर्वत्र आहे आणि दुसरे कोणी नाही, तेव्हा त्याची भीती नष्ट झाली. नंतर मात्र त्याला एकटे राहून कंटाळा आला, म्हणून त्याने स्वतःचेच दोन भाग केले आणि त्याचे रूपांतर पुरुष आणि स्त्रियांमध्ये झाले. अशा प्रकारे सर्व पुरुष आणि स्त्रिया आत्म्यामध्येच समाविष्ट असतात.
भगवद्गीतेला गीतोपनिषद म्हणूनही ओळखले जाते. गीतेचे कथानक म्हणजे भगवान श्रीकृष्णांनी राजपुत्र अर्जुनाला दिलेला सल्ला. रणांगणावर असलेल्या लाखो सैनिकांमधील सर्वात धुरंधर धनुर्धारी, सेनापती अर्जुन त्या क्षणी खचून जाऊन गोंधळात पडला आहे आणि आपल्या शत्रूंना ठार मारण्याचे आपले कर्तव्य बजावावे की नाही या संभ्रमात आहे. जीवहानीच्या कृत्यासाठी पाप करावे का शत्रूंकडून अन्याय झालेल्या भावनेने जगावे, लढण्याचे कर्तव्य सोडून आपला राज्यावरचा हक्क सोडावा की आपल्या नातेवाईकांचा जीव वाचवावा, हा संभ्रम ही एक गंभीर समस्या आहे. अर्जुनाच्या चिंतेला श्रीकृष्णांनी दिलेला प्रतिसाद म्हणजे कर्मयोगाची रहस्ये समजावून सांगणे. जर अर्जुनाने फक्त आपल्यावर सोपवलेली कर्तव्ये व्यवस्थित पार पाडली, तर एक अत्यंत कठीण कार्य पूर्ण केल्यामुळे इतिहासात त्याला सन्मानाची जागा मिळेल आणि सर्वत्र त्याचा गौरव होईल. शिवाय जग अन्यायातून मुक्त होईल आणि जगाचे पुनरुत्थान होईल. गीतेच्या १८ व्या अध्यायात,  भगवान श्रीकृष्णाने अर्जुनाला समजावून सांगितले की त्यांनी या युद्धाची पूर्वसूचना आणि न्याय मिळवून देण्यासाठी आधीच व्यवस्था केली आहे. त्याने अर्जुनाला या युद्धाचा सेनापती म्हणून निवडले आहे आणि अर्जुन हा ईश्वराची इच्छा पूर्ण करण्याचे एक साधन, एक निमित्त आहे. जेव्हा अर्जुनाला आपल्या जीवनाचा हेतू समजतो आणि आपली कर्तव्ये पार पाडण्याची गरज जगाला कशी आहे हे समजते, तेव्हा तो चिंतामुक्त होतो आणि कठीण कार्य करण्यास धजावतो.
वेदांताचे संस्थापक आदि शंकराचाऱ्यांची कथा
वेदांताचे संस्थापक आदि शंकराचार्य यांना मायावादाच्या सिद्धांताचे जनक समजले जाते. त्यांची एक कथा अशी आहे. वेदांतातील मायावादाचा सिद्धांत म्हणतो की संपूर्ण जग हा एक भ्रम आहे आणि फक्त आत्माच वास्तविक सत्य आहे. तर एकदा आदि शंकरांना कोणी विचारलं की, एखादा वन्य बैल तुमच्या अंगावर आला तर तुमची प्रतिक्रिया काय असेल? आदि शंकर म्हणाले, मी दुसऱ्या दिशेने धाव घेईन आणि माझा जीव वाचवेन. तेव्हा प्रश्न विचारणारा म्हणाला, पण संपूर्ण जग जर माया आहे, तर तुम्ही बैलाला का घाबरत आहात? आदि शंकरांनी उत्तर दिले की बैल म्हणजे माया आहे आणि त्याचप्रमाणे माझा जीव वाचवण्याचा प्रयत्नसुद्धा माया आहे. जोपर्यंत मी या शरीरात आहे, तोपर्यंत मला मायापासून स्वतःची काळजी घेणे आवश्यक आहे.
छांदोग्य उपनिषदातील कथा
पुढील कथा छांदोग्य उपनिषदातील आहे. डोळ्यावर पट्टी बांधलेल्या माणसाची ही रूपक कथा आहे. दरोडेखोरांनी या व्यक्तीला लुटले, त्याचे डोळे हात बांधले आणि गंधार शहराबाहेर एका जंगलात त्याला सोडले. गंधार शहरात आपल्या घरी, कुटुंबाकडे कसे परत जायचे याची त्याला काळजी पडली. तो असहाय्य अवस्थेत एका जंगलात अडकलेला आहे. या क्षणी, एक ज्ञानी आध्यात्मिक गुरू त्याला सूचना देऊन मदत करतो. त्या मार्गदर्शनानुसार सूचनांचे पालन करून तो माणूस असहाय्य आणि आंधळा असूनही सुखरूप आपल्या घरी पोहोचतो. तो आणि त्याचे कुटुंबीय आनंदी होतात. त्या माणसाला हे समजले होते की जरी दरोडेखोरांनी त्याला लुटले असेल, त्याला वाईट वागणूक दिली असेल, तरी तो दिशा दर्शविणारा आवाज म्हणजे एखाद्या ज्ञानी माणसाचा आवाज आहे, ज्याला तो आपला गुरु मानतो. तो त्यांच्या सल्ल्यावर विश्वास ठेवतो आणि आपल्या घरी परत जातो. कधीकधी आपला विश्वास एखाद्या आदरणीय व्यक्तीवर असतो, जसे की गुरु किंवा पालक असतील. कधीकधी आपण स्वतःवर विश्वास ठेवतो की आपण अधिक प्रयत्न केला, तर आपण काही चांगले करू शकतो. नकारात्मकतेचे अडथळे ओलांडून सकारात्मक परिणामावर विश्वास ठेवून, नवीन दालने उघडू शकतात. या कथेत पट्टी बांधणे म्हणजे आपल्या चुकीच्या समजुती, अज्ञान आणि आकांक्षा यांचे रूपक आहे, तर घरी पोहोचणे म्हणजे आत्म-प्राप्तीपर्यंत पोहोचण्याचे लक्षण आहे. आत्म-प्राप्तीकडे जाण्याचा हा प्रवास आनंदात परिपूर्ण होतो.
ग्रीक तत्वज्ञ प्लेटोच्या वाङ्मयातील कथा
अशीच एक कथा ग्रीक तत्वज्ञ प्लेटोच्या वाङ्मयातील प्रजासत्ताक (Republic) या ग्रंथात आढळते, जी गुहेचे रूपक म्हणून ओळखली जाते. एका गुहेत साखळदंडांनी बांधलेले लोकं रहात असतात, जे अशा स्थितीत देखील त्यांच्या अडथळ्यांना पार करतात. प्रथम त्यांना शेजारच्या खोलीतून येणाऱ्या अग्नीच्या प्रकाशामुळे निर्माण झालेल्या सावल्या दिसतात. तेव्हा ते मान वळवून बघतात, तर त्यांना अग्नी दिसतो. अग्नीच्या दिशेने जाताना त्यांना गुहेच्या बाहेरून येणारा प्रकाश दिसतो. त्या प्रकाशाच्या बळावरुन जेव्हा ते गुहेतून बाहेर पडण्याचा प्रयत्न करतात, तेव्हा त्यांना आकाशात तळपणारा सूर्य दिसतो. त्याक्षणी त्यांना तेजाचा अनुभव येतो, कारण सूर्याशिवाय जास्त तेजःपुंज काही असूच शकत नाही.
गुहेत असताना आणि साखळदंडात जखडलेले असताना त्यांचे विचार मुख्यत: समोर दिसणाऱ्या सावल्यांशी निगडीत असतात. परंतु जेंव्हा ते कुतूहलाने सावल्या कोठून येत आहेत हे शोधण्याचा प्रयत्न करतात, तेव्हा त्यांना शेजारीच अजून एक खोली आणि खोलीत तप्त असलेला अग्नी दिसतो. ते स्वत: ला आव्हान देतात तेव्हा त्यांना कळते की गुहेला एक प्रवेशद्वार आहे आणि तिथे प्रकाश आहे, जो त्या गुहेतल्या अग्नीपेक्षा अधिक शक्तिशाली आहे. ते मोठ्या प्रयत्नाने गुहेतून बाहेर पडतात आणि त्यांना प्रथमच सूर्यप्रकाशाचे दर्शन होते. नंतर त्यांनी आकाशात वर पाहिल्यावर त्यांना आकाशातील तेजस्वी सूर्याचे दर्शन होते. त्या क्षणी त्यांचे शिक्षण आणि ज्ञान पूर्ण होते. सूर्यापेक्षा तेजःपुंज काहीही नाही. परंतु त्यांना गडद गुहेत साखळदंडात बसून असलेल्या अवस्थेत सूर्याच्या अस्तित्वाविषयी माहिती नसते. या साखळ्या रूपकात्मक आहेत. त्याचप्रकारे आपल्या अडचणी व चिंता अशा आहेत की त्या आपल्याला ज्ञानी होण्यापासून वंचित करतात. आपण स्वत: ला वेगवेगळ्या संधी शोधण्यासाठी उद्युक्त करतो, तेव्हा आपण जीवनात नवीन उपक्रमांचा श्रीगणेशा करतो. निराशेने आपण ग्रासलेले असतो, तेव्हा आपणही गुहेतल्या लोकांसारखे हताश झालेले असतो, ज्यांना पुढच्या खोलीत कसे जायचे किंवा जीवनातले पुढचे पाऊल कसे उचलायचे हे माहीत नसते.
आत्म्यावर आणि त्यायोगे स्वतःवर विश्वास ठेवण्याचा मार्ग आपली मनोवृत्ती बदलण्यास आणि जगाकडे काही वेगळ्या दृष्टीने पाहण्यास मदत करतो. या जगाची काही योजना आहे आणि आपण सर्व ब्रह्मतत्त्वाचे पालनकर्ते आहोत असा जेव्हा आपला विश्वास असेल, तेव्हा आपण स्वतःची काळजी घेण्यास आणि कर्तव्यावर लक्ष केंद्रित करण्यास सक्षम बनतो. त्यामुळे सर्वांची उन्नती होते, इतरांशी संबंध सुधारतात आणि इतरांबद्दल सहानुभूती वाटते. यामुळे आत्मविश्वास वाढतो आणि चिंता कमी होते. ताणतणाव आणि काळज्या हा जीवनातील अविभाज्य भाग आहे हे स्वीकारून त्यांच्याशी चार हात करण्याची आपली क्षमता वाढते. त्यामुळे मानसिक आणि शारिरीक सामर्थ्य कायम राखल्याने आपण मानसिक आजारांना बळी पडत नाही. एकदा नकारात्मक, चिंताग्रस्त विचारांवर विजय मिळविल्यानंतर चांगले सकारात्मक विचार निर्माण होऊ शकतात. सकारात्मक आणि संतुलित विचारांनी, निष्क्रियता किंवा अतिउत्साह या दोन्हींमधील फरक समजून योग्य निर्णय घेण्यास मदत होते. त्यामुळे उत्पादकता वाढते, चांगल्या दर्जाची जीवनशैली प्राप्त होते आणि जीवनाचा आस्वाद घेऊन ज्ञानप्राप्तीकडे सुखाची वाटचाल सुरु होते.
प्रत्येक वर्षी 20 मार्च रोजी ‘आंतरराष्ट्रीय आनंद दिन’ साजरा केला जातो. कोरोनाव्हायरस, कर्फ्यू आणि सामाजिक अंतर, घरातून नोकरी करणे किंवा घरून शाळा शिकणे, अशा सद्य परिस्थितीत आनंदी राहणे फारच अनाकलनीय आणि अशक्य कोटीतील गोष्ट वाटत आहे. परंतु कदाचित ही समस्या आपल्याला काही प्रमाणात सोडवता येईल. आपल्याला भगवद्गीतेतील आणि स्टोइझीझममध्ये सांगितलेली आनंदाची संकल्पना माहित असेल, तर आपल्याला या परिस्थितीतदेखील स्वतःला संतुलित, समतोल आणि त्यानुसार आनंदी कसे ठेवता येईल, याचे समाधान मिळेल. या समस्येचे समाधान आणि उत्तर आपण आनंद कसा मोजतो, त्यासाठी कोणता कस लावतो आणि कुठली मोजपट्टी वापरतो, यामध्ये सामावलेले आहे.
आनंद कसा मोजावा
आपण वारंवार हा शब्दप्रयोग वापरतो की आपल्याला आज कसे वाटत आहे, आपण आज खूष आहोत की नाखूष आहोत. भागवद्गीतेत सांगितलेल्या किंवा स्टोईक तत्त्वज्ञांनी ठरवलेल्या अटी जर आपण विचारात घेतल्या आणि त्यांनी मांडलेले आनंदाचे निकष आपण मानले तर, आपल्याला त्याची मोजपट्टी (scale) खालीलप्रमाणे दिसेल. या मोजमापात १ म्हणजे कमीतकमी आनंदी आणि ५ म्हणजे सर्वात आनंदी, असे समजावे:
1. प्रचंड नाखूष 2. काहीसे नाखूष 3. संतुलित 4. काहीसे आनंदी 5. प्रचंड आनंदी
‘प्रचंड नाखूष’ असण्याची पहिली अवस्था म्हणजे दुःखाने ग्रस्त असणे. उदाहरणार्थ, एखाद्या प्रिय व्यक्तीला गमावणे किंवा दिवाळखोरी येणे, अशा मोठ्याप्रमाणात झालेल्या नुकसानाचा सामना करावा लागल्याने भावनिक ओझे सहन न होणे, आणि परिणामी कार्य करण्यास सक्षम नसणे आणि निष्क्रिय होणे.
‘काहीसे नाखूष’ होण्याची दुसरी अवस्था म्हणजे चिडचिडेपणा, रागावणे, एखाद्याशी भांडणतंटा झाल्याने किंवा एखादी गोष्ट बिघडल्याने आनंदी न होण्याची स्थिती होय. काही उदाहरणे अशी असतील की आपला फोन किंवा काही सॉफ्टवेअर खराब झाले आहे, किंवा कामावर खराब अभिप्राय मिळत आहे किंवा कुणीतरी सतत टीका करत आहे.
‘संतुलित’ होण्याची तिसरी अवस्था म्हणजे आपल्या कामावर लक्ष केंद्रित करून आपली रोजची कामे करत राहणे आणि आपल्या कामात कुठलाही अडथळा न आणता, आपले कर्तव्य पार पाडण्याची स्थिती.
‘काहीसे आनंदी’ होण्याची चौथी अवस्था म्हणजे एखाद्या घटनेबद्दल उत्सुक असणे, एखाद्याला पाहण्याची उत्सुकतेने वाट पाहणे, एखाद्या फायद्याच्या बातमीची अपेक्षा करणे, आणि चांगल्या मनःस्थितीत असण्याची स्थिती.
‘प्रचंड आनंदी’ असण्याची पाचवी अवस्था क्वचित अनुभवास येते. उदाहरणार्थ आपल्या बाळाचा जन्म, प्रथम मिळालेली नोकरी, प्रेमात पडणे आणि प्रेमाला प्रतिसाद मिळणे, बेरोजगार असताना मोठी लॉटरी लागणे. अशी आनंदाची स्थिती आयुष्यात काही वेळेलाच अनुभवास येते.
आपली आनंदाची व्याख्या
जेव्हा आपण म्हणतो की आज आपण इतके आनंदी नाही, तेव्हा आपण मुळात स्वतःला असे म्हणत असतो की आनंदी असणे म्हणजे काय, याची माझ्याकडे एक व्याख्या आहे आणि ती व्याख्या माझ्या सद्य परिस्थितीत किंवा माझ्या सध्याच्या मनाच्या स्थितीनुसार जुळत नाही. म्हणून, मी आनंदी नाही. हा निष्कर्ष एखाद्याला अजून जास्त दु: खी करतो. तर, आनंदी असण्याची आपली व्याख्या काय आहे, आपण वरील अनुक्रमानुसार कुठल्या स्थानावर असायला हवे – म्हणजे तिसऱ्या, चौथ्या की पाचव्या स्थानावर असावे, याचा विचार करतो. आपली सध्याची मानसिक स्थिती आणि आपल्या आनंदाची व्याख्या का जुळत नाही, याची अनेक कारणे असू शकतात. कदाचित आपण चांगल्या बातमीची अपेक्षा करत असू, पण ती लवकर मिळत नाहीये. कदाचित आपली अपेक्षा असेल की ही वाईट परिस्थिती लवकर निघून जाईल, पण तसे होत नाहीये. कदाचित आपली चिडचिड होत असेल आणि ती चिडचिड आपोआप नाहीशी होत नाहीये. तर्कशुद्ध पद्धतीने बघितल्यास आपल्याला उत्तर मिळेल की, आपली मानसिक स्थिती आणि आपली सद्य परिस्थिती एकमेकांस संलग्न करणे किंवा आपली आनंदाची व्याख्या बदलणे. उदाहरणार्थ, आपल्याला कोणत्या पातळीवरील आनंद पाहिजे, याची व्याख्या आपण बदलू शकतो किंवा आपली सध्याची मानसिक स्थिती ठीक आहे, असे समजू शकतो. गीतेत सांगितलेली आनंदाची स्थिती ही मनाची स्थिर स्थिती म्हणून ओळखली जाते. अशा स्थितीत सुखदुःख किंवा नफा-तोटा दोन्ही समान असते. अशा व्यक्तीला दुःख पचवायची किंवा सुखात वाहून न जाण्याची गुरुकिल्ली सापडलेली असते. त्यांची आनंदाची स्थिती आणि अनुभूती, प्रासंगिक बदल सोडल्यास, चिरकाल टिकणारी असते.
आता गीता आणि स्टोइक तत्त्वज्ञ यांची दोघांची व्याख्या एकच आहे. सुखी माणूस हा संतुलित मनःस्थितीत, आपल्या मोजपट्टीप्रमाणे # ३ च्या स्थानावर असतो. जर आपण वेळोवेळी # १ किंवा # ५ वर असाल तर आपण स्थिर नाही. त्याची करणे वेगळी असू शकतील, उदाहरणार्थ काही तोट्यामुळे किंवा कुणाला गमावल्यामुळे आपण दु: खी आहोत किंवा काही लॉटरी जिंकल्याबद्दल आपण आनंदाच्या शिखरावर आहोत. या घटना आपल्या आयुष्यात क्वचित घडतात. कधीकधी त्या अगदी कमी कालावधीत देखील घडू शकतात, परंतु जर शंभर वर्षांचे आयुष्य मोजले आणि एखाद्याच्या जीवनातील मोठे नुकसान किंवा त्याचे मोठे फायदे पाहिले, तर सांख्यिक दृष्टिकोनातून या अशा मोठ्या घटना दररोज, दरमहा किंवा प्रत्येक वर्षीपण होत नाहीत. उदाहरण द्यायचे झाले तर, आपल्या आयुष्यात फक्त दोनदा आपले आईवडील आपण गमावतो किंवा एखाद्याला दोन मुलं आहेत असे मानले, तर मुलांच्या जन्माचा होणार आनंदपण दोन वेळेलाच होतो. म्हणूनच प्रचंड आनंद किंवा प्रचंड दुःख झाले, तर ते शंभर वर्षाच्या कालावधीत केवळ दोनदोन वेळाच होईल. शिवाय मृत्यू अटळ आहे, या न्यायाने ते दुःख सहन करण्याची ताकद मिळते. त्याप्रमाणेच लक्ष्मी चंचल असते, म्हणून पैसे येणे किंवा जाणे हे अपरिहार्य आहे, म्हणून आपण आश्चर्यचकित होत नाही.
सद्यस्थितीत सामाजिक अंतर राखून, घरी राहून काम करून, जर आपण आपले दैनंदिन जीवन चालू ठेवण्याचे धैर्य वाढवू शकलो, आणि वाईट बातमी अपरिहार्य समजून सुरक्षित राहिल्याबद्दल कृतज्ञता बाळगू शकलो, तर हे संतुलित राहण्याचे लक्षण आहे आणि त्यात आनंद आहे. हा विचार आपल्या आयुष्यात समाधानी राहण्यास मदत करेल आणि परिस्थितीवर मात करायला मदत करेल.
Today is the International Day of Happiness, celebrated each year on March 20th. In the current circumstances of the fear of coronavirus, curfews and social distancing, working or schooling from home – being happy seems like a far-stretch. But perhaps it will help, if we know the idea of Happiness, as seen in the Gita and the Stoicism, how we can still try to keep ourselves balanced, equanimous and therefore happy in these circumstances. The answer lies in how we measure happiness.
So how do we measure happiness? We frequently talk about how we are feeling, whether we are feeling good or not so good, happy or unhappy. So, if we were to chart a criteria of Happiness, that will meet the conditions set by the Bhagavad-Gita or the Stoics, they would look like this, with 1 being least happy and 5 being most happy:
The first state of being ‘seriously unhappy’ would refer to being grief-stricken, suffering a major loss like losing a loved one or losing one’s financial support, resulting into not being able to function and be close to inaction as a result of too much emotional burden.
The second state of being ‘somewhat unhappy’ would refer to the state of being irritated, annoyed, not being happy with someone or something. Some examples would be like the phone is not working, or some software is malfunctioning, or getting a bad feedback at work, or feeling criticized.
The third state of being ‘balanced’ would refer to our day-to-day state of focusing on our duties, on our work without being perturbed by any distractions.
The fourth state of being ‘Somewhat Happy’ would refer to being excited about some event, looking forward to seeing someone, expecting a news of a benefit, just feeling chipper.
The fifth state of being ‘Super Happy’ would refer to the kind of joy that one feels only once in a blue moon, like the birth of a baby, getting the first job, falling in love and being reciprocated, winning a million dollar lottery while being unemployed.
Definition of being Happy
When we say we do not feel so happy today, we are basically saying to ourselves that I have a definition of what it means to be happy and that definition is not being matched by my current circumstances or by my current state of mind. Hence, I am not happy. The conclusion makes one even more unhappy.
So, what is our definition of being happy? Maybe we are expecting some good news and that is not coming soon enough. Maybe we are expecting some bad situation to go away, and that is not happening soon enough. Maybe we are irritated, and the irritation is not magically disappearing. There can be several reasons, why there is a mismatch between our current mental state and our definition of happiness.
So, the logical solution would be to bring our mental state and our situation to align themselves, or to change our definition of where we want to be now. For example, we can change our definition of what level of happiness we want, or we can look at our current mental state as fine. The Bhagavad-Gita aims at the state of happiness, which is known as a stable state of mind, equanimous to gains and losses, pleasure and pain.
Now the Gita, like the Stoics aims at # 3 for their definition of a happy person. If we are at # 1 or # 5, then we are not stable. Whether we are grief-stricken due to some loss, or whether we are excited about having won some lottery. These events happen once in a blue moon in our lives. Sometimes they can happen in a shorter period of time, but the point is if you measure life of a hundred years and you look at your major losses or major gains in one’s life, statistically they do not happen every day, every month, or every year. Like for example, we lose our parents only twice in our lives. Or we have kids on average only twice in our lives. So the major gains or losses, if we see them as the birth of one’s kids or loss of both our parents would only happen two times over a hundred year period. Not to mention, losses are inevitable, so they do not come as surprises.
In the current times of staying home or working from home due to social distancing, if we could muster our courage to keep our daily life going, be equanimous to the bad news and be grateful for being safe, it is still a sign of being balanced and being happy. That thought will help us stay content with our lives.
Anxiety disorders are on the rise. People suffer from generalized anxiety about life and they worry to the point of inaction. At the root of inaction lies fear and insecurity, fear of the unknown, fear of death or suffering, fear of gain or loss, fear of failure. Worrying does not help the cause, instead it brings down the level of productivity for a person. The anxiety itself is a cause of concern. Would I survive the current pandemic? Will I be able to recover the financial losses, presuming I survive? Questions of this kind start the process of self-doubt and sometimes lead to learned helplessness.
Let us examine the causes for this feeling of anxiety or emotion of fear both from the evolutionary biology and Upanishadic points of view and analyze the passages in the Upanishads to see what light they throw on this problem.
Analysis of Fear from the Evolutionary Biology
From the point of view of evolutionary biology, human beings in the hunter-gatherer community needed to be afraid to survive an attack from wild animals or other fellow hunter-gatherers. It helped to be in an alert state of mind, so that they could protect themselves from any dangers. If they relaxed too much or got very happy, that could cause their demise. The world is now at a far more peaceful state, than it has ever been before. People sleep peacefully without worrying about a wild boar attack. They carry out their routine as normal, unless they are in a war zone or in a natural calamity, such as floods caused by climate change or the current pandemic caused by a new virus. Most of us currently live in a very civilized society, yet the instinct of fear has stayed with us. People are afraid of minor things, such as their lifestyle, status, health, wealth, or such, but their survival is not always at stake. It most certainly affects one’s mental state and makes us unstable. People are not living in fear of losing their life daily, and yet their anxieties are so deep that they can paralyze people to inaction. One does not say to oneself anymore, oh what a relief – there is no wild animal charging towards me, it is just my boss coming towards me. One imagines the boss as the same kind of danger as the wild animal, and one panics.
Analysis from the Taittiriya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
From the Upanishadic point of view, fear and insecurity are caused by lack of trust in oneself, which in turn is caused by not understanding oneself or one’s Self (Atman). When one thinks of oneself as a small particle (like an atom or anu in Sanskrit) in the universe, which has no influence, which is not linked to anyone or anything, which is not a part of the universe, which does not participate in the global creation or continuation, then one does not give much importance to one’s existence, or one’s purpose of life, or one’s Karma. If one does not understand how one is linked with the wider world and happens to be also ignorant about how the world functions due to these connections and how each one of us needs to play one’s part right for the effective functioning of the unit one is in, whether it is one’s family, one’s workplace, school or social network, one ends up isolating oneself. One thinks of oneself as inconsequential, leading to a belief that ‘we do not matter, our thoughts and feelings do not matter, and no one cares for us’.
According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, fear and insecurity are born out of this feeling that we are distinct from the rest of the creation. If we think of ourselves as completely unique and we define our existence by our desires and likes and dislikes, then we start thinking of how to protect ourselves, our differences from the others. We do not trust in the creation of this world with a purpose. When we believe that this world is a creation of Brahman and that Brahman exists everywhere, in myself and in others as Atman, then we tend to trust more and believe in the purpose of one’s life as well as the purpose of this world.
When we nurture the feeling of uniqueness, we focus on ourselves, our desires and how to fulfil them. The desire-fulfilment theory leads to cycles of births and rebirths, which itself becomes a fearful proposition. We do not see ourselves as the agents of Brahman who are fulfilling a purpose for the greater good, but as agents who are uniquely designed to do whatever we want to do. Then we see ourselves not as Atman, that resides in everyone, but as me as an individual, who is different from the others.
The similarity among all Selves does not necessarily make us the same as any other person. We carry our individualities with our karma, our destinies, our goals and our paths. There is no denying about differences among human beings, nonetheless what binds us together is the fact that we all have a Self that relates to the Universal Self. In that respect, we are similar.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad gives us a story of how in the beginning, Self was one and when the Self realized that it is one and there is no other, then it lost all the sense of fear. Later it got bored by itself, so it evolved into men and women from the same substance. Hence, all men and women partake in the Self.
Story from the Gita
Bhagavad-Gita, which is also known as Gitopanishad is the advice given to the most brilliant archer, Prince Arjuna, who is sitting in the battlefield, being confused and facing a dilemma of whether to do his duty as a warrior to kill his enemies and incur sin for the act of killing; or whether to give up fighting, forsake his kingdom and live with a sense of injustice at the hands of his enemies, who are also his relatives. This is a serious issue and thankfully he is accompanied by Lord Krishna, who enlightens him. The Gita’s response to the anxiety of Arjuna was to explain to him the secrets of Karma-yoga. If he just continued to do his duties that are assigned to him and carry them out diligently, he would be considered a hero for having fulfilled a very difficult task and earn his seat of honor in history, and the world would be better off for his actions in carrying out a war against injustice. In the 18th chapter of the Gita, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that he is the Godhead and he has already arranged for this war to take place and for the justice to prevail. He has chosen Arjuna to be the hero of this war, and Arjuna is just a means to carry out God’s will. When Arjuna sees the purpose of his role and sees how the world is going to require him to carry out his duties, he sheds his anxieties and gets ready to do the difficult task.
Story of Adi Shankara, Founder of Vedanta
There is a story attributed to the founder of Vedanta, Adi Shankara Acharya, as a critique of his theory of Maya. The Vedanta theory of Maya says that the whole world is an illusion and Atman (Self) alone is real. So once someone asks Adi Shankara, how would you react if a wild bull comes charging at you? Adi Shankara said, I would run for my life. To which the questioner said, but the whole world is Maya, so why are you afraid of the bull, who is also Maya? Adi Shankara replied that the bull is Maya and so is my running Maya; but if I am in this body, I still need to take care of myself from Maya.
Story from the Chhandogya Upanishad
The next story comes from the Chhandogya Upanishad, which is a parable of the blindfolded man. The robbers have robbed this man, blindfolded him and left him outside the city of Gandhara in a forest. He has no idea how to get back to his house and his family in the city of Gandhara. He is helpless, blindfolded and in a forest. At this point, a wise man, a spiritual guru helps him by giving him instructions and when the blindfolded man follows them, he reaches his home and is happy. The man understands that even if the robbers had robbed him, ill-treated him, the voice that is guiding him is the voice of a wise person, whom he considers his guru. He places his faith in that advice and reaches his destination.
Faith helps one get over barriers, when one believes that better outcomes are possible. Sometimes we have faith in someone we respect, such as a guru or a parental figure, or sometimes we have faith in ourselves that we can do better, provided we try hard enough. The barriers of negativity can be broken with trust in positive outcomes, greater possibilities and greener pastures. Here the blindfold represents our misconceptions, ignorance and passions, while reaching home represents reaching self-realization and this journey towards self-realization results into happiness.
Story from the Greek Philosopher, Plato
A similar story is found in Plato’s Republic known as the allegory of the cave. It talks about chained people in the cave, who overcome their barriers, when they try to step out of the cave by the force of light that is coming from outside the cave and finally are educated and enlightened, when they see the actual sun in the sky after they are able to step out of the cave. While they are in the cave and in a state of being chained, their thoughts about the situation on the ground are mostly connected with acceptance about how things are in the cave with people in a state of being chained watching only the shadows in front of them. But as they act on their curiosity and try to find where the shadows are coming from, they discover a room next door with a fire and people, who can walk around. When they challenge themselves further, they discover that the cave has an opening and there is a light at the mouth of the cave, which is stronger than the fire in the cave.
When they step out of the cave with great difficulty, they discover the sunlight for the first time and finally when they look up, they discover the bright sun in the sky. When they succeed in doing that, their education and enlightenment is complete. There is nothing brighter than the sun in this world. But they wouldn’t have known about the existence of the sun, while sitting in a dark cave being chained. These chains are metaphorical. Likewise, our constraints and anxieties are such, that they prevent us from being enlightened. It is only when we push ourselves to look for different opportunities, then we open doors for new ventures in life. Philosophers have tried to challenge the notion of how people accept life with no future, out of frustration or not knowing how to find one’s way out. It is very similar to the people in the cave, who have physical chains and do not know how to proceed to the next room, next level of enlightenment.
The path of trust in one’s Self helps us change our attitude, look at the world somewhat differently. When one trusts that there is a plan for this world, and we are all agents of the Brahman, it enables one to take care of oneself and focus on one’s duties to let the world function better. When one understands that one is a Self, which is the same in every other individual, connection with others and compassion for others becomes natural. This creates more confidence and less anxiety.
Once one has overcome negative, anxious thoughts, it allows one’s brain to produce good positive thoughts and see the light at the end of the tunnel. When one can cross these barriers, it takes one to a new realm of a possibility, resulting in productivity, better quality of life and even a sense of enjoying life for what it is worth, leading one towards Happiness and Enlightenment.
In this article, I would like to discuss the idea of the wise person in Stoicism, with a focus on Seneca’s writings and the origin of the concept in Plato’s writings. The article will discuss (a) who is a Sapiens, (b) the process of becoming a Sapiens and (c) philosophical critique of this concept. At each stage, the article shows the connection to Plato and Platonic tradition. The critique of the concept also evaluates pitfalls of the concept of the wise person and the pitfalls of Stoic attachment with Platonic idealism, which suffers similar setbacks.
Who is a Sapiens
The concept of a wise person, also known as Sapiens in Latin or ‘ho sophos’ in Greek first entered Graeco-Roman culture when the Delphic Oracle declared Socrates to be the wisest man of all. Although Socrates tried his best to refute that statement by pointing to weaknesses and lapses in his own life, the sobriquet never left him and he came to symbolize the ideal of life in that society. His influence was so great that even a century after his death, Zeno of Citium was found recommending the ideals of Socrates as standards of life for everyone. The life of a sapiens and that of Socrates became interchangeable terms. Every citizen was urged to be like Socrates. Hence it became important to arrange the Socratic values into a system to serve as a design for training and guidance. Zeno codified these norms and other Stoics including Seneca followed suit.
The process of Becoming a Sapiens
Comprehending the Sapiens as an embodiment of Stoic ethics entails understanding Stoic ethical notions. Stoic scholars listed them separately, commented upon them individually and made some attempts at defining them. Some of the common features of the ethics include the concepts of kathekonta (appropriate actions), oikeiosis (what belongs to oneself), eudaimonia (happy life), arête (virtue) and the Sapiens (wise person), in whom all the ethical terms find their apotheosis. Stoic dialectics plays a key role in understanding how the wise person acquires the expertise to match different situations with suitable arguments, to resist his impulsive responses, and to give his assent to the right judgment. The Stoic theory of indifferents, divided between preferable and less preferable indifferents, sheds some light on the essential and inherent sense of detachment or apatheia in the Sapiens. The telos of a human life, living in accordance with nature, contributes to virtue and wisdom and thereby leads to happiness.
Philosophical Critique of this Concept
Stoic theories seem to fall in the same trap, as does Plato’s idealism including his theory of Ideas. Stoics take inspiration from Platonic philosophy. They ape his philosophical positions and are open to similar charges as Platonic philosophy. Stoic or Platonic theories are idealistic and attractive, but neither pragmatic nor detail oriented. As a result, it enables their critiques to call in question their holistic understanding without showing inconsistencies in their detailed footwork. The charges of creating a utopian concept of a wise person or supporting the elitist culture throughout their philosophies are aimed at the root of Stoic agenda of virtue.
Society upheld Plato’s dialogue ‘Apology’ as a good defense of Socrates’s viewpoint, after Socrates paid the price for his philosophical perspectives with his life. Seneca certainly gained a good following in the later literature, probably because of his unfair death at the hands of Nero or because of being one of the few Stoic writers, whose original writing had survived through the ages. Nevertheless, looking at the philosophical conception of Seneca’s Sapiens, one can derive certain similarities in the fate of this theory with that of Platonic theory of Ideas. Both the theories make an attempt to grapple with some colossal issues of human understanding, namely how to attain human perfection or how to understand reality. They come very close to having solutions. But in the attempt to have perfect solutions, both create utopian structure – Seneca by creating a perfect wise person and Plato by creating an idea of the essence of an object. Nonetheless, neither Plato nor Seneca see this charge as fatal and here is why. It is important to understand a philosophical position in its own conceptual make-up. Given the ideological background of both philosophies, it is a little wonder that they understood the world in terms of perfection. If Aristotle had flourished prior to Plato, Plato would have been able to refute his theories. What is significant for Stoics is that they offer a perfect package of an ideal human being to the world and let everyone strive for perfection, so that the world will be a better place. The only way to make it possible was to create a theory, which was faultless.
Kurt Goedel proved that no mathematical system is both complete and consistent. The same principle would apply to a philosophical theory as well. Both Platonic theory of ideas and Seneca’s Sapiens are beautifully designed ‘consistent’ theories, but whether they are complete or not, depends on how well we can interpret them and learn to apply those principles in our lives.
Moral Essays by Seneca (Available on Amazon, or in the local libraries, certainly at the Firestone library at the University) – Useful for Lectures 5, 6, 7
Bhagavad-Gita, Translation of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chapters – you are welcome to read all the chapters. (There are many good books available on the Gita, also many PDFs. Here is one that I think highly of. The print version is available in the bookstores. http://www.bhagavatgita.ru/files/Bhagavad-gita_As_It_Is.pdf) – Useful for Lectures 1 and 2
Raj-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda (available on Amazon) – Useful for Lecture 8
Theaetetus by Plato (Available on Amazon or the Firestone library)
History of Indian Philosophy by R D Ranade and S K Belvalkar (Available on Amazon) – Useful for Lecture 1 and 2
Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics by Mirium Griffin (Available on Amazon or the Firestone library) – Useful for Lecture 3 and 4
‘A Constructive Survey by Upanishadic Philosophy’ by R. D. Ranade (Available on Amazon) – Useful for Lectures 7 and 8
Odile Belmont taught French language at the Princeton University as a Lecturer.
In ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna‘, Ashwini Mokashi makes an interesting comparison between Sapiens, the wise person in Seneca’s Stoic philosophy, and Sthitaprajna, the sage according to the Indian tradition.
The questions raised in the book seem as relevant today as they were such a long time ago, namely, how can one be wise and happy at the same time.
It was surprising to find so many similarities between these two ancient philosophies on the topic of wisdom. Both Sapiens and Sthitaprajna must exercise good judgment before acting. They must be free of passions. They set an example by their behaviour.
The author also makes a brilliant analysis of the differences between them. The Stoics thought of acquiring wisdom in preparation for death, with no idea of an afterlife. While in the Gita, meditation and yoga enable one to reach moksha, or liberation, from the cycles of birth and rebirth.
The pursuit of wisdom, virtue, and happiness are lifelong goals, and the process of attaining these goals itself is a worthwhile experience. Such themes from ancient texts continue into contemporary conversation, while the quest for happiness is pursued anew with each new generation. Ancient wisdom has stood the test of time and it behooves us to apply these principles to modern situations.
The wise person of the Gita, Sthitaprajna, is concerned with what is right action and how to exercise right judgment. In doing so, the sage becomes a Jnana-yogi, and by performing the right actions, the Sthitaprajna also becomes a Karma-yogi.
The Sthitaprajna possesses the following characteristics:
Wise people abandon all desires and have no eager and earnest longings. They have no sense of possessiveness, sense of ‘mine’. They discard their ego (ahamkara) or a sense of pride in themselves. Their concern for the self is absorbed into a concern for the divine. They are tranquil and happy. This state is known as the state of wisdom (sthita-prajna) or the state of Brahman establishment (Brahmi-sthiti). This state is no doubt difficult to attain but once attained, it stays with the Sthitaprajna until the end.
Stoic Seneca’s Answer
The wise person of Stoic Seneca, Sapiens, embodies the ethical tenets of Stoicism, which bring them permanent happiness. Seneca describes how to be wise by incorporating the Stoic ethical concepts such as appropriate actions (kathekonta), what belongs to oneself (oikeiosis), virtue (arete), detachment (apatheia), telos (goal) of living in accordance with nature, knowledge of the laws of nature, which together lead to happiness (eudaimonia). For Seneca, happiness essentially means tranquility and peace of mind, which results from a constant practice of virtue, and intellectual exercise, which is required to perform moral actions. The choice of action may not be conventional, but it is always moral. The integrity of moral thoughts and actions results in tranquility, which leads to happiness. Seneca’s critique of emotions, such as anger and grief highlight both the utility and futility of emotions, which emphasize the need for detachment from passions in the pursuit of virtue.
In both systems, a wise person is one who has the capacity for making correct judgments when undertaking action, and for these s/he then assumes complete responsibility. Right thinking results in right action, essential for peace of mind and happiness: right or moral actions lead to virtue. Happiness results from knowing one has done the right thing at the right time. Whatever a wise person chooses to do is for the good of mankind. In that sense, s/he is divine. Such people enjoy constant happiness.
Seneca’s treatment of various emotions is one of the most unique features of his philosophical writings. Seneca treats different emotions with the skill of a psychological therapist and shows the futility of those emotions in a very logical and sensitive way, without making it sound like a Stoic mandate of denying passions to any individual. Seneca’s great contribution is to make this concept available to everyone by giving people directions instead of merely asking them to rise to a high standard of the ethical expectations of Stoicism.
This is a repost of the piece first published in the Op-Ed section of the Indian Express on August 12, 2019.
When I published my book or when I began the blog, I remember thinking I would be lucky if I could persuade a handful of my friends to read some philosophical thoughts. Seriously, who reads Philosophy?
Now I know that the articles in English and Marathi languages on this blog have been viewed more than 1100 times from viewers of twenty different countries. Besides the blog views, there are hundreds of views on academic websites, such as researchgate, academia.org. The TV interview on the Princeton community TV – thanks to Joan Goldstein for inviting me to her show, received the second rank in the ‘Top Ten Views’ of August 2019. An op-ed each in the two newspapers in India, Indian Express and Loksatta, thanks to the Editor of Loksatta Mr. Girish Kuber, received much positive feedback. When my book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ was published last year in 2019, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute invited me to deliver the Bapat Memorial lecture, which was well attended. I am most grateful to the Bhandarkar Institute and the Secretary of the Institute, Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar for this honor. The talk at the Bhandarkar was also covered in the local Indian Express, thanks to Anuradha Mascarenhas, a senior Editor in Pune and her team. I must admit that this kind of response is most unusual.
The inspiration for this blog and for the philosophical articles has come mostly from my social work over a period and from studying Philosophy over a lifetime. In the College days, sometimes I would visit the detention facilities in Pune India to teach the kids (of prisoners) stories from ancient Indian texts, or volunteer in the slums of Pune to teach them values of hygiene. In the last few years, I offered some time as a server at the soup kitchen, or as a (trainee) ambulance driver of the Emergency Medical Service in New Jersey, USA. Last few years, I also got an opportunity to observe the work of an Institute ‘Hope Project’ in New Delhi, India, that provided education to the street children. These situations used to weigh on my mind and make me wonder how to help these people solve their problems in life, how to give them perspective on life, so they can support their own lives better. I don’t have the financial means to lift the lives of all the people I would like to help, but I do have some solutions to offer them based on my intellectual work in the field of Philosophy. I decided to do just that. It was only a short span of time that I have spent on my social work, compared to the time I have spent on my family, my career or my research. Yet the influence that these short and intense moments have had on my life is tremendous. It has given me a chance to look at social issues from all angles and figure out what kinds of solutions are possible to any given problem.
If we look at the population of the world in the bell curve statistics, the 15% on the extreme left of the line are unable to handle their lives, as they are too perturbed to function. The 15% on the other extreme can thrive in their lives, thanks to their wisdom, perseverance and available means. The middle population – roughly 70%, have figured out some tricks of how to keep their lives balanced, but not all of them and not always. I have seen many middle-class families suddenly lose most of what they had during the recession years, or due to crisis in their family. They need help too, not just the 15% on the left side of the curve. When we are in a crisis, it becomes too tough to realize whom to trust, whom to turn to and to gather the means to seek solutions. Therefore, it is always important to support our lives and develop the strength to deal with these issues.
Wisdom, perspective and a good understanding of life will help us survive and thrive. It will create more opportunities, more Happiness and less diseases. This was the background for the project of the book and the blog, with the goal of connecting philosophical wisdom to modern issues to help resolve them. Thank you again!
धन्यवाद, वाचकांनी माझ्या ब्लॉगचे ११०० पेक्षा जास्त वेळा वाचन करून जे समर्थन केले, त्याबद्दल मनःपूर्वक धन्यवाद!
मी ब्लॉग सुरू केला तेव्हा मनात विचार केला होता, की माझ्या हातावर मोजण्याइतक्या काही मित्रमैत्रिणींना थोडेफार तत्वज्ञानाचे विचार वाचण्यास जरी मी राजी करू शकले, तरी मी स्वतःला भाग्यवान समजेन. खरंच, कोण वाचतो तत्वज्ञान ?
या ब्लॉगवरील इंग्रजी आणि मराठीतील माझे लेख वीस वेगवेगळ्या देशांच्या लोकांनी वाचले. याव्यतिरिक्त, शेकडो शैक्षणिकांकडून रिसर्चगेट, अकॅडेमिया व इतर वेबसाइट्सवर हे लेख वाचले गेले. जोन गोल्डस्टईन यांच्या निमंत्रणावरून प्रसारित झालेल्या टीव्ही मुलाखतीला ‘टॉप टेन व्ह्यूज’ मधील दुसरे स्थान प्रिन्सटन कम्युनिटी टीव्हीद्वारे मिळाले. एक ऑप-एड लेख इंडियन एक्स्प्रेसमध्ये, तर एक ऑप-एड लेख लोकसत्तामध्ये प्रसिद्ध झाला. त्याबद्दल श्री गिरीश कुबेर या लोकसत्ताच्या संपादकांचे खूप खूप आभार. माझे इंग्रजीतील पुस्तक ‘सेपियन्स अँड स्थितप्रज्ञ’ मागील वर्षी प्रसिद्ध झाले तेव्हा, भांडारकर ओरिएंटल रिसर्च इंस्टीट्युटने मला भाषण द्यायला आमंत्रित करून जो बहुमान दिला त्याबद्दल त्या संस्थेचे आणि संस्थेचे सेक्रेटरी या नात्याने प्राध्यापक श्रीकांत बाहुलकर यांची मी खूप आभारी आहे. या भाषणाचा वृत्तांत पुण्याहून प्रसिद्ध होणाऱ्या लोकल इंडियन एक्सप्रेस मध्ये केल्याबद्दल मी अनुराधा मसकॅरेन्हास यांची आणि त्यांच्या टीमची पण ऋणी आहे. हे सर्व खूप विलक्षण आहे.
या ब्लॉगची आणि तात्विक लेखांची प्रेरणा माझ्या थोड्याफार केलेल्या सामाजिक कार्याद्वारे आणि आयुष्यभर केलेल्या तत्त्वज्ञानाच्या अभ्यासामुळे प्राप्त झाली आहे. मी कॉलेजमध्ये असताना पुण्यातील कैद्यांच्या मुलांना भारतीय तत्त्वज्ञानातील गोष्टी सांगायचे, पुण्यातील झोपडपट्टीत राहणाऱ्या लोकांना स्वचछतेचे महत्त्व पटवून द्यायचे. गेल्या काही वर्षातअमेरिकेतल्या सूप किचनमध्ये वाढपी म्हणून मदत करायचे किंवा न्यू जर्सीमधील आपत्कालीन वैद्यकीय सेवेची (प्रशिक्षणार्थी) कार्यकर्ता या नात्याने अँब्युलन्स चालवायचे. काही वर्षे मी नवी दिल्लीतील रस्त्यावर राहणाऱ्या मुलांसमवेत त्यांना शिकवण्याचे काम करणाऱ्या एका संस्थेचे (Hope Project) काम जवळून बघितले होते. तेव्हा या लोकांना जीवनातल्या समस्यांचे निराकरण कसे करावे, त्यांना आयुष्याकडे पाहण्याचा दृष्टीकोन कसा द्यावा याबद्दल मला वारंवार विचार पडत असे. या सर्व लोकांचे आयुष्य उंचावण्यासाठी लागणारे आर्थिक साधन माझ्याकडे नाही, परंतु तत्त्वज्ञान क्षेत्रात माझ्या बौद्धिक कार्याच्या आधारे त्यांना सांगण्यासाठी माझ्याकडे काही विचार आहेत. मी तेच सांगण्याचा निर्णय घेतला. मी माझ्या कुटुंबासाठी, माझ्या करिअरवर किंवा माझ्या संशोधनात घालवलेल्या वेळेच्या तुलनेत मी माझ्या सामाजिक कार्यावर फार थोडा वेळ घालवला आहे. तरीही या लहान आणि तीव्र क्षणांचा माझ्या आयुष्यावर झालेला प्रभाव प्रचंड आहे. यामुळे मला सर्व बाजुंनी सामाजिक प्रश्न पाहण्याची आणि दिलेल्या समस्येचे कोणत्या प्रकारचे समाधान होणे शक्य आहे हे शोधण्याची संधी मिळाली.
बेल curve च्या आकडेवारीमध्ये आपण जगाची लोकसंख्या पाहिल्यास, रेषेच्या डावीकडील टोकाला 15% लोक आहेत जे आपले आयुष्य सांभाळण्यास असमर्थ आहेत. ते कार्य करण्यास प्रवृत्त होत नाहीत, कारण ते खूप घाबरून गेलेले असतात. दुसऱ्या उजवीकडच्या टोकाला जे 15% लोकं आहेत, त्यांच्या आयुष्यात शहाणपणा, चिकाटी आणि उपलब्ध साधनांमुळे भरभराट झालेली दिसते. या दोन टोकांच्यामध्ये असणारा जनसमुदाय जे अंदाजे 70% लोकसंख्येमध्ये गणले जातात, त्यांचे जीवन बऱ्यापैकी संतुलित असते. जीवन संतुलीत ठेवण्यासाठी काही युक्त्या त्यांना माहीत असतात, परंतु नेहमीच त्या युक्त्या सर्वाना लागू पडतील असेही नसते. मी अशी बरीच मध्यम-वर्गातील कुटुंबे पाहिली आहेत, जी अचानक मंदीच्या काळामध्ये किंवा त्यांच्या कुटुंबातील संकटांमुळे बरेच काही गमावून बसतात आणि हतबल होतात. कठीण समय येता कोण कामास येतो, या उक्तीप्रमाणे जेव्हा आपण संकटात असतो, तेव्हा कोणावर विश्वास ठेवायचा, कोणाकडे जायचे आणि कुठले उपाय शोधायचे, हे समजणे फार कठीण होते. म्हणूनच, आपल्या जीवनाचे समर्थन करणे आणि या समस्यांना सामोरे जाण्यासाठी आंतरीक सामर्थ्य विकसित करणे नेहमीच महत्वाचे आहे.
ज्ञान योग, बुद्धीचा वापर, सकारात्मक दृष्टीकोन आणि जीवनाची चांगली समज आपल्याला जीवन जगण्यास आणि भरभराट करण्यास मदत करेल. यामुळे अधिक संधी निर्माण होतील, अधिक आनंद मिळेल आणि आयुष्यावर होणारे दुष्परिणाम कमी होतील. पुस्तकाच्या आणि ब्लॉगच्या प्रोजेक्टची ही पार्श्वभूमी होती, प्राचीन ज्ञानाचा आधुनिक समस्यांशी समन्वय करून त्या समस्यांचे निराकरण करण्याचा हा छोटासा प्रयत्न आहे. या प्रयत्नात सामील झाल्याबद्दल पुनःश्च धन्यवाद!
आर्किलोचस , (इ.स.पू. 650, पारोस [सायक्लेडिस, ग्रीस]), हे एक कवी आणि सैनिक होते. हे इम्बिक, एलिगिएक आणि वैयक्तिक लय कविता यांचे प्राचीन ग्रीक लेखक होते. त्यांचे लिखाण अत्यंत उत्तम प्रतीचे असून काळाच्या ओघात काही प्रमाणात अजून टिकून राहिले आहे. फार क्वचित कोणी कवी आणि सैनिक असलेले आढळतात. अर्चिलोचस यांनी आपला सैनिकी बाणा आणि पवित्रा आपल्या कवितेत आणला. त्यांची कविता होमर आणि हेसिओड यांच्या पंक्तीमध्ये त्यांना बसवते. तसेच त्यांना एलिजि या काव्यपद्धतीचे जनक मानले जाते.
आर्किलोचसचे वडील टेलीसिकल्स एक श्रीमंत पारियन होते, ज्याने थासोस बेटावर वसाहत स्थापन केली. अर्चीलोचस स्वतः पारोस आणि थासोस या दोन्ही बेटांवर राहत होते. त्याच्या कवितेत इ.स.पू. 6 एप्रिल रोजीचे सूर्यग्रहण आणि लिडियन राजा गेजेस (इ.स. 680-645 ईसापूर्व) च्या संपत्तीचा उल्लेख आहे. प्राचीन चरित्रात्मक परंपरेतील आर्किलोचसच्या जीवनाचा तपशील बहुतेक त्याच्या कवितांतून घेण्यात आला आहे – त्यामुळे त्यात त्याने वर्णन केलेल्या घटना काल्पनिक असू शकतात. परंतु आधुनिक शोधांनी कवितांमध्ये दिलेल्या चित्राचे समर्थन केले आहे. पारोसवरील पवित्र भागात आर्किलोचसला समर्पित दोन शिलालेख सापडले; ते या दोन पुरूषांच्या नावे आहेत: मॅनेसिप्स शिलालेख (तिसरे शतक बीसीई) आणि सोस्थेनिस शिलालेख (पहिला शतक बीसीई). अथीनियन राजकारणी आणि बौद्धिक समीक्षकांनी आर्किलोचसच्या स्वत: च्या वर्णनास 5 व्या शतकाच्या उत्तरार्धात गांभीर्याने पाहिले होते. आर्किलोचस याने स्वत: ला गरीब, भांडखोर, दु: खी, गुलाम महिलेचा लबाड मुलगा म्हणून आपले वर्णन केल्याबद्दल त्याची निंदा केली. त्यामुळे काही विद्वानांना असे वाटते की त्याच्या कवितांमध्ये चित्रित केलेले आर्किलोचस यांचे वर्णन खरे नव्हते.
आर्किलोचस सैनिक म्हणून काम करत असत. थसॉसच्या जवळ असलेल्या मुख्य भूभागावर थ्रेसियन्सविरूद्ध त्याने लढा दिला आणि जेव्हा थॅशियन्स नॅक्सोस बेटावरील सैनिकांविरुद्ध लढत होते तेव्हा तो मरण पावला. एका प्रसिद्ध कवितेत आर्किलोचस स्वत: ची ढाल लढाईत फेकल्याबद्दल कोणतीही संकोच वा खेद न करता सांगतात. (“मी माझा जीव वाचवला. मला माझ्या ढालीची काय किंमत आहे? गेली उडत! मी आणखी एक विकत घेईन.”)
कविता व इतर पुराव्यांवरून सत्यता निश्चितपणे समजणे कठीण असले तरी आर्किलोचस विवादास्पद असू शकेल. कारण ते आपल्या तीक्ष्ण विनोदाबद्दल आणि निंदात्मक भाषेबद्दल प्रसिद्ध होते. त्यानी खूप वेगवेगळ्या प्रकारची लयबद्ध रचना त्याच्या कवितेत करून ग्रीक भाषा समृद्ध केली. ते अतिशय सहजपणे होमरिक भाषेमधून दैनंदिन जीवनाच्या भाषेचा वापर एकाच ओळीत करू शकायचे . वैयक्तिक अनुभव आणि आपल्या भावनांबद्दल लिहिणारा तो पहिला युरोपियन लेखक होता. ग्रीक कवितांचे विषय नेहमी वीर योद्धे किंवा प्राचीन सूत्रे असे असायचे. त्यामुळे त्याच्या कवितांचे वेगळेपण दिसून आले. त्याने त्याच्या कवितांमध्ये वैयक्तिक भावनांचा उहापोह केला. होरेस सारख्या नंतरच्या नावाजलेल्या कवींनी त्याच्या शैलीचे आणि कौशल्याचे खूप कौतुक केले. परंतु पिण्डार सारख्या काही नावाजलेल्या कवींनी त्याच्या अनैतिक वागण्याची निंदाही केली.
Loneliness is a major problem in the current times. This article tries to address the issue of loneliness and the cure for it from the ancient wisdom of Hindu Philosophy. We will take three principles to address this issue from the Indian philosophical texts of the Upanishads and will also rely on the mainstream teachings of the Upanishads, mainly their insistence of the practice of meditation.
Upanishads are India’s great heritage. The twelve main Upanishads were composed before the common era and were passed on through the oral tradition. The genesis of the Hindu religion and Buddhism is found in the Upanishads. There is neither religious nor social rift implied in these texts, as they preceded any religion.
Many scholars have written about the Upanishads. One such great name was Prof. R.D. Ranade. His book ‘A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy’ was published in English around 1926 and soon became one of the most respected and well-read pieces of literature on the Upanishads. We will take a page from this book and let it guide us to examine how loneliness can be decreased or cured with the advice from the Upanishads.
The contemporary Indian society is caught between religious divisions, casteism and various other isms; likewise, the contemporary American society is caught between political, racial, religious divides as well as various issues of what constitutes political correctness. One encounters these challenges daily. For example, before making any new friends, we tend to assess whether we have similar thoughts, similar religion, similar political views, similar beliefs on social issues, similar social class, what do people say about them, will the friendship benefit us, what will they think about us – all these thoughts become constraints and conditions and we happily impose them upon ourselves, thereby making it very difficult for us to reach others and make friends.
This creates a sense of loneliness and induces physical and mental illnesses. Loneliness arises when one is either without family or friends close by, or when one feels that one’s family or friends do not understand one’s inner turmoil and at times, one’s irrational thoughts. This thinking-out-loud with friends is also a process of checking the validity of one’s thoughts to arrive at a rational course of action. How does one go beyond these constraints to find a good solution for making friends? Ancient wisdom comes in handy in this process, helping us examine the values and principles of life. These values are perennial and hence they seem fresh even today. They are concerned with absolute universal values and not short-term goals; hence they become applicable across the board, irrespective of differences of class, caste, color, religion, age, race, sex, origin etc.
The first principle I would like to consider is from the Isha Upanishad, Yasmin sarvani bhutani atmaiwabhudvijanatah, which means that one should think of another human being as an end and not as a means to an end. With this attitude, it becomes easier to respect another human being. It enables one to make friends with others, have compassion for others, reduce the divide between us and them, and help them in times of need. All human beings are representatives of the Atman, and we all share the same principle of the Atman in ourselves. Hence, we are all connected to each other. When one understands that, one does not discriminate against another person based on their caste, color, religion, class, etc. Instead one starts wondering, how we would act, if we had to walk in their shoes.
The philosophy in the Upanishads is very compelling, aside from their linguistic beauty and the wonderful stories. For example, what is the principle of ‘Know Thyself’? How does one understand that, how does one get to know oneself and if we don’t know ourselves, then how do we tell people our opinions? How do we remove any misunderstandings about ourselves? When do we form our opinion? Normally it is necessary for us to understand ourselves. Our growth and development are essentially tied up with that knowledge. As we understand ourselves, our inner self, our soul better, then our inner strength, our sense of contentment grows, loneliness decreases, and we are better able to face the ups and downs of life.
That Thou Art
The second principle I would like to consider is found in the Isha and Maitreya Upanishads, which is ‘Soham – sah aham’ or ‘That thou art’. It means that the concept of Brahman – known as sah or that, is within me. One can understand that by either thought process – Jnana Marg, or through meditation – Bhakti Marg and by doing the right deeds – Karma Marg. These pathways enable us to get closer to the Atman. The Upanishads have a lot of passages that talk about how to understand the principle of ‘Know Thyself’ and how to complete one’s journey towards Moksha. When the individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman) become one, then a human being achieves Moksha. In practical terms, one understands that it is important to treat another individual as a soul, with respect and dignity.
To understand these and many other philosophical issues, one must understand the principles behind them. The Upanishads have a lot of discussions of philosophical issues. The Ken Upanishad says that humility is extremely important for the knowledge of the Atman, the knowledge of the self. Without humility, one does not understand the Atman. Perhaps the same principle applies to making friends. It we do not treat others with politeness and humility, no one will want to be friends with us. Perhaps the Upanishads want us to learn these principles in small steps.
Infinite Power of Mind
Prof. Ranade gives an example from the Mundaka Upanishad of the two birds that represent Jiva (the individual soul or Atman) and Ishwara (the Universal soul or Brahman), living on the same branch of a tree. The Atman would tend to be unhappy thinking of itself as a helpless creature. But when it unites with the Brahman, it realizes that it is a part of the infinite power and hence it stops feeling sad and becomes extremely happy. The Atman realizes that it is not alone but is an integral part of the universe. This refers to our third principle, quoted from the Mundakopanishad.
Likewise, when one tries to follow the purpose of one’s life, one becomes happy. Then there is no fear, nor any loneliness. Hence with the consult of the Upanishads, it is possible to lead one’s life with patience, courage and morality. This will enable us to understand the principle ‘Know Thyself’ and ease our way in our pursuit of happiness.
The Chhandogya and Maitri Upanishad discuss the importance of the mind. Mind is the genesis of all thoughts and emotions. A person sees and hears through the mind with the help of the sense-organs. Our emotions are governed by our mind; hence one can choose whether to be afraid of or be thrilled about something. When the mind is ruled by the intellect, then one can take a good decision. None of this is easy, of course. As we keep practicing taking good decisions, we see incremental growth in our confidence, self-love (as in love for the Atman, and not as narcissistic egoism) and self-respect (respect for the Atman). It is considered as spiritual progress.
Meditation and clear thinking can help us practice this further. This practice also enables us to gain an understanding of the world at a different plane, such as through intuition. For example, one can understand who likes us or who does not like us, merely by consulting with one’s own mind. One can also understand who is telling us the truth and who is being deceptive. Similarly, we also have a sense that we are not alone in this world, and that we are connected to the Brahman (also known as the universal soul, or the Ultimate Reality) that protects us, and this knowledge helps cure loneliness and fear. This does not mean however that one should not take care of oneself in practical ways. But it means that one understands one’s role and importance in life and life becomes blissful.
It is possible to cure or limit the sense of loneliness by understanding the perennial values, following the path of humility, understanding the power of mind, practicing meditation and believing that we are a part of the infinite power of the Brahman. In practical terms, extending a hand of friendship to others, being respectful towards others, controlling one’s anxieties and appreciating the positive aspects of our situation would help us connect better with other members of the community and ultimately help us improve our sense of connectedness, resulting into a substantial decrease in loneliness. Besides, loneliness can be transformed into bliss, when one understands that the real source of happiness or bliss is within the Self for the one who seeks the Brahman (the Ultimate Reality) and that is when the Upanishadic teaching has matured in one’s life.
 It was translated into Marathi by Prof. K.V. Gajendragadkar under the title ‘Upanishad-rahasya’.
 A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy, R. D. Ranade, 2002, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, page 25
 A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy, R. D. Ranade, 2002, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, page 118
 A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy, R. D. Ranade, 2002, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, page 348
The most celebrated doctrine of Plato, his ‘Theory of Ideas’, which is the center of his philosophy, faces some acute problems. This theory is very harshly attacked by the critics, and therefore, it stands in need of re-examination. A critic like Aristotle shows the invalidity of the argument in its favor with his contra-argument, viz, the ‘Third-Man’, which forced Plato either to relinquish his theory as a whole or to declare it invalid. This history is as repeated as the same argument was earlier put forth against the doctrine by Plato himself in one of his late dialogues, Parmenides. Plato deserves full credit for the demonstration of the rarest gift of self-criticism. But then, how is it that in spite of seeing the drawbacks and lacunae in the theory, he does not abandon it? What is the reason behind it? Did the extra-sensitive mind of Plato not catch the point of criticism or not comprehend the problem really? Certainly, he did. He himself was the pioneer of the arguments against his own theory. Yet he stands irrefuted on the grounds of the consistency in his philosophy. A twentieth century philosopher Kurt Goedel’s famous theorem says that ‘No philosophical system can be both complete and consistent’. Plato’s theory was consistent but not complete. To be reassured of this claim, let us pursue this interesting issue of the Third-Man argument further.
We shall discuss the issue from the following points of view:
Brief account of Aristotle’s basic criticism of the theory of forms:
What exactly is the argument of Third Man?
Plato’s formulation in the Parmenides
Some contemporary reflections on the Third-Man Argument
Brief Account of Aristotle’s BasicCriticism of the Theory of Forms
A brilliant and devout disciple of Plato, Aristotle was in his academy for more than a decade. How greatly he was influenced by Plato and Platonic philosophy is seen in his humble apology, which says, “It is commendable and even obligatory in defense of truth to abandon one’s own cherished convictions, especially in a philosopher: for though both are dear to us, it is a sacred duty to give the preference to truth.” With such reverence Aristotle proceeds to examine the doctrine of Ideas in his book Metaphysics.
To demonstrate the inconclusiveness and invalidity of Platonic theory of Ideas, Aristotle presents the following arguments:
Those who first proposed the Ideas as causes were in effect doubling the number of things to be explained, as if a man wished to count a few things, but imagined he could not do so, unless he added to their number.
None of the arguments is valid. Some of them are inconclusive, the others would prove there are forms of things of which we maintain there are one. Thus, (a) the argument from the existence of sciences would prove that there are Forms of all things of which there are sciences; (b) the argument of One-over-Many would prove that there are forms of negations; (c) the argument that we can think of what has perished would establish Forms of perishables, because we retain a mental image of the latter: (d) some of Plato’s more closely reasoned arguments explicitly imply Ideas of relative terms, while others mention the ‘Third-Man’.
The arguments do away with what we value more than the Ideas: they make number prior to the dyad, the relative to the absolute; and they open the doors to all those later developments which conflict with the very principles of the theory.
If the Forms are participated, there can be Ideas of substances only; for they are not participated as accidents of a subject that is directly shared in and none can be participated except in so far as it is not predicated of a subject. So, the Forms must be substances. But the same words must denote substance in the sensible as in the Ideal world. Otherwise what is the relation between the two worlds?
The main difficulty: What do the Forms contribute either to eternal or to transient sensibles? For, (i) they cause no motion or change in them; (ii) since they are not in them, they are not their substance, and therefore, contribute nothing either to the knowledge of them or to their being.
To call the Forms ‘patterns’ and to assent that other things ‘participate’ in them is to take an empty metaphor, for there can be different patterns of one and the same thing. Thus, the species will be the pattern of the individuals, but the genus will be the pattern of the species, so that one and the same thing will be both pattern and copy.
It is manifestly impossible for that which is the ‘substance’ of a thing to exist apart from it. How then can the ideas, which are supposed to be the substances of things, exist apart from them?
If formsare numbers, in what sense are they causes? If it is because things inthis world are other numbers, then how does one set of numbers cause the other. Notwithstanding that the former is eternal and the latter not?
One number may be composed of several other numbers, but how can one Form be composed of several other Forms? If it is produced not from numbers, but from units in them, in what relation will the units stand to one another?
How are the intermediates derived? Why should they be considered intermediate between things here and ideal numbers?
Each unit in the number two comes from a previous two, which is impossible.
What constitutes the unity of the one number understood collectively?
If the units are dissimilar, they should be names, just as those who assume two or four elements name them; and if there is absolute One, the word ‘One’ must have a variety of meanings. But this is impossible.
While tracing substance from their princicples, we Platonists derive lines from long and short. But how can the plane contain a line or the solid a plane? Thus, the argument which established the line established a point.
The Platonists have abandoned the search for the causes of sensible phenomena.
The Forms have no connection with the final cause, with which sciences are concerned.
How can we obtain knowledge of the objects of a given sense unless we possess that sense? And yet it should be possible, if the elements of which all things consist are the same.
Aristotle’s realism forms itself through the criticism of Platonic arguments. His main criticism was that Plato unnecessarily thought that the universals exist outside the things and separately. The particulars get their names because of their universals and are bound by them in a way of participation or imitation. But participation is not possible because
If one Idea participates in many sensibles, then it will be divided. In that case, an Idea will exist apart from itself, which is absurd.
The source of Idea will remain inexplicable, because of its division:
If the Idea participates in contrary attributes, then contrary attributes belong to it at the same time. If it does not participate in them, then we cannot account for different attributes.
Thus, the root cause of the matter lies in the relation of participation. The Third-Man Argument is developed from the lacunae in the argument of participation.
What Exactly is the Argument of Third–Man?
Aristotle has coined this term. “If that which is predicated truly of several things also exists in separation from these, there will be a Third-Man. For, if the predicate ‘Man’ is different from its subject and exists independently of them, and the predicate Man is used in the context of both the particular men and of the Idea of man, there will be a Third Man apart from both particular men and the Idea. Similarly, there will be a fourth man predicated both of the third man, particulars and idea, and similarly a fifth, and so on, ad infinitum.”
Plato’s formulation of this argument in Parmenidesis very much similar to that of Aristotle, though chronologically it belongs to an earlier date. Parmenides also mentions the uselessness and infinite regress involved in the argument for Ideas. Two factors are held responsible for the rise of this argument.
The dilemma of participation, i.e., whether the whole or the part of an Idea is participated in the thing
The assumption that as Ideas are separate from sensibles, sensibles are also separate from Ideas.
The latter presumption is found both in the Parmenides, and in the Metaphysics.
Parmenides starts off with the defense that Ideas are paradigms and participation is only possible with resemblance. Thus, the dilemma of participation resolves itself, since the Ideas are not in their participants. Parmenides, the dialogue, does not stop there, but comes up with further arguments, which are as follows:
The Symmetry Assumption: If the participant is like the Idea, then the Idea is like the participant. Continual generation of a new character will never stop if the character happens to be like what has a share of it.
The One-over-Many Premise: If one thing is like another, those two things must have a share of one and the same Idea. Therefore, it is necessary, that that of which like things have share, so as to be like, should be the Idea itself.
The Likeness Regress: It is impossible for anything to be like the Idea or the Idea like anything else; otherwise another idea will turn up beside the first, if the Idea is like what has a share of it, and so on, ad infinitum. Hence, the claim that participation is resemblance implies the regress. If the regress is absurd, then the premises leading to it must also be rejected.
The Third-Man: If a and b are like in respect of c, then a is like c and c like a in respect of d, and so on. This regress requires some further Idea at every stage but does not specify what further Idea at any stage. Thus, the Ideas are present only where things are like in some respect. In a way, the argument implies the limitation of extent.
Thus, the mistake of Third-Man is committed in the attempt of solving the dilemma of Participation. As in all philosophical problem, we should not look for solutions of the problems, but to know how the problems are presented. Here we see that Aristotelian presentation of this problem is in coherence with the Platonic presentation. So, the data is the same, only the form is different. The essence of the argument is the same, only the framework different. Hence, the critics might face another question, as to why Aristotle is given the credit of this argument, when the origin is placed right back in Plato. But we will not go into this problem for the time-being. Instead, we will move to the understanding of some contemporary scholars on this issue.
SomeContemporary Reflections onthe Third Man Argument
We may pick up the work of Gregory Vlastos as representative to his era. He talks about the Third-Man Argument, while focusing his attention on the Parmenides. He deals more with the technical grounds of the argument as devised in the Parmenides than with the essence of the argument or with the argument as a whole. No doubt, he considers the argument as impressive and instructive, but fatal. Let us have a brief review of his understanding of the argument.
Out of his two essays, Vlastos divides the first essay, in Text and Logic of the Parmenides. In the first part of the essay, he says the unity of Forms is being taken for granted in the Parmenides. When the talk is actually about participation, there is not much discussion about it, i.e., when Parmenides asks Socrates, if there exist certain Forms by participation in which the other things get their names, e.g., similar by participating in similarity, etc.
Further, Vlastos constructs a logical hypothesis which he says would be refuted in the Third-Man Argument:
If any set of things share a given character, then there exists a unique Form corresponding to that character, and each of these things has that character by participating in that Form.
A) a, b, c are F.
B) There exists a unique Form (which we may call F-ness) corresponding to the character ‘F’ and a,b,c are F by participating in F-ness.
If a, b, c and F-ness are F, then there exists a unique Form (which we may call F-ness II) corresponding to F, but not identical with F-ness, and a, b, c and F-ness are F by participating in F-ness II.
2. a) a, b, c, and F-ness are F.
2. b) There exists a unique Form (which we may call F-ness II) corresponding to F, but not identical with F-ness; and a, b c and F-ness are F by participating in F-ness II.
If Parmenides can go as far as 2. B, he will have refuted the claim of the Third-Man. “If one, then infinitely many” is so much more impressive, than ‘if only one then two’ though the latter is as fatal to the refutand as is the former, says Vlastos.
The second essay of Gregory Vlastos talks about the Third-Man Argument in a more definite way. The logical formulation of his argument is as follows:
The First Version:
1) If a number of things a, b, and c are all F, there must be a single Form F-ness in virtue of which we apprehend a, b, c as all F. The difficulty here is that another Form will always appear on the scene.
2) If a, b, c and F-ness are all F, then there must be another Form, F-ness, in virtue of which we apprehend a, b, c and F-ness are all F. To make this argument sound and legitimate, we need the self-predication assumption (A. 3)
3) Any form can be predicated of itself F-ness is itself F.
4) Non-identity assumption: If anything has a certain character,it cannot be identical with the Form in virtue of which we apprehend the character. If X is F, X cannot be identical with the Form in virtue of which we apprehend the character. If X is F, X cannot be identical with F-ness.
5) If F-ness is F, F-ness cannot be identical with F-ness.
5a) If any particular has a certain character, then it cannot be identical with the Form in virtue of which we apprehend that character.
Vlastos picks up the argument numbered A.5a, and claims that a, b, c are all apprehended as F in virtue of F-ness itself. The existence of F-ness would remain unproved, so also the existence of all subsequent Forms. The infinite regress would not materialize. Therefore, he blames Plato for not having identified all the necessary arguments leading to the second argument in the Third-Man, which is the main source. Thereby Plato reveals his innocence of all the necessary arguments as well as his uncertainly about the validity of Third-Man Argument.
Finally, the problem still remains as to how do we account for the fact that Plato does not seem to see the Third-Man Argument as fatal to philosophical outlook in the way Aristotle does. We have seen that it has been the fashion to judge Plato’s theory from Aristotle’s perspective. The arguments presented in this essay earlier have been integral arguments and they try to catch Plato in words on technical grounds. But they do not take the argument as a whole into account knowing the essence of Plato’s arguments and knowing the consistency of this theory in Platonic philosophy. We would like to take a different stand, in order to defend Plato on his own merit.
The philosophical force of a logical thesis is partly determined by the conceptual framework in which it is made. Its corollaries are:
The same logical thesis may be made in different conceptual systems.
The force of the thesis depends on the kind of system in which it is made.
Thus, it is necessary to understand the theory in its own framework. Hence, we will consider our method more clearly, so that the way we handle this Platonic problem will be absolutely unambiguous.
The nature of the conceptual system or framework is determined by
The formulation of the basic problem/s,
The methodological presupposition/s,
The type of regulative analogies or metaphors around which it is built up.
This method will yield results to our problem, on thorough examination of Plato and Aristotle’s outlook along with these three dimensions. So now, without going into the details of their philosophies, let us consider the crux of the matter.
Formulation of the Basic Issue:
Plato’s metaphysics is linked with his epistemology. His understanding of Reality can be put forth in the following manner: “Given that mind can have knowledge (episteme) of reality, what should reality be like? It is very well agreed that the soul has episteme and episteme is essentially different from doxai.” Thus, Plato approaches Reality from the standpoint of man. His process is anthropocentric.
His theory of knowledge is a good proof for his argument that the soul has episteme. The very life of Socrates is a live instance of it. As we find the reference in the dialogue Apology that even the Gods regarded Socrates as the wisest of all men. Secondly, Plato talks about two conditions of knowledge, namely the universality and certainty. And only Forms could fulfil these two conditions. Thus, Plato gives stress on the impossibility of relativism in the process of knowledge, i.e., there is no knowledge of particulars, since knowledge is permanent, whereas particulars are not.
The second important argument is that the episteme is different from doxai. Knowledge is related to our mental ability, though it is knowledge of something, whereas beliefs are related to the things, though they are beliefs in our mind. Knowledge enriches our mental power, whereas beliefs only make us well-informed. Just as there is only one mind, knowledge can also be only singular. Whether it is knowledge of one Form or many, it is the power of mind or soul to be capable of grasping their nature. In short, the argument is supported by the two factors, namely, (1) conceptual analysis of knowing and believing and (2) anthropological presupposition that a distinct power has distinct objects. This was the review of Plato’s outlook towards the problem.
When we go to Aristotle, we find the whole approach is reversed in a certain manner. The Aristotelian understanding of Reality would be –
‘Given that the world is what it is in common experience how should we understand man’. Thus, the Aristotelian problem would be how to understand man. His approach is from reality towards man, i.e., cosmocentric.
Thus, the methods of these two great philosophers are exactly reversed and opposite of each other.
Aristotle deals with this problem on three levels, viz, epistemological, logical and metaphysical. The epistemological explanation of the above argument is the primacy of sense perception in the process of knowledge. Aristotle agrees that we have knowledge of universals. But the universals are not outside the things; we know them, when we perceive the things. So, the actual perception is essential. The logical point would be the way every individual thing is treated as a primary substance. Every substance has two aspects – matter and form. The one without the other is an abstraction and unreal. These properties make the thing what it is and just this particular thing and not another thing. The metaphysical aspect is that the reality of change or becoming implies the notions of potency and actuality. In order to understand the development of substance, we have to reinterpret matter and form as potentiality and actuality. We can explain it with an illustration as, the acorn is the potentiality of there being an oak tree and the oak tree is the actuality of the acorn.
The Methodological Presuppositions:
Plato: The order of being is modelled on the order of the soul. What is primary to soul is also primary in reality.
The myth of divided line, the Form of the Good and the myth of the Sun are the best examples to illustrate the point. In Platonic philosophy, myths are designed to say what is too subtle and elusive to be said. The myth of divided line explains the notion of ascent and the placement of different souls in a hierarchical order. The Form of the Good shows us the ultimate point a human being could reach and be pure. Like the Sun, the Form of the Good illumines and makes our level of knowledge meaningful. These myths are based on human experiences and are also applicable to the reality. Plato makes full use of the capacity of human being and by drawing our attention to the highest aspiration, he also draws the limits of reality. We find the same idea later in Wittgenstein also, when he says, “the limits of our language are the limits of our world.”
Aristotle: The distinction between order of being and order of knowing; the first in itself should also be the first for us. Knowing as an adaptation to being is conditioned by the natural powers of the soul.
As we saw earlier, the Platonic approach towards Reality is anthropocentric. He thinks in terms of the requirements of the human soul and the ways to its satisfaction. According to his distinction, the sensible or the actuality of sense-experience lies at the lower level, whereas the true Reality or Ideal Being stands on the higher order of Reality, which alone is capable of satisfying the demands of the soul.
On the other hand, Aristotle’s cosmocentric point of view states that the man is knower. Man has the natural potency to understand the development as an actualization. This understanding of actual on the part of sense-experience is also ideal, since it corresponds to the reality. It is only in understanding that we can divide reality into matter and form, and also be capable of thinking them as separated substances, which in actuality they are not. Thus, the mind knows the world and itself becomes the expression of the world.
We can account for the basic difference between Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy to the basic temperamental difference between the two of them. Both of them were mainly concerned with the problem of how to understand reality. Plato took the support of epistemology in order to build his metaphysical theory. Aristotle was also a realist. But he made efforts to correct Plato’s theory of epistemology, in order to have his theory of realism. Plato was an idealist and found all the answers in the utopian, but perfect solutions. He constructed the ideal theory of other world but was not much bothered with the fact whether it was practically possible, whereas Aristotle was a down to earth practical person. He could not see the sense in the other world theory. For him, the world of our experience was not a remove from the real world, but the real world itself. Therefore, he tried to rationalize the problem of this world, with the assumption that this world is real. And therefore, we find the explanation for change, growth, becoming, development and embodiment in his philosophy, whereas the terminology in Plato is totally different. For him, the world is static, because the ideals cannot accept any change, since they are perfect in themselves. Therefore, the purity, simplicity, perfection and immutability of Forms are the ways of how we explain the nature of Forms and thereby the world. This is the reason why Plato always derives his examples from mathematics, which is the absolute and perfect science. Aristotle finds his illustrations in biology with imperfect but growing and living entities. Hence it is very natural that Platonic utopian approach would clash with Aristotle’s realistic approach. To summarize, Plato understands actual as standing after the Ideal or as one step removed from reality. Aristotelian outlook is exactly reversed, the ideal is to be understood as what the actual is capable of, i.e., giving substantial importance and primacy to the existence of this world.
By – Ashwini A. Mokashi
Department of Philosophy, University of Poona, Pune 411007 – Year 1990
Published in the ‘INDIAN PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY’, 17 (1990) PP 1-16
 Gajendragadkar, K. V.: Aristotle’s Critique of Platonism, p 70
 Aristotle: edited by Hutchins, R.M. Britannica Great Works, Volume I, p. 208
उपनिषदांचा अभ्यास हा आपला खूप मोठा ठेवा आहे. आपली संस्कृती समजण्यात आणि जपण्यात मराठी लोकं नेहमीच अग्रेसर असतात. त्यामुळे प्रत्येक नवीन पिढीला आपल्या संस्कृतीचा वारसा सोपवणे आणि त्यांना आपल्या भारतीय असण्याचा अभिमान निर्माण करणे, या सगळ्या बाबी यात ओघाने येतातच. हे वाचताना त्या वाङ्मयाचे सौंदर्य पण अनुभवता येते. महत्त्वाची बारा उपनिषदे इसवीसनापूर्वी लिहिली गेली आणि ती पिढ्यानपिढ्या पाठांतर करून शिकविली जायची. हिंदू आणि बुद्ध धर्माची बीजेपण उपनिषदात आढळतात. धर्मांच्या अगोदरचे हे जे लिखाण आहे, त्यात धर्माची व्याख्या नसल्यामुळे यात सामाजिक अथवा धार्मिक भेदाभेद असण्याचा प्रश्न येत नाही.
उपनिषदांवर बऱ्याच अभ्यासकांनी लेखन केले आहे. त्यापैकीच एक महान लेखक होते प्राध्यापक रा. द. रानडे. त्यांचे पुस्तक ‘अ कंस्ट्रक्टिव्ह सर्वे ऑफ द उपनिषदीक फिलॉसॉफी’ इंग्लिशमध्ये आहे. ‘उपनिषदरहस्य’ हा त्याचा अनुवाद आहे. अनुवादकार होते प्राध्यापक कृ वे गजेंद्रगडकर. १९२६ ला प्रसिद्ध झालेले हे पुस्तक लवकरच खूप मान्यता पावले आणि उपनिषदांच्या अभ्यासात अग्रगण्य समजले गेले. या पुस्तकाच्या आधारे आपण आज उपनिषदांच्या साहाय्याने एकाकीपणाचा कसा ऱ्हास होऊ शकतो याचा विचार करूया.
आजचा समाज धर्म, जाती आणि वेगवेगळे isms यात खूप अडकून पडतो आणि पदोपदी आपल्याला त्याचा प्रत्यय येतो. कुणाशी मैत्री जोडताना आपण आधी खात्री करून घेतो की त्या व्यक्तीचे आणि आपले विचार जुळतात का नाही, त्यांचा धर्म कुठला, त्यांचे राजकारणावरचे विचार कुठले, सामाजिक विषयांवर त्यांना काय वाटते, त्यांची आर्थिक परिस्थिती कशी आहे, समाजात त्याच्याबद्दल काय समज आहेत, आपल्याला त्यांचा फायदा होईल का नाही, ते आपल्याबद्दल काय विचार करतील. अशा सगळ्या आपणच निर्माण केलेल्या अटींमुळे इतरांपर्यंत पोचायला आणि समान विचारांचे मित्रमैत्रिणी शोधायला फार वेळ लागतो. याने एकाकीपण वाढते आणि त्रास होऊन शारीरिक आणि मानसिक आजार बळावतात. बरेचदा कुटुंबात राहून देखील लोकांना एकाकीपणाची जाणीव होते. शिवाय नोकरीच्या निमित्ताने देखील बऱ्याचवेळा आपल्या माणसांपासून दूर राहावे लागते. या सगळ्या कसोटींचा सामना करताना त्या गोष्टींच्या पलीकडे जाऊन मार्ग शोधण्यासाठी आपल्याला या प्राचीन संस्कृतीचा अभ्यास करणे उपयोगी ठरते. ते कसे तर, तिथे जीवनाच्या मूल्यांचा विचार आहे आणि ती कालाबाधीत असल्याने आजही ती ताजीतवानी वाटतात. त्यामुळे कुठला सापेक्ष विचार न करता आयुष्यात कुठल्या गोष्टी महत्त्वाच्या आहेत आणि त्या सर्वांना कशा लागू पडतात, याचे मार्गदर्शन होते.
ईश उपनिषदात सांगितल्याप्रमाणे ‘यस्मिन सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभुद्विजानतः’ ह्या मंत्राचा अर्थ प्रत्येक मानव साधन नसून साध्य आहे असे त्याने मानले पाहिजे. दुसऱ्याचा वापर कसा होईल असा विचार न करता त्या व्यक्तीमुळे आपले जीवन जास्त समृद्ध झाले आहे, अशी भावना ठेवल्याने सर्वांप्रती आदर वाटू लागतो. (पान क्र ६-७) त्यामुळे लोकांशी मैत्री करणे, त्यांच्याबद्दल आपुलकी वाटणे, अडीअडचणीला समजून घेणे किंवा आपपरभाव कमी होणे, हे सर्व शक्य होते. सर्व जीव हे आत्म्याचे रूप असतात, म्हणजेच आपल्यात आणि इतरांत एकच आत्मतत्त्व निवास करत असते. ही गोष्ट लक्षात आली की आपण दुसऱ्याचा विचार करताना त्याची जात, धर्म, रंग, आर्थिक स्थिती यांचा विचार ना करता आपण त्यांच्या परिस्थितीत कसे वागू, याचा विचार करू लागतो.
मला स्वतःला उपनिषदांचे तत्त्वज्ञान फार आकर्षित करते. आत्मतत्त्व म्हणजे काय, त्याचा शोध कसा घ्यायचा, स्वतःची ओळख कशी करून घ्यायची, आपल्यालाच जर स्वतःची ओळख नसेल, तर आपण दुसऱ्याला आपली मते कशी सांगणार? आपल्याबद्दलच्या गैरसमजुती कशा दूर करणार? आपले मत नक्की केव्हा तयार होते किंवा केव्हा पक्के होते, हे आपण कसे ठरवणार. बहुतांशी आपल्याला आपली स्वतःची ओळख असणे हे जरुरीचे असतेच. त्याशिवाय आपली जडणघडण होऊच शकत नाही. स्वतःची ओळख जशीजशी जास्त खोलात जाऊन होईल त्याप्रमाणेच आपली स्वतःचे समर्थन करण्याची, आत्मिक उन्नती आणि समाधान मिळवायची, एकाकीपणा नाहीसा करण्याची आणि जीवनातले चढउतार पार पाडण्याची क्षमतापण वाढत जाते. या आणि अशा बऱ्याच प्रश्नांची उत्तरे मिळवण्यासाठी त्यामागची भूमिका समजून घेणे जरुरी आहे. उपनिषदात अशा तात्त्विक प्रश्नांची बरीच चर्चा आहे.
सोहम किंवा ‘सः अहं ‘ हे उपनिषदातले महत्त्वाचे तत्त्व आहे. याचा अर्थ असा की सः म्हणजे ते ब्रह्म, हे अहं म्हणजे माझ्यात सामावलेले आहे आणि हे समजून घेणे म्हणजेच आत्मतत्त्व समजून घेणे आणि ते समजून घेण्यासाठी भक्ती मार्गाने ध्यान करून किंवा ज्ञानमार्गाने विचार करून आणि कर्म मार्गाने योग्य काम करून, आपली आपल्याशी ओळख करून घेणे. आत्मतत्त्व समजून घेऊन मोक्षापर्यंत त्याची वाटचाल कशी होते, याचे मार्गदर्शन या उपनिषदातील मंत्रात आढळते. जेव्हा आत्मा ब्रह्मात विलीन होतो, तेव्हा मोक्षप्राप्ती होते. व्यावहारिक दृष्टीने बघायचे झाले तर समोरच्या माणसाला एक आत्मा या नात्याने आदराने आणि सन्मानाने वागणे, हे समजून येते.
केन उपनिषदात आत्म्याचे अस्तित्त्व समजून घेण्यासाठी अंगी नम्रता असणे खूप जरुरीचे सांगितले आहे. जर नम्रता नसेल, तर आपल्याला आत्म्याचे ज्ञान होत नाही. आपल्याला खूप अजून शिकायचे आहे, हि भावना असल्याशिवाय काही नवीन शिकता येत नाही. मैत्रीचे पण गणित असेच आहे. जर आपण नम्रपणे किंवा आदराने दुसऱ्याला वागवले नाही, तर कोणी आपल्याशी मैत्री करणार नाही. ही मूल्ये अंगी बाणावी यासाठी पण कदाचित हा उपदेश केला असेल. (पान क्र ३६)
छांदोग्य आणि मैत्री उपनिषदात मनाचे महत्त्व सांगितले आहे. मन हे सर्वांचे उगमस्थान आहे. मनुष्य मनानेच पाहतो व ऐकतो. (पान क्र ११३) आपले लक्ष नसेल, तर डोळ्यासमोरची गोष्ट देखील जशी नजरेत भरत नाही, त्याप्रमाणेच डोळ्याने बघून देखील मनाची साथ नसेल, तर न दिसल्यासारखेच होते. आपल्या मनात असलेल्या भावना या सगळ्या मनाच्या नियंत्रणाखाली असल्याने कशाची भीती वाटून घ्यायची आणि कशाचे कौतुक वाटून घ्यायचे, हे पण आपल्या हातीच असते. मनावर बुद्धीचे नियंत्रण असल्याने बुद्धीचा वापर करून आपण चांगला निर्णय घेऊ शकतो. अर्थात हे सर्व वाटते तितके सोपे कधीच नसते. जसजसा आपला चांगले निर्णय घेण्याचा सराव वाढत जातो, त्याप्रमाणे आपला आत्मविश्वास, आत्मसम्मान आणि आत्मप्रेम वाढीस लागते. याला काही लोक अध्यात्मातील उन्नती असे देखील मानतात. ध्यानाने आणि सुविचाराने सुद्धा या गोष्टींचा सराव वाढू शकतो. अशा सरावाने आपल्याला अंतरात्म्याची ओळख वाढून काही गोष्टी वेगळ्या स्तरावरपण कळू लागतात. उदाहरणार्थ कोणाला आपण आवडतो आणि कोणाला आवडत नाही, हे कळायला आपण आपल्या मनाशी संवाद साधून पण समजू शकतो. कोण आपल्याशी खरे बोलत आहे आणि कोण दुटप्पीपणे वागत आहे, याचे ज्ञान पण होऊ शकते. त्याप्रमाणेच आपण एकटे नाही, आपल्या पाठीमागे आत्मतत्त्व खंबीर उभे आहे, याची जाणीव होऊन एकटेपणा किंवा भीती वाटणे हे कमी होते. याचा अर्थ असा नव्हे कि आपण व्यावहारिक पद्धतीने आपली काळजी घेऊ नये, पण याचा अर्थ असा होतो की जेव्हा आपल्याला आपलं स्वतःचे स्थान समजू लागते, तेव्हा आपले जीवन आनंदाने बहरून जाते आणि आपली दिनचर्या सुखकर होते.
मुंडकोपनिषदातले एक उदाहरण देताना प्रा. रानडे म्हणतात की एका वृक्षावर जीव आणि ब्रह्म राहात असतात. जीवाला नेहमी आपण निर्बल आहोत असे वाटून दुःख व्हायचे. पण जेव्हा त्याचे ब्रह्माशी ऐक्य होते, तेव्हा तोसुद्धा अनंत शक्तीचा वाटेकरी असल्याचे त्याला जाणवते. (पान क्र २९६) तेव्हा त्याचे दुःख नाहीसे होऊन त्याला अपरिमित आनंद होतो. तशीच जेव्हा आपल्याला जाणीव होते, कि आपण एकटे नाही. आपण या सृष्टीचा भाग आहोत, आपल्या जीवनाचा हेतू सफल करण्याचा प्रयत्न आपण केला, कि आपण आनंदी होतो. तेव्हा आपल्याला चिंता ग्रासत नाहीत, किंवा एकटेपण खायला उठत नाही. त्यामुळे उपनिषदांचा सल्ला घेऊन आपण संयमाने, धैर्याने आणि नीतीने जीवनाला सामोरे जातो, तेव्हा ज्ञान आणि आनंदाचा अनुभव घेण्यास पात्र होतो.
Thank you, Dr. Linda Brown Holt, an author of fiction and non-fiction books for your kind review!
In Sapiens and Sthitaprajña, Ashwini Mokashi has written a brilliant analysis and comparison of two philosophies from different parts of the world: the stoicism of the Western philosopher Seneca (Roman 1 BCE to 65 CE) and the teachings of the Indian text, the Bhagavad Gita (ca. 400 BCE to 200 CE).
Mokashi has distilled the key ideas from these two works and presented them in ways that every thoughtful person can appreciate and enjoy. Her scholarly background has enabled the author to penetrate to the core of each work’s message, where she finds a unifying call for the cultivation and practice of wisdom in society at large and in our individual lives.
Wisdom may, in fact, be the one element missing today in our social discourse. Government officials and members of popular movements alike demonstrate every day that they have mastered the arts of contentiousness, disregard for the truth, and have the ability to spin information with the ease and facility of a skilled magician. But where is the wisdom that should be at the heart of their thoughts and deliberations? Do we need leaders who are wise people? Or are we content to be led by “wise guys”?
Using easy-to-understand language, Mokashi provides clear descriptions of Seneca and his time as well as the setting and meaning of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most cherished works of Indian spiritual philosophy. She answers the question, “What is stoicism?”, and suggests ways, based on these ancient teachings, through which we can improve ourselves and the world around us.
The title of this book refers to the “Sapiens” in Roman philosophy, a wise person who is moderate in his or her habits and thinks before acting. The “Sthitaprajña” refers to one who is firm in judgment and wisdom. Although these ideals come from different parts of the world, the stoic teachings of Seneca and the author of the Gita have a shared universal ring of truth. Through moderation, kindness, and dedication, we, too, can experience a greater sense of unity and purpose in our lives, and pass that on to a world in need of ancient wisdom that is tried and true.
–Dr. Linda Brown Holt, author of Viewing Meister Eckhart through the Bhagavad Gita
2020 Projects Preview: – A course at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton ‘Wisdom Leads to Happiness’ to run from February to April 2020 – Research Continues on Meditation and Bhakti project covering Saints-literature in India from the 12th to 19th centuries in three languages – Marathi, Hindi and Kannada
Honors and Awards – Thank you Princeton Research Forum for the Francis Hutner Travel Grant 2019- Memorial Talk at the Bhandarkar Institute in Pune, April 17, 2019 – Op-Eds published in Indian Express and Loksatta – Indian newspapers with highest circulation- Informal discussions with the Hindu scholars at Oxford University – Talks in New Delhi, India and Princeton, NJ- Informal Talk at Florence, Italy – Many reviews published of the book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ – The blog readership upwards of 600 in three months since starting.
Thank you Readers, for being a part of this project to spread Happiness and Wisdom about life through Philosophy!
मानवी इतिहासामध्ये संपूर्ण पृथ्वीवरील प्रत्येकजण आनंदाचा आणि सुखाचा पाठपुरावा करतो. जगातील सर्वत्र प्रचलित असलेल्या या पाठपुराव्यासंदर्भात काही सत्ये असली पाहिजेत हे गृहीत धरून मी या विषयावरील प्राचीन तत्त्वज्ञानाकडे वळले. सुखाचा रस्ता सुज्ञ आणि नैतिक निवडीतून जाईल, याची मला कल्पनाही नव्हती. जर ते प्राचीन तत्त्ववेत्तांसाठी खरे होते तर ते अजूनही सत्य आहे का? जीवनाच्या काही मूलभूत तत्त्वांपर्यंत पोचण्यासाठी आपल्याला विविध अडथळ्यांना पार करणे शक्य आहे का, ज्यामुळे आपल्याला एक चांगले जीवन जगता येईल?
ग्रीक / रोमन तत्त्वज्ञानातील ‘सेपियन्स’, आणि गीता-उपनिषदांच्या भारतीय तत्वज्ञानात ‘स्थितप्रज्ञ ’ या नावाने ओळखल्या जाणार्या मानवाचा आदर्श पुढे येतो. त्यांनी आम्हाला प्रदान केलेल्या जीवन सुकर करणाऱ्या साधनांमध्ये पुढील तत्त्वे आढळतात – आपल्या परिस्थितीपासून अलिप्त राहणे, सखोल विचार करून योग्य निर्णय घेणे, आपल्या विचारांना आणि कल्पनांना तपासून घेऊन त्यांचे विश्लेषण करणे , स्वतःवर किंवा इतरांवर अन्याय न करता नैतिक रीतीने वागणे, आपल्या नकारात्मक भावनांवर विशेषतः राग, शोक आणि चिंता यांवर नियंत्रण मिळवणे, काही अपरिहार्य गोष्टी निसर्गाचा नियम म्हणून स्वीकारणे आणि सर्वात महत्त्वाचे म्हणजे निसर्गाचे कायदे, विज्ञानाची तथ्ये आणि आपली भावनिक रचना समजून घेणे. जेव्हा हे एक अशक्य काम आहे असे वाटते, तेव्हा जसे अर्जुनाने गीतेतील भगवान श्रीकृष्णाशी सल्लामसलत केली, याचा विचार करावा; किंवा सॉक्रेटिसने बाजारपेठेतील इतर तथाकथित सुज्ञ लोकांचा सल्ला घेतला आणि सॉक्रॅटिक पद्धतीने विचारपूस करुन त्यांच्या तथाकथित विचारांना कसे आव्हान दिले, त्याचा विचार करावा आणि आपले विचार तपासून पाहावेत.
या मार्गावरील मुख्य अडथळे म्हणजे भावनाग्रस्त होणे किंवा नकारात्मक भावना अंगीकारणे. आजकाल आपण बघतो की तरुण लोकांना चिंता, नैराश्य आणि उदासिनता खूप सतावते. कधी आपण एखादी मोठी संधी गमावल्यामुळे किंवा कधी पराभूत झाल्याने असे वाटणे साहजिक आहे. जे कामात अपयशी ठरतात, त्यांच्या बाबतीत हे औदासिन्य नजरेस येते, परंतु जे अत्यंत यशस्वी आहेत त्यांच्या बाबतीतही हे घडू शकते . त्याचे कारण असे आहे की कोणत्याही प्रकारची नकारघंटा स्वीकार करणे कठीण जाते. ही नकारघंटा कधी आपल्या कारकीर्दीत आपल्या कामाच्या ठिकाणी ऐकू येते, तर कधी आपल्या कुटुंबात किंवा आपल्या प्रेम-जीवनात ऐकू येते. अशा वेळेला थोडे परिस्थितीपासून दूर जाऊन, थोडा अलिप्तपणे विचार केला की नव्याने त्या परिस्थितीकडे बघण्यास, आपली नवीन ध्येय निश्चित करण्यास आणि ते ध्येय योग्य आहे की नाही हे ठरवण्यास मदत होईल. म्हणून अलिप्तपणे आणि धोरणात्मक विचारसरणीमुळे आपल्याला योग्य काय आणि अयोग्य काय, हे समजायला मदत होईल. ते शहाणपण आहे. गीतेमध्ये हे ‘वैराग्य’ आणि स्टोइसिझम मध्ये ते ‘आपेथिया’ या नावाने ओळखले जाते. अलिप्तपणा शिकणे किंवा शिकवणे खूप अवघड आहे परंतु तरीही जीवनातील चढउतारांत अलिप्त राहणे आणि शांत राहणे हे फारच गरजेचे आहे, अन्यथा उलथापालथ झाल्याशिवाय राहणार नाही.
तसं बघायला गेलं तर ,आपण आता एका जागतिक खेड्यात राहत आहोत, जिथे वेगवेगळ्या ठिकाणाहून लोकं येतात आणि कायमचे वास्तव्य करतात. कुठल्याही शहरी भागात काही लोकं तिथले रहिवासी असतात आणि काही दुसरीकडून आलेले असतात. त्यामुळे कल्पनांची देवाणघेवाण होते आणि संस्कृतीचे मिश्रण नेहमीच आढळते. पण त्यामुळे सर्व प्रकारचे संभ्रम पण वाढतात. कुठल्या पद्धती योग्य आणि कुठल्या अयोग्य या गोंधळांतून मार्ग काढण्यासाठी मूल्यांवर आधारित, तत्त्वांवर आधारित परिस्थिती निर्माण करून, जिथे सार्वत्रिक मूल्यांवर सहमती दिली जाते, तिथे जीवनाचा सूर गवसतो. त्या दृष्टीने तुलनात्मक तत्त्वज्ञान फार उपयुक्त ठरते, विशेषत: जेव्हा पौर्वात्य आणि पाश्चिमात्य प्राचीन ग्रंथ कोणत्या मूल्यांचा पाठपुरावा करावा हे सांगतात आणि सर्वांसाठी चांगले जीवन कसे जगावे या मुद्द्यांवर त्यांचे एकमत झालेले दिसते, तेव्हा तिथे तथ्य आहे हे लक्षात येते. गीता आणि स्टोइक सेनेका यांच्या ‘ज्ञानी’ व्यक्तीच्या संकल्पनेत उल्लेखनीय साम्य आढळून येते , यासाठी योग्य कृती ठरविण्याकरिता बौद्धिक अचूकपणाचा वापर करणे (ज्ञानमार्ग) आवश्यक आहे, त्यानंतर योग्य कृती अंमलात आणणे (कर्ममार्ग) आणि सर्वांना नीट समजून देणे हे फायदेशीर ठरेल.
आपल्या बोलण्यामध्ये आणि कृतीमध्ये जेव्हा साधर्म्य असते, त्याचबरोबर सकारात्मक भावनांचा वापर किंवा नकारात्मक भावनांचा अभाव असतो, तेव्हा मनाची शांती आणि आनंदाची स्थिती निर्माण होते. आपण जितके अधिक त्या प्रकारे राहण्याचा प्रयत्न करतो, तितका जास्त प्रमाणात आनंद घेत असतो. हा सिद्धांत इच्छापूर्तीच्या कल्पनेपेक्षा भिन्न आहे. आनंदी होण्यासाठी संपत्ती, आरोग्य, सौंदर्य आणि मजेची उद्दीष्टे पूर्ण केल्याने आपल्याला थोडाफार क्षणिक आनंद होईल आणि एका विशिष्ट वयात ते महत्वाचे सुद्धा आहे, परंतु दीर्घकाळपर्यंत तणावरहीत आणि सुखी होण्याचा ज्ञान मार्ग हा नाही. ज्ञान मार्गाने मिळालेल्या सुखाचे अनुसरण करताना, आपल्या विचारांना सतत तपासून घेतले पाहिजे, धोरणात्मक असले पाहिजे आणि आपल्या कृतीच्या दीर्घकालीन परिणामाबद्दल विचार केला पाहिजे. उदाहरणार्थ, आपल्या स्वप्नातील कार विकत घेतल्यामुळे जर बरेच वर्षे दिवाळखोरीत राहावे लागणार असेल, तर त्या कार विकत घेण्याला काही किंमत राहणार नाही. त्याचप्रमाणे एखादी उच्च पगाराची नोकरी स्वीकारली, पण त्यासाठी लागणारी मेहनत किंवा परिश्रम करण्याची आणि गरज पडल्यास प्रवास करून कामाच्या ठिकाणी एकाकी जीवन जगण्याची तयारी नसेल, तर अशी नोकरी घेणे ही योग्य संधी असू शकत नाही. अशा प्रकारे तर तम् भावाचा विचार केल्यावर लक्षात येते की, इतर काहीही नसले तरी, ज्ञान मार्गाचा अवलंब केल्याने आपल्याला आपले जीवन योग्य दिशेने नेता येईल आणि त्याचबरोबर नीतीने आणि न्यायाने वागून आपले सर्वांचे जीवन दीर्घकाळपर्यंत तणावमुक्त, सुखी आणि समृद्ध करण्याचा जास्तीतजास्त प्रयत्न करता येईल.
A happy marriage in modern times may be an oxymoron, or the institution of marriage may be on the verge of extinction looking at the divorce rates in the US. One prominent reason I see, is that a marriage tries to join two people or two families and expects them to grow and develop in that joint fashion, while keeping up with the societal norms of individuality, individual happiness, individual freedom, etc. So, if thinking about individual fulfilment is the goal, then a joint or united happiness is a contradiction in terms. If the united happiness for the two people joined in marriage is the goal, then individual freedom and individual growth and happiness constitutes a logical fallacy, also known as reductio ad absurdum. And yet, we don’t see it as a fallacy, but as something glorious to look forward to. The concept of marriage exists between not just heterosexual couples, but also homosexual couples. People spend a ton of their savings on this joyous occasion of wedding, knowing that it may lead nowhere. So, what is the compelling argument for getting married and for staying married?
One can say that the getting married part is based on attraction, falling in love, a desire to be with one’s beloved, fulfilment of a dream, a chance to shower one’s affection on someone who smiles and doesn’t frown, or just to get rid of loneliness in one’s life. Agreed. Two people are joined in love and matrimony. Now comes the part of staying together or taking decisions together and that starts to become complicated. Things start withering away even before the actual wedding, as a lot of decisions need to be made about how to get married, whom to invite, how much to spend. None of this is pleasant. Someone must give and that someone is not happy. Then there is the fiasco about how ‘we need to talk’ and how much people should be expected to ‘give’ for the sake of marriage and how much should they expect to receive for being ‘in the marriage’.
Things only go downhill from here. The future of marriage on the wedding day and beyond does not look like a happy proposition. But the whole point of being married was to seek happiness, (not to mention security, children, fulfillment of various needs with the help of one’s partner). So, where did things go wrong? Being a student of ancient wisdom, I decided to consult the wisdom experts I had studied – Stoic Seneca and the Gita – to see if I could get their help in improving the expectations in the marriage, to save this dying institution – which couldn’t have possibly survived for centuries, to rescue it from the clutches of evolutionary biologists – who believe every man will be eyeing a younger woman for replicating his gene-pool, to help all women who believe that there is a better man out there but not the one they are married to. Now to be honest, the teachings of Stoicism or that of the Gita are hardly a model of conjugal bliss, as we understand it today. Having said that, here is how I interpreted their infallible wisdom in my own fallible way:
The Gita has a five-point plan for seeking happiness as follows:
Sva-dharma or doing one’s own duty: This involves making sure that the household chores are done. For example, earning money, looking after kids or elders, whatever one’s ‘married-duties’ maybe. One is expected to not only fulfil but also excel in fulfilling one’s duties.
Shraddha or faith: It is important to have undying faith that the marriage will survive – no matter how grim the scenario is. Ignorance about problems can be blissful sometimes.
Samatvam or equanimity towards pleasure and pain: If the spouse is being very romantic, enjoy it, but remember it is not going to last. If the spouse is being miserable, ignore the other person – as that is also not going to last. Keeping the sense of humor alive at such moments goes a long way.
Anasakti or non-attachment: One decides to get married for having feelings for one’s spouse, but the marriage itself is an exercise in non-attachment. Getting too involved gives rise to dependence, lack of trust, giving them too much importance, degrading oneself in our own eyes, jealousy and an invitation to misery. By practicing non-attachment, one is safeguarding one’s sense of dignity, one’s interests, keeping options open – personal or professional, and enjoying the good moments.
Shanti or tranquility – One enjoys moments of peace, when one feels safe in the relationship. If the marriage succeeds, it is great. If not, one needs to practice using wisdom more often and emotional reactions – less so. Not to mention, it was good to still have the job, life, friends, interests, hobbies!
Now let us turn to Seneca, a Stoic philosopher. Stoics don’t think much about falling in love, but they do support marriage and Seneca himself enjoyed a faithful and good marriage. Let us see his advice for being wise and happy, and how it can be applied in the arena of marriage:
Kathekonta or appropriate actions: This requires always saying the right thing and no more. It is ok to say, the dinner was delicious. It is not ok to add, but I would have preferred it earlier or later, colder or hotter. Any such comments are forbidden, since they are not appropriate.
Oikeiosis or what belongs to oneself: This means that one needs to belong to one’s newly formed family, to one’s community – the friends that both share together, and to a wider society, including one’s own separate sphere.
Arete or virtue: Be good to one’s spouse. Remember why we chose them over the others, think about their good qualities and not those, one dislikes. Instead of criticizing, make a statement of what one feels grateful for.
Apatheia or detachment: This is the most difficult step, which requires one to stay detached, so that one doesn’t take any criticism personally. Likewise, it is also necessary to remember that the fun moments have a fleeting nature, so hold on to those memories.
Laws of nature: Understanding this requires us to understand that men will be tempted by younger and prettier women – just goes with being a man. Likewise, women will be tempted with offers of love, affection and pampering – that is what they need. So long as one is aware of the other person’s needs and there is a way to fulfil those needs, it is possible to protect one’s marriage through these traps.
Eudaimonia or Happiness: Marriage calls for joint happiness. If one accepts that joint happiness requires sacrificing some amount of individual happiness, then a ‘happy marriage’ is a possible imaginable entity. If joint happiness is not a possible goal, then ‘a happy marriage’ is a mere oxymoron. For example, a career success for one person would imply the success for both, a personal milestone of weight-loss would still mean success for both. Likewise, a job-loss would be a problem for both, investments and/or kids not doing well would be a failure for both. While there is much to gain from the joint activity, there is also much to lose in a narrow individual sense in staying together.
Hence bringing wisdom in a marriage has the capacity to make it happy, but not bringing wisdom in a marriage seems like a continuous struggle and taking chances of surviving as a couple or as a family, six of one, half a dozen of the other. Did I say it was fun?