The Two Paths of Life
“Sukha or Happiness” is the one thing that every person in this world strives for. Every action of man is directly or indirectly aimed at achieving happiness. There are two ways a person can live his life. He can either spend his whole life pursuing desires, ambitions and happiness in the external sensory world or he can turn-away from the sensory world which is temporary in a search for the eternal ever-lasting bliss.
In the former case, People work hard, pursue careers, earn money, earn fame, make family etc so that they can lead a happy life. But, in this approach one never finds contentment. Without contentment, one is always running behind one object after another which he perceives as a source of happiness. But the physical-sensory world being temporary and ever changing, happiness is never accompanied by contentment. Hence, a person in this path always ends up in disappointment and sorrow (dukkha). This path which leads a person to a never ending cycle of sukha and dukka is Pravritti Marga.
In the latter case, a person develops an understanding that the external world is temporary in nature (viveka) and hence he turns inwards in pursuance of Ananda-eternal Bliss. Because of the development of viveka, a person becomes detached and content with whatever the physical world offers him. He neither gets agitated with the dukkha the world offers nor becomes indulgent in the sukha the world offers. This path which ultimately leads to Ananda is Nivritti Marga.
Most people assume that Pravritti Marga is the path of householders and the Nivritti marga is the path of Sanyassins (Renounciates). But this may not always be so. According to Shastras, there are four Purusharthas (goals) of life- Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. A person in Pravritti Marga pursues materialistic desires (Kama) and prosperity (Artha) whereas a person in Nivritti marga pursues Moksha (Liberation), and Dharma being a common element to both the paths. A renunciate does not become Nivritti margi just by the virtue of his giving up the external world. As long as he has the notion of I-ness (Ahamkara) and Mine-ness (Mamah-Kara), a Sanyasi will be a Pravritti Margi. On the other hand, a householder will become a Nivritti Margi by giving up the doership of action while performing his worldly responsibilities. Tyaga/giving up is not “Inaction”, it is performing Karmas by giving up the doership of such performance.
Pravritti marga is about indulgence (Bhoga/Bhukti) in sensory objects and the actions performed are “Kamya/with specific desire”. This indulgence becomes “Over-Indulgence” when one forgets Dharma due to his attachment (Moha) for Kama and Artha. Whereas Nivritti marga is about turning away from sensory objects towards the Inner Self (Atman) in pursuit of Jnana and Moksha/Mukti while performing worldly duties into a “Nishkama Karma/Actions without desires”.
Liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Moksha) is not possible without Atma Jnana (Self Realization). And any spiritual goal is unattainable without Sadhana. Hence a person desiring Atma Jnana must first develop Adhikara/competencies that make him eligible to practice the Sadhana. Adi Shankaracharya says that the qualities that make one eligible for the practice of Sadhana are Viveka, Vairagya, Shatka Sampatti and Mumukshutva (1).
Viveka represents the knowledge to differentiate between the Nithyam (Eternal) and Anithya (Temporary). The Brahman/God who is Sacchidananda Swaroop is Nithya and the ever changing world which has a Srishti (Creation) and Laya (Dissolution), the whole manifestation is Anithya. A person must first learn to discriminate between the two. Vairagya refers to dispassion/detachment towards the sensory objects. When a person realizes that sensory objects give only temporary happiness and not eternal contentment, then he develops dispassion towards those objects. Only Vairagya can make a person pursue the path towards Brahman.
Shatka Sampatti refers to the six fold qualities of Shama, Dhama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana. Shama refers to Antar-Indriya Nigraha/Control of Mind and Dhama refers to Bahir-Indriya Nigraha/Control of five senses. One must develop control over ones five senses and the mind only then the mind will be able to direct itself towards God otherwise the mind will always be indulging in sensory objects. “Uparati” comes when Shama and Dhama are perfected. Uparati is a state when the Mind remains drawn away from External world and remains fixed on God spontaneously. Titiksha refers to “absence of anger/revenge”. It is a state where a person does not feel anger or revenge towards anybody else. Adi Shankaracharya defines Titaksha as “Sahanam Sarvadukham Apratikarapurvakam (2)”meaning “One must patiently bear all the sorrows without developing hate or a sense of revenge”. This is possible only when one gets an understanding that happiness and sorrow are results of one’s own past actions and hence it’s futile to blame others. Shradha refers to faith in scriptures and in one’s Guru. Samadhana refers to One-pointed fixing up of mind on Brahman. Finally Mumukshutva refers to the burning desire for Moksha.
So, a person desiring to travel the Nivritti Marga, must begin with putting his efforts in achieving these qualities without which he will not be able to achieve Atma Shakshatkara. He must learn to surrender the action, the doership of action and the fruits of actions to God. Then he must try to give up his Ahamkara and Mamah-Kara. He must recognize his Dharma and perform it with a Nishkaama attitude. He must become a Stitah-Pragya, a person unaffected by external stimulus neither by praise nor by denounciation.
- vivekino viraktasya Shamaadi guna shaalinaha| mumukshoreva hi brahmajijnasayogyata mata|| (Vivekachudamani, Verse 17)
- Vivekachudamani, Verse 24