Meaning or Worth of Human Life

Meaning or Worth of Human Life

Glancing through Bertrand Russell’s autobiography I noticed Will Durant’s letter to him written in 1931. In it he asked why after so many efforts by dozens of scholars over the centuries no one has been able convincingly to say what is the meaning of human life and what is its worth. He felt that too much thought and growth of knowledge at lightening speed have destroyed the value and significance of life.

Yet, I am sure everyone would agree that these questions are fundamental and, also, that a good answer to them can be our pole star at this troubled time. In my view a clear simple answer is possible. Let me try.

All of us are born into a garden full of trees, bushes, grass, and micro plants. All are beautiful in their own way. Some bear fragrant flowers and others delicious fruits full of nutrition to satisfy the hunger of all animals. Clean air and sweet water are provided all over the land. Millions of animal species inhabit this garden and they all play their roles. All are needed for together they form a community of life. The dung beetle is needed, and so are earthworms, mice, cats, elephants and of course us humans. Extinction of any one of them leaves a dent in the life of the community.

So we humans are needed in the community of life, and that to my mind is meaning enough in our being here. Of course we need to play our role diligently and in the right spirit.

We humans are a proud race and we unabashedly call ourselves sapiens-sapiens even when we can easily imagine that other animals and plants think differently.

Let us for now take ourselves on our own word and believe that we are in truth wise. Then it becomes imperative that we act wisely. And that means we care lovingly for all that the creator has provided. Also as members of the community of life we must be good, kind and just. Being wiser requires that we behave in an exemplary manner and be a good role model. If we remember and act wisely our worth in the eyes of the whole community will rise.

So our being has meaning enough for we are needed in the community of life to make it complete. And by living wisely we give ourselves a worth that can soar depending on the quality of our actions. This of course requires that our actions, and not just our thoughts be right.

In fact too much thought, far too many words, and lack of hands down participation in the actual day-to-day activity of the community makes us worthless. It also leads us to wrong living and destructive actions to both life and the garden in which it thrives.

Partap Aggarwal

July 16, 2011

Toxins of the Mind

Toxins of the Mind

Last week (June 30th to July 2nd 2011) I fasted for three days. There was no illness, pain, or injury to heal. It was just a routine fast to clean out toxins and tone up the body. First night, I slept lightly but woke up the following morning reasonably rested and cheerful. I drank my usual morning ration of water and lay down. The day passed quite peacefully and without discomfort. I felt only lightly hungry, not enough to want actually to eat anything.

Whole body was so calm I could not feel any itch, rub, pain, or irritation anywhere in the body. There was no headache or fever. Only thing I could feel was a sense of slow weight loss.

Second night, the sleep was very light and patchy but I did not feel anything clearly enough to notice. I assumed that nothing was happening because the body is well. Some cleaning was perhaps happening but not much else.

Second day of fast too was like the first. I felt very light hunger but no discomfort. Usually in a long fast one experiences negative, often disturbing thoughts, on the second day. But none came. I kept wanting to go out walking and actually did a few times. During the second excursion my friend Nagrajan caught and mildly chastised me! He is in fact one of my fasting mentors and his word made me fall in the line of discipline.

I slept lightly till midnight the third night. Then I began to dream. Thoughts of what I had been neglecting, what I needed to do, and right path came in a torrent. The flow was so strong there was no time to react. After some feeble attempt to hear clearly I just gave up and let the current flow.

This process of removing toxins of the mind continued till the next morning. I woke up, shook my head and tried to grasp what was going on. My memory was failed and nothing came clearly to mind of the content of the dream.

With great difficulty I could faintly recall hearing ‘slow down’, ‘nothing to do’, ‘you cannot do’, ‘it happens by itself’. A week later I am still in the grip of that experience.

Is it all my imagination? I do not know. But certainly, I am reminded that there are more toxins in my mind than in the rest of the body. I sincerely hope that during this fast some of my mind’s toxins dissolved and drained out. Walking on the dead-end street of worldly concerns has gone on long enough. Time has come to turn earnestly to the path of eternal joy.

I am reminded of the story I have heard many times since boyhood. A simple illiterate man ran into a sanyasi (recluse). On his advice he turned to repeating the name of Lord Rama. After a few years he became enlightened. When asked what name he repeated he said ‘mara, mara, mara’ which means I am dead. Poor man had reverted the syllables in the name of the Lord. Correctly pronouncing the name is not required. The idea is let go of our excessive involvement in the mundane. One needs to awaken the animator in us. Only then we can finally shatter the curtain of ignorance and enter the bright sunshine of Truth.

Partap Aggarwal

9 July 2011

Sensible Use of Water

Sensible Use of Water

The Great Book says that all living beings are needed, therefore important. If it were not so they would have become extinct. It follows that their basic needs have to be met. One of them is water and that means all animals and other living beings have the same right to it.

Obviously, if we humans take the lion’s share, others may have to suffer and even die of thirst. If life on earth is to continue this cannot be allowed. We as culprits then may also have to be sacrificed to restore balance. Clearly as bell The Great Book tells me that we humans need to use water sensibly for the sake of our own survival and continuation of life on Earth.

Speaking for myself, since I do not know how to change the minds of my brothers and sisters, I try to do what little I can. I cannot say my action will save the world but it makes me feel more at peace with myself.

Here are a few things I do to live within my share of water and to help preserve its purity.

One, I never use flush latrine where possible. At Navadarshanam I either use our dry latrine or leave my gifts of liquid and solid excretions on the open ground. Of course I cover the solid matter with mud or dry cow dung. When visiting a village I make my offerings to some farmer’s field.

Two, I clean my body daily by hot or cold sponge bath using 2 or 3 liters of water. About once a month I take a big bath with half a bucket. On these full bath days I also use soap.

Three, I remember to try to drink my quota of 4 or 5 liters of water daily.

Four, I wear my clothes for at least 2 days. I often stretch this to 3 when I am not staying in a palace as guest of a king! I wear my nightclothes longer.

Five, to save water, I do not use soap for every washing of my clothes. I just soak and rinse them most of the time.

Six, I do not mix anything into the water that would make it unfit for birds or animals to drink.

Seven, wherever possible I wash myself near a plant that needs water.

I do many other small things to save and preserve water so that I stay within my fair share if it. All this is not to boast or preach to others. It is only to be at peace with myself.

Partap Aggarwal

June 18, 2011