Q: Many young people are indifferent to spirituality and religion. Is spirituality relevant for young people?
Spirituality is far more relevant for young people than it is for old people. The core of the Hindu religion is its philosophy of Vedanta. Vedanta is a science. A science is something that is formed after the following process. First, the observations of certain phenomena are made. Then, based on the observations, one comes to a hypothesis. The hypothesis is then put under experiments and tested. If it passes the tests, it becomes a theory. A collection of theories on a certain subject is called a science.
Vedanta has also been formed through this process of observation- hypothesis-test-theory. The only difference is that whereas physics, chemistry, biology, etc. are sciences of the objective world, Vedanta is a science of the subjective world. It is the science of life. It provides answers to questions like what is the goal of life, how should one live life so as to achieve that goal, what is God, what is man, and what is the relationship between God and man.
Thus, isn’t it more important for young people to know what is the goal of life and how to live it, than for old people for whom most of life has already gone by? What is the point of finding out the goal of life and how to live it — at the end of your life? You must know all this early in life, so that you can live life accordingly.
Q: So what is the goal of life?
It is to achieve dharma, artha, kama and then moksha.
Dharma is living a life of values. Artha is earning wealth and power. Kama is enjoying life. Finally, one must attain moksha, which is self-realisation. This the final goal. It is a state of complete and permanent freedom and happiness.
However, most people go after the first three and ignore the fourth. Or they believe that if one wants the fourth, one has to completely drop the other three. This is wrong.
Q: Yes, most people believe that to attain moksha, one has to be detached from the world.
You don’t have to go to a Himalayan cave to attain moksha. You can achieve moksha right here in Delhi or Mumbai or anywhere else.
One does not have to physically detach from artha and kama to achieve moksha. One has to eventually only mentally detach from them. Free the mind from its slavery to the outer world of things and beings.
So one can still operate in the world — but as a master, not a slave. This way of approaching the world eventually leads to moksha. Moksha is freedom.
Q: Can one drink and smoke and still be on course for moksha?
If you have the ability to stop doing them at anytime, then yes – – you can drink and smoke. Spirituality is not about refraining from the senses, but mastering them. One way to master the senses is by moderation. Moderation is also very important from the health point of view.
Q: Some young people fear that spiritual practice might render them `boring’ in the eyes of their peers.
A truly spiritual person is so driven, fired and focused that sheer enthusiasm, and not boredom, emanates from such a person. In spirituality, one is trying to master the mind. The more one does this, the sharper the mind becomes. The sharper the mind, the greater the chance of success in the world. If you are successful, people will not run away from you, but gravitate towards you.
Q: Initially though, young persons trying to walk the spiritual path might be taunted for `being spiritual’. What would you advise such young persons so that they may shield themselves from peer pressure?
Be friendly, not defensive. Don’t talk about spirituality to people who are clearly not receptive to it. Those who ask, tell them the truth. Tell them: ‘Look I think this makes sense, so I’m giving it a try. Let me see how it goes.’
Q: The Bhagavad Gita advises that one must do one’s work in life without seeking the results or the fruits of the work. This is disconcerting for many young, ambitious people.”
There has been confusion because of the wrongful interpretation of verse 47 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. Swami Chinmayananda, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita gave a beautiful explanation of what this verse really means. He explained that if you become anxious for the result of your work while doing the work itself, then your work will suffer and the fruit itself may be lost.
For example, if a batsman in his 90s becomes anxious and nervous to reach his century, then the risk of him getting out becomes higher, doesn’t it?
Therefore, Krishna advises in the Gita that one should focus on the work and not on the fruit. This way the chances of getting the fruit would be higher anyway. Also, while you are working, you cannot be absolutely sure of getting the desired fruit. Maybe the fruit is one, and the people seeking it are many. And the fruit may end up going to someone who has performed better than you.
Therefore, one should not let one’s happiness be dependent on an uncertain future. Enjoy what is certain. The present is certain. Your work is certain. So enjoy the whole process of work itself. The chances of getting the desired result would be higher this way anyway.
Q: You are involved with the Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK), the youth wing of Chinmaya Mission. What does the CHYK do?
The motto of the CHYK is to harness youth potential through dynamic spirituality. There are around 100 CHYK centres in India and abroad. We conduct weekly classes where young people are made aware of their potential. Once they have gained this awareness, then their potential is used in positive fields.
The CHYKs – as we call them – organise and execute spiritual, cultural and social projects. They have just collected several truckloads of relief material for the cyclone victims of Orissa. They have been going to villages in Orissa and serving there. When young people execute such projects, their individual capacities unfold better. It brings out various abilities latent in them – abilities that they perhaps didn’t even realise existed within them.