Category Archives: Spanish Articles

Don’t be an Animal – Understand the Reality of Beauty

Spanish Translation: No sea un animal

by Satyanarayana Dasa

Two thousand years ago, there was a great king in India named Bhartrihari. Besides being a ruler, he was a grammarian, poet, and philosopher. He wrote many wonderful books on various topics. He used to say, “Sahitya-sangita-kala-vihinah saksat pashuh puccha-vishana-hinah.” It means, a person devoid of knowledge of aesthetics, music and arts is indeed an animal, albeit without a tail and horns.</p>

Why did he utter these harsh words? Was he frustrated with life or with the behaviour of people? No, such indeed was not the case. He spoke a fundamental truth, i.e. the difference between a human being and an animal. He is not interested in the external appearance of these two; all of us know that distinction.

What makes a human being a human being is not that he can stand on two legs and eat with a fork and knife, but his/her character. An animal is called pashu in Sanskrit. It means – sarvam aviseshena pashyatiti pashuh – one who looks at everything without any sense of discrimination. A cow cannot discriminate between a good and bad piece of music. She is not more elated by hearing a Beethoven symphony than rap music. Put some grass in front of her and she will eat without bothering whether you are in a pleasant mood or sad. A dog is not going to ;discriminate among his mother, sister or a stranger female dog during their rut period. May be some animals like dogs are a little more sensitive to the mood of their master than others, but in general, they are just happy to get their food. They do not have any sense of beauty. To appreciate beauty one needs a higher intellect. Those human beings who do not have that are like animals in the words of king Bhartrihari.

One who cannot appreciate poetry, arts, music, and aesthetics lacks the finer sentiments of human life. He will be brutish in his behaviour or at best apathetic. Such a person may be beautiful to look at but have a cruel heart. He is compared to a beautiful, artistic scabbard, studded with gems, but contains a sharp sword within which is only used to slit the throat of others.

The concept of beauty, therefore, is not merely external looks but the state of one’s heart. Hence, ‘beauty is skin deep’ is a misconception. Real beauty is the deepest thing. There is nothing deeper than that. There have been many great people in history who were not so-called beautiful externally, but had a beautiful heart and were full of love for their fellow beings.

In today’s world, the focus seems to be on ‘looks’. External beauty is considered as paramount. Especially, the youth of today is mesmerized by external looks. But the externals do not last long. Hence, one who is enticed by it is bound to be frustrated in due course of time. Moreover, one deals with the behaviour of a person, not with the external looks. And even if someone is enchanting now, he or she may look boring after a few days. The mind is whimsical. What appeals to it in the morning may not cast a spell in the evening and vice versa. Therefore, in the opinion of King Bhartrihari, the concept of beauty should not be limited only to the external looks, but should also extend to the character and state of the heart, which is more stable.

Cowherd boy in VrajaWhen the heart is clean and soft, it can reflect the emotions and moods of fellow beings which are necessary to be different from animals. There is a statement I have heard time and again — ’You should not judge anyone’. What does it mean? Shall I close my eyes and condone everything around me? Then how do I become greater than an animal that does not have the ability to judge to begin with? How will I be superior if I were to do that? Is it really practical not to make any judgements in our life? If someone is looking for a life-partner, should she judge or close her eyes? What is the meaning of education if we should not make any judgements? If I want to learn music, shall I not make judgements between a good and bad teacher? The very function of intelligence is to make judgement or to discriminate and take decisions. If this faculty is not used, it is tantamount to be equal to an animal or an insane person. An insane person is one who does not have any sense of discrimination. He can eat inedible things, speak unspeakable words, or display any such forbidden, abnormal behaviour.

When it is advised not to judge others, it means not to be exploitative or biased unnecessarily. To appreciate beauty, one must know what beauty is and one must have the sense of discrimination. Aesthetics, music, and art help us to develop finer sentiments in our life and thus rise above the animalistic platform. Bhartrihari is not cursing people by calling them animal, but indirectly imploring that everyone should develop these finer sentiments to earn the title of being called a human being.

In another place he writes about beauty:

Shrotram shrutenaiva na kundalenaDanena panirna tu kankanena

Vibhati kayah karunaparanam

Propakaraairna tu chandanena

“The beauty of ears is by listening to proper knowledge not by the earrings;

The beauty of hands is by giving in charity not by bracelets;

The body of compassionate people shines by welfare deeds not by cosmetics.”

Here again, he stresses that the good heart of a human being is the real sign of beauty and not external ornamentation.

The Journey after Death

Spanish Translation: El camino después de la muerte

by Satyanarayana Dasa

Life is a journey that continues even after death. Dying is like changing a vehicle to travel to another destination.

Human life is like a bridge off of which there are four routes. If you do not follow any moral discipline, lead a life of gross sense pleasures, are attached to the material body and possessions, you have taken the route to hell.

If you follow moral and religious principles, harbor material desires, and follow religious duties with the intention of getting happiness after death, then you are promoted to the heavenly sphere.

If you follow moral principles and religious duties only for the sake of duty, you will be promoted to spheres beyond heaven within the material universe.

Whether you go to  heaven or hell via the first three routes, you have to come back to earthly sphere and be born as a human being in due course.

But the fourth possibility is to take the spiritual path of devotion to the Supreme God. Then, you will go to the Lord’s abode after giving up your present body. This is a place of no return and therefore, you come out of the cycle of birth and death, called sansara (Universe).

In the third book of Bhagavata Purana, Bhagavan Kapila has described these four paths in greater detail. He says that a person who has not learned to control his senses and is absorbed only in maintaining his body and family members dies in the midst of his kinsmen. At the time of death, trembling at heart he sees two messengers of Yama (the Lord of death), called Yamadutas. They are ferocious to look at and instill fear in the heart of the dying person.

The Yamadutas pull out the soul along with the subtle body and dress them with another body called yatana sharira,  or body meant for meting out suffering for the sinful acts in hell. They tie the person with aerial cords and drag the person like a slave to the land of Yama.

Addiction means Slavery of the Mind

Spanish Translation: Adicción significa la esclavitud de la mente

Usually, the word ‘addiction’ is used in the negative sense. It has been defined with regard to psychoactive substances such as alcohol and tobacco which, if ingested, alter the mood and/or perception of the person consuming them.

But addiction, in true sense of the word, is not limited only to alcohol and drugs, etc. One may become addicted to gambling, a particular type of food such as chocolate or coffee, sex, pornography, computers, video games, internet, work, exercise, TV, shopping and even spirituality. There may also be so-called good addictions which people may praise such as getting up early in the morning and visiting a temple or church.

The question that may be raised is how to distinguish whether an addiction is good or bad in the ultimate sense. From modern, psychological point of view, a bad addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioural control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of a significant problem with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships. In other words, addiction is a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in a specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the individual himself to his individual health, mental, or social life.

From the psychology of Yoga, both good and bad addictions are to be avoided because both are conditioning to the material world. Sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra says that whatever we perceive with our senses – internal as well as external – can be divided into five groups which he calls vrittis or states of mind. According to him, whenever we perceive anything, it brings a modification in the state of mind. Mind is the key instrument in perception. Mind takes the shape of the particular object perceived. Mind is compared to a fluid which takes the shape of a container in which it is poured. This shape is termed as vritti.

A particular vritti stays for a moment and is replaced by the vritti of the newer perception. But, before a vritti is replaced by a newer one, it leaves an impression called samskara in the chitta or heart. This samskara is the basis of our remembrance of a particular object or action later on. If we perform an action repeatedly, we fortify the samskaras of that action in our chitta. When we perform an action for the first time, we are very conscious of it. But if we have done it many times, we can do that action without much awareness. For example, when we first begin learning how to ride a bicycle, we are very much concentrated on the act of riding. We cannot think of anything else. But once we have learnt riding it and have practiced riding for a long time, then we can ride the bicycle while thinking of our job or some other plan we want to execute. We hardly pay any attention and everything seems to happen automatically. This is because by riding the bicycle repeatedly we have created deep samskaras of how to ride a bicycle. Riding becomes a reflex and does not need much of our attention. We have developed a habit of riding.

Addiction works in a similar manner. The only difference between riding a bicycle without being aware of it and addiction is reward (such as comfort to one’s ego) from the addictive activity. If riding a bicycle would be used for that type of relief or reward, then it will also be considered an addiction. Addiction, then, would mean any compulsive action performed to gain a relief or reward. If such action is harmful to health, impairment in behavioural control, then it is an undesirable addiction. It may lead to guilt, shame, fear, hopelessness, failure, rejection, anxiety, humiliation, and depression. But, if it improves one’s health, wealth, status or awareness, then it may be a welcome addiction. In fact, a person himself, or others, may not recognise this as an addiction.

From the point of spirituality, however, both types of addiction must be given up ultimately. The goal of spirituality is to make one free of all conditioning- good as well as bad, since both are part of materialism. Whether one is bound by silk ropes or iron chains, one is not free. Both must be abandoned to become liberated. Therefore, following even spiritual rules and regulations in an addictive manner (niyama-agrah) is also considered as an obstacle to one’s progress in spiritual life.

We must perform our actions with awareness; otherwise we become slaves of our own mind. Addiction means to become a slave of the mind. To be happy, healthy and prosperous, we must get rid of this slavery and become a free citizen in the true sense of the word.

by Satyanarayana Dasa