Tag Archives: Vedic scriptures

Dissatisfaction Leads to Perfection

By Satyanarayana Dasa

I have never met anybody in my life who was fully satisfied with his or her situation, environment, condition, position, relations, health, wealth, or possessions. The poor are hankering to be rich, and the rich want to be richer. An overweight person wants to lose weight, and a thin person wants to gain a few pounds. Married couples think that it is better to remain single, and single people are dying to find a partner. The East looks towards the West, and the West is enamored by the East. People in villages dream to come and live in the cities (especially in India), and city dwellers cherish the simple and calm village life.

Deep dissatisfaction with life and the conditions of everyday experience are universal among mankind. These are not the characteristics of a particular age, race, or civilization. Nor is it a defect of any individual person, although some people seem more content, or rather less dissatisfied, than others.

Why Dissatisfaction Exists

The root cause of dissatisfaction lies in the very design of human beings,  and this dissatisfaction exists for a reason. The reason is to spur the individual to attain the ultimate purpose of human life, that is, emancipation from the cycle of birth and death. This dissatisfaction does not appear to exist in the other species of life. The myriad creatures of the world seem completely content if their basic needs of food and shelter are satisfied.

It is only we humans who are never satisfied. No matter how good our situations may be and no matter what things we possess, we eventually become bored and begin seeking change. (Companies capitalize handsomely on this flaw by producing new models of their products every year, leading consumers to believe that their latest creations will bring them the permanent happiness they are seeking.)

Searching for a Solution

Very few people are acutely conscious of this innate unhappiness. Most people are caught in the rut of regular duties and never stop to think about it. Those who are conscious of this dissatisfaction try to find a solution for it. Such people can be divided into two groups. The first group, the larger one, includes those who are not concerned about the ultimate cause of this problem.  They are consumed by the problem itself, and look only to redress their own dissatisfaction.  They are not concerned about others.

The people in the second group spend their lives in a prolonged endeavor to find the remedy for this problem, though they keep the welfare of others in mind. This group can be further divided into two. The first consists of people who take to fields of science and technology and devote their lives to research and finding solutions to alleviate the problems of humanity. This group has been more active in the last few centuries and has made commendable efforts to make humanity happy, peaceful, and free from disease.

The second group of people includes those who look for the solution in the realm of metaphysics. These pioneers have been, for the most part, founders of religions and of philosophies, and their search has usually been connected to an experience of or contact with something that they call God. They have unanimously maintained that in the experience of union or relation with God lies the only assuagement of human unrest. This group was very prominent in the past and has held ground for a long time. But as science and technology have progressed, religion and philosophy have taken a back seat. In the past few decades, however, a new trend is setting in. Scientists, religionists, and philosophers have begun a dialogue.

Science or Religion?

In search of answers to life’s mysteries, modern scientists have investigated the depths of our world. Because they have been unable to find satisfying conclusions through minute analysis and deconstruction, however, they have been forced to explore realms of life that seem unscientific or metaphysical. Science and religion are no longer seen as absolutely exclusive fields. There is now a trend towards synthesis. Science, by nature, is analytical, while religion is synthetical. But it seems that science cannot completely ignore the principles and experience of religionists. Otherwise, it will fail in its mission: to give peace and satisfaction to humanity.

The Vedic scriptures discuss very explicitly the cause of dissatisfaction, and tender a permanent solution for it. They categorically state that without realizing the supreme Absolute— call it God, Brahman or Allah—no human being can attain complete satisfaction. This, indeed, is the purpose of human life. Unless people attain this goal, they can never be satisfied. The human body is designed only for that. All other activities are at the animalistic level. They do not make one worthy of being called a human being.

Human beings, therefore, will always remain dissatisfied if they do not act towards the purpose for which they have been granted the human body. No amount of technological advancement will keep them satisfied. They can choose different professions or jobs, but dissatisfaction will not leave them. They can travel to any part of the globe or go to the moon, but they cannot get rid of this unhappiness. Even material advancement in different fields is the outcome of dissatisfaction. But, unfortunately, material progress cannot give lasting peace and happiness. The satisfaction one experiences from material objects, material relations, material knowledge, material possessions, etc., is ephemeral. It sublimates like a ball of camphor, leaving some impressions behind.

The True Solution

The Gita clearly mentions the path and process to end this dissatisfaction. It states that a person who has faith in God, is devoted to Him, and has control over his senses attains true knowledge. Having attained true knowledge, such a person attains supreme peace without delay. On the other hand, one who is ignorant of the Absolute, one who is faithless and doubtful, is lost. Such a person is neither happy in this life nor after death.

Modern Perspective on Ancient Truth

By Bruce Martin

A friend of mine of rationalistic temperament, and one who considers himself agnostic, recently questioned me about scripture, raising doubt as to how a person could place trust in scripture as the revealed word of God and, as such, a source of infallible knowledge, when much of what has been proclaimed in scripture simply doesn’t hold up to critical examination. To do justice to this question we must first take into account the modern, scientific, rationalistic view itself, that the questioner is expressing, and that is largely taken for granted as the way present-day humanity views the world. At first glance the modern view seems to be in direct opposition to the dominant, scripturally-based, religious view of antiquity. Yet, on careful examination of the historical unfolding of events, modernity emerged, in significant measure, from the ongoing search for truth and the valid methods for its attainment, from the need for a more accurate understanding of self, nature and the world, from the value newly assigned to individual fulfillment, distinct from a person’s collective worth, and from the hard-fought right to question and expose dogmatic and oppressive authority. The pioneers of modernity, men like Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Descartes were all deeply spiritual, and, according to their own accounts, it was precisely this orientation that led them to new discoveries that yet challenged the traditional religious authority and world view of the day.

From this perspective, modernity can be viewed not retrogressively, as a movement away from Spirit, but rather, a forward step of Spirit awakening further to its own fundamental nature. The move away from traditional religious authority, though carrying with it the possibility of rejecting the transcendent altogether, freed the human psyche from the oppression of a merely conventional, culturally inherited or imposed religiosity. This individuation of self, rooted in the ever-expanding refinement of awareness and discrimination, is crucial to the growth of mature spirituality.

Relevance of Scripture Today

Let us, then, build on the gains inherited from the modern tradition to investigate the possible relevance of scripture today. From this perspective, it would serve the purpose of objective study to approach scripture as a body of evidence left by past researchers of consciousness, and subject it to the criteria of genuine scientific inquiry, rather than demand that it be upheld as a source of infallible knowledge to be accepted on faith alone, thus precluding any possibility of invalidation. A substantial body of research on altered states of consciousness across various traditions, from shamanism to Christian mysticism, to Kabbalah, to Buddhism, to Yoga-Vedanta-Hinduism, already exists. Increasingly, this will become a major field of study, as the modern world reconnects with its ancient roots.

The basic components of the scientific method include: hypothesis, the proposition to be proved or disproved; experiment, by which the theory can be tested and repeated by others who subject themselves to the same experimental criteria; and a body of data, the experiential findings, leading to validation or refutation of the theory. Applying this methodology to scripture, we can objectively investigate its claims to valid knowledge. Since scriptures are of many varieties, offering different perspectives, some apparently more comprehensive than others, our investigation would be enhanced by opening it up to a broad range of scripture across various traditions, rather than limiting the discussion to a single tradition.

Progressive States of Awareness

Scriptures themselves cover a range of topics, including, epistemology, ontology, cosmology, moral and ethical principles, methods of practice, such as ritual, worship, prayer, contemplation and meditation, and the progression of consciousness through ever more refined states of being, from psychic awakening, to subtle, archetypal awareness, and onward to liberation, nirvana, satori, mystical union, ecstatic love of God, or nondual awareness. For the purpose of this brief discussion, we can focus, particularly, on the methods of practice, correlating them to the states of awareness disclosed by those methods. This has been the focal point of study already undertaken in most of the research conducted to date. It is also the part of scripture most readily amenable to testing and repetition, and hence, to validation or refutation.

The basic claim of scripture, especially those of mystical orientation, is that anyone who undergoes the methodology, while meeting the emotional, moral, volitional and mental conditions required by that methodology, will experience a successive freeing of consciousness into correspondingly subtler and more expansive states of awareness and being. In their book Transformations of Consciousness, Jack Engler and Daniel P. Brown have reviewed a cross-cultural study of meditative states comparing the paths of Yoga-Vedanta, Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism and Pali Theravada Buddhism. The evidence not only validates the claims of these traditions, but also indicates that in spite of divergent doctrinal views of reality, meditation in all three traditions proceeds through the same basic progression in terms of the deeper, underlying structures of consciousness.

A New and Higher Center of Gravity

When these findings are considered in the light of developmental theory, as posited by the growing field of transpersonal psychology, it would appear that meditation is a subtle technology for disclosing the higher reaches of consciousness. With this understanding, the scriptures delineating these methods can be viewed as a vast body of evidence pertaining to the highest potentials of human unfolding, and worthy of minute investigation and reevaluation in modern terms, free of dogmatic and oppressive claims.

The central concern of scripture, then, as the common thread running through divergent wisdom traditions, is not merely to access higher or altered states of awareness, but to shift the entire context of awareness—attention, feeling, volition and action—to a new and higher center of gravity. The aim, in other words, is to effect an integration of mind, body and soul within the all-encompassing ground and context of Spirit. In essence, the scriptural record is an investigation of this hidden, yet innate, human capacity, and it is the legacy left by past explorers of consciousness, as our common inheritance. To neglect it, is to deny and limit the fulfillment of our human potential, to impoverish our lives and the world in which we live.