One of the verses of Vairagya chatakam says that the sun rises and sets regularly and by the rising and setting of the sun, the days are rolling by. This happening so regularly and so fast that we are not aware that the time is rolling by, meaning we are becoming older and older and our lives shorter and shorter. We are not aware of this because we are so busy doing what we do. New Year's day means yet another year has come, yet another year has gone. And Yama is a little nearer. Our names may not appear in today's obituary column but we are all in the queue only.

To avoid this tragedy, Bharthruhari gives an upadesam (advice) - do not postpone good things for a later time. We have a notion that scriptural study is to be undertaken at the time of retirement, after completing all other jobs. Bharthruhari says our faculties will not function at that time - the eyes will not see and the ears will not hear. When the sense organs are functioning well, when the fag end of life has not yet come, an alert person, a thinking person, a mature person should think of leading a healthy , prosperous and fruitful life. When the house is on fire, it is foolish to begin digging a well. So also at the fag end of life, it is foolish to begin doing good things. We must start right away. If we want a suitable day to begin, the New Year's day is very auspicious.

What should we do to make our lives fruitful? The scriptures emphasise three things - yagna, danam, and tapas. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna emphasises these three to a great extent.

Yagna - Yagna means worship. We all know worship in the form of daily puja, going to temples, doing abhisheka , etc. Lord Krishna talks about a higher, refined form of worship - converting life itself into worship. 'Let the very living, the life be an offering to the Lord'. Swami Chinmayananda used to make a wonderful statement - 'The life that we have is a wonderful gift from the Lord and what we do with this life is our gift, our offering to the Lord'. If we are going to look upon our life as a gift of the Lord, what type of life it should it be? It should be the best. And when it is offered, it must be offered with a cheerful and smiling face. There must be cheerfulness. Thus two conditions must be fulfilled - the gift should be the best and it must be offered with cheerfulness and happiness.

Our life should be the best. What does this mean? It does not mean earning money, success, name, and fame. It means the most sincere life. We should be able to do what we love to do we should learn to love what we have to do. If this is possible, our heart will be in what we do and so will our sincerity. This will be the best gift to the Lord.

Predominantly there must be cheerfulness. We may wonder whether this is possible in today's troubled times. By being cynical or cheerful, the situation is not going to change. So why not be cheerful? When the cup is half-full, we can either say it is half-full or half-empty. So why not say it is half-full? Why can't we have a positive approach? Enjoying what we love to do and learning to love and enjoy what we have to do is the best yagna to the Lord.

Danam - We all know what danam means. Danam is charity or gift which we all do. However there is one gift that is very, very important. That is the gift of love. This is the most important gift because it is one thing everybody is craving for. Rich, or poor, success or failure, love is craved for by all people at all times under all circumstances. It is the best gift because even if other gifts are not made, it does not matter. On the other hand, without love, all other gifts remain incomplete. Love makes all other gifts valid and meaningful. It makes the giver a saintly person.

Love is both the cause and the consequence of spiritual growth. We may claim 'I love my family and children'. Love is only an inner feeling, attitude, etc. Love is invisible. Love belongs to the mind. So when we talk of love, we mean expressed love or activated love. Feelings can never become a gift. What do we mean by expression of love? The best expression of love is giving our time and attention for the other person, to share his life and more than his life, his feelings. Of course, if we have to give our time to everyone, we will not have the time and it will be impractical. So the best place to practice the gift of expressed love is one's own family, by giving time and our fullest attention to every member of the family and going through the feelings of the other person. We share the happiness and unhappiness without judging whether it is justified or not. We need not give a remedy or talk or reply except to say a few words that will lead to healthy sharing. At least once a day we should make ourselves avaibale to our family members. This is the best expression of love and also the cause of our inner growth. If we are not able to grow in this, all our danam is only mechanical danam. Even our scriptural study will not be meaningful. Giving our time to others is one of the indices of spiritual growth.

Today many people who have family problems have only this complaint. - family members do not provide time for one another. Many people are shattered even though they are well provided for. All that is required is to say a few words and ask the other person 'How are you? 'How was your day?' This requires only a few minutes. Then the atmosphere in the family becomes so wonderful that all other lapses are not even noticed. Today when many families are nuclear families, the gift of giving the quality time and going through the feelings of the other person is the best Danam.

Tapas - Tapas is a discipline or austerity. There are a variety of disciplines we have to follow, e.g. fasting on ekadasi. The most important tapas is vak tapas - austerity or discipline at the verbal level. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna defines vak tapas. Our words should have four qualities to make it an austerity - avoiding verbal violence, satyam, priyam, and hitam. We must avoid verbal violence which is the most powerful and worst form of violence. The words should be truthful. There should be no chasm between our mind and words. When we say something, it is because we mean it. Priyam means kindness. Our words must be soft, polite, and gentle. Hitam means beneficial. Before uttering any words we should think two things - whether it is beneficial to us (which we will do anyway) and whether it is beneficial to the other person. Vak tapas requires that we must be very alert. Before coming out, the words must go through a 'metal detector' inside us that acts like a quality control meter filtering the words and giving the stamp of quality.

Thus by following the three disciplines of yagna, danam, and tapas, we can make our life fruitful.

 

New Year Thoughts - 1
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