All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipoise would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s. They are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.
It has been usual for men to think and to say, “Many men are slaves because one is an oppressor; let us hate the oppressor.” Now, however, there is among an increasing few a tendency to reverse this judgement, and to say, “One man is an oppressor because many are slaves; let us despise the slaves.” The truth is that oppressor and slave are co-operators in ignorance, and, while seeming to afflict each other, are in reality afflicting themselves. A perfect Knowledge perceives the action of law in the weakness of the oppressed and the misapplied power of the oppressor. A perfect Love, seeing the suffering which both states entail, condemns neither. A perfect Compassion embraces both oppressor and oppressed.
He who has conquered weakness, and has put away all selfish thoughts, belongs neither to oppressor nor oppressed. He is free.
A man can only rise, conquer, and achieve by lifting up his thoughts. He can only remain weak, and abject, and miserable by refusing to lift up his thoughts.
Before a man can achieve anything, even in worldly things, he must lift his thoughts above slavish animal indulgence. He may not, in order to succeed, give up all animality and selfishness, by any means; but a portion of it must, at least, be sacrificed. A man whose first thought is bestial indulgence could neither think clearly nor plan methodically. He could not find and develop his latent resources, and would fail in any undertaking. Not having commenced manfully to control his thoughts, he is not in a position to control affairs and to adopt serious responsibilities. He is not fit to act independently and stand alone, but he is limited only by the thoughts which he chooses.
Those guided by impulses and instinct wander about the world like drunkards, devoid of discrimination between right and wrong, true and false. The overpowering influence of these animal impulses makes them forget the dire consequences of yielding to them. They have no shame or fear, but they simply revel in the search for worldly pleasures and in the accumulation of comforts and in the sheer enjoyment of luxuries. For those plunged in these impulses, the intellect is a useless, functionless possession. By constant pursuit of sensory pleasures, these animal impulses become hardened and they strike deeper and stronger roots.
There can be no progress, no achievement without sacrifice. A man’s worldly success will be in the measure that he sacrifices his confused animal thoughts, and fixes his mind on the development of his plans, and the strengthening of his resolution and self reliance. And the higher he lifts his thoughts, the more manly, upright, and righteous he becomes, the greater will be his success, the more blessed an enduring will be his achievements.
The Kaivalyopanishad declares:
Not by means of works, not by means of man-power or by means of wealth, by renunciation alone immortality can be attained.
The works referred to are rituals like sacrifices, sacred fire rites, vows, charities, donations to holy projects, pilgrimages, ceremonial baths in rivers and the sea. Through such activities, one cannot achieve Moksha or Liberation – that is to say, getting rid of the veil of ignorance. Not by means of man-power means: the acquisition of positions of authority and power, of skill and intelligence, which can manipulate men and things, of fame and supremacy, of personal charm, of full health and happiness, of a large family with many children cannot confer on man Moksha or Liberation.
Not by means of wealth means: The works and activities mentioned above and the acquisition referred to can succeed only when man has wealth at his disposal. If one is not rich, he cannot venture into actions nor acquire authority, power, etc. But the scriptures announce that wisdom is not related to riches or money. And wisdom alone can lead to liberation. So, liberation cannot be earned by means of wealth. Wealth is not a means to attain Moksha.
Then, what exactly is the means? The answer is, renunciation alone can confer Moksha or Immortality. The world is unreal, non-existent; the misunderstanding that it is real has to be renounced. The understanding that the idea of of a world or a universe is a superimposition by our mind on the Reality is the wisdom. Though the world appears real, one must be aware that it is deluding us so. And as a result, one has to give up the yearning for deriving pleasure from the objects that appear and attract, both here and hereafter. That is to say, one is liberated as soon as one renounces all attachment and all desires. Giving up of all desires. This false knowledge can be destroyed only when one knows the Soul (Atma) Principle. When the false knowledge disappears, the sorrow produced by one’s involvement in the ups and downs of life (this world of many changes), also gets destroyed.
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