Man leads a life of struggle and strife in this merciless mundane world. Numerous are the hardships that he has to endure to eke out a living. Inspite of all these conflicts that make life here insipid there is something that makes life sweet and worth living. What is that thing that lends its inherent sweetness to life and gives us hope to live? The answer is spirituality and spiritual aspiration.
This is the only factor that makes life worth while and ushers in us the hope for a better tomorrow. It gives an inner meaning to life, a great purpose to life. Spiritual aspiration is the seed or embryo of real and imperishable happiness. It makes life in this world a great opportunity to attain immortality. Those who miss this golden chance and waste human life in seeking worldly pleasures are to be pitied. For they are committing the grave blunder of suicide (self murder) by craving for the perishable and going after them. By pursuing the transient, petty, sensory -pleasures they too perish in that search. Swami Ramsukhdasji holds this craving for pleasure as the sole cause for the bondage of the jiva in the world. Craving for pleasure in the mundane world is insatiable and ever increasing. If you try to appease it, it subsides for the moment but again reappears with greater vigour and strength. It itself creates a vicious circle. The snare of the senses is indeed very great to transcend for the worldly -minded. Sensory perception is often deceptive. Unpredictable danger lurks in the plane of the senses. The Vivekachudamani and the Bhagavata warn us of the unforeseen dangers of the sensory world by giving us illustrations of how beings come to grief on the account of the sensory temptations. The deer comes to grief on the account of its attachment to music. The hunter plays on the flute to lure the animal. The deer stands still and as a result is caught by the hunter. The elephant is very much attached to the sense of touch. Therefore the elephant is made captive by tempting it with the touch of a she-elephant. The moth is attracted by comely form and it jumps into the flame and perishes. The fish comes to grief by its sense of taste. The bee perishes on account of its sense of smell. What needs be said of man who is attached to all the five senses? The only way out of this whole confusion is to renounce the craving by dispassion born out of true discrimination. Prayer and holy company are of great help in this regard. Holy books that speak of God and the means to attain Him are also of great help. Desire and anger (obstructed desire) are the greatest enemies of mankind, according to the Gita. Gita speaks of them as the greatest devourer and cause of all sins. Desire and all craving are gross manifestations of the subtle ego. Hence surrender to the divine, prayer and fasting are sure ways to sublimate them.
Fasting has got a subtle meaning in spirituality. The common meaning of fasting is denial of food. But if abstaining from food alone can be the cause of spiritual upliftment then beggars would be much spiritual. Physical fasting on certain occasions may be the means for earning spiritual merit or punya. But that is not enough. Spiritually food means whatever we take in through all the senses of perception. Thus whatever we see, smell, taste, hear and cognize by the sense of touch can be termed as food. Purity in the intake of this food of all the senses is the major cause of spiritual upliftment and progress. The Chandogya Upanishad mentions this fact and further says that from such pure intake of sense perception, the inner organ (antahkarana) becomes pure and from this results constant remembrance of God. Thus whatever we cognize through the senses should be as far as possible Satvic and pure. The most effective way of divinizing sense perception is to regard whatever we perceive as manifestations of God. All scriptures speak of this sadhana. The Bhagavata eloquently speaks of this unique Sadhana.
‘Whatever is grasped by the mind, expressed through speech and perceived through the faculty of vision, nay, even with the other senses is but Myself, there is nothing other than Me; know this as a result of enquiry into the truth’.
Though one is thus able to control and divinize the sense organs and sense perception, the already accumulated vasanas (latencies) may prompt one to seek sense pleasures. So one should be extremely careful that one’s vasanas do no overpower one and make one indulge again in sense pleasures. The great Rishis Sanaka and his brothers put this question to their father Brahma:
“The mind clings to sense objects and the latter gets imprinted on the mind in the form of latencies. How is it possible for the seeker of liberation to part them one from the other?”
Brahma could not answer. Instead the Lord appeared before Brahma and the Rishis, as a result of Brahma’s sincere prayer and answered their query. The Lord said that both the sense objects and the mind are the adjuncts of the soul (jiva). The jiva should give up both these adjuncts and identify itself with God. He should contemplate on his inner divine nature and thus can easily transcend both (sense objects and mind or latencies). If the desire for sense pleasures reappears then ignoring it is the best effective way to transcend it. Thus real fasting means absence of all cravings for sense pleasure and an austere living rooted in the divine. After God realization even all subtle desires along with the ego (the desirer) become extinct.