Judicious Blending of Pravritti and Nivrittti Leads to Perennial Joy (Sreyas)
(Compilation for a discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, Feb 2016)
Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose in life? How then I shall live?--these are the questions for which we try to find answers in our religious faith and spiritual pursuits. With our materialistic approach we all strive to be happy all the time. “There is more to Life than being happy. Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed, or even selfish life in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing estrangements are avoided” says a Western journalist Emily Smith. That kind of Happiness comes and goes but Meaningful Happiness has longevity. Some of the things that give us happiness in life are sacrifice, friendship, sustain a career, raising children and family that require commitment and these are also not easy. But Meaningful Happiness to our life is much deeper. Being human always points, and is directed to do something or someone other than oneself. The more one forgets himself by giving himself a cause to serve or another person, the more human he becomes. This is well described in Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita as Pravritti. Material Happiness is associated with taking but Pravritti Marga teaches both taking and giving. It makes happiness more meaningful. Here stops the Western philosophy of a Meaningful Happiness. Many migrant Hindus also join the crowd. Western Religions believe in one time punishment or reward and says humans have “One life to live; therefore Make it more meaningful”. It also believes that all their sins are taken care of, if they lead a Meaningful Life. Those who do not believe in it are permanently doomed. But Upanishads say humans go through cycle of births and deaths and it is an opportunity given in each birth to reduce the number of births and deaths and reach the final goal of Perennial Joy by combining with the source from which it came. Based on one’s good performance(punya) one can move faster towards this goal. Otherwise this cycle is lengthened. This calls for judicious combination of Pravritti Marga and Nivritti Marga to spiritually elevate oneself in each life and ultimately attain perfection. Thus we find in life few rare births, who pursue only Nivritti Marga to reach the final goal. But majority who can’t do that needs to lead a life of Pravritti and Nivriitti, more focused on Nivritti in their latter part of life after achieving success in Material Happiness as well as Meaningful Happiness. This Nivritti may be roughly defined as spiritual aspiration (Jnaana Marga) in life. Meaningful Happiness is happiness based on Manava (human) Dharma in Hindu Concept which Western philosophy defines as Human Values.
There are two main directions or life paths: Nivritti and Pravritti. Each of us must decide for ourselves which of these we will take. Pra means ‘different’ and Vritti stands for ‘chitta vritti’ the thoughts. During normal, everyday activity the mind is occupied with something or other and thoughts are constantly changing—Thoughts about accumulation of assets and wealth pursuing many activities, and worried about our adult children and grand-children, etc. In Pravritti Maarga we constantly experience suffering, misunderstandings, dis-appointment, changes and pain. To be on the path of Nivritti means we have accomplished our tasks or fulfilled our desires and have deliberately chosen a life of peace and quiet. We must become ‘Nivritta’ not only outwardly, but inwardly. The Antahkarana (indwell thoughts) are full of desires and until we are free of these, we cannot come to Nivritti. Gradually we must free ourselves from Pravritti and come to the Nivritti path. It will lead to liberation and quench our soul’s thirst for knowledge (Jnaana). It sometimes happens through destiny that a person will find themselves on the Nivritti path from childhood like Sankara. These are blessed rare few. At some time or other, every human being will desire complete consciousness. Some require several lifetimes for this awakening.
"The Vedic dharma (religion) is verily twofold, characterized by Pravritti (social action) and Nivritti (inward contemplation) designed to promote order in the world; this twofold dharma has in view the true social welfare and spiritual emancipation of all beings." says Sri Sankaracharya, one of the greatest philosophers of India.
“There is one impulse in our minds which says, do. Behind it raises another voice which says, do not. There is one set of ideas in our mind which is always struggling to get outside through the channels of the senses, and behind that, although it may be thin and weak, there is an infinitely small voice which says, do not go outside. The two beautiful Sanskrit words for these phenomena are Pravritti and Nivritti, "circling forward" and "circling inward". It is the circling forward which usually governs our actions. Religion begins with this circling inward. Religion begins with this "do not". Spirituality begins with this "do not". When the "do not" is not there, religion has not begun. And this "do not" came, causing men's ideas to grow, despite the fighting gods which they had worshiped”—Swami Vivekananda.
Pravritti is the act of enjoying material and sensual pleasures. It is a natural instinct in all human beings. It means to live amidst worldly duties and interests with the senses and actions directed primarily towards the external world. The happiness derived out of it is defined as Preyas in Bhagavad Gita. This is the path of pleasure resulting from our secular education and pursuit, the Path of Pleasure.
Nivritti, on the other hand, is the act of abstaining from material and sensual enjoyment. It calls for a sacrifice on the part of the individual to give up all worldly pleasures. It is the path of “turning back”, the path of turning within towards spiritual contemplation, and placing God at the centre of our existence after fulfilling our family and professional duties. Bhagavad Gita calls it Sreyas or perpetual joy or Eternal Bliss. This calls for spiritual education and elevation which realization usually comes in one’s later part of life thinking about real success in life.
In a typical village only the Village Pundit remains with the Vedic philosophy and management. Oliver Goldsmith describes the same beautifully in his Deserted Village:
As some tall cliff lift lifts its awful form
Swells from the Vale and midway leaves the form
Though round its breast rolling clouds or spread
Eternal sunshine settles on its head!
Wise pundit does not run away from the pleasures and sorrows of the world but lives with it guiding the people around but his thoughts are always focused on the Eternal.
As long as we live in Pravritti our thoughts turn mainly towards worldly things – to pleasure and hobbies and worrying about position, income and possessions. Initially school and education occupy our thoughts, then later profession and family. Finally, in old age we worry about our health and our inheritance.
Hindu scriptures do consider material success as an important part of life. It is called Artha. Artha means that which is an asset or that which is meaningful. Hinduism classifies success according to stages of life – the first part of life and the second part of life. Kaama means Pleasures or desires. That should also be closely watched with an eye on Dharma. One has to raise the family in a legitimate way with an eye on healthy and peaceful society around and enjoy it.
Hindu way of life focuses on the first part of life’s success too. This can be seen from the long Gurukula education system promoted in Vedic culture. Isavasyopanishad is very practical in saying:"vidyaam cha avidyaam cha yastad vedobhyagam saha | avidyayaa mrityum teertvaa vidyayaa amritamasnute"-- We need to transcend hunger and thirst through the secular sciences (avidya) and then alone we can obtain immortality through spiritual science (vidya). Avidya is also referred as Paravidya and Vidya as Aparavidya in Upanishads. Vedic culture directly recommends pursuit of education, family, wealth and fame as essential to healthy and fulfilled living. But that could be pursued only in a moral way by following dharma or sanctioned codes of living. Such success, according to ancient Hindu culture is a necessary source of security, continuity, predictability, and impulse control that we need to establish a sound ego structure – before the chaos of real life shows up. Ironically, according to Hinduism we need a very strong and disciplined ego structure before we let go of the ego itself. The creation of that disciplined ego structure is considered to be success in the first half of life. In the order of priority of Purusharthas or human goals in life, Dharma comes first and Artha and Kaama follow. That means any pursuit of Artha and Kaama should always keep a close watch on Dharma. It is therefore proper and necessary for us to fulfil our responsibilities and duties to our family and society, and there is nothing wrong in being comfortable or prosperous. But we should not go about caring about nothing totally wrapped up in illusion and constantly run after it, behave irrationally and short-sighted. Such efforts are persistently directed outwards with no inward focus and ultimate destruction. Some even go to the extent of even ridiculing those who are inwardly focused and feel they do not know how to enjoy life.
It is wrong to think and focus only to strive for material gains and think that is all the enjoyment we need in the world. What is real enjoyment and success in life? Desires never end. No worldly pleasures satisfy us forever and they are momentary. Every time we meet with success, the desire to fresh success at once springs forth. We should get out of this mad race. Towards this, desire has to change its direction and that should come from within. Whenever we follow a worldly path with specific focus it is possible to reach where that path leads. But sometimes we meet with failure also and end in devastation. But even if we succeed, in the bargain we lose contact with our inner world and communion with God. Main purpose of human birth is to elevate ourselves spiritually and avoid future births or minimize them. Therefore the only way out of this illusory success is turning inwards, the path of Nivritti.
Vedic culture had a wonderful concept of Vanaprastha towards the end of life which in the modern concept is called retirement. But do we really retire? When the children are grown we should hand over to them all our acquired possession beyond our need with a sense of satisfaction and achievement and gradually withdraw from active work. That gives us an opportunity to free our mind from worldly desires and turn inward spiritually. In the Vedic period they moved to calm and quiet forest life in pursuit of Nivritti Marga. That is no longer possible. “Nivritti” should predominate, not just externally by merely giving up things outwardly but more importantly turning inwardly. Neither money nor possessions make us inwardly rich - rather, true wealth lies in a peaceful heart and contentment. Only in Nivritti can the soul permanently quench its thirst for happiness and knowledge.
According to Vedic concept both pravritti-marga, and nivritti-marga have the basis of spiritual or religious life. In animal life there is only pravritti-marga. Pravritti-marga means sense enjoyment, and nivritti-marga means spiritual advancement. In the life of animals and demons, there is no conception of nivritti-marga, nor is there any actual conception of pravritti-marga. Pravritti-marga maintains that even though one has the propensity for sense gratification, he can gratify his senses according to the directions of the Vedic injunctions. For example, everyone has the propensity for sex life, but in demoniac civilization sex is enjoyed without restriction. According to Vedic culture, sex is enjoyed under Vedic instructions. Thus, the Vedas give direction to civilized human beings to enable them to satisfy their propensities for sense gratification. We have talked about the same in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
In the Nivritti-marga, however, on the path of transcendental realization, sex is completely forbidden. Vedic social orders are divided into four parts –Brahmacharya (celebacy) Grihastha (Household), Vanaprastha (retirement) and Sannyasa (renunciation))--and only in the householder life can the Pravritti-marga be encouraged or accepted according to Vedic instructions. That is why sex-life is prohibited in Brahmacharya, Vaanaprastha and Sanyaasa.
We have thus options open to adopt two ways of life while living even as Grihasta (house holder. It is like a tree with one branch that bends down after sometime after reaching its peak in life while the other shoots upwards looking for the Sun or Divine Consciousness. This, the Gita calls its Nivritti Maarga.
We have to start our Nivritti Maarga journey as early as possible. To develop Divine consciousness we need lot of preparatory work. It is also individual oriented. It requires some time to know the depth of our spirituality and then on to proceed further to elevate ourselves as far as possible in this life. If we had practiced Dharma in our earlier life of Pravritti Marga in the pursuit of Artha and Kama we have already a good base to start with. As Gita says we also have to start realizing the Self within us.
Yatha prakashayaty-ekah kritsnam lokam imam ravih
kshetram kshetri tatha a kritsnam prakashayati bharata
kshetram kshetri tatha a kritsnam prakashayati bharata
“Just as the sun alone illuminates the universe, so does the living entity, one within the body (Atman), illuminate the entire body by consciousness”
As the sun is present everywhere in the form of its energy, light, in the same way, the soul is experienced throughout the entire body in the form of its energy, consciousness. Thus consciousness is the symptom of the soul.
This consciousness is the eternal companion of the soul. As one cannot separate heat from fire, one also cannot separate consciousness from the soul. The soul, along with its consciousness, is eternal. They do not cease to exist even after the body has come to an end.
Company of people who inspire truthfulness and goodness often helps the progress. Also it requires firm resolution. A fickle mind often makes new resolutions but also frequently breaks them also. We should withdraw our time dedicated to material interests and pleasures as much as possible and spend more time on spiritual association and progress. We thus can hope for exhausting all our karmas progressively and enjoy Sreyas (Perennial Joy). We should not wait too long for that in our present life for life suddenly end s without notice and with that the chance to achieve something too spiritually.
Vedanta describes two kinds of happiness Sreyas and Preyas. Sreyas is inward happiness and leads to Eternal bliss making human spiritual life good leading to liberation while Preyas makes our living pleasant to lead a healthy physical life. Bhagavad Gita which reflects the Upanishadic thoughts of Kathopanishad often mentions about Sreyas and Preyas. Its real difference and deeper meaning can be better understood by the following mantras in Kathopanishad:
Sreyascha preyascha manushyametah tau sam -pareetya vivinakti dheerah |
Sreyo hi dheero abhi preyasoe vrineete preyo mando yogakshemaad vrineete ||
Both the good and the pleasant approach the mortal man; the wise examines them thoroughly and discriminates between the two; the wise man prefers the good to the pleasant, but the ignorant man chooses the pleasant for the sake of this physical body through avarice and attachment (for getting and keeping).
Kathopanishad says that every person is given the choice to tread the path of that which is right & good called Sreyas to attain infinite Joy or succumb to Preyas, the path of immediate pleasure. Those who choose the path of Sreyas will make the best of their lives, spiritually elevated or attain Eternal Bliss if they are able to exhaust all their Karmas while those who succumb to the latter will have to pay the price in their repeated birth.
The path of Preyas is one of delusion & untruths. Bhagvad Gita calls it Rajasic Joy. It says: “Know that to be rajasic joy where there is pleasure in the beginning and lots of pains thereafter”. The path of Sreyas is one of Sattvic Joy that spiritually elevates to achieve the goal of Eternal Bliss or Perennial Joy.
A man of clear vision knows exactly the expectations of the family, the society in which he lives. He knows very clearly, the appropriate age and time in life, when he should prepare himself for partial renunciation and for total renunciation. These qualities are essentially found in a Sattvic person, Such a person structures his life in such a way that even while he lives in a family and community, he maintains his inner integrity and remains anchored to the Supreme-Self. He knows how to respect the code of conduct and always tries to act in harmony with the Laws of Dharma. These are the guidelines for following the Nivritti Marga without total renunciation or Sanyasa. On the other hand there are people who cannot get out of their Pravritti Marga influenced by Maaya (illusion) and think they are following the right path. Such people are very restless, anxious, always busy in making new plans and resolutions and new projects. They make their own interpretation of Dharma and Adharma in accordance with their own mixed and confused understanding. They think, they are following Nivriitti Marga and live in Maayaa. They even make fun of simple and straight forward people who face temporary set-backs. Thus we find people making few charitable contributions as a show off perform few rituals and sacrifices but constantly engaged in Pravritti Marga. That leads them nowhere without turning inwards. Any good act should be for self -satisfaction and not to please others or look good in the eyes of others.
“As human beings we have numerous powers and abilities within us. Most people, however, are not conscious of them and are therefore unable to use them advantageously. “Do not look back; what was yesterday is gone. Work towards whatever you would like to achieve unwaveringly, and continue to practise. To those who have attained wisdom it is clear that Māyā is an erratic partner, one day bringing something pleasant and the next day something unpleasant. Accept both with equanimity. In worldly life external and inner disturbances will always continue to appear. Therefore, endeavour to maintain your inner harmony through constant practice and self-discipline.
It is recommended that you dedicate at least one to two hours of the day to spiritual practice and meditation. The place for meditation should be kept as free of Māyā and Pravritti as possible and only used for practising Yoga. On the other hand, you should not overdo the ‘retreat from the world’--Sanyaasa or Vanaprastha. Under no circumstances allow your duties to family or society to be neglected, and if someone needs help it is our duty to help.
Move within Māyā like a tight-rope walker performing his art in front of a crowd. He delights the people with his performance, but does not allow their cheering, applause or laughter to distract him even for a second; he gives his undivided attention and concentration to his steps upon the rope.
Therefore go attentively and cautiously through the world, just as you would if you were walking through a coalmine in pure white clothes. Avoid any inadvertent contact otherwise you could all too easily end up with black stains on your clothing.
They behave like one who has carelessly thrown away a valuable diamond thinking that it was a piece of worthless glass. Always be conscious that this human life is priceless. We can buy almost everything with money, but not life. Not even for a billion dollars are we able to delay death for a fraction of a second when the time of our earthly life has run out. Therefore make use of every minute of your existence and decide upon the spiritual path” advises Charka.com devoted to Yogic Practices and Meditation.
Hinduism offers these two major spiritual paths, one for householders and the other for a Sanyasi (monks). These are Pravritti Marga, the Way of the World, and Nivritti Marga, the Path of Return. The path for householders (Pravrittas) is Pravritti Marga while the path of monks (Nivrittas) is called the Nivritti Marga. Life is a combination of Pravritti and Nivritti. Bhagavan in his preaching to learned Arjuna his disciple has the following Upadesa (instruction) or message:
Karmendriyani samyamya ya aaste Manasaa smaran |
Indriyaarthaan vimoodhaatmaa mithyaachaarah sa uchyate || 3-6 ||
The deluded ones, who restrain their organs of action (Karmendriyas) but mentally dwell upon sense of enjoyment, are called hypocrites.
Yas tva indriyaani manasaa niyamyaarabhate arjuana |
Karmendiyaih karmayogam asaktah sa visishyate || 3-7 ||
The one who controls the senses by the trained and purified mind, and engages the organs of action (Karmendriyas) to selfless service, is superior, Oh Arjuna.
Pravrittim cha nivrittim cha janaa na viduraasuraah |
Na saucham naapi chaachaaro na satyam teshu vidyate || 16-7 ||
The demonic people do not know what to do and what to refrain from; neither purity nor good conduct nor truth is found in them.
Aasaapaasasatairbaddaah kaamakrodhaparaayanaah |
Eehante kaamabhogaartham-anyenaartha-sanchayaan || 16-12 ||
Bound by hundreds of fetters of expectations, given over to lust and anger, they try to accumulate wealth by illegal means for the gratification of their desires.
Chintaam-aparimeyaam cha pralayaantam-upaasritaah |
Kaamopa-bhoga-paramaa etaavadati nischitaah || 16-11 ||
Obsessed with innumerable anxieties, those end only with their death; they regard the enjoyment of sensuous pleasures as their highest goal and are fully convinced that, that is all.
Bhagawan cautions Arjuna about the dangers of following exclusively Pravritti Maarga to the extreme and advantages in following exclusively Nivritti Maarga in the above hymns. He says Nivritti Maarga followed exclusively by monks (Sanyasis) is the meritorious one and superior. But he also says elsewhere the path of a monk (Jnaanayoga) is very difficult to follow by all who are born in this world with heavy load of Karma to be exhausted. Those fortunate few monks are born in this world with very little Karma left behind to be exhausted in this life. Upanishads therefore speak of two major spiritual paths, one for householders and the other for monks –Nrivritti Maarga and Pravritti Maarga. Those who follow Pravritti Maarga are Pravrittas while those who follow the Nivritti Maarga are called Nivrittas. The Pravrittas, or people of the household life, are not regarded as inferior to the Nivrittas. They have their purpose and function to fulfil living in the society following Dharma and not running away from it in seclusion. The only goal of a monk in this life is Liberation. An ordinary man has long way to go to exhaust his Karma and needs many more births unlike a monk. Therefore Bhagawan also says it is easier to follow one’s own Dharma than that of others. A householder has to follow his dharma and not go for that of a monk.
One should really progress from Preyas to Sreyas which is the same as Pravriitti to Nivritti for liberation. Our life is meant to be led in such a way that we move towards this goal and scriptures reiterate that life is not for enjoyment alone, pointed out Sri K. Srinivasan in a lecture.
“The different stages in one’s lifetime from childhood through adulthood and old age are meant to prepare us towards the ultimate state of realization. It is very easy to get hooked to Pravritti Marga for seeking material gains that are no doubt pleasurable. But our sense of discrimination will tell us that these gains are not only fleeting and unsubstantial, but also pull one into the cycle of birth.
So the other choice is to tread the path of realization or the Nivritti marga. The focus now shifts to welfare of the Atma and not the body. Realization is reached through renunciation and Nachiketas in Kathopanishad symbolizes discrimination that chooses Sreyas — that which is good and the right. He rejects Preyas though this appears pleasurable and sweet. Actually, this two-fold path becomes the means to attain the end, salvation.
Preyas gradually leads to Sreyas when one learns to mentally renounce its attractions. The result of this choice made with determination is permanent. This inspires one to practice moral values which bring about chitta suddhi (clearing consciousness). It is shown that the Absolute Brahman is realized only when there is purity in one’s thought, word and deed. The success of the result depends on the extent of effort expended”.
Although the householder falls at the feet of sanyasis (monks) the Hindu Dharma recognizes that both have an important part to play. A man who follows his Dharma is not regarded as inferior just because he cannot renounce his worldly life. You know also how Viswamitra struggled hard in life to exclusively follow Jnaana Maarga and attain Brahmarishi status! In fact, many of the spiritually-illumined sages during ancient times such as King Janaka and Ashvapati were family men. Even today there are monks who live with their wives and run house-hold. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Jeers of Maths in South India (monasteries) today are such people. Lord Krishna amply showed this path in his life-style unlike Budha. A practical outlook calls for sufficient attention to religious life -- no matter how dual it might be -- and to enjoy life to the full. Hinduism has always maintained that there are four legitimate aims in life, for which the householder should strive. Collectively they are called the Purusarthas. They consist of Dharma (Righteousness and Duty) Artha (Pursuit of Wealth and Property) Kama (Sensual desires) and Moksha (Release from illusion). The word Moksha consists of two words: moha=illusion and Kshaya=elimination. He who finds the balance and harmony between these four Purusharthas is one who finds the real rhythm of life.
SANKARA AND VIVEKANANDA ON PRAVRITTI AND NIVRITTI
According to Sankara the process of acquiring knowledge (of Brahman) is called “Nivritti maarga” or “Jnaana Yoga”. The process of acquiring the renunciation, which is its prerequisite, is called the path of action, “Pravritti maarga” or “Karma Yoga”. Therefore the objective of following the path of action is to develop renunciation.
Sankara says any such religious faith calls for Sraddha. He defines Sraddha in his hymn in Viveka Choodaamani as follows:
Saastrasya guruvaakyasyasatya-buddhya-avadhaaranaa |
Saa Sraddhaa kathitaa sadbhiryaya vastu upalabhyate || 25 ||
That by which one understands the exact import of scriptures as well as the pregnant words of advice of the preceptor is called Sraddha by the wise. By this alone Reality becomes manifestly clear.
Sraddha is a qualification found necessary in a spiritual aspirant. “Perhaps no other spiritual term has been so badly mauled by the priest class and so profitably polluted by the laity in Hinduism” says swami Chinmayananda. This is an essential prerequisite for anyone trying to master the truth of the scriptures. We all need certain amount of Sraddha even in our daily life.
Pravritti, means revolving towards, and Nivritti, means revolving away. The "revolving towards" is what we call the world, the "I and mine”; it includes all those things which are always enriching that "me" by wealth and money and power, and name and fame, and which are of a grasping nature, always tending to accumulate everything in one center, that center being "myself". That is the Pravritti, the natural tendency of every human being; taking everything from everywhere and heaping it around one center, that center being man's own sweet self. This is of Rajasic and Taamasic nature which may end up in evil doing. When this tendency begins to break then begins morality and religion. This is the start of Nivritti Marga or moving away. This is of Saattvic nature. It is the fundamental basis of all morality and all religion, and the very perfection of it is entire self-abnegation, readiness to sacrifice mind and body and everything for another being. When a man has reached that state, he has attained to the perfection of Karma-Yoga.
Swami Vivekananda referring to Jnaana Yoga in Bhagavad Gita says, “There is one impulse in our minds which says, do. Behind it raises another voice which says, do not. There is one set of ideas in our mind which is always struggling to get outside through the channels of the senses, and behind that, although it may be thin and weak, there is an infinitely small voice which says, do not go outside. It is the circling forward which usually governs our actions. Religion begins with this circling inward. Religion begins with this "do not". Spirituality begins with this "do not". That is the beginning of Janaana Yoga”.
The path of Renunciation for all-renouncing Sanyasi (monk) is Nivritti Marga which is quite different from that of the householders. A Sanyasi, avowed to celibacy, should be physically and mentally pure. He should view every woman as his own mother. He should lead a life of simplicity, spend most of his time in the contemplation of God, and study the scriptures. He should not own any home, wealth or property. He should live in a hut, a temple, or under a tree. He should be truthful and full of compassion for all beings. He should be totally indifferent to blame, praise, pleasure or pain. His only goal in life should be the realization of God.
MNU says those who have rigorously arrived at the conclusion taught by Vedanta through direct knowledge (sanyaasa yoga) following Nivritti Marga attain immortality:
Veadanta vijnaana sunischitaarthaah sanyaasayogaat yatayah suddhasatvaah|
Te brahmaloke tu paraantakaale paraamritaat parimuchyanti sarve ||
Having attained the Immortality consisting of identity with the Supreme, all those aspirants who strive for self-control, who have rigorously arrived at the conclusion taught by the Vedanta through direct knowledge, and who have attained purity of mind through the practice of the disciplne of yoga and stead-fastness (sthitaprajnya) in the knowledge of Brahman preceded by renunciation (Nivritti Marga) get themselves released into the region of Brahman at the dissolution of their final body.
Vivekananda often referred to the words Pravriiti and Nivriitti in Kathopanishad in different contexts in his lectures on Vedanta. He often said Vedanta is the Religion of the Future for the World which aims at Universal Oneness. Here are some quotes from “Swami Vivekananda's Quotes” on Pravritti and Nivritti:
“Acting in the external world, Maayaa manifests itself as the two powers of attraction and repulsion. In the internal its manifestations are desire and non-desire (Pravritti and Nivritti). The whole universe is trying to rush outwards. Each atom is trying to fly off from its center. In the internal world, each thought is trying to go beyond control. Again each particle in the external world is checked by another force, the centripetal, and drawn towards the center. Similarly in the thought-world the controlling power is checking all these outgoing desires.
Every Hindu who has tasted the fruits of this world must give up in the latter part of his life, and he who does not is not a Hindu and has no more right to call himself a Hindu. We know that this is the ideal — to give up after seeing and experiencing the vanity of things. Having found out that the heart of the material world is a mere hollow, containing only ashes, give it up and go back. The mind is circling forward, as it were, towards the senses, and that mind has to circle backwards; the Pravritti has to stop and the Nivritti has to begin. That is the ideal. But that ideal can only be realized after a certain amount of experience. We cannot teach the child the truth of renunciation.
Nivritti is turning aside from the world.
"Pravirti" [Pravritti] means love of God and all his creatures.
The Hindu Ideal of Life is "Nivarti" [Nivritti]. Nivarti means subjugation and conquest of evil passions, of Rajasa and Tamasa nature of lust, revenge and avarice. It does not mean conquest of all desire. It means only the annihilation of gross desires. Every man is bound to love and sympathize with his fellow creatures.
The materializing forces which through desire lead us to take an active part in worldly affairs are called Pravritti.
There is being, "x", which is manifesting itself as both mind and matter. Its movements in the seen are along certain fixed lines called law. As a unity, it is free; as many, it is bound by law. Still, with all this bondage, an idea of freedom is ever present, and this is Nivritti, or the "dragging from attachment".
As we have seen above various authors have treated the subject of Pravritti and Nivritti in their own style based on the wisdom contained in Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita under different contexts. Modern Hindus in general lead a life mostly focused on Pravritti based on outward focus of material prosperity combined with some religious beliefs, rituals out of fear and not solely based on Sraddha which I discussed in my last discourse on Sthitaprjnya. They are however guided by a rare few like Sankarcharya and other Monks who devote their entire life on Nivritti Marga. Worldly wisdom based on Upanishad calls for judicious blend of Pravritti and Nivritti, if not in the first half of our lives but at least in the second half with deep concentration towards retirement as suggested in an article given in the appendix. I would also like to draw your attention to the introduction of a video talk by SandeepTyagi, NJ, USA, of Webnar which some of you would have listened. His parable “The Monk who did not sell his Ferrari” which I have not heard may be directed towards judicious combination of Pravritti and Nivritti margas to march towards Sreyas with Sraddha and spiritual focus keeping the perennial joy as the goal and not the material happiness hitherto enjoyed. Jesus once said: “what is the use of gaining the whole world when you have lost your own soul?” Sandeep's lecture is focused more to busy modern Hindus, particularly Hindu Americans who end up with a meaningless life after all the struggle. Please find below his introduction to the talk:
“The talk is about Capitalism and Spiritualism. Is it possible to be spiritual while being a capitalist and also is it possible to be a capitalist while being spiritual? Are the two systems completely different ways of living? If we put our faith in capitalism our spirit is left dry, we somehow feel that just pursuing money is not our life’s mission. We find it cheap and particularly as we accumulate more money we find our passions are weakened. Selfish desires do not have the passion of a devotee. On the other hand, if we put all our faith in spirituality then are we to give up our I phones, and free YouTube videos and advanced knee replacement surgery? For most of us, giving up these modern advances maybe something aspirational like running a marathon but not really practical. So does it mean that spirituality is not for us?
What if the deep understanding of both systems leads you to the same underlying truth---the one unifying universal truth? And that understanding and implementing that truth in your life will result in success in the capitalistic sphere as well as the contentment and end of suffering promised by spirituality”.
What Hinduism Says About Success
Posted by The Editor | Jun 06, 2014 IndiaDivine.Org
I grew up in an orthodox South Indian Hindu family where success was defined in terms of high educational qualifications and a prestigious job title, preferably in the United States. As a 3rdgrader, I distinctly remember my mother pointing her finger out of the bus on our way to my aunt’s home. She was pointing to the Indian Institute of Technology (I.I.T), which is equivalent to M.I.T and accepts one percent of its applicants each year. She said, “You must worship this place from your heart. This is where you must study.” Sure enough, it left strong impressions in my mind and I wanted to shine in her eyes.
It was only after I got admitted to the I.I.T ten years later that I felt a strong dissatisfaction in my heart. It felt like after all that I had achieved over the course of my life, I was filling up a bottomless bag, into which each time I dropped a “medal” I could not hear it clink. I motivated myself by constant comparison to the students whose success I covertly envied. Each time I equaled them or surpassed them, I felt on the top of the world, for all but a few hours. And then it was back to the emptiness. I had to concede that my notion of success had a very short shelf life. I was getting tired of this relentless pursuit that had no real longevity, in spite of the accolades that friends and family showered upon me.
Perplexed and internally confused, I turned to Hindu scriptures and its broader understanding of the meaning and goal of life. I found that Hindu scriptures consider success an important part of life. It is called artha. Artha means that which is an asset or that which is meaningful. Hinduism classifies success according to stages of life – the first half of life and the second half of life.
Many scriptures focus on the first half of life success. They directly recommend pursuit of education, family, wealth and fame as essential to healthy and fulfilled living. But that could be pursued only in a moral way by following dharma or sanctioned codes of living. Such success, according to ancient Hindu culture, is a necessary source of security, continuity, predictability and impulse control that we need to establish a sound ego structure – before the chaos of real life shows up. Ironically, according to Hinduism, you need a very strong and disciplined ego structure before you let go of the ego itself. The creation of that disciplined ego structure is considered to be success in the first half of life.
The success of the first half of life is only understood when the second half of life sets in – usually not by our own doing. According to Hinduism, we “fall” into the second half of life. Usually that fall manifests itself in the form of an existential crisis that we cannot avoid using first of life success formulae. In the modern day context, such existential crisis is usually referred to as mid-life crisis. Hinduism says that such crises keep appearing in our lives. We usually respond to them by starting new projects, finding new relationships or pursuing new careers. The crisis disappears, only to reappear in the form of a bigger, deeper and unexplainable anxiety that is brought out by life’s unplanned events.
At this juncture, the Hindu scriptures explain, the individual is invited unwittingly to pursue success in a very different form – to inquire about the true meaning of life itself – its artha. The Vedanta Sutra, the essential conclusion of all the Hindu scriptures, in an anticipatory way begins with the statement, “Athatho brahma jignasa” which means, “Therefore, inquire into your identity”. I was amazed to find a text that began with the word “therefore”. In an almost unassuming fashion, it was expecting me to get here – waiting patiently and congratulating me for the success of the first half of life – that after all the pursuits, I have been able to ask the question that truly mattered. The question is, “What is my essence, my soul, really calling me to achieve?” According to the Vedanta Sutra, it is not possible to ask this question if the first half of life has not been done right.
Whatever success is, however defined by the neurosis of the moment, what the ego and the collective culture define as success and what the soul asks of us to do seldom have any relationship with each other. We can drive ourselves to be successful and realize later that we are further and further from ourselves, the more so as the goal of success has driven our efforts. True success, according to Hinduism, is in relentlessly living the second half of life question. It is not in the achievements of the first half of life, but in the unraveling of a deeper mystery of our authentic identity and relationship with this transient world.
1) Ananta Rangacharya, Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru, India.
2) Swami Chinmayananda, Kathopanishad, CCM Trust, Mumbai, India.
3) Prabha Duneja, Bhagavad Gita, Govindram Hasanand, Delhi, India.
4) Ramanada Prasad, Bhagavad Gita, American Gita Society, Fermont, USA.
5) Swami Maheswarananda, Pravritti and Nivritti, Internet.
6) Pravritti and Nivritti, wwwChakra.net>yoga principles
7) Editor, India Divine.Org, What Hinduism says about Success, E-Communication.
8) Satya Chaitanya, Vedic management—Shreyas and Preyas
9) The Hindu, Religion and Belief, “From Preyas to Sreyas”, December 3, 2014.
10) Swami Vivekananda, Vedanta, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, India
11) Swami Vivekananda Quotes. Internet
12) Sandeep Tyagi, NJ,USA, Video Talk on “The Monk who did not sell his Ferrari”