Stress defines modern-day human existence. Most people – whether rich or poor, young or old – are grappling with the spectre of growing depression, frustration and suicides. ‘De-stressing’ programmes are in demand.
What is the root cause of this universal ‘stress explosion’? Superficial reasons vary from economic meltdown to household concerns. However, at the root of every tension, there is one common cause – losing sight of the ultimate goal of human existence – of the elusiveness of ananda or the state of ultimate bliss. Ananda is a state of unconditional, undefined, ultimate contentment. Ananda transcends all material aspirations and is the ultimate goal of all human existence. Each one of us is caught in the vicious cycle of pleasure and pain created by the illusion of existence or Maya, which is the cause of all physical stress in our lives. The only effective way of getting rid of this stress and achieving Ananda is by practising renunciation. The words renunciation, Maya and Ananda immediately bring to our mind visions of Sanyasis, jungles and remote caves.
We often treat the concept of renunciation and detachment as esoteric theories meant to be confined to spiritual texts and discourses or we think it belongs to rishi-munis. In reality, however, these concepts intricately govern our day-to-day lives and it is the absence of this realisation that makes our lives difficult and stressful. Renunciation does not mean abandoning worldly affairs and one’s duties towards life. This is escapism. The life of the legendary King Janaka, illustrates the way in which one can weave renunciation into day-to-day life. The illusions and comforts of royalty failed to lure him into the web of Maya. He performed his duty with a sense of detachment. He was a Sanyasi, even though he was householder and king. King Janaka is an ideal illustration of the fact that the virtue of renunciation can be introduced in life without one being indifferent to life’s ups and downs. A sense of detachment helps us to realise the transitory nature of life and keeps us aware of the futility of living in ignorance, veiled by illusion or Maya. Everyone in this material world, once in a while, faces a crisis.
A crisis like a professional downfall or a personal upheaval; loss of a job or loss of a dear one. The virtue of renunciation does not put an end to such sufferings and pain, but it drastically enhances our coping capabilities and cuts down stress. It keeps us alive to those spiritual realities of life, which are hidden by maya, and hence keeps our faith alive in the higher governing forces of life. A sense of detachment is the most effective antidote against agents of maya like desire of result, unnecessary expectations and peer pressure. It channelises our physical and mental energies and enhances the qualities of our efforts.
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