In ancient Hindu scriptures, the saints have outlined life in four distinct phases. They are:
Brahmacharya – is the phase when an individual is meant to learn, study, explore
Grihastha – is the phase when an individual has a family and spends his time in samsara (material world)
Vanaprastha – is the phase when an individual retires from samsara, rest and in earlier days proceed to a forest to lead his/her life, and finally
Sanyasa – is the phase when an individual leads the life of renunciation. This phase is meant for meditation and the pursuit of enlightenment.
Albeit, I have summarised this in an over-simplified manner. And should you want to go deeper, there are many Vedic scriptures and materials which will give you a better understanding. As for me, I have understood it as the essence of being and doing (karma). One needs to do what he is meant to do in this life and his deeds are the hallmark of this life.
When I reflected on the phases, I asked a question – what is “rest”? If we are busy doing things what we are meant to, when does one relax? Have I ever truly relaxed in the last 3 decades of my life? Have I really done the things which I enjoyed doing as a child? I do not even remember clearly which activities I enjoyed the most and what did I turn to, if I were to rest? I kept doing things one after another and got busy. In the busyness, more things came to fill my time and I jumped straight in to do more, to achieve more, to get more and to give more – “karma” in the verb sense overwhelmed me. And in all the years, when I had some time to relax, I almost felt that I am wasting my time. “Busyness” was the flavour of my journey. And the universe told me, “Bitasta, this is it. You are now meant to relax.” I was scared. Without active work, my life had no meaning. This sense of not knowing the future or losing control over the present and the future led to stress. I was seeking meaning and purpose.
I was alive but not living anymore
And one fine spring morning, after an hour of writing my experiences, finally the summer came and I caught a glimpse of “Life”.
I connected the ancient wisdom with my definition of how to LIVE (Love, Ideation, Victory and Enlightenment).
L – LOVE – This is the quality we are all born with. This is nature’s gift to our soul. This is our strength to embark, endure and march through the journey of life. But love is not merely a feeling. This is an action word. We are meant to use love with all our senses. We are meant to do things joyfully for others and to ourselves. We take a few steps away from this gift, we create an imbalance in the universe. Every act of hate ( be it in speech, thoughts or actions) create an unintended havoc in the universe. Every act of love ( be it in thoughts, speech or action) unifies the strings of the universe. In the act of love itself, one can rest – because love acts as a healing balm and exterminates all elements of stress.
I – IDEATION – When we are born, we are also meant to learn about the world, the universe, nature and the ways things work. This is the student phase and the journey of learning. Some people might think that it has a definite start and end time. I think we are students, learners and explorers throughout our life. Our sense of curiosity and desire to know and do more is inexhaustible. As humans, when we stop learning, we stop to live. The thrill of exploring the world, nature, human relationships and also self, ends with our last breath. We need to keep the desire of learning alive within us throughout this journey. This gives us the “chi” and “spirit”. The purpose is not something which is always in the karma – learning is a form of karma too.
V – VICTORY– As we go through the journey called life, we have many wins and many setbacks. We ought to celebrate the big and little wins or victories in our lives. Victory, as is defined by personal achievement, is only a part of the explanation. Victory is our little kind contributions to the lives of others which have helped them to be who they are. But most importantly, every moment we breathe and stay alive to enjoy the bounties of nature is the biggest victory in life. We ought to enjoy every moment and celebrate our lives. Victory is not the opposite of a loss, but the second chance and the opportunity which we get to make things different.
God’s grace in our lives, is the biggest victory of all.
E – ENLIGHTENMENT – Do we need to wait for the lonely mountain and hours of meditations to reach the state of enlightenment? Would it not be simple to “be in the light” of wisdom and be content with it?
To live in the full awareness of selves, “be” in the present moment and be “grateful” for the gift of life is also enlightenment.
For some, the path to renunciation is the active path of enlightenment.
For some, the path to enlightenment is to be completely immersed in active “samsara” with full awareness of the present moment. This also helps us to do good “karma” and improve the lives of the living beings in the universe. Spirituality, thus, is as vast as the universe. Different people choose different paths to fulfil their lives’ potential.
And to go through life, I L.I.V.E. It gives me a sense of peace and joy.
Next time, stress becomes your friend, practise L.I.V.E. It will give you the strength to make the journey with a sense of purpose.
I wish you the best.