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Preyas In Hindu Philosophy

Preyas literally means the pleasant or the desirable in Hindu philosophy. In the second chapter of the Katha Upanishad, there is a story of a small boy named Nachiketa. His father performed a sacrifice. Nachiketa saw his father give away old, emaciated cows in charity to the learned people. Nachiketa asked his father that as he had given old cows in charity, to who he intended to give his son, Nachiketa. The father did not answer. Nachiketa repeated the question thrice. Then the father angrily replied, “To the God of Death I give you.” Nachiketa obediently went to the house of the God of Death. Since Yama, the God of Death was away from his home, Nachiketa had to stay there for three days. He did not take any food. Yama, after coming back, offered him three boons for having stayed in his house for three days without eating. Nachiketa asked Yama to instruct him in the knowledge of life and death. Yama began his instruction, stating the difference between Shreyas and Preya.

Preyas means pleasant. Katha Upanishad states, but he falls from the goal who chooses the pleasant.” Man falls from his spiritual goal when he pursues preyas, since preyas is happiness arising from the satisfaction of sense organs after enjoying material objects. It happens only when man considers his life to be everything and does not believe in the Supreme Self and higher living. He remains in the animal level of satiating the senses. Many a time one does appreciate higher living, but cannot overcome the temptations of worldly pleasures. Man falls in the path of avidya (ignorance) when he chooses preyas. Preyas may help one’s sense to enjoy sense-objects, but it binds him and does not lead him to the goal of self realization. The path of the pleasant may lead on to crimes and sins, and thus bind one to lower forms of life.

Preyas is pravrttimarga or the path of worldly activity. The ignorant man selects the path of preyas to obtain what he does not have and to protect what he has already obtained. Every day, or rather every moment, one has a choice to choose between “the good and the pleasant”; pleasant is the path of wealth, worldly pleasure, striving to obtain that which may mortals can’t. Therefore, one should try to go beyond the path of preyas.