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Understanding Viveka In Hinduism

The uniqueness of human beings lies in their discerning intellect, viveka, without which they would be no better than animals. It is discernment that puts humans at the zenith of Creation and allows them control over other creatures. It is this discerning intellect that has enabled humans to survive many a shock that has wiped out hundreds of species. The lifestyle and food habits of a tiger of today is little different from that of his predecessors aeons ago. Nor is it going to change in the years to come. But this is not the case with humans. They have evolved psychosocially with changing circumstances, and continue to do so. But for discerning wisdom, humans could well have been in the list of extinct races by now.

The term viveka comes from the Sanskrit root vichir, bearing the connotation of prithakbhava, differentiating or discerning. The Jivanmuktiviveka explains viveka as ‘coming to a conclusion after distinguishing and sorting out things’. It could mean — among other things — the discernment between right and wrong, the moral and the immoral, virtue and vice, the eternal and the transitory, Self and non-Self.

Viveka signifies three things: First, the discerning faculty potentially present in each and every individual, termed viveka shakti; all of us are gifted with this faculty. Second, the process of discernment when this aptitude is exercised, termed viveka kriya or viveka vyapara. Only a few of us consciously use this discerning capacity in our daily affairs. Third, the knowledge born of discernment, termed viveka jnana. Commonly, the term viveka is used to refer to the process of discernment and the resultant knowledge.

We keep coming across choices all through our lives. And making proper choices involves deliberation and thinking. On the nature of our choices depends our success and failure in life. By exercising this responsibility judiciously, humans become the architects of their destiny.