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Viveka For A Meaningful Life

Viveka is as essential to spiritual life as to the secular. Spiritual life is a journey into the unknown. Unless the light of viveka illumines one’s spiritual path, there is always the risk of losing one’s way or stumbling. Examples are not wanting in Indian Itihasas and Puranas of aspirants being misled or falling from their ideal due to lack of discernment. The Upanishads declare this path to be like a razor’s edge, difficult to tread. Sri Ramakrishna repeatedly reminds us that discernment between the real and the unreal is imperative for a spiritual aspirant. The lives of saints and sages provide illuminating examples of the exercise of discerning wisdom for choosing the right path and realizing one’s goals.

The Katha Upanishad explains the significance of viveka through the instructive analogy of a chariot. The human body is compared to a chariot, with the individual self as its master; knowledge is the charioteer; mind, the bridle; sense organs, the horses; and sense objects, the road. For the person with viveka these organs are as controllable as trained horses, and thus endowed with a controlled mind the self attains its goal: Self-knowledge, the highest reward of viveka. On the other hand, the person devoid of viveka, with an uncontrolled mind and unruly senses, much like vicious horses, never attains one’s goal (1.3.3–9).

How does viveka help? Viveka enables us to keep our priorities in order, have clarity of vision, and lead a purposeful life. Instead of giving up one’s individuality, blindly imitating people and following the different fads rampant in society, a discerning person can rightly apprehend the truth behind these and stick to the essentials that can lead one to the goal that makes life meaningful.