“When your personal and supreme interests can be easily obtained from one place, it is not sensible for you in weakness to beg at the doors of others, O Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 54)
स्वारथ परमारथ सकल सुलभ एक ही ओर |
द्वार दूसरे दीनता उचित न तुलसी तोर ||
svāratha paramāratha sakala sulabha eka hī ora |
dvāra dūsare dīnatā ucita na tulasī tora ||
It is not difficult for the adult human being to become lost in terms of direction. They may have reached the stage of self-sufficiency. They can support a family on their own. They have children to raise. The job is going okay enough that it isn’t a primary concern on a daily basis.
There is the commonly known episode of “Mid-life Crisis.” A person reaches the middle of their time spent in this particular lifetime, based on the actuarial tables for life expectancy in the particular region. They start to wonder if life has provided everything already in terms of experience. Is there anything more?
A person might ask these questions at a younger age, when deciding which direction to go in terms of occupation. They would rather not look back with regret later on, when they are old and approaching the final exit.
Vedic literature provides a basic distinction in terms of interest. There is nuance and detail, but this identifies the common paths man has followed since the beginning of time. There is an interesting twist at the end, where a person learns of a new, combined option.
This is a compound Sanskrit word. The two component terms are sva and artha. Sva refers to the self or individual. Artha refers to interest. It can also mean something which is profitable. The four principal enjoyments for the human being include artha: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha.
Svartha is the interest of the self. It can be something simple like going out to eat ice cream. It is a warm summer day. The air conditioning at home is not providing enough relief. Some fresh ice cream would really hit the spot.
I go out and satisfy the interest almost immediately. That is one instance of svartha. A person of reasonable intelligence can extrapolate and account for many more examples based on their situation. Finding a new job. Moving to a warmer climate. Meeting the life partner of your dreams. These are all svartha.
This is a similar word, except the first component is parama. This refers to “supreme” or “superior.” In essence, this is a better kind of interest than svartha. The typical context for this word is the afterlife. I am satisfying an interest for which I may have to wait many years to see the reward.
As an example, I decide to hold a worship ceremony in the new home that I purchased. This is to please the devas, to purify the atmosphere, and ensure generally auspicious conditions moving forward.
अन्नाद् भवन्ति भूतानि
यज्ञाद् भवति पर्जन्यो
annād bhavanti bhūtāni
yajñād bhavati parjanyo
“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.14)
The devas can offer rewards immediately or within the present lifetime, but the foundation of these rituals is living a cultured life. The rites of passage, samskara, are from birth until death. This is the boon of the human being, to be able to influence the afterlife, which will involve a future birth.
The people who are intimately familiar with the origin of everything, who have dedicated their lives to serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, know of a hidden truth. Svartha and paramartha actually merge into one when influenced in that direction.
For instance, Goswami Tulsidas reminds himself that there is no need to go begging at the doors of others, as is typical for the person within the sannyasa ashrama of cultured living. Both svartha and paramartha are met through the holy name of Rama, which represents the Supreme Lord.
There is the svartha of the immediate need for food. There is the paramartha of giving the donor householders a chance at auspiciousness through serving a saintly person. Within the holy name of Rama is all dharma. Every variety merges into one, in the same way that Krishna describes the surrendering process in Bhagavad-gita.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
Prahlada Maharaja gives similar advice. He says that the best destination in svartha is Vishnu, which is another name for Rama and Krishna. In other words, serving Vishnu will satisfy svartha. This may seem unbelievable at first, as strict adherence to rules and regulations recommended by the acharya have a negative connotation. It feels like I am being tortured into giving up this thing and that, living an austere life, and so forth.
The truth is that this connection in consciousness, yoga, will be the best thing for me. It is the ideal way to spend the remaining days within the present birth. It will assure safe passage to the spiritual world, and the eternal dharma continues into the future. It is a win-win proposal.
Worried about piety and sin,
But possible a win-win.
Where both interests met,
Right now and hereafter to get.
Svartha and paramartha merging,
Saintly people this way urging.
That directly to Vishnu take,
And blessed this life make.
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