Applying Wisdom in Daily Life

By Rudra Shivananda

There is a tendency, more pronounced perhaps in the West, of separating how we live our lives from what we have learned from our spiritual studies. Most of the people who study the philosophy or teachings of the yogis and sages, treat them as something interesting to discuss and argue about – they forget that the sages meant their teachings to be lived!

Of course, when one has direct inner experience, one’s life will be changed as shown by the stories of the sages. However, without proper knowledge or guidance, the experience cannot be integrated properly and may actually lead to more confusion and greater ignorance.

This has been evidenced by the exaggerated and dubious insights of many new-age proponents, especially those who have had near-death or traumatic experiences. Even a superficial study of the teachings when applied and integrated into our lives can lead to greater peace and contentment. In fact, if one can apply the wisdom of the sages in our daily life, it may actually lead to our experiencing the higher consciousness states from which the sages derived their insights.

We do not need to wait until we have our own experience before we change our life-style. One of the great insights that the sages taught is the transient nature of phenomena and how that should affect our value system. Mentally, we can understand about the shortness of life and inevitability of death, of aging and the loss of youth and vigor, of disease and the loss of well-being. However, emotionally we refuse to accept these truths and this warps our value system, for example, where we try to cover up aging through cosmetic means.

 

If we know that this body will perish soon, how does that affect our future actions? What do we value and will try to accomplish in the time that we have left? Some may try to accumulate more money or possessions but that cannot be taken with them at death and is futile. Some may try to enjoy themselves to the utmost but even the memories of their enjoyment cannot be taken to the next life.

man standing beside his wife teaching their child how to ride bicycle

The sages teach that the only lasting achievement in life is spiritual evolution towards a higher consciousness. Towards that end, we need to balance our work, our family, our enjoyment with our spiritual practice. Should we just abandon our work, family and enjoyment? The work and family are considered to be part of our duty or dharma and abandonment would constitute a running away from our duties which can cause more karmic problems in future lives. Discharging our duties in the best possible way is considered to
be a way to work off our karmic debt and is also spiritually evolving. The enjoyment of the senses may be minimized for a time but unless it is totally transformed through a higher state of consciousness, the desire for it will be stronger in the next life.

All spiritual seekers need to perform this balancing act in their lives – sometimes work and family take a bigger focus and then later in life, more and more time may be given over to the spiritual practice. If someone young does not need to work and has no desire for family or sensual enjoyment, then that person through effort in previous life-times has already worked out the proper life-value and may in this life be wholly devoted to the path of spiritual evolution. However, this should be verified by a competent spiritual guide and not be the outcome of deluded ego-desires.

When you next study the teachings of the sages, try to see how their wisdom can be integrated into your life. Don’t wait for enlightenment before you make the effort, for that cannot come without an effort to change our values and life-style now.

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