The Good And The Pleasant
“What is good may not be pleasant and what is pleasant may not be good” — This is not my early morning philosophical rumination!
I was reading the Kathopanishad (for the nth time) and was suddenly struck by this dialogue between Nachiketa and Yama.
When Yama tempts Nachiketa with riches instead of giving him the knowledge he asks for, Nachiketa says this — “The Good and the Pleasant promiscuously surround the man. The wise fully examining them, distinguishes (them). The wise chooses the Good over the Pleasant.”
श्रेयश्च प्रेयश्च मनुष्यमेतस्तौ संपरीत्य विविनक्ति धीरः ।
श्रेयो हि धीरोभिप्रेयसो वृणीते प्रेयो मन्दो योगक्षेमात वृणीते।।
It got me thinking if we constantly discern what is good for us and what is pleasant for us. Heck, most of us are not even aware of it.
For example, someone with a weak constitution may feel pleasant eating ice cream, but it is most likely not good for that person.
Similarly, doing your yoga practices in the morning is good for you but it may not be a pleasant experience, at least when you are starting on the regimen.
Our Puranas and Upanishads have addressed many such dilemmas (that continue into the modern age).
These two verses from the Kathopanishad highlight the importance our rishis placed on yogic practices that enable one to gain control over one’s mind and how it can help achieve mukti from this cycle of life and death.
यस्तु विज्ञानवान भवति समनस्कः सदा शुचिः।
स तु तत्पदमाप्नोति यस्माद्भयो न जायते।।
“He who discriminates, with manas always harmonised and (senses) pure, verily he (reaches) that place from which he is not born again.”
विज्ञानसारथिर्यस्तु मनः प्रग्रहवान्नरः।
सा ाधवनः परमाप्नोति तद्विष्णोः परमंपदम्।।
“The man who has Vijnana for his charioteer, and fields the reins of Manas, he reaches the end of the road, that highest place of Vishnu.”
Many timeless truths are beautifully narrated through stories like that of Nachiketa. Unfortunately, out of blind hatred towards one community, most people have thrown the baby out with the bath water. It’s time such stories, with the science & philosophy intact, reach everyone.