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There are three stages in the spiritual development of any human being in this world. They are duṣpravṛtti(doing bad deeds), pravṛtti(doing justice), and nivṛtti(complete love and surrender to God). They are related to a person’s fascination (overattachment or Moha) to worldly bonds. The three main worldly bonds of a soul are the bond with money, the bond with one’s life-partner and the bond with one’s child. A limited attachment to these worldly bonds is acceptable as long as it does not cross the boundaries of justice. Excessive attachment to these bonds causes the soul to commit injustice. Duṣpravṛtti is the lowest stage in which the soul is completely affected by the six vices. The six vices are lust, anger, greed, overattachment, ego, and jealousy. Such souls always support injustice and are severely punished by God here as well as after death in hell. They are attached to illegitimate worldly bonds and they often neglect or even cause harm to their legitimate bonds. In other words, they engage in illegitimate relations and illegitimate ways of earning money. Pravṛtti is the middle stage in which the soul possesses good qualities and always supports justice. Such a soul is blessed by God with happiness here and happiness in heaven after death. This soul rejects illegitimate bonds while maintaining a limited attachment to the legitimate bonds. Nivṛtti is the stage in which the soul is completely filled with the real love for God. Such a soul goes beyond justice and injustice. This soul rejects all worldly bonds, both legitimate and illegitimate, and is totally fascinated with having a single bond with God (Ekabhaktirviśiṣyate—Gita). In this stage, all the worldly bonds drop off naturally, as a result of the divine bond to God. There is not the slightest force involved in this detachment from worldly bonds. Nivṛtti means total detachment since all worldly bonds are totally dropped in this stage. If a person leaves his lawful wife due to his attraction for a prostitute, he is on the downward journey from pravṛtti to duṣpravṛtti. If a person leaves his lawful wife due to his attraction for God, he is on the upward journey from pravṛtti to nivṛtti. A soul starting from the lowest stage of duṣpravṛtti must first reach the middle stage of pravṛtti before proceeding to nivṛtti. The first part of the journey, from duṣpravṛtti to pravṛtti, is described in the Rāmāyaṇam and the Mahābhāratam. The second part of the journey, from pravṛtti to nivṛtti, is described in the Bhāgavatam. The Bhagavat Gita speaks about both these parts of the journey in both the upward and downward directions. Hence, it is recognized as the total authority for both ethical knowledge (pravṛtti) as well as spiritual knowledge (nivṛtti). True Nivṛtti Nivṛtti does not mean the dropping of all bonds since the mind cannot remain without any bond. Nivṛtti means the natural dropping off of all worldly bonds due to the formation of a single, extremely strong bond with God. If the mind is forced to not have any bond, it is both unnatural and impossible. A person’s soul is awareness and the thoughts and qualities in the awareness are the mind. The mind naturally seeks objects and develops bonds. Forcing the mind to be without bonds or thoughts is forcing oneself to become inert, like a stone. It is a pity that Advaita philosophers take a lot of effort to attain this unnatural forced state. They try to drop all their worldly bonds, feeling that the world is unreal and illusory. If all the worldly bonds drop off naturally due to the strong bond with God, then that state is correct. But these Advaitins do not have any bond with God because they feel that they are already God. Having a bond with oneself is meaningless! They neither have a bond with God nor do they have a bond with the world. This is a forced state of the mind which they call as the state of Advaita or monism. But unfortunately, it is neither the true state of monism nor can it be sustained for a long time. The Advaita philosopher Totāpuri criticized Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa for His inability to reach this forced state of ‘monism’. Later, one day, Totāpuri developed a severe stomach-ache. It was so unbearable that he even tried to end his life. But even that failed. Then, the universal Divine Mother appeared to him and preached to him the path of devotion to God, which is based on the fundamental dualism between God and the soul. It was the path that Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had followed all along. Hence, in all the three stages of duṣpravṛtti, pravṛtti, and nivṛtti, the soul always remains in a state of dualism with God. It cannot reach the state of God in which this world becomes unreal to the soul. Therefore, nivṛtti does not simply mean the dropping of all bonds. It only means the dropping of all worldly bonds due to the formation of a very strong bond with God, which is based on a fundamental dualism between God and the soul. From the angle of the soul, this fundamental dualism alone is true at all times. Monism is true only from the angle of the absolute God. Overcoming the Six Vices in the Journey Duṣpravṛtti is the result of the attachment to illegitimate sex (kāma), illegitimate anger (krodha) and illegitimate greed (lobha). The three are said to be the three main gates to hell in the Gita. Naturally, pravṛtti means rejecting the above three vices and adopting the opposite good qualities, which are legitimate sex, legitimate anger, and legitimate greed. Overattachment (moha) to illegitimate worldly bonds leads to duṣpravṛtti while limited attachment to legitimate worldly bonds leads to pravṛtti. Excessive attachment even to the legitimate worldly bonds is a danger because it provokes the soul to commit sins. The attachment to legitimate worldly bonds can be reduced by developing attachment to God. The attachment to illegitimate worldly bonds can be completely eliminated with a combination of the fear of hell and the faith in God. Faith in God, the fear of hell and the development of devotion to God together completely reform the soul. The soul then rises from the first stage of duṣpravṛtti, through the middle state of pravṛtti, all the way to the third stage of nivṛtti. The last three vices are illegitimate attachment (moha), ego (mada) and jealousy (mātsarya). They automatically get associated with the first three vices which are illegitimate lust, anger and greed. Moha is the overattachment towards worldly bonds. But the worldly bonds are related to lust and greed. So, overattachment is related to lust and greed. Similarly, one develops pride or ego due to materialistic achievements, which are related to greed. One also develops jealousy (mātsarya) towards fellow humans based on their worldly achievements. So, the last three vices are based on the first three vices. Therefore, only the first three are stressed in the Gita as the three main gates to hell. Avoid bad side of both good and bad deeds Let us examine the six so-called bad qualities or vices and see how each of them has both meritorious and sinful sides. Among them, the first three, are responsible for the majority of sins in the world. They are said to be the three main gates to hell as per the Gita. 1) Lust or sex (kāma😞 The meritorious side of sex is to generate issues which form the next generation. Sex with one’s rightful wife to produce children is perfectly justified (Dharmāviruddhaḥ bhūteṣu kāmo’smi—Gita). Even the intense desire for sex, which causes a person to engage in sex with one’s married partner frequently, is also justified. There are several uncertainties arising from gynaecological and other factors in conceiving a child. The time of the release of the ovum is uncertain, the life of sperm is short and so on. Hence, frequent sex becomes necessary for producing children. Thus, lust, which drives a person to have frequent sex, has a good side. But when a person using his or her freedom, chooses to engage in sex with an unlawful partner, in violation of God’s laws of worldly justice, the sex becomes sinful. It is this sinful side of the sin alone which is to be given up. An ordinary human being on the path of pravṛtti should not blindly give up sex completely without recognizing this internal sub-classification of the good and bad sides to each quality. A very few exceptional souls of the nivṛtti path, like Śaṅkara, Ramakrishna etc., left sex completely. But they did not leave it by any forced effort. It was a natural consequence of their extreme attachment to God. Such exceptional cases are out of the scope of pravṛtti or karmādhikāra. Karmādhikāra means the eligibility to do worldly work. People who follow the rules of justice given by God are said to be eligible to perform worldly work, which is the path of pravṛtti. But the eligibility of these exceptional cases, who are the stars of the nivṛtti path, far exceeds karmādhikāra. 2) Violence or anger (krodha😞 The originally-created good side of anger or violence is that teachers or parents can show anger towards their students or children, whenever they go on the wrong path. With this quality, teachers and parents can bring their students or children back to the right path in pravṛtti. An Incarnation of God like Krishna killing a devilish soul is the good side of violence (Vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām—Gita). Even a court putting a criminal to death is the good side of violence. However, an individual should not take the law into his own hands. Even God Rama, the embodiment of justice and peace, is described in the Rāmāyaṇam as “Sthānakrodhaḥ prahartā ca,” which means that He showed anger and even killed in the appropriate situation. The sinful side of anger and violence is getting angry with good people and hurting or killing them. 3) Greediness (lobha😞 Greed causes a person to not share his wealth with others. The original good side of greed is that a person does not donate his precious wealth to undeserving receivers but donates it to only to deserving receivers. The sinful side of greed is donating to undeserving receivers and not donating to deserving receivers. Unless you save money by avoiding undeserved donations, you cannot make well-deserved donations since most people have limited financial resources. Very few people are rich. Even if you are rich, the sinful side of greediness must be avoided and its meritorious side must be practiced. In the Mahābhāratam it is clearly told that both donating to the undeserving and not donating to the deserving are sins. The fourth, fifth and sixth vices namely moha, mada and mātsarya, also have both good and bad sides. As long as these three are within limits, they are not as dangerous, and they do not yield punishments in hell. But if they cross their boundaries and lead to sinful deeds, they become punishable. 1) Fascination (moha😞 Fascination to one’s family is the good side of fascination in pravṛtti. Fascination or moha towards God is even better in pravṛtti, and of course, it is essential in nivṛtti. But moha in unlawful relationships is sin in pravṛtti. Also, having fascination only for the worldly bonds of child, spouse and wealth, without having any bond with God, is the bad side of fascination in both nivṛtti and pravṛtti. Having a fascination only for the worldly bonds is not a punishable sin by itself. It is bad because it stops spiritual progress. But an extreme moha for the worldly bonds without any moha for God may lead the soul to commit punishable sins in pravṛtti. So, on the whole, moha for God is the good side of moha and moha for the worldly bonds is the bad side. 5) Pride (mada😞 The good side of mada is having self-confidence and the bad side is to have an ego. Limited pride is self-confidence. It is like the normal body temperature. If the pride grows beyond limits, it becomes ego, which is like a fever. If confidence drops down below a certain limit it is like an abnormally low body temperature, which is also dangerous. Low self-confidence makes the person afraid of even doing normal activities. In nivṛtti, a devotee can be proud of being a disciple of God Datta. But this pride should not take the negative direction of looking down upon other forms of God Datta. This is the bad side of pride which results from the ignorance of the spiritual knowledge preached by God Datta. 6) Jealousy (mātsarya😞 The good side of jealousy is to develop competition with people, who are better than us. It drives us to make efforts to reach their level or even surpass them and become the best. It is said that envy brings growth in knowledge, “Spardhayā vardhate vidyā”. The bad side of jealousy is pulling down those who are better than us, by false blame in order to become equal with them or suppressing others and pushing them below our own level in order to become better than them. In the cases of ego and jealousy, there is an additional danger. When both are directed to the wrong side in the case of the contemporary Human Incarnation of God, they lead to repulsion from the Incarnation. After passing into the energetic world, the soul also feels repulsion from the Energetic Incarnation. Owing to the repulsion from the Human Incarnation here on earth and the energetic Incarnation in the upper-world, the soul misses the chance to attain God here as well as there. So, avoiding ego and jealousy towards the Incarnation is very important in nivṛtti. Just as the so-called bad qualities have meritorious and sinful sides, the so-called good qualities also have both sides. Worshipping God is generally a good quality. The good side of this quality is worshipping God out of true love without aspiring for any fruit in return from Him. The bad side of this quality is worshipping God due to artificial love shown for Him. In such a case, the person’s real love is for the fruit that he aspires from God. Serving society is a good quality, which also has both good and bad sides. A politician doing social service to impress the public for the sake of getting votes is bad. His actual intention is to win the election, secure a powerful position and earn sinful money. The social service done by Mahatmā Gandhi, Mother Theresa etc., with the goal of genuinely helping needy souls, in the name of God, is the good side of social service. In ancient times, yajña was also a form of social service. During the yajña, hungry people were fed, and spiritual discussions and prayers to God were conducted. This is the good side of the yajña. The bad side of yajña is to do the same yajña for achieving heavenly pleasures after death or achieving worldly pleasures in this life, without developing any spiritual knowledge or devotion to God. During the time of Śaṅkara, the Pūrva Mīmāṁsā philosophy had turned to this bad side of yajña, and as a result, it was condemned by Śaṅkara. www.universal-spirituality.org Universal Spirituality for World Peace