If today were the last day of your life…

Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures, have described desires elaborately. There are two kinds of desires — one is fundamental desire, the other is topical desire. Topical desires arise in us more often than the fundamental desires. We like to eat sweets, watch movies, gossip with friends — these are topical desires.

There are three types of fundamental desires. If we were to suddenly learn that today would be the last day of our lives, we would desire to live for one more day. This is the first desire.

We all wish to live for one more day. This desire, as per the Vedas, is called ‘Sat’. But we also wish that the extra day should be spent happily — this is the second desire, called ‘Ananda.’ When one attains permanent bliss, no one would wish to die.

The third fundamental desire is to gain as much knowledge as possible during one’s lifetime. This is called the hunger for knowledge.

It’s common to find people rejecting the idea of this third desire. “My son is ten years old and evinces absolutely no interest in his lessons. But you say that everyone has a desire to gain knowledge. How is that?” I was once asked.

One may not have any interest in the lessons taught in school, but that does not mean that he has no interest in gaining knowledge.

We, in fact, cannot wait to learn. Try telling someone this and watch their reaction: “This is an important secret. I will reveal it to you tomorrow.” They would not be able to wait till the next day to find out what that secret is. We are not happy being ignorant. So, I say that wishing to gain knowledge and wanting to learn new things is the third desire. This, the Vedas refer to as ‘Chit.’

Hence, ‘Sat’ means the desire to live, ‘Ananda’ means the desire that life should be happy and ‘Chit’ is the desire to acquire knowledge. The Vedas call them as ‘Sat-Chit-Ananda.’

Sat, Chit and Ananda are the three desires that we seek, like a sea diver searching for pearls in the deep ocean while holding his breath. Not knowing this basic truth, we live our lives lost in the unessentials.

Focus on essentials

Reflect on this interesting story. An Octroi officer who was posted at a particular check post observed that a cyclist crossed the check post everyday carrying sandbags with him. This continued for years. There was no tax on sand and the Octroi officer allowed the cyclist to pass with the bags.

After retirement, the Octroi officer found a big cycle shop near the place he used to work. To his surprise, he got to know that the cyclist who used to carry the sand bags was actually the owner of the cycle shop. On enquiry, it came to light that the cyclist, all along, smuggled one cycle a day under the pretext of carrying sand bags. The Octroi officer, to his dismay, found that during his tenure, he had only checked the sand bags while missing the essential — the cycle.

So often, we get lost in the unessential and miss what is essential. The commitment of a spiritual person should be to fulfill the fundamental desire and not get lost in the unessential desires.