There are two essential imperatives that necessitate living by values: the first – that just as material food nourishes our body-mind, our Spirit – the animating “lifeforce” that makes us alive, conscious and human – is nurtured only by values that emanate from a space of awareness, love, and kindness. The second reason is that if we all chose to ‘have our way’ and do as we pleased without caring for others or other living beings or our planet, some of the darkest, roughest, and most offensive of our traits would come to the fore. That would wreck whatever little ability humans have left, to live harmoniously with one another on planet Earth, and make life a living hell.
Both these reasons are critical for us to live our lives – of eight to nine decades at most, on Earth – with grace, joy, peace, equanimity, and in harmony with all. All would agree that living our short lives gracefully and peacefully, are essential for an enhanced quality of life. It stands to reason, therefore, that we need to live every moment of our lives with Values. Hence, the title of this piece.
Where do we need to make a beginning if we truly wish to live by Values on a daily basis? We first need to realize that Values are not merely a set of “dos and don’ts” that we have been asked to adhere to. That’s how values may be inculcated in us when we are children: living in our innocent, simple worlds, without having to deal with major dilemmas. But as we mature, the Values that will guide us every single day need to come from within ourselves. Of course, since not all people – even as adults – are all sufficiently evolved, there will also be a need to enforce laws that have emerged from universal human values, so as to uphold the greater good of humanity, collectively.
Values that must emerge from within ourselves have to be sourced from the vast and unfathomable Spirit that animates us. And which, as has been mentioned above, will also nurture the Spirit, in turn, and keeps it shining brightly and brilliantly within us. Yet, thanks to another important part of ourselves, our mind, which acts like a “dirty glass pane” the brightness of our Spirit, is often hidden from our own selves! We then begin to think of ourselves as limited, small, and ineffective, forgetting that the Spirit is the amazing life force, the very God-vitality within us!
It’s essential therefore that we “cleanse our minds” first so that all the soot and grime of conditioning, that covers it, is systematically removed, and we, once again recognize that our Spirit is verily a part of us and that we are indeed divine! We realize the truth of the phrase, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience”.
The cleansing of the mind and pursuing a process of personal purity is done through what seekers in India have called sadhana– a personal practice of mind purification that includes meditation and inculcating the guidance of one’s Guru. The very nature of the mind requires that the sadhana is a continuous, life-long process so that every single stain or blemish is carefully removed from it – much like a goldsmith would remove impurities from molten gold: one small dark speck at a time.
As the mind is refined, and its purity enables us to recognize the magnificence of the Spirit at all times, we begin to function differently and ethically. We realize that all that we experience around us – the sights, sounds, colors, tastes, and interactions – are all divine! All that’s happening – across the world and within our infinite cosmos – is indeed a divine play, a Lila, according to Indian philosophical traditions. We see ourselves as connected with all that we experience and engage with. There is nothing that is separate from us. Yes, our bodies and our minds might seem different from those of others, but we also realize that we are not just our bodies, but a component of the infinite Spirit itself!
As the purity of our mind reveals our true nature, the depth of our character shows up. We begin to function with a focus on excellence, and we constantly do what is right, appropriate, kind, and loving. Furthermore, we do this in ways that enhance the good of all. We experience a unique oneness with all of humanity, living beings, and our planet. We see all as a part of our own larger selves. Therefore, behaving in ways that would harm or hurt ‘others’ diminishes! It is a gradual transformation, where the Values – emanating from our own divinity – guide our lives!
The secret of living a life of values – on a daily basis – is to purify one’s mind, and thereby recognizing that we are divine, and connected inextricably to the beautiful web of life. When this realization becomes a part of our totality, our outlook to life changes. Our interactions with others acquire a new depth and nobility, while our decision-making becomes more integrated, ethical, and demonstrates healthy probity. In effect, we begin to live our daily lives on the sturdy foundations of ethics and honesty, nurturing our Spirit and adding value to the world, in the process.