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3-Preya and Shreya

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Kathopanishad-Page 3
p 30-38

Two Paths-Preya and Shreya

Yam said - "Nachiketaa, Tell me who you really are? There are five layers of consciousness which cover the 'Self' - Aatmaa; and each layer must be reached through meditation. But meditation alone is not enough. As you reach each layer, you get new insights and those insights must be implemented first into your daily behavior before you proceed to another deeper layer. This journey, through meditation, through getting new insights, and then to implement them in one's life makes one's life transformed.

The outermost or first layer is physical - the level of body consciousness. Below this layer, lie three layers which make up a kind of mental body. These layers are senses (see Indriyaan), emotions and intellect. And the last one which is clung to Self is ego - the individual sense of "I". Few can penetrate it, let alone go beyond it. Still in every age, some do manage to discover that they are neither body, nor mind, nor ego, but the Self only who lives in the body and mind as their real operator.

But one has to make this discovery by himself only, I cannot do this for you. Of course, I can instruct you and I will always be with you as your guide. With my blessings you shall reach your goal." Nachiketaa is ready to take instructions. Who could be better teacher than Death himself.

Yam continues - "Nachiketaa, You are born as a human being and thus you can make choices. No other creature has this ability and no human being can avoid this. Every moment, whether you see it or not, you have to make a choice between the two alternatives in what you do, what you think, what you say.

These two alternatives are named as Preya and Shreya in Sanskrit language. Preya is what is pleasant; and Shreya is what is useful or beneficial. Preya is that which pleases us and tickles our Ego. Shreya, on the other hand, is neither pleasing nor displeasing - it is simply beneficial to us - maybe it improves our health or gives us peace of mind.

Preya gives immediate pleasure, immediate gratification, immediate satisfaction and usually it delivers what it promises. But the problem with it is that it does not and cannot last long. All too soon it is past and we again find ourselves standing on a fork road. Thus Preya lives only for today, or maybe for now only. Shreya, on the other hand, is often, not always, unpleasant at the beginning, for example, a fitness program is unpleasant in the beginning but after some time one starts feeling the difference.

Thus Preya and Shreya are like sales people who will enter your house unsolicited. Even if you hide in caves, they will find you there too. Sometimes, though rarely, they sell the same things, because what is pleasant may also be beneficial, or what is beneficial may also be very pleasant; but otherwise both are normally opposite to each other.

Preya is attractively dressed. The moment you catch a sight of him, you cannot take your eyes off him; while Shreya wears an unassuming personality. Even if she is standing right in front of you, you do not notice her. When she tries to persuade you, she uses such words which you do not understand.

Preya is an excellent salesman and knows what to offer and to whom. He makes his appeal directly to your senses or your Ego. In a way both, Preya and Shreya, offer the same thing, satisfaction; but the difference is, that one you get immediately and it comes and goes; while the other one requires effort, but its benefits stay longer. For example, eating something may be both Preya and Shreya while exercising is certainly only Shreya. In fact Preya can be quite daring; while Shreya has a hard time to convince you. Most of us do not even want to listen to Shreya.

The Chariot and the Rider

Nachiketaa says - "But there are times when in spite of knowing everything, we choose the path on which we shouldn't go. Why?" Yam says - "You are right, Nachiketaa. Preya and Shreya paths run in opposite directions. Every moment we stand at a fork point from where two roads lead us in two different directions. One leads to the light of wisdom, and another leads to the darkness of ignorance. One road is stony, bumpy and uninviting; while the other one is smooth, shiny and flat. This is human nature that one goes for the outer look and thus chooses the smooth, shiny and flat road which leads to the darkness of ignorance.

One uses a vehicle, a chariot, to go on these roads. O Nachiketaa, Your body is the chariot. There are five powerful horses yoked in it - these five horses are your five senses (see Indriyaan). These horses travel not so much through space as time does. They gallop from birth to death pursuing the objects of their desire. 

Now who is the driver of this chariot? He is your discriminating intellect (Buddhi in Sanskrit). His reins are your mind, your emotions and your desires; and you yourself are the rider of that chariot. This is an image with implications --

1. There is a purpose to the mind;
2. There is a reason why we have an intellect;
3. The job of the intellect is to see clearly;
4. The job of mind is to act as reins; and
5. When everything works in harmony, we, the Self, make all decisions.

The intellect conveys these decisions to the mind - that is to our desires - and all the senses obey the mind. But when your senses (horses) are uncontrolled through reins of mind, they immediately take the road they like the most - that is of personal satisfaction which is mostly pleasure (Preya). At that time we are not making the decisions, the horses are. [But theoretically this is wrong, as the driver should make the decisions according to the will of the traveler that on which road he wants to go, maneuvering the horses through reins.] 

When the horses are not in control, they go wild. And as they become wild, they can take you anywhere from Heaven to Hell with their immense power. But when they are under control, they are as responsive as the show horses. They would do anything you want them to do. Imagine strong powerful sensitive senses with a clear discriminating intellect holding the reins. This is called expert driving and perfect living. When the horses are trained, you can go anywhere you want, and never lose the ability to choose.

Is this your true image when you describe yourself as  - "I am five feet five inches tall, black eyes, fair complexion, black hair etc etc?" No, this is not your image, This is your chariot's image and you are not your chariot. What about your other statements - 'I am in hurry', or 'I am in a bad mood today', or 'I am depressed' etc? When you are talking like this, you are still talking about your chariot or your driver, not about yourself. 'I' in these sentences confuses others, because you have forgotten who you really are. You are happy when your driver, or horses are happy; you are sad when they are sad.

Just imagine that you can't be happy or depressed. It is only your mind which is happy or depressed, and your mind is a part of the chariot. You are the rider who is the traveler, who is paying for the trip over this chariot. You are the master who should be telling the driver where to go, not that he should take you to wherever he wants.

There is one way to solve this problem. When our horses (senses) want something Preya, we should consider it as if horses are wanting that thing, NOT 'I' (the traveler); and better get them trained so that they should not ask for rubbish things. Most of us have our horses strong and in the best of their condition, but our driver (Buddhi or intellect) is either weak, or incapable to control those strong horses, or is taking a nap. And inside, the rider 'I', pure and untouched, that is the real "Self", is sitting at the mercy of the driver."

Nachiketaa is listening to all this. Now he can see why people spend their life so backwardly, as nobody has the reins (mind).




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11