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Teachings of Kath Upanishad-30
Rig Ved 10th Mandal;   Taittireeya Braahman [by G Balasubramanian]

Verse 1-1-31
In the previous posting we saw that on seeing the and steadiness of Nachiketaa, Yam was pleased and he concluded that Nachiketaa was fit to receive the highest wisdom. He said - "Well, My dear boy, There are two distinct types of experiences and urges. called "Shreyas" and "Preyas" and both of them affect the individual. The first releases; the second binds. One leads to liberation, the other to incarceration. If you pursue the Preya path, you leave the realization of the highest goal of man, far behind. The "Shreya" path can be discerned only by the refined intellect, by "Vivek" the "Preya" path is trodden by the ignorant and the perverted.

"Vidyaa" reveals the "Shreyas" and "A-Vidyaa" makes you slide into "Preyas". Naturally, those who seek the Shreya road are very rare."

The term "Preya" means that which is pleasant, immediately attractive; the term "Shreya" means that which conduces to true welfare, which is ultimately beneficial. Ethics and religion divide all objects and experiences into these two categories. Even a purely materialistic ethics, which believes only in pleasure and self-interest, makes a distinction analogous to the
distinction between Preya and Shreya made here, between pure self-interest and enlightened self-interest, between short-sighted selfishness and far-sighted selfishness. But it is only in systems of spiritual ethics and philosophy, which believe in a non-physical spiritual reality in man, that this distinction between Shreya and Preya becomes significant. To all such, catering merely to the sensate man is Preya, and what helps the manifestation of the spiritual man is Shreya.

Preya is happiness arising from organic satisfaction, arising from the titillation of the senses. If a man considers this as the be-all and end-all of his life, his life will be lived at a very low level, very near to the animal level; but when a man abandons himself to a round of sensory
stimulations, he loses his independence and even surrenders his self-hood in which alone consists his humanness. This is what the Upanishad means when it says: "hiyate arthaat ya u preyo vrnite--" But he, who chooses the pleasant falls away from the goal."

The sense-bound man with his time-bound life is not the highest excellence that man is capable of. The spiritually- inclined man seeks hard and finds something beyond the world of conditioned existence. After experiencing pleasure, power and knowledge available in his sense-bound existence, man reaches after the super-sensual. That is the line of his further evolution; if he does not proceed in that line, it will not be growth and evolution but stagnation and death for him; it will be just an endless repetition of his time-bound experiences of the sense world -- the repetitive experience of worldliness. But if he dares to break through the bondage of worldliness, he will achieve a timeless existence characterized by naturalness, spontaneity, and fullness of being. This is the plentitude
of श्रेय, which Vedanta also calls as निश्रेयस or मोक्ष, the highest freedom of the spirit. This very Upanishad in its last chapter tells us:-

"When all the knots of the heart (desires that clings to one's heart) are destroyed here even when one is alive , then this very mortal man will become immortal and experience Brahm here (in this world)."
यदा सर्वे प्रभिद्यन्ते हृदयस्येह ग्रन्थयः ।
अथ मर्त्योमृतो भवति एतावदनुशासनं।। (
The achievement of social ethics and the experience of immortality - - धर्म  and  अमृत -- form the two levels of श्रेय । Lord Krishn his message in the Geetaa (12:20) as both धर्म्य and अमृत, conducive to social welfare and spiritual emancipation. Swaamee Vivekananda similarly defines his message as Aatmano mokshaartham jagaddhitaaya cha -- "For the spiritual liberation of of oneself and the welfare of the world".

Every human being is bound , सिनीतः, by Shreya and Preya, says the opening Mantra of the second section of the first chapter of the Upanishad (1:2:1). This bondage arises from the impelling force of desire within man which makes him resort to one or the other, according to the constitution of his mind. They lead to different ends so that if he chooses one of them, he is far away from the other. The unbridled pursuit of sensate satisfaction is not the way to the realization of one's spiritual nature. By pursuing his spiritual nature man becomes good (Saadhu); he becomes ethically perfect and spiritually illumined. Spiritual awareness produces moral evolution; whereas, mere physical awareness makes for self-centeredness, competition and exploitation. Those who resort to Preya, says the Mantra, miss the goal,
the achievement of true freedom through the realization of 'the Aatmaa, the external, ever-pure Self. Such a person, says Aachaarya Shankar in his comment, is "A-door Darshee (short-sighted) and Vimudha (utterly foolish).

Thus the Upanishad was telling us about the distinction between Shreya and Preya. We have seen the ethical significance of these two terms - Shreya standing for human welfare in a fundamental sense, and Preya standing for self-sufficient hedonism, leading to stagnation of life at the physical level. Through the Shreya ideal, ethics redeems life from stagnation and
sets it on the road to true evolutionary advance through the increasing liberation of spiritual values embedded in the heart of life. Life under the Preya path can never advance beyond its elementary forms, because there is a stifling of spiritual awareness by the tyranny of the lure of profit and pleasure. Shreya is characterized by far-sight and foresight, whereas
Preya is characterized by short-sight, with the flowing stream of life arrested and stagnant. Hence the Upanishad identifies Shreya with Vidyaa (knowledge), and (Preya) with A-Vidyaa (ignorance). Both social welfare and spiritual realization are the products of far-sight and
foresight which are two important characteristics of both the scientific and Vedantik outlooks.

The Upanishad thereafter gave us an exposition of Vidyaa and A-Vidyaa. A-Vidyaa means ignorance in the sense of spiritual blindness; and Vidyaa means knowledge, in the sense of spiritual illumination. It does not mean mere secular knowledge or scholarship; nor does A-VidyaA means mere illiteracy and lack of information. Vedaant does include in Vidyaa (literacy) and gathering of information, and all forms of training of the mind for creative acquisition of knowledge--what is usually termed education. But it holds that if this education fails to advance the spiritual growth and development of man, if it fails to raise him above the sensate level, it sheds its Vidyaa quality and becomes A-Vidyaa; for Vidyaa is that which
liberates the human spirit from thraldom to the senses and where it fails to this it becomes A-Vidyaa in spite of all the intellectual knowledge and sharpness of mind gained from that education.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 07/31/12