Do You Have Life’s Manual?
Help for simplifying life’s complexities
By Yugavatara Dasa
I struggled with my new smart phone for the whole day. Wanting to forward a text message to my friend, I saw many options on the phone menu: Reply, Delete, Use Details . . . but no Forward. Exasperated, I approached a friend for help. He soon figured out the method and explained to me Help for simplifying life’s complexities how to do it: “Just press a button a little longer upon the SMS you need to forward and you will see the Forward option.” It was so simple. “Didn’t you read the phone’s manual? Everything about the phone is there inside it,” he said. I hadn’t read the manual. As soon as I had got my new cell phone, I had started using it. After this incident, I immediately picked up the manual and read it cover to cover. There was so much to learn about this device, and so much care was needed to protect it from foolish damage.
Complex Devices: the Universe and the Human body
Most people understand the need for a manual when it comes to learning the functions of an electronic or mechanical device. But when it comes to learning the functions of the giant machine known as the universe around us — and the small universe of human body a living being is inhabiting — we often tend to ignore the need for referring to an operation manual. As progressive modern humans conquering newer boundaries through science and technology, we prefer to understand the workings of these machines based on experimental scientific methods. Research and experimentation, we believe, will enable us to understand everything perfectly, no matter how many blunders we commit in the process.
The universe is like a giant super-machine in which we are residing. It has got a design and a purpose. When we take birth in this world, we are ignorant of everything, including the most essential questions about the purpose of life and the purpose of universe. To understand its workings, we need to refer to its manual. Lord Kåñëa declares in the Bhagavad-gétä that the whole universe has emanated from Him and that everything is working under His direction. He has provided us His divine words of wisdom in the form of the Bhagavad-gétä and other Vedic scriptures. They direct us how to make the best use of life while living in this world, and simultaneously aim for a better future life.
Even the human body works like a machine, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gétä (18.61); it needs to be handled carefully lest we damage it by indulging in foolish acts. Without knowledge about the purpose of life, we tend to waste it trying to fulfill the four basic animalistic needs: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Think about this: a pig does not suffer digestive disorders by eating stool; animals do not suffer from sexually transmitted diseases even though they indiscriminately indulge in sex activities; sleep disorders like deep vein thrombosis or bed soar do not affect polar bears, who sleep for six months in a year; pigeons and sparrows are in constant fear of someone attacking them, but they do not suffer from high blood pressure.
Animals engage in these primary activities without suffering any associated disorders that human beings suffer when we do the same activities beyond the basic needs. For humans, overeating leads to obesity and diabetes.
Overindulgence in illegitimate sex leads to sexually transmitted diseases. Excessive sleep (and even lack of proper sleep) can disturb the physiological condition of the body. And too much fear and concern — hyper-anxiety — for one’s maintenance and security causes psychosomatic disorders and various bodily diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension and hyperacidity.
Manuals save a lot of time for us — instead of learning from our experiences alone, we learn from others’ experiences also. We learn from the lives of great exemplary kings and sages who have lived a life of integrity and devotion to God. We also study the lives of those who misused their precious opportunity and suffered terrible consequences. Why should we waste our time in committing repeated blunders to finally arrive at the conclusions that the scriptures are presenting us in advance? As Benjamin Franklin said, “Experience is the best teacher, but a fool will learn from no other.” Let us to refer to the manuals of life, wisdom scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita, and make the best use of our human existence.
Yugavatara Dasa is an associate professor in Anatomy in a medical college in Mumbai. He is a frequent contributor to BTG.