Consciously or unconsciously, all seem to maintain a list of priorities in life. Priorities differ from person to person. The human psyche tends to play a major role in the determination of priorities. From a pragmatic viewpoint, it is a person’s state of mind that ultimately decides his/her inclination or proclivity for an object. From a religious standpoint, it is the station of life one is in which goes on to decide a person’s priorities in life.
Regardless of these commonly held beliefs, it is an eternally proven fact that realization of God should top the list of priorities in life. The argument advanced in favour of attainment of God being the first priority is two-fold.
Firstly, everything mundane is ephemeral. Nothing ever accompanies one to the life hereafter. Secondly, with God being the source and origin of everyone, we should necessarily strive to attain Him and merge our individual consciousness into His cosmic consciousness. If ignored, the dreadful cycle of birth, death, and rebirth will go on ceaselessly with associated pain and suffering.
Despite the choice being so obvious, the majority tend to believe that until one has reached the point of saturation vis-à-vis the worldly happiness and experiences, one should not make a commitment to God. The proponents of this theory firmly hold the view that in order to fully appreciate the bliss of God, one must first experience the happiness and pleasures of this world to the maximum. With this mindset, they tell themselves and advocate to others that commitment to God can wait until one has enjoyed worldly pleasures to the fullest. To say the least, God is much lower in the list of priorities they have set for themselves.
These exponents, while advocating experiencing of worldly happiness to one’s heart’s content and then making a commitment to God, declare unabashedly that embracing a spiritual lifestyle can be conveniently postponed to the evening of life. This is as if the spiritual way of life is a loathsome job which can be deferred to post-retirement life when nothing really worthwhile needs to be done.
The underlying assumption of this mindset is the philosophy that the primary purpose of life is to work towards satisfying one’s wishes and engaging in activities that match a person’s age and stage in life. Inherent in this view of life is the thought that only after the individual feels that his check list of achievements has been crossed off, he can choose to begin living a life of contemplation, introspection, and meditation. Still another assumption of this mindset is that one can’t fully appreciate what God has to offer until one has absorbed what the world has to offer.
There is no denying the fact that one cannot really devote oneself to spiritual work and evolution until one attains fair amount of certainty in his mind that there is nothing in the world that can match the bliss of God. On the face of it, it appears that there is nothing wrong in nurturing a strong urge to experience the boons of the world in order to fully and finally arrive at a conclusion as to what is better for him.
Despite his intellectual understanding, which tells him that the spiritual way of life is a better option, his restlessness continues until he has experienced the material world to the maximum. In the life of such people, there are times when they were extremely happy, had nothing to complain or grieve about; life favoured them to the maximum and offered them choicest blessings. Let these people recall to themselves these times of extreme merriment. Did the thought of God come to them in those times? Whether the realisation of God, who gave us our life’s desires, crossed our mind? How many can reply in the affirmative to this question? On the contrary, we remained lost in revelry and even the thought of God did not occur to us. We hardly spared a thought to understand the divine purpose of this precious human birth. Moreover, when these moments of happiness start to drift away, we use all possible means to regain them.
To the question why the thought of God does not come in good times, the saints have answered in a way which should serve as a warning to all who give first priority to worldly boons. They say that the Lord does not share his space with the world. The Lord, therefore, will not come to mind when worldly matters have consumed it.
Sufi saint Rabia is said to have experienced God whispering in her ear saying, ‘Be careful, lest you want Me to fulfill your material desires and take away your desire for Me. Material desires and the desire for Me cannot exist within the same heart.’ Similarly, when Lord Krishna asked Kunti, mother of Pandavas, to ask for a boon, she said, ‘Lord, all I desire is grief. Because only in grief, do I remember you; in happiness, you drift away from my thoughts.’
It is thus patently wrong to presume that one takes to the path of God only after he is fully satisfied with his life and his accomplishments. On the contrary, the longing for worldly boons drowns one deeper and deeper into the materialistic world.
Can we deny that the love for material objects conditions and pre-programs our mind to think that we have ample amount of time in the world to worship God but very little time to achieve our worldly desires? But scriptures say that human life is transitory. One never knows the time of his departure from this earth. What is certain about human life is its uncertain nature. Life appears and then vanishes like a mass of fine droplets of water in the atmosphere. The following lines from the Bible are enough to stir anybody’s conscience: ‘What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes’ (James 4:14). Saint Kabir often uttered this couplet: ‘This is the time, this is the season. Even after spending millions, one cannot regain this precious human life, once it is lost.’
The pursuit of affluence does not lie in hoarding up materialistic affluence but the affluence of self-realization. The Bible says, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.’ That is why, it is said that the wealth of the soul is the only true wealth. It is soul alone that raises us to nobility.
Worldly happiness may attain its zenith or its nadir, but only the happiness gained from God stabilises our restless heart and brings peace to our tormented soul. Pay heed to the scriptural advice- ‘Loving God is the only pleasure. Other delights turn bitter. What hurts the soul is to live without tasting the nectar of its own essence.’ Thus, rise above the idea of procrastinating worship of God and seriously consider reversing your priorities in life.