I believe it is important to live your life to its fullest.
What does that mean?
A popular idea is to separate life into ‘materialistic’ and ‘spiritual’ spheres. Some go further and subdivide human existence into such categories as material (financial) well-being, health and personal relationships. Still, while the second approach is more specific that just “materialistic vs. spiritual”, I prefer another one that is even more detailed.
This is the Indian idea of four ashrams, or temples, of human life.
I first learned this from my yoga instructor Andrey Safronov whom I respect a lot both as a great Man and a Teacher. Since then I have always measured my activities against these four ashrams, or fields, and this has brought both a great inspiration and a feeling of sense into my life.
The four ashrams are:
– material well-being
– pleasures and enjoyment
– contribution to society
– spiritual development
Let me comment on each of these fields.
The first one is quite obvious and comes down to financial independence. Beyond that, however, it also means recognition in society, a strong social and professional status, as well as a balanced ‘material’ life in general, i.e. work, hobbies, health, family, etc.
By pleasures and enjoyment one may simply think of “sex, drugs, rock & roll”. Again, it’s a bit deeper than that. The idea is that you need to enjoy life when rushing to arrange it in the most suited way. As they say, the goal is the journey, not the destination.
Contribution to society involves all sorts of altruism – volunteering, social work, helping people around you. I would add here that altruism is one of the things that distinguishes man from the animal kingdom and turns him into a human being out from a beast.
Last but not least, spiritual development is important. The notion of “spiritual development” has been rather overused lately. What I believe the most important is to find your Way and follow it with all your heart.
So these are the four temples of human life. According to the Indian tradition, man needs to be active in all of them, otherwise he is ‘disabled’.
How many of us follow this? An average person may simply confine himself to working from 9 to 6 earning his or her bread, and having some dull ‘pleasures’ in between, like staring into a TV or drinking out. Or, as an extreme contrast, some may leave the world behind and run away to Tibet in order to devote themselves to praying and meditations.
Trying to “enter all temples”, instead, will definitely increase efficiency and quality of one’s life. One many not need to rush at all things at the same time (this can be quite impossible sometimes). What I suggest though it is a good idea to measure our achievements against each of these four scales. And if we see there is an overbalance in one direction, it may be worth adding a new dimension into our lives. This will ultimately help us “seize the moment” and enjoy our lives to the full extent.