There is brilliance in the wisdom of ancients. Especially in India, I’ve found information that guides my life in the 21st century world of the Internet.
Last January, I was lucky enough to meet a Sanskrit scholar in Vrindavan, a town between Delhi and Agra. He is part of the Jiva Institute, an organization I’ve advised over the past ten years. Jiva Institute runs a public (private) school in Faridabad, a “chain” of Ayurvedic health clinics, and an ashram for the study and preservation of ancient Sanskrit and Vedic manuscripts. Their resident Sanskrit scholar, Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa (“Dr. SND”) is coming to Rutgers next month for a visiting professorship.
Just in time for his visit, here is a current paper of his on the principle of flow in life. Notice that flow comes in two “stages.” Also notice that the theory of flow is applicable to the recent Iranian elections, and also to the stalemate in Congress over issues like health care reform.
Flow and Wellness
-Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa, M.Tech., IIT Delhi, PhD (Sanskrit) Agra University
Cultural Director, Jiva Institute
Visiting Professor, Rutgers University
Scientists believe that material creation is a manifestation from a very highly concentrated point of energy. Experiments with a large hadron collider in a special 27 km long tunnel in Switzerland built for this purpose. have already been started to simulate the beginning of creation.
In Vedic literature this highly dense energy point is called Prakriti, which means great product or great action. It can also be translated as the great flow.
Prakriti is the great source, from which the universe flows and towards which everything seems to be flowing—the immanifest state of matter. In fact being very subtle, it is matter in the state of energy. All gross perceptible and subtle imperceptible matter manifests from this energy or primordial matter. When turned into manifest, matter has the tendency to flow towards its source. Water flows into the ocean, flames move up towards space and any object thrown up into the air falls back on earth.
Prakriti itself is in a flow in the form of creation, existence and annihilation. Like Prakriti, the source, all its products beginning from atoms up to the galaxies, are flowing in some cycles.
The Importance of Flow
Flow is necessary for the universe to continue. Flow is progress and is pleasurable. It is compared to swimming along the stream. Working against flow is troublesome. The normal tendency of matter is to follow the natural flow.
Human beings, however, have the ability to be in the flow or out of flow. Consciousness has the property of choice. We can choose to be in the flow of the Samsara, the material world, or get out of it and enter into the flow of love. These are the two available choices.
As Prakriti is the source of material objects, Supreme Consciousness is the source of individual conscious energy. The real inherent drive of all conscious beings is to be in flow with Supreme Consciousness. However, without knowledge of our real source, we are tempted to mistake it for Prakriti and struggle within the realm of matter. Even in this realm, we can feel comfort and peace if we are in flow with our own material nature (which is part of the big nature, the Prakriti). This happens when we function according to our acquired nature with complete absorption, without being distracted by the result.
Csíkszentmihályi calls this flow. In the Bhagavad Gita it is called Yoga (Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam). This flow (Niskama Karma Yoga) is not some kind of reclusive meditation, but can be a part of one’s daily activities in the office, at home or in the sports field. It is the Yoga of Action and not the Yoga of Renunciation.
For individual wellness as well as that of society, flow is needed. If there is no flow, there will be frustration, dejection, insecurity, anger, violence, corruption and terrorism. And since individuals make up a society, without flow the entire society will be disturbed and out of rhythm—it will be full of unrest as can be seen at the present times. To bring flow into one’s life is, therefore, a necessary step.
The Highest Form of Flow
Interestingly Sri Krishna speaks of another type of flow, the spiritual flow, which is superior to the flow described by Csíkszentmihályi. As human beings we have a material body and a soul distinct from it. Material body is the product of Prakriti; it is good to be in flow with the Prakriti. But it’s even better to be in flow with the Supreme Consciousness—the source of our individual consciousness—the soul.
Therefore, being in the material flow, although superior to not being in it, is ultimately unfulfilling for the conscious or the soul. Csíkszentmihályi advises us to get into flow in our professional duties. But the paradox is that the material flow itself will, ultimately, prod one to get out of it! Sri Krishna has stated in Bhagavad Gita (4.33) that all material flows culminate in spiritual flow. Spiritual flow is the ultimate flow and most fulfilling. Having attained it, one never desires anything else (Bhagavad Gita 8.21).
To reach the ultimate flow, it is important to understand and experience the inferior or material flow. Material flow will bring only material wellness, but spiritual flow will grant the ultimate wellness for which we are striving unknowingly and sometimes knowingly.
Since we have a material body with material needs, it is necessary to fulfil those. But one should not remain engrossed only in gratifying the inferior needs. Even if one achieves flow while functioning at the lower level of Prakriti, sooner or later one will feel empty, because once the physical needs are fulfilled the real need of our real being—the soul—will come into play. This need can not be satisfied by any material situation, including the flow suggested by Csíkszentmihályi.
In essence, a human being can have three situations—a situation without flow, material flow and spiritual flow. The first situation is unhealthy. The second is good but only from the material perspective, and only if used as a steppingstone to spiritual flow. The third state is the state of perfection and supreme wellness.
Hey, Congress. Get with the flow! We have too many problems to keep on struggling.