Crossroads Of Shreyas And Preyas – Wisdom Vs Pleasure
Kathopanishad is one of the primary Upanishads (Sanskrit texts of ideas and teachings), believed to be constructed 2800 years ago in India, educating us about the existence of Atman (soul). It elaborates the concept of self-knowledge, which is the highest form of bliss.
In the second chapter of the first cycle of Kathopanishad, two types of general activities – Shreyas and Preyas are explained. It says,
Shreyo hi Dhirobhi Preyaso Vṛṇite Preyo Mando Yogakshemadvṛṇite ||
In short, it says: “The excellent and pleasant is presented to every human being. A real thoughtful mind distinguishes before choosing amongst them. The wise always choose the good over the pleasant, while the fool prefers the pleasant over the good.”
The word Preyas is derived from the word Priyam (loved), while the word Shreyas is derived from the word Shri (divine, radiance). The things which fulfill our desires are called Preyas, and those things or actions that provide us long-term welfare are called Shreyas.
There will be an initial phase of temporary excitement for Preyas, which always ends in anguish and unrest. Meanwhile, Shreyas may seem to be bothering and troubling initially, but it eventually always ends up in eternal bliss. Everyone has to choose in between these two options, thus, determining their life.
In his live sessions, Chamunda Swamiji always calls our body a precious gift from god. Kathopanishad compares this precious gift of the body, with a chariot with a driver in it. This chariot has ten horses, representing senses. Five senses such as ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin are Dnyana Indriyas or knowledge senses. Rest five are Karma Indriyas or action-driving senses: mouth, hands, legs, genitalia, and rectum.
The harness, which controls these ten horses, is represented by the mind, while our intellect represents the driver. The mind will choose the path of Shreyas or Preyas and the chariot drives there as per his orders.
Viveka is a Sanskrit term, meaning wisdom to discernment or discrimination, leading to the path of spirituality, liberating one from the path of Maya (Illusion). With this Viveka’s help, we can differentiate between pleasure and beneficial, choosing the right path, taking us one step closer to the divine. For example, consider an example of consuming junk food and working out every day. Eating junk food will give you momentary pleasure, but on the other hand, each burger you bite, each soda you drink takes you one step closer to lifestyle diseases and even towards an untimely death. On the other hand, most people hate waking up early in the morning and hitting the gym. But from that momentary pain, a long-term good will come in the form of a healthy body and mind, with the gift of longer life. With the help of the power of choice, we can decide what we want.
Regular disciplined meditation practice (Sadhana), plays a significant role here. Meditation results in mindfulness, which helps us apply the power of discernment to the small or huge circumstances that arise in our day-to-day lives, making us aware of the path we will be choosing.
Seeking the Shreyas
There are two types of subtle gravities that work in every individual’s life. One pulls them towards the sensual pleasures, and another pulls them towards the higher planes of their existence. Former is the pull of Preyas, while later being the Shreyas. One who balances both pulls becomes successful in materialistic as well as in the spiritual life.
Shreyas and Preyas work in opposing ways. The territory governed by Shreyas is self-knowledge, higher intelligence, and a divine purpose. The region governed by Preyas is an unquenchable thirst for pleasure and objects. Those, who are not awake, usually get caught in between the idea of their welfare being in the pursuit of Preyas.
Shreyas and Preyas are our left and right hands. Both of our hands must work in synchronized harmony in order to get the work done. When we bow down in front of the Divine Mother, we perform Namaste Mudra, bringing both hands together. Doing Namaste is a symbolic fusion of both paths, leading to the devotion of the Almighty.
Tantra is a science that helps you make that perfect balance to achieve both Shreyas and Preyas in such a way that it will take you closer to the holy feet of the Divine Mother. Swamiji says one should hold Sankalpa (Intentions), seeking more long-term solutions and be in a permanent state of pleasure, being one with the divine. Tantra never insists on renunciation of worldly pleasures, but instead, it is a way to reconnect with our own energy to establish a deeper understanding of ourselves, while enjoying the pleasures of life. With powerful tools of meditation, mantra chanting and visualization, Tantra helps you to choose wisely in between Shreyas and Preyas, helping you on the way of spirituality.