Shreyas and Preyas – Man’s Best Friend and Worst Enemy

Mind and Matters- 3

Our mind actually has us convinced that happiness lies in pleasing the senses (preyas). We have been conditioned thus – not only in this life, but over millions of past births as well. Such conditioning happens at a sub-conscious level and is carried on from birth to birth as latent tendencies (vasanas). The purpose of human life is to unwind ourselves from our past conditioning and accumulated tendencies, and to look a different way for Happiness – the one that ensues after simply performing what is right and good (shreyas).

When preyas is sought, joy and/or sorrow may result. If we eat one too many sweets, don’t we experience both pleasure and pain? On the other hand, when shreyas is done, happiness ensues automatically because we are true to our conscience. When we donate even a measly $1 to a beggar, aren’t we instantly happy? HH Maharanyam Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji says that the voice of God is nothing but the voice of the conscience within. Shreyas is that voice. The Lord (Atma) who sits inside us knows the best choice.
But what prevents us from doing only shreyas? The mind, driven by ego, thinks it can decide what’s good for ‘it’ (little self/ego) and develops a liking towards worldly things and makes choices (preyas) often contradictory to shreyas. But on the other hand, when the conscience is heard and followed, one is assured it is righteous, for God’s breath (hence His word) is verily Dharma/righteousness.

Life is full of choices. We have a choice to make at every moment of life. Choosing preyas may have a short term gain. But is that the right thing to do? When we keep only the short term benefit in mind, and lose sight of the larger vision and purpose, the end result is often a disaster. The economic recession being faced by the world is a textbook case of faltering due to preyas. The greedy sub-prime mortgage lenders sold their soul for short term gains, and eventually caused the downfall of themselves and others around as well. Greed is preyas. Need is shreyas.

While conscience is pure, why is that we often find ourselves tempted to favor preyas? This is simply because the power of the mind is so strong that it often impersonates as the voice of the conscience itself. A quick test to help resolve this conflict is to ask ourselves, “Is this choice merely pleasing my senses? Is this choice nurturing my pride? Am I theorizing and justifying greed as a need?” A ‘yes’ to these questions shows the true color of the mind attracted by preyas. The power of Maya promotes preyas and discourages shreyas.

The greatest win for Maya is not in attracting man to external beauty; it is not in attracting him towards wealth, pride, fame, women and wine; it is not in depressing him with self pity when faced with sorrow. The power of Maya is best seen when man, despite knowing about and experiencing the mind’s nature, still goes out to the world to try and string together moments of joy. Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results”. Sane are the ones who have crossed this delusion.

Know that we have a choice in each step of the way and that choice has consequences. Choosing preyas may result in short term gains, but will have irreparable loss in the long term. On the other hand, though shreyas may yield initial pains, it is bound to give long term gain. Making the right choices will lead us to the right destiny, and the right choice is the one that aligns with the voice of the conscience within.

– Sriram Ramanujam, Houston, TX
Illustration: Sripriya Sarathy, Charlotte, NC

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