The Art of Living

Published: 11.09.2011
Updated: 30.07.2015

Life begins with birth and ends with death. Both the body and the soul form life. Where there is only body, there is no life, and where there is only a form of consciousness, life cannot exist, either. But just living is not enough for the human being. What humans should aspire for is to lead and “artistic” life.

What is Artistic Living?

An “artistic” life is inspired by religions and dexterity. Humans strive for expertise in multiple spheres and may attain perfection in some, but that does not imply he has learned the art of living.

A king, annoyed by some incident, ordered his chief minister to be hanged to death. The execution was set for 6 p.m. A few hours before this time, the minister was observed sitting relaxed and engrossed in his work. The king, who had been informed about the minister’s demeanor, was surprised to hear that, despite his doomed fate, the minister was calm, and at peace. He called him and asked, “How could you be so serene when death is looming before you?” The minister replied, “Your majesty! Death will come in a couple of hours. Why should I die before that? I must enjoy every remaining moment of my life.

Impressed by the minister’s attitude, the king said, “I can’t hang a person who can truly live in any circumstances.”

The purpose of an artistic life is to remain in a state of happiness, peace, and equanimity till the end. To attain such a life, one needs to change the outlook and learn to introspect. In the Jain scripture, Dasavaikalika, it is said: “In the silence of midnight, let a man look within himself and contemplate” What I did, what remains to be done, and what I can do that I am not yet doing.” Such contemplation is self-observation or introspection, the process of seeing yourself through you.

Procedure for Introspection

The natural tendency of humans is to see others’ vices and weaknesses, simply because they are easy to spot, and to overlook their own flaws even when they may be apparent. When they do recognize their own faults, they try to ignore, even hide them. It is important to change this habit and to pledge, “I must refine and cleanse my own thinking. I should be aware of my mistakes and faults. Regardless of whether or not I am being watched, I should be cognizant of my conduct. If I know I have done wrong, I should not repeat it.” Awareness is an integral part of introspection and with these practices every single page in the book of a person’ life can be rewritten.

When to Introspect

Introspection is essential for self-development. It is necessary not just on a given day or on a particular occasion, but is needed every day and on every occasion, from the moment we wake up to the instant we go to sleep. Before sleeping, one should think:

“Did I do any good today? This life is transitory and its span progressively decreasing. With each sunset, a part of life ends.” Only when there is true purpose in life, will good deeds tend to accrue and real success be achieved.

Through contemplation one’s preoccupation with the vices of others can be eliminated. With self - awareness one acquires a positive attitude and steers this attitude in the right direction.

Sources
JVB International Reflections
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  1. Body
  2. Consciousness
  3. Contemplation
  4. Equanimity
  5. JVB
  6. JVB International Reflections
  7. Soul
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