The post-modern world is marked by an endless quest to find something else, something that is missing from our lives. It may be more wealth, more education, more clothes, more shoes, more cars, more houses, more watches, something which is constantly missing despite having plenty. These unknown, unending, unfulfilled human desires have caused mental suffering, so much so that the statistics are alarming, showing that 1 in every 5 individuals suffers from some form of mental health illness symptoms. 50 per cent of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75 per cent of mental health conditions develop by age 24.
We don’t have to go very far to understand mental illness in India. We can see that very much in our own families or our neighbours. Common Mental Health Illnesses can be seen in the form of increasing Depression, Anxiety/Phobias, Eating Disorders, Stress which is aggravated and becomes severe when it takes the shape of Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder (Manic depression), Clinical depression, Suicidal tendency, Personality disorder. It is frightening to see that in India, over 2.6 lakh cases of suicide occur in a year. WHO statistics say the average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people.
And the solution we have devised for ourselves is going on to the pills and suppressing our emotions, taking tablets every day, thereby sleeping over the root problem. We have forgotten the community living, sharing our thoughts and minds, and we have stopped trusting each other in an ever-competitive world. The solution thereby lies in going within. It can be going into deep meditation, taking a break for a week amidst nature, joining a spiritual discourse, or spending time with the right set of people who can channel your energy. The most important part we can cling to is our sincere prayers to the almighty. Prayers are a powerful tool of seeking god. It doesn’t just change things, it changes something in us. When we seek god from within, we get the answer of finding that “something else” that we are always seeking.
Here I remember a precept of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who once beautifully encapsulated this urge of unending human desires and the solution to it when he said, “Mankind is engaged in an eternal quest for that “something else” he hopes will bring him happiness, complete and unending. For those individual souls who have sought and found God, the search is over: He is that something else.” Here, he refers to the ultra-conscious spiritual world that will give us this sense of completeness. It doesn’t come from the outer realities of life. Where does it stem from, it’s within us that happiness that we are hunting in the external physical world.
The quest for spiritual life is different from our ordinary life and religious life as defined by Aurobindo when he wrote categorically, “The spiritual life (adhyatma-jivana), the religious life (dharma-jivana) and the ordinary human life of which morality is a part are three quite different things, and one must know which one desires and not confuse the three together.
The ordinary life is that of the average human consciousness separated from its own true self and from the divine and led by the common habits of the mind, life and body, which are the laws of Ignorance.
The religious life is a movement of the same ignorant human consciousness, turning or trying to turn away from the earth towards the divine, but as yet without knowledge and led by the dogmatic tenets and rules of some sect or creed which claims to have found the way out of the bonds of the earth-consciousness into some beatific beyond. The religious life may be the first approach to the spiritual, but very often, it is only a turning about in a round of rites, ceremonies and practices or set ideas and forms without any issue.
The spiritual life, on the contrary, proceeds directly by a change of consciousness, a change from the ordinary consciousness, ignorant and separated from its true self and from God, to a greater consciousness in which one finds one’s true being and comes first into direct and living contact and then into union with the divine. For the spiritual seeker, this change of consciousness is the one thing he seeks, and nothing else matters.” And therefore, our ultimate quest is to move to elevate spiritual well-being, thereby mastering the art of living.