To Be Like a Flower in the Winds of Life

Spiritual Practice

by Jayaram V

A flower has no purpose aim or motive in spreading its fragrance. It is its nature to be so and to do so. Be like a flower in the wind. Jayaram V

To be like a flower in the winds of life can mean many things, depending upon your thinking and expectations. To spiritual aspirants it may mean you have to be like a flower, sacrificing yourself with no expectations and with no clear advantage or benefit to you.

In many ways, it exemplifies the life of a renunciant (sanyasi). It is difficult, but not an impossible task to live that way. For over 6000 years it has been practiced in the Indian subcontinent by millions of ascetic people. The Buddha and Mahavira exemplified it in their teachings. So did numerous other ascetic traditions that originated in India. Their logic was simple. Desires made humans selfish. Selfish actions produced karma and suffering. The problem was therefore with desires. If you wanted to be free from suffering, first, you must be free from desires.

The renunciant path

For generations, people with spiritual inclinations and distaste for worldly life believed in this simple and straightforward approach to gain control over their lives and destinies. They went to great lengths to overcome their desires and escape from the problem of suffering. In extreme cases, some ascetic groups allowed their members to self-immolate themselves in fire to burn away the last remnants of their desires and attachments.

A true renunciant does not live with definite aims, intentions or purpose. He is a wanderer on the path of life, enjoying the moment, surrendering his will to God. He lives with deeper awareness, trying to make sense of God’s creation, and fully yields to the forces and elements of the world, giving up even the desire to live or the longing for life (abhinivesa). You can see in him how the five elements of creation come to life.

  1. Like fire he burns his desires and attachments in the heat of detachment and renunciation.
  2. Like water he remains flexible, adaptable, and humble, finding comfort in whatever space, comfort or discomfort life offers to him.
  3. Like earth, he bears the burdens of life with incredible forbearance and allows himself to be trampled by the problems and difficulties of life.
  4. Like wind, he breathes freely with no encumbrances in whichever way the winds of fate move him.
  5. Like space, he extends his vision into the universe and embraces his identity as the infinite, invisible, universal, eternal Self.

However, living like a flower in the winds of life does not necessarily mean you have to live like a flower or a vegetable. You are a human, not a plant or a tree. Therefore, in a worldly sense it means you have to bring out the best of yourself and live accordingly. You have to manifest your essential human nature (manava dharma) or essential purpose, being genuine and authentic, honest to your core values, without being pretentious, and without leading a double life or trying to be what you are not.

Living and manifesting your dharma

In Nature most life forms live and act according to their dharma or natural, inborn instincts. They do not pretend or deceive, or try to be other than what they are, except as a natural instinct to survive or evade their predators. Even when they do it, they do so instinctually without being aware of its moral or spiritual ramifications.

Nature intends them to be natural and to manifest their natural behavior (prakriti svabhavam). A flower does not act like a tree or a tree does not act like an animal. It makes life somewhat predictable and bearable. Every living being strives to excel in being itself and fulfill the aims of natural evolution by being the fittest. If they do not fit into the pattern or fulfill their dharma, Nature will either discard them or evolve them into better species.

In case of human beings, the equation does not work the same way. Human beings can corrupt their essential nature by indulging in selfishness and desire driven actions. They can defy nature and serve their own ends. They can not only adapt to their environment but also manipulate it or modify it if necessary.

You have therefore a genuine problem with humans when it comes to their natural, human duties, which they are supposed to render in creation to ensure its order and regularity. As the Bhagavadgita declares, the self is the friend of the self and the self is the enemy of the self.

The triple alternatives

In humans, Nature manifests fully. They are endowed with both lower and higher natures. The gross, physical body and the senses constitute the lower nature. The mind, the ego, and the intelligence constitute the higher nature. Beyond them there is their spiritual nature or the eternal Self.

The lower nature is vulnerable to grossness, desires, passions, and natural instincts, while the higher nature gives them the ability to be self-aware, use their intelligence and exercise their discretion and judgment to control their thinking and actions. Depending upon circumstances, human beings have three major alternatives to choose from to shape their lives and destinies.

  1. They can strengthen their demonic nature by acting according to their baser instincts and indulge in the worst of human passions, immorality, cruelty, selfishness, evil and lustful behavior. It usually leads to their increased grossness (tamas) and spiritual downfall.
  2. They can strengthen their human nature by living responsibly according to their dharmas and playing their dutiful roles in creation to manifest the will of God and ensure the order and regularity of the world. It leads to increased happiness, peace and prosperity upon earth, while at the same time it may keep them worldly and bound to the mortal world.
  3. They can strengthen their divine nature by stabilizing their minds in the thoughts of the Self, cultivating divine qualities through self-purification, and living according to the best of moral and spiritual values. It leads to suppression of baser human nature, detachment, desirelessness and transcendental state of self-absorption.

Thus, human beings have the freedom, the privilege, and the discretion to manifest their essential nature (dharma) according to their interests, desires and inclinations or according to the will of god. They can live like the Asuras, humans or gods and manifest the best or the worst of human nature. They can be guided by their lower nature, indulging in desires and passions or by their higher nature inspired by their values and morals. They have to possess the right discretion (buddhi) to make right choices.

The lower human nature is driven by desires. As the Buddha declared, which is also affirmed in almost every scripture of Hinduism, it is responsible for human suffering. If people want to be free from it, they should take refuge in their higher nature and live accordingly, cultivating virtues, restraining themselves and living righteously as modelled in the Eightfold Path or Jnana, Karma and Sanyasa yogas, so that they can simultaneously manifest the will of God, the intent of Nature, and the ultimate purpose of life.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Translate the Page