The Art of Managing Priorities

The art of managing Priorities – Guidance from the Kathopanishad

How often have we faced dilemmas when confronted with conflicting choices? We may choose one thing over another. But later, we wonder if our priorities are appropriate. The Kathopinishad gives us some useful advice in this regard.

Shastras say…

One of the key tenets of the Kathopinashad, is the concept of Shreyas and Preyas, as explained by Lord Yama to the young Nachiketa. This concept helps clarify priorities in life and helps resolve seemingly tough dilemmas of “Should I be doing this or doing that instead.”

All activities can be categorized under dharma (ethically done actions and duties as per nature, circumstances), artha (actions for material well-being), kama (pursuit of desires) and moksha (liberation). Preyas stands for the first 3 kinds of pursuits, namely, dharma, artha, kama. Pursuing these initially seems to bring happiness and yet, a sense of completion remains elusive. The final “jigsaw puzzle piece” continues to go missing.

For example, the pursuit of worldly pleasures and achievements initially bring in an adrenaline-high, later leaving us bewildered or bitter, wondering why happiness seems to be a mirage. It is then that the seeker usually “wakes up” to realize that the pursuit of moksha, namely, shreyas, is the final and most significant part of life’s apparent puzzle.

Conscious choice:

Consciously choosing the path of moksha, i.e. shreyas, means that we acknowledge that the ultimate purpose of human life is moksha. With this clarity, we now proceeds to pick and choose one’s activities in the dharma-artha-kama realm, as per our circumstances, knowing these to be an important part of the bigger picture but limited in their ability in bringing lasting joy. We become fully aware that these duties serve a specific purpose and are integral milestones in one’s journey. However, now, we no longer seek in them what they are inherently incapable of giving. So we no longer whirl in the “mad carousel of life” dashing from activity to activity, or person to person, piling up material wealth (and FaceBook likes!), trying to plug that last little bit of incompletion in our lives. Finally free from the ignorance-driven chase of the mirage, we hunker down to asking, “How do I make my human life useful?” Thus this concept allows us to treat dharma-artha-kama as allies, not masters.

Clarity in priorities:

Actions under dharma, artha and kama appear in our lives like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A leaf here, a cloud there, a house here, a road there. But without the master picture of awareness, we flounder. We fix a piece here or there, sometimes prioritizing our health, sometimes, wealth, sometimes relationships, sometimes a sense of achievement. Once the pursuit of moksha is consciously chosen, the very same pieces of the jigsaw puzzle begin to make more sense. Guided by the big picture of life, we fit each piece into its rightful slot. Then, the little dilemmas and pains begin to vanish. And we marvel at the wonder of human life and the enormous potential that it brings…

Speaking Tree: The Art of Managing Priorities, September 07, 2015

Read more