Life’s values are best understood and recognised when upheld in practical situations. The ability to remain detached even when living in this world is advised as the best attitude to cope with the upheavals that surge in one’s lifetime. To explain this in a detailed manner, Lord Krishna draws up an agenda for righteous living when He answers Arjuna’s doubts about what one has to know ultimately, said Srimati Rukmani Ramamurthy in a lecture. The ennobling qualities which are conducive for man’s upliftment — humility, refraining from harm to others in thought, word or deed, honest behaviour, forbearance, respect and obedience for the preceptor, purity of thought word and deed, practising tranquillity and equanimity, control of the senses, and ego-sense — are enumerated. The roots of true wisdom lie in the awareness of the purpose of one’s life and in the desire to attain this with single-minded aim. Ignorance of this truth only plunges us into the endless cycle of birth.

Since the focus is on the Self which is undying and the essence of consciousness, the body/mind complex has to be understood in a proper manner. On top of the list stands humility since a man’s nobility inheres in this trait. Wealth, possessions, status, birth, learning, etc., have a tendency to make a person haughty and proud. Adi Sankara reiterates in the Bhaja Govindam that one should not take pride in one’s wealth, possessions, youth, beauty or relations. These appear to be with us but can be taken away by Time in a trice.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yagnyavalkya wishes to renounce his wealth and possessions and seek the Ultimate Truth in solitude. A realised soul that he is, he had lived a fulfilling life, and enjoyed wealth, possessions, etc with his two wives, Maitreyi and Katyayani. Maitreyi is curious to know what is special in Yagnyavalkya’s quest. She also wants to know what is the purpose of her possessing all this wealth which he intends to bequeath to her. The sage says that with wealth one may be able to enjoy worldly happiness. But it would only lead to further bondage. There is no permanent happiness in this kind of pleasure pertaining to this world, or for that matter the joy derived from a life in the celestial worlds. All these are time bound and will come to an end ultimately. The is a price for everything and there is much value in nothing in philosophical and religious parlance.