By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Shreya is a Sanskrit term that refers to what is imbued with divine beauty, luster, goodness, sattvic qualities, and beneficence. Shreyas are qualities of divinity that lead to supreme happiness. Practicing shreyas may not seem very inviting in the short term, but choosing shreyas ultimately leads to an abiding sense of happiness and contentment. Shreyas manifest as the noble virtues of empathy, service, sacrifice, patience, love, and compassion.
A Practical Perspective from the Katha Upanishad
Many of these qualities are nurtured on a spiritual path, and unfold over time, as a Yoga practitioner chooses actions that display these qualities. This is the royal road to eternal peace and happiness, according to the Katha Upanishad.
In the Katha Upanishad, the good or virtuous actions, known as “shreyas,” promote liberation and happiness – in contrast to choosing what is pleasurable in the short-term, the preyas. The preyas ultimately bind a Yogi in sensory pleasures and transitory riches.
Within the Katha Upanishad, it is written: “As the ignorant pursue outward pleasures, they walk into the wide-spread net of death. The wise, however, recognizing eternal life, do not seek the constant among inconstant things.”
This is very much in alignment with what the Buddha taught his disciples. He spoke of suffering being generated by our attachment to what is ultimately transitory and passing in nature. The Katha Upanishad advises that a life of divinity and liberation is founded on choosing virtuous inner thoughts and actions, known as the shreyas.
On a contemporary note, the decision whether or not to choose the shreyas, may be found when we decide to stay out partying on a Saturday night and not attend Yoga class on Sunday morning. Feeling a bit off center the next day, when we skip our practice, will offset the momentary fun of staying out late. Of course, balance and moderation are important. Our relationships with our friends, partners, and families are also critical elements of a life well lived. However, keeping a steady eye on the actions the ancient Yogis referred to, as shreyas, will help guide our decisions about how to wisely use our time, so that those around us are uplifted. Consistently choosing the shreyas will firmly guide you on the path towards self-realization.
Yogic philosophy offers many practical solutions, which we are free to choose and apply toward daily life. When you take actions, with mindful consideration, you are more likely to make the best possible decisions.
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