Four Roles in a Play

31 Jul

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.
Translation from:


Dear J,
I have reached a state of quest. But I have complicated my work front. This, despite the fact that I am known as a skilled worker wherever I worked. Even after all these years, I couldn’t even decide whether to continue on in life in my profession. You have observed me, I request you to advise me on how to shape myself.

Dear J,
My mind is listless. How I will be at anytime is not in my control. Yesterday night I checked whether I received a reply on the internet. Then I deleted all my mails. Including the ones that I had written. I tried to attend to work this time without thinking about anything else. I also thought to stay away from literature for some time. When I return, I will be financially free (truly this is possible for me, just that I have not attended to it till now) and will have read world literature.
Your student
Dear R,
I wished to speak to you extensively about this. But now I feel it is better to write than talk.

Every man has to operate in this world on more than on front. Only great yogis can remain on a single platform. For everyone else, life progresses by separating and entwining into several strands. Even for ascetics!

One who does justice to all the strands, who carries out everything fully, only he can live life to the fullest. For that equanimity is required.

The issue here is lack of equanimity. You need not blame literature for it. It is enough if you analysed with brutal honesty how, before you started reading classical literature, you kept changing your jobs and how your relationships with your bosses were fleeting.

That turmoil and struggle are basic nature of your youth. Now literature comes to hand as a definite cause. That is all. Even if you give up literature, unless you change this nature, it will be of no use.

What are the facets of a man’s life? Since long they have been classified clearly as Dharmam, Kamam, Artham and Moksham. It is sufficient if we are able to think about them clearly. I am mentioning these words since what I say is not something new.

Righteousness, Wealth, Pleasure and Liberation – all four of these are important. None of these can be spared. This is because they are interdependent. One of life’s important rules is that without one, the other cannot attain fulfilment.

As a human, you have a right role to play in society. Subject to its rules, fulfilling its duties, you have to live. That is the meaning of Dharmam or righteousness.

Being born in a mother’s womb here and growing up enjoying the benefits given by family and living with the safety and conveniences offered by society – these make you indebted to this environment. You have to fulfill some of the commands of this time, this culture and this society.

Generally all the societal duties laid out to man are parts of this. From taking care of your parents to shaping up the lives of your children it extends and accompanies you throughout life. This is righteousness.

Wealth is necessary to fulfil the duty of righteousness. Hence you have to gain it. Please realize that gaining wealth is not for your personal life. It is for fulfilling your duties towards righteousness fully.

Externally, society functions completely through material activities. Your place in it is formed through your contribution to the material sphere of activity. Our general reply to somebody’s question ‘Who are you?’ itself indicates what we do as part of society’s material activities. I am a driver, I am a carpenter, I am a teacher etc.

Without fulfilling that part fully, one cannot live a complete life in this society. I.e. a person’s business is not something that provides his wages merely, it also creates a place for him in society. Through that, it provides him an identity. It provides him with an outlet for his creativity and gives him fulfilment.

After these two platforms, Kamam [Pleasure] is indicated. It is personal. It is to be attained through forming human relationships well. Within it not only love and family life, our relationships with parents and children too are included.

Only if a person performs well in righteousness and wealth can he reach true pleasure. Each of these is a prerequisite for the other. It is the evident truth that one who fails in one loses the other also.

Lastly comes Moksham [Liberation]. Generally in terms of religion it is explained as giving up family life and merging in God. But Nataraja Guru always explains this as internal liberation.

Being liberated internally has to be experienced subtly and extensively. It is to be free from the vicissitudes of life. We reach that only through the mental distance we achieve, from life and through it. Internally we don’t attach ourselves slowly and start observing it from outside. That view gives us a full perspective. The term ‘Gnanam’ or knowledge signifies this.

As we realize, we gain freedom. Every knowledge makes possible that much more freedom. Chitbavanandar gives a beautiful analogy in an essay: that as we start knowing about electricity we become free of our fear of electrical devices.

Literature is one of the activities for the fourth human characteristic, i.e. Moksham or Liberation. Fine arts, philosophy, spirituality are all its parts. They are learnt with the objective of attaining internal liberation.
Great literature opens us up and makes us cross the boundaries of our lives and expand through our imagination. It makes us live several lives within one. Through that we reach a full perspective of life. It makes us view life with more detachment and equanimity. That is the first step towards internal freedom. Arts, philosophy and spirituality are all its parallels.

In our culture, Liberation is mentioned as an extension of the three human characteristics of righteousness, wealth and pleasure. One who ignores them is not going to attain this. One who deserts his duty to society, righteousness has no claim over the other three.

There is another way in our culture. They call it Sannyasam as a fifth human characteristic. They are those who give up all the other three for the sake of liberation. It is not a way meant for everybody. It is meant for extraordinary people.

They usually possess these qualities from birth. They renounce the first three characteristics not due to their weakness but through their internal strength. In the beginning stages of life, in youth when we decide our own lives, all four characteristics stand before us at the same time. For us our social duties and its identities become necessary. For us, a profession which affords us economic stability and an identity becomes necessary. Along with that, our mind seeks relationships and its pleasures. For a few, the fourth characteristic appears before them with the same intensity. Along with experiencing life, it becomes necessary to understand it too. Along with winning in it, it also becomes necessary to stand aside.

At this time, a deep confusion prevails. Literature, philosophy, spirituality [politics and social service which possess spiritual qualities] attract us. We attempt to involve ourselves intensely in them and reject the other three. That is the condition you are in.

But the answer from our culture, the way our ancestors teach us after having lived and learnt, is very definite. Completeness in life will be for the one who considers all four equal and involves himself in all the four with his whole heart.

Those who view literature or the arts as mere entertainment consider it a natural part of material life. It doesn’t cause them turmoil. It stops at being a natural diversion or entertainment.

But those who approach it as knowledge and as a path to complete perspective of life are subject to deep turmoil. They lose their equanimity. They commit mistakes in their material duties. For intense writers like me, this is mentioned quite frequently as a grave sin. This reply is something that I have shared with several people several times.

The mistake that people like you commit is that when indulging in something intense like literature to start thinking that all others are insignificant. People like you have a habit of ignoring them and not involving in them with all your heart.

But at the same time, all the comforts and pleasures that they provide are necessary to you. That is, without sowing, without labor, you require the harvest. Societal position is required, social identity is required, family and comforts are required. But one cannot spare the attention for them, you claim.

Please ask yourselves brutally why? And you will understand. It is mere ego. You think of yourself as being one step above the commonplace material aspects of life. You think whether you should stoop to do these things, whether you should waste your attention on these things.

Hence whenever you perform a worldly activity, lack of attention and weariness occur. You are unable to direct your entire skills and act with complete attention. This is your problem.

You alone should decide whether it is the problem of literature or whether it is your own ego’s problem. Because just like you, there are lots of youth among us who gave themselves to politics and ignored everything else. Your mindset and theirs are similar.

I too suffered this ego and its weariness. But in those days I read the life history of Atmanandar. Atmanandar worked as a police officer in the Travancore government. He was married and lived with his wife and kids. But internally he ripened and matured in the knowledge of Advaita.

Everyday for an hour, in his front porch, Atmananda would take Advaita classes. Scholars and artists from all over the world would assemble there to listen to him. Aldous Huxley came. Paul Brunton came. Why, even Carl Jung came too. The maharaja of Travancore would come and sit. Everyone to him was his student.

At eight thirty, he would wear his uniform and go to work for the same maharaja as his servant. He investigated several of Travancore’s important crimes. He continued on this job till he retired.

This equanimity astounded me. I thought that I should follow at least a small part of this. A life can be divided naturally into four. One’s personality can also be divided into four accordingly.

When I wake up in the morning and go to work as a clerk, I am no writer. There is no place there for my turmoil and seeking. My objective there was how to complete that task successfully.

As part of the job in a small way, I got involved in trade union work. There I never spoke to anyone about literature. I never introduced myself to them as a literary man. My job was my righteousness and wealth. I performed just that there.

At home, I am father to my children and husband to my wife. Here I do not allow literature, philosophy or spirituality to come in my way. A person who washes the plates, washes clothes, cleans up the house and buys groceries; I am no writer at home.

My moksham, liberation is happening internally within me. I am sharing it with my readers alone. The successes I gain here take me forward.

In reality, by dividing like these, I was able to perform each of these well. Hence each one strengthened the other. I was never in economic distress. Hence even for a moment I didn’t have to spend my mental time for that worry. In my family till now there have been no mental conflicts or complications. Hence I never had to waste my attention towards it.

If it happened the opposite way, my seeking for internal liberation would have been destroyed by the other three. If you didn’t focus on your profession for the sake of literature, over time you will have professional problems and even literature will slip out of your hands. If you ignored family for the sake of literature, over a period of time, you would have to forget literature due to family issues.

Yes, the right way to internal liberation is to have proper righteousness, wealth and pleasure. The condition for it is the equanimity you possess in all four; giving each one the complete attention that is necessary for each. To organize oneself such that one doesn’t affect the other.

Some people will immediately ask how it is possible. There is nobody who hasn’t achieved this equilibrium at least to some extent. There are many people who have family problems and distance it from their profession and operate, isn’t it? When they do that, involvement in profession by itself makes them forget family issues. One of them plugs the shortcomings of the other.

Like this, we call divide these four perfectly. We can involve completely in all the four. Then all the four will help you out. If you drop even one, all four will sink. What is necessary is observation of the ego. If you make your qualification of literary readership as your identity, it is a big mistake. Because it is valid only in the spiritual platform. You cannot make use of it materially. There it has no worth. It will only lead you to disappointment.

Hence, keep it entirely personal. Use it for your spiritual flowering alone. Do not show it anywhere else. Do not provide a chance for unnecessary people to see it or comment upon it.

Please reach the social identities that are to be reached through profession and social relationships by performing successfully in your profession and social relationship. Submit yourself fully for that. Please yield the labor and attention that it requires. Please divide your mind and time in a right manner for this.

The human soul is an actor who acts in four roles. It appears simultaneously in all four roles. Since it acts completely in all four roles, these four characters do not recognize each other ever.


Translated by: Gokulakrishnan S


2 Responses to “Four Roles in a Play”

  1. Prakash August 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    As always, enlightening words from Jeyamohan. Infact, he has beautifully explained the ‘saar’ or essence of life and living itself in just a few hundred words.

    Please continue to translate more of Jeyamohan. My heartfelt blessings to you for translating his priceless words.


  1. Translated works of Writer Jeyamohan » Test Post: Four Roles in a Play - August 14, 2012

    […] Source: Category: Uncategorized | […]

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