We see ‘LIFE’ all around us, yet few of us understand it fully. The perception of ‘life’ differs from individual to individual depending upon our experiences. To some, life is the greatest blessing and to some, the severest punishment. Others find it somewhere in between. If so, is there any common thread in all these perceptions? This question arose in my mind once and I reflected on it. It is said that half of life is ‘if’. Please note that the middle two letters in the word ‘life’ are ‘i’ and ‘f’. It is also said that three fourths of life is ‘lie’. Note that if ‘f’ is removed, the remaining word is ‘lie’. While this perception of life may be partially true, it does not serve a good purpose if we do not go beyond this. Life has to be seen in totality without missing any letters. The four letters of ‘life’ should be seen as its four phases and if we follow them faithfully, life becomes enriching and leads us to its ultimate goal. Let us see what these phases are.
The first letter ‘L’ indicates the phase of ‘Learning’. This means that the first phase of life is a period of learning. While life continues to be a process of learning all through, it is the initial learning which shapes one’s life. During this period, one acquires knowledge of various mundane matters. Right from birth, we have to learn basic activities like sitting, standing, walking and eating as well as educational learning. Good or bad habits acquired during this period influence life in subsequent phases, and this is the time when one is influenced most by the environment one grows up in. It should be wisely guarded by those who are responsible for the upbringing of children. Having completed the period of learning, one becomes self dependent and steps into the second phase of life. This period may be called the period of ‘Indulgence’ and the second letter ‘I’ stands for it. During this period the society, by and large, gives us independence to lead our life in our own way. It is more so in the present time because individual rights are granted by the constitution and law. One acquires family, wealth, fame or social standing during this phase of life and enjoys them. One is strong physically and, therefore, there is no anxiety on that account.
Depending upon the upbringing, sanskars and associates, one also cultivates certain finer qualities but, generally, this is the time for action, for doing things. With the ups and downs of life, one may become more reflective and the process continues as one grows in age and wisdom. Thus begins the phase of ‘Finding’. This is what the third letter ‘F’ indicates. In most cases the period of indulgence is necessary before the urge to find reality arises. In this phase we start understanding the temporariness of mundane matters and events and try to look for something permanent. Slowly, we start giving up the sense of ‘doership’ and consider ourselves as instruments of God. There may be occasional failures but this awareness is often restored.
Then begins the last phase of life which may be called the period of ‘Evolution’. The last word ‘E’ stands for it. Having understood the reality of life, one strives to achieve its ultimate goal and that is the real process of evolution. Every action in this phase of life becomes a step towards the goal and the vicissitudes of life no more bother one. They only appear as the events of a play on the stage. When we see life in its totality, it becomes a means to achieve the ultimate goal which is ‘evolution’ to the level of the ‘self’. This may also be called enlightenment, salvation or self realisation. When life is viewed this way it becomes enriching and every experience becomes a step to evolution. Then even the ‘ifs’ and ‘lies’ add to its excitement like the suspense of a stage-drama. Those who fail to look at life in totality get entangled in its ‘ifs’ and ‘lies’. For them ‘F’ stands for ‘Finish’ and ‘E’ for ‘End’. Like the drama show on the stage, they keep on repeating the show of life till they reach evolution.