Many aspects of life can be expressed using formulae to enable easy comprehension. Is it possible to express the essence of life itself using a formula? Can the life span of a human being explained through an equation? Has any attempt been made to explore Life's Arithmetic? Many people may have attempted this before. There may be many methods of explaining life's purpose. Everyone desires to be happy. Whatever may be one's pursuit; whichever may the direction in which the efforts are made, the ultimate aim is to be happy. Thus life's multiple goals ultimately lead to paths to find happiness. Hence the entire life span of a person is spent in chasing happiness. Life span and running behind happiness are two faces of the same coin. Finally there should be sufficient time to enjoy that happiness achieved with lot of efforts. We see many people around us who procure all the tools required for a happy life, after rigorous efforts. But when the time for enjoying the fruits of those efforts arrives, life itself ends.
Poet-Philosopher Bhartruhari has given a wonderful interpretation of Life's arithmetic. In his "Vairagya Shataka" he sums up the the relation between life span and finding happiness through a beautiful arithmetical formula. Bhartruhari takes the span of human life as one hundred years. Why only one hundred years? Human body has its own limitations. Even with best efforts it is difficult to preserve the body in working condition for a hundred years. Better health care facilities are no doubt increasing life span, but still very few live to celebrate their 100th birthday. A study has shown that 50 years ago, one in 67,000 people reached this milestone. One in 6,000 is able to celebrate 100th birthday now. In percentage terms it is less than 0.02%. Even in respect of these centenarians, very few are active and live by themselves at that age. Global life expectancy as per WHO reports is about 72 years. Let us accept Bhartruhari's stipulation of 100 years to start with.
Bhartruhari deducts half of this 100 years spent in night and sleep. It was true in his time, more than two thousand years ago. Activities then started with sunrise and ended with sunset. Not so in these times we live. Electricity has ensured that life goes on 24x7. Even then human beings require sleep for rest and recuperation. 50 years calculated by Bhartruhari as active life span can be accepted even today, considering the average life expectancy of 72 years.
Human life can be broadly divided into three phases; childhood, adult and old age. Bhartruhari deducts half of this 50 years for childhood and old age. Why is it so and is it right? It stands to reason as he explains. Childhood is a phase when one does not know what to do and old age is a phase when one cannot do what he wants to do! A deduction of 25 years allowed for these two phases is also fair and the real productive life span thus further gets shrunk to 25 years.
This 25 years is the core life span for being happy. But Bhartruhari says it is not that simple. Further deductions are required from this 25 years for sickness, separation from loved ones, and serving others. You cannot be happy when you are sick. You cannot be happy when you are away from your loved ones. You cannot be happy when you are serving others because you are not living for yourself! Ultimately, there is not much time available for being happy and enjoying fruits of one's hard labor during the productive years. Bhartruhari concludes by saying that there is no time left to be happy in one's life.
Bhartruhari's formula for life is this:
आयुर्वर्षशतं नृणां परिमितम् रात्रौ तदर्धं गतं |
तस्यार्धस्य परस्य चार्धमपरं बालत्व वृद्धत्वयोः ||
शेषं व्याधि वियोगदुखभरितं सेवादिभिर्नीयते |
जीवे वारितरङ्ग चञ्चलतरे सौख्यं कुतः प्राणिनाम् ||
Ayurvarsha shatam nrunaam parimitam ratrou tatardhamgatam
Tasyardhasya parasya chardhamaparam baalatva vruddhatvayoh
Shesham vyadhi viyogadukhasahitam sevaaadibhirneeyate
jeeve vaaritaranga chanchalatare sowkhyam kutah praaninam?
Life span is hundred years, half of it is gone in the night
Half of the remainder is lost in childhood and old age
Rest of the period is spent in sickness, separation and service
In life, uncertain like a wave on a water body, where is the time for happiness?
All this leaves us to ponder over a very important issue. Is it never possible to be happy? Then does it mean that Life's arithmetic leads us to conclude that the very purpose of life is futile? It is not so. Real happiness lies in enjoying the process of life. It is not at all separated from other aspects of life. Happiness is to be found in the hard earned rest at the end of a tough day's work. Happiness is to be found in childhood innocence and old age maturity and wisdom. Happiness is to be seen in the service of others one receives when he is sick. Happiness is to be identified when one reunites with the loved ones after long separation. Happiness is to enjoyed while serving others selflessly or even while serving for earning one's livelihood.
If and when we understand this secret of life, we have solved the problems of Life's Arithmetic. Do we not find happiness everywhere now?