‘Shreyas’ and ‘Preyas’’
When i was studying in the Post Graduate course at Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, an Essay Writing Competition in Odia was organized. The essay was to be written on the spot. I had participated in it. The subject of the essay was to be announced one hour before its commencement.
The topic was declared on time and it was ‘Shreya Ebam Preya’ (‘Shreyas’ and ‘Preyas’). Most of us the participants did not at that time know the meaning of the expression. So we went to the library to consult books and dictionaries.
In my attempt, i had written that ‘Shreyas’ was a matter of head (brain) whereas ‘Preyas’ was a matter concerned with the heart.
In my essay, i had quoted Oscar Wilde, who through the protagonist in his short story ‘The Model Millionaire’, had said, “An artist’s heart is his head.” I had read this story during my first year in college. I had written in my essay that Preyas was a matter of heart (feeling) whereas Shreyas was a matter of head (brain, a person’s thinking, discriminating capacity). By having the heart and the head separate, non-artists often feel torn between the two. I had got the third prize.
I have referred to such a dichotomy, towards the end of my post ‘Death Shall Die’ dated 12.01.2011. There, i have referred to the interaction between Nachiketa and Yama, god of death, in Kathopanishad during which Yama discloses the dichotomy of the paths leading to shreyas and preyas.
A search in Google resulted in the following elaboration of the subject.
The Katopanishad speaks of the two-fold path available to mankind, namely, the worldly, Preyas and the spiritual, Sreyas. The path of worldly enjoyment is also known as Pravritti marga. It is very easy to get hooked to this path for seeking material gains that are no doubt pleasurable but our sense of discrimination will tell us that these gains are not only fleeting and unsubstantial, but also pull one into the cycle of birth.
So, the other choice is to choose the path of realisation or the Nivritti marga as opposed to pravritti marg. The focus now shifts to welfare of the Atma and not the body. Realisation is reached through renunciation and Nachiketa symbolises discrimination that chooses Sreyas — that which is good and the right. He rejects Preyas though this appears pleasurable and sweet. Actually, this two-fold path becomes the means to attain the end, salvation.
For wise and discriminating people, Preyas gradually leads to Sreyas when one learns to mentally renounce its attractions. The result of this choice made with determination is permanent. This inspires one to practise moral values which bring about chitta suddhi. It is shown that the Absolute Brahman is realised only when there is purity in one’s thought, word and deed. The success of the result depends on the extent of effort expended.
All human endeavours fall under two categories: the preyas and the sreyas. Among the human acquisitions and experiences there is not a single aspect that lies outside the pale of these two.
The Kathopanishad reads: "The good (Sreyas) is one thing, the pleasant (Preyas) is another. These two having different purposes, bind a man. Of these two, it is well for him who takes hold of the good; he who chooses the pleasant misses his end."
"The good and the pleasant approach a man; the wise man considers and distinguishes the two. Wisely does he prefer the good to the pleasant, but a fool chooses the pleasant for its worldly good."
Pleasures that are sense-bound come under the category of preyas. The majority of mankind constitute seekers of preyas but there are a rare few who aspire for the transcendental. Scriptures describe this transcendental experience as the sreyas.
Here are three videos on the subject (Source: You Tube)