"Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn. Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path - so the wise say - hard to tread and difficult to cross." - Katha Upanishad 1.3.14











CONTENTS3. Aids to Spiritual Life  






               3. Aids to Spiritual Life




     Let me now refer to what the great Swami Vivekananda said on one occasion on the role that is played by imagination in one's spiritual endeavour. 'Imagine yourself to be in a condition which approximates more and more to the perfect; you would thus approach perfection. You would again gain greater harmony and your spiritual radiance would grow. Your dynamism would increase.'

     It may be that the goal has not been reached right now, but that does not debar us from imagining that we are already perfect. Here a criticism may well be made, 'Why do you speak of imagination or autosuggestion? How can one come nearer to the Goal Supreme through imagination or auto-suggestion?' What Swami Vivekananda said is, 'Imagine yourself to be in a condition which approximates more and more to perfection.' This imagination, this auto-suggestion, is based upon a solid philosophy. And this philosophy teaches that the ultimate Truth behind the universe is unity, oneness of existence. Everywhere we see multiplicity. Now with the help of auto-suggestion, we are asked to see unity behind the veil of multiplicity. So that kind of auto-suggestion, which has as its basis a solid philosophy to guide us, will be always beneficial and should be welcomed.

     We have a journey to undertake. Slowly we are approaching the Goal Supreme. All will agree that it is a fact that whilst making our pilgrimage, sometime we find it a hard struggle. At this point, let us see what the Hindu psychologists have to say. Very rightly, our great, ancient Rishis, who were also psychologists of great excellence, pointed out that error intervenes when our Buddhi descends to a lower level. The psychic or the Antahkarana, therefore, needs absolute purification. The psychic or Antahkarana in most of us, is not pure. It is surcharged with impurities of both Rajas and Tamas and we have to take pains to purify this Antahkarana. Here also, auto-suggestion helps. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that we have to take the help of one thorn to remove another thorn that has stuck in the foot. Now, when with the help of one thorn we are able to remove another thorn, then both the thorns can be got rid of. With the help of auto-suggestion we can generate in us thoughts sublime and elevating. With the help of such ennobling thoughts, we are to rise above the region of thoughts, and ultimately we shall have direct experience. It is said that today's imagination is tomorrow's realisation. As we think, so we become. So if we think noble thoughts, if we think we are already perfect, this will help us to proceed towards the Goal Supreme.

     Now let us see what is the role that is played by meditation. We are supposed to meditate. Those of us who have already learnt the spiritual path from competent spiritual masters know that at the time of initiation, the Guru, out of his compassion and graciousness, gives us a Siddha Bija Mantra. Says he, 'This is your Ishtam. If you meditate on your Ishtam, in course of time you will reach perfection.' With the help of meditation, we can create in us new life. But when we are asked to meditate on our Chosen Ideal, we should also remember that we are never asked to meditate on the physical form of our Ishta Devata. If we are asked to meditate on Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Krishna, Sri Rama or any other Ishta Devata, we shall do well not to meditate just on the physical aspect. We are to meditate upon His radiant form. We should remember this and also must practise to remain at the feet of our Chosen Ideal, our Ishta Devata, in the course of the day. We ought to habituate our mind to remain settled at the feet of our beloved Ishtam. Sometimes, people make mistakes. Suppose they take one Ishtam and they accept one Guru, and then they go on changing the Guru and the Ishta Devata. This is quite improper. We ought to concentrate our mind on the same Deity and must be unflinching in our adherence to our chosen Devata. We may try to meditate on our Ishta Devata, but we may fail. The mind, being restless, wanders in different directions. The mind plays tricks. This mind is wild and it is very difficult to control. Now this writer is reminded of what one of the most revered Swamis of our Order told a close attendant of his about the Sadhana he was himself practising. He said to the attendant: 'I practise Anasakti, non-attachment; I would meditate on a particular Bhashya on the Bhagavad Gita which emphasises non-attachment. I look upon Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi, the Divine Consort of Sri Ramakrishna, as embodiments of Anasakti or non-attachment, which was preached on the battle field of Kurukshetra by Sri Krishna. Then I do Japa Sadhana. Further, I also spend some time on Leela Chintana. I spend a few minutes recalling the Leela at the holy spot of Kamarpukur, where Sri Ramakrishna was born, how he came to Dakshineshwar and then to Cossipore. This was of great help in my spiritual unfoldment.'

     Often when we do Japa and meditation, we find our mind wandering away from the object of our meditation. At such times one can try Leela Chintana or going on the wings of imagination to the places associated with the Divine Leela of an incarnation of God who forms the object of our meditation. That may be found very helpful. Meditation is really difficult and we should realise the distinction between quality and quantity in meditation. A devotee comes and sits in the temple for half an hour and says, 'Oh, I meditated for half an hour.' It is not possible to keep the mind fixed at a stretch for half an hour on one's Ishtam. If one can be successful in fixing the mind at the feet of one's Ishta Devata for one or two minutes, even that is sufficient. So, meditation being difficult, Leela Chintana helps. And another thing. When we sit for meditation sometime we make some pious resolutions. But in the course of our activities we relapse into our normal scheme of life. We forget all about our pious resolutions. What is the remedy? When some of his disciples wanted to unburden their minds to him, Sri Ramakrishna would say, 'Under all circumstances the spiritual attitude of the mind is to be kept up.' If we sit for Japa and meditation for half an hour, and we get concentration for five minutes in the course of it, those five minutes are most precious. It is not the time but the intensity of concentration that is more important. We then feel that we are happy, elevated, as if we have some tangible experience of the living presence of the Lord within. If we are sucessful even for two or three minutes in the course of the day, we should try to remember it.

     In the midst of multifarious activities of the day to day life, if we are not careful enough to continue meditation on our Ishta Devata, then we are likely to be drawn to the attractions of the empirical world. So those who are really serious in reaching the Goal Supreme in this life itself should try to withdraw their minds from all objects of form, smell, taste, touch and sound.

     Sri Ramakrishna said: A person can achieve such single-mindedness in meditation, that he will see nothing or hear nothing, will not be conscious even of a touch. A snake may crawl over his body but he will not know it. Neither of them will be aware of the other. In deep meditation, the sense organs stop functioning. The mind does not look outward. It is like closing the gate of the outer court in a house. There are five objects of the senses; form, taste, smell, touch and sound. They are all left outside.'

     If, fortunately, we can have that inward vision, then we shall be able to penetrate beyond false appearances and reach Reality. As Swamiji said, 'See God in every man, woman and child, see by the Antarjyoti.' But is it possible? Yes, it is possible, if one has real Vairagya, real dispassion. Sometime devotees come, and they want to know where good Sadhus can be found. They go and visit monks or Sadhus and say that they are 'Vairagyavan Sadhus'. One would like to amend it as 'Vairagyavan Grihasti', i.e., a householder devotee with mental detachment and dispassion. For householders aspiring to reach the Goal Supreme while discharging all their worldly duties, it is essential that they develop real dispassion for things of this external world. For this, one has to practise fourfold Sadhanas, or what is called Sadhana Chatushtaya - Viveka, Vairagya, Shatsampatti, i.e., the aggregate of the six virtues namely Sama, Dama, Titiksha, Uparati, Sraddha and Samadhana. Finally comes Mumukshutvam. The foremost is Viveka. We have to discriminate between the real and the unreal. If we want to reach the Goal Supreme in this life, we must have this burning discrimination that anything of this world cannot give us lasting happiness. Once we develop Viveka or right discrimination, we develop dispassion, Vairagya. So automatically it follows that Vairagya comes from Viveka and then one has to plod on and on till the Goal is reached. How is one to do Sadhana? We have to practise Sama and Dama, tranquillity of the mind. Sometime, when we are agitated, we must try to practise mastery of the mind to remain unruffled. Dama, sense-control comes next. The senses are to be brought under control. Then there is Titiksha. In suffering, in hardships we have to remain unperturbed. And then Uparati. The mind has a tendency to drag us to the outside world; we have to bring it back again, withdrawing it repeatedly from the sense objects. Next, we must have Sraddha. We must have tremendous self-confidence. We must have faith in the guidance of the Guru and also in our scriptures. Lastly, one-pointedness or Samadhana. Only when we have Viveka, Vairagya and the aggregate of six virtues, are we qualified to strive after realisation of the ultimate goal.

     So it comes to this; Vairagya is the fulfilment of Viveka. Take the case of any businessman. If he wants to be sucessful in his profession and if he wants to amass huge wealth, he does not even care for food and health, he works very hard. Why? Because, he is sincere in this profession, in his business. If we possess that amount of sincerity, tenacity and perseverance in respect of spiritual life, we shall surely reach the goal in this life. Therefore, in our pilgrimage towards the Goal Supreme, renunciation is of primary importance. Sri Ramakrishna used to tell a story. Some boatmen got heavily drunk and the whole night they plied the boat. The boat, however, remained at the same place, because they forgot to lift the anchor by which it was tied. Similarly, if there is any hole in a jar in the form of different Vasanas or attachments, all our Sadhana will leak our. Like the boat, if it is tied to an anchor, however much we may ply for the whole night, it would not move. So, if we want to move towards the ultimate reality, we must try to uproot all that pulls us down.

     It is all very easy to say, but difficult to practise. We admit it is difficult, but we also say here boldly, it is not impossible. It is true that millions and millions of people are swimming with the current. But the few who want to reach the Goal Supreme, have to go against the current. Naturally, they are up against a struggle. There are, however, people, who live animal lives, live on the sensuous level. As they do not want to rise above the animal level of existence, they have no struggle. One who is aiming at the Goal Supreme should not only rise above the animal level, but must also manifest the divinity within. One must become a God or Goddess in this very life. For this one has, no doubt, to face an uphill task. Why is it so? The answer is given in the Kathopanishad.

     As we are all aware, God has created our senses in such a way that they try to possess the things of the outside world. That means, God has created the mind in such a way that it tends towards external things. Only 'Kaschid Dheerah' (those who are introverts), who want to withdraw their minds from the outside world, practise real Uparati. Such persons alone reach the Goal. Kathopanishad says:

     Kascit dhirah pratyag-atmanam aiksat |

     avrtta-caksuh amrtatvam icchan ||

     - A wise man here and there, desirous of immortality, turns his senses (including the mind) inward to realise the inner self.

     So, if we are after the Goal Supreme, then what have we got to do? We have to practise introspection. We have to practise withdrawing the mind from the outside world. Who can do that? Only the few determined wise men. If we want to realise our real divine nature, then we have to withdraw the mind from the outside world. If we do not do that, we shall only see the external world and not the inner self, the Atman, and this human life goes in vain.

     But it is true that the path to ultimate realisation is hard to tread. It is not meant for all, but only for a very few. Then one may ask, 'If supreme realisation is not for all, what is the use of the study of Vedantic texts and listening to discourses on this subject?' The reply is, if one in a million can reach the goal, why don't you have the thought that I am that one in the million? Have faith. Have that robust optimism.

     The difficulty facing the spiritual aspirant will be clear from the following quotation (verse 79) from Sri Sankaracharya's Vivekachudamani:

     Apata-vairdgyauato mumuksun

     bhavadbdhi-param pratiyatum udyatan |

     asa-graho majjayate'antarale

     nigrhya kanthe vinivartya vegat ||


     - The shark of hankering catches by the throat, those seekers after liberation who have got only an apparent dispassion (Vairagya), and are yet tying to cross the ocean of Samsara (worldly life). Violently snatching them away, it drowns them half-way.

     Here, Sankaracharya warns us that false Vairagya cannot sustain us long. There may be temporary Vairagya, say due to a tragic bereavement, or a painful disease or a shocking disappointment. This Vairagya cannot endure long in the case of many. Vairagya or dispassion which has its roots in the solid foundation of real discrimination alone can sustain us. One may have no bereavement in the family, no serious illness, no failure or disappointment. One may be enjoying perfect health. But one must be conscious that at any moment the cruel hand of death may snatch one away. And when this would happen, we do not know. We must be prepared for it. 'The paths of glory lead but to the grave', the poet said. Only this kind of discrimination will sustain us.

     Sankaracharya makes a distinction between apparent Vairagya and real Vairagya based on discrimination. If we want to reach the Goal Supreme with the help of apparent dispassion and if we claim that we are Mumukshus or aspirants for liberation, then we are terribly mistaken. So Sankaracharya says that those who want to cross this ocean of Samsara, but are not possessed of real Vairagya and have only superficial Vairagya, are caught at the throat by the shark of desire. Not only are we drowned half-way across the ocean of Samsara, but desires violently take possession of us and drag us down midway. Only those who have real and genuine Vairagya can cross the ocean. Further Sankaracharya points out that if one wants to cross this Ocean of Samsara, but is terribly attached to the body, liberation is not possible. Tulsidas has said, "Where there is Kama (lust) there is no Rama.' In verse 85 of Vivekachudamani Sankara-charya tells us:

     Moha eva maha-mrtyuh
     mumuksor vapur adisu |
     moho vinirjito yena
     sa mukti-padam arhati ||

     - For a seeker after liberation, infatuation with the body is dire death. He alone who has thoroughly conquered this deserves the state of freedom. Only those who have overcome the false infatuation with the body and can resist temptations and allurements of different kinds, deserve the state of liberation.

     Sankaracharya says that so long as we allow ourselves to become the victims of the allurements of the flesh and infatuation of the body, there is no question of liberation. Only when we can overcome all kinds of attractions of the body, is it possible. Only he, who has totally conquered this attachment can become liberated. Totally, mark the language, no half-way house. We are to conquer it completely. Therefore what is to be done? In verse 321 Sankaracharya gives another valuable guideline. It refers to eternal vigilance, carefulness:

     Pramado brahma-nisthdyam
     no kartavyah kadacana |
     pramado mrtyur'ity aha
     bhagavan brahmanah sutah ||


     - One should never be careless in one's steadfastness to Brahman. Bhagavan Sanat-Kumara, who is Brahma's son, has called inadvertence death itself.

     Do we really want or desire salvation? Do we want to reach the Goal Supreme in this very life? If so, every moment of our life we must be careful, alert and vigilant, and we must continuously attempt to hold on to what may be called 'Brahman Consciousness' or Brahma Nishtha. If we fail to do this, then it will not be possible for us to make substantial progress towards the Goal Supreme.

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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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