I held a new pen today, as the old one ran out of ink, hoping that this will help me continue writing. Contrarily, it gave me more trouble than the one without ink. Occasionally that happens, since we do not remember to check each and every pen before buying. I had a stock of pens, so I took out another. This one was smooth. Yet, I continued to face trouble gliding my pen over the page because my fingers had turned stiff thanks to the previous defective pen. My handwriting appeared crooked. It left me wondering if trying to write with a defective pen can leave such an impression on the fingers and most likely on the nerves as well, since my whole hand felt numb, than what about all the deeds that we commit in our life which leave undesirable impressions on the body and the mind? How penetrating those impressions would be and how hazardous the deeds! If it takes me one hour to relieve myself of the stiffness in my fingers, and restore my handwriting to its original form, than how much time and effort will it take a person to restore his/her lungs after, say 12 years of smoking? And that is, in fact, one of the habits which we realize is dangerous. What about all those habits we don’t realize as dangerous- for instance, a negative thought about ourselves or others which constantly bother us? Will it be easy to overcome the impressions that such deeds and thoughts leave behind in us?
It is for this reason that up until an age, what we do are unconscious acts to follow the pattern instilled in us by our surrounding, by habits we learn through socialization: many a times it could be helpful in our self-realization, once we become conscious. More often than not, though, such acts are likely to contribute to unhealthy karma. Up until an age, we accumulate karma. Living unconsciously, is nothing but the consequence of the impressions left in us by our past karma. So, the moment we wake up, with the help of some catalyst, what is required of us is a struggle- effort to get rid of the stiffness, the stagnancy of the body and the mind. What is required of us is a conscious effort to not retreat into the indolence of the mind, if we don’t wish to carry more undesirable impressions onto next life. Since something has prodded us to make our journey towards self-realization- that is, living consciously, then is it not imprudent to not acknowledge it?
How is self-realization possible?
Yogic way of life is the only way to self-realization. However, for someone who has spent all her/his childhood and youth with the notions and practices that the life-style of the present generation instil in us, following the true yogic way of life is very difficult.
This journey to self-realization is a long struggle for a body and a mind whose growth stagnates due to cataleptic and thereby unhealthy habits. The body amasses toxins from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink. The more unhealthy the environment and habits the more the accumulation of toxic elements, which settle down in various nooks and corners of the body only to create havoc with one or the other system of the body sooner or later. Similarly, the mind, through socialization and irrelevant education, also accumulates toxic elements, which I would rather term as ‘partial knowledge’ or ‘the illusion of full knowledge’ about the universe and its parts.
Therefore, in order to have a clear understanding of one’s self, other fellow beings and the universe, we must first cleanse the toxic elements from the body and mind which has accumulated over the years. For someone who truly follows the Hindu way of life right from birth, the yogic way of life is the only way of life and she/he doesn’t need to initiate the process of cleansing the body and the mind. However, for unconscious people, who came to consciousness on a later phase of life or who has, despite wanting to follow the yogic way of life, often succumbed to the temptations the present world order puts in front of us, must initiate the process very consciously and with great strength of character (also ‘will-force’) to integrate the way into life in a manner that the way itself becomes life and the person can maintain it unfailingly. The day the yogic way of life becomes the only way of life for a person, she/he has attained self-realization.
The attainment of self-realization is only the beginning of another journey and through serving humanity in one’s own way, a self-conscious person, serves God with utmost humility and honesty. Yet, is the notion of ‘serving humanity’ necessary? A deeper understanding of this is addressed later.
I say that it is a struggle because even the strongest and successful beings on earth, who had reached the point of self-realization, often admitted that even they had to give in to temptations sometimes and make compromises. It is only in being continually, every second of the day, conscious of the working of our mind and body that we help our self realize itself. The moment we leave this consciousness, we have to begin anew with a resolve to not make the same mistake again. This cycle of growing out of consciousness and resolving to bring it back again is not cyclical though. It is not about stagnation; the cycle is not a circle, although it might look like one. It is spiral. There is one point in the cycle where the human rises higher; above his past self. So, the feeling that one keeps returning to the same point is incorrect. The cycle is not hopeless.
Nonetheless, I feel, the initiation of the yogic way of life, in true sense of the words, is possible only for someone who has become aware of his/her reluctance to indulge in life; she/he who do not anymore wish to enjoy life and its gifts; neither seek joy, nor seek love but take whatever she/he is given by life. The yogic way of life, before we start practicing it demands that we can let go easily any kind of pleasure; that the only way we look at life is through an attachment only to God: our existence (the fact that we are breathing) and the work we do, a prayer and nothing more. Unless one feels this from the heart and learns to remain conscious each moment of life, she/he is not prepared to initiate the yogic way of life. Despite having the will to initiate it, must wait for the correct time. For someone, who has the will, the correct time always shows up.
The yogic way of life is all about unwavering faith and unfaltering devotion.
The yogic way of life is about the highest form of justice that men could accord one another.
The yogic way of life is about non-violence.
The process of initiation
Consciousness: The Vedanta asserts that the self is above the body and the mind. In fact, we’ll realize this the moment we begin listening to the small voice that appears coming from somewhere within: we usually like to think it comes directly from an imaginary point in the middle of the chest. The Hindu term for it, is atman: the inner voice. It is, however, neither located in the body, nor in the mind. It is ‘consciousness’; that which knows all even in the absence of extensive knowledge or lack of education and that which directs us. This is a very simplistic understanding, so we may not digress into a lengthy discussion on consciousness, as I mean to contemplate on it at length in the later essays.
Being conscious of every action, right from opening our eyes in the morning to closing them at night, even if it is as negligible and spontaneous as the position we are sitting when we are using the laptop to the way we have our pillow placed in the bed, we must be conscious of the way we are doing it. There is a certain disciplinary procedure for every action and it is needed by the body for proper functioning.
Being conscious of every thought and thereby of speech (and expression), right from what we are thinking when we are copying notes from a book to how we are responding to someone’s indignant tone. Any thought that consist even an inkling of hatred/violence towards someone else or someone else’s thoughts is against Yoga. Yoga, as mentioned earlier, is about non-violence and non-possession.
For now, let us understand that consciousness and being conscious are not very different in form, but the latter leads to the former and the former directs the latter, both occurring simultaneously. Ignoring the consciousness is not possible for any human being but we humans, more often than not, tend to act as if we didn’t hear our consciousness (the atman, the inner voice) by making a habit of acting without being conscious, for the sake of the comfort we are so attuned to. Struggles are uncomfortable, aren’t they? Given a choice, why wouldn’t one wish to avoid them?
We must remember we are mortal beings. We survive at the mercy of others and by the grace of God. We cannot afford to grow unconscious, for it would mean sheer disregard for the supreme power: the energy radiated by of all living and non-living entities (Brahman) and absence of humility that should arise from our own insignificance.
Work and Worship: Work is worship. Who are we to feel that we can be saviours of humanity; we can rule humanity? The least we can do is to help our self. We might accompany others in their journey and lend a hand now and then, as other fellow passengers do in our need. In this world, each one of us is in as much need as the others are, irrespective of material richness or poverty. We are given the body to act and the mind to think and when we combine the ability of both, we work.
The sense of life is in the peacefulness/contentment we find within us. And this comes only through the action of worship. Worship doesn’t mean binding ourselves to the mindless ritualistic patterns of a religion/religious organization and mumbling God’s name day in and day out. Worship in greatest sense of the word means complete humility and surrender to the Supreme Being and accepting that all we do in our life, we do because we know we have been given this life so that we may learn to love justly and devote to Him, who presides over our life and death.
Therefore, conscientious work is the best form of worship. However, reserving time for remembering the Supreme Being helps us to keep our humility intact. It is again a practice of being conscious. If we lose this consciousness, the only purpose we are left with to work is for our self and as such there is a danger of falling back into the sloth of vanity; of thinking we can control, when the truth is that we cannot.
Is working/action (including the act of thinking) in confluence with the yogic principle of non-violence? Absolutely not. If we recollect Newton’s third law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Pure sciences (not the pseudo ones) have always been in convergence with the observations of wise people of ancient ages. The Gita says the same: no action is bereft of violence. Here, by violence, we mean a consequence- an equal and opposite reaction. Every consequence creates a chain of need for further action, because what comes even before seeking comfort, to which we are so attuned to, as I said before, is our survival. Sometimes surviving is not comfortable, but naturally, we feel the need to go on living. So, we must pluck the fruit from the tree and eat. Isn’t plucking the fruit an act of violence upon the tree? Some may argue it is not, however, that is beside the point. The point is- we cannot avoid action, but what we can consciously strive for is action/actions which cause least harm to ourselves and thereby to living/non-living things around us.
Seen from such a perspective, a bedridden invalid person (although I wouldn’t be wanting to term someone as such) unable of any movement is probably contributing more to the growth of peacefulness and non-violence than the ones around him/her who are capable of movement? No, such is not the case. That person, in his wake of a lifeless existence, is oozing every single moment some anxiety among the people who care, and perhaps hopelessness and fear among the ones who love him/her dearly. There is violence, even in the act of simply sleeping, lying lifeless. He/she, perhaps, could have saved his dear ones from such anxiety, had he/she took proper care of the self while being healthy and moving about like any normal person. Consciousness, often, helps us to be aware of life, the adversities that it presents, the beauty that it presents, and therefore, consciousness capacitates one to avoid situations which might lead to violence at some point of time in life. However, there is fate. Something we cannot deny. So, anything fateful that happens to an otherwise conscious and healthy person should only leave us more accepting and aware of the role of karma (work and worship) in one’s present life. We don’t know how it might manifest in the next life.
Then, how can we direct or redirect our life in a manner that our actions inflict least violence? We can take care of ourselves and work to feed ourselves, and if needed work hard to earn a living but keep away from short cuts, from cheating, and most of all from reacting. The image that comes to my mind at this moment is that of a good-natured farmer, or maybe a banker or a businessman or an artist: literally anyone, who is consciously trying to grow, through work and through appropriate and necessary knowledge about the self and the universe for self-realization.