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Our present moral and religious degradation is due mostly to our environment and to our wrong training. The proper moulding of the mind is altogether neglected in all phases of education and training. Every possible effort is made to provide for worldly training of the right type in order to enable a man to secure a decent and comfortable living, but the proper training required for the realisation of Self is totally neglected. The least significance, if at all, is attached to this most vital problem of life. Reciting daily a few verses in praise of a god or goddess or observing certain mechanical formalities by way of worship is all that the masses are taught to do. They do it for their whole life, but probably without any gain whatsoever. Internal calmness still remains wanting in them. Activities of the mind, such as desires, temptations and emotional outbursts, remain as they were ever before.
The main purpose of training is that a man should begin to imbibe within him as much of godly attributes as possible. If this is not achieved, the system of training is defective and consequently of no avail. The proper making of a man must be a natural result of the right type of training. Proper making is comprised of the right moulding of the mind, with due moderation in the exercise of all our senses and faculties. Thus the right type of training under the guidance of a capable master is by far the most important factor in our proper making, without which higher attainments in spirituality are never possible.
Most of the people have, in some way or the other, a natural inclination towards God, yet those who succeed in realising God are very rare. The cause is defective guidance and wrong training, which leads a man away from the real path with the result that he is lost forever. Now, for a man of ordinary capacity, it is a pretty hard task to judge whether his training is rightly directed or not. A man tamely and unquestioningly follows the instructions of one whom he has accepted as his guru and practises as he is required by him to do. It is very difficult for him to ascertain whether he is being guided along the right path or not. This is a great problem before the people, who are themselves quite ignorant in matters concerning realisation.
You will find numerous teachers of religion who will tell you not to eat garlic, onion or carrot and insist upon you to adopt sadhanas and practices which have no real significance, or a hundred other such triflings which will never lead you even a step nearer to Reality. This is no training. Such teachers are really deceiving themselves as well as those whom they teach. You must be sure that unless internal peace, calmness of mind, simplicity and lightness follow as the natural result of your practices, you are proceeding on the wrong lines and your training is defective.
Methods of spiritual training commonly adopted by most of the teachers today are based on hard and fast rules which often do not correspond with our worldly life. Hence, in most cases, they prove to be impracticable for those leading a worldly life. Generally, teachers induce people to practise restraint by adopting a particular form of living disconnected with worldly concerns and to practise devotion for hours together. Evidently, such a type of training is not meant for people in general who cannot dissociate themselves from worldly ties or devote so much time to their devotional exercises. It is for this reason that their preachings do not produce the desired effect, and in spite of their best efforts, they fail to mould them accordingly. The fact is that they are more theoretical than practical.
Is it ever possible for the masses to renounce the world for the sake of liberation? Certainly not. What good then do the common people derive from their teachings? Some of them are even bold enough to proclaim their mistaken notion that higher attainments in spirituality are not possible in a grihastha ashram, or household life. It really means that they have nothing to impart to the common people except to tell them certain superficial things such as frequent bathing in the Ganges, feeding the fishes with flour pills or reading the scriptures over and over again.
The real problem before us is not to provide means for the spiritual training of a chosen few who have renounced the world, but for people in general whose duties in the world, besides the devotional, are manifold, which they cannot safely ignore. They in fact fail in their duty if they neglect any of them. To them it is essential that their spiritual as well as worldly life must go side by side, equally resplendent, and for this we have to discover the right means.
Proper spiritual training, fitting closely with the present worldly life, is therefore the only thing required for the spiritual growth of the common people, and it has so far been unfortunately neglected. For such a type of training we stand in need of help from outside, in most cases. This help comes from the guru or the master, who is the only person able to shape our destiny. When this help comes, the spiritual life is awakened and the higher powers of the soul are roused to help our growth.
Such an impulse is to be sought only from one of our own fellow beings of the highest calibre, who may be within our approach ready to solve our difficulties at any time. The practice of seeking inspiration or guidance from gods and demigods or from some departed soul treating it as guru or master is, in most cases, very dangerous.
Similar is also the case with those who seek guidance from their inner voice, as they call it. I have come across people who lay great stress upon their inner voice, which they think to be the real guide in all controversial matters arising in the mind. We have concrete examples of people relying on their so-called inner voice who are found to have been misled in the spiritual field. Really what they think to be their inner voice or an impulse from the departed soul is only the play of their undisciplined mind. This undesirable practice, if followed for some time, makes the mind so very unduly powerful and over-active that it begins to question and answer by itself. This the people often misunderstand as a stage of yogic attainment where one acquires the power to intercommune with departed souls. They are really far away from it.
The inner voice, or the voice of the real Self, is no doubt never misleading, but how many are there who are advanced enough to catch it. To most of those who profess to follow the inner voice, it is quite inaudible. They are merely being fooled by the wonder-working tendencies of the mind, which can create anything and everything by itself. It can even present fearful ghosts to their view or make them hear strange voices in trees and stones. This is all due to the activities of the mind in its undisciplined and polluted state. Unless the coverings of mala, vikshepa and aavarana are removed and the mind is brought to a state of perfect poise and moderation, inspiration or guidance from the inner voice is meaningless. Most of those who pose to follow the inner voice or seek guidance from a departed soul are really following the dictates of their own unregulated and undisciplined mind. It is mere hallucination. If we develop this vicious habit, we are lost forever. It leads us to constant mental worry and harassment.
I know of a gentleman, prominent among the so-called bhaktas, who professed that he had secured direct connection with the soul of Tulsidas, the author of the Ramayana, whom he had taken as his guru. He went on for some time feeling exultant over his supposed achievement. Later on, a discord arose between him and his celestial guru, which soon developed into a bitter quarrel, on account of which, as he used to say, he was constantly belaboured and harassed mentally, with the result that his mental equilibrium was almost shattered and he felt extremely miserable. It was after two years of hard labour with him that he was cured of this evil. Then he was able to understand that it was all an illusion or self-deception, and what he understood to be the inspiration from the soul of Tulsidas was really the magic play of his own undisciplined mind. Since he has been relieved of that miserable state, he now feels peace and tranquillity restored to him.
The inner voice is, in fact, the voice of the mind in its perfectly pure state. Unless the mind is cleared of all pollutions and defilements and is brought to a state of perfect peace and moderation, it can never reflect the inner voice. In fact for one whose mind is perfectly pure, it is his inner voice alone that always speaks and the impulse from highly developed liberated souls continues to flow to him continuously. The practice is thus evidently very dangerous and in most cases leads to disastrous results.
The realisation of God, which has so far been considered to be extremely difficult, requiring hard labour and persistent efforts for many lives, is not really so. God is simple and can be achieved by equally simple means. The hard and fast rules of life and tiring practices prescribed by teachers for realisation have really made matters so complicated that people are led to believe it to be beyond their power and capacity. I may assure you very sincerely that realisation is not at all a difficult thing, if only you earnestly divert your attention to it. An iron will to achieve the goal, together with proper means and guidance, is the only thing required for complete success.
Spiritual training starts with inner cleaning, or the purification of chakras, which is the most essential factor in spiritual advancement. Thus the right type of training in spirituality begins with inner cleaning, which if neglected will lead to the abuse of power acquired through yogic means. Hatha yoga lays down mostly physical practices to effect cleaning, some of which are too hard and tedious for all and sundry, while under the system of Sahaj Marg it is accomplished by easy mental practices, aided by the power transmitted by the teacher.
Some of the teachers of religion often insist upon people devoting as many as eight hours a day to practising certain mechanical exercises in order to keep their mind occupied in divine thoughts. I strongly condemn the type of training which enforces practices that tax the brain or overburden the mind. The natural result of such training is that the mind finds no scope for expansion, and consequently, the power of realisation grows dull. It is just like thrashing a boy in order to induce him to concentrate.
Strenuous labour with long and tedious physical practices, as commonly recommended by teachers in order to effect the moulding of mind or the cleaning of the chakras, is consequently not of much avail. For this purpose we utilise our thought power in a proper way, under the guidance of a powerful Master who is capable of removing complexities and entanglements that hinder our progress and who transmits into us the force necessary for the upkeep of our spiritual life. The simplified course of spiritual training has rendered the highest spiritual flight possible for everyone, whether man, woman, young or old, grihastha or virakta (recluse).
The preliminary step in the right type of training is that the aspirant’s tendencies of mind be directed towards God. For this, the learned teachers of religion mostly prescribe physical practices of body and mind picked up from religious books. People often find it a hard task to follow them, and thus they remain lingering on indefinitely in the beginning, with no further progress. A capable teacher should do this by his own effort, exercising the power of transmission in order to create a permanent and deep-rooted effect.
When our mind is directed towards God, we naturally begin to feel ourselves in touch with the Supreme Power in all our actions and workings. When this state of mind is permanently established within, every act we do will then seem to be a part of devotion or divine offering, and we shall thereby be in constant remembrance of God all the while.
Inner vibrations in the heart soon begin to be felt by the aspirant. This is the beginning of the spiritual state known as shabda or ajapa. It develops automatically as we proceed along the right path under proper guidance. Certain people who practise japa outwardly for a long time, sometimes find that even during sleep they go on with japa as usual. This they misunderstand as ajapa or shabda. It is not really so. By constant practice their heart and tongue become habituated to it, and the action continues even when they are in sleep or otherwise unconscious. It, however, stops if they give up the practice for some time. This is only by the force of habit and is not the actual state of ajapa.
The condition of ajapa, rightly believed to be a high spiritual achievement acquired after years of hard labour, is only a matter of weeks, or rather days, through right training by the process of transmission. The vibrations thus created remain for some time located in the heart, after which they gradually develop over to other chakras and finally to every particle of the body. It is then known as anaahata. The method to be pursued, as recommended in our Mission, is meditation under efficient guidance, which is by far the most useful and probably the only means of securing complete success.
Generally people complain of numerous ideas creeping into their mind at the time of meditation. They think that they have failed in their practice unless they bring their mind to a standstill. But it is not so. We are not practising concentration, but only meditation. We must go on with meditation unmindful of the foreign ideas that happen to come to our mind at the time. The flow of ideas is due to the activities of our conscious mind, which is never at rest. We are still busy in meditation with our subconscious mind, while our conscious mind is roaming about and forming numerous ideas. Thus we are not the loser in any way. In due course, after sufficient practice, the conscious mind too gets moulded and begins to act in harmony with the subconscious mind. The result thus achieved is deep-rooted and lasting, and finally calmness, the characteristic of the soul, becomes predominant.
In certain cases I have observed teachers exercising their will power to stop the normal functioning of the mind during sittings, creating a temporary state of senselessness or suspension of the brain. The condition, no doubt, is most attractive to a beginner, who is ignorant of Reality, and he feels greatly impressed by this extraordinary display of power. In my opinion, it is only a feat of jugglery practised by those who are eager to attract the largest number of disciples in order to establish their greatness as a guru. I would call it the greatest misuse of power on the part of a spiritual teacher who has perhaps no other underlying motive than self-predominance. It is a wrong practice and greatly harmful to the spiritual advancement of an aspirant. Ideas thus suppressed or suspended soon begin to react with greater force, spoiling the entire system. Besides, the practice creates internal heaviness and dullness of mind. One who is subject to such a practice for a long time loses sense of discrimination, and his power of realisation gets blunt. Over the course of time, he gets completely spoiled and becomes quite unfit for real spiritual training. If a man does not grow lighter day by day, he must conclude that he is receiving the wrong type of spiritual training. Constant growth of lightness of mind and spirit is the surest test of spiritual progress.
Thus, the real spiritual training is that which makes our mind disciplined and regulated, restores moderation in senses and faculties, and creates lightness of spirit. Then alone internal peace and calmness is ensured and a higher approach is possible. For this, the medium of a worthy master of high calibre, having the power of transmission at his command, is absolutely essential, and to him the aspirant must surrender with full faith and confidence.
Some people think that initiation alone is enough to solve their problem of life. If they are able somehow or other to secure initiation with a guru, they do not stand in need of any further effort or practice. They think that a push by the guru will in the end extricate them from the entanglements of samskaras and maya and lead them on to liberation. The notion, though literally true, may not be very encouraging unless you completely surrender to him, and the master too is of a specially high calibre. The thought of the betterment and progress of the disciple is no doubt uppermost in the heart of the master, for which he exerts himself as far as possible, but that does not mean that we may remain idle, doing nothing ourselves, and leave our share of work too upon him. We must, as our duty, try our utmost to save him from unnecessary exertion on our account, in as much as we can do ourselves for our advancement and should in no case neglect our part of the duty.
Most of the teachers of religion have adopted artificial methods for developing certain spiritual conditions in an aspirant, but it is a very defective process. For example, in order to practise gyana (gnosticism) and create within the aspirant the state of Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahma) they advise him to meditate outwardly, thinking the same thing all the while and repeating the same words every moment. This is a mechanical process and leads to internal grossness. The real state of Aham Brahmasmi is never created by such artificial means. The repetition of the words over and over again helps him to form a habit of tongue, and the same words slip out every moment. It is absurd to conclude that thereby he has become gyani (gnostic) in the real sense.
They may repeat the words a hundred times and force their thoughts every moment to imagine everything as Brahma, but still they may be as far away from it as ever. The practice creates an artificial atmosphere around him which helps him to imagine the same thing outwardly. The condition disappears if he gives up the habit of repeating the words again and again. It is, therefore, quite evident that the state of Aham Brahmasmi thus supposed to be created is not really genuine but only false and imaginary. Besides, even the real state of Aham Brahmasmi, which is commonly supposed to be a very high attainment, is not really so. At this stage, a man, though relieved to some extent of the entanglements of maya, is not actually beyond its final limits. Consciousness of self still exists at this stage, which is nothing but grossness, though in a very subtle form. Those who preach it from the platform as the highest form of gyana, beyond which little remains to be achieved, are grossly mistaken. It is not our destination, but we only pass by it to embark upon the next stage. Those who stick to it thinking it to be Reality or the final goal are committing a serious blunder. We have finally to arrive at a point where everything ends, including this idea of Aham or ‘I’.
Such is the state of complete negation which we have finally to attain and where the cry of Aham or ‘I’ will be quite out of tune. The state of Aham Brahmasmi is originally caused by consciousness (or chaitanyata), which automatically develops within us as we march along the path under proper guidance. It produces vibrations within, with the result that the mind begins to echo the same vibrations. This state of mind appears at every stage of spiritual progress in their forms: ‘I am Brahman’, ‘All is Brahman’ and ‘All from Brahman’. The entire state in all its three aspects is in fact unity in diversity in different forms. It appears in a crude form in pinda desha. In Brahmanda Mandal it becomes finer and more subtle, while in Para Brahmanda Mandal it becomes extremely subtle. All these conditions end within the first sixteen circles as shown by the diagram in Chapter Two.
The right course of training for an aspirant of spirituality, therefore, is to proceed along the path of realisation under the guidance of a true and worthy master in the most natural way, with due regard to inner cleanliness or purification of the chakras and complete moderation in the exercise of the senses and other faculties.