Ways and Means
This article is an excerpt from “Reality At Dawn”. For further reading, please order a copy of the book on the digital store
Having determined our goal, the next problem before us is to find out means for the realisation of the object. Sages and teachers have elaborately dealt with the subject. They have laid down various forms of practices or sadhanas, helpful for the attainment of what they put forth as the final goal. But for the realisation of God, the Indeterminate Absolute or Para Brahma, we have to adopt means which lead us to complete negation.
Our goal of life, as discussed in the previous chapter, is the final stage where we are nearest to the Superactive Centre, or Zero, which is the primeval cause of the entire manifestation and to which everything will ultimately return after mahapralaya (complete dissolution). To acquire this state, we have ourselves to become zero. No doubt we shall reach that point in natural course at the time of mahapralaya, but what we strive for is to acquire it as early as possible in order to save ourselves from the miseries of innumerable lives.
Just as mahapralaya is essential for the return of everything to the origin, similarly for our return to that point we must bring about our pralaya (destruction), or acquire a state of complete dissolution of all things of our own making. It means we have to be free from all our belongings and assume the same naked form in which we were at the time of creation. Our belongings are a pile of samskaras (impressions) with their resultant effects in the form of complexities and the diverse coverings which we have gathered round the soul and which are the results of our thoughts and actions.
We possess mental and intellectual faculties, which are all active. Our mind determines the actions of the body. We see, hear, feel and understand things. We begin to like or dislike them. Desires gradually begin to creep in and affect our actions. The rings go on multiplying, and we exert ourselves for the fulfilment of desires. A desire, when satisfied, generally creates another to follow in its place. We are seldom free from them even for a moment. We see most things with an idea of having them. These desires mould our physical and mental actions and lead to the formation of samskaras, thus adding more and more coverings to the soul.
Fresh desires every moment and our efforts to satisfy them lead to continuous additions. Their impressions remain on our causal body so long as they are not wiped off through the process of bhog. The completion of the bhog of all the samskaras, formed every moment, cannot ordinarily be possible during the whole life. Thus, when our life comes to a close, we still have a lot of samskaras stored within us. These very samskaras become the cause of our rebirth, in order to offer us an opportunity to complete their bhog, but unfortunately, instead of finishing them we add more than those we have exhausted.
Another serious obstruction in our path is caused by our sufferings and miseries. Almost everyone in the world complains of the miseries he is faced with and which he wants to do away with. But he neglects the right means. He thinks fulfilment of desires to be the only way of removing miseries. But that is not the solution. Miseries are commonly considered to be detestable, but there have been sages who voluntarily courted miseries, thinking them to be a boon, and have often prayed to God for them. The mystery of the problem will be clear if we look into the origin of miseries.
The soul possesses consciousness as a result of God’s will to effect creation. The soul likewise began to form its own tiny creation and gathered round it things of its own creation. Now a stir, a motion (i.e. unrest or disturbance) was the main factor in bringing about creation. Similarly, for the tiny creation of the soul, too, unrest or disturbance is indispensable.
We also possess the force of will, which we apply to impart power to the factors necessary for setting up this creation. They appear before us in the form of joy or sorrow, comfort or misery. The mind, too, being constantly active, creates within us liking for the one and dislike for the other, introducing the two extremities of a thing. Thus miseries come into existence. This is all the creation of the human mind, which results from our ignorance of the right relationship of things. Our passions, emotions and impulses too contribute a good deal in aggravating the troubles and at times cause a fierce tempest strong enough to threaten a complete wreck. We generally attribute its causes to circumstances. But it is a wrong notion. Mind is the centre of this outer expansion of man in the form of the human body, and everything which is exhibited through the medium of the body proceeds from the centre, the mind.
If our mind comes to a harmonious state, circumstances and environments will have no effect on it, and there will be no disturbance within. Peace and tranquillity shall reign all through under all circumstances. Passions, excitements and desires will lose their intensity, and sorrow, joy or misery will disappear from view.
Our desires are the main cause of miseries. So the only solution of miseries is the curtailment of desires. The fewer desires, the lesser shall be our miseries. But to become desireless is another problem. Desires form a network in which we are entangled. The more we try to get rid of it, the tighter become the fibres of the net. The only way to free ourselves from the entanglements is to divert our attention from them and fix our eyes on the very Real thing. If we cultivate a habit of remaining unmindful of them, they will soon begin to disappear from our view and consequently our miseries will be minimised. Reality alone will remain constantly before our eyes, and everything else will lose its charm or significance.
Total absence of sufferings and miseries in life is, however, impossible and unnatural. In fact, they are rather meant for our betterment. They are just like bitter pills of medicine given to a patient to restore health. The misuse of even the best thing creates trouble. So is the case with miseries. Proper utility of everything at the proper time and in the proper way is sure to bring forth good results in the long run. Miseries are really our best guide, which make our path smooth. To a man in the ordinary sphere of life, miseries are very helpful for his making.
Referring to domestic troubles and miseries of a worldly life, my Master used to say: “Our home is the training ground of patience and endurance. To endure calmly the adversities of a household life is for us the greatest penance, which is the noblest of all other forms of penances. What we have, therefore, to do under the circumstances is not to give way to the feeling of anger or grief, but to assume an unquestioning attitude, thinking that we ourselves are in the wrong, for which we have to forbear with a cool mind. A solitary life in a forest and aloofness from all worldly concerns may be, to some, the means of cultivating patience and forbearance, but to us the taunts and rebukes of our friends and relations is the greatest penance and the surest means of success.” In fact, to put up coolly with miseries and troubles contributes much to our betterment; hence they are valuable assets to our progress. It is only by their wrong use that we spoil their effect and thus get deprived of their best advantages.
Renunciation, or non-attachment, is no doubt an essential stage in realisation, and we can never be free from the entanglements of maya unless we cultivate non-attachment. But it does not mean severing our connection with home, family and all our worldly concerns and taking up the life of a religious mendicant. I do not agree with those who hold the view that the only means of cultivating non-attachment is to get away from home and family and retire to a solitary corner, discarding all worldly ties. Renunciation effected by such forced means is seldom found to be genuine, for it is just possible that in spite of their apparent forced detachment from the world, they may still inwardly be clinging to it.
No doubt as a householder we have to look after many things: we have to support our family; we have to provide for the education of our children; we have to look to their wants and necessities; we have to protect them from heat and cold, from trouble and sickness and so on. For these necessities we earn and possess money and property. The real evil is only our undue attachment with the things that we are associated with. This is the main cause of our sufferings. But if we are able to do everything in life thinking it to be our duty, without any feeling of attraction or repulsion, we are in a way free from worldly ties and have renounced the world in the true sense, although we possess and make use of many things. Everything we possess shall then seem to be a sacred trust from the Supreme Master for the discharge of the duties entrusted to us.
Renunciation truly means non-attachment with worldly objects and not the non-possession of things. Thus a household life, in which possession of things and worldly ties are indispensable, is no impediment in the way of renunciation and consequently of realisation, only if one is not unduly attached to the objects he is connected with. There are numerous examples of saints having attained the highest degree of perfection while leading a household life all through.
Renunciation is, in fact, a condition or an inner state of mind which brings to our view the transitory and changing character of things and creates a feeling of non-attachment with such objects. His eyes are fixed every moment on Reality, which is unchanging and eternal, and he is free from the feelings of attraction and repulsion. This is vairagya (renunciation) in the true sense of the term. When we have achieved this state of mind, we are free from desires. We feel contented with what is available to us.
The end of desires means the stopping of the formation of samskaras. What remains now is only to undergo the effect (bhog) of the previously formed samskaras, which are to be worked out during the course of our life. Nature too helps us in the work by creating field for bhog in order to remove the impressions of our thoughts and actions from the causal body. When these coverings melt away we begin to assume finer forms of existence.
In order to control our thoughts and actions, we have to look to the proper working of the mind, which is never at rest even for a moment. I have often heard religious teachers railing at it in bitterest terms, ascribing all bad names to it and proclaiming it to be our worst enemy. The reason is quite plain. They think it to be the cause of all evil within us, and consequently they advise people to crush it and not to follow its biddings. But generally people find it a hard task to restrain the diverse activities of the mind, or to disregard its biddings. Their theoretical advice and lectures in this respect are, therefore, not of much avail to them, and almost none of those attending their lectures have ever been able to achieve the object in a practical way. Besides, the present circumstances and the environments, too, contribute much towards the ever-increasing activities of the individual mind.
Almost everyone today feels his life to be a hard struggle for existence, confronting acute problems of poverty, insecurity, distress and rivalry, and it is almost impossible to keep himself free from its effects. The result is the constant unrest and disturbance of mind. We breathe in the same thing from the atmosphere and are consequently led away by circumstances and surroundings. Our individual mind has become the weathercock, turning its face at every blast towards the direction in which the wind blows. The real hero in the struggle is one who braves them courageously and keeps himself free from their effect.
I no doubt agree with those who say that every evil has its origin in the mind, which alone is therefore responsible for it. Though, at the same time, I may remind them that it is the very same mind that leads us to virtue and also helps us to realise our highest self. So it is not every evil alone that proceeds from the mind, but also every good. Hence those who condemn it in the bitterest terms have no justification for it at all. It is really only due to the defective moulding of the mind, and what is actually required is not the crushing or the killing of the mind but merely its proper training.
The mind is like the pendulum of a clock. The clock goes all right so long as the movement of the pendulum is regulated. If it is disturbed the clock is out of order. Similarly, for this human clock it is necessary that the movement of the mind be well regulated and adjusted. The methods to mould the mind and regulate its activities are also very simple.
Really we have spoiled the mind ourselves by allowing it to wander about aimlessly during leisure hours. The practice has continued for years and it has now become almost its second nature. If we now try to control the mind by putting it under restraint, we meet with little success. The more we try to suppress it by force, the more it rebounds and counteracts causing greater disturbance. The proper method to control the activities of the mind is to fix it on one sacred thought, just as we do in meditation, and dispel from it everything unwanted or superfluous. In course of time, after constant practice, the mind gets disciplined and regulated, and much of the inner disturbance is eliminated.
The best course to free yourself from unwanted ideas is to treat them as uninvited guests and remain unmindful of them. They will then wither away like unwatered plants, and ultimately the same sacred thought will remain predominant. The only way to accomplish it is, therefore, meditation under the guidance of a capable master. By constant practice in meditation, the mind will become calm and peaceful, and the unwanted ideas will cease to trouble you.
I often hear beginners complaining about the wandering of the mind during meditation. From the very first day, they expect that during their practice at meditation the mind should remain at a standstill, but when they find different ideas and thoughts haunting their mind they feel greatly perturbed. I must clear it to them that it is not the suspended condition of the mind we are striving for in our practice, but only the moulding of its multifarious activities. We do not want to stop its normal working but only bring it to a regulated and disciplined state. If the activities of the mind are stopped from the very beginning, we probably do not stand in need of practising meditation at all. Meditation is the only process to achieve that end. Concentration is its natural result in due course. The proper method is to meditate all along remaining quite unmindful of the foreign ideas and thoughts coming to our mind during that time.
The mental struggle to keep off unwanted ideas often proves unsuccessful for it causes a strong reaction which is often impossible for a man of ordinary capabilities to overcome and which is sometimes likely to result in serious mental disturbance or even insanity. It may be possible for those leading a life of celibacy to have gained sufficient ojas (lustre) to cope successfully with the flow of thoughts and to withstand the effect of their reaction, but for the ordinary man it is almost an impossibility. If instead of struggling to keep off ideas we only remain unmindful of them, very soon they will lose their effect and cease troubling us. They will then be only like dogs barking after a caravan which goes forward without paying any heed to them. When we are attentive to ideas to check them, concentration is naturally there, which breeds power, and thus they become stronger.
A most common excuse advanced by certain people today is that they are too busy to devote any time to meditation or similar other practice. But “the busiest man has the greatest leisure” is a well-known saying. I think a man has more time at his disposal than there is work for him to do. Their complaint of the scarcity of time is due only to its wrong adjustment. If we utilise our time to the best advantage, we shall never have cause to complain that it is short or scarce.
There are others who are a bit frank to admit that it is not for want of time that they remain away from devotional duties, but for their habitual negligence and sluggishness, which they cannot overcome. To them I would say that they are probably never negligent or sluggish in their trade or profession, which they attend to with full zeal in spite of all personal inconvenience and even illness, only because some monetary gain or profit is in view. Their longing for material gain makes them unmindful of their inconvenience or illness. Similarly, if our longing (or lagan) for the realisation of the goal is great, our negligent or sluggish habits will not stand in the way of our efforts or progress.
If we go through the history of the ancient sages, we find that they had sacrificed all the comforts of life for the sake of attaining Reality. They led a life of austerity and penance, undergoing every kind of hardship and trouble for the sake of the object so dear to their heart. Intense longing for the goal made them blind to everything else, and they remained firm on the path, not minding the difficulties and reverses that came across their way. Such an intense longing for the object and an iron will to achieve the goal is absolutely necessary to ensure complete success.
I may assure you that you can win laurels in the spiritual field if only you turn your attention towards God and proceed with will, faith and confidence, no matter how adversely you may be placed, surrounded by all the worries and miseries of a household life. Your busy life will then offer no hindrance in your way.
Generally, people go hesitatingly towards God, thinking themselves to be too incapable and weak to achieve the real thing. A powerful will made at the very first step, and maintained all through, shall never fail to achieve complete success. Half the distance is crossed if a man enters the field with a firm mind. Difficulties and dejections will melt away at a mere glance, and the path of success will be made smooth. An indecisive attitude leads to half-hearted efforts and generally results in mere partial success, or more often in failure. Our firm will enables us, automatically, to draw in power from unknown sources for the accomplishment of the task.
A firm will supplemented by an ever-increasing impatience or yearning to achieve the object will enhance the force of our effort, and we shall thereby remain in constant touch with the same real thing, catching every hint conducive to our spiritual well-being and progress. Impatience or constant restlessness to reach the goal in the shortest possible time is, thus, by far the most important factor that contributes to our speedy success. We must not rest even for a while till we have gained the real object, eternal peace and calmness. Intense longing for an object naturally creates restlessness for it, and we have no peace till we achieve the desired object. It is, therefore, a very essential thing and must be cultivated by whatever means possible. Thus for gaining eternal peace, we cultivate within us restlessness and impatience at the preliminary stage.
It may look strange on the face of it when I ask you to cultivate the very thing we want to do away with, but it is the only way to achieve sure and speedy success. The restlessness thus created is temporary and different in character from the ordinary restless condition of the mind. It is finer and more pleasant. It creates an inlet in our heart for the divine current to flow in and smoothens our passage to the kingdom of God. If you thrust a man down into the water, you find that he makes desperate efforts to free himself from your grip. It is only because his impatience to get out of the water at once increases his force of effort, and he does not rest till he is out of the water. Similarly, such desperate efforts caused by extreme impatience to reach the goal at once will quicken our steps on the path of realisation and ensure easy success in the least possible time. That is the easiest and the most efficient means of speedy success.
My associates have often enquired from me the method for creating such a type of restlessness within them. I may tell them that intense love for the object will automatically lead them to it. When we are in deep love, we shall naturally feel impatient to secure nearness with the loved object. When we are greatly in love with any of the worldly objects, its idea comes to our mind again and again, and we think of it over and over again. Now, in order to develop divine love in our hearts, we have only to reverse the process. If we remember God frequently or for the most part of the day, we will automatically develop love for Him, which, if continued with earnestness, will create impatience in our heart to secure union at the earliest. Another way of developing love with God is to play the part of a lover as if you are enacting a drama. But it is only for those who are almost incapable of finer means. The method, though artificial, will shortly bring you to reality, and the feeling of true love and impatience will begin to agitate your heart.
The most important factor in realisation is self-confidence in our own capacity and power to achieve success. It is absurd to think, even for a moment, that we are in any way too weak or deficient to acquire the highest state of perfection ever attained so far, even by the greatest sages of the past. We must march on the path of realisation like a brave soldier with full faith and confidence, not minding the difficulties or reverses. Dejections and disappointments weaken our will and shatter our firmness. We should meet reverses with a brave heart and should never give way to the feeling of despondency, which is the worst drawback and the deadliest poison to spiritual life.
One of the essentials in the making of a man engaged in spiritual pursuit is moderation. It is a very wide term and covers every phase of human activity. It means balance in all senses and faculties, nothing more or less than what is naturally required at the time for any specific purpose without its slightest impression on the mind. Generally, today, we find moderation disturbed in almost all cases. The reason is mainly that we attach undue importance to whatever thing comes to our view, and we strengthen it by the force of our thought with the result that it grows stronger over all others. We cultivate this habit and apply it to different things with varying intensity. The result that follows is nothing but disturbance and mental conflict, and it is the root cause of all our troubles and miseries.
Realisation is not possible unless moderation and balance are restored. It corresponds closely with the very real thing which existed at the time of creation, when everything was in a perfectly balanced state. Now, after the lapse of time, degeneration crept in. Our senses and faculties lost their balance, and everything went into disorder. What we have to do now is to control our senses and faculties in order to restore moderation in them.
To cultivate moderation, we have to pay special attention to external ways of life too, e.g. gentle and polite language, courteous dealing, sympathy and love with fellow beings, reverence to elders, unrevengeful nature and so on. These habits are greatly helpful in our making. Moderation is a characteristic of nature. If we gain complete moderation, we are in a way in conformity with nature and it is the very essence of spirituality.
Lastly, the most important and unfailing means of success is the prayer. It connects our link with God, to whom we surrender ourselves with love and devotion. In prayer we stand before Him as a humble suppliant, presenting to Him our true state and completely resigning ourselves to His will. This is the true form of prayer, and as true devotees we must also feel satisfied with the Will of the Master. It is a folly to pray to God for petty worldly ends, except in most exceptional cases when peace of mind is greatly disturbed for want of the bare necessities. We should always pray to the supreme Master, the Omnipotent and the Omniscient alone, with a mind totally absorbed in love and submission to Him, forgetting even ourselves altogether. This is the proper way of offering prayer, which in such a state seldom goes unrewarded. I have dealt with this point more elaborately in my book Commentary on the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg.
In the end I may also bring home to your mind that there are different forms and practices for achieving the end. They might lead you on the path of realisation to some distance, but how far I do not propose to discuss here. I leave it to the judgement and the experience of the readers themselves. But I assure you positively that it is raja yoga and raja yoga alone that can lead you on to your ultimate destination or the highest point of human approach where you are in perfect harmony with nature, assuming your absolute and pure form. No other form or practice can bring forth such results. It is therefore essential to have recourse to this science if you aim at the highest point. The help and support of a truly worthy guide is, of course, the essential factor and at the same time a serious problem of the day too, but a true seeker, I assure you, shall never fail to find him.