In the spiritual world knowing is a happening, not an effort. In that knowing there is no certainty or security. If you think you know, you may not know. Jayaram V
You are always someone in a context, in a relationship or in comparison to something. Without it, you do not know what you are and how you measure up. Your knowledge also rests upon many assumptions and beliefs. Take them away from the equation, and you will have a hard time drawing valid conclusions about yourself.
Truly speaking, your self-knowledge is mostly assumptive rather than factual. From an existential point of view it is not a problem at all since you can live your whole life without knowing much about yourself. Are not the animals able to live without much self-awareness? However, difficulties arise when you step out of your comfort zone and probe your consciousness to know your true nature.
What is the best way to do it? In the perceptual world, you rely upon both objectivity and subjectivity to ascertain any truth. In doing so, you try to remain free from bias and logical errors. Scientifically, there is no other way to know the world. However, with regard to self-knowledge this approach may not be much helpful unless you pay attention to it with non-judgmental awareness. Here you have to rely more upon your subjective experience and become a mirror to things rather than look at them in the mirror of your mind.
There are many types of subjective experience. In some you are aware of your awareness, as you engage your mind and senses in the process of knowing. However, as your practice of calming your mind and senses deepens, you may enter a state of pure subjectivity without awareness, judgment, observation, analysis, comparison, and relationship. It is an indeterminate state, which is beyond the grasp of your mind and intellect. Let us dwell upon this state and why it cannot be objectified.
magine you live in a world without a mirror. Imagine in that world nothing is reflected and nothing works like a mirror to produce a mirror image. In such a world how can you see yourself and know how you look or what distinguishing features you have? You may see parts of your body and make some assumptions about them. You may also learn from others how they perceive you, and how you appear to them. However, since you do not have any mirror or reflecting surface, you cannot subjectively validate that knowledge. You have to fully rely upon others to create your self-image.
You do not have such a problem in our world because you can see your reflection in a mirror, or rely upon a photograph, video camera, motion picture or any image capturing device to look at yourself. In addition, you may also rely upon other’s opinion about you. Through introspection, meditation, observation, you may also subjectively gain insight into your behavior and personality.
However, objectivity is not very helpful if you want to go beyond your mind and senses to know yourself. In the transcendental states, you have none of the physical or mental means to observe yourself or know yourself. The transcendental world is a world without reflections, and duality. It is free from forms and totally self-existing without a second, where you do not experience otherness or any relationship. There you have to rely upon your own intelligence to be aware and awake, without the senses, mind, and memory.
Since there is no duality no one can really explain to you what happens in a transcendental state. It is true even for those who have experienced self-realization or god-realization. They cannot clearly articulate their experience or hold that state in their wakeful consciousness. Therefore, usually a sage does not confirm whether he had entered the state of Self or Brahman. Others may know about it from his words, behavior, conduct, mental brilliance, but he may choose to remain silent about it. He may speak to you about the state, but he may not show particular interest in letting everyone know about his own experience.
Ordinary people enter the state of non-duality every day during deep sleep. They do not know it because their minds and senses remain asleep and their memory remains inactive. Deep sleep is a subjective experience without any subject. When spiritual people enter a similar state through meditation, they experience the same predicament.
However, since it is a culmination of willful self-effort the experience brings a sudden shift in their awareness and transforms them whereby they do not have to struggle to control their lower impulses or manifest their higher nature. For them detachment and dispassion arises naturally as they become free from desires, attraction and aversion, attachments, confusion, delusion, evil thoughts, and worldliness. As they tap into their higher wisdom, they experience a new found sense of freedom, without expectations, want, worry and anxiety, which ordinary people experience in their waking hours.
It is the miracle of self-realization, and the highest of all perfections (siddhis). If you want to know whether a yogi has experienced self-realization, look in him for those qualities. When you see them in a seer or a guru, or even a seemingly ordinary person, know that that person has tasted the stateless state of Supreme Brahman and reached the culmination of spiritual perfection.
Delusion manifests in the mind in various ways. Of them spiritual delusion or the illusion of spiritual activity is the most formidable one. It consumes even spiritual teachers. Jayaram V
What appears to be right on the path may end up being a distraction. What seem to help you and guide you may eventually lead you astray. Your progress on the spiritual path depends upon whether you have stable intelligence (stitha-prajna) that can sharply discern the truths of existence. Jayaram V
Your guru may shine upon you the light of discerning wisdom, but it will not remove your inner darkness unless you let it enter your mind and shine there. Jayaram V
There are many spiritual practices as there are theories, philosophies and religions. However, the most basic and the most important one is this. You have to consistently live with the conviction that you are an eternal Self, not the mind and body or the innumerable identities and associations you develop with the outside world. Having a mere belief or thought of it is not sufficient. You must make it into a reality, and let that thought become firmly rooted in your consciousness. As you strengthen that thought, you will experience gradual detachment from your physical self and material things and increased unity with the space in you and around you. You will also feel increased oneness with the all pervading spirit.
Of all the numerous identities that your ego builds to extend its influence in the world and secure things for itself, the spiritual identity of the Self is the best because it alone can set you free from everything that holds you back or keeps you in fear. If you can spend a whole day with the conviction that you are an eternal and indestructible Self and conduct yourself accordingly, you can consider yourself an advanced spiritual practitioner.
You may think that in today’s world spiritual liberation does not mean much. However, it is what we all yearn for, even in worldly life, although each one may pursue it rather differently in their own imperfect ways. In spiritual sense, liberation means becoming free from self-limiting beliefs, dependence, desires, and attachments that curtail your freedom to be yourself or live according to your beliefs and convictions. Your wealth, status, education, or power are not going to get you there. You will not reach it, until you have resolved everything in you that prevents you from being your natural self.
Your spirituality strengthens when you stabilize your mind in the conviction that you are a spiritual being and let your life be guided by it. Outward spiritual practices such as prayers, meditation and yoga work best when you use them around this core belief and manifest it in every aspect of your life, thinking and attitude. Your mind is such that if you have just an empty bowl and nothing else, you may gradually become attached to it and would not like to let it go. Now, imagine the situation where you deal with innumerable objects and form a deep attachment to them. Many lifetimes may be required to become free from all that you accumulate as your karmic past. Some people suggest that you can become free by isolating yourself from everything and practice detachment and renunciation. However, physical separation itself may not work unless you learn to see the emptiness of things and sever the mental bonds you form with them.
A few hundred years ago it was extremely difficult for a person to acquire religious or spiritual knowledge or practice spirituality. Unless, he was born in a family of deeply religious and scholarly people he had little chance of knowing the deeper aspects of his religion or its philosophy. In those days learning was a huge challenge. It took years and decades for students to acquire a semblance of mastery. Even that would not come easily.
Those who were driven by the desire or curiosity to know or seek salvation had to face great hardships to find suitable teachers and earn their trust and confidence before they could gain even preliminary knowledge. The difficulties are well described in the scriptures such as the Bhagavadgita which suggest that only after innumerable births and earning good karma one would be born in a pious family and find favorable circumstances to attain salvation.
Today, we have a different situation. We do not have any of those difficulties. Knowledge is now available to you in various forms. You can instantly access many ancient texts without paying a dime. There are many people who are eager to share their knowledge and wisdom for free. You do not have to memorize the texts by heart or spend hours to decipher their explicit and implicit meaning. A simple search on the Internet can yield immense knowledge. Without meeting any guru, simply sitting at home, and using your computer, mobile phone, or television set, you can listen to many spiritual discourses of spiritual masters and eminent scholars. Most public libraries stock a good collection of books and videos on spirituality, and religions, which you can use to increase your knowledge. People no more need to depend upon gurus only to acquire basic knowledge. You can download a lot of information from the Internet and use it for your practice.
Logically speaking, the explosion of information and the ease of its availability should have brought a tremendous transformation in people and made the world a better and more civilized place. It should have helped the humanity become more disciplined, knowledgeable, and spiritual. There should have been a noticeable increase in the number of good people who believed in their spirituality and worked for their salvation.
Unfortunately, it did not happen. On the contrary, you can see the opposite effect. More people today seek cheap entertainment and numerous distractions rather than spirituality and religious knowledge. Many even feel hesitant to show their spiritual side in public for the fear of being branded as orthodox or backward. Materialism, shallow egalitarianism, and secular ideologies that denigrate religion and spirituality have taken the hold of people’s minds since they have been highly romanticized by numerous institutions as the cultural themes of modern urban landscape.
Life is now more objectified and externalized to the extent that virtue and spirituality are viewed as weaknesses rather than strengths. People are motivated more by the prospect of immediate gratification of their minds and bodies rather than the long term rewards of spiritual growth and development. On any given day, the number of people who indulge in physical and sensual pleasures is several times more than those who seek spiritual solace. People invest their time and energy in spiritual practices to deal with their health problems or socialize with others rather become spiritual. It is obvious that more knowledge and greater access to spiritual wisdom have not translated into increased religious or spiritual activity. Instead religion and spirituality have become social and political issues.
Truly speaking, out of thousands of people only few become interested in spirituality. Even among them only a few eventually succeed in receiving the right knowledge and making progress on the path. The rest of them spend their time in outward spiritual activity without achieving corresponding inner transformation. Although they acquire knowledge of what to do to improve their practice, most of it remains unused. They may sit at the feet of their spiritual gurus and listen to them, organize religious functions and congregations to attract attention, or spend considerable time in promoting their self-interest through the network they develop in the process.
Such activities may give them the outward satisfaction of being spiritual, but inwardly they do not help them much. Many spiritual organizations break up or disappear after the demise of their founders because their followers do not live up to the standards set by them. It is not because the teachers have failed, but because human nature cannot easily be transformed or refined. A teacher diverts your attention from the external world to your inner world. He introduces to the methods that can potentially transform you into a spiritual being. However, he will not carry you on his back to the doors of salvation. That responsibility solely rests with you. You have to walk your walk and take your risks without any expectations. You cannot blame anyone or your teacher for your failure because the teacher removes the darkness of your mind, if only you open your mind to the light he shows.
Knowledge may come from any source, even from a fallen guru. Since God is omnipresent and omniscient, knowledge may come to you from many sides. As long as it is in harmony with your values and spiritual goals, you can use it. Most importantly, you do not need a lot of knowledge or master any scripture to practice spirituality. You can use the most basic knowledge found in any scripture and put it good practice. If you are serious and intent upon your goal, it does not matter whether you have the access to specialized knowledge or not, and whether you have the direct guidance of a teacher or not. If you have been reading spiritual books for some time, probably you already possess that knowledge and do not need any further. If you have not seen any change in you, it may be because you have not done enough putting that knowledge into practice.
Spiritual practice can potentially become a delusion, if you are not careful or sincere. It will give you the illusion of being involved and self-important but lead you nowhere. You will be just moving in circles without reaching your goal. Any spiritual practice in which you do not involve your soul is a mere worldly activity. Many people do not realize it. They focus upon the methods rather than the change that needs to be made in their thinking and outlook. They focus upon the teachers rather than their teachings. As a result, they develop more worldly attachment and bind themselves to either their teachers or their institutions.
People may feel fascinated by spiritual life and the images of solemnity and serenity associated with it, but the truth is there is nothing romantic about it. It is a very dull and hard life, in which you have to deny many joys and pleasures of the world to cultivate the inwardness. Many people cannot genuinely practice it for long. They do not want to leave behind the world that they know to pursue the world, about which they have little knowledge. They may be excited about the prospect of salvation or inner peace, but do not possess the courage to take the plunge. Hence, many people immerse themselves in a make believe spiritual effort that do not take them far.
For your spiritual salvation and peace of mind, you do not have to travel to faraway places and spend time in retreats and meditation camps. You should aim to reduce your dependence upon the world and external props. If you cannot do without company, or a particular environment, or setting, it means you are depending upon the world and continuing your involvement with it rather than becoming free from it. The purpose of spiritual effort should be to become free from your dependence and attachment with the external world and any group, movement, purpose, or teacher to which you are mentally drawn.
Great masters like Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, and Jiddu Krishnamurthy had ordinary teachers. Yet they scaled great heights because they had the readiness and the inclination to become enlightened. They also followed simple spiritual practices and waited for the light to shine in them. They had their own share of problems and enemies, but they developed the strength to deal with them. If you are intent upon your spiritual development, you can accomplish a lot with a few simple practices, without deluding yourself with superficial activities. With just a fraction of the knowledge that you already know, you can go far on the spiritual path. You can choose to walk straight on the path or move in circles around your spiritual goals to delay your journey. It would be like making rounds (pradakshinas) around a temple, without entering the inner sanctum because your eyes are closed and you cannot see the main entrance.
“The search after Truth is the one thing by which the shape of human life should be determined.
Genuine desire itself opens the road to fulfilment.”
Sri Anandamayi Ma
A Meditator’s Guide for Reducing Stress
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus the Christ
Choose any Name of God you wish; such as Om, Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Buddha.
Sit upright as comfortably as you can, gently close your eyes.
Make the mind cool and still.
Do not allow your meditation to become your opponent.
Approach meditation as a real friend, allowing adequate time to become best friends.
Let it flow in a refreshing way; make it a harmonious flow. A relationship with meditation, being either the repetition of Om or the breath or both, must become harmonious in order for our outer relationship, with work or people, to follow suit.
Find comfort in meditation, let the ease grow within, respect the concentration.
Try to float within the breath and Om. Thus it will gain momentum and move throughout the entire mind and body to alleviate stress.
Focus only on the areas that are comfortable, let go (ignore) of the points of stress. Leave stress alone, focus only on the points of ease and allow them to expand.
Put the mind in a place where it feels safe, not overwhelmed or threatened by the stress.
If inner irritation and disharmony abides within meditation, then it is hard to remove or dissipate it outside of meditation.
Meditation can and should be the best medication. In time it will become a really good friend that will see you through all kinds of difficulties.
RELAX AND THINK OF GOD!
Develop the awareness of exactly where in the body stress is settled in as a physical discomfort. This is important, for the mind will always manifest ‘within the body’ it’s accumulated stress.
Simply watch the areas of stress; they will literally get embarrassed as we look on it straight on, rather than letting it hover around the edges of our awareness.
Most stress is like a ghost that will wither away when the light of awareness is shined upon it from a comfortable (skillful) meditative “stance”. Some ‘types’ of stress will not wither up so easily, and then you must ‘do’ something about them!
These must be examined ‘skillfully’. Yes, understanding where it arose from, and more importantly what will cause it to pass away. And honestly face why you are ‘hooked’ into it and therefore hold on to it, letting it defile the clarity of the mind?
Honestly see if there is a ‘place’ in the mind where we find satisfaction in being angry or resentful about the defined cause of the stress!
Look within for the ‘place‘ where there is appeal for the stress that seems satisfying, discern where it leads you. Then go right to the place where the mind is free from these things. Then, from there, watch the breath and remain in the repetition of Om, pulling yourself always back to this free and comfortable state when you become forgetful or resentful. This is the more dynamic aspect of meditation!
But remember that we are not dwelling on the areas of stress or its absence. The main focal point of our concentration is on the breath and Om.
The key to success is found in the understanding that with the most troubling degrees of stress we cannot do anything about its cause. The miracle of meditation is that by dismantling the effects, we weaken the cause.
Meditation is a skill. Patient perseverance is the foremost virtue for success.
You are the major obstacle on your path to learning and improving. Jayaram V
Mental rigidity is common to many people, which is responsible for many problems that we have in the world today. In some cultures, it is worshipped as an exalted virtue and a sign of trust, integrity, and reliability. People in such cultures do not like leaders, who change their opinions and consider them opportunists and weak-minded.
;When that belief becomes a cultural value or a social criteria, it undermines the importance of growing and learning, or of improving your knowledge and thinking to become a better person. In some cultures you will find that a scripture, a book, or an ideology becomes the guiding force, forcing people to declare their allegiance to it, suspend their free thinking and live in obedience. In today’s world of extremism and extreme intolerance, mental rigidity gained cultural significance in many countries as the voice of political correctness and moral policing.
Mental rigidity, thus, is a serious problem. However, before we go further into the subject, we need to know what exactly we mean by it, and how anyone can decide whether the problem applies to them. No one is completely inflexible. People remain fixated or opinionated only in certain areas of their thinking. Most likely, you have some areas in your mind that are frozen and some that are free and flowing. However, if you have not done any introspection, you may not know when you tend to become rigid and when you remain flexible. It is also important to know what causes it, and how it creeps into your thinking and attitude. Mental rigidity arises from many factors such as the following.
Social and cultural influences
Strong likes and dislikes
Friends and family
Your inflexible attitude arises from your thinking, as you attach fixed meanings to things and do not like to change them, even if contrary evidence presents itself. For example, if you are a rigid person and if you find a situation or a person distasteful, most likely you will hold on to that opinion, as you impart a negative or an unpleasant meaning or a label to that person, assuming that he may remain so forever, and ignoring any information that may not support it.
On the contrary, if you find a person who is friendly and to your liking, you may cherish that relationship and tend to ignore all the data that may suggest otherwise or make your feel uncomfortable. If you are inflexible, you will do the same with many things in your life, which may even sabotage your own chances of success and happiness. If you have musical ability but due to a fixed belief inherited from your parents if you pursue a career in science or medicine, imagine how it will influence your life and the extent of unhappiness you may experience.
Whether it is an author, writer, singer, actor, artist, town, ideology, profession, political affiliation, or faith, because of inflexibility you will stick with your opinions and choices and ignore the facts that speak otherwise. This is mental rigidity in short. It arises from selective thinking, in the absence of reason, due to conscious or subconscious influences, as you attach fixed meanings to things and become their guardian philosopher justifying them to yourself and to others as part of your worldview, self-expression, and self-image.
Mental rigidity is synonymous with mental stagnation. It limits your growth and your opportunities to know and learn. In people it manifests in numerous ways as habits, routines, likes and dislikes, fear, prejudice, reluctance to listen, and irrational behavior. As they become attached to their past and live by rigid choices, they dislike to change, move with time or acknowledge their current reality. It is as if they have created an arctic tundra inside their minds and frozen their memories and thoughts in it.
Having opinions, conclusions and preconceived notions is part of your mind’s heuristics. It uses them to save you time and effort in making sense of the world and respond to it with appropriate decisions and actions. They give you stability, and help you deal with the problems and challenges in your life. Your mind uses them as mental shortcuts to deal with the complexity of the world, and improve your survival and chances of wellbeing.
Mental rigidity is not about having opinions, but having fixed opinions and fixed patterns of thinking that are hard to overcome. In most cases you may not be even aware of them as they become a part of your worldview, instinctual thinking, personal identity and individuality. You continue to act under their influence, despite your good education, knowledge, and wisdom, because in most cases you find acceptance from your friends and peers who hold similar opinions.
Unfreezing your mind
The truth is, while you may remain stuck in your thoughts and choices, the world moves on leaving you behind to your unconscious illusions and frozen beliefs, and limiting your choices, relationships, chances of success, and the quality of your life. If you do not attune to the reality around you, you will remain prone to assumptive and authoritarian thinking, which in turn makes your life rather unpleasant and conflict-ridden. You can resolve the problem of mental rigidity in many ways. The following are a few important approaches.
1. Awareness: Becoming aware of your rigid thoughts and beliefs and how they are influencing your world view is the most important. Without it you cannot overcome the problem. Become aware of how people and the world are influenced by various social, political, and cultural biases, irrational and rigid thinking, and how many people refuse to think for themselves and blindly depend upon role models and public figures for their worldviews and opinions.
2. Listening: Learn to listen and appreciate other people’s opinions on any given subject that interests you as a learning experience and to expand your own awareness. Especially, listen to those opinions that you dislike or disagree with, and to those who are not afraid to speak their minds. When you interact with others, listen with an open mind for learning and introspection.
3. Questioning: Learn to ask questions and seek answers. A person with a closed mind does not ask questions. He either accepts or rejects information based upon his likes and dislikes, or emotions. By asking questions you can keep your mind open, rational, and free from judgment and bias. It will also give you an opportunity to examine facts and draw your own conclusions.
4. Challenging: Challenge your own decisions, conclusions, and judgment to find the rigid beliefs, assumptions, and biases that are hidden in them. You must constantly challenge your surface beliefs, thoughts, and ideas to find the best in you. It helps deal with the distortions and cognitive bias your mind creates in response to the world and events your perceive, and gives you a better perspective about them.
The solution to mental rigidity is openness and maturity. You cannot practice them without honesty, truthfulness, humility, and detachment. Maturity means having opinions and conclusions based upon your experience and observation, rather than what you have been taught by others as true, unless you have subjected it to rational verification. A mature person relies upon his observation and experience, rather than blind submission to authority. He listens, learns, improves, and adapts to changes and challenges, keeping his emotions under control.
Importance in spiritual life
Spiritually speaking, detachment is the best antidote to mental rigidity. Detachment is a virtue. It starts with your thinking. To free your mind from rigid thoughts and find freedom within yourself, you must overcome your attachment to the world and the likes and dislikes you form with it. You must keep an attentive and open mind, willing to embrace the reality rather than your rigid beliefs and opinions.
Open-mindedness is especially important in spiritual practice. Spiritual people can become rigid in their thinking and attitude as they develop attachment to their faith, methods, masters, and beliefs. As they open their minds for learning, they may also succumb to conditioning and blind submission to authority. If you practice spirituality, you must open your mind to the realities of life, and free it from the illusion of fixed opinions and rigid thoughts about the things you like or dislike. The mind is prone to delusions. Hence, you must remain attentive, and stay tuned to the current reality. Practice detachment. It is the best way to stay free from the delusion of your own mind and the walls it builds around you.
Why Renunciation is Prescribed for Seekers of Truth?
by Jayaram V
Summary: This essay explores the importance of being yourself and seeing things clearly as they are
Try to speak truth for a whole day and see what happens. You will be considered a troll and shut down by many from their communication channels. You will be regarded as a trouble maker, or a dangerous person. People are comfortable with their illusions. If you try to rupture them, you will invite trouble. Therefore, for most of us truth is what is socially acceptable and justifiable rather than what is true.
Being yourself is the first step to be true to yourself. It is an important step in your self-transformation and inner purity. Not many people can practice it, for the same reason as stated before. They cannot alienate people by speaking truth or being truthful. Even the most powerful people on earth have to play to the gallery and act according to their hopes and aspirations rather than the reality of the situation.
The world loves myths, not truths. If it is not so, most people who are admired and remembered in history will not be there. Studies in human psychology show that human beings may rewrite their memories to feel comfortable with themselves and avoid unpleasant memories. Our survival instinct tells us how to get on well with the world and avoid conflicts to regulate our relationships. People know instinctively that they cannot be likable or friendly with others without wearing masks and using politically correct language. For their peace of mind and yours they know that it is better to tell you what you like to hear rather than what they need to say. They embrace your idea of truth rather than theirs because they need your love and friendship rather than your anger and vengeance. Therefore, the freedom to be themselves and truthful remains a distant ideal for many and comes to them at a great price.
Being yourself means you have to be your authentic self and speak from your heart how you feel or what you feel about yourself and the world. It is being honest in your thinking and judgment seeing things as they are, without the distortion of your mind. It is to avoid self-deception and know truthfully what you feel and think. You cannot do it unless you remove the delusions that you build in your mind to create the narrative that suits you but does not really represent you. It may address your fears or your needs, but not the truth of your being.
Knowing yourself is an important part of being yourself. Unless you truly know your feelings and emotions, how can you know who you are? To know yourself truly, you must learn to see things as they are. You must become an impartial observer so that you can see the logical fallacies and irrational beliefs that interfere with your perception and understanding. Paying attention to your own behavior and thinking gives you an opportunity to become familiar with your ego and its behavior, or how it creates an alternate reality to ensure your survival and wellbeing in a world of egos.
The world is a major distraction in your quest for truth, while the mind with which you perceive it is like a nebulous prism. Your perceptions are therefore rarely free from distortions. In your dealings with the world, you are mostly guided by your fears and concerns or your need for security, approval, and belongingness rather than truth, which is why many relationships in your life are built on weak foundation and do not stand the test of truth or trust.
The problem is not because you are inherently weak. It is because the world puts so much pressure on you to confirm to its standards and values. When you live amidst people, you cannot be true to yourself and others, without hurting them or creating enmity or misunderstanding. It is also why spiritual life is so difficult to pursue and why not many people can abide by the instructions that are mentioned in our scriptures for self-purification. People love myths and illusions rather than reality. Therefore, they will not like anyone who wants to snap those balloons of illusions with which they decorate their lives.
If you want to practice deeper awareness, objectivity, and mindful observation, you must find opportunities to spend time with yourself and develop the courage to accept truths about yourself. Spend few quite moments each day for introspection and confront your own illusions, self-deception and mental distortions, as if you are taking a mental bath to cleanse the impurities of your mind that accumulate each day through your public persona. It is the best approach when you cannot renounce the world or live in isolation.
Our scriptures prescribe renunciation and the need to live in isolation because they are aware of the corrupting influence of the world upon your thinking and behavior. They know that you cannot practice truthfulness or any of the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observations) that are mentioned in our scriptures without upsetting your life or your peace of mind.
In today’s world, everyone cannot practice renunciation or go to a forest to live in isolation. Therefore, for them the best alternative is to find time to be alone, and practice detachment, mindfulness, introspection, and discernment to know themselves better and be honest with themselves. Those few moments they spend alone, reviewing their actions, will do them immense good to be self-aware, realistic, alert, and smart. If you cannot be truthful to others, at least be so to yourself, the one person who matters most in your life.
A river flows because it is not attached to the earth. Jayaram V
Liberation in its essence is true and complete detachment in all aspects of life. In a general sense it means to be able to sleep well despite problems and worries. Jayaram V
In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism detachment (vairagya) has a great significance. Detachment means not having any physical or mental connection with the things of the world or with your own mind and body or with your achievements, qualities, fame, name, status, etc. Attachment to things interferes with your thinking and makes you blind to certain truths of life. When you are attached, you lose balance, and seek things that may harm you both physically and spiritually or impede your success and progress. Every habit that you form is an intense kind of attachment only. Whatever you like, be it a person, profession, religion, state or condition, is also an attachment. Collectively they bind you to this world and make your life a great struggle as you cannot easily let go of things and move on
Many people who are deeply drawn into worldly life do not even know that they are bound by attachments. They do not consider it a problem because it seems so natural to like or dislike the things of the world. Those who know about it vaguely may think it is something about which they do not have to worry. For many people, the idea of detachment invokes images of sadhus and sanyasis who have renounced the world and lead an ascetic life. It seldom crosses their minds that the practice of detachment can give them wings to fly freely in this trouble ridden world.
It is true that detachment is the foundation for spiritual life. You cannot progress far on the path of liberation without cultivating it. With detachment you can cultivate sameness towards both pleasant and unpleasant aspects of life and avoid unnecessary stress. You cannot fully control what happens to you, but you can control how you can respond to it. It is in using that choice that detachment can play a significant role.
Hindu ascetics take the practice of detachment to extreme so that they become fully detached mentally and physically from their minds and bodies and develop great fortitude, equanimity, will power, concentration, patience, and tolerance. However, with the practice of detachment you can greatly control your responses to external and internal events. If you believe that detachment is good for only spiritual people, you are missing a great opportunity to stay in control of your thoughts and emotions.
Whether it is in personal life or professional field, you can use detachment to manage your expectations and protect yourself from the emotional consequences of setbacks and failures. It will also help you think clearly, without worry and anxiety, and make better decisions. You can also improve your chances of success by focusing upon your performance rather than the outcomes. Most importantly, with detachment you will have an open mind, and you will learn quickly from your failures.
Therefore, if you want to have peace of mind, learn to let go of things. Do not cling to your relationships, not become excessively involved with them. It is always better to keep a little distance and give some space to others in your relationships. Do whatever is necessary for reaching your goals, without worrying what may or may not happen. Focus upon your tasks, what needs to be done, and how it can be done and give your best, leaving the result to God, the Supreme Self. Taking things lightly, not taking life too seriously, and letting go of things, these are a few very important beginner’s steps that can really help you stay in control of your emotions, life, and relationships.
A Commonsense Approach to the Problem of Suffering
by Jayaram V
The Buddha said that the world is full of suffering. All the spiritual and religious traditions that originated from India recognize suffering as the central problem of life upon earth. They all try to resolve human suffering in their own ways, with or without divine help. In them you will find various speculations on whether and how suffering can be resolved, mitigated or endued.
Broadly speaking, their central theme is the same, that the most effective solution to suffering lies within you by knowing how you respond to it and remain undisturbed by it. In other words, if life becomes tough, you have to become even tougher. You may fight with the external forces that trouble you and suppress them like a true warrior. However, it is much better if at the same time you also suppress the factors in you which produce suffering, whereby you will increase your chances of remaining peaceful and undisturbed. The purpose of this discussion is not to go into those philosophies and approaches, but to present a few commonsense observations about suffering and how it can be resolved or mitigated.
What is suffering?
The first step to resolve suffering is to understand what suffering means. For most people suffering means when they have pain or unhappiness. It is the most general and visible forms of suffering. However, suffering is not just pain and sorrow, nor the opposite of happiness and pleasure. If you think it is, your solution to suffering will be limited and ineffective. You have to view suffering in a broader perspective as anything that disturbs you or your peace of mind.
The extreme definition of suffering views suffering as ubiquitous and the most distinguishing characteristic of mortal life. It encompasses all types of suffering and equates living with suffering. Everything that you experience in life is a source of suffering or the consequence of suffering, be it an emotion, desire, feeling, thought, relationship, gain, loss, aging, sickness, birth or death. From this perspective, even happiness is a source of suffering because it does not last forever. When it is gone you will feel dejected and lapse into your negative moods.
For the seers and sages, the very fact that beings are caught in the transmigration of souls and the cycle of births and deaths is why mortal life is synonymous with suffering and should be renounced to achieve eternal happiness through liberation. From this perspective, all the modifications in your mind and body should be considered suffering because they arise from suffering and contribute to suffering. Birth is suffering. Death is suffering. What happens in between is also suffering. The world is filled with suffering because it is impermanent and provides neither comfort nor security nor love nor happiness on a lasting basis. Therefore, trying to find permanent happiness in this world is delusional. If you want to escape from suffering, you must find better methods to escape from it forever.
The condition is similar to those who spend their lives inside prisons. They may go through the motions of life, and outwardly they may appear normal, but beneath their bravado and composure, and their struggle to fit in and adjust to the life within the prison system, they cannot avoid feeling sad, lonely, and miserable. Freedom is the most precious thing in life. Many people do not realize it and keep giving it away. In this world you cannot secure happiness, security or comfort without bartering away your freedom. It is the only asset that you have to secure happiness, but your circumstances do not let you use it according to your will. The world rewards you to the extent you bind yourself to things, and to the extent you put chains around yourself to confirm to its standards and expectations. In the process you may win the approval of others, but you have to give away much of your freedom and feel conflicted.
Whether you view all human experience as suffering or only certain aspects of it, the truth is in this world you cannot avoid feeling unhappy, disturbed, unfulfilled, undermined, disrespected, ill-treated, threatened, betrayed, or miserable. You are in conflict with the world, and your mind and body are also part and products of it only. Therefore, even if you escape into a cave you cannot escape from the world and the suffering it produces in you. When you are disturbed, you cannot pay attention, think properly or make right decisions, which creates further suffering.
It is true that you cannot totally escape from suffering. However, you can reduce its incidence by addressing its causes or by cultivating better responses to the situations that produce it. This is the most commonsense and realistic approach. Suffering is caused by numerous factors which are either external or internal. You cannot control every one of them. Therefore, it is better to resolve some and endure some by cultivating inner strength, sameness and equanimity.
Two ways in which suffering arises
If you examine your suffering carefully, you will realize that it mainly arises in two situations.
When you do not get what you want or like.
When you keep getting what do not want or like.
Both situations make you unhappy and disturbed. They arise from your lack of control and due to your involvement with the external world as you try to search for happiness and fulfillment in it. I, both situations, if you want to stay calm and composed, you have to change your thoughts and control your emotional responses. You should be in control when you succeed as well as when you fail. For example, if you do not get what you want, instead of feeling depressed you should see why it happened and learn from your experience to change your methods or your response. If you keep getting what you do not want, again instead of losing hope or feeling frustrated, you should know why it happened and try to change your response.
In both cases, it is you who should make the difference, not the external factors that seem to rule your life. When you have no control over situations and when you cannot avoid them, you should learn to endure them and learn from the experience, without breaking up from inside. They are the commonsense solutions to control what you can and endure what you cannot. If you are prone to anxiety, anger or fear, you must either control your thoughts or change your response. This is the way of the wise ones. They learn to stay calm and cheerful, despite the external triggers that produce them. Whether in success or failure, in gain or loss, they know that it is the way of life and the solution to their suffering is in them rather than outside them. They know that they can choose to deal with a problem with wisdom rather than suffering from it with ignorance.
There is another situation, which is rather complicated. Some people feel chronically depressed and miserable for no apparent reason. They know that they are unhappy, but cannot explain why. For them suffering become a vague and diffused feeling, like a subterranean fire, that rages within them destroying their peace and happiness. In such cases the problem is physical or psychological, which is difficult to resolve since the causes are hidden or not easily known. They may be even rooted in their past lives or in their subconscious minds. Hence, a lot of it can only be endured as part of one’s karmic burden, by cultivating strength and equanimity. If you know anyone who suffers from chronic unhappiness, treat them with respect, compassion, love and consideration. It is the best you can do, as these unfortunate souls are the living incarnations of extreme suffering as if they are chained to it by an accursed fate.
Suffering arises when the organs of the body are used in selfish pursuits. Jayaram V
Living solely for yourself ignoring your obligations to others and to God is the source of all misery. Jayaram V
Imagine life in the Indian subcontinent five or six thousand years ago. The land was cut off from the rest of the world and was surrounded by sea on three sides. It had a varied climatic zone, with unpredictable and erratic weather conditions. Geographically, it stretched from the world’s highest mountains in the North to the world’s largest ocean in the South, and forest covered hilly tracts in the East to semi-arid lands and sand dunes in the West. There were swamps, arid zones, deserts and impenetrable forests. Hardly, a million or two million people lived in that region. They practiced different professions and belonged to diverse social and racial backgrounds. Most of them were new immigrants and adventurers in search of a new life and a new beginning. Life was tough and brutal in a land that was shaping itself as the home to an emerging multiethnic, pluralistic society.
The land was covered with thick tropical forests, inhabited by some of the world’s most dangerous predators such as tigers, lions, bears, hyenas, most poisonous snakes, crocodiles, and cheetahs. Traveling through them was like inviting death. Death was so common that people hardly lived beyond the age of 50. Infant mortality was probably the highest as there were no effective cures for many illnesses and diseases. Frequent wars, invasions, mass migrations, robberies, diseases and natural calamities took a heavy toll on the lives of common people and their peace and happiness. They lived in fear and saw the dance of death everywhere. Suffering was acute and an integral part of their daily lives.
Indian religions, philosophy, and mysticism originated in such circumstances, where people had a little respite from suffering and the fear of imminent death. It was the time when common people suffered from the cruelty of Nature and of humans and made sacrificial offerings and prayers to gods in search of peace and happiness, while wise minds, having retired from the obligations of worldly life and freeing their minds from the temptations of sensuous pleasures began looking for lasting solutions to the problem of suffering and finding freedom from it. They were not much interested in mere speculative ideas and the subtleties of elitism, but for real and practical solutions which could be validated through human experience.
They were mystics of great wisdom the world had never seen before, as if they were directly born from the mind of Brahma, the creator of the world and the source of the Vedas. Driven by a cause which was greater than themselves, attuning themselves to the highest and the purest of the universal consciousness, they wanted to help people escape from the hardships of life without disturbing the orderly progression of society or avoiding their duties and responsibilities. They wanted people to be free from the bonds of life, without being rigid and dogmatic. Their pioneering effort led to an explosion of spiritual and religious thought in ancient India, whose echoes still reverberate in the country. It was a unique event in the history of the world, whose spiritual and transformative value only a few enlightened and awakened people can truly understand.
Dharma, the eternal Wheel of natural order of things
Vedism, Samkhya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism originated in such a climate. Because of their common history and identical features, they can be collectively grouped under the generic title, Dharma or Bharata Dharma1. They all have one common objective, how to escape from pain and suffering and experience peace and happiness in the mortal body. They acknowledge lasting happiness (or bliss) as the highest human goal, believe in its possibility, and prescribe in their individual ways how to achieve it. In their quest for solutions to human suffering they identify its main causes and emphasize the following truths, which are worth examining. Readers may note that many specific details and particularities of each Dharma have been excluded in formulating these generalizations since the nature of this discussion does not permit to include them all.
Higher and subtle forces are at work in the manifestation of life and diversity upon earth. No one can fully understand them, but one can learn a lot about them by understanding the world that exists within each of us. Hence, if you want to explore the truths of the world around you, you must begin it with yourself.
Existence cannot arise from nonexistent causes. It is either Nature or God (Self) or both who are responsible for the manifestation of life upon earth and the worlds above and below. Nature is a set of laws, forces, energies, principles and realities, while God is self-directing pure intelligence.
The purpose of creation is to manifest diversity and establish order and regularity in the created worlds so that life in its diverse forms can progress as ordained by Fate (vidhi) or the Will of God through its natural stages until it reaches its destined culmination.
Rta, or the order and regularity of the world, is in itself Dharma since it is the natural state of existence (sahaja Prakriti), and its upholder is God himself. It ensures that the movement of Time and the functions of the universe and its various components progress in an orderly, and predictable fashion.
It is Dharma, which ensures that the major events of life and creation happen predictably according to their natural rhythm. When Dharma, (the natural state of existence) prevails, order prevails, but when it wobbles, the order is lost and gods and guardians of the worlds lose their control.
Life upon earth was supposed to be orderly and conducive to peace and happiness as exemplified in the Age of Truth (sathya yug). It was when Dharma walked on four legs, when people were truthful, gods were alert, and evil was hidden and asleep in dark caverns.
However, as Time progress through subsequent Ages or epochs, people digress from their ordained paths and become subject to Maya. They ignore or forget the will of God, the virtues of Dharma, and their inseparable unity with him. Thereby, they become selfish and deluded, and fall under the heavy influence of evil desires and selfish actions. When the Dharma of the world declines, darkness spreads, just as darkness spreads when the Sun sinks into the horizon.
With the decline of Dharma as people become ignorant of their essential unity with other beings and treat themselves as separate individuals, they disrupt the order and regularity of the world through their selfish actions and evil desires, which in turn make them vulnerable to karma, suffering, moral degradation, and rebirth.
Therefore, the solution to suffering lies in understanding its causes and the return of beings to their original, pristine, spiritual state from where it all began.
Thus, the ancient Indian seers and spiritual masters observed that the solution to suffering was hidden in the causes of creation and in the ebbing and flowing principles of Dharma. They envisioned Dharma as the eternal wheel of life which revolved like the disc of Vishnu, the Preserver, or the effulgent sun in the sky. It was the source of all light and wisdom. If there was a problem with its functioning and progression, one should fix the wheel of Dharma by practicing virtue and restoring its eternal laws so that the world would move on smoothly like a chariot on a golden path. They also envisaged it as the heart of creation, whose regular beat ensured the order and regularity of the world. When it faltered, it imperiled the whole existence.
The essence of Indian mysticism
Their findings became the crux of the Upanishads, and the moral and philosophical percepts and teachings of the Buddha, the Jain Tirthankaras, Ajivikas, Smartas, Shaktas, Shaivas, Vaishnavas, Tantras, Agamas, Smritis, and numerous other ascetic, teacher and sramanic traditions, most of which were lost or now lay hidden beyond recognition in Hinduism as its very core. It also led to the emergence of Indian mysticism, which is very distinct and unique, and which because of its esoteric nature remains largely unknown and secretive.
Indian mysticism is very complex and diverse since it is an amalgamation of numerous historical processes and dharmic traditions. Western scholars rarely understood it, since to know it you need spiritual practice and inner awakening rather than academic learning and you must have access to the teachers who are willing to teach it. In continuation of a long tradition, generally they do not reveal it unless the students qualify. Although the various mystic traditions of India explored the problem of human suffering in their individual ways, they have a few common features and approaches to transcend the problem of mortality. They are as stated below.
The world is full of suffering. Due to ignorance, delusion and the duality of subject and object, none can escape from it. In reality there is only the subject, or the Self. However due to Maya, the illusion of objectivity arises, and the One becomes many.
You are the subject, the enjoyer of all that arises in the field of your dreamlike experience. You become vulnerable to worldly suffering when you draw yourself into it and move among the objects. Thereby you lose your distinction of being the sole subject and the true enjoyer of all.
Your suffering is therefore of your own making. From a blissful state you fall down into a state of sorrow (vishada yogam) as you lose sight of your essential Dharma (of being God) and become a jarring sound in the music of life, or a dark comet that collides with the order and regularity of other celestial phenomena.
When suffering arises, you have a choice. You can become involved with it and remain a part of it, in which case you will continue to suffer, or you can become detached from it and become its pure observer. In short, instead of endlessly suffering like a lost soul with your blinds on in the dark cave of your own ego, you should become a silent witness to the whole drama and endure it as if it has been happening in the field of your mind and body rather than to you.
Since you cannot easily detach yourself from your suffering and from the objects with which you regularly interact and form an attachment to them because of desires, you have to practice self-purification with the help of yoga, tapas, detachment, renunciation, meditation, mindfulness practice, righteous living, etc. They will help you stabilize your mind and body and experience inner calm.
You are not who you think you are. You are neither your body nor your mind. To know who you are you need to know the distinction between your mind-body consciousness and self-consciousness. When you truly understand the difference, you become a true seer, the seeing one.
Your mind-body consciousness is unstable and a great source of afflictions. It is subject to desires, attachments, modifications, feelings, emotions, instability, ignorance, illusion, delusion, egoism, and such other impurities, which are responsible for your suffering and which keep you in a state of agitation and disturbance. When you are centered in it, you are never free from mental and emotional turmoil and attraction and aversion.
You are not the consciousness that arises from your mind, senses and body, but self-consciousness which represents the witness Self, or the real you. It is pure consciousness, without any of the modifications which are mentioned before. It is your core, the true Self, always there, watching, observing, and enjoying. To experience it, you must withdraw deep into yourself and detach yourself from your mind and body. However, you cannot easily experience it, since you have extended yourself into the objective world and formed numerous attachments with it.
In the silence of your mind, body and senses, you become aware of your self-consciousness. As you become mindful of your mind and body and extend your awareness into the nature of things, you will realize your spiritual nature and who you truly are. You will see for yourself that you are the subject, the seeing one, and everything else is an extension or a projection of you. You become the witness Self, who is uninvolved, undisturbed, untouched, and impervious to the dualities of pain and pleasure.
Liberating your deepest and purest consciousness from the darkness of the mind and body is true liberation (moksha or nirvana). It is becoming the subject, the true seer, the one and only (kaivalya) witness, who is free from the delusion of object and otherness. When you become detached from your egocentric mind consciousness and become fully centered in your self-consciousness you will experience self-absorption (Samadhi). You will attain peace, equanimity, stability and freedom from suffering.
Thus, in essence Indian mysticism is about restoring your internal Dharma (which is to be pure or God like or God himself) to overcome suffering. You can regain your blissful and happy state by remembering and returning to your original Dharma or your essential, natural state of pure consciousness. Liberation is a sudden awakening to a forgotten truth about who you are or have always been. To restore Dharma which you have lost sight of and to destroy the evil that accumulates in you like an impurity, you should become a disinterested observer of your life and the world rather than becoming involved with them. Further, to ensure the order and regularity of the world within and without, you must do your part in the play of God, without taking it for real and without losing yourself in it.
You cannot end the suffering in this world, but through detachment and renunciation of desires you can end your reaction to it and your involvement with it. When you are inseparable from your mind, you become the victim of your own egoistic actions, but when you silence the mind, it falls off, whereby you only remain as the pure observer of all that happens. Therefore, the best way to live here is to live like a lotus plant, untouched by the waters of life, yet drawing your nourishment from it, and letting your consciousness bloom like the beautiful, thousand petalled flower with its face turned towards the Sun. The whole process is beautifully explained in the following passage by S.N. Dasgupta. 2
The self is the ultimate principle of pure consciousness, distinct from all mental functions, faculties, powers, or products. By a strange, almost inexplicable, confusion we seem to lose touch with the former so that we consider it as non-existent and characterize the latter with its qualities. It is this confusion which is at the root of all our psychological processes. All mental operations involve this confusion by which they usurp the place of the principle of pure consciousness so that it is only the mind and the mental operations of thought, feeling, willing, which seem to be existing, while the ultimate principle of consciousness is lost sight of. If we call this ultimate principle of consciousness, this true self, “spirit” and designate all our functions of knowing, feeling, and willing collectively as “mind,” then we may say that it is only by a strange confusion of mind with spirit that the mind comes to the forefront and by its activities seems to obscure the true light of the spirit…What is necessary, therefore, is to control the activities of the mind and to stop all mental processes. If we can in this way kill the mind, all logical thought and all sense processes will be killed with it. The light of the spirit will then shine alone by itself unshadowed by the darkening influence of thought.
Having weak faith is not a sin, but trying to weaken others is. Jayaram V
If your faith is weak or wavering, do not expect others to solve it. It is not the right thing to do because it is your battle, and you have to deal with it. You cannot solve the problem of faith easily, unless you are clear about your values, beliefs, and purpose in your life. If you have deeply thought about it and settled with your disbelief, it will be even more difficult to restore your faith. By faith, I mean having the belief in your eternal Self or in God or in a higher purpose, power, or deity. No one can really help those who go through this churning. In the following discussion, I will explain why it is so, and what anyone can do when they are troubled by weak faith or lack of faith.
At the very outset, it is important to know that you are not meant to have faith in this world of duality, delusion, and ignorance. The world is made to make you disbelieve in God or in the transcendental reality rather than believe in it. You are meant to be an ignorant and deluded person who acts according to his desires and goes by his senses. If you are not, and if you are a person of strong faith, it is entirely due to your personal effort. You should consider it a true virtue and a great, personal victory. It is more than having all the wealth in the world.
Everything that happens here is meant to break your faith in a higher power rather than strengthen it. If the world is full of evil people and injustice, or if God does not easily answer your prayers and questions, it is because they are meant to shake your faith or put it to test rather than strengthen it. In the crucible of life your faith is tested, and so is your commitment to God and righteousness. For any human being with a strong conscience, it is a huge challenge to have faith in righteousness and eternal truths amidst all the mayhem and chaos that seem to negate them.
The world is full of suffering, and that suffering is also part of this design. Nature aims to keep the beings deluded and ignorant to ensure the order and regularity of the world and continuation of births and deaths. Liberation is not in its design. The idea of liberation has to manifest in a being by itself or because of past karma, after innumerable births, or by divine grace. Only then, his quest for liberation begins. Even then the problem is not fully solved. You may have to spend many lifetimes and undergo rigorous self-transformation before you achieve it.
Liberation is an escape of the soul from Nature. If you understand it, you will understand why faith does not arise easily or stay firmly in case of many people. If your faith is weak or wavering, do not be anxious. It is how you are meant to be. It means you are sane, and you are true to your nature. To have faith, you have to set aside reason and stop asking questions to overcome your disbelief. Faith does not arise from reasoning. Faith arises when faith chooses you.
The problem with faith is that it is entirely personal. No one can put faith in you, unless you are willing to have it and express it. Faith belongs to your ego, and unless it surrenders to faith it does not manifest. It is not anyone’s responsibility to tell you what you should believe in. Others can speak about possibilities and opportunities. Or they may tell you about their faith or their spiritual experience. You cannot totally rely upon that on face value because you are on a journey of your own. You have to let that happen by itself.
Your faith is a product of your worldview, and your lifetime effort. As we believe in Hinduism, it is also the culmination of all the lives that you lived so far. How can anyone neutralize all that experience and accumulated wisdom with just a few conversations or statements? Sometimes a mere touch or a glance from an enlightened master may trigger a great transformation in you. If it happens by any chance, you should know that it is because you made it possible through your good karma. You are the creator of your life, and you are also its preserver and destroyer. If God or anyone interferes with it, or participates in it, it is also because of you only. You make it possible through your desires, intentions, effort and expectations.
It is difficult to believe that anyone can live without faith of some kind, not necessarily the religious one. Faith is what keeps us alive, faith that tomorrow the sun will arise as usually and your life will go on normally, or faith that you can survive in this world and get on with your problems, or faith that the people you trust will not betray you, or faith that you have the ability and the resources to negotiate your way in the world. When that faith weakens, what happens? People may lose hope. They may feel depressed or so grief stricken that they may even end their lives.
Therefore, do not believe if you hear that someone does not have faith. Everyone has faith, faith in something, in Self, in another person, or in an institution, ideology, possibility, vision, hope, or opportunity. Begin with it. Flow with the life that flows out of it. Accept it as your natural dharma, what comes to you naturally, or in what you can invest your dreams and energies. It may be a talent, an ability, an aspiration, an exceptional skill, a deep interest, a serious pursuit, or something that consumes your thoughts and passions. Manifest the objective of that faith in your life. Consider that it is your destiny.
Some people may say, “I cannot believe in your religion. I do not think that your scriptures have any value. Yet, I want to give it a thought provided you can convince me. I will ask you questions and please you have to answer me. If your answers are convincing enough, I may change my mind.” Well, this is a laughable situation. It is as if that gentleman is doing you a favor by having faith in himself or his spiritual possibilities. That person wants to draw you into a game of egos in which he wants to play the role of a reluctant son or a student and you that of a father figure or an eager teacher. He does it probably to convince himself or release some suppressed emotions. In most cases it does not end well or may very well degenerate into a victim and victimizer scenario.
An earnest teacher willingly instructs the one who has faith. It is doubtful, whether he would readily like to restore someone’s faith, unless he perceives a ray of hope or a possibility. Spiritual teachers do not undertake the duty of convincing those who lack faith. They would rather spend their time improving and reforming those who have faith and who are willing to change for better, than convincing the nonbelievers and cleaning their negativity. At least it is not part of the teacher tradition in Hinduism.
In Hinduism, spiritual teachers have no obligations to teach everyone or initiate them on the path. They may give public speeches, but that is only as part of their duty to society. The tradition upholds the practice of teaching knowledge (vidya) only to those who are earnest and curious and who have a deep interest and an unstoppable yearning to learn and overcome their ignorance and delusion. They know that ignorance and delusion are the natural states of mind. Therefore, they do not usually try to unsettle the minds of others. It is like any other medicine. They prescribe it only to those who are in dire need of it.
In ancient times, a spiritual teacher would not initiate anyone easily. He would let the novices wait and wait for years, working in the household, before he even allowed them to listen to his secret teaching. The waiting period was meant for testing their faith and their resolve. He selected them with utmost care, just as a farmer would choose the right soil and right conditions before planting the seeds. After their initiation, he allowed them to ask questions and clarify their doubts about their practice or liberation, but would not let them question his instruction. It has been the approach in Hinduism for millenniums, and it still holds well in many teacher traditions. Therefore, if you have weak faith or if you lack faith, do not pester the spiritual masters to convince you. In the battlefield of spiritual life, faith is the armor, and determination is the sword. How can you even qualify to be a soldier or participate in the battle of Dharma if you do not have them?
Hindu scriptures are not meant to inculcate faith in you. They are meant for the seekers of spiritual truths, not for atheists, secularists, and irreverent materialists who lack faith or who ridicule and criticize the faith of others. If you understand the true meaning and purpose of karma, you will understand why Hinduism does not place much emphasis upon converting other people or teaching those who are reluctant, insincere, or disinterested. Surely, spiritual teachers may oblige to spread the knowledge of the scriptures as a service to the humanity, but they do not take particular interest in teaching to reluctant people. If at all they do, it will be due to divine intervention, or some merit which they may perceive in someone.
Therefore, if you do not have faith do not rush to change it. Consider it to be a part of your destiny and go with whatever you believe in. If faith in God or in your own spirituality does not come to your naturally, it may be because you wanted it to happen for some mysterious reason. You probably decided to delay it so that you could focus upon resolving some other issues in your life. Hence, it may be even better to flow with your life and live in harmony with yourself, rather than feeling conflicted and guilty. It is better to be truthful and honest to yourself rather than pretentious and insincere.
Our scriptures equate those who lack faith to the misguided and deluded, but do suggest a solution to resolve the problem of those whose faith is rather weak, or tainted by the impurities of rajas (selfish desires) and tamas (evil intentions). However, it requires that you should believe in God and in the efficacy of prayers, right intentions, and positive expectations. They suggest that through earnest prayers, devotion, and direct supplications, you can earn the grace of God to change yourself or to strengthen your faith. If you have doubts and concerns, pray to God and seek his guidance rather than engaging in discussions and conversations with others. You may occasionally do it, but not to confuse yourself or others. Only God or your own eternal Self can help you. If you do not believe in either of them, there is no other solution but to wait for the karma to work itself out.
Therefore, if you are suffering from a crisis of faith and want to find a solution, try to find answers from within through self-study (svadhyaya) and introspection (vichara). Practice meditation or contemplation upon Self or God and wait for an answer. If you persist, most likely a solution will manifest and your faith will strengthen which will help you further in stabilizing your mind. It is better than engaging your ego to find solutions or indulge in intellectual combat with others to derive egoistic satisfaction.
Know that it is your ego which is solely responsible for your lack of faith because it has some rigid views, likes and dislikes about God and life. If you want to know the truth, you must silence your ego so that truth can manifest without its interference. If you keep asking questions and challenging other people for a discussion, you will keep it alive and will remain deluded. Sometimes, when you have a crisis of faith, silence is the best solution. In the silence of your mind and heart, all answers will manifest.
How to Practice Spirituality in a Materialistic World?
by Jayaram V
How can you sustain your spirituality in a world of distractions and keep your mind engaged in it? How can you experience peace and stability when you are dealing with people and the world outside? In the early stages it is common for many spiritual people to vacillate between their spiritual and materialistic goals. For them it is a huge challenge to remain rooted in their essential spirituality both at home and outside. Essential spirituality means being aware of your spiritual identity that you are an eternal soul and remain centered in it.
Such an awareness does not arise in everyone. Only in a few rare cases does your spirituality arises naturally due to prior preparation in your past lives. For the rest it is a struggle. Even if they read about it in the scriptures, they may not believe in it or take it seriously. They may worship God at home or in temples, but their religiosity (devotion to God) does not transform into spirituality (the belief in the Self). When they engage with the world, it is for the limited purpose of securing their lives or satisfying their desires. If you want to turn to spirituality and becomes stabilized in the thoughts of the Self, you must carefully nurture the attitude through sustained practice. In this regard the following suggestions are helpful.
Remember that you are an eternal Self
Our fixation with our bodies is much deeper than we really think. Whether you are aware of it or not, consciously and subconsciously you identify with your mind and body rather than your Self. You cannot totally ignore it, because it is the only way by which you can relate to the world and engage with it. However, for your own peace of mind, you have to remember who you truly are and become stabilized in your spiritual identity. You do not have to declare it to the world, but you should be aware of it and make it an integral part of your consciousness. It is first step to spiritual transformation. Keep remembering it as you go about your daily routine to pull back from your deep attachments and involvement. You should extend the same thinking to others and deal with them accordingly with compassion and understanding.
Think of death
Remembering that you are a mortal being with a limited lifespan will teach you the value of life and the need to use it for the highest ends. People waste their lives, as if Time does not matter, and as if they live forever. We do not think of death often because we are life oriented. The longing for life or the urge to live is very strong in us. It is what makes us overlook death or live in denial. However, it is important to remember your mortality and that you are not going to live here forever. It makes you realize what is important to your life and where you should focus your attention and energies. Contemplation upon death is encouraged in many renunciant traditions to make you realize the value of life and the need for compassion, detachment, and renunciation, and to develop distaste for life.
Remember the illusory nature of the world
Know how to be part of the world without becoming too involved with it. The world is meant to distract you and keep you occupied with your illusions so that you will not have time to think about yourself or your true purpose. It is not that you will deal with the world when you leave your home and when you go outside. You are part of the world and the world is part of you. Therefore, there is no time when you are not interacting with it. It leaves strong impressions in your mind, and each impression creates a samskara (a latent impression) which can influence your future births. It means that if you want to stay free from its negative influence, you have to begin it in your mind and extend it outwardly into other aspects of your relationship with it. In your interaction with the world you have to remember the following, you cannot own it, you cannot take it with you, and you cannot let it control you.
Remember the impermanence of the world
There is nothing permanent about this life nor about you, except the Self, which is untouched by any of it. You can neither cling to things forever nor control them forever. Yet, you may not remember It as go on about your life normally to establish yourself and create your comfort zone. If you are a negative person, impermanence can make you feel anxious and insecure, but if you are an optimist, it will give you a reason to hope for better things to come. Becoming aware of the impermanence of the world around you is an important part of your spiritual training to cultivate right perception, right thinking, and right awareness. As you discern impermanence in the world around you, you will realize the importance of detachment and not to go about your life seriously. It is the nature of life to flow and you are better of flowing with it rather than becoming stuck in the sands.
Develop a seer vision or soul vision
If you think you are a mere physical being, you will have a very limited perspective of yourself and your life. It is important in spiritual life to think like an eternal being and see your existence on the scale of eternity. Then, many problems that bother you will stop hurting you and you will have courage and confidence to face your fears and challenges. You will also transcend your attachment to numerous identities which you create in your life and become centered in your identity as an eternal Self. As you think, so you become. If you think that you are an eternal Self, you will think and act like one and manifest its purity, vision, and purpose in your life.
There are many other ways to draw your mind to spirituality and remain centered in it. The practice of yoga, studying scriptures and spiritual texts, friendship with spiritual people, devotional practices such as prayers and japa, charity and service to others, mindfulness practice, deeper reflection on the happenings in your life, and the practice of silence are a few important effective ways for householders and worldly people to draw their minds to spirituality and strengthen their spiritual identities.