25.3 PROPER SPIRITUAL PRACTICE IN DAILY LIVING
On the pages of the advaitin yahoo-group the question of of ‘how to practice spirituality properly’was raised Acaarya Sada-ji in his post #41300 rightly advised the questioner not to worry about –isms like buddhism or advaita but only ‘see the Divine Presence in you and in everything’. ‘Recognize His presence and invoke his blessing - that is meditation. That quietens your mind and makes you contemplative - to inquire who is that I, the very essence in me, because of which I am conscious of everything in me and everything outside me -that existence-consciousness that you are - shift your attention to that – do not conceptualize what that I is - shift your attention to that because of which you are even able to conceptualize’, said Sada-ji.
Let me add the following supplement to the above. Not that I have any special path. What I can claim is only the result of continued observation, for as long as 25 years ( my age 5 to age 29) of my father (1882 – 1956) in his daily life, which I came to recognize around my age of 25, as that of a brahma-jnAni (one who knows brahman), a sthita-prajna (one whose wisdom is anchored to the Self), an ekAnta-bhakta (an one-pointed devotee) , a guNAtIta (one who has transcended the three guNas) (these terms began to make some sense to me by that time – mostly by having listened to my own father’s expositions).
Based on this long observation and based on my own recent (past ten years) experiments and struggles to live up to what I understood from the advaita-sAdhanA series I myself happened, on the advaitin list, to translate, from the Kanchi Maha-swamigal’s work, I write the following to all our seeker-friends.
Arjuna asks the question ‘How does a sthita-prajna’ behave? (II – 54). Krishna answers with shlokas 55 to 72 of the 2nd chapter. I draw attention to just one (of those shlokas), which turns out to be, in my opinion, the direct answer to that question and which will answer the question about spiritual practice and which will also substantiate and supplement Sada-ji’s answer above. The shloka is II – 64. I give it below with translation and a long explanation.
rAga-dveshha-viyuktais-tu vishhayAn indriyaish-caran /
Atma-vashyair-vidheyAtmA prasAdam-adhi-gacchati //
vidheyAtmA : a self-controlled one
vishayAn caran : dwelling among sense-objects
Atma-vashyaiH indriyaiH : by the senses that have been controlled by the self,
rAga-dveshha-viyuktaiH : and that are devoid of attachment (or attraction) and hate (or repulsion),
adhi-gacchati : obtains
prasAdaM : the (Ultimate) Grace, that is, Eternal Tranquillity.
Arjuna questioned about what distinguishes the sthita-prajna from an ordinary person. From Krishna’s answers it becomes clear there are no external distinguishing marks but what separates such a person from the run-of-the-mill seeker is the attitude which he brings to bear on everything in his life. And this shloka says, he actually moves and roams about (sanskrit: *caran*) the same sense-objects (*vishhayAn*) that confront the ordinary man, but his attitude is different.
It is the absence of *rAga* and *dveshha* that makes the distinction. ‘rAga’ is attachment; but it actually starts from ‘attraction’. And similarly ‘dveshha’ which is ‘hate’ starts from ‘repulsion’. Attraction is expressed by ‘I like’ and Repulsion is exhibited by the words ‘I dislike’. This liking and disliking are the two basic (spiritual) evils in our human behaviour. Of course one may say that ‘Ego’ is a more fundamental evil. But Ego is something that never surfaces to the knowledge of one who has the Ego. I never recognise that I have Ego. Even when another tells me ‘You are now exhibiting your Ego’, I either rationalise it or try to defend it. To recognise one’s own ego in any specified situation is almost an impossible task. Even in private self-analysis, one tends to brush aside the presence of Ego in oneself. On the other hand ‘rAga’ and ‘dveshha’ are the next in line to Ego and they certainly are very recognisable by one’s own self-analysis.
So here is the recipe that my father has left with me and which I could see he was constantly using it himself in his daily interactions with the rest of the world around him – family, office, friends, private or public. What is the recipe?
When you say ‘I like something’ or when you say ‘I do not like something’ you are paving the way for ‘rAga’ and ‘dveshha’.
Once you have ‘disliked’ something, practise, try to practise, not to ‘dislike’ it, next time when it presents itself: It may be food, person, object, situation, context, book, news, climate, opinion, …. , anything. In the course of several years perhaps one has to come to a stage when what you still ‘dislike’ can be counted on the fingers.
Still greater is the challenge of ‘liking’ that arises from attraction. Once you are attracted to something, whether it be food or person, friend or relative, situation or context, climate or opinion, next time when you confront the same thing, try to avoid the ‘liking’ part (but respect your obligations: having ‘liked’ to obey the law, next time you cannot say ‘I don’t any more like to obey the law’!).
This my father told me is what ultimately may lead you to an equanimity which is basic to a brahma-jnAni, sthita-prajna or a guNAtIta. And then shloka II-64 says: ‘prasAdaM’, tranquillity, is assured!
But now you may say: All this is a tall order. But this is where Krishna himself in a few shlokas earlier, has given us the recipe and this is the recipe which Sada-ji has emphasized in his own language. *yukta AsIta mat-paraH* says the Lord in II-61. And here it is the ‘mat-paraH’ that is the key word. Mark it. Nowhere before this shloka (in the Gita) the Lord has acknowledged Himself to be the Lord. Here He says ‘mat-paraH’. ‘Count Me as your only resort’ is what ‘mat-paraH’ implies.
Unless one resorts to that Divinity within ourselves, and seeks His Help, one cannot discard one’s rAga and dveshha. Invoking His divine presence in everything that we see and hear is the one sure way of reducing our ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ and approximate to obtain His ‘prasAdaM’. So shloka 64, along with *yukta AsIta mat-paraH* is the grand recipe for practice!
The greatness of shloka II-64 is that it allows the contact of senses with sense objects. Because once this contact is totally denied, life would be impossible. The restriction, however, is on the mind of the person; his mind has to be rid of all attachment and hate. In #56 Krishna said vIta-rAga-bhaya-krodhaH (devoid of attachment, fear and anger). Of these three, attachment, fear and anger, the first and third are the greatest villains.
Of the two things—rāga (attachment and liking); and dveṣa (hate and dislike), the former gives rise to kāma (desire) and the latter gives rise to krodha (anger). Desire and anger have to be kept in control. Rāga-swarūpa-pāśāḍhyā, meaning, She who holds the noose, which is rAga in physical form—is one of Mother Goddess’s many names in the Lalitā Sahasranāmam. Similarly, another name is krodhA-kArAnkuśhojjvalā, meaning, She who shines by the spear, which is krodha in physical form. Of the twins, desire and anger, desire has the form of ambāl’s noose (pāśam). When you talk of yama pāśam it is the noose. When you talk of mother’s pāśam (tāippāśam, in Tamil) it is her attachment and affection and therefore Her concern. It is the desire that binds us. It binds us like a rope. Anger has the form of ambāl’s spear. Anger pierces you like a spear. But it does not pierce the other man on whom you are angry. He may go away just like that, indifferently. Our anger pierces only ourselves. The pierce of the spear will be felt by us only. And we hurt ourselves. Modern science tells us how energy is wasted during anger and how much. What is more interesting is the further scientific fact—with which our scriptures agree —that whereas we exhibit anger (krodham) at something we don’t like and thus waste energy, the energy loss is more while we like something, desire it and happily indulge in that desire (kāmam). In fact, desire is the hita Śatru—enemy in the disguise of a friend.