Humble salutations to the Supreme Creator, The Advaitha Guru Parampara (lineage teaching non-Duality) and my own Acharya (Preceptor) for the content that I put forth in this blog !
As the title suggests, this is in continuation with my previous blog ‘The Mind and Liberation!’. We left off saying that the mind has to be purified and clarified by living a religious life governed by devotion,morals, virtues,values and ethics if it has to shine forth in its true brilliance. If I left it at that, it is comparable to a doctor saying,”You have such and such a disease” and then he leaves the room. Then what? Shouldn’t he give the necessary prescription for the cure of the disease? I thought through this blog I’ll share the teachings which are the “cure” prescribed for the purification of the mind!
The Vedhas are the vast collection of elaborate Scriptures which are considered to be direct revelations by the Creator for the whole of humanity. It specifies no inclusions or exclusions based on religion, culture, caste, creed, color, etc. So, for the open-minded among us, it can be considered “A Manual for Life” FOR ALL!
According to the Vedhas, Devotion / leading a religious life is the prescribed “cure”(if I may say so) for the process of purifying the mind. You might ask, why devotion? There certainly is no force to have devotion. My Guru describes devotion to God beautifully. Let’s say someone wants to take a dip in a river which is known to have very strong and maybe even dangerous currents. Let’s assume that the Parks and Recreation Department has provided mighty strong chains which are securely bound to the banks. I can choose to take a huge risk and jump into the dangerous current directly or, I can choose to take the help of the strong, firm chains and still have all the fun in the water. That chain that holds me securely in the turbulent waters is devotion and that strong rooting in ‘terra firma’ is God. It is totally up to us whether we want to swim the dangerous currents of life with or without the help of a higher power.
Now, Devotion is not just the act of kneeling down and praying to God. In fact it is a whole range of disciplines(Saadhanaa), more precisely, 5 disciplines. It is a 5 rung ladder that all human beings necessarily have to climb, rung by rung usually, at some point or the other before reaching the top to attain complete purification/perfection. This may take one lifetime or many depending upon where we currently are and how much we are ready to exert effort in the right direction. Thankfully for the followers of Vedic tradition, we believe in multiple births or reincarnations for the mind to purify itself through different experiences! So my Guru(teacher) says, “If you find yourself really low in the ladder unable to progress upwards fast enough no problems at all, good luck next birth 😉!”
Important points that Guru reiterates :
- this ladder is absolutely not to be used for self condemnation if we find ourselves in a low rung. At least we already are on the ladder owing to the devotion we possess, is the attitude to have. The exact placing should only be used as a motivation to inspire us to exert effort and move upwards in our spiritual growth and purification.
- this certainly is not to be used as a scale to rank everyone we know in terms of where they stand (even though our corrupt minds might try to do so 😊).
Now, let’s cut to the chase and begin the climb.
Selfish action (the lowest rung)
Scripture recognizes that most of us will have a large portion of our actions governed by selfishness. i.e earn money for my family and me (not wanting to share even a small portion with the less fortunate). Scripture warns that while we indulge in such selfish acts which benefit us and us alone, at the very least we have to acknowledge the Higher power. It says, perform all actions as a dedication to the Lord and accept the result, good or bad without resistance with an attitude that the Universe/God gives me only what I deserve, not more not less (even though many a times this seems so opposed).
Vedic followers have no problem with this because for us, as far as actions go, there is really no clear line of distinction between sacred and secular. For the devout ones, the day begins and ends with an acknowledgement of the Higher power and that includes every action through the course of the day too. If I am not wrong, most of the other religions recommend this too.
The Muslims say “Bismillah” at the start of anything.I have seen it being said on a cookery show on TV too before the chef started off.
in the name of God (an invocation used by Muslims at the beginning of an undertaking)
My children go to a Christian school where the Bible is studied as a graded subject and they mentioned that
Colossians 3:17 states
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him”
Through time, the Selfish actions done with an attitude of dedication and devotion will automatically reduce little by little purifying the mind of impurities and it expands enough (without us even realizing it) to take us up to the next higher rung!
Selfless action (one step higher up)
Here, the actions undertaken are usually for the benefit of others. It could be, giving, in the form of time, money, effort,etc. All forms of social service would apply here. We start enjoying doing things for others more than for ourselves. In order to do this, we invariably have to give up the impurities of likes, dislikes, anger, greed, etc. The teaching is that, as we extend our service to help others, the Universe/God/the higher power will automatically take care of our needs. As we consistently work for the good of others with an attitude of devotion backing us, the mind expands even further to the next higher rung of the ladder.
Meditation on a particular form (includes any symbol, form,sound)
While the first two steps of action keep us busy and extroverted in the world of sensory objects, by now the mind has expanded enough that it wants quiet, it wants peace! Such a mind understands that the noisy world outside doesn’t necessarily have answers to all questions! Here we are starting to turn slightly introvert seeking answers within ourselves. As we persist at this, the mind is becoming calmer and quieter and thus further expands so we climb to the next higher step.
Meditation on the WHOLE
By now, the mind has expanded so much more that there is no longer need for one symbol or form because there is true, deep understanding that the whole Creation is a manifestation of ONE intelligence and nothing really stands separate from it. By now we have reached a very expanded state of mind and are ready to set foot on that highest rung.
The first 4 levels constitute “Religion”.
Now we are ready for the fifth,highest and subtlest level, “Philosophy”!
(The highest level of devotion as declared by the Vedhas because
the knowledge of ONE is the knowledge of ALL!)
Having gone through all the previous 4 stages with devotion,effort and sincerity, the mind has become so clean and pure and is ready for the highest level of devotion, which according to the Vedhas is, Knowledge of the Self /God.
There are many misconceptions connected to this. Many of us get stuck at the level of meditation for years on end seeking “something”, whether a light, voice, answers or whatever else. By sitting in Meditation, 4 hours a day ,5 years on end asking the question “Who am I?”, we get nothing more than a perennial headache and the possibility of turning non-believer because the answers we seek never come to us thus. My Guru(teacher) innocently asks during one of his lectures,”How do you expect the highest,subtlest truth to come to you by simply sitting quietly and asking ‘Who am I’, “Who am I”,while you spend years and years studying and breaking your head over even the most objective Sciences?” Is it possible to gain Physics or Chemistry knowledge by simply sitting in Meditation and dwelling over say atom,atom,atom or oxygen,oxygen,oxygen. Will we get any answers out of such Meditation? The teacher insists,”No new knowledge can come out of meditation. At best we can attain some mystical experiences or as we go along, total quiet, peace and blankness”. But what do we decipher out of it? Just as ignorance of Physics or Math can be removed ONLY by acquiring the knowledge pertaining to it, similarly, knowledge of God/the Self has to be acquired from relevant sources.
Another common misconception is that mind has to be eliminated in order to know the Self or God. So we practice meditation year after year for the so called “elimination” of the mind. The absurdity of the first sentence becomes evident if you stop and read that sentence just one more time! Can we ever know anything without the mind? It is the one and only instrument behind ALL our knowing! Purity and clarity of mind are insisted because an impure mind can never grasp the highest Truth which is so subtle, even beyond space if I may !! Can we get a crystal clear reflection of ourselves if the water is mirky and full of ripples? No mind at all? Really? That’s equivalent to saying I don’t need the water at all to see my reflection! While the (mind)water is absolutely essential, we strive to make it free from dirt (purifying it through dedicated, devoted actions) and ripples(stilling its extrovertedness through meditation).
Lastly, among serious seekers there is always that doubt,”Is action better or is meditation better or is study better?” No one discipline is better than the other. All of them have equal importance when we look at them as a flight of steps leading to higher ground. Without each of them we would never get to the Destination!
Once suitably endowed with right knowledge at the highest rung, now when I go back and meditate, I know exactly what the blankness is! I understand clearly that I am the witness of that blank state in Meditation.
I am the seeker who can never be sought; the Experiencer who can never be experienced!
I am that Awareness which is one with all!