Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
The final points on the list of behaviours for monitoring and correction. There may be a collective sigh of relief! Remember, this exercise is about finding a base-line and understanding our underlying motivational operators. This is important not simply for improving social interaction, but for measuring our improvements as we take on the practices of saadhana chatushtaya and absorb what we study from the (new word alert!) शास्त्राः /shaastra-s (scriptures). It is not to be obsessed over, but to be pondered upon from time to time as we uncover our own secrets. Counteracting the 'negatives' is of course done by building on the positives. These are not always the complete opposite of the negative, but can be an attenuation. More on this in due course.
DEPRESSION; ...before folk get up in arms and throw contempt in this direction, please understand that this is in no way to belittle or denigrate what can become serious conditions requiring medical intervention. There are so many levels and classifications of depression that it seems foolhardy for swami-ji to have included it as a 'vice'. What place has it on this list?
This is not the place for a treatise on mental states. It is important, though, to appreciate that the keyword here is 'mental', as in pertaining to the mind. Vedanta is a philosophy which trains the mind and strengthens it, purifies it, cleansing it of all taints of the physical expressions. It requires a serious nature to seek spiritual answers to life's issues and one thing which is known is that, very often, the serious-minded are more prone to the fits of darkness, lowness of mood, which turn inwards negatively. The vast majority of us will undoubtedly have experienced at least one period in our lives where despondency has seemed overwhelming. The word depression here is used in its generic sense of a mind which dwells overlong on the negatives of life, begins to think itself useless, that action is pointless and so forth. Perhaps here, then, we can sub-categorise with words such as Despondent, Moody, Isolationist, Gloomy…
Importantly what we know, even in simple daily life, is that in the majority cases, to gain improvement of low mental states is to initiate action. This can be difficult where the state has become ingrained but the treatment has been proved over and over. Of course there are those who require greater interventions; fine! The key point is that help is sought, action is taken and improvements brought about. Whichever direction you come from, depression is not something to be held on to.
DULLNESS and LAZINESS; dullness? Here the word is used in its context of being bored. To say that one is bored means there is a sense of no zest in life, nothing interests one. The consideration here is that to find such lack of spark means our mind has become blunted to intellectual stimulation - it has become dull and the personality is without lustre. The sharp intellect is the one which is constantly honed through usage, grinding against the stones of the world and all that it offers. The more one learns the more is the desire to learn sparked. A mind which sits in a cocoon, not reaching beyond its boundaries, risks becoming blunt.
Often an expression of dullness is to become the 'couch potato'. When we are not physically active it is thought to be 'lazy'. Laziness does not mean physical lounging however. Some of the least-lazy people in the world are those who are bed or house-bound. Often, laziness and dullness are intertwined and there are periods where every one is faced with such. However, laziness can exist even within an apparently dynamic environment. Equally, a body which is static may have an enormous amount to offer intellectually. A common derogatory judgement passed on serious meditators and philosophers is that they are 'navel gazing', but this shows an ignorance of the dynamic inner world which is so important for a balanced existence. For you see it begins, as all things ultimately do, in the mind. Laziness is a state of mind which falls into habit, seeks not to improve, decides the status quo is fine… it makes no effort to lift itself. It leaves tasks undone, or delays the start. It seeks short cuts and excuses to escape commitment and involvement. Laziness is saying, "I'll begin tomorrow", then saying it again when tomorrow comes.
OBSTINACY - also CONCEIT. The latter word here could have been incorporated in collection with ambition and arrogance or pride and egoism. It is included along with the first word because often it is conceit which engenders obstinacy. To be obstinate is more than mere stubbornness, though of course it holds a lot of that. There is an element of 'standing one's ground regardless' in the state of obstinacy, and this can be founded on the conceit that 'I am right/mine is the only way/I know better..' and so on. The stance will be held perversely, against all evidence which proves the point at least to have an alternative, at most that it holds no validity. Obstinacy in the context of philosophical debate, then, is the closed mind; it comes along to force its own point, to heckle, with no intention of truly listening to other points, mulling it over and finding the common ground, allowing for what can be shared.
HYPOCRISY; this is a daily conundrum! Oh yes it is easy to point to the great hypocrisies in the world, but at all times remember that what appears in the world does so because not enough has been done at individual level to overcome it. Let us be clear about this; hypocrisy is not a simple state of saying one thing, doing another. The important factor is what is going on at (you guessed it!) the mental level. Holding a principle in one's mind (and therefore the heart), trusting it, should inform all action. If one is in a situation where the principle is challenged by factors in which to hold to it will incur societal discomforts, then adjustments are made to accommodate the greater need, sublimating one's own. A prime example that is held up for vedantic students is that of the guru who apparently relishes coffee or enjoys the food made for them, when true ascetics are supposed to be beyond likes and dislikes, desires and favourites. This is often used by the weak to support their arguments for not exercising restraints. What they have not understood is that the guru internally has never felt the desire, the like or the distaste but is honouring the giver of the items with a show of pleasure. Within, there has been no change.
This needs to be tempered, then, with the providers of food to said guru having at least a basic grasp of what will be acceptable to offer. Should someone have offered, say, intoxicant drinks, this would have been one step too far for the one holding true to principle. Any 'guru' who willingly partook of such an offering would definitely then be hypocritical because that is not simply acknowledging thanks for provision of sustenance, but has moved across a line into indulgence and setting poor example.
This points to the fact that it is appropriate and correct to say 'no' when any deed or request to speak beyond our comfort will compromise the inner principle, even at risk of damaging peer relations. (A very modern and pertinent example is the "Just say NO!" anti-drugs campaigns.) What we have to guard against is that small compromises in the name of societal harmony do not form their own habit and lead to toppling and loss of principle. Compromise oils the workings of interaction; constant compromise becomes precedence and therein principles are re-written. Bear in mind here that this does not take away the need for re-evaluation of said principles. To consider other arguments and then, perhaps to find a greater value leading to the dropping or adjustment of our principles is, again, not hypocrisy, but growth.
JUST A FEW MORE; there are six remaining 'items' on Sw. Sivananda-ji's list for the novice saadhaka, In truth the list could become enormous, or can be cut down to the 'ten most dangerous', but now you have a foundational tool of self-assessment (emphasis on 'self') to be used as you see fit during daily pursuit. These six ought not to be thought less of for being last or little expanded - in some respects they are the most prevalent and hazardous obstacles.
GODLESSNESS; the term 'God' here is used for the familiarity most have in spiritual terms with what it is we are seeking to emulate. It encompasses the highest principles of humanity and behaviour. Atheists can adhere to the very best of principles (Jainism is an atheistic faith system, Buddhism is agnostic) and live very content and 'clean' lives by adhering to the virtues which all of Mankind understands as 'good'… so we could substitute GOODlessness here and have the same effect.
HARSH WORDS; out of anger, frustration, defensiveness, exhaustion, we have all uttered words we have later regretted. The more we wield the reins of restraint, the easier it becomes to control our outbursts. It should be noted here that this ought not to prevent one from speaking truths or stating one's principles. What another hears is their responsibility; the important factor is that you have not uttered anything with the intention of inflicting hurt. At all times have love in heart and mind. At times it is necessary to hold to a point or make a remark, which on the surface may appear hard (and which of us in receipt of correction have not felt it so, as our egos are pricked?); but if the intent is pure and honest, you have done the best you can in that moment.
MERCILESS NATURE; to be without compassion is not simply the cruelty it might show to others, but turns that cruelty on ourselves. Almost certainly, one without mercy is in a state of misery.
TALE-BEARING and SCANDAL-MONGERING; tittle tattle. It is almost inevitable. The very minute one hears a juicy story, the urge to share it arises. Most of the time this is quite harmless; however, a mind busy in higher things will find less and less time for the small talks. Lingering in small talks, however, can lead to surmise and suppositions, the drawing of conclusions which have no basis in fact and before we know it scandal has presented itself before us. Yes, there is fun to be had; but how important is it? How does it improve us?
TELLING LIES; ah, the sting in the tail. Ponder this one among yourselves. Consider this - the very worst of all lies are those which we tell ourselves. The greatest self-lie is that "I am this BMI".