'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta
FIVE VERSES ON SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. Written by Sri Adi Shankaraachaarya. Please click on the relevant label and ensure to review the posts till date.
Last week we saw first to keep fine company. Gradually extricating ourselves from any previous pattern of influence from peer groups which may drag us away from our spiritual aspiration. Adjusting viewing, listening and reading choices is a part of this also. Bit by bit our focus must become single-pointed thus we can entirely devoted to the Lord and the true purpose of life. Now let us proceed.
Second Shloka; Paada three.
Cultivate virtues such as shaanti etc. In the workings-day posts we have been exploring what are the negative characteristics which spoil life and latterly, the virtues which can but developed to combat the negative. Here is a clear instruction from one of the greatest masters of all. Learn the techniques which enable one to control the mind from flowing out through the senses, chasing after all the flibbertygibbet shennanigans of the world. It is not that one should not be interested, or not have hobbies - but none of these should block your path to the higher nor distract you from the more urgent task of Self-search. The reference given to the virtues 'shaanti etc.' is to the shamaadhi-shatka-sampatti. In applying these correctly we begin to develop छित्त एकाग्रत/chitta-ekaagrata (mental single-pointedness) and चित्त शुद्धि/chitta shuddhi (mental purity).
In each of us, the senses are doorways; the mind can go out, and the world can come in. Border control is required!
When a corrected balance of output/input is established, when the mind is no longer disturbed, then it naturally becomes calm - this is shaanti. In this state the intellect gathers a greater brilliance, comprehension is sharper; from here our meditation lengthens and strengthens.
"A peaceful mind is a significant condition of happiness. An un-agitated mind is itself proof against all sorrows."
Avoid all desire-ridden actions. Be clear about your motivation! Action in and of itself is harmless. What informs the action, the intention behind it, is what makes the difference to its effect. Actions promoted from selflessness can help in the purification of our vaasanas. When, however, actions are performed out of desire for the ego-self, then we are adding to our spiritual debt and building our vaasanas. This is a challenge - to act entirely without self-interest is extremely difficult. Even charitable acts are liable to have a level of gratification behind them. We wish to give, but we weigh up what can be given without in anyway creating a loss for ourselves. To give entirely spontaneously, without any thought for our own well-being, is difficult. Conversely, we give generously but seek some form of recognition. If there is so much in what is essentially a good action, how much danger is there in our everyday, less than positive, activity??!
The end result of thoughtless and self-serving activity to cloud the potential for divinity within ourselves.
At this point the text is moving from the instruction pertaining to vaana-prastha and showing the final blocks we must know away before entering sanyaasa stage of practice. We have to be very clear that the spiritual path is one to which we can adhere and despite the stumbles and trembles we may still encounter, it has to become our central focus, even in daily activity. The duties which were incumbent in brahmachaarya, grhastha and v-p are now put to the background.
Surrender to a perfect Master (Guru). Time will come in the spiritual path where we burn with questions, devotion and the need to delve ever deeper into the spirit. Finding such a perfected teacher is not without some room for error also! There are many who can deceive and disappoint. It has always been so but in today's fast paced world, we get inpatient and go out looking for a 'guru'. In matters of the soul, however, it is not you who finds the guru; it is the guru who finds you. If you have perfected yourself as much as you can to this point, if your heart and mind are open and your spirit free of expectation, the teacher will appear who is right for you. You may not even necessarily know that you are ready, but he will appear. Like a bee to a flower.
A perfect master is not only श्रोत्रीय/shrotriiya, a scholar of the Upanishads and other such texts, but will have himself put into practice the injunctions and travelled the path. Only thus can he know the pitfalls and thus guide you well. If you go to climb Mt Everest, will you call on Joe Bloggs from London who read the map, or will you follow Tensing Joe-not, who has travelled the heights and knows them not just from paper, but from experience?
The truly experienced and learned one is to be revered. Surrender to such knowledge this personage can share with you. Attune yourself the declarations of the master and the scriptures. Surrender.
Daily serve his sandals. The पादुकः/paadukaH are the traditional 'clogs' of India. Such is the reverence we must develop for the guru that we find no trouble in performing सेव/seva (service) even to his feet. This is a particularly Eastern outlook. To the Western mind, prostrations to the feet of leaders, teachers, parents is considered somewhat demeaning. That is the point. Our egos prevent us from proper respect. In serving our guru properly we not only see to his needs, but we learn where our ego sticks, where our selfishness arises and where our mental blocks still remain.
Maintain the saadhana already set, meditation, mananam and introspection.