Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
"Surrender does not put an end to or eliminate activity; it is no longer ego-directed or desire-directed activity. It is God-governed, God-directed activity." (Sw. Chidananda)
We have been looking at all sorts of characteristics which are common to the human being who is dealing with daily life at the basic survival level. What separates humans from all other animals is the ability to self-modify these traits. In some higher-functioning species, the habits can be 'trained' out, but the purpose for the modification of natural behaviours comes about from the same survival instinct. Consequences of poor behaviour bring poor results and the best results (rewards of food, shelter, love and so on) come from modifying instinctual behaviour. What can happen, however, is that reward-type actions take place in an attempt to prevent poor behaviour and the imprint is "if I act negatively I will gain what I want".
In fact, even humans have this. What child has not been coaxed with the promise of a favourite food or toy? Some will learn that to cry will result in being handed sweets or having the television switched on. As adults these children become the demanding, do-this-or-else beings, the seekers of instant gratification. In the BMI framework, all the animal life of the world fits! This includes the vaasanas - the drives and motivations for our actions.
Humankind can go one step further however. It can conceive of OM. It can make the choice to trust in a reward which is not immediate, is not physical and has no obvious value other than to the individual who seeks that reward. The reward does have different levels and some are, in fact, more imminent than others. At a social level, to have ironed out our anger or critical natures will certainly show fairly instant improvements in responses to our requests and points of view. Moving into the sphere of the spiritual requires a longer investment of trust that, by making amendments to our agendas, the rewards on Earth will be a more tranquil passage through life and has the potential for something incredible beyond the physical plane. Let's face it. For most of us just the first half of that equation would be a blessing!
The cruncher, though, is that it is up to the individual to deal with life at a level which minimises the negatives and maximises the positives. This goes further than the 'glass half whatever' aspects of psychology. It involves taking inner action. It involves the cultivation of virtues.
A very few folk are born with a natural instinct (vaasana) for self-management and seeking the higher. Mostly though, we come to this from examples we see around us. We need help to raise ourselves, others to reach out and pull us from the mire. It might be that we read an autobiography of a truly great person and become inspired to take on something of the example set; or it can be closer to home, through a teacher or relative who has already developed positively in life and for whom we have respect enough to emulate their way of living.
Without fail this requires, firstly, the funding of the desire to alter what needs altering within us. This comes from knowing that, at this point in time, we are not of a standard which matches or even comes close to those we admire.
Having raised the desire, the will must follow. We all experience this. When it is for something like chocolate or chips, the will is eager as the proverbial beaver! When it comes to working a bit harder, reaching a bit higher, the will can sometimes become our hurdle. Remember, the will is yours to order about. To do this you must strengthen that desire. How much to you want to lift yourself to be more like Uncle Together? The desire is built by thought. (Yes, it keeps coming back to that.)
What do you want? How much do you want it?
Let us take an example. Courage is a desirable thing, but it can seem like an impossible thing to own. If we then create a constant thought, in the form of a mantra perhaps, over a period of time the thought of courage can become more dominant than the timidity which was there before wishing it wasn't…
"OM COURAGE, OM COURAGE, OM COURAGE…"
Saying the word alone may not suffice. In reciting the mantra, we should be able also to have a visual image of what this represents for us; in the case of Uncle Together, it is perhaps his ability to not take on the jibes of others as a personal thing; letting insults drop from us as water does from the duck's back. "OM COURAGE (image of passing by the bully) OM COURAGE (image…)…" This is not an instant results format. It is a retraining with inculcation of a principle. There will be much in samskaara which will reach out and try to haul us back to our old, timid selves. Each time we must look at the desire and make a choice; then fund the will to reach for what we want.
In this way, it is possible to supplant our out-dated, demeaning habits with newer, fresher, higher benefit habits. Courage becomes our new संस्कार/samskaara (habit/way of life) with no more effort than changing our thinking patterns. At the greatest level, worldliness can become life lived divinely.
Here we are learning how to do this through the Sanskrit tradition of Vedanta. Here we will investigate our nature and, more importantly, our minds and come to understand what holds us back and what it is that will free us. Three weeks back you were asked a question at the end of the post… you are asked again; what is the one 'vice' which underlies all our negative traits and prevents us moving into a more positive framework? What is it that keeps you from making the change and provides the justifications for staying where you are?
Make that your saadhana (homework) for this week's workings-day. Leave your thoughts in the comments box, make notes in your books and most importantly of all, think, think, think!