Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
Meditation & Life, with Sw. Chinmayananda (Gurudev).
We are now exploring the writings of Gurudev on our focus subject of Meditation. The book is a thorough treatment of the subject and extends to over 170 pages of closely printed text. No attempt is intended, here, to present the text in its entirety. However, important paragraphs and quotes will be given, within a summary of each section. You are encouraged to use the links on sidebar to obtain a copy for yourselves from CM publications. Please remember that each of the posts under this title is part of a thought flow and it is important to go back and read the previous post in order to refresh and review the context.
7: How to begin.
With so much said about it's need, the most likely question is "How can I start living the divine life?" It is perfectly logical, but far too general a question; for it implies that 'the divine life' is a complete package ready for the obtaining. Nothing could be further from it!
The divine life is a systematic way of life. It is a steady process of renouncing the negative values of the material life, all habits of the current life which prevent spiritual flow, and accepting, replacing, renewing values which turn spiritual flow to the positive. There is no secret to this. It is simply the hard work of making a daily vow to improve oneself this way - even the greatest of Gurus, Prophets, Saints and Sages had to go through this process and (despite rumours) none of these greats can actually provide an overnight transformation from old life to a life of divinity. Certainly, by their touch and being in their presence, one may have an 'epiphany' and thus the 'magic' happen, but work is there to do for the maintenance of such a life.
Just as a child must learn to walk, then to run, then to swim and so on, including all the falls and bumps in the process, so it is that spiritual aspirants are best to take things in their logical fashion, small and easy at first, then stretching themselves. Just as parents are usually always present for the growth of their child and to keep it focused on its work, so it is that the spiritual teachers keep a watchful eye upon their students.
In both cases, the only way to begin… is to start!
For another implication of the question asked is that one can go from being who one is currently, to a much improved and more sacred person with a few adjustments. Well, for some it may be only a few, for others it can be a mountain of adjustments, as so much depends upon one's state of being at the time of asking. Regardless of where one is now, however, the fact that the question was asked at all suggests some readiness to make effort. It is only in the getting started and making a daily commitment to keep going that one can discover the inner depth of conviction to live the life divine. Where to start? By now it must have dawned that the only place which needs adjustment is within oneself. Our external world only reflects where we are just now. To make a better world, we must make a better "me".
Introspection and Self-analysis.
So far in this writing, there has been an exploration of the world as if you were an observer - giving some objectivity to the world of objects and how it is that "I"-ness and "my"-ess of your current ego self create the delusion of potential happiness. It is hoped that you have gained enough to now think that it is worth making some attempt to walk out of the embrace of this delusion and start to view the world differently. To do this, you must start, little by little, to become your own detached observer. Detachment cannot exist for as long as you have a sense of ownership or possessiveness. "Just as we, blinded by attachments and prejudices, fail to see the real nature of things and beings, so also do we… remain blissfully ignorant of our own weaknesses and faults. The divine life starts with the practice of detaching ourselves from our body, mind and intellect and impartially estimating the motives, intentions and purposes that lie behind our thoughts, words and deeds. Such impartial witnessing is called introspection."
It is no easy thing. Self-analysis and self-criticism are hard to truly perform. Self-delusion is strongly ingrained! No matter how intelligent or even how acutely accurate any of us may think we are about others, we certainly almost always fall short of self-analysis. Indeed, it is common for us to recognise the weaknesses and faults of others the more readily because they are resident within ourselves - yet we are blind to this fact 99.9% of the time! Conversely, we can be admiring of others' strengths; however, unless that strength is one we already possess and we can be magnanimous about it, such admiration is likely to be tinged with a degree of envy or jealousy and we wish we had that quality. [AV-blog note; recall last year, early on in our studies together, there were a number of posts on various qualities which block our spiritual nature? Some may have found this challenging to read - but now, perhaps, a review of that would be helpful? We can so easily find ways to avoid such material, in the same way we may avoid looking in the mirror is we suspect we won't like what we see. Then comes the day we must try on some new outfit… go on. Take a look. Right back at the beginning, on Workings-days.]
As Gurudev points out now, "Each person generally goes about with the idea that he or she has an ideal personality. Very few are without some kind of ideal perception of that. Such things as honesty, goodness, Love, tolerance, cheerfulness…. All create in our thoughts a total ideal personality and, in our eagerness to be that ideal, we accept ourselves as actually established in that ideal already. Then come flashes of how far we are from our goal!"
If we are not truly established on those ideals, our worlds will crumble at different times in different places and under different circumstances according to the weaknesses which are our actual, current, foundation. For many, to deal with this, they will instead withdraw and build defences and try to 'repair' from existing material, only to find the weakness remains. The biblical example of this is that of the man who built his home upon the sand. If we are to be secure in the world, we must be secure in ourselves and that means using solid 'rock' values and taking shelter under faith. To rid ourselves of the 'sand' of personality traits and values and to replace our 'foundations' requires regular and disciplined practice. To do it requires that we detach from our ego. It is not easy to discover in ourselves some kind of 'Mr Hyde' personality - even if we have progressed a ways along the spiritual path already, it pays to keep attention, for the creature does lurk!
This all sounds very dark. For some it indeed may be, but for others it may not be all that radical, more just a 'fine-pointing of the brickwork'. Even if we have but one seriously negative trait, however, we have work to do and introspection, daily monitoring of who we are and 'where we are at', is the way to do it. Not everything will reveal itself to us at once. It can be the smaller, less active 'devils' which can cause the greatest hurdle.
Do not be discouraged to start! Of course this takes courage; but if you have listened (read) this far, then some heart is there for change. This can all sound rather unpleasant and difficult - if you think of it as a chore, that itself is negative and to be rooted out! Make of this a sport with yourself. In a few days you will begin to look forward to the 'workout', perhaps even finding that you can laugh at yourself. Note how it can make life 'lighter', having the increased self-awareness this introspective activity brings. Note that the optimum time of day recommended for introspection is in the early evening, after food; regardless of how bad the day has been, the meal will have created some barrier to it and permit the mind to look at your own part in the events and activities of the day with a degree of separation. Sit with your book [...remember the book???...] and let the day's happenings stream by, but be your own observer. When you gave the money for the workmate's leaving gift, was it done with charity and good wishes - or was there other feeling there in giving? When asked to do a task not usual to your day, what was your feeling around it? When your colleague corrected something, what was your reaction? When you overheard someone bullying another, what did you do? These and thousand other possibilities are there for you to reflect on.
See yourself in your own play. Become your own true observer. Detection is a large part of correction. On the next occasion where something arises you will be familiar with it and make and adjustment based on new self-understanding. Perhaps not immediately, and not always easily, but this is the work which begins the path of living divinely. Just as bathing, cleaning our teeth, brushing our hair are daily actions to maintain the body, so introspection must become our 'inner hygiene'.