Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
We have been exploring the writings of Gurudev, through his book 'Meditation & Life'. All the instructive chapters have been rendered and now there follows twelve 'chapters' which are designed for contemplation both before and after each meditation session. Please note that the actual writings of Gurudev are quite lengthy, so only the gist and key points are going to be given here. You are again encouraged to seek out a copy of the book to keep to hand as it is an inspiration and with each reading something more will drop into place.
Ch. 28; Mental Dancings
What sets up our mental agitations? In a word, vaasanas; those 'in-built' nuances written into our personality, carried from one life to another as a way to burn out our karmic debt. Within this book, Gurudev has not explored the term - it is left to other texts. Let it be understood, however, that these are 'fragrances' of personality; translations given for the term include, 'knowledge derived from memory… impressions… expectation… inclination… fancifulness…" and so on. Desire and vaasanas are inextricably linked. A vicious cycle of the hankering of something, the setting up of habitual desire from it and then a lasting impression being left which continues to drive the desire for that thing.
For example, one may have a 'dog vaasana'; every dog seen brings up feelings of admiration, love, besottedness… driving a wish to say 'hello boy' or to throw a ball and interact with a dog. This is fairly harmless (depending on the dog), but we may have an 'alcohol vaasana' and that can be a deal more problematic. Many people have 'food vaasana'; food is not seen merely as fuel for the body and sustenance for the soul, but becomes an addiction.
Vaasanas, then, might be most accurately described in relation to our 'dancing mind' as hankerings and attachments. The more our desires driven by the vaasana load we carry, the greater will be our agitation. Our drive will always be to satisfy our hankerings. Vaasanas also drive our acquisitiveness. We gather people, property, paraphernalia and call it 'mine'; setting up an attachment. Attachments set up the fear of loss of those things and then again we become agitated as we seek to maintain or add to the collection. We lose sense of the fact that the power lies with ourselves and, instead, allow objects to have power over us… "I am nothing without my car/mobile phone/designer this or that." Conversely, we may delude ourselves that we have all the power and become tyrants in pursuit and preservation of attachments. All will say it is because it makes them 'happy. Thirst for happiness is natural with all. The murderer expects happiness from the killing; the drunkard from his bottle; the devotee from his prayers the poor from the finding of crumbs or pennies; the rich and powerful from economic gain and world domination… all are seeking their individual happiness.
All forget to THINK! It is a flurry of seeking and searching for lasting contentment, which will never be found there; each thing/event will produce temporary happiness but we have to keep acting in order to top it up. Those who do stop to think, however, come to recognise that all such determination and thirst could be directed to keeping the mind under control and the goal of True Happiness in focus. To do this for a goal which cannot actually be seen, touched, smelt, heard or tasted, to do this with an understanding that actually it is within and through those very senses that we can experience the presence of something beyond them, is to have a belief and faith that such a happiness does exist and can be attained and the nature of that determination and thirst is called as श्रद्धा/shraddhaa.
If just for a short while we can experience shraddhaa and catch the briefest hint of the True Happiness, we will want to turn all our efforts towards building that. All other attachments will start to be recognised for their impermanence and an urgency to master the mind, to develop spiritual enthusiasm, will burgeon within us.
The capacity of the mind to focus on a single idea consistently and to the exclusion of other unrelated thoughts, is called concentration. For meditation, single-pointed, mental self-application to the subject of True Happiness is what is demanded. We so easily can perform single-mindedly when there is a manifest and immediate return. To do so for the very long-term reward of spirit demands a great deal of us. We can aid our progress inwardly by acting outwardly according to values set for spiritual gain. Kindness, cheerfulness, compassion and so on. Our daily interactions give us the opportunity to make manifest that very numinous thing we seek. By acting this way, our external environment quietens and becomes more conducive to meditation. Also our minds quieten, as our attachments become less restrictive and demanding of 'thought space'. To conquer the mind, we must reduce the agitations of attachment and desire; funding the one desire to conquer the mind is itself a lever into that mastery; and we must remember that by investing more in the world of objects than it deserves we are allowing the mind to wander unnecessarily. The latter is driven by vaasanas, so part of meditational practice is to recognise and eliminate as many vaasanas which arise in us possible, and for those which cannot be removed, reduce them by supplanting with less damaging vaasanas and gradually reduce our dependence on the object.
Little by little, hastening slowly, we can wipe our slate - and our minds - clean.