Feb 6, 2008

Eagle's Eye: Regulation of The Good and The Bad

Acharya Mahaprajna 
What kind of sadhana is it that does not result in the abatement of the passions? If we go into this question, we shall find that the whole system of spirituality, its entire teaching, and all religious tales are designed to subdue the passions.
That - the sub dual of the passions - is their chief purpose. Non-possession, non-violence, truth, chastity, forgiveness, contentment, charity and piety - all these are prescribed so as to mitigate the force of passions. Next to the teaching comes its practice. It is now known that self-control is required to mitigate the passions, that practice is necessary. The question arises as to where to start practicing. How do we begin? This question has been debated upon in the field of religion and spirituality; also in the field of psychology. Tolstoy makes a wonderful suggestion. He says:" The first condition of a good life is self-control, and the first condition of self-control is fasting. We should start the practice of self-control by observing a fast." - a suggestion from a great sage of the modern world. Lord Mahavira has listed 12 kinds of penance. He says:" Start the practice of self-control with some penance; begin with fasting!" Here is a meeting of both ancient and modern teaching. The sadhak, who want to achieve self-realization, do not adopt two different paths or aims at two different objectives. Sectarian thought may wander in two contrary directions, but the movement of spirituality is singularly unitary. All those who tread the path of spirituality arrive at one and the same point.
Lord Mahavira said: "Eating constitutes the greatest obstacle to self-control; it gives rise to indolence." Tolstoy said: "How cans he who is not moderate in eating, ever conquer sloth? How cans a person who does not get rid of lethargy, indolence and negligence, ever achieve self-control?" He further said: "We have some primary urges. If we cannot control them, how can we ever do away with other complex urges based upon and proceeding from the primary ones? The urge to live, the urge to consume food, the sexual urge and the urge to fight - these are the fundamental urges. These are found in all living beings. If we cannot regulate them, how can we control other complex urges founded upon these? It is, therefore, essential for the sadhak to control and achieve victory over the basic urges. Let us begin the practice of self-control with fasting. Let us eat less and moderate our instinct to eat by restricting the intake of juices, which excite that instinct. This is the first principle of self-control. The second principle of self-control relates to the body. It is necessary for us to exercise control over the body, to train it. Unless the sinews are accustomed to react in a different way, it will not be possible to evolve a new personality. In his book entitled, "The Principles Of Psychology", William James says:" In order to lead a good life, it is necessary to develop good habits, and good habits can be developed only through practice. If we think that we can develop good habits without any practice, we are in for disappointment."
For the evolution of good habits, he has laid down the following maxims: For the formation of good habits, we must start by contemplating upon good habits, by practicing them and by inhibiting the old or bad habits For the evolution of good habits, we must train the body in a special way, because without creating the requisite background, no good habits can be formed. Our nerves and muscles are accustomed to function in a particular way and if we do not effect a change there, we go on mechanically as before. An occasion arises and we have a longing for sweets, because the tongue is accustomed to a particular taste. The nerves and muscles come to demand something, which they are accustomed to having on a particular occasion. In the matter of eating, thinking or doing any other work, our sinews habitually function in the manner we have accustomed them to function. Those who live in a lofty building, are at first extremely careful while descending the stairs. Gradually, they become accustomed to the act and after some time they do it mechanically. The feet go down each step one by one, requiring no special attention. To begin with, the novice-typists look at each letter before they type it, but with practice, their fingers move freely and type out a given matter as required, without the necessity of looking at the key-board since the fingers have grown accustomed to it. Similarly, in any undertaking, our sinews start working in the manner we have accustomed them to function, and the task stands fulfilled without any conscious effort on our part.
In this context, William James further says: "While cultivating a habit, do it without any reservation. Cultivate it fully." One practices meditation today, gives the sinews a taste of meditation and accustoms them to it. Next day, however, he does no meditation, nor the day after. On the fourth day, he sits down to meditate again. This practicing by fits and starts does not help in the cultivation of the habit. Do not be remiss. Keep practicing daily. Lord Mahavir said - "If one undertakes retrospection of the day's events, one must do it regularly at the appointed hour, not fitfully, not doing it today, neglecting to do it tomorrow and the day after and then taking it up again on the fourth day. Such irregular practice is not conducive to the confirmation of the habit of retrospection. You practice forgiveness today, show tolerance, but quarrel and fight the next day, forgive again and yet again quarrel and fight - this will not confirm in you the habit of forgiveness. If you want to cultivate a habit, do it without any reservation, without any remissness till it is firmly established. Until it is so confirmed, until it becomes a part of your character, let there be no exception, no relaxation of effort. That is the second principle of body training, of accustoming the body to bear pain and discomfort. This state of indifference is achieved through the practice of asanas, etc.
The body is so trained as to perform any task you command. Thus, the second principle of self-control is the training of the body. The third principle of self-control is living alone in seclusion. It means not to allow the present movement to continue but to reverse it. There are two orders - the order of nature and the order of sadhana. We are endowed with some special centers. One of them is the Centre of Energy. All our sexual impulses originate from here and it is with the help of this centre that man fulfils his sexual desire. It is a centre provided by nature for the gratification of the sexual urge. By living in seclusion, we can change it. That belongs to the order of sadhana.
As told to Lalit Garg


 


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