It depends partly on the interpretation put upon the word ‘ ordinary’.

Is an ordinary person someone who is satisfied with themselves and their surroundings, who has no inclination to become better, wiser, or even happier ?

No. An ordinary, that is a normal, person is creative, is constantly developing and training himself to use his faculties to the full.

This is precisely what the Yogi is doing. He has faculties of which the materialistic man, though possessing them himself, is unaware ; and in the efforts to transform the old habits and character all kinds of problems arise.

Does he have to become an ascetic ?

Can he go to the cinema and theatre ?

Does detachment mean shunning his wife and family and turning a deaf ear to the troubles of others ?

Does he have to seek complete solitude in a cave ?

Let us take asceticism first.

Adhyatma Yoga teaches self-control, not asceticism. Restraint is necessary but repression is harmful.

The emphasis in all the teaching is on transformation. Peculiarities are shunned, as being more likely to lead to pride and egotism than to the selfconquest that is sought.

A fully active life make demands on the physical structure, so simple and wholesome food, sufficient sleep and no superfluous talking (that is, no energy wasted in uncreative emotions) are recommended.

Literature and art are all means towards refining the mind and practising discrimination, so they are encouraged, though to go to a sensational play or film just to pass the time k soon found to be an unprofitable occupation.

Detachment, though it sounds somewhat austere, does not mean coldness or indifference.

Who admires the over-emotional and possessive mother or wife ?

What joy do they bring to themselves or the object of their affections by their possessiveness ?

When even a small measure of detachment can be practised it is seen after all to be detachment from one’s own ego, which brings with it a sense of relief and freedom.

The husband or child may still be there, exactly the same, but the tigerish demand for their attention and love have gone.

It is possible, too, that if an hour is spent making them a special dish (in a detached way, of course), they will also practise detachment when she buries herself in the writings of Shri Shankara after supper.

The practice of concentration and meditation solves the problem of our modern obsession with ‘ getting away from it all’.

When we can sit alone in a room and find refreshment within ourselves, the frantic need for open spaces and the shunning of our fellow men begins to abate, along with the suspicion that renouncing family life for a retreat in the Himalayas is the only answer to our problems.

Train journeys can be profitably spent with one of the methods of concentration, and we soon find that social contacts, and even children’s birthday parties, become an excellent test for seeing whether we have really learnt anything at all in the matter of self-transformation or whether yesterday’s success was just ‘ extra-ordinary ’.

 

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