Habits are important things in man’s life. Anything which is done with interest and consciously, at an appointed time daily, becomes a habit. Then the action is repeated as if without any effort. In fact, there is a volitional effort; but it becomes so automatic that the person is not aware of it. One can form good and useful habits and also otherwise.
We react to sensations. According to Locke, the sensations are external and the only channels of them are the senses. But there are inner sensations as well. Kant has advanced a more reasonable theory and spoken of a priori sensations. He is right.
Not only sensation and reflection constitute life. There is something more. The love of infinity, the joy of self-forgetfulness and transcendence and the urge to self-sacrifice are major events in our inner life.
The value of our fife consists mainly in our reaction to the sensations, ideas and feelings. Some reactions are natural; some are acquired. To acquire the right reactions on the basis of certain moral principles, independent of their capacity to cause joy or pain, is the secret of a real human life. Education means acquired reaction to the given sensations and ideas.
To live like a machine is not a rational way of life. Pleasures and seeking rest are no reliable guides in life. Man is not a natural swimmer like a dog. But he can acquire the habit of swimming and cross the English Channel. Some people have six meals a day. In Rishikesh the Sadhus live on one meal a day. It is all a matter of acquired habit.
Truth-telling, tolerance, patience, forgiveness, and sympathy with the poor and afflicted are some of the essentials of life. They are all acquired reactions.
One of the wisest sayings of all time is that the human mind is teachable. It is self-teachable and also teachable by others. But you must have a will to learn and persist in learning. This is the best and highest asset in life.
In the holy Yoga, we learn how to teach the mind the art of Shanti, inner-tranquillity and outer peace, with a view to train the mind in the art of transforming our desires, ambitions, urges and drives into inner illumination, entry into the a priori world of the spirit and to be a jivan-mukta (liberated soul) to help our fellow-men on the path of right living.
Rousseau’s doctrine of living according to nature or the Zen principle of eating when hungry and drinking when thirsty, is a half-truth. You have to prepare the soil to grow vegetables or fruit-trees. You have to contradict nature and protect the tender shoots from excessive cold; you have to weed out the parasites. When this principle is applied to life according to the holy Adhyatma Yoga, it is called a life of discipline and devotion.
No part of our life is useless. Every urge, drive and emotional expression has a value. We have to learn how to make a good constructive use of them to create a personality, and then refine it under devotion and meditation. Finally, to dedicate it to the service of God in man. Kant finds little use for the emotional part of our life. He insists too much on intellect. But everybody has not a too great intellectual endowment. The emotions are great friends of the Yogi.
The Gita says: “The mind undisciplined and uneducated is a great enemy, but the mind which is cultivated is a great friend.”
In the Sufi path as well as in the path of Bhakti in the holy Yoga, the emotional part of man is employed to uplift the soul to infinity within.
Attachment to the sense objects as such weakens the will and covers the mirror of intelligence with dust; but the same emotions, when directed according to the rules of Bhakti as laid down in the Narada Sutras (The Philosophy of Love) and concentrated on God, personal and impersonal, free the mind from the dross of worldliness and lead it to tranquillity and illumination.
The great German philosophers or the leaders of illumination in Britain and France have no message for the man in the street. But the holy Yoga of the Gita is universal.
“People bring from the river the amount of water which corresponds to the capacity of their vessel.”
Such is the holy Yoga. There is food in its system of Advaita for the highest intellect. A Sureshwara or a Madhusudana Saraswati are at home in it. But a simple, pure-hearted Sahaja or a practical person can also acquire illumination through it.
A robber, Valmiki, under the influence of the Yoga, became the greatest holy poet the world has ever seen.
The Lord says: “He who offers Me leaves, blossoms or fruit with devotion, I accept them and reward the devotee with peace and wisdom.”
Man has an instinct to know Truth. The child uses the words “Why?” and “Where?” more often than grown-ups do. This faculty, when cultivated on the right lines, becomes philosophical enquiry. Unless it is accompanied by the practice of virtue, particularly self-control, patience and charity, it will do little good. To understand the truth of Vedanta, you must do good to all, harm none and grow yourself.
The world is not evil, but it has no independent existence and is meant to be a field for the exercise of virtue and to learn the lesson that “All is one.” There are some illusory enjoyments in the world; but they are meant to strengthen the will-to-virtue and cultivate Shanti.
He who holds fast to the ideal of Shanti and learns the lesson of the unity of life and intrinsic divinity of all, he is a true man and not he who runs after sense objects and thinks that they can give real pleasure for long.
The material or utilitarian view of the world is inadequate. To love the shell and ignore the pearl hidden in it is not the real way to live. Take a familiar example: A young and tender woman, like the new moon, is loved by a sense-mad man as only an object of sense delight. But to a man of spiritual understanding she is a mirror reflecting the glory of Truth and is to be served with learning and higher devotion, on a principle of universality.
To appropriate an object of beauty is the height of ignorance. He who sees beauty in the old, the suffering and the ignorant and worships them as the hidden pearls of divinity, he knows the truth.
Speaking of the hair of his old mother who had just died, a Japanese poet says:
“Should I take it in my hand
It would disappear with my hot tears
Like the frost of autumn.”
To live means to progress towards the life-ideal. Our life- ideal is God, the highest. There is no evolution without involution. The Highest, the Lord, has propelled the universe out of Himself as the spider projects the web and He abides, in all His perfection as Truth, Awareness and Bliss, in every atom of the universe. Our ideal is to manifest Him in our active, conscious, vital life. All other ideals are preliminary. Education, discipline, and right efforts lead the soul to perfection. Nothing is achieved without intense volitional efforts. Study the evolution of the eye in the organic world and see how the strivances of the organism, after millions of experiments, have evolved the eye.
Truth and bliss, in infinity, are the very nature of consciousness. We are here to evolve Godhead in daily active life. Shri Krishna, the teacher of the Gita, is a perfect ideal. Adore Him, praise Him, live His teachings. Let us be single-minded and we ; will achieve omniscience.
“Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached,” says the Shruti.
Come to the wise and serve them to annihilate your egoity, the false principle of separateness. Kindle the light of wisdom, passionlessness, and renunciation of the wilderness of your heart.
Take the fight to others in humility. This is the highest service, the supreme duty of men of wisdom. Let our reactions to the inner world be acquired as Shanti and to the outer world as love and wisdom.
Keep a spiritual diary. Study your mind and lead it on the path of fight. Seek relaxation in the right mental action called meditation and not in sloth or day-dreaming.