“ He attains -peace who, self-controlled, approaches objects with the senses devoid of love and hatred and brought under his own control.
“ In peace there is an end of all miseries; for the reason of the tranquil minded soon becomes steady.
“ There is no wisdom to the unsteady and no meditation to the unsteady and to the unmeditative no peace; to the peaceless how can there be happiness ? ” (Gita II. 64-66).
Some of the Upanishads describe the spiritual Truth as the bridge to immortality, or the dam that turns back all evil. The above verses also suggest a dam holding back all miseries, and a bridge to peace, happiness and wisdom, for they affirm that he who approaches objects with the senses brought under his own control, self-controlled and devoid of love and hatred, attains a tranquil mind, steady reason, meditation, peace, happiness and wisdom.
Wisdom in these verses means knowledge of the true . nature of the Self. It is usual to identify oneself with the body and mind, but the teaching of Vedanta is that this is an error, because they are objects of knowledge, and the Self, as a knowing subject, cannot be identified with its objects. Through false identification, the Self is enveloped, as it were, in sheaths of error ; when these sheaths are removed, the Self is revealed in its true nature, as the source from which all beings have sprung, called Brahman, or God. The aim of Yoga is the divine union in which the soul and its source are one.
The first qualification for the spiritual life is viveka, or discrimination between the real Self and the false identity.
It implies devotion to God, and rejection of temporal objects called vairagya, or renunciation. The world presents itself as innumerable objects, pleasant and unpleasant and the first natural impulse is to grasp the pleasure and avoid the pain. In the midst of pleasure there is the sad certainty that it must come to an end ; the sunny week-end must be followed by the black Monday. On the other hand, some painful experiences are often willingly accepted for the sake of future satisfaction. He who approaches objects merely to grasp immediate pleasure is living on a low mental level. In fact, no completely selfish person could exist, for a certain amount of self-denial is so obviously necessary that it is instinctive ; even animals make sacrifices for their young. Renunciation in Yoga is not aversion but dispassion and non-attachment to all pleasures, as distractions which impair the faculty of discrimination.
Self-control is the keystone in the bridge to Selfknowledge. It is cultivated through the discipline of the shatkasampatti—the six treasures : shama, inner control, dama, outer control, uparati, self-withdrawal, titikshay endurance, samadhana, concentration, and shraddha, faith.
This discipline is necessary for success in any sphere. The good athlete for example, remains calm, restrains himself from useless excitement and unnecessary activity, withdraws from other pursuits, endures injuries, and concentrates on his exercise. Partial self-control may be sufficient for worldly success, but for success in the spiritual life it must be applied to the entire range of thought and action. In this way a strong will is developed.
Shama, inner control, is control of the mind. It means subduing desires and restraining the mind from hankering after sense pleasure. Desire and aversion and the sense of egoity are the greatest obstacles. As they are emptied out, the mind becomes calm, the intuitive faculty is sharpened and it is possible to assimilate subtle truths, which would otherwise be unheard in the distracting clamour of desires. The sole purpose is to free the mind of impurities and flood it with the light of Truth, as revealed by the scriptures and by the spiritual Teacher.
Dama, outer control, means the control of the sense organs. The empirical world is like a picture painted with the brushes of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell, and if the brushes are out of control, the picture will be distorted. The distortion produced by a pair of sparkling eyes and ruby lips is well known. Carried away by the senses, the mind becomes attached to the desirable objects and shuts out all other considerations. The mind is stored with impressions received through the sense organs, particularly the ear and the eye. If ugliness is let in, the mind will be ugly. If the ear is open to the words of wisdom and the eye to beauty, truth and virtue, the mind will be calm and beautiful.
Uparati, self-withdrawal, is also called self-settledness. It is that extra effort needed to prevent the senses and the mind drifting back to their old attachments, and to establish the new behaviour pattern as a settled habit. Thought and action can then be directed without strain to the inner reality, the Lord who abides in the hearts of all. Shri Shankara says that the best form of self-withdrawal consists in the mind-function ceasing to act by means of external objects.
Titiksha means enduring all afflictions with forbearance. The afflictions are the pairs of opposites inherent in all experience, typically, heat and cold. A man who practises inner and outer control, regarding all beings as equal, and cultivating love of God, remains unruffled by pleasure and pain, gain and loss, respect and disrespect, content with whatever comes to him. Such a man does not harm anyone by thought, word or deed. He is truthful, honest and continent. He approaches objects with the senses brought under his own control, self- controlled and devoid of love and hatred.
Satnadhana, constant concentration on the reality of the Spirit, is only possible when the mind and senses are controlled. It means directing all thought and action to the one purpose of realising the spiritual Truth, that God alone is real and all else unreal, that the self of man is in essence identical with God, and that the purpose of life is the conscious realisation of this identity. This complete selfdedication is not inconsistent with the normal occupations of life, provided they are in keeping with the moral and ethical laws. On the contrary, the conviction that God alone is real, means that the quality of all work is improved because it is done as a sacrifice to Him.
Shraddha, faith, is a firm conviction of the validity of the teachings and the Words of the Teacher. Scepticism cannot escape the conclusion that all existence is meaningless and futile. Faith is the opposite attitude which sees the futility of mere worldly objectives, but affirms the truth of ultimate reality through intuitive awareness.
The immediate purpose of self-control is to attain a tranquil mind, steady reason and meditation. With practice the mind is freed from desires and passions, and restraint gives way to relaxation ; only when tranquil, is the mind open to the Truth. “ This should be imparted only to him whose mind has been pacified . .” says Shri Shankara.
It is imparted by a spiritual Teacher and absorbed by the pupil in the process of Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana, hearing, reasoning and meditating on the teachings.
Meditation can be practised with benefit, by anybody, but the guidance of a fully qualified Teacher is essential in the advanced stages.
A simple yet profound exposition is given in Dr. Shastri’s book : ‘ Meditation : Its Theory and Practice’.
To be effective, meditation has to be practised daily, preferably in the early morning before breakfast. Sitting in a place, free from distractions and interruptions, the principles of self-control practised in daily life are now -applied specifically for the purpose of tranquilising the mind. The senses are withdrawn from all external stimuli, the mind from all thoughts except that of the object of meditation. Concentrating with faith, the mind is directed in a steady stream towards the object, which may be a holy symbol, or a form of the Lord, such as Christ or Krishna. Through repeated practice the mind gradually assumes the characteristics of the object.
In the highest stage, when the pupil is ripe for it, the meditation is on the identity of the individual self with God, and when this is matured, the aspirant realises this identity as a direct experience of freedom, immortality, and bliss.
This is the bridge to peace, happiness and wisdom. This wisdom—self-realisation—is placed higher than peace and happiness, for they are attained with it, and without it they are like the mirage that lures the thirsty traveller and then vanishes. In ‘ The Eternal Wisdom ’ the Sage Yajnavalkya says : “ Know, my dear one, that it is through meditation that the knower knows Itseif.” When, under the heat of one-pointed meditation, the outer sheaths of the mind begin to wither, and that part of the intellect which illumines an object is separated from its adjuncts, then ‘ That ’ which remains is something nameless and attributeless. Tat Twam Asi—That Thou Art.”