by Swami Krishnananda
The preparations that are requisite of a student of spiritual life, particularly when approaching a preceptor for the reception of knowledge, are difficult enough of acquisition. When we come to these considerations, we begin to come nearer to the truths of our own being than when we were merely facing facts of life as if they were external objects.
To study a thing when it is outside us is easier, but when it comes to us in a personal manner, very often we hesitate to say anything about it, and especially to tackle it. Personal matters are difficult to explain and solve. We treat the world as a kind of object, and we would like to treat spiritual life also as a kind of object. Then it is that we seem to get on very well with it. God and His nature, the path of spiritual sadhana, the difficulties on the way – all these things are instinctively taken by us as certain objects in the world, as articles we can collect and throw away. But we realise when we take things more seriously that our vision was incorrect and spiritual life is not so easy as we once thought it to be, because of a very simple reason that it is concerned with our own self. It is not even concerned with God as a super-transcendent creator. It is concerned with us, and that is why it is so difficult.
If it had been a matter concerning someone else, we would have solved it easily; but it is a matter concerning us. Who is going to solve it? With viveka and vairagya, the characteristics of which I described in the earlier discourses, philosophically equipped and intellectually well informed, the student may appear to be ready for higher knowledge. But unfortunately, he is not ready for it because there are certain other things which the student must cultivate before this unique knowledge can be received from the wondrous Master. The further qualifications that one is called upon to nurture in oneself are more personal than intellectual or philosophical.
The personal aspects of spiritual sadhana are the psychological and moral training that we have to undergo as a necessary qualification. Whatever be our intellectual training or scientific upbringing, there is something more that we have to equip ourselves with before we approach a spiritual adept. These are equipments, not merely intellectual or qualificational in the ordinary sense of the term, but very personal, moral and psychological – and thus, very secret. Here we touch the bottom of our own being and try to sweep the dust-ridden enclave of our own heart.
These are what the scriptures and the Masters have spoken of as the satsampat, or the sixfold qualifications of an emotional and personal nature. The human being is not merely an intellect, but also an emotion. So our equipment should not merely be rationalistic. The equipment should also include a moral preparation, which has many hidden sides, sometimes hidden even to our own vision, which has to be brought to the surface of consciousness if spiritual knowledge is to be received. It is to be remembered again that spiritual knowledge is not of an ordinary kind. It is not knowledge at all, as we know knowledge to be. It is not information that we gather. It is not knowing something, or knowing about something. This is the peculiarity about this knowledge. This is why the scriptures say, “This knowledge is a wonder!” It is a wonder because ‘wonder’ cannot be explained.
We look upon it with a kind of awe, in consternation. Everything connected with it is a kind of marvel: on one end of it, there is God the marvel, on another end there seems to be the marvel of the teacher, and on the third side there is the student, who is also a marvel. The knowledge is a marvel and the goal is also a marvel. It is all a marvel; in all ten directions it is a marvel. We cannot explain this mystery which is this wondrous secret of secrets, into which we are trying to enter when we tread the path spiritual.
Imagine how honest one has to be to tread this path. It is so serious a matter, so momentous, that one has to understand its importance for one’s own self. The first and foremost psychological qualification required of us is peace of mind. We should not approach a Guru or Master with a troubled mind, such as grief over a dead child or a gone-off husband, and so on. With these ideas we should not approach a spiritual Master, because the ideas that are uppermost in our minds are what count most. One may have lost a job, been demoted, been cast out into the streets; there may be many kinds of problems in the family and personal life. It is not with these notions that we would approach a Master of the Spirit; nor should we go with the burden of these ideas, trying to unload all of them, because then the very purpose of meeting the Master would be defeated. The path of the Spirit is the way to the Spirit alone, and nothing short of it.
So the humdrum, toil, worry and business of life, which have their impressions formed in our subconscious and unconscious levels of mind, should be cast out first by tranquillity, which has to be acquired with tremendous effort. The mind has to be tranquil, first and foremost. It is called kshama, shanti. There should be a feeling of subdual of personality when approaching a spiritual Master. We are required to offer nothing to him. We are only to present ourselves before him as a subdued person, which means to say that the mind is like the limpid waters of a calm lake, which can listen to what is heard; else, we would be like the many people who would rather talk than listen.
A few of us have the habit, perhaps, of going to people to listen, but really we end up by saying something. We have many things to tell about our own selves, our problems, our difficulties and injustices, the wretched world and so many other things, and we want to hear nothing. And if someone starts talking, we start saying something else, so that the person cannot continue.
These are some of the weaknesses of people in the world. But with these weaknesses, the Spirit is far off. There is no use of trying to make a compromise between moral foibles and the dignity of the Spirit. Either we want it or we do not want it, that is all. There cannot be any via media between Mammon and God. Those who have trodden the path of the Spirit were strong in a particular sense because they knew what they wanted. Many of us do not know what we want.
We may honestly search our heart and end with a sob and a sigh, “I do not know what is wrong with me, and I do not know what I ought to do.” This is a psychological mess that we create in our minds. We cannot know what we want. If we cannot know what we want in this world, then what else can we know? All this difficulty arises because we have not been psychologically trained and morally prepared. Our training has been a kind of commercial training, for earning a living. Unfortunately, psychologically we have not been taught, and this is the difficulty we feel in day-to-day life. We cannot confront anything because to do so is to confront a mind. It is difficult to confront a mind because minds are intelligent, and they react.
I mentioned in earlier lessons that minds are like magnetic fields. We cannot try to touch them or approach them with impurity. We have to guard ourselves properly, insulate ourselves, as it were, before we try to handle or manipulate them. The world is ultimately made up of minds, manifest or unmanifest. The human being is obviously a reactionary type of mind, and we have to live in a world of human beings. When we live in a world of such a character and makeup, our study and our training should naturally take into consideration these essences behind the so-called objects of the world, which we generally study.
We have indications of there being subjects behind objects, minds behind bodies. In the study of spiritual life, we cannot afford to continue taking persons as mere objects. Some employers treat their subordinates and employees as mere tools, but they are not. They are human beings, and we cannot go on treating human beings as tools. Even well informed persons, elevated in society, unconsciously treat other people as tools, because our instinct is to utilise another person for our purpose. We may do it in many ways – by directly taking or extracting something, or by not taking something or being indifferent. By all these means we can utilise people as tools.
Now, these attempts of the subjective mind to make itself comfortable in a world of this nature heaps samskaras or psychological impressions on the mind, and its life becomes one of anxiety. We walk with heavy hearts on account of the load of the impressions that are in our minds. It may not be physical weight. We may be well off, but our minds may be heavy due to many an incentive for further actions that it has gathered in the history of its life in this world. As long as there are impressions in the inner layers of our hearts, our minds cannot be in peace.
There are two terms used in our taking stock of the satsampat. I mentioned ‘kshama’ and ‘dhama’, as they are called: the control of the mind and the control of the senses. These go together. Kshama and dhama may be said to be the internal and external control, respectively. The subdual of the mind is kshama and the restraint of the senses is dhama. We cannot say which comes first and which comes second. It is safe to conclude that both are to be taken simultaneously in measured importance because the senses and the mind are correlated.
The student of the spiritual path is, foremost, called upon to be subdued in the senses and the mind. A self-controlled person alone approaches a Master for the knowledge of the higher life. The sadhana-chatustaya is supposed to precede shravana-chatustaya. Sadhana-chatustaya is a Sanskrit word which means the fourfold qualification of sadhana: viveka, vairagya, satsampat and mumukshutva. Viveka is discrimination, power of understanding, the capacity to discriminate the real from the unreal; vairagya is dispassion, the lack of taste for the objects of the world due to the recognition of their essence; satsampat is what I am trying to explain now; and the last one is mumukshutva, the yearning for freedom.
After these qualifications it is that the shravana-chatustaya or the other set of four is said to follow, which means: shravana, manana, nididhyasana and satshatkara. Sravana is listening to the teachings from the Master; manana is reflection, deep consideration over it, thinking deeply over what is heard; nididhyasana is profound meditation; and satshatkara is realisation. These come after sadhana-chatustaya.
The third of the sadhana-chatustaya is satsampat. Two of these I am trying to explain now, kshama and dhama: tranquillity of the mind and control of the senses. The seeker of Truth, the student of yoga, should have sifted his mind properly before taking to the spiritual path. It is not any Tom, Dick and Harry that can tread the spiritual life. In the spiritual path, no one need be in haste, because nothing is going to be gained in taking hasty steps. Haste makes waste, as we know. We have to sift our mind properly and understand whether we are ready for it or not. But how are we to know if we are ready?
What are your feelings at the bottom of your heart? They will tell you what you really are. The whole difficulty about this matter is that another person cannot know your feelings, nor are you prepared to express your feelings in public. Hence, each one has to judge one’s own self, calmly in a dispassionate manner. I cannot tell anything about you, nor can you tell anything about me. Each one has to open the inner eye of insight in calmly considered processes of thought and pass judgement on one’s own self: “What is the cause of my asking for God?” You may be asking for God, nobody is denying it, but why? Why do you want God? Now, the answer to questions of this kind will say something about your nature. Why is it that you want the spiritual life? What do you know about it? What has made you get attracted towards it? Many an answer will come to these questions and each person will have something to say, peculiar to one’s own self.
Well, whatever may be the answer to why you want God, I may point out one very important aspect of the matter, which each one has to remember. The details may be variegated, but there is one very essential point to remember: Your want for God should be a positive longing and not a negative retreat. You should not say, “The world is wretched and, therefore, I would like to go to God. I have been defeated in life; therefore, I must turn to something which may give me solace.”
It is said that there are Dhurvas and Prahaladas. A Dhurva goes because he is kicked, and a Prahalada goes because he loves God and because he is God. Kicks in life may be of some help. Everyone receives a kick of one type or the other, and lessons of this kind have a value of their own. But they are not all, and cannot be regarded as everything, because the momentum of these kicks lasts only for some time. Unless we go on receiving kicks perpetually, it is difficult to maintain proper balance. The world will not go on giving kicks like that eternally.
Hence, we should not depend on these kicks for maintaining our balance or poise of spirit. We should be something within our spirit of understanding, and our want of God should be on account of what God is, in His essential nature. Mumukshutva is supposed to be pre-eminent among the four qualifications. Even if all the others are there and this is lacking, it will be a waste. There may be a kind of control of the senses, the power of the mind to concentrate, a certain amount of philosophic analytical understanding, and so on, but there may not be a longing for freedom – longing for God in its essential nature. If that is lacking, then there would be a lack of vitality in the approach itself, and it will not last long.
The tranquillity of mind that one has to acquire and the control of senses that one is to achieve should be a natural outcome for God-realisation. It should not be merely the power of will exerted over one’s self. Control of the mind cannot be achieved by the power of the will because the will is a part of the mind that we are speaking about. When we speak of the mind and mind control, we speak of all that is the psychological setup, so we cannot exert effort on the mind and try to control it. The mind can be subdued only by having a higher, nobler ideal.
The mind is not a fool always. It can understand what we are presenting it with. It cannot be cajoled and sidetracked for all times, though sometimes it gets deceived. The mind asks for satisfactions in its various levels of development, and the higher the objects we present before it, the easier it would be to control it. We can pocket a person when we give him what he needs or asks. Similarly, we can pocket anything, even the whole world, provided we can offer to the world what it wants from us.
This is the case with everything, perhaps with God also, but He needs something extraordinary, and we cannot offer Him what He needs. The mind cannot be subdued by ordinary means of tapasya – by dieting, vigil, studies, walks, and so on – though in the beginning it appears to be subdued due to employing such tentative methods. Nothing on Earth can control the mind because the mind is not entirely of this world. It is of a different realm altogether. It is very subtle, subtler than the objects of the world, so the objects of the world cannot be put to use in the control of the mind, and methods which are physical in their nature are also not of much avail in psychological subdual. The mind is subtle, ethereal impetus: pramāthi balavad dṛḍham (Gita 6.34), as the Bhagavadgita calls it. It shall drag away any person, and it is strong enough to drown the consciousness of a seeker.
Such being the structure of the mind, the achievement of kshama and dhama is a Herculean task; but considering the knowledge and the glory of the Spirit that we are going to receive from the Master, we have to put forth all our energies in controlling our mind and senses.
We are all beginners in the path of the Spirit, and I should naturally speak only in that trend. None of us can be regarded as adepts. The beginners in the spiritual path should carefully avoid temptations of all kinds, physical and well as psychological. We are mostly caught by temptations. As long as temptations are before us, the control of the mind is not possible. But what is tempting us? It is difficult to know what temptation is, because temptation ceases to be temptation when it is known. A thief is no more a thief when we detect him. Temptations come unaware, and would not come announcing themselves to be such. “I am a spy, sir!” Nobody will say such things, for otherwise he will not succeed.
The attractions of sense and mind, which we call the temptations, are not merely physical objects, though mostly they are; and we find ourselves in the midst of these tempting things day in and day out. The objects of sense are everywhere. They are in the temple, in the forests, in the streets. We cannot avoid them. We can go into the bowels of the Earth or the top of Mt. Everest, but there also are the objects of sense. The objects of sense are spread out everywhere in creation, so we cannot just escape them by retreating from one place to another. This retreat may have some effect tentatively, like an injection that is given, but it cannot cure the ultimate illness because while we have escaped the immediate temptations by running away from them physically, circumstances will be so created that the very material around us, even if we are in a far-off place, can act as temptations. The objects are not the temptations, but they are used as temptations by the power of our own mind.