Mind Beyond Mind: [11.01] Process of Self-Transformation (1)

Published: 18.05.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

It is narrated how a primitive villager tried to blow out an electric lamp When he failed, he began to wonder what kind of a lamp it was. He had thought it to be like an oil lamp whose flame could be extinguished by blowing. In spiritual matters we too are like the primitive villager. We are ignorant of the process of self-transformation. The aim of Sadhana is to transform the self. Knowledge is the first prerequisite of this transformation. The second prerequisite is practice. We know that we inhale and exhale air through each nostril by turns and we have also learnt that in the exercise of controlling breathing the mind goes in and comes out with each breath. But mere knowledge is not enough. We often commit errors of judgment in the course of our practice of meditation. We often fail to be self-watchful and become negligent. Our success depends on repeating the process intelligently. Bhagavana Mahavira, therefore, observed that knowledge combined with practice is the only path leading to deliverance from miseries. Both are inseparable elements of spiritual exertion. Moreover, practice cannot bear fruit without discernment, which is a corrective of practice. Only a combination of the two leads to enlightenment.

Meditative practice should begin with a correct disposition of the mind. This disposition can be strengthened by the will to achieve the end. The practitioners should develop an urge to achieve and a faith in the ideal. Moreover, he should be self-critical. The more the disposition develops, the more self-watchful will he become. He has to remind himself continuously that his self has to perceive itself. This reminder should not be taken to be something mechanical. It should be constantly strengthened by a strong disposition towards self-perception. Success in developing the disposition results in a change of attitude. A changed attitude brings about a transformation in the very course of the practitioner's life. You cannot change the course of your life without changing your attitude about it. The world and human life will continue to be what they are. Nobody can change nature. What we can and should do is to change our attitude towards it. If we did so, we will find life to be entirely different from what it is.

The desirability to change one's attitude can be illustrated by the following example. A preceptor had two disciples. He asked one of them as to how the latter felt the world to be. The disciple replied that it was a hopeless world. Even the bright day lost its value when he saw that it was preceded and followed by dark nights. There was more of darkness in the world, which was disgusting. The preceptor called in the second disciple and put the same question to him. The disciple replied that it was a wonderful world. How bright the (.lays were! Of course, the nights were dark, but then each night was followed and preceded by a bright day. This example illustrates two attitudes towards life. The first disciple saw only the nights and their darkness. The second saw only the clays and their brightness. The first was not able to appreciate the brightness of the days, and the second did not pay any attention to the darkness of the nights. It is the attitude of the mind, which matters. It is the mind, which makes a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.

The Anitya Anupreksha meditation is performed in the early hours of the morning. During this meditation we try to feel that the body is transitory. The idea of the transistorises of the body gradually comes to develop into a felt experience. It is an experience of the truth about the body. We know that the body undergoes continuous change. Heat, cold, the winds, and the atmosphere affect it. It is subject to diseases, old age, and death. But if we could know the truth about these changes and the body, it will be a happy experience. We are afraid of death and feel unhappy about it only because we do not know its nature. As soon as we have known the true nature of disease and death, our attitude towards them will certainly change. Death is a terrible thing no doubt, but one who has known the truth about it will be prepared to welcome it whenever it comes. We can develop this attitude towards death through the Anitya Anupreksha meditation. The greatest punishment the state can award is the punishment of death. Death appears to be a terrible thing to every one. But to the Sadhaka it is no longer so. It is rather a welcome guest. Sadhana brings about a complete self-transformation. It is also a transvaluation of values. The old values disappear, giving place to new values. Sadhana is a journey to death. A change in our attitude towards life and death is the prerequisite of Sadhana. It means getting rid of all kinds of predispositions, predilections, and preconceived notions.

Somebody asked Confucius, 'How can I discipline my mind?' Confucius replied, 'It is a very simple thing' and added, 'How do you hear?' The questioner replied, 'With my ears.' 'No.' said Confucius. 'You hear with your mind.' Do one thing. From now onwards, try to hear with your ears, stop hearing with the mind. You also taste things, not with your tongue, but with your mind. Stop tasting with the mind and try to taste with your tongue. Your mind will be automatically disciplined. What Confucius meant was that our sense experiences are determined by our mental attitudes, by our likes and dislikes, our predispositions and predilections. A mother once told her son that he was a stupid boy. The remark did not annoy the boy because what he heard was determined by his affection for the mother. If somebody whom the boy did not like had told the same thing, the boy would have flared up. That is how our reactions are governed by our prepossessed minds. Confucius was correct when he asked his questioner to hear with the ears and to taste with the tongue. The mind and its tendencies should not be allowed to interfere with what the senses reported.

The practitioner should seriously consider what has been said above. The trouble arises when we mix the mind with the functioning of the senses. They should be kept separate, each performing its functions independent of the other. The mixture of the two produces confusion and distortion of reality and creates situations in which we commit errors of judgment. There is nothing wrong with the sense organs. They perform their natural functions. The information’s they give us are given in the most natural way. It is the mind, which dilutes the information supplied by the sense organs and distorts our vision of reality. It is the intellect, which arranges the information, the likes and dislikes and the predispositions and predilections, which influence our judgments, which produce confusion and doubts and disturb us. As soon as the stream of information flowing through the channels of the sense organs becomes mixed with the stream of likes and dislikes and predispositions etc. the former becomes coloured and prejudiced. It no more remains the pure stream of information. The secret of self-discipline lies in not allowing the sense organs to be affected by the mind. We should hesitate to rely on the information given by the senses.

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anitya
  2. Body
  3. Discipline
  4. Mahavira
  5. Meditation
  6. Sadhaka
  7. Sadhana
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