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Towards Inner Harmony: I Want To Achieve Self-Control

Published: 30.05.2004
Updated: 02.07.2015

Every individual living in society lives with some restraint, adopting some rule, exercising a certain amount of control or discipline. Talk of freedom is all very good, but in this impressible and imposing world of manifold influences, freedom can only be relative. Absolute freedom is just not possible.

A Sanskrit poet says: "A woman is never free. While she is a virgin, her father protects her; in youth she depends upon her husband and in old age upon her son." What has been said above of a woman is true of all. Not only a woman, but even a man is not free. No creature in the living world is independent. There are so many influences at work in our world - the influence of the environment, the influence of circumstances, the influence of the solar system, the influence of other living creatures, the influence of speech. Living in a world of manifold influences, absolute freedom is just out of question; we cannot do without discipline and control. However, discipline must be differentiated from control. We are controlled by outside influences; also by inner influences. Control imposed from without is properly called control or outside control - an imposed discipline. The process of dhyana, and of kayotsarga, is a process of self-discipline. If dhyana and kayotsarga fail to develop self-discipline, they are no better than a drug. One takes a pill. There is intoxication a feeling of expansion. The intoxication wears off and one is left as one was before. If it is merely a case of getting intoxicated, a casual treatment, not much value can be or should be attached to dhyana or kayotsarga.

I hold that dhyana and kayotsarga are not casual treatments, but permanent. There are three divisions of time - the past, the present and the future. The past exercises a great influence on us. However much we may think and talk of freedom, there is no person who is completely free from the influence of the past. Old accumulated experiences, urges and impulses obstruct- and impede a man at every step. Tied to the chain of the past, man tries to run headlong. The man who is not tied can of course run, but that a man bound to a chain should try to run sounds strange. A Sanskrit poet says:

The shackle of hope is a strange one;
for those tied to it run, and those
delivered from it sit idle like a cripple.

A man tied to the past wanders a lot. The past exercises a tremendous influence upon our mind. The psychologists have divided the mind into three parts - the unconscious, the subconscious, and the conscious. Whatever events take place in the conscious mind, whatever works are performed by man with the conscious mind, are not really actuated by the conscious mind at all but are mostly conditioned responses. This conditioning is the result of outside influences, as well as of inner ones. When the long-accumulated impressions, reactions, and vengeful feelings in the unconscious mind come to the fore, the conscious mind is activated and starts performing accordingly. The conscious mind is merely an actor, a player; the director who makes it play is entrenched within. If the fundamental agent is unchanged, how can there be any change in the player? Today, the conscious entity plays one role tomorrow it plays another role and still another role day after tomorrow. Today, it enacts anger, tomorrow pride, and it acts out avarice the day after. Sometimes it enacts attachment, at other times fear, or lust. These performances will go on for ever and ever. Will these ever end? As long as the accumulated impulses in our hidden and most subtle unconscious mind are not obliterated, as long as the unconscious is not washed dean of these, there can be no end to this drama. The undertaking of dhyana is not designed to obliterate the present; rather it is an undertaking to destroy the original source of play-acting.

There was a sign-board in the garden with the inscription, "Plucking flowers is forbidden." An urchin entered the garden and started plucking a flower-plant. The gardener said, "What are you doing? Didn't you read what is written on the signboard?" The boy replied, "Oh yes, that is why I am doing what I am doing. It is written there, 'Plucking flowers is forbidden'. So I could not pluck a flower. But there is nothing on the board which forbids my plucking the whole plant. I am rooting out a plant, I am not plucking flowers."

As long as we go on plucking flowers, as long as we go on picking a leaf here and a leaf there, one can see no end to this business. Irrigating the flowers, irrigating the foliage would not do; nor will plucking flowers or foliage be to any purpose. It is the root that must be irrigated, and it is the root that must be exterminated. The superficial treatment, the momentary and casual remedy cannot be very effective. The technique of dhyana came to be evolved because of the realisation that man cannot continue with casual treatment for long. The chain of unprofitable actions must be broken. You hear something true and like it. The mind is impressed for a moment. But the next day finds us as before. As a matter of fact the impression wears off within two hours. It wears off because it was a casual treatment, a merely verbal remedy, comparable to a pill of laudanum.

But dhyana is a process of reaching the inner core; it is a process designed to shake and purify the unconscious, to root out the accumulated layers of impressions, dirt and prejudices, and accomplish a thorough cleaning. It is not brainwashing either. Brainwashing is an intellectual exercise. The washing of the brain goes no deeper than the surface. We are talking of a wholesale cleaning of the glandular system from where the impulses of behaviour and conduct originate in man. Dhyana is not to be viewed as an intellectual exercise, or something touching the outer world or a superficial undertaking. It is a movement that touches the inmost core of one's being. That is why we sometimes witness in a sadhak a terrible awakening of anger, of horrifying lust and other gruesome perversions. No wonder, the sadhak is sometimes panic-stricken. "I came here to practise dhyana; and am instead caught in defilements," he says to himself. But you need not be panicky: the passions are not so easily awakened. Such powerful shake-ups only take place in people who go very deep into themselves. When these people enter into the depths of dhyana and the inside cleansing begins, it is but natural to find the long entrenched passions staging a furious revolt against their dislodgement; these passions will fight for their very survival, raise a veritable hell and sometimes it is such a terrific uproar that a man is quite bewildered. It is at this juncture that he needs the guidance of a guru. The guru will tell him, "It is not something to be afraid of In fact, it is an auspicious omen, a favourable indication that a thorough cleansing is going on in the depths of the unconscious." This truth must not be lost sight of.

Imagine a big heap of rubbish. As we start cleaning and the deeper we dig into it, the more it will stink. If we undertake a thorough cleansing, we shall have to endure the stench. The accumulated filth within will have to be let out. If it is not cleansed out, the contamination inside would continue unchecked, and the man will remain sick for ever. To root out the disease is the beginning of health. The process of rooting out involves great hardships. Dhyana is not something which acts from without; it acts from within; it is a process of inner change. Therefore it cannot be called an intoxicant nor a casual treatment. It is in fact a sustained treatment, striking at the very core of the disease, at its very root. As the mental impressions are gradually wiped away, the playacting is greatly reduced. The activity of the mind is wholly based upon the accumulated mental impressions. When the root-impressions wither away, all play-acting comes to an end.

Sometimes there arises in the mind of the sadhak an involuntary doubt. "Am I really qualified to take up dhyana? The pot is unclean. Will good food placed in this vessel be nourishing still? Will it not be spoiled by the dirty pot?" What is to be done? It all sounds very plausible. The unclean vessel will make the food unclean. However, putting off action because of the fear of uncleanliness will not do.

Dhyana is a power which turns uncleanliness into cleanliness. The argument of the unclean pot making the food unclean, applies only to things which have no power to change uncleanliness into cleanliness. Victuals have no power to change the uncleanliness of the vessel into cleanliness, or to remain unaffected by that uncleanliness. But dhyana has such power; it is pure in itself and imparts purity to the surroundings. All filth disappears. Whatever dhyana penetrates into, becomes purified. Even the dirtiest hands are rendered clean by water; and there is no other means of purification. Water never shirks going into the dirty hands. It never says to itself, "These dirty hands will make me dirty." If water were to think like that, there would be no way left to remove dirt; we shall have no means whatsoever of removing uncleanliness. But water embraces dirt and the dirt disappears. Water never doubts its own efficacy to remove dirt. Dhyana is that pure current of water which removes all dirt wherever it flows. Then purity pervades all through - pure consciousness, pure body, pure speech and pure breath - ever), thing is purified. So let us have no fear. As a matter of fact, no hand is unclean. In the perspective of dhyana, nothing is unclean. Everything is sacred. Only we must have faith that dhyana is quite capable of removing filth. Filth can be removed through the practice of dhyana. Only we must have this three-dimensional faith:

1. Dhyana is quite capable of removing filth
2. Filth can be removed and the capacity to remove it can be developed.
3. The removal of filth and the development of the capacity to remove it is possible through practice.

These are the three principles. If we have perfect faith in these, self-discipline is not an impossibility. Self-discipline manifests itself when the mental impressions accumulated within are uprooted. We are quite capable of exterminating the se impressions. There is also present within us the capacity to develop self-discipline. It can be achieved through practice. For practice, we will have to find the right way, discover the right clues. The clues are: Self-restraint and asceticism. There is a kind of restraint imposed from without: control through punishment, through fear of being bound or killed. Either one is beaten, or one is killed; except these, the discipline of punishment can boast of no other power. Bind a man, beat him, kill him! As long as this fear of being bound or being killed exists, there is no room for self-discipline. The man who is perfectly self-disciplined becomes free from the fear of being bound or killed - he becomes utterly fearless.

Emperor Alexander said to a digamber muni, "Come to stay in my kingdom." He said, "I shan't!" Alexander stood flabbergasted. Not even the most powerful kings of the time dared contradict him; a sign from him made them tremble. And here was a destitute monk who refused to obey! Alexander felt mortified, and kept staring at the monk. At last he said, "O hermit, don't you know who I am? I am Alexander the Great. You are not perhaps acquainted with the consequences of disobeying me, are you?" The monk replied, "I know, but let's have it from the horse's mouth." Alexander said, "See this sword? You will be done to death by the sword - that would be the consequence." The monk said, "Who do you threaten with death? The fear of death has been long extinct in me. Death cannot kill me:

'I cannot be killed by death
Because I've killed death itself'

You threaten in vain! Poor death is afraid of me. Ha, ha! Think of frightening me with death when death itself is frightened of me! You can do me no harm." Upon hearing this, Alexander the Great let go his sword, and said, "Death was my ultimate weapon. What to do with a man who is not afraid of death? How can one frighten the fearless?"

It is a strange world we live in. Here, only the fearful are frightened. No power on earth can frighten the fearless. Everyone tries to browbeat the faint-hearted; it is the timid whom even the police mishandles. The timid are affrighted by every person or thing. Even a rat frightens the timorous. A little click somewhere and one cannot sleep! Very ludicrous and strange. The timid and the fearful are exploited by all. One who has lost fear, who is completely free of it - no power on earth dare frighten him. So Alexander stood bewildered and at long last he said "Well Sir, good luck to you! Good-bye!"

The man who does not fear imprisonment or execution will never accept any outside discipline. People complain that there is too much control - one law enacted after another. There does not seem to be any end to it. Things have come to such a pass that a man does not even know all the laws. Naturally, violation of laws occurs and one is obliged to present oneself in the law court. The man argues, "I didn't know I was transgressing the law." But the ignorance of law is no excuse. The legislators go on making laws and the authorities go on arresting people for any violation thereof. Why is this farce continuing? Simply because of fear.

A man unwittingly violates a law. He is then afraid of being caught. It is this fear that renders him a helpless victim. When the lion roars in the jungle, the deer and other creatures are terrified, they stand still, utterly paralysed. If they go on running, how will the lion come to them? But they are so terrified that the lion does not have to exert much. The living creatures of the jungle seem to come to him to be devoured, almost of their own accord. The fear pervading the entire society is making the problem of discipline more and more complicated. There is only one solution - the development of self-discipline. Let discipline awaken within us, which implies complete absence of fear of imprisonment or execution. Two altogether different impulses are at work inside: restraint and penance. When these impulses are active, self-control manifests itself Control over the body, control over breath, control over life, control over the tongue, and control over the mind - these five disciplines together constitute self-discipline. They are the five pillars, without erecting which, no man can aspire to mastery over the self

For the man who aspires to self-control, the first essential is to achieve control over the body. Control over the body is achieved through restraint and asceticism. One has to achieve body-perfection, complete mastery over the organism. Mastery over the hand and mastery over the feet- these are two aspects of body-control. The foot rises only in that direction which we wish to take; it will not advance in the contrary direction. Similarly, the hand will be lifted only in that direction which we determine; not otherwise.

The discipline of hand of foot, of the way we sit, the way we stand. It is difficult to keep standing. It is equally difficult to keep sitting. It is not easy, rather very irksome. While practising dhyana one has to sit still for an hour, or at least for three-quarters of an hour. Sometimes one's hand slumbers, at other times the foot goes numb. At times, the entire body is stiffened. One experiences great difficulty. One cannot sit still for long. One is restless to change one's position, now one moves one foot, and then the other, and caught in these changing movements, the whole aura of the surroundings undergoes a change. It is quite arduous to exercise control over the body. The man exercising control over the body can sit or stand in one posture for three hours together; he can remain in one posture for three days, for three months and even for three years.

The idol of Bahubali in Karnataka is one of the biggest idols in the world- 57 ft. high. It has been carved out of a hill. An extraordinary monument! We witnessed the thousandth anniversary celebration of its inauguration. Bahubali standing in the posture of kayotsarga! How long has the great Bahubali been standing like that? In the shape of an idol, over a thousand years. But even in life, Bahubali kept standing in meditation for one year. He became a hermit and continued in the posture of kayotsarga for a year; kept standing all the time, for days, for months, for a whole year, without any movement. How difficult is control over the body! The mind staggers at the thought. If one has to keep standing for an hour, one complains that the foot is quite benumbed, has become like a post. The entire blood rushes down and the foot becomes so still as to be completely deprived of any power of movement. But man's capacity is unlimited, beyond imagination. We just cannot fully conceive of what man can do. The capacity of our brain is limitless; 90 per cent of this capacity remains unutilized. And who utilizes fully even the remaining 10 per cent? The average person makes do with 2-4 or 5 per cent of this capacity. The man who can utilize 7 per cent of this capacity, may be classed among the good and fortunate persons of this world, and he who can utilize 10 per cent becomes a great, an eminent man. Thus, 90 per cent of man's energies lie dormant. Only if we can awaken these energies, if these are made to manifest themselves, if we can somehow open up the great reservoir within, can we hope to accomplish our aim; only then may we achieve self-discipline! There is no other way except dhyana to awaken these energies or to achieve that self-discipline. Dhyana is the only way to make available the great unknown source, the only key that would unlock the door to eternity.

It is difficult to accomplish control over the body; to achieve control over breath is even more so. If I ask the audience here to hold their breath for five minutes, to keep their noses completely shut for that length of time, I'm afraid none would be left in this room to do it. All would depart, saying, "Why should we waste our time listening to such impossible things?"

A programme of classical music was on. Many people had been invited. The hall was packed to capacity. The concert began. It was not a film show after all. The singer began slowly, with a recitation of the first notes. The preliminary elaboration took half to three-quarters of an hour. People felt bored and began to leave the hall one after another. All of them left, except one. For three quarters of an hour, the musician was so rapt in his singing that he noticed nothing. When he happened to open his eyes, he saw that. The audience consisted of one man. He said, “well, classical music is not everybody's cup of tea. Though everyone has left, I am happy to have at least one good listener." The lone listener replied, "Sir, I am a complete ignoramus, as far as music is concerned. I am only waiting for the programme to finish so that I can take away the cotton carpet hired for the function." The classical singer in the story had at least one man for his audience - even though that man happened to be one appointed to carry the cotton carpet back to the furniture shop. But if I were to ask you not to breathe at all for 5 minutes, I would not be left even with a carpet carrier. The task would be too much for him, and he would not like to remain behind. Control over breathing is hard to achieve. Those who want to achieve such control, must learn first of all how to breathe properly. Right breathing means: to inhale breath rightly, to exhale it rightly and hold it gradually for a space of time. It is possible to control breathing, to discipline it so as to regulate its movement.

The third is the discipline of the vital force. This is even more difficult to achieve. One can perceive the movement of breath; it is the sign of life itself As long as this movement goes on, one is alive. No man can live without breathing. And the movement of breath is perceptible. But the life force is much more subtle; almost imperceptible-one finds it difficult to grasp it! When during the practice of preksha dhyana, it is said, "Grasp the vibrations of the life force, experience for yourself the flow of the vital power, its throbbings," people say, "What is this talk of vibrations and beats-we cannot feel any. We are caught in a mess, just don't know where we are." Of course, they do not feel anything! Accustomed to living in a world of gross objects, how can they be sensitive to the subtle world of the spirit. Only a refined consciousness can grasp the subtle. As long as consciousness is not refined, is not purified, there is little possibility of knowing the spirit.

When the capacity for the discipline of the vital force is awakened, it is possible to raise the temperature of one hand and to lower the temperature of the other hand, to increase the temperature of the right side and decrease that of the left side, and vice-versa. It is possible then to still any part of the body or make it more active. The development of all art, the development of all skill and that of technology, are wonder-, wrought by the vital force. It is a miracle of vital power that a mere glance can petrify a man, keep him rooted to one spot or make him go to sleep, or if asleep, rouse him to consciousness. All these acts of hypnosis are marvels of vital power. An iron chain can be broken by the fist. This too is a wonder wrought by the vital power. Achieving control over the vital force implies control over the autonomic nervous system.

The fourth discipline is the discipline of the tongue, control over speech. It is very difficult to exercise control over the tongue. A day of silence is observed. It is resolved not to utter a word. But memories come. Is memory different from the word, from language? Without language, there can be no memory. No memory is beyond words. A thought occurs. This too is language. Thinking is not beyond language; there can be no thinking without words; so thinking also is language. There is imagination. Wherefrom does it originate? Not out of the void, to be sure. Imagination too comes to us through the medium of language. You are silent, not speaking. But the mind is caught in imagination. It is a kind of utterance, after all. Outwardly, there is no talking, but internally, talking is going on all the time. The science of logic recognises two kinds of speech-inner and outer. You may not be engaged in outer speech, but the monologue inside continues for ever. Say, you are dreaming. What is it if not a kind of speaking? Even a dream is nothing but speech. Scientific experiments were conducted and it was found that even when a man is dreaming, his larynx is active. If the larynx becomes inactivated, there can be no memory, no imagination, no thinking. All these-memory, imagination and thinking are possible only because the larynx is active. That is why you are directed to concentrate your attention on the vishudhikendra (the centre of purity), you are asked to observe the throat. As you are gradually initiated into the profound secrets of these centres, you will be able to correctly understand the significance of what is being done here. Otherwise it looks ridiculous. It is decided to observe your larynx, or your tongue. One asks what is there to see in these? We eat our meals, and see our tongue everyday! But we only perceive the gross. So, nothing that is said here seems to make sense. But as we gradually go deeper, as we grasp the core of what is said, we shall find how significant it is to observe the throat. The man who has learnt to practise kayotsarga of the throat, to make still the voice-box, has already resolved a number of problems. One might ask if one is required to tackle the pressing outward problems first before taking up the inner ones. After all, it is not only an internal problem that we are faced with. The problem is not merely emotional. The factual problems confront us on every side. There is poverty, growing anxiety for earning a livelihood, the problem of food, the problem of expenses on children's education, marriage, dowry -so many real problems. Just by sitting in dhyana, these problems would not disappear. Here you practise dhyana for 10 days, then you go back to your homes. There is no magic which would ensure that your sons and daughters will be comfortably settled, all the expenses on their education will be easily met. Oh no, it is not going to be that easy. You will have to make serious efforts to solve the factual problems. One may ask, "Is dhyana then merely a casual remedy? One spends 10 days in comfort, doing kayotsarga. One feels good, but as soon as one returns home, one finds oneself ditched into the same furnace and the same scorching fire!" A very natural question! But does one really suppose that by practising dhyana alone, one's fields will be ploughed by themselves, food served of itself, poverty removed, marriages performed, expenses on children's education paid, and clothes sewn without one lifting one's little finger? Is dhyana the fabled tree that brings to man whatever he desires? Some people think of religion like that. Let a man practise religion and everything will take care of itself. People who think like that are obviously living in a fool's paradise. There could not be a bigger lie. The limits must not be lost sight of. Dhyana is not something eternal and boundless, it has its own limits. Within those limits, it is quite effective. It is quite capable, for example, of wiping out your mental delusions, inner doubts, stresses and strains produced by strong emotions and anxieties. But if you expect dhyana to provide you with food and drink as well, without any effort on your part, you are in for disillusionment. However, though dhyana cannot give you bread, cannot meet the expenses to be incurred on marriages, cannot defray the cost of your children's education or a hotel bill it can certainly save you from anxiety and mental tension produced in the course of your struggle with these actual problems.

There are two distinct possibilities: (1) facing the problem, and (2) being worried about it. These are two different things. It appears to me that the greatest difficulty in resolving poverty and other problems confronting India lies in the absence of the right mental approach towards these problems. The tendency to be worried instead of finding a solution is much more active. If we can distinguish between these two approaches, if we can do away with the impurities that make water undrinkable, if we would filter the water, it would become quite clean. Unfortunately, we do not seem to possess the kind of mind required to face and resolve the problems. We try to resolve one problem, but in the very process of resolving it we create another.

A child is naughty and efforts are on to make him get rid of his naughtiness. He is gently told not to do certain things, but the child continues obdurate. In a fit of anger, he is slapped twice or thrice. But the problem is not resolved; it continues as before; if anything, it becomes even more complicated.

A problem has arisen with the neighbour. A meeting is arranged for reconciliation. However, there is mutual recrimination; ultimately, blows. A good many of our everyday problems are complicated by ourselves.

We must create a mind which will resolve the problems and not complicate them through needless worry.

Self-discipline is necessary for the creation of such a mind. Self-discipline comes when man develops in himself the five-fold capacity to control his body, breath, vital power, tongue and mind. Dhyana is the salient factor in all these five disciplines.

Let us march towards the development of self-discipline in ourselves.


Published by: Kuldeep Jain for "HEALTH & HARMONY" An imprint of: Jain Pubilishers (P) Ltd, New Delhi

Reprint 2006

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  1. Anger
  2. Aura
  3. Bahubali
  4. Body
  5. Brain
  6. Centre of Purity
  7. Consciousness
  8. Dhyana
  9. Digamber
  10. Discipline
  11. Environment
  12. Fear
  13. Guru
  14. Karnataka
  15. Kayotsarga
  16. Meditation
  17. Muni
  18. Preksha
  19. Preksha Dhyana
  20. Pride
  21. Sadhak
  22. Sanskrit
  23. Science
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