Prabhāta-raśmiḥ - 41 Sublimation through Introspection
27 Jan 1999
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru! For a sadhaka or a devotee, constant self-examination is essential. It is this self-examination that will intensify and deepen his sadhana. To the extent a devotee starts examining his own personality with its different facets, behaviours, interactions, and the effects and the outcome of all these on himself, to that extent his mind is kept away from worldly involvement.
By doing japa, what is actually accomplished by you? You are dissuading the mind from worldly interactions and engaging it solely in the thought of God. In other words, the mano-vrtti on God becomes a substitute to replace or avoid worldly vrttis. Now, when you start examining your own personality, you accomplish the same effect as that of performing japa, perhaps to even greater degree.
What is this self-examination? How is it conducted? In self-examination, you perform a constant assessment – “What is the thought pattern I generally have? What are the motivations behind these thought processes? What are the desires that cause these thoughts? What is the level of purity that I have achieved? What is the level of purity I want to achieve? What are the impurities that trouble me?” – A number of such questions are raised and the findings are evaluated. In the process, you will know your deficiencies and weaknesses. The negative and hindering elements will be eliminated and positive and beneficial factors will be incorporated. This has to be done willfully.
I think this self-examination is required not only in spiritual or religious sadhana, but also in any other walk of life. For any individual, aspiring for a prosperous life in the world, a thorough evaluation of his personality is required in order to find out what must be incorporated and what must be overcome or avoided.
It is here that the question of sincerity comes up. I was wondering since I got up this morning: “What is it that the sadhakas generally lack? Why are they not able to progress well in their sadhana?” Yesterday someone was asking me, “Swamiji, I have been doing sadhana for so many years, but the progress is not there.” Why? What is the reason? I think it is due to lack of proper attitude and aim – due to lack of sincerity.
Vajasravas, the father of Nachiketas, was performing the holy sacrifice. But the desecrating manner and the attitude with which he performed it made the holy yajna unholy. The son, looking at the father’s actions, felt immensely moved. The performer of the yajna lost his mission but the one who was watching it with sincerity gained immortality!
We generally use the word ‘sincerity’ in common parlance. Most of the words become cliches through long usage and we tend to forget what they really imply. What does the word, 'sincerity' really mean in the context of a sadhaka or a devotee?
I am mentioning this to highlight a point. Most of the devotees think of God and chant the name of God repeatedly. What do they propose to achieve by this? Instead of always chanting the name of God, I think, the devotee should start asking, “I am chanting the name of God; what for am I doing it? After chanting for so many years have I got what I wanted? If not, how will I get it? Why are these negative tendencies and forces not leaving me? Am I not chanting the name properly?”
The chanting may go on for any number of years but the chanter will not be all right if the correct attitude and aim are missing. Have you not thought about it? “I am chanting the name of God, so that with every utterance I may get purified. But am I getting purified? What is the impurity in me? To remove the impurity what extra note should I infuse into my chanting?” - have you thought like this?
Unfortunately, most of the devotees end up in merely praising the Lord and praying to Him. They seldom take to the scriptural levels where everything about devotion is mentioned in minute detail. “What exactly is meant by devotion of man? What should a devotee think? How should he behave? What is his strength? What is his goal? It may be related to God, but to whom does it belong and in what way does it affect the devotee?” – all these details are explained in our scriptures.
Yesterday we had a discussion here. Both R and A were finding it difficult to accept that to see God everywhere would also mean to have a devotional attitude towards everything. They raised their objection, “Swamiji, when there is an instance of cruelty displayed by man, how can we have a devotional attitude towards it?” But, why not? In front of that man who can even look at cruelty as godliness, will not the cruelty tone down?
What did the sapta-maharsis (seven sages) do when they were confronted by the dacoit Ratnakara? They looked at him with gracefulness and gentleness. He was very cruel and harsh towards them. But they were not. In that wonderful interaction, the cruel man got transformed. Were they not looking at him in a divine and devotional manner?
Whenever you find an instance of cruelty, torture or injustice, as much sympathetic and compassionate you are towards the victim, so much or even more considerate and compassionate you should be towards the culprit. Man does all kinds of mistakes by aviveka (lack of discrimination).
Everything is God. It is God’s creation. And the creation consists of cruelty on the one hand and gentleness on the other. Otherwise, how do you explain the cruelty of the eagle towards the snake? The eagle is mostly living in the air, the snake is crawling on the ground – why should there be enmity between them? In the case of man, you may blame him; in the case of the eagle, whom will you blame?
This is where devotion emphasizes absolute surrender and acceptance of God and godliness in everything. Ravana is as much an incarnation as is Rama. Rama is a gentle and noble incarnation; Ravana is a cruel and ignoble incarnation. Perhaps the lessons from Ravana are more readily absorbed and incorporated than the lessons from Rama. In Ravana we can see the hand of cruelty and its outcome and we can readily learn to avoid such tendencies. But the lessons of greatness and renunciation from Sri Rama are more difficult to absorb. That is why Bhagavadgita says:
गुणेभ्यश्च परं वेत्ति मद्भावं सोधिगच्छति ।।
[Seeing no agent other than the gunas, and also knowing That which is superior to the gunas, one attains my state.]
Whether it is the holy austerity of a brahmana or a sage, or whether it is the deluded and aggressive cruelty of a dacoit, understand that both are the handiwork of gunas and that these gunas belong to Prakrti, the Nature. Don’t see any activity other than that of nature and see equally the Soul that is beyond gunas and beyond nature. When these two perceptions work in parallel, says Krishna, that devotee attains my Nature.
So, let anything take place in the world. Let the crime be of any dimension, however detestable and abominable an act it may be. From the devotee’s mind only sympathy and consideration are called for. In fact, you should be even more sublimated by the presence of cruelty than by that of gentleness. It should be so. It is to sublimate the mind of a devotee that the creation remains so various and infinite. Examine your own mind and find out whether this sublimation is actually taking place.
This examination is far more effective than mere chanting. Chant by all means, but let every chanting of yours be purposeful, ennobling and purifying. Search your heart and find out whether the right attitude is there. If it is not there, cultivate it; if it is there, preserve it.
Introspection done in this manner brings about the right effect. Through this introspection, the effect becomes deeper and deeper and at one time it touches the very Soul.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru!