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Spiritual Discipline

 Satsang by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

In spiritual life it is necessary to know exactly what you are trying to achieve. Whether in tantra or yoga, there is only one thing that man is trying to arrive at, and that is the awakening of his latent forces. These forces are a part of his existence. They are so important for his evolution that by awakening them, man can become superman.

Out of the ten parts of the brain, only one part is now functioning. Our perception, cognition, etc. are the outcome of this one part only. The other nine parts are inactive; they play no part, no role in our life. Men live and die without awakening these areas of the brain. Of course, the natural process of evolution is taking place, but it is going to take millions of years. By that time perhaps the earth might not exist. It is worth an experiment to awaken the totality of human consciousness in this very lifetime. In my opinion that is the ultimate purpose of spiritual life.

These nine areas of the brain contain potential energy, not merely psychic awareness but total knowledge and shakti. The brain is like a big city with beautiful roads, houses and street lights. Inside the houses are televisions, radios and electrical installations. Now this city is desolate and uninhabited because there is no electricity. All we have to do is to connect it with the main generating station and it will become a city of light and life.

 

The city is here in the brain. Illumining the city is the process for which the whole life has to be properly set. This objective must be very clear and exact in your mind. Now, how are you going to awaken or realise this divine city? Where is the generating station and the connecting cable?

Tantra and kundalini yoga have made it very clear that mooladhara chakra is the generating station, sushumna is the connecting station, and ajna chakra is the local substation. The existing amount of prana and state of mind cannot awaken this silent area. In order to feed that silent city we need an enormous quantity of energy. With the help of prana and mind, the intellect and the different systems of the body may function, but not the silent areas of the brain. In order to have the necessary quantum of energy, mooladhara chakra has to be awakened. Then the energy has to be conducted to ajna chakra via sushumna.

If awakening of the totality of energy and consciousness is the ultimate aim and destiny of man, what are those elements and behaviours which activate and which suppress this awakening? I am not talking in terms of good or bad. For me, there is neither sinner nor puritan. We have to make a clear-cut definition of pro-evolution and pro-awakening. If a certain type of life is able to create awakening, then that is the way we must live.

Transformation or self-punishment

Before an awakening can be brought about, a lot of changes have to take place, not only on the intellectual plane but in the basic structure of consciousness. The entire form must be changed. The very purpose of yoga and spiritual life is to bring about this state of transformation in the structure of the personality. When you accept the process of transformation as a primary hypothesis, then you should also be prepared to experience everything that follows transformation.

Transformation is a very clear process, and it forms the basis of the guru/disciple relationship. The same process is applied whether the relationship is external, in which case I am guru and you are disciple, or internal when a part of me is guru and a part of me is disciple. In order to clarify this, let us take the example of a carpenter.

A carpenter takes a piece of wood, cuts it into different sizes and then drives nails into it in various places. If only that piece of wood could speak out during this ordeal, it would make a horrible accusation: ‘Look here, I am being misused and abused by this dirty carpenter.’ But ultimately the wood is transformed into a beautiful piece of furniture as an outcome of the carpenter’s cruelty.

Take another example, that of a tailor. A piece of cloth lying in a shop is brought to a tailor to be made into a shirt. First the cloth has to be cut to size. So the tailor cuts it with sharp scissors. Next he stitches it with a sharp needle until finally he pierces each and every part of the cloth. Imagine if you were that piece of cloth and I were the tailor. With every prick, you would say, ‘This swami is so bad.’

Ultimately, however, it is not the cutting and stitching process that is important, but the finished product. The tailor or carpenter must have a very clear vision of this in mind before taking up the work. Otherwise, both time and material will be wasted. For example, if you give a saw and some wood to a person who is not a carpenter, who has no vision, he will cut the wood into many pieces. Finally, he will not know what to do with them, so they will just lie there, poor little bits.

This is what often happens in the life of yoga, whether you are dealing with disciples or your own self. Therefore, when you practise yoga and spiritual life, it is necessary to understand that the purpose is transformation and awakening; it is not self-punishment. There is not something inimical within you which has to be killed. During the process of transformation there are things which are left behind. At the same time, there are elements which come forth spontaneously. The human being throws off scales like a serpent. Therefore, it is very important to know exactly what you are becoming. If your vision is not clear, then whatever process you put yourself through will be one of self-punishment rather than transformation.

New dimension of discipline

Many people undergo strict discipline in life. They fast and meditate, keep silence and practise celibacy. But unless you understand the real purpose for these restraints, they become a type of punishment which you inflict upon yourself. Sometimes you are angry with yourself so you undergo a life of austerity to punish yourself. This unnecessary austerity creates a great division in your personality. One part of you becomes a puritan and another part a sinner. The sinner wants to remain a sinner, while the puritan is always trying to punish and execute the sinner. This division of personality has to be dissolved. Neither puritanism nor licentiousness helps in spiritual life.

 

There are moments in life when you have to give yourself to the fulfilment of sensory pleasures in order to work out karma. In this particular respect, you should accept one thing without any doubt. The life of the senses and the mind is not anti-evolutionary, it is pro-evolutionary. Fulfilment of desires in life is a part of spiritual illumination. But, at the same time, you have to remember your purpose. It is not for the fulfilment of sensual life, but the fulfilment of your spiritual vision that you are following this pattern of life.

All spiritual practices ultimately lead you to the point of awakening. The life you choose, the religion you follow, all the food you have fixed for yourself, should be in accordance with the fulfilment of this purpose. Now that the objective is clear in your mind, you have to design each and every item of your life. The austerity, control and restraint that you practise must all have a purpose. Only then can you ensure that your life does not become a religious ritual.

Now we are giving a new dimension to this word discipline. Fulfilment of the objective has to be the purpose of discipline. Discipline for the sake of discipline is just abnormal behaviour. But when you are following a certain system of life which has an objective and a purpose, then discipline has some meaning. Discipline is different from individual to individual and from society to society. What is discipline for one may be a punishment for another, according to the level of understanding and the purpose.

Therefore, the aspirant of yoga should formulate the pattern of his life according to this threefold purpose: (i) the awakening of kundalini, (ii) the awakening of sushumna, and (iii) the awakening of the silent areas of the brain. Keeping these threefold aims in view, you have to set your yoga practices and formulate your moral code. Whatever you do for this triple purpose is to be defined as spiritual discipline.

Yogic discipline

For the awakening of kundalini, it is important that sushumna nadi be purified. In order to purify sushumna, you have to practise a lot of pranayama. When you practise a little pranayama only, it doesn’t matter, but when you practise a lot, you have to take care of so many things. You have to know the rules and regulations which control the practices of prana in relation to food and life. This is a form of spiritual discipline, and the person who follows it will never feel any difficulty, sense of punishment or restriction, because the practice of pranayama is very necessary to awaken sushumna.

When you practise pranayama you have to practise kumbhaka as well. In fact, kumbhaka, which means ‘retention of breath’ is the ultimate definition of pranayama. In conjunction with pranayama, you also have to practise bandhas. When you practise moola bandha and other bandhas, naturally your mental and psychic system is affected. If your stomach, mind, or emotions are constipated; if your family or social life are too complicated; and if your mental personality lives like a vagabond dog, you can just imagine what the practice of pranayama with bandhas is going to do.

A strong kumbhaka with jalandhara, uddiyana and moola bandha, creates heat in the body. This heat is known as the fire of yoga. It is not only spiritual or psychic in nature, it is also physical and affects the metabolism as well as the psycho-spiritual system. When enough heat is created, there is a powerful explosion and an awakening takes place. How are you going to maintain a balance in the heat that has been created by the awakening? For this, there are special rules and regulations given in the yogic texts: “Neither too much eating, nor too much fasting; neither too much sleeping, nor too much vigil; neither too much talking, nor too much silence.” Extremes are for from helpful on the path of awakening. The practitioner has to understand the important things: proper food, adequate sleep, and the right kind of social interaction. All these things create a balance, and they also balance the complications that could arise due to the awakening.

Think of yourself as a carpenter. The body, mind, psyche and spirit are your material. With these four materials you are creating a fully evolved being. With the scissors of spiritual discipline, you have to cut everything to size. This means that you have to train the physical and mental systems. Later you have to train the psychic system, and ultimately you will have to train the spiritual system.

In order to train the physical system there are the practices of hatha yoga. When you practise hatha yoga, you know exactly what the rules and regulations are. These are the discipline for the hatha yogi because through them he is able to fulfil his purpose. In order to train the mind, you have to practise raja yoga, and in order to channelize your emotions, you will have to practise bhakti yoga.

The channelization of surplus or unruly emotion is most important, otherwise you will have trouble in the psychic body. In order to train the psychic body, you will have to undergo a lot of difficulties. The psychic body is a wild elephant, or an untamed tiger. Being very powerful, it refuses to be tamed. It is the house of all psychic dreams and experiences. In order to tame this psychic body, the aspirant has to undergo a special type of life. Very few people leading a normal type of life have been able to obtain this psychic power. As you tame the emotions by bhakti yoga, the mind by raja yoga, and the body by hatha yoga, you train the psychic body by ashram yoga.

Mission of man

In order to evolve quickly, we must be prepared to accept any kind of discipline from physical to psychic, and we should not brand it as ‘religious’ or ‘good for swamis but not for me’. If you want to fulfil your destiny, then you should be prepared to accept every discipline. To others, this may seem like a punishment but, in fact, it is not.

You are ready to undergo hardships for whatever you want to accomplish in the material life, not necessarily for the awakening of kundalini or spiritual powers. Many times when you are working on a project in your life, you follow a path of adventure. When you plunge into this adventure for the fulfilment of some material project, your normal life undergoes a total change in so far as programming is concerned. You no longer care for your family, the food you eat, where or how you sleep. The most important point is accomplishment of the project. In order to fulfil that purpose, maybe it is gaining an empire, the establishment of an industry, or the discovery of some medicinal plants, people throughout the ages have made all kinds of sacrifices. They have gone without the necessities of the ordinary life. They have jumped over their personal emotions, passions, ambitions. For an onlooker, it seems horrible, ‘What kind of man is this? He doesn’t eat; he doesn’t sleep; he doesn’t dress like a gentleman. He has no wife and children. Look how dirty he is; his clothes smell.’

A man with a mission does not care for pain and pleasure. Every man has to live with a mission, and the mission of man, the destiny of man, is to awaken the silent city. So the definition of discipline in the light of spiritual life, is that which we do for the fulfilment of this mission. 
May 20, 2013 | Satsang | 0