Sunday, February 6, 2011

Means of Soul Development

(आत्म-उन्नति के साधन)

(Following is a liberal translation of an article written by Guru Maharaj, and published in the August 1937 issue of Sadhan. Sri Pradip Ji read this in our recent weekly Sunday satsang. Some of our friends who had attended the satsang on web and audio conference asked us to translate and post it on our website.)

This article is a follow-up of Guru Maharaj’s article published in the July 1937 issue of Sadhan. In the first paragraph, Guru Maharaj tells us, “Scriptures tell us that the Atman (soul) is everlasting, indestructible, and indeterminable; never is this One born and never does It die; this One is eternal, pure and unchangeable. The question arises as to if the Atman cannot be degraded, how can It be elevated? What is meant by (आत्म-उन्नति) Soul Development? This question has arisen in many minds without a satisfactory answer. Today, we will reflect on this question as to what is (आत्म-उन्नति) Soul Development. And, what are its (साधन) means?”

The first two lines of the second paragraph reads, “You know that Prakriti (Primordial Matter) is composed of three modes: 1. Sattva, 2. Rajas, and 3. Tamas. Humans are also made up of three entities: 1. Atman, 2. Mind, and 3. Body, and all of our activities are conducted through these.” Prior to the liberal translation of the article, I will expand briefly on these two aphorisms.

Sankhya tells us that Prakriti is indiscrete and defines it as having the perfect balance of materials. In the primal state before any manifestation, there was no motion, but perfect balance. This Prakriti was imperishable because decomposition or death comes from instability. Again, according to the Sankhya, it is the primordial materials from which the universe is made of.

In Particle Physics, an elementary particle is understood not to have substructure; that is, it is believed not to be made up of smaller particles. If an elementary particle truly has no substructure, then it is one of the basic building blocks of the universe from which all other particles are made. In the Standard Model, the quarks, leptons, etc. are considered elementary particles. Historically, electron, proton, neutron and even whole atoms were once regarded as elementary particles. However, these elementary particles of the Standard Model are not the primal state. This universe does not evolve from quarks and leptons; they may be the second or third or nth successions. The primordial material may form into quarks etc. and become grosser and bigger things; current investigations point in the same direction.

According to the Sankhya, nature is omnipresent - one omnipresent mass. And in that omnipresent mass are the causes of everything that exists. Further, the effect pre-exists in the cause. Cause and effects are seen as different temporal aspects of the same thing – the effect lies latent in the cause, which in turn seeds the next effect. More specifically, the Sankhya categorically states that the effect is a real transformation of the cause. The cause under consideration here is Prakriti, or more precisely, Primordial Matter. The Sankhya system is an exponent of an evolutionary theory of matter beginning with primordial matter. In evolution, Prakriti is transformed and differentiated into multiplicity of objects. Evolution is followed by dissolution. In dissolution, the physical existence, and all worldly objects, mingle back into Prakriti, which now remains as the undifferentiated, primordial substance. This is how the cycles of evolution and dissolution follow each other.

Sankhya declares loudly that Prakriti is the source of the world of becoming. It is pure potentiality that evolves itself successively into twenty-four elements. The evolution itself is possible because Prakriti is always in a state of tension among its three constituent strands:

  • Sattva – a template of goodness, it reflects the light of consciousness and is irradiated by it, so it has the quality of radiance;
  • Rajas – a template of passion, expansion, activity;
  • Tamas – a template of darkness, inertia, resistance to action.

Sattva contributes to the stability of the universe, Rajas to its creative movement, and Tamas represents the tendency of things to decay and die.

According to the scriptures, each man consists of three parts — the body, the mind inclusive of internal organs, and behind that, what is called the Atman, the Self. The body is the external coating, and the mind is the internal coating of the Atman, who is the real perceiver, the real enjoyer, the being in the body who is working the body by means of the internal organ or the mind.

The Atman is the only existence in the human body, which is independent of the Prakriti – that is, it is not composed of matter. Since it is non-matter and non-material, it does not obey the laws of cause and effect and is not subject to decay. It is beyond the reach of Prakriti; it is immortal. That which is immortal can have no beginning; because everything with a beginning must have an end. Implicit in immortality being that it must be formless. There cannot be any form without matter. Everything with form must have a beginning and an end. None of us have seen a form with no beginning or end. A form results from force acting upon matter. It can be said that a form comes out of a combination of force and matter. This coffee cup has a peculiar form. That is to say a certain quantity of matter is acted upon by a certain amount of force and made to assume a particular shape. The form is the result of a combination of matter and force. This combination, or any combination, cannot be eternal. There must come a time when every combination will dissolve. All forms must have a beginning and an end. We know our body will perish. It had a beginning and will have an end. But the Self, having no form, cannot be bound by the law of beginning and end. It has been in existence from infinite time; just as time is eternal, so is the Self of man eternal. Secondly, it must be all-pervading. It is only form that is conditioned and limited by space; that which is formless cannot be confined in space. So, according to Scriptures, the Self, the Atman, in you, in me, in everyone, is omnipresent. One is as much in the sun now as in this earth, as much in India as in America. But the Self acts through the mind and the body, and where they are, its action is visible.

The mind has been compared to a maddened monkey. There was a monkey, restless by its own nature, as all monkeys are. As if that restlessness was not enough, someone made him drink lots of wine, so that he became still more restless. Then a scorpion stung him. When a scorpion stings a man, he jumps about for a whole day; so the poor monkey found his condition worse than ever. To complete his misery, a demon entered into him. What language can describe the uncontrollable restlessness of that monkey? The human mind is like that monkey, incessantly active by its own nature; then it becomes drunk with the wine of desire, thus increasing its turbulence. After desire takes possession, comes the scorpion’s sting of jealousy at the success of others, and last of all, the demon of pride enters the mind, making it think itself of all-importance. The activities of the organs are the media for the expression of desire. Desire covers the Knowledge of Self by stimulating these.

In present context, body stands for physical body, the outermost covering of the Atman. It is inert. As energy is imparted by the Atman through the mind, it becomes active and reflects the mind. Because the body is inert, it is called Tamasic.

Sattva associates itself with the Atman and becomes one with It. Rajas takes control of the mind, identifies itself with the mind, and imparts its qualities to the mind. It makes the mind agitated and restless. It starts affecting temperament by moments. Becoming a slave of desire and sensual satisfaction, the mind becomes engrossed in the mundane. The essence of the mind becomes that which is projected on it. The world is in a state of constant flux. As the world changes, the things of the world change, and with these changes comes turbulence. Because of the association and identification with the changes and turbulence, the mind grows turbulent and full of anxieties and tensions. This is DEGRADATION. Since the Atman is embedded with the mind, it also becomes turbulent, etc. The Atman identifies itself with the mind, forgets its own nature and becomes confused. Subtle Reduction in the attachment to the body and the outside world with increments in association with the Atman is (आत्म-उन्नति) Atman Development. Atman, not being subject to change, always remains the same. Establishing the mind into the Atman and closing its activities which is dominated by Rajas is (आत्म-उन्नति) Atman Development.

Now, to the article of August 1937 – The means of Atman Development have no relationship with the Atman. These means are to have the mind associate with the Atman and dissociate itself with the world. The power of perception does not lie with the sense organs; rather it rests with the mind. Where does the mind get this power? The mind itself is inert. It has no power of its own. The Atman imparts its energy to the mind, and the mind acts through the sense organs. Let us look at what the word "organ" means. Here are the eyes; the eyes are not the organs of vision but only the instruments. Unless the organs also are present, I cannot see, even if I have eyes. But, given both the organs and the instruments, unless the mind attaches itself to these two, no vision takes place. So, in each act of perception, assuming the external instruments and the internal organs are present and defect-free, there will be no perception in the absence of mind. Thus, the mind acts through two agencies — one external and the other, internal. When I see things, my mind goes out and becomes externalized. But suppose I close my eyes and begin to think; the mind does not go out. It is internally active. In either case, the mind remains like the maddened monkey.

There was a time when the mind used to be associated with the Atman and, under the influence of the Sattva, remained tranquil and reposed. It was looking inward. Then, it associated itself with the Rajas and started looking outside (world). Acting through the senses, organs, and instruments, it started tasting the bittersweet fruit. It has gotten so much engrossed in the world that it has forgotten Atman.

The mind became extroverted. It severed its relationship with the Atman (Sattva) and established with the outside world (Rajas). It became entangled with the sense objects and became one of them. Now, it is playing outside, and like a spoiled child does not want to come in. These are the signs of mind becoming worldly. As long as the mind stays like that, it will be in tension, in misery. Laws of Karma will not allow it a restful state. It will not have peace until it moves away from the world and moves towards the Atman, the source of uninterrupted joy.

Guru Maharaj very emphatically states, “Changing the mind’s attention from the world to the Atman, from outwards to inwards; developing the longing for Atman and a non-attachment towards worldly objects; repudiating the body and bodily attachments, establishing connection with the Atman, and ultimately becoming one with the Atman is Abhyas (practice) and Sadhan. This is the essence of the sages’ and saints’ teachings, which Guru Maharaj has imparted to us.

It took us some time to get into the world and become attached to it. Each work we do, each thought we think, produces an impression upon the mind. It is called Samskara, and the sum total of these impressions becomes the tremendous force, which is called "character". The character of a man is what he has created for himself. The force of character is such that it compels one to do things that he would do against his better judgment. Literally, one is a slave of his character.

The sum total of the habits of a man is his nature. It has come about as a result of his giving himself over to the bent of his mind. Unwillingly, he has become the creature of his own mind, typical to restlessness. Through Abhyas and Sadhan, we can eradicate old habits with new ones, change nature through nurturing, and replace the old tendencies in the mind that dictate our behavior by instilling new Samskaras.

We mentioned earlier that it took us time to develop our nature. Who knows how many birth and death cycles we have gone through to reach the bottom of the pit where we are now. It follows that to rise from the bottom, developing new habits would require some time. A child does not become scholar in a day. A long journey is not completed in minutes. Move slowly. Keep going forward with courage. Do not get discouraged by the difficulties encountered in your journey; they will come and leave. Success is yours. Hurriedness is not good. Do not try to bring time before its time. Rushing rarely gets the job done. Never, never let despair take control of you. Keep moving forward with faith in the Guru and the Sadhana that he gave us. This is the key to getting to your goal.