There is a great illusion about our existence – a great cosmic illusion that deceives us into thinking that the material world in which we are living is real. How do we free ourselves from this illusion? We need to conquer the mind - because it is the mind that creates the illusion. For this, we need to first empty the mind of all thoughts and attain a mental stillness; this is a pre-condition for examining the world and its real nature. We can then get glimpses of another person residing within us, who remains hidden because of a separate ego-filled entity that we create for ourselves. The relationship between these two separate entities needs to be understood and analysed. The person inside is part of the cosmic consciousness and does not die; whereas the other self, which is manifested in the form of the body and the mind, must die. The lack of our relationship with the inner entity, due to the illusion that what we (as the external body) are seeing is the truth, makes us forget how important it is to remain connected with the eternal consciousness that is beyond the physical body. To discover that eternal life, we need to explore deep into ourselves. To accomplish this, we need to conduct self-analysis on a daily basis. We will then soon start realising that the superior consciousness is not something outside of our self, but very much inside us.
It is through meditation that our personality – a blending of the physical, mental, intellectual and the spiritual - is made into one harmonious whole. Meditation is the highest spiritual discipline. Through meditation we come to experience peace within and without, and the mind begins to view life as a whole. It starts with the practice of detaching ourselves from our body, mind and intellect, and impartially observing the motives, intentions and purposes that lie behind our thoughts, words and deeds. It is no easy feat to accomplish. Self- analysis and self-criticism are hard and relentless tasks. At every stage our ego, our self-conceit, tries to cover our faults and shortcomings, and invests them with a false charm. No person can easily understand himself as he is. Even to the best of us, it is a severe challenge to (be able to) observe ourselves. The contrast between ‘what we actually are’ and ‘what we believe ourselves to be’ is the first great hurdle to be crossed by every spiritual aspirant. Self-analysis is the only means to relieve this initial blockade. That is how we can remove our defects and grow rapidly in spirituality. We should uncover our defects through daily self-analysis, and then eradicate them through suitable methods - which can be meditation, association with the wise, and/or dietetic regulations. We should destroy not only the big waves of pride, hypocrisy, lust, anger etc., which manifest on the surface of the conscious mind, but also their subtle impressions that lurk in the corners of the subconscious mind. The practice of self-analysis demands patience, application, perseverance, iron will, subtle intellect and courage. But in the process we will gain precious and priceless fruits – of Immortality, supreme peace and infinite bliss. We should apply our full mind, heart, intellect and soul to spiritual practice. We need to note how many good actions we have done and what mistakes we have committed during the course of the day. In self-analysis we use the physical mind to try to examine our obscure past and our subconscious. We say, “I have done the right thing,” or “I have done the wrong thing.” There is always a positive and negative. But we have to go beyond this. In the Upanishads it is said that we have to accept ignorance and knowledge, and then go beyond…to where all is divine wisdom. There will always be a strong pull from the negative forces in the mind. Like a magnet they will pull us, even though we are trying to discard whatever we think is wrong. The difficulty is that we do not use the soul’s light to strengthen our willpower. The lower propensities and the wrong forces have tremendous power, and this comes in the form of temptation. If we give way to this temptation we will be totally lost. Self-analysis belongs to the German tradition of revealing depths, thanks to a method based on conceptual reversals. Introspection gives one the opportunity to notice the shade surrounding the luminous area of conscience, whereas self-analysis attempts at discovering the nocturnal side of an apparently diurnal semblance.
If we want the quickest and most convincing way to transform our nature into a divine one, we have to aspire. Aspiration is the only ultimate solution to the problems of human limitation. Most aspirants to the path of spiritual enlightenment start the journey with some preconceived ideas and expectations. One of the major reasons why many people cannot sustain the practice or the intensity of the involvement with which they begin, is this preconceived notion about the progress on the path. Many suffer self-criticisms, and at times low self-esteem, when they make the grave mistake of comparing themselves with others on the path. We should patiently persevere. It is the deep self-appreciation for our baby steps that will make our journey less arduous and more joyful - each baby step takes us to our adulthood in spirituality. We need to enjoy the travel, our unique experiences, and our dry and wet paths. Pricks and provocations give us the tools for transformation. How else would we know our spiritual progress, if our most adored beliefs were not put to the acid test? Even if we can prove once that we have not surrendered to our usual mode of habitual behaviour (for example, instead of being angry we could be calm and compassionate), then we know that we are progressing spiritually. However, while spiritual experiences on the arduous journey will encourage and inspire us to keep going, they are not the journey. Spirituality is not something that we are trying to experience through our senses or our restlessness. The bud of spiritual opportunity or our Divine potentiality takes its own natural time to blossom…into a beautiful fragrant flower. One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive and forget our past wounds. In spite of understanding the undercurrent of pain that they create, people just cling to them. This is because repetitive thoughts on the same wound have gone deep into our psyche. This hinders spiritual progress. It is essential to find release, and to create space in our minds. The best way is to relax our body, focus on our breath, and when the mind calms down, visualise the wound and the person and say, “I release you from all the anger and pain that you have caused me into the light of forgiveness and peace.” Repeat this every night before you go to sleep, till you feel the wound is healed and you are free. It truly works. The goal is to reach a point of equanimity between happiness and unhappiness. We then realise that we are but mere witnesses of the play of the Divine and that our Self is beyond good and bad, success and failure…and thus will we be free forever. If we are serious spiritual seekers, our intellect will be distilled by the conscientious endeavour to discriminate between the temporary and the permanent, and between the relative and the absolute. Spiritual experience is essentially a transformational and transcendental experience. We cannot remain the same after the experience, for we shall be elevated to a higher self every time we analyse ourselves. This may take lives, or it may take only a few minutes - it all depends upon the preparedness of the soul to realise that there is no individual and that all is universal. Let us enjoy the journey, let us not complain, and let us not put conditions and waste our energy on expectations. Rather, let us truly un-condition and empty ourselves…for then the cup of life will overflow without our even knowing it. From time to time we need to conduct a self-assessment, to check our progress on the spiritual path. This can help to encourage and reassure us, on this often long and arduous journey. We need to practise regular and impartial self-analysis, maintain continual vigilance over our mind and surrender to the ultimate will of the Divine. These practices will help ignite our inner Divine spark, which possesses its own pure energy.
Dr. Rajesh Bhola is President of Spastic Society of Gurgaon and is working for the cause of children with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities for more than 25 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com