To cure ourselves, we will have to learn to fight with ourselves. Over a lifetime we build habits and incarnations that shape our personalities. We continue with some bad habits – like over-eating, over-spending, over-indulging - because we often lack the self-restraint to stop when we should. However, we must learn to rule over our appetites rather than letting our appetites rule us. Over-indulgence can lead to intoxication. We have to learn to bring our body and mind under some degree of control. Self-control is simply defined as the mastery over the Self; the capacity of individuals to restrain their own emotions, desires and impulses, so that they can serve others. To exercise Self-control is to grow progressively in impersonality, because the Self is integrally associated with the personality. Put another way, it means that we have to realise the Self – which can be defined as a unit or spark of consciousness. It is said that the goal of life is the realisation of the Self, and the method to be adopted for this is Self-control. This control or restraint of the Self has been termed Yoga. The Self can be both the friend and enemy of the Self – through the restraint or the lifting up of the Self by the Self. For example, we sometimes put restrictions on our bodily personality - we do not speak or eat much, we do not sleep on soft cushions or beds, or do things that may be regarded as conveniences or luxuries. However, Self-control is not merely the control of the body, or of the activities taking place within the body; we are also psychologically in contact with many things in the world, organic as well as inorganic. The study of Self is the study of the meaning of life. It is not a study of objects or things; it is a study of significances and values. What can be a greater education than an instruction in Self, which is the primary Reality of life? When we take to the path of Yoga, we have to first understand where we actually are. In the process of Self-control, we have to take into consideration the immediate concerns of the Self and then go inwardly, step by step, to the subtler concerns of the Self. The lower connotation of Self has to be subdued and absorbed – through sublimation - by its higher connotation; the lower meaning of the Self needs to be raised to its higher meaning. It becomes more abstract as we proceed further; finally, only concepts and ideas and notions matter.
The connotations of Self - the various meanings that we give to the notion of Self - are very important in our study of spirituality. The lowest concept of Self is the situation in which we are today, at this present moment – defined its objects, fields of activity, connections and operations. We cannot be fully aware of how many objects are associated with Self-consciousness, but at a given moment of time we can take into consideration those factors of objectivity that are vitally connected with our conscious life. As spiritual seekers we have to live in the present, concerning ourselves with the present state of our consciousness and studying it. When we recognise ourselves in other persons and things, we temporarily forget our bodily personality. For instance, people who are extremely attached to certain persons and things are more conscious of them than of their own selves. It is our consciousness, not our body, which has transferred itself to other objects. It does so with pious intent… but there can be foolish piety too. The road to hell is often paved with good intentions. There must be understanding behind the intentions. We should not be ‘foolishly good’. We cannot be self-deceptive in our practices. We need to be conducive to the blossoming of the spiritual consciousness within. We must try to see, hear, taste, touch and smell pure things. This control of our senses has to be undertaken gradually - in the beginning, by living in a ‘holy’ atmosphere, and then by the intake of simple food for the senses, while also reducing the magnitude or quantity of intake. Various methods have to be adopted to control the Self. Consciousness will not yield easily to worldly arguments or threats. The heart (and mind) has a reason that (even) reason does not know.
‘When I have to control the Self, I mortify my body, harass my mind, torture my intellect and put myself to such hardship that I may pass for a Yogi or a seeker of Reality’.
Social ascent is not the criteria for success in Yoga. We may be very big ‘Yogis’ in society, but could be poor Yogis in the eyes of God. Social ‘progress’ often cloaks us like a psychological cobweb, which may blur the vision of our inner consciousness.
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 30 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org