“Better change your ways for I hate the things you do!” A very familiar statement indeed, expressing disapproval over something we don’t like in someone. Many even lament about existing situations in life and expect them to change, without ever pondering at one’s own deficiencies that may actually need correction. Thinking of changing other people or situations, however, only reflects the variety of woes that have darkened our own hearts!
Fighting the Demons
What goes on in the outer world, if unacceptable, creates waves of agitation and restlessness, causing the demon of wrath to raise its ugly head in most people that invariably eats away the peace of mind the same instant.
That’s exactly what Swami Sri Yukteshwar ji said, “An outburst of anger generally stems from a thwarted desire.” It is sometimes too difficult to quell such a rage as the seeds of those desires are embedded too deep in us.
Uncontrolled anger is the cause of many tumults that afflict relationships in a family or at workplace. Memories of pain and suffering experienced by us and that inflicted on others, as offshoots of our own anger, do prod us to exercise restraint on such impulsive outbursts but sadly, each time in future our desires are thwarted, we forget all past lessons learned in the darkness that engulfs us only to err again.
Such is the trauma of this vicious cycle that due to lack of self control, not only does the demon of anger, but also those of lust, greed and attachment lash upon us repeatedly. Trapped in delusive consciousness, as we all are to some degree, the grip of these demons tighten upon us each time we let loose our ego, and indulge excessively in thoughts or acts of mere sense gratification.
At the root of ego consciousness lies our passionate attachment to people and things that drives our mind to have many desires for enjoying the seeming pleasures associated with what we are attached to. Look at the overly attached relationship of a mother with her child. Though a mother’s love is unconditional, her feelings of attachment may become the cause of expecting something in return, mistakenly pinning hopes that her child will behave in a certain way that she wants.
This completely overrides the basic fact that every person is unique and has an innate personality that does take shape with the environment conducive for growth but is nonetheless, inimitable and deserves respect. A child may, therefore, blossom into a grown-up person with traits and mental ideology sometimes completely different from that of both parents.
In the same way, the over-tight bonds of attachment in other relationships cause much trouble due to the underlying, inevitable sheaths of expectations from those whom we supposedly love. Who needs to change in such situations? Though we demand that the other person must change to accommodate our idiosyncrasies, it is indeed the time that we change our ways by shedding attachments.
That’s why P. Yogananda said, “Look at life with non-attachment. You will gradually free yourself from identification with this dream world.”
As we earnestly tread on a spiritual path, allowing our Guru to guide and discipline us, we grow in our understanding about the futility of sense-gratifying attitudes and behaviour, and slowly begin to develop the power of self control and discipline.
Yoganandaji said that, “Self control is not self torture, but leads instead to soul happiness.” He further said that, “Self control must not be lost even at the greatest provocation.” Be what life’s circumstances, the ability to exercise control on the way we react to them is the key to stay calm. Indeed, for all sincere truth seekers, the battlefield of life is all too real where they valiantly fight the foes of delusion by always keeping their armour of self control ready for defense.
Such spiritual warriors make a conscious effort to remain non-attached from people and things, for all they are ardently seeking is the eternal happiness of the soul. This is not being indifferent as in non-attachment there is togetherness and a feeling of being unified with the whole universe that makes the heart more understanding and compassionate to all.
Thus, by practicing self control what one indeed develops is the ability to make right choices from a medley of life’s options as the power of discrimination sharpens.
The Tree of Life
In the Bhagawad Gita, the Ashvattha tree (pipal or holy fig tree) is referred symbolically to represent the worldly illusion. It sheds light on the composite existence of man in three bodies: physical, astral and causal representing a triple inverted tree with roots of cranial nerves, life force rays and consciousness above the physical, astral and causal spinal trunks and the triple branches hanging below.
This human tree of life, deeply rooted in habits of material living, is further described to have three kinds of leaves: sensations, life force and thought perceptions, which connect the body with the outside world. Only by felling this tree of material delusion by the axe of non-attachment that one can raise one’s consciousness to reach cosmic consciousness and realize one’s own divinity.
Meditation helps to develop this axe of non-attachment, the very moment one realizes that the joy experienced in meditation is far greater and more enjoyable than all pleasures of this world.
Counsel of Sister Gyanamata
The most advanced woman disciple of P. Yogananda, Sister Gyanamata, counseled her students to daily practice meditation and follow these three instructions: God alone is the doer; Have unruffled patience and Practice non-attachment.
The practice of Kriya yoga, a simple yet very powerful pranayama, helps to control the life force energy in the spine, which makes one less reactive and calmer to life’s situations by not allowing the demons of anger, lust, greed and attachment to gain foothold in our consciousness. Having unwavering faith in God and waiting for His response, to the many calls of our heart, is an attitude of living in humility.
To change our thought patterns for bringing transformative changes in our attitude and behavior, ‘affirmations’ are very powerful tools. Yoganandaji has given many scientific healing affirmations that can help in uplifting our consciousness, pulling us out from delusive states of consciousness.
Prayers are also very effective tools for bringing the Divine Light where it is needed as a heartfelt, sincere prayer makes one accessible to the Divine omnipresent power that showers as grace or blessings. Sister Gyanmata says that we can ask the Guru to pray for us. In the book God Alone, she writes about Brother Lawrence who in the face of failure prayed to God saying, “That is the way I am; that is the way I shall always be unless You help me.”
Sure, the ability to dismiss, at will, the many demons of delusion comes through spiritual understanding of the higher reality that life is a Divine play and we are all here on the earthly plane only for our souls to learn some lessons before they can merge back into the Light of God.
This understanding, however, does not dawn easily for we are habituated, through incarnations, to live in the darkness of delusion. Just as a rope rubbed repeatedly against a rock leaves a mark on it, the assault by demons of delusion on our rocky unchanging self does at some point leaves a mark on our consciousness, which is when we begin to seek Divine guidance.
Our heart’s call then makes a self realized Guru come to our rescue to whom we say, with tears of repentance, “Change Me!”