|The Jain path
The Flame in the Candle
Anyone who is in a hypnotic trance or under a spell is
not going to act according to his own will. Why not? Because his will has
been subdued. It has been subjected to someone else's command, to the
suggestion of the hypnotist. So the person performs an action, but does
not know why he is doing it. When you observe him, you cannot tell whether
his action comes from his own free will or from some suggestion.
This same thing happens in our own lives. The way we
move, dress, eat, communicate, think, and act is another kind of spell. We
go through various motions. We engage in a number of activities. But do we
know whether our action comes from self-awareness or from someone else's
suggestion? Can we detect whether we are acting according to a subtle
"brainwash" created by society, politics, religion, business, the world of
"isms"? Have we assimilated and internalized the influences of the outside
world to such an extent that our thoughts, desires, likes and dislikes,
actions and reactions are under their spell? Or are our lives flowing from
our own will, our own self-awareness ?
We may not be able to differentiate between the outer
influence and our own desire. We may not be able to isolate the factors
which are coloring our ways of thinking and living. So we keep on doing
the same thing. We continue to tread the same path, deepen the same rut
follow the same routine.
That is why we need meditation. Meditation is a process
to dehypnotize the human consciousness. This is the heart of the teaching.
Mind, body, and senses are all hypnotized We need to dehypnotize them. We
need to learn how to stand back and see.
It is not an easy task. Without standing back and
becoming a keen but dispassionate observer, we cannot detect the ways in
which the mind, body, and senses are entranced. Why is it so difficult?
Because it is mass hypnotism. Society influences in two ways: from mass
values and from sheer numbers. When the masses do something, it has a
hypnotic effect on the individual. For example, if ten people are dancing
and you are alone in a corner of the same room, even if you do not intend
to dance, you will feel like getting up to dance. If ten people are in a
room meditating and you come in intending to dance, you will not dance.
Even if the individual is strong, societal influence ultimately takes over
in the majority of cases. So mass values and customs influence the
minority and are perpetuated by the majority.
The bhavanas are for the seekers who are from different
backgrounds and of a wide range of mental, emotional, and physical habits
and patterns. They have not yet freed themselves from the spell of mass
hypnotism. These reflections are to free them from the spell. The primary
purpose of this teaching is to liberate the human consciousness.
In the sixth reflection, we distinguish between two
elements--suchi, the ascending, and asuchi, the descending. We observe
these two urges in us. Like the candle, we have something constantly
moving upward. We can call it the flame. We have another something melting
downward. It is the wax. These two have their own distinct natures.
What is moving upward? It is our longing to find
something pure and beautiful, something high and noble, something subtle
and divine. Each one of us has this quest. That is why we are called
aspirants, or sadhaka, meaning not complacent. We want each step to find
us farther than the last.
The dream you had ten years ago may have been realized
by now. You find that you want something more. You want to go further.
This "more" is the nature of that upward-moving element. Wherever you go
and whatever you receive, that "more" is there. It will remain till the
last, till you reach the best. You have not reached the height yet; that
is why that longing is there.
So meditate on suchi and ask yourself, "What is moving
upward in me? What is the pure, unique essence of life? Let me not confuse
that with other elements which are composing and decomposing."
Investigate, "What is the quality of my thoughts and
emotions? What is the frequency of my vibrations? Are they lifting me up
or taking me down? Are they increasing the heaviness in me, or are they
focused on revealing my light?"
It is very important to have a sense of discrimination
to differentiate between these two. Without this discriminating sense, we
run the risk of identifying our pure essence with the matter-laden
coverings weighing it down. Without the light of awareness, the mind
deludes us. That is the influence of the hypnotic spell. We allow
ourselves to live without the experience of who we really are. This is
There is no outside deceiver who can fool you more than
your own inaccurate thinking you may think, "I have everything. I can buy
any thing I want. I am happy." But unexpectedly sorrow creeps in and all
of a sudden your mood is depressed.
So we take a little time to investigate our inertia,
the heaviness which does not allow us to move. We see clearly what is
covered with shadow, sorrow, and heavy desires. Otherwise, the negative
vibrations which are the substance of those gravitating tendencies in us
will continue to attract karmas or particles of matter to us and obscure
our vision. As long as we allow our thoughts to run wild and unchecked,
our mind will be subjected to the continuing influx of these undesirable
Rather than suppress your thoughts, watch them. Do you
want to overcome sorrow and guilt? Then observe the way in which sorrow
works. Notice how it has a way of waiting in the corner a little distance
away and then how it tackles you all of a sudden without giving you a
chance to think. Your discriminatory sense itself tends to get covered.
One minute you were blossoming with a smile, the next minute you are sad
and morose. What has happened? Where has your happiness gone? Where was
this depressed mood waiting? It was waiting in the mind.
Once sorrow invades you, you have no strength to
overcome it. You sink lower and lower. You might have noticed that when
you are under the clouds of sadness, even if you recite a mantra and pray,
you are sometimes not able to lift yourself out of that feeling. In those
moments, where is all the wisdom? It remains in a corner. Though our heads
are filled with a lot of quotations, do we use them when we are under the
influence of sorrow? We do not. Though we have read books on how to be
happy, do they help us? Apparently not. It seems that we are only able to
use their wisdom when we are in a good mood. It is most important that we
learn to call upon our knowledge and insights to sustain us when we are in
a low state. We must remember them, call them forth, and put them to use.
Why don't we use our knowledge? Because intellectual
information and emotional feeling work in different directions. For
example, intellectually we know that anyone who comes into our life is
eventually going to go. We are aware that all are on a journey, coming and
going, but when that event happens in our life, how do we take it?
Intellectually we understand, but emotionally what is our reaction?
Meditation helps us bring that knowledge into our feeling. Experiencing
our feeling, we change our perception. Changing our perception, we become
ready to meet any challenge. Nothing comes as a shock or a surprise.
Understanding has been absorbed into our experience .
The wise person lives in the world, but not of it. He
lies with complete awareness. There is a Zen story which illustrates this.
Once there was a famous swordsman who was on his deathbed when his son
asked him, "What is your last wish, father?"
His father answered, "Oh, Matajura, my son, I had a
dream to see you become the greatest of swordsmen, but I failed."
Matajura told him, "And I also wanted to become that,
but the right teacher could not be found, and you also had no time to
Then his father said, "This wish is so strong that I am
going to live three more years to see that it is fulfilled. Though I am on
my deathbed, I shall not die."
So his son asked, "Who shall be my teacher?" His father
sent him to Banzo, who was known to be the master at that time.
The boy went to Banzo and bowed and said, "I want to
study with you and become a skilled swordsman. I am willing to devote
myself completely to this task. How long will it take for me to master the
The master answered, "Twelve years."
"Twelve years?" The boy was incredulous. "Suppose I use
every moment of my day and allow for only three hours' sleep, then how
long will it take?"
"Then it may take twenty years!" The boy did not
So the master explained, "One who is in haste and keeps
his eye only on the result and not on the process gets no result. I teach
not for result but for life. Master swordsmanship means to be vigilant, to
know how not to kill and yet how to protect oneself. You must know that in
the sword there is no friendly edge. If I teach only for result, you will
be sliced. What for? I care more for the welfare of your life."
Now the boy understood. He told the master, "Sir, I
drop the idea of timing. I request that you accept me as your student. I
will become a vessel to receive wisdom from you."
From that day, he was accepted as the master's student.
Now that his mind was calm, he was to receive a special training in
awareness. The first part of the training was to do many kinds of service
for his teacher. He washed his clothes, gardened, prepared food for him
kept the swords in order, and took care of many other things. In six
months, he was not given a single moment to learn how to hold or use the
sword, but he had patience.
One day while he was gardening, his teacher came and
hit him with a wooden sword. He told him, "From today I will come
unexpectedly. If you are aware, I will not hit you. If you are not aware,
I will strike you. Harder blows are to come.
"Yes, sir," the student answered. He was very serious
and eager to learn. He knew, "My teacher is harsh in appearance but soft
in feeling. I don't know why he is hurting me, but he must have some good
Soon the student began to be ready for a blow to come
from any direction and at any time. Before the teacher came, he would know
it. In this way, he became constantly alert and prepared for anything. As
soon as the master put his hand on his sheath, the student would become
aware and look up at him.
After that, his teacher told him, "Now starts the
second part of your training. I will come at night. If you do not awaken,
I will hit you." Each night the student would know even before the teacher
appeared. Day and night he was alert. He became a body with no desires.
His whole being was nothing but vigilance.
After two years, one night the master came not to hit
him, but to smile at him and praise him. "Now you are the best swordsman!"
"But you have not taught me!" protested his student.
"To practice the sword is not a big thing," the master
explained. "I can teach you that in a short time, but to be aware of which
direction the sword is coming from, that is the main thing. To be
vigilant, that is greatness.
To overcome impulses, habits, and inertia, that is real
mastery. Now go anywhere in the world. Nothing will cover you, for even
deep sleep does not make you slumber. My mission to teach you is over. It
was to make you aware."
In life, events come, vibrations hit us, karmas from
the past give us blows. If we are not aware, they can throw us off
balance. But if we are aware, we meet them as challenges. We meet them
with the infinite source of strength hidden within us. We must come to
know that strength. How do we come to know it? Through awareness of life.
Our awareness must be built on reverence for life. Then all actions are
directed from that reverence.
Nothing fetters or binds the person who is aware.
Working, sleeping, eating, communicating, you are aware of everything you
do as an act of reverence and love, honoring the one within who knows and
is vigilant. Then whatever you do is for your growth and freedom. You do
it without becoming attached or identified with the action. You see that
your motive is pure, just to be, just to evolve, just to live and help
others to live. In this way, you free yourself from the spell of greed and
other mass values, and you feel the power and joy of self-mastery.
We have seen how the unaware mind allows heavy
vibrations such as sorrow to invade it and act as a gravitating influence
in our life. Now we are going to consider the meaning of asuchi in another
way. The body itself is asuchi, that is, its nature is to decompose.
Ultimately, all the cells of the body disintegrate, and the components or
elements return to a simpler form.
What are the elements of the body? The ancients
referred to them as earth, water, fire, and air. For instance teeth and
nails relate to the earth element; blood and saliva to the water element;
body heat and the nervous system to the fire element; and breath to the
air element. These four elements constitute each human form. They are the
same everywhere. According to the particles of our past thoughts,
emotions, words, and deeds, which we call karmas, the elements take on
different shapes and colors. Innumerable designs and unique kaleidoscopic
patterns are seen, but the constituents do not change. In each body they
remain the same earth, the same water, the same fire, and the same air.
How is it that these four elements take on so many
different forms? The answer lies in the law of vibrations. Each and every
action of your life sends out vibrations that attract those physical
elements from the universe which will form the body accordingly. In this
way, your thinking, living, and doing create different forms and colors
from the basic elements of earth, water, fire, and air. The differences in
individuals reflect the innumerable differences in people's intentions,
feelings, and living patterns .
Becoming aware of this law of vibrations, you have no
need to feel guilty or sad. You begin to observe with balance the causes
and effects in your life and, at the same time, you stop blaming others
for the way you are. You eliminate the habit of false pride as well as the
habit of false humility, both of which occur from ignorance of Self. You
come into a distortionless state.
You can become more aware by meditating in this manner:
"My form is the reflection of my own thoughts. There is no need to fight
against it, complain about it, or waste time wishing that I had somebody
else's form. Whatever I have I accept. I can use it for my growth. If it
cannot attract people, it is all right. Now I am free to use this form for
service. In this way, I will be able to get rid of all the forms. I am on
the path to bringing an end to the cycle of birth and death. I am going to
reach Enlightenment. "
Often when you see some pleasant face or appealing
form, your attention is driven in that direction. Whenever you are driven
toward something in that way, the drive itself is the effect of hypnotism
or unclear thinking. Anything which takes you out of your own Self in
order to master, hold, or possess something or someone is an outside
influence. That influence will subside only when you see in your
experience that there is nothing in the world of forms which you can hold
on to permanently.
Why does this kind of hypnotic trance occur? It occurs
because of your having an obsession with the body. To break the
dependency, you have to see the elements of the body as they are.
Otherwise, there is no end to the ways in which mind and senses become
Now let us become more aware of the process the unaware
mind goes through when it is influenced. Observe the person whose eye is
attracted by a beautiful face; all the senses respond in that direction.
He begins to have thoughts of how to meet, and before long his mind is
making plans about the person. If he allows himself to be driven in this
way, without checking his thought or behavior patterns, the circle of
thinking will continue. By comparison with this new fantasy, his marriage
and family will begin to seem dull and uninteresting. His mind will have
gone somewhere else. So he uses all his energy to get what he expects to
be fresh excitement. You can see that the cause of divorce is the mind in
which the seed of attraction has taken root.
The mind continues to find some excuse to reinforce its
growing seed of desire. The person who might other-wise have been bothered
if his wife did not ask him, "What did you do today? Where were you?" now
becomes irritated by these same questions. Before his mind started playing
games with him, he would have appreciated her interest in his work. This
same man now thinks, "My wife is putting her nose into my activities." Or
he rationalizes by saying, "She is a hindrance to my growth. She doesn't
give me space."
Once a person allows this seed of attraction to grow,
it becomes a weed. It gathers momentum and takes over the person's whole
life. The person does not realize that this seed of attraction is none
other than dependency not seeing the body for what it is.
When you become aware of the way in which a hypnotic
trance invades the unaware mind and covers it with body- consciousness,
driving it to and fro in either attraction or aversion, you know the
importance of seeing yourself as a flame within the candle. In order to
break excessive concern with the body, the monks reflect on the lesson
taught by the nineteenth prophet in Jain history, a woman named Mallinatha.
Malli was a beautiful princess, who lived in the land
of Videha. From childhood everybody praised her flowering grace, her
refined complexion, her serene manner. When she was eighteen years of age,
poets were inspired to write verses about her and artists to paint her
portrait. Everyone loved to talk about Princess Malli.
In their travels, merchants and ministers, goldsmiths
and sculptors, brought news of her incomparable beauty to kings and
princes from near and far. One called her the "most wonderful creation on
earth," and another likened her to "fresh grapes on the vine." Still
another compared her to "a shower of white roses," and a wandering nun who
had seen her said she was like "the evening star." As soon as each of six
kings of neighboring lands heard these words, he became impatient to marry
the princess. Each sent a messenger with a letter to the king of Videha to
request the hand of the princess in marriage.
The first to arrive delivered a letter which stated, "I
am eager to marry your daughter, and for that I will do anything you
require of me. However, if you do not accept my offer, it will breed war
between my land and yours." The second messenger delivered a similar
proposal. In a month, six such proposals came from the six infatuated
kings of the neighboring lands. Hearing the same request from all six
messengers, King Kumbhaka became alarmed and called upon his guards to
drive them all away.
As a result, the six kings consulted one another and
decided to join together to attack Videha. They came with their armies
trailing behind them. While they awaited the king's answer, a large number
of soldiers engulfed the small kingdom, placing the king in a trying
position. He did not know what to do. He could not decide who should marry
his daughter, and his army was not strong enough to force them to go home.
Malli noticed her father's distress and addressed him.
"Father, dear, why are you worried? There is no need for concern. Send a
message to each king that I am ready to marry. "
"What?" he asked. "You are ready to marry? But which
one? There are six!"
"Never mind," she answered calmly. "Invite each one
separately to come to my palace alone after a fortnight's time and say
that you are going to give me to him in marriage. "
"To all six of them?" her father inquired
"Yes!" she replied. "All six! Be sure not to tell one
about the other. Let each one think he was invited alone! "
Seeing the flame of confidence in her eye and hearing
the conviction in her voice, her father knew that the princess was fully
aware of what she was doing. So he sent her message to each of the six
A fortnight passed. On the appointed night, all six
came to her door. When they saw one another, they could not understand why
all six were there. They looked at each other and the coals of jealousy
began to burn within each one's heart. Each had cherished the thought that
the invitation was only to him. Each began to feel the pain which comes
from striving to gain and fearing to lose a material thing--in this case,
the hand of the princess in marriage.
Meanwhile, the princess came and opened the door. She
invited them into her hall. To their surprise, they saw there a beautiful
statue of Malli. Each feature was precisely the same as hers. It was
life-size and made of gold. It was so bright that it dazzled their eyes.
It was an exact replica of Malli and looked truly alive.
As the princess stood beside the statue, she greeted
the kings, "Welcome to you! So, you have come here, have you? And do you
want to marry me?" As they all murmured "Yes," Malli pressed a device
behind the statue and a lid at the top opened up. All of a sudden there
was such an offensive odor that the kings were completely confused and
disturbed. They could not bear it.
"What is this?" they asked.
"Oh, it is nothing!" she explained in a matter-of-fact
way. "When I heard you were all coming to seek my hand, I thought, 'How to
receive them? They are coming here to marry whom, to marry what?' I wanted
to know, 'Have they really come to marry me, or my body?' So at each meal,
I would put a morsel of my food in the hollow part of this statue. It is a
very small amount. I have been collecting a few morsels a day for only
fifteen days, and yet it rots and gives off this odor."
The kings were both dazzled by the beauty and baffled
by the smell. The pleasant and the nauseating--it was difficult for them
to manage! In that confusion, they began to wonder why they had come.
Then the princess told them, "Let us go out of the
room. Come and sit here with me. Why do you think that the six of you are
attracted to me? Is it only beauty or is it something different? Now you
know that beauty is only as deep as the skin. You have smelled the
decomposing elements of the body and you did not like it. There is
something more that has brought you here. It is that which attracts you,
not the body. Close your eyes, meditate, and see."
In that moment of silence, a glimpse came to each of
them. They saw that all seven of them had been together in a past life.
They had been living a good life and all were spiritual aspirants. But
there was still something binding them which they could not yet
understand. It was some kind of leftover dependency. Because of that, they
each had to take another birth. Otherwise, they would have reached
Enlightenment in that very life.
As they caught that glimpse, they understood when Malli
told them, "We are on the path to the Light, but in our last birth we
forgot our glimpse of it; for a while we were blind. That is why we had to
take this birth."
The kings told her, "Now we want you to guide us. You
are our teacher. We want to finish this cycle of birth and death."
So she said to them, "The magnetism we feel is not
toward the body but toward the soul. The soul remains together with this
body while we journey through this human life. But the two are not to be
confused. Each one has a completely different nature. So let us use this
life to bring out the soul, to purify our awareness, to reach our
destination of freedom."
The seven of them took the path to liberation together
and led a beautiful life. Malli ultimately became Mallinatha, the
nineteenth Tirthankara, or "Perfect One." She is known in Jain history for
having taught mankind how to differentiate between the pure flame of soul
and the melting elements of the body.
We too must have that glimpse. We are here to move in
that spiritual direction. If we remain obsessed only with the body, we
will inevitably experience sorrow and heaviness. We will feel the pangs of
separation. But if we experience that glimpse, then our intention will be
to grow, to understand, to move toward the Higher Self. We will come to
know one another on the level of soul. A union among friends which is an
experience of inner divinity is not like other relationships. It is not
subject to the pain of separation; it is becoming a permanent union.
If you want to read a book or a letter, you cannot put
it right next to your eyes. You need some distance. You have to let the
light fall on it. In the same way, when you know the nature of the flame
and the wax, you give yourself some distance. You allow space between you
and the ever-changing elements which constitute your body. You make room
between you and the gravitating elements which cover your mind.
When you reach this state, you become the doctor of
your body and mind. You become aware of your capacity to heal. Once you
know the nature of the four elements --earth, water, fire, air--you pay
attention to your body, as you do to any precious machine, to see which
element is lacking. Then you locate the missing ingredient and bring
Anyone who is clinging to the body is unable to do this
kind of self healing. It requires distance. Once you are no longer
hypnotized by the body, you see it as it is. You stop spoiling it and
experience oneness with your Self: In this way, you make contact with your
deep wellspring of energy and restore your health.
Once you glimpse that sprouting, upward-moving element
in you, you live with the world but not of it. Like-wise, you live with
the body but not of it. The body is the same; how you look at it makes the
difference. This body is nothing to cling to; rather you use it to grow in
awareness and to help others grow.
To see the body as an object of pleasure or
gratification or as a means to relieve oneself from tension is really to
misuse the body. To see it as a vehicle to bring communication and
communion is to use it properly, with respect and care. Then it is truly a
premamandir, a temple of love--a sacred place in which the flame of
reverence extends to all living beings universally.
So be aware throughout your day to break the inner
hypnotism. Know that no hold is strong enough to keep a worldly thing
permanently. If your relationship is based on false perception, then it is
a castle on the sand. When the sand shifts, it collapses. If you relate as
soul to soul, as human being to human being, then your foundation is
solid. Become aware day and night of how your awareness shifts from soul
to form, from form to soul. Notice what happens in your feeling, in your
consciousness when your perception changes.
Now glide into meditation and see in your heart a
temple. Inside the temple is a shrine. In the heart of the shrine see a
beautiful flame. See how the flame, your soul, is connected to a beautiful
candle, your body. The flame and the candle join together. They meet to
take you up. Together they become a torch for your progress and your
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
That is moving upward in me? It is my purity, my spirit
's longing to find the beautiful, the noble, the divine.
That is melting downward in me? It is the dross, that
which decomposes and disperses into its own elements.
Let me take the process of meditation to dehypnotize my
consciousness. Do I know whether my actions come from self- awareness or
from someone else's suggestion ?
Nothing fetters or binds a person who is aware. He
lives in the world, with the world, but not of it.
Let me live as a premamandir, a temple of love, a
sacred place in which I extend the flame of reverence to all living beings