The Jain path to freedom
The Nature of the Universe
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
We are standing on the platform of human life From here we have a choice. We can either go up with awareness or down with dependency. We have to decide between these two directions. It is our own decision. No body compels us to do this or that. There is no outside force which determines our course. We have to know that the deciding force resides within us
Once we know this truth, we stop groping for things outside of us, and we start working from within. We determine what we want to do. If we have a longing to go up with awareness, this life becomes precious and meaningful to us. If we don’t have this quest, life appears to be boring or meaningless.
Regardless of what one gives to this body, it is going to disintegrate. One day, it is going to go. If one doesn’t use this body for moving toward higher awareness, then one will use it for temporary pleasure, gratification, or satisfaction. If one doesn’t have an inner quest, then one can live for enjoying as much as one can, and doing whatever one wants. But in this case, there is no need to have a human body. To enjoy sex, to indulge in food, to accumulate things, to sleep a long time, to live in inertia ear, aggression, one can have an animal form just as well as a human form. It does not matter.
Look at the animal kingdom. They are all doing the same thing. A bull can enjoy as much sexual pleasure as a human being. A bear can sleep for hours and hours with no one to disturb him. Compared to what an elephant can eat, what can a man eat? If you peer into the home of an ant colony, you can see their huge accumulation of food. Through all the seasons, they go on collecting. Think of the bees. They spend their lives in collection. There are human beings who do the same thing. They spend their whole time on earth collecting money, property, things, wealth, only to leave them behind when they depart. And sometimes the children who inherit this wealth call their parents fools and use the hard-earned money to finance their destructive habits and vices.
If this human life matters to you, you have to be very careful. You must know that this life can serve a great purpose. To serve this purpose, there is no better vehicle than this human body. You have to be very clear about what direction you want to take. That clarity of thinking will determine your course, your condition, your way. From this platform of human life, you will see that you have to move either upward or downward. The two are entirely different directions. They should not be mixed .
To move upward, we need awareness. To go downward, we need attachment. What is attachment? It is clinging to things. Someone has mentioned that in attachment four things come: a little crying, a little sighing, a little lying, and a little dying. You cry because you want something. You sigh when you don’t get it. To get it, you have to lie a little, and, ultimately, inside you die a little. From your own self you die, you separate. So when you notice these elements arising in you, say, “My goodness! Why am I crying? It is because of attachment!”
There is some confusion on this point. Many people ask, “Why should we run away from life? Should we not have joy? Can we not enjoy companionship with our friends? Is it not all right to have a good car, a house?” The teaching does not tell you not to enjoy life. On the contrary, it does tell you to enjoy your living. Only it objects to your crying, sighing, lying, and dying.
In fact, you can only enjoy all if you are not clinging or bound to anything. When you are not weighed down by dependency, you see things as they are. If something is here now, it will stay only as long as it has the nature to stay. So you enjoy, and when it goes, let it go. That is its nature–to go.
When you go to a florist, do you make a business deal with him? Do you agree to pay only if he can promise that the flowers will last for so many days? No, you select the best flowers, and they remain as long as they remain. That is all. When they wither, what do you do? Do you cry? Or do you accept, thinking, “For three days they have been beautifying the atmosphere, spreading a delightful fragrance”?
This is the approach of the enlightened person. You see as it is. You know that the flower is going to wither. At the same time, you are aware of the beauty and the fragrance of the flower. You have double awareness. You do not become sad and lose the joy of the moment Because of the awareness of withering, you don’t cry and say, ‘What will happen after three days?” The moment you see the flowers you are happy. You know that their living presence is offering joy to all, whether they are your friends or complete strangers. So you are not focusing on the withering at the moment that the flowers are in full bloom, although in your double awareness you know they will wither.
In this tenth reflection, the aspirant understands the nature of loka–this universe in which we all move. In this universe we all are permanent as well as transient. There are two standpoints. From the standpoint of essence, we are permanent. From the stand point of form, we are transient.
As we grow, we see with double awareness two qualities: dravya, or substance, and paryaya, or modification. Dravya is essence and is by nature permanent. Paryaya is form, that which revolves or alters around the essence, and is by nature transient. We see in the same moment both the essence and form. we experience both the flower in bloom and its changing elements.
This deep awareness which comes from meditation makes you live in this moment of the present, not in the worry of tomorrow. What is to be gained by running to a palmist or astrologer and asking her to tell you how long you will live? If some one tells you, you are going to live eighty years, what do you do? Perhaps you say, “Well, I have a long time to live, but are you happy? What do you do with the eighty years if they go in sickness, in the hospital, in distorted thinking, in bed? What if someone told you, you have only one year to live? You would become anxious and say, “After one year, I am gone. What shall I do?”
You may know how long you will live, but do you know how to live? What are we to do with the few years we have? Are we here to vegetate? If we know how to live, one year can surpass one hundred years. It is not how many years we live which bring us happiness. Joy is not counted with years- it is counted with moments.
Can we learn the art of living in the present moment and get in touch with our dravya, our essence? We are always thinking of the future We worry about the future. We don’t live in the present. That is our problem.
There was a retired gentleman who used to be president of a large steel mill and who was a millionaire. He had no reason to worry about his bank account, but he used to complain and fret about the devaluation of the dollar. I asked him, “What is the matter? You don’t have money?” He answered, “Oh yes, I do, but if the dollar goes on melting like snow, what will happen to me?” This kind of mind is completely distorted. The worry is so big that the millions appear as nothing to him. The person becomes frightened by his own fear.
There is really no fear except the fear you have created. Once fear takes root in your mind, it will take you in thousands of different directions. Those distorted mental creations which we call black magic are nothing but the products of fear. When you have a fear, there are people who know how to capitalize on it and manipulate you.
That is why Mahavir spoke directly to the initiates, saying, “Anything you do out of fear has no meaning. You have to reach that state in which you see what the whole world is. Then what you do, you do out of fearlessness.” When you are not under the shadow of fear, then you are able to enjoy the moment. A person who is under fear is not going to enjoy life. For example, if a prisoner is told, “Tomorrow you will be hanged, so today eat as much as you want and go wherever you want to go,” he will not be able to enjoy food or anything. He will be trembling at the prospect of tomorrow.
In the same way, fear does not allow you to be spiritual. Even to remember God out of fear is nothing but a kind of bribery; it is not spirituality. Spirituality is always aware; whatever you do, do it out of awareness.
How do you transcend fear? The only way is to know the world as it is, to know what you are, to know your relationship with the world. You are here for what? When you know your real nature, you will know why you are here. When you can discriminate between your essence and your transient nature, then you will be able to transcend fear.
In this bhavana, there are two reflections: loka and aloka. This galaxy, this cosmos, this universe is loka. Knowing its elements, you know what was once unknown to you. Knowing the unknown, you will be free from fear of the unknown. You will feel at home in this universe and move to your goal in fearlessness and conviction.
The constituents of loka are these six: jiva, soul; ajiva, matter, dharma, the law of motion; adharma, the law of rest; akasha, space; and kala, time. Space is the container of all the contained. What does it contain? Form. What is form? It is another container. Contained in form, like a bird in a cage, is jiva, conscious energy.
Loka is also a place in which two laws function, the law of motion and the law of rest. Owing to the existence of these two laws, the two energies called soul and matter are moving from place to place, alternating between movement and rest. Because of the functioning of these two laws, loka is that place where the atoms of matter compose and decompose. Matter is continually forming and unforming. Because this process occurs in a sequence, time can be perceived. The soul too, relatively speaking, is taking time to make its way out of its cage. Relative to the conditions or forms– physical, emotional, psychological–which surround it, a soul’s journey can be measured in time. If there were no forms, a soul would be in its limitless nature. Then, from the height of this vantage point, time would not exist.
The opposite of loka is aloka. We can call it the void, because nothing exists here; it is only space without existence, without life.
At the frontier between loka and aloka, Enlightened Ones find their ultimate resting place, their height of consciousness. Until they reach this point, souls are in a process, on a journey, subject to certain limitations. Moksha is freedom, limitlessness. Once the soul drops all of its karmas, sheds every particle of matter encasing it, it finds uninterrupted peacefulness. There is no fight, no movement, no journey, no need. There is no desire to go anywhere because the soul has now reached a state in which it experiences life in completion, perfection, and desirelessness, which is fulfillment. Jiva dwells here in its own nature radiating its qualities of soothing peace and bliss, infinite love, and perfect knowledge.
The souls who reach this frontier are Siddhas, or Perfect Ones. Those who have freed themselves from all limitations and inner weaknesses come to rest here. From all religions, from all cultures, from all time periods, they ascend to this place where there is no duality, only unity. This ultimate quenching of the soul’s quest is moksha.
When we take a look at loka from another perspective, we see that there are two aspects: the outer and the inner. The outer universe is the universe of fact. It is a constantly changing process. The forms it takes are a construction of ever-changing material elements. The inner universe is the universe of fantasy. It is composed of thoughts and emotions.
First let us see the outer universe as it is. Like the bits and pieces of a kaleidoscope, it is nothing but the combination and permutation of forms of matter ceaselessly building innumerable designs. Its main elements are earth, water, fire, and air. These elements combine and come apart, combine and come apart. According to the various stages of this process, the outer appearances are also constantly changing.
Mahavir used a vivid word for matter: pudgala. Pud means to fill and gala means to empty or dissolve. Our body is filling and dissolving every minute. Old cells are dropped and new cells replace them. The process of cell-building and cell-disintegration is constantly active. Twenty-four hours a day this process goes on, even while we are asleep.
When we understand the body’s pudgala nature, we become aware of how to take care of it. We learn to empty it properly before we fill it up again. Yoga postures are practiced to eliminate toxins from the body. We exhale fully so as to discard all carbon dioxide from the body. To keep the body clean and healthy, we must know how to eliminate waste. Then we are ready to fill it with the proper nutrients in food and water, and with fresh air.
We see the body as a process. We understand the nature of its insentient energy. It is different from jiva, conscious energy. There is no reason to identify with it. There is no reason to praise or blame it. We see the body as it is.
The process of pudgala is true of our inner universe as well. Just as our cells are constantly changing, our emotions and thoughts are continually renewing themselves as well. Emotions and thoughts are fine forms of matter. They are the constructions of our inner loka. Thoughts are the bricks of the mind; emotions are the plaster cementing the bricks together.
You can transcend this process and see that whatever forms you create in your mind are capable of being dislodged, removed, or transmuted. Once you know this, you don’t hold on to an old opinion of yourself or of any person. You are not the same now as you were a moment ago, a year ago, a lifetime of awarenesses ago. The old bitterness of the past can be dissolved within minutes. He or she whom you knew in one way may be a completely different person today.
There are examples of people who change the entire structure of their inner world when they catch a glimpse of themselves. Within minutes they transform their lives. How is this possible? The soul has tremendous power. Its light is more intense than the laser beam. In meditation, focus that light on a particular inner structure, and a miracle can happen. In a flash of insight, karmas can be dissolved. The cumulative effect of focusing your awareness on any undesirable element is to remove it once and for all and to lift a lifetime’s burden.
You may ask why we call emotions and thoughts a fine form of matter. The soul or conscious energy is meant to flow in a steady stream toward the awareness of itself –as an immortal blissful energy of love and truth. It longs to experience universal consciousness and join the company of the Siddhas.
But from beginningless time, it has been in the company of matter. Its flow has been limited by certain kinds of particles which have been around it, acting as coverings. These particles of matter are ajiva, inanimate energy. They are the conditions in which the soul finds itself. As the soul perceives the outer universe through the senses and the inner world through the mind, it is continually influenced and conditioned by the presence of particles of matter. It is in what may be called a matter-dominated state, and it attracts additional karmic vibrations or particles. These karmic formations become what we call emotions and thoughts.
In this way, your inner universe becomes a complex structure of biases, demands, expectations, projections. They are nothing but the accumulation of vibrations which have become crystallized as thought forms and emotional blocks. Their presence in you blocks the pure flow of sentient energy. If you allow yourself to be attracted or repelled, to act, react and be acted upon, without checking the process, then your soul becomes laden with layers and layers of matter. They are like coats of armor obscuring your direct experience of Self.
When you become aware of your pure formless nature and stop identifying with matter–physical, mental, and emotional– you can stop attracting matter. But if you continue to be swayed to and fro, you will not be able to unburden your soul to let the steady, radiant, flickerless flame come out.
Once we know the construction of the universe, we realize that there is only one among the six substances which is aware–that is jiva, the Self. Time does not know anything. Space does not know anything. Matter is incapable of awareness. The laws of motion and rest are not aware. They are all inanimate. Truly, awareness pertains to the Self only. Our Self knows everything. When we know this, we are not confused. We focus on the inside universe which has the key to all the puzzles in our life.
Everybody has an inner universe. Look at your universe and ask, “What do I depend on? How can I depend on ever-changing change? What is this desire to hold on to things? Is it not ignorance? Am I not bumping up against mental walls, opinions, concepts, and expectations instead of being free in my universe? How can I hold on to that which is moving?”
Someone can stand in back of a train, chain his feet to the ground, and hold the train with his arms to stop it from going. He can use all his strength to keep it from moving. If he does, what will happen? He will be split. In the same way, you are split inside. You are clinging to things, to shadows, to transient elements, while life is passing by. You are putting yourself into a box by saying, “No. I want this to stay. It must not move. I want it to be permanent.” You are focusing on the wrong thing. You are trying to make the impermanent permanent instead of seeing that only the permanent is permanent. You have a fear that it will go away. Even if you deny the fear, how can you stop the change? There is no device in the world with which to stop it. That is the main point.
As soon as you try to stop someone or something from changing, you kill its nature. You block its life force. And when you have destroyed its nature, you no longer like it. Why? Because it is not natural, not spontaneous. The life inside departs, and the form starts to dry up and wither.
Just like a corpse, its disintegrating form starts to give off an unbearable odor. And when you don’t let someone else’s nature flow, whose life stops flowing first? Your own.
So one has to stop jumping from point to point; one has to focus. Focus on what? On the limiting structures in one’s inner universe. On one’s addictions and their source, fear of change. Ask yourself, “How can I stop my fear, my anxiety? How can I stop expecting people to do as I want? How can I stop desiring to have a promise fulfilled?”
If you are truly aware, you will know that no one can promise you anything. From moment to moment, there are so many changes–in situations, in emotions, in the body chemistry. All one can do is to be open and receptive to the moment itself and say to oneself, “This is the moment!” Give yourself wholly to the moment, so that when conditions change and someone may not be able to keep his word, you retain the essence of the moment rather than the form it took. To depend on a promise is to invite sadness, for though it may be given in good faith, it may lose its validity with the changes which occur in time.
So let go of the moment and remember its essence. Realize, “My addiction to hold on to something or someone is my ignorance.” It is difficult to accept one’s own ignorant state of mind. If someone tells you that you don’t know something, you become a little angry. “What do you think I am, a fool?” you ask. You do not want to hear the truth.