The Jain path to freedom
The Nature of Our Nature
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
Life is an ocean in which the waves and ripples are constantly moving. There is not a moment in which they are still or steady. Continuously there is ebb and flow. In this ocean we too are moving along with the waves. Because of the ripples our minds are not steady.
When we are not certain about ourselves, there arises in US great confusion. We don’t know what we need or where to go. We do not even know why we are here Ultimately, the only thing which remains for us is to fill the empty days with trivial and meaningless activities. But such old, worn-out elements in our life must be thrown out like trash. Otherwise, we remain like children, creating make-believe and holding on to small toys. Our life remains on the surface, playing at fantasy instead of revealing the real depth of our being.
So we ask ourselves, “In this restlessness and unsteadiness, what is permanent?” The waves and ripples are not lasting; emotions and thought forms are ever-changing. Then the last step comes to the initiates–to come out of the tossing sea onto the island of dharma your reality. Dharma has many meanings: reality, religion, truth and nature.
The first meaning of dharma is reality. When you reach a deep experience of your reality, you are able to remain steady. If you do not reach that steady island, then you will always be in a state of action, reaction, and interaction, continually dealing with the senses, desires, emotions, and thoughts. There is no end to them! No sooner is one desire fulfilled than another desire arises, like the ripples in the ocean. As the tide draws one out, it sends another one in.
How many ripples are you willing to stand and count? How many times are you willing to be pushed and pulled by the waves? Think of your life. Do you recall ever having said to yourself, “If I fulfill this objective, I will be happy”? That may have been five years ago, and that objective may have been fulfilled, but still you are not happy. One desire has subsided, but another has emerged. This is the nature of the mind when it does not discriminate desires and demands for objects and pleasures.
How can you be contented unless you reach some steady place in your life? Your dharma is that place. The experience of the joy of being with yourself is greater than any other joy in the world. There is no other experience which can surpass this inner peace and tranquillity.
It is your desires which have not allowed you to reach that core, that center, that reality. That is why you may not know the joy of calmness you can experience in contentment. Desires constantly take you away from your core. Even when you sit in meditation, there are ripples disturbing you. You may tell yourself that meditation is boring or tiring. You may say, “I sat for two hours and got nothing but exhaustion.” That is because you were not really meditating. You were wrestling with your mind. Where was there room for meditation?
When you reach that seat of consciousness where nothing disturbs you, you become so calm. Before you reach it, you have to drop many, many things. As yet, you may not be ready to drop them. You hold on and think that someday they will be useful! That is why even in meditation you don’t enjoy tranquillity, serenity, and peace. I tell you once you reach that center in you, you will not want to come out. To come out would be painful. You reach such a deep, deep peace that you do not want to move from that peace. No desire pesters you. Nothing bothers you. You are with yourself.
However, at that time, you recognize your body’s needs when they arise. When your body needs some support, you give it what it truly needs. When it needs some rest, you give it rest. When it needs some nourishment, you give it food. The body is not a burden nor is it dependent on an addiction. What you do for it you do out of a recognition of its basic needs in order to maintain it as a fresh and healthy vehicle. Above all, your inner life is so full, so rich, that you feel you are getting nourishment and fulfillment from within.
When you reach that inner nourishment, you don’t crave any temporary fulfillment which comes and goes You see that temporary fulfillment never goes without leaving behind a scar; it carves out some small line of pain in you Here in meditation there is no pain, no scar only being in tune with reality. This is the first meaning of dharma.
Another meaning of dharma is religion. What is religion? It means to join or bind together. Separation is pain; union is peace. You have separated from your Higher Self; that is why you feel pain. Religion is a place Inside where you are joining, uniting with your Higher Self. Ultimately, one has to come together. There comes a time in a person’s life when all outer attractions appear tasteless. When a person is in his eighties and you offer him what he may have liked at eighteen years of age, he says, “No, I don’t want anything. It has had its own time. Now it is over. I want health and peace.”
The word dharma in Sanskrit comes from dhru, meaning to hold or to lift. Anything which holds you or lifts you when you are about to fall into the valley is called dharma. That quality, that insight, that dharma is within us. Once we know it, we will not be able to fall. We must know this. Otherwise, friends, in each step there is danger; in each step there is the possibility of succumbing to so many temptations. There are not only physical and sensual temptations, but also the temptations of inside hatred, inside bitterness, inside anger, inside rejection.
Once you succumb to sorrow, depression, or bitterness, what happens? As you go on thinking, the emotions go on increasing. Bitterness becomes more and more bitter. Sadness becomes thicker and thicker. Observe your mind when you hold bitterness toward someone. Even when that person is gone, the bitterness remains. The person may not know how you feel toward him, but the bitterness rots inside you, besmears your mind, and pollutes your sweetness. In this way, life becomes heavy. You don’t know where such negativity will lead you. It takes time to wash it out, to clean the mind. That is why in each step one has to be watchful and careful.
A person clinging to bitterness does not like himself. Because of this self-hatred, he sees others as his enemies and feels that the world is conspiring against him. Psychologically, these distortions are called projections. They all come because one is not watching oneself. It is easy to fall into hatred, bitterness, sorrow, negativity, it is difficult to lift oneself out.
Drug addiction comes from this kind of negativism. Some may say that taking drugs is for getting high; really that is self-deception. The person who takes drugs does not want to be with himself. He wants to forget himself and hide the truth from himself. Unfortunately, by taking drugs, the person is slowly destroying his own brain cells. Brain cells which are naturally active no longer function, and the person wallows in a kind of slow motion. When these cells are burned, the intelligence, awareness, and keenness of thinking cannot shine forth. The mechanism by which they come out has been destroyed.
In this bhavana, you have to watch what you are doing and remember to meditate constantly on your reality. Meditate on your inner unity and say, “I am I. Why should I worry about the opinions of other people? If I am not with myself, who will be? I will be I. That is all.” All of the problems arise from not remembering the Self. It must become your habit day and night to remember it as you remember your own name. Your name is merely a tag, yet think how deeply this tag has gone. Even in sleep, you remember your name. If someone mentions it when you are asleep, you will open your eyes and say, “Hello!” If your name, which was given before you had a chance to approve of it, has gone so deep, why should not your own reality be as deep?
When one thing is taken for another, when a lie is taken for truth, when unreality is taken for reality, when the temporary is taken for the permanent, that is called mithyathva, or wrong belief. It is the most dangerous element in the path of a spiritual aspirant. It is this lack of clarity which causes us to take our name, which is temporary, to be permanent, and to think of our reality, which is permanent, as impermanent. So we have to be clear and know what is dharma, or the real, and what is adharma, or unreality.
Day and night, go on telling yourself over and over, “I am Atma. So-hum. I am That. Nothing else matters. Whether someone speaks in favor of me or against me, I don’t care. I don’t want to be restless, sad, or bitter. I want to be me.” Hammer this into your consciousness! Then you will see how courageously you will be able to drop old habits, addictions, and needs. You will no longer be easily tempted or influenced.
Even when we constantly remember our reality and remain in tune with ourselves, we cannot remove temptations from the world. These things will remain; the difference is this: we don’t identify with them. You may ask, “There are so many temptations. How can we remain in peace?” The answer lies in being vigilant. You have to know the nature of a thing before you take it in. You reserve the right to take it or leave it. Some one may offer you a sweet drink in a crystal glass. The fragrance promises sweetness to the tongue, but if you know that it has a drop of poison in it, you will not take it. In the same way, when you know that some idea or thing is not good for you, you make an inner decision not to take it into your consciousness.
Let us look at this process in more detail. We have four elements in our life–our body, mind, intelligence, and spirit. When these four are working together, life becomes meaningful. If we follow only one or two, there is some danger of imbalance. Suppose someone offers you an almond cake and you know that it has marijuana in it. The first reaction is the body’s response. The eyes are attracted to the pleasing shape of the cake, the beautiful dish it is on. The nostrils enjoy the sweet fragrance. The tongue anticipates the delicious taste. Secondly, the mind wants it, thinking, “If I eat it, for two or three hours I will get some rest from this world and roam in the world of fantasy. I can enjoy a high.” The mind wants that world of fantasy. That is why Disneyland is dear to children, and mythology is attractive to adults. The mind wants myths.
The third reaction comes from the intellect. If the intellect is pulled over to the side of body and mind, then you will in some way rationalize eating the cake. When the intellect, body, and mind join together, it is three against one. The soul is in slumber, and the majority rules. There is danger because you have not taken the consensus of all, and where there is no consensus there is no harmony.
When the mind gets light from the spirit, you act intelligently. You know how to wait. When you have awareness of dharma, then, though the body and mind want the cake, your intelligence tells you, “Yes, I hear you, body and mind. I know you want it, but once I get the habit I will want it a second time. The chemicals will enter my bloodstream and create more and more need.” Awareness of your inner reality guides you to make an intelligent choice, and the body and mind concur.
One must know the psychology of the vibrations of the body. Once you allow the chemicals in, you become a slave to them. They turn into desires and cravings. They enter slowly as humble guests, and you think, “Oh, it is only one or two drinks,” but ultimately the drinks drink the whole human being. That is called alcoholism. Drugs also take over the whole system. There is a chemical influence in one’s addiction to sex also. Even if the partner is full of negativities and a hindrance to one’s growth, the person justifies the relationship because of the strong chemical influence. The person is not free from these physical and emotional bindings. The demand of chemicals is so strong that all spiritual ideas may go with the wind.
That is why there is so much pain, suffering, and misery in the world. That is why there are so many hospitals, so many mental institutions, so many drug addicts and alcoholics. They have missed a step. Ultimately, they end up being institutionalized because they cannot control themselves.
These habits have not come from birth. They come later on in life. They start with one weak moment, and enter the blood. If one wants to live long, happily, and healthily, one has to live very carefully.
No one is commanding you; you are commanding yourself. It is not somebody else’s life; it is your life. There is no god controlling your life, it is you. If a person knows how to lift himself or herself, outside control is not necessary. No one has any power over us when we are with ourselves. In this way, we are all kings and queens.
Dharma bhavana means to take a stand in yourself. Know that you are responsible for yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will. And no one has the power to rule your life unless you do that which is out-side the law, out of harmony. So when your eyes, nostrils, and tongue want the cake, and your brain is ready to enjoy the fantasy, let your intellect align itself with your spirit and say, “No, it is not good for me. As long as I keep it out of my system, I have power. Once I accept it into my bloodstream, it has power over me.”
In this way, dharma is the lifting element in you. There are moments in which you are on the rim, on the edge, of to do or not to do. In these subtle moments, who protects you? No friend is there. No outside element is there. It is you alone. You have to decide what you want to do. If you experience this conviction in your life, you will be strong in all circumstances. You will stop yourself from doing that which would hurt you or take you away from yourself: If you can save yourself in such moments then you are permanently saved.
The third meaning of dharma is truth. When you first discover and then begin to live by inner truth, it becomes your measurement for everything. If an action fits with this truth, then you do it. If it does not, you reject it. It is not justifying; it is acting in accordance with your inner measuring rod. Truth becomes your permanent inner companion .
When you carry this within you, you don’t have any fear, and when you are fearless, Your energy flows naturally. Energy is dissipated by untruth. When you are false, you become unsteady, and your energy subsides. The body even begins to tremble; it is unnatural. With dharma, you move in the world with ease, without a hidden fear of being found out, because you live in truth. The whole world is available to you. The world is your home. Everyone you meet loves you. You have no need to hide. You are not seeing the world according to outside opinions and measurements. Your measurement is inside truth, inside authenticity.
The fourth meaning of dharma is nature. Everything has its own nature. The nature of candy is to be sweet. A thorn’s nature is to prick. Salt is salty, and a rose’s nature is to be fragrant. When you meditate, realize that everything is working in accordance with its own nature. The body, mind, and spirit are following their own dharma. Realize that there is no reason to blame or praise any form. See things as they are.
When you see things in this undistorted way, you can decide for yourself what you want. When you know the nature of people, you know how to deal with them. To be hurtful is a person’s condition, not his nature. If someone seems to have a hurtful condition, you know that it is because of some previous experience, and he is trying to throw it off on someone outside of himself. But our nature is to be loving, compassionate, truthful, and uplifting. Knowing this, we will be patient with one another, and with ourselves. We have to know how to wait and give space before becoming involved in a new relationship or a new endeavor. First, allow the nature of the person, the place, or the thing to reveal itself to you.
Once a saint was staying near a river. He saw a scorpion fall in the water. Seeing that it would drown, he picked it up and put it on land. No sooner did he pick it up than the scorpion bit him. He felt the pain and covered his wound with a piece of cloth.
The scorpion went down to the river again and plunged in. Again it was drowning. “Silly scorpion,” thought the monk. Compassion moved him again. There happened to be a man nearby who was watching this scene. He went over to the saint and asked, “What are you doing? Don’t you have common sense? The scorpion bit you the first time, and still you let him bite you a second time?”
The monk smiled and said, “Even the scorpion at the moment of drowning is not ready to give up its nature to bite. How can I forget my nature of compassion? I can’t be less than the scorpion. I must be I. This is my nature. Everything has its own nature.”
This reflection brings you to your island of reality your unifying strength, your inner measurement of truth, the innate nature of your nature. In this world where the waves are constantly moving, you do not have to be moving constantly with the ripples. If there is any steady place, that is the island of dharma. That is you. When you live on that island, you know, “Though turbulence may come, I shall not fall down. Though the winds of temptation may come, I shall hold my own. All else is temporary. Reality is here.”
With this experience, you don’t have bitterness or hatred for anyone. Praise and blame fall away from your life. You are careful about how you live in the world and about what you take into your life. You maintain your balance. What is the nature of your nature? To be loving compassionate, truthful, blissful, and aware. To care share, and dare–to care for life, to share with life, and to dare to achieve godhood, the height of your Self.
You know that everything in the universe will go away from you except this dharma, this truth. It is your ever-lasting companion. Experiencing this, you will never feel lonely. What comes and goes is the world, samsara, the ever-moving.
When feelings of loneliness come over you and you feel that there is nothingness, think instead, “There is somethingness; it is within me. It is dharma. It is the awakening of soul awareness.” Feel it again and again until ultimately you never feel alone.
When you have this awareness, you are your own teacher The purpose of the outer teacher is to remind you of this: whether you are in the wilderness or in the city on top of the mountain ,in a forest or a cave , you are never alone. You are with your inner teacher, your dharma, your reality, your oneness.
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
Let me stop being tossed and turned by the waves of unreality and step up onto my steady island, my dharma.
Separation is pain. Unity is peace. I separated from my Higher Self , that is why I feel pain. When I join myself nothing disturbs; I am in peace. This inside unity fulfills and nourishes.
No one is commanding my life. I am commanding myself I have only to decide to be strong and not weak.
Whether some one speaks against dharma I stand and keep my footing. All else is temporary; reality is here.