The Jain path to freedom
In Search of the Incomparable
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
Human life is a place where we can grow in peace and understanding, provided we get some light. Without light, this place can be chaos and we can get lost in it. Like traveling at night without a torch in hand, we may stumble and tumble down anywhere.
Human life is engulfed in beauty and mystery. It is overwhelming. It overpowers us and thrills us. The mind tries to explore it, peep into it, get to the heart of it. It cannot succeed. It is like a child trying to tell about the vastness of the ocean by expanding his arms as he cries out, “I saw so much water! It was so-o-o big!” His expression does not come close to describing the vastness of the ocean. In the same way, when the mind tries to describe the mystery of this universe, it is like a child. The mind cannot reveal or comprehend it. Why? Because the mystery of the living universe is unlimited and the mind is limited.
So we need some light, some power which is beyond the mind, which is unlimited. When we have that kind of light, then we are able to comprehend the universal mystery. Then we are able to educate the mind and loosen its hold on concepts, forms, and definitions. If we do not enlighten our mind, then it will assume the role of teacher; and though the unenlightened mind is nothing but a child in primary school, it will pretend to explain all the secrets of the universe.
If we allow ourselves to be guided by this limited mind, two things will happen. Outside we will not know how to relate, and inside we will not know how to live in peace. Outside, our relationships will be spoiled or disturbed, and inside there will be constant upheaval or conflict. From these come frustration and friction.
So we see our need for some light. From where does the light come? From deep inner experience, from meditating on those experiences which have come from the masters to the initiates. Such a light can help us see subjectively the inner conflict and objectively the outside confusion .
But to understand and experience the experiences of the masters, we need some preparation, some ground-work. The vessel must be ready to receive the force of the essence which is poured into it. If it is not, the vessel will be broken or destroyed or melted, and the essence will be lost in the dust. In the same way, if our mind is not prepared for the truth, it may become frightened and be unable to bear the truth.
So the initiates ready themselves to receive inside truth. They strengthen their vessel to be in accordance with the essence. That is why they digest and assimilate the teaching into their lives. That is why they find peace in life. In this world, they are able to live with such an awareness that they neither misuse their energy nor experience conflict. They do not inflict pain, sadness, or torture on themselves or on others:
Generally, those people who you think are intellectual and skillful in the world are not what they seem to be on the surface. If you watch them with a balanced mind, in a nonjudgmental way, you will see that they are doing nothing but inculcating pain in their life. There comes a point when there is so much sorrow and pain that they are not able to bear it. So they take many things to cover it up and soothe it. They take medicine to tranquilize the pain. Tranquilizers indicate that man is inflicting pain on himself. To relieve or minimize the effect of the pain, he resorts to many outer things: wine, drugs, pills; or he runs after pleasure and sense gratification. They all indicate that underneath there is some pain.
If you can develop insight, at least you will not inflict pain on your own self. You won’t have to be in that parade. By not joining the procession, at least you will be in a position to help other people who need your help. If you are driven by the current of the parade, then your feet are marching to the beat of someone else’s drum. You are not moving according to your own pace.
First you have to stand back and watch the parade without becoming involved with the march or the music. You take these reflections to help remove yourself from the crowd. Use them to come out from the world of make-believe and see reality as it is. It may be painful. You are not used to seeing in that way. You are used to living in a world of fantasy. But without clarity, how can you go further?
The last facet was ekatva–to meditate on that indestructible energy that is you. Unless you get in touch with that, you will not be able to free yourself from all the fears. Unless you experience your aloneness, you will not be able to realize oneness.
Today is the day to focus on the fifth facet–anyatva-swatva. Anyatva means that which is other than your essence or Self. Swatva means Selfhood. It helps you to see two things: 1) anya, where you have mistakenly identified yourself or mixed yourself up, and 2) swa, your real Self. It is a process of separation. You are not that with which you have identified. Your real Self cannot be identified with anything. It is unique.
Ask yourself, “What are those things with which I have identified?” You can know what they are by observing your reaction when you are required to live without them. If you have created identity with something, and that something is taken away from you, you experience great pain. In that loss you feel loss. In its destruction you feel destruction. In its decay you feel decay. In every dependency you are inviting pain.
Observe what happens when you identify with something. You turn it into an idea. Then you become a prisoner of the created idea. You want to maintain it at all costs. And that is what people do. They kill for an idea. Not only that, they die for it. All the ‘isms’, patriotism, sectarianism, dogmatism, are nothing but a camouflage for self-punishment. Holding onto ideas, we punish ourselves. But we have not come into the world to punish ourselves. We are not here to be angry and separate from other human beings. Being angry, we hurt ourselves. The idea behind this philosophy is to be free from pain, to be healthy.
So contemplate how many things you have bound yourself to: racial, cultural, or religious labels, possessions, sensory objects, relatives and friends. See that by holding onto them, instead you are caught. By trying to make them yours, you become a prisoner to them. Stop punishing yourself. Disidentify, untie, and free! Why create attachment to things which are on the road to decay? Ultimately they depart from us or we depart from them. When this happens, there is inner pain. Why? Because identifying with them, we keep them deep down in our subconscious, and when they go along with the process of nature, our clinging mind feels the loss.
To transcend all forms of self-punishment, know your incomparable Self. Experience the difference between what is Self and what is not, and see that what is yours can never be taken away from you, and that what is not yours never can be owned.
Take this insight into your meditation on your relationships. For example, you may have built a relationship with a particular man. When you see him talking to another woman, there is a burning sensation, an uncomfortable feeling. Why? What has gone? Nothing has gone. But your mind has built an identity with that person, and because of its attachment to “mine,” it feels threatened and in pain. If you did not build identity with that person, seeing him with someone else would not bother you. You would not care. But when the mind is spying, it is constantly engaged. It is thinking, “Why does he meet with her? What is his intention?” So long as the mind is spying in that way, do you think you will be able to meditate and think of divinity?
Moreover, if you are not able to free yourself from that burning sensation, and if it lasts for three or four days it will create indigestion. To digest food, the whole body needs a pleasant, relaxed flow of energy. When you are tense, the body cells are contracted. Where there is contraction, there is no digestion. Constipation indicates that inside we are burning with unhappiness. The burning energy absorbs all our digestive juices. People don’t see how much energy they are burning up in jealousy, in spying, in thinking “mine” and “thine.”
The word “agony” comes from the Sanskrit agni; or fire, and later, from the Greek agou, or struggle. Jealousy is both, a fire and a struggle. It burns! When you are completely roasted and toasted inside, the juice is gone! Agony comes when people create an attachment for each other’s bodies. See what happens when there is a separation or divorce. People break with difficulty . They say , “She has spoiled my life.” No one has spoiled your life except you with your own thoughts.
In reflecting on anyatva, start with your own body and say, “The body is different from what I am. The body is anya, or other. I am swa, or Self.” Don’t confuse one with the other. See them for what they are. When you stop mixing them up, you will be able to know what it is to have companionship. You will know, “What is living, sentient, and formless is evermoving energy; that is me. What is composing and decomposing is insentient energy. That is the body.” The first is neither composing nor decomposing; the second is always composing and decomposing.
Our bodies are conceived from a single cell. The formation of the body is a process of cells dividing from one to two, from two to four, from four to eight, and so on. The body increases its weight every day. Eight or nine pounds of weight have come from one single cell multiplying, composing, and decomposing. There is not a single moment in which the process stops. It goes on until the last day of our lives.
When we meditate on that, we see the process in its entirety. At any time, that which is composed can decompose. It is not a new discovery. There is no reason for it to give you a shock. When you understand it, you are no longer surprised by anything. The unknown surprises you, but the known is a fact, a statement. You accept it.
Separating yourself through meditation from this process of composing and decomposing, you then ask, “Who is animating this process ? Who is beyond this process?” You answer, “That is I.” “I” sits there in the center. This must become your experience, as clear as the day. Then you will know you have experienced a spiritual glimpse. You will realize, “I am that which is not destructible. I am that which remains unchanged. It is the outside which goes on changing.”
Go further and observe, “This body is nothing but a reflection of my inside perception.” A person who goes on thinking in an ugly way builds an ugly body. A person who thinks beautifully builds a beautiful body. If you feel rage and bitterness toward someone, it will be seen on your face. If you were to set up an automatic camera to take your own picture every time you felt rage, you would not want to recognize yourself.
Faces are neither young nor old; it is inside perception which changes them. There are young people whose faces are cruel, and there are old people whose faces are mellow, molded with compassion. An angry face takes a tense form. It is distorted. A peaceful face takes a poised form, due to an inside composed feeling. The world is not agony or pain. Pain is your own confusion. The world is neutral. You can make what you want out of it.
So now we see that the condition of the body is the result of yesterday’s perception. There is no need to blame anybody else. There is the body and there is the Self. The Self is that which animates the body. Our body is not at fault for the way it looks. By feeling an inside feeling of health, pleasantness, love, we are slowly changing our form with our thoughts. These thoughts are formed inside and the result will ultimately show on the outside.
Watch the outer world and experience the inner world. In this way, you will know the two are complementary to each other. Live with pure joy in the body; keep it clean, beautiful, relaxed, and wholesome. This vehicle is not for any masochistic purpose. The real ascetic is he or she who does not destroy this beautiful vehicle. Ignorant people torture their body instead of changing their perception. They punish it as though the body were the cause of their suffering. They do not see that the body can be at their command. It is inside perception which must be changed.
That is why one of the basic steps is called shaucha– cleanliness. Keep your body and mind clean and you will go toward godliness. Someone with a dirty body, unclean mouth, ill-smelling clothes is not headed for salvation. The body must first be healthy and clean. See that your energy can be felt through all the pores.
See that you are clean emotionally. Remove bad intentions from your consciousness. Don’t encourage gossip. Don’t misuse your hands; use them for service.
When you eat, be in tune with your food. The monks observe silence while eating, and say to themselves, “Oh Lord! Through awareness of you, I realize that this body is a means to liberation. So with innocent and sanctified food, I nourish this body in order to reach the goal.” Keeping this in mind, you make your body a beautiful and useful vehicle for your growth. You see it for what it is.
Observe: “I am not that which I am using. My possessions are for my best use, growth, progress, and communication.” When anything comes, you give room to it. When it goes, you let it pass by, float by. There is no need to lower your horns and fight for something like a bull!
Those people who want to be with you, let them be with you! To those who don’t want to be with you, say,
“Good-bye now!” When they come again, say, “Welcome!” Do not live on past revenge or vindictiveness. If something has gone or is going, let it go! In this way, you become so free.
Ultimately, everything is going to go. It is easy to talk about it, but difficult to live it. When the moment comes in which we are tested, sometimes we act differently. Why does a dog love a piece of bone? It has no juice, no meat. It has nothing. It is dry. But the dog goes on chewing on it, and in the process of chewing sometimes cuts its own palate. It bleeds, and the blood gets on the bone. The dog licks it and thinks, “Oh, the sweetness!” Pleasure is so sweet to it that it forgets the whole process of pain. Clinging to things is a habit of the mind. The initiates see material things for what they are, without coloring or creating distortion. When you see clearly you don’t suffer objective conflict or subjective confusion. You are free from both.
When you meditate on swatva, you slowly begin to feel that what you are is not comparable with any worldly thing. Say to yourself, “I am living with living energy.” Whenever and wherever you see living energy, you feel the flow of love with those living beings.
When you see other human beings, see the soul in them. As you have seen the “I am” in yourself, you see the “I am” in them. In this way, you will not live on an attachment level. You will not try to possess people and put them in your “purse.” Let them be what they are. Live on a love level, not on a possession level.
If you are genuine, others will be genuine. If you don’t see a genuine relationship growing, then let the person go on his or her way. Say to yourself, “I am not here to take on anybody’s pain.” See how smooth and pleasant and loving your relationships will become, because you are not creating suffocation. There is no binding; rather, it is genuine communication of life to life.
Knowing your reality, you will see that reality in all living forms. Then you will know the meaning of compassion. Compassion is not seeing the form of human, plant, or animal; it is seeing the life. Once Abraham Lincoln saw a pig stuck in the mud. He told his driver to stop the carriage. He got down into the mud and pulled the pig out. He lost concern for his dress clothes. He transcended the form and saw the pain of life.
Compassion is saying to yourself, “If I were in that condition, how would I feel?” So when you see pain, your heart flies there to elevate life from its burden. In this way, you come out from the old habit of identifying life with form; instead, see form as nothing but the externalization of inner life.
You also begin to see that nothing is permanent in this world of forms–of things and emotions and thoughts. You may think you have “urgent” work to do, but when you look very deeply, there is nothing you can call a lifetime mission except to live and to grow. In Rajkot, there was a police officer who made an appointment with me. He had something he wanted to talk about with me. As monks, we had the duty of complying with someone’s request if we had free time to do so. I was a little busy, so I suggested we meet the next morning. He said, “I would be glad to make it tomorrow, but I have very urgent work tomorrow. I am expected to attend a big case in court. Please let us meet today.” So we agreed to meet at 4 P.M.
A few hours later, a fellow monk came to me and said, “The police officer has expired.” He thought he had a big case to attend the next morning, but life’s mission had changed the date for him.
So what is your lifetime mission ? To live day by day, to identify with life and to go to bed each night with love for all, ill will for none. There is no dead end for you. Your life will go on creating. When you think, “Leaving this experience, I will continue evolving elsewhere,” your compulsion and hurry will drop away. You will live and grow in beautiful relationships each day, with yourself and with all living life.
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
Let me see that I am Self, and that I have misidentified myself with that which is other than Self.
I have allowed my limited mind to identify with ephemeral things and turn them into concepts. Binding myself to them, I have become bound. Now I turn to that light which is beyond mind and vaster than the material world. In throwing that light on the octopus grip of the mind, I can persuade it to loosen its hold. I want to free myself of dependency and perceive life clearly. I want to experience the beauty of my incomparable Self.
The world is not agony or pain. Pain is my own confusion, my own possessiveness. The world is neutral. I am now going to use it as a testing ground for my growth, as an inspiration for my progress, as a means to take me closer to all living life.