The Jain path to freedom
The Flame in the Candle
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
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 self- deception.
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 elements.
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 teach me.”
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 art”
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 understand.
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 intention.”
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 entranced.
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 incredulously.
“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 kings separately.
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 yourself health.
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 growth.
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 universally.