The Jain path to freedom
Observing the Inflow of Vibrations
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
The aspirant who is treading the path to liberate himself must take care not to lose balance. Like a tight-rope walker, if he misses even one step, he could come plunging down to the ground and hurt himself. That is, why he follows the practice of vigilance. He watches each step he takes. He becomes aware of each thought he receives and sends. He discovers the meaning of each relationship in which he engages.
For an aspirant, the danger which threatens his balance comes in the form of ashrava, meaning that which flows from all directions. There is a flow of vibrations which is constantly streaming into your consciousness from all sides. It is continually pushing and pulling, attracting and repelling, giving you ups and downs. From where does the flow come? From without and within, from society and from emotions, from your conditioning, from your mental structures, and from your background of repulsion and attraction. In this bhavana, the reflection is on ashrava, in order to become aware of the kind of inflow you are susceptible to, and to learn how to stop yourself from being swallowed up by it.
Many unpleasant thoughts and feelings have already entered your consciousness and are bothering you day and night. They don’t allow you to be in a natural blissful mood. Balance is bliss. Our real state is to be in balance in bliss. Unlike joy, which depends upon some prop or outside stimulus, bliss requires nothing. It is being with one’s own Self. When you are in a state of balance, your consciousness can be seen for what it is, calm and clean and pure, like a clear mountain lake. Without balance you are like a stormy sea, at times rolling in one direction, at other times rolling in another direction. You are either excited or depressed, in a state of constant fluctuation. In this unsteadiness, a lot of debris is collected in your consciousness, like pollutants entering a clear stream. The debris, or karma, which flows in and muddies your pristine consciousness has entered because of unawareness. You left all the outlets to your consciousness open, and now the debris has become mixed up with the pure waters.
In this reflection, there is one fundamental premise: the watcher is not the same as the inflow he is watching. You stand back from the process you are observing. You use viveka, the sense of discrimination. If a car does not work well, the driver does not compare himself with the car. If your house is old, you do not identify yourself with it. If your clothes are dirty, you do not consider yourself dirty. In the same way, when you notice dullness or heaviness or negativity, you do not identify with them. Those impurities are not you. They come from outside, and what has come from outside can go back outside. Such debris does not belong in your pure consciousness. On that premise you have to meditate.
In meditation, always see yourself as innocent, clean, and beautiful. Without condition, love yourself. Without guilt, see yourself. When you have love for yourself, you will be able to experience Self-Realization. Otherwise, if you allow the consciousness to become identified with the extraneous inflow, you may start blaming yourself.
You may put yourself down. You may focus on the dust which has collected around your soul instead of on the clean mirror like quality of your soul itself. And if you accept yourself as a sinner, you will live in that false nature. You will carry guilt wherever you go. Identifying yourself with that which binds you, how will you be able to free yourself from it?
So remember that sin and guilt do not belong to you. Keep before your mind’s eye a beautiful image of your-self. Think of yourself as arogya, as a powerful dynamic energy, in complete spiritual health. In this way, mental uncertainty and confusion, which are the causes of most diseases, will disappear.
As you meditate, your belief in your innate purity will come not only from somebody’s encouraging word, but from an inner glimpse. When you are alone, sitting by a calm lake, and nothing is bothering you, how do you feel? You watch the mellow evening slowly unfold its colors. How peaceful and blissful you feel! Your real nature reveals itself. Why? Because nothing is disturbing you.
That precious feeling may last five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour, but at least it can give you a glimpse. What lasts for a few minutes is able to last for an even longer time. It is a question of extension. So a brief glimpse gives you some conviction in your inherent peace. It gives you the courage to ask, “If such a glimpse was possible for a few moments, why not longer?” That kind of conviction is going to last long. It is not borrowed from anybody’s assurance or promise; it comes from experiencing what is yours. According to your own experience, you move forward into deeper knowledge of your own Self.
So instead of going out, the aspirant goes in. What we call silence, detachment, or retreat is merely taking time to make the whole area of one’s consciousness clean. It is a purification of the reservoir of our energy. There are three steps. First is a drying process. The waters of one’s consciousness which have become dirty and polluted are temporarily allowed to dry up. The process of watching itself acts as a powerful heat energy to evaporate all negative vibrations. To take this step one has to make a decision to close off the gates, outlets, or passageways through which new pollutants could enter. Second, when one looks at the bedrock of one’s consciousness, one pinpoints the mud or sticky residue in order to dig it out and remove it. Only when the area is completely clean does one throw open the gates and allow fresh water to flow in once again.
To embark on this process, sometimes people cut off relations with other people for a while. They need to give themselves some space. It is not running away from one-self or from the world. That interpretation of the word “detachment” is not appropriate. Detachment is not going away from anybody, it is coming to your own Self. To attach means to tie. To detach is to untie. Anything which binds you, which drags and pulls you, that is your tie. Because of this tie you are not in your own space. Something is pulling you from one end, and you do not feel steady.
Take some time to watch yourself. Remove yourself from complicated situations. Untie yourself from all the influences with the understanding that you want to see yourself clearly. The idea is not to escape from the world, but to prepare yourself to be with life, with your own life and with life at large. And how can you be with anyone if you are not first with your own Self? If you tell someone, “I will be with you” before you know yourself, you are giving a ***** ******** *******
“I want to be steady, not fickle. I want to stop this constant movement to and fro. Let me be with myself so that I will know how to be comfortable with others.”
In this way, you see life as an inner laboratory. You put yourself on the test and ask yourself penetrating questions. “Am I comfortable with myself? Do I go to others to make them happy, or do I go in order to avoid myself?” If you are traveling here and there to escape yourself, then you are taking that uncomfortable feeling with you. Wherever you go, you are creating discomfort in those relationships. Try as you may to find a haven of safety away from yourself, you cannot escape your own restless feeling. The most difficult thing is this: to be comfortable with one’s own Self in order to be comfortable with all.
Once a person kept to himself, meditating in silence. Three friends observed him and joked about him. “What is he doing?” they said, laughing. “He sits all day and does nothing. We can do that easily.”
When the meditator heard this, he asked, “Do you think it is easy to be, just to be?”
“Yes,” one friend answered, “you have nothing to do. I have so many responsibilities–to go to work, pay my rent, take care of my house. If you would take my place, I would gladly sit here like you.”
“Very well,” agreed the meditator. “I will take care of providing you with food. I will pay your rent and do everything that you usually do. It will be one month’s program. What you have to do is to be with yourself.”
The friend replied, “Oh, that will be easy. But what do I have to do in exchange?”
“Nothing,” answered the meditator. “There is nothing to do, just to be. You will remain in this beautiful bungalow, and I will give you this word, So-hum, to recite.
“That’s all? Only to recite the word?”
“Yes, that’s all.”
The agreement was made, and the friend was very happy. For the first two or three hours, he sat thinking, “Well, everything is taken care of. I don’t need to worry about paying my rent”. And he started reciting the mantra. Four more hours passed. He got tired and a little bored sitting there. He started to think, “What am I doing? The same word over and over! Well, compared to the labor I was doing, it’s not bad!” And he continued reciting the mantra.
The next day he went on. “So-hum, So-hum,” he repeated. “Such a dull sound! There is no song, no drum, no excitement! What is all this?”
He was sitting by the window with no one to talk to, with no one to listen to his jokes. He was taking all his meals by himself. By the third day, he began to feel heavy. On the fourth day, when he arose, he said to himself, “I will go crazy, I can’t bear it!”
Thoughts from his subconscious had started coming, one after another. He thought of what kind of life he had lived, how he had played games with people, how he had cooked up so many lies. Each thing became magnified. In silence, that is what happens–things become magnified.
When you are suffering from too much heat, you can take off your clothes. But when there is suffocation of thoughts, how do you escape from them? It is so easy to change clothes, but how difficult it is to change thoughts! Thoughts carve so deep that they sometimes feel like thorns and give us pain.
This man was not ready to face himself. People have some device to cover up those things which they are not ready to face, to hide them or make them smaller. But on this day, for this person, things were becoming larger.
“No,” he thought, “my mind will blow.”
On the fifth day, he went back to his friend and told him, “I want out! I don’t want to do this any more.”
“What about our agreement?” his friend asked him.
“To hell with it!”
“Why are you using the word ‘hell’?”
“Because I am suffering hell,” he answered. “My thoughts have become monstrous.”
“So,” his friend gently chided him, “don’t you think that one day you will have to face your own thoughts? Why not see them now? How long will you keep on running away from them? You are going to have to face them afterward, so why not start now? Why postpone?”
“Have I to face them?” asked the friend.
“The time comes to all; if not now, then later. One day, you will have to be alone. You will not be surrounded by people. Why not confront yourself now? You know how you feel after eating too much hot, spicy food. There is a burning sensation in your body. Your thoughts are percolating inside you like that, making you upset. You can’t control them or get rid of them. Why not do something about them–change them?”
“What to do?” asked the new meditator. “How can I change my thoughts from what they are already?”
“Inside you are pure. You have to separate yourself from your thoughts, and watch them one by one. In the past, you left all your senses, the inner gates, open. You didn’t know that when you use them to go out, at the same time they let dirty gutter water in. So now you need to dry up all the water. How can you see a good reflection of yourself when you are clouded by so much unclear thinking and entangled in superficial love affairs.”
“Then how can I live?”
The friend answered, “Live, yes, that is what you must do! But just now you are not really living. You are running away. Now is the time to be watchful and discriminating. Cleanse your consciousness and then you will feel your life.”
When you meditate on the inflow of vibrations, you learn to detect which outlets are left open and what kind of debris is coming in. You watch the way in which you are vulnerable to negative habits. The antidote to ashrava is samvara. Samvara means to stop–to lock the gates and stop the inflow from continuing to flood in. The key to samvara is ashrava. You cannot effectively stop the inflow without first knowing of what it consists.
Ashrava bhavana teaches us how to observe our weaknesses, our unlocked gates, our inner ensnarements, our unchecked addictions. The first one is kashaya, which means inner passions or attachments, such as anger, pride, greed, and deceit. They are gangsters; all are in alliance with one another. They work in a clever way. They don’t always appear all at once. One enters through the window first, unlocks the door, and lets in the others. They each have a subtle connection.
You may think, “I have only a little ego left.” But if someone insults your ego, that brings anger. You may flare up and use harsh words. A person with ego has some deceit as well. In order to prevent his ego from receiving a puncture, he will do deceitful things. In that ego, there is also greed, to become more and more powerful, and to keep others in a subordinate position. Moreover, if someone gets in the way of the greedy person when he is collecting something, whether it is a material thing or a high post, he will be angry. So these four, known as kashaya, open the door to the gutter rather than to the fresh rainfall. This is the first gate which must be closed.
Secondly, there is an open gate or ensnarement called yoga. It has a special meaning in this context. It is the yoga by which mind, word, and body are connected or glued to tempting, alluring, enticing things. Such things constantly pull you when you are unaware. For example, if you go window- shopping and see a coat, your eye connects with the coat and your mind becomes filled with plans of how to get the money to buy it. If the person you live with does not help you out financially, you become angry. “What do you do for me?” you complain. “You won’t even help me buy a beautiful coat.”
All your energy is pulled in the direction of collecting enough money to buy the coat. This demonstrates the way in which the senses connect with attractive things when the gate of yoga is left open, unchecked by awareness .
A third ensnarement is called pramada, or lethargy. It comes in three forms to muddy the waters of our consciousness. First, there is indecisiveness. The person is wishy-washy and goes in all directions. Such a person is unaware of himself; that is why he can be pushed or pulled in conflicting ways.
There is no purposeful direction to his life; rather, he moves in a rut or a vicious circle.
Related to this is a second form of pramada. nonattention to time or lack of discipline. People who tend to be lazy say, “I don’t have time,” because they don’t know how to use time. Such a person knows how to waste time. He may go on sipping coffee for hours, or watching television or reading the papers, until it becomes late and he must rush off to his appointment. That shows no arrangement of time. It’s an ensnarement which saps one’s energy. But one who knows how to harness time always has time.
The third form of pramada is not being aware of life, not caring for one’s own Self. There are people who have not taught themselves to know how to use this beautiful gift of human life. It requires some discipline and some commitment. That is why people who practice apramada, or awareness, outline their program. It is not too rigid. But they know what they want to accomplish in a day, in a month, in a year, so that they can use their energy in that direction. It is not accomplishing for the sake of achievement or outer reward; it is engaging oneself in some purposeful endeavor for the sake of life’s growth and for the service of living beings. By keeping this awareness in the back of the mind, and attuning oneself to life, one can concentrate on the immediate work of the present moment and bring past, present, and future in harmony with one another.
If you have decisiveness along with some discipline, everything goes smoothly. You find the right balance in the allotment of time, taking a certain amount for peace, for meditation, for rest, for nutrition, for physical activity, and for service.
The fourth gate is an inner trap called avirati, failure to limit the things one needs and uses in life. To offset this neglect, the aspirant observes virati, a vow to place a limit on his possessions, his needs. It may be a vow to limit his food. He may say, “Today I am going to take only three kinds of food,” or “Today I am going to eat only two meals,” or “Today I will eat only unsalted, tasteless food.”
In this way, the digestive machine does not get over-loaded. Our system needs at least three hours in which to digest anything. If we throw in more food in less than three hours, it stops the system from continuing to digest the food which is already there. It has to go back and start all over again. If we limit our food intake, the system works accurately and indigestion does not occur. At the same time, to keep the body cool and to avoid constipation, liquids are taken eight or ten times a day. This method of systematic and balanced eating is a way to control one’s taste buds, limit one’s need, and preserve one’s health.
There is no need to follow anything blindly. There is no compulsion to copy a monk’s life. It must be done according to your environment. You must adjust and modify, rather than follow a system which was right for a certain climate, atmosphere, or period of time. What counts is the longing to limit your need. For example, you can make a commitment to limit your wealth. You make an agreement with yourself, “I am going to be satisfied with just this much.” Otherwise, the mind will justify all that it wants, not what it needs. There is no need to earn right up until the last day. When one puts a limit, saying, “This is enough,” then the time can be spent for spiritual unfoldment and service.
The fifth ensnarement is mithyathva–ignorance and confusion. In mithyathva, truth is mixed up with lie, violence is confused with non-violence, lust is taken for love, and right is undifferentiated from wrong. It reflects muddled thinking. It shows the inability to discriminate between what is compassionate and what is hurtful. For example, a person whose mind is darkened with mithyathva may be preaching universal love and at the same time approving the sacrifice of animals.
Mithyathva indicates failure to see the truth. Semi-truth is taken as truth and sometimes becomes more compelling than truth itself. It may bind, tie, and obsess you. Truth, on the other hand, is all light; it frees you. Mithyathva is the most serious ensnarement because of the way it takes hold inside.
These are the five gateways which allow the shrava to flow from outside to inside. When they are left open, our pure consciousness is vulnerable to innumerable pollutants, inner weaknesses, and deceptions.
Everything from the past and present has made an imprint on your consciousness culture, family, geographical conditions, schooling, religious background. Some of the imprints we call worldly shrava. Others we call religious shrava. Though we may try to avoid worldly influences, sometimes religious imprints are even more of a burden. That is because they lead to an indelible kind of inner shrava–guilt, self-hatred, faultfinding, blind faith.
We have to see both, flow from without and flow from within. Inner dogma is that which prevents you from accepting yourself as you are. When someone criticizes you, you feel as if an arrow were piercing your heart. You feel psychological pain. You experience fear, and fear prevents you from living life.
The inner habit of self-criticism does not allow you to clear your consciousness of its load, of its muddy residue. Don’t be overcritical of yourself, or you won’t have the energy to work and go further. To be spiritual, you need lightness. No person became enlightened carrying the load of sadness. It is a heavy lump of clay. Being sad, you cannot see yourself. All the so-called sins (I call them consequences) are born from sadness. When someone is sad, he has identified so completely with that heaviness that he does whatever he can to escape. So he escapes into alcohol, drugs, or other vices. He may even commit suicide.
Enlightenment comes in a state of lightness. Guard against anything which makes you bleak, depressed, and cheerless. Do not allow it to arise, for once it comes, it clouds your whole vision. Without clear visibility, how can you see that you are in essence clean and pure? Your consciousness needs clear open space. That is its nature–to be limitless, infinite, luminous. Meditating on ashrava, see how things have taken over your inner space. This may be reflected in your outer place. I have seen some homes where the furniture crowds the people. Do you often bump into your furniture? Now see whether or not in your consciousness you bump into objects, possessions, worries.
Go further and ask yourself, “Why do I buy things? Is it because I have left open the gate of yoga? Do I allow my eyes to be attracted to something and do I then run out and buy it? Is it because of ego? Do I buy things for my own use or for showing other people? Why am I trying to impress people? Why should I make my house into a furniture store?” See the obsession–when you have something, you want to show it, and when you don’t have something, you feel mistreated for not having received it. Both are complexes; both stem from ignorance of Self.
Life itself is free from complexes, free from push and pull. There are so many commercials bombarding you. It is difficult to live in the world; it is easy to live in the forest. So you aspirants who live in the city have to be more careful than those who retired to the forest. For them there was no outer temptation. But for you there is constant temptation and you are learning to balance it.
Perhaps people make fun of you for being vegetarian. They call you crazy and shoot arrows of criticism at you. They may taunt you for wanting to live a natural life, for not wanting to be promiscuous, for not drinking wine, or for not going to an analyst. For them the abnormal is made normal. They do not realize that by going to sex seminars, for example, they are creating more desires inner turmoil, pain, complexes, and breakups in their relationships rather than fewer. But you are sincere seekers. Throughout all the criticisms, you remain yourselves. You have the courage of inner conviction.
You have taken the time to experience the depth of life. You are not influenced by ephemeral things. You have meditated to find something lasting, something permanent, something which can give you inner confidence. When a strong gust of wind comes, you know how to stand and wait. It is the art of knowing how to withstand the tide before it engulfs you.
Once you have closed the open gates, dried up all the polluted water, and cleaned out all the debris, then you can open them again to receive the fresh, clean rainfall. What is that rainfall? It is the flow of maitri–pure love, compassion, and communication. You feel free and flowing with all. You are not meeting people to impress them. You meet to share. See how easily you meet people when there is no feeling of greater or lesser, no scar or bitterness, no fault finding or criticism.
And when somebody criticizes you, you will be able to accept it as an indication that perhaps there is something in you which you have not yet uprooted. So you will be grateful to that person for pointing out to you yet another way in which to grow and lighten your burden. If you are sincere in your approach to living, then even one who used to find fault with you or dislike you will find room in his heart for you.
Enlightened people do not close themselves off in their own world. Knowing what they are in essence, they talk and move in the world without being polluted by anything. They learn to act without kashaya, so that no more dust and debris will be invited to cling to their pure consciousness and cover their visibility. If you put your whole heart into working on this seriously, you can change your life style. Instead of making the world a valley of unhappiness, you can transform it into a garden of bliss.
You can live in total freedom in yourself, in your own space, not in somebody else’s space. Free from being driven by the inflow of negative vibrations, you are free to dwell in your own natural state, to flow in your own pure stream of blissful consciousness.
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
Let me see my consciousness as a clean body of water, clear, pure, and sparkling.
When I stand back, I can watch the inflow of negative vibrations. I have no need to identify with them, for what has come from outside can go back outside. It does not belong in my consciousness.
My real nature is blissfulness. When I am in this natural state, I am in balance.
Detachment is not going away from anybody; it is coming to my own Self. Let me be with myself; then I will know how to be with you.
Faith that comes from somebody else ‘s word, promise, or prediction is not going to last long, because it is borrowed. Conviction which comes from inner experience is going to endure.
Instead of making the world a valley of unhappiness, false promise. Instead, say to yourself, I can transform it into a garden of bliss with awareness.