The Jain path to freedom
The Art of the Full Stop
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
As seekers, you are like mountain climbers. Your climb is to reach the height of your consciousness. Whether it is a mountain or your own Self, to reach the peak you must climb in stages, one step at a time. The higher you go, the more careful you have to be. The wind at the top is very strong. If you are not well balanced, it can throw you back. When we observe the lives of great people, we are moved by their achievements, but we may not consider how much awareness and balance it took for them to reach that height. On all sides, there were always temptations and alluring things to divert he attention. At times there was fear of falling into the valley below. Despite all the potential deterrents, they went on steadily, because their whole intention was to reach the top.
They always kept their purpose in front of their inner eye. They had to be vigilant, careful, aware, and balanced. Why did they want to reach the peak? Because from there one can experience the freshest air, the panoramic view, the joy of seeing the beauty of the earth below and the skies above.
No one on the ground can imagine what the person who climbs Mount Everest has to go through. It is constant vigilance. Only when you start climbing do you realize how steep the path is, how high the peak. But if you have inside courage, conviction, and confidence, then you are not afraid. “I am going to make it,” you say to yourself.
And you are going to make it, because there is no agent outside of you determining your life, making it prosperous or not. As a seeker, you accept the responsibility for each act. You realize, “If I am responsible for my own steps, then there is no danger. I am going to reach my destination because I am here for that.”
You may accept somebody’s helping hand as you move along the path, but that help is second to your own. Yours is first. In this way, you are neither arrogant nor falsely modest; both attitudes are extreme. Both mean pretension. A person who is trying to cut a figure in society or make a name for himself may play the role of being as submissive as a lapdog in order to draw some kind of attention. It is a trick. When you are aware of being humble, you want people to notice how simple you are. Why do you want to tell everybody? It means you need to capitalize on that.
Be natural, be what you are! Only watch where you are! Watching, you will become so subtle that you will know where you are at all times. If you can know that, it is enough. Then you won’t need to ask approval from the world. When you finally don’t need approval, that is when the world is ready to give it to you. It appears a little paradoxical. But people start sensing your genuineness. “Really this person is not on a trip,” they observe. “She is with herself.”
The fact is we are here just to live, just to be, not to collect trophies, degrees, and certificates. Our whole approach is to be what we are. We are not here for some temporary height, for some false inflated sense of who we are. Our aim is to return to that natural state which is so balanced that we are neither down nor up. For that we have to work in a wholehearted way. We can move toward that natural state only if we refrain from despising, criticizing, and abusing ourselves. We stop the craving to collect opinions, words of praise, and approval. When we put a stop to the inflow of such old habits of thinking, how peacefully we start living!
There is no greater joy in the world than to have peace with oneself. That is the real reason behind our seeking all kinds of joy. We want to remain in a beautiful mood. But when we see that temporary joy depends on outside stimulation and often brings sadness when its time is over, then we realize that it is essential to learn how to be at home with ourselves and discover permanent peace.
It does not mean that you reject the outside world. You appreciate the beauty and bounty of the world. You have five beautiful senses. In fact, your senses are kept so clear and clean that you can appreciate more keenly than most people the many sights and sounds, tastes and smells, feelings and perceptions. When something beautiful appears before you, you see it as it is. The point is this: you are not dependent solely on your senses. When you close your eyes, there also is beauty. So you see both the beauty within and the beauty without.
The problem with most of us is that we see the beauty without but not the loveliness within. Isn’t it strange that after so many years of seeing beauty without, still we are unable to retain it when we close our eyes? As soon as we close our eyes, we see darkness. What is the point of all those years of enjoying outer beauty if they have not given us a clue to our inner beauty? It is wonderful to open the eyes and appreciate the beauty of sunrise, springtime, children dancing, and mellow faces whose wrinkles tell the story of joy and pain. But there is richness within, our moving,
Without that moving spirit, the outer eyes would not perceive even the outer world.
We have to know that moving spirit whose capacity it is to experience, remember, and grow. Because of its presence, we are longing to quench our inner thirst. It is our true identity. It is sitting inside our outer shell. Meditating on this, we realize, “What I have been calling ‘me’ is only the shell. It is my instrument. The essence is inside. That essence is me.
The initiate watches inside and climbs each step of awareness until he reaches the core, the inner shrine. Ultimately, you reach that shrine and sit on the throne which is waiting for you. People call it God’s throne. It is not reserved for only a few. It is waiting for all. Each of us has that throne within. That is why we have a longing, a dream, a quest. That archetype, that throne sometimes beckons to us, “Come unto me!” So the initiate moves.
But in order to move and ascend to the peak you have to be free from the load. If you have too much of a burden, you cannot carry it along with you. Gravitational forces are there to pull you down. The Buddha was not a foolish person to leave the palace and his beautiful wife and child. He was not a dropout. He had a quest for truth. And Mahavir was not a silly person when he talked to his wife, saying, “Where is our kingdom, dear? Is it only on earth? This kind of kingdom will perish. This kind of kingdom creates fights and wars. Can we not have that kingdom which is eternal awareness?” In this way giving up becomes a receiving. True renunciation is full awareness of the kingdom within.
That inner level will also bring deep meaning to relationships. When husband and wife inspire each other, they become beautiful company for one another. Their communication turns into an eternal communion. The idea in marriage is to work out karmas and be a complement to each other. When we live on that inner level, we communicate and find out what is our mission. And when one feels low, the other is a lifting spirit. “This will pass,” he tells his partner. “We have to be patient and wait for the sunrise.” When one person is moody, there is no need for the other to add to the misery. There is no permanent pain nor is there any permanent bubbling happiness. What is permanent? Inner bliss, tranquillity; all else comes and goes.
To see the nature of the outer world and to experience the beauty of the inner world there is no need to go to a monastery. You can turn your house into a monastery! After all, some monasteries themselves have turned into political arenas for people to express their power drive!
I wish each family, each of you, could turn your small house into a beautiful monastery and create a beautiful life there, growing in understanding and meaning. Seventy or eighty years, our time on earth, is such a short period. You can use it to be alone or to be with people who share your thinking and understanding. You can use it to be with friends or neighbors or to be with whomever you feel love and compassion for. The world does not belong to anyone. There is no need for pettiness or limitation. There is no restriction of caste, creed, age, color, or language. We can all speak the same language –of eve and heart and feeling.
Samvara means to stop the flow of ashrava. First we meditated on ashrava, to know what the flow consists of, and where it is coming from–without and within. Once we know how it works, we stop it.
When a rainstorm is coming, and you hear on the radio that it is going to be a severe one, what do you do? Do you not become careful and take precautions? Don’t you get up and close the windows, gather up any equipment lying outside on the lawn, bring it in, and stay inside? If you don’t close the windows, what will happen? The house will be filled with dust and dirt and rainwater.
Samvara means to close the windows when the storm is about to come. In life the storm is kashaya–anger, greed, pride, and deceit. Anger is a storm. When it comes, first it upsets our own peace. Then it destroys what is around it. Anger distorts, blinds, and prevents clear vision. The person whose heart and eyes are burning with anger does not like anything beautiful. Smile at the person, and you will see that your smile is not tolerated. “Why are you smiling?” he will roar at you.
When you are angry, your child may come rushing over to you. “Mummy!” he cries, but you say, “Go away,” and you push him aside. Your friend comes and you destroy ten years of friendship in ten minutes. “I hate you those words can create a big impact on the consciousness. How to erase them? You can say, “I am sorry,” but that does not take away the sting of the words. They pierce like an arrow, and someone’s heart is bleeding. The pain and the wound remain. Why do you use such harsh words? I do not say that you should suppress anger, but watch from where it has come. Feel the words you are throwing out. They are going to have repercussions, both in you and in someone else. Every word has a vibration which has an impact on your consciousness.
Once a woodcutter went into the forest and saw a lion. He became frightened. The lion took pity on him and told him where to find some ornaments which were buried in the forest. The woodcutter was very happy, because he needed the money which the ornaments would bring for his daughter’s marriage feast. He invited the guests, and along with them, out of gratitude to the lion, he invited the lion. The lion was not anxious to go to the party, but the woodcutter convinced him.
When he arrived, all the guests were alarmed and started to run away. “Don’t worry,” the woodcutter told them. “He won’t hurt you. This lion is just as tame as an old dog.”
When the money from the ornaments ran out, the woodcutter again went to the forest. This time the lion would not show him where there were more ornaments. Instead, he told him, “Here, make a wound on my paw with your knife.”
The woodcutter asked, “What? You want me to make a cut in your paw?”
“Yes,” the lion answered. “Come back in one month and I will talk to you then.” He did as the lion requested, and one month later returned to the forest.
The lion asked him, “Can you see the wound you made with your knife?” The woodcutter saw that it was completely healed. The lion continued, “The wound of the flesh can be healed, but the wound from your words is still bleeding.” The woodcutter had used the words “He is just as tame as an old dog” in a hurry, and the lion was insulted at being compared to a dog.
So when anger is about to come and you are about to speak harsh words, say to yourself, “Let me close the window.” The first window to close is the mouth. It is better to close the mouth and open the eyes and see who is standing before you. There is no need to repress the anger. Watch the inside feeling and turn it into steam, into some creative energy. Let there be space between you and the person with whom you are angry. First you say to yourself, “I am angry. I don’t like what happened.”
At the same time, you use samvara, you stop yourself from speaking out. If you speak from a level of imbalance, when the anger is giving too much energy, your words will be amplified. So tell yourself to wait for your normal state to return.
Then ponder, “What is the cause of this anger? Did someone else make the mistake or did I have a part in it? Are not two hands needed to make a clap? Can it be avoided in the future? What are the ways to prevent it?” When you have this spirit of inquiry, this space, you don’t allow the energy of anger to go out. You keep it in for the time being like a pressure cooker. You let the steam out very slowly.
After that, instead of using a lot of words, you select a few words and tell the person very gently, “This is what made me angry. I would prefer this,” or “This has spoiled my peace. I don’t want to spoil your peace with my anger.” In this way, you stop the cycle of action reaction, and interaction. You see the pain that anger has caused and you do not want to evoke it in someone else. You want it to end here. With a gentle feeling toward the other person, you can awaken his or her consciousness. By shouting, what are you going to accomplish?
So follow these three steps when anger comes. First, be aware of your feeling. What was your expectation which created the sensations in your body, the increasing buildup of hot energy. Second, retain the energy until your balance returns. Do not allow yourself to speak. Third, when you are feeling calm, tell the person what has made you unhappy, what has hurt your feelings. Your very gentle selective words will start working on that person’s consciousness if the person is sensitive. If the person cannot understand you, even your shouting will have no meaning.
Another storm is the storm of pride. When pride inflates you like a balloon and you say, “I want to be greater than that person,” notice its cruel aspect. The ego makes you want to surpass and make the other person feel inferior to you. If you were not cruel, you would not do anything to make another feel beneath you. This inner cruelty comes from complete unawareness of Self.
On the contrary, we must try to make a person feel at home. Know that the things you have are for sharing, for peace, for comfort, for communication; they are not for impressing others or for creating a difference in levels. Find out how you really feel about things. Things themselves are unimportant; it is your attitude which counts. Ask yourself, “Am I playing a game? Am I really with people or am I trying to be superior?” To be with people is excellent; to act superior is a result of ignorance.
Pride or ego is not the same as self-respect. Ego has a way of invading the whole cerebral area and causing a vicious circle of behavior. Self-respect radiates from inner awareness, from inner balance. Ego depends on the external situation; self-respect is steady on all occasions. Ego acts like mercury in a thermometer, going up and down according to the heat. Self-respect has its own poise, the outer climate does not affect it. The aspirant is one who keeps balance.
The third inner enemy is greed. Once greed takes hold of us, our needs continue to expand. We keep on changing our standards. Greed tears people into pieces, and the inside pain that results cannot be cured with any medicine. Many people who have reached the top of the political, business, or religious hierarchy have torn themselves apart with misery when forced to retire and pass their days in a small way.
They had lived from pomp, but when their situations changed like the weather and their ego desires were no longer satisfied, they felt utter frustration. For them, it was a mental torture.
Only if such people have a hobby can they survive. Eliminating greed does not mean you should not earn a living. It involves asking yourself this question: “Am I comparing myself with someone else or am I happy with what I have?” Greed is like a powerful earthquake. It can cause havoc in one’s life. So you practice the art of the full stop and say, “Enough!”
When you have anger, ego, and greed, then the fourth inner enemy comes–deceit. To maintain the first three you have to play a role. You have to pretend to be what you are not. You always have to be on your toes. You are not natural. You are always putting on a mask or covering yourself with makeup. It is not easy to keep up the facade. One day you will get up from your slumber and find yourself without any makeup. It is far better to reflect on how to stop and see yourself, how to be what you are.
As you practice samvara, you understand its purpose. It is for your arogya–your spiritual health. If your longing to climb to the height of yourself is genuine, you will want inner health. It will not be to please or show any-body else; it will be for yourself. Just as you brush your teeth to keep them clean and fresh for your own feeling of well-being, so you cleanse your consciousness of impure elements. Just as you wash your body to feel refreshed and not to show how soft your skin is, in the same way you unclog the pores of your mind in order to think clearly, without distortion. The highest soul uses meditation to keep arogya. Practicing in this way, he or she has no need for any temporary lift from the outer world. The aspirant does not want anything temporary; he or she wants only that insight which is going to last forever.
So when the storm of anger, ego, greed, or deceit is about to invade your consciousness, keep the word samvara in front of you. Tell yourself, “No, let me stop. Let me keep quiet. Let me not react. Let me not be cruel.” Keeping a space between you and negative vibrations, you are able to deflect the vibrations. They will evaporate into thin air under the light of your ever-present awareness. In this way, you are able to stop the continuous inflow of karmas into the waters of your consciousness. You will be able to see clearly into your depths and remove the residue.
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
Close the windows when the storm is about to come. In life the storm is anger, greed, ego, and deceit.
Let me see the pain anger has caused me so that I will not want to evoke it in anyone else.
Let me see the inner cruelty of greed, how in taking more than my share, someone else has to have less.
Let me see how the ego wants to put someone else down.
Let me see the pretension in deceit, how it is centered on covering up the truth from myself and the world.
If I keep the purpose always in front of my inner eye, I will make it to the peak. I am going to make it because there is no outside agent determining my life. I am here for that purpose.