The Science of Living :Its Basis and Process
The important process or the very basis of Science of Living is the effort to make our body, breath, speech and mind truly accomplished or well-trained. Unless we understand this basic fact, we cannot get the right cure.
When the instruments of cure themselves become diseased, how can they effect a cure ? The body, the breath, the speech and the mind – these are the four elements that can bring about a cure. But problems arise when they are themselves in a diseased state. The answer to these problems lies in making the instruments healthy, strong and well-trained. Now the question arises: In what way can they be trained? The process of training consists of four parts : preksha (seeing or perceiving carefully and profoundly) anupreksha (contemplation), Kayotsarg (total relaxation) and spiritual vigilance (awakening of the consciousness and its constant alertness). One must learn to observe, to produce sound waves, to relax and to be alert. Together, these four ways constitute complete education and can bring about a major transformation. It is through these ways that we can bring about lasting changes in the body, the breath, the speech and the mind.
The first way relates to perception. Indian philosophy is based on perception or seeing. In fact, darshan (philosophy) means seeing or perceiving. Its meaning has changed now. The philosophy being taught in colleges and universities is based on inference and reasoning but in ancient times it stood for direct apprehension. Not inference, not abstract reasoning, not causation, not universality or pervasiveness, but sheer apprehension. Today, we have lost the power to see and we fail to distinguish between thinking and seeing.
Seeing then is something very important. One has to see the breath, the body and the psychic centres (chaitanya kendras). One might ask : What is there in breath to see ? One breathes in and out and this goes on so long as one lives. So what is so special about it which observes seeing? The answer is that it is by seeing the breath that one comes to recognize its immense worth, for it – seeing breath – is the best way to control one’s thoughts or the wanderings of the mind.
The human mind is most fickle and wavering. Seeing the breath or breath perception (to use a more common expression) is the best way to steady the mind. For it is our inner propensities and attitudes which cause the mind to waver. To control these propensities and attitudes is to control the mind and there is no better means of exercising this control than through the breath.
The next element is seeing the body or body perception. It does not mean looking at its external form but seeing all those actions that go on within it.
Within the human body exist many chemicals, electricity, a large number of movements and vibrations. Many chemical changes take place within the body as a result of glandular secretions. Our brain also undergoes many chemical changes. The mind itself is the source of many chemicals. Seeing the body involves getting to know the manner in which these chemicals bring about subtle changes in our habits and attitudes. The first thing that we perceive after acquiring a steady posture of kayotsarg through the steadying of the breath and turning our consciousness inwards is the body vibrations and their locations. This knowledge comes in stages and soon after we become aware of the chemical processes. As one becomes more practised in the art of seeing or perception, one comes to know more and more about the human body. This is what we call body perception.
The third element is seeing the psychic centres of which there are many in our body. Though the number of these centres is very large, under Preksha Meditation only thirteen of them are regarded as important. As soon as one starts seeing these centres, they become active and it is not difficult to know whether they are active or not.
The seeing or the perception of the breath, the body and the psychic centres is subsumed under the first of the four processes mentioned earlier, viz. preksha.
They second way is called anupreksha (contemplation). It involves thoughts, sounds as well as feelings. In a sense it is the use of self-hypnosis. Everyone knows how brave resolutions to give up bad habits and addictions either prove temporary or fail completely. The reason is not far to seek. Whereas our habits operate through the subconscious mind, our resolutions do so through the conscious mind. Until the message of what we want to achieve reaches the subconscious mind, the activities that we habitually undertake consciously will not change. It is here that anupreksha or contemplation plays a crucial role.
The third way is kayotsarg or total relaxation. In the present age medical science has fully revealed the truth that most of our problems are caused by mental stress. It lies behind most diseases, bad habits and distorted thinking. Through kayotsarg this stress can be effectively relieved. As the stress decreases, problems become less intractable. Since most psychosomatic ailments are caused by stress, lessening of stress automatically affects the psycho-physiological condition. When the breathing is slow and undisturbed the body itself becomes relaxed and restful and this, in turn, brings about positive changes even in the case of hardened habits.
The fourth way is spiritual vigilance, i.e. awakening of the consciousness and its constant alertness. We often act in a state of torpor. This sluggishness or non-alertness becomes the cause of many problems which we can avoid by being spiritually vigilant. Such vigilance has to be constantly practised. If we learn to be vigilant during the time when we are awake, the vigilance continues to exist even when we are asleep. This is in accordance with the science of yoga which recognizes two kinds of sleep – one in which we are unaware of the fact that we are sleeping (supta nidra) and the other in which we have the awareness of being asleep jagrit nidra). The latter is merely the result of spiritual vigilance and there is no better key to mental care than such vigilance or constant alertness. By following this method even the most complicated psychic diseases can be cured.