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Freedom from the Bondage of Karma.

by Swami Rama.


Chapter 2



Before anything happens in the gross world it is preceded by something happening in the subtle world. Actions move first within the mind because the mind is subtler than the body and thoughts are subtler than actions. However, the link between action and thought is not a straight-forward one. In both the Bible and the teachings of the Buddha, there is awareness of the subtle cord of thinking which lies beneath the cord of action in the rope of karma. Buddha said, "Whatever a man thinks on, that he becomes," and Christ meant the same thing when He taught His disciples, "Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also." We tend to become what we think, and our thoughts normally reflect the karma stored from the past in the vast storehouse of the subconscious. Therefore, to free ourselves from the bondage of our thinking, we must become aware of how our minds work. The mind itself is like a busy workshop which keeps us from being aware of our soul and spirit. Thus, it is necessary to understand and regulate this mental workshop so that we may realize soul and spirit.

Right learning begins with the awareness of ignorance. He who claims to know all is a fool. A wise, humble person admits that he knows nothing. Such a person really does know something. Gandhi said that most of the important things learned in his life were learned from children. Children have spontaneous cognition based more on instinct than on intellect. Thus, they are closer to intuitive knowledge and to their true nature than adults. We must strive for this quality of the child's mind. We must begin by concentrating on that which keeps us from knowing the Truth, namely, the mind itself. We will find that God is already known. It is ourselves whom we must come to know and understand in order to realize our true nature.

By studying outwardly the nature of karma, we cannot understand its inner essence. We should remember that the whole of our body is in our mind, but the whole of our mind is not in our body. It is the mind that makes hell and heaven for man. Mind is a means of enlightenment if it is understood with all its functions. To attain perfection means to have perfect mastery over the mind and its modifications. It is necessary for everyone to elevate themselves. In this respect there is very little aid coming from without. We all are eager to bring about our own elevation by attaining spiritual heights. No one wishes his own downfall, but few and far between are those who sincerely follow the path. Ordinary persons imagine that others would help them rise. Most often we say that Mr. "A" helped me immensely, but Mr. "B" brought about my ruin. This, however, is not the right line of thinking. Can it be said millions of people who are crying today have themselves created all their miseries? The correct answer to this question is "yes". Each person is himself the creator of his own happiness and misery.

Man is a citizen of two worlds - the world of his own thinking and the world surrounding him. He reflects his inner ideas on the outer world and perceives things as he wants, not as they are. For example, if you study relationships in the external world by studying wife and husband relationships, you will come to know that they blame each other for their own deeds. They reflect their thinking on each other and make themselves unhappy. If all the relationships are properly understood the flower of life will bloom in delight.

What, in fact, is the mind? What are its different functions? In modern education, emphasis is placed on one specific aspect of the mind, namely, rationality. We take great pride in this function and use its creations to enhance egocentric consciousness, the great enemy of genuine spiritual insight. We must study and develop aspects of the mind other than the rational in order to become aware of our ignorance and prepare ourselves for true knowledge.

There are various ways of studying the mind. According to Yoga psychology, mind is understood by understanding vrittis, which are the modifications of mind. Patanjali, the codifier of Yoga science, sets a definite program of training the mind and its modifications and thus leads the student to the state of samadhi. He gives four definite steps of training the mind:

These are gradual training steps for transforming the entire personality.

In Patanjali's system training is emphasized more than analysis. According to Yoga psychology, the exclusive analysis of external behaviour (as pursued by some schools of modern psychology) is an inadequate method for fruitful understanding of the nature of the mind and brain. What is required is to delve into the thinking process to find out how to deal with the problems which arise in connection with our thoughts and actions. The main approach of modern psychology and psychiatry is to help man by working on his emotions, whereas Yoga psychology trains man on all levels - the physical, mental, and spiritual. By studying behaviour or the emotions, we really do not probe into deeper levels of our mind. Simply expressing emotions is not sufficient training to attain emotional maturity. It is important to stress the fact that no modern psychological concepts show the way of transcending the subconscious mind. If the time comes when these branches of psychological science talk of transcending mind, they will have to accept the established methods of meditation which have been systematized in Yoga science for millennia.

In meditation, many things come into our awareness and disturb us. For example, we may find ourselves caught in a collision between the personal and collective mind in which we are disturbed and troubled by others as we try to meditate. Through the continued practice of meditation, control over our mental agitations is achieved. To meditate is to be fully alert. The mind becomes one-pointed. Mental activity and thought become continuous like the pouring of oil from one vessel to another. We may be aware of and concentrate on each drop of oil, yet there is also continuity. There is no break in our thoughts. Through meditation the personality expands towards union with all things. It expands towards the universal "I". We learn to see the same reality in all things - in a snake and in a swami alike.

The other states of our mind lead us astray, and we must constantly strive to overcome them. Dreams, for example, function to fulfill our desires. When our inspirations and desires cannot be translated into reality, we dream about them. So dreaming is simply an expression of our suppressed wishes. Dreams are based on the truth but they do not tell the truth. For a swami, on the other hand, there is no difference between waking and sleeping; he has no suppressed desires and therefore no need to dream. Sleep and dreaming cannot change our personalities, but samadhi can.

The superconscious state can make a sage even of a fool.Because the gurus have attained the superconscious state, their teachings and wisdom are to be treasured. They are like transmitters of eternal knowledge and light. They receive and transmit this higher energy to us. Reverence for the guru is thus not reverence for him or her personally, but rather for the light and knowledge communicated through their material body. It is not enough, therefore, to worship the guru in his material form or through rituals. We must treat his suggestions and teachings as true light and knowledge being passed on through him from the long line of gurus extending back to the source of ultimate Truth. This Truth may be obtained only in the fourth state, by gaining complete one-pointed control over the mind.

In dealing with our thinking process, we have to face many problems of the train of thoughts which have various forms, symbols, images, ideas, and fancies, and which actually have their root on the deeper levels of our minds. We can term them all passions. Our passions are the root cause of our emotions, and we need to be sincerely working with our passions. For example, a story is told of a swami who was directed by his master to visit another teacher so that he might learn to overcome his angry temper. After a long search, the swami found the new teacher on a remote mountain. He appeared to be dead. The swami spent much time probing and testing to see whether the teacher was dead or alive and finally, after convincing himself that the teacher was dead, he left exasperated. As he descended the mountain, he heard a voice calling him back, and he returned to find that the teacher was indeed alive. The swami threw himself at the teacher's feet, asking to be forgiven for how he had treated him while testing whether or not he was alive and begging for help in overcoming his problem of anger. The teacher promptly kicked him right in the chest and knocked him half-way down the mountain side. The swami got up angrily and ran back to the teacher filled with rage and violence. As the swami raised his fist, the teacher said to him, "You can leave now. Obviously, you have no control over your anger. What good are all of your supplications and entreaties? You became angry just because I kicked you down the mountain. Is that how a man of inner peace, a swami, behaves?" This story shows that in the method of Yoga psychology the teacher not only teaches us to look into ourselves and find our problems, but he gives us practical lessons and helps us develop strength to overcome these problems.

What happens to us when we become angry? We are enveloped with a cloud of ego and selfishness. It is like a fire of passion, an abnormal mind-engulfing state. We must unlearn these habits, and to do that we not only analyze ourselves but also follow reliable methods and techniques to help us overcome these problems.

Study of the Mandukya Upanishad helps us to understand the mind. How do we know what we know - that we have a mind, that others exist, and so on? All such knowledge comes to us during the course of the waking state. In this state the senses are coordinated with the conscious part of the mind. If the conscious part of the mind is not coordinated with the senses, then you are either dreaming or in a state of meditation. This normal waking state is the one that is emphasized in the process of education as it is normally practiced in the West, with great value placed on rationality. According to Yoga Science, as mentioned earlier, there are four states of consciousness:

Samadhi is the state of true knowledge and realization. In the absence of this state we remain bound by the rope of karma. In fact, some animals function more effectively in nature than man. For example, animals can instinctively sense such dangers as earthquakes. Their minds do not intervene to inhibit the natural operation of such instincts. They are often better able to cope with problems and difficulties than humans. The human mind, on the other hand, is so crowded that it cannot be guided by nature as animal minds so easily are. Furthermore, in the West so much attention has been placed on the waking state that knowledge of how to use the dreaming and sleeping states for learning is virtually non-existent.

Modern Western thought tends to view the non-rational aspects of mind as irrational; the suprarational is feared and avoided as if it were infrarational. It is this tendency which has kept the West of today entirely ignorant of the powerful educational capacities of the fourth and highest state of intuition.

Only a small part of our mind is studied and utilized in the waking state, leaving the totality of mind unexplained and unutilized. Life can be deepened by intensifying inner meditative experiences and, in a parallel manner, by grounding our outer actions in the great subtleties which flow out of such experience. We are all limited by the sum total of experiences accumulated up to a given point in time. The mind cannot go beyond whatever it has seen, heard, imagined, or studied. However, through meditation it is possible to gain new and extraordinary valuable inner experiences which help further our growth. It is necessary, however, to discriminate carefully between the variety of experiences called "inner" so that this growth can be authentic and meaningful. Visions and hallucinations, for example, do not transform our personalities, however much they may excite and impress us. People who believe themselves to be possessed by devils are, in fact, suffering from a lack of confidence and from hallucinations. Learning to use our whole mind serves to protect us from these fascinating but wrong kinds of experiences. This is what is meant by the biblical injunction, "Who has ears to hear, let him hear." We must develop the ear and the eys of the whole being. At present, we see only with our physical eye, not with the realy eye of our mind and soul.

To correct this, the superconscious state of samadhi must be reached; the waking state is not enough. The sages all knew that samadhi was necessary because they had lived in and experienced enough different states to know the advantages of each. Through their own experiences they had learned that true knowledge comes only in the fourth state, the state of superconsciousness. The world will not improve in any significant way without learning new uses of the mind. Only through achieving the fourth state can man become divine. It is necessary to expand the mind to this state in order to attain realization and peace.

Consider the mind as existing on four level. The first and second levels are the ones on which we operate in everyday life, namely, the conscious and unconscious levels. These are the levels on which thinking is done and where the senses and the conscious mind operate in coordination with each other. The third level is the subconscious level. We are normally unaware of the activity going on at this level where all of our memories and past forgotten experiences, emotional urges, desires and impressions are stored. The fourth level, that for which we are striving, is the superconscious level - the state of total awareness.

The conscious mind is easily trained. It is affected by external stimuli and occupies our attention most of the time, but it is more difficult to train the subconscious mind. In order to reach the highest level, the superconscious state, it is necessary to gain control over the subconscious level. To do this the conscious mind must first be calmed through meditation, so that the subconscious contents can begin to surface. Thus meditation has a threefold purpose:



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