Why Are People Afraid of Intuitional Practice?
Intuitional practice, sádhaná, is the fundamental duty of everyone. Yet very few people perform this duty. Ordinarily people are afraid of doing sádhaná. It is fear that keeps them from doing intuitional practice. But how far their fear is justified remains to be seen.
At the very outset they consider giving up worldly life, as they consider this to be an essential requirement of intuitional practice. According to them sádhaná cannot be reconciled with their ordinary way of life. They regard emancipation as the privilege of ascetics, unattainable by normal worldly people. Neither is this a necessary requirement nor does it appear to be logical. An examination of the advantages derived from adopting this course shows that there are only two: It provides solitude by removing one from contact with human society, which should help in one’s intuitional practice. It also removes one from immediate contact with the temptations and troubles of the world, which may help one to destroy the influence of Avidyámáyá. It is only for these two advantages that one might consider forsaking worldly life essential for intuitional practice.
It cannot be denied that the noise of the bustling world is a hindrance to intuitional practice and makes solitude very desirable. But it was explained earlier that hindrances are created by Avidyámáyá, which is one’s own evil force. Merely leaving the human world and living in a jungle will not set one free. Avidyámáyá will go with you to the jungles and mountains and create obstacles in sádhaná by substituting the howling of animals for the bustling sounds of human society. It is natural for a person to get used to their environment and not to be disturbed by it. For example, it would be impossible for a person from a lonely village to sleep in a house in Chowringhee Square in Calcutta due to the shrieking and screeching of trams and buses, while a person living there who is used to it will sleep soundly at night. Similarly a person used to living in a city like Calcutta may find it extremely frightening to sleep in a lonely village even for one night. In the same way one may find it difficult to practise sádhaná in a noisy environment in the beginning, but after getting used to it, there would be no difficulty. To go to the jungle for solitude does not appear to have any real significance.
Let us see if retiring to the jungle is helpful in avoiding worldly temptations. A temptation such as lobha (avarice) is a principle of Avidyámáyá. It can only be overcome by reducing the influence of Avidyámáyá through intuitional practice (sádhaná). One will never be able to keep away from temptation without overcoming the influence of Avidyámáyá. This is possible only through progress in intuitional practice, and merely forsaking the world and retiring to the forest will be of little or no avail. There is no doubt that if one stays away from objects of attraction, one has no chance of using them and they may thus gradually lose their attraction; while if one is near them one may be attracted towards them more. Yet if a person is forced to renounce something it is bound to cause them mental agitation. This agitation under greater restrictions may become unbearable and result in either illness or complete downfall. Forcing oneself to leave worldly life only to keep away from its attractions will serve no purpose. This causes mental agitation and pain and may even bring about one’s downfall. To give up the world merely for one doubtful advantage, instead of developing strength of character and firmness of mind, brings one no credit. The brave live among temptations in order to face and overcome them step by step rather than avoiding them due to their fear. Sádhaná means waging war on avidyá, and to win it one has to face the enemy instead of running away or appeasing him. Thus to give up the worldly life merely due to fear of its temptations is not a reasonable approach.
To run away from normal worldly life due to fear of its trials and worries would be equally unreasonable. Living in society is troublesome, as one has to discharge one’s obligations towards one’s dependents. One has to earn money to provide for them. The agony of disease and sufferings of life must be endured as well as the problems of poverty, if one is not able to earn enough. All this creates the desire to one run away from worldly life and be free from all responsibilities except to oneself. But does this not amount to the evasion of one’s duty towards one’s family? One who runs away from worldly life avoids obligations and shows extreme selfishness. Evasion of duty and selfishness are evil actions which must have evil consequences, and unless the reactions have been completely experienced, emancipation is an impossibility. Running away from the responsibilities and worries of the world does not enable one to completely forget the family one leaves behind. They will certainly occupy the mind, and that will bring one under the influence of the moha ripu (attraction) of Avidyámáyá. Progress in intuitional practice is not possible if there is the constant influence of Avidyámáyá, and in this situation one’s mind will be constantly returning to the thought of one’s family and the people whom one left behind. To say that those who can give up worldly life get beyond suffering and worry means that they overcome the influence of Avidyámáyá, as worries cannot be avoided when Avidyámáyá influences one’s thoughts and actions. For them living in society or in the jungle makes no difference. Is it not to overthrow the influence of Avidyámáyá that one retires to the jungle? And if that has already been achieved, then to lead the life of an ascetic in the jungle or a normal worldly life will be immaterial.
Release from the influence of Avidyámáyá cannot be obtained by running away from it: one has to divert the mind towards subtlety to achieve it. For instance, constantly trying to keep away the flies hovering around a wound is not a solution unless an effort is made to heal the wound. Intuitional practice, as taught by a great preceptor, is the healing balm; it is with this that one can drive away Avidyámáyá and gain emancipation. As the influence of Avidyámáyá decreases, the temptations and troubles of the world cease to be an obstacle to intuitional practice. As this is the only way to overcome Avidyámáyá, it can easily be practised within worldly life. Avidyámáyá will disturb a person in the beginning, but once defeated, it will not be able to create any hindrance to the pursuit of intuitional practice. To lead a worldly life and also to practise sádhaná is very convenient. For a person living the normal life of a householder has far greater conveniences and advantages available to him or her than has an ascetic who renounces the world. Retreating to the jungle is not a way to obtain relief from the trials and worries of the world. There is yet another great advantage in living a worldly life. It provides one with the opportunity to serve humanity, an important aspect of intuitional practice. This great opportunity is denied to those who live in jungles. The intuitional practice taught by a great preceptor should be practised with faith and devotion. It can be practised at home; and running away from the home and family is not necessary. As one overcomes Prakrti, the influence of Avidyámáyá will disappear. Intuitional practice is the only way to subdue Avidyámáyá. Hence intuitional practice is a necessity. To differentiate between different places for sádhaná, to consider one place more suitable than another, or to regard a particular spot as good and another bad, is to divide Brahma. Every place in this creation is the manifestation of the Supreme Cosmic Entity (Brahma), and to call one place good and another bad is to attribute these qualities to Brahma. If sádhaná is based on the consideration of good and bad, it will never be possible for one to develop the feeling of oneness with the rest of creation. One will never be able to love others as oneself. To Brahma every place is the same, and sádhaná can be practised anywhere. To give up the world and run away to the jungle is illogical. Not to practise sádhaná for fear of having to give up the world is thus irrational.
Brahmacarya is the other fear which deters many from practising sádhaná. They consider Brahmacarya to merely mean celibacy or giving up of one’s physical relationship with one’s husband or wife. They are misled by the popular belief that it is otherwise not possible to perform intuitional practice (sádhaná). It is thus necessary to know the correct meaning of Brahmacarya and also know whom one should regard as a Brahmacárii. Brahmacarya means to introvert the extroversial tendencies of the mind and to devote it completely to Brahma. To understand the meaning of Brahmacarya clearly one should know what is meant by the extroversial tendencies of the mind and how these should be introverted. Creation is the manifestation of the subtle in the form of crude objects under the influence of Prakrti. The crude creation is the world that one experiences through the physical organs, while mind is the subtle part of the creation. If the influence of Prakrti increases, one’s mind is gradually converted from subtle to crude. Under the influence of Prakrti the mind becomes more extroverted and remains absorbed in the crude. Emancipation means releasing the mind from the influence of Prakrti or directing it from crudeness to subtlety. Brahma is subtle by nature, and if the mind is absorbed in crude objects, it cannot be devoted to Brahma. To divert the mind from crude objects towards the subtle is to devote it to Brahma. This can be done by decreasing the influence of Prakrti on the mind, as Prakrti alone keeps it absorbed in the crude objects around it. Brahmacarya thus means to release the mind from the influence of Prakrti, and a Brahmacárii is a person whose mind is devoted to Brahma and is always absorbed in it. Such a mind is not attracted by the crude expressions of creation; it is absorbed in the subtle and spends all its time thinking only of Brahma. This state is attainable as a result of intuitional practice. One can become a Brahmacárii only by practising sádhaná. It is only by means of sádhaná that the mind can be freed from the influence of Prakrti and diverted towards the subtle to become completely absorbed in Brahma. Ordinarily, merely overcoming the sexual urge (káma ripu) is considered as Brahmacarya; but in reality all the śad́ripu (the six enemies) and aśt́apásha (the eight fetters) are extroversial tendencies. Of these fourteen, the sexual urge is only one, and merely overcoming this cannot make one follow Brahmacarya. It is only when one is free from all the extroversial tendencies, the śad́ripu and aśt́apásha, collectively known as Avidyámáyá, that one’s mind can become Brahmacárii. The dominance of avidyá (extroversial tendencies) is so strong that it is not possible to overcome it except through intuitional practice. Those who try to attain Brahmacarya without performing intuitional practice are wasting their time. Intuitional practice will by itself gradually divert the mind from crude to subtle, and a person will slowly become Brahmacárii. The domination of the śad́ripu and the aśt́apásha, the extroversial tendencies, will diminish by itself. With the disappearance of their influence the mind will no longer remain absorbed in crudeness. It is not necessary to give up one’s conjugal life in order to begin intuitional practice. The attraction towards earthly things born out of lust (káma) and attachment (moha) makes conjugal relations a necessity. Intuitional practice helps one to overcome this need. One becomes indifferent to it. So the question of giving it up for intuitional practice does not arise. It was said earlier that sádhaná is waging war against Prakrti and defeating Her. The force of intuitional practice is certainly greater than the strength of Prakrti, and by means of it one can attain Brahmacarya. However strong may be the domination of Avidyámáyá, it can always be destroyed by intuitional practice. Intuitional practice, not taking a vow of celibacy, is essential if one is to become a Brahmacárii. It is necessary to mention here the common meaning of Brahmacarya, that is, “to preserve viirya (semen)”. Shukradhátu (seminal fluid) and viirya are necessary to nourish the nerve cells and nerve fibres. It is essential to preserve them in order to develop firmness of mind and intellectual sharpness.
Some people consider that one should start intuitional practice in old age when a person has more leisure, after one has spent the prime of one’s life earning money. People are afraid that they may face insecurity and difficulties in their old age if they do not accumulate enough wealth before their bodies weaken with age, rendering them incapable of hard work. They regard the prime of life as the period intended for earning money, and old age with its decreased capacity for hard work as the time to remember God. They are labouring under the misconception that hard work is not necessary for intuitional practice and that old age is therefore the proper time for it. Whoever is born is bound to die and one is constantly approaching death, not knowing when it will come. It is never certain if one will live to grow old. Yet people reserve the most important work of practising sádhaná for the time when the body has become completely enfeebled and the fatuous mind of old age has become entangled in the reactions of this life to such an extent that it is afraid of starting anything new. Ordinarily it is fear of one’s approaching death that makes one think of God in old age. One’s evil deeds begin to haunt one, and one starts praying and imploring God to save him or her from the consequences of one’s deeds. There is no value in remembering God in old age, when it is not possible to concentrate the mind due to the weakness and disease of the body and its preoccupation with the reactions (saḿskáras) of the deeds of this life. The mind then is caught up in the infirmities of the body, in the diseases of old age, impending death, and most of all, in memories of past incidents, and it is impossible to concentrate it. For these reasons one is incapable of intuitional practice. There is an Indian saying that only a young bamboo can be bent, and if you attempt to bend a mature one you will only break it. That is, anything new should be started early in life, and so should intuitional practice.
There are people who avoid intuitional practice (sádhaná) for fear of giving up all the pleasures and enjoyments of the world. This fear deters them from pursuing intuitional practice, although their fear has no logical basis. It was explained earlier that the objects of earthly enjoyment are created under the influence of the static principle of Prakrti, and one regards them as real due to the dominance of Avidyámáyá, which also makes people enjoy these earthly objects. Intuitional practice gradually reduces the dominance of Avidyámáyá, and then the mind is also diverted towards subtle things. Crude worldly pleasures and enjoyments lose their attraction. The longing for worldly objects (káma), the attraction for them (moha), and avarice (lobha) – the three principles of Avidyámáyá – make these seem desirable, but with the waning of the influence of these three, the mind will no longer desire them. Ordinarily the mind delights in the enjoyment of worldly pleasures and regards giving them up a torture, but when the mind no longer likes them, the question of giving them up does not arise. At that time the mind will try to run away from them, and feels relieved to be without them, instead of being tormented by their absence. For is not the unavailability of something only disturbing when we desire it very much? If we do not desire an object, we will not miss it when it is not there. For instance, an alcohol addict will be tormented if he does not get alcohol, but if a non-addict does not get a drink, he will not even feel its absence. The question of his being tormented does not arise, for he never wished for it. The mind gets diverted towards subtlety through intuitional practice, and no longer enjoys crude pursuits. When the presence of crude objects is difficult to tolerate, the question of missing them or being disturbed by their absence does not arise. Some consider it necessary to tear themselves away by force from the enjoyment of worldly things in order to pursue intuitional practice, and the fear of their desires torments them. It will, however, never be possible to control one’s mind by withdrawing it from objects of enjoyment by force. This would only make the body suffer and become sick. There is no compulsion in intuitional practice. The system of intuitional practice as taught by a great preceptor is so powerful that it imperceptibly diverts the mind from crude attractions towards subtlety, and the desire for earthly enjoyments disappears, taking with it the pain of not getting them. Not to pursue intuitional practice for fear of having to stay away from earthly pleasures and enjoyments is irrational. Those who consider it necessary are mistaken.
On careful analysis, the fears that hold one back from practising sádhaná appear to be without any foundation. To avoid intuitional practice (sádhaná), which is the fundamental duty of everyone, out of baseless fear, only shows one’s ignorance. It is, therefore, urged that no one avoid sádhaná out of unfounded fears, but rather through sádhaná realize themselves and know themselves as the Infinite Supreme Entity.
–P.R. Sarkar (also known as Shrii Shrii Anandamurti)