From Compulsive Stumbling to Conscious Living - RSSB Satsangs & Essays Download | Print

From Compulsive Stumbling to Conscious Living

There have been many surveys done of the elderly around the world to find out if they had any regrets in life, and if so, what those were. A regret that was high on the list was:

I wish I had let myself be happier.

Many realized very late in life that happiness is a choice in the present and not some goal to be achieved in the future. They wished that they had not lived most of their life trying to please others, or live as was expected of them; or worry about whether they would have enough to sustain them in the future.

Everything (and everyone) around us seems to hold the remote control of how we think, what we say, how we act. We keep stumbling over one thought and onto the next. We have heard many times that our life has become one big reaction after another. At some point, one has to pause to reflect on life and wonder how we have made it this far; and what would it take to live a conscious life and make the choice of being happy.

All living beings are considered a combination of body, mind and soul (divine power or divine energy). We know we have a body, we know we have a mind. Saints advise us that these are the two instruments to be used to realize or know the soul. And it is self-realization that brings about clear understanding of a life filled with gratitude, which leads to happiness in the present moment.

If our instruments or tools are not in good condition, the task we use them for will not be completed in the most successful manner and will most definitely lead to an undesirable outcome. So, if we are seeking self-realization, let’s see how we can use awareness and a conscious approach to first ensure that these tools of the body and mind are in good working order.

This physical body, while at its foundation is genetically programmed, is primarily built on an accumulation and assimilation of food. Whatever we eat, becomes part and parcel of us. The food we eat has tremendous influence on the way we think and act, in addition to its karmic implications. Hence the adage, “you are what you eat.” That is why saints recommend a simple, vegetarian diet. A balanced diet, along with some sort of regular exercise, is considered necessary to keep the body in optimal condition.

And this approach is neither new nor based solely on recent scientific research. Since ancient times, yogis and sages have practiced vegetarianism and performed some form of physical, yogic exercises, such as hatha yoga postures, to support their meditative practices. If the body is not brought into balance, it will become obvious very quickly when we sit down to meditate that it won’t cooperate. This will result in our having aches, pains, and restlessness – not allowing for stillness. Not only the type of food, but also the quantity and time of eating, have a direct effect on meditation. Hazur Maharaj Ji has also advised us to “sleep with a light stomach.”1 So conscious effort and decision-making are of paramount importance when we choose what ends up on our plate and goes through our lips.

Just as the physical body is made of five elements and largely is the result of the accumulation of food, the mind consists of five subtle elements and is primarily the result of an accumulation of thoughts and impressions (in addition to the influence of past karmas or sanskaras). All day, every day, we pick up the impressions of the world, and based on how conscious (or unconscious) we are of how they affect us, they tend to determine our “state of mind.”

It only makes sense to practice discretion as to what type of impressions we want to “accumulate.” Hence the saints advise us to keep good company or satsang. At the physical and mental level, attending (or listening to) satsangs, doing seva, or reading uplifting and spiritual literature play an important role in keeping negative impressions in check. But the superior tool for keeping the mind in check is the practice of meditation. The Buddhist tradition recommends:

When in public, watch your speech.
When sitting alone, watch your mind.2

Just as the first step in shedding a bad habit is becoming aware of it, the process of simran allows us to become aware of how wayward the mind is, and then gradually reins it in. This process strengthens the mind’s ability to become more conscious and clear and less reactive. With regular practice of meditation, the results of conscious thinking become exponential and spiral upwards. It is like the (mental) muscle getting stronger with each biceps curl.

The more conscious we become of our thoughts and actions, the more we are able to pause and reflect on the kind of effect they have on us and on others around us. We also become more sensitive and aware of our dependence on the universe for our existence and well-being. Everything that we need and have comes from the universe. We may not pay much attention to the tree in our backyard, but it gives us oxygen every day. Awareness of inter-dependence fills us with a sense of gratitude and brings us in harmony with others, which naturally helps us in being joyful and happy every moment. In “Open Heart, Clear Mind,” the great sage Shantideva says:

Whatever joy there is in the world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in the world
All comes from (selfishly) desiring ourselves to be happy
But what need is there to say much more?
The childish work for their own benefit;
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them!3

Regular meditation practice as taught by a true Master enables us to live a conscious, joyous life in the present, while helping us to realize our true nature, leading to permanent happiness.

In other words, it teaches us to get our own compulsive self out of our way and live our life as consciously as possible. Then there is no room for regrets.

  1. Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Q. 415.
  2. Thubten Chodron, Open Heart, Clear Mind. NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1990; p. 65.
  3. Ibid, p. 156.