Post By: Vishwanath Iyer Published on: December 4, 2016 Reading time: 9 minutes
Sva means “self’ or “belonging to me”, adhyāyam means “inquiry” or “examination”. Svādhyāyam literally means, “to get close to something.” In this context, it means to study oneself through meditation or contemplation (mimāmsa).
Contemplation or reflection increases awareness (prajñā) at two levels – a gross component (sthūla) and a subtle component (sūkṣma). So, when we review any situation, our understanding and cognition of both components evolve. This is called reflection (mimāmsa) which is an element of introspection (svādhyāyam).
Gross (sthūla) – This covers all aspects that can be cognised by the senses (indriya), cognitive apparatus (manas) and logic (buddhi).
For example: the world we see around us is made of the primordial elements (panchabhūtas) such as earth (prithvi), water (áp), fire (agni), air (vāyu), space (ākāṣa).
Subtle (sūkṣma) – The awareness of gross element is driven by an underlying principle, which is the consciousness (citta).
For example – The internal combustion engine is driven on the principle of “Ideal gas law” which says that increasing the temperature of a gas increases the pressure that makes it want to expand.
For instance, when you read this sentence, the primary information you see is derived through its physical attributes (sthūla-śarīra), of alphabets and words that are transmitted through a device. However, your experience of the underlying principles (sūkṣma-śarīra) comes from the quality of your awareness as you decipher the information (mano-maya-koṣa) relating to the subject (vijñāna-maya-koṣa).
Introspection is a disciplined manner of reflecting the impact of any action on the Self. It requires the use of regression – working out the linkage between our action, our conditioning and it’s impact on our self. Consequently, we are able to understand the impact of our family, upbringing and family on our lives and decision making process. As a result, we are able to delve deeper into our psyche and increase our awareness of the various building blocks of our personality, thereby increasing jñāna (awareness of our sense of Self or identity). While this process is easy to learn, it is very difficult to sustain, as it means us having to confront many uncomfortable realities of ourselves.
(Wikipedia extract) Nelson Mandela was born into a Thembu royal family. His early life was dominated by traditional Thembu custom and taboo. Growing up, Mandela attended church services every Sunday with his guardians and Christianity became a significant part of his life, though he never really gave up his Thembu heritage. In college, he was a supporter of the British but was rusticated for protesting against the management. Running away from an arranged marriage, he moved to Johannesburg where he pursued a career in law where he found himself attracted to communism. He got involved in South African politics and became part of ANC, becoming a founding member of ANC- Youth League. Also, he participated in the anti-apartheid Defiance Campaign. Initially a peaceful protester, organizer and leader, he worked to unite all non-whites into a cohesive opposition. Finally, concluding that peaceful solution was not achievable, he began to advocate violent opposition to apartheid. As a result, he was imprisoned for 25 years, where he was subjected to privation and torture. Mandela studied Islam in prison. Lastly, when he was released, now having worldwide acclaim and recognition, he transformed to a moderate politician advocating unity and reconciliation.
While sthūla (gross) and sūkṣma (subtle) are micro aspects of introspection, the macro aspect of any entity (kṣetra) also needs to be cognised. This cognition (kṣetrajña) has two components;
This element is one of the most important aspects of increasing situational awareness (prajñā). While the basics are easy to learn, perfecting this aspect requires study and reflection on the subject (vivekam) and ability to detach oneself from the surroundings (vairāgyam) in order to comprehend subtleties of the situation and the impact on oneself.
Also, a key aspect of introspection is reflection (mimāmsa)
Reflection (mimāmsa): All stimuli lead to response and the transaction results in an experience. Therefore, the quality of the experience is dependent on our awareness of the situation (vijñāna) and awareness of the impact of the experience on our sense of identity (jñāna).
Consequently, when we review any situation, we always consider our present experience in personal terms (do I like this? How do I feel? Why am I anxious?). Finally, what we are actually doing is reflecting the impact of the experience on our Self. This is mimamsa (reflection) and is an element of introspection.
Paul Brunton was a British philosopher and mystic. He left a journalistic career to study a variety of Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. Brunton felt charged with the task of communicating his experiences of inward and spiritual quest to others and to write accounts of what he learned in the East from a Western perspective. His works have had a major influence on the spread of Eastern mysticism to the West. In his book, A Search in Secret India, he outlines his search for a Guru or teacher and rejecting all for very rational reasons. Finally, he surrenders to Sri Ramana Maharishi and this surrender is not on logical terms.