Post By: Vishwanath Iyer Published on: November 27, 2016 Reading time: 7 minutes
There are no blueprints which guide us on how to live correctly. Similarly, there are no easy solutions to increasing awareness (prajñā). In fact, it takes long hours of practice, effort and introspection before our awareness of our Self experiences a transformation and goes from a confused state (kṣiptā) to a state of clarity (nirūḍha).
However, as clarity increases, this transformation also results in a change in our personality (svabhāva). Our personality experiences increased peace and awareness which results in a better integrated personality or svatantra (the alignment of conditioning (dharma) with behaviour (svabhāva)).
Often, we enter situations with neither full knowledge nor complete control of the solution. Consequently, we adapt to the situation as it unfolds. This puts tremendous pressure on us to adapt ourselves to the requirements of the situation even though we may be uncomfortable with the change. However, the question is; can we change?
A famous saying goes: “Often, we do not change; we only change our arguments”.
By the time we have reached our teens, conditioning has been completed by our parents, school and environment. However, by the age of thirty, we find that the conditioning that we grew up with is not adequate for the reality of our situation. At this moment, our awareness begins to get sensitised to the misalignment between our conditioning and behaviour on account of our experience. As our perception of this gap grows, we search for new solutions, introspecting on our vijñāna (awareness of our behaviour in any situation) and jñāna (changes to our sense of the identity in any situation).
Change means having to confront that which we have assumed as correct without question. Transformation requires us to confront denial, fear and pain of severing a dearly held conditioning.
However, once we accept the need of self-transformation, we then need to identify that element in us which needs to be changed. Finally, we act but laziness and delay are not easily overcome. Finally, once we change our values and behaviour, we have to manage the consequence of the change before we become comfortable with the change in us.
Our transformation generally starts with simple alterations, we start by trimming our most obvious faults. Once we experience the be benefits of our change, we become willing to drive further change. Finally, our subconscious begins to change, till there is a harmonising between our conditioning and behaviour, which is called svatantra.
External hygiene (bāhira-śaucam) – we are reasonably aware and follow the basic rules of hygiene such as brushing, bathing etc. However, our attitude to food hygiene is more important, sensitive and difficult to control.
We often eat from the same plate, share the same food item or mix cooking and eating utensils. But this can be dangerous because it enables the transmission of contagious virus through sharing of liquids and food. Therefore, a good habit would be avoiding sharing food with others and keeping separate cooking and eating utensils.
In fact, a restaurant law in the US stipulates that food taken out of a buffet cannot be put back, even if it is from a fresh plate. The food taken must be destroyed. This is to avoid propagation of virus and germs.
Internal hygiene (āntara-śaucam) is a process that we use to reduce the impact of stress.
All stimuli result in stress, either eustress which motivates or distress which induces a fight or flight response. Unfortunately, during the situation anxiety and fear increases. This needs to be purged. One way is exercise, but if that is not available as an option, then one needs to use auto-suggestive techniques to calm down and regain clarity of thinking. This can be split into 3 elements –
We always approach life and situation with certain expectations. Consequently, this makes it difficult for us to accept outcomes which are not in alignment with these expectations. So, our ability to tone our expectations to more realistic outcomes or accept the outcome presented to us ensures greater peace and harmony.
However, this does not mean that we must sacrifice our ambition. In fact, it means being able to reduce resistance to tactical outcomes and refocus on the goal. This gives us a feeling of achievement and contentment. Sometimes, it may mean recalibration of goals and expectations or acceptance that certain goals cannot be reached or accepting the solution available, which is expectation management.
In a changing world, developing new skills is the price of staying ahead. Consequently, this means continuous studying or getting exposed to new products, practices or technologies. While we willingly do this for material gain or ambition, we often sacrifice efforts required to comprehend our internal decision-making process, conditioning and Self.
This is done using 2 tools –mimāmsa or introspection which is the process of reflecting on the impact of stimulus on our sense of identity and conditioning. followed by making the necessary changes and svikruta which is acceptance of current state, and its impact on our conditioning and identity.
Once we have decided on self-transformation, making the actual change requires sacrifice. Sacrifice is the ability to be hard on ourselves, even in unpleasant circumstances and force change.
Some changes are easy, but those which are ingrained deep in our psyche as conditioning or as part of our identity are very difficult to implement. Also, we expect that just because we have changed, others should appreciate our effort and change with us. But this doesn’t happen either. Consequently, we get frustrated.
Therefore, our ability to seek the anchor within ourselves, be hard on the change that we think we need to do, stay committed to the course of change and make the necessary sacrifice is tapas (austerity).
Śraddhā is the ability to complete a chosen task to the best of one’s ability. Śraddhā is actually a mix of sincerity, focus, patience, drive for results, passion and willingness to change solution-set to complete the task. Often, this may mean working with severe constraints, failure and frustration, no help, maybe adverse conditions, no recognition or resources, including money.
Dānam is the ability to give. When we give, we free ourselves of baggage. Initially, we mostly give things we do not need. Later, as we mature and overcome our insecurities, we give stuff which has value. Finally, we give away articles which are associated with precious incidents, memories and are even costly.
Our journey undergoes a metamorphosis from the expression of our identity to altruism and finally to a point where there is no judgement or expectation of return.
The journey is one of purging ourselves of baggage, from the obvious to the subtle.
Finally, all internal transformation and self-control (niyama) need consistent effort and often transformation comes after years of practice, introspection and sustained effort.