Thursday, 9 July 2020

Divine Heartache – Practical Advaita Vedanta 1/ 3


Dealing with Spiritual Sadness
Gyanbhikshachari.  Divine Heartache. The Theosophist. Volume 8, No. 9. June 1887, pp. 547-58).
“Those who through heart and mind know Him thus abiding in the heart, become immortal."
-Svetasvatara Upanishad, IV. 20.
Being Realistic about Spiritual Progress
THERE has sprung up of late a certain class of Theosophists — whose number we hope is not large — who complain that though they have been Fellows of the Theosophical Society for several years, leading a moral life, studying the theosophical literature, and moreover, strict vegetarians, yet they see in themselves hardly any perceptible signs of spiritual progress, nor have they been able to attract the attention of the masters, much as they wished it. To such we say: All that you have been doing is well and good, and is sure to form a firm ground-work for future advancement; but we only regret you could not see for yourself the impossibility of negative virtues and mere intellectual culture, even when rightly directed, forming the direct instrument of the soul's elevation. An intellectual grasp of the broad truths of occult science is indeed indispensable as a first step, in so far as they acquaint you, however vaguely it may be, with what should be the aim of your precious life, and how you are to work in order to attain the end. But no one in the Theosophical Society, so far as we know, postulated the absurdity that a life of vegetarianism, coupled with the study of a few books would, like the magical slippers, transport you to the desired goal. If then you have been disappointed in the realization of hopes which you never cared to work for, you have nobody to blame but yourself; and unless you choose now to go beyond the vain acquisition of a surface acquaintance with uncommon technical names and metaphysical ideas — so “to look big and talk away" — the approach to the land of Mystic Rest must for ever remain barred against your advance.
Gyan Marga (or Jnana Yoga) and Bhakti Marga are complementary
Much of the difficulty seems to have arisen from the misunderstanding of the term Gyan — which, in Sanscrit works on occultism, has been called the sole instrument of Mukti (libration – ed.)— as signifying knowledge acquired on the intellectual plane and that only. From a similar misconception has also originated the deplorable ill-feeling that may be observed even to this day between the respective followers of Gyan-marga and Bhakti-marga. The Gyan, referred to as forming the means of Moksha, is not the mere intellectual understanding of scientific and philosophic truths, but signifies the intuitive perception of the real, as distinguished from the unreal world of phenomena. Now it is difficult to see how one can attain this perception without having a quantum sufficit of what is called Bhakti, without being permeated, as it were, with a rapt devotion towards the God within — without paying “the profound obeisance of the soul to the dim star that burns within". It is known to all how powerful are the attractions of sense objects, and any amount of simple will-power will not be enough of itself to counteract the inherent tendencies of a myriad-fold existence, unless the will itself is strengthened and vivified by some higher impulse from the soul. No one has urged the necessity of Gyan more forcibly than the sage Sankara, and yet his enumeration of the means of liberation are Shraddha, Bhakti, Dhyan, and Yoga (Faith, Devotion, Meditation, Spiritual Practice-see Vivekachudmani 46/48-ed.). On the other hand, Bhakti, unless properly directed, and controlled by right discrimination, cannot acquire the momentum necessary to push one beyond the attraction of the world of sense, and to carry one to the Supreme goal; as it will be evident on a little consideration that such a refined and spiritual force cannot flow with the same vigour when applied to material conceptions, as when directed to the pure Spirit alone. To us, therefore, Bhakti and Gyan in their true sense appear to be, if not two names for the identical subjective elevation that becomes the lot of spiritual persons, at any rate the two aspects of the same state, the one being the inseparable complement of the other.
Cultivation of the heart and the head complementary
It will thus be seen that spiritual development requires for its basis the cultivation of the heart rather than that of the head, although the latter cannot, as we have said, be dispensed with altogether. In the dreary journey of every man's life there come moments when, withdrawing from the lurid glare of the outside world, he sinks into the inmost depths of his soul, and here resting upon the bosom of Infinity, hears a voice speaking to him in soft and silent whispers: — “Child of the earth! the life thou livest is all a dream. Wake up to find thyself transformed into an angel ! " And blessed is he that not only hears with a sense of passing delight, but has also the heart and strength to obey. But how is he to obey? During moments of exaltation we do indeed feel how delusive is the world in which we live, and how shadowy are our highest aspirations, our deepest sorrows and joys; but how are we to awake from our dream? The flow of the spirit descends upon us even as the “dew of heaven", unsolicited and unnoticed; how then, finite as we are, can we command it, and transforming its fitful gushes into a steady, constant current, cause it to break down the barriers of illusion and bear us to the reality beyond? Is there no end to this dream, no means of obtaining more frequent draughts of this Soma-juice? Surely there must be, since so many have safely crossed this ocean of delusion. Shall we try to suggest a mean ? Thought, meditation, Vichara — herein lies the secret of success. Does not the thrice-great Hermes say that “without philosophy there is no lofty religion", and does not the Holy Sankara entreat you thus:-
‘Kasyatwam vá kuba áyata Tattwam chintaya adidam bhrata."
“O, brother! meditate upon the truth as to whose you are and whence you come." Here is the path for you to follow. Develop thought — ponder day and night over the unreality of all your surroundings and of yourself, and try with unceasing effort to realize that underneath this array of phantoms there is all essence, unknown and unheeded in the tumult of everyday life, but nevertheless, the only Reality from whence has sprung all that has the appearance of beauty, of love and of joy.
Meditation and controlling the thoughts
Begin, then, by checking all thoughts that relate to the illusory life. Depend no more on the mercy of such noble and elevating thoughts as may chance at intervals to sweep over your heart. No appreciable change will be observed if you leave yourself to the help of such fortuitous advents of spiritual impulse. Look around and see how untiringly men have to work to obtain such trifles as have aroused their fancy. Think you then, that such a glorious result as freedom from the clutches of Death and Misery — supposed to be the inevitable companions of human life — can be attained without hard labour ? Ah no! All your energies, active and dormant, will have to put forth their utmost strength before you can reach the end of your journey.  
Strive then, by concentrating the whole force of your soul, to shut the door of your mind to all stray thoughts, allowing none to enter but those calculated to reveal to you the unreality of sense-life and the Peace of the Inner World. You have to address your own soul in the words of the Prince of Denmark (Hamlet, Shakespeare – ed.):—
" Yea, from the table of my memory
I'II wipe away all fond trivial records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter."
We have often felt that to a person turning towards the life of occultism, the springing up of evil thoughts is less injurious than that of idle and indifferent ones. Because as to evil thoughts he is always on his guard, and having determined to fight and conquer them, they help in developing his will-power. Indifferent thoughts, however, serve merely to distract his attention and waste his energy without imparting the slightest benefit. Avoid therefore carefully, all “fruitless thinking, thinking of possibilities, and contradictory thinking".

Part 2

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