Aspirants—A Distinct Class By Themselves
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book Sadhana.
The spiritual aspirant class is verily a merest microscopic minority in the sum-totality of world humanity. How very distinctive and special, therefore, should be its conduct and mode of reaction to externals in comparison to that of the generality of the secular world? How very different must his motives be? It is wrong for him to continue to judge either his own or others’ actions with the same old standard as of the worldly life. What is perfectly correct there will be preposterously impossible here in the spiritual line. What is quite natural and right there will be unthinkable here.
Take the case of the soldiers drafted into the Army. Just consider what a lot of severe restrictions they are subject to and have to put up with. Their entire life is ordered upon exceptional lines. Special rules govern their movements at every step. Numerous places are strictly ‘out of bounds’ to the troops. Whether they like it or not the members of the fighting forces must move about in their distinctive uniforms; they must be within ‘barracks’ before ‘lights out’ time. Any breach of these numerous Army Regulations will at once bring the M.Ps. swooping down upon him and he will find himself in the military ‘lock up’. Why all this? Just because he happens to belong to a select class particularly picked out from among millions for achieving a special purpose, i.e., to fight and to win the war.
When such is the case for a group engaged in working for a mere earthly attainment as a military victory, you can imagine how very great then is the need for a thoroughly distinct and exceptional conduct for the spiritual aspirant set upon achieving something infinitely more difficult and more complicated than earthly victory over visible physical forces? Yet, what do we see among spiritual aspirants today? Is there a change of nature? Or mode of conduct, alteration of attitudes, reorientation of ideals and the substitution of a subtler sense of values in place of the gross selfish ones of a pre-novitiate days? Rather, he has hidden in him his own measuring rod and balance to assess and to estimate the quality and works of men and things, events and actions that he used before. He has brought with him as luggage all his old possessions, his old cloak, coloured spectacles, special seat, etc. His mental equipment is the identical one as of the pre-Sadhaka days. What to say it has not even received as much as a polish or a brush-up even.
Nay, in too many cases, it seems as though the bestial part of the aspirant, the ‘Pasu’ as they call it, or the ‘Papa Purusha’ assumes a decidedly aggressive form with an access of virulence hitherto absent in its nature. This may be traced to the very fact that he has become a seeker. For, this fact puffs him up with a feeling that he is exceptional, privileged, something superior to the vast common majority. This sense directly supports and abets the super-arrogation of the lower ego-principle in him. Thus spiritual life, the very beginning of it is vitiated by a deliberate alliance with a wanton allegiance to the sworn enemy of spirituality. When spiritual life is thus sought to be founded upon attitudes and emotions that are the very direct antithesis of higher life and of divine culture, then one may well imagine its dire consequences. The result is the most awful, the most poignant of all tragedies in the universe. In all creation there cannot be a more fearsome or terrible occurrence than this.
Of course, from the standpoint of transcendent Vedanta this is a mere nothing. For nothing has happened at all. Nothing ever took place in reality. For neither has there been any manifestation nor creation, etc. (vide Goudapada’s famous Ajata-Vada theory). But to the lesser one with a somewhat lower vision this is none-the-less a truly heart-breaking eye-opener. It is to say the least, most deeply regrettable. One stands aghast, stunned, and cruelly wounded to the core, for, the heart says, “True indeed it is that only One, the Supreme Unmanifest alone exists. There is no universe. But yet, the Supreme is Sarva as well as Sunya. Even this tragedy, therefore, is but truth. One trembles at the fate of such Sadhakas. The ladder which is to take the struggler up and higher up into heaven is kept pointing downwards and its very ascending rungs are used as descending steps to go down into the regions of Eternal Darkness.
This last reason is precisely why the whole matter becomes such a great tragedy. For, the phenomenon of an essential earthly person working himself to perdition does not evoke the same shudder as a spiritual aspirant going to ruin. The worldly man proposes to do nothing else. He knows what he is about. And, he cares a hoot for the consequences. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die”—is his aggressive philosophy. Then again “Each man for himself and the devil take the hindmost” is openly his conception of the best policy. But, the aspirant starts to escape this state and sets to work to become superhuman and indeed divine. All his life’s effort is therefore considered to be directed at this goal by becoming free of the state the worldling has got into. And if by identifying himself with the demoniacal side in him he starts plunging headlong into a condition, infinitely worse than that of the sinner and worldling, what then can be a more staggering sight. What then can be a more shocking revelation? Is there no help for this state of things? What is the safeguard against this? What is the antidote for this? What is the curative remedy for such a state of being?
To all this, the answer is more or less the same. It is the acquiring and the active application of One Fundamental Virtue, in its different aspects. Just as today, the variations of the self-same Sulfa Drug is administered to fight different infections, even so antidote, safeguard, the curative remedy may be all summed up in the one, sublime, grand and the supreme word—HUMILITY—Yes. True spontaneous, genuine HUMILITY.
Let him be humble. He will be saved from pride and egoism. Let him strive to become humble. Arrogance will lose its footing in his nature. Let him repent truly and with genuine humility pray for forgiveness to the Lord. He shall be healed of the fell disease of Asurism and aggressive self-assertion and heartlessness that has assailed him.
Have you noted the shape of an axe-head? Thin, pointed, fine-edged in the beginning and broader at the back. The shape of the needle is similar—fine and pointed at the tip and thickening as it goes. You have all read of the spear-head of the shock troop and the now world famous Panzer divisions of the most modern mechanised army of Europe. A narrow, fast-moving unit denting and breaking through the strongest defence with a lightning stroke and then the pouring in into the breach of the formidable bulk of the main army. HUMILITY is the fine point in the Sadhaka’s arms. This and this alone will take him through the most difficult starting period when the entire strength of the undivine forces are ranged against him en masse. This and this alone will save him from a terrible downfall from the deluded heights of Asuric egotism. This is as the fine and thin edge of the axe which helps it to enter and to split its way through the heaviest, the toughest and the hugest of timber. Had it been a big, broad and blunt front, it would fail miserably to make any headway whatsoever. Oh! Beloved Aspirants! Learn life’s lesson from this. Save yourself from a dire and terrible fate. A whole precious life will be irretrievably lost otherwise.
O dear Sadhakas! Become humble. Change your nature. Develop compassion. A true Vedantin will drip with Compassion and Love with every breath of his body. GOD is LOVE. He is KRIPASAGARA. And if the Vedantin identifies himself with this Infinite Being, then he must needs become a veritable ocean of love and mercy. His very presence, nay his memory even, should at once flood the driest of hearts with an overflow of the waters of Prema and Kripa. Do not be merely Vidya-Sagara. Remain for ever a true Daya-Sagara, too. Vidya may be like unto a pure transparent glass through which one may look, perceive and get to know all things of the universe, but it is Daya that indeed, like the dazzling coating of mercury in the glass makes it spring into life as a mirror to catch and reflect the Divinity that is immanent in the Universe.
May the loving Lord shower His divine compassion upon such misguided seekers! May He bless them with the faculty of and the desire for self-analysis and deep introspection! May they perceive their grave defects and great errors; and strive to make amends and to correct themselves! May they attain true happiness through right knowledge, love and compassion.