The Movement of Subtle Desires in Sadhana
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
The sincere aspirant struggles on amidst the rough and tumble of the relative (or Vyavaharic) world. Troubles and difficulties crop up at every step. Temptations, trials and tests assail him ever and anon. He strives and fights manfully against the heavy odds, and at last thinks it is high time that he segregated and tried to pursue his Sadhana (spiritual practice) away from these upsetting factors. He retires from the bustle of worldly activity and goes into comparative seclusion in some spiritual institution where he spends some time in selfless service and does Sadhana systematically. But he is horrified to find that, after a time, instead of feeling a gradual and progressive purification, morally, mentally and spiritually, he experiences more impurity, evil and undesirable emotions and thoughts. What is this strange phenomenon? Is he slipping backwards? What is this queer stage he is passing through? Is he indeed moving towards Light or getting more and more into darkness? These considerations begin to trouble his mind seriously. His natural anxiety and grave concern over his inexplicable state is quite understandable. If he reflects a little and patiently tries to introspect and analyse his condition and the change that is going on within him, he will soon know the actual truth and will at once be reassured. His mind will be at rest.
This is not a degenerating process but is actually a purifying one. The course of spiritual development at times appears as the contrary of what it really is. Extreme things that are diametrically opposite and contradictory tend to seem identical at times. Very low rates of vibration the ears cannot catch and similarly extreme high rates the ears cannot hear. A static object appears motionless, and the same object set rotating at a tremendous velocity appears to the eye to be perfectly still. Thus, when, during a stage in Sadhana, the extreme reverse process of purification and the getting rid of impurities (Mala) takes place, it appears alarmingly similar to that of the obverse positive process of acquiring Asubha-Vasanas (evil tendencies). It is here that an important note of caution has to be vividly borne in mind. When these inner Vasanas (tendencies) begin to cast out themselves, then the aspirant should, with great alertness and vigilance, see that they are not afforded any scope to have any active physical manifestation. Like the excess water in a dam that is released out of the barrage by the periodical opening of a few sluice gates, these Vasanas must harmlessly flow out. Then the Sadhaka (aspirant) is all right, and he will soon proceed with his Sadhana as before. Else these outflowing Vasanas will get translated into actions and forge further bonds in the Karmic cording that holds the individual in thraldom here. Instead of becoming a release process it will be a reverse of it.
There are two processes in this connection which will be of great help and reassurance to the Sadhaka if he remembers and makes proper and timely use of them with a little discrimination. That is, it is not always necessary or even desirable that all such ‘spending-out’ forces should indeed be allowed to flow out abortively or that they should issue forth at all. Where they are imbedded in the Chitta or the subconscious mind, these can be directly sublimated and nullified. Just as the heat of the sun shining upon a pool of water reduces its contents by evaporation, so also regular meditation of the aspirant sublimates a portion of the store of Vasanas, day by day, as he proceeds. Then with those forces that actually sally out there is a very profitable alternative, viz., sublimating them upon the external physical plane and transforming them into some profitable spiritual activity. This latter can be employed either subjectively with beneficial repercussions upon himself or objectively to the advantage of others. Subjectively, for instance, should the subtle tendency of lust endeavour to manifest itself, then the aspirant should transform it at once into a dozen Surya- Namaskaras or a vigorous round of the favourite Pranayama, a course of Asanas, or a full-throated chant of Mantra Japa, etc. Thus the process of sublimation also is turned into Sadhana.
Should the Vasana or tendency of anger commence this ‘spending-out’ process, then repair to a quiet room and have a good loud hearty laugh and make it effervesce into a pure upsurge of good cheer. Or sit still and send out wave after wave of love, blessing and goodwill to the entire world from the bottom of your heart. Repeat again and again the sublime verses of the scriptures, and you will be simply filled with overflowing cosmic love. All tendencies to anger will vanish, leaving in their stead a continuous thrill of motiveless love. This feeling is indeed indescribable. This Sadhana will give you a positive asset of Sattva (purity) and Prema (love). You will find yourself a tangibly different being after even a single genuine attempt at this process of deliberate sublimation.
This subjective method is preferable and is to be adopted particularly with such Rajoguna and Tamoguna Vasanas (tendencies for instance, anger, lust, greed, etc.) that become activated through external contact and by association. Then there are such tendencies as one’s suppressed social nature, Rajasic urge to aimless activity, the erotic sentiments to manifest affection, which will be overcome if they are sublimated through the objective way. When a fit of social nature assails you, do not allow yourself to be driven out into the bazaar for gossiping or into the nearest reading-room, tea-shop or to dissipate your diligently conserved energy in sundry politics, topical news or table-chat. But go among the poor and the afflicted and see if you can serve them in any way. Go to the road or the highway among the pilgrims and wayfarers and seek to relieve them of their loads and lessen their burdens with pleasant and elevating conversation. Thus in the very process of giving, enrich yourself, too. When sentimentality assails you from inside, be still. Do not foolishly rush amidst your friend; and colleagues. Rather go and commune with Nature. Address endearingly the squirrel and the little lamb. Talk and laugh lovingly with the little birds among the bushes and the bright butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Thus safely spend out the unwinding threads of Vasanas from the reel of Chitta, and you will be quite safe.
So, when the inner Vasanas break through and strike the surface, do not be dismayed. Understand what is happening and deal with them calmly. Adopt the methods outlined above to suit the case and with variations to fit into particular situations and temperaments. Overcome them wisely and be a gainer. This experience will enrich you and you will be more firmly established in Sadhana. Now there is a point to be noted in this connection. There is a similar process that appears like this spontaneous uprising of inner Vasanas, but which it isn’t. It is something different, and has to be dealt with differently. This is the out-rush of Vasanas stimulated by external agency or impulse. This situation is what is called temptation or test, and this is dangerous, for here you are faced with two forces, both of which you have to combat-the innate potency of the Vasanas and the active mechanism of the external stimulating agency. Adopt a combination of several methods for this. Follow the already outlined sublimation method and augment it with prayer, fasts a little bit of aggressive self-restraint, changing of the place where temptation is, taking of a resolute vow, etc. You will succeed in overcoming the test.
The individual consciousness is made to pass through varying states of mental and emotional stress; pure, neutral as also impure, just as the muddy water is made to pass through a tray of sand, charcoal and some germicidal medium for the task of filtration and purification. For the purpose of filtering away of gross impurity the rough grains of the sands of Vyavaharic experiences suit and suffice admirably. But for the subtler impurities (like the gaseous ones in water) a medium like black charcoal is required. This is the recrudescence of disturbingly unspiritual thoughts and tendencies that dismay and upset the Sadhakas in the onward course of their spiritual development. This process takes place almost entirely upon the mental and emotional planes. Their inner working is very curious and interesting. They take place in both the waking as well as the dream state and in the latter in two slightly differing shades of dream consciousness, rather difficult to distinguish.
The various positive and negative and subjective and objective sublimating methods detailed already are for use when the ‘spending-out’ process is in the waking state. In dream state the Sadhaka has only to depend upon the subconscious mind to guard him and to effect a proper self-adjustment inside. More often than not, the thought influence of his Guru (preceptor), as also the Grace of the Ishta-Devata bring the Sadhaka safe out of the dream state processes. It leaves only a slight vague impression on the mind that retains it the next morning in the form of some mood, either depressing or exhilarating, as the case may be. And at times this process in the dream state takes place in a curious way.
The person dreams and the Vasanas spend themselves out but the consciousness of the Sadhaka is not aware of the fact that he has dreamed. Thus he wakes up in the morning with a curious feeling, a different man from the time he retired to bed the previous night, yet unable to explain it or attribute it to anything that he can recollect. This is somewhat like the process you adopt when you have unknowingly drunk impure water and later on, to disinfect it, you take charcoal tablet orally. The medicated tablet enters the stomach and carries out its purifying work invisibly and unknowingly. You are unconscious of what is going on inside, as in the case of those Vasanas that expended themselves in your unconscious dreams. Thus proceeds the process of purification and the wise and vigilant Sadhaka raises himself upwards and progresses onwards on this ocean of Adhyatmic (spiritual) life, even as the clever boatman skilfully takes immediate advantage of each uprising wave and sails ahead, making his little boat leap, as it were, from crest to crest in ocean. Victory is to the vigilant and success surely attends upon the sincere Sadhaka, firm in faith in his Guru or Teacher.