Published: 4 February 2023 | Written by Swami Rama
Human beings are always disappointed in the external world, yet they have not turned inward to understand anything about the internal world. Those who begin to search the other dimensions of life come in contact with subtleties that are puzzling to them, and they do not know what to do next. People have been trained from childhood to observe, examine, and verify the things in the external world, but no one has taught them how to look within, how to verify within, and how to know within. The ancients contemplated on these issues for a long time, and they developed a method for studying the inner world. Just as modern scientists developed a method for analysing the nature of matter, so there is a positive and exact system that tells us how to analyse and understand inner life.
Many people ask, for example, “Is there anything like a soul within us?” Modern philosophers deny any such entity because they are influenced by materialistic science. But are we really sure what science is? A few years ago, a Midwestern university sent out thousands of letters asking various scientists for their definition of science. The responses did not establish any clear-cut definition of science, so even the meaning of science is not defined as yet. According to the ancient yogis, however, science means vijnanam, the systematized and organized study that leads one to attain all the states of jnana – knowledge. Science is a way of knowing through the intellect; science is an external expression of inner knowledge.
If anyone wants to be a student of the interior world, of the path of light, if he wants to do inner research, he will have to understand this point: one must have a purified, free and one-pointed mind to know and examine the interior Self. If the mind is not free, if one is prejudiced from the very beginning, influenced by a particular set of dogmas, doctrines, or formulas, then one can neither conduct nor complete any research. For conducting research within, one should be truthful, sincere, and free from prejudices. Research should not be shaded by social and cultural norms or religious fanaticism. It requires a totally independent and unbiased mind. One cannot lie to oneself. One should ask, “Am I really true to myself? Am I really a seeker?”
In doing research within, we have to completely forget our prejudices from the past, and we have to remain true to ourselves; otherwise our research will be incomplete. Second, we must start training the mind to be inward. But the mind does not want to be inward: it wants to focus outside, because it has been trained and educated to know the external world only. The mind does not want to go toward the more subtle world within; it does not understand the concept of thinking without an object. We can imagine things, but imagination depends on an image within. We must train the mind to go inside to our personal world, which is responsible for all our actions and speech in the external world, so that we can understand those needs, motivations, desires, those strong powers within us that move us to do something in the external world. We want to know their nature. We want to know why we act and feel the way we do.
We let the external world affect us more than it should. Many people remain very unhappy because others have suggested that they are not good people, and they have accepted these negative suggestions from others. Those suggestions have become a part of their lives, so they think of themselves as bad people. But when someone condemns himself, excludes himself, creates guilt feelings within himself, or when he thinks that he is good for nothing, he is committing a serious mistake. On the other hand, we also create miseries for ourselves when we remain indifferent to the external world and when, because of our habits, we do whatever we want without understanding the consequences.
If we are in the habit of creating miseries for ourselves, can we really blame God or anyone else? The ancient philosophy of the sages says, “O human being, you have the capacity to understand yourself, to understand both klishta and aklishta – that which is helpful for you, and that which creates obstacles for you.” Most of the miseries we suffer are created by ourselves, but we put the blame on others. Our miseries are not created by Providence, by the sun, moon, and stars, by our environment, nor by people – and never by God. We ourselves have created our miseries, and if we want to understand this truthfully, we will have to turn the mind inward.
The mind must be trained to go inward and examine itself because it is not accustomed to practicing a technique of inwardness. Just as one needs a specialist to find out what disease he has, one has to be a specialist in understanding himself because the mind is in the habit of playing tricks. The method of knowing mental life is called psychology. It is very easy to find out something about a person by watching his actions– how he moves, how he talks, how he looks at others, how he smiles, how he cries, how he eats, how he sits, and how he makes certain gestures. One can discover a great deal about the inner life by studying body language. So when we start turning within, we do not have to ignore the external world, nor do we have to make any radical change in our external life. Which language we speak and which garments we wear are not of much value as far as Self-realization is concerned. People wast much time and energy in getting attached to brands and labels and forming a sect or cult. Thus the whole purpose is lost, and one is caught by the diversity of rituals and the fanaticism of cultism. We simply have to be ourselves and create a strong desire to know ourselves from within. That desire is the first requirement. If one doesn’t understand the importance of spirituality and meditation, then he should not waste his time and energy with it. If one is not convinced that meditation is a technique that is helpful, if one is not prepared, then he should not apply that technique. Because if he does, there will be no result; there will only be disappointment. So first, to research the inner world, one needs a burning desire to know his inner potentials and states.
When we look within, we realize that the mind has two parts. The part that we already know is called the conscious part, and that which is unknown to us is called the unconscious part. The subconscious is a part of the unconscious. It means that which is submerged, that which is not visible. If the conscious part of mind does not function, the creative and dynamic aspect of human life will be crippled. And if it is destroyed, then there will be no coordination between body and mind. When this occurs, death is the result. But even after this separation, the unconscious mind remains intact. Let us now examine the unconscious mind. When we look at something, the sensation that we receive is carried through the optic nerve to the brain and then to the conscious mind. Then it settles down in the unconscious mind as a sensation that leaves an imprint there. Looking at something with interest will help us to remember it if we ever see it again. But if we look at something casually and don’t pay attention to it, then even though we are seeing it, we are not registering it. Registration happens because the mind has much interest in seeing something, and memory depends on interest. There is no camera that registers as fast as the brain. The fastest speed is not the speed of light, but the speed of mind. People can think so fast that no computer can register their thinking. And when we think, everything we are registering is stored in the unconscious mind.
From the book Choosing a Path, pp 31 – 35, by Swami Rama, published 2018 by the Himalayan Institute India.
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