The only thing that matters in life is your spiritual, mental and physical health. Everything else, for the most part, is futile and irrelevant. Why so? Because health as the saying goes is real wealth. The problem, however, is that most people do not consider anything beyond their physical well-being; some do consider their mental state, but most completely neglect their spiritual health – the most important of the three.
Another challenge is the relative nature of spirituality and its lack of one single path, leading to a whole bunch of confusion, exploitation and in some instances, disaster (read: Jim Jones and his followers). How do we therefore determine what is right and what is wrong? The simple answer is: you can’t because what is right for you now is a subjective and relative determination. You are absolutely unique and as you change from moment to moment, that uniqueness continues unending. So what is right now may not be right for you latter in life. Yes, we can heed some general advice and guidelines from the enlightened, but here too we have the potential of being misled down a path that is inappropriate and lacking any sense of spiritual integrity, simply because we can never be fully sure that that guidance is pure, correct and free from illusion.
It amazes me how easily people will eagerly accept the advice of an author without first studying how they live their life. Do they honor their bodies by eating only pure non-violent foods? Do they respect all living beings? Are they disciplined and pure in their daily routines and sensuality? Are they honest and more importantly, free from the fourfold defects that affect all conditioned souls, namely:
1) Imperfect senses (Karanapatava): The senses are limited and can easily be misled;
2) Subject to Illusion (Pramada): Accepting as real something that is not real;
3) Prone to make mistakes (Bhrama): “To err is human”;
4) The tendency to cheat (Vipralipsa): To propagate falsehood, to present yourself as something you are not.
All these things are important, for a truly enlightened person will never fall victim to the lower urges of this world, but will perpetually remain in a state of higher consciousness and satisfaction, all the while being fully present (at least physically) in this material world. How do you find such souls? And if you do happen to find someone of such potential, how can you truly determine his or her qualifications?
The Vedic culture of dharma has a system of checks and balances to help out: Guru, sadhu and shastra. The guru or spiritual master is that person (man or woman) who is a recognized master of a particular bona-fide tradition coming in a line of similar spiritual masters. The sadhus are elevated practitioners within that tradition and the shastra is the bona-fide recognized spiritual literature. All three must be in compliance to render something genuine. Yes, you can say that even this system has its drawbacks and in some sense is relative, but it is at least a sound system and certainly better than whimsically accepting the mischievous and sometimes diabolical ramblings of the mind.
According to the Vedas, the mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. We can all attest to this from personal experience and most probably there are things we just want to forget, but somehow can’t. So how do we make the mind our best friend all the time, while cleansing it from all those past embarrassing experiences?
Warrior Arjuna, the main character in the Bhagavad-Gita, told his friend Sri Krishna that to control the mind is like “controlling the wind” – it is practically impossible. Krishna however responded that indeed it was possible through practice – albeit a lifetime of practice. You see, the mind we have now is a product of our past actions and desires. Just the same as the body we inherit is determined by our past karma, the mind or mental body is the carrier of the soul from one body to the next and therefore the mind we have now has been influenced by the past. Like the aroma of food that has been cooked many hours before, our mind may carry ‘aromas’ of our past actions for many lifetimes.
The process of purification, or of training the mind has to begin somewhere and if we are fortunate enough to have the guidance and good association of someone who is a master of their mind and senses, that transformative process can take place the instant we decide to move in a direction of positivity. Indeed simply by the association of such elevated souls our minds can be transported to higher planes and our hearts purified. It is said therefore, that the association of such great souls is the only auspicious thing in this material world.
Through sincere practice, determination and austerity, we gradually purify and train the mind in positivity, removing past contaminations and thus set the framework for a higher plane of consciousness and well-being. The decisions you make now, as in the past, directly determine your future. We are architects of our future and that begins now. We have to embrace the “now” and enjoy every moment, for what is life but a string of fleeting moments. Embracing the “now” is to have gratitude for what you have NOW, what you are NOW, and all he wonderful opportunities NOW before you. Stop listening to the fickle mind and worrying about the future and start living the NOW. For otherwise your life and all its potential will escape you.
One technique I have used over the years to help me to remain in a positive state of mind is the “ecstatic modifier”. The idea is for every sentence you make modify the noun in that statement with the word “ecstatic.” For example, writing this article is ecstatic. Sounds easier enough, but it gets really funny when you start applying it in every mundane situation you find yourself in. I promise that very soon after you start playing this game on your mind you will actually feel ecstatic. The idea behind the ecstatic modifier game is to create a positive mindset and to appreciate the now. Once you do that, you can begin to train your mind as your friend. If you compliment techniques like this with a life that is regulated in eating, sleeping, and recreation, and refrain from eating flesh, eggs, fish and alcohol, controlling the mind becomes very easy.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, elevating consciousness begins with controlling the tongue, of which eating pure food is paramount. However, vibrating pure sounds, and in particular, sounds of the highest vibration like the holy name of God, is just as important. Speaking positively and embracing the moment with a mood of positivity, is the foundation, but surrounding ourselves with pure sound is literally like opening the door of higher consciousness. It is for this reason, that groups like the Hare Krishna devotees regularly chant the holy name of Krishna 2-3 hours every day. The founder of the Krishna movement, Srila Prabhupada told his followers that chanting the holy name of God was the universal sacrifice for this present age. All the great religious traditions acknowledge the same. The particular name or tradition one wishes to follow is a very personal choice and I do not wish to debate or recommend one tradition over another.
Gauravani (pictured above), a wonderful friend and follower of the Krishna tradition has made chanting the holy name of God (kirtan) an integral part of his personal and social life. Recently he and other chanters inaugurated the Chant4Change event in Washington DC, where many of the leading kirtaneers gathered to celebrate the Inauguration of Barack Obama.
Gauravani recently launched a new CD called Ten Million Moons that I highly recommend as a source of inspiration and knowledge on the science and art of elevating consciousness through pure sound.