DAAJI continues his series on everyday living, introducing the fourth universal principle of the User’s Guide – to live simply to be identical with Nature. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to recalibrate our lifestyle, and for many of us that means simplifying our lives in ways that we could not have imagined even a few weeks ago. This fourth principle will help us to visualize our way forward and be creative in the ways we adapt to current circumstances.
LEARNING TO SIMPLIFY LIFE
The two wings of a bird
Before moving to the fourth principle, let’s pause for a moment to see how far we have come. In the earlier articles of the User’s Guide, we explored Principles 1 to 3 about the spiritual practices of meditation and prayer, and the ultimate goal of existence.
The remaining seven principles cover other aspects of daily life, relating to activities and interactions with others. Authentic progress includes both the worldly and the spiritual dimensions of existence, because they are not separate, and Babuji uses the analogy, “Spirituality and materiality are like the two wings of a bird. A bird cannot fly with one wing alone.”
This statement of Babuji is often misinterpreted, according to the particular disposition of the reader. For example, some take it to mean that material success and spiritual success coexist, so that they can conveniently justify their material desires, pleasures and indulgences that are not in tune with spiritual progress. Some go to the other extreme, diving into spirituality in order to escape the human side of life, believing that their god or guru will somehow wave a magic wand and come to the rescue whenever there is a problem.
It reminds me of one of Aesop’s fables about a man from Athens, who was going on a long sea journey when his ship was wrecked in a terrifying storm. He managed to escape from the sinking vessel with a few others, and they all held on to planks of wood from the shipwreck to stay afloat. There was an island nearby, so most of the survivors started swimming towards the shore, but the man from Athens did not.
Instead, he started praying to the goddess Athena, “Please rescue me from this terrible situation. I promise I will build a temple in your honor if I survive this.”
As he was pleading thus, a sailor swam by and called out, “Pray to Athena by all means, but also start swimming if you want to survive!”
What happens when we rely on the spiritual dimension to solve worldly issues? In the early 1980s, the psychologist John Welwood coined the term “spiritual bypassing” to describe a phenomenon he observed in many meditators – that they use spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with unresolved emotional and psychological issues.
Today, this term is commonly used in the West for behavior that results in a conceptual, one-sided kind of spirituality, where one pole of life is elevated at the expense of the other, and subconscious tendencies are not dealt with at all. Welwood observed this wreaking havoc in people’s lives, especially in relationships. Spirituality becomes some sort of escapism to avoid the challenges of worldly life. Today this is common, with the mushrooming number of teachers offering fast-food spirituality, but it is nothing new. In Babuji’s lifetime he also encountered a wide spectrum of spiritual paths and practices, and lamented that many so-called gurus were merely parroting scriptures and techniques without having the necessary caliber, expertise and experience to guide their followers towards the Goal. He also came across paths that prescribed austerity and isolation, where practitioners ran away from the psychological and interpersonal dimensions of being. Both extremes miss the point. Babuji realized that a genuine spiritual path has to support the personal, interpersonal and transpersonal levels of being.
His analogy of a bird needing two wings to fly also has another meaning: As we progress spiritually, our material life becomes more and more charged with the finer vibrations of our spiritual essence. As a result, our growth in both spheres integrates to be in tune with our divine Nature. In fact, we develop as a complete human being in order to soar on both wings, with the heart functioning like the tail of the bird, guiding us forward.
So what is this human aspect all about? We have multiple dimensions or layers of being – our physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions – and each one affects all the others. Our aim is to bring these dimensions into a holistic and dynamic oneness. From a quantum perspective, these dimensions are energy sheaths that become progressively subtler as we move from the outer to the inner – from form to formlessness; from matter, to energy, to Absolute. In Yoga, they are also known as sheaths, the koshas of our system. We cannot ignore any of them in our journey to the Goal. They are all part of the oneness of our being in different states of vibration.
Principles 1 to 3 focus on our spiritual practice and purpose. In Heartfulness, the practice includes Meditation with Transmission in the morning, Cleaning in the evening, and Prayer at bedtime. There are also additional practices, such as Point A Meditation to develop universal harmony and brotherhood, Point B Cleaning to manage and moderate sensual energy, and a Universal Prayer for Peace. Together, they regulate the mind, purify the heart, and help us to expand our consciousness as we journey through the chakras.
But what about the remaining 22 or 23 hours of the day, which we spend with our family and friends, working or studying, enjoying hobbies, recreational activities, and sleeping? Are we conscious of how our inner state expresses outwardly in our behavior at those times? This brings us to the next set of Principles, which help us to develop a lifestyle in tune with our inner growth.
Within the five elements are ten universal principles:
The first of these, Principle 4, is about the essential value of simplicity:
Simplify your life so as to be
identical with Nature.
This value follows directly from Principle 3 – when we are in tune with the Goal, complete oneness with God, our life simplifies across all dimensions. God is ultimate simplicity, so the only methods that will take us there are the simplest methods. When we are not in tune with this Goal, our own creation leads to complexity. The minute we are able to let go of our own creation, magic can happen! That is why so much importance is given to acceptance and surrender in spiritual systems. Surrender is the key to simplification. So how can we work with this value of simplicity to transform ourselves from the inside out?
Enter the belief system
We have three bodies – the physical body, the subtle body and the causal body. The causal body is our soul, our eternal essence. The field that emanates from and surrounds the causal body is the subtle body field of our pure consciousness (chit). And the other subtle bodies – including the ego (ahankar), the intellect (buddhi) and the contemplative mind (manas) – are functions within this field of consciousness.
The ego is our individual identity, and in its original form it is simply that – a plain identity without any preconceptions or attachments. As a function of the mind, it is our impetus to manifest things, and is thus associated with our energy sheath, our pranamaya kosha. Without it we would not be able to think, act, or be interested in anything. But as complexities develop within our field of consciousness, the ego hooks on to these complexities, distorting its purity of identification. We start to identify with various things – our principles, our beliefs, our culture and conditioning, our ambitions, as well as the roles we play, e.g. husband, wife, mother, father and CEO, and also our qualities, e.g. intelligent, stupid, kind, creative etc. We even go so far as to identify with our belongings and possessions, e.g. our house or car, jewelry or bank balance. All these things define our belief system. Whether we know it or not, our attitudes and actions emanate from the belief system, so if we really want to change our attitudes and actions, we need to change our belief system.
The birth of the belief system
How has the belief system formed? It has accumulated over time, as a result of our thoughts, feelings and reactions to circumstances that have created impressions in our subtle field of consciousness – those layers of complexity or knots that we call samskaras. They create the belief system in which we are enmeshed. Our thought has the same power as the original thought that led to the creation of the universe, and within this macrocosm of the universe we exist as tiny microcosms with our own customized individual creations.
The big difference, apart from scale, is that the seeds of our individual creation are the impressions or samskaras that have been laid down in our subtle field of consciousness. They form a unique individual blueprint at the level of the subtle body, just as our fingerprints have a unique blueprint at the physical level. Impressions are responsible for the emotional heaviness, turbulence and entanglements we experience. This complex network of our own making is also affected by external circumstances and the environment.
The continuous interplay of our network with that of others determines our personality and character, resulting in our habits and tendencies. From a neurological perspective, we say that our patterns are hardwired into our neural pathways. From a psychological perspective, they are defined by our psycho-emotional subconscious world. This includes those parts of ourselves of which we are ashamed, that we repress, disown, neglect, hate and bury deep, hidden from view. They lurk behind the veil of our consciousness, ever ready to explode if we are not able to address them skillfully. From the metaphysical perspective, it is this complex network that shrouds the true divine Nature of our existence. Thus we are trapped in a prison of our own making.
What is our true Nature?
Simplicity is our essential original Nature – and simplicity also means purity of consciousness. It is the reflection of that which existed in latent form before creation. It is the base of existence, where stillness and silence prevail. It exists beyond the shores of thought, beyond consciousness, and beyond form. It is that very origin from which all forms burst forth into existence.
When we go back to that state beyond creation, it does not just mean going back in time; it means to dissolve into the singularity and beyond. It sounds like science fiction, but it is possible. Babuji showed us the way, through the channel that runs all the way to the origin. It is the same channel through which we have descended; all that we have to do is to retrace our steps.
It is like rewinding a ball of yarn that has been tangled up by a small child playing. Imagine that we are helping a tiny little ant find its way back to the beginning of the yarn. We have to carefully remove all the kinks and knots and straighten it all up, “shattering our own individual network.”
But before that can happen, we have to reverse the flow of our intention and attention from the outward pull of greater and greater complexity, diversity and entropy, to the inward pull of simplicity, purity and unity. We realign ourselves with the centripetal flow toward Oneness, toward God. Can we do this alone? No. It requires help from a fellow traveler who has already experienced that Oneness.
It’s not so simple
This concept of simplicity may appear to be very simple, but it is not so simple to apply it in our lives. Why is it so? Because until the veils of complexity are removed we have no experience of simplicity. It is like climbing a mountain through forests and gullies; until we reach the peak we cannot appreciate the level to which we have come and the view. Most of us start meditating without a full understanding of what it really entails. There is something in us that is tugging or pulling from inside. At this stage we are a seeker. At some point we find a trainer who volunteers to teach us how to meditate, and we become a student. We usually have many concerns and questions, and if we successfully navigate them we move to the stage of being a novice practitioner. We experience inner transformation and the vastness of our metaphysical universe and realize that there is a lot more to meditating than we originally thought. So we graduate to the level of a committed practitioner, with a daily habit of practice, and here our inner journey begins.
At this stage we begin to get a glimpse of the work of the Guide, but it is not until we become an adept practitioner that we start to really develop faith in him, accept him with all our being, and fully surrender to him. This requires transcendence of the ego.
And while we willingly take help from the Guide for our onward journey, our part in this development is to refine our character and behavior – the human side of life. Spiritual growth is the work of the Guide, and character development is our work. Both have to go hand in hand for us to grow. Actually, it is character that is the foundation for spirituality. Real expansion happens only when there is both vertical growth and horizontal growth in proportion to each other.
Ego is not the enemy. It is a great instrument, a great friend.
The word “ego” was popularized by the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and his colleagues in the early 20th century, although it has been described for many thousands of years in the yogic literature as one of the subtle bodies, ahankar, as described above. This subject is so vast that it is not possible to cover here, but suffice it to say that the science of the ego was explored in depth by the ancient sages of the East, and that exploration has evolved even more deeply during the last 150 years by yogis – during roughly the same period as Freud and western psychology has taken up the topic in earnest.
Yoga describes ahankar as one of the subtle bodies, one of the functions of the mind, the identity that the soul as the self takes to navigate this earthly domain. It cannot be destroyed, nor should it be, as our very existence as individuals depends on it.
In the spiritual journey, the ego is refined and purified, stage by stage, and its major refinement is associated with chakras 6 to 12 of the Mind Region, also defining the “rings of ego.” All this is laid out beautifully in Babuji’s books Reality at Dawn and Towards Infinity.
As we refine the ego, our ever-changing perspective is just like that of the mountaineer climbing up to the peak. In fact, until we reach a certain elevation in our spiritual journey, we are not able to let go and manifest the capacity for surrender that results in simplicity. That particular elevation is known as chakra 9 in our spiritual anatomy, associated with the region of Prapanna. We can even say that this stage is the real beginning of the process of simplification, which continues to refine as we progress further; chakra 9 it is still nowhere near the ultimate state of simplicity.
At chakra 9, we start to really cooperate with the work of the Guide, cultivating those behaviors and habits that support his efforts to shatter the network. Such habits are outlined in the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali – removing unwanted tendencies through Yama, cultivating noble qualities through Niyama, good posture through Asana, balancing the energetic body through Pranayama, regulating the senses through Pratyahara, simplifying thoughts to a single focus on the Goal through Dharana, regulating the mind from thought to feeling to becoming to being to non-being through Dhyana, and arriving at the original state of Samadhi. Another way of presenting the same aspects is through these 10 Principles that originated in Babuji’s Ten Maxims; they contain the same content in a more modern context. Of course, Babuji also gave us practical solutions, so there are Heartfulness practices and meditations for all these aspects, which are described in detail in the literature of Heartfulness.
Weaving our destiny with purity and simplicity
The latent power that was present at the time of creation is present in us, too, although generally it is trapped in the cocoon of our own creation. By rekindling it, and using it in the right way, we can attain our Goal. In Babuji’s words, we can “try to re-own the latent power that is the very quintessence of Nature, by breaking up the network interwoven by yourself. Taking up as the ideal the simplicity of Nature, which is before everybody’s view, we may set to work for the attainment of the Goal in a way that all senses, having merged, may become synonymous with that which remains after the fading away of previous impressions.”
Spiritual practice is all about purification of the subtle bodies. And the necessary parallel in our character refinement is simplification, the removal of behavioral complexities. Patanjali says the same thing in his Yoga Sutras, when he explains that our arrival at the stillness of the latent state is the result of two things – our practice (known as abhyas) and our ability to let go of all of our desires and wishes (the state known as vairagya):
1.12: Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah
The vrittis are stilled through spiritual practice
and the letting go of all the mental colorings.
Through our practice and the removal of unwanted complexities (Yama), we start to resonate with the Absolute state, the original state of stillness. Restlessness disappears. In Babuji’s words, “we must go on reducing activities, shaking off all superfluities that have entered our being, for the purpose of shattering our individual network and assuming the purest state we have finally to acquire.” As we simplify our life, and resonate with our divine Nature, we become purer and purer.
Babuji gave a beautiful message to some of his associates in 1982. ¹
“We are all brethren connected intellectually, morally and spiritually – the main goal of human life.This and that have gone now. There remains the purity alone in all His work
and environment which weaves the spiritual destiny of the Being with the Ultimate.”
Once again he speaks of our spiritual connection as the main goal of human life. “This and that” refers to duality, to the opposites of material existence – good and bad, right and wrong, dark and light etc. So we eventually go beyond the opposites; we transcend the dualities of worldly existence where purity starts dawning more often.
Simplicity in action
These are hints of what we need to do. It is our work to take these hints and apply them in our day-to-day life. The message of Principle 4 is to simplify our life so as to be identical with our divine Nature, so let’s see how we may apply this in our life.
Living a life that is in tune with the natural world around us means resonating with it, being in tune with the rhythms of nature, and not hurting any living being without cause. Humans are the only living organisms that swim upstream against the current of the rhythms of nature. We can re-establish our harmonious relationship with nature when we simplify our habits of eating, sleeping, exercising, breathing, and every aspect life to be in tune with natural cycles. Listening to our heart, as well our body and its messages, will also help us be attuned to nature.
There are also other principles and rules that govern nature. For example, there is plenty of diversity in nature. Being open, accepting diversity, and seeing the unity in diversity are lessons we can learn from nature. Also, nature gives without holding back; it does not hoard. When we are generous and share our gifts with others, we are in tune with nature. And emulating nature’s contentment and serenity is another way of being in tune.
It is also our duty to respect and protect nature, rather than exploiting it. Activities that increase pollution, climate change, the elimination and harming of other species, and the exploitation and mistreatment of various races of people are to be avoided if we want to be in tune with nature.
One way to do this is to live within our means and keep reducing our so-called needs. Many people adopt an extravagant life style to impress others and increase their status in society. Having reasonable comfort is a genuine need, however, any kind of extravagance is the need of the ego. This can be avoided, and our current world situation is challenging us to do this.
Then there is our inner divine Nature, simplicity being its essence. Purity, humility, calmness, poise, joy and surrender go hand in hand with the simple life, and the result is innocence, which is the final condition we arrive at.
Some final thoughts
In conclusion, I would like to say that we have to work with both wings simultaneously to achieve real growth. The work of shattering our individual network, and dissolving the tendencies of the mind, is the spiritual work of the Guide. He initiates the journey of our soul, loosens the knots in our subtle field of consciousness, and takes us up, chakra by chakra, so that our consciousness can continue to expand toward the Goal. This is inner work. Each time we meditate, we experience new conditions. In this regard, our work is to practice meticulously while surrendering to his boundless wisdom and love.
MY ULTIMATE VERSION
Per contra, for the human worldly dimension, the primary responsibility is ours, even though he also guides us in this realm as best he can. It is about continuously becoming a better version of ourselves. Can we imagine for a moment how we would like to see ourselves in a year from now? Or when we are breathing our last, how will we present ourselves to God?
With modern technology, each product has multiple versions, for example Apple iOS version 12, version 14; and certain older applications will not work on the later version. What about our ultimate version? What would I like to see as “Kamlesh version 5,000,” my ultimate form, my ultimate inner being? Does it match with my present state of being? If not, what changes do I need to make, so that I come a little closer to the version I am dreaming of?
When we are meditating, or spending some quiet time, we can ask ourselves: What am I becoming? How would I like to see myself? Think of the personalities of great beings, and try to understand those personalities from their essence, from the qualitative point of view. Let’s see how we all can evolve qualitatively.
The first step is to remove all the complexities and impurities from our system. Then to recognize, understand and refine the nature of our ego. Our beliefs are those to which our ego has attached its identity, and our belief system is a sum total of all our conditioning which includes our assumptions, worldviews and psycho-emotional states. And how do we transform our belief system? First and foremost, by attuning it to our Goal, to the essence of our inner Nature – simplicity – and keeping it in our view as a vision.
This is reinforced by managing our senses, creating new habits and regulating our tendencies. Micropractices like Point A Meditation and Point B Cleaning are essential to support this process of transformation. Most importantly, we learn to internalize the conditions we receive during meditation, so that every day we create a better version of ourselves. Also, we develop intimacy with those parts of ourselves that we have suppressed and disowned, including the shadow elements. Our greatest ally is our own awareness, shedding light on all that we are without judgment. There is nothing to hide, there is nothing to be ashamed of, for we know that we are enough, we are complete and loved.
To sum up, we are not merely human beings learning to evolve spiritually, we are spiritual beings waking up in human form, learning to become fully human.
¹ Ram Chandra, 2009. Complete Works of Ram Chandra, Volume 3. Shri Ram Chandra Mission, India.
Article by KAMLESH PATEL (DAAJI)
Illustrations by JASMEE RATHOD
Kamlesh Patel is known to many as Daaji. He is the Heartfulness Guide in a tradition of Yoga meditation that is over 100 years old, overseeing 14,000 certified Heartfulness trainers and many volunteers in over 130 countries. He is an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the fields of spirituality and science, blending the... Read more