Our journey in Yoga is to return to the purity and simplicity of consciousness at the center of our being. As we divest more and more layers, our mental and emotional state lightens progressively. It is not a linear progression but a spiral progression. Mental well-being is not the purpose of Yoga, but it is certainly a very beneficial side effect.
The Heartfulness practices each have an important role to play in this, and most vital to the removal of impressions is the practice of de-conditioning we know as Cleaning. When we sit for Cleaning in the evening, we unload the impressions of the day and create a vacuum in the heart, similar to the way taking a bath washes away dirt from the physical body.
What is being purified? Consciousness, and this has a ripple effect on our perception, bringing clarity, understanding and wisdom. A pure consciousness can more easily make wise choices. In fact, Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh once said, “The soul of a human being will be clean in proportion to the power of discrimination they possess.” The purer the heart, the more wisdom flourishes.
Cleaning is complemented by Heartfulness Meditation. Over time, as a result of meditating in the morning with Transmission, we learn to absorb and carry the depths and fragrance of the meditative state with us throughout our daily activities. In a sense, we are meditating with eyes open, and this creates a field of protection, preventing emotional reactions and judgments, preventing the formation of samskaras. And so the need for Cleaning gradually diminishes and becomes more need-based, as we master the art of remaining meditative during all our activities.
Heartfulness Prayer at bedtime connects us with universal love, helping us to sleep in a deeply profound state, and also allowing us to go deeper in meditation the next morning. When we are flooded with so much love, we naturally have more resilience, and we also prefer to stay connected rather than being pulled to the periphery of our being by the highs and lows of a reactive consciousness.
And so, as we interweave these three practices of Meditation, Cleaning and Prayer every day, our consciousness is always being recalibrated to remember its pure state, which is our constant reference point for mental well-being. This we call constant remembrance.
In the older yogic texts, the vikshepas and vighnas were mostly seen as temporary obstacles to spiritual progress, rather than maladies in the general sense as they are often viewed today. Here we will explore both worldviews, to shed more light on how we can work with them going forward.
Patanjali offers the following solutions to all these mental imbalances in his Sutras:
1.32: Tat pratisedhartham eka tattva abhyasah
To remedy this, practice meditation on one principle.
Bringing the mind to one object for some time will dismantle all these obstacles. As the purpose of Yoga is oneness with the Ultimate or Absolute state, the object taken up for meditation is complete oneness with the Ultimate, so that all distractions are removed. Any other object than the Ultimate is itself in flux, and so would not be helpful in this endeavor.
In this context, in Yoga it has always been considered very normal for vikshepas and vighnas to come to most people from time to time along the journey. The guidance of teachers has been not to mind them when they come, just to keep on practicing, as they will eventually pass. This is true for both mental and physical symptoms, including nervous shaking. It is not that we bury our heads in the sand in an attempt to avoid the presence of obstacles, but rather that we do not indulge in giving too much focus and attention to them.
When Patanjali was alive, there was no yogic process of Transmission or Cleaning, which are both practices introduced by Heartfulness in the last 100 years. Both Transmission and Cleaning facilitate and accelerate the process of transformation: Transmission gently draws our attention inward to the object of meditation, taking us deeper and deeper through the dimensions of consciousness to the center itself; Cleaning removes the afflictions and obstacles, the kleshas, vikshepas and vighnas, along the way. Both these practices help to reduce the effects of these mental modifications significantly.
In current mainstream society, however, both in the East and the West, the kleshas, vikshepas and vighnas are not just seen as temporary obstacles to be dissolved and transcended; they have themselves become the focus of our attention. Pick up any newspaper, popular magazine or scientific journal and you will find articles on stress, depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, pain management, anger management or panic attacks. Culturally, we are focusing our attention on these modern maladies with such intensity that we are going deeper and deeper into them, and it doesn’t seem to be helping. It is like watering the weeds that are choking a garden instead of just letting them die and only watering the plants you want to thrive. It is our choice where we focus our attention – energy flows where attention goes.
So, what if we shift our focus to the real goal of human life, the soul at the center of our existence, instead of towards the obstacles? Would we have the mental health epidemic we have today? Our focus has moved to the periphery and our energies are directed towards the obstacles themselves. As a result, they are magnifying rather than disappearing.
This is not to dismiss the suffering of all those people who are unwell, whose lives are painful, who feel hopeless, and who may see their life as not worth living. Their pain is real. It is only to say that with a shift in perception, with a shift in purpose, with a shift in consciousness, with a different education and training, we can start to heal these problems and bring some relief.
Imagine what will happen when our collective worldview starts perceiving a higher human purpose. Everything will change. All the obstacles will take a back seat and remain simply that – obstacles along the way. They may still need to be overcome, but they will no longer be center stage in our existence. Perhaps that is why Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur famously said, “No country or nation will survive without spirituality as its base, and every nation must sooner or later adopt the same course if she wants to maintain her very existence.” All it takes is a shift of focus towards the higher purpose of human existence once a day in meditation. Such a shift is life changing.
Another piece of guidance from Patanjali is also life changing:
1.33: Maitri karuna upeksanam sukha dukha punya
apunya visayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam
Consciousness is pacified by cultivating attitudes of
towards everyone, mercy and compassion towards those
who are suffering, joy towards those who are virtuous,
and indifference towards those who are evil.
Most of our difficulties in daily life come from not following the simple guidance found in this sutra. It is a vast topic on human relationships in seed form, which we cannot cover here. As a hint, however, I would like to share this much:
A meditative mind is always compassionate.
A compassionate heart gives birth to finer qualities, like cheerfulness and friendliness.
And such a heart avoids making judgments and remains indifferent toward wickedness, evil and badness.
The underlying divine laws of Nature associated with this sutra are very well described in Ram Chandra’s book, Commentary on the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg.
Following this, Patanjali then offers various additional ways to pacify consciousness, given that one practice may not suit everyone, but he does not offer any guidance or methods on how to do them. Actually, it is very difficult to find specific methods in any of the yogic literature, as they were generally handed down by word of mouth from Guru to disciple.
It is only in the most recent yogic era, since the middle of the 20th century, when Ram Chandra distilled the Heartfulness practices from all the yogic methods available from ancient times onwards, and made these available to everyone, that we now have a set of practices that can solve our problem of consciousness. It is for this reason that Heartfulness is able to heal humanity, by removing the obstacles to mental well-being that plague our modern world.
Before the current era, Yoga gave us the philosophy to know what was needed to reach the highest states of consciousness, and express the full divine potential of a human being. But now, in this current era, a set of simple practices has been gifted to humanity, for one and all to reach those same states. That is the promise of Heartfulness.