The art of removing and creating habits – part 3
Last month, DAAJI explored the yogic wisdom on how to create the habit of peace and compassion, by studying the first Yama, known as ahimsa or non-violence. In part 3, he focuses on the second Yama – satya, the habit of truthfulness.
TRUTH & AUTHENTICITY
Let’s first remind ourselves of how the Yamas and Niyamas guide us to look at the habits we want to remove and create, applying the ancient wisdom of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga to our modern-day context. Very simply, the Yamas focus on those habits we need to remove, and the Niyamas focus on those habits we need to cultivate if we are to become truly human. It’s also worth remembering that the Yamas and Niyamas can only really be practiced in relationship with others. They are not for ascetics who have renounced society and worldly life. They are there to guide us in how to behave with others in everyday life.
Isn’t it interesting that these two of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga require us to be living in the society, in relationship with others? Many people think of yogis as those who run away from society, who renounce family life and working life in order to pursue their spiritual goal, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is through our interface with the people and the world around us that we develop the qualities of character that allow us to evolve.
What is truth?
Last month we explored ahimsa, the first Yama that describes the need to remove all forms of violence in our character so that love and compassion can express in our relationships. This month we explore satya, meaning “truth” or “essence” – to remove all the programmed habits of falsity, including hypocrisy and the multiple personas we carry around as masks for different occasions. The result is authenticity, where our true colors shine through in everything that we think, feel, say and do.
This Yama touches upon one of the most fundamental aspects of our spiritual journey – we are moving from our current state toward absolute Truth or Reality. In our current state, each one of us has a perception of truth that is both individual and cultural, hence the statement that there are as many universes as there are people. And what is it that creates the difference between one person’s truth and another person’s truth? The simple answer is all the mental deviations that have accumulated in our field of consciousness through our past experience. For example, people of different cultures perceive color differently. If you are from the Himba tribe in Namibia, you will probably not distinguish between blue and green, and you will not have a word for the color blue in your language. You will, however, see a lot more variation within the color green than a European person does, and have many more words for the shades of green in your language (Davidoff, 2006). If you are a Russian speaker, you are more likely to be adept at distinguishing between various shades of light and dark blue than an English speaker (Winawer et al., 2007). These are cultural differences in perception.
And then, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity tells us that when we are moving fast enough toward a beam of light, its color will shift toward the blue end of the spectrum, whereas when we are moving fast enough away from the same beam of light, its color will shift toward the red end of the spectrum. So what is the truth about color? When we are still, we see colors as distinct and separate; when we are moving fast they are all one.
And Relativity Theory tells us other things about our perception of truth. Nobel Laureate in physics, Frank Wilczek, says, “In ordinary reality and ordinary time and space, the opposite of a truth is a falsehood. But deep propositions have a meaning that goes beyond their surface. You can recognize a deep truth by the feature that its opposite is also a deep truth.” Wilczek calls it “complementarity,” for example the paradoxes that light is both a particle and a wave, and that colors are both distinct and a continuum.
The same has also been described by yogis whose consciousness expands into deeper dimensions of existence through a spiritual practice. Babuji coined the term “invertendo” for transcending the apparent opposites of physical existence to include both – light versus dark, good versus bad, right versus wrong, truth versus falsehood. Wilczek and Babuji both use words like “paradoxical” to describe the world of physics and the world of the inner universe. They mirror each other. And the physicist Hermann Weyl describes it yet another way: “The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling along the lifeline of my body does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continually changes in time.” So both physicists and yogic scientists recognize that our individual perception of truth is dependent on our individual consciousness.
These are profound concepts about the nature of truth and reality. In fact, the depth of this particular Yama is unfathomable. So what does satya actually mean? Let’s start at the surface level with our very mundane concepts of truthfulness in day-to-day life, and then proceed layer by layer inward to the Center of our existence, to absolute Truth or Reality and beyond. Try to imagine going inward through the layers or veils of your being, like a set of concentric circles that are markers for the various stages along the way. This is how Babuji drew it in his book, Reality at Dawn.
Starting with our everyday behavior, one of the first habits that relates to satya is our ability to speak the truth. Our words are just a small part of our communication, but they do matter a lot. Often we say one thing but mean another, or do another. A classic example is a parent or a teacher yelling at a child, “Stop making so much noise”!
Often, our words, actions, thoughts and feelings are not in sync. And in today’s world this malady has escalated to the extent that we readily accept fake news as normal and acceptable. Our societies are so far from truthfulness that we would be very surprised if the news were completely true, and if our politicians, lawyers and policemen were honest and full of integrity. We have derailed truthfulness in our societies. But speaking the truth is just the tip of the iceberg.
Being truthful means much more. It means to be genuine, to be original, to be authentic, to be whole – to say what you mean and mean what you say; to show yourself in your true colors; to be the truth rather than just speaking the truth. Truth has no hidden agendas, no personas, and no camouflage. It is a state of childlike innocence, purity and simplicity. Do small children have to try to be truthful? Of course not. For them it is natural until they are taught to be otherwise. Then, as adults, having learn the habit of covert behavior, they follow the automatic programs they have been taught.
Being truthful means to be genuine,
to be original, to be authentic, to be whole
– to say what you mean and mean what you say;
to show yourself in your true colors;
to be the truth rather than just speaking the truth.
Take a simple example: When someone asks you, “How are you?”, what is your response? Do you say, “I’m fine,” even when you are not? Do you observe what is happening in your inner world before you answer? Are you able to connect with how you truly feel? And what will you express to others? Is it necessary to share your feelings fully?
Truth is integrity, where thoughts and feelings are aligned with words, and words are aligned with actions. There is complete harmony between all the dimensions of existence – the physical body, subtle bodies, and soul are integrated and unified. This leads to a state of flow, of health and well-being, because there is harmony and integration. And this is what Yoga is all about.
It requires alertness, humility, self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-awareness. You probably know the famous quote from Hamlet by Shakespeare: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Not an ounce of falseness. When our innermost core is not reflected in our outermost actions and behavior, there is discord and an uneasy feeling of hypocrisy within us. We don’t feel good about ourselves because our integrity is compromised. We have become compartmentalized.
Take a moment to examine your behavior: Do you behave the same way with your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, your boss, and your work colleagues? Are you transparent with everyone? Or do you show one face at work, and another at home with your family members? And what about when you are alone? That is the best gauge of truthfulness.
Most of us cannot answer that we are truly authentic when we reflect on these questions. We retort with, “Oh, but I can’t be totally honest with everyone! Some people would be hurt, or they wouldn’t understand.” Of course we do not want to hurt others with our words or actions – that is ahimsa, the first Yama. But that is not what is meant here. There are times to be silent, times not to expose everything about yourself. In fact, that is one definition of self-respect. But are we totally aware and honest with ourselves about why we choose not to share information? Is it for the sake of the other person, or is it because we don’t want to expose who we truly are? And to complicate things even more, many of our masks are unconscious – we don’t know we have put them on. We are not in tune with ourselves.
When this compartmentalization is extreme, it becomes a disease, multiple personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder. The personality becomes so fragmented that the person jumps between various personas. Most of us are not that extreme, but we suffer from a much milder form of compartmentalization, putting on various masks when we interact with others. The result is the corruption of our conscious and subconscious mind, and that leads to feelings of shame and guilt.
We feel uncomfortable within our own skin, and our vibration is lowered because we are not able to listen to the authentic voice of the heart and act upon its wisdom.
The role of a spiritual practice
Spirituality is the practical approach to reintegrating us from the center of our being to the outermost aspects of our personality and behavior. That is what Yoga means. That reintegration automatically leads to us being truthful, as we dismantle the various programs in our subtle body that lead to habitual thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Therefore, as we journey along the spiritual path through practical means, our behavior and character will start to change. The way we speak, walk, eat, accept others, and respond in our interactions with others, will all evolve. Spirituality is the method to become truthful, and as with all things on the spiritual journey, it is a stepwise process of change.
On this journey, we are moving beyond our various individual perceptions of truth that are based on learned experience and knowledge. We go beyond the individual mind and individual consciousness, so that we can access the universal mind and universal consciousness. Eventually, we may even journey beyond universal consciousness to the Center. For this progressive evolution, there are two main things to be done:
1. To purify consciousness by removing all the coverings and layers; and
2. To expand consciousness, so that it reaches progressively deeper and vaster dimensions of existence.
A simple analogy is to imagine that your consciousness is like a pool of water. It may be still and crystal clear, or it may be turbulent and murky; it may be shallow, or it may be deep. For our consciousness to resonate with absolute Truth, we want it to become crystal clear and infinitely vast and deep. We are removing turbulence and narrow-mindedness.
Another useful analogy is a river. At the source of the river, the banks are very close together – left and right, right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. Our reference points are like the banks, close together and thus black and white; everything is dogmatic. As we move toward the ocean the banks become further and further apart, and eventually we reach the ocean, where there are no longer any reference points. We are in a different dimension of existence all together. This is what happens to our consciousness as we travel on the spiritual journey. We no longer follow imposed rules, but instead listen to the soul’s inner guidance through the heart.
What is the first step?
For this progressive evolution of consciousness to happen, we need a set of regular daily meditative practices. Our consciousness is constantly changing according to both our inner and outer environments, so we need practical methods in order to bring stillness when there is turbulence, and to keep it expanding into vastness and infinite depth.
We cannot change our programmed subconscious patterns of turbulence and narrow-mindedness using a behavioral or analytical approach alone. Without going to the root of the problem, it is difficult to succeed. And so we start from within, by removing the root causes, which are the impressions or samskaras that create complexity and impurity in our field of consciousness. We use the practices of Heartfulness to refine our inner environment – the subtle bodies of consciousness, thought and feeling, intellect, and ego.
These inner practices are complementary: Heart-based Meditation with Transmission allows us to enter the world of feelings, integrates the veils or layers of our being, and expands our consciousness into the vast infinite unknown. Cleaning removes the pre-programmed impressions that dictate habits and false personas, and purifies consciousness. Prayer takes us to our Center, vacuumizes our inner being, and allows us to listen to the heart’s wisdom, creating the opportunity for change. After some time, the combination of the three done daily creates a permanent condition – one where we are constantly meditative, constantly purified, and constantly connected with the Center. We remember the Truth of our existence, and of the oneness of all existence. This is known as Constant Remembrance. Absolute Truth becomes our permanent companion. There is no longer any need for comparative truths or paradoxes.
Working with the truth
In the last 100 years, Yoga has become so much more known, and we now have these inner practices so that we can take up the Yamas and Niyamas once our consciousness is evolved and the heart is awakened through the practices. We can then appreciate the Yamas and Niyamas, and differentiate between right and wrong. It is Viveka that allows us to appreciate them and Viveka is an outcome of regular meditative practices. We are able to refine our character and progressively arrive at the next step in unravelling truth.
Being truthful, while at the same time ensuring that the truth never hurts the heart of another person, is only possible if ahimsa and satya go hand in hand. When we do go astray, we are suffering from an impure heart, and the coercions that result from it, and so our inner environment becomes turbulent and wrong habits develop.
When we hurt others, even unintentionally, guilt usually develops, and the removal of guilt is an important practice of Yama. It cannot be removed through Meditation or Cleaning, so it is removed through the Heartfulness practice of genuine prayerful repentance and letting go at bedtime, known as Maxim Ten or Principle Ten. This practice also cultivates truthfulness, by allowing us to accept our own failings with humility and genuinely let go of them in a prayerful state. It purifies our system of guilt and shame, which are the hardest impressions to remove from our system. It develops self-acceptance, self-compassion, and releases us from the burden of carrying guilt and shame. Gradually, we are able to master the first step in truthfulness, which is to let go of all the masks we present to the world, so that we can become integrated and authentic.
A fundamental truth
I would like to finish this article on satya with perhaps the most fundamental truth of all, and also with a story to bring a smile to your face. Many of you may have seen the movie, The Matrix. Well, the message of The Matrix is a key message of spirituality, that our individuality is an illusion: The minute we think we are separate beings we have been fooled. In one respect our individuality is true – our egos do create separateness, which stays with us throughout this life and beyond. But the invertendo, the complementarity, is that we are much more than that. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we are all part of the oneness that is our original state. And this oneness is what we experience when we meditate, and when we connect in prayer in the vacuum of our heart. We are so much more than our separate individuality. Simply put, we are all interconnected individuals backed by the Infinity we call God.
And now for the story, which I read many years ago in a book by Idries Shah about the exploits of Mulla Nasruddin:
There was once a king who wished to make his people practice truthfulness.
The Mulla was not convinced with this approach, and said to him, “Laws will not make people better. They need to do an inner practice to become truthful. If they tell the truth only because of your laws, it will not be authentic truth.”
But the king was determined. He decided that he could and he would make people truthful.
The city was surrounded by a high wall and a moat, and the entrance was across a bridge. Near the entrance the king built some gallows, and the next day the Captain of the Guard and his men were stationed there to question all who entered. The king issued a proclamation that everyone would be questioned. If they answered truthfully, they would be allowed to enter; if they didn’t answer truthfully, they would be hanged.
Mulla Nasruddin came to the gate, and the guards asked him, “Where are you going?”
He answered, “I am on my way to be hanged.”
“We don’t believe you!”, they answered.
“So if I have told a lie, please hang me,” the Mulla answered, sporting a huge grin.
“But, if we hang you for lying you will have told the truth!” the Captain responded, looking perplexed.
“That’s correct,” replied the Mulla. “Now you know what truth is – your truth!”
Article by DAAJI
Header photograph by RASMUS MOGENSEN
April 01, 2021
April 01, 2021
April 01, 2021