Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Voyeur of Vrittis

A Voyeur of Vrittis

Sometimes the mind is brimming with words which you simply want to put down to paper (or computer); sometimes the words just wouldn't come out. But one thing is for sure: the mind is never quiet--there's always movement and thought. When the supposedly right words wouldn't come out, it's because there are other words that are louder, reverberating in your head. If you'd just observe those words and capture them on paper, you'll have your blog entry for the day.

But not all thoughts are worth listening to. They are often repetitive, trite and petty. Let these thoughts rise and let them subside. Let them work out their restlessness. If you'd leave them alone, they will all go away.

The yogis call the activities of the mind citta vrittis. Literally, it means "whirlpools" of the mind, or "mind-waves". The mind is always vibrating with vrittis. As one subsides, another arises. When one impression hits the mind, it stirs up a host of other vrittis. Once in motion, it is very difficult for the mind to stop. Even in sleep, these vrittis are still at work as dreams.

The calm and meditative person is aware of his vrittis and can hold them in check. Those who fail to control them, end up being their slaves. When these vrittis are unchecked for a long time, they grow in strength and become even more difficult to control.

Hence you see the behaviour of most people are often very predictable. The same set of stimulus brings about the same set of responses. As the pattern gets repeated over and over again, they reinforce themselves. Mental habits are thus formed.

That is why it is so difficult for us to change. We never control these vrittis when they are small. And when they have cut deep channels in your brain, your behaviour becomes automatic.

Even when we attempt to suppresss our citta vrittis, they never die away--they merely sink back into their dormant form. The energy is still there, and they are ever-ready to pounce up again, once the right sets of conditions are in place.

Sometimes you see married couples argue about the same things over and over again. One vritti arises in one party, rousing a similar pattern of vrittis in the other. There's mutual reinforcement of mind-waves, and the oscillations become very strong. One small ripple, and the whole tidal wave comes crashing in.

Only when we analyze our vrittis and resolve them to their causal states, can we finally put them to rest. In the words of the yogis, only when you "fry the seeds' of these vrittis, will they cease to sprout again.

To resolve the vrittis to their causal states, we must observe them quietly and understand their behaviour. Why did they arise? Your mind is your instrument and your laboratory. Find out the root causes of their agitation. Be a voyeur of your own mind. Only then, will you be a master of your own destiny.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Religious Impulse

The Religious Impulse

I got hold of a smart card reader the other day and checked the contents of my MyKad: it had all my information recorded correctly. Even my TIADA AGAMA (no religion) status. Perfect.

Let's talk a bit about religion. I've written about religion as being a structure to guide the follower on the path towards spiritual awakening. Structures can either be liberating or restrictive, depending on how they are applied. A cage and a ladder are both structures. One confines, the other elevates.

All religions in this world started as ladders, built by divinely inspired men--they all help us to climb to greater spiritual heights. But over time these formal religions have been turned by their very followers into cages, confining our thinking and poisoning us with dogmas and superstitions. The more I explore, the more I find the differences between the popular religions trivial. Sure, there are lots of differences in terms of rules, rituals and doctrines. But these are not the most important aspects of religion.

Some people think that without religion, we will have no morals and society will plunge into decadence. I'm of the opinion that we don't need religion to teach us morals. Some scientists even believe that the moral sense is in-built in our biology. We don't need a divine book to tell us what is good and what is bad. An immoral society self-destructs over time. A society exists because a certain critical mass of the population adheres to an acceptable standard of moral conduct. Those who don't will eliminate themselves sooner or later.

Religion serves something higher than regulating moral conduct in a society. There is also no need to invent religion just to have pre-cooked answers to pseudo-philosophical questions such as, "What happens after death?" "Where do we come from", "What is the purpose of our existence?"

We can argue all our lives and fight wars among ourselves about these things and still not come to a conclusive answer. It is pointless. Choose your favourite religious book, and start defending its "truth". Soon you will fine, there's no end to it: One "truth" is as good as another, if such "truths" are important at all.

Then of what purpose is religion?

Let me answer that with another question: Why do rivers flow to the sea?

Religion is a response to a universal urge--the urge to understand and transcend existence. Where does this urge come from? Why can't we lead happy and contented lifes without all the burdensome obligations, guilt and conflicts created by religion?

Like it or not, there is this spiritual impulse inside all of us. Even the most lustful and brutish man has it. It is this divine impulse that drives us forward and shape us into who we are now: a suffering creature, with all the angst, guilt and fear in us, because we have not been able to respond in the best manner to this impulse.

You could be ambitious, selfish, vain and violent. But it is your own personal choice of actions that make you so, in response to an urge to find "meaning". The urge gives you that energy, pushing you forward, but you are not conscious of it as something spiritual. It is merely raw energy and desire to you. So you tell yourself: I want all this because I enjoy it and it makes me feel good. My life is "meaningful" because I spend my life pursuing what I enjoy.

So your surge forward blindly, with no consciousness of your soul. And because your choice of actions are imperfect, energy is lost as "friction". And this is invariably manifested as pain. The pain or friction is but a signal telling you that you are off course; it lets you know that you are not utilizing your energy in the most optimum fashion. After a while, after suffering so much pain, you begin to learn to fine-tune your responses to this impulse.

Ultimately all that pain that you go through will help you correct your course. No matter how much a river meanders or deviates from that shortest path to the sea, it will still find its way there. Some are forced to take a more torturous path because of the difficult terrain that they find themselves in. But all will obey the same natural laws of energy and gravitation.

The whole history of human civilisation--our quest for glory, power and happiness--is a response to this spiritual impulse. Collectively, humanity has suffered great pains and will continue to suffer more, until we learn to cast aside our selfish desires and learn to live as a single species, with a common destiny.

Why does our universe have this spiritual impulse to evolve, to create, to grow, to suffer and finally to return back to its source?

The fact that you are asking such questions shows that you are already a part of this quest or movement--that unfolding process that ultimately seeks to return to its source. Any answer we attempt to come up with now will still fall short because we are looking for intellectual answers. Intelligence is merely a quality of the mind, and the mind is another by-product of the unfolding universe. We need to transcend the mind and intelligence itself.

All our minds are at difference stages of evolution, you will find some answers that pleases you now but as you learn and experience more, you will find such answers unsatisfactory. That's how the mind works. It is an imperfect instrument but it is still the best tool for exploring our inner world because it can be continously refined.

How then shall we respond to this spiritual urge then?

Self-realization, as always is the first step. You and everyone else in the universe are part of this quest. Everyone is an explorer. No one has all the complete answers. So move step by step. Examine every thought that comes into your mind. Examine every consequence of your action. Fine-tune them. Do not impose your views on others because your knowledge is gained from your limited view of the world, with the limited instrument of your imperfect mind.

Continuous examination of one's thoughts and actions. Awareness. Stillness. Meditation. These are the things that will bring forth spiritual realization. Formal religions are merely "best practices". Ultimately, you, as an existential being, will have to face this spiritual quest alone, with the only instruments that you possess--your mind and your body.

Through constant and regular practice, layer after layer of ignorance will be peeled away, and together with it, the dissolution of the ego. And slowly, you will find that the divine soul within will be revealed to you ultimately, and then you will face God alone, and see Him, in all His glorious splendour.