A popular perception of contentment is that contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state, maybe drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind. Perhaps, even, settling for a little bit less is a milder and more tentative form of happiness. It is a pity these definitions exist, for they do not speak of the mind, desire, nor discontentment. What is contentment in relation to purushartha, the goal of life?
Swami Aseshananda went to America to spread the word of Vedanta and remained there between 1948 to 1996, never to return to India even once. Such was his commitment to the vision of Sri Sarada Devi, his teacher, Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. It is said that when he bowed down in the shrine at the Portland Center, he seemed to melt to the floor.
In this world of duality, of shape and form, of light and dark, of heat and cold, what is real, what is unreal? How do we discern the unreal from the real? What should we think and make reference to in our journey through life? Dharmam moolam jagat, the Universe rests on eternal order. How do we know this path of eternal order? How do you tell the snake from the rope?
Contemplation and concentration deal with attention and where our attention might go – especially where spiritual pursuits are concerned. It seems that contemplation has a shakti of its own, which enables us to examine and discard the cacophony, the useless, the sheer noise of this world of illusion, and to refine our vision, our attention, our concentration on that which matters: the Soul itself.
Ramji asks a question that – probably – does not occur to many: control of the mind. Most humans – embodiments of the Divine – are not aware that they are not the body, not the senses, not the mind. For many, the mind takes over subtly, and they are caught in the noose of attraction and aversion, of pain and pleasure, satisfaction and suffering. Religious principles have to be practised in daily life and their validity experienced. This how we learn we are not the mind.
There are those who posit the Universe is real and God is not, viz.; “there is no such thing as a soul”, blah, blah, blah. Such persons are firmly centred on their experience, that is, the experience delivered by the senses, the karmendriyas. See, hear, touch, taste, smell, like this. They are ignorant of the other senses, the jnanendriyas, the internal senses of knowledge. There is much to be known, by which, all else is known, as Vasishtha hints.
When the mind is at rest – quiescence – we have the capacity to experience who we truly are. When the mind is at rest, we might say ‘neti, neti‘(not this, not this) to all that phenomena that threatens to impinge upon us from the exterior. When the mind is at rest, and the time is ripe, that which is may emerge and reveal our true selves.
It is true to say there are as many forms of spirituality as there are people; each and every person’s spiritual practice and interior discipline is different. Here, the Sage advises Rama to make friends with four elements of interior discipline and exterior associations. All spiritual progress is the fruit of concentration.
We are asked about our journey through life and how we might become wise. While we may feel that some things last forever (they do), some things change, and some things remain eternal, everlasting. We look to the difference and human transformation.
Many declare that the new-born child is tabula rasa, a blank slate, conditioned and shaped by family, friends and culture. The environment that newborn grows up in is purported to have significant influence in shaping the person and character. Here, Sage Vasishtha clarifies that good and bad tendencies are carried over with the mind from a previous birth.