|The Jain path
Observing the Inflow of
The aspirant who is treading the path to liberate
himself must take care not to lose balance. Like a tight-rope walker, if
he misses even one step, he could come plunging down to the ground and
hurt himself. That is, why he follows the practice of vigilance. He
watches each step he takes. He becomes aware of each thought he receives
and sends. He discovers the meaning of each relationship in which he
For an aspirant, the danger which threatens his balance
comes in the form of ashrava, meaning that which flows from all
directions. There is a flow of vibrations which is constantly streaming
into your consciousness from all sides. It is continually pushing and
pulling, attracting and repelling, giving you ups and downs. From where
does the flow come? From without and within, from society and from
emotions, from your conditioning, from your mental structures, and from
your background of repulsion and attraction. In this bhavana, the
reflection is on ashrava, in order to become aware of the kind of inflow
you are susceptible to, and to learn how to stop yourself from being
swallowed up by it.
Many unpleasant thoughts and feelings have already
entered your consciousness and are bothering you day and night. They don't
allow you to be in a natural blissful mood. Balance is bliss. Our real
state is to be in balance in bliss. Unlike joy, which depends upon some
prop or outside stimulus, bliss requires nothing. It is being with one's
own Self. When you are in a state of balance, your consciousness can be
seen for what it is, calm and clean and pure, like a clear mountain lake.
Without balance you are like a stormy sea, at times rolling in one
direction, at other times rolling in another direction. You are either
excited or depressed, in a state of constant fluctuation. In this
unsteadiness, a lot of debris is collected in your consciousness, like
pollutants entering a clear stream. The debris, or karma, which flows in
and muddies your pristine consciousness has entered because of
unawareness. You left all the outlets to your consciousness open, and now
the debris has become mixed up with the pure waters.
In this reflection, there is one fundamental premise:
the watcher is not the same as the inflow he is watching. You stand back
from the process you are observing. You use viveka, the sense of
discrimination. If a car does not work well, the driver does not compare
himself with the car. If your house is old, you do not identify yourself
with it. If your clothes are dirty, you do not consider yourself dirty. In
the same way, when you notice dullness or heaviness or negativity, you do
not identify with them. Those impurities are not you. They come from
outside, and what has come from outside can go back outside. Such debris
does not belong in your pure consciousness. On that premise you have to
In meditation, always see yourself as innocent, clean,
and beautiful. Without condition, love yourself. Without guilt, see
yourself. When you have love for yourself, you will be able to experience
Self-Realization. Otherwise, if you allow the consciousness to become
identified with the extraneous inflow, you may start blaming yourself.
You may put yourself down. You may focus on the dust
which has collected around your soul instead of on the clean mirror like
quality of your soul itself. And if you accept yourself as a sinner, you
will live in that false nature. You will carry guilt wherever you go.
Identifying yourself with that which binds you, how will you be able to
free yourself from it?
So remember that sin and guilt do not belong to you.
Keep before your mind's eye a beautiful image of your-self. Think of
yourself as arogya, as a powerful dynamic energy, in complete spiritual
health. In this way, mental uncertainty and confusion, which are the
causes of most diseases, will disappear.
As you meditate, your belief in your innate purity will
come not only from somebody's encouraging word, but from an inner glimpse.
When you are alone, sitting by a calm lake, and nothing is bothering you,
how do you feel? You watch the mellow evening slowly unfold its colors.
How peaceful and blissful you feel! Your real nature reveals itself. Why?
Because nothing is disturbing you.
That precious feeling may last five minutes, ten
minutes, half an hour, but at least it can give you a glimpse. What lasts
for a few minutes is able to last for an even longer time. It is a
question of extension. So a brief glimpse gives you some conviction in
your inherent peace. It gives you the courage to ask, "If such a glimpse
was possible for a few moments, why not longer?" That kind of conviction
is going to last long. It is not borrowed from anybody's assurance or
promise; it comes from experiencing what is yours. According to your own
experience, you move forward into deeper knowledge of your own Self.
So instead of going out, the aspirant goes in. What we
call silence, detachment, or retreat is merely taking time to make the
whole area of one's consciousness clean. It is a purification of the
reservoir of our energy. There are three steps. First is a drying process.
The waters of one's consciousness which have become dirty and polluted are
temporarily allowed to dry up. The process of watching itself acts as a
powerful heat energy to evaporate all negative vibrations. To take this
step one has to make a decision to close off the gates, outlets, or
passageways through which new pollutants could enter. Second, when one
looks at the bedrock of one's consciousness, one pinpoints the mud or
sticky residue in order to dig it out and remove it. Only when the area is
completely clean does one throw open the gates and allow fresh water to
flow in once again.
To embark on this process, sometimes people cut off
relations with other people for a while. They need to give themselves some
space. It is not running away from one-self or from the world. That
interpretation of the word "detachment" is not appropriate. Detachment is
not going away from anybody, it is coming to your own Self. To attach
means to tie. To detach is to untie. Anything which binds you, which drags
and pulls you, that is your tie. Because of this tie you are not in your
own space. Something is pulling you from one end, and you do not feel
Take some time to watch yourself. Remove yourself from
complicated situations. Untie yourself from all the influences with the
understanding that you want to see yourself clearly. The idea is not to
escape from the world, but to prepare yourself to be with life, with your
own life and with life at large. And how can you be with anyone if you are
not first with your own Self? If you tell someone, "I will be with you"
before you know yourself, you are giving a ***** ******** *******
"I want to be steady, not fickle. I want to stop this
constant movement to and fro. Let me be with myself so that I will know
how to be comfortable with others."
In this way, you see life as an inner laboratory. You
put yourself on the test and ask yourself penetrating questions. "Am I
comfortable with myself? Do I go to others to make them happy, or do I go
in order to avoid myself?" If you are traveling here and there to escape
yourself, then you are taking that uncomfortable feeling with you.
Wherever you go, you are creating discomfort in those relationships. Try
as you may to find a haven of safety away from yourself, you cannot escape
your own restless feeling. The most difficult thing is this: to be
comfortable with one's own Self in order to be comfortable with all.
Once a person kept to himself, meditating in silence.
Three friends observed him and joked about him. "What is he doing?" they
said, laughing. "He sits all day and does nothing. We can do that easily."
When the meditator heard this, he asked, "Do you think
it is easy to be, just to be?"
"Yes," one friend answered, "you have nothing to do. I
have so many responsibilities--to go to work, pay my rent, take care of my
house. If you would take my place, I would gladly sit here like you."
"Very well," agreed the meditator. "I will take care of
providing you with food. I will pay your rent and do everything that you
usually do. It will be one month's program. What you have to do is to be
The friend replied, "Oh, that will be easy. But what do
I have to do in exchange?"
"Nothing," answered the meditator. "There is nothing to
do, just to be. You will remain in this beautiful bungalow, and I will
give you this word, So-hum, to recite.
"That's all? Only to recite the word?"
"Yes, that's all."
The agreement was made, and the friend was very happy.
For the first two or three hours, he sat thinking, "Well, everything is
taken care of. I don't need to worry about paying my rent". And he started
reciting the mantra. Four more hours passed. He got tired and a little
bored sitting there. He started to think, "What am I doing? The same word
over and over! Well, compared to the labor I was doing, it's not bad!" And
he continued reciting the mantra.
The next day he went on. "So-hum, So-hum," he repeated.
"Such a dull sound! There is no song, no drum, no excitement! What is all
He was sitting by the window with no one to talk to,
with no one to listen to his jokes. He was taking all his meals by
himself. By the third day, he began to feel heavy. On the fourth day, when
he arose, he said to himself, "I will go crazy, I can't bear it!"
Thoughts from his subconscious had started coming, one
after another. He thought of what kind of life he had lived, how he had
played games with people, how he had cooked up so many lies. Each thing
became magnified. In silence, that is what happens--things become
When you are suffering from too much heat, you can take
off your clothes. But when there is suffocation of thoughts, how do you
escape from them? It is so easy to change clothes, but how difficult it is
to change thoughts! Thoughts carve so deep that they sometimes feel like
thorns and give us pain.
This man was not ready to face himself. People have
some device to cover up those things which they are not ready to face, to
hide them or make them smaller. But on this day, for this person, things
were becoming larger.
"No," he thought, "my mind will blow."
On the fifth day, he went back to his friend and told
him, "I want out! I don't want to do this any more."
"What about our agreement?" his friend asked him.
"To hell with it!"
"Why are you using the word 'hell'?"
"Because I am suffering hell," he answered. "My
thoughts have become monstrous."
"So," his friend gently chided him, "don't you think
that one day you will have to face your own thoughts? Why not see them
now? How long will you keep on running away from them? You are going to
have to face them afterward, so why not start now? Why postpone?"
"Have I to face them?" asked the friend.
"The time comes to all; if not now, then later. One
day, you will have to be alone. You will not be surrounded by people. Why
not confront yourself now? You know how you feel after eating too much
hot, spicy food. There is a burning sensation in your body. Your thoughts
are percolating inside you like that, making you upset. You can't control
them or get rid of them. Why not do something about them--change them?"
"What to do?" asked the new meditator. "How can I
change my thoughts from what they are already?"
"Inside you are pure. You have to separate yourself
from your thoughts, and watch them one by one. In the past, you left all
your senses, the inner gates, open. You didn't know that when you use them
to go out, at the same time they let dirty gutter water in. So now you
need to dry up all the water. How can you see a good reflection of
yourself when you are clouded by so much unclear thinking and entangled in
superficial love affairs."
"Then how can I live?"
The friend answered, "Live, yes, that is what you must
do! But just now you are not really living. You are running away. Now is
the time to be watchful and discriminating. Cleanse your consciousness and
then you will feel your life."
When you meditate on the inflow of vibrations, you
learn to detect which outlets are left open and what kind of debris is
coming in. You watch the way in which you are vulnerable to negative
habits. The antidote to ashrava is samvara. Samvara means to stop--to lock
the gates and stop the inflow from continuing to flood in. The key to
samvara is ashrava. You cannot effectively stop the inflow without first
knowing of what it consists.
Ashrava bhavana teaches us how to observe our
weaknesses, our unlocked gates, our inner ensnarements, our unchecked
addictions. The first one is kashaya, which means inner passions or
attachments, such as anger, pride, greed, and deceit. They are gangsters;
all are in alliance with one another. They work in a clever way. They
don't always appear all at once. One enters through the window first,
unlocks the door, and lets in the others. They each have a subtle
You may think, "I have only a little ego left." But if
someone insults your ego, that brings anger. You may flare up and use
harsh words. A person with ego has some deceit as well. In order to
prevent his ego from receiving a puncture, he will do deceitful things. In
that ego, there is also greed, to become more and more powerful, and to
keep others in a subordinate position. Moreover, if someone gets in the
way of the greedy person when he is collecting something, whether it is a
material thing or a high post, he will be angry. So these four, known as
kashaya, open the door to the gutter rather than to the fresh rainfall.
This is the first gate which must be closed.
Secondly, there is an open gate or ensnarement called
yoga. It has a special meaning in this context. It is the yoga by which
mind, word, and body are connected or glued to tempting, alluring,
enticing things. Such things constantly pull you when you are unaware. For
example, if you go window- shopping and see a coat, your eye connects with
the coat and your mind becomes filled with plans of how to get the money
to buy it. If the person you live with does not help you out financially,
you become angry. "What do you do for me?" you complain. "You won't even
help me buy a beautiful coat."
All your energy is pulled in the direction of
collecting enough money to buy the coat. This demonstrates the way in
which the senses connect with attractive things when the gate of yoga is
left open, unchecked by awareness .
A third ensnarement is called pramada, or lethargy. It
comes in three forms to muddy the waters of our consciousness. First,
there is indecisiveness. The person is wishy-washy and goes in all
directions. Such a person is unaware of himself; that is why he can be
pushed or pulled in conflicting ways.
There is no purposeful direction to his life; rather,
he moves in a rut or a vicious circle.
Related to this is a second form of pramada.
nonattention to time or lack of discipline. People who tend to be lazy
say, "I don't have time," because they don't know how to use time. Such a
person knows how to waste time. He may go on sipping coffee for hours, or
watching television or reading the papers, until it becomes late and he
must rush off to his appointment. That shows no arrangement of time. It's
an ensnarement which saps one's energy. But one who knows how to harness
time always has time.
The third form of pramada is not being aware of life,
not caring for one's own Self. There are people who have not taught
themselves to know how to use this beautiful gift of human life. It
requires some discipline and some commitment. That is why people who
practice apramada, or awareness, outline their program. It is not too
rigid. But they know what they want to accomplish in a day, in a month, in
a year, so that they can use their energy in that direction. It is not
accomplishing for the sake of achievement or outer reward; it is engaging
oneself in some purposeful endeavor for the sake of life's growth and for
the service of living beings. By keeping this awareness in the back of the
mind, and attuning oneself to life, one can concentrate on the immediate
work of the present moment and bring past, present, and future in harmony
with one another.
If you have decisiveness along with some discipline,
everything goes smoothly. You find the right balance in the allotment of
time, taking a certain amount for peace, for meditation, for rest, for
nutrition, for physical activity, and for service.
The fourth gate is an inner trap called avirati,
failure to limit the things one needs and uses in life. To offset this
neglect, the aspirant observes virati, a vow to place a limit on his
possessions, his needs. It may be a vow to limit his food. He may say,
"Today I am going to take only three kinds of food," or "Today I am going
to eat only two meals," or "Today I will eat only unsalted, tasteless
In this way, the digestive machine does not get
over-loaded. Our system needs at least three hours in which to digest
anything. If we throw in more food in less than three hours, it stops the
system from continuing to digest the food which is already there. It has
to go back and start all over again. If we limit our food intake, the
system works accurately and indigestion does not occur. At the same time,
to keep the body cool and to avoid constipation, liquids are taken eight
or ten times a day. This method of systematic and balanced eating is a way
to control one's taste buds, limit one's need, and preserve one's health.
There is no need to follow anything blindly. There is
no compulsion to copy a monk's life. It must be done according to your
environment. You must adjust and modify, rather than follow a system which
was right for a certain climate, atmosphere, or period of time. What
counts is the longing to limit your need. For example, you can make a
commitment to limit your wealth. You make an agreement with yourself, "I
am going to be satisfied with just this much." Otherwise, the mind will
justify all that it wants, not what it needs. There is no need to earn
right up until the last day. When one puts a limit, saying, "This is
enough," then the time can be spent for spiritual unfoldment and service.
The fifth ensnarement is mithyathva--ignorance and
confusion. In mithyathva, truth is mixed up with lie, violence is confused
with non-violence, lust is taken for love, and right is undifferentiated
from wrong. It reflects muddled thinking. It shows the inability to
discriminate between what is compassionate and what is hurtful. For
example, a person whose mind is darkened with mithyathva may be preaching
universal love and at the same time approving the sacrifice of animals.
Mithyathva indicates failure to see the truth.
Semi-truth is taken as truth and sometimes becomes more compelling than
truth itself. It may bind, tie, and obsess you. Truth, on the other hand,
is all light; it frees you. Mithyathva is the most serious ensnarement
because of the way it takes hold inside.
These are the five gateways which allow the shrava to
flow from outside to inside. When they are left open, our pure
consciousness is vulnerable to innumerable pollutants, inner weaknesses,
Everything from the past and present has made an
imprint on your consciousness culture, family, geographical conditions,
schooling, religious background. Some of the imprints we call worldly
shrava. Others we call religious shrava. Though we may try to avoid
worldly influences, sometimes religious imprints are even more of a
burden. That is because they lead to an indelible kind of inner shrava--guilt,
self-hatred, faultfinding, blind faith.
We have to see both, flow from without and flow from
within. Inner dogma is that which prevents you from accepting yourself as
you are. When someone criticizes you, you feel as if an arrow were
piercing your heart. You feel psychological pain. You experience fear, and
fear prevents you from living life.
The inner habit of self-criticism does not allow you to
clear your consciousness of its load, of its muddy residue. Don't be
overcritical of yourself, or you won't have the energy to work and go
further. To be spiritual, you need lightness. No person became enlightened
carrying the load of sadness. It is a heavy lump of clay. Being sad, you
cannot see yourself. All the so-called sins (I call them consequences) are
born from sadness. When someone is sad, he has identified so completely
with that heaviness that he does whatever he can to escape. So he escapes
into alcohol, drugs, or other vices. He may even commit suicide.
Enlightenment comes in a state of lightness. Guard
against anything which makes you bleak, depressed, and cheerless. Do not
allow it to arise, for once it comes, it clouds your whole vision. Without
clear visibility, how can you see that you are in essence clean and pure?
Your consciousness needs clear open space. That is its nature--to be
limitless, infinite, luminous. Meditating on ashrava, see how things have
taken over your inner space. This may be reflected in your outer place. I
have seen some homes where the furniture crowds the people. Do you often
bump into your furniture? Now see whether or not in your consciousness you
bump into objects, possessions, worries.
Go further and ask yourself, "Why do I buy things? Is
it because I have left open the gate of yoga? Do I allow my eyes to be
attracted to something and do I then run out and buy it? Is it because of
ego? Do I buy things for my own use or for showing other people? Why am I
trying to impress people? Why should I make my house into a furniture
store?" See the obsession--when you have something, you want to show it,
and when you don't have something, you feel mistreated for not having
received it. Both are complexes; both stem from ignorance of Self.
Life itself is free from complexes, free from push and
pull. There are so many commercials bombarding you. It is difficult to
live in the world; it is easy to live in the forest. So you aspirants who
live in the city have to be more careful than those who retired to the
forest. For them there was no outer temptation. But for you there is
constant temptation and you are learning to balance it.
Perhaps people make fun of you for being vegetarian.
They call you crazy and shoot arrows of criticism at you. They may taunt
you for wanting to live a natural life, for not wanting to be promiscuous,
for not drinking wine, or for not going to an analyst. For them the
abnormal is made normal. They do not realize that by going to sex
seminars, for example, they are creating more desires inner turmoil, pain,
complexes, and breakups in their relationships rather than fewer. But you
are sincere seekers. Throughout all the criticisms, you remain yourselves.
You have the courage of inner conviction.
You have taken the time to experience the depth of
life. You are not influenced by ephemeral things. You have meditated to
find something lasting, something permanent, something which can give you
inner confidence. When a strong gust of wind comes, you know how to stand
and wait. It is the art of knowing how to withstand the tide before it
Once you have closed the open gates, dried up all the
polluted water, and cleaned out all the debris, then you can open them
again to receive the fresh, clean rainfall. What is that rainfall? It is
the flow of maitri--pure love, compassion, and communication. You feel
free and flowing with all. You are not meeting people to impress them. You
meet to share. See how easily you meet people when there is no feeling of
greater or lesser, no scar or bitterness, no fault finding or criticism.
And when somebody criticizes you, you will be able to
accept it as an indication that perhaps there is something in you which
you have not yet uprooted. So you will be grateful to that person for
pointing out to you yet another way in which to grow and lighten your
burden. If you are sincere in your approach to living, then even one who
used to find fault with you or dislike you will find room in his heart for
Enlightened people do not close themselves off in their
own world. Knowing what they are in essence, they talk and move in the
world without being polluted by anything. They learn to act without
kashaya, so that no more dust and debris will be invited to cling to their
pure consciousness and cover their visibility. If you put your whole heart
into working on this seriously, you can change your life style. Instead of
making the world a valley of unhappiness, you can transform it into a
garden of bliss.
You can live in total freedom in yourself, in your own
space, not in somebody else's space. Free from being driven by the inflow
of negative vibrations, you are free to dwell in your own natural state,
to flow in your own pure stream of blissful consciousness.
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
Let me see my consciousness as a clean body of water,
clear, pure, and sparkling.
When I stand back, I can watch the inflow of negative
vibrations. I have no need to identify with them, for what has come from
outside can go back outside. It does not belong in my consciousness.
My real nature is blissfulness. When I am in this
natural state, I am in balance.
Detachment is not going away from anybody; it is coming
to my own Self. Let me be with myself; then I will know how to be with
Faith that comes from somebody else 's word, promise,
or prediction is not going to last long, because it is borrowed.
Conviction which comes from inner experience is going to endure.
Instead of making the world a valley of unhappiness,
false promise. Instead, say to yourself, I can transform it into a garden
of bliss with awareness.