The progress in and insistence on quality of education coupled with rapid strides in spread of knowledge calls for equally developed and able recipients. Thus, a definite need is felt for well-developed personality and character in our life. The vedantic concept of personality development is based on the concept of perfection of each soul and self-confidence for realization and manifestation of this inner knowledge.
Five dimensions are involved in forming the human personality. These are:
1) physical self, 2) energy self, 3) intellectual self, 4) mental self, and 5) blissful self.
Well-integrated personality is the sum total of harmonious expression of these five dimensions.
Physical self relates to our senses. Proper nourishment and growth of physical faculties is essential by way of balanced diet, recreation, music, and care and concern from near and dear ones. A simple pat on the back for any achievement in life goes a long way to build up confidence. However, discretion and discrimination are the key words in this regard. Otherwise, there is every chance that senses would create havoc by way of infatuation and attachment to the sense objects.
Energy self is somewhat subtler than the first. It relates to metabolism and the gross manifestations of energy (Prana), for insatnce the act of breathing. The control of Prana is achieved by control of anger, anxiety, and restlessness.
Intellectual self concerns with discriminative power and knowledge, what we call "buddhi". In addition to sincere and formal studies, reading other books like biographies of great and noble persons and invigorating literature helps us develop this faculty.
Mental self is related to stress and psychology. Here selflessness, control, concentration, and calmness of mind plays essential role.
Anandamaya Kosha or blissful self is the function of state of being. It calls for remaining calm and unaffected, nay to remain happy, in all the frivolities of world, in neck break competition and struggle, in calamities and disasters, in suffering and loss, in failure and success.
The five fold method to attain to such state of heightened perfection and purity are a) self-effort, b) self-control, c) self-reliance, d) self-sacrifice, and e) self-knowledge. Next, a practical program is needed to make this 'intellectual gymnastic' real in our lives. The simple action plan, to start with, consists of daily physical exercise for ten minutes, reading good literature for half an hour, sincere prayers for two to five minutes, and meditation and yoga for about ten minutes.
Concentration and Meditation
Meditation or dhyana comes after 'dharana' and before 'samadhi' as per the eight-fold practice of Patanjali Yoga. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are the eight aspects.
I feel the main emphasis should start from Pratyahara. It means withdrawing our internal sense organs from the external sense objects. For example, our sense organ of taste runs after tasty food, which is sense object; pratyahara means not to allow the sense of taste to succumb to such temptations. The same should be the case with sense of touch, smell, vision, and hearing. We should be able to control our senses. This is a form of conscious detachment of mind from the objects of temptations. With practice, pratyahara is possible.
Next is dharana. It means trying to concentrate the mind on one thought or idea or form of the divine. (The mind would fail to concentrate on that which is not divine, and in a short period of time one will lose all interest in the yoga and in one's attempts at meditation.) Concentration of mind produces the feeling of truth in what one is concentrating upon. Thus, we get feeling of existence or truth in the idea, the thought or the form we are trying to concentrate upon (gradually of course).
By nature the mind is restless, chanchal
. It does not want to stay fixed on one object or thought or idea. It wanders here and there. Many thoughts crowd our mind and we feel that we shall never be able to fix it on God. Moreover, many unwanted thoughts spring up from nowhere, and further put the sadhaka in get turmoil. Dirty, passionate, and evil thoughts come from our subconscious mind. There these thoughts lie hidden as samskaras. These are of this birth and many past births! Therefore, one should not get perturbed when bad thoughts come to surface during dhyana and dharana.
How to tackle this problem? One way is to neglect all thoughts, whether good or bad. Just see them as waves rising on the lake of mind, which are sure to subside in course of time. Thus we become sakshi - subject - of our own thought. The second method is to bring the desirable and noble thought or form, like the form of our Ishta, to mind again and again. This is practice or abhyasa.
Suppose there is an old ink pot with dried crust inside it. When we try to clean the ink pot, dirty water comes out initially. But if we continue to pour fresh water repeatedly dirt is cleared and the water coming out is cleaner and cleaner. Same is the case with evil thoughts at the time of meditation. By pouring fresh and clean water of mantra and concentrating on the form of our Ishta, we can soon get rid of bad and dirty thoughts over a period. This period can be one year, ten years, one birth or ten births! It depends on the efforts and Grace of the Guru. But one thing is sure; one has to go through the process, if not today, tomorrow! Therefore one should start today only, howsoever useless and difficult sadhana may appear.
By this we become masters of ourselves. There is no want or deficiency anymore. Feeling of loneliness and helplessness is replaced with feeling of identity with all and total fulfillment in life.
C S Shah