The basic humanity of thoughtfulness and self-initiative to look after things

The prerequisite for someone to be fit to learn and practice yoga even before the four means of Viveka, Vairagya, Mumukshutva and Shat-sampat to qualify someone as a Sadhaka, is about some basic humanity of thoughtfulness and self-initiative to look after things, whether the things belong to oneself, or don’t belong to oneself, and maintaining tidiness and cleanliness of the surrounding environment out of free-will and self-initiative, whether it’s a personal space or a public space, even when nobody is obliged to perform such thoughtful selfless actions, or even when one has to pay some fees to be staying at a particular accommodation, to be at a particular place, for a particular reason.

Those who aren’t aware of this very basic of humanity, especially money minded people who believe in “I’ll get 2 cents back for every 1 cent that I’ve paid,” they are unfit to learn and practice yoga, even if they have a strong and flexible physical body to perform many of the yoga asana poses nicely in perfect alignment, or they have attended many ‘yoga courses’ and attained many ‘Internationally recognized yoga certifications’.

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The practice of silence to conquer the restless mind

This teaching is for those who want to conquer the restless mind, but they realize that the mind is so difficult to quiet down, that there will be ceaseless distracting random thoughts occupying the mind, especially whenever they try to sit down quietly limiting the physical movements and refraining the senses from going out chasing after the object of the senses, to train the mind in concentration and meditation.

It’s a common reaction of all the untrained impure minds when the physical body is being restricted from bodily movements and the mental habitual activities is being restricted, there will be random thoughts bubbling up to the surface of the mind. It’s part of the purification process. People should continue the practice by learning how to be aware of all these random thoughts without association, attachment, identification, craving or aversion, judgment and expectation, and allowing all these random pleasant and unpleasant thoughts arising and passing away, to clear up the past accumulated imprints. People expect that when they meditate, the mind will be free from any thoughts, and so, they’ll get very disappointed and demotivated after a few attempts trying to concentrate or meditate, they realize that the modification of the mind is even more agitated and violent whenever they try to concentrate or meditate. And without correct understanding, many people would give up and prefer to just live everyday life as they are, ‘happy happy go lucky’, be good, do good, without the need to deal with the unpleasant behavior of the mind that they don’t like to confront with. And that’s their freedom.

The biggest element in aid to conquer the restless mind is the observation of silence, of seclusion, solitude and renunciation from worldly social relationships, activities and interactions.

Some people think that those who want to conquer the mind should take up the challenge of living and mixing among the society, in order to allow the mind to practice concentration and meditation in everyday life having to deal with all kinds of challenging condition and situation, distractions and disturbance, while learning how to remain equanimous without being affected or determined by all the challenging condition and situation in life, without generating craving towards the pleasant life experiences and without generating aversion towards the unpleasant life experiences. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But what happens? After many years of ‘trying’ to practice yoga and meditation to conquer the restless mind, but the mind is still restless, or even more restless under the influence of ignorance and impurities.

Some even say that it’s very easy to be calm and quiet being in solitude and seclusion without dealing with other beings and worldly affairs. They think that one doesn’t need to deal with pleasantness and unpleasantness, craving and aversion, distractions and disturbance, actions and reactions, when being in solitude and seclusion. What they don’t know is that most minds will runaway from solitude and seclusion after some time, like fish out of water, and the modification of the mind is even more agitated and violent being restricted from worldly social relationships, activities and interactions that keep the mind stimulated, entertained, busy, or restless. That’s why so many people will say that meditation is very difficult, or they can’t meditate, or they don’t like meditation, or they don’t like to observe silence, of solitude and seclusion.

Whether one is surrounded by many other beings and happenings, or one is alone in solitude away from happenings, this mind has to deal with the impermanent and selfless changes of the physical body and the ignorant impure egoistic modification of the mind. Whether the mind is free, or not free, it’s always right here and right now. When the mind practices concentration and meditation, it’s always alone, regardless of whether there are other people around, or not.

Do not blind-believing or blind-following any teachings from anyone or somewhere, including all the teachings here. Contemplate and inquire the truth of all teachings and attain self-realization of the truth of all the teachings via direct experience.

Take note that living in the world and mixing in the society are two completely different things. Geographically and biologically, one will have to and always be living in the world, otherwise, this body will not be able to survive for long, but at the same time, know the importance of observing silence, of maximum solitude and seclusion, renouncing worldly social relationships, activities and interactions, in short, refraining from mixing in the society.

While living in the world, one will still have to deal with the impermanent and selfless condition and situation in the world that is ever challenging, and developing the strength of non-association, non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment and non-expectation, and one learns how to conserve energy and not wasting energy into worldly affairs/activities/interactions that derived from ignorance and egoism, as well as empowering/feeding ignorance and egoism.

Observing maximum solitude and seclusion while living in the world, and renouncing worldly social relationships, activities and interactions doesn’t mean that one is completely isolated from the society and not performing any actions in the world. One can be performing unlimited selfless service in the world to benefit the society efficiently, but being free from mixing, or socializing, or accumulating relationships. One is care-less towards the worldly affairs, but can also be performing actions that benefit the world at the same time. Being compassionate towards all beings doesn’t mean that one has to be in a form of relationship with all beings. One can be kind to others without the need of knowing or contacting with the others. Contemplate on this, and be free to observe silence while living in the world and performing actions in the world.

For the ‘first class’ students of Dhamma, which are very few of them in this world, they don’t need to observe silence, of solitude, seclusion and renunciation from worldly social relationships, activities and interactions, as they are already grounded firmly in Dhamma. They can be mixing in the society like everyone else, behaving like everyone else, but their minds are ever pure and quiet. They don’t need to practice concentration or meditation at all. They are not separated from meditation. There’s no in or out of meditation.

For the other students of Dhamma, which is the majority of us, we do need to observe silence at some stage, of maximum solitude and seclusion, and renounce worldly social relationships, activities and interactions, as whether we are aware or unaware, the mind is constantly absorbing all the inputs of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts/imagination/projection/dreams, all the time, unwittingly. All these endless accumulated inputs are the ceaseless random thoughts that bubbling up to the surface of the mind during the practice of concentration and meditation, and many minds that haven’t develop a strong foundation of non-association, non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment and non-expectation will be greatly disturbed, distracted and demotivated by this purification process. And this will never come to an end, unless we start reducing and limiting all these unnecessary mind inputs deriving from all kinds of worldly relationships, activities and interactions.

It’s like someone tries very hard to clean up the rubbish bin, but somehow, rubbish keep pouring into the bin, from someone and somewhere, endlessly. The bin will never be cleaned. The untrained impure egoistic mind is like a rubbish bin, taking in all kinds of rubbish (mind inputs) ceaselessly, unwittingly. And yoga and meditation practice of silence, solitude, seclusion and renunciation, is the most effective and practical way to free the mind from being a rubbish bin, and it’s not about to be a clean rubbish bin, but to realize its nature of namelessness, formlessness and attributelessness, that it is neither a dirty rubbish bin nor a clean rubbish bin.

Perform this test to know how the mind works. Sit down without moving the body and limbs, closing the eyes, and observe the natural breath coming in and going out for a few minutes. Very soon, unwittingly, random thoughts will arise and occupying the mind. And one will realize that all these random bubbling thoughts are the strongest imprints during the day, or from the last few days, or even from weeks/months/years before, or even forgotten.

Even Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and Swami Sivananda also had to retreat from the society to be focusing on their practice for some years in solitude, restraining the modification of the mind and attaining liberation. And then they came back to the society to disseminate the Dhamma to the other suffering minds whom in need of the Dhamma to be free from suffering.

By reducing and limiting the mind inputs not just allowing the mind to be purified effectively, but it also helps to develop a great mental strength that allows the mind to be uninfluenced, unaffected, undisturbed and undetermined by all the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses. At this stage, the mind is safe and free to be mixing in the society and live everyday life like everyone else, but the mind is ever pure and quiet.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to think and believe, and what they want or don’t want to practice.

The importance of restricting worldly physical and mental activities

All kinds of yoga practice serve the purpose of changing the restless habits of the egoistic mind to render the mind calm and quiet to prepare the mind for meditation by weakening egoism of attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment and expectation, and eventually annihilate egoism completely, rendering the mind pure and quiet being free from impurities and restlessness to see the truth as it is.

One of the important practice to change the restless habits of the mind to render the mind pure and quiet is by restricting the worldly physical and mental activities, even though it doesn’t guarantee that the mind will be free from ignorance and suffering, if the mind doesn’t know how to be free from egoism. Such as full body paralysis or unconsciousness doesn’t mean that the mind is free from ignorance and suffering.

Some yoga practitioners think that they don’t need to restrict the worldly physical and mental activities to silent the thought activities, as they believe that all their worldly physical and mental activities are good and righteous actions derived from good and righteous intention, and all these good and righteous actions will be transformed into virtues and merits that will only bring good karma in return and there won’t be any bad karma in the making, that all their life experiences will only be good, joyful, pleasant, desirable and enjoyable, and void of all kinds of suffering.

Some young, fit and healthy ‘yoga teachers’ even proclaim that by practicing yoga, their physical body can defy old age, decay, or illness. The physical body of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and many enlightened Gurus in the past also had to go through the inevitable truth of impermanence and selflessness of decay, illness, old age and death/decomposition, even though the mind had attained liberation from the suffering of ignorance, egoism, impurities and restlessness.

One of the common reason for many yoga practitioners who ignore the importance of silencing the thought activities is, they (the ever restless mind) don’t like/want to be quiet, but instead, they want actions/stimulation endlessly. Not just that they aren’t interested in silencing the thought activities, but they enjoy or indulge in the restlessness of ceaseless worldly physical and mental activities. Restricting the mind from the worldly physical and mental activities appears to be meaningless, boring and suffering for the minds that enjoy ceaseless actions/stimulation all the time. After sitting quietly for a few minutes, the restless minds will start to be agitated and want to be in action as soon as possible, eagerly want to see, hear, talk, imagine, move, express, play, or interact. And that is the normal behavior of the untrained minds. Without judgment or expectation, don’t give up and keep practicing until the mind is resting in the silence of thought, action and speech.

Many would justify that by performing the yoga asana practice that they enjoy doing regularly is indeed a form of meditation in action, and their body and mind would feel good each time after the yoga asana practice, that makes them think that they have already reached the goal of yoga. That’s their freedom of thinking and action.

In the beginning of the process of purifying the mind, the mind can’t avoid needing some kind of stimulation to keep the mind busy. And hence, the yoga practice at this stage is to replace unwholesome activities with wholesome activities to keep the mind busy as well as improving the mind concentration, such as performing karma yoga, chanting and prayer, or pranayama and asana practice. These activities might generate momentary effects of calming the mind, but it doesn’t free the mind from restlessness completely. As there are those who are ‘addicted’ towards performing karma yoga, chanting and prayer, pranayama and asana practice, where the mind will be agitated or frustrated, or feel meaninglessness when it can’t perform karma yoga, chanting and prayer, pranayama and asana practice over a period of time. Though there’s nothing bad with that, but the mind is not free. Eventually, the mind needs to learn how to breakaway from the clinging/addiction towards both wholesome and unwholesome stimulation to keep busy, to learn to be at ease in silence. This doesn’t mean that one is discouraged from performing wholesome activities, but the mind is free from clinging/addiction onto performing actions to keep the mind busy with some kind of activities to avoid dullness, boredom, loneliness or the sense of meaninglessness. The mind is free as it is.

Make use of the yoga practice as a tool to render the mind pure and quiet to prepare the mind for meditation, but without attachment or addiction towards the yoga practice or the momentary effects deriving from the yoga practice.

Those who truly want to conquer the restless egoistic impure mind to free the mind from the root cause of suffering (renouncing both good and bad karma that give rise to ceaseless births and deaths of life existence of the impermanent and selfless body and mind), they understand that all goodness, pleasantness and enjoyment in this worldly life of names and forms are impermanent and selfless, including the momentary pleasant effects deriving from performing the yoga practice, and hence they are aware of the importance of attaining liberation from the suffering of ceaseless births and deaths of the impermanent and selfless body and mind, and so, they would take all the practice of silencing the thought activities seriously.

Being aware of the preciousness of the fleeting impermanent and selfless life existence of this body and mind to attain liberation from suffering, they renounce both good and bad karma to transcend ceaseless births and deaths, by realizing the essence of inaction in all actions from the realization of selflessness, non-separateness, oneness, namelessness, formlessness, attributelessness and intentionlessness.

Those who love their worldly life existence with all the physical and mental worldly activities that they enjoy very much, will stop at the intention of performing good actions that bring good karma/consequences in return, and won’t be interested in silencing the thought activities or the modification of the mind, to transcend the restless and ceaseless births and deaths of the impermanent and selfless existence and function of the body and mind. And that’s their freedom.

Self-transformation

Self-transformation in the world is about changing the ‘qualities’ of the body and mind (what the mind identifies as ‘I’) from what the worldly thinking and belief categorize as bad, wrong and negative into what the worldly thinking and belief categorize as good, right and positive, in order to enhance one’s self-esteem, self-image, attractiveness, confidence, productivity, knowledge, skill, ability, physical and mental performance, social networking, or success in career, life and relationships, to attain what most people’s thinking and belief categorize as ‘good’, ‘easy’, ‘comfortable’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘successful’, ‘prosperous’, ‘happy’ and ‘meaningful’ life.

Self-transformation in the teachings of yoga is about reforming the thinking pattern of the mind to free the mind from being conditioned by the worldly egoistic thinking and belief that influences how the mind thinks, acts and reacts towards all the mind perception of names and forms, to free the mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities, to be free from suffering that exists due to ignorance. Being free from attachment towards qualities of names and forms and being free from identification with the impermanent selfless existence and function of the body and mind as ‘I’, realizing selflessness or ‘I’-lessness, unlimited by any qualities of names and forms.

If the mind is surrounded by the company of the worldly minded and constantly receiving all kinds of worldly input and influence of worldly ideas, thinking and belief, and being influence by all the ceaseless trends in the world to make decisions and live life, then it’s very difficult for the mind to practice yoga of the annihilation of ignorance and egoism (even if the mind likes to perform some forms of yoga practice), as the mind will disagree with many of the teachings of yoga that are contradicted with the worldly thinking and belief, and unable to be opened to inquire the truth of something that is unknown to the mind or something that is disagreeable to the mind that is under the influence of the worldly thinking and belief to analyze and judge what is agreeable and disagreeable.

And hence the importance of retreating or moving the mind away from the worldly way of life, behavior, habits, thinking and belief, to renounce worldly inputs and influences, relationships, interactions and activities, to allow the mind to see things beyond the limited worldly thinking and belief that influences the mind to judge everything, act and react, that empowers ignorance, egoism, impurities and restlessness.

Does the mind still think that ‘this’ is something ‘good’, and everyone should do ‘this’, and ‘that’ is something ‘bad’, and everyone shouldn’t do ‘that’? Does the mind still think that “To live a good and meaningful life, I need to be like this and not like that. Other people also need to be like this and not like that to live a good and meaningful life?” Does the mind still amazed by and admire towards someone or something that the mind perceives as amazing, wonderful and meaningful, that the mind would like to be like that someone and to have/experience that something? Does the mind still want to be able to inspire or amaze other people? If the answer is ‘yes’, then this mind is not free, even though this mind only wants to perform ‘good’ actions and doesn’t want to perform ‘bad’ actions, and living everyday life being in certain ways and not being in certain ways, according to what the mind thinks and believes as ‘good and bad’ or ‘meaningfulness and meaninglessness’ based on the worldly thinking and belief about what is ‘good and bad’ or ‘meaningfulness and meaninglessness’.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to do with their life, body and mind, and whether to practice yoga to free the mind from ignorance, or not.

Subtle greed towards developing connections

There is this teaching that some yoga practitioners/teachers might have neglected –

不要攀缘 也不要贪缘

It means – Do not greed for developing or building connections

Because ‘developing or building connections’ with as many beings as possible or 结缘 is being perceived in the world as something good and righteous, such as ‘performing good actions’ and ‘sharing something good with others’ will bring friendship, love, support, help, happiness, prosperity and meaningfulness in return, quite many yoga practitioners/teachers are not aware of the subtle greed towards developing or building connections with as many beings as possible for many ‘good reasons’.

In the world of business, career or entertainment, people have the need to develop or build as many ‘good connections’ or ‘friendships’ as possible in order to attain the highest success in life, career or business. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just that it can become an obstacle on the path of yoga towards the annihilation of ignorance and egoism. Some yoga practitioners/teachers are not aware of the mind is being over-powered by the subtle spiritual greed to build ‘yoga schools’, or ‘yoga centres’, or ‘yoga ashrams’, or ‘yoga empire’. The mind would think that it’s for the sake of ‘sharing yoga’ with as many people as possible. It’s a great teaching why Swami Sivananda mentioned that – “Do not build ashrams. Do not hoard disciples. Do not associate. Live alone. Walk alone. Eat alone. Meditate alone.”

“I am kind to others so that they will also be kind to others.” This is not yoga, even though there’s nothing bad or wrong with that. There’s egoism of attachment, identification, desire and intention or expectation towards something that the mind perceives as ‘good’ and ‘right’. The mind is not free.

Contemplate on this teaching and be free from the subtle greed towards connections building. Be free from the longing for friendship, love, support, help, happiness, prosperity or meaningfulness deriving from ‘performing good actions’ and ‘sharing something good with others’. Be free from intention or aspiration. One might be ‘performing good actions’ and ‘sharing something good with others’, but all actions are intention-less. It’s free from the subtle/hidden greed or craving towards developing or building ‘good connections’ with as many beings as possible.

Just be kind to others. Whether other people want to be kind to others, or not, that’s their freedom.

Just do good in the world. Whether the world will be good, or not, allow it to be what it is, as it is.