Many people would prefer to hear this, “Do what you like to do. Go after what you like and desire. Life is too short and too precious.” instead of, “Live a life of discipline and dispassionate. Stop doing the things that the mind enjoys doing.”
Many minds don’t like a disciplined life, or be disciplined. ‘Disciplined life’ is being perceived by the worldly passionate minds as a form of ‘imprisonment’. Most minds want ‘freedom’. Ironically, the path of yoga and meditation of living a discipline and dispassionate life is also about ‘freedom’.
The ‘freedom’ for many people might be freedom of thinking, action and speech, freedom of identity and sexual orientation, freedom of culture and religion, freedom of illness-free and aging-free, freedom of war-free and violence-free, freedom of discrimination-free and prejudice-free, freedom of education and career, freedom of finance and comfortable living, freedom of movement and expression, freedom of unlimited enjoyment, freedom of unlimited happiness and pleasantness/void of unhappiness and unpleasantness, and freedom of gratifying all their desires.
The ‘freedom’ in yoga is about liberation from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering through disciplining the mind to eliminate egoism and impurities by restricting the thinking, action and speech, letting go attachment, identification, expectation and desires of craving and aversion to silent the restless modification of the mind, to allow the mind to see the truth and realize selflessness.
It’s normal that people would disagree with many of the teachings and practice of yoga as all these teachings and practice is indeed oppose to the worldly thinking and belief and practice. Except the part of doing the yoga asana exercises which most people like very much, and hence, many yoga teachers and yoga centres only want to conduct yoga asana exercise classes of various brands and styles, to please the members or clients, to give them what they like and want, and avoid giving them what they don’t like and don’t want. And hence, they don’t like to give the essential teachings of yoga about discipline, dispassion and desireless, because it’s not just not good for yoga business, but it’s not good for any other consumer business that rely very much on the boundless passionate desires of the worldly people to be surviving. If majority people in the world renounce the worldly desires, habits, objects and enjoyments, and observe a disciplined and dispassionate life, the world will be out of business for many things. But, this won’t happen because very few people are dispassionate and desireless, and very few people are interested in dispassion and desirelessness.
There are so many new and ‘interesting’ things keep coming into the world to keep the ever-discontented minds busy and entertained. Life is considerably comfortable for many people in the modern society even though nothing is perfect or permanent. Most minds don’t feel the need to attain liberation from suffering, as they aren’t suffering, but they are enjoying a rather desirable interesting life. People say, “I am strong and healthy. I have good income. I have good family and many friends. I have good community support. I enjoy lots of activities in this world. I love my joyous meaningful worldly life existence. I love being passionate towards everything.” That’s their freedom.
And then, unfortunately, there are those who would like to know more about yoga and are interested in transcending misery and suffering, were being scared/intimidated by the many stories of sexual misconducts related to lustful ‘yoga teachers’ and pseudo Gurus.
“Stop giving the mind what it likes and desires. Withdraw the mind from its worldly habits and addictions of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.” The worldly minded might think that this is negative, going backward and life wasting.
Some minds like to chase after new things, new toys and different varieties, due to getting bored and discontentment towards the same old things, old toys and lack of variety. Because of the discontentment tendency of the mind, the mind will get bored easily with the new things or new toys after some time, and will chase after other new things and new toys to satisfy its craving for new excitement/experience, endlessly and restlessly.
Some minds feel unsettle and anxious towards new things, new toys and many varieties that it doesn’t familiar with.
Some minds cling onto certain things and certain toys strongly, and couldn’t let them go even when they are no longer available.
Either craving for new things/new toys/varieties or aversion towards new things/new toys/varieties will also lead the mind into restlessness. Giving the mind what it wants and not giving the mind what it doesn’t want might make the mind happy for a while, but it will not give liberation to the mind. In yoga, being determined by boundless desires of craving and aversion is indeed the real ‘imprisonment’.
Without discipline and dispassion, the mind will feel dissatisfied and unhappy when it doesn’t get what it likes, and getting what it doesn’t like, or losing something that it likes. With discipline and dispassion, the mind sees indifference between what it likes and doesn’t like, then it will stop chasing after what it likes, stop pushing away what it doesn’t like, and be able to let go what it likes, equanimously.
It’s part of the observation in the practice of silence – Mauna.
It sounds like one is tormenting oneself, as the mind will feel frustrated, disturbed, dissatisfied, disappointed, depressed, angry and unhappy for being unable to do what it enjoys doing, or unable to enjoy what it likes to enjoy. This is similar to the withdrawal symptoms of cutting down or cutting-off coffee intake. It’s very unpleasant for the body and the mind in the beginning for a period of time. Some people will give up, but some people are able to go beyond all the discomforts and unpleasantness, and develop a great mental strength.
It’s a fact that many minds don’t enjoy sitting quietly with minimal body movements observing the incoming and outgoing breath for a few hours a day, without stimulation, entertainment, excitement, pleasurable enjoyment for the senses, playing, talking, interacting, commenting, or seeing and touching someone or something that one loves.
Even though the impure egoistic mind might perceive the disciplined and dispassionate way of life as self-tormenting or life wasting, but it helps the mind to be free from all kinds of suffering. Just like most people don’t like to take bitter medicines, it’s not the enjoyable taste, but it could cure their sickness.
This practice of “Stop giving the mind what it likes and wants.” to annihilate the modification of the mind requires a prolonged period of time for it to be effective.
After a few days being in a retreat away from their family and friends, some people say, “My mind is quite strong in non-attachment already because I don’t feel missing my family and friends.” This doesn’t work because it’s just for a short period of time and the mind knows that very soon it will go back to the family and friends again.
Some people might think that their minds are quite strong in their yoga practice after they went away for a long holiday or working trip being physically away from their family and friends and their daily comforts and enjoyments for a few weeks or months, but what they didn’t realize is that even though they are physically apart, but somehow, they might still be having some kinds of regular communication and interaction with their family and friends throughout that few weeks or months, or they might be enjoying the company of some other new friends. And even though they are away from their usual comforts and enjoyments at home, but they might be enjoying other different kind of comforts and enjoyments. Again, this doesn’t work.
If only the mind is being completely cut-off from all kinds of physical, mental and emotional contact and communication with family and friends, and cut-off from all social interactions with other people, and refrain from all kinds of worldly enjoyable stimulating physical and mental activities for a prolonged period of time, one will then can truly know thyself and ‘reform’ one’s mind.
The worldly minds will be missing the family and friends, while restlessly thinking/wondering/worrying about what’s happening to the family and friends, being unable to receive any news or updates about the family and friends for a long time. The sense of boredom, loneliness and meaninglessness bubbling up in the mind due to refraining from all kinds of worldly enjoyable stimulating physical and mental activities.
The well-trained minds that have developed the strong foundation of mental strength/non-attachment/dispassion won’t be missing or worrying about anyone or anything. The mind is void of boredom, loneliness and meaninglessness. It doesn’t mean that this mind doesn’t love or care for the family and friends, but the mind has gone beyond attachment, identification, clinging and craving. The mind is free from suffering and painful sorrow even though being alone by oneself without the company of family and friends and other beings, being aware of the truth of impermanence and selflessness. This is true freedom for yoga and peace seekers. But, for the worldly minds, this is being perceived as ‘unhealthy’, ‘wrong’ and ‘abnormal’ mind behavior of ‘unloving’, ‘uncaring’, or ‘unconcern’. That’s their freedom of thinking and belief.
It’s everyone’s freedom whether they want or don’t want to inquire this teaching, and be free, or not.