Time and Spiritual Life (Part 4)

Seeking the Spiritual Reality Within

Creatures being cooked by time essentially pertains to the body, which is characterized by six modifications: It comes into being (jayate), has an objective existence (asti), grows (vardhate), undergoes transformation (viparinamate)-like childhood, youth, and old age-decays (apakshiyate), and dies (nashyati). These changes, however, do not exist in the Atman, since it is birthless, deathless, eternal, and is not killed even when the body is killed. (Bhagavad Gita, 2.20)

As long as one lives a body-centered life-pampering it, abusing it with indulgence driven by desires-time's cooking does not cease. What is required is a new orientation to life. But changing ourselves is not easy. Though a person understands what is good for him, he continues with his old ways in spite of himself, as if compelled by an outside force. What is that force? Arjuna posed the same question to Sri Krishna. The Lord replied: "It is desire, which takes the form of anger, that is responsible. Born of rajas, it is a great devourer and the cause of all sin. That is your enemy.ā€ (Gita, 3.37) He continued: "Manas is superior to the sense organs. Buddhi is superior to manas. The Atman is superior to buddhi. Understanding thus, and completely establishing the mind in the Atman, vanquish the enemy in the form of desire, an enemy very difficult to subdue.ā€ (Gita, 3.42-3) So it is clear that one needs to seek the spiritual Reality within to free oneself from being cooked by time.

Need to Awaken the Buddhi

The first step in this seeking is to awaken the buddhi, our discriminative faculty. Buddhi is an important faculty in human personality having a significant role in character development and mind control. It is essentially a function of the mind. Technically, the mind is called manas when it is busy examining different options set before it, and is yet to arrive at a decision. Manas is the deliberative faculty in us. When a decision has been arrived at, it is buddhi that functions.

The Katha Upanishad (1.3.3-9) describes the role of buddhi with the help of vivid imagery. The body is compared to a chariot, and the "Iā€ in us experiencing the vagaries of the body and mind, compared to the master of the chariot. The buddhi is equated to the charioteer, manas compared to the reins, and the five sense organs, to the horses. Sense objects are compared to the roads.

If the horses are not broken in and the charioteer is not awake while the chariot is in motion, it will spell disaster. The reins, the charioteer, and the master-all these will be held captive by the horses. Similarly, if a person's senses are not subdued, his mind, buddhi, and he himself will follow the pull of the senses. The most powerful of the senses will determine the course of such a human journey.

On the other hand, if the horses are broken in and the charioteer is intelligent and wide awake, the master will reach his destination without difficulty. With the sensory system under control and the mind disciplined with the help of an awakened buddhi, life's journey will reach its goal, which is God-realization.

The above imagery helps us to better understand the different aspects of our personality. The untrained mind is attached to the senses and does not cooperate with us but acts against our interest as an enemy. When disciplined, the same mind acts as our friend. (Gita, 6.5-6) The challenge is to befriend our mind with the help of our buddhi. Spiritual disciplines help us accomplish this.

Part 5

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