d e

spiritual essayEssay 7/2013

Discipline

 

 

In the previous two essays, as well as in this one, I highlight characteristics, which help the seeker on his journey. They also support those who already know who they truly are, in terms of dissolving disruptive automatisms in their way of thinking and feeling.

 

Self-discipline

Opinions vary when it comes to the word "discipline". While some consider it an unblessed legacy of our Prussian heritage or an unfortunate side-effect of everything military, which (unfortunately) still determines today's world, others deem it useful. Vedanta belongs to the latter.

This essay is primarily about self-discipline, i.e. about discipline that is not imposed from outside, but arises from one’s own free will. Though free will may be tricky, because where do we deploy it and where do we merely obey the command of internalised authorities? However, if our self-discipline belongs to the latter, I would classify it as discipline imposed from outside, which is not what I am talking about here. Even though discipline imposed from outside may pave the way for self-discipline, it may just as well hinder the development of self-discipline. But this is a topic for yet another essay.

Self-discipline consists of several abilities; but it is primarily based on personal responsibility. Someone who does not take responsibility for whatever happens in his life lacks motivation for self-discipline. If somewhere within I cherish the idea that I am not responsible for putting the laundry to dry, not responsible for keeping my body fit, not responsible for allowing time and space for my spiritual search etc., it is unlikely that the laundry will be put to dry, the body remains fit, my spiritual search will be given time and space in my life etc.

As shown in other essays, less than we tend to think actually lies in our hands (see essays 5-2012, 8-2012). However, this doesn’t mean that we are not responsible for our actions, because we are. But the result of our actions does not lie in our hands. In addition to our activities, many other factors come into play, which we cannot possibly include in our considerations.

Viewed from the highest level (paramarthika) there is no personal responsibility, because the ‘person’ in personal responsibility or the ‘self’ in self-discipline has nothing to do with the true Self. The true Self neither needs self-discipline nor personal responsibility; the true Self does not need anything at all, because it is pure fullness.

The person who has not yet recognised himself as the true Self requires support during the journey, likewise if the understanding is still unstable.[1] According to Advaita Vedanta, the most important support is a mind at peace with itself that doesn’t get out of balance at the slightest opportunity and so clear that it isn’t fooled into mistaking an X for a U.

 

Karma yoga

As mentioned before, a calm and clear mind is the result of karma yoga. However, to be able to lead a karma yoga lifestyle, one of the things you need is self-discipline. Doesn’t this mean we have a circular argument here? Not exactly. Hereby once again the three components of karma yoga:

 

  1. Keyword moksha: The ultimate goal of everything one does is freedom from the idea of a separate self (instead of security or well-being).
  2. Keyword dharma: Ethical action – ethics following a relatively simple basic pattern: I act as I would like to be treated and I do not act in a way as I myself would not like to be treated.
  3. Keyword ishvara: As much as all actions are recognised as an expression of free will, it is just as clear that their result is determined by the interplay of the laws of the universe (ishvara).

 

It is correct that point 2 requires self-discipline. Always treating everyone and everything the way oneself would like to be treated may not always be comfortable.

Point 3 may require self-discipline as well, because in order to recognise one’s own involvement in ishvara, time and again one needs to become aware of how things really are[2], which is supported particularly well by observing an everyday ritual.[3]

However, point 1 does not require self-discipline but promotes it. Because, as all comments sent to me regarding the subject of “discipline” emphasise: The most important thing is to have an aim that really means a lot to me. Only such an aim can motivate me to act in a self-disciplined manner. In karma yoga this aim is the highest freedom, moksha. Someone with this aim wants to reach this aim, he/she wants to gain true knowledge. He/she is a mumukshu, and only a mumukshu has a chance on the path of knowledge. That’s why the assertion that one has to give up the desire for the highest knowledge is so dangerous. Precisely the opposite is the case: The longing of the seeker is his highest good. Only if the fire of desire for the ultimate freedom truly burns, it is able to pull the seeker out of his comfort zone (see essay 1-2011, The longing for the truth).

Love

As a mumukshu I need trust. Trust in what? Trust that it is fundamentally possible to attain moksha, to become enlightened – not only theoretically, not only for others, but specifically for myself. This trust (shraddha) is promoted by two things: on the one hand by simply embarking on the journey and in the course of it increasingly realising that it is worthwhile. Secondly, through the relationship with a teacher. What motivates the seeker to “simply embark on the journey” and to get into a relationship with a teacher? Love. Love for what? Love for oneself; i.e. deeming oneself worthy of embarking and walking on the path towardsthe highest knowledge.

Love makes us happy. Why? Because it gives us a sense of completeness to connect lovingly with someone or something. But what is it that is dearest to us in life? Our own true Self. It is absolutely complete and hence pure happiness.

The true Self should not be confused with the ego; it is not about egotism here. What I mean is the pure existence that lies at the core of the ego (and everything else). The ego is nothing but a misunderstanding. It is merely the idea of an ‘I’, separated from everything else, which doesn’t exist at all in such a manner. The true Self, Existence – Consciousness – Limitlessness, is what lies hidden in/underneath/behind this misunderstanding.

Even love directed at an object actually always pertains to the true Self. The true Self is unconditionally lovable; it is the most precious of everything there is. In fact, it is the only thing there is. And something in us anticipates that this is so and therefore delves into discovering it. Considering oneself worthy of replacing one’s identification with a mere misunderstanding with the knowledge of one’s own true nature is true love.

Love, even the love for an object, promotes self-discipline. Every mother knows it. Being full of love, one is able to cope even with the most uncomfortable situations, if the loved one benefits. One of my students asked her boyfriend regarding the topic of self-discipline. His answer represents love and self-discipline intertwined in simplest beauty: “Now, this is obvious – if the cows need milking at 5 in the morning, because they their udders are swollen, then I get up and milk the cows.”

True love to the true Self ultimately is the only thing enabling me to walk the path toward knowledge of the true Self – and the only thing that gives me the self-discipline to stick to it until I have recognised it.

 


[1] At the highest level of the absolute truth there isn’t even a spiritual journey. It takes place at the level of relative truth (vyavaharika) (see essay 1-2012, Discrimination).

[2] see Essays 1 – 2013 and 3 - 2013

[3] see essay 7 – 2011, What can I do?




Contact me - Comments, suggestions or questions arising from the essays are most welcome; I will endeavor to take them up in future essays. Want to add your name to the mailing list?


top




Archives