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Discipline and Liberation
Marty: Hey, Ram, I have been meaning to write you for what seems like months. I just finished reading the newsletter and just want to say thank you so much. I am really looking forward to doing those lessons and reading the book, of course, as well. It looks amazing, by the way. You know me, I need a reminder now and then. I think this series of lessons is really gonna be great for that.
I wonder if you have any thoughts on self-discipline. I have been reading a lot about it lately and trying to cultivate more of it in myself. The only books that seem to be available on the subject are geared more toward business and sales. What do you think about self-discipline and spirituality?
I miss you, buddy, and think about you often. Really looking forward to doing Trout Lake again this year. It’s right around the corner, isn’t it? Wow, I can’t believe how much has happened in nine months. You’re the man. Take care. Love ya, Ram.
James: Hi, Marty, lovely to hear from you. I think of you fondly and often. I am glad you liked the newsletter. Things are going well here but we are happy to come to the States – only two-and-a-half months now.
“Marty: What do you think about self discipline and spirituality?”
It is very important. In fact, a disciple is a disciplined person. The Bhagavad Gita exhorts discipline over and over, particularly in the first section. You can’t really accomplish anything important in life without a consistent application of energy, particularly spirituality, because rajas misdirects your efforts and tamas causes avoidance of doing what is appropriate to achieving your stated purpose. So there is always a struggle between competing desires. This is just a general truth.
As far as liberation is concerned, lack of discipline can usually be attributed to lack of clarity about what you want. If you are very clear about what you want and your desire to get it is strong, you will not have a discipline problem. For example, does anyone really have a discipline problem with reference to making love? Do you have to continually pull your mind back to the topic as you are doing it? No. Why? Because you really want it. You really like what you really want so you apply your mind accordingly. If your desire for liberation is middling, then other things will attract you – entertainment, for example – and you will make intermittent progress owing to lack of discipline. It is not wise to force yourself to do your sadhana just because you are not disciplined. It is best to figure out why it is not attractive to you. I never had a discipline problem because I always wanted things badly. So I did what I wanted and the discipline came on its own.
One thing that can sap one’s resolve is an easy life. If life is very good and you are successful at what you do, there is not much incentive to go for moksa. After all, you only want moksa to make your life better and if it is pretty good, there isn’t much incentive. I call it “stuck in sattva.” About all you can do in this case is to wait for some suffering to come along and motivate you. ☺ Take care, Marty.~ Much love, Ram
Marty: Well, James, I guess it is that simple.
I do know what I want. I just want more than one thing. Moksa first and foremost and then it’s a toss-up between sex and security. Or at least it’s these two aspects of life that keep sapping my attention away from self-inquiry. Maybe I just want the security to get the sex, but I don’t know. When I am actively pursuing and studying Vedanta I am happiest and these worldly distractions don’t disturb me. The moment I take my eyes off the prize, however, the wheels begin to turn and suddenly I’m strategizing on ways to get ahead at work and planning my next date. Weeks can go by before I even realize what I’m doing. I know these endeavors don’t lead to lasting happiness and I know that they won’t help me to get any closer to my true goal, but they don’t seem to care what I know. I suppose these are just vasanas doing what they do and that the right course of action would be to not identify with them as they arise. But it’s like I’m alternating between two worlds. Within one the other practically disappears. It’s hard to remember Vedanta let alone practice self-inquiry when I’m that caught up in maya. Yikes!
James: If you know you are caught up in maya, are you caught up in maya?
Yes, it is that simple. As you say, more than one pursuit complicates the quest for self-knowledge. I can’t really say more because you see the problem very clearly. All I can say is that when you are acting out the security or the sex vasana, you should try to enjoy it without denying the downside, and when you are inquiring you should continually remind yourself of the upside. There is no actual contradiction between various pursuits from the point of view of awareness, your true nature. Otherwise Marty is just going to have to suffer his vasanas until he really appreciates the inherent limitations in pursuing them. Most people only get serious spiritually when the suffering is intense. Marty is still reasonably young and these kinds of preoccupations are still not undignified, but if this is an issue in ten years, then you will probably have to kiss your freedom vasana goodbye as you will have become more tightly bound by them. The best way to deal with vasanas is to chip away at them slowly and slowly increase your meditation/inquiry time. You chip away at them by continually reminding yourself of the defects inherent in the pursuit of worldly things. And the same time there is no point in sinning unless you enjoy it, so keep it up.
~ Love, Ram