How Abhyasa and Vairagya Lead to Perfection

Day-16 LTP Challenge: Share your favorite spiritual practice.  How long have you practiced it for?
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Date: 16th May 2021

The desire to excel is inherent in each one of us, whether it be in personal, professional, or social spheres. Great luminaries in various realms of life have scaled the peaks of greatness through their repeated and systematic efforts by investing considerable time and energy.  Thus, we all aware of the adage — “Practice makes perfect.”  For progress in spirituality, meditation is one of the prime tools to move towards God.  Therefore, progressing on the path of spiritual transformation also requires repeated practice.

We previously discussed the process of “Roopdhyan” meditation, using the image of the Lord as the basis of our meditational practice.  Some people may say, “I tried it, but I could not succeed.  I took the focus of my mind towards God, but it drifted away into worldly thoughts.”  When this happens, we must not feel discouraged.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjun, said to Lord Krishna:

चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || 34||

chañchalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛiṣhṇa pramāthi balavad dṛiḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyor iva su-duṣhkaram

The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong, and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.

Lord Krishna did not dismiss his problem and said:

श्रीभगवानुवाच |
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || 35||

śhrī bhagavān uvācha
asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate

O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.

Let us see the process of mind when we do meditation.  We take our mind away from worldly thoughts—this is detachment and then we take the mind to get absorbed in God—this is the practice.  In both of these processes, the effort is required.  However, the third process of mind happens by itself—the mind comes away from God and back into the world.  Why does that happen?  This happens effortlessly because the mind is material, and the material mind naturally goes towards worldly thoughts.  To take it towards God requires effort.

It is just like how dropping an object is effortless but throwing it up requires energy.  So, when the focus of the mind comes off from God, we must not feel discouraged.  Instead, take it away from worldly thoughts again and again and bring it back into absorption of God.   We will have to tighten our belts and repeatedly practice this and move ahead with determination on the path of spiritual transformation.

Watch this interesting video by Swami Mukundananda –

To strengthen our will for repeated practice, just recollect our childhood.  When we were little children and strived to stand up for the first time, we struggled and despite our best efforts, collapsed.  But we did not give up—we tried again and again until we mastered standing.  Then when we took our first a few steps, again we fell, but kept on trying and became better and better until we were walking and running.   Some people applied themselves harder and even reached the proficiency of winning medals in the Olympics.

Therefore, in any realm of our life, mastery comes from practice.  Remember the first time we began to learn typing.  It took us so long to type the phrase—“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  However, as we continued our practice, in a year’s time we could type at an average speed of 80 words per minute.  Now, if somebody doesn’t know the secret, and sees another person typing at that speed, he will be astonished and may wonder—“How come his fingers fly so rapidly on the typewriter?  Does he/she have some siddhi—mystic ability?”  It is no siddhi, rather it is the consequence of one year of practice.

Similarly, let us consider another example.  When we go to the circus, we see these astonishing acrobats walking on the tightrope with multiple plates and cups stacked upon one another.  How do they do it?  It is all the consequence of repetition.

Hence, the Yog Darshan too explains that it is through detachment and practice that we will achieve that perfection.  In other words, there is no substitute to practice.  When we strive hard in our abhyasa (practice), we then draw the grace of God, which brings our efforts to consummation.

So, the message on 16th day of Life Transformation Challenge is to engage in repeated practice of the tools that we have learnt till date without getting discouraged, knowing that mastery will come through repetition.  We will move ahead from here with another gem of wisdom as we progress along.

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