Spirituality and Mastery over the Mind (15)

20/12/2011 History of Lord Ayyappa

To be always in a state of flux is the ordinary nature of human mind. Fear, anxiety, sadness, jealously, love, compassion and other emotions keep it fluctuating. Some of these vacillations bring uneasiness and pain and cause deterioration in mental and bodily health. In Indian philosophy such negative tendencies are termed as the Shadvairi-s, six enemies (Kaama-lust, Krodha-anger, Moha-delusion, Lobha-stinginess,Mada-haughtiness and Maathsarya-rivalry) of man.

On the other hand the positive tendencies like compassion, love and spirit of service bring in a sense of joy and elevation. They help to keep the body and mind in a healthy state. However, mastery over the mind involves keeping both the negative and positive fluctuations in a balanced state by the natural and easy application of the faculty of will. Ordinarily, many of us are not aware of this faculty of will and usually fail to apply it. So we do not have a conscious control over our reactions. Subjecting ourselves to these fluctuations we lead a life of stagnancy. Conscious practice to keep these fluctuations in a state of balance and moulding the thoughts in a positive direction, leads to the evolutionary progress in the human context. Balancing the thought process and giving it a creative direction requires conscious effort. The progress of this effort would make us realise that the mind has a higher faculty called will. This discovery will lead to greater discoveries and the continuing effort will make man not only a master of himself but also of his circumstances. He gradually transcends his limitations and experiences the unfolding dimensions of freedom, and eventually attains absolute Unconditioned Freedom.

According to some concepts, spirituality is man’s effort to establish relationship with God, who is conceived as a Super Being separate from and not essentially related to man. It is believed that if man praises Him or puts blind faith in Him or becomes an obedient servant of Him, He would save him from all sins, bless him with His grace and keep him along with Him, forever. Often certain religious propagandists project an exclusive God for themselves, and make all efforts to impress upon others that only those who believe in their exclusive God can have his grace and all others are sinners doomed for ever!

But the vision of spirituality evolved by the sages of India is basically different from the above-mentioned concept. According to it, whatever there is, is an expression of the Supreme Unconditioned Reality. And the experience of the evolved mystics all over the world, endorses the perspective of India’s sages. Because of the infinite and absolute Freedom, Brahman is free to express Itself in an unrestrained manner in any form and direction. While these expressions do have their conditioning, Brahman, the basis of all expressions, remains supremely free, unrestrained by the innumerable and varied higher and lower conditioning of Its expressions. Man is one such expression of Reality. And the expression is in such a state that man can with consistent effort decondition his limitations and expand even to the Absolute Freedom of Brahman.

Human mind itself is the raw material that has to be refined, used and directed for this evolutionary progress. This transformation is not easy. Because of the inborn trends, some people naturally and easily engage themselves in this evolutionary refinement; and some others, are drawn to this direction spurred by painful experiences or inspired by curiosity or earnest devotion to Supreme Wisdom. Basically, the religious striving of man is an expression of this evolutionary trend, but many fail to note its scientific relevance in biological terms. For, they believe that the religious sense is only the outcome of man’s basic fears and therefore is unscientific and superstitious. The fears, of course, have a role. They inspire him to think and inquire. And it is deep inquiry that led India’s explorers of Truth to take great strides in Self-inquiry that resulted in profound discoveries about the nature of man and his relation with the universe. It is this knowledge that equipped them to evolve practical means such as the system of Yoga for man’s spiritual unfoldment.

The pilgrimage to Sabarimala involves invaluable practical lessons in this evolutionary effort. Immersed in the day to day problems of life, most of the people are unable to set apart a certain period for intensive spiritual cultivation. Some of them may be now and then visiting a place of worship and setting apart some time everyday for prayer and meditation. There are many who are not making such an effort for attunement with the higher realm of consciousness that brings in harmony, greater understanding and a refreshing outlook to life.

Sabarimala pilgrimage offers an extensive period of training for such attunement. For a beginner, it is an opportunity for self-refinement. For others, it is a period of training for spiritual unfoldment. This is the only pilgrimage that sets apart such a long period of Yogic training, of 41 days of intensive cultivation of the higher values and spiritual dimensions of life.

It is a period of inner refinement with a clear break from the ordinary patterns of life. This value-based practice to develop spiritual will and harmony includes continence, non-injury to any being by word or deed, service to people, special respect to the phenomena of Nature and to all fellow-beings, considering all and everything as manifestations of Lord Ayyappa Himself, effort to transcend egotism, discarding luxuries, abstaining from unhealthy competitions for pomp and power, maintaining honesty, having vegetarian diet only, making a conscious effort to control such negative emotions as anger, jealousy, hatred, etc., and constant remembrance of the Supreme Reality, symbolized by the form of Lord Ayyappa.

The pilgrim thus remains in this state of spiritual elevation for a period of 41 days (the period is known as a Mandalam) prior to the pilgrimage. According to some psychologists, the repetition of an activity, whether mental or physical, for a period of at least 21 days is habit forming and a longer practice would influence one’s character. Much ahead of the modern psychologists, the ancient seers seem to have been aware of this fact and stipulated 41 days of austerities for bringing about a marked transformation in human psyche. Although the degrees may vary, all pilgrims who seriously take to this discipline would acquire a certain healthy control over their mind and achieve self-refinement. The practice of Ayurveda, India’s ancient system of medicine, prescribing certain medicines to be taken for a period of 41 days, is worth mentioning here.

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