SUMMARY: Bhaja Govindam Class 8 - 26/02/23
Chinmaya UK Study Class, Śaṅkarācārya, Swami Chinmayananda (Sw. C.)
nārīstanabhara nābhīdēśaṃ dṛṣṭvā mā gā mōhāvēśam |
ētanmāṃsāvasādivikāraṃ manasi vicintaya vāraṃ vāram ||
Seeing the full bosom and naval of women[/men] do not fall prey to maddening delusion.
This is but a modification of flesh and fat.
Think well thus in your mind again and again.
Verse 3: Lusty passions cont...
The irresistible enchantments of flesh and bodies have been recognised since antiquity.
Carnal pleasure is a natural urge that helps species propagate.
However, it is in human birth that we are given an intelligent intellect, where this urge can be controlled, disciplined, purified and sublimated. This curbing and controlling instinct for carnal pleasure allows us to redivert that creative energy into higher realms of existence.
In the beginning, redirecting this energy feels rather unnatural because the body seeks fulfilment in the fields of sense objects. It is in the intellect that visions of higher possibilities take place.
To attain these visions, be they spiritual or intellectual or any achievement, worldly or otherwise, a trained mind and intellect allow us to curb our physical passions or baser urges and turn our current personalities towards more rewarding channels of spiritual upliftment.
Here, it is useful to recap the entire 'body' to see that the physical is just ONE layer and the grossest of five:
Hmmm, some questions:
Am I not just brainwashing myself...these are god-given natural urges!
Yes and no.
Yes, we are consciously retraining the mind.
No, because it is a conscious retraining after the realisation that our current thoughts are habits from the past or societal conditionings that are not serving us and are causing us to stay stuck in sorrow or misery or within our comfort zones or stuck in our imaginations of 'happily ever after,' and not allowing us to progress in life or grow or realise that all is satchitananda in form (choose whichever is your bag).
Once we've had that realisation, then this is a technique that enables us to change that habit pattern into something that is useful, uplifting and inspiring.
How do I know if I do this, there is an actual benefit?
Until we experience the benefit for ourselves, we won't know. It's like persuading a hungry person to give up chalk water for real food. It's risky, especially when we believe the chalk water is all we have and believe it is, in fact, the 'Real McCoy'. But when we taste the real thing, we know that what we were running after before, competing over, acquiring, and hoarding, was mere chalk water.
It is in that experience that going back to chalk water is insulting.
The lower, temporary 'happiness' are automatically dropped when more permanent states of 'happiness' are experienced. But to experience the higher, we must dare to drop the lower. In the beginning, we must take it on faith...not a bling faith because someone has told us, but a deeply reflective one, where we have contemplated upon these teachings from different angles and can see, from our own experience in the world, the wisdom of what is being said.
How do we start to do this?
This takes time and conscious effort but leads to a divine inner unfoldment that can not be found in any amount of material or physical pleasure.
- In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (2:33), the technique of changing instinct, negativities and self-doubt into rational contemplation is called pratipakṣa bhāvanā. This technique can be used for any un-serving thought pattern, not just lust.
pratipakṣa bhāvanā = cultivating the opposite
pratipakṣa = the opposite
- prati = against, back, in opposition to, in comparison, in reversed direction, about, to, in the presence of, on account of, near, upon, in return, foe, in reversed direction
- pakṣa = wing of a bird, flank, side, any opinion, deductive reasoning, the feathers on both sides of an arrow, the fin of a fish, partisan, adherent, an alternative, half of anything
bhāvanam = cultivation
reflection, meditation, causing to be, affecting, producing, displaying, manifesting, promoting or affecting anyone’s welfare, imagining, forming in the mind, conception, apprehension, imagination, supposition, fancy, thought, direct one’s thoughts to
- from bhu = to be, to exist, arise, come into being, live, stay, abide, to cherish, to foster, animate, to present to the mind, think about, devote oneself to
This conscious generating of a powerful counterforce is a most effective remedy for transmuting wayward, unuseful thoughts and habit patterns. It allows us to change direction and open our hearts by choosing compelling thoughts or images that uplift and inspire.
Śaṅkarācārya's easy technique to see the body as it is:
Seeing the beautiful body of our beloved (real or imagined) in front of you with its tight six-pack (in the Indian case, Ganesha's belly 😅) or that full-bosomed beauty, that stirs an urge, and is taking our mental time and energy, leading our imaginations into constant visions of fun, excitement, pleasure etc., when seen scientifically, with 'x-ray' vision, is just fat, flesh, blood, hair, nails, bone, and marrow configured into a form, wrapped in scaley either dry, sweaty or oily skin filled with newly eaten or partially digested food, puss, seamen urine and faeces etc.
- When these component parts of the very same body are bought to mind, we can't help but see things as they are, and awake from the 'imagined picture of happiness' that veils 'the perishable softness of the filth-filled body'.
- Imagine any one of these parts separated from that body and floating about in our food. Hardly attractive, and neither is our response to it....ewwwwwwwwww!
This is too much Śaṅkarācārya! What's the relevance to me??
Society today is not centred around our empowerment or Self-realisation; it seems to value profit above all else. And sex sells. That is why, across the globe, even in India, where people claimed to live Sanatan Dharma (eternal goodness) and where there was no shying away from making sex sacred in the tantric traditions, Bollywood is becoming more and more 'sexy' and objectifying human bodies as things to ogle and lust over.
- It has become a multi-crore (billion) entertainment industry made from selling lusty pleasure and power designed to dumb us down and steal our time, money and mental real estate.
CAVEAT: of course, there are films that tell stories that need to be told, that educate, share historical events, that can empower, uplift, inspire...these, however, are rarely the movies of mainstream media and mass popularity.
But sex is also, still, taboo. Women, trans and children's bodies are still generally shamed and are made to feel safer if they are covered up; we see this overtly in places such as Iran and, even today, in the shadows of bars and clubs, religious institutes etc, in the Western world.
Why all this lust for a physical body made up of the five elements and filled with filth?
These scriptures, texts and techniques aid us in genuinely re-educating and reconditioning ourselves from the societal conditioning of objectifying and sexualising the body to sell products, to sell us imaginary marital/relationship bliss, to assert power over certain bodies, by showing us the physical form as it is, thinking of the component parts again and again (vāram, vāram), and asking us to examine and reflect for ourselves the nature of these things.
CAVEAT: Remember these techniques do not have to create total disgust or repulsion per se. For a householder, they can be used to bring the mind back to a middle path. To help us to stop obsessing over these things. For most humans, sex is a natural urge, as with all mammalian animals. The human intellect discerns and, with the help of the mind, allows us the ability to exercise control and discipline in the endeavour for a nobler, more loving, more sacred way of life. Nothing is good/bad or pure/impure if perceived correctly as it is and in relation to the four goals of life; artha, dharma, kama and ultimately, mokṣa.
In the first three stanzas, Śaṅkarācārya has questioned the most powerful fascinations of human existence: (1) fame/acknowledgement, (2) wealth/possession and (3) pleasure/sex.
- After realising for ourselves the futility of spending every waking moment pursuing these three (yes, they are a part of life but NOT the purpose of life), our mental and creative capacities are free to be rediverted into more esoteric ideals.
- Eliminating these three gives us enormous physical, mental, moral, and spiritual strength; however, this takes deep awareness and conscious re-imagining and even when we do eliminate them, maintaining this new experienced wisdom is not easy.
Why, you may ask, is this so hard?
Because we have lived millions of lives in the lower realms of evolution, and each of us has gathered the powerful instinct of self-preservation of both the individual and the race.
- According to Hinduism, we have evolved from animal bodies and are very fortunate to have gotten a fully faceted human birth. It is here, in every thought, word and deed, that contributes to either exhausting past karma or adding to our karmic accounts. We may add, exhaust or balance in a human body. It is here where destiny and free will meet, and in each moment, we make a choice.
present action + past karma + sincerity + motivation = fruit of action/future karma/residue
Rising above these tendencies is an achievement in itself, and it takes repeated (vāram vāram) practice.
The last part of this we shall see in the next class... Until then...
Bhaja Gōvindaṃ, Bhaja Gōvindaṃ
Gōvindaṃ Bhaja Mūḍhamatē!