Indian Psychology - Becoming Saumya
by Swami Veda Bharati
Saumya, the quality of imparting moonlike coolness to anyone looking at you, develops when you practise mental asceticism.
The ultimate goals of Indian psychology are purely spiritual ones. The highest is to leave the mind behind in the no-mind meditation state (amanaska yoga or asamprajnata). The immediately preceding step to that is the discrimination between buddhi and the spiritual self (viveka khyati). The latter is still a goal too high, too distant for most. Before we can begin to have even glimpses of these levels of reality, we need to learn to cultivate a satvic mind.
A satvic mind and its operations are described and listed in the Bhagavad Gita chapters 14,17 and18. The brief descriptions of the processes leading to a satvic mind are delineated as bhava samshuddhi, purification of emotions, and chitta prasadana, making the mind a clear and pleasant place. The Bhagavad Gita calls these processes inculcating mental asceticism or manasa tapas. Silence, self-control, and purification of emotions are the attributes of mental asceticism as mentioned in chapter 17.16. Saumya is the quality whereby anyone looking at you receives moonlike coolness.
The tasks of making the mind clear and pleasant and of purifying the emotions are closely linked. A satvic mind does not suffer from the adhis or mental ailments and afflictions such as anger, vengefulness or malice. One does not repress these traits but simply recognizes the natural satvic urges of peace, contentment and acceptance and thereby makes the mind a stronger energy field. One who accomplishes this suffers less anguish and pain in daily life. One simply replaces the rajasic and tamasic with the satvic.
In order to replace the contrived and merely habitual with the natural, to reduce the anguish and suffering, one seeks to discover the cause of all the mental burning (tapa). Patanjali says it is the rajas that heats and torments the mind. It is the satva that suffers. There is no other tormentor or sufferer. When the rajas dominates, we become restless and anguished. When satva dominates, the rajas energy and activity aids in satva's goals of purification.
In this, what is the role of tamas? Tamas is much maligned as dark, heavy, inert and altogether undesirable. In fact, a balance of satva, rajas and tamas is what is required. In the food we eat, satva is the pranic energy we derive, rajas is the cooking and spicing, and tamas is the bulk. The word tamas is to be translated as stasis. When stasis serves the purpose of satva, it imparts stability. When satva is subdued by tamas it becomes stagnation. This is a universal principle applicable to all sciences including the Indian system of psychology.
The task of purification of the emotions and making the mind pleasant thus primarily consists of creating a balance of satva, rajas and tamas, in such a manner that satva alone dominates and the other two serve their purpose.
Failure to achieve this balance of power among the three gunas subjects us to the adhis, our six enemies, namely kama or unbridled desire and passion, krodha or anger, lobha or greed, moha or attachment and confusion, mada or frenzy and matsarya or malice.
There is another tool used for achieving the goal of self-purification. It is a lengthy process called self-examination, atma nirikshana.
In the process of self-examination one does not seek justification for one's destructive acts, "Oh, anyone would have lost his temper in these circumstances", "Oh, I was only trying to show somebody the right way" - and so on. One stops making these excuses for oneself. To embark on a path to self-purification consider these steps:
Make a list of your weaknesses, your true enemies.
Realize that a weakness is a weakening of some strength. Identify the strength that is weakened in this weakness. Seek to restore that strength. For instance, intolerance is a weakening of tolerance. Build up your tolerance level.
Take one or two key weaknesses at a time. Build your resolve, sankalpa to conquer that enemy.
Be self-observant, mindful, practicing smrti upasthana, that is, attentiveness to your states of breath, body position, glance, voice, choice of words, acts. These indicate your state of mind and the extent to which you are subject to rajas and tamas, the despoilers of the mind.
Keep a mental or written journal of your progress: today I lost to my enemy, today I won but not entirely.
In this process, see how far you really are from the goal of enlightenment.
When you start this process you may wonder how to determine what is right. Ask yourself two questions: Is it satvic? Is it anywhere close to the goal of cultivating the signs of enlightenment?
Only on that basis can you determine and choose the feelings, sentiments and emotions that you plant within. Cultivate them by developing the courage to reject the erstwhile habit of the mind and acting in a new way, the way of the natural urges described previously.
The way of virtue is deep, dharmasya gahana gatih. Ask yourself, What is the alternative, satvic way of behaviour? Instead of anger how should I have responded to the situation? Slowly these questions will become paramount in your mind. If they create conflict, your rajas is still dominant. A gentle breeze of an answer is what you are looking for from within.
The determination of behavioral choices begins within the mind. Instead of pondering on how to act, go to its causes, which are thoughts and feelings. Do not suppress your anger. Strive to convert it into compassion and acceptance. Reason thus: This person is angry with me. His past pains are acting up, and are responding to the stimulus I may or may not have provided but he perceives it as such. Here comes the principle of cultivating the opposites: pratipaksha bhavanam.
What is the satvic principle opposite to the rajasic anger? Is it my own internal peacefulness? Is it compassion for the suffering of others? Let me apply that principle. Let me soothe him with a smile and a soft voice.
Gradually you will find mental tools to help you alter your choices. Your smile will cool the other person's anger and leave him smiling. Having succeeded once, you are encouraged. You now have faith that, yes, indeed, this can be done. For sure, it will bear pleasant results. You then reaffirm your resolve for the next time.
We can call this morality of emotions, ethics of emotions. There is no enlightenment without becoming a saumya person.