My memory is not what it used to be but maybe it’s a good thing. When I was young I remembered everything and I always felt that if I try hard enough I can recall every event in all the details. I felt like it was only a matter of accessing the storage.
Some things I recalled again and again but many didn’t, it was not worth it at the moment, I thought, but I could surely rerun all the memories and relive those moments if I wanted to. Eventually this number of unrecalled memories grew bigger and bigger and I only kept awareness of their existence, not even general descriptions. Right now I need to really stress myself to remember what year this or that happened, and I would usually go not to the memory itself but place it in relation to other events, like “it was a year after I .., or maybe it was two years?” Sometimes I just can’t remember things I thought I knew by heart, and same is happening with my ability to do simple mental calculations. I used to do complex multiplications but now three digit sums and subtractions pose a serious challenge.
What I am driving at is that I don’t remember what I was writing about here only three days ago. I remember the general topic, something to do with the mind, and that I was going to pick up from where I left off, but now I can’t recall any details. I can, of course, click on a recent post and read it again but I don’t see the point – details are not important and they are bound to be forgotten again. Besides, there’s this realization that I’m not in control of my mental faculties and while some might panic about it I feel like it’s a very valuable one, it pulls down the veil of illusion – we are not in control of anything in this world and this desire to be in control, to be on top of things, is what keeps us here and prevents us from turning our consciousness to Kṛṣṇa.
Anyway, the mind. I remember that in the post before last I talked about kids being kids and therefore being unable to control their minds regardless of whether they grow in religious or atheistic families. Sometimes atheistic families can be at an advantage here but today I want to focus on the value of sādhana.
We assume that we are the only ones doing it but it’s not true, especially in Hinduism. Māyāvādīs love “sādhana”, though to them it means something else entirely. Following in Ramakrishna’s vein they take all sādhanas as equal, you just choose the one that you like, like you choose your preferred iṣṭa-devatā. All sādhanas lead to the same goal, never mind Kṛṣṇa clearly stating in Gīta that those who worship forefathers go to forefathers and those who worship demigods go to demigods. This doesn’t register, they are above all that and for them all paths are the same.
This is clearly nonsense but they are not the only ones with sādhanas. In fact, every living being has some sort of sādhana and tries to follow it, however unsuccessfully. Everybody has some sort of dharma to follow and everybody has some goals to achieve. Means to achieve those goals are called sādhana, it’s the literal meaning.
If you want to finish school you have to study and studying will be your sādhana – how, when, where, for how long etc. If you want to master some skill you have to follow sādhana, too – study, train, practice. If you want to woo a girl there’s sādhana for that, too, so we are not special even if our sādhana is different because our goal is different.
What sādhana does to the mind is the same, however – it puts it under control. Whatever sādhana you follow, there’s always a list of dos and don’ts and there’s always some sort of a schedule. You don’t have to think about it, just follow. Get up, take a shower, have breakfast, go to school, or to work, there’s nothing to think about here.
The mind has no leeway, no freedom, it has to like what is offered and be content with what it has. The consciousness then gets freedom to concentrate on its ultimate goal without any distractions. This goal then becomes all one thinks and talks about and one consciously and willingly rejects all other engagements. Do this for a sufficient amount of time and success is guaranteed, no matter what it is you are pursuing.
In the beginning, however, mind poses lots of problems, it’s just wild and it needs house training. It needs to accept the new routine, it needs to learn to like it, and it needs to stop looking for alternatives. It’s like taking in a stray and training it to behave according to house rules. Where and when to eat, where and when to sleep and so on.
Initially we might not like it but under careful guidance dislikes can be overcome. The facilities must be adequate, the training not too hard but not too easy either, there must be some rewards and punishments and there must be some assurance and guarantees of comfort and safety. Well, maybe not comfort per se but comfort in a sense of peace of mind, knowing that you are doing the right thing and it will pay off handsomely.
People who object to this process and demand some rights and freedoms are fools who will never accomplish anything. No one gets to dictate the terms of a boot camp. They can accept or reject them but that’s all, training is non-negotiable. There are rules and if you want a diploma at the end you must follow them.
When it comes to religion, however, people invent their own ways, which means they give themselves their own titles according to their own perception of progress. It’s all nonsense, just like a university degree you printed on your own printer is worth nothing. Your achievements must be recognized by an authority, not by your own mind.
So, there’s only one rule – submit to the authority, control your mind, and do what your teacher says. This will make you a successful athlete, a successful businessman, a successful singer, a successful politician – anything you want. There’s no other way, even though theoretically you might be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, meaning you have tons of suitable karma and most of your work has been done in previous life. Unless you are one of those and get to make your own rules you need to follow the process like everybody else.
Devotees are special, though, sādhana is not a guarantee of success at all – because Kṛṣṇa is a person, a supremely independent one, and it’s up to Him whether to engage with us or not, we can’t make Him like we can demand a driver’s license if we passed the test. This means that our attitude to our sādhana must be different from others, but more on that some other time.