Sit calmly in any place. Take a moment to pay attention to something. Rock, tree, hill, sky, building, anything that is in your sight. When you watch a tree, your attention by default takes away the rest of the scene from the viewing. The rest of the details, be it a building nearby or a road, or animals grazing, all fade away into insignificance. Thus tree is the only thing that appears distinct. You may then shift your gaze to the road near to the tree, now the tree is fuzzy, it is in the zone of insignificance. It is the nature of viewing where attention determines the proximity of the object being viewed.
Now consider moving slightly inwards. You might be watching the tree, but the attention of the mind is plugged to the train of thoughts in your mind. So tree moves into a fuzzy zone because now the attention is hooked to the train of thoughts. Now it is the train of thoughts that are in proximity when compared to the tree. So, for an onlooker we appear as though we are gazing into the void despite our eyes are open.
Let us plunge further inwards. Close your eyes. Now what we ‘see’ is nothing but thoughts. But note, even amongst these thoughts our attention rides on only one thought train thus fading away the rest of the universe of thoughts into insignificance. But you see, we have now moved from universe of external objects to universe of internal objects i.e thoughts. Here too elements or external objects are present in Kalpana, imagination, they are not completely wiped out. However, the engagement of attention is not sensorial anymore. So how do we best define the nature of these internal objects, i.e thoughts? Some thoughts seem to leave a lighter footprint in our mind space as opposed to others. The strength of the impressions made by thoughts can be defined well in terms of Gunas., i.e qualities. All thoughts are a mixture of Sattva, Rajo and Tamo Gunas, with a predominance of one of these in each thought.
Well, we don’t ‘see’ these Gunas like we can see a building or a tree. At best engagement of attention is through aspect of pleasantness. All pleasantness constitutes Sukham-Dukham ratio. More Sukham, we understand our thoughts as being pleasant and if ratio tilts more towards Dukham we recognize our thoughts as unpleasant. It is logical to think we would choose thoughts that are more pleasant as oppose to unpleasant ones. This way we have the opportunity to infuse only happiness in our lives and flush out sadness. However, it is self-evident that it is not the case. We don’t usually engage with thoughts from this awareness level about pleasantness. Our choice of engagement is rather irrational and hugely conditioned. But, Conditioned by what? By underlying psychological factors called Samskaras. But like Gunas, we cannot see Samskaras either. Instead, we see them manifest as correlates of Sukham-Dukham and that is Raaga-Dvesha.
Raaga-Dvesha can simply be stated as likes and dislikes that always governs the choice-making process. It can be simply said that they seize the aspect of attention and govern its engagement. For instance, in phases of depression, our mind is plunged into realms of Dukham and shows no sign of disengagement. It is as though we have a deep attachment (Raaga) for the Dukham and Dvesha for Sukham. Why would one’s mind like sorrow and dislike happiness, isn’t it irrational! Well exactly that is the point, the whole process of engaging attention is predominantly irrational. Can we then make an effort to move the process of engaging attention into more rational realms? Answer is Yes, absolutely, this can be achieved, though gradually, by cultivating capacity of discernment i.e Viveka. Viveka is a rational force that can help one choose wisely and when it forms the basis for one’s choice, then the actions become increasingly enlightened.
In fact, we always instinctively aspire to engage our lives in more rational realms which amounts to much of struggle within. We ‘want’ to be more rational but most often we end up being driven by subconscious preferential forces i.e Raaga-Dvesha. For instance, we know a certain context, a certain person, a certain action will cause us sorrow or trouble, but we still end up indulging in it. This is due to the governing strength of Raaga-Dvesha which is stronger than Viveka. So how do we cross over this challenge? It can be done by moving our attention from an instinctive zone to a conscious zone. This can be done through constant practice. This inner practice is what is known as Sadhana. By taking up long drawn Sadhana, remaining steadfast in it, we can arrive at a position that allows us to orient our attention in a more beneficial way. Thus even if we cannot eliminate Dukham completely, we can definitely learn the ways to mitigate the power of irrational forces. which in turn would reduce the effect of Dukham on our overall motivation towards life.
Though I must caution, it is not as easy as it sounds, but definitely it is possible. By constant practice, we become capable of greater works in life. Greater works often pose greater challenges. Amidst these challenges we often have to tread the paths which demand deeper disengagement from preferences of personal likes and dislikes. When we have to act for greater good and righteousness which have far deeper ramifications, in such circumstances, we have to mostly set aside notions of Sukham-Dukham from a personal viewpoint. This is one of the defining attitude of a great leader. It is a challenge, which Arjuna faced on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Through Srimad Bhagavadgita Bhagavan helps Arjuna navigate this higher-order conundrum. He enables him to station his mind in the realms from where enlightened action filled with dispassion can take place without attachment or feeling entitled to the results thereof. We too can step unto such a great pedestal of karma Yoga but it is essential for us to first build Viveka through Sadhana and learn to navigate challenges of our own life. Without setting this base if we plunge into action surrounded by far greater forces it will inevitably lead to chaos. So let us make friendship with Viveka first. Let us make Viveka our dearest friend like Bhagawan Krishna was to Arjuna.
Guru Kripa Hi Kevalam. Aum.