The Enemies Within - Shat Ripu

Hello everybody !!!

"To see the gunk and the murk and the garbage in our nature, requires tremendous courage. None of us would like to go and forage in a garbage dump. What if someone told us that in that huge stinky garbage dump (...) there is a diamond? How many of us would have the courage to go digging for that? This is what we have to do when we want to discover our true nature." Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

This is a second part of the inspiring interview I made with Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, Amma, the Acharya of Ananda Ashram and of the International Center for Yoga Education and Research, on January 15th 2009.

In this extract Amma elaborates on the courage and virtue, or virya, one needs to face oneself in order get to know oneself and to evolve. In doing so, she beautifully relates virya with two other fundamental aspects of Yoga Sadhana : Swadyaha and the Guru, the "dispeller of darkness". Swadhyaya is the study of the Self. The Guru is the "dispeller of darkness". It is not necessarily a person. It can be a book, an enemy, a friend, a situation that sheds light on hidden aspects of ourselves and helps us to know ourselves. Everything that sheds light on unknown parts of ourselves is the Guru Spirit.

Swadhyaya, Study of the Self, is an arduous task. It is not so pleasant to look at what we really are. And many of us shriek away from it. Indeed, shining light on the unconscious parts of our nature may cause quite a shock to our habitual personal and social way of looking at ourselves, to our "ego". Committing to Swadhyaya, to the openness to discover oneself, to accept that "maybe, it is possible, I am like that" is a tremendous act of courage.

Swadhyaya, study of the Self, is a cornerstone of the spiritual path. We may think we know ourselves. But, as Amma insists : do we ?? From top to bottom and from inside out ?? And not only superficially, according to the projections of society, family, friends and our own ones ... but really from inside - going back to our "primordial slime" from the cellular level, from that subconscious primordial slime up to the higher subhuman and then human levels and then maybe beyond ?? Knowing oneself involves knowing our dark side, our shadow.

So swadhyaya goes very deep. How can we indeed become conscious ?? How can we become aware of something we are not aware of in our present state ?? How to know for instance if we are a coward, if we are not conscious that we are a coward ?? How to uncover this unconscious layer ??

Seeing all the garbage in our nature demands courage. It is not so easy to dig down into the dirt to unravel the diamond that may be hidden in it.

But even this is not enough. Simply bringing our dark or shadow side to light does not disintegrate it. We should remember that our samskaras, our imprints have been formed over huge periods of time. What may have been necessary, a 'virtue', at one point, may not be any more at another one. For an animal greed may be necessary for its survival, lust for its propagation. But on a humane level these tendencies become problematic. How to deal with them ?? We have nourished our dark side. We have been friends with it. How to rise above it now ?? How to fight against it ?? We must become skilful "warriors" who are comitted to the fight, intelligent enough to know how to approach the enemy and when and how to deal with it ... and persistent, as we will be knocked down times and times again ... It needs tremendous virya and skill to fight the inner battle, to vanquish, and to rise above our own past in order to lift ourelves out of our primordial urges.

On this journey from darkness to light, as we become more subtle so do our vices. A personal Guru, or at least a relationship with others committed to the study of the Self becomes important. Usually, we do not want to see ourselves as we are. We always find excuses for our weaknesses. The standard answer is "No, I am not like this - it's the context that is faulty. I am good." So it is very precious to have others pointing out our dark sides ... but with a good intention of helping to improve us, not of putting us down. Sometimes it is also good to have others "stepping on our ego", making us aware that we may still have much more left of it than what we may have expected ...

It needs quite some consciousness to become aware that some things we find "harmless" may actually be character flaws that need to be uprooted if one wants to evolve further. Indeed, we should not forget that we create our circumstances with our mind. So it may be useful, though initially painful, to be very deeply aware of what is in our minds, of our own hidden attractions, repulsions and our own hidden ego.

If we decide to walk it, the journey of unrooting ignorance may turn into a beautiful, though demanding, path from darkness to light. But we have to dare to make the first step and then to continue on the path.

Om asato ma sadgamaya
tamasoma jyotir gamaya
mrityor ma amritamgamaya
hari om tat sat om.

A lot of beautiful inspirations and of good, courageous and virtues energies to all of you !!!

Christoph

(7.02.2010)

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The Enemies Within - Shat Ripu

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