In order to integrate ourselves, in order to become whole, to bring together various aspects of our being, our physical bodies, our mental being – our thoughts, our emotional being – our hearts, we need to practice what in yoga is termed Vichara. Vichara means self enquiry. Our process is one of constant examination of our lives and of our selves in all its various manifestations and aspects.
We start with an examination of our relationship with objects. We accumulate objects, possessions in our lives from our clothing to our cars, our houses and all the clutter we surround ourselves with. Unless we are practicing Vichara we can easily suffer the illusion that our relationship with these objects is permanent and that we are therefore entitled to become angry when they are taken from us or feel distressed when we lose them. Our relationship with objects requires us to constantly enquire into the absence of permanency of that relationship. For example, this shawl I am wearing was not mine before we went to Kerala last year and in five years time it may be gone. My relationship with this shawl can not be one of clinging, of grasping, of possession, thinking that if I lose this I would also be losing part of myself. Enquiring into the nature of our relationship with objects is liberating because we stop trying to hold onto something that by its very nature is transient.
Next, we examine our relationship with others. We examine our relationship with those people in our lives with whom we come in contact, those people who are there to help us on our way, whether through loving and nurturing us or whether through conflict that reveals some aspect of ourselves that would otherwise have remained hidden in the shadows. The Dalai Lama puts is so succinctly by explaining: We are all going to die one day. Those who realise this, settle their quarrels with others. We want a peaceful heart, we want to feel at peace with ourselves, but when we are holding on to a sense of self-importance and righteousness and the thought that I know better in our relationship with others we are constantly defensive. We need to settle our quarrels with others, in order to be at peace with others in our lives. Through the process of enquiry Vichara, we examine those relationships that cause us to feel indignant and self-righteous and examine our own part so that we can see how our own sense of self importance, our own ego has helped create that conflict. We take that away and see what’s left. If we can find a sense of humility then very often the conflict we believe was created by someone else, evaporates. It’s gone.
Next we examine our relationship with ourselves. Are we using these precious moments of life to best effect? Soon, one day we will be taking our last breath. Have we lived our lives well? Our yoga and meditation practice provides a framework for treating ourselves with respect. Not only our physical being through the practice of asana, intelligently enquiring into the causes of any aches or pains and practicing with a sense of constant self examination, but more subtly enquiring into the nature of our thoughts. Are our thoughts positive and helpful? Our meditation helps us to examine our mind and to calm and still the thoughts which in turn allows our hearts to open.
What brings joy to our hearts is simply love. You spend time with your partner who cares deeply for you, without asking anything of you, when you are in their presence you feel love. You come to the feet of the Master who is a channel for the teachings and you feel unconditional love. That love leads you to care for your own body and care for your thoughts and care for your heart. The practices are described to lead us in this direction. To help make our lives a manifestation of loving kindness. Not only because our lack of grasping possessions makes us less selfish and so more loving, less inclined to take what we want without regard for the happiness of others but also through enhancing our relationship with others. When we are peaceful and calm and we know our purpose in life we bring happiness to others, automatically, without trying, as a natural product of existence. And so also to our relationship with ourselves so that when we go to sleep at night our minds are at peace and our hearts content and happy.
Patanjali puts it very beautifully in one short sutra, Chapter 2 verse 42:
saṁtoṣād anuttamaḥ sukha lābhaḥ
From contentment there flows the most excellent happiness and delight.
This delight, this bliss or Ananda is the great gift bestowed on us by the teachings that come to us through the blessed souls that the Divinity choses to manifest the teachings
May we ever remember our beloved teachers with gratitude and appreciation.
May we find refuge at their lotus feet.
May we imbibe the essence of their message and realise it in this very lifetime itself.