-Acharya Mahapragya, Dec 7, 2007, 12.01am IST
Why is it believed that spiritual practice is possible only within traditionally accepted limits and not outside them?
Meditation, observance of silence and physical relaxation are indeed spiritual practices but are speaking, eating, drinking, sitting and standing not spiritual practices?
The following story illustrates this point: Once two kings went hunting, riding their own chariots. One chariot got burnt down, while the horse pulling the other chariot died. Both kings were stranded. But they worked it out. One gave his chariot and the other his horse, and the two were able to return to town. This is called Dagdhashvarath.
The same is true of spiritual practice. In a fragmented or partial form it does not bring liberation. The integrity of spiritual practice is questioned by those who insist that it is possible only in a particular place, at a particular time and through a particular activity and not otherwise. One of the incongruities of life is spending two hours in spiritual practice and the remaining 22 hours in non-spiritual pursuits.
Anuvrat — giving up anything beyond the "I" — implies that there be no incongruity in life from the time one wakes up in the morning till one goes to bed, and there be uniformity of spiritual practice at all times of day and night.
Anuvrat manifests the nature of spiritual practice. In Sanskrit grammar, the word veepsa is used which means Vyaptumichcha, the desire to permeate or extend. In veepsa, saying the same word twice or four times is not considered a fault. It is in this sense (of veepsa) that the words 'spiritual practice' have been appended to anuvrat.
Meditation and yoga are necessary but by themselves they do not constitute spiritual practice. You need to remain spiritually alert in whatever you do throughout the day. A man who stayed in our camp recently was very religious.
Earlier, with great faith he would practise meditation and silence for four to five hours daily. But he was indifferent to good behaviour. As a result his family members were angry with him. His behaviour made them shun religion.
A man cannot be religious if his practice turns others away from it. Slowly, though, in the camp, his ideas got transformed. And so too, his life. As soon as he became alert about the connection spirituality had with all activity, he began to infuse everything he did with spiritual insight. All around him became happy.
It is pointless to believe in the possibility of doing meditation if your life is devoid of humane behaviour, if your ideas lack clarity and if you have rigid beliefs. It is a different matter if spiritual practice is viewed in a partial and fragmented manner. Fasting, meditation and observance of silence are means.
The success of spiritual practice will be in proportion to the diminution of distance between means and ends. A sthitpragya — person gifted with unshakable mental equilibrium — discourses on various themes throughout the day, yet he is in reality silent. Remaining silent in anger is not really silence. If it is, then even a heron can be called a meditator. Under this very illusion a sulking son went and sat down in a corner. He refused to eat. He was angry.Should we call it fasting? Spiritual practice is neither in not doing something, nor in doing something. It lies in inner awakening, no matter whether it is accompanied by activity or inactivity