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by Swami Rama

Book: Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Rama[This is an excerpt from Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Rama contained in the commentary of II:52-53. 1985.]

Discipline should be practiced on three levels: mind, action, and speech. The human being knows everything that he ought to know about how to live in the world and how to relate to others. He has been taught, for example, the importance of being kind and gentle. But one does not know how to put those principles into practice. The emphasis of this commentary is therefore on practice. As our gurudeva used to say, “Do not waste your time thinking and planning to follow the path. Decide and just follow.”

Spiritual sadhana requires the discipline of mind, action, and speech. Even preliminary discipline of mind, action, and speech can lead one to the experience of supernatural phenomena not ordinarily experienced by students who collect information but do not practice. Sometimes the great swamis, sages, and yogis who have practiced discipline speak with profound certainty, and whatever they say happens exactly as they said it would. They do not care to debate what the truth is; they simply say that when one practices non-lying, he speaks the truth. We have recorded many instances in which a sage has said something that seems impossible, yet it happens just as he said. By practicing samyama (discipline), one can perform such miracles. A miracle is a miracle only as long as one does not know how it came about; the moment that is known, it is no longer a miracle. If one wastes his power of speech indulging in useless discussions, talking nonsense, lying intentionally, hurting others through his speech, condemning others, or speaking against another’s religion, vak shakti (the power of words) does not find effective expression through his speech. But if one conserves his power of speech and does not lie, his speech will become so powerful that whatever he says will come to pass.

If one also disciplines his actions by not doing what is not to be done, he will find that he is doing his actions more efficiently and more accurately than before. The question may arise: How can one know what is not right? The answer is that one’s conscience already knows what is right and wrong, good and bad, helpful and unhelpful. One simply has to tune into his inner conscience, which guides him all the time. That is called seeking counsel within before performing action. It has already been explained that one already knows – he simply has to practice. In the course of practicing not doing that which is not to be done, one will find that he is being guided from within. Then he can learn to develop a dialogue with his conscience, which is not polluted by the fickleness and feebleness of the mind. Experimenting in this way leads one to understand that the real counselor is within each person.

The first and foremost duty of a true and selfless teacher is to introduce his student to the inner guide which leads one during the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. When one takes a few moments from his busy life and learns to sit calmly in a quiet place, the inner counselor begins counseling. It would be helpful if modern therapists and psychologists, as well as priests and spiritual teachers, would learn to listen to the inner counselor and then introduce that inner guide to their clients and students.

After practicing disciplined action and speech and studying their marvelous effects, one should learn to understand and practice mental discipline. When one does not allow his mind to think that which is negative and which makes him depressed and sad, his mind begins forming new habits of joy. Slowly he begins discriminating between helpful thoughts and those unhelpful thoughts that consume more human energy than anything else. This introspective (inspecting within) method leads one to the next step: witnessing. Here one learns to witness all that happens, both in external and internal worlds, without being involved with it. While one is still learning, he must be patient and not become disappointed if at times he fails to remain a witness but instead becomes emotionally caught up in what is taking place. In pursuing such a self-training program, one should make a commitment to himself for the sake of his growth that he will practice regularly and faithfully no matter what. This is not the same as following a commandment or a blind injunction. Many people are afraid to make commitments because they believe that by not making commitments they will be free, but lack of commitment is merely irresponsibility and does not bring about true freedom. When one is afraid to make a commitment, it is because he is fearful of accepting responsibility, but real freedom is attained only when one is no longer a slave of his emotions and mental life. To be responsible is to be strong. With the help of mental discipline, one’s internal organization can be arranged in a way that prevents emotional disturbances and physical maladies.

After understanding the importance of the discipline of mind, speech, and action and after practicing that discipline regularly for some time, one experiences certain extraordinary phenomena that are based on those realities that cannot be understood by the conscious mind. In each approach, whether it be prayer, meditation, or contemplation, discipline plays a role, like that of a father who protects his loving child with his tender arms and loving teachings.

Editor’s Note:

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