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The Necessity of Introspection

By Sri Swami Chidananda Maharaj

From “Ponder these truths” by Swami Chidananda
Published by The Divine Life Society, 2001

Radiant Immortal Atman! Beloved and blessed children of the Divine! Scriptures and saints and those who have had their fingers burnt by running after the objects of the world continuously warn us to be cautious in our dealings with the sense-objects of this world. For these sense-objects are deceptive, they are endowed with a false glitter and an indescribable power of deluding the mind, attracting it, enmeshing it and then enslaving it. Lord Krishna warns in the Gita that they are sources of pain, not sources of happiness as we foolishly think when we run after them like a wild-goose-chase. Then, another verse tells us, “vishayan vishavat tyaja” (Shun sense-objects like poison).

So we try to be careful, and if sense-objects attract us, we say “No”. We will use our will-power, we will use our discrimination. We will try to look into the defects of these sense-objects and tell our mind, “O mind, do not be

deluded, do not be foolish; you will regret it afterwards.” So we want to resist temptations, we want strength. We pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We have been taught to beware of things surrounding us in this maya-bazaar; this world of maya.

It is possible to be in a state where these temptations and dangers do not exist. To the one who has no desire for sense-objects, they do not constitute a temptation. He or she may be surrounded by hundreds of sense-objects, but, nevertheless, one is not even aware of their existence; they mean nothing. For example, those in whose life the drinking of liquor has never been a factor are never tempted to drink liquor and get intoxicated. They do not run the danger of cirrhosis of the liver and all the other evils that the drinking of liquor can bring. To them liquor and water mean the same thing.

But then not only do you have to be cautious about things outside, but you also have to be aware and cautious about things right within you. For they can cause either happiness or misery, progress or downfall, spirituality or the opposite of it. They are called adhyatmika tapa (pain coming from within). They can torment you. They can make you suffer. Coming from within yourself, emanating from your own nature, uncontrolled, innumerable, countless desires torment the individual.

Desires make the mind restless until they are fulfilled. When they are fulfilled they make the craving still stronger. And if you cannot fulfill them by righteous means, you may take recourse to means that are not good, in accordance with dharma. You may tell lies, do something that is not correct. You may even do it by hook or by crook, fair means or foul.

These desires are not from outside you; they are from within yourself. They can even torment a secluded recluse living inside a cave in a forest. He may have hell inside that cave because of what is inside his head. Greed for things can destroy your peace, make you burn, cost you your sleep. Envy and jealousy can also eat into your vitals. No matter how much nourishing food you eat, you may be burning up and steadily losing weight.

People also suffer due to egoism, arrogance, exaggerated self-importance. If you feel that you are not getting the proper respect, or are being treated in a slipshod manner, you can be terribly upset, incensed for the whole day: “that person ignored me, or spoke to me in that way; this person did not pay me the respect I am due; they did not give me the right seat.” Because you feel you are important, these things can cause misery, sorrow and torment. They are not from outside, but are self-created, coming from within yourself.

Discretion being the better part of valour, it is usually possible to escape from things outside you or to be far away from them. You can master the external objects and say: “No, I will not let them interfere with my inner peace of mind.” You may be able to avoid them entirely. But how can you avoid things that emanate from within you? You cannot run away from yourself. So you have to realise that greater danger lies within yourself, more harm can be done to yourself by yourself than by all the objects of the external world put together. Hence you will have to engage yourself in an inner discipline, an inner transformation, an inner restoration of a right state of affairs within yourself.

Think about it. Then you will find that because the state of affairs within you is not right, you are caused much misery. You are made restless. You are at the mercy of these things which come from within. And if you are not able to clearly recognise their presence within you, or if they are vague and illusive, you cannot deal with them. You know that they are there when they manifest, but otherwise you do not know where they are hiding, in what form they are lurking in the depths of your mind. Unless you find out, it is not possible to deal with them. How can you deal with an unknown, unseen adversary? They have to be brought to the surface. They have to be cornered. You have to go after them.

That is why Guru Maharaj Swami Sivananda said: “Sit alone, turn your mind inward, introspect, do self-examination, try to find out what is within yourself, analyse the inner contents.” This is indispensable. Otherwise you will not know yourself. And you will be surprised, amazed and even dismayed by what things can come up within yourself when you sit for meditation, for example, or when you are moving about in society. You will discover things you never dreamt of, things you never suspected you are capable of. You can be such a stinker. You can be such a nasty person. Or, you can be dismayed by seeing within yourself qualities you cannot stand in others. Suddenly, you humbly experience, they are there, right within you. It is a chastening experience.

If you are honest with yourself, if you are wise and if you are keenly introspective and analytical, then these things can be found out. However, they are not found out in a day. One day’s introspection will reveal nothing. One week’s introspection will reveal nothing. They have been there for decades, from your birth, maybe from another birth. Therefore, you must be after this sadhana, this process of self – introspection, analysis, self examination.

If you practise this unrelentingly, with determination, if you persevere in this sadhana, you will be rewarded with a lot of knowledge, a lot of revelation about yourself. Then you are in a position to bring about the desired change, not otherwise. Until you know yourself, you cannot work upon yourself, you will not be able to turn brass into gold, to bring about the transformation that Yoga and sadhana are supposed to bring about, that Guru, mantra, japa, prayer, worship and bhajan are supposed to bring about. And they must bring it about, but only when they are accompanied by this type of honest self-examination, earnest introspection, sincere desire to find out, see, know yourself, to discover the inner contents of your mind.

It is this sadhana that makes the other forms of sadhana effective and fruitful. If you do it sincerely, then, day by day, you will become better and better. Your inside will be purer and purer. You will become a better person. This is the thing that Gurudev drew our special attention to. He also gave various practical methods to achieve this – introspection, self-analysis, spiritual diary.

So you have to be honest with yourself; not only honest with God and the rest of your fellow human beings, the world around you, but also honest with yourself. You have to be earnest and sincere. Then victory is yours. Then you will see yourself clearly, as you look into a mirror, a clean mirror. Then, with that knowledge you are better equipped to deal with yourself, to bring about the requisite change, the necessary transformation, and move towards divinity and godliness. May God bless you, and may the grace and benedictions of Gurudev enable you to be successful in this all-important inner sadhana!

Articles By Swami Chidananda:

  1. Swami Chidananda — The Peace Within
  2. Swami Chidananda — The Necessity Of Introspection
  3. Swami Chidananda — You Are What You Choose To Become
  4. Swami Chidananda — Make This A Perfect Day