The human mind is the real wonder of the world, but its normal processes, however erudite and versatile, fail to yield lasting satisfaction, nor do they shed light on life’s ultimate meaning and purpose. The self-training prescribed by the yoga of self-knowledge rectifies this omission. Through the practices and way of life revealed by this higher yoga, we are enabled to bring about a transformation of our inner life that leads to lasting fulfilment.
The inner changes brought about by practices like meditation may initially seem modest, or even imperceptible, but with perseverance signs of an advance begin to manifest. These include an increased awareness of our thoughts and feelings, and the awakening of a capacity to direct them in an ongoing and purposeful way. We discover that it is possible to stand back from the mind, instead of being wholly enmeshed in its conditions. This is a great freedom, because human misery owes much to our sense of identification with discouraging thoughts and emotions, whereas peace and joy are found in dis-identification.
If we are not identified with the mind, what are we identified with? It is the consciousness which witnesses the thoughts. This consciousness never darkens; its light reveals all the thoughts. As it is constant, it is called our true Self, in contrast to the inconstancy of the mind’s modifications. To gain insight into the nature of our conscious Self is worthwhile, because this quest reveals Self as established in a tranquil joy that is entirely free from limitations.
This development calls for a measure of self-control and concentration—a commitment that is true for all life’s progressive activities, and is the basis of social stability. Consider the flow of traffic on a motorway. Vehicles race past, probably more than a hundred each minute. Manoeuvring at high speeds in close proximity, these elaborate machines are powered by burning fuel. On grounds of reason alone, this would seem to be a highly dangerous situation. Yet these vehicles and their drivers generally manage to reach their destinations without a disastrous crash or pile-up. How has this degree of safety been achieved, so that it is the norm? Through training, control and an authoritative code of conduct based on best practice.
Our minds, too, functioning in the world, are ever at risk from sudden upsets, prompted by unforeseen turns of events. Sometimes there are people-crashes, by accident or design. But psychologically, we too benefit from training, control and authoritative guidelines, and these crucial facilities are provided by the teachings of the illumined sages. Such teachings are based on a deeper view of human nature and a higher application of the human mind.
Another simple example may help to clarify our position and the opportunity that is available to us. We may have noticed how sandbags are used to weigh down items like temporary traffic signs. This is a perfectly appropriate use for these bags full of sand. But suppose the bags were filled, not with sand, but with gold coins. Would they still be used as outdoor props or weights? More likely, the gold would be handled with immense care, and invested in a way that builds on its true value.
To devote the precious faculties of our mind to purely secular ends is to undervalue what we truly are. Our real inner worth is comparable to the gold, not the sand. And the highest use of our mental endowment is to seek to control the undirected and wasteful surface activity of the mind, and render it tranquil and transparent. It is in that inward clarity that we will understand that our higher destiny is to discover the infinitude, perfection and bliss that is the very nature of our true Self.