The Guru in Tattva Bodha outlines the qualities of a fit disciple in four parts of Viveka—right discrimination; Vairagya (dispassion to what is not real); the six qualities of quietude of mind (control of senses, minding one’s own duties, patient forbearance, faith in the words of the scriptures, faith in the master who expounds them and a mind established in that reality all the time) and an intense desire to be liberated.
The scriptures have such a slicing logic and clarity to them that it gives tremendous joy to study them when we realise how it has been written with not a word wasted, not a sequence amiss, and nothing said to hurt anyone. Particularly in contrast is the voluminous literature of modern times, which evokes a multitude of emotions, has grandiose meaningless expressions and leaves the reader confused and pointless in the end. When the student has these four qualities, then the mind becomes steady and fit to discriminate between what is real and what is unreal, concludes the Master. Having said that, the next line goes on to say—what is discrimination of the essence? Every tiny word is explained clearly so the logic is unfailing throughout the journey.
Discrimination here is not the modern day context; we popularly understand of discriminating between people, religions, races and colours. Discrimination means here to simply separate between two things and accept what is right and reject what is not. What is this discrimination that needs to be done? There are many types of differences we can make—between people, qualities, good and bad, rich and poor, high and low, cheerful and dull.
There is, however, only one discrimination that is spoken of here—the discrimination between what is I and what is not I. The common word that you and I use for I is called Atma in Sanskrit. The constant discrimination called for by the Masters at all times is between two thoughts. One is the I thought, which springs the first every day we get up in the morning and the other is every other thought that is other than I.
Adi Shankaracharyaji, in the Bhaja Govindam, calls for a daily discipline in our life to do Pranayama, or filling up our nervous centres and thinking faculty with fresh oxygen; Pratyahara or withdrawing the mind from all other thoughts; and Nithya Anithya Viveka Vicharam or discriminating every day, every moment between what is eternal and what is fleeting.
This discrimination between who I am and who I am not is what is called for every right thinking seeker. The teacher leaves no scope for any confusion as he describes what is I and what all is not I.