We are the infinite consciousness, and not this individual body and mind that we think are. This is not known to us. Even if we come to listen about the infinite nature of ourself from the great Masters, the circumstances and surroundings we face in life, filled with problems, will not allow us to remain in that knowledge and understanding. So there is a need to reaffirm this truth daily through the practice of contemplation.
The penultimate verse of Bhaja Govindam details our daily practice of life. This will facilitate our understanding of this truth. So says the Master: do these five things every day. They are Pranayama, Pratyahara, Nithya-Anithya Viveka Vichara, Japa and being in Samadhi Sthithi. How should they be done? Care. With great care. This is the Master’s word of caution.
Pranayama is the practice of cleansing our breath and through that process our thought process. It calls for deep inhalation and exhalation. Breath and mind have a close connection. If the flow of breath is erratic, the thoughts are erratic. If the breath is slow, smooth, long and deep, then the mind is also the same. Oxygenating the lungs also fills the brain with oxygen. When there is fresh air, the flow of thoughts are in tune with nature. When there is stagnant breathing, the thoughts also have the same quality.
Pratyahara is to withdraw the rays of the mind from its routine rumblings in the tracks of the worldly thoughts and help concentrate in performing one’s own duties. Whenever the sense organs perceive something, a train of thoughts are set in motion that takes our gaze out from our self. When we focus on our highest work of bringing the mind to our own true self, it becomes withdrawn and quiet.
Why should these things be practiced? They are not to simply improve our good health and increase concentration. That concentrated force of mind must be employed conscientiously in contemplation. What is the subject of contemplation? In each living as well as non-living being, there is something eternal. That eternal aspect is called Existence. It is. The computer is, the newspaper is, the house is, the tree is, you are, I am, the animals are, the plants are, the mountains are, the rivers and oceans are.
This aspect of being is called existence and it is the lowest common denominator of all that we see and are. This has to be contemplated upon every day. All that is non-existent are our thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, reactions. These have a temporary and fleeting existence, which should be negated.
Constant repetition of one high thought, message or word is called Japa. This is a necessary daily practice to quieten the mind and engage it to realise the truth. All this have to be done with care. Not just care, but great care—under the guidance of a Master. Any selfish interests in these activities mentioned can set the game of life rolling downwards to our own destruction. That is the reason why great care is insisted upon.