In this past Saturday’s Lessons and Questions, I read aloud a passage from Devatma Shakti by Swami Vishnu Tirtha in which he lays out two ways of using the mind when addressing a problem:
In the first case it grapples with a problem, sticks to it and follows the details by steps in logical sequence, and finds the conclusion, but in the second case it gathers all possible data necessary for the enquiry and instead of considering them logically step by step as in the previous case, relaxes itself to abstractedness. The steady abstractedness of mind for a time brings from within a flash of intuitive light supplying the required knowledge … In other words a person must first learn how to throw the mind into vacantness and keep it steady there in a continued vacant mood for sufficient length of time … When mind is compressed to concentration, on relaxation it tends to abstractedness, but the initial attent governs its motive power and the resultant line of motion … As a coiled up spring on relaxation shoots up with a force in the opposite direction, so a mind when relaxed after concentration springs up with a force in the direction of its initial attention. Therefore when mind is directed inward subjectively, it shoots up with the impetus gained through concentration to revert to its cause.
Swami Vishnu Tirtha says that the second form has more value. This is clear, because in the first way of operating we follow the “logical” steps we have always followed, so we come to the same unhelpful conclusions. With the second way of operating, we vacate our systems in favor of stillness, which allows the solution we need to arise into our consciousness from a level we may not understand.
This is very different from “going with our gut” or “operating on instinct” or even what most people call “intuition”, all of which can bring about impulsivity without any discernment; instead, it is a willingness to open inward consciously and let consciousness inform our manifestation. For many people, proceeding from here would not look rational or make any sense, but in truth the first way only uses the most elemental and distorted aspects of our intellect. The second way allows us to come up with solutions we never would have thought of. Even great mathematicians and scholars have used the second approach to solve challenging problems.
Some people can operate in the second manner but do it more or less unconsciously; it’s a gift, and they don’t understand or question it. It is far better to use the second approach consciously, so we are able to choose to use it in all we do.
What the passage from Devatma Shakti makes clear is how spirituality has nothing to do with our outward manifestations and everything to do with where we live within ourselves, and the extent to which we manifest from where we live. The deeper we come from within ourselves, the closer we are to the source and ground of All. I often compare this to wells: the deeper we go into an individual well, the closer we draw to the groundwater that links all wells. Then, when we meet other people or confront situations, we meet them from that groundwater, not from the superficial, weather-beaten wellhead that only separates and isolates.
In order to go deeper, we have to be willing to be with our experience, let whatever comes up from that experience come up, and function appropriately in the world. To use Swami Vishnu Tirtha’s metaphor, we must at every moment coil and tense the spring of our attention and direct it inward toward the source of our vibrations, so that when we let go it moves deeper and informs all that follows. That letting go also allows us to accept whatever vibrations come up. As we go inward, we move from tamas to rajas to sattva; our intellect then becomes more pure and able to discern without attachment, so we can function appropriately.
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