Awakening the Conscience
By Swami Rama
You will have to practice for a long time. "Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan nirodhah." Practice means repetition of the same thing again and again and again to form a strong habit. Habits are motivation in life. If you do not have determination to attain that which should be attained, if you are not constantly aware of the Reality, how can you practice? You will feel lazy and you will not be able to sit in meditation.
There is one alarm in your system, something coming from within that guides all the time. There is one teacher within that you call your conscience. Whenever you want to do something that should not be done, immediately from inside something says, "Don’t do that." It silently says "no." It is not a part of mind. Rather it is your conscience that is telling your mind, whispering to your mind. You have been avoiding that. Habit patterns are so strong that the voice of silence, the voice of the conscience, is not heard. You do not need anyone from outside to tell you what not to do. You know that you should not lie; yet you lie. Once mind listens to these secret whispers, then you are introduced to the real teacher within, your own conscience. All teachings are meant for that day when you start listening to your conscience. It does not mean that you should not listen to the external teacher who is teaching you. Your teacher is trying to make you aware that there is something within you, a teacher within, who is a great friend. No matter who you are, your conscience is always there. If you learn to listen to the voice of the conscience, you can transform your whole personality. That conscience knows everything. No book can teach you; no teacher can teach you. Conscience knows and knows that it knows. Even when you go to a teacher to ask something, you draw your own conclusions and follow your conscience.
But you do not always listen to the teachings of your conscience. In fact, you are constantly killing your conscience. According to the great books of wisdom, the greatest sin of all is to kill your conscience. After some time your conscience stops talking to you because you do not listen to it. You have ignored your conscience so much that it has become silent. It continues to witness your actions but does not say anything. Learn to listen to your conscience. Most of the time you are confused by your mind. Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you and pretends to be your conscience. Mind says, "I can steal some of his money. Nobody is watching me. Why does he need to have millions of dollars? If I steal only one hundred thousand dollars, so what?"
Mind is different from conscience. Your conscience always wants to help you to improve yourself and unfold your inner being. Mind always tries to persuade you not to practice. You know that it is not good for you to avoid your practice, and yet the mind says, "Come on. Postpone it until tomorrow." Postponement is the nature of the mind. Some students do their practice for some time and then they leave it. After some time, they start doing it again. Then they say, "Okay. Let us vacation for some time, honey. Let us not do any practice." Again they start practicing. I call those who postpone enlightenment indefinitely fourth-class students.
Mind always leads you toward your habits, your senses, and sense objects. Perhaps you like to eat fish, but the doctor has said not to take it. The doctor’s advice has been heard by your conscience. Your mind does not want to hear it and does not care for doctors. "There are many doctors. Why should I listen to them? Let me have some fish today. Nothing is going to happen to me." Your conscience speaks to you all the time. Conscience is like a mirror that shows you your face exactly as it is. When you look at yourself in the mirror, the mirror does not create anything for you. It is like a thermometer that registers heat and cold. It tells you who you are, what you are, and what you should be. Whenever you want to do something, your conscience says, "Do not do this. It is not good. But your mind says, No. Let me do it."
Conscience cannot be false. It never misguides from the very beginning. Even a bad man who is considered to be the worst person in society is not misguided by his conscience. But you fail to listen to your conscience, and ignore your conscience because of bad habits. When your conscience becomes dim, your reason does not function properly and it misguides you. When reason misguides, the mind cannot function and becomes crazy. All your actions and speech are disoriented and you cannot function properly. Perhaps you are doing something and suddenly a distressing thought intrudes. You are temporarily distracted and then you come back. Then, another thought comes and you go another way. You misuse the time and opportunity you have of being a human being. You have all the potentials and all the means but you misuse them. I always ask my students to listen to their conscience when they feel weak in the beginning. The first few days they start to condemn themselves. I say, "This is not the way. There is a wonderful part of you; there is something beautiful in you; there is something very special in you. Why do you not try to see that thing?" Practice means to awaken the conscience, to allow the conscience to speak to you. When your conscience awakens it says, "Look, do not repeat that again and again and again." By repetition you have formed a strong habit. Your conscience and that habit fight constantly. Your habit wins and conscience loses. After some time, conscience stops talking to you. Conscience tells you things all the time and conscience knows, but you do not know your conscience. The voice of your mind is very loud. The voice of the conscience comes from silence. The first step of enlightenment is to follow the conscience and not the mind. At the highest level of consciousness, conscience becomes brilliant.
Anybody who has started listening to the conscience is very close to the Reality. Your conscience is within you. It is not an external friend. All your external friends amuse you. A friend within is real company. You say, "Two’s company and three’s a crowd." When you and your conscience are there, there are two and they are real company. When the mind, the third, comes, then it becomes a crowd.
When you start practicing you will stumble many times. I have stumbled many times, even despite having a great force behind me—my master, several other sages, and the grace of God. I had a fire within so that no matter how many times I stumbled I would get up again. I did not give up. You give up too soon. You close your eyes and if you do not see anything in meditation, you say, "My method is not good. My mantra is not good." You go on collecting mantras. You do not do meditation but you have a long collection of mantras. You have wasted so much money, and you have not done any real meditation. In abhyasa and meditation, on this path of enlightenment, you have to be very patient and strong and persistent. When a child stumbles, she gets up again because she wants to walk. It is her right to walk. It is your right to walk on the path and finally reach the goal. Do not postpone it for the next lifetime. Do it here and now, in this lifetime. You do not attain anything overnight; you will stumble many times like a child stumbles when she starts learning to walk. When you practice you will experience, and when you experience you will find that conscience is strengthened and guides you again and again.
Out of curiosity you always want to learn something new. When you learn something that you did not know you say, "This is a wonderful thing that I have learned." You do not want to practice what you already know. The truth is you will not acquire any knowledge in your life that you have not already acquired in your childhood. You already have the basic principles, the guidelines, and the foundation of your knowledge, but you do not practice. To practice it is not necessary to create a rigid discipline. You should just observe and understand how to use the knowledge that you have.
Gradually you can practice. Technique alone does not help. The basic principles needed are sincerity, faithfulness, truthfulness, and punctuality. Even if you know the technique of throwing something at the target, if you do not practice, it will hit somewhere else. Practice is necessary and practice makes perfect. Slowly increase your limit. Do not force yourself to sit for two hours one day, and then do no practice at all for a week. That should not be the way. It is said that a first-class student can attain this state of mind in three months’ time, while conducting all his duties, a second-class student in six months, and a third-class student in three years. A fourth-class student can never attain. If you regularly practice and watch your practice and the condition of your mind, you can do it. The question is how much importance you give to your practice. How much anxiety do you have for your practice or for other things? What is important in your life? Do you really want to transform your personality and improve yourself, or do you only want to improve your conditions? If you do not improve yourself, your conditions and your environment will never be improved. It is better to improve yourself so that your conditions and environment do not become malignant to you. To improve your conditions, first learn to understand your essential nature by understanding the various levels of your being and by developing control over mind and its modifications.
There are various paths to the same mountaintop, but there is only one realization. There are various ways and methods to attain that. The path of action or the path of the world is as perfect as the path of renunciation. In the path of action you learn not to be attached and perform your duties. In the path of renunciation you learn to renounce all that you think is yours and to devote all your time and energy toward Self-realization with a one-pointed mind. It is a very difficult path. It is rare to be a renunciate. Only a fortunate few can truly walk on the razor’s edge of the path of renunciation. It is a very sharp and very narrow path. It is easier and more common to be in the world, to live in the world, and yet remain above. There is no difference at all. Do not condemn yourself because you are in the world, or think that you cannot do anything. Learn to discipline yourself; learn to organize yourself; learn to understand your resources; learn to know your inner potentials; and learn to make a schedule for life. "This is my aim and I have to attain this. All my resources should be applied for attaining the aim of life."
The way of adjustment leads you to contentment. The way of adjustment is the way of the world—the way of action, the way of karma. You learn how to function in the external world. You understand that you are a citizen of two worlds—the world within yourself and the world outside, and you learn to create a bridge between these two worlds. You have not to be lost in the world, yet you have to unfold yourself to that extent where you can realize your real Self. You no longer identify with the objects of the world or with your mind. You learn to understand life as it is with all its currents and cross currents. You understand how to live in the external world and how to compose yourself so that you remain with your center all the time.
Most people follow the path of action. They live in the world, which is full of charms, temptations, and attractions, and they are constantly blasted by the opinions of others. Someone says you are good and someone else says you are bad. There are two extremes. To constantly be tossed by the suggestions of the world so that you spend all your time executing the opinions of others is dangerous. Likewise, you can isolate yourself and say, "Now I don’t want to listen to the world because my whole life I have listened to the world. I am not going to listen anymore." This might lead toward egocentricity or cripple your process of growth. You have to evaluate the opinions of all if you live in the world. Are you being selfish when you are not listening to others? Is the other person selfish? If he is not selfish, listen to him. If someone is selfless and loves you and says, “These days you seem to be isolating yourself,” listen to that person. If you say you don’t want to listen to anybody, it is not possible. How can you live in this world? You can do it not through the help of samnyasa, but with the help of vairagya.
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