Key to Happiness and Peace
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), the ideas of heat and cold, pleasure and pain, are produced by the contacts of the senses with their objects. Such ideas are limited by a beginning and an end. They are transitory, O Descendent of Bharata (Arjuna); bear them with patience!
— The Bhagavad Gita II:14
The sense organs are reactively sensitive; their nature is to respond pleasurably or painfully to stimuli. They have been conditioned to have strong likes and dislikes; thus, liking produces enjoyment, and disliking causes repulsion, or pain. The sense impressions flow through the tunnel of fine nerve-points, using the life force and mind as the rivers to carry them along. When good and bad, or hot and cold, material objects contact the sensitive sense organs, the result is pleasure and pain, or heat and cold. These resultant sensations are transitory, fickle, evanescent. They come and go; man should bear them with patience, with mental evenness (titiksha).
An environment-enslaved body is a constant trouble to the mind, holding in bondage the potentially all-powerful mental faculties.
Man experiences sensations as the feelings produced by the contact of the senses with matter. A sensation or first-flowing feeling produced in the mind is elaborated initially as a perception. It is then expanded into conception by the action of the intelligence. And lastly, the conception changes into feeling, the faculty that passes judgment on the experience in terms of pain or pleasure of the body, sorrow or happiness of the mind, according to habitual attitudes of likes and dislikes. Therefore, the masters teach, if feeling can be neutralized— made impervious to transitory dualities of heat and cold, pleasure and pain—then all experiences will be merely intellectually cognized, ideas to be properly acted upon. (p.200)
O Flower among Men (Arjuna)! he who cannot be ruffled by these (contacts of the senses with their objects), who is calm and evenminded during pain and pleasure, he alone is fit to attain everlastingness!
— The Bhagavad Gita II:15
The basic principle of creation is duality. If one knows pleasure he must know pain. One who cognizes heat must cognize cold also. If creation had manifested only heat or only cold, only sorrow or only pleasure, human beings would not be the irritated victims of the pranks of duality. But then, what would life be like in a monotone existence? Some contrast is necessary; it is man's response to dualities that causes his trouble. So long as one is slavishly influenced by the dualities, he lives under the domination of the changeful phenomenal world.
Man's egoistic feelings, expressing as likes and dislikes, are entirely responsible for the bondage of the soul to the body and earthly environment. His cognizing intelligence is a mere registrar of experiences, in a disinterested, academic way; it records the events of a dear one's death or the birth of one's child alike in the same honest, prosaic manner. Whereas intelligence simply informs human consciousness about its loss of a dear friend, feeling marks and classifies this experience as distinctly painful. Likewise, the birth of a baby, cognized by an interested human consciousness, is classified by feeling as a distinctly pleasurable experience.
These psychological twins, man's feelings of pleasure and sorrow, have a common father: they spring from desire. Fulfilled desire is pleasure and contradicted desire is pain or sorrow. They are inseparable: Just as night inevitably follows day as the earth revolves on its axis, so pleasure and pain revolve on the axis of desire—the one ever alternating with the other.
Desire is produced by indiscriminate contact with the objects of the senses. Expressing as the likes and dislikes of the ego, desire creeps into the consciousness of one who is not watchful enough in governing the reaction of his feelings to his various experiences in the world. It is a condition the ego imposes on itself, and is therefore detrimental to man's evenmindedness. Whatever has its origin in desire is a disturbing element, for desires are like stones pelted into the calm lake of consciousness. Attachment to pleasure or aversion to pain both destroy the equilibrium of the inner nature.
Recognizing the inseparability of the opposites, the masters of India deem that even pleasures, being temporary, are harbingers of pain. Pleasure that comes like a brief straw-fire to illumine a dark heart with a message of joy and then suddenly dies down only deepens the original sorrow. This is why
the Gita teaches that the excitation of pleasures should be avoided as avidly as one seeks to avoid
the unpleasantness of pain.
Only when feeling is neutralized toward both opposites does one rise above all suffering. It is very difficult, indeed, to hurt an ever-smiling wise man. (p.204)
Evenmindedness: key to happiness and peace
In order to attain mental aboveness, man must practice a neutral attitude to all earthly changes. ...
The saints have found that happiness lies in a constant mental state of unruffled peace
during all the experiences of earthly dualities.
A changeable mind perceives a changeable creation, and is easily disturbed; the unchangeable soul and the unruffled mind, on the other hand, behold, behind the masks of change, the Eternal Spirit. The man whose mind is like an oscillating mirror beholds all creation as distorted into waves of change; but the man who holds his mental mirror steady beholds there naught but the reflections of the Sole Unity—God. Through realization, not mere imagination, he sees that his body and all things are the condensed consciousness of Spirit. The mind, free of artificial excitation, remains centered in its native state of inner peace and soul joy. ...
When by guru-given techniques the yogi withdraws his attention and life force from the muscles and heart, and plies his boat of meditation over the river of spinal electricity, he finds (like Ulysses of old) that the sirens of sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight take many forms and try to lure him toward dangerous waters. If the mind is impressed by these subde sense promises, the soul-boat of meditation enters a whirlpool of ignorance. The sincere devotee, however, finds that this lure of the senses does not last long; it soon wears off. These "sense sirens" are only the last vestiges of prenatal tendencies, long ingrained in the brain.
The devotee should ignore all astral and mental impediments and keep his mind riveted to the pinpoint of luminous light in the center of the spiritual eye, perceived between the two eyebrows during deep meditation. The devotee thus reaches the celestial land of permanency; never again is he thrown back into a whirlpool of reincarnations and misery! (p.205)