Improving Our Behavior with the Help of the Guru Part 5

Part 5 of 7 - Continuing Bodhinatha's first Guru Purnima class on the role of the guru and his task of helping us improve our behavior, Bodhinatha tells us that "If you were perfect you wouldn't have been born in the first place." In other words, we all have human weaknesses and we can't condemn ourselves for being imperfect. When we make a mistake, rather than reacting with "I shouldn't have done it," make the resolve "I shouldn't do it again." Here we begin to take a look at controlling anger. Gurudeva gives us many tools for this important restraining of the instinctive nature. The first is color, the visualization of light blue flooding our aura.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

Quite often, when someone emails in disappointed in their behavior, shall we say for one reason or another, I have a standard answer which is, "If you were perfect, you would not have been born in the first place."

None of us are perfect. Otherwise, why would we have been born? We would be perfect, everything would be worked out. So the fact that we are born means we are not perfect. All of us have human weaknesses. These weaknesses differ but we all have them. So we cannot condemn ourselves for being imperfect, that misses the point.

There is another way of saying it. When we make a mistake, the same state of mind comes up where we, kind of, blame ourselves, feel bad about ourselves and say, "I should not have done it." That is a common first reaction. "I should not have done it." But you did it. So, obviously you should have done it. Meaning, that is who you are. Right?

It is kind of self-defeating to say, "I should not have done it," because:

1. It makes you feel negative and

2. It is missing the point. You are who you are and it is helpful to know who we are, not feel we should be someone else.

So I say, rather than saying, "I should not have done it," say, "I should not do it again." Now that is putting the emphasis where it belongs. We are not perfect, we have weaknesses. We do something we regret.

Well, the goal when we are living a spiritual life is to be self-reflective enough to say, "I should not do it again, " and to take clear steps. Try and figure out, "How can I prevent myself from doing this again? What do I need to do?" That is a much better way of looking at it.

This whole area - I am thinking of calling it, 'Becoming a more spiritual person' - I am giving it a name, I don't quite have a name for it right now. 'Good Conduct', but that misses the point. We are all on the spiritual path. We are trying to make spiritual progress. How can we really become a more spiritual person every year? That is what Hinduism is all about - becoming a more spiritual person.

So in these exercises today, we are looking at the yamas, which have to do with restraining the tendencies of the instinctive mind. One way we become a more spiritual person is gaining control over the tendencies of our instinctive mind. The instinctive mind comes along with having a physical body. If we didn't have a physical body, we would not have an instinctive mind but it comes along with it. You can't get one without the other, it is a package deal. If you want to be here on Earth to unfold spiritually, you have to work through the animal instincts that come along with the physical body and gain better control over them.

This is going to be part of our study program on the India Innersearch too. We are going to focus on this in our classes, in terms of how to affectively become a more spiritual person. Because Gurudeva is one of the few teachers, maybe the only teacher really, to bring it down to earth in such a practical way. You know it is easy to talk high philosophy in Hinduism. "Man is God. We are divine.", and so forth. It is easy to say profound things but to bring things down to the level where we actually progress and really are a more spiritual person this year than we were a year ago.

Now that is part of Gurudeva's genius. He gives us these very pragmatic guidelines along with the high philosophy and in the process keeps us feeling good about ourselves. We don't take the approach that we have all these weaknesses and therefore man is weak and sinful or something. That is not the point. Man is a divine being, meaning man is the soul or spiritual being. But we also have these other qualities that come along with being a person. We have instincts. We have an intellect. We have an ego and we need to get them all in good shape so that our soul, our spiritual nature dominates over all.

Moving on, see if we need this. This is just a story, stories are always nice.

This is some advise I gave on email quite some time ago: "Thank you for sharing the details regarding your sometimes angry encounters with your parent. I would suggest you reflect on the seriousness of inharmony in the home. It is taking a few steps backward in spiritual progress. When you do sadhana you move forward, but if anger occurs regularly you step backward and as a result you could end up standing still."

That is part of the point here. How do we make spiritual progress from year to year? Well, we don't want to stand still by being spiritual and being angry.

"By being spiritual and being angry, we can absolutely stand still, if we don't improve a tendency like that. It is like trying to save money for a purpose. You save each week but then becoming angry is like spending what is saved for the last month. It is difficult to make the financial goal. Taking it more seriously, you are motivated to avoid it at all cost."

Moving on. Understanding anger is the first idea. Second idea is identifying in ourselves what kinds of anger we tend to experience, if any. The third but important step is controlling anger. Gurudeva gives us tools to control the instincts. He just does not tell us about them. But he gives us some very pragmatic tools.

What do we do to control our anger?

The first step in controlling anger is to admit that it is a serious deviation from the spiritual path, something that we do not want to live with.

Lots of people won't do that, it is amazing! Try and convince someone that anger is a serious deviation from the spiritual path, unwilling to accept that idea and keep getting angry. Unless you admit anger is something that cannot be tolerated to make spiritual progress, you won't make any progress. So we have to commit to that understanding. It is like an alcoholic or something, saying, "I am an alcoholic." If you don't admit it and that it is a problem, you cannot improve. Similarly here. If you are unwilling to admit that anger is a problem, you won't improve. I definitely know people like that.

With this resolve firmly in mind, then we can take the second step which is to apply remedies to correct the situation. First, we will look at some general ones. That is to say, ones that are applicable to all situations. Then we will look at a few remedies for specific situations.

Gurudeva gives us in 'Merging with Siva' the powerful tool of Color Visualization as a remedy to anger.

We are going to practice this. So listen closely. We are going to sit for five minutes doing this. He is describing what the colors look like. You can see the colors inside someone. It is called the aura. The outer aura reflects our current state of mind and the inner aura reflects problems from the past. The outer aura changes color as our states of mind change. The idea is, it works both ways. As our state of mind changes, the color changes. We can do it the other way around. We can change the color and that changes our state of mind. So we can work it backwards. That is the idea of Color Visualization. Change our state of mind by changing the colors of our outer aura.

"If you are overtaken by anger and resentment, the aura is blackish red with streaks of yellow. Visualize light blue entering your aura and surrounding your body. The light blue will neutralize the fiery reds and before you know it, the anger and resentment are gone. Visualizing the light blue color, actually drew your awareness out of certain areas of the instinctive mind into intuitive states. Instead of anger, you experienced compassion and understanding. By making this part of your sadhana, you have acquired a fine new tool to cope with your instinctive, intellectual emotions and mental states. At first, there will be times the anger is too strong to control but persistent practice of this color visualization will lead eventually to being able to overcome anger, no matter how strong it is. You do not have to exert much effort to do this. You need only relax and hold a clear mental picture of the desired colors.

Visualize the color light blue and project it out from the center of your spine into your inner and outer aura."

So, that is the key there. How do we do this? Visualize the color light blue and project it out from the center of your spine into your inner and outer aura. That means, we make a visualization. We pretend we see light blue starting at our spine and just flooding our physical body and then going out even further than our physical body, going out around it.

Let us try that for five minutes.