Yama number 6 - dhriti, steadfastness. Willpower has to be used to be steadfast. Overcoming fear, and perseverance, are steadfastness. Gurudeva said, "consistency is the key to the conquest of karma." Dhriti is also important to progressing on the spiritual path. A clear purpose and plan is also important before persistence will work.
Back to our Yamas. Working on the Yamas, as you remember we did Patience, last time. A couple of weeks ago? More than a couple of weeks ago, we had Sadhu Paksha. Couple of months ago, we did Yama #5. So today, we are up to Yama #6 - Steadfastness, Dhriti.
The #6 Yama is - Dhriti, Steadfastness, overcoming non-perseverance, fear, indecision and changeableness. Gurudeva begins his 'Living with Siva' lesson by stressing that the success of steadfastness depends on willpower.
"To be steadfast you have to use your willpower. Willpower is developed easily in a person who has an adequate memory and good reasoning faculties. To be steadfast as we go through life, we must have a purpose, a plan, persistence and push. Then nothing is impossible within the circumference of our prarabdha karma. Observe those who are steadfast. You will learn from them. Observe those who are not, and they, too, will teach you. They will teach what you should not do. To be indecisive and changeable is not how we should be on the path to enlightenment, nor to be successful in any other pursuit. Non-perseverance and fear must be overcome and much effort is required to accomplish this."
The Tirukural has a chapter on this subject, entitled 'Perseverance', Chapter 62. Verse 612, gives a useful perspective on the importance of Perseverance.
"Beware of leaving any work undone, remembering that the world abandons those who abandon their work unfinished."
The Tirukural chapter states that perseverance creates prosperity, the ability to overcome misfortune and to be generous and charitable. It also states that the lack of perseverance brings shame, abandonment and misfortune.
One of Gurudeva's own Mahavakyam applies here as well. "Consistency is the key to the conquest of karma."
All of the Yamas are for the purpose of harnessing tendencies of our instinctive nature. The common example given is driving a wagon pulled by a team of horses. Without reins the driver would lose control, the horses would run wild and eventually the wagon would overturn. The reins that control the horses are like the Yamas that control the instinctive mind. We, the driver, can successfully control the instinctive mind through always utilizing the Yamas.
In the case of steadfastness, the instinctive quality we are harnessing is the tendency not to stick to what we start. We are consistently creating a new plan, working at it for a short while and then abandoning it and creating a new plan again.
Here is an example. We suffer from chronic back pain. We go to a physiotherapist and he gives us some exercise to do. We do them for one month and then stop. A few months later, we go to an Ayurvedic Doctor for the same back pain and he suggests some herbs. We manage to take these for two months before stopping. Six months later, we go to another physician and he suggests a still different remedy. You get the idea! Of course, the man still has the back pain. No progress has been made due to lack of steadfastness.
This happens in Hinduism as well. We visit one swami and he suggests we chant a mantra. We do this for a few months and stop. We visit another swami, a year later and he suggests meditating on the inner light. We do this for a while and stop. This, of course, produces no tangible progress in our spiritual life due to lack of perseverance.
Let us look now at some of the reasons for non-perseverance.
A common reason for not preserving with an undertaking is that the original decision was an emotional whim rather than a well-thought-through plan.
Here is an example. We have lunch with a colleague at work who shares with us how he purchased a second home and is renting it out and earning excellent extra income, enough to take his family on pilgrimage to India last month. You think this idea is great. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to take your family on pilgrimage to India as well! You immediately purchase a second home and rent it out. After a year, you realize the price you paid was too high and you are earning less than the cost of the home. The enterprise is actually lowering your savings for the pilgrimage rather than increasing it. Therefore, you have to sell the house and incur a loss.
What went wrong? The initial decision was flawed. It was based on a passing emotion rather than a well-conceived plan. This problem can be avoided by taking time to make decisions, carefully gather all the facts. Talk in person to others who are successful at the enterprise. Share all this information with family and friends. Pray to Lord Ganesha for guidance. Put all this information in a detailed plan and ask for your preceptor's blessings on the plan.
There is also a sutra from Gurudeva that is quite related. "Siva's devotees approach each enterprise with deliberate thoughtfulness and act only after careful consideration. They succeed in every undertaking by having a clear purpose, a wise plan, persistence and push."
The ideas of deliberate thoughtfulness and careful consideration are just what we have been looking at. What the sutra adds is that we need, first of all, a clear purpose. What is our goal is pursuing this endeavor? Why are we thinking about doing this?
Sometimes we embark on an endeavor without a clear purpose. For example, our best friend starts to study Bharatanatyam, so we start as well. After five months, we conclude that this is too much work and give it up. Our reason for pursuing it was not solid enough, the fact that our best friend took it up. To stick to an undertaking, we need for it to be meaningful to our life, not to someone else's.
An essential part of steadfastness is overcoming changeableness. Changeableness means indecision, not be decisive. How can we discriminate between this and the strength of a person who changes his or her mind in wisdom because of changes of circumstances?
The person who is changeable, is fickle and unsure of himself, changing without purpose or reason.
Dhriti, Steadfastness describes the mind that is willing to change for mature reasons based on new information, that holds steadily to its determination, through thick and thin in the absence of such good reasons. Its decisions are based on wise discrimination. Having made a solid decision in the first place, only reconsider it in light of new information.
It is impossible to be steadfast if we are not obeying the other restraints that the Rishis of the Himalayas laid down for us as the fruits of their wisdom. All of these restrains build character. Dhriti, Steadfastness rests on the foundation of good character.
Gurudeva defines character as the ability to act with care. This is built slowly, over time with the help of relatives, preceptors and good-hearted friends. To be steadfast, you have to use your willpower. Willpower is developed easily in a person who has an adequate memory and good reasoning faculties.
Nandinatha Sutra 10 tells us, "Siva's devotees by remaining steadfast on the path, upholding the yamas and niyamas and relying on their indomitable will, move the forces of the world and are not moved or affected by them."
What does Gurudeva mean by an indomitable will?
Willpower is the channeling of all energies toward one given point for a given length of time. This can be brought out from the within, in everything that we do through the day. It is channelling the rarified energies of the body, of awareness itself, into attention and concentration upon everything that we do through the day.
How can this be cultivated? Gurudeva gives us two keys in 'Merging with Siva', to cultivating willpower.
"It can be cultivated by finishing and doing well, every task that we undertake."
That is both keys in one sentence.
It can be cultivated by finishing and doing well every task that we undertake. In fact, done a little better than our expectations.
First, finish each task. Second, do it well.
Nothing is done with half our mind thinking about something else. Nothing is dropped in the middle. Developing these two important habits produces an indomitable willpower.
Another reason for lacking steadfastness, is that even though we have a purpose, a clear goal, the goal is not realistic. We have set it too high. Therefore, we do not achieve it in a reasonable amount of time and give up.
Here is an example. A sincere seeker sets the goal of realizing the Self in three years. Go for it! First year, practicing Charya. Second year, focusing on Kriya. Third year, mastering Yoga. At the end of the third year, he will become a Jnani through Self Realization.
This, of course, is not realistic. Such an approach can cause the seeker to give up the spiritual path all together. Therefore, be sure to be realistic in the goals you set. Be sure to ask others knowledgeable in that field, if your goal is realistic before you finalize the goal.
Encountering obstacles is still another reason some choose not to persevere. There is a false concept held by some that, "If my endeavor encounters an obstacle, then Lord Ganesha is telling me what I am pursuing is not the right course of action. I should stop trying and rethink the entire project."
Gurudeva's teaching is that the more ambitious a project is, the more obstacles will be encountered. Therefore, if your goal is a grand one, before you even start, anticipate encountering significant obstacles. When you do, it is not discouraging.
"Preserving firmness of mind during periods of gain or loss of relatives" is the way Dhriti is described in the Sandilya Upanishad. This implies that during times of sorrow, difficult karmas, loss and temptation, when in mental pain and anguish, feeling alone and neglected, we can persevere, be decisive and bring forth the dhriti strength within us and thus prevail.
One translator of the Varuha Upanishad used the word, courage, to translate dhriti. "Courageous and fearless people who are just and honest prevail over all karmas, benevolent, terrible and confused."
This virtue is much like the monk's vow of humility, part of which is enduring hardship with equanimity, ease of mind, which means not panicking.
The Tirukural reminds us, "It is the nature of asceticism to patiently endure hardship and to not harm living creatures."
In fact, Gurudeva describes dhriti as a hard ship. Ready for this? "A ship that can endure and persevere on its course even when tossed about on the waves of a turbulent sea." A hard ship, that is a good one!
Some might wonder why it is good to passively endure hardship. To persevere through hardship one must understand, as all Hindus do, that any hardship coming to us we ourselves participated in setting into motion in the past. To endure hardship and rise above it in consciousness is to overcome that karma forever. To resent hardship, to fight it, is to have it return later at a most inconvenient time.
A person who is patient and truthful, who would not harm others by thought, word or deed and who is compassionate and honest has the strong nature of one who is firm in dhriti, steadfastness. He is the prevailer over obstacles. One firm in dhriti can be leaned upon by others, depended upon. He is charitable, has faith in God, Gods, and Guru, worships daily and manifests in his life a spiritual will and intellect. In relaxed moments, he experiences santosha, contentment, not being preoccupied by feelings of responsibility, duties or things left undone.
The spiritual path is a long, enduring process. It does not reach fruition in a year or even two years. The spiritual path brings lots of ups and downs, and the greatest challenges will come to the greatest souls. With this in mind, it becomes clear that steadfastness and perseverance are absolutely essential on the spiritual path to be successful.
In conclusion, foster steadfastness, overcoming non-perseverance, fear, indecision and changeableness. Achieve your goals with a prayer, purpose, plan, persistence, and push. Be firm in your decisions. Avoid sloth and procrastination. Develop willpower, courage and industriousness, overcome obstacles. Never carp or complain. Do not let opposition or fear of failure result in changing strategies.
Aum Namah Sivaya.