Whereas the focus of Western endeavor has been to tame the external world, the East-especially in India-has focused on the internal, mental life of a human being. For thousands of years, Rishis have been the astronauts of internal space or, in terms of modern terminology, scientists of the psychological realm.
Fairly early in the game the Rishis realized that the cause of all human misery is the myriad of desires that the human mind keeps creating. Consequently, in every spiritual discipline which came out of the Indian subcontinent, the focus was to be detached and not be controlled by oneís desires. This kernel of timeless wisdom was a key discovery.
The next question that arises is how to be free of desires. This question has been the source of many problems and misdirections. Very elaborate philosophies were developed and esoteric spiritual practices arose to achieve this end, as described in ancient Indian writings starting from the oldest-the Vedas-and including the Upanishads, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, and the Gita, just to name a few. Different paths more popularly known as yogas-Raja Yoga, Gyana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Hath Yoga and others-evolved. Religions, namely Jainism and Buddhism, came into existence to preach the way for a person to rid himself of his desires. All of these have the one and only goal of emancipating man from the mind.
Throughout the ages, the people who realized a certain level of truth about that goal and achieved it in their lives, became teachers. The teaching has been there for a very long time, but in any given era it needed living teachers to give it vitality, meaning, and effectiveness. Teachers including Mahavira, Buddha, Ramakrishana, and Vivekananda, came from time to time, reiterating the same message that is relevant also in the current time and setting.
Of all the paths or yogas, the most effective was found to be the path of Bhakti-which is, in short, the path of surrendering oneís self to a Guru or to God. A majority of all Indian spiritual practices rely on this. The idea is that, since the self or ego is the culprit, anything one does, and anything that comes from oneís own will, has the effect of continuing the ego. Hence, for some aspirants this path of total surrender did produce results.
The effectiveness of these discoveries and their validity is attested by
the fact that quite probably India, a relatively small geographical area,
has produced a larger number of teachers, saints and seers to help people
alleviate their misery, than any other part of the world.
However, one major question still comes up. Why donít all of the aspirants who wish to transcend the suffering arising from desires, succeed? The traditional answer has been to blame the individual for not adhering to the prescribed path, and to give him hope that in time he will achieve the desired state. This question has also been addressed by some of the recent teachers including Ramana Maharishi, J. Krishnamurti and U.G. Krishnamurti, to name a few of the leading ones, and all of them are very clear and succinct in delineating the problem.
They enunciate it simply as this: Man has only one instrument with which to solve problems in the external world. That tool, we know, is the mind. Mind, among other things, is a collection of all the conscious, unconscious, and collective racial memories-the patterns formed in our DNA through evolution and in our brain through individual experience-and it attempts to solve the problems from what it knows and can recollect. This may work fine when solving problems of the physical world. The difficulties start when the mind turns its gaze on the internal world, on the mind itself. Such attempts amount to the known trying to hold the unknown in the palm of its hand-which is a contradiction.
As emphasized so well by U.G. Krishnamurti, it is clear that every activity of the mind to change itself only perpetuates itself. And going further, possibly the only thing that the mind is interested in is a continuation of itself. We see this every day around us.
So how does one solve the problem of human misery arising out of desires? It is a wrong question. As discovered by the Rishis, mind or knowledge cannot go past itself. The mind itself has to come to an end-there is a term for it in Indian philosophy-Nirvana.