The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Mary Clinic, Gerson Ayurvedic Spa, and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2

 

 

 

 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option 2 (407) 549-2800

On Meditation II

Vairāgya:  Letting Go

Have you ever considered how relentlessly active and fickle is the human mind? Just observe what happens every second of every waking moment: when positive thoughts arise, or you experience physical pleasure, there's happiness, which the mind tries to cling to. Conversely, when negative thoughts arise or pain occurs there is misery, which the mind tries to remove. Rarely do we experience even a single moment of no-mind. We are always habitually trying to attain, or maintain, or get rid of mental states. Even as you are reading this, you are “trying to attain” knowledge.

It is desire which propels the mind to action. Desires are a double-edged sword. There are four desires that are inherent aspects of your soul. These are called the chaturvidya purushartha; they are dharma, artha, kama, and moksha[1]. Learning to honor these four noble desires leads you towards a complete and balanced life. If pursued mindfully, these four desires can pave the way for your soul to express itself on Earth. Here is it where it gets tricky.

Not all desires lead to happiness. Desires, even the four noble desires of the purushartha, can and do result in pain and misery if not treated carefully, mindfully and with moderation. Ayurveda teaches that there are three kinds of desire of which we have to be particularly wary--the desire for sensory pleasure, the desire for acquiring or becoming something, or the desire for avoiding something. Desires, like all things in the universe, are created, maintained for awhile, and then dissolve back into the void from whence they came. It is important to realize that everything that is created has a natural dissolution; everything that has a beginning has a natural ending; whatever arises must by law then fall away. Attachment to desire, not desire itself, is the underlying cause of practically all of our pain and suffering. When we become aware of the falling away, the letting go, we take the first steps along the path of consciousness.  This first step can be taken by anyone whosoever desires—through the practice of meditation, which is simply a formalized practice of letting go.

Most of us are born unconscious. That is, we are aware only of the physical aspects of existence and have no consciousness of the existence and inter-connectedness of other energetic and more subtle planes. Sometimes through Grace, a person will receive a glimpse of what it means to be conscious, to wake up. But that arbitrary auspicious occurrence alone is not enough to maintain that conscious state. To be conscious we therefore have to use tactful means, because when and if we finally get that glimpse of consciousness, at first we're mystified. Mystified about what it is, and what efforts to make to attain and sustain it. We tend to conceive consciousness and try to become conscious, thinking that consciousness is something we have to attain or increase or try to develop. But this very endeavor, this very conceptualization, takes us in the exact opposite direction from the goal! Rather, consciousness is a field we already exist within—not something we can develop or increase. This matrix of consciousness was present at the beginning of existence and permeates everything--even the most elemental particles in the universe, including you. It is within and without; it is Brahman. You are already That. None of us have ever left the unified field of consciousness, so there’s nothing to attain or increase. We need only become aware of our true nature by letting go of thoughts that promote separateness and specialness and allow thoughts of Oneness to naturally replace them.

Instead of this trying and effort, just be aware of the mind as it does what minds do. And what is it that minds do? That’s easy. As I mentioned above, minds pursue their egotistic desires which fall into three general categories: the mind (1) chases sensory pleasure, or (2) tries to acquire, attain or become, or (3) tries to avoid something it deems unpleasant. Following any or all of these desires can only lead—after a very brief period of pleasure or satisfaction—to suffering. But instead of following, simply witnessing the mind’s wily and insidious tendencies and mechanisms to usurp life to satisfy these desires will interrupt the power of the mind and bring it under the influence of true understanding and consciousness.

How does simply, passively witnessing the working of the mind promote consciousness?

It works through the practice of Vairāgya or Letting Go.

Vairāgya (वैराग्य) roughly translates as “dispassion” or “detachment.” It implies detachment from the pains and pleasures in the material world. True vairāgya refers to an internal state of mind rather than to external lifestyle and can be practiced equally well by one engaged in family life and career as it can be by a sannyasin. Vairāgya does not mean avoidance or developing repulsion for material objects. Rather, through the cultivation of keen self-observation and discrimination one gradually develops a strong attraction for the inner spiritual source of fulfillment and happiness and attachments to material desires fall away naturally. A balance is found between one’s inner spiritual state and one's external life through the deepening knowledge that all limited entities are expressions of the one Absolute Consciousness (Brahma).

Once you are able to observe and passively witness the desires and aversions of the mind arising, the practice is to just let go of them before they are able to exert their influence. This practice is the single key not only to meditation, but to a conscious human life itself. Some objects will trigger desires which are more tempting and difficult to let go than others, but you should be resolute in “letting go.”

As we live in the Age known as the “Kali Yuga,” an age of spiritual degeneration and relative darkness, practice of 'letting go' is an absolute requirement for contemporary minds obsessed by compulsive thinking and captured attention. The blind pursuit of money, matter and material prosperity beyond a life of moderation, is the main characteristic of Kali Yuga. Because of the dearth of available light available at this time to humankind, we must simplify our meditation practice down to just two words:  'let go'. Rather than try to follow some elaborate practice and then develop ta detailed devotional practice; and achieve this asana and understand that school of thought, and read this text, and learn that Sanskrit prayer, and go on that yoga retreat, and eventually be invited to speak at this Important International Summit…instead…

just let go, let go, let go.

Occasionally people ask me how I came to be taught meditation. I usually do not elaborate on the details except to say there was a rather long and unexpected period of preparation prior to the actual initiation into the meditation lineage. In truth, I received an instruction to practice vairāgya (“letting go”) and nothing more for about two years. Weekly discussions with my guru (teacher) helped keep me on course. Over that period, every time I would try comprehend  anything whether it be on the individual or universal scale,  I'd say 'let go, let go' until the desire would fade away. In daily practical life this doesn’t mean refusing your desires or living the life of an ascetic. Rather, you set an intention then relinquish your attachment to the outcome. It’s actually easier at first to do this as a formal meditation when the conditions are optimal, but after a while its’ possible to “let go” during everyday life. During meditation, one gently lets go of any thought or feeling which is not the mantra. But remember, the mind is very cunning. It will disguise itself as the desire for Compassion, Brotherly Love, Service to Mankind, and all kinds of high-minded desires. But these are all nevertheless merely desires and devices for the mind to misdirect you away from consciousness.

So I'm making it very simple for you, to save you from getting caught in incredible amounts of confusion, anguish and misery. I suggest you relinquish the noble intention to be a beacon of light for the world, etc. Abandon your call to become an embodiment of divine love in the world.  If you have to be something, be a cockroach letting go of the desire to embody divine love in the world. Just be a cockroach who knows only two words – “let go”. In the exact verbatim words of my teacher His Holiness Sri Shantananda Saraswati, “This humble practice is sufficient to take you all the way.”

The important thing in any meditation practice is to be constant and resolute in the practice, determined to persist with the practice, even when life becomes complicated. Remind yourself of the truth of your true nature and persist with the practice - letting go of pessimism, letting go of doubt, letting go of hopelessness, of fear, of worries, of emotional pain.

The instruction is to let go of anything that has a beginning and an ending and don’t permit yourself to cling to and identify with anything of that nature. That’s what we habitually do—we take as real and permanent that which is unreal and transient. Let this “letting go” become a continuous song in your mind, so it just pops up on its own no matter where you are. Like a tune you heard on the radio that you can’t get out of your head. Indeed, I encourage you at first to become obsessed with “letting go” to negate the thousands of useless things with which we are normally obsessed: worries, doubts, shoulda’s, coulda’s, grudges, anger, resentments, romances, jealousies, fears, guilt, relationships, clothes, ideas, regrets about the past, anxiety about the future, and on and on with stupidities of every kind.

Our culture, which is to say the world, teaches us only how to accumulate and fill our minds to the brim. It used to be that libraries and bookstores would provide ideas in nicely bound volumes with plenty of pictures and even diagrams. Now we have the internet to fill us with everything the mind could possibly desire to know. But if that’s too intellectual for you, you can watch TV, or a video on your iPad, or read a magazine, or go out to the movies. Worse yet, you could watch the evening news—which is exclusively about violence, corruption, war, perverse behaviors, and of course gossip. Everything that appeals to the minds lower instincts and drives.

I spend a considerable amount of time being quiet, whether in meditation or purposely going out in nature and still I feel that I have so much information, so many thoughts, so many ideas stuffed into my mind that I can’t imagine even one more punctuation mark squeezing in there. And that’s from a person devoted and constant in a meditation practice for 40 years. It’s a wonder more of us don’t suffer from mental disease, although there is in fact a strong upsurge in this, especially among our youth.

As long as our minds are so obsessed and filled with these useless ideas, wisdom and instincts of true value will have no space to enter. We will have no chance of understanding the true nature of life. Without an understanding of the true nature of life—and this is particularly true for young people—we become highly suggestible. As an experienced hypnotist since the age of 10, I’m especially aware of this condition. It’s evidenced today by all the different names for the young generations of recent times. We had the beatnik generation, the hippie generation, the disco generation, the punk generation, Generation X, Millennial Generation, Generation Z, etc. In all these generations, we see young people dressing, acting, talking, thinking, and feeling according to the power of suggestion. Definitions of beauty, morality, health, life, continue to change about every 15-20 years.  If your peers say harmony is chaos and you don’t really know and you’re still suggestible, you’ll believe that.  If society says drinking this or smoking that will simply delight your senses, you’ll eventually think you’re missing out and adopt that behavior. Even if it doesn’t capture you initially, it begins to infiltrate the mind, which amplifies it. Eventually, in a suggestible state, you convince yourself that danger is pleasure, immorality is morality, addiction is recreation, sex is love, and (to the chagrin of every parent of every generation) noise is music.

So here’s the summary of the whole message:  you do the things that need to be done to the very best of your ability, and then you let go ... and let go, let go, let go. If you follow every desire or fill your mind with more expectations, concepts and opinions, you are just increasing your ability to judge and doubt and spiral. It's only through learning how to empty the mind out that it can fill with things of true value - and learning how to empty a mind takes a great deal of skill and cunning. The degree of skill and cunning necessary must be equal to or greater than the skill and cunning of the mind, which is considerable.

This “letting go” practice is a cunning and adept means for emptying the mind. Developing the obsession of 'letting go' is an adept practice. Repeat this over and over, whenever a thought arises; observe it’s arising. You keep letting go of whatever moves - but if it doesn't go, don't try to force it. This is always important but especially during meditation. The 'letting go' practice is a way of clearing the mind of its obsessions and negativity; use it gently, but with resolution. Meditation itself is a subtle letting go, deliberately disengaging the mind from its usual obsessive ideas and feelings so we can transcend the mind and rest in the stillness of Pure Being.  In time, the Mind will fall under the influence of Buddhi (discrimination), and will not be so rebellious and devious.

Respect your mind, and be more careful what you feed it. If you have a beautiful home, you don't go out and pick up all the garbage and filth from the street and bring it in, you only bring in things that will enhance it and make it a refreshing, peaceful and delightful place.

When the mind is empty and you understand everything clearly, still your inquiry is not finished.  For you must then ask the question, “Who understands?” Who has the empty mind?” Perhaps it is an unanswerable question. Allow the mind to be uncertain and rest in the void.

Letting go, vairāgya, is not being averse to these desire-created states or avoiding them like the plague; it is letting go of them when you find you are attached. When you are suffering in some sort of misery it’s because you are clinging to something! Find out what you are clinging to, get to the source, and let go. “I'm unhappy because nobody loves/respects/values me.” That may be true, maybe nobody loves or respects or values you, but the unhappiness comes from your desire for people to love/respect/value   you. Even if they do, you will still be unhappy if you erroneously think that other people control your happiness or unhappiness. Someone says, “You are a wonderful person!” - and you are elated. Then someone says, “You are a terrible person!” - and you sink into despair. Let go of happiness, let go of unhappiness. Through self-awareness, witness your desires rather than becoming attached to them. Keep the practice utterly simple: live your life observantly and remember to let go.

 


[1] In the Hindu tradition there are four canonical desires of life that need to be satisfied to find happiness, fulfillment and to live a complete life. These four aims are called the purushārtha which means “human purpose or aim.” The four aims of life are:

Dharma – righteous actions based on harmonious and virtuous purpose  

Artha – acquiring wealth and resources, the means to attain your life’s purpose

Kāma – the pleasure of attaining your purpose and fulfilling your dharma

Moksha –final emancipation; the capacity to let go