Desire to know the Self has been one of the greatest quests of human being ever. Perhaps this makes human being different from an animal. In order to attain this, seers have designed a number of practices that would help the seekers. When the desire to know the Self arises, you will start doing all the things that are required to attain that goal and start avoiding all the things that will take you away from it. The more love you develop for the goal and the more you understand the need for the various disciplines and spiritual practices, the easier it will be to adhere to those disciplines and practices. The love for the goal is like petrol in your tank. It is what gives enthusiasm, energy and vitality in your practices.
Sometimes when the mother or father needs to do some work, they cannot keep their eye completely on their child. So, then, they may give him some crayons or some toys. This way the child can continue to play but the mother knows where he is and what he is doing. The mother knows the child is safe. Similarly, it is the mind’s nature to be active. The point of doing spiritual practices is not to limit our freedom, but to give the mind an activity that helps it and protects it.
When we fly, the stewardess will make us wear our seatbelt. She has nothing to gain by that. She is not doing it to torture us. She is doing it for our safety and protection. Similarly, at first, adhering to spiritual disciplines may seem to take away our freedom, but really it is taking us to freedom—true freedom. When we study the scriptures, we will develop the right attitude towards such disciplines. We will understand the need for them in order to attain our goal. We will understand that they are not for God’s benefit or the guru’s benefit, but for our benefit. The more we understand the benefit derived from them, the more inspiration and enthusiasm we will have to do them.
In order to make sure they are adequately prepared for their exams, many students will make a timetable. It is helpful for spiritual aspirants to do the same thing. You have a goal – to know your True Self. You know certain things need to be done in order to attain that goal. How much spiritual practices you do and how strict you are in doing them—that is your choice. But once you have decided what you want to do, making a timetable and adhering to it as much as possible is a practical way to help you achieve your goal.
If you really have real control over your mind—the same level of control you have to the television when you have the remote control in your hand—then there is no need to do any spiritual practices. But most of our minds are not like this. They are more like old cars; there is a big gap between the time we hit the brakes and when we actually stop. In fact, we usually stop only after we’ve had an accident. We may want to show someone love, but we are not able to do so.
Don’t feel sad that you cannot be as disciplined as you would like to be. Do what you can. Don’t be sad about what you are not able to do. Don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t suppress or judge yourself. Give the body the food and sleep it needs. There is nothing wrong in that. But don’t overly pamper yourself either. There may be lapses in your discipline. We may fall down. But we shouldn’t allow it to make us feel frustrated. When you fall down, instead of lying there on the ground thinking how comfortable it is, remind yourself of your goal. Get back up and keep moving forward. Never accept defeat.