Craig Warren, a student of Vedanta philosophy, teaches us the science behind the mind as a way to overcome stress. Living in a peaceful realm no matter what the external circumstances might seem far fetched, but not according to Vedanta. We ask Craig how.
'We're living in a weird paradox where we have spectacular advantages, everything is touch-button convenient yet statistics show happiness levels are down and stress levels up,' says Craig. No one really understands the cause behind the paradox and oftentimes, the chosen solution amounts to nothing more than a happy pill. Or a holiday. Getaways are so popular right now but who ever looks forward to the day after a holiday? Or a Monday? 'In Vedanta you do', says Craig.
Essentially, Vedanta is a user's manual for life ' just as an instruction manual guides the user in the operation of any device, so Vedanta explains the human constitution and how to use the body, mind and intellect for maximum peace and prosperity. Above all, in applying the philosophy's principles true self-development is promoted, ultimately leading to self-realisation.
Craig goes on to explain that stress is totally internal ' it's got nothing to do with the external environment. This bold statement often causes an inflammatory reaction from people. 'You haven't met my boss! Or, You don't understand, I have my mother-in-law living with me. Traffic takes me hours to get home. All of those statements may be true but none of the external conditions need affect our overall state of peace. In Craig's words, stress is nothing but mental agitation caused by unfulfilled desires. Harnessing the mind brings ease and peacefulness.
Vedanta comes from the East and Craig points out a vast difference between attitudes in the East and those in the West. Drinking an early morning cup of tea in the Cape Town suburbs watching the M3 highway at 6am there is a constant stream of traffic, he says. People are rushing to work. While in the huge city of Pune at 9am, most people are still asleep, no traffic and not much going on. Oh, that's except for the Swamiji and Vendanta Academy students. Craig explains that Vedanta followers wake up at 4am because the hours between 4 and 6am are the best time to study higher values. Study is an important element of Vedanta philosophy.
Where the West is active and dynamic, the East tends to be more peaceful. Often, human activity is almost primarily involved in productivity to generate prosperity. Common belief is that prosperity generation involves dynamic action. And as soon as there is action, there's stress. Vedanta teaches how to combine dynamic action with peacefulness. It urges you to stop and think about what you are doing and how to live life.
It's not about dogmas but presents facts in a logical and sequential manner and encourages you to apply reason before accepting anything. So here's the thought process'.
What is life? It's a series of experiences, almost like water flowing. Good experiences equal a good life. Bad experiences equal a bad life.
What is experience? Experience involves two things: a subject and object. When a subject meets an object, an experience arises.
What's the nature of a human? Humans can be explained by 3 parts:3
A BODY - This has 5 organs of perception (eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin) and 5 organs of action (speech, feet, hands, organs of excretion and organs of generation)
A MIND - The mind has emotions, feelings, likes, dislikes, desires, impulses
AN INTELLECT - This reasons, judges, analyses, decides
So what drives the body to act? It's either the mind or the intellect. Intellect acts as the parent to govern and guide the mind. Left to its own devices, the mind can be aberrant, wayward, agitated and distracting. It can play havoc with the personality. Add intellect and you can harness the mind in a beautiful harmonious way. Let's look at this in the context of stress. To understand stress, it's important to understand the mind. The mind is a bundle of likes and dislikes, attractions and aversions. It rambles, it goes into the future or into the past. That's the nature of the mind; it's difficult to keep it in the present. And it keeps generating endless desires. It's the seat of desires. Desires are like fire to wood. The fire keeps consuming the wood just like our minds keep generating more desires.
The mind also develops attachments and expectations. It generates greed. Even when desires have been fulfilled, the mind can create fear around losing what has been gained. Our mind can create delusion with overwhelming emotions that dominate and control our personalities. Minds can create addictions and debilitating thoughts. An uncontrolled mind is likely to create anxiety and stress. We can learn to control the mind with the intellect. 'This means being in the present moment, and focused on your present action,' says Craig who uses the following scenario to explain the mind, the intellect and a combination of both.
Someone offers a diabetic person a sweet.
He accepts the sweet. (mind).
He thinks of his doctors advice and says, 'no thanks' (intellect).
He takes the sweet rationalising that 'maybe one sweet is okay' (combination of mind and intellect).
The intellect has the ability to control the mind but building a strong intellect takes time and dedicated effort. In the meantime, learning to assess people, situations and environments around you will help avoid stress.
There are sound practices we can learn to help us harness the mind and be more grounded in the present. Living this way can be more joyful, less stressful and can bring more pleasure to life. Vedanta has assessment methods, meditation and study that specialises in the science of life.
Swami Parthasarathy and his daughter-disciple Sunandaji are conducting a series of lectures in Durban, Cape Town & Johannesburg. Lectures are free and open to everyone. Topics include The Yoga of Meditation and Work Life Balance, The Devastating Ego, the Power of Action, the Law of Karma and more. Swami Parthasarathy, popularly known as Swamiji, is a pre-eminent philosopher. He is acclaimed as the greatest living exponent of Vedanta, the ancient philosophy of India. In a life of selfless service over six decades, Swamiji's exceptional contribution has been the translation of subtle philosophical themes into a practical technique of living. An exercise that has brought about mental solace and material prosperity in society. www.vedanta.org.za or email Craig on [email protected]
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