Negative Check and Positive Approach by Swami Krishnananda

Baba Times Digest© | 21 March 2014 17:55 EST | New York Edition

Negative Check and Positive Approach

Divine Life Society Publication: Chapter 73 The Study and Practice of Yoga by Swami Krishnananda

The principles and disciplines of yama and niyama are regarded in yoga as unconditional and absolute. There is no limitation of these principles either by circumstances, or by time factors, or by the location of one’s existence. That is the meaning of these principles being absolute.

The disciplines of yoga are called mahavrata, the great vows, are universally applicable, under every condition and to every student of yoga – there is no exception at all. Such a rigid prescription is made for the purpose of protecting oneself from possible encounters of forces which are undesirable.

Pratipaksa bhavana or the counterposing attitude

This vow of yama and niyama, is unconditioned by species, by space, place, time and occasion or circumstance. When there is an inclination to violate these principles due to the common weakness of human nature, one should contemplate the feeling of the opposite. One has to guard oneself in the beginning itself by the practice of continuous pratipaksa bhavana or the counter- posing attitude, even when the inclination towards the opposite has not arisen. We cannot check ourselves when we are already under subjection of an impulse. This is a kind of daily sadhana that is prescribed.

Pratipaksa bhavana is not merely a negative substitution method. It is a method of developing a positive attitude, such as love instead of hatred. It is not thinking of non-hatred, but of love. So we need not think of non-killing. The point is the positive aspect of it that when there is a fraternity of feeling and affection and love, which is the movement of the mind in the direction of a unity of things – when that arises in the mind, the substitution is already adopted.

How can this pratipaksa bhavana be entertained in the mind?

One has to contemplate the consequences of one’s actions. At the time of the impulse manifesting itself into an action, the consequences are forgotten because the impulse takes a stand at that given moment of time on a particular aspect of the experience only, and completely ignores the other aspects. We are not bothered about what will happen afterwards. The mind will not allow us to think like that because if it does, the impulse will get weakened. Hence, the vehemence of the impulse mainly depends upon the restriction of the impulse to a particular mood and emotion, completely oblivious of consequences. The consequences should be deeply pondered over.

What are the consequences of a wrong deed?

A wrong is that which is contrary to the law of Truth itself. If a wrong is really a wrong, against the law of nature, there is no such thing as doing it behind a screen, because nature is within and without. It is all-pervading, and so it will set up a reaction in its own way at a particular time. The consequences of a wrong deed are what are known as the nemesis of karma; the retribution law begins to operate. It can operate in our own personality, it can operate in society, or it can operate in a future birth. It can be in any place, at any time, and in any manner whatsoever.

If it is a purely physical violence that we have committed against our own body due to overeating or overindulgence of any type, the retribution will be in the form of a physical illness and a diminution of physical vitality. If it is something connected with other people, which is social in principle, it will have a reaction from society. But if it is a subtle thing which cannot be observed easily, and a secret wrongdoing has been projected by the mind against what we call natural justice and law, the retribution may follow in a future birth, or it may be even in this very birth if the wrong is very intense.

Sometimes we may not say it, but we are pleased by the outcome, which too is wrong. Somebody’s pain cannot cause us pleasure. Even a thought in this direction is subject to this law. As a matter of fact, thought is real action. Actions which are wrong – either done, or caused to be done, or approved indeed have their painful consequences. Let one contemplate this truth every day.

Ignorance is the cause

These wrongs are done due to the impulses of greed, anger and infatuation. The impulses arise on account of the absence of knowledge or wisdom. Knowing that these impulses have arisen on account of ignorance, greed, anger and confusion of thought and, therefore, knowing what will follow from this attitude and action, one should refrain from wrongdoing.

The consequences that follow are either mild, mediocre or intense, according to the nature of the action. It makes no difference whether actions are knowingly done or unknowingly done – nature will observe them. Ignorance of it is no excuse. If we did not know it, then we will know it hereafter.

What follows in the end?

Great sorrow follows because a wrongdoing produces a samskara in the mind, and we become susceptible to doing it, and then repeating it. Once we have done it, the mind develops an inclination towards the repetition of that action. Just as a river inclines towards a depth, we will be inclined towards this action. Any habit that is repeated becomes second nature, and we become that. Then we need not contemplate doing it; we will be forced to do it.

Intellectual inhibition of these vrittis may not succeed always when there is an emotional pressure from behind on account of the samskaras already ingrained in the mind due to the action that has been perpetrated. Hence, endless pain will be the result if a proper check is not imposed upon the vrittis at the proper time, in the proper measure.

Ignorance will also get thickened by the repetition of these deeds because the knowledge of right, or rectitude of righteousness, will get obscured by a continuous perpetration of these actions. What conscience has a tiger when it pounces upon a cow? It is acting upon its instinct, which is its own nature. Likewise, this impulse will become one’s own nature, like the animals, and there is no question of checking it afterwards.

Instincts are the vehemence with which the personality acts or reacts on the basis of a total ignorance of the ultimate law of things. A habit is the seed that we sow for a vicious circle. However much we may try to escape from it, we will not succeed, because habit is nothing but a natural inclination of our whole personality.

How can we change an inclination which is our own nature?

This pratipaksa bhavana method should be practiced every day with a positivity of background behind it rather than making it merely a negative check that is imposed upon the instinct. Though in the beginning it looks like a negative check, later on it should become a positivity of approach– leading to an understanding of the unitary nature of things. Love is positive, while non-hatred may be regarded as its negative aspect. It is not enough if we merely not hate, or if there is only an absence of hatred; there should be also positivity, which means to say there should be affection. Even if we do not do harm, we may not be doing any good. This ‘not doing any good’ may produce, one day or the other, a tendency to do harm, because we cannot keep the mind blank.

In the beginning, the pratipaksa bhavana, which is initially a negative check, is a necessary prescription for the purpose of enabling us to develop the higher qualities of affection, love, and a total positivity of approach in everything. As a positive approach is more difficult than a negative one, the pratipaksa bhavana method is prescribed first. The intention of this substitution is ultimately sublimation, not opposition. We are counterposing the vritti by another vritti which is just the opposite of it.

Afterwards more positive, educative methods have to be adopted in respect of that instinct because the instinct, or the impulse, is nothing but we ourselves moving in a wrong direction. What we call the instinct is nothing but we ourselves moving through space and time towards an object of sense, either in love or hatred. One can control anything, but not oneself. Hence, we can imagine how hard this effort is. Therefore we are asked to contemplate – unremittingly – the virtues, or the aspects of righteousness, which are necessary to divert these undesirable vrittis along the channels of those contemplative features which are the characteristics of the ultimate goal of life.

Excerpts from:

Negative Check and Positive Approach – Chapter 73 The Study and Practice of Yoga by Swami Krishnananda

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