THE GURBANI ON STRESS MANAGEMENT
When one is plagued by acute and excessive worry,
he suffers by diseases of the body (sggs 70).
In essence, to remember Truth or Naam is to remember one's Soul-Nature, which is the inner force of Pure Awareness. On the other hand, to forget Truth or Naam is to forget one's Essential State, the godly status. As time and again stated in the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), one who forgets this Reality is egotistical, distressed, sick or miserable person in this world. Because such person, whose lifestyle is conditioned by the bodily concept, is subjected to the following defects: being invariably illusioned, committing mistakes, cheating others, and acting with imperfect senses. Thus, the bodily concept is the womb of sorrows. Because, in body-consciousness, the Reality becomes unreal and unknown. It causes one suffers the activities of the body by identifying himself (in ignorance) with the body-frame, resulting in one's bodily suffering or distress. Becoming liberated from suffering means annihilation of the body-consciousness. It is bending the outer to the inner; making the body-mind-intellect express the Real which is all and beyond all.
We live in continually changing environment. Further, we face conflicts of various kinds in our lives. Personal difficulties at home, pressures at rapidly changing workplace and other external distractions toss us in various directions. We experience stress as we readjust our lives to different circumstances in our lives. Wear and tear of our bodies is the direct manifestation of this stress. It results in negative feelings of depression, despair, distrust, worry, impatient, anxiety, rejection, violence, strain, agitation and anger. These negative feelings, in turn, kill people through chronic physiological and psychological health problems such as mental breakdown, headaches, ulcers, suppression of digestion, weakening of immune system, fatigue, diabetes, burnout, exhaustion, upset stomach, restlessness, rashes, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, suicide, and, perhaps, even cancer. To correct the situation temporarily, many resort to antibodies, drugs, intoxicants, and so on. As indicated in the Gurbani, the entire material world is filled with such suffering.
The modern material life is full of external and internal stressors. All these stressors can be grouped in three categories: stress created by actions of one's own body-mind-intellect apparatus, stress created by actions of other living entities, and stress created by the forces of the nature.
Apart from stress created by external factors, the real monster is within! It is the psychological construct self-image. False ego-sense, "I-am-ness", bodily concept, Haume, or conditioned self are a few other names for it. Once this phantom has arisen, it creates havoc in the body-mind-speech-intellect instrument. It is the mother of all false concepts, as well as all suffering and stress. Therefore, it is the hardest to deal with than the generally supposed.
When there is a discrepancy between what we want to be and what we actually are, there is stress. It is the false ego-sense that wants us to be what we are not. Consequently, we end up chasing illusion: Maya - That which is not. With such unripe ego come fear and doubt, which are worse than any dreaded disease. Fear and doubt make us pretend. Due to our wrong breeding, we learn pretending from the very childhood. In turn, pretending gives rise to greed and stress. Once the stress begins, the mind has no control over it.
Always tossing and turning, the restless mind (false self) creates internal conflicts and makes us attached to duality, the world of Maya or illusion. When we lose our intelligence due to attachment to internal thieves (lust, anger, greed, etc.), our entire consciousness becomes polluted. Because of a false hope for happiness, then we get involved in various plans for material activity. In this conditioned state, we try to acquire or occupy more than needed. In other words, for material happiness, we acquire extravagantly and also spend it extravagantly. In ignorance, all our activities are directed towards fulfilling material desires, passions, sense gratification, and trying to enjoy separately from the Totality (absence of "Vand Shaknaa" or selfless sharing). Thus, all our distresses are due to material extravagance. Such activities are said to be sinful for they actually put us into distress. But, due to differentiated consciousness, we do not know this. Consequently, we are said to be in ignorance.
The Gurbani roars that the world and its gross objects can only give us fleeting pleasure, not lasting or eternal Happiness, Bliss or Peace. Because the real Happiness flows from within. In other words, realization of one's Spiritual Nature is the supreme Happiness. In the absence of this Self-realization, all is "bitter" — distress, suffering, lamentation, pain, frustration, anxiety, fear, Mayaic reactions, disease, and struggle for unenlightened existence. Still, surprisingly, man's all efforts are aimed at securing nothing but material pleasures!
The attachment to the material world is said to be full of tribulations and misery. According to our association with different modes of material nature, we experience specific material happiness and distress. The Gurbani repeatedly reminds us it is because of ignorance we are attached to the material world (Maya) instead of our stress free Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...), which is always within us. Ignorance is the forgetfulness of this Mool. In such ignorance, we spend life trying pleasing or gratifying others to preserve our name, pride and fame. As a result we suffer from material distress. Being thus absorbed in a conditioned life, we never attain real Bliss or Happiness (Anand).
Although one's intellect and the capacity of reasoning is useful in dealing with the external difficulties, but are deplorably inadequate and also inappropriate when faced with internal challenge. Then how can one go about managing different aspects of stress arousal?
Stress and the modern life are intertwined. Thus stress is unavoidable, even if one is to abandon the world. Given the circumstances, what we can do is free ourselves to the extent that we will not be adversely affected by it. Stress results from the way we perceive the world, not from the way the world really is. To put it otherwise, it is not circumstances or events in themselves that cause our stress, but rather the views we take of them. What it boils down to is to realize indivisibility of our Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...), which is Unconditioned and Changeless. Then we can remain unaffected by the objective conditions. That is to say, by being awake, aware, alert and detached we can attain freedom from stress while living in the world. The wise ones call this state "being in the world but not of it"! In this context, the example often cited in the scriptures is that of a lotus flower — it floats on the muddy water, yet it remains untouched.
Sometimes, to mitigate distresses in this forest of the material world, the misguided conditioned Jeeva (individual being) receives cheap blessings from cheats — show-bottle spiritualists, many so-called Saadhoos and Sants, Manmukhs or swindlers in religious garbs, opportunists who use religion and people's suffering for personal gains, etc. — who preach and practice against the principles of the scriptural Truth. He then loses all his discerning intelligence in their bad association (Kusang). This is exactly like jumping in a shallow pond. As a result, one simply breaks his head! Like a football he then gets kicks from all sides.
As emphasized in the Gurbani, the goal is to achieve the consciousness of fearlessness. Absence of fear is absence of pretending. Absence of pretending means nonattendance of false self or ego. In the nonattendance of false ego, there is no appearance of stress. Therefore, the scriptures tell us the way to manage stress is through psychological Simplicity. Not external simplicity, but the Simplicity of the mind (Sahaj Avastaa). A truly Simple mind is free of false self: selfishness, aggressiveness, arrogance, baser desire, anger, possessiveness, all sense of "I-me-mine", etc. To achieve this Simplicity requires purification of the body-mind-speech-intellect instruments.
True purity — which according to the Gurbani stems from truthful living — is the absence of the false self, with its pride and hurt. With the purification of the body (or physical senses), one's perception of the gross objects of the world stands changed. With the purification of the mind, one's feelings of emotions cease to harrow him. With the purification of the intellect, one thinks right thoughts. With the purification of the speech, one's true character shines forth. All these are aid in proper management of the material distress.
The Gurbani tells us that, for a seeker, distress is an opportunity to remember his godly status. Because when one is very much distressed by material conditions, one becomes interested in God (the True Self). Nobody wants to know himself or God in material happiness! The trials and tribulations that human beings face in the material world are thus meant to increase one's faith, attention, conviction, concentration and humility. When a person understands that he is not this body-frame, he will become fearless as there will not be anxieties or stress. As a positive influence, therefore, stress can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective.
Therefore, the Gurbani ask us to never be distressed or satisfied by material opulence. Because our concern in life is to know the Truth. When one is callous to all duality (Doojaa Bhaav) and the happiness and distress of this material world, one is fit for Eternal Life. Material happiness and distress come and go. Therefore a Giaanee (spiritually wise man) is not concerned with them.
However, material attachment is so strong that despite the suffering, we do not want to give it up. Our condition is like that of a camel, who eats thorny bramble even though it makes his mouth bleed! That is to say, our passion and ignorance obsessed mind indulges in sense gratification even though it suffers. Baser desires and grief is the stress — functioning of the false ego. There is freedom from stress when the mind does not desire or grieve.
There is little practical wisdom in the education system of the modern world to guide us through our daily lives. But the Gurbani is full of such practical wisdom and can help us loosen the grip of material attachment.
The goal of the Spiritual Wisdom of the Gurbani is to live in the eternity of "Now"; for the eternal life is in the "Now" only. "Now" is the absence of imagination. Imagination is stress and suffering. "Now" is Stillness or Timelessness; it is simply Being — "Joti-Svaroopa". In "Now" there is no phenomena. Hence, "Now" is the only Truth. Neither it can be found in the painful memories of the yesterday nor in the fear and anticipation of tomorrow. But, sadly the scope of the modern education is so limited it does not prepare one to live in the "Now". The result is man's repeated suffering.
To be not in "Now" is to be in ego-mind-world-senses-illusion. This is suffering. Our walking down the memory lane of the past or worry lane of the future renders the mind unfit to catch the eternity of the "Now". Inattention to our real Self takes us away from the "Now", where as the attention brings us back to it. The Gurbani tells us that our stress free Self is ever at hand. Therefore, if we want to free ourselves from the material stress, the instinctive mind must subside into the eternity of the "Now", at this very moment. To be established in the "Now" is to be inwardly awake and vibrant. By focusing on "Now", we reduce the fragmented and illusioned mind (time and space) scattered in our fantasizing of the yesterday or tomorrow.
It is the natural tendency for the body-mind-intellect to exist in love and harmony. The scriptural wisdom tells us that for this higher state of the eternity of "Now" — "Joti-Svaroopa", Pure Love, Fearlessness, Gentle Awareness, Sahaj, etc. — to enter the mind, we need to first recognize the false self and then abandon it. This change in our viewpoint can only happen "Now", not some other time in the future. Because the future left to itself will only repeat the past actions and reactions! Therefore, "Now" is the time to realize the real Self within. Also, the illusion free existence is not to be obtained afresh because we are already That, right at this very moment. Living in "Now" is the highest state of the conscious mind. The person who lives fully in the "Now" is a true Giaanee or Gurmukh, the Enlightened Being who sees beyond bodily concept and knows the Changelessness of his True Being. In all situations, such person remains undisturbed and contented within: callous to material distress and happiness. This Spiritual Nature of "no stress" or "no pain" can neither be purchased, nor given to somebody as a gift, nor it can be made to order. By becoming a Spiritual Being (Gurmukh), one must realize it himself, within. This is the edict of the Gurbani.
— T. Singh
page modified: Monday, May 21, 2012 4:26 PM (PST)
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