New Man : New World: [07] Relief from Tension

Published: 16.12.2008
Updated: 17.12.2008

Man is full of passions. The cycle of passions is operating within the definition of the doctrine of Karma. Going by the Vedas, the disposition of activity or passion (rajas) and that of ignorance, moroseness, inertness or maliciousness (tamas) are at work. Tension is the effect not the cause. There are many causes of tension. In the language of the doctrine of karma the biggest cause of tension is the fourth deluding karma out of eight karmas at whose appearance a soul is subject to attachment, hatred, passion, sexual enjoyment and falsehood, which causes anger, pride, greed, fear, hatred and lust, all of which generate tension. Besides, there are some physical causes also leading to tension.

Life's Unavoidable Process

Any physical activity involves tension. Life does not function without tension. The entry of an unwanted dog in the room necessitates its ouster, which in turn causes tension. Stopping someone from doing a wrong involves tension. Thus tension has become an unavoidable process of life. An individual can get tense at any moment. Tension is not harmful if it is momentary, but prolonged physical tension is dangerous. Too much and unceasing activity without any rest results in a precarious situation so much so that even muscles become tense. Mental and emotional tension is absolutely harmful, whereas physical tension within limits is both necessary and sometimes even useful. Many administrators believe that they cannot keep their subordinates under control without an occasional show of anger or even rage. It is just an opinion. It should be remembered that normal, low-level tension does not constitute a problem but if it becomes habitual, its intensity increases and the problem becomes aggravated. Today, tension has become one of the biggest problems in the world. Like poverty and disease, it too has acquired global proportions.

Mistaken Notions

One might ask why tension grows to an undesirable extent. The answer is that it is due to mistaken notions, which have caused and are causing tension and which are also nursing it. For example, one of the widespread notions that have taken root in people's minds is that every action must be followed by reaction. Any behaviour that is deemed unfavourable is felt to be intolerable and it causes immense tension. You are walking through a lane. One of your workers passes by you without greeting you. That is a sufficient cause of tension. If a soldier does not salute his officer, the latter becomes tense and feels relieved only after punishing the former. These wrong notions of ours cause tension.

Causes of Tension

Greed, anger, drug addiction, fear and lust are the main causes of tension. The Science of Yoga mentions three states of the instinctive mind:

  • Distracted
  • Perplexed
  • Stupid

It is these three states that cause tension. In the distracted state, the mind is rather scattered and is unable to concentrate, which in turn, makes it an easy victim of tension. A distracted mind falls prey to an intense desire for sensual pleasures, which leads to tension. We can compare it to stress. In this state, the mind is under the stress of sensual desires or attachment and the stress is so heavy that great tension is created.

The second state is that of perplexity. In this state the mind gets easily agitated and emotion gets out of control. Uncontrolled emotions are bound to generate tension.

In the third state of stupidity or foolishness, man cannot understand anything and fails to decide what to do.

Tension is not Unprovoked

The above three states have been explained in science on a physical basis. Stress is a kind of pressure and when someone is in the state of stress the nerves start dilating and contracting leading to misshapen nerves and consequent tension. Hypertension can be a dangerous thing. Too much cramping and tightening leads to the contraction of arteries and blood clotting. In such a state people have to go in for cardiac surgery including bypass surgery. This kind of tension is neither unprovoked nor natural. It is a consequence of factors preceding it.

The Process of Relieving Tension

Let us consider the process of relieving tension. We do not have anything better in this regard than the spiritual way of tackling it. The spiritual process is the most important and effective process. Physicians while treating tension, usually use tranquillizers. They may release tension but the effect is not lasting. The pills afford temporary relief followed by a recurrence of tension and it becomes cyclic. Drugs palliate by putting the sufferer to sleep. But on being awake the pre-drugging state returns. It was perhaps for this reason that Mahavira said, “An ignorant person who is forever doing sinful acts is best kept asleep.” For getting permanent relief from tension, the spiritual process will have to be learnt. In the absence of basic knowledge no proper food is cooked; all one gets is more and more smoke. There is an old tale about a prince who asked both his wives to cook dinner using sugarcane as fuel. The elder of the two used fresh sugarcane to light a fire and got nothing but more and more smoke. The younger one got a number of children there and asked them to suck all the juice of sugarcane and then used the juiceless dry stems to light the fire. There was no smoke to disturb her perfect cooking.

The Formula of Freedom from Attachment

How to cook without there being any smoke is the question. The Gita rightly says: “All beginnings, all activities, have some wrong at the back of them.”

No activity is without a blemish. The author of the Gita explained it metaphorically by saying that it is not possible to have a fire without some smoke. Even as burning fuel is accompanied by smoke, every activity is accompanied by some blemish. We have to find out how to reduce the activities of the body, mind, speech and feeling. This formula of getting freedom from attachment, this spiritual formula is a powerful formula of relieving tension. Follow each activity, each engagement by disengagement. For every one hour of engagement let there be a ten-minute disengagement. In ordinary language, we can call it relaxation. Such disengagement or detachment will drive us inwards and besides giving relaxation, it will also curb and quieten our instincts. The first formula of relieving tension is maintaining a balance between attachment and detachment, between engaging in an activity and disengaging from it. Every such engagement produces the chemical, lactic acid. Disengagement brings down its output. Likewise Kayotsarg is a spiritual discovery capable of truly remedying the tensions of life. Practising Kayotsarg as soon as one experiences tension is the best way to remove it. Everytime one feels tense, one should resort to Kayotsarg.

An Illusion

Many people say that during meditation they get the feeling of being free from passions. But meditation over, they relapse into the pre-meditation state. Here it is essential to remove the illusion that an hour of meditation can make us free from passions. Emotions, impulses and passions are so deep-rooted in us that it is foolish to imagine that a little spiritual practice will make us free from them. We have discovered a single method by which tension can be removed. But to ensure that one does not suffer from tension at all, one will have to find out a permanent remedy through the adoption of a long-term process of practice. Permanent relief from tension can be had only by destroying the causes that produce it and this needs long-time spiritual practice.

Temporary Cure, Permanent Cure

What is the permanent remedy for avoiding tension altogether? It is the science of differentiation accompanying Kayotsarg. The clearer the differentiation with reference to matter, soul, body, the conscious mind, the deadlier the attack on the source of tension, so that tension is completely rooted out. We should have a proper understanding of the lines of differentiation. For, Kayotsarg after each bout of tension is but a temporary remedy. The science of differentiation on the other hand, strikes at the very root of the tension and therefore, affords permanent relief.

Developing the Stance of Knower-Seer

Another method of getting relief from tension is the development of the stance of a knower-seer. Happenings should be known and seen, not experienced or participated in. Knowing an event is different from experiencing it. The wise know, the ignorant experience. There is a fundamental difference between the two. He who knows the event but remains unaffected by it never suffers from unhappiness. Most people live the event. Seeing others weep at somebody's death, they themselves start wailing, allowing themselves to drift with the current.

It is said that once Bernard Shaw, while witnessing a play was so moved by the misbehaviour of the villain that he moved forward and slapped him. This illustrates how people allow themselves to be moved by external events.

It is necessary to understand the difference between knowing and experiencing. We should practise to be knower-seer. It is of course difficult, but once it has been accomplished, tension bids us goodbye forever. Being told that someone has bitterly criticised us, irrespective of its correctness, our tension rises to a point of hostility. It happens precisely because we are experiencers, not knowers-seers. We become tense by simply experiencing events without even ascertaining their truth.

The Nature of the World

The third way of relieving tension is to deny importance to events. Giving them importance raises tension. Any event should be taken in its stride. It will pass without affecting us. Rainwater collects only in depressions not on elevated heights. Similarly, the knower-seer stands on too high a ground to let worldly events affect him. If we realize the true nature of the world, we will abstain from getting involved in things and people, and as a result, avoid sorrow. Such an attitude will give us immunity against tension.

Such are the Ways of the World

Here is an incident which took place during Gurudev Tulsi’s stay in Delhi. A known person who was both a good businessman and a political worker came to see me. Sitting beside me he began weeping. I was amazed and asked him why he was weeping. Having calmed down after some time he said, “Maharaj, I am simply at my wit's end. We are four brothers. A few days ago, my three brothers who look after the business suddenly told me that I had no share in it any more. On the other hand, they told me that I owed them five to seven lacs of rupees.” He added in an anguished voice, “Maharaj, it is not the money, but their treatment that has broken my heart. Why did they deceive me? I simply cannot bear the thought of my brothers cheating me.” I said, “You are grossly mistaken. How come you are growing so sentimental despite being wise? Take it that such are the ways of the world. In fact, it would be a surprise if it didn't happen that way.” My words struck a deep chord in him and he became quite normal in a day or two.

Changing one's deep-rooted views is a means of getting enduring relief from tension. Kayotsarg etc. are also steps in that direction as an isolated exercise, but Kayotsarg will not be a permanent way of relieving tension, unless it is accompanied by a transformation of intellectual awareness. Right faith alone can bring permanent relief from tension and right faith implies an awareness of the science of differentiation.

Kayotsarg and Shavasan

Kayotsarg is not the corpse posture (Shavasan). The corpse posture is practised in Hathayoga, while Kayotsarg is practised in Preksha Meditation. The former involves only relaxation. The latter has three more things besides relaxation:

  • Spiritual alertness,
  • Dissolution of the ego
  • The science of differentiation.

If Kayotsarg is devoid of these three qualities, it is reduced to a tranquillizer. Kayotsarg is not a tranquillizer. Kayotsarg as a part of Preksha Meditation is an abiding remedy, because in it the ego is completely dissolved. How can tension arise when one believes in the principle that 'nothing is mine.

The Source of Tension

The biggest source of tension is egocentricity or sense of owning. You can yourself experience it. When your servant is defiant, you show your anger and work normally thereafter. You think that after all, he is a mere servant. If he goes away, another will come. But if your wife defies you, it causes unbearable agony, because you relate yourself with her by the tender thread of attachment. In reality, however, no one is anyone else's - all are independent. Just as you are an independent being, so are your servant and wife. The moment you call anyone 'mine', suffering starts. The true meaning of Kayotsarg is dissolution of the sense of owning and science of differentiation. The spiritual philosophy of treating body and soul as different entities automatically puts an end to tension by destroying its very source.

Spirituality is the Refuge

There can be many ready remedies of relieving tension such as medicines, yogic postures and intoxicants, but they give temporary relief. Even if one were to resort to them endlessly, tension would keep recurring. For permanent relief, the only refuge is in spirituality. Both physiology and psychology suggest measures for relieving tension, but none is capable of affording enduring relief. They act as mere palliatives. Therefore, what is needed is cleansing the mind. Mental attitude should be increasingly refined by passing through successive stages of concentration and steadiness of mind without the aid of external support (the fifth stage of mental state, according to Yoga, the fourth being concentration). No tension can arise in a state of placidity.

I had my Mind fixed elsewhere

There is an incident that took place in one of the southern states. A Jain ascetic was standing in the Kayotsarg posture. Nearby were roaming a few shepherds. Seeing the ascetic in deep meditation, they came close and began looking at him. Just then a black cobra slid close to the ascetic. The shepherds sought refuge on the trees and kept shouting to the ascetic sounding an alarm. The latter was in trance and showed no sign of response. The shepherds thought him deaf. Meanwhile the cobra bit the ascetic on his foot several times before gliding away. After some time, the ascetic came out of trance. The shepherds saluted him and told him to lose no time in securing a cure for the snakebite. He said there was no need of any treatment, as he did not even know that he had been bitten and there would be no poisoning since he had his mind fixed elsewhere.

It is Fear that kills

Feelings arise where the mind is fixed or directed. It is the mind that has to carry the feeling of poisoning. Moreover, it is an established fact that, some ninety percent people die of fear and only ten percent of snakebite. Of hundreds of species of snakes, only a few are poisonous, but the very feeling that one has been bitten by a snake is enough to kill a person. The thought of poisoning results in poisoning. No poisoning takes place when the mind is fixed elsewhere.

The vital Truth

First of all, we must practise concentration. Patanjali has said that even pain occurs where there is deflection of the mind. There is no pain where there is no mental deflection. This is a vital truth. We should try to transcend deflection by practising Preksha Meditation. We should overcome fickleness of the mind and attain concentration. The surroundings should not affect us. We should learn to be oblivious to the happenings around us. It is essential, because it is quite normal to be surrounded by crowds and noises. Without concentration, nothing much can be accomplished. Therefore, it is desirable that we give serious attention to the spiritual process of relieving tension and practise it hard. By so doing, we will have mastered the secret of solving the deadly problem of seeking freedom from tension.

Sources
Edition 2005
ISBN No. 81-7196-019-7

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg,
New Delhi-110 002

Edited by:
Muni Dhananjay Kumar

Translated by:
Prof. R.P. Bhatnagar

Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh,
210 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi

Printed at:

R-Tech Offset Printer Delhi-110032

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Concentration
  4. Delhi
  5. Drug addiction
  6. Fear
  7. Gita
  8. Greed
  9. Gurudev
  10. Karma
  11. Karmas
  12. Kayotsarg
  13. Mahavira
  14. Meditation
  15. Patanjali
  16. Preksha
  17. Preksha Meditation
  18. Pride
  19. Rajas
  20. Science
  21. Soul
  22. Tamas
  23. Tulsi
  24. Vedas
  25. Yoga
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