Truth Of Life: [3.2] Truth Of Life - 18 - Retrospection

Published: 09.06.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

The Art & Science Of Living

Chapter 3.

Truth Of Life



[Our present life has been shaped by our past. Our habits are formed in childhood. We cannot change them unless we retrospect and go back to our childhood to find the root cause. Prekshadhyana meditation helps you in retrospection. Emotions can be calmed when they are perceived at the unmanifested state. Better understanding of the self is possible through the process of retrospection.]

Once "darkness" came to Indra (the lord of rain) with a complaint and said, "The sun always keeps chasing me. Wherever I go, it comes behind me and troubles me. Kindly do justice and stop the sun from doing this." Indra called the sun and asked for clarification. The sun spoke, "Which darkness! I never see it. I do not even recognise it, then why talk of troubling darkness?"

Both the arguments given above are correct and truthful. The complaint of darkness is genuine and the reply of the sun is also true. The sun removes the darkness, this is correct and it has never seen the darkness, this is also a fact. Both the realities have to be viewed relatively. The truth will be then be known.

We should have a relative outlook towards our life also. In our life, we have both knowledge (light) and ignorance (darkness). The sun is also rising and the darkness is also permeating, both are relative.

The first chapter of our life is childhood. Many people claim that childhood is innocent, simple and clear and not deceitful. It has no evil in it. This claim is also one-sided. The other view is that a child is frank, pious and it learns everything in the context of society. This is also a one-sided view and not the absolute truth.

Actually the child inherits a lot of things, which are good and bad also. The child is bound by the doctrine of inheritance. It brings the chromosome, genetic and inbuilt imprints that has several impressions. That has the impression of actions in it. It has an unlimited treasure of impression of actions. So it cannot be accepted that a child is just blank, candid and plain like a paper. This is a relative truth, not the absolute truth. The other view is that the means and social environment influences and shapes the child. This is also a one-sided point of view. The social environment alone is not capable of impressing the child. The child has brought inbuilt imprints along with it, which also form part of his personality and influence him throughout his life. These inbuilt imprints manifest in the social context, then they collectively form his personality. Hundreds of children study in a school, they do not have identical behaviour. Their conduct, behaviour and knowledge are at varients and non-uniform. Had the social environment been solely responsible, then all children should be similar. A child may become a great poet at the age of ten whereas another child at the same age becomes a great philosopher or a saint. Despite being in the same environment and social context, there is a vast difference in their aptitudes and inclinations. This simply proves that social context and environment are not the sole contributory factors. The child definitely inherits the impression-seed within him, which has inclinations imprinted on it. Those capabilities, tendencies, aptitudes and capacities manifest in the social context, and sometimes these specialities reveal themselves in a separate form also. It does not happen with every child, it may occur exceptionally.

There is an anecdote in Rajprasneey Agam (a Jain canonical text). King Pradesi said, "Can a powerful, energetic and expert young man shoot an arrow?" Kesi Swami said, "Yes, he can shoot the arrow." Pradesi again asked, "Can a child shoot an arrow?" Kesi answered, "No, a child cannot shoot an arrow." Pradesi said, "Then how is the soul same and equal? Had the soul been the same then the way a young man shoots an arrow from the bow should be the same as a child shooting an arrow." Kesi said, "Pradesü The young man can shoot an arrow but if the thread of the bow is broken, then can the arrow be shot?" Pradesi said, "No!" Kesi asked, "Why?" Pradesi said, "The equipment is not complete. The arrow is broken. As long as all the equipment is not perfect the work cannot be accomplished." Kesi said, "O' king! you are correct. A child cannot shoot as his equipment is not sufficiently developed."

Our equipment is our own power, which acts as a means to do the work. The eyes see, so they become the means to see. The basic power of seeing does not exist only in the eyes. The eyes are simply the medium for the image. The power of sight actually exists in that nerve, which we call equipment. The ear has no power of hearing on its own. The ear has an equipment, which contains the power of hearing. Every tendency has its equipment, through which it functions. At the age of five to ten years, the child has incomplete equipment, so it cannot be known whether the child will be a great poet, a philosopher or a saint. The powers, which build a man, a great poet, philosopher or saint, are not yet manifest in the child. The equipment of the child is not fully developed. The child also has all the powers with him, but as long as his body and mental limbs are not fully evolved till then that child cannot perform all the tasks.
Therefore we cannot exclusively accept that the child is like a blank paper, perfect, clear and pious, having no virtues and vices.

There are many children, who have been brought up in a good environment but they do not become good. The basic reason behind this is their own speciality, their own inbuilt imprints. The concurrent activity of material cause and the means (i.e., social environment) results in accomplishing the state of life. Man may live for hundred years. Human life has been divided into ten parts. Each part is allotted a span of ten years.

The ten different states are:

  1. Childhood      
  2. Playhood      
  3. Immaturity
  4. Strength
  5. Knowledge   
  6. Deterioration
  7. Entanglement
  8. Flux
  9. Feet in Grave
  10. Deathbed

The first five states form the first half of life and the remaining five states form the final part of life.

The first state belongs to childhood, consisting of the first ten years. The condition existing in this age is beautifully explained by ancient acharyas. They say that though the child has the ability to experience happiness and sorrow, the child does not feel the extremes of happiness or sorrow. This is the state beyond the sensations of happiness and sorrow. A child of two to four years starts weeping one moment and the very next moment starts laughing. On getting hurt, he starts weeping and on getting sweets, he immediately starts laughing. A grown-up cannot do this, rather he is not expected to do this. A child has less awareness of happiness and sorrow. He feels less sensations. This is the period of construction; development and all the seeds start sprouting in this state.

A person doing Prekshadhyana has to learn to retrospect. He has to go back into the past and analyse his past. He should practice retrospection from yesterday s sunrise to sunset time. What did he do during this time? He should contemplate that. How many good thoughts emerged and how many bad thoughts arose? This process should continue. Viewing each event, situation and context, he should continue going backwards in time. If you are now forty years old then by remembering one year after another, keep retrospecting into the past as far as your memory can take you. You continue retrospection into the past till you reach the state of your childhood and perceive the impressions you had received. What have you picked up in your childhood? A beautiful chapter will open up which you had not read till today. In its illumination you will be able to know yourself. You will know the roots of your present habits and how your present good and bad habits had been sown in childhood. You will be able to seek the root of your habits there, find out when the particular habit was formed, why it was formed and under what circumstances. What were my actions, which moulded my nature, when I was eight years old?

It is a big task to analyse our own personality. A person, who retrospects and unravels his memories till its roots, knows the mysteries of life. As long as this secret is not known, till then one never knows when and how a particular evil habit was sown. Without reaching the roots, the plant of evil habit can never be rooted out.
There was a beggar. His habit of begging was so deep rooted that it was impossible to give it up. He bought a lottery ticket and prayed to God in the temple to help him win lakhs of rupees. A man, standing beside him asked, "You are a beggar, what will you do with lakhs of rupees?" The beggar replied, "I shall buy a car. So far I had been begging and wandering on foot. But, after getting a car, I shall beg, sitting in the car." The habit of begging was very deep rooted. It was difficult for the beggar to give up that habit even after getting the car.

You will be able to give up the habit only through retrospection. By practising retrospection continuously, you will have to go back to the state of childhood and only then will it be possible to drop a habit. When a creature comes in­to the womb it brings along with it a lot of impressions. We should try to go back to that state of our womb. We should not stop there, rather we should further try to enhance the capacity to retrospect to attain the knowledge of our previous birth.

This is the process of retrospection. It is the process of going back into the past. Keep going back into the past and keep perceiving the past. What happened when? Go on perceiving whatever had transpired. The whole past will be clearly revealed like a cinema flashback. At that time you will read the past as if you were reading the page of an open book.

From the view of the theory of karma (action) and spiritual practice, the most important subject to be read is the first chapter of life i.e. childhood. It is very important and necessary to read it. The condition of natural equanimity exists in this state. Even a mystic is compared to a child. The child has no hoarding tendency, has total openness and no cunningness. If there is an unfavourable thing, the child will get annoyed and start weeping. But he will not hoard it in his mind to avenge. He forgets it immediately. A child lives in the present moment. We should live like a child. When a grown-up feels insulted, he does not forget it for years together. There is this big difference in the nature of a child and an adult. That is why, wherever simplicity, innocence and piety are considered, the child is quoted as an example. In view of repentance for a sinful act, a sinful man is inspired to make a clean confession of his faults without hiding anything. If someone comes to a spiritual master to criticise and expiate for his sins, the master reminds him that all physical and mental torture are a reaction to his own misdeeds. Now when you open up your mind and criticise whatever you have done like an innocent child, then your mind will be relieved and your problems will disappear.

A patient got thorough investigations and checkups done by a doctor but no disease could be diagnosed. The doctors declared that the patient had no disease. The patient said, "I am suffering from a lot of pain and anxiety, and you claim that I have no sickness. How can I accept this? What is the reason?"The doctors had no answer for this. The patient was not suffering from disease, which could be diagnosed by the ultra-modern equipment of the doctors. This man was suffering from a disease which cannot be diagnosed by even the latest medical equipment. This is a disease of emotions. One cannot be free from this disease as long as he does not retrospect and go back into the state of his childhood and understand the cause behind this disease. Unless he visits his hoary past, becomes simple, innocent and confesses in his mind candidly, till then he cannot get rid of that ailment.

Jain acharya taught the philosophy of purity, which says, "I retrospect my past, criticise my past misdeeds and wish to be free from misdeeds." Though it is purely a philosophy of spirituality yet it is equally applicable to medical science. A psychologist also takes the help of this system and goes back to the roots and resolves the complex.

Jesus has said, "He who is innocent like a child will avail the kingdom of heaven." Only a simple person deserves to get into the kingdom of heaven. It is strange that a child is not assumed to be wicked. After the age of ten years, whether anybody indulges in shrewdness or not, that state is considered as the shrewd age. A grown man may not be shrewd yet he is assumed to be shrewd. If a child indulges in shrewdness, even then he is considered innocent. The state of childhood is always believed to be free from illusion. This is a state when the realisation of happiness and sorrow is minimum. The intensity of the realisation of happiness and sorrow is less and the memories too are few. The child neither remembers his praise nor his condemnation. In a moment, he quarrels with his companion, and in the very next moment he will sit along with his friend and eat. The child knows no hoarding and he is said to be child-like. In fact, this state of childishness is better than that of sensibility because this childish condition, simplicity, only resolves the complex and initiates the journey towards the past to reform our life.

A grandfather and grandson were sitting together in a room. The telephone bell rang and the child picked up the receiver. The child said to his grandfather, "Some gentleman wants to speak to you." The grandfather said, "Tell him that I have gone to the market." The child responded instantly, "Hello, my grandfather is telling me to say that he has gone to the market." This is the simplicity of the child.

A poet started reciting a poem at a poetry symposium. The audience threw brickbats at him. The face of the poet started bleeding. He covered his face with a handkerchief and came back to his house. His wife enquired, "Why have you covered your face with a handkerchief? Blood is oozing out. What happened?" He replied, "Nothing special. Two of my front teeth were shaking. I had to get them removed. Today, by chance they got broken themselves. That is why blood is oozing out from the mouth." Is this maturity or the simplicity of a grown-up person?

A grown up hides facts. Therefore, he does not get to the truth. Man is more mature that is why law and order is becoming increasingly more complex day by day. Sensibility is closely related to complexity. Actually man himself creates the web of complexity and gets entangled in the web in such a way that it becomes difficult to get out.

In the childhood stage, the perceptions are not manifest. It is quite imperative to reach that state. As long as lust, anger and the impulse of greed remain active and effective, meditation is not possible. A meditator is merely a practitioner, not a master. He does have impulses of ego, greed, treachery, hatred, jealousy and lust. These emotions cannot be given up easily. The very objective of meditation is to take away these impulses of attachment and ego to the unmanifested state. Whatever is manifested, has to be taken to the unmanifested state, so that these faults will be calmed and all these hurdles will be deactivated. When these impulses are allowed to be manifested then they keep growing and disturbing us repeatedly. So it is necessary not to give them any chance to be active. These impulses should be rendered powerless.

Every man experiences several kinds of waves, due to the fickleness of his mind. These waves keep rising sometime or the other and affect him. A meditator is able to calm these impulses. Meditation is the process of calming these impulses and making them ineffective. The strategy towards the impulses permeating within should be to keep them unmanifested as much as possible. Fear is one of the impulses that succeeds only when man runs away from it fearfully and then fear keeps dogging him. As soon as man gathers his wits together and confronts the fear, then the fear becomes ineffective and passive.

But unfortunately, man is inclined to exaggerate every situation in life. He is habitually making mountains out of molehills. When he realistically confronts the situation for what it is worth, then it becomes very easy to handle. So the process of viewing and perceiving is a very important activity.

We view the past, the future and the present. Today we are discussing the philosophy of viewing the past, i.e., the state of childhood. We are discussing the process of perceiving childhood. A person, who is able to perceive his childhood, unfolds a lot of secrets of life, and his personality becomes unique. In that state only, man understands himself in the true sense, i.e., What am I? What was I? Who is responsible for my present?

Our present life is the outcome of our past actions. It has been shaped by the past. I must perceive that state of my childhood, which is what has contributed to my present state. The fruits, the results cannot be directly destroyed but the roots of the tendencies can be destroyed.

A normal man tries to destroy the outcome but he never succeeds. A meditator does not bother about the outcome and he endeavours to destroy the tendency that causes the undesirable outcome.

Unless the man goes deep to the roots, a right solution cannot be sought. The basis of our personality is childhood, where the seeds were actually sown. Only by reaching there, can we drop the undesirable inclinations. Childhood is the foundation of our life. We must reach that foundation. The past has to be analysed. We have to keep digging into the past till we reach the state of our childhood. The day we step on to the corridor of our childhood, the same day we shall clearly know ourselves. One will understand the past actions, which have resulted in the present status of the self. The above issues give a new direction to life.

Edited by Muni Dulharaj
Copyright by Pathfinder Trust, New Delhi, India ©2001
Published by Sterling Publishers Pvt.Ltd., New Delhi, India
Translated by Pathfinder Trust, New Delhi, India
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharyas
  3. Agam
  4. Anger
  5. Body
  6. Environment
  7. Equanimity
  8. Fear
  9. Greed
  10. Indra
  11. Karma
  12. Meditation
  13. Prekshadhyana
  14. Science
  15. Science Of Living
  16. Soul
  17. Swami
  18. Truth Of Life
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