One of the most important qualities for a spiritual aspirant is discipline. This is crucial in order to be able to do her spiritual practice diligently, and also to practice an ethical code of conduct. Discipline puts a person in control over herself and gives her the authority to achieve her goals.
In many ways, spirituality is a right-brain affair for it is this part of the brain that governs intuition, creativity, and insight. However, for the original insights and intuitions to flower into a permanent state of being, the left-brain quality of discipline is crucial. We need to use our insights to change our behaviour, attitude, character, priorities and the way we relate to ourselves and others.
For this sort of transformation to happen, deepcore self-awareness is required.
The discipline of entering some purifying practice such as the practice of yoga, meditation, japa, is usually necessary. It requires tremendous effort and strength of mind to turn the mind into itself. Only discipline can enable you to work towards that.
Another area where discipline is essential is to direct our attitude and thoughts towards positivity and not negativity. Most of us are given to squandering our energies in fruitless and negative thinking. Someone says something and we waste a lot of time wondering why they said it and how they could, when none of this is our business. Our business is only to handle our reaction to it. Or we brood about our drawbacks and defects and wonder why we were not more gifted. If we were to direct that same energy into developing our potential, perhaps we would be! Discipline is essential for this task of focusing our energies where they count and taking then away from where they donít.
Furthermore, the great work of spirituality is to move away from ego-based needs and desires and to put the interests of the larger good above our own. For this task too, discipline is of importance for only it will help us to rise above self-indulgence and favour duty. Instead of watching our favourite TV programme we read a book to our sick friend or sibling. Instead of spending all our money on ourselves we educate a deserving youth. Instead of eating the box of mithai a visiting relative brings, we hand it over to the buildingís watchman. Gradually, bit by bit, we learn to discount our ego and its overblown concerns. We learn to go beyond ourselves.
Discipline also helps us lead orderly, efficient and respectable lives. Without discipline we would be living a life of disorder and mess, not conducive to the clarity and essentialness of the spiritual life.
So what happens if you donít have discipline? Never despair. Just ensure that you have vast quantities of another quality: determination. If you are determined to acquire discipline, nothing can stop you. It will take you time, but get there you will.
BY SUMA VARUGHESE