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Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 2: Overview of Practicies Involved > Chapter : !

elf"#eflection and $ction

!elf"#eflection and $ction
Be objective
If he can bring hi&self to desert his habitual standpoint and begin to think as a sage
thinks' his battle will be over bloodlessly( But if he cannot do so' cannot let go so
abruptly of his old egois&s and ani&alis&s' then there will be a long struggle' with its
attendant wounds and inescapable sufferings(
)he disciple should be ever alert to profit by his e*perience and' especially' to note
where his own attitudes create his own ills( )his profit will co&e to hi& only if he looks
at the e*perience with ego"free eyes(
,is ai& being the contrary of &ost people-s ai&s' he tries to depersonali.e his attitudes
and reactions( /hat relief he feels with even partial freedo& fro& the burden of self"
consciousness( ,ow heavy a load is borne by those who see' sense' or react with ego"
centered nervousness(
)he inner work re1uires hi& to strive deliberately to keep on entering""and re"entering
after each lapse""a state of awareness of what thoughts he is holding and what e&otions
he is feeling2 and if any correction is called for to &ake it instantly( )he work is to be
continued until correct thinking has beco&e habitual and settled(
$t off intervals during the day' he is to pull hi&self up abruptly and note the nature and
character of his thoughts( )hen he is to ask hi&self why he is holding the& or what is
i&pelling hi& towards the&( )he purificatory worth of this practice is great( It gives
hi& the chance to beco&e aware of negatives and throw the& out' but best of all it
trains hi& in detach&ent( 4ro& this e*ercise he is to go on to its se1uel' which applies
the sa&e attitude towards what the body-s senses tell hi& and also towards what his
e&otions and passions &ake hi& feel(

In the end' the 5uest beco&es an effort to separate hi&self fro& his lower principles' to
disown his lower nature' and to repudiate his lower self( ,e &ust consider the task a
lifelong one' and therefore guard against pre&ature co&placency by &aking repeated
self"scrutiny with hu&ility and abase&ent(
$s he studies his present life so i&personally' the past also co&es back to hi&( ,e will
then find hi&self &ore interested in its errors and failures than in its virtues and
successes( ,e will search for' and try to recogni.e' the point of departure where' in such
negative e*periences' he first went wrong(
8nless you word your replies to criticis&s carefully' cautiously' restrainedly' &ildly' and
with dignity' you will create violent and intolerant reactions' for few seek truth and &ost
seek partisan opinions( 9ou &ust de&onstrate by the cal&' dignified' te&perate' and fair
character of utterance' by its freedo& fro& bitterness' that you have attained a higher
level than those who& you critici.e(
)he philosophic aspirant &ust test the truth or falsity of the pheno&ena which present
the&selves as he advances' of the teachings he hears and the intuitions he receives and'
especially' of the &oral ideals involved in every situation( ,e should not take for
granted his ability to distinguish true fro& false' right fro& wrong' whether in the inner
or outer life( )he safeguard of such a test is needed because he is' &entally and
e&otionally' so tangled up with his personal self that his e*periences the&selves are so
interfered with' his interpretations of the& so altered by the ego' that their correctness
needs to be e*a&ined(
It is the earnest aspirant-s duty to accept criticis&( Provided it is not rendered in a spirit
of personal &alice' he should hu&bly' une&otionally' and i&personally seek to learn
,e will have to learn the art of standing aside fro& hi&self' of observing his actions and
analysing his &otives as though they belonged to so&e other person( ,e &ay cease to
practise this art only when his actions reflect the cal& wisdo& of the Overself and when
his &otives reflect its detached i&personality(
Once the past is properly' i&personally' understood2 once the logic of its conse1uences
is traced2 once the i&plication of all this is practically applied' especially in self"
discipline: let it go(
,e needs to recogni.e his strengths as well as his weaknesses' so as to have a fairer
view of hi&self( ,e need not paint too so&bre a picture(
It is hard for the civili.ed &an to know what are his true instincts and what his false
ones( /hat see&s true &ay be &erely what is habitual to hi&' what he is accusto&ed to(
!o he &ust get this knowledge fro& a revelation""either an e*ternal or an internal one(
Only he who is willing to regard hi&self entirely without partiality and his critics
entirely without pre<udice can hope for any success in this 5uest(
/e &ust learn to see &ore clearly' to separate our real needs fro& our fancied ones(
)ake a single e*a&ple( Our real need is to be e&otionally secure( Our fancied need is
possession of or association with a particular person through who& we believe such
security can be had( )his person &ay be a &arital &ate or a spiritual &aster(
If he is to save hi&self he will need a relentless honesty about' and toward' hi&self( ,e
&ust be unco&pro&ising in getting at true appraisals of his &otives' his actions' and his
)hrough attending to the deepest inner pro&ptings that co&e to one in &o&ents of
rela*ed cal&' one &ay get valuable pointers toward the best direction of any needed
changes or ad<ust&ents in his worldly life(
)ake all criticis& graciously' even s&ilingly( )his &eans you are neither upset by it nor
indifferent to it' but that you take it to heart to learn hu&bly' coolly' and i&personally
whatever is true in it(
=!traight is the way and narrow the gate thereof= said >esus( )he ,indu Upanishads' the
sacred and for&erly secret works containing so&e of the highest wisdo& of India' have
a si&ilar phrase: =)he path which is as narrow as the edge of a ra.or(= /hat do these
words &ean? )hey do not tell of a path to &oral perfection' however desirable it &ay be
to be &orally perfect( No@ the way they speak of is the 8lti&ate Path which de&ands
fro& us utter and co&plete rectitude of thought and feeling( Avery &ove&ent &ade in
the heart and &ind &ust be co&pletely straight' undeflected' and undistorted( )he
&ental activity &ust be true in every sense of the word( Bife &ust beco&e one"pointed'
perfectly concentrated' &oving always in a straight line( /hen ideas are warped by
pre<udices' or distorted by preconceptions' or clouded by illusions' or infla&ed by
e*cite&ents' then the &ove&ent of the &ind is not straight but wavering fro& side to
side( It &ay even turn round and &ove backwards( /e inevitably approach life with a
predeter&ined outlook which has gradually developed fro& the &any influences played
upon us since childhood( #are indeed is the &an who is i&&une to the&( )his bias
tends to overload with personal feeling all <udge&ent' and to raise selfish e&otion to the
status of a test of truth(
$s if his own new negative creations plus the inheritance of older kar&ic carry"overs
were not enough troubles for hi&' he has also to endure the buffetings of other persons-
negative thoughts' feelings' and speech about hi&(
)he obstacles which he has put in his own path can be re&oved by no one but hi&self(
It will be hard to ferret out the blunders into which his own egois& will lead hi&' for it
will deceive itself as it will deceive hi&' by using the guises of virtuous feeling or
logical thinking( ,is supposedly selfless &otives &ay be' in reality' other than what they
see&( ,is superficially sound reasoning &ay be an atte&pt on the part of his ego to
retain its hold upon hi& by plausible self"<ustification(
Cifficulties are always within the skull( 8nless you can con1uer the& in there' you will
never con1uer the& outside(
!o&e denigrate their own power by accepting the truth of &entalis& but denying the
possibility of it in e*perience( 4or the& the sages prescribed the study of te*ts'
the thinking out for the&selves of their deep &eaning' and deep &editation( )his done'
the obstacles are re&oved and the way is opened for intuition to transcend intellect and
lead the aspirants into Overself( It presupposes that they have earlier purified character
and strengthened concentration(
If a person desirous of following this path has troubles and difficulties' which assuredly
&ost of us have' he &ust learn to apply &ental discipline to hi&self in dealing with
these conditions( )here are those who have a tendency to &agnify fears unreasonably'
and to throw the&selves unnecessarily and un<ustifiably into &oods of acute an*iety or
e&otional disturbance( !uch people &ust learn to apply their philosophy to the
difficulties they are having and try to rise high above the&' serenely and cal&ly' by
refusing to worry and by turning the& over in full faith to Dod( Isn-t this the test of
faith? )hey &ust show by the way they refuse to be drawn into &erely personal
attitudes towards these proble&s and by the way in which they instantly co&&it the& to
Dod and ,is powerful care that they have an appreciation of this teaching and seek to
apply it( )hey &ust also overco&e the habit of seeking' every ti&e a difficulty crops up'
advice fro& the &ystics whose teachings and writings they strive to follow""or else they
will rob the&selves of true self"reliance( It is i&possible for the advanced &ystic to
undertake intervention in all such personal &atters as that is really outside his province(
8sually the way in which he gives help is general' not particular' i&personal and not
personal' and it is through a prayer whose result spreads over long periods rather than
through day"to"day separate thoughts( It is easy for the ego to &is"translate the help it
receives' so these people &ust be careful to watch out for that(
$s ).e 9a ).e wrote: =)o hesitate when the occasion presents itself is to hinder )ao(=
)hose who li&it the&selves to the practice of &editation as the sole &eans of finding
the spiritual self and who believe that this alone is sufficient' who never show signs of
giving attention to the ennoble&ent of character or to &agnani&ous' generous' and
co&passionate ai&s' will not find the spiritual self but only a dull 1uiescence of feeling'
a blank e&ptiness of &ind' that have no real lasting value since they will cru&ble away
when &eeting the hard struggles of worldly life(
)he hidden resent&ents have to be unveiled' the open &ental barricades have to be
Concepts and procedures which served hi& on the 5uest in the past""ideas sy&bols
na&es and for&s which helped hi& then""have beco&e rigidly fi*ed in his &ind and he
hi&self has beco&e so attached to the& as to be dependent upon the&( ,e has lost
openness of &ind and beco&e dog&atic' the victi& of his own <argon( )hus the very
things which were of service to hi& are no longer so and' in fact' constitute barriers
stopping his further progress towards the true freedo&(
Apply the will
)he right creative use of faith and will' e*ercise and effort can work wonders in leading
us out of the enslave&ent' the blindness' and the ignorance of the lower nature back to
the enlighten&ent' the freedo&' and the wisdo& of the higher self(
Practice is the first re1uisite( Cay after day one &ust dig into one-s &ind( One cannot
learn swi&&ing fro& a printed book alone' nor can one learn to know the Overself
&erely by reading about it(
4ew are willing to undergo discipline and deliberately refor& the&selves( 9et' so&e
&ethod of attain&ent is necessary' so&e e*ercises of the inner life &ust be followed'
otherwise there will be inertia and stagnation( )he resolute practice of so&e spiritual
techni1ue brings inner energy into everyday living(
If a &an is to arrive so&ewhere on this 5uest' he &ust gain his own respect by being
strong' &ust have a fir& &ind and support his words by his will(
,is spiritual fervour is not to consu&e itself in futile e&otional sputters that end in the
air nor waste itself in frothy senti&entalities that are shut"eyed to realities( If he finds
hi&self strong in feeling but weak in action' he should take it as a sure sign that the will
has to be e*ercised &ore' the body hardened and disciplined(
Only he who has taken one can know the value of a vow to help hi& struggle through
inner conflicts of will against desire( )he dedicated life can beco&e also the fortified
life' if a &an swears sole&nly to hold it to a specific discipline(
But &en cannot &aster the&selves solely by willpower( It can give the& so &uch
control and no &ore(
)he cultivation of power &ust begin with the will' which &ust be used to i&pede desire
and govern passion(
It is for hi& to deter&ine how his thoughts and feelings are to be shaped' and how his
forces are to be used( )his calls for acts of the will to follow choices of the will(
$t first he has to use his will to break away fro& undesirable or negative feelings' to
&ove his consciousness out of the&( But first he &ust recogni.e the& for what they are'
then he &ust react against the& swiftly(
$nyone who pursued the 5uest with the sa&e .eal with which everyone pursues earthly
things' would soon co&e within sight of its goal(
)here is a weapon which we can place in our hands that will render us independent of
e*ternal patronage and &ake us &aster of circu&stance-s ebb and flow( )his is the
power of persistent will(
$spiration &ust e*press itself in action( )he weak are forever wishing' but the strong
take the plunge and act( )here are three kinds of people in the world' the /ills' the
/on-ts and the Can-ts( )he first achieve everything' the second oppose everything' and
the third are failures( /hich will you be?
)o &ake the result dependent on grace alone would be to deny the e*istence and power
of the universal law of reco&pense( )he need of effort can only be ignored by those
who fail to see that it plays an indispensable part in all evolution' fro& the lowly
physical to the lofty spiritual(
If we were static beings fi*ed and chained by Nature' nothing would be worth the effort
of trying( But we are not( /e are dyna&ic centres of intelligence( Eost of us revolve at
low speeds( $ll of us could revolve &ore 1uickly( !o&e of us could even revolve at high
speeds( 4or we can will ourselves into anything( In the silence of our heart we &ust will
that this thing be acco&plished' and lo' it is( =I will= carries &an onward and upward'
and defeat only spurs to further endeavour(
)he iron strength of his purpose will shield hi& fro& te&ptations' the intense force of
his loyalty to the truth will carry hi& through obstacles and barriers( ,e is astonished to
find how easily the &an who knows what he wants can con1uer his way to it' if his will
is able to go straight to its &ark(
/e have to de&onstrate by our lives and to e*e&plify in our attitudes not only the truth
of the ideas which rule our &inds' but also the inherent power of these ideas(
)o enter into the in&ost part of his being calls for a terrific struggle' a terrific strength'
and a terrific concentration( $ll his powers need to be called to the task( )hey &ust
therefore be brought up out of latency and developed to a sufficient degree before the
inward <ourney can even be started' if it is to have any likelihood of success at all( !uch
develop&ent re1uires syste&atic working on hi&self and cannot be left to &erely
chance and rando& spontaneity(
)he power to co&&une with the Overself is within us all' but &ost do not trouble to
e*ert the&selves in the nurture and cultivation of it( ,ence they do not possess it in
)he 1uest is a deliberate atte&pt to shorten the passage fro& life in the underself to life
in the Overself( )herefore it involves a constant discipline of actions' feelings' thoughts'
and words(
)here is no roo& for spiritual lethargy and personal la.iness in the philosophical
aspirant-s life( 4irst he will labour incessantly at the i&prove&ent of hi&self2 when this
has been acco&plished' he will labour incessantly at the i&prove&ent of others(
If so&e &en succeed spiritually because they are destined to' &ost &en do because they
are deter&ined to(
4or& a plan of life and carry it out(
,e has to oppose his own preferences when they stand in the way of progress( ,e has to
drive hi&self to do what he fears to do(
Nothing is &ore fortifying to the will than to do so&ething every day along the lines of
a declared intention to which all habit and environ&ent are opposed(
)hey &ust stir so&e strength into their wills( But if they were unwilling to do this' then
it were better to wait and let evolution perfor& its slow process of education( !uffering
and loss would not be absent fro& this process' but they would be spread out over
longer periods and hence spread thinner(
)o take up the practice every day afresh re1uires a certain strength of will' a certain
stubbornness of purpose' and a certain appreciation of its worth( 4ew have this staying
Ackhart: =!loth often &akes &en eager to get free fro& work and set to conte&plation'
but no virtue is to be trusted until it has been put into practice(=
It is true here as in other fields that study of the history and theory of &ysticis& will
never be a satisfying substitute for practice of the e*ercises of &ysticis&(
Philosophy uses sacrifice and discipline to train the practical will( 4or we are not only to
hear its voice but also to obey it(
)o believe that such a great task can be achieved without personal effort and self"control
is &erely to deceive the&selves( It is to deny the biblical state&ent that only what they
sow can they reap(
)his is a work which calls for the interaction of two powers""&an-s will and Overself-s
grace( )he will-s work is to engage in so&e &easure of self"discipline' and yet to
surrender itself entirely at the proper &o&ent(
If the fruits of philosophy are not to be plucked in the gutter and the tap"roo&' neither
are they to be found in the dry leaves of printed books: they can be gathered only by
those who atte&pt to live it(
Aach &an &ust want and will his own entry to co&&union with the higher power(
=I4 ( ( (=is usually the sy&bol of failure' but =I can'= and =I will ( ( (= are powerful &ottos
that are always the sign of the success"bound(

=No &an can serve two &asters'= said >esus( )hus he re<ected all indecision of will(
/e &ust lay siege to our own soul( If the fort of &ind is attacked with dogged
deter&ination' the victory is pro&ised us( But the siege &ust be &aintained until the
day the gates open(
Ideas are born and die within our brains( Bofty thoughts and &agnificent sche&es for
self"regeneration swi& before our eyes like so&e new tortures of )antalus( 9et we are
unable to back the& up in action( Our desperate need is the vital will necessary to give
our ideas concrete e*pression in e*ternal life(
)o all those students who co&plain of inability to get correct guidance on the proble&s
and confusion in their worldly lives' answer: )his is because they are not practising
what they have studied( )hey are not applying the philosophy( )hey allow negative
&oods' e&otions' and thoughts to take possession""instead of fir&ly e*ercising their
will to resist beginnings and crush the danger in the bud( )hey want the guidance
without having prepared the conditions which &ake guidance possible( If aspirants do
not try to deny the&selves in certain ways' they re&ain unprepared and therefore unfit
for illu&ination( )hey &ust fir&ly resolve to lift the&selves above the level of blind
ani&al i&pulse or &ere inert drifting( Otherwise' what is the difference between the&
and the &ultitude of ordinary folk who do not even know there is a 5uest? )his 1uest is
not for weaklings( Bet such go back to popular religion( It is only for those who are
ready to be steeled in will and shorn of self"pity( #eal aspirants show they are such
because they do not weary in their efforts and re&ain uninfluenced by the setbacks and
difficulties that they &eet with on the way( )here is good hope for a &an no &atter how
&uch of a beginner he is' but only if he is eager to see his &istakes' if he is his own
harshest critic' and if he puts forth a continuous and persistent effort to a&end his life(
The Notebooks are copyright F %:70"%:7:' )he Paul Brunton Philosophic 4oundation(