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Aahar Vihar & Aachar - Vichara

Every human is different, therefore it is necessary for each of us to find out for
ourselves how we can live a healthy life. Health is wealth. We should live our lives
keeping in mind our age, our limitations and our behaviour with others. Ultimately
we are social animals and are dependent on each other for everything, directly or
indirectly. Yet, since we are so very different from each other, we have to take
extreme care of how we deal with others. Inspite of an arranged matrimonial match
between families with similar cultural and educational backgrounds, each family
member lives differently and is unique.
Therefore, Achar, my behaviour/conduct with others should be loving, caring and
cordial at all times. More important is Vichar, my way of thinking we can be
negative, or positive or neutral, in that order. We should convert our negative
thoughts into positive and if we are unable to be positive then we should try to be
neutral, but never to allow anything to disturb us. Lets make an effort to absorb
this method deep into our daily lives.
Today we have learnt of the four pillars
1. Ahar what we eat, how much we eat and how we eat,
2. Vihar our rest / recreation time, our routines including Niyamas,
3. Achar our conduct with the external world which is in fact is the first step of
the 8-fold path i.e.Yamas Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truth), Asteya (nonstealing), Brahmacharya (moderation in seeking pleasures), Aparigraha (nonstealing) and
4. Vichar our goals in life, our school of thought.
We have to take care of all the four pillars equally to be able to lead a healthy and
happy life. If even one of them is ignored then we shall bear pain, disease and
suffering to some intensity. This thought has been reiterated not only in the Yoga
Sutras but in Ayurveda and the Bhagwad Gita as well.
There are a variety of new researches happening and I recently read that 4 cups of
coffee a day can reduce ones life span by half. We had a French visitor once who
was a coffee addict and mentally very disturbed as well. The point is that we have
to live holistically, maintaining a balance of all the four pillars as shared above. If
we give more importance to any one of them or just one of them, then it will lead
to an imbalance which will be very painful to us. We should always understand
and keep in mind the purpose behind doing any action. If we forget the purpose
then the action will create problems.

Vichar
by Swami Jyotirmayananda
Katha Upanishad says that Brahma (the Creator) fashioned the mind and senses in
such a manner that they flow outwards by their very nature. Therefore, one does
not behold the Atman. The majority of people thus possess this externalized mind,
or vahirmukhi vritti. There are some special souls, however, who, with their mental
strength, direct that outward flow to the Atman within. That inward flow, called
antarmukhi vritti, allows the mind to be centered on the roots of the objects of
things instead of being distracted by the objects of the senses, by superficial names
and forms. It is in this internalized mind that vichar or enquiry into the nature of
the Self can be learned and practiced.
So, in Vedanta, when it is said that the mind has two processes, internal and
external, they are being used in a special sense, not to be confused with the
psychological terms, extrovert and introvert. A psychologically introverted person
will be socially withdrawn, and an extrovert will be outgoing. One could, however,
be quite an introvert sociallyappearing to others to be internalizedand yet
possess quite a distracted and externalized mind form a spiritual point of view. On
the other hand, one could be engaged in many activities and thus be extroverted in
nature, and yet may possess antarmukhi vritti, an inner flow of feeling towards the
Divine Self, at all times. One may be looking outwards, yet be internalized.
Similarly, one may keep his eyes closed, yet be externalized.
PREPARING YOUR MIND FOR VICHAR
True antarmukhi vritti must be promoted in order to practice reflection, or enquiry
into Who am I? In order to promote this type of mind, a mental environment
conducive to the practice of vichar must be created.
Satsanga: To build this environment, you first need to promote satsanga (good
association), which allows your mind to be filled with positive impressions. If you
are constantly in rajasic (distracting) association, where hours pass talking about
nothing, the mind becomes laden with useless data and gossipone person cooked
a particular type of soup, and somewhere a pumpkin grew that was shaped like a
banana! One talks for hours over ridiculous things. Even things that seem quite
purposeful and fantastically interesting are, from and advanced point of view,
useless. Anything that keeps your mind distracted and unable to practice enquiry is
useless. So, it is necessary to simplify your life; if it is too complex, you cannot

practice enquiry.
Selfless Service: Further, in order to be successful in vichar, mala and vikshepa
must be removed. Mala refers to such gross impurities as anger, greed, passion and
hatred. These cause mental agitations, and are removed by the practice of selfless
service. Mala has to be treated every day, just as everyday you wash dishes or
bathe your body. No one should sit contented, thinking I have done sufficient
Karma Yoga; now I can devote my entire life to enquiry. The moment you do,
you have made a mistake. You must always have a project of selfless service, even
though you may think you have attained a high degree of purity.
Meditation: Similarly, vikshepa or distraction must be removed. This is done by
another daily practice known as upasana, or meditation. Meditation can be
practiced in either a devotional manner or by just focusing the mind upon some
object, concept or idea. The Upanishads have given many techniques of upasana,
most of which are symbolic. That is, you can meditate on Brahman (the Divine
Self) as the moon, the sun, the ocean, the Himalayas, a flower, or on Deities such
as Krishna or Rama. The practice of such devout meditation is very effective in
removing distraction.
To understand this effectiveness of upasana in stilling the mind for reflection,
consider the following example. Suppose a lamp is burning in a place where there
are gusty winds. Though the lamp is still burning, the light is affected and cannot
perfectly illumine the contents of the room. As the winds decrease, the light burns
more serenely and things that were obscured are now illumined. Similarly, as you
practice upasana you are reducing the distraction of your mind. The wind of
distraction diminishes, the lamp of pure reason shines brighter and you begin to
understand the secrets of your own being. You begin to understand that your
physical body is not your Self. The senses, the pranas, the mind, the intellect, and
the ego are not you; you are the Eternal Reality. You are not involved in the three
states of consciousnesswaking, dream and deep sleep. You are not confined to
time and space. You are beyond these. This form of awareness develops when
distractions diminish and reason begins to shine brighter. That rational movement
is the nature of enquiry, the nature of vichar.
Balance Your Personality: Although this world has produced numerous rational
philosophical systems, the reasoning upon which they are based does not always
reflect a healthy mental environment. For example, there are people who have not
lived a balanced life and have thus been disillusioned time after time. Such
experiences have brought them to a state of pessimism. To them, everything is

doomed to a black destiny, and nothing can be done about it. Many books and
logical arguments support their philosophy, and the moment you read such books,
their logical brilliance and argumentation forces you to share the authors intense
frustration. Although their arguments are given with a brilliance of intellect, it is
not a positive brilliance. A truly brilliant intellect is free of distraction and arises
only in a healthy, balanced personality.
A balanced personality, therefore, is very important for a healthy understanding of
philosophy. Without it, you become sidetracked by so many speculative
philosophical systems. Years can be spent just in learning all the philosophical
terms, only to discover that not two philosophers use the same terms with the exact
same meaning. Further, you realize that many bright philosophers never come to
grips with the Reality, the Self; they simply fabricate a philosophy based on their
own personalities. Their errorturning the intellect loose without balancing the
personalityhas to be avoided by a spiritual aspirant.
A balanced personality is gained when you are guided by scriptural revelation, by
the experiences of the Sages. Under such influence, your intellect can relax, and
therefore, it can gain the sensitivity to move towards an intuitive enfoldment. If,
however, your intellect is guided only by your ego, it remains an ordinary intellect.
True philosophical enquiry, or vichar, is a movement in which internalization leads
to intuition, and balancing ones personality is a crucial factor in that movement.
HOW TO PRACTICE VICHAR
In the beginning stages, you can practice reflection in order to discover your
defectsanger, greed, hate, and other negative qualitiesand to remove them. As
you advance, you can reflect on the teachings of the scriptures and their reference
to the divine roots of your personality. As you further advance in your enquiry into
Who am I? reflection is directed towards Brahman, and you are guided by the
Mahavakyas, or Great Utterances, such as, I am Brahman and Thou art That.
As you begin to practice vichar, you will notice that your flow of reflection comes
and goes. The mind may reflect a little, and then suddenly becomes clouded again.
But as upasana is repeatedly practiced and distraction is further removed, you will
find vichar asserts itself more and more, becoming clear, intense and precise.
You should understand the difference between reflection and meditation. When
you meditate, your mind focuses on one object or concept; when you practice
vichar, you open your intellect in an effort to understand. The fact is, both go

together in a strange manner: you never know when upasana stops and vichar
begins, or when vichar stops and upasana continues. It is like saying, When the
wind stops, the lamp shines forth, or When the lamp shines forth, the wind
stops. Therefore, reflection and meditation are interrelated and should be blended
in practice.
When you are seated in meditation and your mind becomes satwic, you may find
yourself easily enter into reflection. Continue that practice of reflection until you
see that the mind cannot flow in that direction any longer, and the moment you see
your reflection has become verbal or mechanical, just let your mind relax.
When your mind is not inclined toward vichar, you should practice other things
like meditation, japa (repetition of mantra or the Divine Name), Karma Yoga,
Hatha Yoga or physical exercises such as walking or running. This is why so many
different disciplines have been enjoined by the Sages.
If you persist day by day, however, your reflective power increases and vichar
extends itself into your daily life. Then even though you are working and doing
various things, vichar continues internally. When you have gathered a great deal of
sattwa and your whole personality has become highly integrated, vichar becomes
your second nature. Vichar becomes spontaneous and you continue to reflect no
matter where you are, no matter what you are doing.
THE GLORY OF VICHAR
The process of vichar is most inspiring. The scriptures say that you may visit so
many pilgrimage centers and perform so many good deeds, but you can gain all
that merit and more by just a few moments of perfect vichar. Vichar brings you
come close to Brahman. The moment you enquire properly and the reflective
process dawns in your mind, you become aware that you are not the body nor the
mind, but you are the Universal Self. The instant you glimpse this fact, you have
plunged yourself in mystic, sacred waters. A moments bath in that mystic water of
knowledge purifies your soul. Not only does it give you the greatest merit, but also
innumerable negative karmas are removed in a split second.
As you practice reflection, you develop the art of thinking most profoundly.
Dynamic thoughts arise out of a mental process that flows towards Brahman. Such
a mind is like a mighty mountain. Just as so many streams flow from a mighty
mountain peak, many profound thoughts flow from the height of Brahma-vichar.
Such dynamic thoughts of compassion, goodness and Cosmic Love uplift the

culture of humanity. So when you reflect on the nature of Brahman, your mind
becomes extremely elevated, and thoughts that once lingered on little things now
become Divine. Thoughts that were like vultures running after filthy objects now
become like swans, soaring beyond the clouds of the world-process.
If the highest level of the human personalitythe intellect or the vijnanamaya
koshais allowed to be nourished and to blossom, there is the greatest fulfillment
for a human beinga fulfillment in understanding. You understand the world,
yourself and your relationship with the Self, and this understanding removes
ignorance.
Vichar leads you to the glorious attainment of living in the light of knowledge. It
enables you to realize the amazing power of your intellect and the truth that there is
nothing in the world that cannot be tackled, no problem that cannot be solved by
exercising that power of pure intellect.
THE POWER OF INTELLECT
One of Aesops fables affords a simple illustration of the power of intellect. Once,
in a forest, all the animals decided to come to terms with the lion, who used to
pounce upon then abruptly and eat them. They formed a conference and presented
a proposal to the lion, suggesting that everyday they themselves would choose one
among them who would go to the lion to become his meal. The lion accepted the
plan and stooped harassing the animals. Each day he simply waited and his meal
would arrive. Sometimes it was an elephant, sometimes a camel, sometimes a
giraffe. It would be big or small, depending upon the lions karma that day.
One day it was the rabbits turn. His life was very dear to him, so when he heard
that it was his turn to go, he thought, I must do something about this. Why should
I let myself be killed by that lion?
So he plotted and planned, and in the process delayed his fateful meeting with the
lion. The lion felt miserable, because he was so hungry. When he saw the rabbit
approach and observed how little this creature was, he burst into anger, saying
How dare you come so late you who are such a tiny meal!!
The rabbit said, What could I do? I was hopping along with a plump friend of
mine when another lion jumped out and threatened me, asserting that the whole
forest belonged to him. He said that I should pay obeisance to him rather than to
you.

This lion then roared and said, How can there be another lion? I am the only one
here. Well, said the rabbit, Let me prove it to you. Follow me, and I will show
you where he is. And so, the rabbit led the lion to a well. There he said, Look!
He is inside here. That is where he lives. The lion looked and inside the well saw
his own reflection, but it appeared to him as if there was another lion seated with a
rabbit. And in the reflection the rabbit looked plump, so the lion was convinced
that the rabbit was telling the truth. Immediately and with tremendous anger, the
lion plunged into the well to fight that intruder and was killed. Thus, the clever
rabbit brought about the end of the lion just by using his intellect, and in so doing,
eliminated fear from the forest.
Similarly, the spirit in every human being is like that rabbit. Identified with the
body, everyone acts like an animal sentenced to the lion of death. One day or the
other, everyone must go. The vast majority of people allow themselves to be
devoured by death, but an aspirant, like the rabbit, can think, plot, and open up the
well of intuitive knowledge. His mind becomes pure and clear as the steady
reflection in the calm well water. He leads Death there and asks Him to look into
the water. The moment Death does so, He vanishes. You open within yourself the
vista of transcendence, and the moment that Deathwhich has been frightening
you day by daysees that vastness of Self-realization, it is destroyed.
If you attain Enlightenment, you are no longer the body, and, therefore, no longer
have the fear of birth, death or embodiment. Vichar leads you to immortality, to
Self-realization, and that is the greatest attainment of this life.

Id like to illustrate with an example. Two brothers with their families lived
together. The elder wife was an academic and literary personality and the younger
wife was a homemaker. Over a period of time, the younger lady felt wronged since
the elder lady wouldnt contribute to the housework. This created ill health for the
younger lady and she happened to visit The Yoga Institute. We suggested she
speak to the elder lady and request her to contribute too. The elder lady happily
agreed and they divided the work amongst themselves. Each would become
responsible for the home on alternate days. In due course, the elder lady would
work as per her ways which the younger lady didnt approve of. The problem
instead of getting resolved created even more tension and ill-health for the younger
one. The point is that we should accept others as they are, if we want things to be a
certain way then we should do it ourselves instead of expecting others to work as
per our methods. I explained to the younger lady that if she is happy with a clean
and organized home then she has to do it herself and hard work never harms in any
way. Either be relaxed / happy with the way things are, or do it yourself.
Gradually, she understood the four pillars and reduced her need for perfectionism
slowly.
Your subordinates will not work the way you do, therefore do not make efforts to
change others, the efforts should be directed towards accepting others as they are
and being happy with them, the efforts should be directed towards improving
oneself only. I will receive only what I give. We have to maintain a level head in
our conduct with others at all times, else we will be unhappy. Lets try to be a little
selfless and avoid being materialistic and self-centered with our needs. Lets work
towards sharing happiness and joy in the society we live in. Lets work towards
achieving a balance of all the four pillars in our lives.
Smt. Hansaji J. Yogendra