Friday, June 5, 2015

The importance of feelings in spiritual endeavour

Last updated on 8th June 2015

In the context of realizing the ultimate truth of our existence, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba wrote in a letter (heart should be understood in this context as feelings, the feeling heart):

It is the heart that reaches the goal; follow the heart.

A pure heart seeks beyond the intellect. It gets inspired. Whatever we do reacts upon us, if we do good, we shall have happiness and if evil, unhappiness. Within you is the mighty ocean of nectar divine. Seek it within you, feel it, feel it, it is here the Self. It is not the body, the mind, the intellect, the brain, it is not the desire of the desiring, it is not the object of desire.

Above all these you are. All these are simply manifestations. You appear as the smiling flower, as the twinkling star. What is there in the world, which can make you desire anything?
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Reference: http://www.saibaba.ws/teachings/swamiletters.htm. [Note that I have corrected one error in this reference where instead of feel it (repeated twice), it is given as feel it, free it. Also corrected an additional couple or so small errors. Here's another reference which does not have these errors (but misses out on a little of the text of the above): Sai Baba Gita, compiled & edited by Al Drucker, http://www.atmapress.com/Download/PDF%20Files/Sai%20Baba%20Gita.pdf.]

BTW I first came across the above quotation of Swami in the old museum (not the new Chaitanya Jyoti museum) in Prasanthi Nilayam (Puttaparthi) around the mid 90s when I was working as a software consultant in the IT export industry in Mumbai. I was so taken up by it that I copied it in a notebook and then got it printed in bold font, framed and hung in my apartment in Dombivli (outskirts of Mumbai), along with one or two other quotations of Swami, if I recall correctly. That ensured that I would keep seeing these quotations of Bhagavan on a regular basis.

This above quotation of Bhagavan has played an important role in my spiritual journey by giving noble feelings like selfless & unconditional love more importance than intellectual analysis & understanding of Hindu philosophical scripture like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Of course, Hindu philosophical scripture does have its great importance but the feeling/emotion of selfless love, IMHO, is of higher value in the spiritual quest.

Baba puts it so simply that even a child can understand it, but yet so powerfully, so authoritatively, "Love is God. Live in Love." Very importantly, Baba demonstrated that 'living in love' in His life, even if on a few rare occasions the love took the form of some 'tough love' :-). So it is not as if He was telling us some impractical theory - He demonstrated it in practice for us to have a practical example to be inspired by and to follow, or at least, try earnestly to follow :-).

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The above contents were also put up on as a Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1626279244255313

[Note: I have presumed that Eve Gardener, Terry Reis Kennedy & Sai Das would not mind me putting up their comments on this blog post which is free for interested readers without any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

Given below are selected comments from it:

Eve Gardener wrote:
nice quote

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Terry Reis Kennedy wrote:
One of your mightiest! Thank you so very much.

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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Thanks for the kind words, Terry Reis Kennedy, Eve Gardener. They give me encouragement to continue writing such articles/posts.

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Sai Das wrote:
I think many people confuse emotional feelings with spiritual heart feelings and usually are difficult to distinguish from each other. They often feel the same, so what is the difference?

I differ with this part Ravi S. Iyer "(heart should be understood in this context as feelings, the feeling heart)". As we commonly experience and understand feelings, they are a result of the mind and associated with thoughts. This can be a result of a thought immediately followed by a resulting feeling or a feeling derived from an unconscious or deep seated thought.

I suggest the answer lies within this statement, "A pure heart seeks beyond the intellect". This is the spiritual heart that is not dependent on the mind and in fact is free of it. "It is the heart that reaches the goal; follow the heart." I understand this as it is not the mind or emotional feelings that Liberated, but going beyond them.

How many times have we heard, said or thought, "My heart told me..." in relation to someone we were is love with but are no longer or got us emotional about something that wasn't for our highest good. The heart referred to here is really just a nice sounding word for emotions and is not the spiritual heart that is "beyond the intellect".

And this to me is the key to what Baba is saying here, "Seek it within you, feel it, feel it, it is here (as) the Self." The Self does not feel of course so what can that then mean? I suggest it means follow the spiritual heart or the pull of divine grace that is beyond the mind-body towards our true nature as the Self or Pure Consciousness or God.

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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Noted your response Sai Das. I do not want to debate the details of your response - I mean, we can politely agree to disagree on this one. I would like to just share that Sri Sathya Sai Baba would not make so many distinctions in His discourses and even most reported interviews/chats with devotees. He kept it pretty simple and I prefer to go with that simplicity.

He would try to express His Divine Love for us as love of a thousand mothers. In our daily lives we see the awesome unconditional love that the mother has for a child, and this is not limited to humans. So Swami's metaphor of His love/God's love for us (at an Advaita level, perhaps, one could say the inner spirit's love for us at the mind-body level) being like the love of a thousand mothers jells very well with me personally.

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Sai Das wrote:
Ravi S. Iyer Please don't interpret what I said as criticism; it wasn't. I made it a point several times to express that what I was saying as just being my opinion. What I expressed is not in opposition to what you said at all; it is just my putting a finer point on in it according to how I read the words. This is normal and is evidenced by all the many replies to posts we read; people have differing takes and opinions on what they read and is why I come here...to try to learn and expand my thinking. The last thing I want is to just read what I am already aware of and agree with.

One thing that I have always liked about Swami's words and is truly masterful in my opinion, is that a simple sentence or paragraph can be equally profound to a Vedic scholar as to a simple bhakta and I think we all have had experience of that. One can take Swami's words at apparent face value or can delve into them more deeply with expanded meaning which is what I tried to do here.

Can't we exchange ideas and thoughts rather than debate them? Isn't this how we learn? I am not wedded to anything I say or think.

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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Sai Das: Oh! I did not view it as criticism. I viewed it as a different point of view. By debate I meant discussion of different views, which I have had to engage in, on many occasions on topics like (my professional area of expertise) how to improve software development practice in Computer Science & Information Technology academia. So, absolutely no issue at all with your view here. Further, even if you criticize, which you did not in this case, you are welcome to criticize my views. As a professional international software consultant I know the great value of good criticism. For example, it has helped catch flaws in the software design process itself in projects I was involved with, saving huge time & effort that would have been required later on in the implementation phase when the flaws would have come to light (if not fixed at design time itself). So do feel absolutely free to criticize me - I like and value good, constructive criticism.

However, there may be areas like this comment of yours, where I prefer not to get into the finer points of the discussion you have raised. I hope you do not mind that. 

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