Seeker: How can we know what we are supposed to do or what is right to do in life?
To start with there are two ways. One, if you have a Master available, ask him or her the very question you are asking yourself. Your Master is an embodiment of conscience for you. The second way is to know from within, but this depends upon your development. Sit in silence, ask yourself the question and see. Normally the mind will answer according to its likes and dislikes, wishful thinking, willfulness and its positive side too. It will try to color it, suppress it, resist it, avoid it or get distracted. This is a process that on the yoga path we call pratyahar, the fifth step on Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga. As soon as you get the right answer you will feel some peace, relaxation, a kind of release, though not absolute. However, this can be deceptive at times. The positive side of the mind can give you the same symptoms: some peace, feeling good and a little relaxation. Because of this, there is a pre-step required: purify your mind and heart. The more purity, the more your conscience will go on opening.
To open the conscience, let's add a few more aids such as listening to satsang, reading holy books and keeping holy company. As the example goes, if you are in a room full of coal, you can expect to have some black spots on you. So it is with the company you keep. If you keep company with those who are more materialistic, mundane or selfish, your conscience will go on closing. And if you keep company with holy people or sincere seekers, your conscience will begin to open. Self-purification is an indispensable factor for opening the conscience.
When you begin to follow your conscience you will see in each and every situation that you will feel more relieved, more relaxed, more peaceful and more satisfied even though you might have lost certain things that your mind wanted. The Guru or Master is your available conscience but it depends upon how open you are and how much faith and devotion you have. To that degree the reply will come. The difference between your Master and your conscience is that you are not able to see conscience; your Master you are able to see. To the degree you are purified, you will hear the voice of conscience. The Guru’s role transcends this, however. He goes further to lead you to spiritual realization, the Goal of life.
According to yoga theory, the function of the mind is to want and not want. The Sanskrit terms are sankalpa and bikalpa. Mind says, “I want it” or “I don't want it” and ends there. Then the intellect comes in to determine whether to have this or not, but intellect is blind according to yoga theory. It does not know but determines, like a manager who gives a ruling because “I am the manager.” It is conscience that tells us what we should or should not do. If this conflicts with the mind or intellect, then it is up to the ego to decide. If the conscience okays what intellect has determined or the mind wants or does not want, then so much the best. But those situations are not so frequent. A clash mostly remains between conscience and mind, especially in this Iron Age with our complex or unnatural way of living. Most of us follow the mind. Therefore we have disease, decay, suffering, misery, quarrels, separations and all kinds of what the Buddha would call suffering.
Purity of heart and mind from negativities and selfishness is needed in order to follow the conscience. Otherwise the mind will resist and intellect will stop too. Or if it does analyze, it will support the mind, making its own philosophy, psychology, jugglery, games and tricks with which we are all familiar. Ego pushes the intellect: “Come on, decide what mind is wanting,” and intellect is caught in between because somewhere it is getting the voice of conscience: “That's not right.” But intellect, being blind, forced by ego and led by mental emotions, mostly decides in favor of the mind and ego. Then to support that, intellect creates a new philosophy, an explanation, and at that point conscience keeps quiet; it doesn't fight. But conscience is always awake. And intellect, having taken the wrong decision, hides like an ostrich—puts its head in the sand. If you question intellect after it has taken a wrong decision, it will avoid, as if it doesn’t see, because intellect is nearer to conscience than mind, so it knows.
The mind's function is to control or use the senses. Most people just relate to the world through the five senses but actually it is the mind that wants to experience the world through the senses. Eons back the mind created these senses. You must have seen in other creatures that all five senses may not work. As creatures evolved from one species to another, the mind went on evolving more senses. Each mind experiences the world—which it has chosen according to its karmas—through the senses.
When the mind and senses listen to the conscience, we form a habit of referring to conscience and doing accordingly. Then gradually the mind and senses get purified and we begin to be transformed. Ego understands its own responsibility and, little by little, loses its hold on blocks and hang-ups. Not only so but because of more purity, ego loses interest in manipulation, playing games and tricks through mind and having its own willful, selfish ways. Naturally, what is there to hang onto? The ego becomes a little freer and begins to think of God. So conscience not only tells you what is right and wrong and saves you from going in the wrong direction, but also, as the Guru or preceptor, it plays the part of sending you back to your Source.
If you are simple and truthful, things are really easy. Purify your mind and heart and you will understand not only the things of the world, you will enter the kingdom of God. You will see the pure Light. Wipe the mirror of your mind and in that mirror you shall see the face of God.
Edited by the Satsang titled The Guru Within (E-30), given by Swami Amar Jyoti at the Tenth Annual Spiritual Retreat on December 31, 1985. For further information on the Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti click here.