Reflections On Dayananda Psychology-Setting The Context

by Bede Clifford - May 9, 2016 01:06 PM +05:30 IST
Reflections On Dayananda Psychology-Setting The Context 

New Delhi, INDIA: Founder and Acharya - senior Hindu leader - of Arsha Vidya Pitham and Managing Trustee of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, Swami Dayananda Saraswati (R) chats with Director General, Chief Rabbinate of Israel Oded Wiener (L) during the Hindu-Jewish Summit in New Delhi, 06 Feburary 2007. (Photo credits-Getty Images)
  • Dayananda psychology is an Epistemological methodology. Epistemology means the study of knowledge.

    We want to become alive to ourselves as we really are and the world as it really is and we are going to use Dayananda psychology to do this.

The following quote is from Vedic View and Way of Life. Pg 72 para 1 (Caps mine)

“Life is meant to be lived. Somebody asked me this question, “What is the goal of life?” It is a very general question that gets different answers from different people. I answer “The goal of life is to live.” Death is not the goal of life. You are born and you must live. You can ask, “What does it take to live to live my life?” My answer is, “YOU NEED TO BE ALIVE TO WHAT IS.” Otherwise it is just living a life of a somnambulist, dream walker, LIVING IN YOUR OWN WORLD, a world of your own apprehensions, projections, likes and dislikes, and GETTING CARRIED AWAY BY THEM. That is not living. The Veda says, these are simple projections. You are supposed to reduce these projections to BECOME MORE REAL AND ALIVE TO WHAT IS. This is living.”

Dayananda Saraswati (1930-2015), a Traditional Hindu monk, was the most extraordinary mind to come out of India in the last 500 years. Now it may be asked: what relevance could this man possibly have for secularised western people? Well, here’s the thing. This extraordinary Indian thinker has clarified ‘the nature and structure of human suffering’ as well as its location. Not only this, Dayananda has clarified the nature and structure of freedom from this human suffering in all its many forms as well as the precise location of this freedom. He has done all this without the reliance on religious belief, philosophical constructs or a psychological theory.

Dayananda made an important distinction between self-growth and self-discovery. Self-growth is the psychological transformation of the individual that is necessary for self-discovery to take place. The subject matter of what self-growth is and what is involved in this growth is what I mean by Dayananda psychology.

My focus will be on what Dayananda means by self-growth. I have spent years studying Western psychology and philosophy in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve my basic upset with life. When I came across the Dayananda psychological teaching, I discovered an approach to resolve this basic upset. It is the non-watered down psychological teaching that I wish to share with others, in a clear and unadulterated way.

The Dayananda approach to the problem of human suffering and its resolution is unique because it does not fit into any of our Western intellectual categories. The fact is Dayananda does not present anything theoretical but rather he uses words as a mirror IN WHICH WE CAN SEE OURSELVES, OTHER PEOPLE AND THE WORLD in a clear and undistorted way. In other words, he unfolds a way of seeing which can become alive in us as our way of seeing. Once we have awakened to this way of seeing, we can then abide in this way of seeing while living our lives. Abiding in this way of seeing is of extraordinary significance to us as human beings because when we are abiding in this way right now, right here as we are, we disappear as a suffering person. We find ourselves being relaxed in ourselves AS ourselves. When we are like this, we discover what it is like BEING OURSELVES, BEING AWARE AND BEING FULL.

This is going to be a series of articles on Dayananda psychology conversationally written. The reason I call the subject matter Dayananda psychology is because the Dayananda method results in a psychological transformation of the individual. His method is not psychological but results in a very important psychological impact; it results in the happiness and well being which the freedom from suffering brings. I am a secularised Westerner.

As such, I am not interested in religion or religious beliefs. I know from experience that no amount of religious, philosophical or psychological theory can lead us to a sense of well being which is not dependent on people, things or circumstances.

I came across Dayananda psychology in the form of a Vedanta teacher (Swamini Atmaprakashananda) who was also a Hindu monk. This teacher did not try to convert me to the Hindu religion or Hindu philosophy; rather she just unfolded a vision IN WHICH I could see my life in a clear and undistorted way. She did not subject me to psychotherapeutic technique. Instead, she opened up a way in which any interested person could GROW OUT OF the accumulated emotional pain of a lifetime through LEARNING and PRACTICE.

There are many ways to introduce Dayananda psychology to people who have never heard of him. The way I am going to follow is directed specifically to Western people who have a secularised mind set but who suffer from and are aware of a sense of self dissatisfaction; a discontent within themselves.

Why is the Dayananda teaching relevant to people like this? The answer is simple. Dayananda psychology first of all clarifies the location and nature of human suffering in a way that is radically different from the psychological approaches available in the West.

Secondly, Dayananda psychology shows very clearly what is involved in the resolution of this suffering that is always active in our lives consciously or unconsciously. This means that right here, right now as we are, we find ourselves free of any form of psychological suffering. This fact and this fact alone is what proves the value and validity of Dayananda’s approach.

It is very important to arrive at the correct starting point of Dayananda’s psychology. This starting point makes it possible to know what we are doing when we approach this study. We are not in this study studying religious, philosophic or psychological ideas.

Rather, we are learning to look at our lives in a clear and undistorted way. Dayananda uses the phrase “becoming alive to facts”. This means we can go beyond WHAT SEEMS TO BE and become awake to WHAT REALLY IS. He says that we are LIVING in fact only when we are alive to what really is.

Otherwise we are just like sleep walkers. The problem is every sleep walker thinks of themselves, whilst dreaming, as awake. They are unconscious of the fact that they are dreaming. This unconsciousness is the story of our lives as human beings. We seem to be awake to facts, but what really is, is that we are enclosed in our own world and we don’t live in the real world as such.

So the first point is: We don’t study Dayananda psychology as an external subject like philosophy, psychology or theology; rather, we study ourselves in the light of his psychology. His psychology is A LIGHT IN WHICH WE CAN SEE OURSELVES, OTHER PEOPLE AND THE WORLD in a very realistic and objective way.

As we will see, SEEING WHAT IS and the practice of abiding IN that very SEEING is what frees us from all the forms of human suffering that we are so familiar with, nothing else. The important thing to note here is that if we are enclosed in any form of unhappiness, it means we are not seeing what really is but rather we are taking what seems to be as the fact.

When Dayananda uses the word understanding he means SEEING WHAT IS and not taking WHAT SEEMS TO BE as WHAT IS. This brings us to a very important point: THE WAY WE SEE IS THE WAY WE BE. This short phrase explains why Dayananda psychology works. In order to explain this, we are going to use a metaphor involving a snake and a rope.

The metaphor of the rope and the snake is a very good way to begin to examine our lives in the light of the Dayananda teaching. It will provide a very good basis to understand all that follows. So let’s set aside for the time being all our currently held notions about the meaning of human suffering and where human happiness can be found. We need to suspend our judgement pending discovery.

Many of our notions SEEM TO BE true and because of this, we assume that how we EXPERIENCE ourselves, others and the world is true to what really is. Experience (how things seem to be) is one thing; what really is, is something entirely different. The discovery of what REALLY IS, as opposed to WHAT SEEMS TO BE, is what Dayananda Psychology is all about. So let’s begin this process of discovery that frees us from all our destructive make-believes through looking at our lives through Dayananda’s eyes. Let’s begin with a famous traditional metaphor of the snake and the rope.

Let’s imagine a room which is in semi darkness and therefore we can only make out the outline of some forms. These forms, because of the LACK OF LIGHT, can’t be seen for what they really are. Because we can’t see clearly what is there, we can easily make a mistake.

The word mistake, when you break it down into its parts, consists of the prefix ‘mis’ which means wrongly. The word ‘take’ means “to grasp hold of something”. In this context, we are talking about seeing what really is. We want to take hold of reality as it is. We don’t want to take what is happening in the wrong way. If we do, we are making a mistake. WHEN WE ARE TAKING SOMETHING TO BE WHAT IT IS NOT, we are making a mistake. So let’s get back to the metaphor.

Here we are in a semi-dark room where we can’t see things clearly. In this dark room, in the corner, is a coiled up rope. And because we can’t see it clearly, we mistake it for BEING a snake. Now let’s look at how this mistake determines how we EXPERIENCE ourselves and how we EXPERIENCE the world.

First of all we have a notion, an idea, that what we are looking at is a snake. Are we aware that we are suffering from an idea? Of course not because once the notion has TURNED INTO or taken the form of an experience, the notion as a notion is entirely unconscious. As far as we are concerned, we are looking at a snake and we have BECOME an afraid person.

THE WAY WE ARE SEEING has become embodied in a way of BEING. We ARE, while looking at a snake, an afraid person. Fear and ourselves have BECOME one and the same. Our sense of ourselves AS fearful has taken up all the room. All of our psycho-physical functions have organised themselves around this erroneous WAY OF SEEING: “There is a snake in the corner”.

When we are a “snake looker” we are an afraid person looking at a scary world which we are in conflict with. There is ourselves as an unhappy person who is EXPERIENCING the world as a snake. Please note that Dayananda never denied the experience of suffering. Rather, he clarified its nature as notional. This is important because when we become alive to the fact of the rope, the notion “there is a snake in the corner” disappears. It is no longer active in us. When we see what REALLY IS, the WHAT SEEMS TO BE disappears.

The point I want to make here is that knowledge (the appreciation of what is) in the sense that Dayananda means it, is THE transformative factor. When we transform the WAY WE SEE, we transform the WAY WE BE. Ourselves as a person who is afraid of the snake disappears when we become alive to the fact of the presence of the rope. Our experience of the world is also transformed because our snake filled world disappears. In terms of Dayananda psychology, we never try to fix ourselves as a fearful person. Rather, we disappear ‘ourselves’ as fearful person THROUGH knowledge.

In summing up, we can say the Dayananda psychology is an Epistemological methodology. Epistemology means the study of knowledge. What knowledge really is and what is its possible range. All we are interested in this study is becoming alive to facts that exist in our lives in order to disappear as a suffering person. Not philosophical facts. Not religious facts. Not psychological facts. Rather, we want to become alive to ourselves as we really are and the world as it really is and we are going to use Dayananda psychology to do this.

Bede Clifford has a Master of Applied Science in Social Ecology with major studies in critical perspectives in psychological practices. As a young man he studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood. He has formally studied philosophy and various methods of Western psychotherapy. His interests are philosophy, sociology, psychology, comparative religion and Traditional Vedanta.

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