It is incredible but true that most human beings need to be told: Be Conscious.
Many years ago a brilliant physician told me in relation to maintaining health: “Always be aware.” It took me decades to figure out the meaning and value of those three words. Buddha was not such a slow learner, so he knew to say that the intelligent human being is “aware among the unaware.” The Venerable Thanissaro Bhikkhu renders it: “Heedful among the heedless.”
Intellectual vs. Instictual
A renowned French esotericist of the nineteenth century, Sar Hieronymous, observed that human beings are of two basic types: intellectual and instinctual. By “intellectual” he did not mean academic or scholarly, but centered in their intellects rather than in their senses, emotions, or physical bodies.
Most people live in an instinctual, reactive manner, rarely letting their intelligence take the lead, and often only use their intelligence to fake up justifications for their irrational (instinctual) behavior.
Terrible as the picture is, humanity rushes headlong into pain, destruction, and death. And this is habitual, utterly reflexive.
Once I visited a yoga center and had a satsang (informal spiritual gathering/discussion) with the members–all of them deeply sincere and quite intelligent. Yet, after about twenty minutes I realized that the answers to their questions did not need my special “qualifications” of having lived in India with Masters and having gained experience in meditation. Only good, practical sense was needed.
Often through the years I have marveled at the way very good people seek answers to questions that any thoughtful person could easily answer. They themselves should have been able to answer their questions, but they simply were not used to doing so. They did not even realize they could.
Use your mind
“Use your mind” (intelligence) is just about the first thing a worthy teacher will tell the student–and will usually have to keep on telling him for quite a while until the instinct habit is broken. And this is not easy since instinct is closely related to intuition, which is something desirable. Instinct is to intuition what meaningless babble is to intelligent speech. Both contain words, but only one makes coherent sense.
This is no small problem for the spiritual striver. “Feeling” can be either instinctive or intuitive, and he must learn to distinguish them. This is a major lesson in his development. Few things are more destructive than constant dependence on some external authority for making our decisions in life.
Unhappily, most religions and spiritual teachers foster this dependency and prevent real inner growth in their adherents. How will they survive without dependents? How will they be teachers without students? So, like a therapist who fears to lose his livelihood if his patients recover, they hold their members or students in thrall.
A truly aryan [see What is an “Aryan”?] teacher or philosophy is like my father. He held on to my bicycle and walked beside me as I learned to ride. He kept me from falling, but he did something better: he gave me the confidence to ride on my own. How vivid is my memory of hearing him say: “You have been riding without me helping for the last three minutes. I was just barely touching the bike.” I could do it! So I rode on alone, amazed and relieved.
The great Master, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, used to tell his students after a short time (two or three months at the most): “Now I have told you everything you need to know. Go and gain experience on your own and make something of yourself.” Another great yogi, Swami Rama of Hardwar (Ram Kunj) only met his teacher once, at the age of nine. The sage gave him simple instructions in meditation, blessed him, and walked on. (The future saint-swami had been playing in the village street.) No more was needed.
How rare are such great teachers. Most are in the slave trade (emphasis on trade).