Keep On Improving Your Nature
Jai Maha Dev
The only thing we take with us at the time of death is our bent of mind, our nature. Everything else is lost: the wealth we worked so hard to acquire, the numerous relationships we formed and tried to maintain, and all the various skills we spent so much time in becoming proficient in—all are forgotten. In the next life, in the next incarnation, we will have to start all over again: once again we will have to learn to take our first step, pronounce our first words, brush our teeth, and tie our shoe laces—everything will have to be relearned. But when we take rebirth, there is one thing that we definitely bring with us from our previous birth—our nature.
Our nature is formed by the thoughts we think, the food we eat, the people we meet, and the actions we do:
The thoughts we think form tracks in the mind (mental grooves), or thinking patterns. For example, if one reads pornographic magazines, one’s thoughts are going to take on the characteristics of the material one is reading: in this case, it is ‘object-oriented’ material—that is, the mind will tend to see people as objects rather than as manifestations of consciousness. Similarly, if one spends hours and hours reading cheap novels one’s tendency will be to think of oneself and others as persons only—that is, you will be inclined to view yourself and the world around you as the interplay of various personalities rather than as the beginningless and endless interchange of energy and consciousness.
The food we eat forms the material out of which the body (including the brain) is constituted, and therefore directly affects our mental constitution (the brain is the seat of the mind, and the mind is the seat of consciousness). Also, during the process of eating, all of our senses are involved—and these sense experiences are a significant factor in the formation of our thoughts. For example, the thought of a young calf pulled away from its crying mother, and then slaughtered and butchered; it’s bloody body parts then eaten up—this thought is not appealing to the human conscience, though perhaps a dog or jackal would have no qualms about it. When a person eats meat, that person pushes away these thoughts (of course, we have been trained since our childhood to hide from these facts: in some cases we disguise the dead animals by giving new names such as ‘hamburger’, ‘hot dog’, ‘bacon’, etc.; we disguise the taste by adding spices; we pass ordinances ensuring that the dead animals are transported in enclosed trailers and other covered vehicles so that we don’t have to see the bloody body parts; and so on and so forth). By denying the reality of this suffering, we become less and less sensitized to it. By the habit of eating dead animals, the senses become trained to accept and even savor such experiences. Hence, with the loss of human sensibility, one’s inclination becomes more and more animal-like.
The people we associate with (friends, relatives, clubs, societies, etc.) have a very strong influence on our lives. The process is like this:
(1) Out of association is born identification: just by the sheer act of being with someone (or a group) a mental association is formed in the mind. By repeated association, an identification with the person or group is formed. In other words, we begin ‘to identify’ with that person or group, which means that we mentally form an image of ourselves as being in some way similar.
(2) This similarity (whether real or imagined) results in more familiarity (and vice versa), which in turn strengthens the identification.
(3) Naturally, we will tend to support those with whom we identify (whether it be a single person or a whole nation of people). At the very least, we will support them in our mind if not by other means too. ‘Supporting others in our mind’ means that our attitude will be to sympathize with them and support (or at the very least, condone) what they do. In other words, our attitude toward them will be favorable (we will lean toward them, which means we will become inclined to emulate their behavior).
For example, if a teenager joins a gang of kids and the gang kids all drink alcohol and smoke pot, he or she will most likely begin doing these things too, even if only in the name of ‘experimentation’ (initially there may be no desire, or tendency to do these things, but he does them just because the others are doing it and they are his ‘friends’). Similarly, if someone makes up their mind to go to Satsang (the gathering of wisdom-seekers), and attends regularly, that person is likely to begin emulating the Wise, even if at first there is no strong inclination to do so.
Thus, the company we keep has a far reaching impact on our lives. Often we don’t even realize how much we are influenced by our relationships.
The actions we do (even those done unwittingly) leave impressions in the mind. The more we repeat a particular action, the more the activity is impressed on the mind. Our tendencies are formed from these impressions. Just as repeated actions create deep impressions in the mind, which in turn form and strengthen our tendencies, our tendencies in turn reinforce our attitudes which lead us to repeat our actions. This is known as the wheel, or cycle, of Karma (the law of cause and effect as applied to consciousness).
Our behavior is an integral part of our nature. In fact, we can even say that the two are synonomous, because the sum total of our mental, emotional, and physical actions really constitutes our nature. The ‘person we are’ is based on what we think, feel, and do, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
The ‘person we are’ is the only ‘person’ who will accompany us beyond death. No friend, no relative, no son, no daughter, no husband and no wife will go with us. The ‘person we are’ is the ‘person we have become,’ and herein lies the secret of enlightenment: (1) in essence we are not just a person, or some person, or any person. (2) Beneath our personality lies our true self, which is simply pure consciousness, untainted awareness. (3) The ‘person we are’ is the expression of that consciousness. (4) To the degree pure consciousness is expressed (manifested), to that same degree we are a complete person. To the degree that pure consciousness is inhibited, to that same degree we are incomplete, unfulfilled, and unhappy. (5) Because the ‘person we are’ is always a ‘person in the making,’ we can always change the person we are.
Everyone would like to become an enlightened person: no one is content to be morose, depressed, morbid, and unhappy. We become enlightened only when we make our nature shine. How do we make our nature shine? We develop a shining nature by thinking shining thoughts, reading inspiring materials, eating healthy foods, being in the company of wise people (people who do not think, speak, and do stupid things), and by constantly doing those actions that promote wellness in ourselves, our loved ones, and our environment.
This is the work we need to do in this human incarnation. It’s not much, but it counts for a lot. It may not be recorded in the history books or inscribed on stone monuments, but it will definitely be recorded in the mind (as samskaras, impressions) and find its way into the gene pool from which we will again take birth. Perfecting our nature is the single most important work we must accomplish in this life, because this is the only accomplishment that is going to make any difference. All the trophies and awards will be left behind, all the friends and relations will be forgotten, all the wealth, name, and fame will be turned into ashes, but long after the fire of this life is extinguished, our consciousness (soul-awareness) will remain. That consciousness carries with it the seed of life (spark of life), which contains the subtle (akashic) codes (even more subtle than the physical genetic markings) by which our nature is reconstructed from birth to birth.
There is nothing we need to prove to anyone. The only thing we need to do is to improve our nature. The proofs are internal. When we have the proof (of what is real) inside of us, we have no need of anyone’s approval and no fear of anyone’s disapproval. The more we perfect our nature the more we are free from the uncertainties of the gross nature. Our future is secure only when we are sure of our Real Self. As long as there is doubt, there is death. Doubt is Death—death of the consciousness of our True Self. Death is in the mind, and so also is immortality. When the mind is filled with things of mortal nature, the mind takes on the qualities of the mortal nature. But when the mind is filled with the wisdom of the Absolute, the mind takes on the nature of immortality, and the ‘person we are’ becomes a person of eternal nature, a person whose love is eternal, whose commitment and courage are immortal, whose character is immortal. That is the person we must become to become ‘the person we really are.’ When we perfect our nature, then our essence, our Real Self is manifested and we have attained the highest state of consciousness.
This work must become the focus and the hub of our life. All the different activities that we engage ourselves in are like the spokes in the wheel of life, and the hub of life is Self-Realization (which is only attained by perfecting our nature, i.e., constantly improving and refining our mental/emotional states, and fine-tuning our mental/physical/spiritual well-being: becoming more compassionate, loving, caring, alert, selfless, helpful, wise, energetic, deep, steady, balanced, responsible, dispassionate, etc.). The wheel of life keeps on rolling forward. In the same way, let us all keep on improving our nature.
 Every living being is a composite of spirit and matter and possesses both spiritual and materialistic qualities and potentialities. Often our qualities and potential only manifest when there is a conducive environment.