Motto: “The greatest virtue is discernment”
What is Viveka or spiritual discernment meaning?
We live in a confused world in which what is good seems bad and what is bad seems good… How does it sound? Where to turn our steps to? The terms of the problem seem to offer three solutions – left, right and back. Some would say: I am a smart man and I have to handle any situation. So I can choose any of the side roads. What would our intuition whisper? If suggestive, the name of a place may represent a warning. Of course, there is a fourth way, one that naturally goes forward and represents an equally mysterious direction.
Any ordinary problem that may occur has various answers to it. The solution we choose often hides crucial consequences for the rest of our life. However, we must have the discernment to choose. As well as we can. Old Samurai Code advises: “Treat important matters with normal attention. But small matters must be given a special attention.” Why? Because using discernment (viveka) when dealing with small actions helps us learn the proper skills for the best choices.
Intelligence is not enough
Discernment (Viveka is the intellectual ability to discriminate, or discern, between the real and the unreal): always select the best of the possibilities… But how to reach this ideal? How do we always know right from wrong? How to sift truth from falsehood or partial truth from a lie? We were taught to rely fundamentally on reason.
Children’s intelligence develops spectacular by using the computer and even by watching certain TV shows. But using technology in the learning process leads to impoverishment of the soul. The lack of natural communication between people, through an actual presence, pushes to a virtualization of life.
The contact with nature and the real perception of the existence is lost; therefore, the ability to discern real from unreal decreases. People miss exactly the kind of experience offered by the exploration of natural life, the experience which develops the good sense of human nature. Sharpness of mind is not the same with spiritual alertness.
Often, the need to take a decision every step of the way is a burden for the ordinary individual, especially in a world where manipulation and deception are dominant features. Society directs its members towards accumulation and satisfying primal desires through all five senses. You are pushed into buying and getting everything shown to you. It is a daily war.
Day by day you are a subject to all kinds of visual and auditory suggestions, and without a serious self-censorship you risk finding yourself unable to know what are the things you really need.
We are concerned beyond measure about the performance of our next washing machine and are ready to make huge loans to buy the latest model of a car. When it comes to vital decisions, intelligent people, who are educated, charismatic, talented, with the gift of speech and an apparent search for the general good make childish and stupid choices and sometimes even uninspired ones.
The reason for this is because, among other things, something is missing; that certain something which society increasingly narrows: TIME. In other words, time to analyze, to contemplate, to gather observations.
Time to calm down and know themselves. Time which produces growth and ripening, fermentation and refining. Time to extract the essence of things and events, to settle out truth from the untruth and make the best decisions. Time is the measure of all things. Win it and you will have the whole Universe.
The blind who lead
We cannot rely on anything because the only stable thing in the universe is change. Everything is inconsistent. Today a scientific theory is valid, over decades, centuries is surpassed by another, broader and deeper one. Today we have some opinions, tomorrow we will all laugh at the naivety of such outdated concepts. The scale of values is very slippery. What is good for you, human of your time?
Humanistic concepts often speak about the good of the species, of the humanity as a whole. But what have these concepts given us so far? The human has always needed food, clothing and safety, things he has secured for himself without a brutal intervention on the environment.
All this until greed occurred, the need to have more, to dominate, to master. Since then, theft, commerce, and war appeared. Moreover, a temptation to extend power over other tenants appeared and the man started hunting animals not only to feed, but for economic exchanges as well. Forests were cut down because the man had to have a proper place to socialize, separating himself more and more from nature, which he began to fear and despise. He destroyed countless species of plants and animals and all this in the name of civilization.
Today we are in this critical point and we still ask ourselves whether the way we chose is a good one. We cannot speak of discernment on the level of masses and society.
The political leaders have not cultivated this quality and their meaningless actions prove it, because they speak for themselves. The leaders of major religious currents are not very far in this regard either, as religious wars have destroyed millions of lives and still haven’t stopped.
When common sense becomes our second nature
How do we find it within ourselves? It is paradoxically within everyone’s reach. But we must have at least an average intelligence, be lucid and cultivate our common sense. The ability to choose requires a certain degree of wisdom, depending on the complexity of the problem, and wisdom is intelligence coupled with common sense. We can be wise through a constant effort. The world of wise is common, but it would be good for it to be brought here on Earth by each of us, because we need it here and now.
Common sense. Here’s something that should be available to everyone, but it is only the wise’s prerogative. Is it difficult to be modest? Is it difficult to become aware and admit when you’re wrong? Is it difficult to be grateful for the good done to you? Or to do a good deed, however small, without asking anything in return?
These are only a few examples of manifestations of common sense which, if we carefully pursue increasingly more often, will become our second nature and it would be within one’s reach at any time, in more elaborate forms. And when we have to make difficult choices, common sense would whisper to us in an ineffable way how things really are.
And we wouldn’t have so many qualms of conscience and wonder whether we did the right thing or not. Unfortunately, we sometimes even refuse to take action.
Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita:
“Therefore Shastra should be your guide when choosing what should and should not be done; knowing the ordained by the divine scriptures, you must fulfill your duties in this world.” We cannot escape action because inaction is also a course of action. Therefore it’s best to act informed, whether knowing or asking. The old books of wisdom of the humanity can be our guidance in life, as well as our own experience. But knowing a spiritual awakened being, a master, is superior and can only be matched by our own awakening and spiritual enlightenment.
On a razor’s edge
In our search for the Self, there are trials. One of them is finding a spiritual guide. It is said that when you found him, he actually found you. But how do you know that he is the one and not another? How to overcome the trial run and not draw away from him, telling yourself that the search is yet to be complete? Your mind can play many tricks on you. Other guides that are more or less awakened can appear on your path, with whom you have affinities or not; during this time, all sorts of discontent and doubt may occur, vital issues as well.
Also, detractors may appear. The situations are endless. What can you do in order to escape from falling or fooling yourself? Only spiritual discernment can provide a correct answer. Intelligence and common sense … plus another aspect: the awakening of the soul. Only the warmth of this awakened life facilitates perception of Truth.
A soul that is awake “feels” the Path of the Heart; it sees and follows it without hesitation. For such a soul, wisdom becomes an unbeatable weapon on the path of Self-Revelation. As a result of this awakening, your trust in God and the spiritual guide is alive.
You cannot lose yourself this way. A weak trust reveals a numb soul and a growing ego, even though it has experienced illuminating states at times. When we allow the poison of doubt to fester us, the “view” of discernment becomes blurred. And no wonder why we make mistakes.
Often, the seeker’s task is very heavy, because he doesn’t trust his own spiritual guide and thus is forced to make decisions with totally obscure consequences. He has to overcome the duality of partial truth alone. He will speak to many people and ask for advice and guidance, but eventually, he will have to choose only what he thinks suits him, especially his ideas. But he will never be sure of those people’s verticality and the truth of their words.
The state of Viveka (discernment) involves piercing and finding Truth beyond the misleading duality. This question is a guidance for direction in practicing this spiritual search: “From what I have learned so far, what is it that leads me to the Supreme Truth, to be able to cast away the rest?”
Of course, things are more nuanced. But it is a good subject for meditation. Good luck!
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