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Consciousness and health

Open to the power of Śakti

Dr. Debabrata Sahani

(A talk transcribed by Dr. Monica Gulati and delivered on 14th August, 2021 during the online programme, ‘Heal Yourself with the Power of Consciousness’ organised by NAMAH.)


Pain indicates injury and injury comes in various forms, not just physical. When we face pain we must embrace it with attention and consciousness. We must not run away from it. When we confront the pain, we open to the power of Śakti and healing ensues.

Why should you heal yourself?

Healing means there has to be an injury. And because we are on an integral path, we have to take care of the entire aspect of healing. Injury is at all the planes — injury in the physical, injury in the vital, which includes the emotional being, and injury of the psychological being and the mental being.

Are you conscious of the injury?

If you know where the injury is, that is there, it is wonderful. If you don’t know, you should look at it. How do you know whether you are injured or not? Very simple — injury means pain. There are grades of pain, mild injury will cause discomfort, unease, while a severe grade of pain is intense restlessness, agony.

Being conscious of the pain and finding equilibrium

Pain is something we have all experienced. Just examine where it is located. First get in touch with your body, then your job, then your family, and the fourth part — your relations. These are the four dimensions. And the fifth one: you yourself, your thoughts, your ideology, your goals. We cause a lot of injury to ourselves. We, ourselves, make our lives painful. So, just take a few seconds, examine yourself, which parts of the body hurt you: your eyes, stomach, chest, your joints, your back. Just take stock. But we cannot stick only to the physical, we have to go beyond. So look at it in your daily life. In your work, where does it hurt, where is the pain? Most of the time, overwork causes pain. My experience — if I am expected to see more patients, I always re-examine. Earlier, I used to see 100 patients a day. I suddenly realised that I was injuring myself. So, recently I asked my hospital and I reduced it to 50. My staff came and said, “Sir, a lot of people are returning, why are you saying no, earlier you used to see so many patients!” But, I said, “No, we have to stop.” Why? It is just a process of healing.

We have to experience where pain comes, and we have to address that and heal it with the power of consciousness. So, healing is for injury and injury is synonymous with pain and awareness; if you are aware of your pain that means you are injured. And we don’t say to ourselves that I have to heal myself, we don’t say that it is an injury, you are painful, life is painful. As I said, I was seeing so many patients and I was not enjoying it, so I looked at why it is so? Then I said no, my body is getting sad. I asked my body, and it felt it needed a different pace. So, I modified myself.

So you have to ask yourself: how much work are you doing? Are you underworked or overworked? Either or both are painful. If you have nothing to do, again there is injury, you have a lot of things to do, again there is injury. So that balance, that equilibrium, is the catchword in health and healing. Harmony and equilibrium. This should be a part of your daily life. The spiritual process is not about closing your eyes and meditating and experiencing some very high realities because once you open your eyes everything vanishes.

To me, Sri Aurobindo has said one formula that is important — “All life is Yoga”. So, whatever comes in life, I have to discover Yoga there.

Injury through family/relationships

So, injury can happen through work, and then your family; a wonderful thing, very essential, it provides a lot of fulfilment but also gives a lot of pain. So, who injures you? How much do they injure you? They injure you when they are alive, and they injure you with the memories when they depart. And if you have seen that process of departing when somebody, your family member, leaves his body in front of you, then you realise that pain, that injury. This is very difficult to heal. However when they are alive too, injury is caused; injury is very common.

So injury is very common in your work, in your family, in your body and in your mind in your relationships. Your heart is essentially your relationship with another. And all of us have relations which we cannot leave, which we cannot do away with and, at regular intervals, they injure us. They may not be your immediate family but they are very close to you. They are part of your emotional family; you interact with them, you cannot do without them and they are a part of your being. And I am pretty sure that, at regular intervals, it must be a pattern: they injure and again a lot of healing has to happen. In relationships, this injury repeats itself; there is a pattern in all close emotional relationships. And if you don’t have close emotional relationships, you are missing a part of the injury but you are missing the growth of that part of your being also. This is not an integral life. All parts of our life need exposure, they need to be expanded and when you expand them, when you expose them, definitely you get injured, so there you need healing.

Injury to self

Self-injury: your own thoughts — you think about yourself. When you say how horrible you are, you injure yourself. When you say, how much falsehood you have inside, you injure yourself, you hate yourself, you injure yourself; you love yourself, become proud and vain; again you injure yourself. So, injury is a common-day phenomenon. It just keeps happening and healing is a necessity. We need to heal and here we have an opportunity to look deeply into the healing process.

Healing process: consciousness and attention

So, before I go to a deeper dimension, being a medical doctor, we mightl read a passage on healing in pathology — on how healing happens. Whenever there is an injury, lots of chemical agents are released in the physical body. We read about thermal agents, chemical agents, radiation injury, etc. Whenever there is injury, the healing process commences in the body where there are agents of healing. They sense that there’s an injury and then chemicals are secreted to heal, cells come to assist in healing and wherever there is injury that part gradually recovers. During injury, all the agents which help in healing, rush to the site of injury. This all means that nature has designed our body and from the physical body we can get a clue for everything, for the entire universe. The heart supplies more blood, lungs supply more oxygen, and the entire immune-system rushes towards the site of injury for repair. And they keep on working at that site till the healing is complete. So the right kind of cells come in, the blood-supply increases to that part, the oxygen-supply increases to another part, as if the entire body is paying attention. These are the two key words.

Healing power of Śakti

When my throat is dry and I feel thirsty, I have water, and I do a little bit of healing. There is a little bit of injury in my throat, how do I know? Sense of discomfort, what should I do? Pay attention. Consciousness and attention: that is all about consciousness. Let us not make it very mysterious. The Bhagavad Gītā says, it is mysterious, you can’t explain; but we have to explain. We have to start at a point which is available to us. If you are aware of something and you are paying attention, the consciousness has started working. These two words I will repeat again and again, consciousness and attention. Are you conscious? Of both the injury and the healing process. Are you paying attention?

So what is healing through the power of Śakti? We are talking of power of consciousness and we are talking of power of Śakti. Śakti is a Sanskrit word, very badly translated in English to the word, ‘energy’. Śakti and energy are hugely different. Śakti and power are hugely different. Śakti is something beyond, something vast. So we will just keep Śakti as Śakti, we will not translate it. And the power of Consciousness is the power of Śakti. Consciousness in Sanskrit is Cit-Śakti. Consciousness is Consciousness-Force. And we have to open ourselves to that Force.

How do I open? How do I know that I am open? I can take an indicator, and if that indicator is on, then I can say that I am open. And if the indicator is off, I say that I am closed. I open the door, open the window, and once I open the window or the door, what happens? You perceive something with your senses. If I open the window, I see the sky, with my eyes, I feel the gush of wind, with my tactile/touch sensation. I can smell, bad or good, whatever comes. Once I open to something, whatever is there on the other side, I will be able to perceive it. If I am not perceiving, I am not open. If I am not feeling anything, I have not opened the window. I am not smelling anything, I have not opened the window. If I am not touching anything, not hearing anything, I have not opened the window. The senses are so simple The indicator of opening is perception. I perceive; what do I perceive? I perceive Śakti. If I am open, I experience. If I am not experiencing, I am not opening, I am closed.

So, the question is: how do I open? The answer is: I have to enter the process. Why should I open to the power of Śakti? I want to heal myself. Why should I heal? Because there is injury. What is the proof that there is injury? There is pain. So, pain is the starting-point of the entire process. If you don’t experience pain, the entire process doesn’t start. It’s not like reading books you open. So that want, I want to get out of the pain, that want has to be there.

Facing pain and opening to Śakti

Let us classify that pain a little bit. The first pain is a sense of weakness and fear; the pain of weakness, the pain of fear. Fear is the word. Fear gives pain and I fight with that pain. I have to face what makes me afraid. I have to stop running away. That famous story of Swami Vivekananda. He was in Benares and was being chased by monkeys and he started running. Suddenly a monk appeared and said, “Hey, turn around and face the brutes!” Something happened deep within Swami Vivekananda. Face what you are running away from. Somebody is scolding you; it is painful but don’t run away, listen to him, listen to the words that are hurting you, don’t close your ears; because you want to open to the power of Śakti. Whatever hurts you, face it, go and face it. Why are you not facing it? Why are you running away? Because it hurts. Exactly, that is the process, whatever hurts you, just face it, get hurt. Dare to get hurt, face it. Say, come on, hit me. That is the process by which you open, not by meditation and not by prayer. Life itself opens you. Meditation happens there. Prayer happens there. Go through that pain and going through that pain, you pray. Ask God, why this pain? And if this pain is there, give me that power to bear this pain. Give me the power to overcome this pain. Go through it, face that pain, face that person, face that situation, face that event. That is the first part you open of yourself. To whom? To the first brute power, the power of Shakti, what we call Mahakali. You open to the power of Mahakali only when you are ready to face the pain. Whenever you run from pain you close the door, so how can she enter? Don’t say that first give me the power and then I will enter the process. No. First you enter, then the power will come. Say, let there be pain, let it come.

Then, we will make it slightly more subtle: a sense of want, you always feel that I don’t have. A sense that ‘I don’t have.’ That gives a lot of pain. That is an injury. So, experience that pain; you need something and you don’t have it. So what do you do? Strive for it. Work hard for it. If we work hard for it, then only we can open to the power of Mahalakshmi. A dimension of Mahalakshmi, it is not the entirety of Mahalakshmi, She is very vast. If you are not working hard, you are not opening to the power of abundance, to Mahalakshmi’s Force. Let us accept the reality of matter, let us accept the reality of material life. And as Sri Aurobindo has said, this world is not an illusion, it’s an absolute reality: Isavasyam Idam sarvam. If this world is a covering of the Supreme, a dress of the Supreme, how can it be unreal, how can it be an illusion? If all this is Brahman, how can it be an illusion, how can it be falsehood? It is truth and truth alone. Matter is truth, this creation is truth. The Supreme resides here, we cannot run away. We have to dance in tune with him. So, dancing with this injury of ‘want’, this injury of poverty, that is one dimension of opening to Mahalakshmi.

Another dimension is about ‘ugliness.’ Do you get hurt by ugliness? Anything ugly hurts you, injures you? Heal it by striving for beauty. Make life beautiful. The moment you try to make things beautiful in all dimensions, materially, emotionally, mentally, you open to another dimension of Mahalakshmi. She is not just abundance, She is beauty too.

We will go to the final dimension of Mahalakshmi, for that you have to really dig deeper. A very common injury that we experience every day is that people don’t love me. Very rarely you experience that you don’t love because in the ultimate analysis, everything is an extension of yourself. So when you are not capable of love, you are cutting yourself away from yourself, at the level of ultimate truth of the soul, the truth of the spirit. Instead of saying, ‘People don’t love me, I should say, I don’t love. I am dry.’ The power of Love, one of the highest in creation, happens if we open to the power of Mahalakshmi — love, beauty, abundance. Can I make an effort to love? If you really make an effort to love, you are opening to the power of Mahalakshmi.

How do you do that? By saying sweet words? Yes, but not entirely. By caring for others? Yes, but not entirely. The entirety is — see everyone as you, there is nothing but you. When you accept everyone as a part of your being, when you say that they are mine, when you hold everybody within yourself, which is the final phase of love. Identity; true love is identity. Can I get identified? We are moving from sympathy to empathy. Keeping yourself in their position, experiencing them, understanding them, and from that plane, attending to them.

Don’t forget the words — consciousness and attention. Become aware of them, when we are discovering love, we are expanding ourselves. You have become conscious and you are paying attention. Becoming one with them, experiencing them and from that point, giving yourself. Love is essentially giving yourself. The moment you attempt to give yourself, you are opening to the power of Shakti, to the power of Love, to Mahalakshmi.

There is another area where you can injure yourself, where you say, ‘I don’t know, I don’t understand’. A Mental incapacity and Knowledge is the cure. Striving for Knowledge. How do I do that? The first part is to listen. Reading is also a form of listening, which they call in Sanskrit as Jñāna. When you practice what you listen, that’s called Vijñāna, when you experience what you practice, it is called Prajñāna. And they call, Prajñānam Brahma, that is the Divine. So this striving for Knowledge, the effort to know, opens you to the power of Mahasarasvati. What do I want to know? Everything. Because our mind is an extrovert, we start with the most common external things; that is our work. What to do, how to do? Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it in the right way? Just that effort opens you to the power of Mahasarasvati. We just cannot sit closing our eyes, this earth is a Karmabhumi; you cannot close your eyes for long.

When you have entered this creation, it requires attention and that attention is work. Just keep asking yourself. All the answers are within you, you have to find them for yourself. What are you doing and what are you supposed to do? Why have you come to this earth? And what are you doing on a daily basis? And how you are doing things? From there you start. What to do and how to do. And in between, off and on, you have to take a break, and you have to ask, who is doing this work? Who is the doer? Stay with it. We have not gone to that stage where we can experience that nature is doing everything. When we are in witness consciousness, definitely a very higher consciousness, we see that no, we are not doing, things are happening. We don’t stay in that consciousness often, it needs lots of practice.

So most times, it is me who is doing things, the egoistic consciousness, the identity of a doer, the external consciousness; we live in that, let us start from there. We don’t live in a deeper consciousness, so I won’t talk about that immediately. Definitely we have to strive to reach there, definitely we will reach. But to be very honest, how long in twenty-four hours do we stay in the deepest consciousness? I am honest with myself, I don’t stay long; only during my hours of contemplation and meditation maybe I go deeper. Off and on definitely I go deep within, but then I come to the surface and keep on working. That’s what I do. I won’t say what is written in the books, that everybody can read. So what to do and how to do? In between I take a break, I ask who am I, where am I? I am this body, I am this mind, I am this vital, the emotion or something else? We experience that something else often, that’s self-knowledge. This is world-knowledge, that is self-knowledge. Both come under the purview of Mahasarasvati, for the time being. We won’t touch Maheshwari today; unless our consciousness becomes really vast, we don’t touch Maheshwari.

In daily life, when fear touches you, open yourself to Mahakali. When poverty touches you, open yourself to Mahalakshmi. If ugliness, hatred, narrowness touches you, open yourself to Mahalakshmi. When ignorance touches you, open yourself to Mahasarasvati. So, to open to Shakti, the road is effort. Unless you make the effort, you are not open. That means effort for progress. Effort to overcome whatever injures you, gives you pain.

Physical diseases are a very small dimension of our being. And all the physical elements have a psychological counterpart. As you grow mentally, the mind takes a greater stake in your disease-process and the healing process. In modern times, many diseases are hugely psychosomatic, they start from the mind. And our cells register everything, whatever happens in our mind, thoughts, emotions. Every thought and emotion creates some poison, and that poison injures and we need healing. So whatever disease we get, it is because the immune-system could not protect us. And how can the immune-system not protect us? Because we have destroyed it.

Outside things also affect us — the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink — everything has hazardous elements in it, and the body gets injured. But the body has an excellent mechanism to cope up from the external poisons. The amount of pollution we have, the contamination we find in water and food, but still we survive. That simply tells us that the body is a wonderful instrument. But the kind of poisons we are creating by our thoughts and emotions creates a huge amount of micro injury. The immune system has been shattered. And every day we pump so many poisonous chemicals from our thoughts, emotions and negativity into the physical system. So if we have to look at healing in its entirety, we have to look into the deeper dimension where all injury gets created.

Of course with the help of external things, but here we are dealing with healing through the power of consciousness. Not with the power of medicines; they have their own power. Not with the power of surgery, the power of therapy, they have their place and we need their help also.

I hope I have made some attempt on how to open to the Power of Śakti in day-to-day life.

Dr. DebabrataSahani, an editor of NAMAH, runs a centre for integral eye care and research at Keonjhar, Odisha, India.

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