The importance of discrimination (discernment- Viveka)
Discrimination is related with all aspects of our life even for the most trivial. Discrimination can be highly developed only in sattvic mind. Sattva is the basis for the development of all virtues and higher capacities of mind and heart. Sattva makes the mind serene, sharp, clear, introspective and one-pointed. When the mind is endowed with the above qualities, it becomes dispassionate, intuitive and creative and we can easily reflect, concentrate, meditate, discriminate, reason without the disturbances of the egoic tendencies and emotions.
We can develop discrimination by satsang (company with great sages), by the study of sacred texts (like Bhagavad Gita, Vivekachudamani), by reflection on them, meditation, self-observation, reflection, investigation and (as any other capacity) by exercising constantly the discrimination in our daily life.
We can use our discrimination in relation with the external life, our body, our psychological functions, in relation with our sadhana and in its higher aspect we can discriminate between the Self and the not Self, the real from the unreal, the permanent from the impermanent.
In relation with the body
All functions of the body are regulated by the prana and the three doshas. If we haven’t sufficient prana and balanced the three doshas our body as well our mind disfunction and in course of time will appear diseases. Thus one of the important factors of health as well as of spiritual life is to keep the prana and doshas in equilibrium.
Knowledge, observation and discrimination are necessary in order to be aware of the condition of doshas and to detect which of our actions aggravate the doshas and unbalance them and what helps them maintain equilibrium.
We must discriminate which food is appropriate for our constitution and which is not. Again, knowledge, attention, observation, discrimination are necessary.
We must be able to connect the action with consequences of the action; and for this attention, observation and discrimination are necessary.
For any decision we make in order to keep our doshas and body in balance attention and discrimination are necessary.
In relation with the external life
We must use discrimination in relation with our relations, actions, activities and to discriminate and decide the quality of the impressions (which we absorb through the five senses) that we will permit enter in our mind; the impressions are the main food of the mind and determine its quality and functioning. Thus it is of great importance to be conscious and decide what will be the food of our mind. (read also Samskaras (impressions) by Swami Sivananda and Advaita - Nonoduality: Pratyahara: the Forgotten Limb of Yoga
Since the three gunas are the essential qualities of the mind and since the sattva it is original guna of the mind we must discriminate the gunic nature of every external person, object or situation we are in contact in order to avoid what increases tamas and rajas and make associations with what increases the sattva guna. By knowing and discriminating the gunic nature of impressions and external objects, person and situations we must make sattvic associations in all aspects of our life: sattvic food, sattvic drinks, sattvic, relations, sattvic music, sattvic colors, sattvic movies, sattvic books, sattvic hobbies and activities, etc.
We must be able to connect the action with its results in order to avoid anything that harms our health and our progress in sadhana.. We must avoid anything that harms our health (psychological and physical), and what makes our mind dull, dense and obscured.
We must be able to discern the nature of the persons we keep relations because intimate relations (friendship and couples) are one of the most important factors that affect us deeply. In Greece there is a proverb that says: ‘tell me who is your friend to tell you who you are’. That shows how much our character is affected by the intimate relations.
Our relations can affect our sadhana and our spiritual progress. That´s why we must be very careful with what persons we maintain intimate relations.
In relation with sadhana
As a general rule in spirtual sadhana and especially during the first stages of our spiritual journey, we must avoid as much as possible relations with worldly people because they will easily affect us and make us abandon the spiritual path. That happens because the spiritual samskaras are not strong enough while our mundane samskaras remain very strong. Thus by keeping intimate relations with mundane persons very easily due to the power of old samskaras we can abandon the spiritual path and return in our previous life.
We must use our discrimination in order to avoid anything that impedes us apply regularly and without distractions our sadhana and also do what facilitates our sadhana. In this case the good and the bad (which are relative as any other thing in life) are related with the sadhana, For us is bad what impedes us to do our sadhana regularly and effectively and good what facilitates our sadhana.
Thus we must avoid relations, actions, habits, impressions, books, anything in general that can be obstacle in our spiritual sadhana and cultivate relations, do actions etc. that are beneficial for our sadhana.
In relation with our psychology
Our psychological states of course are related with our health, our sadhana, our spiritual progress and every aspect of our life; and this because our psychology is what determines all other aspects of our life. If we are not aware and do not understand what happens in our minds and hearts then we cannot have any real progress in our lives.
We must be able to discriminate in which mode our mind fnctions. The fundamental qualities of mind are the three gunas (Satva-rajas-tamas). These gunas are in constant motion and each one predominates in the mind for some period of time during day and night.. When the sattva is predominant then our capacity to perceive, understand, meditate etc. is altogether different than those that rajas and tamas are predominant. We are the same person but we are not always functioning with the same capacity.
When we are in sattva mode the mind is luminous, serene, content, peaceful, one pointed and we have clear perceptions and understanding. When our mind is in the rajas state is distracted, passionate, uneasy, excited, dominated and when in tamas prevails dullness, delusion, confusion, depression, stupor, lethargy, somnolence and there is no understanding and clear perceptions at all..
A good knowledge of the three gunas is needed (read here THE THREE GUNAS) as well as self-attention, self-observation and discrimination in order to realize which guna prevails in our mind during the day. By realizing in what guna is predominant we can act accordingly; when tamas or rajas are predominant we can initiate a proper action to restore the mind in sattva or we must avoid make decisions or do actions for important things of our life, especially when the tamas guna is predominant.
The main goal in relation with the three gunas is to eliminate from the mind the rajas and tamas gunas and increase the sattva and finally make the mind completely sattvic. As I said above we can manage this by sattvic food, sattvic drinks, sattvic, relations, sattvic music, sattvic colors, sattvic movies, sattvic books, sattvic hobbies and activities, contact with nature and by spiritual practices like meditation, japa nama, repetition of mantra, devotional hymns and rituals, pranayama, study of sacred texts, association with sages and living in sacred places. This of course is a very demanding and long process but it is a fundamental goal of spirituality.
We must understand how the mind works and even more important to be able to discover, reveal and understand how functions the egoic self, because this is the main cause of the mind´s dysfunctional, of wrong perceptions and lack of understanding, which result in wrong behavior and actions of which the result is diseases and suffering.
The ego by a great variety of ways manipulates and deludes us in order to keep us enslaved and abandon the sadhana. The ego in order to delude us makes appear the wrong as right, the harmful as beneficial as well as uses justifications, accuses life, the others or God and also refuses to see things as they are.
We must also discriminate between the voice of the higher mind or the soul and the voice of ego. This sometimes is very difficult because the ego puts a veil and obscures our clear perception, understanding and reasoning; but we must gradually be capable to achieve it. Only by the power of discrimination we can overcome little by little the delusions created by the ego.
We must become able to discriminate which aspect of ego is behind every thought, emotion, action and motivation. Otherwise we will remain puppets of the ego´s will and yet we will believe that we are its master. Every thought, sensation and emotion have behind them an aspect of ego; for example behind the thoughts of food is gluttony, behind sexual thoughts is lasciviousness etc. Behind fear can be low self-esteem or a desire.
The greatest delusion that ego creates in us, is that make us perceive and feel that our identity is the physical body, that we are a limited body-mind entity which functions mainly in relation with the 3D world and the necessities of the body.
This illusion makes us feel separate, insecure, vulnerable and attached to the external world which we perceive as a solid and independent from our consciousness and our mind reality; and at the same time make us ignore our true identity (consciousness, Atman) which we may consider it as not existed at all. We perceive the unreal as real (World, body, mind) and fail to realize our true Self or consciousness which is the only reality.
The sages have discover that by self-enquiry and the power of discrimination we can discern between the real and the unreal and realize that we are the consciousness which is distinct and unattached by what happens in the body and mind, ever free, peaceful and blissful.
By realizing this deeply, we are free from the ego and all the illusions created by it. We regain our pristine state of innocence and beauty and we live in Oneness with the eternal.