“Be vigilant and go beyond death. If you lack vigilance, you cannot escape death. Those who strive earnestly will go beyond death; those who do not can never come to life”
– Gautama Buddha (The Dhammapada, vs. 21)
It is easy to lose vigilance. Discipline forces the mind to focus, to pull oneself from the passive stream of self-gratification and stupid indolence. But vigilant action of mind and body requires an ardent will, and moments of weakness will begin to nurture apathetic behavior. As apathy accumulates with each indolent decision, the overall character of the spiritual aspirant will begin to ossify. At such a stage, he will have lost control over the forces of his mind and once again be subject to its devilish whims. Such a person is not sovereign over himself, but is ruled by the fluctuating disposition of his mental- field; and this field is invariably characterized by avarice and egoism. Spiritual discipline forces one to take account of himself, forces him to observe his own habits of mind. Through such vigilance, one begins to gain conscious control over these immanent forces, and he thereby mitigates the suffering and turmoil caused by them.
Our time should be characterized by the fulfillment of difficult decisions. At each crossroads in the mind, it should be the path less traveled that is chosen. The easy course should be resisted. A passive life is a life that remains blind to purpose and the remarkable potential of its own faculties. When passivity reigns unchallenged, these faculties lie in disuse and become derelict. The spiritual man recognizes ultimate purpose and mobilizes his faculties in the pursuit of that end. Knowing not the exact nature of this purpose, nevertheless, he strives to ascertain that knowledge.
Be vigilant! This is the remonstrance of the Christ and the Buddha. Keep your lamps burning and never cease to meditate, else death may sweep you away while you remain unaware, mired in the stupor of indolence. Wake up sleeper! Life is not a crude joke meant for the pursuit of pleasure or love of comfort. It is an opportunity to become aware, to raise one’s perception from the truncated confines of conditioned bias. The self- secluded consciousness creates its own illusions regarding the truth of life. It is so diminutive in focus, it cannot see past its own likes an dislikes. Truth has nothing to do with personal likes and dislikes. These are conditioned and prescribed by circumstance. The truth is not comfortable to one who is complacent in his own apathy; and the truth is this: We must strive with unyielding will to conquer our own weaknesses, biases, vices, illusions, and inordinate passions. When all these are stripped away, there remains nothing but pure awareness, pure consciousness, life without death.