The need for a solid foundation

Even though Western Advaita seekers do not follow a certain methodology to prepare themselves, those who find themselves unable to realize Truth, will readily admit something like „I don’t think that I am advanced enough“. So they do acknowledge that a certain maturity is needed in order to be able to recognize ones true nature.[1] Yet, no-one seems to know what this maturity may consist of, let alone a definite way to obtain it.

What is a mere notion in Westerners, is taken for granted in traditional Advaita Vedanta: of course the seeker needs to be prepared for knowledge to dawn! As preparation is taken to be indispensable, Advaita Vedanta provides a whole lot of clues and tools to further it.

This is in stark contrast to Western Advaitins who kind of wait for the right moment to miraculously arrive one day. Not that they are idle – no, they will try meditation, affirmation, chanting, reading inspiring books, psychotherapy, mental coaching, to name but a few methods. Many of those can be useful, the problem is not so much with the method as such but with the lack of methodology. Most Westerners are seeking on their own. They visit the Satsangs of their preferred Satsang teacher or teachers, read their books as well as a lot of others and follow the various recommendations of other seekers. They do not commit to one teacher and most Satsang teachers do not encourage them to commit.

It is beautiful that there are Advaita seekers, Traditional as well as Western, who do wake up to what they really are. But as most of them know: this is not the end. For Westerners, though, the only way to proceed from here is “wait and see”. While this may work out sometimes, traditional Advaita Vedanta provides an answer, which is more definite and more practical. Someone who has truly recognized his nature and still states: “No, there must be more, I have not arrived” often lacks, as Swami Paramarthanandaji put it, a solid foundation described in Chatushtaya Sampatti.

Traditionally the nine virtues of Chatushtaya Sampatti should already be part of the seekers make up before he even introduces himself to a Guru. Yet, even amongst traditional seekers this is merely an ideal and in most cases the work on developing those qualities will last till the search is complete.

Sadhana Chatushtaya Sampatti comprises:

Viveka – ability to discriminate the world of objects from the one subject that cannot be objectified
Vairagya – equanimity, dispassion, ability to not overvalue enjoyments of pleasures
Shama – ability to master the mind
Dama – ability to master the senses
Uparati – ability to leave behind any activity that does not contribute to the path of knowledge
Titiksha – ability to accept the dualities of practical life with equanimity
Shraddha – ability to trust that it is possible to discover what is searched for – with the help of Guru, Scriptures and through the grace of the natural law and order (Ishvara)
Samadhana – active concentration on what contributes to the path of knowledge alone
Mumukshutvam – longing for Truth as the highest priority in life

Each of these virtues needs to be further elucidated, something I have to omit for now. Also I will not explain how these virtues are to be developed. What I would like to point to is the difference between Western and traditional Advaita seekers: Traditionalists are equipped with a clearly defined catalogue of traits to serve as a reference point on their search. Westerners are missing such an instrument. They have no way to estimate where they may be stuck and what may need further development.[2]

The value of Sadhana Chatushtaya sampatti lies in its conciseness. Yes, there are hundreds of valuable traits that the seeker should possess – reducing them to those nine essential ones turns it into a very practical and handleable tool.

When I was a young Western seeker I (and all of my fellow-travellers) would have vehemently rebelled against (yet another!) way of telling me what to do. We needed to break free from an unsympathetic set of Christian-Jewish rules that had suffocated the culture we grew up in for centuries. But whenever I have mentioned Sadhana Chatushtaya sampatti to Western seekers over the last few years, I never met with resistance. Instead the response was sighs of relief at getting some kind of orientation. So in the sixties, seventies and eighties of the last century Westerners may have needed different answers but now their minds seem to open up again to appreciating structure and methodology as helpful.

Why is it helpful? First of all, every seeker wants to know what he can trust to help him on his journey. The next question is: Why does the seeker need to have a solid character structure to realize his true nature?

The mind of the seeker needs to be reasonably calm to be able to understand the Truth of Advaita. The above mentioned nine virtues will – each in its own way – still the mind, so it does not get excited about all and everything that comes about, distracting the seeker from realizing what he has set out to realize: the true Self.

Also the true Self is beyond everything that he has considered as himself for lifetimes. In order to back up his wrong definition he has developed ways of feeling/thinking/acting, which have become habitual. These habits can also be called identifications or vasanas.

To realize the true Self the seeker needs to leave behind all those identifications that make him uphold his wrong ideas about himself. He can only do that if he is equipped with character traits that prevent him from constantly being overwhelmed by old habits. These character traits are listed in chatushtaya sampatti.

[1] Only strict Neo-Advaitins would hold that it is random whether understanding happens or not.

[2] Not to mention that they often do not have a stable relationship with a teacher, whereas traditional students tend to have a Guru who will help them if they fail to recognize their specific lack.

Source: Sitara Mittag