Temperance is the law of all spiritual students. – Chinmaya
Temperance means moderation. Being moderate means to avoid extremes.
Bhagavad Gita says:
नात्यश्नतस्तु योगोऽस्ति नचैकान्तमनश्नत:। न चातिस्वप्नशीलस्य जाग्रतो नैव चार्जुन||
(The one who eats too less or too much, and sleeps too less or too much, spiritual practice is impossible for him.)
Again, Gita says:
युक्ताहारविहारस्य युक्त चेष्टस्य कर्मसु। युक्तस्वप्नावबोधस्य योगो भवति दुखहा||
(The one who practices temperance in everything – eating sleeping, recreation, and all other activities – for him, spiritual practice becomes the remover of all sorrows.)
Temperance is but another name for control over the mind and the sense organs.
A man of no temperance becomes an instant repellent in the eyes of all.
Once in a meeting, the speaker, an old politician, went on and on, non-stop. People started leaving one by one. At last only Mulla Nasarudin remained.
The speaker being very happy with Mulla thanked him, “I never knew you loved my thoughts, my philosophy so much!”
Mulla said, “No No. You got me wrong. I am the next speaker.”
Being without self-control, a person without temperance tends to do/say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong measure to the wrong person at the wrong place in the wrong way.
The pilot was welcoming the passengers on the plane shortly after take-off.
“Thank you for flying with us this morning. The weather is…..” Then suddenly he started screaming while he was still on the loudspeakers: “Oh my God! Ohh my God!! Ohhh… my… God…!!!”
A ghostly silence reigned. He got back on the microphone and spoke to the passengers: “I sincerely apologise for the incident; but I just dropped a very hot cup of coffee on my lap…you should see my pants.”
One passenger screamed, “You should see our pants!!”
When temperance is practised only at the sense organ level, it is called ‘dama’. At the physical level, there is control, but at the mind level, there is suppression.
The father saw his son sitting on top of another boy in the front yard.
“Why are you pinning Ramu to the ground like that?” Shyamu’s dad demanded.
“He hit me in the eye.” said the son angrily.
“How many times,” reprimanded the father, “have I told you to count up to a hundred before you lose your temper?”
“I am counting to a hundred, “Shyamu replied, “but I am sitting on him, so he’ll be here when I am through with counting.”
When the self-control is at the mind level, it is called ‘shama’. This is temperance in the true sense. For the one who has mastered ‘shama’, ‘dama’ is but natural.
The philosopher Diogenes was dining on bread and lentils. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus who lived in considerable comfort by fawning on the king.
Said Aristippus, “Learn subservience to the king and you will not live on lentils.”
Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to cultivate the king.”
Only a man of temperance can remain free from the wayside temptations and reach the chosen goal.
The Lama of the South sent a request to the Great Lama of the North for a wise and holy monk to train the novices. To everyone’s astonishment, the Great Lama sent five monks instead of one. To those who enquired he said cryptically, “We will be lucky if one of them gets to the Lama.”
The group had been on the roads some days when a messenger came running up to them and said, “The priest of our village has died. We need someone to take his place.” The village seemed to be a pleasant place and the priest’s salary was princely. One of the monks was seized with pastoral concern. “I don’t deserve to be a Buddhist,” he said, “if I did not serve these people.” So he dropped out.
Some days later they were at the palace of a king who took a fancy to one of them. “Stay with us,” said the king, “and you shall marry my daughter. And when I die, you will be the king.” The monk was drawn to the lustre of the throne. So he said, “What better way to influence the people of this kingdom than to be a king? I don’t deserve to be a Buddhist if I did not seize this chance to serve the interests of religion.” He too dropped out.
One night, in a hilly region, the monks came to the solitary hut of a pretty girl who gave them hospitality and thanked God for their presence. Her parents had been killed by mountain bandits and the girl was all alone and very fearful. Next day, when it was time to leave, one of the monks declared, “I shall stay on here. I don’t deserve to be a Buddhist if I did not show compassion to this girl.”
The remaining two finally came to a Buddhist village and were scandalized to find that the inhabitants had abandoned their religion under the influence of a theologian of another religion. One of the monks said, “I owe it to these people and to the Lord Buddha himself to win them back to the faith.”
The fifth monk eventually got to the Lama of the South.
The temper of our temperance is tested during temptations.
Music cannot flow when the veena strings are tied too tight or too loose. Life cannot survive on the planet when the sun is too far or too near, or when gravity is too strong or too weak. Restless work and workless rest – both make the body sick. Actionless thoughts are unproductive while thoughtless actions are counter-productive. A big smile and no smile – both create misunderstandings among people. Temperance is the law of life everywhere.
So says the subhashitam – अति सर्वत्र वर्जयेत् | (Avoid extremes everywhere at all times.)
The spiritual seekers are advised not to have a dull (tamasic) mind or a restless (rajasic) mind, but to cultivate a noble (sattvic) mind.
Hence the advice of the Lord to Arjuna is: नित्य सत्त्वस्थो भव| (Be ever rooted in sattwa.)
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