THE ART OF SELF-DISCIPLINE: “KRAMA SHIKSHA”, the instruction to impart physical and mental Discipline has a physiological basis. A part of human brain called the ‘Reticular Formation’ functions like Spirit or Soul to control, to guide, and to regulate the ‘Intellect'(“BUDDHI”), the Mind (“MANAH”), the Senses (“INDRIYA”), and the Body(“DEHA”).
This is a tribute to all the men and women who serve India in Uniform after undergoing rigorous training enduring pain and hardships. The “DRILL”, such as marching together during ceremonial parades, testifies to the process of teaching the ‘Art of Self-Discipline’.
Discipline is training that develops Self-Control, character, orderliness, and efficiency. It may imply strict control to enforce obedience, acceptance of or submission to authority. While Discipline requires training that molds, instructs, and corrects personal behavior, the concept of Self-Discipline is often used in the context of a Spiritual Practice. For all practical purposes Self-Discipline is like Military Discipline which uses training apart from verbal instruction, encouragement, and teaching as its tools. Soldiers master the Art of Self-Discipline to take responsibility for all of their actions, speech, and mannerisms.
Just like training for Boxing, military training gives the ability to react quickly, effectively in a reflex action. The military Drill disciplines the Mind and Body to make the man to make quick, automatic or habitual responses when he hears the words of Command. Both Military and Spiritual Disciplines recognize their need for training to achieve the objective of destroying an Enemy who hinders the path to Success or Victory. Military Discipline imparts the ability to fight an external Enemy on the battlefield and Spiritual Discipline is about fighting one’s own internal Enemy. Combating and overcoming an Enemy is of utmost importance to both types of Discipline. In either case, Discipline has the following characteristics: 1. Devotion (“SRADDHA”), 2. Humility (“NAMRATA”-“NIGARVI”), 3. Temperance (“NIYAMA” -“NIGRAHA”), and 4. Perseverance (“KSHAMA”). These attributes or qualities are acquired through training and are found in a trained Soldier and a Spiritual Practitioner or “SADHAK.”
Discipline involves the ability to endure hardship. No Discipline is entirely pleasant to begin with. The training imposes pain and builds up pain tolerance and pain resistance. In my view, a Spiritual Practitioner or “SADHAK” and a Soldier face the same kind of challenges to overcome lethargy, inertia and accept physical and mental fatigue as a necessary burden to win their Battle.
Devotion(Sraddha) speaks of the fact, quality or state of being devoted. The quality called devotion in physical or mental tasks generates feelings of faithfulness, loyalty, and deep affection. Devotion means to give up oneself or one’s time, energy, etc., to some purpose or activity. The attitude called Discipline involves applying oneself with seriousness or earnestness. The purpose of close-order military drill is that of instilling ideas in the person by repeated exercises. A devoted Soldier dedicates himself to his primary task of fighting a battle and willingly prepares himself to get exposed to the risk or danger of severe bodily injury or even loss of life.
Humility (Namrata – Nigarvi) is the state or quality of being humble; absence of self-pride or arrogance. A trained Soldier takes pride in his Service, takes pride in his Unit or Regiment, and takes pride in the dress or uniform that he wears. But, the training that imparts Discipline transforms the Soldier into a man of Humility for he recognizes that self-pride or arrogance are of no use in the learning process.
Temperance(Niyama – Nigraha) is the state or quality of being moderate in indulging the appetites; it involves self-restraint in conduct, expression, not self-indulgent, moderate in one’s actions, speech, apart from moderation in the use of food, and alcohol. A basic quality of a trained Soldier is that of Self-Restraint.
Perseverance (Kshama) is the act of continued, patient effort; the quality of persistence to continue the effort in spite of difficulty or stiff opposition. A trained Soldier is steadfast in his purpose, and he continues his physical or mental activity without shifting to another task because of distractions or of a change in stimulus. Perseverance is the other name for Discipline.
In my view, the training used by military to impart Discipline, and the techniques used by a Spiritual Practitioner to instill Self-Discipline use the same kind of approach to bring harmony in the interactions between the body, and the mind.
In military training, the term Soul or Spirit is not used. The term “ESPRIT DE CORPS” refers to group spirit, sense of pride, honor, etc., shared by those in the same group such as a Regiment, or a Branch of Service. Military uses the term ‘spirit’ to describe the frame of mind, enthusiasm, and loyalty shared by a group of its members. If not in Science, in religion, and in philosophy, the terms Soul or Spirit describe a vital, animating Principle that is distinct from the body, and mind. In Indian tradition, it is held that the organs of Sense perception are superior to other organs and tissues of the human body, but more than the Senses, the Mind is superior but more than the Mind, the Intelligence is superior and more than the Intelligence that which is superior is the Seat of Individual Consciousness. Soul or Spirit is intimately associated with the function called Consciousness.
Science and military training manuals may not use the term Soul but Consciousness and Self-Awareness are important to the learning process at any Military Training Institution.
A good Soldier is precisely like a good Spiritual Practitioner or Sadhak. Both depend upon Self-Denial and Self-Discipline to arrive at their destination or goal which defines their purpose in life.
Discipline develops the character of the individual and Self-Control is the key to overcome the problems of Self-Destructive behaviors.
Self-Discipline is not about regulating human behavior and actions using the authority or power invested in the rules and regulations that man makes to bring orderliness and efficiency in the society. Military training establishes Self-Discipline using repeated exercises that instill ideas to control mental activities without using physical force and without using the strict Military Code for Conduct. The success of military training does not depend upon the ability to punish or reprimand people for their errant behavior. Military is a hierarchical organization and it uses a group of persons arranged in order of rank, grade, class, etc., to define the power or authority invested in each person. Man is a complex organization, Indian tradition describes a hierarchy of structures or parts of man that can find unity while man acts helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature or “PRAKRIT.”
The Indian tradition recognizes operation of a hierarchy of structures as shown in the above photo image. These structures identified as the Body, the Senses (Organs of Sense Perception such as the eyes, and ears), the Mind, the Intellect, and the Soul have positions of importance according to a ranking system, and the thing with a superior rank can control the things with a subordinate rank. However, a force called “MAYA” or Illusion can delude the man and break the Chain of Command.
The human organism is a very complex assembly of trillions of individual, independent, living cells and for purposes of structural and functional organization, these cells are components of different tissues, organs, and organ systems. A basic understanding of human anatomy and human physiology explains the relationships between tissues, organs, and organ systems. Brain is a very important structure but it functions if and only if it is continuously supplied with oxygen and nutrients like glucose to maintain its own metabolic activities. But, the human body and vital organs like heart and lungs depend upon the brain structure called Brain Stem which has the vital regulatory centers that operate functions of respiration and circulation. Within the Brain Stem, the structure called the Reticular Formation is identical to Soul or Spirit described in religious scriptures and philosophical writings. The Reticular Formation is the structure that is intimately associated with the control, regulation of those functions that help to establish man as a conscious, and breathing living entity.
I am intentionally sharing several images of the structure known as the Reticular Formation. It is in the central Brain Stem and extends from Medulla to Thalamus. It has connections with almost all other parts of the Central Nervous System(CNS), such as Spinal Cord, Cranial Nerve Nuclei, Cerebellum, Hypothalamus, Thalamus, Striatum , Limbic System , and Cerebral Cortex. This neural structure which I name as Soul or Spirit plays a central role to develop the trait called Self-Discipline. A disciplined Soldier reacts automatically, and effectively when he hears the words of Command . This reflex motor activity is possible because of the integrative role played by the Reticular Formation.
The Reticular Formation consists of more than 100 Brain Stem Nuclei. A single neuron in this network may have synapses with as many as 25,000 other neurons.
The Reticular Formation plays an important role in composing the contents of Consciousness. It filters incoming stimuli to discriminate irrelevant background stimuli It regulates actions such as alert/sleep cycles, wakefulness, and behavioral arousal.
The Reticular Formation running through Medulla, Pons, and Midbrain helps to coordinate, integrate, and regulate actions of different parts of the Central Nervous System. It is involved in 1. Regulation of Muscles, and Reflex activity, 2. Central transmission of Sensory impulses, 3. Respiration, 4. Cardiovascular responses, 5. Behavioral Arousal, and 6. Sleep. In Indian tradition, the Spirit or Soul exercises similar control to regulate, guide, and integrate the functions of Intellect, Mind, Senses, and Body. The Art of Discipline involves the use of such regulative, and integrative abilities.