1. Niyama - Remorse & Modesty | Hrī
Summary of the First Observance
Allow yourself the expression of remorse, being modest and showing shame for misdeeds.
Recognize your errors, confess and make amends.
Sincerely apologize to those hurt by your words or deeds.
Resolve all contention before sleep.
Seek out and correct your faults and bad habits.
Welcome correction as a means to bettering yourself.
Do not boast. Shun pride and pretension.
The First Observance
Remorse & Modesty
Hrī / ह्री
Hrī, the first of the ten niyamas, or practices, is remorse:
being modest and showing shame for misdeeds, seeking the guru’s grace to be released from sorrows through the understanding that he gives, based on the ancient sampradāya, doctrinal lineage, he preaches.
Remorse could be the most misunderstood and difficult to practice of all of the niyamas, because we don’t have very many role models today for modesty or remorse.
In fact, the role for imitation in today’s world is just the opposite:
This is reflected in television, on film, in novels, magazines, news- papers and all other kinds of media:
In today’s world, brash, presumptuous, prideful—that’s how one must be. That’s the role model we see everywhere. In today’s world, arrogant— that’s how one must be. That’s the role model we see everywhere.
Therefore, to be remorseful or even to show modesty would be a sign of weakness to one’s peers, family and friends. Modesty is portrayed in the media as a trait of people that are gauche, inhibited, undeveloped emotionally or not well educated.
And remorse is portrayed in the world media as a characteristic of one who “doesn’t have his act together,” is unable to rationalize away wrongdoings, or who is not clever enough to find a scapegoat to pin the blame on.
Tough modesty and remorse are the natural qualities of the soul, when the soul does exhibit these qualities, there is a natural tendency to suppress them.
But let’s look on the brighter side:
There is an old saying, “Some people teach us what to do, and other people teach us what not to do.” The modern media, at least most of it, is teaching us what not to do:
Its behaviour is based on other kinds of philosophy—secular humanism, materialism, existentialism, crime and punishment, terrorism—in its effort to report and record the stories of the day.
Sometimes we can learn quite a lot by seeing the opposite of what we want to learn:
The proud and arrogant people portrayed on TV nearly always have their fall. This is always portrayed extremely well and is very entertaining.
In their heart of hearts, people really do not admire the prideful person or his display of arrogance, so they take joy in seeing him get his just due.
People, in their heart of hearts, do admire the modest person, the truthful person, the patient person, the steadfast person, the compassionate person who shows contentment and the fullness of well-being on his face and in his behavioural patterns.
We Hindus who understand these things know that Hrī, remorse, is to be practiced at every opportunity:
One of the most acceptable ways to practice Hrī, even in today’s society, is to say in a heartfelt way, “I’m sorry.” everyone will accept this. Even the most despicable, prideful, arrogant, self- centred person will melt just a little under the two magic words “I’m sorry.”
When apologizing, explain to the person you hurt or wronged how you have realized that there was a better way and ask for his forgiveness.
If the person is too proud or arrogant to forgive, you have done your part and can go your way. The burden of the quandary you have put him into now lies solely with him.
He will think about it, justify how and why and what he should not forgive until the offense melts from his mind and his heart softens. It takes as much time for a hardened heart to soften as it does for a piece of ice to melt in a refrigerator.
Even when it does, his pride may never let him give you the satisfaction of knowing he has forgiven you. But you can tell: Watch for softening in the eyes when you meet, a less rigid mouth and the tendency to suppress a wholesome smile.
Body Language and Conscience
There is another way to show remorse for misdeeds. That is by performing seva, religious service, for persons you have wronged: Give them gifts, cook them food.
Some people are unreachable by words, too remote for an apology, which might even lead to an argument, and then the wrong would perpetuate itself:
Be extra polite to such people. Hold the door open as they walk through. Never miss an opportunity to be kind and serve. Say kind words about them behind their back. The praise must be true and timely. Mere flattery would be unacceptable.
This kind of silent behaviour shows repentance, shows remorse, shows that you have reconsidered your actions and found that they need improvement, and the improvement is shown by your actions now and into the future.
Often people think that showing shame and modesty and remorse for misdeeds is simply hanging your head:
Well, really, anyone can do this, but it’s not genuine if the head is not pulled down by the tightening of the strings of the heart, if shame is not felt so deeply that one cannot look another in the eye.
When the hanging of the head is genuine, everyone will know it and seek to lift you up out of the predicament.
But just to hang your head for a while and think you’re going to get away with it in today’s world, no. In today’s world, people are a little too perceptive, and will not admire you, as they will suspect pretence.
There is an analogy in the Śaivite tradition that compares the unfolding soul to wheat:
When young and growing, the stalks of wheat stand tall and proud, but when mature their heads bend low under the weight of the grains they yield.
Similarly, man is self-assertive, arrogant and vain only in the early stages of his spiritual growth. As he matures and yields the harvest of divine knowledge, he too bends his head.
Body language has to truly be the language of the body. It’s a dead giveaway. Body language is the language of the mind being expressed through the body. Let there be no doubt about this.
To cry, expressing remorse—the crying should not be forced. Many people can cry on cue:
We must not think that the soul of the observer is not perceptive enough to know the difference between real tears and a glandular disturbance causing watering of the eyes.
Hrī is regret that one has done things against the dharma, or against conscience:
There are three kinds of conscience—one built on right knowledge, one built on semi-right knowledge and one built on wrong knowledge. The soul has to work through these three levels within the subconscious mind to give its message.
Those who have been raised with the idea that an injustice should be settled by giving back another injustice might actually feel a little guilty when they fail to do this.
Those who are in a quandary of what to do, what is right and what is wrong, remain in confusion because they have only semi-right knowledge in their subconscious mind.
We cannot confuse guilt and its messages with the message that comes from the soul. Guilt is the message of the instinctive mind, the chakras below the Mūlādhāra:
Many people who live in the lower worlds of darkness feel guilty and satisfy that guilt through retaliation. This is the eye for an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth approach.
This is not right conscience; it is not the soul speaking. This is not higher consciousness, and it is certainly not the inner being of light looking out of the windows of the chakras above the Mūlādhāra. Why, even domesticated animals feel guilty. It is a quality of the instinctive mind.
True conscience is of the soul, an impulse rushing through a mind that has been impregnated with right knowledge, Vedic, Āgamic knowledge, or the knowledge that is found in these yamas and niyamas, restraints and practices.
When the true knowledge of karma is understood, reincarnation, saṁsāra and Vedic dharma, then true remorse is felt, which is a corrective mechanism of the soul.
This remorse immediately imprints upon the lower mind the right knowledge of the dharma—how, where and why the person has strayed and the methodology of getting quickly and happily back to the path and proceeding onward.
There is no guilt felt here, but there is a sense of spiritual responsibility, and a driving urge to bring dharma, the sense of spiritual duty, more fully into one’s life,
thus filling up the lack that the misdeeds manifested through adhering to these twenty restraints and practices and the Vedic path of dharma, which is already known within the bedrock of right knowledge, firmly planted within the inner mind of the individual.
Compensating for Misdeeds
The soul’s response to wrong action comes of its own force, unbidden, when the person is a free soul, not bound by many materialistic duties—even while doing selfless service—which can temporarily veil and hold back the spontaneous actions of the soul if done for the expectant praise that may follow.
The held-back, spontaneous action of the soul would, therefore, burst forth during personal times of sādhana, meditation or temple worship. The bursting forth would be totally unbidden, and resolutions would follow in the wake.
For those immersed in heavy prārabdha karmas, going through a period of their life cycle when difficult karmic patterns are manifesting, it will be found that the soul’s spontaneity is triple-veiled even though the subconscious mind is impregnated with right knowledge.
To gain absolution and release, to gain peace of mind, one should perform pilgrimage, spiritual retreat, the practice of mauna, recitation of mantras through japa, deep meditation and, best of all, the vāsanā daha tantra.
These practices will temporarily pierce the veils of māyā and let the light shine in, bringing understanding, solutions and direction for future behaviour.
Having hurt another through wrongdoing, one has to pay back in proportion to the injury, not a rupee less and not a rupee more:
The moment the healing is complete, the scar will mysteriously vanish. This is the law. It is a mystical law. And while there are any remaining scars, which are memories impregnated with emotion, much work has to be done.
Each one must find a way to be nice if he has been not nice, say kind words if previous words have been unkind, issue forth good feelings if the feelings previously exuded were nasty, inharmonious and unacceptable.
Just as a responsible doctor or nurse must bring the healing to culmination, so the wrongdoer must deal with his wrongdoing,
his crime against dharma, his crime against right knowledge, Vedic- Āgamic precepts, his crime against the yamas and niyamas, restraints and practices, which are in themselves right knowledge—a digest of the Vedas, we might say.
He must deal with his wrongdoings, his errors, within himself until rightness, santosha, returns.
There are no magic formulas. Each one must find his own way to heal himself and others until the troublesome situation disappears from his own memory.
This is why the practice called vāsanā daha tantra, writing down memories and burning them in a fire to release the emotion from the deep subconscious, has proven to be a solution incomparable to any other.
Only in this way will he know that, by whatever method he has applied, he has healed the one he wronged. True forgiveness is the greatest eraser, the greatest harmonizer.
The Japanese, unlike most of the rest of the world, have a great sense of loss of face, and a Japanese businessman will resign if he has shamed his family or his country. This is Hrī and is very much ingrained in the Japanese society, which is based on Buddhist precepts.
Buddhism itself is the outgrowth into the family community from a vast monastic order; whereas Hinduism is a conglomerate of many smaller religions, some of which are not outgrowths of a monastic community.
Therefore, Hrī is an integral part of the culture of Japan. They have maintained this and other cultural precepts, as the Buddhist monastic orders are still influential throughout Asia.
A materialist who loses face smiles and simply puts on another mask and continues as if nothing had ever happened: The saying goes, “Change your image and get on with life.” No shame, repentance or reconciliation is shown by such people, as is so often portrayed on American television, and much worse, as it actually happens all the time in public life.
Humility, Shame and Shyness
The Hindu monastic has special disciplines in regard to remorse. If he doesn’t, he is an impostor. If he is seen struggling to observe it and unable to accomplish it all the time, he is still a good monastic.
If he shows no remorse, modesty or shame for misdeeds for long periods of time, even though he continues apparently in the performance of no misdeeds,
the abbot of the monastery would know that he is suppressing many things, living a personal life, avoiding confrontation and obscuring that which is obvious to himself with a smile and the words, “Yes, everything is all right with me. The meditations are going fine. I get along beautifully with all of my brothers.”
You would know that this is a “mission impossible,” and that it is time to effect certain tests to break up the nest of the enjoyable routine and of keeping out of everybody’s way, of not participating creatively in the entire community, but just doing one’s job and keeping out of trouble.
The test would bring him out in the open, into counselling sessions, so that he himself would see that his clever pride had led him to a spiritual standstill.
A monastery is no place to settle down and live. It is a place to be on one’s toes and advance. One must always live as if on the eve of one’s departure.
Another side of Hrī is being bashful, shy, unpretentious:
The undeveloped person and the fully developed, wise person may develop the same qualities of being bashful, shy, unpretentious, cautious:
In the former, these qualities are the products of ignorance produced by underexposure, and in the latter, they are the products of the wisdom or cleverness produced by overexposure.
Genuine modesty and unpretentiousness are not what actors on the stage would portray; they are qualities that one cannot act out, qualities of the soul.
Shyness used to be thought of as a feminine quality, but not anymore, since the equality of men and women has been announced as the way that men and women should be.
Both genders should be aggressive, forceful, to meet and deal with situations on equal terms. This is seen today in the West, in the East, in the North and the South. This is a façade which covers the soul, producing stress in both men and women.
But this is the world today, at this time in the Kali yuga. If everything that is happening were reasonable and could be easily understood, it certainly wouldn’t be the Kali Yuga.
If people are taught and believe that their spiritual pursuits are foremost, then, yes, they should be actively aggressive—but as actively passive and modest as well, because of their spiritual pursuits.
Obviously, if they are performing sādhanas, they will intuitively know the proper timing for each action.
Remorse, or modesty, certainly does not mean one must divorce oneself from the ability to move the forces of the external world, or be a wimpy kind of impotent person.
It does mean that there is a way of being remorseful, showing shame, being humble, of resolving situations when they do go wrong so that you can truly “get on with life” and not be bound by emotionally saturated memories of the past.
Those who are bound by the past constantly remember the past and relive the emotions connected with it.
Those who are free from the past remember the future and move the forces of all three worlds for a better life for themselves and for all mankind.
This is the potent Vedic Hrī. This is true remorse, humility and modesty. This is Hrī, which is not a weakness but a spiritual strength.
And all this is made practical and permanent by subconscious journaling, Vāsanā daha tantra, which releases creative energy and does not inhibit it.