Spiritual aspirants acquire defects of character

Till the depths of the mind have been partially pacified, attempts to force them to be calm, by a more or less complete long isolation, will energize them, as Saint Anthony found. Humankind is naturally gregarious; Dr. Shastri said that one who likes to live alone is either a superman or less than human. The Gita makes one of the conditions for acquiring knowledge: ‘resort to solitary places and no liking for the society of men’.

Sankara modifies this last phrase to read: ..’for the society of entirely worldly men, for the society of good men is a help to knowledge.’ During his training period, Dr. Shastri was often away from his teacher for long periods. He spent months walking alone on the hills near Rishikesha, and the banks of the Ganges, meditating and thinking. But in the evenings he attended the lectures of Swami Mangalnath, a fellow-disciple of his own teacher.

However Dr. Shastri recommended periodic retreats for a week or so, whether alone or with a few others, to meditate and study.

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