A Philosophical Exploration of Discipline

By MatTehCat | MatTehCat's Blogs | 11 Aug 2020

After a yoga session and ab workout yesterday, during the midst of a thunderstorm, I couldn't help but to ask myself as I laid down in corpse pose, "What is discipline?" This led me to a Jocko Willink video that expounded upon Discipline's meaning, but it didn't seem sufficient to me. So, I went to my Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, and the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, while keeping my Black's Legal Dictionary close beside me. 


What I found led me down an intriguing path. It started by examing what a Disciple is.  A Disciple, as it turns out, is a follower or one who has been given orders to follow, or has been instructed; and Discipline, as follows, is that which is followed, or ought to be followed by the one who has received orders or instruction. But this led me to another question: what orders should we follow? In this regard, I looked to the legal definition of Disciplinary Action, which is performed when one acts in a manner that is antithetical to the law or rules that have been given to them. And once again, I was inclined to ask another question: what law is best to follow?


In asking this question, I was inclined to examine a particular philosophical concept known as Dharma, which was introduced in the Bhagavad Gita as a part of the epic, the Mahabharata. I ultimately discovered that Dharma is the divine law, a cosmic rule giving things their nature or essence or in the human context, a set of duties and rules to be performed or followed to maintain social order and promote general well-being, to be righteous. Dharma, of all other laws, was not received through one's station at birth but through one's abilities and nature. Yet, like all ideals, even Manu's, the Hindu lawgiver's, notion of Dharma fell short, resulting in a caste system determined by one's birth. So I examined the source material, the Bhagavad Gita, to see how Dharma was originally ascertained.


In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, reluctantly waiting to wage war, receives a revelation from Lord Krishna that emphasizes selfless deeds and Bhakti, or devotion. Shankara believed it to be a teaching on the attainment of enlightenment through Right Knowledge (Advaita Vedanta) alone, without performance or religious duty; however, Rāmānuja takes it as a teaching on enlightenment through performance or religious obligations, particularly as devotion to God, for whose sake all other responsibilities must be performed if one's sins (or wrongdoings) are to be absolved. Yet, either way, both lead to self-knowledge, knowledge of the personal Brahman, which leads to Dharma. Bhakti, as a system of thought, emphasizes faith, surrender, love, affection, and attachment. And although there are two paths of Bhakti, lower and higher, the lower being for personal goals, the higher to please the divine lawgiver, the only obstacle to either is unbelief, not ignorance.


This led me down one more path, which I turned, once again, to the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology to solve: What is Belief? If I was to understand what Unbelief was, I needed to understand what Belief was. Belief, as it turns out, if I am to sum it up adequately, can best be described as that which is palatable, accepted, or approved of. But by whom? The Divine Lawgiver, whose knowledge is received as Advaita Vedanta from enlightenment through revelation or performance and religious duty, resulting in right knowledge, or experience, alone.


Upon discovering this, I looked up and saw the rain had stopped and that the sun was setting. It was at this moment that I felt a feeling of love that took my breath away. It was not for the image that you see on your screen, nor the path that I went down, but for the realization that all the beauty we see in the world, the pain or suffering we endure, the hatred we have or the love, all of it is simultaneously willed by us and ordained to be via a set of cosmic laws that allow us to interact with the world as we choose to, earning us what we sow. Yet without those laws, all would indeed be totally nothing, not merely a state of flux. And in denying even one of these cosmic laws, which are ingrained in the Universe's very nature, in not doing what is palatable, accepted, or approved of by their lawgiver, we create our own obstacles, we do wrong, we sin.


And so, I believe I now know what Discipline is; to do what is accepted, approved, or deemed palatable by the Universe through faith, surrender, love, affection, and attachment, or yoga — Bhakti. How this looks, I believe that is answered by one's abilities and nature, not by their birth. Then, it is up to each to know who they are; to understand themselves and their place in the Universe and the society they reside within.  When we resist this and force the Universe or society to bend to us, that is when -- truly -- we do not believe and when we do wrong for ourselves and others via our egotistical notions of how things ought to be. 

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Writer, Blogger and Vlogger creating stories, rhetorical arguments, and editorials on philosophy, psychology, religion and art.

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