From Shrimad-Bhagavatam, we learn the story of Pingala, the prostitute. One night, suitably attired, she was standing on her doorstep waiting for clients to turn up. People would glance her way but they kept going. Hours passed and, surprisingly, this night no one came to her. Deeply hurt, she began to introspect about her life. She became convinced that her life was truly wretched as she had to beg for doing a very abominable work.
Her mind made up, she turned around and closed the door behind her ; she had given up her profession. Learning from her example, we can similarly give up many of our vices, if we routinely introspect.
Why are criminals punished with jail-terms ? It is expected that they would introspect in the long hours they are forced to spend in isolation. The worst criminals are in fact put into isolation chambers where contact with other people is almost nil. Taking a cue from this, one can avoid most punishments if one routinely introspects, like every night before going to sleep about the day’s activities.
What happens in the cases of divorce ? The judges require that the spouses do some serious rethinking. In contract discussions, when they break down, people agree to meet later after some introspection.
What is this introspection ? It is defined as an examination of, or a concern with, one’s thoughts, feelings and motives. It is very different from getting worried, anxious, fearful or obsessed. Unfortunately, not many of us introspect, even when we are in trouble.
There are several benefits of doing introspection. One can know one’s strengths and weaknesses. One can do course-correction before it is too late. It also helps in learning about one’s mistakes and there are many that we routinely make. Introspection teaches us our limitations and thereby humility. And, the biggest benefit is to be able to establish communion with God that is hardly possible without some serious introspection. Introspection also helps in controlling anger and finding solutions.
How is this introspection done ? We need to be alone at least for sometime during the course of a day. On the days of fasting, or during pilgrimage, introspection is mandatory. Near-death experiences tell us how the souls are forced to introspect being confronted with the activities done during one’s life.
The scriptures guide us to speak to God residing in our hearts, who can provide us the necessary guidance, answers, etc ( Bhagavad-Geeta 15.15) ; meditation is the ideal tool for doing it.
It is, therefore, very important that everyone introspects. Without introspection, one can get away from the real person or become different from what one wants to be. The problems of double-image and even split personality may occur as well.
What are dreams if they are not introspections forced upon us during sleep, which we may be avoiding during our wakeful state ? Let us, therefore, not indulge in day-dreaming but do some serious introspection ; our lives shall be much better because of it.