This is not a popular topic because most of us are wanting shortcuts. Unfortunately like all valuable things in life, freedom is earned by diligent work.
To make the changes necessary for self-inquiry, constant vigilance and a devotional attitude are required. Freedom is a gargantuan task that can only be undertaken by the purified and highly motivated mind.
Everyone has these qualifications, but more often than we need to further cultivate these qualities in order for self-knowledge to ‘stick’.
The first qualification is discrimination. We use it every day. On the basis of your likes and dislikes you chose to associate with one person and not another. You buy this, not that. Worldly discrimination is choosing between two apparent realities but Vedantic discrimination is choosing between what’s real (satya) and what is apparently real (mithya).
1) Discrimination (viveka)
This is the firm understanding that you, limitless non-dual awareness is eternal and that the world of changing objects (including the person reading this) is non-eternal. Moment-to-moment discrimination between the ephemeral and the eternal is what we practice. Our job is to shift our identity from/as the limited person to the limitless awareness that knows the person. Firmly resting in awareness as awareness is the point.
A qualified person keeps this distinction in mind always and makes life choices based on it. Jesus’ statement “On this rock I build my church.” means that his life was centred on what is eternal, not on the shifting sands of time. If the rock of truth is the foundation of your life you can weather any storm.
2) Dispassion (viragya)
Dispassion with reference to objects. Absence of longing for changing things from the body up to spiritual states. Dispassion means that you don’t care if you get or don’t get what you want. It is a very rare quality because people’s desires make them blind to one of the most obvious but almost always denied facts of life…the results of your actions are not up to you.
Dispassion does not mean that you don’t want things and that you don’t work to gain them. It means that you work patiently with a quiet mind and leave the results to life. A dispassionate and discriminating mind does not act for fullness—but acts from fullness.
3) Control of mind
You don’t control the mind by controlling the mind. If you think you are in control please tell me what you will think in five minutes. You do not control it because your conditioning controls it. So what do we mean when we say control of mind? We mean that you understand that because the thoughts and feelings arise and subside on their own, they have nothing to do with you, awareness, at all. Understanding this fact is control.
If you examine your values, the bad values will fall away and the good values will come to the fore, changing your thoughts and feelings. Merely by observing it, you gain a certain mastery of the mind. If your mind is not controllable, you should at least control your senses, the next qualification.
4) Control of Senses
Even if your mind is a mess and you can control your senses, at least your outer life will not be a mess. When your outer life is in line with the cosmic order, your inner life tends to follow suit. You can think and feel what you want, but once thoughts and feelings become actions, they are in the hands of the world and they will bounce back to you one way or the other. If your thoughts are not happy the world will not smile at you. It they are, it will. Attachment to any sense organ can get you in trouble.
The most important sense to control is the organ of speech because it is through our words that both healthy and unhealthy emotions reach the world. The rules of communication require truthful and pleasant speech in so far as you want to succeed in life. It should be appropriate to the context that requires it and it should add value to the context as well. Just talking to talk is a sign of low self esteem and a waste of energy. When you find yourself in the grip of anger, it is not wise to try to speak loving words. They will not come out properly. Just walk away from the situation.
5) Doing What is Appropriate to your Nature (Svadharma)
Svadharma means self dharma. Essentially it means doing your duty to yourself. It can refer to your essential nature-limitless awareness-or it can refer to your non-essential nature, the person you think you are. In the context of the discussion on qualifications it means doing your duty to the person you think you are. It means not trying to live up to an ideal or imitate role models.
The road to liberation is not about transcending or denying your ‘little self’. It is accepting who you are here and now. If you made mistakes and did bad things, don’t punish yourself by doing penance. Understand that if you knew who you really were you would not have done what you did and forgive yourself. Ignorance, not you, is to blame. Understanding this makes forgiveness possible. Then convert the desire to be different into a desire to know who you are, since you are pure and perfect and incapable of harmful actions.
My Relative Nature & svadharma
Nobody comes here on his or her own. We all appear here once fine day at the behest of a power much greater than ourselves. We arrive programmed with a certain nature. After the basic biological stuff is sorted we differentiate into various types. The creation itself is a vast and complex intelligently designed program that requires the contributions of many mini programs or beings. The world needs thinkers, artists, business people, scientists, workers, saints, criminals, athletes, musicians, warriors, politicians, farmers, managers, administrators, accountants and so on. Plants and animals follow their programs faithfully and human beings are expected to follow theirs too. If they don’t, they suffer. However, owing to a self reflective intellect and the desires and fears that self ignorance engenders, the minds of human beings are not always attuned to their relative natures.
If I do not know what my svadharma is, I do not know how to respond appropriately. Doing whatever is to be done at a given place and in a given situation, whether you like it or not, is svadharma. For example, it is a mistake to override your svadharma because of a need for security. Taking an unhealthy job just to pay the rent is not always the best course of action.
5) Single Pointedness
This quality is meant to correct two not unrelated and unhelpful tendencies of the mind: multitasking and too many interests. They are both born of greed and render the mind unfit for inquiry. The mind is curious. It is its nature to wander. If it does not wander you will not know anything. It is like a video camera, not a still camera. It is momentary, a series of energized images. But this tendency is not always helpful for self inquiry.
It needs the ability to hold the mind on a given topic for a considerable period of time. The only topic for those of us looking for freedom is the self because it is the only free thing! The way to keep it in mind is to bring it back to the teachings over and over until the tendency to wander is curbed. Contemplate your desires and fears in light of them until daily life conforms to the inquiry moment to moment. One needs to see that inquiry is not just an occasional activity.
Difficulty focusing is a values issue. Does anyone have difficulty focusing on sex? No, because it is highly valued. Failure to focus means that clarity with reference to what you want, in our case freedom, is not the number one priority. When freedom is the number one value concentration takes care of itself.
Forbearance is objectivity toward pain of all kinds without anxiety, complaint or attempt at revenge. It only applies to situations that we can do nothing about. In other situations you should act to change them if you can. Understanding that people cannot be changed but giving them the freedom to be what they are and setting up boundaries to take care of yourself is forbearance. This qualification creates a simple life. These days society is highly complicated and neurotic. Our sense of entitlement knows no bounds. We feel empowered to whine and complain from dawn to dusk about petty things. Our likes and dislikes are out of control. Luxuries have become necessities, our lives complicated and our minds shattered. These small things are not worthy of attention. Suffering them in good humour is necessary.
Devotion is love of truth, love of knowledge. It means that my emotional power is squarely behind my quest for freedom. It is a positive value. I am devoted to inquiry because I love truth. Devotion knows no pain. It is steady and deep and overcomes everything.
8) Faith (shraddha)
Some say faith is the number one qualification. The faith that qualifies you for self inquiry is not blind. Vedanta says that there is nothing wrong with you on any level. Even your self ignorance is not your fault. The faith that is asked of you is the belief that you are pure and perfect pending the result of your scripture-based inquiry.
Toward the end of the cold war the Russians said “Trust us, we are destroying our nuclear weapons.” And the Americans said, “We trust you, but we would like to see for ourselves.” Even if you believe you are bound, you should live as if you are free and see if reality doesn’t support you one hundred percent. Experience may say it doesn’t, but knowledge says it does. If you continually doubt, it will compromise your ability to hear, reflect and assimilate the teachings. There is no happiness for doubters.
10) Burning Desire for Freedom (mumukshutva)
One day a disciple asked his guru to talk about burning desire for freedom. The guru said, “Never mind. It is not important.” The disciple was very intelligent and curious and not one to be dismissed so he asked again and again but he got the same reply. A few days later they were at the riverbank taking a bath. The bathing ritual involves dunking oneself three times in the water. On the third dunk the guru jumped on top of the disciple, put his foot on his back, gabbed his arm and held him tightly on the river bottom as he struggled to get free, releasing him just a second before he was about to drown. The disciple was very angry and was about to give his guru a good beating. The guru agreed to take his punishment but not before he asked the disciple this question, “What were you thinking when you were down there on the bottom of the river?” The disciple that he definitely wasn’t thinking but the guru insisted that he was. They argued for a minute or two until the disciple asked, “OK, what was I thinking?” “You had one thought and one thought alone,” the guru replied. “What was it?” said the disciple. “Air,” the guru said. “Your only thought was ‘I want to breathe.’ Wanting liberation with the same intensity you wanted air is burning desire.”
Everyone says they want to be free but on this issue you need to be very honest with yourself. Is your desire, piddling, middling or burning?
A Qualified Teacher
So far we have a valid means of knowledge and a qualified student. You also need a qualified teacher. You cannot teach Vedanta to yourself. Reading books and listening to unqualified teachers does not work. It is natural to begin your journey in this way but there is an obvious downside: your ignorance will cause you to interpret what you read. An enlightened person is not necessarily a qualified teacher and a qualified teacher is not necessarily enlightened. When you meet a free person, you can feel it. There is a lightness, an unconcernedness, an ascetic simplicity to them that is unmistakable. They never have an agenda. A teacher is someone who reveals the truth. If you see the truth, it will do the work for you. A true teacher is dispassionate and self fulfilled and has nothing to gain by teaching you. It is the duty of a teacher to warn against attachment and offer techniques like karma yoga that destroy attachment instead of feeding it. When the time is right the right teacher will appear.
Continue to expose your mind to the teaching at every opportunity, work sincerely and cheerfully on yourself and stop worrying about the result. A sense of freedom will sure arrive, no doubt.
This link takes you to another fantastic description of the qualifications.
The below satsangs offer a practical demonstration on qualifications and its value.