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Vairagya – Detachment or Dispassion

Vairagya – Detachment or Dispassion

The topic of today is an important topic, a philosophical topic. It is the topic of detachment. Those who study Vedanta in the TTC, you know that it is part of the practice of Vedanta to learn to detach so that your mind and heart are not so involved in everything that is temporary. You remain yourself.

The word detachment is called vairagya in Sanskrit. It is an important skill to be able to learn so that you do not lose yourself. The drama is when you get involved in life and you lose yourself. Like when you drive the car on the road and you forget and are unable to direct the car. You don’t know anymore where you go and you lose your mastership of the car.

Vairagya or detachment is a faculty to learn through practice. You need to practice, practice, practice. Some people are better than others. Some people are very passionate so they cannot detach. Detachment or dispassion is the same thing. You need to step back to be able to see the bigger picture and not be too involved. Your mind and emotions get involved and you lose yourself. You need to learn how to do this, to step back, to detach.

Detachment as opposed to attachment

In order for you to step back, you are afraid, which is why you attach. Why are we so attached? Because we are afraid. We are afraid that if we detach we will let go of that holding and then we will fall into the nothingness. Then we would lose ourselves. That’s a problem. That is why in order for you to learn to detach you must be very anchored and you have to remember your true nature which is Satchitananda Atman. The moment you remember yourself, you remember that if you are attached you lose yourself, but if you are detached you remember yourself.

Especially for those who have a passionate nature with lots of emotion, it is easier for you to feel alive when you are attached. It is more difficult for you to be detached because you feel that you are not alive. It is not true that you are not alive but you have to learn to feel a different kind of feeling, which is a feeling of peace, of inner joy. It is not a feeling of emotional excitement or emotional fulfillment. It is higher, more refined, the quality of detachment. Detachment does not mean that you are not loving. It just means that you are loving in a more profound manner.

Self as Satchitananda

Now you need to remember the self as Satchitananada. Sat means always existing. You in reality are always existing – not coming, not going, not changing, not being born, not dying. That means beyond this life in this body you have an existence, something that is always there: your spirit, your soul. You need to remember the truth that is untouched and is always there behind the whole drama – when you remember, you are not afraid. People are afraid of dying and afraid things will change. You have to practice to withdraw so you can remember the self that is not changing.

Gold is the essential nature of different ornaments: the ring, the bracelet, the crown is made of gold. It has different shape, form, name, and usage, but gold is the most important thing. You need to be detached from the name, form, and usage to see the essential nature of that thing is gold. You need to be detached from your name and form, your occupation or your relationship so that you remember your essential nature, your true self, is spirit. When you are able to detach you remember your spirit.

You need to develop a spiritual approach to life. You live your life from a larger perspective. We need to know the purpose of our life and who we are. You know the purpose of your life is to realize more and more your immortal spirit. Who we are is the Atman, is the Self. Then you can really detach because you know that you detach, but you find everything, you are not losing anything.

In the beginning, you have to go through the fear of detachment. You don not want to detach even though when you attach you have a lot of trouble, a lot of problems. Because you prefer to be attached you are not able to detach. You prefer to continue that same habit of attachment.

Ocean of Samsara

When you are not detached then you identify also with actions, what you do. You are attached to action and what you do. You get involved in everything and everything is a big drama. You are immersed in the battle of life. Life becomes very real: you battle and struggle and you lose your own true self in the battle of life. Some people are so involved, fearful, angry, and desperate and sometimes they kill themselves. They kill their instrument of realization, which is the body. This does not solve the problem. According to Vedanta philosophy, you have to live life, but with detachment. This is the teaching of karma yoga.

If you are immersed in life sometimes you win and sometimes you lose; something good happens – you are happy; sometimes you’re in a difficult situation – it’s a big drama. You are all the time losing yourself in up and down, up and down. We call this the ocean of samsara. Ocean of samsara means that whole ocean with so many waves and you are drowning in it. Up and down. Sometimes you can breathe and sometimes you are down, sometimes you can breathe and sometimes you are down. Like right now the whole world is in the pandemic and everyone is very anxious.

Detachment from what is changing

(add image from Swami Sitas Vairagya satsang slide with same header – woman in front of mirror)

You have to learn this faculty called detachment. Detachment from what is changing – like this lady looking in the mirror seeing that she has this white hair. Everything is changing. Your body is changing. Your appearance is changing. What is changing is not called truth.

In Vietnamese there is a word, Vô thường, which means impermanence. In the Buddhist teaching a very important teaching is what is permanent and what is impermanent. You learn to develop that faculty to know that something is impermanent, which means that the nature of it is not to exist forever. Then you need to detach from it.

Truth eternal

The nature of the body is when you are born you have a certain number of years to live and a certain number of breaths and then it is finished. It is not forever. The Self is truth existing forever. Consciousness exists forever. The Truth exists forever. Everything else is changing. Everything else is asat – meaning not true.

The name, you can work and build up a name, some people are very famous – and they die. Nobody remembers them. Circumstances of life are changing: sometimes we live with people, sometimes we live alone and things are changing. Sometimes you go to work. Now you are not going to work, you are at home. Things are never the same so better that you live in the present as much as you can and you do not worry about the past or the future all the time. Locations change. Emotions change. Emotion is always changing.

Detachment from that which is external

We also attached from that which is external. You have to learn that which is internal and that which is external. Internal is your consciousness, your feeling, your awareness, your idea that “I know”, “I am” – that is internal. Anything else is external. You detach from the external because the external is made of your senses and your senses are not really representing the truth.

The internal, your feeling inside, this is what you need to be more aware and more developed. As you have your feeling inside, your awareness, your consciousness, your sense of “I know”, you need to feel secure in that. Our eyes are all the time looking for something external and we grasp for the external, we attach to the external.

Meditation

When you learn to meditate, you find that consciousness, you see. When you learn to meditate, you close your eyes, you close your senses, you do not remember anything, you are in that space. When you open your eyes, you live in this world and you are a little bit more detached. That is why meditation is a very good tool to train you in detachment. The more that you are able to meditate the more strong you become because you are more secure in yourself instead of losing yourself in the external.

Everyone needs to meditate every day. The more that you are able to do the better. If you want to be strong, you need to be withdrawing in the meditation then you start to realize there is something there that is strong, that is unchanged. You also can help yourself with renunciation. Instead of desiring and grasping for one thing, you say “No” I do not need it. I am fine. You live a simple life.

Purification

Purification means you do asana and pranayama. Purify your energy. Purify your nadis, your energy. Purify your mind so that you do not have certain thoughts. Automatically it is easier for you to go inward because you are not blocked. When your mind is blocked by impurities, by wrong habit of thinking, then you cannot go inside. When the mind is blocked, it is always projecting some external distortion. When your mind is pure, you can go more inside, deeper. You will become more contented, more peaceful. You do not project, constantly projecting different distorted ideas about life.

Happiness Is Within

The knowledge that comes from detachment is a spiritual knowledge not an interactional knowledge. The answer lies within. If you feel worry, concern, you do not know what will happen, then you look inside. The answer lies within.

Sometimes you ask yourself the question, “When will this pandemic finish? When do I not have to wear a mask anymore? When can I travel like before? When can I meet with family and friends?” That means you have to sit in restlessness. You attach this present situation and you do not feel comfortable with it. Then you ask yourself all the different questions.

Then you need to remember that the answer lies within. You see what that means. At that time you detach from the external you go in the meditation, you go inward. When you go inward, you feel fine. You do not need to meet with anybody, you do not need to travel anywhere, you do not need to eat anything fancy, you do not need to go to coffee shop, and you do not need to do any kind of activity. Even your livelihood you become detached from also because you know that it will be provided somehow because you are more creative and you are not panicking. The answer lies within.

It is not as if you are running away from your responsibility and you do not care, but this is a philosophical answer to the difficulties of life. You need to find fulfillment and say that you already have what you are looking for. You look for always something outside, but it never really fulfills you so you look for peace. If you are going to detach you look for peace and peace will be there and you feel content, you feel ok. Stop looking at the wrong place.

Sometimes you meditate, you do yoga and you feel like it is pointless, that it does not do anything that there is no result, but that is wrong thinking. When you do yoga and meditation the main thing is you become more detached. You might not be aware of it, but life is different because you are not running after the external. When your mind is active, then it starts to say, “Oh yoga and meditation doesn’t give me what I want”, but that is a mistake of thinking. When you practice yoga and meditation, you are more content. You are fulfilled. You do not need anything and that is a great feeling.

Illusion of the Senses

A woman looks for the needle she dropped in the house outside because there is light outside. We always look for our happiness in the world of the senses, but it is an illusion. It does not last long and it can change. You need to develop this sense of contentment, of peace, from within.

In the ashram in Vietnam there is a beautiful place that you can sit and look at the sunrise and you feel very happy from inside because it is not so much the sun that you look at, but the phenomenon of the sun rising. You are witnessing the miracle of life, the miracle of god and that is how you become happy.

Illusion of the Mind

There is another story, a person walking in the desert found a tree, but they look away and there is always water: we call it a mirage. It is an illusion. That person decides to leave the shade to go look for the water saying to himself, “I will come back to my shade if I don’t find water”.

The same in life – we all the time have that illusion in our mind, this different desire in our mind. If I am going to get this promotion then I will be happy. If I am going to buy this car then I will be happy. If I am going to get married then I will be happy. If I am going to get divorced, I will be happy. If I am going to travel, I will be happy. Always the “if” for you to be happy, but it is an illusion because you will never be happy because there is an “if” there.

You need to stand in one place and look within. The person needs to stand under the tree and dig underneath and water is there. You need to be fulfilled now, be happy, contented now.

There is only one self – there is no other

The Vedanta philosophy teaches you the illusion of relationship. There’s only one Self. There is no other, what that means is there is the Self that is reflecting in other people around you. Always one. One is all. There is that one Self that is in all.

When you have relationships, oftentimes there is the problem of attachment in relationship. You need to remember, you need to see the Self in others. The Self included yourself. If you forget yourself and you only see the other then that is attachment happening. If you remember yourself, and you remember the Self in others than you are fine.

All knowledge is within, so try to be calm. Have the conviction that the Self is there. Calm your mind down. Have self-confidence.

Find your sattva nature by the practice of the five points: asana, pranayama, relaxation, positive thinking, and meditation. Then you are calm. When you are calm then you can see yourself. Be quiet. Those who are in lockdown it is a very good opportunity to do this. Be quiet. Be silent.

Do not worry. Try to convert your negative emotions. If you have negative emotions or any kind of emotion, the mind is wavy. When the mid is wavy then you lose yourself. You get involved so you lose yourself.

If you think, “I am this then I will not know that” – what does that mean? It means that the mind is always in duality. It gets involved in this and it gets separated from that.

Think, “I am you then I know you”. It is better that you do not compare yourself with other people from the external point of view as that will bring the attraction, repulsion, disturbance in the mind. If you think, “I am that person” then you feel more compassionate or you feel that you are that person. You can be that person itself. You know the person. Then you do not have conflict with people and you are more at peace.

Detach-attach-detach

Detachment is not easy because that is the nature of your life. When you are born you are attached. You try to detach and you get attached again, you try to detach and you get attached again.

This is the story of a tiger walking in the forest of leaves and the leaves just fell so they have some sap. The leaves get stuck to his feet so he sits down in order to remove the leaves from his feet. Because he sat down the leaves get attached to his butt. He wants to remove the leaves from his butt so he lies down. Now the leaves attach to his back. He wants to remove the leaves from his back and he rolls around and the leaves get attached to his belly. The leaves are all over. He want to be detached and now they are all over him. This is a nice story I hope you remember. The story of us.

Attachment brings suffering

Oftentimes, we want to be detached, but then we get attached more. You want to be detached – let’s say free from your work. You find two jobs in order for you to make more money in order to retire from work. And you get attached more.

If you want to detach from your relationship and then you get attached to beer and alcohol or to sleeping pills because you have difficulty. Then you want to be detached from the drugs and alcohol. Then you get attached to the cigarettes. Then if you don’t want to get attached to the cigarettes you get attached to food. You get detached from this person and you get attached to another person immediately. Constantly like this, our lives like that. Attach, detach, attach, detach.

Sometimes you feel yourself so attached, like in prison. You cannot do anything. Always you think of the boss, you think of your family, you think of your household, you think of your life like a prison. You feel like you are a slave to everything. You cry and you blame. Attachment brings suffering. At that time you have to sit down again and meditate. Don’t move. It is like the more that you move the more you try to find solutions to your problem the more you sink. Like quicksand, you can sink the more you move. Calm down. Relax.

Detachment from suffering

Remember your Ananda nature. Remember unconditional love. Happiness is also absolute, unconditional. Remember that your mistake is that you are looking for the happiness externally. You need to remember that you are happy by nature.

By withdrawing yourself and by being content you recognize this contentment within, but by using your mind you always experience pain and pleasure. Detach from the mind and the emotions.

Your true nature is Satchitananda. The mind cannot reflect that true nature. The mind is conditioned. It looks outside. It depends on the senses. It is imperfect. It is full of desires. It is swinging between likes and dislikes, governed by the ego sense, competitive, ambitious, and passionate. The mind includes the personality, emotion, desire. It changes constantly. If you attach to your personality, to your mind, to your way of seeing things then you will not have peace because you are looking outside of yourself. What you need is to look through the mind disregarding what the mind projects and clearing out the mind.

4 ways of detachment

There are four ways of detachment: karma yoga detachment, bhakti yoga detachment, raja yoga detachment, and jnana yoga detachment. Whatever way, it is ok. Each person is different. The truth is one. The paths are many.

Karma yoga – detachment in selfless service

In karma yoga do the best you can, but let go of the result. Detach from the result. Offer your efforts unconditionally.

Bhakti yoga, yoga of devotion – detachment in emotion

In the yoga of devotion, you detach from whatever you feel and think and you completely attach to the divine. You trust and have faith in the divine will and then you detach. You relax. You practice humility. You surrender.

Right now, you don’t know when Covid will finish. You have to surrender. You have to accept. We do not know when. It is the will of God. Relax.

Attachment to the highest truth brings detachment from everything else. You attach to find the truth. From everything else you detach. Remember our nature is very emotional. We identify different emotions. When you learn devotion, you attach to God or to the Divine or to Mother Nature and you detach from everything else.

Raja yoga – detachment in meditation

In meditation you also detach, but also detach from thoughts and distractions. You concentrate on the highest ideal by the name of the mantra. You focus on the mantra and you detach from everything else. You roll your japa mala beads.

Meditation is uninterrupted flow of consciousness. When you are completely detached then that bliss of the Self is there all the time. In the beginning, you need to detach by concentration.

You need to detach from past and future. Don’t think of the past. Don’t think of the future. The past is gone. You cannot make a better past. Let it go. Detach from your own story of the past. The future is not there, only a projection of your mind. Do not worry. Do not be attached to an imaginary future. Do not worry. Live in the present. The present is eternal. When the mind is concentrated it is easier for it to be in the present.

Jnana yoga – detachment from the unreal

The unreal is anything that is changing. Here is a baby monkey. The baby monkey is clinging to the mother monkey. Attachment to the truth here, and detach from everything else. It is the path of wisdom. You know what is transient, what is permanent, what is not permanent. You attach to the permanent. You remember the Self that is permanent and from everything else, you detach. You ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” and you say “Neti, neti”. You detach from the not self, the not real, the not permanent.

You can also be detached from name and fame. This is an Olympic champion with his gold medal. Nothing lasts forever. Name and fame are illusory. Detach from name, fame, and ego. Do what is right. Let go of criticism and praises. Bear insult, bear injury – highest yoga. You need to go inward and detach from name and fame.

Detach from sensual desires. Desire comes from Rajas, from the sense of lack. Desires are insatiable. If you eat one ice cream, you want more, you want more, but then you have a stomachache.  One desire will fan another desire.

You can switch it to the desire for liberation. Calm the mind by detachment from desire. Realize the complete, the already fulfilled self. You do not need anything.

Detach from losses. Ultimately, loss is the loss of the body. However, you can also lose your relationships. Nothing in reality belong to us. The persons around us, we attach to them, but they belong to the universe. From our point of view you say, “It’s mine. My relationship”. In the bigger picture, it is the universe. We are custodians; we are caretakers of our relationship. We have the karma yoga attitude. Love is forever. You might lose a loved one, but love remains. Love is forever. We might lose objects and possessions, but more will be there. We are taken care of, don’t worry. It is a difficult topic, detachment from losses.

Detachment is the way out of samsara

Samsara is the ocean of suffering, never ending, the wheel of life and birth and life and death. Eventually detachment helps you get to moksha, liberation. Attachment is the reason why you are born. It is the root cause of all karma. Detachment is the way of exit out of the cycle of suffering, the cycle of birth and death. The ultimate detachment is moksha, freedom from the cycle of reincarnation and karma.

Start with day-to-day detachment. It is a big topic so think about this. It is not like you can do it right away. Every day you have to practice the detachment and you replace it with the truth about yourself. You detach, you have difficulty, but if you can remember the Self, remember that everything is there for you, that you are everything, then it is easier for you to detach.

Hari Om Tat Sat.

HEALING KARMA: Our karmic tendencies and how to work it out

HEALING KARMA: Our karmic tendencies and how to work it out

satsang with Swami Sitaramananda

Key words: Karma, selflessness, selfishness, relationships, freedom, liberation, self-realization, non-violence, truthfulness, contentment, self-control, detachment, dharma, moksha, love, open heart, charity, spiritual tradition, religious teaching.

What is karma? Understand life karmic journey:

Karma is action and consequence of action. It Implies that we are born as consequence of past action and thought. Action comes also in terms of thoughts. This life has a cause and what we do in this life will have a consequence in the future. So, we have to see the big picture to understand your life at the present. There is a reason for certain things to happen that way, and there is a way you can then get out of it, alleviating it.

Karma is a general term that indicates everything, indicates your life.  Your life comes as a consequence of something and whatever you choose and do will bring about some consequence in the future.This life is an opportunity to make a different choice considering the same thoughts and similar circumstances. Now, you have been given a different choice. Now you can set your foot in the right direction for a better future life.

Bhagavad Gita said  that nothing that you have done or studied or any effort that you have made will go to waste. It is a chain of lives and you improve your life slowly. To remedy to Karma, you need to understand that this personality, this life is not really the real picture. You have to learn to see the big picture of your soul’s life. It is the history of your soul.

Karma has many aspects. You think wrongly that karma is something that’s happens to you and that there’s good karma and bad karma, but it’s not correct thinking. There’s no good karma, there’s no bad karma. It’s only your journey of accumulating knowledge and decreasing ignorance. Your life journey is to accumulate knowledge and decrease ignorance

Karma comes from desire and desire comes from ignorance, i.e. not knowing who you are, so you would just project an idea of who you are. You need to understand that you are already everything, complete and whole , you are the immortal Self, satchidananda Atman . Remember the Self. You know that nobody can hurt you. Nobody can touch you. It’s only the cosmic play. Really, you are untouched and you’re unhurt.

The journey of life is the journey of purification for you to get to understand this Truth. You keep thinking  that you are this limited self and therefore have plenty of desire which continuously will create new karma. And you keep evolving in the cycle of karma we call the wheel of birth and death which never ends.

The main thing to remedy to karma is the Karma Yoga attitude. It’s not about other people. When you do karma Yoga, it’s not that you do service to other people. Of course, you have to have an attitude of service and of love, but really you are working out your karma, it is for yourself.  It is the smartest way to turn your karma to dharma. Karma is that which binds you because of your inherited tendency of thinking in the past, and dharma is that which liberates you by the  right thinking about your duty and what you are supposed to be doing in this life.

For example, before you feel that lying and manipulating a situation will be to your advantage. That’s your pattern, that’s the way you think. Now, you were given the same situation but you choose honesty and straightforwardness and you find strength in having good character, even though you might be tempted to cheat away and nobody would know, but you will choose a different ethical attitude, to honor your duty and your responsibility. This is the way you work out and heal your karma.

Three guidelines on how to heal karma. Healing is to restore wholeness.

  1. Consciously, care about your present duty. Everyone has a specific duty in life. You consciously do the best you can to fulfill your duties, not following the likes and dislikes of your subconscious mind. You exercise your conscious choice and turn Karma to Dharma.
  2. Be detached and be the observer. Assert your immortal Self: It means, while in action, in the battlefield of life, when the karma is pulling you down and it is difficult,  keep your head above water and keep an eye on your self- realization goal, on your fulfillment. Keep thinking: “I am satchidananda, and I’m actually progressing.”
  3. We need to accept all tests and challenges in this life as only temporary. With karma, we have to accept, not run away. If you do so, the karma will move through faster and will not create so much damage and suffering and imprint in your mind.

Twelve areas of karma and how to heal

These areas of karmas came from the framework of vedic astrology which is the science of karma. Of course, this is only a guideline considering that there are it is multitudes of ways and scenarios how the karma can play out.

1. The body, yourself : The body is like a battlefield on which the karma is playing. You’re born as a male or as a female, tall or short, black or white, beautiful or handicapped, with a lot of prana or innately weak, whatever it is, it’s part of the setup of the karma. The body is limited and can’t do all what you want, it goes through the process of growth and of aging. The body is an instrument and it  serves the purpose of your birth .

Remedial: Accept the body and cherish it  as your precious vehicle to fulfill your purpose, your dharma. Honor the body and not mutilate it. You are not the body but you need to take care of it. Try to increase prana in the body and conserve prana for a long meaningful  life. Try to not over-care of the body, not over identifying with it, not using it for wrong purpose. With the body, you have the organs of action whose function are elimination, reproduction, moving, grasping, speaking. Use the organs of action and organs of perception, the senses,  correctly, not over use them.

2. The family of origin, your relatives, your financial resources, your mouth, your speech. Your family of origin can be supportive or you can be deprived of family support. The way you eat can be supportive to your life or it can be problematic. Your speech can be supportive to you or not. You can be deprived of financial resources to sustain your life or you can be wasting your money.

Remedials: Nurture healing voice (connect your voice and your soul and express it, like when chanting kirtan) , healing speech (you heal yourself and others through speech and not aggravating relationships) , healing food (honor the body and not harming the body), use financial resources for healing purposes. Be grateful for support received. Give support to others when you yourself have not received support. Remedy to the karma of not having money by donating money, so that money karma can no longer be the criteria to make you suffer by your  feeling either greedy, needy or  feeling lack. Be free of that idea that money is the purpose of my life. Do not waste money in sensual search for pleasures. Learn to think about it correctly to work out your karma.

3. Communication skills, your own self-will, the way you express yourself, your relationships with your children.  This is about reaching out beyond yourself and your family of origin. Some people have problems of communications and expression,  some have extraordinary skill of communication, enjoy themselves and give joy to others through their communication. Your creativity, your way to connect and express your higher mind can be through your children, progeny or your intellectual and spiritual expressions.

Remedials: Practice Compassionate communication skill . Learn to express truthfully your needs and listen to others.  Learn to surrender to God’s will and seeing the big picture about your life and the life of others to remedy to blockages in communications. Help to connect people or networking people for a higher purpose. Take care of your children as instruments of God’s creativity and not as your possessions. Seeing the sacred and the divine all around.

4. Your core heart and  your peace of mind,  your happiness. What makes you happy, your relationship with your mother, your home, your house or property. Your heart and peace of mind can be disturbed. You can be sad, depressed, angry, restless, needy, emotional, isolated and have emotional difficulty and bad relationship with your mother.

Remedial:  Practice openness of heart, learn to love,  practice contentment, open your heart and have a loving disposition. Remedy to your difficult relationship with your mother and thus with your own emotions by devoting yourself to the divine Mother. Heal all your heart wounds, forgive, forget and keep loving and being at peace with yourself and with all. This is the key to liberation from karma. Try not to be fearful, victimized, defensive or manipulative of emotions.

5. the way you use your intelligence to follow dharma, your creativity, your education. Your intelligence is to understand the way how the universe works in order for you to follow your dharma. You might have the karma to have good education, good intellect and have power of discernment and discrimination coming from past merits. You might inherit blockages in your study and your spiritual study, coming from past demerits (wrong thoughts from before that block your knowledge)

Remedials:  Care to follow guidance, ethics,  and dharmic behavior, spiritual education, study of scriptures. Purification of intellect through Mantras.

6. Your obstacles and over-coming obstacles in terms of your own weaknesses, creating debts, enemies or diseases.

Because you have weaknesses so you create obstacles to yourself. These obstacles can create debts, enemies or diseases to yourself. Everyone has weakness, more or less pronounced. Everyone needs to pro-actively remedy to your weaknesses by practicing the 4 paths of Yoga that will help strengthening any weakness that you might have.

Remedials: Strengthen your weaknesses to overcome obstacles, proactively leading the guidance of Yoga Life (understanding the law of nature)  and the 4 paths of Yoga to self-develop, self-discipline, and achieve self-purification thus diminishing impact of weaknesses. 

See obstacles, conflicts and diseases as an opportunity to review your lifestyle and negative thinking. Learn the principles of health and live according to the law of nature which is the divine law. Learn to work selflessly (doing karma Yoga), to give instead of to consume, to be disciplined instead of being indulgent.  Learn to see your own atman in other.  Stop fault finding. Learn to forgive and have the vision of unity. Turn your weakness into strength.

7. Your enjoyment coming from good or problematic association with partner in business or in life. Story of rejection, story of abandonment, story of disloyalty, unfaithfulness, betrayal, treachery, infidelity, untrustworthiness. All these are manifestations of the karma of your relationship with the partner.

Remedials: Learn to see the Self in others, treat others as you would treat yourself. Detachment instead of passion Learn to honor commitment and responsibilities.

8. Karma with the hidden forces in the psyche and the astral world. The karma there will manifest not in your life but it is in your mind. The working of your psyche can bring spiritual insight, intuition, and enlightenment, revealing way to liberation, leading to freedom from suffering or you can become victim to dark forces in your mind that would bring miseries to your own self and others.

Remedials: learn to uplift yourself through the power of Satsanga and association with wisdom,  wise people or good people, so you can get out of your own psyche. Renounce siddhis, occult practices, dark associations, exploration of astral realms.

9. Your good fortune and luck or lack of blessings and luck coming from your good or negative  association with spiritual or religious teachers. Your religion and your faith. Your good dharmic guidance received or negative guidance. Your good relationship with your father or father figure.

Remedials: Cultivation of respect of teachers and spiritual traditions, practice of humility in the pursuit of Self Realization. Discrimination in the choice of teachers or guide, avoiding tamasic and rajasic teachers and methods. Abstention from guiding people when not having purified oneself. Become a sattvic teacher and a sattvic student. Replace negative relationship with birth father with the positive relationship with the Divine Father. Cultivate trust, faith and security of being protected, remove doubts and anxiety. Remember that “Paths are many but Truth is One”, “Names and forms are many, but God is One”.

10. Karma about work and career, about acquisition of name and fame or lack of recognition, about  positive or negative contribution to the welfare of society:  You can derive satisfaction or unhappiness from your work, have sense of purpose and mission or lack of sense of your place in life, lack of fulfillment and recognition. Not knowing what your career is.

Remedials: Development of selflessness through the practice of selfless service (Karma Yoga) is the remedial to purposelessness. Patanjali said that non-acquisitiveness, absence of greed or realizing that material possessions are not the end and goal of life will help you to discover your purpose of birth. Name and fame are illusory so renunciation of ego and name and fame will help you to counteract that karma. Become the instrument to Higher will instead.

11. Karma with your community, society, environment, your friends and your gains and success in life. Your environment can be conducive to your growth, success and fulfillment or it can be detrimental to your growth and success in life. It might be that you will meet with unfavorable environment and society, or the opposite, you will be favored by the circumstances and connections.

Remedials: Be an honorable contributing member of the community, care for the environment (nature, people, animals), care for friends and connections. Respect the web of life. Avoid taking advantages of society or environment, people and friends. Avoid unethical behaviors to gain financial success at the expenses of others.

12. Karma with losses and unfortunate events: Story of sufferings coming from material losses or separation from loved ones, story of losing one’s self over to addictions, pleasures and expenditures. Lack or loss of self-confidence, lack or loss of success and fulfilment. These losses might lead you to hospitals, jails, ashrams, or make you go in exile or in foreign countries.

Remedials:  Replace the loss of one’s self in a negative manner (addiction, indulgence, expenditures)  with the positive loss of oneself in a positive manner (through charity, selflessness).  Counteract through active practice of humility and charitable actions, volunteer losing of ego through selflessness and charity, volunteering in hospitals, jails, ashrams, or service to the forlorn , the down trodden and the homeless.

17 guidelines in working out of karma

1. Detachment from the plays of karma: Learn wisdom and courage then and there while living our life. Do not run away from battle, or pretending that it doesn’t exist, or suppressing the issue, or not doing self-enquiry. Observe the plays of karma and find your Atman/Self through it, through the battle of life. You might not be able to change the karma right away, but you can make self-effort.   All efforts will not go in vain.  

2. Turning Karma to Dharma: be detached and selfless. How do you detach? take a distance and    do not take yourself too seriously, that’s how you alleviate your karma. Alleviate yourself from all ideas about being good or bad at something, remove expectations about yourself and others. Remember the Self. Remove fears. Know that in reality, you are untouched and you’re unhurt. Be peace and be Love. All else is just purification.

3. balancing likes and dislikes tendencies of the mind: adapt, adjust, accommodate, reduce strong egoistic tendencies stemming from misidentification.

4. exercise conscious choices avoid subconscious impulses

5. Care for the present duty: Accept the tests and challenges.You are learning. Do your Duty and not someone else’s duty.

6. Always keep our eyes on the goal of Self-Realization through Satsanga and scriptural study. Keep accumulating self-knowledge and decreasing ignorance (spiritual ignorance is not knowing the Truth about Self and Reality).

7. Increase plus, decrease minus ( increase Knowledge, decrease ignorance) There’s no good karma, there’s no bad karma. It’s only your journey of accumulating knowledge and decreasing ignorance. Life is a series of plus and minus: doing things that will help yourself to get out of ignorance is called “plus” and doing things that would repeat your pattern is called “minus”. Eventually, the balance of plus and minus will show your progress and eventually will liberate you from karma.

8. Practice of Prayer and humility:  You need to pay, “I don’t want anything, it is your will. It’s not my will. I do the best I can, I offer the result.” Have a prayerful attitude day after day, breath after breath, while doing your best and doing your duty. Avoid pride and presumption. Increase faith instead.

 9. Surrendering to the karma helps it to be remedied faster. Karma will finish when you do not notice it anymore and there is no more suffering. If you are suffering from something, you’re learning. If the suffering is recurring, but it’s also alleviating with time, that means that you are progressing. The True Self is blissful and not suffering.

10. Be patient, it’s a gradual change of karma.  Alleviation of karma means that you will refine your idea of how you think about things. So, it’s your thought that creates the karma and to relieve yourself from karma, you have to have different thinking or different attitude about life, about things, about yourself, and about others.

11. Develop the attitude of being an instrument only, and offer the result of your actions, in praise or censure, in success or failure.  Keep the mind even. Think, “it’s not about me, it’s not about them. It’s not about whether I like them or not like them; it has nothing really to do with it.” You offer the results of your actions; that means you offer this karma up in order for you to continue to progress. Do the best you can, make the effort but learn to let go. Do your duty and persevere, this too shall pass.

12. Do not compare yourself to others:  Every karma is unique, don’t compare yourself to others. Avoid envy, jealousy, contempt, judgement   and uncompassionate actions or thoughts when you do not understand the karma of someone. Also avoid blame and expectation that  people has to  understand your struggles. Don’t judge them, don’t condemn them, and know that they’re making the best that they can in the context of their own karma.

13. Avoid competition, ambitions, desires: In our feverish world of competition, where everybody is looking for answers outside, we believe that our happiness is in the material possessions, and sensual comforts. We think that our happiness has to be at the expense of somebody else and we compete with each other. We make sure that we get the best place, and the best part of the cake. We fear that someone else’s happiness is at our expense. We don’t like people that are happy because we are not happy. We believe in external success and not internal peace as success. We’ve been pulled in all directions by our ambitions, and by our desires, and we suffer from disappointments and angers that follow desires.

14. Do not worry about the future: Take care of your duty in the present, and the future will be taken care of: so, don’t worry about the future. Don’t plan too much. Be in the present, and then your long-term future will be taken care of; The moment that you release yourself from your karmic knot, then “a brilliant future is awaiting you”, according to Swami Sivananda. Dharmic life brings happiness.

15. Understand that Karma is endless, be wise: In the pursuit of happiness, we have made many mistakes and have created endless karma. The greater the level that you understand that the karma is endless, is your level of wisdom. Karma is endless    and the cycle of births and deaths is difficult to    break. We have gone through many lifetimes of      ignorance thus the imprints in the mind are deep and the suffering experienced can be intense as the   result.

16. Turn Within: happiness is within. Yogis affirm that in order to find happiness, we need to achieve peace of mind first. This means that we need to eventually recognize that there is no end to the desires, that the objects desired, in fact, are our own projection of our own illusions externally. We eventually learn to turn within, avoid the love and     hate, the up and down, the dual tendency of      attraction and repulsion, and always running towards      something or running away from something. This is   when Yoga and meditation come into our life and we catch the taste of peace, and understand, finally,   that it comes from within. We decide then,       consciously, to make an effort. to be calm and to       focus within.

17. Yoga is the path of moderation, Yoga shows the way: The path of Yoga is the path of moderation. How Yoga will help? Yoga has two keywords that are very helpful for you in this journey of Hatha Yoga and karma yoga: “effort and relaxation”. How do you apply? Make an effort and at the same time be ready to surrender, to accept; that’s the way you get out of the karma. Learning Yoga will help you to slow down; slow down and accept, relax, and realize that seeking    happiness outside of ourselves leads us nowhere. Yoga shows us a way out. By practicing regularly, your life’s mission will be revealed to you.

END

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam.  She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.

Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.

Seven Practices to learn how to Love

Seven Practices to learn how to Love

October 21, 2021

What is Love?

Swami Sivananda said that Love is the goal of life.  Love is the law of life.  God is Love and Love is God. To love is to fulfill the law.  We live so that we may learn to love in the eternal.

Love is oneness, union, unity, yoga.

Our human condition is separation. We suffer from separation and we long for union.

Our stories of love are the different stories of our Karmic lessons unfolding, experienced as pain or pleasure. Yoga helps to free us from the suffering coming from this duality and this split we feel between Self and Others, ourselves and our environments. 

Selfless love is to be learned

Our relationships are opportunities to learn selfless love.  Selfless love means to see the Self and divinity in Nature and in others as well as in one’s self.  It means not seeing the differences, but seeing the essence, the commonness that is One, realizing Unity in Diversity.

Love is selfless and unconditional.  Conditional love is selfish and emotional.  Emotions need to be purified to become pure love.   Emotions come from our lower mind and our subconscious mind which carries impressions of the past.  Yoga teaches us to purify the usual, habitual, tainted love, in other words, our lower mind and to activate our higher mind. 

Know that Love is not desire

Happiness comes from love.  True happiness is not just emotional and satisfaction of desire but the fulfillment of our soul longing to be united with the Supreme.

Know that Love is not Attachment

True love is not attached but detached. True love is warm and yet not emotional but is detached.  Detachment does not mean rejection.
It means learning to see the True Self that is Love absolute and bliss absolute and thus feeling fulfilled, not needing anything else.

Seven Practices

1 / Assert Being LOVE

Sometimes we go on and assert different things about ourselves, I am strong, I am powerful, I am rich, I am pretty, I am the daughter of who, I am Vietnamese etc… But now, assert that I am Love. Assert within you that Love is your essential nature. Connect wholeheartedly with the secure and fulfilled Divine Love. It is a question of connection, of feeling secure and fulfilled, very happy. Ask your heart intelligence. Close eyes, sit still, feel the inner voice.
Basically, there are two types of people: the emotional and the intellectual. Of course, we are both but there will be something that is more than the other. For those emotional nature, feel yourself strong and complete, not needy.  Often times your emotions are towards something or somebody. Now feel that you are withdrawing your emotions within yourself. Feel beyond the emotional need and assert I am Love. For those that are non-emotional, they are more intellectual, they need to relax, trust and allow the soft feeling to be towards people. You need to allow it because your intellect will block this feeling.

This is how we practice being love for these two types of people.

2 / Reduce the emotional extremes of the roller coaster of the emotions.

In the roller coaster, there are high hills which drop deep down, then the middle hills and lower hills. Try to ride only lower hills, if you can. Of course, in real roller coaster you have to ride them all. But regarding your emotions, try to keep the emotions calmer.

Recognize within yourself the high extremes. Consciously cut off the extremes. Not too much hatred, not too much love. Free yourself from the opposites.

Same as practice of equanimity or equal vision, now is equanimity of heart.  Free yourself from the duality of pleasures and pains, censures and praises, the dear and the unfriendly, always being moved by joys or sorrows, joy and sorrow, joy and sorrow.

Swami Sivananda said: “Love little but love long” and “you want love a lot and die!” [ laugh]

3 / Cease seeking for happiness but seek for peace of mind.

You will be shocked when I say cease seeking for happiness. But there is a reason. The reason is we have long past history to seek for happiness in a wrong place, so our happiness is often accompanied by pain. Your relationship with happiness is often a faulty one as you follow your emotional patterns of past, your instinctual desires and your inborn prejudices and experiences that you carried with you. Therefore, abandon your search for happiness but rather seek for peace and lasting happiness. In fact, this lasting happiness will automatically be there as you find peace and serenity, contentment. Do not make mistake, sometimes you feel like you are closed off, hard and depressed, not believing in love… that is not peace, it is some kind of resentment. Contentment doesn’t ‘t mean that you are closed. This is not it. Notice that love and happiness that come with fears and anxiety. This is not love. If you love and you feel anxiety and fear, you are going in a wrong direction.

4 / Practice heart opening. There are a few practices:

  • Seeing the divine in all, not just in your friends, your family… but in all. This will open the heart.
  • Seeing the good qualities in people instead of their imperfections and mistakes open the heart.
  • Exchange judgement for tolerance and generosity of heart.
  • Feeling compassion instead, it opens the heart.
  • Feeling forgiveness instead, it opens the heart and allows you to continue to live. Forgiveness unties the knots of your heart. Sometimes it is very hard to forgive. It is not accepting that the wrong has not been done, that the other person is right, but you need to forgive to continue to live your life.
  • Practice of gratitude opens the heart. Write daily 5 things you are grateful for.
  • Being sincere opens the heart. Try to be sincere and honest with yourself, it will help to create good relationship with others.
  • Being charitable opens the heart – giving what you can, give of your time, give a nice word or a nice thought, a silent prayer. You can pray for a lot of people every day. There are a lot of people to pray for. It will help to open your heart.

When the heart opens, it automatically attains purity. This allows true love to happen automatically.

Make sure not to allow your heart to close again because you can open the heart and it closes again. It is like for a door that has a spring system, it opens, and it automatically closed. Put a boulder, a rock in the door.  Your heart needs to stay open. You will not allow your heart to close. It is not like opening it on the weekend and close it during the week [ laugh]. Recognize possible reaction when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation which triggers defensiveness and fears. Also, recognize that possibility when you are in a situation that brings you to the past. Then you would close your heart because you do not want to experience the same hurt again.  

This doesn’t mean that you are blind, that you will put yourself in a position to be harmed. You need to be aware, and you need to pull in your higher mind, your higher energy that can’t be touched, and pay attention that you do not fall back in the past patterns of defensiveness, fears, hurts.

You see, there are a lot of things to do to open the heart.

5 / Healing emotions

Everyone has familiar patterns of emotions. But these emotions are not really your true nature. They are just habits. How to heal emotional wounds and free ourselves from negative mental patterns and suffering coming from conditional love? That is the problem, the moment that you have these emotional patterns, you love but you can’t have unconditional love. And this will bring you pain. That is why you have to heal the emotions.

Fears (and anxieties)

Fears come from attachment and it can be paralyzing, you freeze. When you are afraid of something you lost yourself. You live your life to gain yourself, to be who you are; you do not want to lose yourself!

There are many forms of fear: Fear of death, fear of being alone, fear of public criticism, fear of losing. Heal the emotion of fear by replacing it with the opposite.

Antidote:

  • Courage
  • Faith
  • Detachment (opposite of attachment), letting go
  • Self-Enquiry: ask yourself questions, why I feel like this?
  • Self-confidence, self-reliance, count on yourself.

You are not being selfish here. You are being yourself, and the moment that you are your true self, it includes everyone.

Hatred is another pattern of emotion that you need to heal from:  hatred comes from love turning in the wrong direction.  It is opposite of love.

Antidote: 

  • Practice compassion
  • See the self in others
  • Selfless service for people that you do not like
  • Practice Love in action

This will open the knots of the heart – your heart sometimes is tied up, there is no energy flow. These knots are there because of the past egoistic tendency and past prejudices that corrupt love into hatred. Sometimes you say:” I love everyone, I have no prejudices,” but this is not true.  Please sit down and think then you see that you have plenty of prejudices, you do not love people that are old, you do not love people that are  male, you do not love people that are female, you do not love people that are business people, you do not like people that are black, you do not love people that are white, you do not love people that are poor, you do not love people that are rich, you do not love people that are different than you.  You have a long list of prejudices. So, you need to actively work against it.

Because you want to deserve that love that you feel within you. But if you allow these emotional patterns to obstruct that love, you are the one that is hurt. So, you need to work on these prejudices in order for you to feel the love that comes through when the emotions are pure and when your heart is open.

Greed

Greed comes from our desire for safety and fulfillment twisted into insatiable desire for material objects. Remove greed to find safety and fullness inside.

Antidote: 

  • Charity and giving
  • Contentment
  • Practice of gratitude
  • Renunciation: you can have but you do not want it, proving to yourself that you do not need it.

Desire, lust.

We talk about the instinctive desire for a mate, sexual desire. We are born in the body and we feel separated, we feel split, and there is a very strong impulse for procreation in Nature. We are part of Nature; therefore, the desire is strong. But You need to replace it with an equally strong desire for Union, Union with your own true Self! You need to become spiritual. You need to elevate your whole Self, so you seek for Union and you become One instead of missing your counterpart, a male is missing a female, and a female is missing a male, a male is missing a male, everyone is missing something. But you need to feel fulfilled, you can’t miss something, you have your Self! Then at that time you are free from this emotional pattern of desire.

6 / Cultivate faith

Faith in your own true Self, your Atman. Second, Faith in God- Goddess, Supreme Being and third, faith in the teaching, in the practice. When you do not feel well, go back to your practice.

In order to cultivate faith, you need to first establish your spiritual ideal of love. For you to love, you need to know what you love. Then cultivate this Divine love in your meditation and in all relationships and all situations around you. When you do this active practice, it will free you from usual patterns and will help you to achieve lasting happiness. In other words, you need to apply devotion in daily life.

Love of chosen Ideal starts from within

Love of our chosen ideal starts from within, from the hidden cave of our own heart. The Atman is residing in your own heart. Scripture said it is like the size of a thumb residing in the cave of your heart.  So, you need to have that love for the chosen ideal from the cave of your heart.  This would bring back the presence of love in our heart which is blocked by our identification with our separate self.  Because of that reason, very often times we have all these problems in relationships, especially close relationships, with your mother, with your father, with your husband, your children etc. that I why we need to actively replace these emotions with Divine Love.

Love of our chosen ideal is a most intimate sacred feeling and not a display or social conformity. The temple is in your heart.

Think of these qualities of your chosen ideal:

Our chosen ideal of love can have the quality we seek: purity, eternity, knowledge, true inner power, beauty, perfection, bliss, righteousness.

To note: Respect others’ way to truth

Remember “Names are many, but God is One. Paths are many, but truth is One”.

Love of Goddess

Love of Divine Mother or devotion to the Supreme helps us to relax, to self-surrender, to become humble, to break through our egoistic limitations, our emotional patterns and our identifications.  It helps us to surrender the ego, to accept and heal our emotions.

Chosen ideal can be Divine Mother Energy

  • You can see the Divine in the energy of Nature or energy of consciousness everywhere, in the food that you eat, in the sun, in the moon, in the stars.
  • Devotion can be to the Divine Mother, the Divine manifestation underlying life. Choose to identify Her as: Saraswati, representing energy of intelligence, knowledge, creativity, wisdom. Brahma is the creator.
  • Lakshmi symbolizes energy of peace, love, harmony, virtue, righteousness, beauty, prosperity, and wealth. Vishnu is the preserver.
  • Durga. It is the core of your inner strength and fearlessness. Siva is the destroyer.

The inner feelings (called bhavas). The feeling of Mother /son; mother daughter bhava is an inner type of connection which gives feeling of safety, trust, respect. We feel that we are protected by the divine mother.            

The other forms of divine connection based on habitual feelings.  

  • Friend-Friend
  • Divine father – son/daughter
  • Husband – Wife
  • Lover – Beloved
  • Servant – Master

In Bhakti Yoga, we have nine traditional ways to cultivate selfless love in daily life. According to the teachings of Bhakti Yoga these 9 practices help to overcome egoism and bring you closer to Union with the Supreme.

  1. Listen to inspiring Divine stories – Develop the capacity to listen to other stories of living, interacting with Nature without judgment.
  1. Sing Mother Nature’s glory – Learn to praise her and look for the amazing qualities of her in Nature sciences (our bio diversity) and one’s own marvelous body. Applying to your relationships, learn to see good qualities of others.
  2. Remember of Her/his name and presence in prayers – Greeting each other with Om Namah Sivaya! Learn to see Divine Mother presence, feel the sacredness of our relationships  with Her.  Be grateful for all beings , trees, plants, animals, food, people whom you interact with in your daily life.

Spiritualize your life

4.   Service with humility –  Learn to actively serve Mother Earth  as Goddess , do gardening, planting , watering, cooking as children of the Mother.

5.   Worship – Learn to see the divine in some rituals. These rituals are very old you have to learn and practice and it brings you immediately to the divine feeling. Offer our time and presence to contemplate Nature and give to others beautiful gifts as if we are doing puja to all.

6.   Prostrations – Learn to give the utmost respect to animals, people you encounter or people surrounding you no matter who they are.

  1. Cultivate the feeling of being a servant of Mother Earth –  Learn to develop an attitude of self-sacrifice and not an arrogant attitude to be the conqueror of earth .
  2. Cultivate feelings of friendship of Mother Earth  – Learn to open your heart equally to all, without ulterior motives and discriminating who is higher or lower than you. Feel that you are the friend of the Earth, you do not want to hurt your friend, enslave your friend, abuse your friend.
  3. Complete self-surrender – Learn to accept all things happening to you and all actions of nature with equanimity and overcome your own expectations or judgment about anything done by yourself or others.

7 / Practice Self Love – Love of your own Atman.

Feel that everyone is your own Atman. There is no other. There is no duality, no separation. We are One.  The practice is to find relationship with Love itself beyond names and forms. Whoever there, you feel the Love. Whatever the circumstances, you feel the Love. So the relationship is the relationship with Love itself. The Atman is Love, so you have relationship only with the Atman.


To heal from emotional scars and patterns we need to learn Self-love. Self-Love and Love of God is the same. It is the love turned towards the Atman, your own true Self.

Self-love brings acceptance and makes the mind turn inwards to find Happiness.  Self-love or turning inwards to find one’s Self will make you stronger to be able to realize the love within that has always been there.

Self-love is not egoistic.  It is the lack of self-love and awareness that creates the patterns of need and dependency leading away from peace and love.  Self- love comes with  self-respect and self- discipline, of the mind and heart.

  • All relationships including relationships with the world of Nature are truly relationships with your own Self.  Do Self-Enquiry.We need to do self-inquiry to become free from past impressions and find our core Self
  • There is no separation. I am with you, I am You. This is Self-Love.

I love you no matter who you are. Show yourself so we have a relationship.

Om tat sat.

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam.  She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.

Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.

Why Meditate? Seeking beyond the Pattern of the Mind

Why Meditate? Seeking beyond the Pattern of the Mind

yoga camp Satsang Fri, 9/17 8:25AM • 36:04

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

meditation, mind, yoga, meditate, karma yoga, attachment, meditation practice, happiness, yoga meditation, self- development , self-realization, meditation life, emotions, problem, mental pattern, meditation methods, seeking peace

Today I opened the book and the message is about meditation again. I’d like to talk about meditation and why we meditate.

Why  meditate? What is Yoga meditation?

You need to understand why we meditate, then you can practice meditation for a long time and more seriously. The reason why we meditate, or we do yoga, is because in classical yoga, and yoga means meditation – meditation means yoga, there’s no separate thing. People think yoga means we’re doing some exercise and going to meditation is Zen meditation, or vipassana meditation or something separate. However, In the ashram,  everything we do is included in the word meditation, and everything is preparation for meditation. Everything is meditation, everything is preparing you for meditation.  

Why do you meditate, why are you more serious about following the discipline?  Because the discipline of yoga and meditation – can you give me some answers? To seek enlightenment?  It’s just a word, enlightenment. I want something more real, an answer that is more real.  What’s the real reason?  To calm the mind, thank you.  Somebody else, please.  To calm the mind – why?  Because too many thoughts.  Past, future, so much restlessness in the mind.  Somebody else?  To become conscious.  You have taken the workshop this afternoon.  Why do you want to become more aware, more conscious?  It will create happiness?  More correctly, you want to be happy in a stable manner. 

Happiness is your true nature

If anyone is seeking for happiness and happiness is our true nature, we seek for our true nature.  And the mind is always projecting different things. That’s why we run after that. We waste a lot of energy, and we don’t find what we want and then we think something’s wrong, and we change. Changing, changing, changing, changing of the mind – all the time changing. Always finding fault with something. But we find ourselves, very often times – tell me if I’m correct – often we find ourselves feeling like we are repeating the same kind of thought or dissatisfaction. The same.  Then at that time, after some time – because in the beginning, we think that it is the fault of somebody, or something or the circumstances – we change, we change, and we find the same thing. And then we change again, and we find the same thing.

After some time like this, what do we do? We start to realize that it is not in the external condition. And with that, we ask ourselves the question – maybe it’s my mind? That’s how you start meditation – to seek to know your mind and seek to know the truth behind the mind. Because you’re starting to realize that the mind doesn’t give you the answer. Whenever you come up with a change, or with a different idea, it’s always coming from your mind. I repeat again, whatever you come to as a solution to your life, or whatever you complain about, this solution comes from your mind, that’s the problem The solution when it comes from your mind, will again be repeated. Because your mind is never ending, telling a different story. Different things that you want to try. You start to seek meditation when you understand that the mind is going through this pattern and you want to undo the pattern, you want to figure it out.

Seeking beyond the Pattern of the Mind

What is behind this pattern of the mind? the pattern of the mind can be very deep. You want to find out the truth behind this pattern of the mind. That’s why you meditate. Because if you have this thing repeated all the time, some kind of unanswered question that is not possible to answer, then you would find suffering, you’ll be suffering. And you always find some kind of solution to your suffering, but it’s always there. It’s a problem. That’s why eventually you turn within – you try to find, you know, maybe that’s the way my mind thinks, that it will always bring me to the same place.  By this time, you will be seriously seeking within instead of always looking for something outside of yourself.

This question of why meditate is very, very important. Because if you have the right reason why you meditate, you will continue for a long time. If you don’t have the right reason why you meditate, for example, you want to meditate out of curiosity, or because some people or books influence you,  it will not last long.

Only when you realize that your life always goes around and round and round and comes back to the same place, that you want to break through, you want to understand what is behind it and this is when you become more serious with meditation.

Do you agree? Yes. 

There are a few techniques of meditation that you need to explore, and you need to practice, and you need to become very good at it.

Synthesis of Yoga

Swami Sivananda taught what we call the synthesis of yoga, and it is a combination of different yoga practices. That’s what you are learning here at the ashram. When you are immersed here, you learn these different methods and they are all intricately working together for that same goal. The goal is to bring you closer, to make your mind calmer and bring you closer to the realization of the happiness that is already there within you.

There are different methods of meditation. And it’s all in the book of Swami Vishnudevanandaji called ‘Meditation and Mantras’. For those who do not have the book, you can buy the book, you can read it and study. But the main thing is you need to have a teacher. To meditate by yourself alone is very difficult.

Karma Yoga

What are the different methods for meditation? Number one is called karma yoga meditation. That means how to meditate on your life itself , on your karma, so that your life is not a burden and your life is meaningful.  That is called karma yoga meditation, but you have to turn your karma around, so that it becomes meaningful for you. And then it gives some kind of meaning to all your daily activity. That is meditation. Normally in normal life, you have work and home and work and traffic, and entertainment, all different things are separate, not integrated, not understood. But yoga is the method to transform you so that you can come closer to who you are, closer to the happiness that you are seeking. Karma yoga meditation is the method of selflessness, the method of turning your activity from fulfilling your personal gain to something selfless. The other way to say it, you have to give yourself out in order to find yourself. If you don’t give yourself out, you cannot find yourself.  That’s something you need to meditate about. That means that you need to turn your karma into your dharma.  It’s a lecture in itself. So, karma yoga meditation.

Bhakti Yoga

Then you have bhakti yoga meditation, that means how to turn your emotions into pure love. We talked about that a little bit yesterday, how to become devotional, how to channel your emotions so that your emotions are not going to repeat the pattern and make you feel stuck. Meditation is for you. It’s not for me or anybody. Meditation is for you in order for you to find yourself. You feel that your emotions are the problem, and you have a lot of attachments, and it creates a lot of pain. You get attached to people and things. Then you need to learn how to channel these emotions, so that they can give you more satisfaction or more happiness, more peace, more satisfaction for a long time.  One hundred percent sure that this is what you want, but you don’t know how. Everyone at the bottom line, wants to have one hundred percent love and all the time. True?  

Yoga gives you the answer, but you have to practice. You have to learn to observe your mind and see the problem.  Because if not, then, like I said, it could repeat the same pattern. The same pattern of attachment and then forced detachment and attachment to something else and forced detachment and romantic ideas about this, romantic ideas about that, and pain. You don’t want that. Bhakti yoga meditation is teaching you how to love and to be fulfilled for a long time. One hundred percent love, this is what you’re looking for.  You think that is possible? Who believes it is possible?  You have to believe it is possible otherwise you will not even try.  I believe it is possible, that’s how I tried. I practice it because I believe it’s possible. I believe that I deserve it. And I believe one hundred percent love exists. That is called turning this emotion into meditation. Bhakti yoga meditation. Study the saints lives, they tell their own stories and it is are very inspiring. They have beautiful devotion, so beautiful.

Raja Yoga meditation:

Raja Yoga meditation is what you practice at the ashram. You practice controlling the prana, you practice turning  the senses inward,  withdrawing of the senses, being more with  yourself and less external.  You practice concentration and calmness of mind. You practice one pointedness of mind so that the mind will be still and will not hide your treasure within.   

The mind is like a snake guarding your treasure.

There was a snake that stationed in front of a cave. Inside the cave there is a treasure, and this person wanted to get to the treasure but there’s a snake guarding in front . The snake was guarding the door of the cave so no one  cannot get in and get to the treasure. That person had a brilliant idea, he called a snake charmer, an Indian snake charmer with a flute. The snake charmer came  and played the flute, beautiful flute music, and the snake started to listen. The snake shook its head, shook its body,  charmed by the music.  Then this person sneaked in the cave and got to the treasure.

Meditation is sneaking pass the limitations of the mind to get to enjoy your immortal spirit. Our mind is guarding us from enjoying the treasure of our soul. There are many different techniques that you have to do to charm the mind.

Concentration; Keeping the Mind Busy:

Here is the list of  different methods of meditation that keep your mind busy in the right way.

  • Focussing on a mantra (Japa) is one way to keep the mind still.
  • Chanting outloud kirtan with the spirit of bhakti yoga  is a way of charming  the mind and keeping it somehow not obstructing you, your experience of connection.
  • Keep yourself involved in Karma Yoga activities all the time. Our problem is not that we have too much work. The problem is we have too much time on our hands. – 50 years ago, things are different  Before you had to chop wood, carry water, you know, light the lamp and then pull the water from the well and now everything is just push a button. You push the button, you have electricity, you push the button, the car drives by itself, you push it, and you have the laundry washed – everything is done automatically, so you have a lot of time.  
  • Keep the mind grounded: Do physical work like gardening at the same time leading a meditation life. Keep your life simple. This will keep your mind  grounded. When you have a lot of time and stuff, the mind will have different needs, and different preoccupations. Don’t complain when your life is difficult.   When your life is difficult, actually, you will have to chop wood, carry water. It will keep your mind very busy and actually, very healthy. The mind needs to concentrate so it doesn’t dream different things.   Different ideas all the time and these ideas are non-essential.
  • Travel and move less. During COVID pandemic time, people starts to distinguish between what is essential and what is non-essential.  Even before all these lock downs and social distancing campaigns nowadays, we taught it in yoga.
  • Reduce needs and distractions:   The governments in pandemic time distinguish what is essential and what is non- essential. They close first non-essential things – they close the bars, entertainment places, the coffee shops, the movie theatres, the clothing stores, the gyms. [Unfortunately, yoga is under the same thing as the gym ]. But Yoga has said for a long time the same thing:  Yoga says stay by yourself, don’t run around, be indoors, turn within, be content, be happy. Now the government says the same – I think the government should hire me to help people to stay indoors and be happy!.
  • That is Raja yoga meditation. That one-pointed state of mind, concentrating so that your mind will increase the vibratory wavelength and then you start to find peace and happiness. That’s very simple. Don’t have too many distractions. Don’t have too much desire. If you have too much time, your mind doesn’t know what to do.
  • Keep the emotions happy at the same time disciplining the mind.

Swami Vishnudevanandaji created this concept of a yoga vacation when he saw people left the city and go to the Laurentian mountains on the weekends. He understood that people needs to relax from their busy life and learn to integrate the yoga and meditation practice with their busy life at the same time.

  • Recharge the prana with regulated  Yoga life:

People comes back from their weekend get-away exhausted and they need to have a vacation from their vacation. That’s how he created this concept of having places like this where people can come, and they are on vacation but in a disciplined manner. They get up early, they exercise and they eat the right food and go to bed at the right time – That’s meditation the yoga way. When you try every day to control your mind, be more positive, be more focused, less distracted, less complaining, you are preparing yourself for meditation. Meditation is not just sitting with your eyes closed.

Self-Inquiry practice:

The last aspect of meditation is called self-inquiry.  Do Self-inquiry practice so you don’t go on believing yourself to be something that you are not. Thought is very fast and you are what you think. But you have to develop the capacity to turn your mind inward, to watch your heart and watch your mind and question yourself and try to find a different way to think about yourself that will be more correct or more truthful.

That practice of turning the mind to watch itself, to observe itself and to switch the thoughts from non-essential to essential is called self-inquiry practice. You can do it anytime, anywhere, but you have to be aware of yourself and you have to be able to learn, to learn to think about the way you think. You cannot just think and believe everything that you think is true. Yoga says to you no, no, no. Learn to discriminate between the real and the not real, the Self and the not Self, the Permanent and the temporary. You need to be more aware, and you need to watch and contemplate your thoughts. Keep only the good positive thoughts in the mind, and the thoughts that are illusory, temporary, not true about yourself and others– let them go. 

Summary

To summarize,

1/  think about why you meditate so that you break through the pattern of your mind, so that you will not be blocked by this pattern that will hide your true self and your true happiness. And so you can bring more light into your life – number one. Don’t blame anything outside.  It is your own mind that brings you disease or health,  happiness, or not. So, it’s like climbing a ladder. If you climb the ladder and you fall down and break your neck, it’s not the fault of the ladder it’s your fault. That means, how you use your mind is your skill.  You don’t know how to use your mind and your mind creates problems for you – that’s the problem. Everyone needs to learn how to use their mind better. And that’s yoga teaching – how to use your mind better. How to slowly, slowly control the mind. You know why you meditate, so that you go to the root of the problems, and you can control the mind. Or, if you don’t like the word control, you can say that you are tuning the mind. What it means, tuning the mind?  It is adjusting the mind to a higher wavelength, to a more correct way of thinking, the correct way of feeling that will last you a long time. You do this for yourself not for me, I do it for myself and I share. So why meditate? You need to ask yourself this question.

2/ The second thing is you need to learn the technique to meditate in daily life. You learn to meditate in your daily life activity – called karma yoga attitude, learn to be selfless. And to do your duty and let go of the results and don’t worry about what people think.

3/ Then, you learn to love correctly, selflessly, without too much attachment. Because attachment will make you suffer but love will make you feel happy. It’s up to you to figure it out – the difference between the two.

4/ Then you’ll need to learn to control the mind, turn inward, and to watch it.  To control the mind means to calm it down.

5/ And then you need to do self-inquiry, you need to observe yourself and ask yourself where does this thought come from? Is it important? Does it really help me or not? And then things that are non-essential, let go of them.  Keep only  something important that lasts a long time, keep this thought. And anything that is not important and changes – let it go.  Something that changes has no value, there’s no truth to it, but something that has value will last.

Additional story: Swami sita sharing story about how she chose community life :

Well, that’s it, any questions or anything? Enough? Time to go to bed. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you very much for setting up this beautiful place. Thank you very much for keeping this ashram so nice. It’s so valuable to see you sitting here. I’m able to sit here and share with you, with the Masters behind us, it’s all wonderful and the mosquitoes are not that bad. I used to live in the forest up here. I walked for half an hour to get there. When you cross the forest, there were so many mosquitos I had to wear a mosquito net over my head, so there is this round thing over my head when I walk through the forest.  And mosquitos, not mosquitos but black flies. So, I know this forest very well.

I used to have a house in the forest, I lived there happily. We built a house and one day, I still remember, on top of this hill, I crossed the forest and came to the top of the hill, and I looked down and I looked at the ashram, which at that time was very small, half size – one-third of the size. And then I said to myself, because I have a house, the house is a big house – twenty-four feet by twenty-four feet, two stories. Big, beautiful, in the forest. And I said, why do you want to live in your own house, far away at the top of the hill? I still remember, the words come – “no, I want to live here in the ashram.”  I followed that voice and moved in the ashram. And here, in the ashram, there’s no room sometimes. I had to live many times in the office, many times in the laundry room. And then one time I went shopping for something and I came back, and my room was gone, they gave my room to the guest!  I didn’t mind, but the problem was somebody moved my alter!  I was so mad. Then I realized my attachment again, when you’re upset at something it’s always because of your attachment, it’s nothing else.  I realized, well, whatever I want does not sit on this table, it’s not the altar, the alter is only a symbol of something that you hold dear.

That was the story of my choice of wanting to live in the ashram when there is no room for me instead in my own house and own space. Community life has something very good. Even though you feel that you don’t have time and space when you have to share but it’s actually very beautiful.

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam.  She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.

Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.

The Guru Tradition

The Guru Tradition

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

teacher, disciple, knowledge, student, guru, people, swami, lineage, mind, means, seeking, Self-knowledge, Self-realization, self-discipline, truth, faith, life, devotion, Vedanta, world, qualification of a seeker, spiritual path, spiritual tradition, spiritual liberation, meditation, mental control

The Guru-Disciple Relationship

When we talk about the guru, the most important thing to understand is that it is based on a relationship. A guru doesn’t exist by itself. Let’s say you talk about a husband-wife relationship. When you talk about a husband you imply that there is a wife and when you talk about a wife you imply that there is a husband. When we talk about the guru, we are talking about a relationship between the teacher and the student, a relationship based on knowledge.

The word ‘guru’ means the “dispeller of darkness”. Darkness means spiritual ignorance, or not knowing our true nature. The guru is one who dispels spiritual ignorance.

The Search for Truth
The teaching of oneness in consciousness is the highest level of Advaita Vedanta teaching.

Advaita Vedanta says that in reality, everything is one. There is no me and no you. It appears that I am sitting here and you are sitting there. This is a relative reality where we have different bodies, different minds, and play different roles. We call this world of duality, this multiplicity of names and forms, Maya, the cosmic illusion.

We crave to know the truth about ourselves. Because things are always changing, coming and going in our lives. We have feelings of separation, unhappiness, that we are missing something and get disappointed. We feel quite limited, in the dark, not knowing the truth about ourselves or our environment, the reality around us.

When dealing with ourselves, we see that we are changing. In fact, it is the mind that is changing. We feel life is changing and we are changing. There is also something that is not changing, but we are not quite sure what it is. That’s how we become a seeker. The seeker is one who seeks for the truth. That truth is the Truth of ‘I AM’, the Self that is not changing.

Seeking for the truth, you have to seek in the right place. At this time the student seeks a teacher, a guide who points out the right place to seek. The teacher has to be enlightened, not having the same darkness of the student.

The guru tradition is very old, before the time of Adi Shankaracharya (eighth century). Adi Shankaracharya himself was enlightened. When he was just six years old, he knew all the Vedas. When he was only nine years old, Adi Shankaracharya received permission from his mother to take sannyasa, the renunciation phase of life.

Following tradition, Shankaracharya set his heart to finding his teacher. He left home and found his teacher in a cave. His teacher’s name is Govindapada. How long did he stay with his teacher? We do not know but long enough for him to write many commentaries on important scriptures. The teacher then sent Adi Shankaracharya to teach. Following this important feature of the tradition, the teacher decides the time for the student to go on their own to propagate the knowledge.

In the Adwaita Vedanta tradition, Self-knowledge is revealed directly to the seeker of Truth after periods of discipleship, purification, study, and renunciation of ego. The teacher is the classical instrument of spiritual realization and spiritual knowledge himself. The teacher conveys spiritual knowledge not just intellectually but by their own life and example. The student then passes it on to others by their own life and example.

The Tradition of Teachers

This system of transmission of spiritual knowledge is called a tradition of teachers. The teacher passes on the spiritual knowledge to a student who will one day become a teacher. Self- knowledge is alive, eternal. It is the Knowledge of Oneness. The fact that you have this knowledge implies that you must teach others. Why? Because you and ‘others’ are one. Let’s say you are sick. Naturally I will try to find a remedy to help your sickness, because I care about you. In the same way the teacher shows care to their students by imparting knowledge to help them remove darkness or spiritual ignorance.

The Gurukula System
There are different levels of learning. The gurukula is the traditional system of learning where the student lives with the teacher. A six-year-old student would go to the teacher’s house (the gurukula) to learn Sanskrit, scripture, etc., from the teacher. Traditionally, we do not really call that student a seeker. The student prepares for knowledge and the teacher has time to understand the student’s readiness. The word adhikāri means a qualified student. A qualified student implies they are ready to receive spiritual knowledge.

It is said that spiritual knowledge is already within you. You have all the knowledge that you need. However, there are veils that cover your eyes. At this time, you need an external instrument to help you wake up to knowledge. That instrument is the guru.

Young students must prepare slowly. Sometimes it takes more than 10 years, during which time the teacher guides them like a parent. Following this classical tradition, after a certain number of years, the teacher decides if they should continue on the direct path of Self-realization, become a renunciate, or leave the Gurukula and become a householder.

Criteria for the Renunciation Path

The teacher looks to a few criteria to determine if the student is an adhikari, qualified for Self-knowledge, or not.

  1. The student has the power of discrimination, high intellectual power, to intuit the Truth from the non-truth, the Self from the non-Self.
  2. The student displays the quality of detachment. To detach truly, the student must have an idea, an awareness, of what is the Truth, what is the Self, what is the Atman. They will then not be involved in the non-Truth; they will not be involved in the non-Self. They have some idea but do not have complete realization.
  3. Six qualities of the mind (Shat-sampat) please see article Six Virtues of a spiritual Seeker
  4. The last qualification the student must have is mumukshutva — the desire to know. Mumukshutva is an inner yearning for true freedom, happiness, fulfillment, and liberation from suffering. Mumukshutva is the constant desire to know, no matter what. You are continuously seeking, because you have the desire for liberation and you will never give up.

Mumukshutva comes in the form of inner questioning from your desire to know the truth. You want to know the truth from your point of view, not the point of view of someone else; not the point of view of your friends or family. It is from your point of view that you seek to be liberated. The temptation is to settle down, to conform to whatever the world, your friends and family, are saying that you should do. To settle down means you no longer need meditation, yoga, inner seeking, creativity, self-enquiry.

Because Self-knowledge is the knowledge of the Truth, of Enlightenment, you have to do it on your own. You can have many friends on the journey. You can have a teacher on the journey that you can count on. But you have to do it yourself. You cannot conform to anything. People can give you encouragement, but they’re not there to hold your hand all the time. Even your teacher is not there to hold your hand all the time.

It is your own strength of character, your faith, your insight, your own intellect, and your own lifestyle, that allows your intellect to awaken and to be clear. Not to be blind. That you have. But you need to do it yourself.

The Teacher

Qualifications of the Teacher

The spiritual teacher (or guru) is a person that knows the Truth. We invite you to read the chapter on ‘Guru’ in Bliss Divine by Swami Sivananda. In the article, Swami Sivananda says the teacher must have an injunction from God. This is something we need to understand. How can a person have an injunction from God? It means it comes from a very high source. There is a call that you need to teach, that you need to share the knowledge. You know and you need to share.

The teacher must know the ultimate Truth, i.e., the Self. Having consciousness of the Truth, the teacher lives according to the Truth and is not subject to Maya or the untruth. That is the definition of an enlightened person. In all conditions one sees the light and the truth no matter what.

The teacher has already tread the “ABCs” of the spiritual path; and follows the guidance of scripture, has the ethical foundation, knows all the practices, has already struggled on some section of the path. They have done this for a long time. Therefore, they know all the difficulties of the path and they have gone to a place where they can be free from these difficulties. At the same time, they know where they have been and where you are now. From here they can help you.

According to Swami Sivananda, the teacher has double consciousness. What is double consciousness? The teacher has the consciousness of the Truth and also the consciousness of the world, of Maya. Therefore, the teacher is able to bridge our limited consciousness—identifying with our body, mind and senses—with the Supreme consciousness or Self-knowledge. The teacher creates a bridge when you come to a dead-end place, not knowing, and confused. The teacher helps you to overcome obstacles and regain clarity.

The Guru Tradition

The guru tradition is an old tradition from the time of Adi Shankaracharya (8th century) who created the 10 monk orders and four schools or institutions of learning. He installed his four main disciples to be the Shankaracharya or the teacher of these schools.

I have a scholarly book on the teacher tradition, A Tradition of Teachers, Sankara and the Jagadgurus Today” by William Cenkner. I would like to read about the guru-disciple relationship. It says, “To render service to the teacher is a primary obligation of the student, seemingly more important than the study itself.” The student has to do karma yoga in service to the teacher. When you go to a teacher’s home, you have to do service. Why? Through service, a strong bond (strong tuning) is established between the guru and the student.

“The pupil must have intellectual discipline to master the meaning of sacred text, grow in moral discipline, and bring the meaning of the sacred text into the student’s daily life. The qualification of the student must fulfill his consequent duties, gradually it will bring about an introversion, a catharsis and the capacity for greater personal experience.”

The Lineage

The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center displays two pictures: Master Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda. People get very confused, because one guru is already difficult to understand. How can we understand two gurus? It represents the lineage. Lineage refers to knowledge that is passed down from time immemorial to Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnudevananda, to Swami Sitaramananda, etc.

What does lineage mean? Lineage is “To store in memory and to transmit the knowledge that leads to Self-realization”. There is a memory, the collective memory in one (the teacher), that stores this knowledge, this Self-knowledge.

Shankaracharya himself always started his teaching with prayers and salutations to the teachers of the past. He praised his personal teacher Govindapada. He wrote that the teachers have awakened those asleep and have completely saved me. He said, “I bowed down to my teacher, or knower of Brahman, who collected for us the nectar of knowledge from the Vedanta, like a bee collecting the best honey from flowers.”

When we talk about lineage we talk about traditional knowledge. “Lineage increases the value of the teaching, as it passes through the memory of the ages.” Vedanta proposes a rational understanding of the Self as a prelude to an intuition of the Self. Initiation into a tradition comes from the memory of the past. It is traditional knowledge that stands the test of time. Initiation into knowledge is a familiar point of departure in this Indian tradition. In Vedanta, it extends into lifelong practice of bringing into memory the line of past teachers. For example, I have a direct connection with Swami Vishnudevananda and he has a direct connection with Swami Sivananda. Swami Sivananda has direct connection with his teacher and with the lineage of Advaita Vedanta and Adi Shankaracharya.

Through this connection (the lineage), one taps into the eternal knowledge. That connection is based in seeking Knowledge. My connection with Swami Vishnudevananda is based in my seeking knowledge. I was not even aware that I was seeking knowledge, I was 28 years old. But I knew there is more to this life than the life I was living. And I knew inside there must be something that I was seeking, what I call the 100%. 100% means something that is absolute, something that you can 100% trust, something that you can 100% believe in. I had done a lot in my life until I was 28 years old. But it never gave me the 100%. So, I was never resting, but all the time seeking.

Meeting the Guru is Meeting One’s own Self

When I met Swami Vishnudevananda-ji, it was not the person that I met. Actually, when I met the person, nothing happened. He was a man, an Indian man, small size, who spoke English that I didn’t understand. I could have just walked away when people were making a big fuss about this man. But it is not about the person. It was me that was seeking to meet my true Self through the medium of the person. It is a process. I didn’t have self- awareness. You cannot see yourself because you only see through the eyes of other people, the eyes of society, the eyes of your family, the eyes of books, the eyes of secular teachers in the university and so on. I could not see myself even though I was called a mature person living her life. I held a position in public service but I still didn’t know myself. I still did not know the goal of life.

When I met Swami Vishnudevananda-ji, the teacher (not the body of the person, not even the personality), I was meeting myself through the medium of the teacher. It is a process that is so interesting, to see oneself through the eyes of awareness, through the eyes of the guru that has awareness.

The Process of Self-awareness

Self-awareness is developed slowly. Of course, I was sitting and listening to lectures for years, and I was serving the teacher for years. But something happens also, beyond all these words, beyond all these actions, it is an inner tuning. I remember my mind was full of thoughts, so much junk in my mind. The mind was full. I was a person of the world. I was listening to the news, watching TV or reading the newspaper, because when you are a person of the world, you have to know how the world functions. I had no clue that all this information wasn’t helping me. Actually, all these thoughts clouded my mind and made me more confused and less able to see myself.

Guru-disciple Relationship

When I met with the guru, I did not know that he is a guru. It was just the school that I went to, and the teacher has a lot of prana and knowledge. I had to qualify myself as a student, as a disciple, for a long time, many years. I don’t know exactly. But it takes years for you to realize: “Oh, I understand what a guru means now. I understand that I am a disciple. I understand this relationship of guru-disciple is meant for knowledge.” It does not happen overnight. It is a process of Self-realization.

In fact, you cannot talk of a guruasindependent from the student and at the same time, each student has a different idea of the guru. Swami Vishnudevananda appeared to teach this knowledge a certain way to Swami Sitaramananda. He will appear to teach this knowledge in a different way to Swami Jnaneswariananda and will appear to teach differently to Swami Dharmananda. Everyone steps onto the path of Self-realization in their own unique way. You cannot compare one student to another.

Each Person is Unique

Each person is completely unique. You are learning a unique lesson in this life. You are removing the unique obstacles, unique veils that cover your own eyes. You have your own personality that comes from years and years and lifetimes of learning. You are on your own path. You have a unique position in your journey to Self-knowledge, therefore, the guru will appear to you differently and will teach you differently.

You need to learn the lesson yourself because you are walking on the path yourself, and you cannot just take on someone else’s experience. You can hear their testimony, but you cannot really understand because they have their own unique relationship with the teacher and the lesson to be learned.

The guru-disciple relationship is not a public thing, it is not one size fits all. The teacher, however, can have many types of students, because they have very high knowledge that fits all the different personalities of their students. Some teachers will have a few students, while other teachers will have many. Some teachers will have an international group, multicultural, all ages, different academic knowledge. In this case, the teacher is very advanced to be able to impart the knowledge to so many different types of people.

During my journey with Swami Vishnudevananda I didn’t talk too much with Swamiji nor did he talk too much. However, he gave lectures non-stop. Whatever he said, I thought about very carefully and it always opened something up for my own journey.

Our Ego Expects the Teacher to Behave in a Certain Way

It is only our ego that expects the teacher to behave a certain way. If the teacher does not behave a certain way and does not give us what we want, we blame the teacher. We do not see that this is our learning lesson. That’s the difficulty. Most of the time we are not ready for the lesson and we struggle. The more difficult the lesson, the more we struggle. When we struggle, and we are under the tutelage of the teacher, we may wrongly attribute the source of our misery to the teacher and oftentimes blame the teacher.

Sometimes I blamed my teachers. I said, “This is complicated, why do you make it so complicated? And I thought, “I just want to live my life. I just want to be positive in my life, who cares about immortality? Who cares about peace in the world?”

Swami Vishnudevananda-ji used to tell stories and laugh all the time. He told stories and stories and laughed. It did not make any sense. I was thinking, “Why does he keep telling stories, oftentimes the same stories? Why doesn’t he tell me all the serious things?”

For example, he told the story of an old couple. This story was in the newspaper. He always taught from the newspaper, from the magazine to give some real-life examples. The newspaper reported the story of an old couple that died on the dance floor. When he told that story, he was laughing. I said within my mind to Swamiji, “Why do you laugh about this? You know, the poor old couple died on the dance floor. You should have compassion toward them. Why do you tell this story in class? And we are laughing about this?”

I thought that Swamiji was not compassionate. It took me years and years to understand that the teaching was really about yourself. The teaching was about you. You need to behave according to your age, according to your maturity. Swamiji was laughing because this couple is old and they want to act like they’re young. They then went and danced on the dancefloor until they died. This is something incredible. The stupidity of the human mind. They don’t mature according to their age. They think that they have to be young and sexy and passionate, forever. This is the stupidity of the human mind.

Swamiji was laughing about it, because that’s the way he teaches, to make you laugh. When you laugh, you learn the lesson better. When you talk about something very seriously, maybe your intellect understands, but there’s something else you don’t understand. That’s why Swami Vishnudevananda-ji always taught with humor.

He was always telling stories. He was laughing all the time. I remember sitting in front of the Satsang and laughing and laughing and holding my belly and rolling. That is how it worked. I was a very serious person and he was able to make me laugh and then I thought about it. It is a laughing therapy. Because you know, you take yourself so seriously, you think that Self-realization is a big serious business. That’s one thing. So, he made you laugh—just to help you laugh at that one thing, but eventually to laugh at everything. I saw that he had that technique of taking everything in humor, so you somehow get it.

Summary

The guru-disciple relationship is based on our search for Truth or spiritual knowledge. It is a timeless relationship. As students, we must qualify ourselves to embark on this search for knowledge. The teacher sustains and transmits the knowledge through the lineage. The teacher is one who has walked the path and understands the many challenges their students face. I transmit the teachings in different ways to different people. I can be very serious. I can also tell a story.

The Sivananda organization is known for classical Yoga teaching. It is a monastic lineage that follows a classical system of transmission of the highest spiritual knowledge based on the guru tradition. Most of the senior teachers or acharyas are sannyasis. They are monastics who live by and apply the Advaita Vedanta teachings in daily life. Thus, it is a living tradition, shared by teachers who have dedicated their lives to the teachings and who wish to share this knowledge with the world.

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam.  She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.

Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.