The Sacred Role of a Yoga Teacher

The Sacred Role of a Yoga Teacher

Yoga teachers as leaders

The important thing is that we unite together as Yoga teachers, Sivananda Yoga teachers. We have a mission to be leaders in this time of need. The aims and goals of the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course is to create leaders who themselves have experienced the way to peace and in turn can show others the way to peace in times of crisis.

Yoga teachers as influencers, spreading positive thoughts

When the world is in panic and confusion, it is important to understand that crisis changes the vibration of the whole world. It is important that yoga teaching becomes known at this time, so people learn to turn their negative thoughts into positive thoughts and begin to understand the cumulative actions of their thoughts. This is what the Yoga teacher needs to know, that his or her thinking not only relates to him or herself or to the people in the same room or house with them, but thinking as a collective consciousness, our positive thinking affects the whole world.

Now more than ever we need to be aware of this, that our positive thoughts or positive words affect the world. We can help the world to heal by uplifting our consciousness through the conscious practice of Yoga sadhana. You may think you are alone in your house doing your practice and your voice does not count, but any thoughts that you broadcast during and after sadhana are very powerful. Moreover, as you practice Yoga and meditation now, you can switch your intention and do it for the sake of the world. This way, your practice not only improves your life but also improves the vibration of the whole world.

Yoga teachers are empathetic, sensitive, and realize the suffering of people in their communities. They feel what people are going through when everything in their life is collapsing or changing. We know that this is a moment of transition, a moment of choice for everyone. Yes, as Yoga teachers, we have a choice, either we are going to be depressed and spiral down or we are going to stay strong in satsanga and rise up, shifting our consciousness with the whole world.

Yoga teachers are like a lighthouse that radiate positive thoughts all around and influence the world’s collective thoughts, thus, playing a leading role in shifting the world’s consciousness.

Yoga teachers as powerhouses raising vibrations with mantra

The easiest way to increase your vibration is to repeat mantra. Sivananda Yoga teachers understand the healing effect of mantra, how it strengthens the mind, especially when chanted in a group. The energy is multiplied and touches the whole world to balance out the negative energy.

The best mantra for healing is Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. You can repeat this mantra daily or have it playing at low volume in your home or sacred space for someone that is sick or suffering:

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushthivardhanam. Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan Mrityormuksheeya Maamritaat

Play mantras for those who have just died or are on the sick bed. Repeat the mantra with your heart as consciousness (God) is dwelling in your own heart.

Yoga teachers as counselors

When the world is lost and afraid, it is important that Yoga teachers explain a few helpful points:

  • The connection between Prana, Thought and Immunity
    The higher the prana, the more we increase immunity to prevent disease. You need to explain this to your students and to your family, the link between prana and health.Prana is found in nature. By changing your lifestyle to connect to the prana in nature you improve your immunity. The best thing to prevent sickness is to increase immunity, the mechanism nature has given us to prevent diseases. Prana needs to be high. You increase the prana by absorbing the prana from nature.This is done by leading a proper lifestyle, by proper contact with the earth (eating the right food, contemplating trees, mountains, gardening, etc.); water (drink pure water, bathe in rivers, oceans); fire (being in the sun daily, eat warm food); air (breathing exercises in the clean air) and; ether (being in a positive thought atmosphere).

We need to learn how to conserve prana and not waste prana through negative thinking, useless worries and actions. We need to train and concentrate the mind and perform only mindful actions.

Too much information on the Internet that you cannot digest will cause you to lose prana. Gather only the information that you can digest. Like food, if you eat too much, you cannot digest what you eat, toxins will build up and the mind will be restless.

  • Listening, comforting, being present
    People need comfort, not merely calmness, but also a comforting presence and comforting words. The Yoga teacher’s presence is important. Now is the time to call your friends and relatives and to reach out to your neighbors to give them comforting words. It’s very easy to give comforting words, “How are you? We are concerned about you. Is everything okay? We love you.” Offer these comforting words with empathy.Empathy means we understand why you lost your job. We understand why you are home and don’t know what to do and you’re depressed, you’re worried. We understand. Empathy comes by listening. People need to be able to talk out their worry. Then you just listen without trying to give an answer, because really no one has the answer. Be humble and just try to listen, not just engaging people only when you feel that you have the answer. No one has the answer.Listen to what the person has to say, whatever they’re worried and concerned about. That’s enough to comfort them and to help them to calm down. It is a need to be listened to.
  • Relax by contemplating Nature
    Being in nature helps us to relax. We don’t have to go anywhere. Actually, we can sit and just look at the trees and the water in the pond, look at the dog that is passing by. Just contemplating.By being still, learning how to contemplate, everyone experiences a state of calmness, and not just calmness, but a state of joy and unity. This is exactly what we mean when we talk about spiritual relaxation. There are a lot of techniques of Yoga that can bring you to that state. Yoga offers a wealth of information to apply for physical, mental and spiritual relaxation. The more you apply, the more you see that it works, and the more that it encourages you to practice.
  • Yoga for overcoming anxiety
    There are many Yoga practices overcome fear and anxiety:
    1) Breathing: The first point is to help people to improve the breath-body-mind awareness with rhythmical breathing. Just breathe with the diaphragm to get more oxygen, but also use rhythmical breathing to help calm the mind. When you practice asana, make sure to coordinate the breath with your movement and do pranayama.
    2) Asanas for stress resilience: The second point is to increase prana by moving the body. If you feel that you are stuck or anxious, the flow of prana is blocked. When the flow of prana is blocked thoughts go down or repeat.You need to just keep moving, but consciously, by performing Yoga postures in the proper sequence to move the prana and to balance the flow of prana. Simply by moving the body in a balanced manner with awareness helps to balance the prana and increase stress resilience.
    3) Improve mental-emotional balance: Mental and emotional balance is accomplished by regulating the breath. If you feel tension, you need to learn to exhale properly, calmly, and slowly to release tension. Let’s say you are talking to the neighbor and the neighbor is panicking, you can tell them, “OK, calm down now, just exhale slowly. Inhale and exhale to the count of six, or inhale and exhale to the count of ten.”
    Go very slowly and they will calm down.Breath is connected to the mind. Awareness of the breath helps to concentrate the mind. People cannot practice Yoga when they are stressed. Why? Because their mind is obsessed with something external. At that time, you tell them to lie down, to stretch, to breathe, and to concentrate on the breath.
    4) Learn to increase ojas shakti to avoid burn out: The fourth point is to understand that if we burn out our immunity goes down. One Ayurvedic teacher states that too much heat in the body leads to anger, too much thinking, and too much stress. So, you burn out your ojas. Ojas is the energy that sustains life.

The key is to increase ojas. Ojas shakti is the power of sustenance that brings contentment, gratitude and the sense of well-being. This is the subtle energy as taught by Ayurveda. Apply Ayurvedic principles in your diet and lifestyle to increase ojas shakti:

  1. Apply warm sesame oil to your body and head.
  2. Eat nutritious, simple food. The essence of the food will nourish you, feed the ojas and will help you to calm down.
  3. Take one or two teaspoons of ghee in your food and you will be nourished.
  4. Drink warm almond milk is also very good for increasing ojas.
  5. Cultivate faith and positive feeling in the Divine. Direct connection to the source of life will sustain you and increase your ojas shakti.

5) Increase the sense of safety: Create a sense of security, warmth, of quiet and support. The key is feeling safe. Let go of the worries and the defense mechanism. If you feel worried and fight-or-flight response is activated, your defense mechanism will wear you out.
It is paramount to relax, to activate your parasympathetic nervous system by Yoga asana in a conscious manner with rhythmical breathing along with faith.

6) Increase detachment: The sixth point is relaxation but going to a deeper level. It is about a change in attitude towards life. The prevalent attitude before was of being passionate about life, passionate about enjoyment of the senses. We call this a rajasic attitude, running here and there so that life gains meaning by experience and enjoyment.

We need to decrease these rajasic activities by increasing our detachment. This is a meditative, contemplative attitude towards life, stepping back to find the fullness within ourselves rather than attaching to what is “happening” outside.

  • Self-Affirmation
    Affirm your Self and repeat what you feel is positive and good. If you repeat a positive thought, that thought gains more momentum and more power in the psychic world and helps you in due time. For example, write down this sentence and repeat it many times, “I am content and happy with my Self,” or “Day by day, everything is improving, everything is better in every way,” or “I am content and with the present moment”.When you feel anxious, this affirming thought will rise to the surface of the mind to help you. Self-affirmation needs to be done daily until it becomes a positive habit. Another practice is to create a daily gratitude list and use what we are grateful for as affirmations.
  • Faith increases immunity
    In times of crisis, people tend to doubt, to be fearful, and to lose faith. You have an inherent connection with Mother Nature, the mother Goddess, the universal presence within your own body that is always with you and in your surroundings. Swami Sivananda reminds us to follow the laws of nature and to live in harmony with nature. Having this deep connection with our own true nature dispels fear and restores faith.
  • Vedanta philosophy about the Self and the not-Self
    The Self, the immortal Atman, is ever-present, untouched, blissful. It is the consciousness underlying all things. Remember the Atman and detach from all that is transient and changing. Use your higher faculty to discriminate, to know the difference between what is permanent and that which changes; what is the Self and that which is the not-Self.Remember that there is a presence within you, a consciousness within you, no matter what. Find safety and comfort in that presence as your own inner reality. Tune to that divinity that we see outside as the all-present, nourishing and caring Mother Nature.

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers (ISYVC) and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center in Dalat, Vietnam as well as more city centers in Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Hanoi, and Tokyo, Japan.  Swamiji is the acharya for Asia as well as 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).

Find the Self and End Your Suffering

Find the Self and End Your Suffering


Does our suffering have any use to us? And where does suffering come from? According to the Raja Sutras, all of our suffering comes from five main sources. They are ignorance, pleasure, aversion, the ego, and the fear of death. When we begin to investigate these qualities in ourselves we can more clearly understand our path towards liberation.

During her international Satsang on Nov. 15, Swami Sitaramananda introduces the ancient teachings of Maharishi Patanjali to help us understand why we suffer.

The Five Kleshas

The concept today is about understanding the root causes of our suffering. When we understand this we can continue to invest the right amount of energy in the right place. Because when you know the root causes of your suffering you can begin to heal by cultivating an intelligent approach to your sadhana practices. These teachings come from Patanjali Maharishi, who wrote the Raja Yoga Sutras over 2000 years ago. Patanjali says there are five causes of suffering, and the misery that has not yet manifested should be avoided. If you have a certain cause of suffering and you carry on to do certain things out of ignorance, then you will suffer. The misery that has not yet manifested needs to be avoided. This means you need to go to the root cause of the suffering and do the right thing to avoid any future suffering.

The Sanskrit term kleshas means cause of affliction, or poisons. Klesha number one is avidya or spiritual ignorance. When you start on your spiritual journey in order to be enlightened, the more light you will have coming in your mind. And this will make you wiser. You’ll be able to go into the root cause of all suffering. Avidya is the main cause of suffering. The other four reasons come from Avidya. The second klesha is called asmita or egoism. With asmita you don’t know who you are. So you believe that you are this personality called the ego or the ahamkara.

The third Klesha is Raga. Raga is translated as attachment. Because of our attachments we suffer.

Number four, Dvesha means repulsion, and is the opposite of Raga. Raga means you attach to something you like, and Dvesha means you run away from something. So the two together, Raga and Dvesha means your likes and dislikes, your array of love and hate.

And the fifth klesha is called Abhinivesha which means your will to live, or in other words, your fear of death. These are the five main causes of suffering according to Patanjali. It’s important we understand them well.

Forgetting Ourselves

Avidya is forgetting our true nature as the immortal, unchanging pure consciousness called the Atman. We make the mistake of taking the perishable, impure, external world and appearance for that which is real, true, permanent, and eternal. Avidya means not understanding our true nature as Sat-chit-ananda Atman. Instead, we mistake our body and mind to be ourselves. We do not know the difference between that which will bring pain, and that which will bring immortality. We are unaware of the truth, and that is called Avidya or ignorance. And this is the root cause of all the afflictions. So, if the root cause of all our afflictions is Avidya, the way to cure our afflictions is through self-knowledge.

We need to understand the teachings of Vedanta, which is a yoga philosophy that teaches us about the nature of the self. Vedanta teaches us about self-healing, self-realization, and the nature of liberation or enlightenment. When we suffer from our own negativity, we are suffering from our perceived imperfections in our mind. We may have low confidence, low self-esteem, insecurities, or anxiety. In this case we need to go to the root of the problem and ask ourselves the questions, ‘who am I?’ ‘Am I these impressions in my mind or my habitual thinking?’ ‘Am I my past?’ ‘Am I my pain?’ ‘Am I my past mistake?’ You need to ask these questions about your perceptions from the mind that perpetuate this false idea of yourself.

Detaching from the Body

The problem is we identify with the body and the mind. We believe that we are this body, and describe ourselves with terms like 30-years-old, male, female, pretty, or ugly. We think we are this vehicle. And this is the first mistake. The body and the mind is like a car, with the purpose being to experience life. The vehicle is a vehicle of self-knowledge. You are born in a body with a mind to experience the fruit results of your karma in order for you to wake up and learn the lesson of ‘who am I.’ So, the body and the mind are your vehicle.

It’s like you drive a car, and you say, ‘I’m a Honda. I’m Japanese. I’m 10 years old. I’m red from the outside. And I’m worth $10,000.’ You make the mistake of identifying with your vehicle. You use your vehicle to go from one place to another. This body and this mind are your vehicles in order for you to experience this life. You experience this life the best you can. The vehicle is very sharp and powerful and has lots of skills and equipment so that you can experience this life.
So you need to understand that you made a mistake. You need to detach from this false identification with the vehicle so you can recognize who you are. This body and mind vehicle that you are born into is there for you to wake up. For you to experience life and to know that it is not yourself, and to know that this experience is the condition of your thinking. You can change your thinking and you can progress to have a better idea of who you truly are.

In Vedanta, your true nature is known as sat-chit-ananda. It means who you are is more than this body. We come for a short time to experience something in this body, but your life is more than this body. You are unlimited. You come for a short time to explain something in this body. Sat-chit means you are immortal, it means you are your own knowledge, you are the source of all knowledge.

Ananda means bliss. That means the true nature of yourself is that bliss absolute. So this is something that we need to remember. Otherwise we experience objects of the senses and we believe that these objects can give us the happiness we want. But it’s impossible, you can possess all these objects you desire, but you will not be happy because they are just objects.

You are the power, you are the existence, and you are the truth. The problem is we constantly have an illusion projecting a different idea outside of us and we run after these illusions and think that we can get some happiness from them. This is Avidya or spiritual ignorance. We need to wake up from avidya and understand our body and mind are only our vehicles. In order to understand this, you need to have some level of detachment.
The body is ours only to be used by the mind. You have to know that the core of your consciousness is not your mind or body, but that you are the immortal spirit. This knowledge requires continual training of the mind to be a more detached person.

Turning Inward

You have three bodies: the physical body, the astral body, and the causal body. The three bodies help us to understand ourselves properly.
The physical body is the envelope of food. What you eat becomes the body. In the astral body you have you have a layer called prana. Prana is your vital energy and your aura in the subtle body. Then you have the mind with emotions and a subconscious. And then you have your intellect and your ego. All this is in the astral body. And what this means is that the mind is a very subtle tool for you to experience life. And your mind experiences pleasure and pain. When you experience pleasure and pain, pleasure is limited and pain is limited. You have to know that there is something unlimited that is beyond the pleasure and pain.

You experience pleasure and you take that to be the truth, but when it ends you suffer. And when you suffer, you have to turn inward. Then you will find a place of peace, the unlimited peace that is within yourself. This is how you learn. Pain is also limited but the mind will swing between pain and pleasure. We’ll talk about this swinging nature later on.

The experience of pain and pleasure helps to guide you to the truth within yourself. You withdraw yourself and you recognize yourself, that’s the reason why you are equipped with the body and mind. Then you can recognize yourself, and that is called the process of waking up or self-realization. We need to cultivate this true knowledge by practicing self-remembrance. You forget yourself in the objects of the senses, and your mind says you are the ego but you need to detach and reflect on your true self. Remembering your true self happens when you do sadhana or your spiritual practice like yoga or meditation. These practices help you remember the truth of who you are.

We need to truly understand the cause of our problem. Usually when we have problems we always blame something external. You think if an object gives you happiness now, and it does not give you happiness later, something must be wrong with the object. But you don’t see that it’s your mind that projects an illusion upon the object expecting it to perform how you want it. The object will never behave exactly how you want. Permanent happiness is not possible from an object. You need to turn your attention inward to find the lasting happiness that is within you.

For example, you think that if the body is very pretty and youthful that it will give you happiness. Eventually the body will get old or an accident can happen. The body is relative. You try to make it perfect, but it can never be perfect. Some people spend so much time and money to make the body perfect. But the body is not new, it cannot be perfect. It changes every moment. You have to detach and use the body wisely. The true nature of the body is to grow, get old, and eventually self-destruct. You know that the nature of the body is to grow old, so don’t put all your energy in the body. Instead, put your energy in living your life meaningfully by doing your sadhana practice so you can recognize your mistake in thinking.

We function out of our mistaken identity. We cannot see beyond our thinking. It’s similar to thinking the sun does not exist when a cloud is blocking our view. If we only pay attention to the cloud, then we only see the external. We will only see the external appearance when we don’t do any kind of practice according to yoga or Vedanta.

Vedanta’s Teachings

Vedanta gives you a practice of meditation and self-inquiry. So even if the clouds are there and you don’t see the sun, you can know within that the sun is there. This is called self-remembrance. Even through the ups and downs in your life, when everything seems to be changing, you know that the sun is behind it all. The light is there behind your changing life. You have to remember the teachings and the words of the scripture. You have to hear the teachings from the guru again and again so that you keep a healthy idea of who you are. And you have to reflect. Nobody can reflect for you because people looking from the outside will just give you the false idea of who you are. Millions of dollars are spent for beauty supplies every year. You spend so much money to try to make yourself beautiful. All this spent on the body instead of spending money to go to a yoga class or go to yoga retreat. Go to a yoga retreat and I will talk to you about who you are.

So you have this false concept of who you are. People don’t like you. You feel lonely and you’re thinking ‘oh, because I’m not pretty enough, people don’t like me.’ And again you go to a beauty parlor to make yourself look nicer to create that aura of beauty, but inside you are empty. So when this happens you need to put more energy into the practices that make you feel full. When you feel complete, you feel you know who you are. You feel strong.
The outside is bound by nature. The body is bound by nature, it can regrow and change. When people buy a perfect apple for me, I refuse to eat it. Because in nature, there is no perfect apple. It’s perfect because it’s made naturally. But manmade perfection is different. People now do all kinds of things to fruit and food to make it perfect. But that perfection is artificial.

Seek the truth of perfection within you. Don’t try to have perfection outside. Nature is changing all the time. There are no two leaves that look the same. No day on earth will look the same. The sunlight from day to day will change. And no flower will ever be an exact replica of another flower. Similarly, no person looks exactly the same. Everything is changing. That is the true nature of the universe, the true nature of maya, and the nature of the world. So learn to accept your body for what it is – it’s a part of nature. And remember that at the core of yourself, there is an unchanging spirit. That unchanging consciousness that is creating this and is the source of everything.

Reflecting on the Scriptures

I cannot explain to you the true nature of the self in this short discussion. I teach all day long and there many different courses. Please, I encourage you to take a course if you’re serious about developing your knowledge and understanding. There’s no way I can explain the self in this short discussion. You need to make an effort for self-knowledge.

Number one, you have to listen to the Scripture. Then you have to think about yourself. The scriptures say the body is only your vehicle. So go around and think about this every day. Think to yourself, ‘in which way is my body a vehicle, I am not the body, so then who am I?’ You have to take the effort to think, because I cannot think for you. And then think deeply about the teaching of the truth in Scriptures. They say that you are the immortal spirit. You are the Satchidananda atman so think about it. Otherwise you buy a newspaper and you think all kinds of things that is not really the truth. So try to find self-knowledge in order for you to wake up from the ignorance. This is the first teaching.

Identifying with the Ego

The second lesson is when you don’t know who you are, so you start to believe what you are not to be. That is called egoism. You believe that your limited self is who you are. You think your body, mind, and personality is who you are. This is the second cause of suffering, the ego. The ego is called the self-arrogating principle of the mind.

In our mind, we have the ahamkara, that means you have to assert and affirm who you are in your mind in order for you to experience life well. You came here to experience life and to wake up and know that it is limited. It’s not the truth. Therefore the ego is a necessary instrument for your enlightenment and for waking up. Because if you don’t have the ego, you don’t have the personality. You may believe you’re Elizabeth Taylor or the queen or something. If you think like this you’ll never learn about yourself. You have to learn from your lessons. The lessons that come with your life, personality, and ego. But don’t think that the ego is yourself – this is the teaching.

You need to have the ego, so there’s nothing wrong with self-confidence and going through your life as an integrated personality experiencing your life. It’s good that you are clear in mind and you know your personal experience and what is wrong for you and what is good.
But egoism comes from the idea that you get attached to this idea of who you are. You become attached to this personality of who you are. The moment you get attached to it, then you cannot see who you are not. You are more unlimited, powerful, and complete than your personality, because the personality is limited. So that’s why you constantly feel incomplete, because you identify with your personality. And when you compare yourself to others you will feel incomplete.

So this is one of the causes of suffering, when you identify with your ego. And when you attach to your own way or your own desire, your own action will create pain because it’s not possible to get everything that you desire because its illusory, it comes from your mistaken identification of your limited self. And from there comes problems. The ego can bring a lot of negative emotions – the problem of selfishness, egoism, anxiety, pride, arrogance, using others, anger, jealousy. The ego brings a lot of problems if you believe the ego to be yourself. Thats why we say the second cause of suffering is the ego.
Know who you are, then the ego becomes small, then you will learn whatever lesson you need to learn. Don’t believe that you are this false ego which is your instrument only. When the ego becomes thinner and thinner, you know inside who you are. With the personality, you still have to function in this world, but you do not believe that it is yourself. So this is a very important lesson. You have to repeatedly ask yourself the question, ‘Who am I?’ And then you have to come to the better version of yourself – an ego that is more sattvic, is more open, has more compassion, and is more enlightened. You’re trying to get out of the tamasic ego. The rajasic ego always thinks, ‘mine mine mine.’ The rajasic ego always says, ‘me, mine, me, mine, look at me, look at me.’

So this is how suffering occurs. So if you can come to the sattvic ego it means you have a greater sense of self, but you are not denying the greater truth. And you are not asserting your difference with others. You assert your limited personality with others. You don’t assert this. You use this but you don’t assert this. This is not you.
So you are able to be flexible, to be adaptable, to be compassionate, and to understand more than what your ego can come up with. This is the second cause of suffering. We need to think a lot about this so you can wake up your own ego. So be humble. To work through your ego, you need to learn humility, flexibility, adaptability, and compassion.

The Swinging of the Mind

The third and fourth causes of suffering are to be understood together. Let’s call them raga and dvega. These are the likes and dislikes and the swinging of the mind. They cause the mind to swing from one side to another. The mind always has the tendency to swing to whatever it likes, and to run away from whatever it dislikes.
Why does the mind swing? If your mind is calm, then you’ll be able to see yourself. It’s like when a lake is calm, then you can see through the movement of the lake, and you can see your true reflection of yourself as beautiful. But why can’t you calm the mind? It’s always swinging and some people swing more than others. Some people are more calm than others, and some people just want to swing in opposite directions all the time. Because of the swinging you are not peaceful. Patanjali asked, ‘why does the mind swing? Why does the mind have this raga or attachment?’ Raga’s definition is an attraction in that which dwells on pleasure. That means that we had an experience of pleasure before, so we want to repeat this experience of pleasure, but pleasures are ending all the time because the true nature of pleasure is not to last forever. We have this experience in our mind of pleasure and we want to go back to this experience. We have these impulses within us of attraction, always learning and remembering this experience of pleasure and always wanting to repeat it. We become attracted like glue to this experience of pleasure.

Let’s say you have the experience of ice cream. Oh, so good! Right? So you want to repeat it. Every day you go around looking for some ice cream that will give you that experience of pleasure. So then the opposite happens – after three ice creams then you have stomach pain. Aversion means that which you don’t like. Aversion is that which attempts to avoid pain. After you experience pleasure from the ice cream, you will then experience pain. You may have diarrhea or stomach pain from the ice cream, and now you have an aversion of ice cream. The moment you hear the word ‘ice cream’ you run away. Why? Because you have the experience of pain in the past and you want to avoid pain.

So aversion, or dislikes, is made up of pain and things that cause discomfort. They don’t last, they’re precarious. You get attached to things that are precarious and when they change, then you have an experience of pain.

And then you dislike this thing that gives you pain. Some people have the experience of being hurt in a relationship and they decide to close off and they don’t want any relationship anymore. And they think that all men or all women give them pain, and they run away and become isolated. They’re the phenomena of people that become so hurt they become isolated. They don’t want to experience the pain anymore. They don’t want to experience anything anymore and they close off. They become depressed and they think they want to die like this in isolation and depression.
You have to know the right way of dealing with the ups and downs of attraction and repulsion. The mind always going towards what it likes, and running away from dislikes. So, you have to know why is it like this? It’s because of ignorance. You cannot see yourself and only see objects, and objects are limited in nature. The senses are always looking for objects. When the senses are glued to the object then you have the experience of calmness, you have the experience of the mind stopping its swinging. The mind stops swinging because the senses are glued to the object. At that time you have the experience of happiness that comes from within. When your mind stops for a moment, then you feel the experience of bliss. But then you wrongly attribute your happiness to the possession of the object. The object doesn’t give you happiness.

It is bliss absolute, the truth within that gives you happiness when the mind stops moving. But then the mind will move to the opposite direction. And this move to the opposite is painful. So once again, you’ll fall into the trap of believing that the object gives you pain.

You are all the time looking for the bliss absolute within you, because we are all the time looking for ourselves. We are all the time looking for ourselves, but we wrongly attribute the happiness or the unhappiness with the objects. We attribute happiness to the object, or pain to the object. But we do not recognize this because we are moving in the external, sensual world of objects, and seeking for happiness in that world of objects is impossible. You have to turn your gaze inward through yoga and meditation. The teachings can guide you to limit the effects of raga and dvesha. They can help you to stop running away from pain and to stop chasing happiness in objects. The answer is to withdraw. Don’t blame the external objects. They are whatever they are. If you want to go deep into the cause of the suffering created by your constantly swinging mind then you need to withdraw your mind and turn inward. Don’t spend all your life blaming. People spend all their life blaming something that creates pain to them.

Don’t spend all your life running towards something better and better. These are illusions. The more that you chase after the next best thing, the more you’ll continue to find yourself seeking happiness externally. You don’t need to have 100,000 experiences of pleasure, or 100,000 experiences of pain in order for you to realize that it’s possible to find peace. So turn within and understand the cause of the suffering. Try to calm your mind from all these illusions of happiness and pain. Try to find yourself. Turn within and you will find yourself.

Freeing Yourself from Attachments

Sometimes you dislike these yoga techniques because they’ve made you turn within and you realize you’re always running externally, trying to find happiness in the external world. So you dislike the yoga techniques, you dislike withdrawing of the senses, you dislike asana, pranayama, meditation, repeating a mantra, you dislike these things, or you can try a little but you never go deeper. So therefore, you never go to the other side which is a place of peace within you. You keep falling into the illusion of the central objects that gave you happiness or pain. So you are attached.

Attachment is a big problem in life. We are attached to our emotions, we are attached to our passions, we want to reproduce so we attach to our to action, to work, we are attached to the ego, we are attached to things or situations and thinking that they will last forever. We attach to the object of our senses. The nature of our mind is attachment. So, you need to contemplate on the nature of our attachment and know that it is not the way to happiness.
We are attached to relationships. We are attached to what we dislike. And continue disliking it, because we are attached to this feeling. We are attached to our misery. Even when the memory and misery is felt, you are still attached to it. You are attached to the idea of being a victim. You are lost in the attachment basically, attachment is the description of your life. So you need to learn to detach. In karma yoga, you do the action and let go of the result. We can detach from emotions too. Love but don’t be attached. The detachment that you learn in meditation leads you to let go of the thoughts. When you sit in meditation, you have to learn to withdraw and detach and let go of these thoughts so you can go straight into the experience of something beyond the mind. In Jnana yoga, you detach by asking yourself if this is real or illusory, and then you try to stay away from that which is changing.
So remember the five main causes of suffering. The first is ignorance, the second is ego, the third is attachment, and the fourth is running away. Remember, running toward and running away, these are the swinging’s of the mind. And the fifth cause of suffering is called fear of death.

Connect to yourself and feel alive

Patanjali goes quite deep and says the cause of suffering is life itself. Fear of death means your attachment to this life. And you’re afraid of something you don’t know. You are afraid of the unknown. You believe this life in this body to be the only life. So you are afraid of death. This is a common fear. We are quite afraid of death, because we are very attached to life in the body and our personality. Because we think that if we die then our whole self is gone. We fear the ‘I’ or our personality will disappear.
So you see this is the root cause a lot of wrong thinking. We need to learn by reading the scripture and thinking through meditation and yoga. Eventually, you will have the direct experience that you are more than the physical body. I remember my first experience of meditation. It was not a long time ago, about 40 years ago. I was meditating for the first or second time, and I came out of the meditation and I said ‘I’m not afraid of death.’ Why? Because then you have the true experience that you are existing and something is very vibrant and alive inside of you. And you come back to this physical reality and you know that you experienced something better not worse. You see, people are afraid of death because they think that it will eliminate what they have. That is why they are attached to it. And this attachment will turn them to the place of nothingness.

So they are very afraid of it, but you have to contemplate on that. The subtle is not worse than the gross. You live in the gross manifestation of body and mind and your sense of self that is limited. But if you go to the subtle and you experience your consciousness, you’ll find its more expanded and enriching. And it’s in that space where you feel very good. Then you come back to the gross and you accept that you still have to live in the material world because that’s why you are born, but at the same time you’re not afraid of death anymore. People that experience a near-death experience die and come back unafraid of death. They become huge, dutiful, and good people because they have a greater perspective of who they are.
So Swami Vishnu said if you live this life but don’t recognize your true nature, then that is called death. And some people are like this. They live this life in this body and mind, but they don’t know who they are. They’re so disconnected from themselves. They’re so depressed, so it’s like death. It’s not better you live life attached to the body and the mind. If you live like this, you have no connection with your soul. So you’re like death. You have no feeling or inspiration. People that understand the spirit know they are alive, and they are life. So the definition of life and death is that if you are getting connected to yourself, and if you are in connection with yourself, then you are alive.

When you’re not in connection with yourself then you are dead. Then you will you start to become depressed. Depression is like that, they want to die. And some people are suicidal. Some people want to die because they want to escape. They want to escape the fact that they are not feeling alive. Instead of feeling the need to terminate your life out of ignorance, they need to take more time to be more serious with sadhana practice. So you have to be very serious with your practice. If you don’t feel good, you do a set of asana. That is a proper way to feel better. Then you feel alive right away. You’re connecting with yourself right away. So then if you feel your emotions go up and down, you go do a set of pranayama. If you calm your mind and emotions down you feel alive right away. So life always is a truth. Life is your life. Life is eternal.
But because you identify with the veils, you think that you are not alive. But life is there, life is beautiful. Life is alive. So try to be alive. But don’t identify with the body, because the more you identify with the body the more you will want physical immortality, and the more you’re dead. Can you find immortality in the body? No, it’s impossible. The body is born. It’s an instrument only. It’s not meant to last forever. You lasts forever. You are the owner of the vehicle. You are the boss of the vehicle. You are the boss of your life. You are immortal. But the body is not. Your instrument is not meant to last forever.
Ponder the five causes of suffering so you’re not in the illusion of happiness when you are not truly happy, when you don’t know what true happiness is. You are not buying into the idea of who I am, when you don’t know who you are. You’re not buying into the idea of this thing. You may think, ‘is this object likeable? I hate this person.’ And you’re not buying into this idea that this person is the source of my happiness, you’re not attaching to a person. Anything external you are not buying into because you go inward, and you become more detached to whatever is around you. And then you find something that shows more truth.

Letting go of attachments to objects doesn’t mean abandoning a relationship, or losing the object, or feeling insecure. This is wrong thinking. If you have a bigger picture of who you are, and you understand that you are with the person in order for you to learn a lesson about who you are, then you will cherish the person even more. You’ll be able to love this person even more because a person is your own self. You have to see that love is not attachment.
And remember, the self is not the ego. So please do contemplate on the nature of your suffering. Stop the blaming, stop being the victim, because you cannot be a victim forever. If a mistake has happened, or somebody did something wrong to you, you need to let it go. If you’re a victim forever, then you’ll lose your life. Your life is for you to experience. You can learn from this negative experience. There’s something you need to learn from it, that’s why it happened to you. It’s no accident. So don’t blame but look inside and learn your lesson. Don’t play the victim, and become the master of your life and come out free. All of Vedanta’s teachings are for you to come out free. You’ll come out strong, with a perspective of right thinking about yourself and about your life.

Swami Sitaramananda leads an International Satsang every Wednesday at 3 pm (PST). During the Satsang we will meditate, chant, and listen to Swami Sita speak on a new topic each week. Join the mailing list to get updates on the international satsangs.

Karmic Disease

Karmic Disease


people, karma, life, born, disease, problem, action, create, suffer, body, pain, lungs, burned, weakness, indulged, result, understand, consequence, condition, skin

Today we have a very serious topic, the topic of Karmic Disease. So, you know, people have diseases and sometimes it’s not explainable. We don’t understand why they have the diseases. So, first you need to understand the meaning of the word karma. Karma means simply the universal law of cause and effect, action and reaction. The word Karma means action, and karma applies to physical action, but also to mental action. I mean, you don’t do anything, but you think about it. And when you think about it, you create the mental karma, and the reason why we are born in this particular condition is because of our karma. So, there is no accident that we are born in a certain family in certain circumstances, a certain country and our life goes a certain way.

It’s all because of our karma. So, karma doesn’t mean just an action, but also the result of an action, the consequences of an action. Yeah, it is the same as the action, it’s about the same nature and the same force. But if you understand that life is not only one life, but a series of lives and you have the Soul Life,  a very long Soul Life, and when you are born and you forget, you know, the previous lives. So, the present life is the result of thoughts and actions you have done in the past.

And it’s not continuous sometimes. You reap the result of this action, of this thinking, in the past life, right away in this life. But sometimes it is the result of past thoughts in previous lives that comes out now. So these different actions are intermingling with each other. As it’s not a vertical line, you know, everything is not just one after the other. So that’s why you don’t quite understand sometimes, things happen all of a sudden, and you don’t know why. 

But you understand the law of karma, the law of karma is that there is nothing that happens by accident. Okay. So you are born in a certain family, a rich family, a poor family, a violent family, a very depressed family, whether you were loved as a child or not. But why is the action, what happened in your childhood, is very important to influence the rest of your life? Because you reap the result of your past actions, your karma when you were young. So it determines the balance of your life okay. So, whatever happens when people are young influences the rest of their life, because of the karma that comes from the past. The whole world runs on that idea of karma, the idea of the seed, and from the seed you put in the ground the tree comes out. Okay, and the tree will create the seed. So it’s a chain of cause and effect that is continuous. So, no event can occur without having a definite positive cause. Sometimes you see the cause and sometimes you don’t see the cause.

There are three laws that come under the concept of karma. The first is the law of action and reaction. Any action will have a similar reaction. The second is compensation, which means in the distribution of the karma, there is an intelligence that is behind, so that makes everything balanced out. And in the distribution of the karmic result, there is the idea of punishment of a wrong action that is being considered as well. So, if somebody does a wrong action, then they will reap the reaction, by the Divine Law. Nobody punishes the person, it’s their own action that gives the result back and it’s very important when we talk about comic disease to understand that point.

Okay, the third is equal force and similar nature, equal force and similar nature. For example, if you break somebody’s leg, then in one lifetime you are walking around and the tree falls down and breaks your leg. This might not be a person breaking your leg, but your leg is being broken. So you experience the result of the karma of your breaking the leg of somebody. So nobody is being punished by God. It is just the result of your action. It is like a punishment.

Okay, and sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes you receive things that you do not work for in this life. Some good thing happens to you. It’s because of the past life. Suppose that somebody gives you money. You do not have to work so hard, but somebody gives you money. Maybe because in your last life you donated a lot. So in this life, you will receive money. Okay, so Swami Sivananda says that the law of karma operates with unceasing precision and scientific accuracy. Because we don’t know so do you think oh, it’s haphazard, but it’s very, very clear.

So, is it clear? Everything is in harmony, but it operates by invisible hands behind, but it is the consequence of your own action and nobody is at fault. So, once you understand that then you would prevent it. I mean you will try to live a good life controlling your thoughts. So, you prevent negative things from happening by actively pursuing good thoughts. The law of compensation keeps everything in harmony. Swami Sivananda gave the example that if there is heat in one country, it will be cold in some other country, because of the law of compensation. If there are some bad people somewhere then there will be some saintly people also.  That’s compensation.

So the law of compensation is part of the law of karma. Retribution means that every wrong action or crime brings its own punishment. It’s the same as the law of action and reaction, or more of an idea that you would suffer with pain, from the result of your bad action. So, in fact, you think wrongly that you did something to somebody like you robbed somebody. But it’s not that you are robbing somebody, you’re robbing yourself. Because you rob somebody, and then you will be losing something another time and it is by your own action. So when you lose something, it’s not that somebody is robbing you, but because you robbed somebody before. So now you’ve been robbed. So basically, you are robbing yourself. You receive the pain of losing because of robbery. So you did it to yourself.

If you hurt somebody, then you’ll be hurt. So that’s the way the law of karma works. If you hurt somebody, you think that you hurt somebody, but that same action comes back to you, it hurts you. So, in fact, it is you that hurt yourself okay, you suffer from your own action. And the root cause of karma is the desire in your mind when you do not recognize that you are this fulfilled self and you go look for happiness somewhere else. Your mind is not centered in the self but your mind is thinking of different things, from this desire of the mind, due to ignorance, and that’s how you create karma.

So desire produces karma. You work very hard to satisfy the desire. And sometimes you don’t finish in this life and in the next life you will be born in order to continue your efforts to satisfy the desire. So if you don’t want to constantly be born to satisfy desire and then desire another thing and satisfy that desire, again and again, because desire is insatiable, then you can stop the wheel of karma by practicing desirelessness, by remembering the Self, then you become satisfied and content and desireless. Okay.

There are three kinds of karma, just to remind you:  The karma of the past that is in your subconscious mind, the current karma, the karma of the present, in which you experience pleasure or pain, and the karma of the future, when you react to the current karma, when you like something, you dislike something, then that will create the future karma. So, therefore, this life is about experiencing the karma of the past, and not reacting. Always be grateful, thankful. Do what you need to do, but always remember the self not to react. Because the reaction will create new karma. 

So, now, how much do you want to know the causes of the karma? You can deduce, let’s say you have the karma of violence, then you have to understand because in the past, I have committed violence. And you don’t know, you don’t remember. But now you have the karma of violence. You know, sometimes violence when you were young, you were beaten up when you were young, you were abused when you were young. It’s your own karma. So, the idea is that some people want to know exactly what happened in the past. But it doesn’t really matter what happened in the past, because the current situation, if you understand the current situation, is enough. Yeah. And then you, you would think very well of the current situation, the way you work out the karma is you accept it, you accept your life. There is a sentence that says, I pray that I will change what I need to change, what I can change, and accept what I cannot change, and I will know the difference between the two.

So, your karma of the past cannot be changed, but you have to experience it. And when you experience it, try to expand your life in the most positive manner. Because if not, that creates new karma for the future. So even though we explained that there is a karma of the past and the karma of the future, in fact it is the present. Because what happened in the present comes from the past, and what happened in the present and the way how you act and react will create the future.

So that’s why in the present, if you can meditate and be very aware in the present then it will not reproduce in the future Okay, so, you imagine that the way you will experience karma is often tied with some kind of pain, some kind of shame, some kind of difficulty and you do not know why it happened but you inherit it. So, somebody would be born in a very strong body, some body will be born in a very weak body, is sick at birth, somebody is very healthy and somebody is having some kind of congenital disease so, all these are due to karma okay. Now, think about this. So, I mean Sivananda gave you the whole long list in his book Karma and Disease. There is a summary here I’m going to give you.

And it might scare you but it’s something that you need to learn because we forget that our action can have a consequence and the consequence can come in the form of disease okay, that you cannot explain why so many people have disease and cannot explain why and let’s say that you eat wrong food and you have disease of the stomach okay. So, the karma of eating wrong food will give you the immediate result which is stomach pain. When I say that you are born already with some kind of weakness in the digestive system and whatever you eat, you know you have a problem. So, there is a cause that comes even before this life and you are born with certain weaknesses. Some people are born with weakness of the lungs. Some people are born with weakness of the digestion, some people are born with weakness of the mind and the brain. Some people are born with weakness in the circulation and the heart. Some people are born handicapped with a body that has a crooked spine that is not straight, the legs that are very weak or the arms are very weak. Some people are born completely handicapped, yeah, the nose is crooked or, who knows what, a skin condition since they were young.

So all this has some origin of wrong actions in the past. Okay, so I’m going to give you the list now. So you can remember more or less Okay. So let’s say in this life, this person always has mental pain, mental pain and agony, some difficulty, all the time feeling somebody is after them, trying to harm them. You can say they are paranoiac. They feel like somebody is after them all the time. And they suffer from mental pain. They don’t have joy, they don’t have happiness. So if the person suffers all the time from mental agony and mental pain, Swami Sivananda said that it is because in a past life, we don’t know when, in some life from before, the person insulted other people and broke his promises. And he created a lot of disappointment for other people. You insult people sometimes in public and you can take something from the comfort of people, you know, their home or their property. So, then in one life you will suffer from mental pain all the time.

Some people are born with the tendency toward asthma which means a respiratory problem, inflammation of the lungs, different kinds of disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, some kind of lung disease. So, he said because in the past life the karma, the action, the wrong action, was to block up a hole of a rat or snake, making them unable to breathe. Yeah. So, anything that you have done to somebody that creates suffocation like even the fish. Sometimes you take them out of the water they cannot breathe and you make them unable to breathe and then die. Yeah, that action will create lung disease for you in the next life. 

So, we must have done something like that because so many people have COVID. And COVID is touching the respiratory system and you cannot breathe, you cough and your lungs are affected. And some people have snake bites. Why do you have snake bites or scorpion bites? Swami Sivananda said because you have injured somebody with poison before so now you have a snake bite which is poisonous. So it’s always like this, you see this more or less the same nature. If somebody has a disease called Elephantiasis which is a painful and disgusting disease, that disfigmakes you disfigured, changes your form, it is from the problem of the lymph that makes the body swell, abnormal swelling and some kind of attack by parasites, it’s because you have oppressed others and you keep people in slavery and you become very proud that you abuse other people.

So, now you have a disease that is always very painful and the body is disformed, okay, because you have too much pride from before. Before you made people suffer, so now you have to suffer. Yeah. And you have to be humble because your body is disfigured. So, if you have tuberculosis, it is because

you were a miser, you were a money lender and you made people become very poor and suffer from starvation. You charged people a lot of money so now you suffer from tuberculosis. 

If you suffer from leprosy, it is because, Swami Sivananda said, you led an impure life, you indulged with prostitutes so now you get leprosy. I didn’t say that. Swami Sivananda gave a long list. I’m just giving it to you. If you suffer from epilepsy in which you are shaking all the time, losing your mind and shaking, why? Because before you were very proud of your physical strength, you misuse your power by oppressing and fighting with other people.

If you get an eye disease, what do you think? What did you do? You looked at things wrongly. So, what that means is that you have envied all the people’s wealth or property. You have a lustful eye over other people’s women, you have a lot of sensual indulgence. So, now this life you cannot see. You have an eye problem. You can also have skin infection or you can all of a sudden while you are cooking something the hot water boils and then you get burned. You get burned because you have burned somebody’s house that creates maybe somebody’s death from before okay. So, skin, you create a fire that affects the skin of somebody and now you would suffer from skin infection, hot boiling. It is the same.

If you have a digestive problem, or gastritis, which means a stomach problem, it is because you have poisoned other people with bad food. Maybe you have a hotel and you give bad food and you make people have stomach problems. So, this lifetime you will also have stomach problems. If you have bad itches, your skin itches because, it is said, that you were hypocritical, you were lying about yourself. You said that you were a good person, but you many times mistreated other people, beat people by speaking harshly, treated little children badly, then you will often have itches and skin disease. 

If you get ear pain, a painful humming sound in the ear, ear inflamation, if you have ear problems, it is because you have indulged in gossip. What is gossip? Talking badly about other people behind their back. You abuse other people verbally. You insult other people and you hear very obscene songs. So, then you have ear problems later on, inflammation in the ear. If you have autoimmune disorder, I mean your immune system attacks the healthy cells in your body, Swami Sivananda said it is because one lifetime you were the son that disobeyed the father and dragged the father to court. And when you do something wrong to your own father, then your own immune system will attack your healthy cells.

If you have a neuro psychiatric condition that gives you rheumatic fever, it is because you have twisted the truth in past lives. If you are a victim every time there is an epidemic and you have some severe relapse and complication it’s because you robbed people from their possessions and you shoot poor people. Now you look around and see that many people do that, robbing people and shooting people. So all these things would have consequences and they will suffer another time. 

If you get cancer, gastric ulcers of the stomach, Swami Sivananda explained that because you have burned sacred books and destroyed spiritual literature. You don’t want people to study and elevate themselves. You burn the books, so now you get gastric ulcers and cancer.

And sometimes people have insanity, they become crazy, or impotent. I mean, they cannot have children. Then it could be that in a past life, they were priests that didn’t keep up the sadhana. Again, he talks about asthma, gas suffocation, cannot breathe, tumor in the brain, some kind of rheumatism and hunchback. It is because you were a capitalist that extracted labor from workers and paid them very low wages. If you get chronic diarrhea, dyspepsia, which means indigestion problems, abdominal discomfort and suffer from malnutrition, anemia and not enough food, it is because you have acted in deception. If you have hair that is falling and loss of skin color in patches, some teeth problems, it is because you have cheated people. You sell fruits and vegetables that are old, some rice that is old, you ask a high price and you make them look fresh, but you know they are not. You cheat people. 

If you are obese in an incurable manner, or have a stomach tumor, it is because you were indulging in the black market to make a lot of profit from other people. Sometimes you have boils on the head and the shoulder, you have eczema, because you do backbiting. Sometimes you have some severe disease of the mouth, inflammation of the gum, because you were not feeding the guests when they came, very hungry and you’re not feeding the guests. So, you have some gum disease after that. 

If you get a chronic headache afflicted with loss of memory, it is because you said falsehoods in court. Scientists that invent destructive bombs and create a lot of innocent people’s death, they can have a lot of incurable diseases and they can be born as insects and then they will be burned to ashes, the trees are being burned in the forest and then they’re being burned. If you are a doctor and you treat people wrongly and you charge a lot of money and give people fake medicines, then you have problems giving birth.

If you have emotional disturbances, you have fatigue all the time, you have headache all the time, irritability all the time, you’re born undeveloped, or a premature birth, very weak, very weak at birth. Because he said that this is because you have indulged in immoral acts in a past life. You drink intoxicants and alcohol. So this life you become very fatigued, very sick.

If you torture people in prison you will be born crippled and paralized, chronic nervous pain and rheumatism. If you talk about good people, but wrongly, you insult the saints in the Scripture, then you have cancer of the tongue. If you have dropsy which means building up fluid in the body or septic fever, it is because you were an officer who misused public money, produced false receipts, misused the money of the public.

If you have inflammation of the kidney, you have heart pain, chronic tooth pain, it is because you were a parent that beat the children, a husband that beat his wife, you committed some kind of violence. If you have paralysis and trembling of the limbs sometimes, you were a servant and you pretended to work and you ruined the boss or the master. Sometimes you get liver disease, vomiting, chronic diarrhea or blindness because you deceived other people, you act as if you are holy but to get money. You might have infection of the nose and the throat, inflammation of the tissue of the lungs and the chest because you were abusing your children that are spiritual. Okay, so that’s enough. It’s very precise. 

So, when you have a disease like this, what do you do? You have to accept any kind of karma. And then you do the best you can. So the same story is as if your dress is being burned. Okay. So what do you do? First thing you need to do is to deal with the fire danger to your body. What do you need to do? You need to run to a body of water or a pond and jump in to save yourself. You have no time to sit there and ask where the fire came from, how serious is a 500 degree heat. So you have some condition in the body and in the mind and in your life, the difficulty must always come from some karma. Okay, at that time, don’t waste time trying to figure out, you know, what I did in my past life so that this condition happened. You know, you try to be a good person as much as you can all the time and you try to, you know, alleviate your condition as you can and sometimes you cannot alleviate your condition, because that karma has to be experienced, then you need to accept it and you become a good person. 

So that’s the way you deal with karma. You have strengths and weaknesses in your body, strengths and weaknesses in your mind. So all this will create consequences and you will behave in a certain way that is not necessarily good. So you have to realize that it is the result of past karma. And you have to realize that now you need to be doing good things. 

If somebody insults you, you still have to do good things because it comes from your own karma from the past, it’s not anyone’s fault. Yeah, but if you react to the karma, then it keeps reproducing the same thing. So that in general is the same teaching of how to deal with karma. And karma and disease means that when you have any condition, any disease in the body, it is time for you to stop. It’s time for you to stop and to slow down, pause here and to think and not to blame, not to be negative. Accept, surrender and try to do the best you can.

Okay, any questions? You can ask me,  “If I have this disease, what did I do in my past life?” Well you have to meditate and use those principles. Whatever happens is always because you have to learn something and the nature of that thing, that disease or that pain corresponds to what you have done that created that pain in the past for somebody so now the result comes back to you. So if you don’t want to reproduce that then you need to take this opportunity to be very careful what you do and what you think.

So, if you have a particular body pain it is the same principle. If you have pain somewhere it must have come from something and oftentimes body pain comes from mental action, wrong thinking, creates the body pain. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. So you need to think. I have lung weakness. Yeah, so when I was young, I was very young, I didn’t do anything yet. I was very young, but I had a lung problem. So the only time in my whole life that I had to go to the hospital was when I was young, and I have some lung problems. I don’t know exactly what it was, some weakness in the lungs so it must be from karma from the past that affects the lungs. So, the weakness of the body is the lungs, the lungs are a seat of emotion, the lungs are the sadness, grief. So, it must be that I have created grief for somebody before. Or I have something that I don’t understand and dislike that creates grief to me in this life. So the weakness is the grief condition. So what I have to do knowing that I have to always try to make people happy to bring joy to other people. Okay, now if you look at the list of Swami Sivananda then the lung disease, it can come from you made somebody die from suffocation or you blocked the hole of a rat or a snake so then you know and you try not to do that.

For example, Shambhu, now he’s doing abhyanga for other people, he works on the skin of other people and he puts the oil on people and helps them with their skin. And in this list here, if you have skin infection it is because you created fires that burn people so now he’s doing this job all the time, taking care of other people’s skin. We can laugh at this. We don’t believe in this but you need to think now that nothing comes by accident in this world. That’s the main thing you need to understand. Nothing is by accident. We might not understand the reason. Yeah. But we need to be very careful not to do anything wrong, negative, because it comes back to us another time for sure in this form or that form, it will come back to us. So always do good things for other people. Say good things about other people, don’t say bad things. Don’t say negative things. You know, be sattvic, be careful what you say and do. Okay. So thank you.

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.

Health & Disease

Health & Disease

A talk at Yoga Camp – Aug 2021

by swami sitaramananda

Diseases come from our negative emotions.

DISEASE and ONENESS: we cannot separate individual from the group and the more that you understand Oneness, the more you are healthy.

Diseases do not happen like right away, let’s say you are angry, you are resentful, it stays in the system for a long time; resentment is like rust, slowly, slowly it eats your body as it eats your mind; so then slowly slowly, after ten years of resentment, you develop some kind of problem, for example, problems on the liver, arthritis problem. Any physical health problem always has some kind of equivalence in the mind. If you are grieving, for example, you were crying, or you never really recovered for years, then you might one day have a problem with the lungs. Right now, our whole human community on earth appears to be sick.  We have the Corona virus which attacks our lungs and we have difficulty breathing.  Then you have to look at it, there is a meaning there, grieving, grieving, sadness; It is the lungs that are lacking joy, lacking energy; you cannot breathe, there’s no air you feel suffocated.  This you need to read in yourself and also in the world, okay? People have lung problems from Corona virus and then they also have heart problems as one of the effects of the virus. The heart is the center, it pumps the blood everywhere, so if some problem occurs at the heart level, it is serious.

Individuals are parts of a group; their thoughts affect the collective thought.

We cannot separate individuals from the group. The more you understand Oneness, the healthier  you are. The less you understand Oneness, and you think: “me against you”, then you are forced to understand Oneness.  People were wondering when Covid is going to finish, it is difficult to predict. Only 10% of the world were taking it seriously and took vaccination. We are not going to finish soon. Ten percent out of the entire population of the planet including Africa,  Asia, including all the countries.  Because we are One, we are one planet. And you think we are separate.

Physical Health is to make sure the body function well and the best rules of conduct is to follow the rhythm of nature.

Swami Vishnu all the time said, “you think God has created this planet, with 6 billion people to quarrel with each other”. The Planet is very small, and we all need to think in terms of Oneness. That is the way to go. “Unity in diversity”, see the Oneness in the differences; that is the philosophy of vedanta: to see the Oneness in the multiplicity, leads to spiritual health and mental health.

The definition of Physical health is when all the organs of the body work optimally under the intelligent control of the mind.  In a state of health, the body, which is an intricate system, has different organs that work very well together. Physical health does not mean that you don’t have symptoms. You don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean that you are healthy; What does that mean? That means that health is not something fixed, inert. It is not fixed, and you – as the navigator of the body-mind complex- are alive and you need to navigate the everyday changes.

Let’s say you ate too much last night, then when you are intelligent, you navigate your instruments, your body and mind, then you say okay today I eat less. why? because yesterday I ate too much, i feel heavy, so today i eat less, that is the mind that say “ok, i am going to regulate it like that”

Let’s say today is colder then I wear something thicker, if hotter then I wear something less, if sunnier, then i wear some hat over my head. That is called intelligence navigating the mind and body.

Physical health is to make sure that the body functions well and has best rules of conduct, following the rhythm of nature. The teaching of Ayurveda, which is the health science of life or the system of medicine from India, which is connected to Yoga, is to be applied, and studied more, even though it is difficult. Image

         As example, today, somebody got me food from the Ashram kitchen which I ate. Then she cooked something else for me, quinoa as I did not eat bread. I finished this food, then i had to wait, so i said to her: “you need to give me food now” why? because when the body believes that i have finished eating, it will create different digestive enzymes to take care of the digestion. When i stop in the middle of a meal for half an hour like this and not continue eating, the body believes that i have finished my food, and then if I eat again this second food portion, it will create what we call ama, which means toxins because the digestive system was mixed up.

How do you know that the body would not adjust to the second food? There was only a half an hour difference. According to Ayurveda, digestion goes like waves with peaks at intervals of 3,4 hours depending on the person.  If you eat during the peaks of the digestion, then you digest very well, everything is very good but if you eat repeatedly, and the system didn’t have time to rest in between, and you eat again, that is the problem. All this is science of nature, the body is following nature.

Physical health is when you understand the law of nature, and that is why we wake up here in the morning early. Because during sunrise, the energy of the sun is so important for our health and vitality. We wake up early and then we do meditation, do some chanting and some positive talks, some prayers for us and other people and we start our day on the right foot.  Then you do your asana, then you do your pranayama, you eat brunch at 10am, because Ayurveda studies say there are portions of the day when the digestive fire is at its highest, then it is a good time to eat. It is called pitta time. I would not teach you Ayurveda but you can study and then you eat at the right time, so 10 o’clock is the right time; then a little snack in between and the dinner at 6 pm. All activities of the ashram are regulated according to natural rhythms in order to help you to become healthy. Image

Also, you are advised to drink hot warm water only, never cold water. The western culture is very strange, people serve you ice. My own mother 94 years old at the hospital was served ice water, My God, they had no idea that she needed warm water, they gave her ice water; i myself never drink ice water; Here you go to restaurant you sit down, they give you ice water, you get on airplane, they give you ice water. Is it because the culture doesn’t have health knowledge? So, you have to carry a thermos like i do and

drink warm water; warm or hot water. You have to learn that food doesn’t need to be very fancy but it needs to be pleasing so you learn a little bit how to cook and how to eat and how to eliminate and to detoxify.

Ayurveda says, it is not just nutrition but it is elimination that is very important as much as nutrition, you can eat all the nice food but you have a problem of elimination, that is the problem.  You have to go to the toilet to have elimination early in the morning. That is the best.  The digestive system was working at night and in the morning it will be eliminated, that is the best thing to be ready for the day.

         Do you observe when you eliminate? Take my example, I never eliminated in the morning, when the doctor said that Ayurveda says that, i said “no, i am exceptional!” I’ve never eliminated in the morning all my life; and then I did not know, all my life I have never gone to sleep early. [Don’t follow my example, i am just sharing, okay?]. I go to sleep late, the fact that i go to sleep late that make me not able to eliminate in the morning and i didn’t know that and then for few years i started to regulate my sleep, go to bed earlier and getting

up earlier and it’s amazing I eliminate in the morning like the textbook says. The system is amazing, that is called physical health. The best way is to study yoga lifestyle or Ayurveda and then you adjust. Little adjustment makes a big difference   

         I go to doctors when I don’t feel well but most of the time, sorry to say, I don’t follow the doctor’s prescriptions because it is always an easy solution when you go to the doctor. I share with you one story; long time years back, i came back from India and i got very sick; i was the director of San Francisco Center at that time, i could not do my job, i was very sick and i don’t know why i was sick and what kind of disease, I had no idea; just I had no energy and I can’t do anything. Then I went to the doctor and the doctor checked, there was a lump here by my neck and the doctor said “tuberculosis”, already I got so scared and I thought: “Oh my God, I can’t teach anymore, I have to be in quarantine”. I went to another doctor. This is a true story, sorry, I didn’t invent it. The other doctor said “cancer”, they just dropped words like this and she took the measurement of the lump; I said “cancer?”. Again, just hearing these words, my whole system collapsed. I was supposed to come back to do a biopsy and do all these things, but I decided to go to a Chinese doctor.

         I had to drive very far to go to the Chinese doctor. I asked the old Chinese doctor, “what do i get”, the doctor didn’t answer. I was a little bit irritated, you know, and thought: “i come to a doctor, i give you my money and you don’t tell me what i have?”. He just said, “oh don’t worry about this”, that is what he said and then he gave me acupuncture treatment. As a result, I came out of the doctor’s office, i felt so good.  When i went to the Western doctor i felt so bad.

After some time like this, my intelligence said to me something is wrong:” i go to Western doctor i feel so bad, i go this acupuncture man, i feel so good; i don’t know what’s happening, but i am not going to the doctor.”  I am just sharing my story, please i don’t say that you don’t need to go to the doctor ok?  so, don’t quote me.

In order for me not to be fearful –as I was fearful- and in order for me not to go back to the Western doctor simply because i was fearful, i cut my medical card. That was how I dealt with my mind; i did this so that i can’t go to the doctor. You see, he already dropped two bombs.

Meanwhile, you need to understand this teaching here, while sick, I never stopped meditation, even though I was tired, I never stopped asana and pranayama, even though I still felt very uncomfortable.

And then a while after i met with the first Ayurvedic doctor and i asked him again:” what do i get?”.  Our bad habit is we want to have a label for everything, that is the problem that our western mind has, we want to label everything. But health is not a matter of labels, it is a process of life you can’t label. So again, i asked this Ayurvedic doctor: “what do i get?”.  The doctor answered: “what do you eat?”. I said: “tofu and noodles”. He said:” not good, tofu is very difficult for digestion, noodle is fine but you have to eat fresh noodle.”  I never made the connection, between this feeling being tired and my food which was vegetarian food and good food. This ayurvedic doctor’s approach is all about food. Image

Then he gave me a tea, rose tea that comes from Himalayas, then he said:” when you feel not well, drink this tea”. That was it, his prescription. I said ok, so then I went on drinking tea and that was nice, rose tea; but then after some time, i realized that i drank a lot of tea! what does that mean? It means i was very anxious!  something was wrong with my mind as i was all the time drinking tea, when i did not feel good i drank tea, then again i drank tea, and again i drank tea! Then i realize that the problem was my anxious mind! i never realized that the problem was my mind. Drinking tea made me realize it was my mind and the moment you realize it what happened? you already feel better.  

So what happened? i was travelling for a month or two in India, visiting temples and I had the best time of my life, i visited few days one temple, few days another  temple, i went all over so many temples, so that’s why, it was very difficult for me to understand why you visited temples and you were so high, you felt so good and you would come back sick!  I did not know what Ayurveda called “Vata derangement, vata imbalance” when you travel too much. The problem was the vata vitiated air element due to too much movement. That was all.

Western doctor would not find this out. Too much travel creates this mind problem and this lump in my neck was just some infection, which is normal as your body pick up some thing, so infection. And the moment that I rested, I stopped worry, my immune system kicked back, the infection was gone, i had no disease, no problem, imagine! In this whole ordeal, i didn’t take anything except hot tea. This health episode really taught me a lot.  

You are the healer of your own body and mind:

The problem is when we don’t feel well, often time we lose our power and we further give our power away, and we don’t think that we are the healer of our own body and mind.

 If you have some kind of sense of Self, then you don’t give yourself up; How? at that time, you don’t feel that you are so sick and you need so much help, and then you think negatively.  When you think negatively, you think you are so sick then you think even more negatively. Because in reality, you are the boss of your own subconscious mind so you can give order to your mind. But imagine your conscious mind keeps telling this kind of suggestion to the subconscious

mind:” you are sick, you are good at nothing, you are sick”.  That is the suggestion you gave, instead of this kind of suggestion: “you are healthy, you need to rest, you need to take care of yourself a little bit but you are healthy”. Because if you give the suggestion that you are healthy, you are healthy.

The immune system is compromised when the mind is negative:

Diseases comes from the negativity of the mind and then the negativity and the

 fear make the immune system sicker because the immune system come from the positive thoughts as well. Because when you are afraid, what will happen? You become stressed so what will happen? will the circulatory system work well? are the senses working well? does the system work well? no! The system becomes overloaded, you become hyper vigilant, you become tense, the circulation doesn’t work, blood doesn’t flow probably as well, your digestion doesn’t work.

It doesn’t take long, a few days, a few weeks like this and you become sick; because everything is blocked, stress and fear create hyper vigilance.  You all the time would scan everything and you want to control everything and you are afraid of everything.  At that time, you will go down, because you don’t rely on nature anymore, you are not relaxing anymore, and the stress and the fear have created blockages.

You don’t digest well when you are stressed, when you are fearful, when you have anxiety and worries. You don’t eat well, you don’t sleep well. When you don’t eat well, you don’t digest well because you are stressed; the blood is cut off from your digestion system, because the body has mobilized itself to run for survival so it doesn’t go into the digestive system.

Balancing the nervous system:

This is how your nervous system works: When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, you become overactive, as you experienced the “hyper arousal” state when you face danger. It is an instinctive reaction for survival. We are built like that but then after the danger finishes, then you need to switch into what is called the parasympathetic nervous system, the main relaxation response.  It’s normal and healthy that we experience tension/relaxation, tension/ relaxation that’s normal that’s healthy; but if you are all the time stressed, and all the time you never really relax, then you experience what is called “chronic stress”. At that time, the whole system is over taxed because it’s not meant to be like this, the system is meant to relax after tension but you never relax, so that’s a problem.

That’s when the immunity gets impaired, your system of self-defense get impaired, when you are stressed , fearful, anxious, worried, your body becomes  paralyzed, your mind becomes  paralyzed,  you cannot think,  that means you lose all your resources, you lose all your creativity, you lose all your intelligence, and you are going to make wrong decisions, eating, drinking, self-medicating in a wrong manner.

Remember that fear is an instinct for survival when faced with a perceived threat s. It is a perceived threat and is subjective, not necessarily real. I know a student that every time she lines up for food, she gets panic attack because for whatever reason in the past she has a problem of not having enough food so when she lines up for food always it’s a big problem to her, because she always thinks she doesn’t have enough food. It’s just a  mental pattern, it’s a perceived threat that’s why yoga teach you a lot about the mind, how to control the mind, how to change the thoughts, how to change your emotions, how to see clearly, how to do inquiries or how to use your intelligence so you see things for what they are and not for what you think it is.

The five points is a complete system helping body – mind – spirit. Fear or anxiety is making yourself smaller, paralyzed, losing your connection, losing your resources. Anxiety and fear bring your mind to the past. The subconscious mind brings you to the past, the conscious mind keeps you in the present. The past always is projected onto the future.  When you function out of your subconscious, the survival instinct, the lower mind, lower emotion, then You will be living in the past and the past will project the future, and you will be missing out your life, missing out your present, not be able to experience life. So, your life at that time becomes a zero, whatever you do is zero zero zero. You were not enjoying your life you dragged your feet and you were not living your life.  All this negative emotion came from the past and you had plenty of negative experiences in the past, we 

Had our reserve of karma with plenty of negative experience in the past.

How are you doing to deal with past karma?

You have to deal with it in the present. When you are in the present, you don’t reproduce the past for the future, and you’ll be able to see things as they are in the present.

That’s how you solve the problem of your life: in the present, never by going to the past; the past is past.  Whatever happened is done, you learn the lesson from it but you don’t get attached to the past you don’t identify yourself with the past you don’t become a victim of the past.  You are yourself now in the present, you are the master of your life, you are indeed the boss, not a victim to your mind.

What is mental health?

Mental health is when you are able to do two things; Number one that you are able to concentrate, the more that you’re able to concentrate, the more you live in the present.  If your mind gets distracted and you lose energy, you go here and there, distracted, you are everywhere but you are not in the present then you are not mentally healthy. Concentration is very important for mental health. Concentration doesn’t mean stress, it’s just you need to be able to concentrate this mind on something positive.

Number two criteria for mental health is when you are able to have love in your heart for everything and everybody.  At that time, you are healthy.

Now if you ask yourself, do i have love in my heart? You said:” Yes, i have love of course but not this person, not this person or not this group of people or not that thing.”. At that time, you’re not mentally healthy. When you are not healthy, you give condition to yourself, if I am going to get this, if I am going to get that, if the sun will shine, if there’s that, then I will be happy. You’re not healthy, because you are conditioned by your mind, by the past, by some idea that you have. You say “if this, then i will…”

You are healthy when you’ll be able to be open and adapt to any situation.

         Free yourself from the conditions of the ego:

If your sense of Self depends on conditions, you are not the SELF, you are the ego-self.  It’s not the TRUTH ABOUT LIFE if you have to put all these conditions to fit yourself in there; Life doesn’t work like this; you are a free person, you have a free spirit, you can live in any situation, anywhere, with anybody and you are actually healthy. 

         You have to go toward the goal of having less conditions to free yourself more; to have lesser extremes; to be more, we call in yoga, to be more balanced; to be more open, it’s only fear that create this feeling of isolation.

Get out of isolation:

One of the symptoms of fear and anxiety is people become isolated. One of the symptoms of addiction is when people become isolated.

Isolation is there when people close themselves off, don’t talk to anybody, cannot trust anybody, don’t have friend, don’t have support system. Isolation is unhealthy. Normally, we have bits and parts of this mental health problem, and we need to face it.

To change to healthy habits, develop skills of patience and flexibility:

Yoga provided tools of getting prana or life force by adjusting lifestyle, finding out what’s wrong with your lifestyle, and change.

I remember once upon a time i used to drink soda, and i learned: “oh so terrible soda you would not digest and it’s so much sugar and artificial drink, you need to switch”. It took me a long time to change from that one habit; and then I switched into juice; then I figured out: “juice is not actually healthy; it’s also sugars and is so much condensed, it’s not good!”, then it took long time to switch from juice to water then it takes a long time from water to warm water.

This example just to say it takes a long time to change to healthy habits- even though you know what is right for you – because the body gets used to the old habit, the mind gets used to it, and then it feels more comfortable with what is familiar. So “adapt, adjust, accommodate”, be flexible, is a very healthy trait of character. Some people will be more flexible than other, some people will be stronger than other. The idea is to cultivate both strength and flexibility, not just flexibility all the time.

In hatha yoga, when you do a good pose, you have to be flexible and you have to be able to hold effortlessly. In life, it is the same; you have to be flexible, adaptable, not too rigid because if you are too rigid and you think:” I am like this, it should be like this, everything has to adapt to me, I don’t adapt to anybody”, then you have a lot of stress, because that’s not a good way.  Conditions all the time change, weather changes, people that you meet change, your own mind changes. Having flexibility of mind is a good skill. However, flexibility has to come with strength and endurance.  If you are all the time flexible and you

have no strength, it’s a problem, so that’s why in yoga asanas we teach you to be flexible and strong, to try and relax. Both, all the time both, effort and relaxation. when you learn Yoga asanas, you learn both, to be balanced and to get high energy through concentration.

Mental health is more important than physical health, Swami Sivananda was a medical doctor, and then he saw that when he helped people to heal, it seems that this physical healing did not help them to remove the suffering, so he became a monk, and became a doctor of the soul. He wrote to 200 or 300 books and about at least 30 books just on health.

Swami Vishnu gave as motto: “health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, yoga shows the way”.

Train the mind to be strong, like training a muscle:

Mental health when you are able to concentrate and when your heart is happy, when you are joyful and you are balanced. All these are trainable. The body, mind is like a muscle and you go to the gym and you build up the weight, you lift weight, and after some time, you add a little bit more weight and then you lift again. So, in the difference of the weight that you lift, you build up your muscle, right? You have to do it slowly so when you build up muscles, you do it slowly, few grams at the time.

When you build up the strength of the mind, you need to know, you have to also do it slowly, the mind has to be able to concentrate, and you build it slowly. Before you think of something, and then you change your mind, and then you do something else, and you do something else, you never can stay on one task until completion. It shows a certain weakness of the mind, not be able to concentrate. In this case, you have to give to yourself lighter weight but keep working on the concentration. One hour, take a break, come back do the same thing, you build up the muscles of the mind.

Learn to relax and surrender at the same time:

You can work with the mind so that the mind becomes stronger. But you need to work also with your relaxation because the mind needs also to be relaxed to be able to perform well. Relaxation comes from your willingness to self-surrender, willingness to let go.

When you don’t relax, say you don’t sleep at night because you’re too busy thinking solving problem. What does it mean when you cannot sleep at night? Because you’re too busy thinking all the time. What does that mean? That means you think that you will solve the problem by thinking.  You’re not willing to let go, you don’t trust, you don’t have faith, so you think;

but relaxation comes when you are more in tune, when you live with the elements of nature, and you are willing to surrender. Surrender means to accept that you don’t know everything, to accept that there are higher forces that are at play that you have no clue about.  You see, our ego think that it can control everything, know everything.

In the world of today you can see this is going on: Nobody accepts that they don’t know, everyone says everything on the internet, has opinion about everything, as if they know everything.

It’s important to know that you don’t know. You don’t know everything, so you don’t assert your ego and your arrogance and learn to accept “i surrender, it’s okay, i accept, it’s fine”.

The ego needs to be less dominant, if you want to be healthy. If you want to be healthy, you need to lessen the idea that “I know, and I control it all, and this is who I am, and I am not going to change”, this idea needs to be lessened.

Practice humility and devotion:

You have to be flexible, you have to know that you don’t know, when you know that you don’t know, maybe you know; but you think that you know it’s a problem. Relaxation comes from that, you go through life at the same time knowing, at the same time very open, and this is a healthy step.

Bhakti yoga science, which is the science of devotion; is helping you to do that. It’s helping you to open up and be happy no matter what you might think; when you just chant the Sanskrit mantras that you do not understand, you feel good after that.

Bhakti yoga helps you to get out of your rigid left brain, so you can add these practices in your life: the devotional practices, the right brain activity.ImageImage

Yoga is marvelous because it’s both, it is left brain and right brain both.

It’s very logical but at the same time, but it has a lot of feeling, a lot of images when you look at the Gods, a lot of stories. It doesn’t make any sense if you use the logic, for example: “why you have to bow to the elephant head?”. But it is explainable: you can explain that the elephant head is the transformed consciousness that removes obstacles. Why you bow to it? Because you want to become a being that has a changed head, and when the head is changed it’s like the trunk that go and remove obstacles. That’s the symbol of Ganesha,the remover of obstacles, you see, but you don’t explain it logically, you just say: “Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha pahimam, Ganesha protects me, Ganesha likes to eat sweets, i need to give sweet to Ganesha, i need to give banana to Ganesha, Ganesha likes yellow and green, i dress up Ganesha, big belly Ganesha is laughing”.

You think simply like this with the right brain but it works the same way so it’s not unintelligent, it’s just addressing a different aspect of our mind, and the way how we function.

When we sort out our relationship’s problems Image, we sort out also our own Self problem.

Spiritual health

When you know who you are, when you have that divine connection with your own self, when you see unity in diversity, it’s called spiritual health.

The three aspects of health together (body-mind-spirit) is called holistic health. When you practice yoga, you are practicing holistic health, in brief.

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.



Wed, 7/14 Swami Sitaramananda


Superconscious mind, mind, meditation, daily life, meditation practice, people, asana, learn, classical yoga, Patanjali Yoga, yamas and niyamas, non-violence, ahimsa, brahmacharya, yogi, swami, truth, spiritual energy, desire, prana.

This talk is from a serie of talks about “how to renew your life and how to recharge yourself”.

we have talked about

1/ prana, how to have more prana,

2/ positive thinking:  understand what is thought, what is the relationship between thoughts and prana.

3/ how to be flexible, adaptable, how to work your ego out to pay attention to the subconscious.

4/ detachment: how not to be pulled down through our attachment. How to be able to adapt and change by being detached.

5/ meditation: the different ways how you can introduce meditation in your daily life.


What is meditation? How to free us from past tendencies?

There are different definitions of meditation. One of the definitions, the classical way, is the definition according to Patanjali. According to Patanjali, meditation is at the seventh rung. That means seventh step of the eight steps ladder of yoga, a Raja Yoga system. That means you have to prepare yourself, in order for you to be able to be still. Yamas and niyamas are the two first rungs in Taja Yoga, guiding you to have proper behavior that will not bring about any kind of reaction, that will bring about peace.

Anything that happens is due to our karma from the past. And if we are going to react to our karma, then it strengthens the wrong thought tendency. And it would put us deeper into the state of unhappiness, restlessness, worry. That’s why the yoga scheme is how to free us from our past tendencies. And Patanjali gives us a few points, a few guidelines on how to do this, we call yamas and niyamas.

The abstentions:

Yamas is what not to do, the restrictions. If you want your mind to be peaceful, it’s better that you adopt this way of behavior. If you want to be free from karma and from disturbances and from creating new vrittis in the mind, new thoughts in the mind, it’s better that you follow these guidelines.

The first guideline is ahimsa. Ahimsa means nonviolence or in other words, no frustration, anger.  You can be proactive and manage your mind, working around your desire and your expectation so that you don’t get angry because anger comes from expectation and unfulfillment. If you are flexible enough to work around your expectation, then you will be able to be a peaceful person and you will be avoiding anger and violence. Really, it’s all about you and the mind.  It’s not about whatever happens and whatever people’s behavior, it’s about you. What do you expect, how you interpret that situation?  You can change, you can switch to ahimsa, but you have to learn how to manage your desire, your ego, your expectation and you have to enhance your eyes a lot. You can also learn how to be compassionate, to understand somebody from where they are, to understand the situation that can be quite complex sometimes. And you have to come up with the most sattvic kind of response. And you have to work against your ego because your ego has its tendencies and you want to reproduce its tendencies which make you feel strong.

But according to yoga, we are not strong when we reproduce your tendency, the moment you say I am like this, because I have always been like this, you reinforce your tendency and your desire, and your expectation and you create more instances of frustration, of reaction. Ahimsa implies that you have to be non-egoistic, with no expectation, no attachment to the result, no attachment to your own thoughts, to your own habits. Remain quite open and be quite flexible, accepting, empty. Empty doesn’t mean empty, but open, to be quite open. Every moment is unique. To be humble, that’s part also of the practice of ahimsa. Don’t think that you know and try to remove the ego. In daily life, you have to see the situation where your ego will come up. I know, I know better than you. I like you to do this way, that way. You have to be training yourself to be very careful.

I learn a few ways in daily life to not hurt somebody’s ego. I say: “Do you mind doing this?” Instead of saying ‘do this’. Of course you can say ‘do this’ and maybe you are in a position of authority. You can add the word ‘please’. And then you explain.

Learn to communicate better: I think people are sometimes very short. It means they don’t communicate very well. Why don’t you communicate very well? Because you think that people should know? Or you thought:” they should think of things the way I see it.” But people don’t. They have a completely different mindset. What do you expect from them can be like talking Chinese, they have no understanding of that. And then you assume that they have to understand that, and you just say a few words because that’s your assumption and you expect them to understand and you get upset if they don’t understand or you make a face.

In daily life it is good to practice being humble, to be communicative, to know that you don’t know the truth about anybody or anything and to talk to the person as you talk to God. That is a difficult practice. Teachings say behave with people, your husband, your wife, your friend, your boss, like you behave towards God. How do you practice this thing? That means you have to know that you don’t know, you cannot assume that you know, you cannot carry yourself around and think that is the truth and the reality is in me. God knows, but you do not know.

So please, don’t take yourself too seriously and be humble and be learning how to communicate.

I myself, I don’t type very quickly, I type very slowly. I just have two fingers, I don’t know how to type. I cannot see very well also. I’m almost blind because, I do not wear my glasses and I use my little cell phone as my computer, so it took me a long time to type anything to communicate with people and I received tons of email and I am being attacked by emails of people, so it took me a long time to answer emails, you know.  Sometimes I have to type in Vietnamese and different keyboard and accent and all these things. But I make a point. I’m not talking about me here, I’m talking about the concrete thing how you can do Meditation in daily life. It is a form of Raja Yoga meditation because you have to be very focused, to be very careful when you answer an email and answer a request. You need to be communicating, that means you have to talk about the circumstances before that email and explain to people the after and then you have to use the right kind of feeling that you can add to the communication. And you have to understand the person, where they come from and who are you at this time present. And then you try to make that communication unique at that time.

The art of tuning to someone’s wavelength:

I have spent many, many years of my life writing emails.  That time, there was no email, I used to type letters with an electric typewriter and carbon paper. I was the secretary in the ashram and I had to write the correspondence for Swamiji. I had to spend a lot of time and I didn’t write very well in English at that time. I tried to imagine in my mind these people that wrote and then tried to imagine their mindset and I wrote the letters corresponding to what I imagined these persons to be. Then I took a quote from the book called “Elixir Divine”, which is the book of Swami Sivananda quotes. Depending on what I felt about the person I spent time to choose the proper quote to add at the end of the letter for the person.

It’s like serving a full meal, a three course meal, when you answer an email. There is the beginning, the appetizer, then the main course, and then the dessert at the end.  It took me a lot of time. Imagine I didn’t speak English, I didn’t type very well. If you ask me, what did I learn in my spiritual path? How did I learn? I would say this – because I was a secretary for many years: “one letter at a time.” That’s how I learned. I imagined the person, I meditated about the person that I wrote letter to. Also, to note that I did not even sign the letters. I wrote for the swami, and someone else was signing the letters, not me.  So, I had to imagine that I wrote a letter for Swamiji, or the other senior Swami, then, I tuned my mind to higher vibration, higher wavelengths of thought, and address the person. This was my way of meditation in action, called Karma Yoga of writing letters. It was not just only business correspondence, it was a spiritual communication, it was my meditation. This is the truth. That’s how I grow in awareness. I must have written so many letters.

Everyone is unique, no one functions the same way:

I am telling you now the story of how I learnt when answering correspondence for Swami Vishnudevanandaji. There was a karma yogi about 40 years old who one day came back from that correspondence session at Swamiji ‘s house and he was quite upset. He said, ‘I’m not going to work for this man’. And then he left the ashram. I was a new karma yogi and I said, Okay, I will take the job. Well, what has happened there? I went, and I realized what happened.  Swamiji was extremely fast and he functioned at a different level than you are. Our mistake is we always think that people have to function on the same level that we are, but they are not the same.  I learned that he didn’t function the way I think, and how I function, he mostly functions in a super conscious level, not the conscious level, not the subconscious level that we normally do.  Normally, we have no clue of what the super conscious level is. When I gave him the letters and told him “Swamiji, this person said this and so on… He took the letter, brought it to his forehead and touched his forehead with it then discard it. That was it, that was his way to send the blessings and the reply through the psychic atmosphere to the person. That was about 37 years ago or something, people wrote using aerogram. I thought:” Oh my God, how do I write a reply?”  he didn’t say anything, and I tried to tune to higher, higher wavelengths to pick his thoughts. I realized that he communicated with a person by touching the letter, he already got the vibration of the person putting it to his forehead, which is his mind. That’s what happened. And that was it. But, understand that the person would not receive a letter like this, they will not be able to, they will not be able to receive that Swamiji already prayed for them and have sent them letter in thoughts. So, I had to be the instrument to do this.

That was how I replied to the person: “Swamiji said to continue your practice “. That was what Swamiji would say, he would say: “continue your practice!”, because only during the practice you can solve all your problems, not by chatting. “Swamiji encouraged you to practice and pray for your health and welfare, and so on and so on. “

The Karma Yogi who was upset, expected Swamiji to sit there, tune into him – which is tuned down to him- and dictate and wait for him to write and finish. And then when he finished one sentence, dictate another sentence. It means Swamiji had to serve him, instead of him serving Swamiji and the whole world’s needs.  

In reality, there was no time to wait. Swamiji’s mind was fast because he had to serve the whole world with prayers and thoughts.

So, I became the instrument of this service, I was a very new karma yogi, and had to learn how to tune and change wavelengths. Imagine, tune, change quickly and get it. And then you have to tune down to a level of somebody, express the way how he/she would understand and feel, including the reply to their emotions which are often times in crisis. I had to learn to match my answer to them.

And that’s how I receive my training in daily life. And sometimes I’m wrong. I’ll tell you another story.

Accountancy lesson:

You expect that you have a guru, a teacher, that he will sit there and babysit you, but it was not like that at all. Swamiji lived his life and his mission and you want to serve Him because you want to learn something, fine and good. So, you came to serve Him and then you will have to learn on the battlefield. He’s not the babysitter, he is the one that is living his life and you are the one that serve in order to learn.

One day, he was trying to teach me accountancy. All my life, I’ve never really liked accountancy, mathematics and money. I was quite a political person before. I understand that money is a thing that creates a lot of problems in this world. So, I never really liked money. And I’m kind of artistic kind of minds, I don’t like mathematics and never like accounting and counting money. Accountancy was not my thing. When I came to the ashram, I got the karma yoga accountancy job. At that time, there was no software and you had to do everything by hand. You had to add everything in the big register book. Swamiji said “it’s not our money so you have to be very careful, this is public money”. So, he will not allow like 50 cents difference.

I had to spend time adding the number you know, and when you do it two times, you had to check it and it never came right for me.  The number just kept dancing and changing. I spent a large number of hours trying to make the book fit. I copied from this column to that column and then tried again and it did not match. Thus, I spent hours and nights trying to balance the books and match the numbers.

Swamiji must have known that I had some difficulties.  He called me and another staff to his house to give us an accountancy lesson. The accountancy lesson went like this. I thought: “wow, Swamiji is going to give me an accountancy lesson! The master is going to teach me! “I was a little bit impressed already. Now, imagine the scene:

Swamiji said: “If I’m going to give $10 to this person, who will give it to his daughter to go and buy $5 of apples, then how much is left?”

That was it, the accountancy lesson. $10 to buy $5 of apples, that’s how much is left?

I was maybe 29, maybe 30 years old or something. I became frozen. In my mind at that time, $10 minus $5, could not be a normal answer. How much is left? Something strange is here. It must be a kaon. It means you have to invent something, you have to read through the lines, you have to try to understand what the great yoga master is trying to communicate. And then as I didn’t find the answer, Swamiji said: “10 minus five equals 5! Go!” That’s it. That was my accountancy lesson. I was thinking about my lesson for a long time. What was it? Why did he have to call me to his place and say ten minus five equal five. Doesn’t make any sense. Because you know, I was 30 years old, I know how to count!

Eventually I figured out the answer. The answer is, he tried to teach me to be simple, not to be complicated, in my mind. Ten minus five equals five. That’s the way how it works.

In spiritual life, in meditation life, you have to tune and try to understand the higher wavelengths. But at the same time, you have to be quite practical. You have to be very down to earth. My mind was too complicated. I need to be more logical and simpler.

So that is also another teaching lesson of meditation in daily life, “don’t make things complicated. Be in the present and simplify things. “

Ahimsa. You have to bear your anger, frustrations because they come from your own unfulfilled expectations. It’s your own expectation that is unfulfilled because it doesn’t match with reality. So, you have to bear it and learn to let go of your expectations and desires. That’s how you meditate on your mind and desires.

The truth is in between both:

Satya means truth. That is part of meditation in daily life. Because that’s a condition for you to be able to meditate and have peace of mind and not create more vibration and more distortion, more vrittis in your mind. So you have to tell the truth. But what is the truth? Because your mind changes all the time. If two people quarrel, Swamiji would say the truth is in between both! The truth is in between both. It means person A does know the truth, person B doesn’t know the truth. None of them are correct. The truth is beyond both. And we always think that we are the one that knows, the other person doesn’t know. So that is the problem. When two people quarrel in the ashram, the director also gets punished. I mean, the way how Swamiji punishes people, is to make them write a mantra. Because when you write a mantra, the mind vibration will change. And if you do something wrong, you have to write more mantras. And the director also had to write a mantra. The director also had the right mantra because two people quarrel. So how does it work? why does the director have to be involved if two people quarrel and why the director also will have to be punished? how does it work?

Because the director is the one who makes sure that the vibration of the ashram or the center is high. So if two people quarrel that means the vibration is low. So, he also has to lift his vibration up, so he can lift other people’s vibration up. It seems interesting isn’t?

So, the truth is in between both. That means we have to know that we don’t know. People always think that they hold the truth, but they don’t know. So much possibility of interpretation of any word or any situation.

Don’t forget that this is a world of Maya. Maya means things are changing. This is the world of energy and things are changing. Compared to the truth, the Truth doesn’t change, but everything else changes. You don’t know the truth because you’re not a realized person yet, you’re not an enlightened person yet, you still function out of your emotions, you still function out of your desires, you don’t have the discipline yet. You don’t have purity yet. How can you know the truth? You don’t know the truth.

So how do we work with that? We have to be sincere. In daily life, you are expected to be sincere, honest and sincere. That’s all. You’re honest and sincere and that’s good enough. You don’t have to be perfect, but you are sincere. And then tomorrow, you know better than you can change because you know better now, the way you see things can be different tomorrow and is not the same as you do today. So, it’s not like you are changing except you are adjusting and you’re sincere. Your tomorrow and today will be different. Because you don’t hold the truth. You’re trying. And then you are learning on the way. That’s the guidelines of truthfulness. Just try to be sincere and honest. And don’t think that you hold the truth. Nobody holds the truth. The Truth is within us, but we have impurity therefore, the truth cannot be revealed yet.

Asteya: Asteya means non-stealing. It means, don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. As much as you can, try to be honest, and don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you.

Brahmacharya, the road to Brahman:

Brahmacharya is trying to be aware of your instinct, your sensual propensity, sexual propensity, so that you can learn how to transform these energies into high energy. So that you not only function out of your low mind, your instinctive mind, but you function as a self-control human being, a person that is capable to transcend these tendencies, instinctive tendencies.

In daily life you have to start with the awareness of your energies. And you have to be able to observe your energy. What we say to our yoga teachers that they need to keep pure thoughts when they teach yoga class. It’s very easy to fall, because of the tendency of the mind. Brahmacharya is chastity or pure purity in thinking and to transform this impurity to purity it takes a long, long time.

Because the main thing is to transform your vibratory wavelength. What is vibratory wavelength? It is the level of energy. When your level of energy is low, then you have more sexual thoughts. When your level of energy is high, then you don’t have this kind of desire, because the energy has been transformed into higher wavelengths of energy.

If you practice Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, pure devotion, concentration, meditation, and detachment, then most likely your vibration will be pure, pure and higher, then most likely you have transformed this energy into something that is higher and lifting you up and lifting other people up.

So that is the guidelines in daily life to keep yourself, as much as possible, chaste in mind. Try not to watch TV, movies …Sometimes it’s very difficult now, you’re watching some news, and It has some ads in between, then flashing images of people not really dressed properly. I’s all rampant around us the lustful energy, desire energy, sexual energy, intoxication. That is very, very much around us. It’s very difficult to keep the thought pure, but in daily life, you need to protect your mind and be more conservative in the way how you think or who you communicate with.

It’s called brahmacharya. Brahmacharya means the road to Brahman. It’s not simple. If you are able to control your sexual energy, you are on the road to Brahman, on the road to the Truth. That’s what “Brahmacharya” means. It’s not just about celibacy, but it’s controlling and sublimating or transformation of that energy that creates a lot of desire and distractions in the mind and creates a lot of problems. You have to transform this energy and lift them up into spiritual thoughts.

Pay attention to subtle impressions in the mind:

I’m in LA, I just went for a 15-minute drive yesterday and I saw this big billboard. It was about this new movie called something ‘the new war’ or something. And then you look at people’s faces on that board and it stuck to your mind. Why do I care about this ‘New war’ and all these people with huge weapons? But these impressions get stuck to your mind even though you are not interested.

So, you need to be aware of the influence on your thoughts when you are in the street, how sexual thoughts and violent thoughts influence your mind. And you need to protect your mind. This billboard and image of these people got stuck in my mind and it will take me some time to clean the thoughts. It creates some damage or some junk in my mind that will take the space and the energy of something higher.

When you fly, because that’s the only time that people like me is exposed to different kinds of magazines, you end up reading the magazines in the airplane. And what is it about? It is all about lipsticks, perfumes and sports cars. So your mind will be polluted by this. Your mind will be wondering about which color of lipstick because it’s full page color. Imagine, the ashram wants to publicize a meditation course and we cannot pay even one eighth of a page like this. It’s too expensive. One page about lipstick will be five to $10,000 a page, or more. And the big magazine like this, full of lipstick and full of perfume, how much it cost. See, then you can see that so much energy, what I’m saying is so much money, so much life, so much prana, so much energy into attracting people out of sexuality or out of violence. In this context, your mind will be affected.

Meditation in daily life means you have to pay attention as much as possible. Keep your mind protected.

Non-accumulation, non-envy, no desire.

It’s very easy to be envious, isn’t it? And that’s a problem. To drive here we have to rent a car. Because our car did not work. The car we rented was a very nice car, then your mind can change the mindset to thinking, “Oh, I wish I had a car like this, why do I have to use all these cars that are not nice and don’t work? “

Somebody I met yesterday bought a new car for $65,000 cash!  your mind hearing that can switch, your mind can be envious and say: “I desire to have a car like this!”

So in daily life, you have to meditate. And then you have to prevent your mind from going into this place of envy, jealousy, desire. If not, it will be detrimental for your mind because it will create different distractions in your mind. And at the same time, you try to learn meditation, and you try to have peace of mind and you don’t get it. Why?  Because there is too much stuff in the mind.

Niyamas: Purification, contentment, austerity:

That’s why the Yogis proposed to you that you need to practice purification, you need to practice contentment, you need to practice austerity, you need to practice self- study, and you need to practice self-surrendering or acceptance of God’s will. That will help you to be calm. Purification means that the light is there within you, but the thought in your mind is impure. So, you need to apply positive thinking techniques and all Yoga practices in order to purify your thoughts, purify your body, purify your prana, everything is about purification.

And then you practice contentment. It means you wake up in the morning, and you already say: “I’m so grateful to be alive!” You are thankful, your life is about being thankful, it’s not about being envious, or it’s not about pointing fingers and destroying somebody or making sure that they will not get what you desire. Because you desire something, and they get what you desire. So therefore, you need to destroy them for them not to get what you desire!

You need to make sure that you are content with what you have. So, your mind doesn’t have this desire vibe. And then you have to study every day. You have to study because you need to put in your mind positive thoughts. That doesn’t come from magazines, or other people gossip on the internet. It comes from scriptures and teachers.

And then you have to self-surrender. That is the basic guideline of yoga. Self-surrender doesn’t mean that you become stupid or become a servant or not thinking. Self- surrender just means that you have to know that you are not the boss. You are not the boss of this world. The world is not going to follow your beck and call. Your desire is not going to be fulfilled. Things happen the way they happen. And then you have to learn to accept God’s will — surrender. So don’t wait until the big lesson for you to surrender. Like a big virus coming and attacking everybody for us to learn to accept and to surrender. In daily life we need to learn to be self-surrendering, adapt, adjust, accommodate.

These are the yamas and niyamas according to Patanjali yoga.

Asana and pranayama:

Then you have to practice Asana in daily life. Asana is known to be yoga, but it’s not Yoga, it is only one step, the 3rd step. You have to do this, when you practice Asana, know that the effect is that you are moving your prana. Because most of the time your prana gets stuck. If you are not moving it, it gets stuck and it becomes negative thoughts. So every day, you have to move your prana in a correct manner. Then the flow of energy will be flowing, and you’ll be fine. And then you’ll be able to also stay still. Asana means “steady pose” staying still. You stay still so that you can contemplate. Movement, stillness, movement, stillness, relaxation, action. You would have to balance all this.  

And then comes pranayama. It means learning how to balance your prana. There are two hemispheres of the brain, right and left brain. You learn how to be an integrated person, where you think logically, but you also feel at the same time. And don’t allow yourself to be in that situation of conflict, where you feel something, and your logical mind goes on the other side, and then you are pulled in between, but you need to bring the extreme closer and closer, closer and integrated, so that you come out with a balanced kind of response. So that is called pranayama. Pranayama is the strongest way to work on your emotions. So, practice pranayama every day, make it a daily habit to practice pranayama so that you can be balanced, because you don’t know your situation. You don’t know because you live with your mind all your life, so you don’t know you’re super emotional, and you are not logical, or you don’t know that you are super logical, and you are not feeling at all. You think this is the way the world is, but it’s not the way the world is. Your life can be different if you know how to balance your energies. Then you can function the most efficiently if you are not too much this way or not too much that way. It takes a long time for you to learn that what you think, and feel is not the way how the world thinks and feel. You superimpose the way how you think and feel onto the world and attract to yourself people that think like you or feel like you. Then you feel yourself stronger because more people feel like you, but that’s not necessarily the truth.

Withdrawing of the senses:

So you need to practice pranayama in daily life, you need to practice withdrawing the senses (pratyahara). Pratyahara is when you turn inward. We are all the time turning outwards, outwards, that’s a problem, that creates a problem to meditation. Turning outward means all the time involved in action in the world of the senses, thinking that the world of the senses is the true world. In fact, no, what you see with your senses is not the real world.  It’s very limited; this is not the world that will give you peace of mind.

Pratyahara means withdrawing, withdrawing the senses. Have less sensual input, so that you can live an inner life. What is living inner life? That just means that you are more in connection with your deeper level of feeling, your deeper level of truth that is revealed in your heart. And if you are too busy externally, you get involved in too much action or you are too much involved in the senses, you will not be able to connect. So that is called pratyahara, withdrawing of the senses.

Concentration and meditation:  

Concentration is when you are able to be strong, you will be able to hold one thought that is good and be able to say no to other kinds of promise because your mind is very weak, so your mind will run with different promises. You are doing something, and somebody says, “oh this” and then you get distracted. You are not able to be focused and to be able to say no to the distractions. Then you are too much in distraction and you cannot really connect with your true Self.  You cannot be really peaceful with your mind, and the reality surrounding you.

Swami Sivananda says meditation is when you are flowing with the flow of consciousness of God, like a stream of oil, that is being pulled from one vessel to another, that is continuous flowing. That’s what it is. That’s what you want. We want to be able to flow in a stream of consciousness. That is very enlightening, that is very peaceful, that is very happy. You will not then suffer out of this start and stop of a choppy world. Instead of “peace of mind” we get “pieces of mind”. We gathered our pieces of mind and get established in the peace of mind that brought about a flowing feeling. That’s called meditation.

Get established in that flowing feeling of consciousness, and awareness, that is all the time there, not when things happen the way you want only. Normally, when things happen the way that you don’t expect, then everything stops. So the more that you are able to train yourself, the more you’ll be able to be flowing in all kinds of situations. You have to use your left brain, your thinking faculty, and you have to use your right brain, your feeling faculty, then you have to use your superconscious mind, your intuitive brain. You have to know that this superconscious mind is accessible to you, that you can induce it, that you can use it and then you have to train yourself to do this.  

Achieving oneness:

Eventually, you are in the state we call “Samadhi which means complete flow, complete oneness. This is the goal.

The goal is to achieve complete oneness where nobody is at fault. You are not separated. You are not in duality. You don’t have inner conflict. All your past conflict accumulated in your mind has been resolved. Your mind is pure and calm, and you’ll be able to reflect who you are.

There are a lot of practices. I can elaborate every step at length, but you have to learn that you can apply this thing in daily life.

Achieving mental balance:

Steadiness in asana, we take it literally. But Asana is when you are able to keep your mind still, calm, not reactive in a difficult situation. Like in a posture. You’re about to fall in a balancing posture. You’re about to fall because the energy pulls you this way. And then you want this way and you are shaking. But if you are able to be balanced in two difficult poses, and you’ll be there steady, that’s called Asana. As example, this means that when you have difficult feelings about that person or that situation or that speech of somebody, then you’ll will still be able to hold your poise or your peace in between these pulls and pushes of different conflicting kinds of thoughts. And that is called holding an asana. You have to be able to hold this mental Asana, be strong, be firm and be flexible. If you want to hold a posture, and you are so rigid, what it means is that you really hold too tight and as a result, you fight. Let’s say you hold a shoulder stand, a headstand, and you hold it so strong, then you would tense and then you would fall down. So that’s why asana practice trains you not to be too rigid. But, in the contrary, if you can’t hold at all, you just collapse, it also doesn’t work. So you would have to be both: be strong and be flexible. In daily life in the same manner, you need to be strong and flexible.

Other examples of lessons in daily life.

 Yesterday, I learned two lessons. Every day is learning. I’m sharing with you. Yesterday, there was a family here at the LA Center with some kids, 5 years old, 9 years old and 15 years old. The five years old and nine years old never sat still for a moment. We were building the deck and the kid picked up this drill, this electrical drill, and push, push the button. It was very dangerous. I would be upset because it’s a very dangerous tool to play with. I looked at the parents. They were trained, because these kids have trained them. They were so calm and said:” Okay, kid, don’t play with that. You are going to lose some points! Please put it down!  Something like this.” Then I realized that compared to them, the parents were much calmer and more controlled than me, because I reacted very strongly.

And then they put the drill down and they go and pick up another one. Another dangerous tool! And then they jumped here, jumped there. Oh my God!  I observed my mind. I said:” I cannot live like this!”, “I don’t know how they live like this, the parents. “ . Then I realize how much love they have for the kids to raise the kids daily like this all day long. And I don’t know how many years it took them not to lose control, not to lose the mind. And always try to teach to the level that what I talked about earlier, the communication level, the tuning into the person level and the love that is there. It’s a lot of training. They were experts and I bowed to them, the teachers of their kids. Then I realized that I was not that good. That’s humbling. Daily life, you are learning.

Trust and stay detached:

There was a dog at the Yoga Center, whose owner is a temporary staff. That dog is very old, tumbling, deaf but seeing a little bit and almost dying. It walked around, going in and out of the house while we were in a construction field building the deck. I was constantly afraid that the dog would fall into the tools and hurt himself. I realized that my mind was reacting to the dog, and I realized that I had a long way to go. I say, “he’s going to be hurt. Oh my God, look at him!”  I was not at peace. Because you can feel for the dog and you can feel for the dangerous situation that can happen. In the middle of the night, I woke up and thought “I need to go down and check if the dog is ok. Walking around the courtyard, anything can happen. He is blind, he can fall here, fall there. “

Then I realized:” okay, okay, detach, detach, sleep. And then we will see.” The dog was at the Center for a few nights and every morning I woke up and say, “okay, the dog is okay. There’s nothing that happened last night. “

The parents and the owner of the dog eventually have to live with their situation. No one can live life worrying all the time. So, meditation is that also. You have to have faith, you have to understand the karma, you have to do your duty, and you have to let go. And you have to accept it. You have to surrender to God’s will. You cannot worry all the time.

So, I learned a lesson about children and a lesson about dog at close proximity. I know children, animals, I can give lectures. We have children’s yoga, but to live close to them and be able to have self-control, and calmness and meditation and trust and faith — this is a lesson to learn.


Meditation in daily life is a combination of karma yoga attitude, bhakti yoga attitude, Raja Yoga principles and practices. Plus, the understanding that the whole thing is a game, it’s not true, it’s not real. And it tests you how attached you are and how serious you take yourself. In fact, the whole life set up is there for you to learn meditation in daily life.

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.