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.

Vairagya – Detachment or Dispassion

Vairagya – Detachment or Dispassion

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

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

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

Detachment as opposed to attachment

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

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

Self as Satchitananda

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

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

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

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

Ocean of Samsara

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

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

Detachment from what is changing

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

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

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

Truth eternal

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

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

Detachment from that which is external

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

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


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

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


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

Happiness Is Within

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

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

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

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

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

Illusion of the Senses

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

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

Illusion of the Mind

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

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

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

There is only one self – there is no other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Attachment brings suffering

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

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

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

Detachment from suffering

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

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

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

4 ways of detachment

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

Karma yoga – detachment in selfless service

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

Bhakti yoga, yoga of devotion – detachment in emotion

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

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

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

Raja yoga – detachment in meditation

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

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

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

Jnana yoga – detachment from the unreal

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

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

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

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

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

Detachment is the way out of samsara

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

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

Hari Om Tat Sat.

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

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

satsang with Swami Sitaramananda

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

What is karma? Understand life karmic journey:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twelve areas of karma and how to heal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 guidelines in working out of karma

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

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

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

4. exercise conscious choices avoid subconscious impulses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Seven Practices to learn how to Love

Seven Practices to learn how to Love

October 21, 2021

What is Love?

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

Love is oneness, union, unity, yoga.

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

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

Selfless love is to be learned

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

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

Know that Love is not desire

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

Know that Love is not Attachment

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

Seven Practices

1 / Assert Being LOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 / Healing emotions

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

Fears (and anxieties)

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

Desire, lust.

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

6 / Cultivate faith

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

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

Love of chosen Ideal starts from within

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

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

Think of these qualities of your chosen ideal:

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

To note: Respect others’ way to truth

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

Love of Goddess

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

Chosen ideal can be Divine Mother Energy

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

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

The other forms of divine connection based on habitual feelings.  

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

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

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

Spiritualize your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Om tat sat.

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

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

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

Why Meditate? Seeking beyond the Pattern of the Mind

Why Meditate? Seeking beyond the Pattern of the Mind

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


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

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

Why  meditate? What is Yoga meditation?

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

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

Happiness is your true nature

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

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

Seeking beyond the Pattern of the Mind

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

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

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

Do you agree? Yes. 

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

Synthesis of Yoga

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

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

Karma Yoga

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

Bhakti Yoga

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

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

Raja Yoga meditation:

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

The mind is like a snake guarding your treasure.

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

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

Concentration; Keeping the Mind Busy:

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

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

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

  • Recharge the prana with regulated  Yoga life:

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

Self-Inquiry practice:

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

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


To summarize,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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