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How to prevent future suffering?

How to prevent future suffering?

Recording from webinar with swami Sitaramananda

Thursday, 5/27/21

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

mind, yoga, suffering, self healing, relationships, ego, meditation practice, satsang, wisdom, balance, life, thoughts, stress resilience, emotional intelligence, vedanta, behavioral habit, yoga practices, subconscious mind, positive thinking, healthy lifestyle, mindfulness, awareness, spiritual journey, self realization.

Future suffering is predictable

The topic of today is how to prevent future suffering. It is a very important topic because nobody wants to suffer. This teaching comes from the teaching in the Raja Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from 2,000 years ago, where Patanjali Maharishi explains the nature of the mind and how the mind works. He said: “Future suffering needs to be avoided”.

The point is, how do you know about future suffering? The answer is, if you know how the mind works, you know about future sufferings. In fact, the mind is almost like a tape recorder. It registers all the experiences, all the impressions. These impressions registered in the mind are called the samskaras. The mind will reproduce what it has experienced. This means that what you reproduce in the mind is predictable, It is predictable, because it is is based on what you have experienced. Let’s say you have the experience of pain, due to somebody attacking you. 

Then that experience of pain in your mind will be reproduced again because you already know the experience of pain. This known painful experience will lead you to the tendency to feel that pain again. Why? Simply, because your mind knows it and will reproduce it.

From darkness comes enlightenment

Today we are having this talk after Buddha Poornima which is the day of celebration of Lord Buddha’s birth, and also this day coincides with the full moon of the lunar eclipse. So it’s a very, very interesting time because the full moon signifies a lot of emotions and possibly much clarity. Yet, when it is eclipsed, it is like you cannot see, you cannot understand, you cannot feel and at the same time, it is exactly the opposite, you are using it as an enlightened mind.

Buddha Poornima on the full moon means the birth of the enlightened one on the full moon. It’s a contradiction, darkness and at the same time enlightenment. At the same time, you have a glimpse of darkness in the mind – the mind cannot think, you experience pain and suffering, your mind collapses, you don’t have light, you don’t have any idea of what to think or what to do, but in fact, it is two sides of the same coin. At the same moment, you start to turn inward and start to let go. You start to receive light.

Interesting. All knowledge comes after you suffer, because when you suffer, you think about it. When you think about it, then you find the reason why you suffer. It comes from a certain habit, an emotional habit, or the habit of the mind. Or it comes from some past that you keep reproducing in your mind. 

You have to experience suffering and pain over and over and over and over again, before you ask yourself the question, “Is there anything else?”. That means, you ask yourself the question, “How am I going to get out of this mental pattern?” So, the Buddha talks about the truth of suffering. The truth of suffering means it is true that everyone suffers, and we need to find ways to be free from suffering.

The truth of suffering

We suffer because of birth, we suffer because of old age, we suffer because of disease. We suffer because of death. So now the whole world is suffering, because a lot of people are afraid of death; because there is a pandemic going on. A lot of people suffer from tension, from anxiety, from being afraid.

They are afraid of disease, afraid of the virus, afraid to lose their loved one, afraid to lose their job, afraid to lose money, afraid to lose their habit. Yes, your habit. Let’s say you have a habit to go out and eat in a restaurant. Now in pandemic time, you cannot go out to restaurants and you have to stay at home. So some kind of suffering and tension and stress is there because of some change.

At birth, we are crying. And then when we have disease, crying… when we lose our faculties, when we have old age, we will be crying. And ultimately, when we are not ready to meet the next step, death, we also suffer.

Yoga is essential knowledge to free you from suffering

That’s why Yoga is essential knowledge. Yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, yoga teaching is essential for you to practice. Do not wait until you are diseased to turn to Yoga. Some people turn to yoga because of disease, because they are suffering. When there is a lot of suffering, the ashram is full, because people remember yoga, remember the discipline.

At that time, they want to turn inside. But otherwise, if everything is okay, they want to enjoy life. They have no time for yoga. Yet, they have time to go to restaurants to enjoy life. They have time to spend chit-chatting with friends. They are going here and going there all the time, they always have a new idea, new places to go. They think distractions and entertainment are the way to solve the problem of suffering. But they do not realize, they carry with them their same mind.

But yoga sees things differently. Yoga says the more that you distract yourself, the more you satisfy your desire, the more you will suffer because no desire can be satisfied. Desire is insatiable, it cannot be satisfied. And when the mind is restless, not contented, that’s when you suffer.

This is why yoga always talks about “purification”. Purification means that we realize that the light, the knowledge, peace and happiness are already within us, but there are some impurities and wrong thoughts, wrong habits in the mind that prevent us from realizing this peace and happiness. That’s why you need to purify these impure thoughts. All yoga practices are for the purpose of purification.

Ayurveda, which is a science of health linked to yoga, says you need to balance the doshas (or your innate constitution and innate conditions of the mind). Yoga talks about purification and Ayurveda talks about balance. 

Going from tamas, rajas to sattwa is the way

We need to purify the mind and balance the mind if we want to prevent future suffering. Yoga and Vedanta teaching give you a very nice concept of the gunas.  Guna means a quality of nature or you can say the qualities of your mind.  One is Tamas, it means the force that is in your mind and in the cosmos that is pulling down, making things stagnant, not moving, not changing and pulling down.

This force of inertia is called Tamas. If you are subject to Tamas, are you going to be happy? No, you can say for sure, no. If your mind is tamasic and if you live in a tamasic environment, you will be unhappy. So also, you will not be happy if rajas is the dominant force.  Rajas means action, activity, passion, movement and that would make the mind move restlessly, desirous, and egoistic, fighting, comparing, competitive. This rajasic mind will lead you to conflict, to dissatisfaction, to disappointment. 

It will lead you to extremes, to conflicts.  You will like something and you will dislike something. You might feel happy for a little bit, but then you will suffer from the opposite swing. You will not be happy. So, the tamasic mind will not make you happy and the rajasic mind will not make you happy.

The mind also receives influences easily from the environment. If you live in a tamasic environment, even if you are not tamasic, then you will not be happy. In the same manner, if you live too close to rajas – example, all the time in noise, in passion, watching news, terrible sensational news and dramas, this will not make you happy. It will make you suffer. It’s good to have news, from time to time, but good to avoid if it’s completely full of negative news that you cannot do anything about. Therefore, you need to guard your mind against the mass media, the rajas.

Now, the good news is, there’s another kind of mind called a sattvic mind, dominated by the quality of sattva. This third quality (sattva) happens when the mind is balanced, peaceful, contented, compassionate, loving, knowledgeable, wise, moderate. This mind doesn’t go to extremes. If you are endowed with this kind of mind, your universe will be calm, your attitude will be calm, balanced, wise, peaceful, content. This mind will not create suffering. 

We just have to make sure that our mind and our life and surrounding become sattvic. How do you do this? Yoga teaches the Five Points of yogic lifestyle. What you need to do is to have a routine to regulate your energy and to move your energy, not letting your energy become stuck. If the energy becomes stuck, you are stressed and tense and you will have tamasic thoughts of depression, fear, anxiety, and so on. So do asana to activate your tamasic energy and to slow down your rajas.

In proper breathing, you do the pranayama in order to balance your energy. Again, to make your energy flow, to purify your nadis (energy channels), and to cleanse all the previous blockages in your energy system. It is very, very important to do pranayama when you are emotionally upset, when you’re emotionally imbalanced. You have learned the technique of breathing; it is in your hands. You just have to sit down and do pranayama: Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing) and Kapalabhati to bring yourself more energy as well as to cleanse and to balance your mind. This practice is very essential.

The third important practice is proper relaxation. This practice implies that you are able to recognize when your mind tenses up when you are stressed out. When you lose energy, and everything is added on, added on, and added on, the same negative thoughts are repeated, repeated, and repeated. Then you become stressed and you suffer. It is very important for you to learn to balance, to practice proper relaxation.

Proper diet is very important. Because the food you eat will influence the mind. So do not eat too much sugar. Do not eat too much spicy food, and not too much salt. Try to eat calm food, alive food, cooked with love, with kindness. Actually, not being able to go to a restaurant because of Covid is very good. So you can cook at home for yourself and your family. Try to see the positive aspect of things.

And the last point is the practice of meditation or positive thinking, which you need to do every day. Every day for a few minutes, 10 minutes, it’s easy. You can just sit quietly, turn inside. If you can sit longer, if you have a mantra to repeat, It’s excellent because it helps you to keep your mind strong and steady.

Building up Resilience to the Suffering coming from self, others and the environment

Yoga scripture says that suffering comes from the interaction between the gunas and the mind. It means that you are not alone, you live with different people and you have different relationships as well as you live in an environment, and this in itself, creates suffering. If the people you live with suffer, then you also will know.

The Bhagavad Gita talks about three types of affliction. First, Adhyatmika, afflictions caused by one’s own body. The body is thirsty, is hungry, is sick, and your own body is a very complex system, that’s why you need to keep yourself healthy. The second cause of affliction is Adhibhautika, it means the affliction caused by beings around you, by people that you are connected with. And the third one is Adhidaivika, suffering that is caused by the forces of heaven or divine forces. For example, cyclones, hurricanes, floods, drought, or excessive rain. You cannot control the forces of heaven.

One thing you can do is increase your resilience. Please mark that word resilience. Resilience means your capacity to resist stress and to resist negative thoughts. It’s like when you build your muscles, if you carry a heavy weight then your muscles become stronger. At times, when your life is very easy, your muscle becomes weak, because you are not working hard. In a time of difficulty, you have to carry weight, i.e., you have to resist stress and the negativity that comes from the environment. You cannot change the situation outside, but your muscles become stronger, the muscles of the mind.

You become more calm, you go more inward, you find inspiration from inside, you find the positive thoughts from inside and then you bear, you have forbearance. What I mean is you develop the capacity to go through the conflict or challenge or crisis without collapsing, without adding more of your own negative thoughts that make the situation become more difficult. In case you cannot change the situation outside, then at least you have to keep yourself very positive so that you are not collapsing under negativity that is coming from the environment, when the surrounding environment is attacking you in some way. You do not add on to your own negative thinking.

For affliction due to the body, you need to do all the yoga practices to keep yourself healthy, as much as possible. Eat the right food, the right exercise, the right breathing. Practice relaxation to keep yourself healthy.

Regarding the mind of other people, try to forgive, try to forget, try to see your part of the problem. Yes, we need to change our thinking and expectations, because all suffering comes from your mental emotional pattern and comes from your habits of relationships from the past. Your problems in relationships come from you, so cease the blaming, cease the comparison and look within. Know that you have the capacity to change your mindset into something more positive, in order for you not to find the same emotional negativity in different situations that are being repeated.

In general, try to remove yourself from tamasic and rajasic thoughts and try to cultivate positive sattvic thoughts to prevent suffering.

Higher thinking to be free from suffering

If you want to live a life free from suffering, it requires high thinking, you need to cultivate an elevated positive way of thinking, and you cannot go on with the same way of thinking. Except all the thinking that come from the media, the social media, from our hours spent in watching Facebook and so on.

Social media, mindless following, gossiping is not positive. Wasting time is not positive. We need to cultivate high thinking, that means positive thinking. This requires your mind to be very focused. You cannot be distracted and expect yourself to be free from suffering. You need to keep your mind very healthy by focusing the mind and by avoiding distractions. You need to have a concentrated mind, higher thinking, conscious awareness. Cultivate awareness instead of unawareness. Being unaware means you just do things without thinking. You live life without knowing what you are doing.

You don’t spend time to meditate, to watch your mind, to observe your thoughts, to contemplate. You just run out and do things. That unconscious kind of mind will not lead you to happiness, this is a hundred per cent sure.  That’s why the teacher is so strong because they have studied the mind and they know how it works. They say categorically, 100%, if your mind is all the time running outwards, running after sensual pleasures and being distracted, you will suffer sooner or later.

You need to develop conscious awareness to overcome the lower mind, the habitual mind. This lower mind forms a big part of your mind. You would have to learn resistance. Like I said earlier, you need to practice in order to resist that mind that is formed by habit, by patterns, by samskaras. Samskara is the impression in the mind from a very long time. In yoga, we said, don’t live in the past, let the past go. You cannot make a better past. At the same time, don’t live in the future. Don’t worry about the future.

The future is not there. If you don’t repeat the past, and you can be aware in the present, your future can be changed. You live in the present when you can keep your mind focused and strong, The more you focus the mind, the more you live in the present. And the present will save you from the past and will save you from the future, the present will bring you peace, happiness. So please keep your mind very busy focusing on positive thoughts, such as a mantra. You need to keep your mind very strong and healthy. Don’t just allow your mind to run wherever it is, whatever it is, to do whatever it is. As a Yogi, you learn to master your mind.

You have capacity of choice

The last thing you need to know is that you have the capacity of choice. You want to be wise. So you have the capacity of choice in making decision. As human beings we are born with our intellect, that is part of our make up, we need to use it. The truth is we don’t use our intellect enough. We use too much of our subconscious mind, our emotions, our habits. Why? Because we are lazy. Yes, it’s easier to just keep doing the same thing, than to think about ways how you can choose better. When you want to make a conscious choice, your life is more difficult.

How do you become wise and choose wisely? You need to use your intellect. The Sanskrit term for intellect is “Buddhi” . Buddhi means your intellect.  The Buddha is the one that has an enlightened intellect.  If one’s intellect becomes fully enlightened, one is called a Buddha. To use your buddhi means to use your faculty of thinking. You would have to develop your thinking capacity, not worrying capacity, but thinking capacity. If you are parents, try to develop that in children, not just only indulging the emotions of the children, but also teach them how to reason and how to think. Later on, they will be successful, if they can control the emotions, if they are not spoiled by the parent and become weak.  

Cultivating emotional intelligence

Try to cultivate their emotional intelligence. There was an experiment about emotional intelligence.

They told a group of children in a closed room if they do not eat the cake, they can have some kind of reward. The researcher watches through an invisible glass window to observe the behavior of the children. There are those kids who cannot resist even for a moment to jump on the cake. There are those who try to resist, they bite their hands and turn their heads, and close their eyes. There are those who run away hiding in the corner so that they don’t have to look at the cake.

There are those who can calmly resist the temptation and not jump on the cake. Later in life, researchers found out that the kids who cannot resist temptation are those who fare worse in life. They experienced failure as they did not have resistance and endurance. The kids that have more emotional intelligence become more successful in life because they are stronger, they have the capacity of resilience.

What we need to do is to cultivate our emotional intelligence and not allow our mind to collapse.  When you do something difficult and your mind gets tired and you want to walk away, resist, relax, readjust yourself and carry on. Resist that, okay? When there is something that you don’t like, and you know it is unpleasant to you, don’t just walk away and escape or become angry and upset. Try to resist that temptation of reaction, of negative reaction. When you encounter difficulties, stress and conflict, try to balance between pressure and adaptation.

You don’t have to follow everything. When the pressure mounts, you don’t have to yield. You have to be able to adapt to the situation, not losing everything and also not accepting everything. So, try to be balanced between effort and relaxation. You can make the effort but not too much. You can relax but not too much. Try to be balanced and learn to permanently live with whatever that is difficult with acceptance and peace. So then accept it and try to be positive about it.

Let the buddhi intelligence guide your mind and ego

Now, look at the way how your mind works. Your mind is called your inner instrument, your antakarana.

Your inner instrument has four components: 1.The buddhi, the intellect 2. The manas is the mind/emotions that work with the senses, bringing in the information and attempt to figure out what it is that you see and sense or hear or taste?  3. The chitta is the subconscious mind, the storehouse of information containing all your past experiences, all your samskaras, patterns, habits, personalities. And 4. You have the ego; it means your sense of identification. You have the sense of separateness when you identify with certain characteristics in order to learn your karmic lesson.

If you have no sense of “I”, it is difficult for you to learn your lesson. You will have difficulty if you’re clinging to an idea of the sense of “I” that is limited, that belongs to the past, with things are constantly changing. To deal with the ego, try to be new every day, to be fresh every day, practice yoga and meditation every day, in order for you to be centered, to live in the present and to be detached and to be free.

In summary, in your inner instrument, if you become completely controlled by manas, the emotional mind and the senses, you will suffer for sure.  If you are hankering all the time after ice cream, after chocolate that you don’t have, or the cigarette, or the alcohol or the sex, or whatever– if you are all the time thinking like this, then you will suffer. You do not want the manas to dominate your life.

You don’t like the chitta, the information and experiences of the past to dominate your life either. So also, don’t let the ego that is the false sense of self run your life. The only thing left is the buddhi. The buddhi is the power of intelligence that can go get the information from the manas in order for it to think, then get the information from the chitta in order for it to compare and to think proper, and then to consult the ego in order for the ego to be flexible and to be open to a new possibility. And then the buddhi makes its decision.

Conclusion

In summary, you need to be able to use your buddhi to make wise choices, to make decisions about your life that bring you to happiness, to safety, to true self-confidence and not allow your mind, the manas, the chitta, the ego, to dominate your life. Because this will lead you to suffering. You need to develop your buddhi, you need to develop your thinking, you need to find new ways of learning, of spending your time to increase your intelligence, your emotional intelligence, your choice, your awareness, and your wisdom.

You need to develop self-discipline to control the senses which will make your manas, that sensual and emotional portion of your mind unhappy. Yeah, that portion of your mind will pull on your leg and say I want to eat whatever I want to eat. I want to eat a lot of ice cream.  I like this, I like that. I don’t like this kitcharee, I don’t like this vegetable that you give me.

The manas will protest but you need to increase little by little the self-discipline to guide your mind to wisdom. You need to increase the awareness of your chitta, that very big heavy portion of the mind that is full of past experiences. You don’t allow the past impressions to come and take over your mind and your intelligence because it’s part of the past. You can learn your lessons of the past but don’t let your past, your past personality, your past negative experience overwhelms you and takes over your life.

You have to discriminate and to be aware that this is a past tendency and just the fact that you are aware, things will become better slowly, slowly. Thus, you free yourself from that heavy weight of the chitta subconscious mind of the past. You know that the thoughts from the past will come up in your mind for you to be aware and to learn from them. That’s the whole job.

Let’s say you have a traumatic experience and you’re not dealing with it. Your subconscious mind makes it so you will not be able to sleep well, and you will behave strangely towards people, and so on. So you need to be aware of these thoughts and experiences and let them go. You need to let them go, just watch them and let them go. That’s cleansing. It’s like you clean a dish and there is some dirt on the dish.

You clean it normally, and it doesn’t go, then you have to focus and you have to take a brush and you have to have friction there, and then you let it go. Yes, you would have to let go consciously. Consciously say, “Thank you, you are not serving me anymore. Bye, bye. I love you very much but I let you go. Thank you, bye, bye”. And you let the thought go. That is what you need to do to be free from future suffering.

Regarding your ego, you need to know for sure, at least consciously now, when you are thinking about it with me, that the ego is a non-entity. That means it is not real, it doesn’t have a reality to itself. The reality is, it is temporary, it is only for you to understand lessons, but it keeps changing. So it has no real reality. But if you identify with the personality, with a certain trait or character, that you think is you, that’s when your ego becomes an obstacle for you.

Yoga practices help you to detach from your ego. The ego is not fixed. Some people are more fixed than others, that depends on your personality, on your makeup. Some people are more flexible, they are changing more. That is not necessarily good, because they are not always facing the issue, they just keep changing, running, changing, running.

What you need to do is just to be more aware.  All the Vedic teachings help you to be aware of your instrument. Do not to make the mistake that you are your instrument. In the same manner, you drive a Toyota and you say, “I am Toyota. I am red and I am worth $10,000. And I’m Japanese”. You have mistaken yourself with your vehicle. You need to detach yourself from the instrument, the body and the mind.

What is a good way to develop self awareness? Through Satsanga. During Satsanga, company of wise minds, you learn to listen to higher thoughts, to higher teaching to bring new ideas and to educate your mind. Satsanga is helpful. In a spiritual Yoga community, you live in Satsanga. All the time, you are being reminded, of your tamasic mindset and your rajasic mindset and you keep yourself inspired to stay on the right path and not go back to the past.

You also need self-study and self-observance. That means take time to slow down and study and observe your mind. Read helpful books (not novels and Facebook), but really study Swami Sivananda’s 200 books, for example. Don’t be afraid to study over and over. Repeat again and again because your mind forgets. So, you need to create that positive impression in your mind to help you to think properly.

Let us pray for world peace and health.

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.

Yoga is skill in action

Yoga is skill in action

A webinar by swami Sitaramananda 05/06/21

The law of karma applies to everyone and everything   

The Bhagavad Gita is the scripture of yoga that teaches about the 4 paths of yoga, and the most important teaching is about karma yoga. What Karma does mean?  A lot of people understand Karma wrongly. It simply means action and consequence of action. So, karma is the action that is done by body, by speech and by thought. These actions have consequences. Nothing happens by accident. We usually do not understand the reason that may come from a previous life. We do not remember. We are born in a family, in a country, in circumstances that come from a reason from before.

It is not by accident that we are born in a particular country, that we are a boy or a girl, that we are children of particular parents. Everything has its own reason. What is the reason? The real reason is that you have been born in order for you to learn your karmic lessons, for you to grow. To grow means that you understand the meaning of your life, and you understand that everything that you must experience has a reason. Then you will learn from this experience that is your karma. The word Karma does not mean anything negative, just simply means the law of action and reaction, action, and consequence of action. What you sow is what you reap. This is a universal law.

The other thing we need to understand is that with the law of karma is the law of retribution which means if you do something wrong, you will receive a punishment. Also, there is the law of compensation that means that everything is inter-related and in the big picture, everything is perfect the way it is even though we might not think so.

Karma comes from desire

Where does Karma come from? It comes from desire, where does desire come from? Desire comes from ignorance.  In ignorance, we fail to see that we have everything, that we are pure consciousness and that we are the source of everything. We think that this limited life in this body is our self and we think satisfying our desires in this life is the goal. But we do not realize that we cannot satisfy any desire because desire never stops, you satisfy one desire, another one comes, then another one will come.

That is how you go around, around, around, in that circle of Karma. Karma is depicted as a circle, a wheel, so this life is to experience the result of the desire from past but when you live this life, you react and then you create new desire, and then you must be reborn again to experience or to enjoy or to pay your debt. You constantly create new desire, new karma, that is how it works.

The way of liberation: Paying karmic debts and not creating new

So, the Yogi attempts to not have any desire because he/she knows that it is endless, so they only focus on paying up the karmic debt and at the same time they focus on not creating new karmic debts. In the same manner, with money, you must pay up your debts, but if you keep borrowing more money, then you will have new debts. The smart way is slowly clear up the old debts without creating new debt so that you can be free.

See life differently from the point of view of karma

When you experience the karma it is always difficult. The reason why it is difficult is because you have to go deep inside to understand yourself. Usually, we do not want to do that, we want to blame, we want to run away, and we react. By doing so, we cannot learn the lessons that we are supposed to learn.

There are people that have difficulty to face their karmic challenges and are afraid to live up to their potential due to fears. Yoga described avoidance as coming from the fear of pains and attraction as the dwelling on pleasures. Some people want to avoid life and avoid facing themselves. Some people want life to be only pleasurable. However, is it possible to avoid life?  Is it possible to have only pleasure without pain? Swami Sivananda said that pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. If you are going to experience life then you know life will bring suffering.

Courage is the most important quality, courage to face your own karma. You know that by suffering, you will understand the root causes of the suffering and then you will realize your character, your personality, your habit and this realization and awareness will set you free from repeating the same mistake . Humility will help you to accept things as they are and not the way you would like them to be. Patience and perseverance are also other valuable qualities to allow you to slowly change your character, see everything as an opportunity, and stop blaming.

Awakening from our spiritual ignorance , breaking through the chain of karma

Spiritual ignorance is like this. Spiritual ignorance comes from that false ego identity that is not perfect but fails to see that it is not perfect and always thinks that it is perfect. That is why there are many kinds of yoga that go to the root cause of this phenomenon, the false ego identity. In particular, Karma Yoga, practiced seriously in daily life, helps us to escape the wheel of birth and death. Karma Yoga explains to us what karma is and shows us the way to finish the karma and to find happiness and peace and not always go around and around in this life completely immersed in the struggle of life.

Remember what we really want is absolute happiness

Everyone needs to be conscious of what one really wants. What we really want is happiness absolute, what we really want is freedom from birth and death.  Everyone wants not to be limited, to be everywhere, to be fulfilled.  Everyone wants to know that happiness that is not contradicted, that does not require you to think too much. Isn’t it true?  people who think too much, are they happy? No. In fact, thinking correctly is the way to liberation, but negative thinking leads you to make mistakes and endlessly trying to correct the mistakes you have made.  The wise person is the one who understands that “I don’t want anything. I just want true happiness”.

Our attachments are our obstacles to happiness

THE REASON WHY we cannot get out of this because we are attached.  We are attached to our own thinking, our own feeling, our relationships, and our work. The key word here is attachment. Think about this, if you are attached, you cannot be free and you cannot be liberated.  Why?  Because of the word attachment itself. When you are attached, you cannot be free. Who forces you to be attached if you do not want to be attached?

Your right thinking, your right opinion slowly slowly helps you to get out of yourself.  Right thinking means that you are detached, or you are free from any attachment. Your happiness at that time does not come from your emotion. You understand that your happiness does not come from your thinking.  You understand that your happiness does not come from any relationships. You understand that your happiness does not come from any work you do. You understand that happiness does not come from any kind of special karmic situation.  

Remember the True Self

Before you were attached to this or that karma but now you understand that happiness doesn’t come from this, and you really want to be free. You then become attached to your own Self. It means that you no longer make a mistake between the means and the goal.  The goal is to find happiness and peace, the means is to be mindful, to be aware of your experience of this and that so that you realize your mistake while experiencing your character and your reactive habits. The way to be free is the detachment from what you experience so that you can always remember the true Self.  

The goal of life is not to experience life. Life is just the means, not the goal. To avoid entanglement, you need to really understand very well what freedom is. Freedom from what? Freedom from the causes of suffering. You would then take yourself very seriously to try to disentangle yourself step-by-step.  You don’t expect anybody to free you. You know you would experience the attraction and the pangs of separation, but you are not attached to either.  The wise person always lives in the present, he/she does not live in the past or the future. Why? Because the past and the future brings a lot of thinking. The past will bring thoughts of regrets; the future will bring thoughts of worry. In the present, you have peace.

Think less and immerse yourself in the present

It is said the peace you have in the present is like the space in between two thoughts, for example when you repeat your mantra using the mala bead. At the same time, you channel your thinking by pronouncing the divine sacred name one bead at the time, and at the same time, you imagine you don’t have any other thought in between. Eventually, the beads disappear, the mantras disappear, and there is only the subject. In the same manner, you see the movie screen at the same time you witness all kinds of images of the movies projected on the screen.

If you do not find peace in this film, in this movie, you can always create what you think to be better, may be a more romantic story, may be a more beautiful movie, may be with nice landscapes, may be with a perfect beautiful person etc… you would think that maybe I will be very happy in the next movie but then the next movie will change and then the beautiful film will become some kind of nightmare, full of evil things. The negative is alternating with the positive, there is no movie that will bring you to lasting happiness.  No story whatsoever will bring you peace because you always create a new story imagining all kinds of best scenario.  

Maybe I can be at the beach with my best friend then I will be really very happy, maybe I can be a princess or a queen with her prince, maybe I can be famous with hundreds of thousands subscribers to my social media account … may be I can be that skillful person perfecting my art in this or that. You can go through many many lifetimes, many different scenarios, but you will be always revolving in the same imagination of your mind. That is why it is said that you satisfy one karma, and you create new debts. You create new circumstances you believe that this would be better but that’s how your ignorance goes always, finding fault always. What you need to understand is no circumstance, no story would be better.

No happiness in this world would be perfect because it comes from your mind and imagination. You live in the mountain and you want to live by the ocean, you live in the East and you want to go to the West, you are a male and you would like to become a female, and the person who is female would like to become a male person, the old person wants to become young, the young person wants to become old… You will never find perfection because it’s all creations of your mind. There is always some greed and ignorance.  The idea is not to find any fault with the present,  not to worry,  not to regret, but really try to detach always, detach from what you experience. 

This is called karma yoga. Karma yoga means detachment from what you have to experience, detachment from all relationships, detachment from your mind, detachment from your emotions, from your circumstances. Be the witness, not jumping in the movie and becoming the actor. Slowly the mind will be able to be detached and you will be able to be free from its illusion when you live this life.

Selflessness is the key

The secret, the trick in Karma Yoga is the spirit of selflessness. Selflessness means that you don’t want anything because if you want something you will be stuck in the wheel.

You will be stuck with it from one thing to 2, 3, 4 things. Always you will be desiring perfection, you will be suffering from dissatisfaction, you would think that God is not seeing my need, God is not fair, my loved ones do not understand me and so on.

However, the most important thing is not to have the ego, to be selfless. Not having ego means not having any attachment to the idea of yourself, what you like and what you not like, the idea that you like something and you dislike somebody else.  That is called selflessness, the life that is not depending on the ego.

Liberation comes with doing your duty with detachment

When you liberate yourself, you are not entangling,  you have a bigger picture of life, of yourself and you walk on the path of liberation that is called karma yoga.  Karma yoga here is the path of selflessness. It means you still live this life, but you live this life in a nonattached manner. What does that mean?  it means that you don’t want anything, you just want to do your duty.  In any situation you just want to do your duty and you do the best you can with the attitude of detachment.  This is the secret of Karma yoga to liberate yourself. However, pay attention, do not do somebody else’s duty.

For example, I see this person, she’s not working very well so I jump in and I do her work.  It’s not good, why? because I am doing the duty of somebody else.  My attachment creates this desire to do things. Why?  Because I think that I am better, I do things better; I become attached to this person, I want to do her job thinking that I will be helping her, but I am doing her job and I don’t allow her to have the chance to release herself from the karma. On the contrary, my karma will become heavier because of my attachment.  I need to understand differently and compassionately that this lady is suffering in some way and it’s good for her because she’s learning the lesson of detachment.

If you have the duty to remind the person or to teach the person then this is fine. You will see that most of the time, people will not listen because when people are deep in their karma, they will not be able to listen to helpful advice, coming from you or from someone else. Then you have the temptation to jump in and do all kinds of things, so you are the one that create problems for yourself. So always remember that you need to liberate yourself, that you are the other person indeed, that you want the other person to liberate themselves.

However, they will liberate themselves in due time, when they truly understand their karma and when they truly realize their mistake. You cannot liberate them; you can give them advice, but you cannot liberate anybody else.  Even when you give advice, you have to give advice only when it is your duty to do so, not giving advice to everybody, when not being asked or when it’s not your duty.

Yoga is skill in action

The Bhagavad Gita says Yoga is skill in action. That is the teaching. Skill in doing your duty without likes and dislikes. You do action and at the same time it looks like you are not doing anything. You are involved but it looks like you are not attached.  This is not easy, that’s why scripture said that it is a skill. How to live your life, to love and at the same time not be attached? The key is always you have to remember that the goal of life is liberation from suffering so when you understand this very clearly, you understand that nobody can help you.  This is very difficult because everyone has the expectation that somebody else will free them, somebody else will help them.

Is it not true that when people are young, growing up, so many people suffer because you think that your father and mother would save you? And the father and the mother also have the expectation that you will save them one day. But then you realize that your father and mother live their own karma, and you have to liberate yourself on your own.  You realize that they cannot save you, they have to save themselves.  When you understand this, you will very carefully follow your own karma and liberate yourself. Of course, the guideline is you have to do your duty without attachment. So, if you are a student, you would have to do the duty of the student without expectation. In the same manner, you learn your lessons of self love.

If you suffer from rejection for example, your karma is to learn the lesson of self sufficiency, self-love, but if you have expectation that this person or that person should love you as you love them, and then you blame them, you are not getting the lesson which is the lesson of self sufficiency. You then cannot be free from this tendency of dependency and of expectation and will carry this seed of karma to the next life. It is not easy to be relieved from karma.

Most people will live their life, not being able to release themselves from karma, because they always have this expectation that somebody else will do it for them.  You think somebody else will love you, you blame your relationships, you blame your father/mother, you live your whole life never asking yourself the right question. You get angry, suffer from resentment, you blame others, compare yourself with others and suffer. You do not really see your own attachment to your ego and your own ignorance.

Meditation in action:

The meaning of Bhagavad Gita about “skill in action” is the teaching about meditation in action. You meditate on your life while you are acting and when you live your life, you meditate. You understand that life is meditation, and you understand that you need to really understand what your life is, so that you can be free, and you always remember that in mind that you want to be free. You remember that happiness absolute is from within, happiness absolute is what you are looking for and this life is the opportunity to pay up your karmic debt.  You understand that your life is a result of your past karma, that attachment to the result of your past karma is a mistake and you want to take all opportunities to release yourself from the cycle  of births and deaths.

4 important things to remember:

To summarize, the most important thing to remember from this talk is what is detachment. The 2nd important thing to understand is the words “doing your duty without attachment to results”. The number 3rd important idea is the spirit of selflessness and renunciation, you don’t want anything, you don’t want any benefit, you just want to be detached from everything you want to do your duty, you do not expect anything from your work, you just want freedom and happiness.  You don’t run away from your duty, but you are not attached to it.

Last but not least, you understand that you are the one that can free yourself and nobody can do it for you. Even with the teacher, the teacher can teach you all these things so you can have some clarity in order to apply the teaching in your life, but the teacher cannot do it for you.  If you are hungry, you have to eat for yourself, if you are thirsty, you have to drink, nobody else can really help you.

Please read more the Bhagavad Gita and become expert, a Karma Yogi skillful in action! 

Om shanti

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.

Yoga guidelines for thinking and feeling

Yoga guidelines for thinking and feeling

You are what you think and you are not what you think

Introduction:

When I told this topic to people, people shook head, laughed, wheeled their fingers around by their temples showing signs that they are not understanding why you are what you think and you are not what you think.  

During this webinar we will:

  1. Understand what thought is, and how it works
  2. Breathe and relax and Visualize Self
  3. The 3 levels of mind – how to move from lower mind to higher mind
  4. Practice of conversion of thoughts
  5. Practice of cultivating virtues and eradicating vices

How thought works?

When a thought wave arises in the mind, if you don’t feed into it, the wave falls back into the ocean of consciousness. The wave does not have a reality in itself.  It only has reality as far as you keep feeding it. That is, we name the wave and give it meaning. Feed it, and the thought becomes more solid, and gains more power, and has reality.

We have a choice. We can make these thoughts (whatever they are) the reality, or we can make blissful thoughts reality. Yogis look at the thoughts to understand them, then don’t feed into the thought (give it energy), and let it go. They also can transform the thoughts from darkness to light.

Evolution of the mind

The mind has different levels and functions. The mind is not ourselves. Our thoughts and feelings are not ourselves. We have the tendency to repeat familiar thoughts and feelings and lose ourselves in the thoughts or emotions.

We need to learn to navigate our thoughts and emotions. If we know how to develop our own mind, we will know how to accelerate our process of spiritual evolution. Do we want to evolve? If we ask this question, most of us would say no because they do not know what evolution means. Evolution means coming closer to our core self, our blissful self, satisfying the purpose of our life, being closer to the truth, being truly happy…  that happiness and fulfillment of our soul that last no matter what happens outside.

The Evolution of our mind is directly related to our connection with our blissful consciousness, our Atman.

What is the Atman? Who am I? what is consciousness?

The Self is called the Atman – the Truth about the Self is what we have been looking for all our life. It is our inner motivation. Each person will resonate with different idea about the Atman. You need to choose one word, one qualification and think about it. There are three practices 1. Listening to the scriptures 2. Contemplation, thinking deeply, 3. Realization by direct experience. Now we are listening and contemplating.

  • Vedanta philosophy and quantum physics talked about consciousness as the ground of being.
  • Brahman (or Atman) is absolute pure consciousness, it is satchitananda
  • existence absolute-beyond ages of the body, beyond birth and death
  • knowledge absolute-consciousness, awareness, not thinking automatically, not knowledge coming from the mind.
  • and bliss absolute-complete fulfillment, no desire, no frustration, no complain, happiness without condition, feeling perfection, beyond emotions.
  • Atman gives light and beauty to the universe – it is your own consciousness full of light and beauty that gives beauty to the appearances and the manifestations of nature and its beautiful forms or beings. If you change consciousness, that which was beautiful lost its beauty. Beauty is not depending on the attributes of the body. People have suffered a lot from disillusion from chasing after external beauty.
  • Atman gives intelligence to the mind, shining through the intelligence that you attribute to people. In reality it is the atman that is intelligence shining through.
  • It is unbroken awareness, unbroken sense of Self and of happiness, not functioning automatically out of habit
  • neither inside nor outside, dwelling within, inside inner perception and outer perception of senses, everywhere. The meditator has half eye open, half closed. He or she is living in the world and out of the world in one consciousness only, beyond all conditioning. That is why a person practices to be the same inside and outside to be close to the atman. They would say what they feel, feel what they say and do what they say and feel. They are always the same, independent of where they are, and with who they are.
  • beyond space-time, beyond the mind which is being conditioned by space and time. The more that you will be able to function the same way in all conditions, you come closer to the atman.
  • non local, non material
  • eternally present, it is the truth that is always there, either you are happy or unhappy. Reference to the book “The power of now” of Eckhard Tolle. What ever the problem that you have, just come back to the present, the problem will dissolve by itself. All problems can only come from the past that is also projected in the future. The more we live in the present, the more we come close to the atman.
  • it is the subject, without who nothing exists, it is the master, the boss, the perceiver, not the object of perception. It is the consciousness awareness that sees
  • The atman is not the object, not limited, indescribable, therefore can apply neti neti to refute the superimposed ideas of the mind, after which what remains is the Atman. By being not the object, the atman can not be dependent on something or somebody else. For example you feel valued when somebody praise you and you feel bad when somebody criticize you. At that time you need to come back to yourself and remember that you are the subject. Even when you are serving somebody and try to please somebody, you are aware that you are doing so, and not lose yourself. When you do karma yoga, you have to be conscious of what you are doing. For example you wash dishes but not aiming to finish the task of washing dishes. Instead, you are aware and awake while doing dishes. It is not what you do but the attitude in which you are doing that qualifies this action as liberating karma yoga. In this way the same action makes you a servant or a master.
  • all pervading, everywhere. You can not feel lonely if you realize that.
  • unbounded, free, unlimited, therefore you can not be confined to a place, a relationship, or a condition. In quarantine or lockdown, it will be helpful for people to remember that they are free in truth and not dependent. Sky is the limit when you feel consciousness expanded.
  • unchanged, therefore no grief or surprise or disillusioned when things change (people’s mind and emotions, our own body, our habits, way of living) because it is not true
  • unmoved, stable, giving sense of security
  • Atman is all possibilities, all coming from Atman’s will, so no need to worry
  • undefinable, ungraspable
  • stainless, pure, perfect, not to be found in the relative world which is the mind’s creation and by nature is imperfect.
  • perfect, perceivable through silence not through the mind or emotions
  • beyond attributes,
  • beyond the gunas-  qualities, tamas (darkness), rajas (action), sattva (purity)
  • beyond duality, split, here-there, in-out, this-that, high-low, white-black. No need to go anywhere just have to look within.
  • eternal, not ephemeral
  • having no equal, is one, nothing to compare to, to compete with. That is why do not compare yourself with others.
  • transcendent, transcending the limitations of the mind
  • supreme reality,
  • supreme truth,
  • self luminous, like the sun, does not need anything to give it light
  • fully illumined, bright. If you are close to the atman you feel bright.
  • fully enlightened,
  • self existent, does not need anything to show that it exists, so not lonely
  • undifferentiated, no quality
  • without names and forms, beyond names and forms
  • without parts, cannot be divided
  • transcending appearances which come and go, so we need to see things through the eyes of the soul and avoid disillusion
  • pure love, essence of love, behind all kinds of love, beyond more love or less love. It is 100% love and all the time.
  • unity of consciousness, where all connect, beyond conflicts, beyond differences of wealth (have and have not), culture, gender, race, religion.
  • oneness,
  • beyond action, no need to do anything to find it or to perfect anything
  • aware of ego, sense of separate “I” which manipulates and plays different games
  • aware of mind and emotions, which are not the rulers. Atman is the inner ruler detecting all the changes in the emotions.
  • the knower, it is the subject knowing everything
  • the ruler, the boss
  • the absolute
  • It is compared to the Sun, giving light and life to all,
  • Independent, not dependent on anything
  • and it is the source of all pranas, source of all lives, source of consciousness. When you are closer to the Atman you have more prana, unlimited prana, when you are away from it you have less prana. If you don’t have prana you are far from the atman.
  • Thoughts are waves that rise and fall in this infinite ocean of consciousness.
  • Therefore, it is said you are not what you think.
  • You are the observer, you are not the doer.
  • the witness of your thoughts.
  • You are not your thoughts.
  • All meditators arrive to the same conclusion. They arrive to the experience that the meditator, the object of meditation and the act of meditation become one.
  • The knower, the known and the knowing become one.
  • To answer the question: is consciousness evolving? The answer is no. Consciousness is unchangeable. In fact, it is the veils of consciousness that are changing, being thinned out – as our mind evolves- and this gives us a glimpse of the Light which is Consciousness.

So how to train the mind and unveil the Self?

How to move the mind from lower to higher functioning and be closer to our bliss and truth? We will use the theory of the 3 levels of the mind in order for us to know how to navigate our minds.

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1. The subconscious mind:

  • the base of the triangle, the iceberg is the Subconscious Mind – lower mind
    It is the first phase of the mind.  It is the basic mind from which the conscious mind emerges. It is below the conscious mind; it is controllable by the Conscious Mind.
  • The subconscious mind consists of the unknown, thoughts
    that are HIDDEN, SUBMERGED thoughts;
  • it is very POWERFUL and governs our life 95% of the time.
  • The subconscious mind is the storehouse of PAST experiences
  • and governs many of the AUTOMATIC functions of the body such as breathing, heartbeat, etc.  It also stores the LEARNED EXPERIENCES such as locomotive skills, academic skills, social skills, memories of experiences.  Like a car, you can press cruise control on the highway and be on autopilot.  You can let go.
  • The mind is made of karmic patterns, samskaras. Most of the time we are on AUTOPILOT, following the automatic commands of the subconscious mind.  All the PATTERNS , HABITS of the mind are formed in the subconscious mind.  We talked about KARMIC patterns, karmic tendencies. We can refer to the astrological vedic chart which shows the karmic tendencies through the disposition of the planets (Sun, moon, mars, mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu Ketu).
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Example: the mental patterns in 12 areas of karma

Moon in 1st (self concerned) moon in 2 h (concerned about money, food), moon in third house (concerned about public relations, arts), moon in 4th (likes to love), moon in fifth (likes to learn), moon in sixth (likes conflicts), moon in seventh (likes partner), moon in 8th (likes psychic world), moon in ninth (likes dharma, teacher), moon in ten house (likes to work), moon in 11th (likes gains), moon in twelve house (likes liberation). Other patterns: Moon alone (isolation, feeling lonely), moon mars (fast emotions, action oriented), moon Saturn (introvert), moon Jupiter (generous, broad vision) moon rahu (delusional), moon ketu (detached), moon sat mars (perfectionistic), moon hemmed (tense), full moon (empathetic), exalted moon (lots of emotions), moon debilitated (narrow mind, attached)

  • The subconscious mind is instinctive. It is the seat of our  ANIMAL INSTINCTS:
    Instincts are fast, strong, powerful and irresistible.

Survival – sometimes you don’t understand how people survive, they live in certain conditions, it’s incredible, but you know that the instinct of survival is alive and strong.  We will do what is necessary to survive.  The way to transcend the survival instinct is to offer others food, transcending the impulse to feed yourself first according to your hunger.

Procreation – we find a mate to reproduce the body.  The sexual (procreative) instinct is second after breathing.  Think about this, it governs your life.  Because it’s in the subconscious mind, it means that you are not aware of it, but it is governing your thoughts and actions.  You want to dress in nice clothes, have nice hair, etc., all to find a mate. 

Herd – follow the crowd.  We don’t want to stick out.  If the crowd says this is the way to behave, then you follow because you want to fit in.  You may not know how to fit in, but you just want to fit in, i.e., you are vegetarian, others are not.  Then you feel very strange, not at ease.  Because our instinct is pulling us to be part of the group.  We transcend the herd instinct with satsang, being in the company of the wise who seek the Truth of their own Self, not depending on others to feel safe and secure.

Territorial – we want to have our own kingdom, like the dog that marks his territory, this is my area, then they growl at us.  Emotions associated with the territorial instinct include fear and jealousy.  Animals that act out of their survival instinct compete with each other to find a mate; have a leader; 2 of them fight to establish who is in charge.  Some animals learn how to cooperate.  Human beings can move beyond the territorial instinct through cooperation and community.

  • The subconscious is emotional
    It is the seat of our LOWER EMOTIONS: anger, fear, greed, hatred, jealousy, envy, hatred, lust. These powerful emotions feel strong and lead us on the roller coaster.  Emotional impulses are imperative to us and difficult to resist.  To function in the conscious mind means we have to resist the emotions, the herding instinct, territorial instinct, procreative instinct, etc., resist our habits, to be strong in the present.

  • The subconscious is the seat of habits. Make use of good habits but do not be victim to habits
    All thought patterns (habits) are lodged in the subconscious.  Habits of waking up at a certain time, habit of walking, talking, meditation hours, eating hours.  These are all habits that we can create in our subconscious mind.  Create positive habits and you will not be victim to habits. 
    The conscious mind is in charge, able to adapt to changing circumstances as needed. We Learn by Trial and Error.Errors are stepping-stones to success.  Awareness means to pay attention, to be conscious.  Awareness means we make the effort to learn from our mistakes. 
    Examples: Learning how to drive; A baby learning how to walk; Learning headstand

  • Using autosuggestion: The subconscious mind is your 100 secretaries
    Like a computer with hidden software programmed to run a certain way, the subconscious mind can be your servant, just like having one-hundred secretaries working for you.  For example, you can use autosuggestion to wake up at a certain time.  You need to remove the old software when it becomes obsolete, otherwise it can run against your will.

2. The Conscious Mind

  • Conscious mind is our capacity to make choices.
  • We make choices in the present. 
  • The conscious mind guides the subconscious mind; that is its role.

The conscious mind is more mature, closer to the truth.  The conscious mind is higher than the emotions and the instincts. The subconscious needs to be guided by the conscious mind.
The subconscious mind needs to be guided by the conscious mind, like a child submitting his will to a more mature elder.  The conscious mind’s decisions supersede the lower mind’s wants, being itself inspired by the super-conscious mind.

  • Conscious mind uses intellect.The conscious mind is our reasoning power. The conscious mind makes decisions by analyzing the pros and cons of any given situation. One needs to develop one’s faculty of reasoning.  If you do not use it, you lose it.  We need to develop our discrimination and detachment.
  • For the person not on their journey toward self-transformation, the conscious mind is not often used.  We function automatically throughout the day and think very little.
  • Intellect can make mistakes
    Even though more reliable and superior to the emotional mind, the intellect is limited and can make mistakes.  It cannot perceive the Truth and is limited by time, space and causation. 
    A finite instrument cannot perceive the Infinite.
  • Self-awareness and ego
    With the development of the conscious mind comes the faculty of self-awareness.  Self-awareness is knowing one’s self as a separate ego – not to be mistaken as True Self Awareness which knows One’s Self as One in all apparent names and forms.  A conscious mind that has not been purified can be egoistic.
  • The conscious mind is pulled by the subconscious mind
    The conscious mind can be usurped by the lower mind.  The intellect can be colored by the wrapping of the emotions.  This is how we make excuses and rationalize our decisions.
  • Self-enquiry is to use the intellect to discriminate between real and not real
    That is why one needs to question one’s true motivation and remind oneself of one’s true purpose.
  • The conscious mind helps us to own the present
    To be aware is to feel empowered and alive in the present.  The subconscious mind lives in the past.  Dwelling in the past causes us to feel victimized and powerless.

“The present is superior to the past”

Swami Sivananda


“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness from which it was created.”  

Albert Einstein

Dwelling in the mental patterns of the past can never solve the problem.  Only by coming to the present do we free ourselves from the past and open up to all possibilities, where the solutions to our problems lie.

  • Live in the eternal present

The past feels secure.
The present feels difficult to grasp.
The future is uncertain.
In fact, the past is dead.
The present is Real.
The future does not have to be a replica of the past.
If you hold the present you hold the future.
If you hold the past you are victim to the future.

3. Super-conscious – intuitive higher mind

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  • The superconscious mind (sometimes called supramental) is the seat of intuition.
  • Intuition allows us to know in a flash and does not make mistakes.  Intuition comes from a sattvic mind and is not an impulse which comes from the emotional, lower mind – even though they look alike.
  • The super conscious mind is warm, nice, immediate, powerful and will not make mistake, being closer to the truth. The conscious mind can be perceived as cold by the emotional mind which desires feelings of warmth.  When the conscious mind works in cooperation with the super-conscious mind, it will gain approval, and the subconscious mind will calm down. 
  • The conscious mind takes time to think properly.  The intuitive mind is immediate. However, we can make mistake and go to the subconscious mind instead which is powerful, fast, and instinctive. When we don’t have time, it is easier to go with the subconscious mind.  Better to take time and think properly than to make things worse. 
  • The super-conscious, intuitive mind has feeling, higher feeling of pure love and unity.  It is luminous, warm, it considers everything, transcends time and space, and is closer to the truth.  To make a conscious decision, we need to consider all the facts.  Intuitive thinking knows past, present and future; it knows right away.
  • Intuitive feelings are different than emotional impulses even though they act alike, fast, feel strong, and we cannot resist. If we follow the emotional impulse, it will lead us down, we’ll be let down eventually.  But intuitive thinking will lift us up, and we will not suffer from our decision.
  • The subconscious mind tries to pull the conscious mind down to use for its advantage.
    By contrast, the super-conscious mind inspires the conscious mind, pulling it up. Most of our efforts are to keep the inspiration going, to give us energy, prana, joy, to do good things, to keep the inspiration.
  • How do you get the inspiration if the subconscious mind is too loud? Through satsang, association with people who are inspired; or through scripture, to give us direction, a voice of the Truth. 
  • The super-conscious mind inspires the intellect upward.  It is correct and warm at the same time.  Pure love is correct and warm.
  • Intuition is universal, connecting the mind to its source of wisdom.  The lower mind will act selfishly to fulfill its desires.  The intuition goes beyond all reasoning and yet is not crazy like unbridled emotions.
  • The super-conscious is not the Absolute Truth even though it is higher and is more trustworthy than the intellect.  It is our higher faculty to access knowledge that is to be developed.

4. Navigating the 3 minds – The Yogi’s Journey

The yogi’s journey is an inversion of the triangle.  [Show inverted triangle picture.]  

The yogi endeavors to become aware of the contents of the subconscious mind, to be guided by the intuition.  The yogi keeps the automatic functions to a minimum and is no longer guided by instinct, emotions, past programming and likes and dislikes.  Using the conscious mind, the yogi thins out the veils of the lower mind to see the Reality, the Truth.

Develop 3 levels of mind to accelerate the process of self development

In conclusion the aspirant . . .

  • Develops awareness
  • Exercises reasoning
  • Surrender one’s will to a higher will
  • Overcomes unconscious and base instincts
  • Practices consciously Sadhana to accelerate the process of moving from darkness to light

5. What happens during meditation?

1. Subconscious imprints are cleaned up. Problems are resolved by themselves.

2. Conscious mind is activated and becomes clear.

3. Super-conscious can operate – intuition dawns.

6. Beyond the 3 Minds

Beyond the 3 minds is the Atman, the Absolute Consciousness, the ground of being, the pure, unborn and eternal.

Existence Absolute
Knowledge Absolute
Bliss Absolute

  • Exercises of thought conversion (from lower mind to higher mind), and from negative to positive mind, from tamasic rajasic to sattvic pure mind.  By thinking about something, you will become. However, you are not your thoughts so you can change your thoughts to the opposite. In general you need to counteract the tendency of the mind. The more you do this exercise, the more you will become expert in manipulation of your thoughts from negative to positive and eventually your sattvic mind will be able to reflect your true nature. Eventually all the angularities of your mind will become smooth. That is why we live in community so our mind will friction with each other and one day we will detach from the mind.

Positive words to think about

Thinking about these words can eventually lead you to the light: this is what you want your mind to be

Happy: not permanent happiness but general disposition of the mind.
Joyful: general disposition to be joyful will give you more prana
Healthy: do not think about disease but think about health
Loving: towards everybody, it is the quality of your heart
Compassionate:
Knowledge: to learn, to become curious about knowledge to get out of ignorance
Wise: in order to choose the right response when face with conflicts
Upwards: feeling to move upwards
Expanded: feeling to be big and great
Selfless: not egoistic
Disciplined: in a positive manner, i.e. do the right things at the right time
Uplifted: feeling light 
Light: instead of heavy
Forgiving: not holding any grudge towards anybody
Wholesome: feeling together, feeling oneness
armonious:
Peaceful
Creative
Productive
United
Thoughtful: instead of being indifferent and insensitive
Sensitive
Empathy
Courageous: very important quality, it allows you to change
Flexible: adaptable
Flowing: floating with life instead of being stagnant
Growing: going upwards
Devotional: love for the highest in your heart
Faith: it will make you peaceful and secure, opposite of doubt
Focused: it helps you to be present
United: not separated towards anybody
Strong: just being yourself not abusive but anchored in your self
Calm:
Equanimity: evenness of mind, not up and down and high and low
Tranquil:
Serene:
Forbearing: be able to bear and keeping calm in difficulties
Honest
Content: not desirous, restless
Blissful:
Truthful
Independent: self-reliant
Surrendered: having faith, relaxed, no need to control everything
Forward: feeling of moving forward
Bright
Soft spoken: do say things but nicely
Non Violent: ahimsa
Respectful
Austere: not indulgent
Detached: opposite of attached  
Vigilant:
Clear mind
Even mind
Adaptable
Beautiful: see beauty, feel beautiful
Connected: connected to Self, to the universe, connected to others to feel strong
Relaxed: not stressed
Moderate: not extreme
Balanced
Considerate
Dispassionate: detached while being fulfilled, does not mean being bored

Words to convert to opposite

Opposite of Unhappy— happy
Opposite of Depressed— joyful, energetic
Opposite of Unhealthy — healthy
Opposite of Hatred— loving. To completely avoid using word hatred.
Opposite of Judgmental, which is thinking out of ego— accepting, tolerant
Opposite of Chaotic— harmonious
Opposite of Undisciplined— disciplined
Opposite of Lazy: enthusiastic
Opposite of Slothful: caring
Opposite of Unrighteous: righteous
Opposite of Careless: caring
Opposite of Angry: being content, letting go of expectation
Opposite of Revengeful: forgiving
Opposite of Restless: peaceful
Opposite of Fearful: courageous
Opposite of Anxious: having faith
Opposite of Worried: having faith
Opposite of Shy: self-confident
Opposite of Doubtful: having faith
Opposite of being stuck: feeling flowing
Opposite of Stagnant: felling progress
Opposite of Irresponsible: responsible
Opposite of Jealous: accepting own karma, accepting self
Opposite of Envious: be more realistic about who you are, content
Opposite of Skeptical: having faith
Opposite of Proud: humble
Opposite of Abusive: respectful
Opposite of Frustrated: accepting
Opposite of Irritable: patient
Opposite of Arrogant: humble
Opposite of Selfish: selfless
Opposite of feeling Limited: feeling expanded, unlimited
Opposite of Rigid: being flowing, flexible, adaptable
Opposite of feeling Downward: feeling upwards
Opposite of Indulgent: disciplined
Opposite of being Addictive: being disciplined
Opposite of Crazy: orderly, grounded
Opposite of Self doubt: having faith in Self
Opposite of Self hatred: Self-love
Opposite of Spiteful: forgiving
Opposite of Dishonest: honest
Opposite of Manipulative: straightforward
Opposite of Lustful: pure
Opposite of Unstable: stable
Opposite of Attached: detached
Opposite of Possessive: generous, sharing
Opposite of Self righteous: self-surrendered
Opposite of Contempt: respect, humble
Opposite of Vicious: considerate, ethical
Opposite of Sinful: dharmic
Opposite of Perverted: pure, good
Opposite of Procrastinating: do it and surrender results
Opposite of Pessimistic: optimistic
Opposite of Feeling Lack: feeling fulfilled
Opposite of Naïve: realistic
Opposite of Inconsiderate: considerate
Opposite of Weak: strong
Opposite of Feeling Empty: feeling fulfilled
Opposite of Desirous: content
Opposite of Greed: generous
Opposite of Exaggerating: being truthful
Opposite of Imbalanced: balanced
Opposite of Inconsistent: consistent
Opposite of Wasteful: conservative
Opposite of being Mean: being generous
Opposite of Stingy: generous
Opposite of being Sensual: being austere, turning inwards
Opposite of Worldly: going inwards

8. Exercises of thought cultivation: eradicate vices and cultivation of virtues

Monday: detachment / attachment
Tuesday: courage/ fears, anxieties
Wednesday: compassion/ judgmental
Thursday: faith/ doubts
Friday: charity/ greed
Saturday: patience/ impatience
Sunday: forgiveness/ narrow-mindedness
January: austerity/ indulgence
February: generosity/ stinginess
March: vigilance/ slothfulness
April: pure love / lustful
May: creativity/ stagnant
June: forgiveness/ vengeful
July: equanimity/ bias
August: serenity/ disturbed
September:  Straightforwardness/ hypocrisy
October: adaptability/ rigidity
November: self discipline/ distracted
December: charity, selflessness / egoism

Yoga Guidelines for conscious self healing and healing of the Earth

Yoga Guidelines for conscious self healing and healing of the Earth

A satsang with swami Sitaramananda

May 3rd 2020 edited

Introduction:

The talk today is about Self Healing and Healing of the environment using Yogic principles. The word Yoga here implies classical Yoga taught holistically in a philosophical traditional background and not just modern urban commercial exercise Yoga taught in a hectic stressful environment. This is an appropriate topic in the context of our public and personal health and immunity crisis due to the outbreak of Corona virus. We just celebrated the 50th Earth day in the middle of the pandemic. We also face more and more Mother Nature protests in forms of global warming, tidal waves, droughts, forest fires and floods.

Our urban and artificial societies are more and more sick and dependent on drugs and medication, feeding on processed food with little prana and creating health problems such as obesity, cancer, cardio vascular and digestive problems, and most recently respiratory problems. Our minds are full of disturbed media scenes of sex and violence, instead of experiencing mountains, sky, water and plants around us. Our world leaders are themselves alienated from nature and our corporations motivated by short term profits, lead us away more and more from our peace and health.

Overall we are externally driven, feeling unstable and empty. Again, we revisit the the old idea of the correspondence between individual health, public health and health of the planet we live in and what can we do about it? How do we balance ourselves in a world out of balance? How to keep our faith and hope and do the right thing in this world in crisis? Together let’s explore the philosophical and practical foundation for a life in Total Harmony with Nature and let’s face our spiritual ignorance(avidya) at the root of our mistaken identity and mistaken perception of the environment we live in. 

There will be a few sections to our talk today:

  1. What is Health according to classical Yoga? What is Healing? what is Self Healing?
  2. What are the principles to follow and certain behaviors to abstain from in order to address the root causes of our physical-mental spiritual ill health? 
  3. What are the behaviors to adopt in order to improve our energy and our body-mind-spirit health?
  4.  How do we apply these principles to the environment? How do we harmonize with the world of nature and with the Cosmic Spirit behind it? Let’s get familiar with some examples of restrictions and observances we can follow when come to the environment.
  5. Vedanta philosophy applied to the environment.  Is there any difference between the inner and outer reality? The individual and the collective energy? How to reconcile material universe and spirit? How do we solve the problems of division, separation and lack of unity? How do we practice unity in diversity?

What is Health?

Swami Sivananda said that “the laws of health are the laws of nature and they should not be violated. He said that there is an intimate connection between the mind and the body. And all diseases take their origin in the mind. The pains that affect the physical body are called secondary diseases, while the vasanas that affect the mind are termed mental and primary diseases. If bad thoughts are destroyed, all bodily diseases will vanish. Treat the mind first. Mental health is more important then physical health. “

Ayurveda says that the prime cause of disease is forgetfulness of our true Nature as Spirit. This means that when we are forgetful, we identify with body and mind vehicle as ourselves and make wrong decisions about lifestyle or about our path to happiness, thus we bring upon ourselves stress and tension leading to diseases. Yoga talks about holistic healing, i.e. healing of body mind spirit.

What is Healing? What is Self Healing?

Yoga talks about the free flow of prana and changing our vibratory level. Ayurveda talks about restoring balance and health getting back to Nature. Vedanta talks about rememberance of our True Self (the Atman) as the ultimate Truth and to have an attitude of detachment towards what the body and mind can come up with as reality. Healing means ceasing to forget ourselves in our constant identification with the body and mind. 

Healing means to realize that we are Pure consciousness behind all things including our body.  

Healing means ceasing to identify with our separated-ness but to see the Oneness. Healing means to cease to identify with our vehicles, and to see

through the veils of consciousness (our body, our prana, our mind, emotions and senses, our intellect and ego). At the same time, healing means connection with Nature and not just indulgence in technology. The Healing journey is a long way. In that journey, we need self aware teachers and leaders who have found the way to peace themselves.

Self Healing means Self Realization, realization of our divine connection with nature and spirit in nature.  It implies changing of one’s own consciousness and lifestyle to come closer to the Truth.

The opposite of it is, getting lost in the habits and mental grooves of the past, getting lost in the restlessness and the desires in an unceasing pursuit of external happiness, and getting lost in the promise of more power in a more advanced technological society. The yogic guidelines for conscious self-healing help us to correct our thinking and isolated feeling, alleviate our sufferings, become clearer in our perceptions of our own self and love of others, and bring us closer to true Health, Peace and Self realization.

Self Healing success is when we are able to break through the chain of karma. In other words, success is being able to retrain ourselves not to repeat the same pattern of conditioned behavior which binds us. The reason why we are not happy comes from the fluctuations of the mind and the constant replaying of its unhealthy patterns. The mind keeps projecting thoughts and emotions that were gained through past experience and reacts to them, thus keeping us bound in the mirage of its own creation. We experience the roller coaster of our mind and emotions and miss out on the rewarding and fulfilling experience of being our own peaceful, loving, happy, present, blissful Self.

2. The foundations of Yoga: the yamas (restrictions) and niyamas (observances).

The yoga masters have given us guidelines for conscious self-development that go to the root cause of our suffering by consciously correcting the course of our actions. We train ourselves in two ways: on one side guarding ourselves not to misbehave, thus repeating our patterns leading to suffering (these are the yamas); and on the other side, actively cultivating positive attitudes and helpful conducts (these are the niyamas). Thus we straighten out our mind, squeezing the impurities out of our mind from both sides, the “not to do’s” and the “to do’s”.

The mind in its pure state is capable of reflecting our beautiful Self or Atman in all situations, in ourselves and others. By purifying the mind, we alleviate our ups and downs, our inner turmoil and conflicts, and we feel free. Otherwise we struggle to remember ourselves and spend our energies in distractions and forgetfulness. The ideal is reached when there is no more forgetfulness of Self and one relaxes in the Peaceful Being.

The Yamas and Niyamas are universal guidelines that if followed will improve our lives in the long term and help remove obstacles stemming from our karmic tendencies, character defects, and bad habits. These guidelines address the fundamental egoistic and desiring nature of ourselves. One might find a character defect more dominant than another but working with one will bring light to the others as well. No one can be exempt from working on oneself.

In the same manner, we expect everyone to follow the rules of traffic, driving on the proper side of the road and observing traffic signals. The Yamas (restrictions) and Niyamas (observances) are to be consciously practiced in thought, word and deed. However, it is important to realize that these self healing guidelines do not turn into judgment to be interpreted as rigid moral rules.  In Truth, the Self is One. The bottom line is that we are one Universal Spirit in myriad expressions.

3. What are the principles to follow and certain behaviors to abstain from in order to address the root causes of our physical-mental spiritual ill health? 

  • Yamas: Restraints (The Things Not to Do)

1/ – Ahimsa:  Ahimsa is the practice of controlling the emotion of anger. Anger comes from selfish desires or expectations unfulfilled. Selfish desire comes from our failure to recognize our fulfillment in the True Self, and our looking for happiness in external objects or situations. Ahimsa means restraining oneself from the reactive tendency to be angry when one’s desires are not met, or the tendency to abuse others and enter into conflicts or wars.

Raja yoga methods to deal with anger: The antidote of anger is contentment or letting go of expectation, accepting that, “It is not my will, but God’s will”. The practice of Non violence requires calmness, courage, self control, self restraint and the practice of serenity. Practice of ahimsa leads one to develop good quality of the heart and leads one to develop mercy, kindness, unselfishness, patience, forgiveness, pure Cosmic Love, compassion, perseverance and peace. If we practice ahimsa, we will be able to maintain durable, positive and loving relationships. To note that one can act out of dharma-righteousness in the spirit of selflessness without being violent or selfish.

Karma Yoga methods: Do service to others to develop love and equal vision instead of basing one’s life on one’s needs, desires and egoism.

Bhakti Yoga methods:  Connect with the secure and fulfilled Divine Love. Trust that the Divine has a plan for each person and surrender to the Divine Plan. Contemplate and glorify the Divine Mother, God, Nature, the Universe. Find acceptance. Practice of listening, giving, serving, humility, remove pride, cultivate devotion and practice friendship with all.

Jnana Yoga methods:  Do self enquiry. Remind of the SatchitAnanda Atman beyond desires. Discriminate and detach from situation that causes irritations. Seeing the big picture.

2/. – Satya:  Satya means truthfulness– It deals with our fear of not meeting our goals, in the eyes of ourselves or others. Fear comes from attachment. We will not be afraid if we do not have any attachment. In truth, we can not gain nor lose anything externally – either name, fame, prestige, position or love because we are already perfect in ourselves and we can not be greater or smaller then what we already are.

Applying Satya, we refrain from the tendency to exaggerate, to manipulate others, or to tell lies in order to achieve an egoistic goal. Sincerity, honesty and straightforwardness will help to simplify and clear the mind, thus achieving inner peace. Purity, Peace and Truth are synonymous terms. Truth comes in the form of righteousness, justice, harmony, ahimsa, harmlessness, forgiveness, impartiality, transparency, desirelessness, modesty, goodness, renunciation magnanimity, nobility, devotion, compassion.

The opposite of truth is deception, falsehood, dishonesty, exaggeration, twisting, egoism, lies, crookedness, manipulation, meanness, dissimulation, cowardice, fear, lack of courage.

Benefits of truthfulness: Health, fearlessness, freedom, clarity, wisdom, strong faith and absence of anxiety. Lies and fearful living create blockages t the flow of prana.

Raja Yoga methods: Calm and clarify the mind through the 8 limbs to discern the truth within that is beyond all concepts of the mind.

Bhakti Yoga methods: Be transparent and humble. Surrender to God’s will. Keep love and faith while cultivating Satsanga with truthful and virtuous people. We count on God to give us what we deserve or need and not what we desire. Making amends, atonements, confessions asking for forgiveness and humble attempts to come closer to the source of Being that is Truth.

Karma Yoga methods: Surrendering of doership and offering of the results of one’s actions, staying even in success or failures will remove fears and anxieties which can lead to lies. The motivation is being kept pure.

Jnana yoga methods: enquire into the nature of ephemeral gains. Examine the attachments and the tendencies of the mind of likes and dislikes. Contemplate and discriminate between the truth and untruth, the real and the illusory, the Self and the Not self. It is the beginning of Healing.

3/ – Brahmacharya:  

Brahmacharya is control or sublimation of the sensual and sexual drive and deals with the emotion of Desire and Lust. Through practicing brahmacharya, we can restrain the tendency to seek sensual pleasures as the goal of life, and to misuse our sexual energy–which is be converted into spiritual energy. This guideline advises us to avoid sexual misconduct and to regulate our impulses, question our motives, and help bring clarity to our human interaction. Applying Brahmacharya in our dealings with others, we will be able to transform our emotional and desirous nature into a fulfilling relationship with the Divine, based on devotion and pure love.

The sexual instinct is the strongest instinct in us, stemming from the instinct of reproduction. It involuntarily prompts a person to the sexual act for the preservation of his species. It is in reality, the creative force in man. It comes from Rajas; Sexual energy can be transmuted into spiritual energy by pure thought. The practice of Brahmacharya is the practice of Purity, to be practiced along with ahimsa, and satya. It is a dynamic conversion process, not a matter of suppression or repression. The reproductive energy is transmuted and transformed into Ojas Shakti or spiritual power.

Truth can not dwell where passion lives. The Atman is sexless.

Raja Yoga methods: By right diet, asana, pranayama, turning inwards of the senses, concentration on sublime thoughts, meditation, japa, worship, the sexual energy is converted into Ojas Shakti.

Bhakti Yoga methods: By intense devotion to one’s pure ideal, the energy of desire for union can be sublimated into pure love.

Karma Yoga methods: By dedicating oneself to the service of the ideal divine beloved, one can elevate this instinctive self-serving energy of desire into the selfless impulse to do good for a larger whole.

Jnana Yoga methods: By seeing the other as one’s own Self, one can disassociate with the idea of a desirable mate. Through the sophisticated development of pure intelligence, we can discriminate between the mental habits of accumulated instinctual lifetimes and the Atman. The practice of Purity allows us to aspire to taste the super sensual Atmic bliss. Healing of the Mind and the emotions that leads to the recovery of the True Self often starts with the calming of passion.

4/. Asteya:  non stealing, not taking what doesn’t belong to you.

It is also non-covetousness. It deals with our tendency towards jealousy and envy. Observing this guideline will counteract our tendency to give in to our desires, or think that satisfying material desires is the goal of life. It will help us to be content, knowing that what is supposed to come to us by our own karmas and merits will come naturally, without our manipulation or intervention.

Raja Yoga methods: be content with simple life, count your blessings, practice of giving instead of taking or stealing.

Bhakti Yoga methods: See someone’s happiness as your own. Keep good relationships and pure love. Surrender the ego.  

Karma Yoga methods: Accept our karmas, and do our duty, let go of results. Understand that it is better to work through one’s own karma rather than someone else’s karma.

Jnana Yoga methods: Know that all is impermanent and desires are illusory and changing. 

5.- Aparigraha:  

Aparigraha means non-accumulation or non-acceptance of bribes. It deals with our tendency towards greed. Observing this guideline counteracts our tendency to think that the more we attain or possess, the more we will be safe and secure. It further guides us not to forfeit our soul to the material life, and to cultivate an attitude of detachment towards material possessions. Leading a simple life allows the spirit to remain light, detached and self-reliant. It also helps us in our dealings with others to be strong and free as others can manipulate our weakness by bribery.

Raja Yoga methods: The opposite of greed is charity, austerity, sacrifice, simplicity and renunciation. Avoiding distractions, keeping discipline and focus will help avert the tendency towards indulgence in what one’s likes.

Bhakti Yoga methods: connect with the secure and fulfilled divine love. The sublimation method is to give in charity to spiritual or humanitarian institutions.

Karma Yoga methods: Actively helping the downtrodden, the poor, lonely and forgotten.

Jnana Yoga methods: Patanjali said that the conquest of greed leads to one’s true meaning of life and the knowledge of the purpose of birth. The purpose of birth is Self Realization, to see Spirit in Matter. Accumulation of matter and negligence of Spirit lead us away from this truth.

  • What are the behaviors to adopt in order to improve our energy and our body-mind-spirit health?

5 Niyamas: Observances (The Things to Observe or to Do)

1, – Saucha:  Saucha is purity. This observance will help us to counteract impurities in our bodies, minds, and outer environments, and help us come into deeper contact with our true selves. By purifying the emotions and thoughts, which are like coverings over our eyes, we can begin to see more clearly and gain a truer perspective.

Raja Yoga methods: The practice of the 5 points Yoga life(asana, pranayama, relaxation, diet, positive thinking, meditation) nurtures sattva and purify the mind and heart.

Bhakti Yoga Methods: Devotion and humility purify the heart and bring pure love. Devotion and love help one to overcome hatred, guilt and grief. 

Karma Yoga methods: Selflessness purifies the ego and its likes and dislikes, its attachments and aversions. By helping people with the same problems as yours, one gains perspective and regains the sense of Self Worth.

Jnana Yoga methods: We can be lost in the feelings of guilt, shame or grief. However, difficult it might be, remember the pure, the brilliant, the limitless, the stainless atman, untouched by any happenings and impurities. Try to forgive the past and feel strong in the present.  Remember that the mind is a distorted, imperfect instrument for seeing the true Self and reality. Remember the false self, the ego, that is attached to its own impurities. Remember not to forget ourselves, to turn within and to remember ourselves. This will dispel darkness and brings about light.

2/.  Santosha:  Santosha is contentment. This practice will help us counteract the tendency to look externally for happiness and become dissatisfied with our lots in life, rather than counting our blessings. Through practicing Santosha, we begin to realize that God’s grace is always with us.

Raja Yoga methods: The 5 points Yoga Life helps to calm the restless mind and turns it inwards. Concentration and meditation thin out the mind activities.

Bhakti Yoga methods: Praise the wisdom of the Supreme and know that all is taken care of. Surrender to God’s will and accept all as Prasad.

Karma Yoga methods: Serve others less fortunate then yourself, think of others who are more sick then you, this will keep the mind contented.

Jnana Yoga methods: See the whole world as your own home, and the wealth of Nature as your own wealth. Remove the I and mine and you will be contented.

3.- Tapas:  Tapas means austerity. This practice will help us to counteract the belief that comforts of the body and mind are the goals of life. It will help us avoid imprisonment in the sensual, limited life that is governed by the mind and the senses. Tapas will help us to assert our supremacy over the mind and emotions, freeing us and give the power back to the spirit. All practice of self restraint to turn the mind inwards is tapas. The world under lock down is practicing tapas. There are many forms of tapas. Bear insults, injury persecution, discomfort and fatigue are all forms of tapas.

Raja Yoga methods: all 8 limbs of Raja Yoga can be considered as training tapas. Meditation is the highest form of tapas.

Bhakti Yoga methods: Keeping the emotions controlled for the sake of Pure Love is emotional tapas. Keeping faith and loyalty instead of doubts and changing loyalty are mental tapas. Listening to scriptures, mantra chanting are tapas.

Karma Yoga: Serving all, willingly, at any time, all the time is tapas. Adapting oneself to the needs of service is tapas. Doing any kind of service whether one likes it or not is tapas.

Jnana Yoga methods: Keeping vigilance in Self Enquiry is tapas. Keeping discrimination, detachment, self remembrance are all forms of tapas.

4. – Swadhyaya and Ishwara Pranidhana: Self Study and Self Surrender: Swadhyaya is the study of scriptures. Doing this will help us to counteract the idea that only what we can see and what people tell us about ourselves is true. The scriptures, on the contrary, tell us of a reality beyond the normal perceptions and glorify the true Self; they will inspire us in our search for Truth.

– Ishwara-pranidhana:  Ishwara-pranidhana means self-surrender to God or a higher power. Self-surrender counteracts our tendency to think that we are the best and the top, that we have all the powers and that we are controlling our lives. With this egoistic bend of our mind, we do not have to adjust or accept something that is not to our liking, so we blame and resent instead of trying to see the big picture. Practicing self-surrender will help us work through our karmas by practicing acceptance and knowing that everything happens for a reason.

  • How do we apply these principles to the environment? What is the relationship between self healing and healing of the Earth? Examples of restrictions and observances when come to the environment.

The prana that we bring through Yoga practice has a healing effect upon our environment as well as ourselves. Self healing and healing of the Earth happen simultaneously. Yoga framework, the Yamas and niyamas, can become the spiritual guidelines for the ecological movement.

Yoga can contribute an integrate way of working with the forces of life to aid in the process of purification (Saucha) of the planet, as people become more still and content (santosha) , less indulgent and weak, being able to cooperate with Nature (Tapas), becoming more and more aware of the interdependence of things ( through study of sacred scriptures) and last but not least, by being able to surrender to the Supreme Being, thus not thinking that we as specie is the Master of the Universe (ishwara pranidhana).

As we elevate ourselves, and align ourselves with yogic principles, we as a collective can act responsibly and respectfully, abstaining from creating harm to the environment and others (ahimsa), we come close to the truth of Oneness of all Beings (satya), we control our desires and passions (brahmacharya) , we become content and respectful, not  taking what doesn’t come to us naturally (asteya) and most importantly we are refraining from greed (aparigraha) which is at the root of so many environmental harmful activities .

By bringing in these higher sattvic energies, and staying away from rajasic and tamasic energies, Yoga has the potential to help the world. The most remarkable things I have seen being reported during these days of global lockdown are the diminishing of city pollution (Himalayas ranges are being seen from Delhi!), the appearance of wild animals even though apparently the dancing dolphins in the canals of Venice was fake news, they were being spotted nearby in the waters but not in the canals of Venice.

Yoga movement hopefully is moving from just simply self concerned exercises to conscious improvement of our lifestyle, our way of eating, sleeping, entertaining ourselves and consumption. Yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle automatically connect all with Natural methods of self healing by elevating our consciousness how to increase our supply of prana through the elements and how to balance ourselves.

Automatically Yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle will reduce the impact upon the environment when people follow vegetarian diet and stop the cruelty to animals and exploitation of our natural environment. Yogic lifestyle value simplicity and self restraint and automatically affect the way we consume and the excesses that come from a consumer society. Hopefully, the days and months under locked down, help us to curb our desires and needs for more stuff and help us realize that we can survive on the bare minimum and be healthy and happy. We need to contemplate on the meaning of what is “essential” need and what is “non essential”.

Classical Yoga teachers and Ayurveda lifestyle counsellors can promote the distancing from artificial living, the returning back to nature and to Earth as well, the simple living and high thinking in ashrams and retreats out of town, in beautiful nature, the self sufficiency on the land, the gardening and producing of our own food from our organic garden.

     Examples of what we can do to observe Yamas and niyamas and positively influence our environment:

Ahimsa: avoid injuring the environment, adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, driving, flying and traveling less; buying local organic food or producing our own, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle, compost, buying bulk, avoiding packaging.

Satya: follow up as much as possible in thoughts, words and deeds the ecological considerations by examining daily our choices.

Brahmacharya – do not indulge in the senses and sexual abstinence.

At the base of our desires for consumption is our instinct of reproduction. The problem is we never have enough reproductive success as we are never satisfied with our reproductive success. People desire limitless wealth, status, and power because those instincts helped our ancestors survive & achieve reproductive success. We can’t depend on how we feel (by doing what comes naturally) to achieve satisfaction. Modern society innovations intensify competition for wealth, status and power causing greed, crime, grief, hatred, disappointment, depression, and environmental destruction.

Asteya- do not steal: Simply taking what we think we need, without thinking about how it arrives to us, what may be destroyed as a result, how we may be taking from others, including future generations, is stealing. Try to find healthy, green products, ethical products according to scientific ratings. Example www.goodguide.com  Each product is given health, environment and society scores 1-10

Aparigraha – do not be greedy:  Live simply, avoid accumulating things, de-clutter, recycle what you do not use, live beneath your means.

NIYAMAS (OBSERVANCES) APPLIED TO THE ENVIRONMENT:  

Saucha – cleanliness and purity,  both inner and outer. We are what we eat, so we are encouraged to only eating fresh, organic food, preferably grown ourselves or nearby. Working to clean up the oceans, the lands, and our environment, reduce production of trash, abstain from non recyclable trash.

Santosha- be contented: Avoid over consumption.Avoid falling for illusory differences between products. Accept and appreciate that which is provided by nature, eat local seasonal food; Know your local herbs; Wait for the sun to shine to clean clothes so it will be possible to line dry them; Appreciate abundance of power on sunny days and avoid activities that require power on overcast days, use a solar oven to cook food on sunny days.

Tapas – perform austerities: Austerity means curtailing the insatiable demands of the senses. Fasting. Only eating local seasonal food. Adjusting to seasonal temperature changes instead of using air conditioning. Avoid bottled water which is convenient but bad for the environment.

Swadhyaya: self study and study of scriptures: Become more and more aware of our collective wrong doings and our karmic imprints:  learn how things are produced, merchandized and consumed, trashed or recycled, and try to find alternatives.

Ishwara Pranidhana: keep being humble and realize the interconnectivity of things in nature. Surrender to God’s will for us in everything and live respectfully and in harmony with the powers of the divine mother in Nature, instead of willfully create for ourselves a discarded, isolated, egoistic, unaware, sensual, lack of devotion, artificial life. Realize higher powers of consciousness present in all things. Keep connection with it and find peace and contentment is the key to yogic ecological living.

  • Vedanta for Ecological living:

Remember unity of life. -Unity in diversity. – Remember our mental habits to repeat our tendencies (in this regard, yamas and niyamas help to rebuild our course of actions). Remember the illusory nature of our perceptions which keep us in the same cycle of reactions (story of seeing the snake instead of seeing the rope). Remember that we are Satchitananda Atman, not a victim, not a consumer, not separated and alien, but the peaceful, powerful, supported at all times by Divine consciousness, self reliant and self delight Self. 

Vedanta philosophy applied to the environment is sustainable bridging our well being with the well being of Nature and others. There is no difference between the inner and outer reality. If we elevate one, we elevate the other. If we become self conscious, we will elevate the environment and heal the Earth. If the Earth is taken care of, we will also be taken care of. Individual efforts influence the collective energy and collective awareness influences our personal effort.  

Vedanta philosophy by addressing the root cause of our individual and collective suffering and recognizing our spiritual ignorance the source of it, solve the problems of division, separation and lack of unity between groups and nations.  The root cause of our suffering is our false identification with our culture, national boundaries, political leaderships, gender and race and forget our common oneness.

Bringing out the ecological and planetary importance of Yoga and Ayurveda is the real mission we need to undertake. This will benefit all of us now – our societies in stand still under lock down, but also will benefit our future generations. At this poignant time, let’s practice the yamas and niyamas as guidelines of high thinking and high living and not as dogma and moral rules which bring divisiveness, arrogance, judgment and holier than thou attitude. 

Let’s become compassionate and forgiving. Let’s teach more Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta to the masses. And let’s bow in gratitude for favors and support received from the Divine Mother seeing each other and all beings as brothers and sisters sharing the same earth, same sky, same water. Let’s celebrate our unity in diversity!

Let’s pray to the forces of Nature… This is the classical vedic mantra:

Shanti Mantras:

Om sham no mitrah sham Varunah  ̣(may the sun be good to us)

     Sham no bhavaturyamà (may the God of the Waters be good to us)

  • … you are indeed the visible Brahman. I shall call Thee just. I shall call thee Truth. May that protect me. May That protect the teacher. Om Peace, peace, peace.
From Karma to Dharma – how to turn karmic situation to your life mission

From Karma to Dharma – how to turn karmic situation to your life mission

Satsang on line 04/19/2020

Introduction:

The topic of today is a complex topic, we will try our best to talk about how to bring meaning to our lives no matter what circumstances we found ourselves in. The two words of Karma and Dharma are charged with meaning. Considering we do not know if everyone in the audience has the same understanding about this, we will go a little bit in details, about karma and dharma to describe the cause of our existence – according to ancient Yogic philosophy- and what we are supposed to do to make the best out of our life. We need to see “the big picture” to become wise resulting from this expanded vision.

 During the threat of a pandemic Covid 19 upsetting life all round us, during this crisis situation, where we have to fall back to survival mode, it seems futile to ask such question. Yet it is precisely during these times, that we need to focus on finding new grounds, new ways and to realign ourselves differently and discover new territories and possibilities about ourselves and our potentials.

What is karma and How karma works?

Karma comes from Desires.
Karma means Action and the results of action. Thinking is action.
Any thought will bring about a reaction.
You experience the present life as a result of the past coming into the present. Karma is law of cause and effect. Some karmas (or karmic situations) seem to be good and some are appearing to be negative. The theory on Karma, explains that “We reap the fruits of the seeds we grow. Good actions bring its own results and bad actions bring its own consequences. There is no accident or haphazard things in this world.”  I know this seems cruel and some of you might rise objections as to why some people would have to die from Corona virus now, alone in hospital grasping for air, some people would have to perish while helping others on the front line, some people have no shelter to shelter under and some others can afford have all the medical care  to fight off the disease.

The Root Causes of  Life’s Struggles

Life doesn’t end with death, according to Yogic philosophy. We need to look deeper into the cause of our struggles or luck which might come from beyond this life. The law of cause and effect, when applied can be very simple: If we enjoy peace and health now, it is because we have contributed to peace and health of someone sometime.

If we suffer from loneliness, it is we have created isolation in somebody.  If we face a situation that seems like a choice between being selfish and survive or being compassionate and humble and risking our lives, it is because in the past when confronted with these situations we have always chosen the former.  We are being given this same choice again in order to choose differently.  Similarly, if we feel that lying or manipulating a situation will be to our advantage, we need to choose honesty and straightforwardness and find strength in having good character, of doing the ethical thing.  Genuinely helping another person to attain more material comforts in their life will manifest in yours as a boon of good fortune. 

Take Responsibility of your life and choices.

Karma does not work differently at work, in private life. There is also a group collective karma.  You are born in a certain era, certain society, certain level of technological development. Everything is interrelated. By improving your character at work you improve your happiness at home.  By improving your relationships at home you improve your business as your energy will flow better.

Cultivating contentment with what you have already been given releases you from the karma of constant restlessness of desiring more. Giving freely and charitably results in greater wealth coming your way.  Stinginess, in the contrary, brings with it a sense of lack, of never having enough.  Maintaining pure intentions, which come from your heart, brings lasting peace of mind; whereas, sometimes following the head and other times the heart brings confusion, fragmentation, and problems in the future.  Seeking inspiration from the wise people while avoiding back-biting and gossiping attracts supportive people that will be key to your success. In the same manner, negativity, divisiveness, and bringing your competitors or coworkers down will return to you in the form of stress and fear.  Inflexibility and desire for control bring you more situations that you can never control.  But, letting go of the need for control and realizing that you may not be aware of subtler forces at work gives insight into the interconnectivity and self-regulating nature of creation.  Everything is, in fact, perfect; we just often fail to see it.  Cultivating belief in this truth brings great peace and relaxation.  

The twelve areas of Karma in this life.

The more you identify with your karma, the more your karma becomes real.  To be free from it you have to know it, so you don’t identify with it. These are 12 areas of karma, intertwined with each other. 

  1. The body:

The body is said to be a battlefield where the karmic lessons are learnt. From the seed of karma, sprout out the body and mind.

With the body you inherit certain psychology pertaining to the gender.

When you are born you are born in a body belonging to a certain race and culture. The collective karma will come with it.  You are born white, yellow or black. The karmic condition comes with it, depending on the era you are born in.

You also inherit from the moment you are born a certain amount of life force. Some are born healthy with lots of life force. 

Some are born weak, not so healthy. Some are born with fire element constitution, prone to action. Some are born with water element, prone to emotions. The karma with the body is already there, male, female, strong, weak. 

  • The family, relatives and resources.

Then you have the karma of the family, the relatives, people that you live with in your early life. You might be supported or not supported.  You have karma of having money or not having money no matter what you do.  

  • your karma relating to your abilities in communication and your self will or not. Your relationship with siblings.
  • Relationship karma with your emotional heart and happiness, your mother, and your home, house and property.
  • Then you have the karma with your children, your physical children or your creativity, which is your children in an abstract manner.  
  • This is the karma about your health and diseases and challenges.
  • You have karma with your partner either easy or difficult.
  • You also have difficult invisible karmas, hidden. This relates to the energy within the psyche, the area of spiritual insight or death. 
  • You have karma with your Guru, your spiritual teacher, your father and also your dharma, your faith. 
  • . Ten is your karma with work, career, your name and fame, place in society, in some cases frustrating, some cases fulfilling.
  • You also have karma with your friends, your community, your gains
  • And losses.

In these different karmas, you would have to detach and find yourself.

In relationships and in work, in gains, or losses, at home or in society, in your creative intelligence or in your emotions, you would have to observe the plays of karmas and find your Atman Self through it.

You would have to find Your Self in Others in these different areas of your life.

Karma, Destiny and Self effort

In life, we always have free choice even though these choices are limited. It is said that the present life and its circumstances is the result of past lives thoughts and actions. What happens today is already predetermined even though we do not know from when and and how things will manifest. However, this is not a fatalistic view. In the contrary, we remember that challenges in this life are opportunities for growth and for success in the future.

We might have free will but we need to think well about our choices so that what we do leads us to peace and happiness and not to suffering. When we are acting out of past habits and are powerless to change our character and attitudes, we are actually bound and not free. Yoga teaches us Self effort to control the mind and realize the True Self and be conscious and wise about our choices, thus eventually free us from the tendency to produce the same mistakes.

Managing karma implies that:

1. We care about our present duty,

2. We keep our eyes on our total and ultimate self-development,

3. We accept all tests and challenges in life as only temporary.

There is no Good karma and bad karma. Try to be free from all karma

Life is not only challenges but there will be some good things happening and some bad.  Life is a combination of both good and bad karma.  That means certain conditions that we are born in are easy, things that we didn’t have to do anything and yet they came to you. 

There will be favorable conditions according to what we wish and desire and there will be the unfavorable conditions that we have to struggle with.

Keep even mind in all conditions, in fact, good or bad karma is just karma.  In reality there is no good or bad.  There is no good life, no bad life, no superior life, no lucky life, no unlucky life.  It is just specifically your life and then you have to learn from it in order for you to be free from all karmas.

Increasing karmic credits, diminishing karmic debits.

Life is a series of pluses and minuses. You have to see the condition from the inside, to understand the plus and minus in the karmic bank balance of your life, not from the outside. From the inside means from your level of consciousness. Your journey is the journey of Self Realization, towards absolute consciousness of Oneness.

 In this journey, you can record your debts as the things that you yet have to learn, and credits as the things you have learned.

 Credit giving (+) Selfless actions, study, introspection, meditation. Anything that helps us bring awareness will give us credit; Follow dharmic rules of conduct is accumulating credits. Any action that will make us wake up is credit.

Debits adding (-) : anything the makes us become more ignorant will give us debt. Any action that will make us become thicker in our ego separation and illusion is debt.

The balance of plusses and minuses shows your progress and the accumulation of plusses can bring about a total payment of all debts i.e. liberation from karma.

What means working out karma and paying karmic debts?

It means experiencing the difficulties and slowly learning who the Self is and who it is not. For example, regarding relationship karma, you have to go through the different flavors or aspects of these relationships in order for you to learn the real lesson of Pure Unconditional Love that is your Self. You would be selfless.  You would learn Self Love that also includes the other.

Suffering means learning.

Is suffering a must when you are learning from karmas?  Suffering is subjective and is related to your reaction towards your karmas, therefore it will be there as an incentive for you to learn.

Sometimes you want to escape from suffering and not learn, for example you would escape in addiction, in disease, in self pity and in blaming. Then you are not learning your karmic lessons and you are diving deeper in the same way of seeing yourself and others. However, life is a school and there is some kind of progress even though different situations seem to be very different, but there is progress.

Paying debt, alleviation of karma is gradual:

 Karmas are being understood slowly. You change roles so you will learn. You suffer, so you will learn.

Alleviation of karma means that you will refine your ideas about how you think about things. You will become selfless and detached, and you would turn karma to dharma.  You would take a distance and will not to take yourself too seriously, be detached and remember that the True Self is the Self and nothing can touch it, hurt it or taking anything away from it. You will keep your peace of mind.  You will forgive and offer everything up in karma Yoga.

Your life is a result of karmas from past but you have choice in the present.

 In the present time, when you are aware, you can do something about alleviating your karma.  You would have the choice, either reproduce the same situation as the one you inherit from past karma,

or become wise about karma and not reproduce again another karmic situation in the future. Sometimes the lessons are intense and lots of issues come up at the same time. The intense purification the world is going through during the corona virus pandemic is an example when the karma is accelerating and we have no choice but to face it. Try to see all these challenging situations under the view of karma and try to be more aware of the consequences of our actions and rise to the task.

You learn something but you create new debts.

In the process of paying up your karmic debts goes very deep. It takes long term training to control the mind and to stop reacting to the karmas, and create new karmas. For example, you are locked up and you do not understand why you can not move about and do what you desire. You fail to understand the universe’s lesson to you and others to turn inwards and to change consciousness. You got depressed or upset and do wrong actions.

Life is like a circle, the wheel of karma, you learn something but you create new debts.  It just goes on and on and on.  You learn something. You don’t learn something.  You learn something.  You don’t learn something.  You just go on and on and on, classroom to classroom, from lifetime to lifetime learning. 

What is Karma Yoga?

Karma Yoga is the way to work through karma by changing your sense of your self and the identification with your actions.

In Karma Yoga your motivation needs to be pure. Motivation stems from the heart, the true inner feeling. 

  • Develop the attitude of being an instrument only, be detached.  
  • Offer the results: In praises or censures, in success or failures, keep the mind even. It’s not about me, it’s not about them.  It’s not about whether I like them or they like me, it has nothing to do with this.  You offer the results of your action, that means you offer this karma up in order for you to continue to progress.
  • Do the best you can: Make effort but learn to let go.
  • Do your duty and persevere, this too shall pass. Your karma dictates to you your specific duty. There is no accident, no duty is an accident. If you follow your duty you learn even though it is difficult. At every station in life, you have specific duty. Follow the discipline of your duty and you will be learning greatly. Many doctors and nurses actually now are going through intense karma doing their duty, even risking their lives to save others. They are on the front line, like in a war. 

This reminds us of the sublime teaching long ago of Arjuna, the warrior-disciple in conflict who receives on the battle field the revelation about the immortality of the soul, the teaching on karma yoga and duty and the self knowledge in action.

Every karma is unique

You can only understand your own karma; you cannot understand another person’s karma.  You can look at someone else’ s life so that you can learn from them.  The scriptures say it is much better that you focus on your own karma and not someone else’ s, even though it is easier for you.  Let’s say you have a situation that is really difficult for you to deal with, but a friend will look at you and say,” I don’t know why you have such big problem about this.  If I am you, I’ll do this, I’ll do that.”  In karmic difficulty, it is as if you are blind while another person can see your problem easily.  It is said that you can take people’s advice, you can hear other people, but you yourself have to deal with it. So don’t compare, it is not necessary to compare.

Turning karma to Karma yoga and find your life mission:

  • Dharma is right living, right action.
  • Karma Yoga attitude helps you to turn your karma to Dharma.

You can turn your karma to karma yoga by being selfless and dedicating your service without expectation. Your selfless service is unique to you. For you, it turns your whole attitude around and touches your soul.  It opens your life up to new horizons.

  • Then, you turn your selfless service into your life mission when you understand that this sublime attitude has to be kept throughout life.

You cannot solve the problem on the same level of consciousness that created the problem at the first place, so your life mission is to go back to this place of selflessness that will set you free.

Examples:

  • A homeless abandoned woman opens shelter for homeless women and teach the women self esteem and self confidence.
  • A grieving wife due to lost of beloved husband to disease, speaks out about the virtue of love beyond death, and becomes selfless worker to help people with disease.
  • A person becoming jobless and bankrupt due to economy crisis turns into a founder of a company helping people to express creativity and improve earning through wise capital ventures.
  • A scientist who lost family due to virus now dedicates life work to study viruses and to find cures and vaccines
  • A political critical activist wanting always things to change now dedicating oneself to nourish and care for ecology, relying on the grace of the Mother Nature.

Take care of your duty in the present and the future will be taken care of:

Dharma is duty. It is transforming your karma into an unselfish duty.  It means putting the ego at the service of others and the greater good.  Not thinking of ourselves first and only, but sharing in everyone’s happiness, being an honorable contributor to the betterment of society, and opening oneself to the whole of creation will turn karma into dharma.  It will improve life in all aspects.  The result is not necessarily immediate, however; patience and knowledge of how karma works will see you through to the benefits. 

Yoga teaching says try to be good and to do good all of the time no matter what the situation is.

Karma can be understood and released. Growing spiritually requires that we turn our karma into dharma. 

Dharmic Life Brings Happiness

Happiness comes from Peace of mind and unhappiness comes from a restless mind.

Yoga teaches the practice of restraint of thought waves to find contentment and break through the karmic accumulation. 

In the pursuit of happiness, we made many mistakes, and created endless karmas. In our feverish world of competition, where everybody is looking for answers outside, we believe that our happiness is in material possessions and sensual comforts. We think that our happiness has to be at the expense of someone else happiness so we compete and make sure we get the best place, the best part of the cake.  We fear that someone else happiness is at our expense, and become jealous and envious. We do not see the intangible, the spiritual, the sublime and divine. We believe in external success and not in internal peace as success, thus we are being pulled in all directions by our ambitions and desires and the disappointments, angers that follow desires.

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 desires, that the objects desired in fact are our own projections of our own illusions externally. We eventually learn to turn within, avoid the love and hate, the ups and downs, the   dual tendency of attraction and repulsion, always running towards something and running away from something.

This is when Yoga and meditation come in our life, as we catch the taste of peace and understand finally that it comes from within, and decide to consciously make an effort to be calm and focused within.

How Yoga helps?

Classical yoga attributes equal value to self-effort and relaxation.  In Sivananda Yoga class, students learn to come into a posture with control, hold it while breathing into any discomfort or tension, and slowly come out of a posture with control.  There is relaxation and breathing in between the postures and accent on self-awareness throughout. Postures lead to Meditation.  So, practicing these teachings regularly will help to slow down and realize that seeking happiness outside of ourselves leads us nowhere. Yoga shows us a way out.  By practicing regularly, your life mission will be revealed to you.

END.

Swami Sitaramananda

Renewals and choices in time of transition – how to turn adversity to opportunity

Renewals and choices in time of transition – how to turn adversity to opportunity

A satsang webinar 04/12/2020

Introduction

Happy Easter! On this meaningful day symbolizing renewal,  awakening and eternal life, we are being reminded of our infinite potential, infinite inner resources and perfect love which always wins. This holiday celebrates the meaning of life and this is the time for us to remember the beauty and sacredness of our lives. Swami Sivananda said that the true goal of life is to get back to the source from which we came. Just as rivers flow restlessly till they join the ocean, the ultimate source from which they got their supply of water, so too, we would be restless here till we become one with the Peace in the True Self deep within.

In this constant flowing journey of life towards Self realization, there are transitions and challenges that we need to face graciously, taking these as opportunities for growth.

So we will be talking about:

1.how life is constant transition

2. how life has a positive direction, going in and up (and not going out and down).

3. In this journey, we are struggling but we are always progressing. The more the struggle, the stronger we become.

4. We have the power of choice, we are not victims to circumstances. In any given circumstances we still have the choice to move forward in life. We need to exercise our power of choice.

5. Seven stages of conscious self transformation and renewal. How to renew yourself consciously.

6. When our egos are rigid, we have difficulty making choices and making decisions, paralyzed by fears and anxieties. We can learn to make our life easier for ourselves by learning faith, trust and detachment. Mistakes are only stepping stones to success for a person who is aware and working on himself.

7. Adversity is a perception. You can return to your untouched self. You are the master of your destiny. The Self is supreme. Nobody did this to you. Learn to become strong and accept the game of life. You and your experience are one. “There is no world out there besides you”.

8. Everything is an opportunity for practice.

We are constantly in transition

Life is a journey. There is a direction to life. We are always in transition, between stages of life. There is a lesson to be learned at every step. Try to not get lost in the appearances and illusions of life. Our destination is to realize our inner peace that always has been here.

Different times of transition:

  • Between life times (this life is only a chapter in the book of your life. Everything is not permanent.). Step back from your life and recognize the theme of this life.
  • Between stages of life. According to our age and our maturity, we move through 4 stages of life, we learn our duties at different stages: student stage, householder stage, retirement stage, renunciation stage. Our struggles often reflect the lessons we need to learn at every stage. We also learn that our psychology and needs evolve with each stage of life.
  • Between occupations: Our ideal occupation is the one reflecting our inner state of being, from being unconscious with no self awareness, instinctive living, survival thinking  and living only for enjoyment, to the idea of a self centered self, making the best out of separated life, to being more responsible of our fellow beings and our actions, and  last, to becoming  selfless, understanding our oneness and acting out of the vision of oneness.
  • Between gunas, moving from tamas (darkness), to rajas (activity) , to sattwa ( purity, balance, wisdom) . Our journey is the journey of purification where we unveil ourselves from our own veils and recognize the light and knowledge within.
  • Between periods of our karmas . Our lessons are learnt in time and following sequences. According to vedic astrology, our lives revolve from one karmic expression to another, from dasha period to another where we have to learn : self confidence (sun); psychology and emotions (moon), action and energy (mars) , intelligence and reasoning (mercury) , righteousness and wisdom (Jupiter) , devotion and enjoyment  (venus) ,

Self discipline and forbearance (Saturn), desires and compulsion (rahu) , detachment and renunciation (ketu). Everything is set up by heavenly energies for us to learn. The lesson of enjoyment is 20 years, the lesson of self discipline is 19 years, the lesson about desires  is 18 years, the lesson of intelligence is (16 years) , the lesson of wisdom is 16 years, the lesson about the mind and emotions is 10 years , of energy and action is 7 years, detachment is 7 years, ego self is 6 years.

  • Between seasons and weathers: Like the season revolving, winter gives rise to spring, spring to summer, summer to fall and return to winter. Life is cyclical. We just have to step back and enjoy the seasons changing and revolving. The changes of temperatures and weathers affect the moods, and our health. This contemplation helps us to accept change.
  • Between hours of the day: the changes we feel might reflect not only the changes of seasons, but also the changes of energies between periods of the day, the sunrises, sunsets, the middays. Doing things in the right timing would influence the outcomes.
  • Between waking, dreaming, deep sleep. Our daily landscape also keeps revolving between our different states of consciousness, the waking, the dreaming and the deep sleep state. The idea is to learn to become the observer, the witness to all these changing phenomena inside and outside of us.

In fact, we are always transitioning and we indeed never stay still. We renew ourselves constantly. According to Master Sivananda, “Life is a school, in which every sorrow, every pain, every heart break brings a precious lesson. The world is your best teacher, there is lesson in each experience. The world is the best training ground.” Learn to be in the world and be untouched by the world like the lotus flower growing out of mud.

The journey of life is going in and up,not out and down

“In” means inwards towards our peace within and “out” means loosing ourselves in external concerns. “Up” means feeling light and content, “down” means feeling restless and dissatisfied. Recognize your path and renew yourself!

– from impurity to purity:  learning to accept challenges and pains as growing pains, we are cleansing ourselves from our impurities , allowing the light and peace to shine from within when we learn better behavior .

from hatred to cosmic love: learn to hate less and love more every day then we will be moving in the right direction.

– from death to immortality: If we think that we are the mortal body, we will be gripped by the fear of death. By changing consciousness and by going deeper within ourselves through Yoga and meditation, we become more detached from the body and can feel the freedom and lightness coming from our eternal spirit.

– from imperfection to perfection: we might be disappointed at ourselves for not being perfect or judging other people to be less then perfect. Eventually, we mature and know that perfection can not be attained in this world. We do the best we can in this relative life, and at the same time realize a level of ourselves and of life that is perfect. Ultimately, we realize that all is at all times perfect. We stop to try to make a better past, and live solidly in the present where perfection can be found.

from slavery to freedom: we might think that we are victim and that we are bound in our lives to do things we do not like. We might have a wrong sense of what is true freedom. Swami Sivananda said that freedom does not mean eating anywhere you like, going anywhere you like, speaking anything you like …it is found in self discipline. We are in fact slave to our desires and senses. Yoga helps to slowly turn our bad habits to positive habits and realize our true inner freedom.

– from diversity to unity: wegrow when we learn to see the unity in the apparent differences. Example: seeing the suffering of the whole humanity and not just one nation over the other. The test we are going through now as a global community brings us closer together. We are moving from the sense of separation to the sense of interdependence. Open our minds and hearts to accept differences. Become less judgmental.

– from ignorance to eternal wisdom: we are learning to control our mind and emotions and become wise amidst chaos and controversies. We learn to see the bigger picture of our life and learn to avoid to repeat the same mistake and to create new karma.

– from pain to eternal bliss: we learn from our pains and know that we have somehow have forgotten ourselves looking for happiness in a wrong place. We eventually learned that happiness is within and the answer lies within. We breathe, relax, reconcile and forgive ourselves and others in order to be free from our pains.

from weaknesses to infinite strength: Due to our weaknesses, we have fears and attachments, and we create pain to ourselves and others. Life journey teaches us to be stronger and stronger to face more and more demanding challenges. Everything is a test of your strength and faith.

We have the Power of choice

We need to exercise wisely our conscious intelligence over our instincts and emotions

In that journey towards more awareness, we exercise our intellect but often times we are being pulled in the opposite direction by our habitual lower mind. We want to learn and to grow but we are caught in our habits and attachments.  Our emotions pulled us to the past and to the future but resist the guidance of our intellect. We forget ourselves in the past and the future unable to live fully the present. We find ourselves unfulfilled and stuck because we wanted to return to the secure past and have difficulty to venture into the unknown. We are missing out our present which is the key to our freedom.

We need help to make changes. People with higher mind, who have been where we have been can support us in our journey. Our conscious choice can be backed up by our higher mind or the higher mind of somebody.

The seven steps of conscious change

Seven steps to transform our impressions in the mind. How to renew ourselves. How to work with our mind’s tendency to repeat itself. When we leave an old pattern for a new one, we enter the transitional ground that can be unsettling. We often resist new patterns for fear of losing identities we have carefully constructed. It is like a more evolved version of the old self, eventually leading to our true nature. We keep refining and purifying our mind patterns into healthier designs.  It will become easier and easier.

1. -set intention

2.- commitment to “work” on the unhelpful habit. Conscious will to resist falling back on old habits, in crease in awareness, bringing inner wisdom and light.

3.- slowing down to observe the mind, allowing greater reflection and insight. Yoga practice helps you to slow down.

4.- awareness of unseen force that can hold us captive in old samskara.

5.- fearlessness: tolerate unpleasant sensation – like grief or fear of loneliness.

6. – envision new pattern. Visualize the new discovered self when you do Yoga practice, when the mind slows down and relaxes.

7.- Practice. Understand what can trigger a relapse.

Difficulty to make decisions and to make choices come from fears

Mistakes are stepping stones to success.

When our egos are rigid, and when we have inner conflicts, we have difficulty making choices and making decisions, paralyzed by fears and anxieties. We can learn to make our life easier for ourselves by learning faith, trust and detachment. Mistakes are only stepping stones to success for a person who is aware and working on himself. There is no such thing as mistake for a seeker, there is only lesson.

Adversity is a perception

Return to your untouched self. There is no others. There is no world besides you. You are the master. It is easier to say then done. In this time of adversity for many, it would be difficult to resort to wisdom of the Self and try to see the “rope” instead of the scary “snake” – to use the famous vedantic analogy. However, equip with this spiritual strength, knowing that all is well in reality, we can find courage to face the snake, face the worst imaginary outcome. Adversity can be a good trainer. 

we need to train ourselves to be strong, no matter what.  In adversity, we need to get mentally ready for what’s coming. We are not catastrophizing, only facing hardships in order to do the right thing and not running away in fears.

By negative visualization, we can mentally prepare for the hardships in life.

We must face the hardship by imagining the worst outcome. Seeing the worst doesn’t mean you are resigning your fate to it. In fact, it is the opposite. By seeing the worst, you won’t bury your head in the sand and run from it in fear.  So visualize the details of the possible negative scenario: Imagine you lose your mother, or your son. Imagine, you lose your job or your business is bankrupt. Let’s face the bad news and let’s come up with the positive way to think about them. Let’s get ready “there is no way out, there is only through”.

  • Confinement: This is the time to turn inwards. Do inner practice. Meditate, become aware of your thoughts that you have neglected when busy.
  • Overwhelm: Tasks changed, parenting duties are overwhelming when schools closed. This is the time to get to know your kids better. And be creative in terms of tutoring them and keeping them structured.
  • Life plans changed: Events cancelled or postponed. It is OK. We will appreciate the event better when the time comes. It is not the worst thing.
  • Sickness and disease: I might get sick. I might even die. It is OK. Death is not the end of life anyway. But if Karma is the reason why I am in this body, I am not sure that I have completed my karma I am in now, so I ask myself, am I ready to die or not? The prospect of death will give meaning to this life. Death is not the only problem, there is death when I am sedated with the ventilator machine that will take away my capacity to be aware and to pray. And I know the last thought determine the next birth. I rather be conscious, breathe the yogic way, light and slow and deep as much as I can and die ready with the mantras and prayers on my lips. If I survive, I might have to face being sick for weeks. It is OK. There must be meaning for me being alive. I will fulfill my mission sooner or later.

People around me will get sick and may be will die. Estimates are 40-60% of americans will be sick and the US will have more than a million death. It is OK, it is not my will, it is God’s will.

  • There will be riots when people get desperate. It will happen but, it will not be that common so I do not need to worry about it now. More often we will see people coming out of their comfort zone to help. This is the opportunity for me to help others.
  • There will be scarcity of commodities as there will be disruption in the supply chain. It will be short term shortage. We will be fine with simple living. In Yoga and Ayurveda, you can live very simple of kitcheree (rice and mung bean) and some vegetables. We have had too much food, too much variety that come from all over the world. We can return to the garden. Our health and appreciation of life will increase.
  • Economy will enter a recession. Consumer spending habits will fundamentally change. It is OK. We do not need more stuff and this situation makes that very clear. We do not have to consume and consume.
  • Borders will close. We will not be able to travel the way we did. It is OK, by turning inwards and controlling our desire and imagination we learn to be content with ourselves, with nature and people around us. We can connect to people around the world more than ever by Internet.
  • There will be tension between countries. It is OK , the nations will work their alliance with each other out. It is a game that changes all the time

Everything is an opportunity for practice

to follow the flow of life as said earlier.

There are many types of practice:

  • practice of cultivation of virtues:

flexibility, adaptation, strength, courage, fortitude, empathy, patience, relaxation, detachment, calmness, forgiveness, tolerance, selflessness, compassion and love.

  • practice of eradication of vices: 

anger, blaming, judgmental attitude, rigidity , procrastination, blaming, lack of will, intolerance, lack of self control , failures in turning the mind and senses inwards, lack of self awareness , practice of being here and now, practice of doing little by little .

CONCLUSION

Keep flowing with life with faith and fortitude. If you practice acceptance, awareness and detachment, you will enjoy life for what it is: a school and a play.  You will become better and better at it. You can lose everything, but the main thing is you are not losing yourself! Swami Sivananda said : “Any amount of zeroes have no value, unless you add the 1 before them”.