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Transition in Relationships

Transition in Relationships

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, mind, yoga, life, spiritual knowledge, family condition, mental health, karmic relationship, raja yoga, strength, balance,  emotionnal balance, karma yoga, adaptability, flexibility, avoidance, isolation, responsibility, personality, relationships, equanimity, loss, bhakti yoga, yoga life

The Flow of Relationships

Today we continue the topic of the Yoga of Relationships and how to handle transition. How do we manage our relationships? We said yesterday that everything just flows from one thing to another. Life is in transition at all times. Life is a flow. We just need to follow the flow in its many different aspects. One of the aspects is relationships, human relationships.

When we talk about relationships, we talk about the idea of “me” and “others”. We ask the question, How do I manage my relationships? There’s one very nice analogy from Swami Sivananda who compares people to logs floating on the river. The logs sometimes gather and travel a distance together and then split. Then, one log will travel by itself for a time and then again it will meet with other logs on the river.

It is the same for us. Sometimes we meet, we travel some time together, and then through the ebb and flow of life, we go somewhere else. That’s how life goes. How are we going to accept these changes in our relationships, in our life? This is the question. Take for example the case of Narayani. I did not communicate with her for many years. From time to time, I would send her a photo. Say hello. That is it. All of a sudden, I said, “I’ll be in California, would you like to come?” She said yes. Then she got her visa, booked her ticket, and showed up in person in California. So, you do not really know.

Why do we have conflict in relationships?

The most important idea that we talked about yesterday is the idea of “adapt, adjust and accommodate” from Swami Sivananda. It is the idea that in the river of life we will be meeting all types of people who are very different from each other.

In Raja Yoga, Patanjali says that “conflict arises from the interaction of the mind and the three qualities of nature”. This is such a nice and complete description of our condition. Because our minds are changing all the time, we have different minds at different times. Plus, no two minds look alike. The gunas keep playing. That means our own mind is changing between tamas (indolence, darkness), rajas (activity, passion, egoism) and sattva (purity, harmony). We try to regulate the mind with yoga meditation. ‘Regulation of the mind’ is the new modern phrase as well as is the term ‘self-regulation’. We try to regulate the mind which means we are adjusting.

We constantly have to adjust, just like when we are driving a car. Sometimes it’s out of regulation. Sometimes we are attacked by a wave of tamas and other times we are attacked by a wave of rajas. We’re not attacked by sattva. Though we may slip somewhere in between. And then you say, ‘because of the weather’, ‘because of everything’, etc. When you are in the hot sunlight now, then everything around you seems dark. For example, you take a nap in the afternoon after eating and you slip into tamas. If somebody asks you to do something, you get irritated.

Another time, like springtime – it is very beautiful in the springtime here – everything is green, there are spring flowers and all kinds of animals and beautiful flowers, yet there is spring fever. Young people want to leave this very austere life, they want to meet someone, they want to do something, etc. This desire comes with the weather. So also with the time of the day, right? Morning time is very quiet, the air is good, you sit and meditate and chant together. In the evening, when I teach online from 8 to 10 pm, I am fully awake at 10 o’clock pm. After talking for two hours my mind is like a machine and I cannot go to bed, I cannot sleep. Then I have to walk and do things to regulate my mind and my energy.

Sometimes we interact with others, you know, at the wrong place, the wrong time, we make the wrong request, and we don’t understand what the other person is going through, what they are experiencing. Sometimes we flare up, or we put our foot down and make judgments about other people, “She always does this. He always reacts like this”.  We say that it is ‘always’, but the truth is that it is not always. But it’s this particular time, in that particular moment and in whatever circumstance that you might not understand.

“Adapt, adjust and accommodate” in relationships

So We have a lot of difficulty in our relationships like that, because we hardly can understand ourselves and be aware of what’s going on in our own mind and our own energy when we interact with others. The fact is we have to live with others. Some people hide away from others because they think they have peace of mind that way. According to yoga, it is very healthy to live with each other. When you live with each other, you have to adapt, adjust, and accommodate.

When you adapt, adjust, and accommodate, you grow, you mature, you expand your consciousness. You have to continuously accept other people and love people as your own self. There is the idea of oneness that says we are one and there is no stranger, there is no other, there is only one. We can embrace it; we can realize it slowly. It requires a lot of effort and practice to accept others, to adapt, adjust, and accommodate others, to keep even-minded and to keep loving them. Eventually we become good at it and when we become good at it, it’s very good.

Practice of flexibility and strength

We need to practice flexibility and strength. Everyday life is like a beautiful yoga posture there is flexibility, ease, and there is strength. If you don’t have strength, you collapse, you cannot hold a posture, because there are different forces pulling you in different directions. You have to have strength to hold the posture. That means in life, you have to have yourself, have self-confidence, and be able to tune to your own true Self to receive infinite strength.

If you are able to tune-in to your true Self, you will be strong in all conditions. But if you only tune to some aspect of yourself, sometimes you will be strong, and when conditions change, then you will lose it. Therefore, you need to put yourself through different tests, different conditions, to see how you perform, to see if you are able to keep your balance and not resort to blaming someone else; and see if you can keep calm. Keep yourself happy, not just calm. You have to be joyful. Tuning into the heart that is joyful. All is nothing but a test of your strength and flexibility.

You need to know what to do and tune-in to your Self, stay very firm on your path and not lose yourself, because you are under the influence of other people either living with you or on the internet. Nowadays, people can enter your house through the internet. And they can touch and pollute your environment. On the path of yoga you have to be with yourself at all times, then you have to work out the relationships with people, because they are karmic relationships.

Karmic relationships

People that you come into contact with are the manifestation of your own karma, your own mind, your own thoughts, that you have accumulated throughout time, i.e., from past lives. We do not choose only one life. We have met many people from the past and we have reacted to them and thus we have drawn many conclusions and made many decisions that might be wrong. So that is how mental patterns are created. Mental patterns can be very deep and can feel like a prison. You feel that you need to get out. You encounter people in your life so that you can work out your own samskaras, your own impressions. You have a chance, an opportunity, to revisit your patterns, how you think about your own self, manifested as people around you.

This is a very deep and nice theory, you know, of yoga, that everybody is your own Self. And if you have some problem with another person, it is because you have a problem with your own Self. Because you have the problem of yourself and it has manifested in those particular circumstances with another for you to see it and correct your own thinking about yourself. There is nothing but the Self.

And then there is our ego idea, our attachment to yesterday. Again, Raja Yoga is very nice as it talks about our attachment, our association with the Antahkarana.  Antahkarana means our own mind, our own subconscious mind, our own intellect, our own ego and our own Buddhi, our own intelligence. The problem is  the association of  your Self with your own instrument, your own mindset and you believe “this is me”. This is called egoism.  There is egoism when you’re going to meet someone you think is different than yourself, the “other”.

At that time, your mind will just churn up, right? Because you take the information in your subconscious mind, you think, “I have been there, I have met this kind of person before.  I have reacted like this. It worked before. I used this tool called a ‘hammer’ and it got me out of the situation.” Do you know how it works? When you have some difficulty, you just use a hammer and you jam it, in other words, you will just be very rude. And then people are scared of you and run away. Then, as you solve the problem, you might develop the habit of, you know, using the hammer, okay? Or you might use the habit of running away, of escaping, of avoidance.

It has worked, it has worked some time, but it can come back the same or a little bit different, you know, for you, and then you see that eventually your tool doesn’t work anymore. That tool of avoidance will not work, because it’s always the same thing coming and bothering you. The same reaction. So, you have to develop more tools, you have to be more sophisticated in your way of reacting. You have to unearth or uproot the tendency to identify with a certain habit of the mind.

The drama of identification with the habits of the mind

That is the beautiful analogy of association between the Atman or your own Self with the mechanism of your mind. In other words, Patanjali refers to the association of the seer, meaning you, and the instrument of seeing, the mind. You just lose yourself in the body and mind and believe that it is you. That’s a drama, a very big drama that is going on all the time.

Patanjali said that the cause of suffering is egoism and the likes and dislikes —the raga-dvesha. Raga-dvesha means the tendency of the mind to swing this way – liking, attraction – and to swing the other way – repulsion, avoidance. If you are subject to that egoism, believing what you feel and think is yourself, you will perpetuate your suffering.

Your mind will then be swinging this way, affirming what you like and swinging the other way, affirming what you don’t like, affirming what you would rather not have in your life, rather than learning from it. That is a beautiful teaching, the idea that you perpetuate the root cause of your suffering. Therefore, yoga comes with different kinds of teaching. Yoga suggests that you don’t follow your tendencies.

The practice of equanimity

If you like something, don’t like it too much. If you dislike something, don’t dislike it too much. Make the extremes slowly, slowly come together. If the extremes come together and you’re still happy, it means you are becoming stronger. When your mind swings to this end and you get what you like, then you are happy. And then when it swings back – because that’s the way it works, you have to swing back to the other side – when it swings back, you will meet with something you don’t like, and you are unhappy.

Your happiness is conditioned by an external factor. You cannot control things that come into your life. Even things that come into your life, you want to hold on to them to perpetuate your happiness. But it never really works because things are changing. Let’s say you like the circumstances of your relationship with this person, and you find that it’s just perfect. But it doesn’t last because it changes and you suffer.

So, you will have to be wise. To be wise means to understand how your emotions work, how your mind works. You have to consciously manage this condition of your mind for you to have peace or happiness that is stable for a long time. Because when you swing, the mind will go up and down like a roller coaster. You are happy in one condition and unhappy in another condition. But if you can manage your mind -we call it Yoga, equanimity-, you can temper these extremes. Then you don’t identify yourself with it and are more detached towards your own way of thinking.

Practice, practice, practice one thousand times to… 1) look away so you don’t react, 2) forgive so you don’t condemn, 3) keep loving when you feel hatred and judgment. This is how you can keep your mind steady and even.

The theory of yoga says that when your mind is calm and not agitated by thoughts or by likes and dislikes, you can then perceive your own true nature. It means, you perceive that beautiful Self, that joy, that happiness that is derived from within. We become stable, steadily happy if we are able to manage this, the mind.

Otherwise, it is hit and miss. Sometimes you’re happy and sometimes you’re unhappy. Up and down, up and down, hit and miss. And you know, it tortures you. It’s not like you can accept this condition, but it tortures you when you are in that unhappiness, when you are disliking somebody or something, you are worked up. You are tortured by your own mind. It’s a terrible condition called affliction. Affliction is a misery.

Patanjali said, “The misery that is yet to be manifested is to be avoided”. That means, if you have this tendency of the mind to function like this, you will suffer, it will come up, it is not someone else’s fault. But if you understand the condition of the mind, you will work on it with yoga and meditation and positive thinking tools, and Bhakti Yoga tools. You just have to learn to work on your mind, to massage your mind, to not let it be too strong, to not let it be too soft.

An image that I like very much is “to be strong like steel and flexible like a blade of grass”. That’s what you want. You have to keep practicing, until you are able to do that. You can be extremely strong and extremely open. Extremely tolerant, extremely flexible, extremely loving. To be able to function in life you have already managed and learned many things, how to manage yourself with people, but you need to be better.

And you need to see your weaknesses. Some people are not able to speak their own mind. They are not able to speak their own mind without emotions, or calmly just discuss to help the other person see their own point of view. There is no harm in communication, but you will not be able to do that because you are too sensitive, you are afraid, you do not want to be hurt.

Or you have that prejudiced idea about people that they are stupid, they will not understand what you are saying. So, then you condemn them before you even open your mouth. These are the habits that we have.  We need to tune and we need to become better and better and better every day. You will become better.

Self transformation with meditation

The best way is to meditate. When you meditate you to some level erase  the samskaras, habits, and impressions in your mind and you become a new person. It’s like you refresh, you start everything fresh. And then all your judgments, your ideas, your tendencies evaporate and disappear. You will be surprised to see how you react in that state of meditative mind. You will say, “I am a new person. Normally I am so upset with the situation and yet I don’t see that I’m upset at all. Actually, everything is fine!” In this manner, you learn a new way of being!

Be vigilant – keep guard against your past tendencies

But if you don’t pay attention to your energy, you can fall down, like falling down from a posture. Because of this and that, you don’t pay attention, your prana goes down, your energy goes down, your sense of balance that was very good before, when you were able to maintain equanimity and balance, accidentally drops. You feel yourself functioning at your lowest level, with all the other tendencies that were already buried in your mind coming back up to attack you.

Then you start to condemn people, you start to fall into the bout of self-pity, you know, “nobody understands who I am,” and then, “I’m always like that,” and, “How terrible, the world is so negative and bad”. You have fallen into that whole habit you had before, of condemning, avoiding, or hiding, or running towards something you think will be better, escaping. Yoga says, “No,” you don’t run anywhere, you will not go anywhere, there will be no other place that is better. Now is better. The condition that you find yourself in is the ideal condition. Face it, whatever you have to face, face it, be strong, be calm.

Practice, practice, practice

Practice more yoga. Bhakti Yoga is the best way. Practice Yoga asana, pranayama. Pranayama is very important. Pranayama will directly influence your emotions. It is quite effective to practice Japa Yoga, the repetition of mantra, with love and devotion. Get back to your high state of being, balanced, this is what you want. When you are awake, aware and poised in all conditions, you don’t run away, you just welcome everything with equanimity.

You are now a strong person going through life. You are not afraid of anything or anyone. You attain union. Union means you no longer function out of your habitual mind. But you function with your own Self, constantly connecting with your own Self and become very stable. You become, as we say, “the lighthouse” for others. You radiate that light all around you.

These are just a few things to explain why we need to “adapt, adjust, accommodate” and why in the event of an extreme situation, we have to “bear insult and bear injury”. Even when people insult you, create injury to you, and hurt you, you have to bear it. Why? Because you are paying your karmic debt.

I don’t really like to use the words ‘paying karmic debt’ because it feels negative. You’re not paying. You are learning new lessons. The lesson is there for you to learn. You need to learn it.

Even in extreme situations of feeling insulted or being injured you have to be calm, not lose your sense of self. You have to tap into your knowledge of what forgiveness means for you to be able to handle the situation. You have to forgive or change your perspective completely. You have to detach and step back so you can begin to see the big picture.

Yoga tools to self-regulate and to be free

Let’s say you have a problem with someone, but when you look around, thousands of people are running away from their homes because of fire, because of flood, because of COVID. You look at your little problem. Someone says an unkind word and you build it up into a whole big drama, wasting your energy.

Now you don’t see thousands of people, maybe millions of people, are suffering terribly. So, change the perspective. Do not think that you are so important and so big. Your ego makes you feel like that. Please remember this definition, it’s so nice, “the association of your Atman with your inner instrument”. This is the problem.

Jnana Yoga

To detach means to step back. It means to think: “It’s not about me here. My reaction, my thinking, my feelings are not so important. I am the immortal Self. I’m going to detach. I don’t want to continue this association that imprisons me. I want to get out.”. Detachment is the key. Detachment comes with remembering the Self.

Jnana Yoga helps you to change perspective. You might think, “This is not real. No, this is just Maya, it’s just a movie. It’s not real. So, step back.”

Bhakti Yoga

In Bhakti Yoga you say, “It is God’s will”. You say: “I don’t know. It’s not my will at all but it’s God’s will,” or “I don’t understand, I don’t control everything. God must know what he or she is doing and I’m going to accept this and be at peace.”

You can practice Jnana Yoga, you can practice Bhakti Yoga, also you can practice Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga. You can balance your energy and concentrate your mind. Instead of letting your mind drop down, you strengthen your mind by focusing on whatever you like. All the thoughts disappear and your mind will increase vibration, become one- pointed. That mind is strong and healthy. When that same challenging situation comes back, you will not react the same way. You react the same way only when your mind is weak.

Raja Yoga

Make sure that you are concentrating on something that is neutral, something that is inspiring, something that is sacred. And then, let go of the distraction. You can say it’s just a distraction. If I spend time condemning people, it’s a distraction. I focus on myself instead of spending time looking at other’s faults and condemning them. That is Raja Yoga. Positive thinking means to work on yourself, replacing the negative thoughts with contemplation on the opposite thought. Let’s say you have the feeling of hatred and you replace it with the opposite thought.

You say, “Love, love, love, forget it. I cannot love and this person is not lovable, it is not possible.” The practice is not just replacing one word for another. You would have to contemplate on the virtue of love. You would have to contemplate and think about the virtue of compassion, of being soft, of being accommodating, of living in harmony, of non-violent communication. You would have to think about the opposite virtue quite a lot. That’s what Patanjali means when he said,  “… constant pondering over their opposites.”  (Chapter 2, verse 33) 

It means to understand the thought, where it comes from, what ego trait aggravates it… then contemplate, think about other virtues that might work to counteract this thought. That is Raja Yoga.

Hatha Yoga

In Hatha Yoga, you use your body, you involve your body and your prana. You can change your prana, because prana is like electricity. If you change the flow of prana, or you cut the prana out from a certain place, or you divert the prana to another place, then the mind will not flow there.

Let’s say, you have too much power in your left brain, too logical, but life is not just logic. Then you have to cut the prana there, switch it to the opposite side. That’s called pranayama. You then have more feeling, more acceptance. You can say, “Anyway, I love you.” This love cannot come from just one side of the brain. That is called Hatha Yoga, that practice of balancing the energy that will help to balance your mind.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the idea of serving other people as your own Self. You think, “It is not about me, it’s not my time,” or “Nothing belongs to me,” or “My time is not mine.”

Usually, I do things only to serve myself. Karma Yoga teaches us that it’s not about me. I serve something bigger than myself. That will have stronger repercussions for the world and help a larger number of people. That’s what my life is about. I offer this energy. I am an instrument of the higher will to uplift this world. It is not about me gaining anything. Because if I gain something, what do I gain? I gain wealth. What do I do with money?

If you have too much money, you’re going to waste money. When you have a lot of money, what do you do? Most of the time, you are not really serving yourself, or serving anyone else. When you have lots of time, what do you do with your time? We waste our time a lot. We just waste time. It doesn’t help us and it doesn’t help other people.

But if every moment of your time is helping something bigger than yourself and you help to uplift other people just as you want to uplift yourself, that is a much better formula for happiness. That’s called Karma Yoga. Serve others as yourself. And let go of all ideas about yourself. It is called “giving up the result” or “offering up the result of your actions”. It means, “Let go of all ideas of what you gain or what you lose from your action, feel that you are the instrument and that you are serving other people as your own self or as God.”

These are all tools of yoga: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. These tools help you to handle your relationships, these karmic relationships.  They help you to learn these lessons about yourself.

People may use these teachings wrongly also. When they say karmic relationship, and go and point to the husband or the wife, the mother or child and say, “You are my karma, you are my debt. You are in my life and you are my debt. So, I’m going to live with you because I have to pay my debt”.

Take responsibility

This is a misunderstanding. It is not like that. The teaching says: “This is you. Don’t blame anyone else, ok?” A karmic relationship means you understand that it is you that are 100% responsible and involved in this situation, in this relationship. There’s nobody out there to blame. And there is nothing to be complaining about. But there is something that you need to do to uplift yourself and make your mind a little bit less angular. Swami Sivananda uses the word ‘angularity’ of the mind. That means a mind that is too fixed in a certain angle of vision.

You need to just round up the corners, make everything a little bit smooth. The person that is sattvic looks like a person that has no opinion, or has no kind of strength, but it’s not that. There is inner strength, they know that inner strength, they watch everything with detachment. They just go with whatever it is without losing their balance. That is absolute strength. It’s not just, “Look at me, you know how powerful I am, how intelligent I am, how experienced I am”. That is not strength because it will pull at your feet another time. That same strength will make you fall.

In reality, it is said that strength is actually more dangerous than weakness. Weakness makes you fall all the time. But when you fall from weakness, you slowly, slowly, build up your strength because you know that I’m not that strong. So, you are very careful. You gain a little bit and you are happy. When you are strong, you are absolutely not careful. You just lose yourself, you lose your vigilance, you lose the big picture. That’s when you fall. That’s when you go completely crazy, when something happens because you are not willing to accept it.

In summary, balance out your strengths and weaknesses. Be very careful. The blanket tool is to just keep doing sadhana every day, on good days, on the bad days, keep doing sadhana every day. It gives you that poise. It gives you that countenance in all conditions. Manage your mind. Manage your relationships. Manage your schedule. Don’t be too intense even though you can be. At the same time also manage your tamas, your laziness.

Hari 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.

Journey of Self Development

Journey of Self Development

International Yoga Day Mon, 6/21 by Swami Sitaramananda

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

Sadhana practice, yoga, life, self-development, learn, emotion, mind, people, spiritual progress, feel, prana, teaching, healthy, happy, conscious choices, conscious living, yoga life, self-growth, life skills.

Happy International Yoga Day. Practicing yoga is very important for the world nowadays. We pray that more and more people will practice yoga around the world.

To practice yoga is to feel that we are progressing

It’s not nice to feel stuck in life. If you feel that things are not moving and you are stagnant, the best way is to practice. Go back to your yoga mat, to your meditation cushion, to your diary, to your journal and try to renew your practice. What does it mean to practice? What to practice? And how do you develop yourself and not feel stuck?

Conscious practice is the key

The key is to be conscious in whatever you do. Self development has to come consciously. We call it yoga, we call it sadhana. Sadhana is a conscious practice. This is not something you do without thinking. Because the goal of all practices is to transform and renew yourself. Transform what? Transform consciousness. Transform the way you feel about yourself and about the world. You are growing towards physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Self-development requires conscious effort

First, for you to self-develop, you need to make an effort, a conscious effort. And second, it is important for you to receive guidance. You need to follow a system of teaching or teachers. Why? Because you want to self-develop but you don’t know what to do and therefore you might waste a lot of time. We have the system from Swami Vishnudevananda, and Swami Sivananda, which we call the five points and the four paths. You need to practice this in a systematic, uninterrupted manner, for a long time to change the old habits. Let’s say you do asana three, four times a week, satsang meditation, three, four times a week. It is fine, but you need to do it consistently, for a long time to achieve the transformation of body, of head, of heart, of energy.

And you need to have guidance from teachers but also from scriptures. That means you need to spend time studying a little bit from scriptures. Ideally, you have a teacher that speaks the language that you understand. Swami Sivananda wrote 200-300 books. Until now, we are not able to read all his books. But it’s the same idea, same system. Try to study his books. And we are trying to translate for those that don’t understand the language. The teachings coming from the Vedas are very old teachings about the Self and about the lifestyle that help you to tune in and help you to feel that you are progressing. We call it classical yoga, and follow the lineage of teachers and follow scriptures.

Here are the five points of yoga that you need to practice daily

The first point is proper exercise, the asanas done in a certain manner. The way we perform the asanas is also meditative. Then proper breathing – pranayama, proper relaxation – savasana, proper diet – vegetarian sattvic diet and positive thinking and meditation, which is Vedanta, Jnana Yoga and the Raja Yoga meditation system.

One ounce of practice is equal to tons of  theory

One important thing to remember, if you want to feel that you are progressing, self-transforming and self-developing is that you need to practice more than learning only theory.

This is what Swami Sivananda said, “one ounce of practice is equal to tons of theory”. You can read books, you can hear satsangs, but mainly what you need is to practice so then you can have direct experience of the teaching. The teachings are practical, sometimes technical, but we also try to keep the overall view. Sometimes you learn and apply the technique and you forget the whole picture. You have to understand how the practice fits into the big picture, how it influences your overall life. It’s like a puzzle game. Piece by piece, slowly. You don’t quite understand the picture yet. But piece by piece, you put it together and all of a sudden, the whole beautiful landscape or picture emerges. Therefore you need to practice for a long time, and have guidance, so that you don’t lose heart. And then the whole picture will come about.

The eight limbs of yoga

Besides the five points and the four paths, the other system or guidance is the eight limbs of yoga. You need to practice the whole eight limbs of yoga, not just asana or not just pranayama. But you need to practice yamas and niyamas. That means the ethical foundation: nonviolence, sense of control, no stealing, no accumulation. Practice purity, contentment, austerity, practice of self- study and self- surrender.

Before every little thing that happened, you get very irritated and angry and blame yourself and have self-pity. But now you need to practice self-surrender, which means the idea that you don’t really know everything. You have to accept the cosmic intelligence, that’s also part of the basic practice in order to keep your mind calm. You practice steady posture, that means not just running around all the time, but sitting still. Practice the control of vital energy – the prana, control of the senses, concentration, meditation, contemplation, and eventually the last practice is Samadhi. This is the goal when there is no more sense of separation and when everything comes together.

Take care of your physical health

So in this system of practice, it is very important that you are aware in the beginning to take care of your physical health. You practice the asanas to be healthy. And when you are healthy, you need to understand that the practice of asanas strengthens all the systems of your body.  First, the musculoskeletal system:  You work on your alignment so that when you sit, when you stand, when you walk you have a better alignment. Keep your spine healthy. Second, the digestive system: If you digest well then you’ll be healthy. Third, the respiratory system:  If you breathe well you’ll be healthy. Fourth the cardiovascular system: You need to move the body. And finally, the nervous and endocrine systems need to be strengthened.

Turn inward

And in order for you to self-develop, you need to know that you need to turn inward, you cannot carry on with the life outside, all the time active externally. You need to balance your life with time that you spend on turning inward. So, that means that you will become more aware. You have to become more aware of your emotions and your state of mind and you need to slow down in order to be aware. You need to slow down. Sometimes you need a temporary withdrawal from your busy life, your emotions, your work life. You can be more alone, one hour a day, one day a week and you go to the retreat at the ashram three days minimum one month if you are close by, but the idea is you need to program your life so that you have time to recharge and to be with yourself.

Mental and emotional health

Part of your self-development training is you need to make sure that you are mentally and emotionally healthy. We are not aware of that, but we do not know that we are not really mentally and emotionally healthy. What does that mean?  That means you need to develop a balanced personality and you are not going to extremes.

So you observe yourself and you see that you go to extremes. You like something very much and you dislike something very much. Yeah, for a yogi you need to remove the word hatred from your vocabulary.  Also, intense attachment towards something does not help you.  Develop a balanced personality.

Don’t be a victim of the past

And also you need to take time to heal from past hurt and past trauma. You must not become a victim of the past, you need to live in the present. The more that you are able to do that the more you feel that you are on top of yourself, you are developing and you’re not stuck. Because something that is unresolved from the past will make you feel that you are stuck. Develop peace of mind and strength of mind and calmness of mind all the time.

You need to also develop the capacity to love selflessly, to concentrate and not be distracted, and to have your heart open to enjoy life. So if your life is miserable, something is not right. You need to be able to enjoy life. There are lots of reasons for you to enjoy life. You look at the tree, the sunrise you are happy, the wind blows and you’re happy. You notice that sometimes if you are in a good state of mind, just a very small thing, seeing little flowers that come out makes you happy. This is called a healthy mind. Live fully in the present. You notice you are aware of everything happening in the moment. You don’t just go through life in a sleep-like state.

You need to also have a clear intellect. The way you eat, the way you think helps you. If you are on the internet watching games and other  things, then you see that your mind will fall very far down.  You need to keep your intellect very clear so that you can make your decision more clearly.

Transform your emotions

The big portion of emotional health is knowing how to transform your emotions, how to elevate your emotions, instead of being controlled by emotions such as fear and anger.

 Why do people want to see horror movies? And you know, horror movies are very popular. Why? Because they want their emotions to be excited, because when they are emotionally excited, then they feel that they are more alive. But this situation is not helping you to progress. This actually makes you go backward. You need to elevate your emotion, all this fear, anger, resentment, and turn the emotion into pure love or devotion. In order to do it, you have to learn to surrender your personal idea about things. Let go of the expectation of your ego. You need to know that there is something more than you that is there. It’s very important that you practice self-surrender, acceptance, flexibility of mind, a non-egoistic approach to life. And chant the Divine Name, it’s called “kirtan”. Practice every day, open your mouth and chant. That will regulate your emotion right away.

Learn to listen

There are nine kinds of practice in bhakti yoga, slowly you have to learn, but start first with the practice of listening. If you try to listen, then you will not be so self-centered. And you’ll be able to understand a rich world out there of different people, different personalities, different animals, and then you’ll become more enriched instead of being stuck.

Learn to detach from your attachments

Attachment will make you feel stuck. You need to be detached, and experience true love and experience more faith. And then you will have more joy. You need to learn to forgive also. You need to learn also from your painful karmic lessons. Life is not just a straight line, as sometimes very painful. Actually you develop yourself a lot in the most difficult time of crisis. That’s when you develop a lot. You have all the chances to become better. You’re always learning. The purpose of all these painful lessons is to help your evolution. So have a larger perspective and don’t feel down when life doesn’t go the way you want. Stop blaming every circumstance, it is actually perfect for your growth. Slowly you are working out your karma. But know that whatever circumstances in which you find yourself, you are more than your experience. You experience things then you can understand from them but inside of you, you know that you are more than your experience, you are perfect inside. That’s what it means.

Develop your selflessness

And a very important thing that we cannot forget: You need to develop selflessness, selflessness in Karma yoga, it’s a practical step. So you need to change your attitude towards your actions, towards your life. Learn the attitude of non doer-ship, of egoism and open yourself up, to give yourself to others. Mahatma Gandhi says, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Therefore, you need to become a role model for yourself. That means you need to have an idea of the self that you want to become and the best way to become a role model for yourself is to teach yoga. Because when you have to teach yoga for other people, you have to practice yoga. So, learning Yoga means learning to teach yoga selflessly. The best way to learn Yoga is to learn to teach yoga, selflessly. So those who have not taken the Yoga teacher training course, please do.  

Become curious about yourself

Then one thing, I noticed that people feel stuck or feel down, because they are not interested in themselves. It is a strange thing to notice. Throughout the years that I deal with people, I notice that people are not curious about themselves. They are not interested. They’re very lazy. They’re interested in politics and about what to buy and what to shop and you know, what’s happening in the market. All these they know in detail. But about themselves, about their personality, their life, why they think that way, they are not interested. So the first thing you need to do is be curious about yourself. Know that you don’t know your inner being, know that you do not know about yourself. Because people are like that because they think that they know, but actually they don’t know. When you know that you don’t know then you start to be more seriously looking to know the truth. You become humble. At that time you become open. And when you open up to new ideas and you start on your yoga path, you become curious about yourself.

You are much more than your body and mind

The reason our knowledge is so limited is that we get our knowledge through the senses and through the idea of self-identity that is attached to the body in the mind and the ego and through the fabricated opinion that people have about us.  You live in that world of the senses, of the mind, of the ego, with the opinion of others, all the time. That’s why you are not able to know yourself. You need to start a yoga life to purify yourself. Because all these thoughts are there in your mind, opinions about other people, opinions of people about you, your mental stimulation habit, all these are there. You need to start to learn to purify and the yoga practice is very, very powerful to purify yourself and make you become more what we call sattvic or clear. So then you will start to love your own Self instead of loving everything else around and neglecting yourself. Yeah, so now you start to love yourself. Because you realize that the truth is within, the power is within, the answer is within. You realize that the body and mind is only your instrument, and it is not you, you are much more than your body and mind.

Take care of your prana level

In this journey, I remind you it’s very important for you to have prana. Every day when you wake up, check your level of prana. Your level of prana depends on what you think and what you eat and your lifestyle. What do you practice to increase your prana? Through pranayama and asana practice, you balance your prana, you resupply your prana, you conserve your prana, you save up your prana because prana will make you feel progressing. Practice of Hatha Yoga will help you to balance your two flows of energy, Yin and Yang, heat and cold, male and female. And that in itself will make you feel you are progressing. And everyday day, when the prana is high, learn to keep your mind concentrated. Because if your mind is distracted, you lose prana very quickly. But if you keep your mind concentrated through the practice of yoga, practice a mantra, then you have strength, calmness, peace, it leads you to successful meditation and helps you not to be so restless. Restore your sense of self, knowing the healthy holy sense of inner strength, inner knowledge and inner power within you.

Develop yourself spiritually

That’s part of your spiritual health. It means number one, recognizing that the body and the mind are your instruments and they are not you. Just that will give you a feeling of detachment, of spiritual health. Number two, leading a conscious life. Whatever you do, try to be conscious, just to be conscious. That is called self-development or leading a spiritual life.

And know that when you connect to yourself, your consciousness within, you connect also to nature. It is very important to connect to nature, live in harmony with others, everybody around you, it’s a must, that you live in harmony with them, and live in harmony with nature. Therefore, connect with yourself and live in harmony with nature and others. That is your most important task.

Learn to think properly

And last, in this long list of different things that you need to do to self- develop, is to learn to think properly. Earlier we said learn to feel properly, to live properly, to behave properly, but also learn to think properly. So worrying is not thinking. Thinking of the past and rehearsing the past is not proper thinking. Dreaming about the future is not proper thinking.

Discrimination

So in yoga Vedanta, we say try to develop the power of discrimination, which is the deep thinking about what is changing and what is not changing, what is real and what is not real, what is the Self and what is not the Self.

Let’s say you eat the coconut bliss ice cream, and you feel very happy. But at the same time inside your mind, you have to know this is a temporary happiness, and you don’t live your life for this experience. And you enjoy the coconut ice cream but you have to eventually let go of it and you’ll be fine. Learn the proper way of thinking, making the choice between what is temporary and what is permanent. Then,

don’t be attached to what is temporary, and try to dwell on what is permanent.”  Please think about this.

Detachment

That is the number one and then number two is learn to detach. Detach is also another way of thinking. That means instead of thinking about something and jumping into that 100% with all your body, your mind, your senses, your emotions, everything and losing yourself in it, try to be detached. Do what is necessary to do in your life but don’t give it all. Don’t lose yourself in it. Keep yourself for yourself, be detached from everything else. The more you are able to be detached, the more you’ll be in connection with yourself. and you will not lose the big picture. Whatever you need to do, do it. But at the same time, don’t lose the big picture about yourself development, and don’t lose yourself. Learn Vedanta philosophy and some techniques of self-inquiry. That is wisdom.

Learn Self reliance

And a very important thing is to learn self-reliance. Self reliance is a capacity to be self sufficient. Self sufficiency means you’re not needing anything. You’re happy just being yourself. If somebody helps you, fine. If somebody doesn’t help you, you don’t get angry, upset. You do it yourself. So, self reliance also means you are tuning to your own true self. And you know that you are perfect. And you know, that if you do your own self effort, everything will improve. Many things are involved in the quality of self reliance.

Learn to be patient

So last, be patient. You need to be patient. Because you make a little effort and you think that you will get there. It’s like you just learn a little bit of exercise and you want to run a marathon. It is not possible. So go on your journey, day by day, bit by bit.

Be patient. And have a sincere desire to know the truth about the Self. Qualify yourself, learn with a teacher, but know that the teacher cannot do everything for you. The teacher can guide you. But you have to do everything.

Conclusion

That is my long list of advice for international Yoga Day. Again, Happy International Yoga Day for all the Yogis of the whole world. The more people practice yoga, the more the world will be a better place. Now we pray for the world. And we pray for your health, for your success in life and self realization. If you know the prayer, please repeat it together.

OM Tat sat

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda 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 program, an 800 hours program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is the author of Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy (translated in Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese) Positive Thinking Manual, Karma Yoga Manual, Meditation Manual as well as two poem books. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of The Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda. Some of her audio lectures on Yoga Life, articles, and webinar presentations can be found on the website.

How to find your purpose in life

How to find your purpose in life

Transcript from talk of Swami Sitaramananda Aug.15 2021

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

purpose, karma yoga, atman, selflessness, dharma, karma yogi, skill, karma, life, instrument, offer, ego, means, selfless, happy, happiness, practice, meaning, destiny , self realization, Bhagavad Gita, spiritual teaching.

The topic of today morning is about how to find your goal and your purpose in this life. Very often we find ourselves in transition, asking ourselves questions “What I’m going to do? What’s my next step? I like this, I like that, but I like this too. I don’t really know what to do”.  Often times, we find ourselves in mild or severe depression, due to the sense of lack of direction and a feeling of meaninglessness. This is when we need to know about what our Dharma is.

What is Dharma?

Dharma means your highest duty or your mission in life, the right thing to do. We can talk about Dharma only if we understand the word Karma. The reason why we do not understand our Dharma is because we are functioning out of Karma. The level that you can get out of your karma or be detached from your karma is the level that you understand your Dharma. People know what they like, but they cannot do it, they cannot fulfill it. They live life and always feel frustrated, or always feel that they want to do something, but never can really do it.

The lucky ones are those who are able to do it, because of the circumstances of life and their inner motivations meet together and they feel fulfilled inside and outside. But you cannot blame the circumstances. If the circumstances are not favorable and you are not able to express yourself and fulfill your Dharma, you cannot blame the circumstances because it’s also your Karma. You have to work it out. Every situation is just perfect for you to work it out. It might take a long time, but if you do the correct practice, then you’ll be able to one day fulfill your Karma and Dharma both together. So, how to do this?

We need to understand Karma

When you are steeped in the karma, usually you are kind of in the dark. Karma means specific circumstances that you have to experience and live through because of the result of what you have thought and done in the past. And oftentimes it can be difficult, which means you are struggling. You are in the dark is not necessarily a happy state. Sometimes you might be happy and then again unhappy, happy and unhappy. It is not really the true picture. You’re still trying to understand what is asked from you. You are trying in this life using your means, your skills in order to be happy to get what you want. Sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes not. So, karma is something you have to experience, and it comes from a distant past. It sets up certain circumstances of your life.

Karmic relationship

Karmic relationships would help you eventually to see who you are, which is the immortal Atman that is in everybody. And it’s not the separate self that is different from everybody. Karmic relationships help you to find yourself. The purpose of struggling in work is not exactly the same as the purpose of struggling in relationships. Relationship is the question of love, the question of how to love and serve others as one’s own Self.

Your work – you are not the doer

Your work, your activity and what you find yourself doing, also can become your means to find yourself. You struggle with it, you try this and try that and eventually in that struggle, it’ll help you to know that you are not the doer or actor. The question of struggling in activity or in work is to ultimately find out that the energy that I have, the skill I have does not belong to me, and I’m only the instrument in the hands of the Divine. God is the supreme actor or doer and this body and mind are the instruments.

The moment you understand that, you will find peace. When you still have the idea of the doer-ship that means you are still thinking: “I am doing this, because I want this, and I like this”, “I don’t like this, and this is me against the world”.  Then at that time, you’re still struggling, you’re still steeped in karma. Like I said at the beginning this means that you’re still looking, you’re still not finding peace.

Finding your Dharma starts with selflessness or Karma Yoga

It’s so simple. Dharma has to start with selflessness. If you want to find your Dharma, if you want to find your mission in life, “what is the purpose of my life?” then you need to practice what we call Karma Yoga or the yoga of selflessness. It means, in daily life, you would have to offer yourself to something higher and bigger, larger than yourself without condition, acting as an instrument of something higher. And then you will say, “I will be abused if I am selfless, I will be then taken advantage of”. It is not true because nobody can take advantage of you unless you allow it.

Because you are the one that owns your consciousness, yes or no? If you decide from your end this is what I like to do, then you can do it and offered it up consciously. Whether the person decides to take more or not it doesn’t really matter because it comes from you. You are the one that decided I want to offer this energy of mine. This time of mine is still mine. I offer to this person who is there, or I offer to God in my heart, it doesn’t really matter. The main thing is you are selfless, you are working on your selflessness. When you are working on your selflessness then you have no sense of “I own this, I own this effort, I own this work, I own this result.” This teaching is quite deep. It’s in the Bhagavad Gita, the main scripture of yoga. And Swami Sivananda wrote a book on “the practice of karma yoga”.

It is a spiritual question if you want to find your mission, your meaning, your highest purpose in life.  It’s a very deep question. How do you know what your soul wants? Your mind always wants this and wants that and wonders and changes every time. Therefore, how do you know your highest purpose? How do you know your mission in life? Or how do you know why you’re born? It’s very difficult to know.

Starts with using your actual skills to serve selflessly

You have to sort it out from what you can do now in terms of selflessness, whatever that you can do selflessly. The more you can do this, the more your purpose will be revealed to you. You get that? The more you are able to be selfless in whatever you do, in your mind, independent from your circumstances, the more your purpose will be revealed to you. Whatever your circumstances, you still can find a way to be selfless, yes or no?

Put your heart into it and give up the results

Let’s say you are a mother. And you can be a selfless mother. Let’s say you are an employee, you can also be a selfless employee. Let’s say that you are a teacher, you can be a selfless teacher. What I mean is you put your heart into it, and you do the best you can, and you offer the result. Now, what does that mean? It means that you are detached from the results of your actions. If you are doing well, fine and good, if you are not doing well, fine and good. If the company becomes successful, fine and good or the company becomes bankrupt, and they think that it is your fault and they fire you, it’s fine and good also. But from your point of view, you practice selflessness. It’s not easy to do.

Egoism and selflessness

I believe in the talk yesterday, we brought up the definition of Patanjali about egoism. It is very nice. I’m still really enjoying the meaning of egoism: the association of the Atman with the instrument of seeing – the Antakarana. It is a technical term, Antakarana is the inner instrument. When the Atman is associating with the instrument, the mind, with what you like or do not like, with your personality and so on, then it becomes egoism. Self-realization means then the detachment or non-identification with your instrument of seeing, non-identification with your personality, non-identification with your ego, non-identification with your separate sense of self. That is selflessness.

Detach from the sense of I am the doer

Therefore, try to practice selflessness in whatever you do. Try not to think: “I like it, I don’t like it, and this is about me” or think: “Is people going to praise me? what do I get from this?” or feel:” it is a waste of my time!”. If you think like this, you’re still functioning out of your ego, you’ll still function out of that tight association of your Atman and your instrument of seeing.

What is Karma Yoga?

That’s why Karma Yoga is turning it around. It says just do whatever you need to do in front of you, do your duty, but turn it into selflessness and turn it into becoming an instrument. Because this is about action and it is not necessarily about emotion. Therefore, you use the word instrument, “I am only the instrument for this to happen”.

Then when you do that, you cancel out your Karma. You cancel out the strong attachment to your action, the strong attachment of the Atman – yourself, towards the action and the result of action. You detach from what you do, and from the result of what you do. So, in that way it works.

Also, karma yoga works to liberate yourself from this separate self, this body, this mind, or this separated life which you are very much identifying with if you are able to detach from what you’re doing and detach from the result of action.

This is why Karma Yoga- selfless action is being prescribed by all the teachers as a starting point on the journey of Self Realization. Why? Because we are very much identifying with this ego, or this separate individual self. Therefore, you have to keep turning it into something selfless, it’s very practical. You can actually see it when you work out of your own ego, and you can see it when you become selfless. It’s very practical.

How it works

Mark is a carpenter, he came here at the ashram. I don’t know how he came here. And then his skill was being used every day. I remember, all the time we said to him “this is a project for you, this is a project for you”. And then he did it. He didn’t complain. “Yeah. Okay. Let me see.” Yeah. He’s a very good karma yogi. People were praising him. “Oh, you did a good job. Thank you very much for fixing the screens of all the doors of the kitchen. No flies can come in and everything looks good. Thank you very much.” I see he did it and he did a good job. This is a karma yogi attitude, the attitude of selflessness.

Without him knowing, he gained some points, you can say some “punya”, some merit. Normally, what he’s going do with the same skill, he can go and do some work somewhere else and get paid for it because as a carpenter, or skilled carpenter, you get paid for your job. Here at the ashram what he has? He has some food, a bed for sleep, but he gets something that he cannot find elsewhere, he gets what we called the “punya” or the merit. The merit is the points that go in your bank account of your progress in life. In Indian theory, it is said when you die, the chief accountant from heaven is waiting for you when you go there.

In the Western theory, there may be some other name, but the chief accountant is waiting for you with the big register when you die. He’s there because he has taken accounts of all your actions, plus, minus, plus, minus, plus, minus… And he says: “well, that’s your balance, you can go here, and you can go there”. That means your consciousness would be elevated to this level or that level according to your balance. At that time, you don’t have the body, you don’t have to do anything.

Then you enjoy life after life, you enjoy it according to your merit, and then you stay there until you finish your credit. It is like you go to live in a five-star hotel over a credit card. You have a credit limit. You can stay in the five-star hotel as long as your credit lasts. But when your credit finishes, then, sorry, bye bye. You have to go back and work again to put more money in the credit. That’s how it works. And then you have to be reborn on earth. And when you’ll be reborn on Earth, you will have the chance to have more credit, or to have more debit.

Therefore, to find your purpose in life, you need to practice selflessness and then it will be revealed to you. Mark for example does carpentry for the ashram because he has a skill. A skill is called your karma. He has a skill, but he offered that in karma yoga attitude.  And then he might find his Dharma. He might find himself so happy to be just a karma yogi.  Or maybe he will open a carpentry school for young men or young women to teach them skills to make a living. Yeah, he teaches them skills to make a living, but he does it in a selfless manner to uplift young people. And this is how he finds his dharma. Bingo! This is how you can find your dharma.

Turn it around

There is a story of an Indian woman I forgot her name, she’s kind of famous. Not famous like Mother Teresa but this Indian woman, she told her story. It’s a really heart wrenching story. She was abused when she was young, physically. And she was thrown out in the street, she went through quite a hard time. She had to do very bad jobs. She was also not only abused by the family, but also abused by the husband. The whole story is very long. Then she decided to open an institution. She gathered abandoned girls in the street and she started to open a home for girls that are abandoned, like her condition.

Slowly she adopted all these women that have been abandoned in the street and been abused. Her institution became so big. She became a really powerful force, to help these women. She told her story on the Internet. So, it’s like that. Her karma was being thrown on the street, and then being abused. But she turned that karma into her dharma. That’s what I’m talking about. Therefore, whatever happens to you, you can turn it around and you serve. At that time, you find your mission, your unique mission. Because God has given you the situation. Now, it might be difficult, because you still do not know. But that particular situation is your strength. Therefore, you turn it around, and you serve. And then that will be your stepping stone for liberation.

The moment that you become selfless, you detach yourself from whatever this life is about, whatever this personality is about, whatever this feeling is about, and then you’re free. So that’s it. That’s why everyone is yearning toward finding their dharma because they kept thinking: “I live my life, I go to work, I get the money, I can do what I want, but I don’t feel fulfilled, I feel that I have something to contribute to society, I feel that I want to be somebody, I want to have a purpose in my life.”

Now you have the formula, whatever you have, start with that. If you have a skill, how to sew for example. Let’s say in a COVID time, you are not a nurse, you’re not a doctor, to help people. But you know how to sew. You can sew face masks. And then you can donate to other people, that’s also your contribution. You start with this act, and eventually, you might find your mission. Gandhiji, he was a lawyer. What does a lawyer mean? He knows how to argue. He used that skill that he has to serve selflessly. He’s offering his skill. And he found his mission somehow to eventually help India free itself from colonialism. Now people still talk about his name. Whatever skill that you have, or whatever situation you struggle with, or whatever strength you have, offer it as selfless service.

MahaLakshmi, she’s doing a program called Good Karma Diet. She is a good cook. She turned it around and she teaches people how to cook. She got the proceeds from that and she wanted to help the animals. Then she asked if I could cook here and then get the proceeds and offer to the Animal Sanctuary that gathered these animals that have been mistreated, abandoned, and then to give the proceeds to the animal sanctuary. Swamiji said to MahaLakshmi: “I think I’m the one that tells you to cook.” In the beginning, she didn’t know how to cook, and then she learned how to cook.

She tried it on me in the beginning, then after she tried and tried, and she became good. She might find her mission in life, which is how to teach people how to cook vegetarian food and not to harm the animal and help the ecology and then this can open up to something else. It sounds like something very innocent. Somehow it comes to you with this skill and this intelligence because the moment that you start to find that connection with yourself and your contribution to society, and you serve selflessly, and the door opens, you feel better and better when you do that.

Bondage or liberation?

Dharma is to achieve Self Realization, Self-Realization cannot be achieved if you function out of your ego. Your Atman, which is your own True Self that you want to realize, is always associated with this body and mind, this likes and dislikes, this personality. So, when you offer up this personality and this skill, and this energy, this identification with your separate self, at that time, you slowly detach from that identification with the idea of who you are in a practical manner.

Then you realize the Self because the Self is always there, but it is obstructed by our mind, by our ego, or our false self. That’s why you need to work on that separation between the Atman and the ego, by detachment, and by offering it up. Because if you work, and then you want people to praise you, or you want some result, then it keeps you linked again to the mind. You understand? The mind likes something and wants the result out of that. The ego wants people to recognize you for that. And that will bind you instead of freeing you. You are going more toward being in bondage, being tied to this personality. Then you get so worried and anxious, you cannot sleep. Because you think that you don’t gain what you want. You are very much concerned about what you’re doing.

You can get yourself sick. So many people get sick out of worrying about how they perform. But if you do everything in the spirit of karma yoga then it’s okay. You do your duty, you do the best you can, you offer the result, so it doesn’t really matter. Therefore, you sleep well, you work hard. The energy comes from heaven because it comes from your soul, it comes from your Atman that is the source of everything, because you do it selflessly. So therefore, your Atman will make sure that you have the energy to do whatever is needed. And then you are free, and there is a light feeling to it, there is a happy feeling. If you experience it, you just want more of this light feeling. Consequently, you don’t want this feeling of worrying or feeling of heaviness, the feeling of winning and losing the feeling of being better than another person, or worse than another person, and the feeling that you are never good enough.

Karma Yoga spirit

The concerns about the ego really make you suffer. Because you are never enough, you can work hard, you can do everything, but you are never enough, you’re never perfect. You know this, if you do something it is never perfect. And if somebody comes and they destroy your work, you’re also angry, upset. You find yourself competing all the time with other people, and it takes all the joy out of life, but life is meant to be living joyfully. When you act selflessly you are joyful.

But if you do Karma Yoga and you are unhappy then something is wrong. I heard some people say I do karma yoga and I’m unhappy. It is because your ego is doing Karma Yoga, but your spirit is not embracing the selfless attitude of a karma yogi yet. You come to an ashram, and you are not being paid, does this mean you are doing Karma Yoga? Not necessary. Because it’s in the spirit. That spirit of Karma Yoga has to be built up for a long time because who wants to be selfless? Nobody. We like to be selfless, but it’s not necessary that we can cope with the practice of selflessness.

Well, sometimes we are selfless. And sometimes we are not selfless. Then we complain. So, in the process, sometimes you gain a lot out of this, like what I said, and sometimes you will feel you don’t like it. “When I came here, I thought I learned something and then I wash dishes all day long. I could do dishes at home why I came here and do dishes.” And then comes the complaining and blaming, “this cook doesn’t do their own dishes”, you look around at this person, “they’re not doing dishes, they’re just only sweeping, cutting flowers, they have such a nice karma yoga and they make me do dishes”. So, you complain. That’s normal in the practice of karma yoga. You don’t feel that unbounded joy. I’m telling you that it’s joyful.

But you have to practice long enough to find that joy. Don’t think that I’m sitting here, and I talk to you just like that. I have been a karma yogi for more than 40 years. Before yoga life, I was a social worker. I also did this selfless work, that’s part of my profession because people pay me to do social work, I had a big pay. But then I did selfless work at home in my free time without pay. I was full time selfless at work and my salary I gave to my family. And then the time that I dedicated to help other people was not paid. Eventually I quit, I quit that portion being paid, I retained a portion of not being paid. Then I became full time helping others without being paid. All the skills that I have learned I used for selfless service.

Karma Yoga spirit does not come easily, even though it’s the first yoga path. But I can guarantee you that after some time, if you do it one or two years you will start to like it. You’ll be surprised, we offer people to come and do seva-study here, that means study half and then work half. In the application form, we ask people to describe what is Karma Yoga, because we want people to know what they enter into, so they don’t come here and then feel that they’re being exploited or something. So, we ask people in the application form to write down what they are feeling about karma yoga. And the answers are amazing. We need to make a book out of that collection of answers. People come up with some extraordinary sentences in their application before they come to yoga. Before coming here, they already have an idea. To say that people are selfish it’s not exactly correct. Actually, I was surprised to see that people know what selflessness is, they have like a craving for selflessness. Many people wrote “I want to come to practice selflessness”. It is quite amazing. So please start and finish the book. Because the ashram is made out of Karma Yoga.

Gratitude

I have a lot of gratitude. I sit here, I always remember, wherever I look, a face of somebody just pop up, because I remember what they do. They came here, and they offer their skills. I have in my mind now the memory of all these people who did the flooring of the Yoga Hall, they were crawling on the floor to do the flooring. And this wood wall behind the altar was all done by Karma Yoga. You see that wall here, every bit of it is so beautiful. That’s why the ashram is beautiful, not because of the building. The building is just normal. There are many better buildings than the ones at the ashram. But the beauty of it is the energy that karma yogis put in when they do the work, because everything is built out of karma yoga.

When I came here, there’s only an old farm house and there was no money. How did the ashram build up? From the sweat, and effort and the love of the Karma Yogis. I still remember that case. There’s one girl, she came from Europe. At that time, many people came from Europe here. This girl, a young girl, maybe 25 years old, came in just for a short period of time, like a week, not even as a karma yogi. When she came here, and at that exact moment we dug the floor of the farm house. Because the old farmhouse was sitting on no foundation, so we had to dig in the ground through the wooden floor, and then put a post, and pour the cement to support the floor.

This girl, very innocent, she’s traveling and came for about a week, exact at that moment. I remember, she spent the whole time that she was here in the basement. We had to work with the wheelbarrow, fill it up with concrete, roll it in, and transfer it to buckets to bring it down to a person underneath. They had to pour cement concrete posts down in the basement. It took longer than we thought. This girl spent her time in the basement doing cement. And she was happy.  We don’t force people to do things. They’re happy to do it and they like to continue to do it. She was happy, and she was grateful when she left. And I’m grateful for my life for her doing this. Because it was a tough job and she was willing to do it. It was not an easy thing.

One day I will write a book about all the karma Yogis who have come to me. Because they have done incredible work. There were all kinds of people. There were also people that are angry. I still remember this man, a carpenter. For whatever reason, he came here. He was really disliking another karma yogi girl who was very devotional. She used to walk around with the basket of flowers singing like this. And this made the man irritated. One day he threw a chair on the girl. [it did not reach her, thanks God]. 

So, Karma Yoga is not all rosy, but it’s still one of the most important paths towards knowing oneself and being free from your karma. If you don’t practice this guideline of selflessness, you live your life and your karma will torture you. Because karma is never nice. It always comes as a contradiction, as a disillusion, as an unfulfilled feeling. You’ll be tortured by your karma. If you want to get out of your karma, then you can try baby steps to become selfless.

Hari Om Tat Sat.

Swami sitaramananda

Stay Detached, Philosophy of the Self

Stay Detached, Philosophy of the Self

The topic of this week end is about five tools to renew our life.

  1. Prana: To renew our life we have to change our Prana level. So, we need to know how to increase prana, how to conserve prana and how to check your prana.
  • positive thinking: To renew our life, we need to resolve all the negative emotions within us and we have to sort it all out and keep positive thinking.
  • adaptability: to renew our life, to refresh our life, we have to be ready to be flexible, to adapt to new conditions, and to work with our ego. We need to understand where we are now, at this moment, and we can change accordingly so we stay in the present and not be pulled down by the subconscious mind, by the past.
  • Meditation in daily life: learn to have another awareness about your daily life activities.
  • Detachment: In order for you to renew yourself, you need to be detached, because if you’re not detached, then you are bound. Bound means you are not free. You are pulled down by your attachment. The teaching today is about how to be detached.
The more that you’ll be able to be detached, the more you are free, the more you can renew yourself and be in the present and be happy. The more that you are attached, the more difficult it is for you to renew yourself and to find yourself.

THE NATURE OF THE TRUE SELF:

To understand what detachment means, you need to know about the nature of the Self first, your true nature.  Your true nature is sat chit ananda. Sat means all the time there, it is not coming and going. It’s not true that when you are born, you start to exist, and when you die, you are finished. In fact, your spiritual nature or your spirit is always there, your consciousness or your true self is always there. To understand this, we need to develop a spiritual approach to life. It means that you need to live your life with a bigger perspective, with a bigger idea of what life is, you need to know the purpose of life, and who you are. Then in this context, we can talk about detachment. If you do not know who you are, then we can’t talk about detachment because for you, everything in life is just action, everything is just attachment, everything is about involvement, everything is drama. You are in what we call the Battle of life, you lost your own true Self in the Battle of life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lost. Something good happens and you are happy, and sometimes you have a difficult situation, then it is a big drama.  For example, in a pandemic situation you must close the business, stop everything, and things are disturbed, and you are disturbed.

So, we talk about detachment only if you know what you need to be detached from and what you need not to be attached to.

These are two words Swami Sivananda said before he left his body. These are two very important words. He said: “Detach, attach”. It means detach about everything else and attach to God. Detach about everything that you think that is true, real and important and attach to the knowledge of God, of Truth, of the Self. That’s all that is.

The Self is Sat Chit Ananda — three words.

WHAT MEANS SAT?

Sat means it’s always there. It doesn’t come, it doesn’t go, it was not born and it will never die. If you are attached, then everything comes, everything is born, comes about and everything dies. But if you are detached, then you understand that it’s only an appearance. It’s what you feel right now that’s what it is, but it’s not. There’s another level that is not like this and you need to discover that level, that something that is not coming and going and changing and is impermanent. Buddhism talks about the truth of impermanence and of everything that is changing. In order for you to know that which is not changing, you have to be detached. That is Sat. The Self is truth, absolute, eternal.

WHAT MEANS  CHIT?

Chit means consciousness or knowledge, absolute. It means it is only a temporary condition that you are veiled that you don’t know and you are ignorant.

But the true condition is you are consciousness. How do I know? I know because I am that itself. If I think that I am this, then I don’t know that. But if I think that I am you, my true self is you then I know you. So that is difficult to understand. But you see, inside of us always is a desire for knowledge.

We want to know. Some people just finished studying and then they don’t know what to do with their life. So they study another branch. And then they study another two, all the time they study. But they study, many people study, study, study. And they still feel that they don’t know. Because they study things externally, but they don’t have the knowledge of the Self. So yoga, Vedanta have different methods for you to know the self. You have to control the mind, control the emotions, you have to make your life sattvic, calm and pure, you have to meditate, be quiet, be silent and don’t worry, don’t have negative emotions, meditate, don’t be disturbed by anything then the clarity will come to you about everything because there is only one Self, one truth, one consciousness.

WHAT MEANS ANANDA?

Ananda is something that you relate to more. Maybe Knowledge, Consciousness you don’t know but happiness you know. You know your desire for happiness. All the time you are seeking for bliss or for happiness or for fulfillment — and Ananda. Actually, when you are seeking for happiness, basically you are seeking for the Self. You are seeking for happiness in somebody or in something because the Self is happy by nature and it projects that happiness on something external. You project that happiness on something outside and you seek for it, you want to be one with it. The true nature of the Self is happiness absolute. It means it doesn’t need anything to be happy. It is in itself happiness, unconditional happiness. The true nature of everything is happiness. Your mind gets attached to different conditions and attributes happiness or unhappiness to different things. But, if you look within, then your true nature is Ananda or Bliss.

DETACHMENT FROM THE MIND ACTIVITY helps you to access Satchitananda.

First, you need to know the true nature of the Self — Sat Chit Ananda.

Second, you need to know that your mind is not really reflecting that happiness or that true nature. The nature of the mind is conditioned, it is looking outside, it depends on the senses, it is imperfect, it is full of desires, it is swinging between what you like and what you don’t like. It has egoistic ambition, it thinks all the time about something that is unreal, it’s always building up a story. So let’s say you think that you want to become the richest person in the world, the first person that will go and live on the Moon, the first person that will go and live on Mars. So there is a race like this: who will be the first person that will live on the Moon or Mars, or the richest person. So you have a different idea that is egoistic. It is based on your idea to compete with somebody or to be the best. These are called ego ideas. The mind is full of this. When we say the word ‘mind’ it includes your emotions, your ego, your desires. So I say in general ‘the mind’. It comes, it goes, it has a nature of veiling the truth.

And if you attach yourself to it then you don’t have peace. Maybe it gives you the motivation to become the best in the world, the richest person or the fastest person, or the most powerful person, it gives you the motivation to do things, to work hard, but you are looking for that outside of the Self. Really what you’re looking for is the peace Sat Chit Ananda, your true Self, but you’re looking outside of yourself. What you need is looking through your mind, disregarding what is being projected by the mind and clearing out the mind.

THE ANSWER LIES WITHIN: we have what we are looking for

The teaching says you need to look at the right place. The answer lies within. What you are looking for you have, that’s the teaching of Vedanta. Really, you already have it and you waste a lot of energy looking for it.

So you need to calm down, relax, detach, then you’ll find.

STORY:  a lady losing a needle, she goes outside the house looking for her needle. People say: where did you lose your needle?

She said “I lost it inside the house”.

 “So why do you go outside?”

“Because outside there is light”

You are looking in the wrong place, like this lady.

Looking inside means trying to realize your own Self. Looking outside means constantly running externally and believing that the sensual world that we live in is true. Believing that the world is created by our senses, our mind, the internet is true, therefore, we have no time to look within.

In fact, what you are seeking for, you already have. Let’s assume, the lady would look for her needle inside the house, even though it’s very dark. Let’s assume she would look for it with the tip of her finger, because she can’t see when there is no light. But she will find it. So if you continue yoga, meditation you would feel better, even though it seems pointless, that there is no result.

ANOTHER STORY:

The deer is running looking for the smell called the musk that comes from his sweat. The sweat of the animal has that smell. And the deer is running looking for that smell coming from his own body, yet, he looks for it somewhere else. Sometimes, I wear my glasses and I was looking, where’s my glass? Where’s my glass? But it’s on me.

So we have what we are looking for. And we have to wake up from that running and looking for it somewhere else.

DETACH- ATTACH : IT IS NOT EASY TO BE DETACHED:

There’s a story about a lion, a tiger walking in the forest. I like this story. And he walked in the forest and the leaves of the trees fell down. The leaves still had this sap sticky thing. So when we walked in the forest on the leaves, the leaves stuck to his feet. He wanted to remove the leaves and sat down. When he sat down, the leaves stuck to his butt. So he wanted to remove the leaves on his butt and lied down to remove the leaves on his butt. When he lied down, the leaves are attached to his back. So he rolled around. And soon he had leaves all over his body.

What the story says, sometimes we want to be detached from something. Let’s say you want to be detached from your boyfriend. Yeah, because you get attached to the boyfriend and then you become obsessed and the boyfriend is liking somebody else and then you suffer. Or it can be about the girlfriend and you want to be detached from her. People suffer a lot out of this attachment, out of this kind of drama in their mind. And they want to forget. For them detachment means to forget. So what do they do, they drink alcohol to be detached from a boyfriend or girlfriend, from emotional drama and then what happened they will be attached to alcohol or to sleeping pills. Then when they want to detach from sleeping pills or alcohol, they will attach themselves to cigarettes. And when they want to detach from cigarettes, then they would attach to food, they want to detach from food then they would attach themselves to work. So constantly we keep attaching ourselves to different things and it doesn’t solve our problem.

All what everyone wants is to be free. You say I’m going to work so that I can be free and I have enough money to do what I like. And then the work gets attached to you and you get attached to the work.

You can go on and give different kinds of examples. It’s not that easy to be free. One attachment leads to another, then another leads to another, you are just piling them up and you feel like you are in prison. Sometimes you feel like you are a slave to everything. You turn around and the family wants you to do something. You turn around and the boss wants you to do something. You look at yourself and your insights: Oh, I need a promotion and I need a different job so I can be happy. And then you go outside and then the newspaper says you know you need to buy this thing then you’ll be happy. And then you go talk to your friend and your friend says this is a new fashion you know you need to do this, do this and that and then your whole life you’re trying to find happiness and freedom and you feel like you’re sinking like the tiger in the example above. He tried to free himself and he has his body completely with the leaves.

Attachment brings suffering

Sometimes it can be very dramatic. People suicides, they attack their own life because they feel that they cannot get out of the situation. And some people fall sick because it’s a form of slow dying when you’re sick or when you are depressed. Depression is also self destruction because you feel bound, you feel heavy. The drama of your life is occupying your mind and you have no clue that you are in fact — Sat Chit Ananda. It seems this statement is completely up in the air, not real, not feasible, not accessible.

I described here the condition of our attachment. Feel free to give me more examples. But you can look around. Look in the news. Look in the story of people. There is a lot of suffering, attachment brings suffering. If you attach to your beauty, because now you’re young and beautiful, what will happen? When people praise you: Oh, you’re so pretty, you’re so beautiful, your hair is so beautiful, then what happens? When you attach to your skin and your hair, and then your beauty and if something happened to that beauty, then you feel very miserable. And if you get old, you feel very miserable. Because you lose that name, that aura. If you are attached to being intelligent, then you meet people more intelligent than you. And you meet a situation that you feel very stupid because you don’t understand anything.

If you are attached to being strong. I always give that example. It’s a very good example. It is an example of superman. Christopher Reeves is the actor of Superman has been chosen to be Superman. I mean, he has a strong, gorgeous, powerful body. And then Superman makes a lot of money. Yeah, he’s a famous actor on top of the world. And one day by karma, he fell off his horse, he broke his spine or something, he became paralyzed, he had to sit in the wheelchair. So he lost the Superman aura, he is no longer Superman, he lost his job, lost everything. So if he is attached to his image of Superman, attached to his body, he would not be able to accept this condition to sit on the wheelchair.

Actually in an interview, he said that in the beginning, he wanted to commit suicide. He was very lucky because he had a very good wife and children who accepted him and took care of him. And he turned around and detached from his name and fame and image and body and found his spirit that is not affected by the body condition. He found his perfect spirit inside and then he worked for this organization to take care of the rights and privileges of handicapped people. Through this huge accident he was forced to detach from the external and found himself inside.

There are 4 ways of detachment:

  1. Karma Yoga detachment: Karma Yoga taught that wherever you live and whatever you do, try to be detached from results. Be detached from results means to be detached from the idea that you are doing something and you want something out of life.

Whatever you do, either you are a mother, or when you have a job or whatever you do in life, do the best, do your duty, and let go of the result. Be detached from the result. – it can be any kind of job, a high paying job or just a servant job, People praise you fine, people criticize you fine, you do a good job, fine, you don’t do a good job, fine, you’re fired from the job, you have to find another job, or you don’t have any job, fine. Be detached from that.

What does detachment mean in this context? It means don’t identify yourself with what you do. Identify yourself with the immortal Self that is already here.

That’s Karma Yoga’s teaching about detachment. This practice of detachment in daily life saves you a lot of headaches. Bhagavad Gita says your right is to work only. But not with the result. You have to work, try to do the best you can, and try to contribute. But it’s not about you. So be detached from what you do.

  • Bhakti Yoga detachment:

The second way how you practice detachment is detachment in Bhakti yoga. In fact, Bhakti yoga detachment means the yoga of devotion. You need to be detached from your emotions. So you transform your emotions into the highest, purest kind of love, called devotion. Let’s say you are with somebody you don’t like and you’re attached to your emotions. I don’t like this person. I like that person more. And this person makes me angry. This person makes me happier. Your mind is always looking for the person that makes you happy and runs away from the person that makes you angry. This is how the emotions work. The emotions swing all the time: either you run towards something out of projection or pleasure, either you run away from something out of fear or out of pain. Emotions bring attachment, attachment to the past pleasure. You’re attached to the past when you ate the ice cream, you felt so happy. So you’re attached to the ice cream. Somebody said nice words to you so you felt very sweet, you felt very important for that person. So then you get attached to them.

Attachment is an emotion, and we are 95% emotional. We are very emotional by nature, that’s why we are full of attachments by nature. We are attached all the time. Bhakti yoga taught us to turn this attachment into something helpful by getting attached to God, but detached from anything else.

Bhakti Yoga helped an emotional person with lots of emotions and an attached tendency to be attached to God instead or to the highest goal, to the highest ideal.

Bhakti yoga people has difficulty to detach because they are emotional, so they have a lot of attachments. The only thing they need to do is to switch it into attachment to God, to the right thing while being detached from everything else. In fact, the Bhakti Yogi will not practice detachment, he/she just practice attachment, but attachment to the right thing.

it is important for you to know that attachment comes from your emotions. So if you are identifying with your emotions and then you have that attachment to the emotion that will bring about pain. The only thing you need to do is to attach the same emotion but towards God, towards something that is your ideal.

The reason of this switch is because when you attach to an external object, be it a person, or an object, then you lose yourself. However, when you attach the emotion to God, you regain yourself, because God is including you. But if you get attached to somebody else external to yourself, you lose yourself.

Raja Yoga detachment:

The third way of practicing detachment is Raja Yoga kind of detachment. Raja Yoga says detach from thoughts. Raja Yoga is a method of meditation. You sit quietly, you withdraw the senses and you meditate and you concentrate. At that time, your attachment is your concentration on a pure ideal, via the mental repetition of a sacred mantra. During meditation, if thoughts come in your mind, you become detached, you observe the thought and you let it go, you don’t get involved with the thoughts.

This is the main method of detachment of a meditator: you are detached from your own thoughts, you become the observer of your thoughts and you keep yourself concentrated. Here, there is attachment in the form of concentration on a mantra. Technically, your mind can think of only of one thing at a time so if you are attached to a mantra, you are detached from everything else. The sacred mantra induced sacred vibration and has the capacity to merge the meditator with the divine presence which is the essence of the mantra. This will happen when the concentration on it becomes one pointed.

Raja Yoga theory explains that if you concentrate on a mantra, then you’ll be detached from other thoughts, you will not be involved in other thoughts, because Raja Yoga says if your mind is completely one pointedly focused then it becomes meditative. It dissolves all the talks in the mind and then you become one with what is. If you allow a lot of thoughts and distractions in the mind then it takes all your energy it leads you here and there, and you get lost. When you have a lot of thoughts in the mind you are lost. So, when you think too much and you have a lot of thoughts you need to reduce the thoughts by keeping only a few thoughts that are important and detach from the rest.

Focus, reducing distraction, renouncing anything not important and try to follow through with the thoughts you retain. Keeps the mind very concentrated on one thought, detached from distractions, not worrying about anything else. This is Raja Yoga detachment. This is the Raja Yoga meditator’s way of detachment.

 It takes detachment to be able to concentrate.  When a person is not concentrated, when they are very distracted, whatever comes their way, they say: “Yeah, I like that” and they start to do it. And when somebody else says something else: “Yeah, it’s interesting. I like that too”. So they start to do everything and then get themselves involved in everything, spending a lot of money running around trying this and trying that and then not being able to stay still and not finding happiness. Consequently, practice detachment from all thoughts and repeat your mantra which is that pure idea, that neutral thought that is high in vibration, given to you by your teacher. You can repeat the mantra and let go of everything else.

Jnana Yoga detachment:

The fourth type of detachment practice is called Jnana yoga detachment. For Jnana yoga detachment you need to have discrimination. What does it mean? You need to know what is Truth and what is not Truth, what is Self and what is not Self, what is important and what is not important, what is essential and what is non essential. So, then you detach from the unreal, from the non essential and you get attached to that thing that is real, that is essential.

Jnana Yoga is not teaching you to get attached. It says to you that you need to know the difference between real and unreal. And you need to be detached from the unreal. And when you are detached from the unreal and then real will be there. That’s it. You don’t have to be attached. In Bhakti Yoga — yes. In Jnana Yoga — no.

What kind of detachment depends on your personality, however, Sivananda taught the synthesis of Yoga, a combination of the 4 types of Yoga.

You can say depending on your temperament, depending on your strengths and weaknesses, it would be easier for you to detach from this or that.  Maybe it’s easy for you to detach from distractions, because you are a very focused personality, but it can be very difficult for you to be detached from emotions that is part of your being as a very emotional person. Then at that time, you need to apply also Bhakti Yoga, that means you need to attach to God so you have to work slowly on your detachment and your attachment.

I remember what Swami Vishnudevandaji said one time, almost 40 years go, when I just started my Yoga path, that “you will not be born, nobody will be born if they don’t have any form of attachment.”

So attachment is the reason why you’re born. Detachment is the way out of the cycle of birth and death, of the called “cycle of samsara” or cycle of suffering.

The Buddha practiced his discrimination, he used his buddhi, his intelligence, he knew what is real and what is not real, what is permanent, what is impermanent, what is true and what is false and what is illusion. And what is the projection of his mind and what is his true essential nature and he meditates. He detached from everything else and he attained enlightenment. That means he becomes free, free from suffering. He has understood the true purpose of life.

In the same manner, we try to detach from our illusions, detach from things that are impermanent. You always have had experience of the impermanence, you get the desired object, and you know that it will be gone. You know that your mind has always been doing this, it fantasizes and it gets disillusioned. You need to wake up from this. The mind is always grasping things, and thinks it’s real. And then you get it and then the charm disappears, and the mind changes. And you’ll felt let down: “Oh, I thought it was so ideal. It was so good.!”

Kick it, before it kicks you. Future suffering should be avoided.

I want to share with you this sentence I came up with a long time ago: “kick it before it kicks you”, which means detach from it before it leaves you.

So if you know something is impermanent and is changing, don’t be attached to it. Because it will leave you, it will change and then you’ll suffer, it’s painful. It’s better that you take the decision to leave it because you understand the true nature of it is illusory. It promises you something yet you know, it’s just a matter of time that you will suffer from these illusions. Do you want to suffer?

If you don’t want to suffer then do something about it. If you enjoy suffering, and you say “okay, I can have a little bit of pleasure, a little bit of happiness, and if it leaves me, fine and good, I accept the price to pay. It will be painful, but it’s okay. It doesn’t matter.”

I give now some worldly example. Let’s say that’s you get romantically involved with somebody that is already married. While you are happy to have the company of the person, you know that at the end it will not work out. There’ll be big pain, separation, pain for you and for other people. So then stop it. I’m sorry, I would say: ” detach from it, detach from that temptation of pleasure”.  This example is a kind of a big drama, but you know the story of painful forced detachment can be applied to everything else in life.

Jnana yoga meditation can be practiced only when you have an inner conviction, an inside knowing of what is good and what is not good, what is real and what is illusory, what is the truth and what is not.  At that time, you detach from everything else that is not real, and what remains is the truth. If your true nature is peace and happiness and your mind is always projecting peace and happiness somewhere else then when you detach from everything else, and what remains is happiness. You get that? I should repeat. If your true nature is happiness already, but you don’t see it and you project the idea of happiness on something or somebody else, then if you detach from that something or somebody else, then what remains is happiness. Make sense?

“Sounds great!”. Diana, the student says : ” it sounds great!”

Yeah, you just have to detach, because you already have happiness. But you have the illusion that happiness is somewhere else. So be detached from the illusion and what remains is happiness. By not seeking happiness you will be happy. By chasing after happiness, you will be suffering. By being content and knowing yourself, then automatically you will be happy.

So, if you don’t kick things and things will kick you. If you do not detach, it will leave you and you will suffer. This happens also as a lesson, as a way to make you learn. Yes, you learn in suffering, in losing, in separation, in heartaches, and you’re forced to be detached.

So I learned another sentence from Swami Sivananda. He says: ”love little but love long”. It’s so nice. Because your tendency is you love something or somebody and you think if you love more, the more you love, the more you will have more love then you’ll be happy, you will have more happiness. Rajasic emotional nature thinks like this. This lovely thought “ love little but love long” means be detached from this illusion of passion, the illusion of emotions. In practice, If you feel that you love this too much, you get attached to this too much, then diminish it, love little and then it will last.

Summary and Conclusion:

Jnana yoga detachment is difficult because you have to be already discriminative and know what is real and what is not real. Raja Yoga detachment towards thoughts is easier. You can keep concentrating on the mantra, and then let go of all thoughts that come to mind and Meditate. In Bhakti Yoga meditation, just  attach yourself to God, it  is kind of easy but you can become fanatic.

And the last is Karma Yoga meditation, Karma Yoga detachment is working on the sense of non-doer-ship. Don’t get attached to your actions. Don’t get attached to your accomplishment. Do your duty and let go of the results.

Best is you practice all the paths, as they lead to the same place. But start one thing at a time, start with something the most concrete for you, be it Hatha Yoga when you have to detach from pain, from postures that you like and postures you do not like. You also at times, have to detach from routine even though you learn the discipline of a routine practice.

Hare Om tat sat.

OM shanti

Swami sitaramananda

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.