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STAGES OF LIFE & INNER MOTIVATIONS

STAGES OF LIFE & INNER MOTIVATIONS

Tue, 7/27 10:27PM • 59:29

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

Spiritual life, moksha, goal, maturity, means, dharma, motivation, Guru, purpose, money, stage of life, castes, spiritual evolution, meditation, growth, karma, karma, enjoyment, world, society

INTRODUCTION on GURU PURNIMA

It’s very nice to have you all here. And today is the full moon, and also Guru Poornima, which is a very special and auspicious day on the full moon that is traditionally offered to the Guru. You have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s day and Valentine’s Day, and in Vietnam they have a Teacher’s Day. I’m not sure if you have Teacher’s Day here, but in Vietnam it is very important. However, in India the teacher is called not only a teacher but rather a Guru. The day is called Guru Poornima, which means the full moon. So today, it happened to be the Guru Poornima, the Full Moon celebration of the Guru.

You can have a dance teacher, you can have a computer teacher, you can have a cooking teacher. Oftentimes people use this word Guru for this, you know, my cooking Guru, my dancing Guru, my music Guru, like this. But for us here the word Guru means a spiritual teacher, the person that teaches you the highest kind of knowledge that gives you liberation from suffering, liberation from bondage. That’s called a Guru. He / she is the one that removes your darkness and gives you some light. Tomorrow evening we have a puja, a special celebration, Puja, to dedicate to Guru Poornima.

The topic of the upcoming four days retreat at the ashram here is called the “Yoga of Transition.” And at the same time, we welcome the TTC graduates in this “TTC refresher,” that means knowledge being refreshed. Because if you know something and you don’t think about it, it gets dusty, it gets rusty, so you have to renew from time to time.

VEDIC GUIDANCE ON LIFE TRANSITIONS:

Life is continuously flowing. You are always in movement from one state to another, because that’s how you feel alive. If your life is not moving, then you feel that you are stuck, stagnant and somehow you’re not moving forward. Everyone wants to move forward in life. Sometimes you get confused because you don’t know where you are now, what you are doing, where you are going, and what is the right thing, because sometimes you receive pressure from all around, your parents, your friends and yourself. You say, “Life is pulling me in different directions and I am confused.”

The ancient teaching of the Vedas have given you some guidance. And of course, you need to have a teacher who knows you very well, who can tell you (more or less) where you are at, and what are the different steps that you need to take. Today I’m going to present to you a little bit of these different ideas to guide you.

Number one, you need to keep in mind all the time that you are an entity: body, mind, spirit. You are not just a body. Our bad habit is that we think of ourselves as only a body. If somebody asks you who you are, and you present yourself to somebody, you always say: “I’m 30 years old” or “I’m 20 years old.” You define yourself as the age of the body, as the physical body. But in fact you are more than that. And you need to keep that in mind.

First, the physical body, as you know, is born and then it grows, and the cells are growing and then decaying. So the state of your body depends upon your age, and your age will change a lot of things. So first remember the body.

Second, you need to consider the astral body, which in general means your mind, your energy. This energy comes also from the maturity of your mind, it depends on the quality of what you think. The thought that you have in mind sometimes gives a lot of prana and certain thoughts that you have in mind block your flow prana and make you feel very small and weak. So, the astral body is very important: your prana level, your mind, your subconscious mind, your emotions, the way you think, and your idea of yourself, all these are influencing the way you conduct yourself in life and the way you move in life.

Third, there is the core body which is called the causal body. The causal body is the seed body. This means that there is a reason that you’re born in this particular body and circumstances. According to Yoga philosophy, you are born to pay certain karmic debts and learn certain lessons. That’s why each person has different kinds of circumstances in life.

Somebody is born healthy, in a very rich family, and is loved, and somebody is born in a poor family, in a physically challenged body and is rejected and becomes an orphan. Why? There are different circumstances, different lessons that we need to learn. In the same manner, if you plant an orange seed in the ground, then what you expect is an orange tree. You cannot plant an orange seed and expect a banana tree. The law of cause and effect works very precisely.

Depending on the seed thought (the cause) that you have in mind, you will be born in the body of a male or a female in certain circumstances of your life, your father, your mother, your culture and all these things. There is something that governs your life in the core and that is your reason to be born. This is a karmic lesson to be learned at a deeper level.

Then beyond all this there is the Atman. Atman is your Self. It is your freedom, your Sat Chit Ananda, your bliss, your ultimate goal, what you truly want. Whatever you want in life is to know the truth, to not have any difficulties and to be aware, to be awake and not to be ignorant, and also to be happy and blissful. In general, we say that your purpose is to find your true Self, and that’s the purpose of all the yoga meditation practices and all Vedanta study. So you use the three bodies as your vehicles to navigate through life.

This knowledge comes from the Vedas or the Vedic culture. They give different sign posts that will help you to navigate this life. Vedic culture includes Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, Jyotisha and Vastu. In Vedic culture the Guru, the spiritual teacher, is important. The Guru will guide you through.

SELF DEVELOPMENT AND THE GUNAS

The other important idea that you need to keep in mind in order to understand yourself, is the idea of the three gunas. The idea is that in life you are evolving from Tamas to Rajas to Sattva. So if you ask yourself: “Am I evolving? Where am I going?” Then the answer has to be: “I am moving from darkness (tamas, inertia, darkness) to rajas (movement, restlessness, egoism) to sattva ( purity, clarity, wisdom).

In tamas, the veil over your consciousness in the beginning is very thick, so you cannot see the oneness, you only see a big difference between you and me. In rajas, there is a little bit less thick veil, but you can only see partially, as you are self-centered and you only see from your point of view and you cannot see other people’s point of view, because you don’t have wisdom. In Sattva, everything is clear, light is coming in, and you see the whole big picture.

Your evolution from ignorance to wisdom corresponds with your age and stage in life. At a young age, there is tamas, ignorance. Then you grow up a little bit and then you care about yourself. Your ego becomes big and you only focus only on your needs. During that time, you still don’t see the picture of your relationship with other people, your relationship with the world. And then eventually, you become more enlightened, you become more sattvic, you become more wise and at that time your vision opens up. And then you start to situate yourself in a more correct manner, in relation to the world and in relation to other people. You see the big picture about life. And you also see the goal of life, which is to attain wisdom, to pay your karmic debt and to be free.

Your maturity comes with age, your biology dictates a certain psychology, a certain maturity. However, to note exceptions to the norm: Some people are very young and they are very mature. I met a boy who was six years old and he talked like an old man. He didn’t want to play, he was very serious with meditation and yoga. And I have met people 60-70-80 years old, and they are like kids. So, it depends on the individual.

FOUR VEDIC TRADITIONNAL STAGES OF LIFE:

  1. The brahmacharya stage, a student’s stage (6-25 years old)
  2. The grihastha householder stage is from 25 to 50.
  3. Vanaprastha, retirement stage (50-60)
  4. Sannyasa, renunciation stage

In brahmacharya you are studying the basics about life and your separate self, you learn asanas, pranayama and keep brahmacharya. Your duty is to your parents and your teachers.

Grihastha is when you get married, you have children and you participate in the society. Your duty is to your children, your family and also to your parents.

Vanaprastha stage is when you retire to the forest. Retirement here is not just like when you don’t have a job and you retire from the production line, the economical point of view. Retirement in spiritual culture means that you have done your duty, you have done your duty to family and society and now you’re going back to yourself. You might live a secluded life in an ashram (oftentimes in a secluded forest) and the only thing you do here is spiritual practices, yoga, meditation and so on. You don’t worry about politics. You don’t worry about what’s happening in the world. It is a certain state of consciousness where you withdraw within yourself, you allow yourself to live your spiritual life. Before you had to take care of the family, the society, the children and the whole thing. The fourth stage of life is the sannyasa stage. At that time your goal, your purpose, is only renunciation and you take a vow of renunciation.

The evolution between these four stages of life is based on the idea that you are born with a certain karma, the body is changing, but also you have to pay your karmic debt and then you have to go back to your spiritual nature, that you don’t have time to waste.

The evolution between these four stages of life is based on the idea that you are born with a certain karma, the body is changing, you have to pay your karmic debt, and then go back to your spiritual nature, so you don’t have time to waste. Sometimes if you don’t have this understanding of your biological, psychological and spiritual development, you can waste your time and be mixed up.

Example: I have a student who is about 50 or more years old, almost

  • She came to class every day, she took all the courses and she was very, very happy. She was a grandma. And then one day, she didn’t come to class. I met her and I asked her, ”Why are you not coming to class?” And she cried and she said, “Oh, because I have to go to work and take care of my grandchildren.“

I asked her, ”Why are your children not taking care of your grandchildren?” She said, “Oh, my children take care of the grandchildren, but they don’t have enough income so I think that I have to go to work and I have to take care of my grandchildren.“ Then she cried again. Why this suffering? Because she went against her evolution. She came to vanaprastha stage and she went back to grihastha stage.

Normally, you have to go forward and you don’t go back. You can go as slow as you want, but you have to go forward in life. So, that’s the whole idea, to have guidance, to know where you are and where you are going. What speed you’re going is up to you, but you have to go in the right direction and not go round and round and also not go back.

EVOLUTION IN INNER MOTIVATIONS:

Motivation is called purushartha, it is about our inner motivation.

The scripture says that there are four motivations which everyone has. You need to recognize your inner motivation, what is the energy or the thoughts within you that push you to make certain decisions.

  1. The first goal of life is called kama. (Kama is not karma, there is no ‘r’).

This clarification is helpful for the Vietnamese speakers because they have a problem with words using “R” anywhere other than at the beginning of a word. For English speakers it seems not necessary and a bit disruptive to me. I would leave it out.

Kama means enjoyment, enjoyment of the senses, enjoyment of the emotions, enjoyment of life. So the first goal when you are alive is to enjoy life.

The goal when you first come into this existence is to enjoy life.

2. The next goal is called artha. Artha means having material wealth, in order for you to do what you need to do. It is a goal of wealth and everyone has this goal.

3. So the next one is called dharma. Dharma can be translated as righteousness, learning your position in life, in society. Dharma also means duty, and acting according to that duty.

4. And the last is moksha. Moksha is the goal of liberation, of spiritual knowledge.

According to Vedic knowledge, when you were born, you did not just start your life. You have started your life way, way before in many past lifetimes. And then in each life when you’re born in the body there are only one lesson, two lessons or a few lessons to be learned, and if you are not finished with your learning, you will reincarnate in different circumstances, a different body, in order for you to continue to learn.

CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN GUNAS, STAGE OF LIFE AND MOTIVATION:

Motivation of Kama in a Young Student’s life (Brahmacharya stage): The quality of tamas is dominant. When you have the goal

of enjoyment of the senses, enjoyment in life, then you are in tamas. You don’t have spiritual knowledge and you do not know the purpose of your life. You are spiritually ignorant. You think you are born with the five senses to enjoy.

In the beginning when you are young, (brahmacharya stage), you are in tamas and you don’t have the moksha goal. You have the kama goal. You want to play. Children just want to play and that’s it. They don’t worry about what is life and what is liberation from suffering. They don’t even know. They are suffering because they miss something, and they cry, and then they maybe take it from others.

People like Swami Sivananda, even when he was young, he shared whatever he had with other kids. But not necessarily every kid is like this. We are quite selfish. When we are kids, sometimes we can torture animals and if we don’t have something, we can go and steal from other people because we don’t know these rules of conduct. We are selfish. Tamas is strong, ignorance is strong.

Motivation of Artha in the householder’s life (grihastha stage): The quality of rajas is dominant. During this stage, you want to make money in order for you to enjoy your senses. You are more rajasic.

Rajas means you are dominated by self-motivated action. In this stage, if you see people suffering from lack of wealth or from limitation, you don’t move from your position because you need to have your money and your life and your desire fulfilled.

Motivation of Dharma in Retirement to the Forest phase ( vanaprastha stage) – The quality is sattva.

As you mature, Sattva, which is the quality of purity, of knowledge, of wisdom, starts to dawn. You start to think of the purpose of life, “who am I? What is the purpose of all this?” Then you move to dharma. I have seen business people who made a lot of money and gave it all to charity. For example, they share the company’s profit with the employees, who they consider to be their own family. They buy houses for the employees, and share the profit in the company. So there are business people who do not have the goal of making money for their own enjoyment only. They start to have a lot of sattva in their mind, or purity and they want to do the right thing. They want to do charity, they want to share, they don’t think that this is my money, this is my company, so they are not rajasic, they start to become sattvic as their motivation and behavior change.

In terms of time, the same thing can happen. Normally we say time is money. We think, ”Okay, my time, I’m going to take care of myself, it is my time, I want to live my life”. But eventually when sattwa dawns, you realize that this is not your energy, your energy is actually God-given energy and you are only a custodian. You are the one who is keeping the energy and then sharing the energy as an instrument, for a higher purpose that you do not control. Then you don’t think that it is my time, my energy, in order to get more wealth and more enjoyment. In sattwa, your thinking about your life changes. You think about a bigger picture, other people. You become more aware. In ecology, you start to think: “Oh my God, we are destroying the planet,” the climate changes and you start to spend a lot of time helping society, or helping to alleviate the climate change.

I’m just giving this as an example, that you are not just only only leading your life in a selfish manner, but you start to give out your energy and your time and you’re starting to think of a bigger picture, the society, the environment, the world and other people. At that time the goal of dharma becomes more important. We move from darkness to light. It is good to recognize the transition, although sometimes it gets very confusing. Sometimes you feel inner conflicts. You think,”My parents say that I have to go find a job, get married, make money and so on. But I feel a very strong desire inside to help the world and to serve the world. I don’t think that I can live my life just thinking of, you know, two, three people in my family, and that will be sufficient for me. I feel that I need to be responsible for the world. I’m a citizen of the world. I am a member of the world family. And I want to give my time and my energy and care for the world’s family and try to live a dharmic life.”

Motivation of Moksha in the renunciation stage (sannyasa) as sattva becomes dominant.

At this time, your motivation might change again into the fourth goal of life called moksha. You start to practice yoga, and you start to practice meditation and you find a certain peace. Then you want more of this peace and more of that expansion of consciousness. When you expand your consciousness, you start to have the moksha goal. Now, you want to take more time to go to the ashram, to do retreats, and do karma yoga.

Swami Sita’s example of evolution in motivations :

“When I just arrived in Canada, I was 18. I was studying in university, and I have to find some money to send money back to support my family, but also to take care of my livelihood. I was 18. At that time, what kind of job? I don’t know society, I do not know anything. So I went to find out in the newspaper, and I found a job in an entertainment ground, an amusement park. In this entertainment ground, the girls I worked with were very young, they were my age and they enjoyed themselves, flirting, drinking… through their KAMA goal , right? And one person that was the most miserable in that whole entertainment ground was me. I was so out of sorts. It was not at my place, loud music, entertainment, amusement…it was an amusement park. And I was so unhappy. Why? Because I did not fit in this KAMA goal.

Even though I was just 18 and I could have played, I was not meant to be entertaining myself and entertaining people. That’s why I was so unhappy.“

“So I changed. And, you know, in order for you to change, you have to have some self confidence that you can do something else. I did not speak the language well and I was very young, in that country

Here I do not understand what you mean by “in that country”. You could say “in a foreign country” or “in a country with a very different culture”, etc.

and so on. But I changed. I learned how to become a secretary. It means I worked in an office, and then I had to go to learn how to type, and that was 50 years ago. Anyway, I had to go to learn how to do type writing on the electric typewriter, because at that time there was no computer. And then I changed my job. So eventually I finished school. And then I worked, and later moved to the ashram. Normally people’s salaries just come higher. And for me, the salaries have come slowly down. Because I kept choosing new motivation. I’m just sharing with you the journey. My journey was quite fast. My change was very fast. But for you the change is happening also. And you have to do soul searching all the time: what you do, what you want, and so on. It might be slower. But you are in movement as much as I am in movement. There are different voices within all of us that are talking all the time”.

“At that time I had a job. I had a very good job, a professional job. I had a great salary, and could travel as I liked. At that time, I traveled as I liked and bought a car and bought this and that. I went to Paris and bought fashion clothing and things like this. It did not last long. I can buy this fashion clothing and I wear it. But then I wear it one time and let go. Why? It was not according to me, to my motivation. It was not my motivation. I could have made money. I’m good at making money. I can do business and make money, but I do business for my family and I give them business advice, but I could not continue to do business, the ARTHA GOAL did not fit me and it did not work.”

“So, when I became a social worker, I did more things for society. Actually, I was working taking care of my family, but also doing social work at night. That means as a volunteer person. So, then I volunteered full time, I worked full time and took care of my family full time. But the dharma goal became very important. I cared so much about society that I suffered when society suffered. When there was something that happened, something unjust that happened to society, I was motivated to help. So I was in the street protesting things and I became a militant activist about different causes for children, women, poor people, the environment, social justice and so on. The DHARMA GOAL has become very important. And I was very happy to do that.”

“I went to the ashram when I was 28. I was already working for society a long time before that time. Because of karma, my family stayed in Vietnam so I went to Canada by myself to study. So all of a sudden, I did not have any family to take care of, so I took care of my society. Which at that time was Canadian and different people that lived in the city. They were all kinds of people and all kinds of cultures. At that time I did not think that these people were foreigners. I worked with Haitian people, Italian people, English speaking people, French speaking people, all kinds of groups, all kinds of classes. I was a social community organizer, social worker. At that time, I thought of these people as my family. The whole city was my family, and I wanted to take care of them. My DHARMA GOAL started early.”

“And then one day, the motivation changed again. I was burned out from doing action, social services, and then I realized the ego that was there, I realized a certain ego that wanted things to change the way I wanted it, the way I thought. So, the sattva started to come in a little bit more at that time, I felt, “Oh, now I understand God’s Will.” The words “God’s Will” are not easy to come by. Before I thought this was me, but now I started to realize, “Oh my God, there is something that is higher than me, higher than politics and everything. There is a Will that is determining what happens in this world, the way it works and that makes things happen. And that Will is God’s Will”.

“I was not born with the idea of God. But then, at that time, somehow it came to my mind. There is something that you need to tune into. And then you have to become an instrument of that Will. And there is nothing about you. So these words “God’s Will” came naturally. My motivation changed from DHARMA to MOKSHA, which is called liberation . Then I became a yogi, I became a sanyasi. I’m very happy now. That was my journey.”

GUNAS AND CASTES

According to guna and karma, you find yourself in a certain caste (or group) as follows: Sudra means when the tamas is strong and you are doing a service job, like my job at the entertainment ground and in a secretarial position before. At that time, you don’t ask spiritual questions. I believe the girls the same age as me at the entertainment ground did not ask existential questions. For myself at that time I already had a lot of questions, therefore I did not fit for long in the sudra group.

Here you can say: I did not fit in the sudra group. I did not last for a long time in that group. OR I did not last for a long time in the sudra group.

I briefly became a Vaishya, when I started doing business for my parents and I was more rajasic, but it did not last long. Then I became a kshatriya when I started to think of others, became an activist, and had a dharma goal. Kshatrya is a mix of rajas and sattva. Then the

last caste is brahmin when sattva is dominant, this is when I became a Yoga and meditation teacher and a sannyasi renunciate.

COMBINATION GUNA, SAGE OF LIFE, MOTIVATION, CASTE:

Tamas, rajas, sattva change. The biology, maturity and psychology change, the motivation, inner motivation, what you really want changes, and then the manifestation of the inner motivation, your occupation and your job changes. In Jyotish, there is a way you can see the motivations. For example, on a total of nine points (depending on where the planets in the birthchart lie), you can see a person’s motivation: If a person has Moksha goal 4, Dharma goal zero, Artha goal 4, Kama goal 1, then this life picture doesn’t make sense. The person wants to liberate himself from suffering but will not make an effort to live righteously, or to seek to know the laws of Nature, the big dharmic picture. Therefore he goes on accumulating wealth and at the same time wants to be free, and yet cannot be at peace with himself.

The advice is, “You need to do more selfless service, you need to increase the Dharma goal. You need to do more selfless service, and you need to give your money a little bit more in charity.“ So now the profile of the motivations changes: Moksha 4, Dharma 2, Artha 2, Kama 1. In this scenario, the Moksha goal is still there, given high value, but then you won’t feel conflicted. Before, you wanted to make money and at the same time you wanted to do yoga, and you wanted liberation, you wanted self-knowledge, and you didn’t do any service for society. When you run these two goals together and it doesn’t fit, then you have some inner conflict.

What you need to do is to put a little bit more time, a little bit more money into charity, a little bit more time into charity, thinking about other people, how you can help. And then don’t just sit at home, study and meditate. I’m sorry to say that. It’s not like I don’t promote meditation. But also in order for you to grow you need to do karma yoga. I mean, you need to serve other people, and it’s a way of meditation. Then it will smooth everything out. And then you will feel better.

Kama goal and Moksha goal: Let’s say you have some desire for self-knowledge. But you have a very strong habit, a desire for enjoyment of the senses. So how does it work? It doesn’t work. So you have to practice more yoga, but focusing on withdrawing the senses, in order for you to see a world that is beyond the sensual world. That is the spiritual world, when you start to meditate more and withdraw more, not running around shopping so much. Be content, be more within.

During the COVID pandemic time you have to stay home more. I think that it is a good thing that you stay home and you don’t go shopping or to coffee shops, sitting and drinking coffee and chit chatting with your friends. You cannot do this now. Vietnam is completely locked down, and here in America last year it was completely locked down. People complained and they were unhappy, but actually it was a very good thing. It forced them to move into another space where they had to be looking inside, working on themselves and not going into the outer enjoyment. The KAMA goal will be less, and the ARTHA goal also.

Sometimes we are forced in the time of COVID. We have to close our businesses and slow down. Before, the goal of making money was very important. But now the artha goal will be less, kama goal will be less, DHARMA goal will be higher, and the MOKSHA goal, the knowledge goal will be higher.

MANAGEMENT OF INNER MOTIVATIONS FOR GROWTH:

I hope that it helps you to think about your life and think about your priority. Of course, you can change your life quickly, but usually it takes time. At least you have to be conscious of your motivation and try to go forward and not go backwards. You need to become less selfish, and not more selfish. If your choice is more selfish, you are going backward. If your choice shows that you are less selfish, you are going forward. If you are more ego-oriented, then you are going backward but if you are more God-oriented then you are going forward. If you are able to surrender your personal will to God’s Will, then you are going forward. If you fight with God’s Will, and you want to impose your will, then you’re going backward.

Conclusion:

You have to think of what motivates you inside. And then you have to have a very clear picture of your inner goal, and then you accept it.

The idea is we don’t usually know where we are. Sometimes, the inner motivation to grow is present but you are conflicted as you struggle with the pressure of what other people say and your own outer, louder voice of the lower mind and habits which pull you in a different direction. So then you’re all confused. This is why you need to meditate daily, be quiet, think about the purpose of your life and who you are and what you want.

The advice is “don’t jump too fast”, do not try to jump life stages and motivations too fast. Because if you jump too fast, you will miss something. For example, if you are young and you need to enjoy your life, that is perfectly okay. Then you need to have time for your enjoyment and at the same time, try to turn it into some sattvic enjoyment like seeing a nice sattvic movie, eating popcorn. It’s all okay. You have to manage these different inner motivations, avoid inner conflicts, accept your current situation and move on. Your inner motivations will evolve at their own speed.

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.

Six Virtues of a Spiritual Seeker

Six Virtues of a Spiritual Seeker

Satsang by swami Sitaramananda at the Yoga Farm Aug.31, 2021

Tue, 8/31 4:09PM • 56:52

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

Control of mind, spiritual teacher, pain, peace, spiritual practice, self-realization, faith, yoga, meditation, Vedanta, swami, means for liberation, Self-Knowledge, atman, Truth, balance, emotions, Yoga philosophy teaching, wisdom, life, realize Self, faith, endurance, inwards turning, serenity, calmness, self-control, self-enquiry, detachment, spiritual discrimination,

Qualifications of a Seeker

We have said how discrimination is the most important qualification to have, i.e., to know the difference between the Self and not-Self. The problem is that we get confused between the Self and the not-Self. In fact, the association of the Atman (the true Self) with the mind makes us think that we are the mind. Whatever the mind thinks, you think you are. This is a big problem, the biggest problem. That is why discrimination is the most important qualification.

You need to observe or detach from what you are thinking. In fact, your past thoughts are the origin of your current life. This life, what you experience today, is the karmic result of what you were thinking in the past. Detachment from your thoughts is how you begin to work your way out of samsara, to not repeat the same mistake, the same pattern of thinking that brought you here in the first place, that brought you suffering. That is why these are the qualifications for liberation—liberation from suffering. In other words, these qualifications create the conditions for you to realize that state of happiness and fullness that you already are.

Number one, you have to discriminate. This is my mind and this is the Self. It is extremely difficult to do this, because for years and years, lifetimes and lifetimes, you have thought that you are the mind. You need to accumulate a lot of sattva, purity, for this realization to dawn in you, “Oh, it’s my mind”. Consequently, you have been observing the patterns of your mind for a long time. You have to disassociate from the mind. That is part of the meditation practice when you detach from the mind.

This talk is about Shad-sampat: the sixfold virtues, the six qualifications of the mind that you can acquire.

The idea is that you are already the Self, Satchitananda, nature. In fact, you cannot get the happiness that you seek from outside. You cannot improve yourself from outside. The mind cannot improve itself by itself. In reality, it’s about making the mind more sattvic for it to reflect the Self. The journey is about cleansing the mind, taking care of the mind, so that you can see the Self that is already there.

You will be endowed with these six qualities when you practice yoga. Yoga is the technique to help you to get these qualities for your mind to see the Self.

1. SAMA – tranquility

Sama means tranquility, tranquility of the mind. It is the first virtue that you should get. As a yoga teacher, you encounter students who are very, very restless, changing up and down. What then, does the yoga teacher or Yoga Health Educator tell these people to do? If a person comes to you and he/she is very much up and down, what do you tell them to do? Meditation and self-enquiry? These are very high goals. They need to do something before that. The answer is they need to do asana and pranayama. That’s all it is. Why? When they do asana, they slow down. Everything slows down. They coordinate the body, the breath, and everything slows down. With pranayama, it is the same. They slow down. They purify the nadis and the prana becomes more balanced. Already that allows them to have some insight, to have some vision, some kind of knowledge about the workings of their own mind. This brings them a little bit of peace, a little bit of serenity. Moreover, the classical bhakti yoga teaching gives them techniques for controlling the emotions. The mind is stirred up and made unsteady by the emotions. That’s why controlling the emotions, sublimating the emotions, is necessary to calm the mind down.

When they do asana, they slow down. Everything slows down.

Our actions are based on our thinking, but our thinking is being motivated by the emotions. Our reasoning is employed to simply justify the emotions. Swami Sivananda said the emotions are predominant in this era. The practice of pranayama helps to calm the emotions and number two, you need to chant to express the Divine Love. Practicing love in bhakti yoga means to practice unconditional love and not to practice attachment. When you practice unconditional love, you calm down, the mind calms down. That’s all it is. When the mind calms down, you are able to see your Self. Bhakti yoga practice helps you to do that. Because we are here separated from our source, separated from ourselves, separated from our true nature, we feel lonely, we feel abandoned and in the dark, separated from Divine Mother and separated from Divine Father; we feel separated from everything, and we have to live with people that we don’t understand. Therefore, it is very difficult to love them. So then, practice tranquility, peace of mind. Some people look like they are calm, but inside they are like a tornado. However, when you practice tranquility, the mind is truly quiet. The churning of the mind needs to settle for you to rest in peace.  

Patanjali Maharishi says very clearly in the Raja Yoga sutras, it’s impossible for a mind to understand a mind; it is impossible for the mind to understand itself. No matter how many thoughts you churn in the mind, it is not going to solve the problem that you have in mind. It is literally impossible for you to use your mind to comprehend somebody else’s mind. In Vietnamese there is an expression, “One talks duck, one talks chicken”. Ducks and chickens talking to each other. It’s not possible to understand each other. That’s why we have so much interpersonal conflict because the mind is already so difficult for you to understand. Then you use that mind to understand somebody else’s mind and it’s impossible. That’s why you need to turn inward to understand your own mind. By calming your own mind and by bringing light to your own mind, you will be able to see another person’s mind. This seeing is not because you are able to see another person’s mind from your mind. It is the light of the Atman shining in your mind that allows you to see the Atman in the other person’s mind.

You have to first work on your own peace. Without that, there is no way you can see the Self, no way you can be happy, truly happy. Swamiji said, “Instead of peace of mind, we have pieces of mind”. This means, you project the conditions for you to be happy, you get the conditions fulfilled and you have a little glimpse of peace. You work very hard to get those conditions fulfilled to have another little piece of peace. And then again, you carry on, work out another contract, fulfill that, and earn another little piece of peace. In this way, we have pieces of mind, but we don’t have peace of mind. Because peace of mind has to come with wisdom, with a certain level of freedom, a certain level of unconditional comfort within yourself and in all situations.

That’s why we have so much interpersonal conflict because the mind is already so difficult for you to understand.

If you watch your life all the time, seeing if it fits your pre-set conditions, always being on the defensive, you will not have peace of mind. That is the unfortunate situation for most of us. It’s very difficult to let down our guard and very difficult for us to be open because we have been hurt for a long time. And you know, we wrongly attribute our hurt to someone else. We have been doing this for a very long time, wrongly attributing our hurt to someone else, therefore, carrying that memory and hoping to be free from hurt. But it’s not possible. In the same manner, in the Vedantic analogy of the “rope and snake,” you constantly see the ‘snake’ because the snake is in your mind, you are constantly projecting the idea of the hurtful snake outside, superimposing the snake on a piece of ‘rope’ and say, “Oh, that snake is going to bite me!” Yes, you run away, but you see the snake again. Because it’s in your mind. That’s why you constantly repeat your patterns of unhappiness. So, even though “sama” is the first virtue, it takes a long, long time to get the peace.

2. DAMA: Control of the Senses

Dama means to control the senses. The Vedantic teacher Adi Shankaracharya spelled it out clearly. He says that if you are very disturbed by the senses then you do not have peace of mind. It is something that you can work on. If you have any kind of addiction, any kind of uncontrolled sensual desire, then you are not qualified. That is why you have to go and work very hard on the control of the senses. Why is control of the senses so important? If we have discrimination, we cannot carry on with this idea that life is about sensual enjoyment. We cannot carry on with this idea that whatever we see outside is real. We cannot carry on with the idea that this life of the five senses is the only life, because yoga and Vedanta say “no”, there is an inner life. There is an inner life that we need to explore.

Yes, this life is a projection of your mind and it’s there to distract you. This life of the senses is there to distract you. So, if you can control the senses, you will have fewer distractions, you will be able to turn inward and you will be able to realize your Self.

3. UPARATI: Satiety

Uparati is the goal of turning inward. That means you are able to lead an inner life and you are able to see your Self. You would have to sort yourself out from within, as all answers are from within. If you constantly hanker for something external, you will not be able to turn within.  Uparati is resolutely turning away from the external, so you can sort yourself out from within. It is the control of the senses; it goes with withdrawing of the senses. In yoga, we call it Pratyahara which is the phase before meditation. Basically, you won’t have any success in meditation if you are not able to turn inward.

When you do asanas and pranayama, what happens? You are starting to turn inward. That’s how it works. Because asanas regulate your prana and make you less subject to prana imbalances or subject to the pull of the emotions and the senses. When you start to practice you start to have a glimpse of the Self because you are turning inward. You turn inward when you practice savasana. Now you have a glimpse of this kind of inner peace.

4. TITIKSHA: Endurance

Titiksha is endurance or forbearance. This is very important because you can turn inward and practice meditation or yoga, but you may not see the happiness that is being promised.

On the contrary, you might have back pain, neck pain, or you feel very bored. You don’t know what you’re doing when you start to meditate. That’s why endurance and forbearance is required. You need to stick to the practice at all costs. That’s what the yogi tries to practice in the beginning. Of course, if you have back pain you will have to move a little bit, you don’t torture your body. There must be some moderation, but if you run away from your practice out of any kind of discomfort then you will not have the necessary qualification for you to sort through your mind and to realize your Self. That is why you need to endure the difficulties brought by your own body, your own mind, and emotions.

Scripture says there are different kinds of suffering. Suffering can come from external elements (fires, floods), from the mind and its interaction with other people, and from your own existence in the body which is constantly changing. Pain and discomfort can be moving all the time. Ayurveda says that vata aggravation creates pain. Western medicine cannot understand this because they treat symptoms. Western medicine cannot understand why pain shows up in different places. Someone with this kind of pain most likely has a tendency to worry, and the more he or she worries, the more they create anxiety that leads to more moving pain. They will not have the necessary peace to turn inward. 

There must be some moderation, but if you run away from your practice out of any kind of discomfort then you will not have the necessary qualification for you to sort through your mind and to realize your Self.

You would need to build up your strength and endurance and to “bear insult, bear injury”. Pain can be mental. Someone saying the wrong thing about you is pain; hearing people talk nonsense is pain; eating food that you cannot digest in the body and the mind is painful. Everything can be painful.

Why does the seeker need to learn to endure? The seeker after Truth wants to be free from suffering altogether. The seeker knows the mind’s tendency to go up and down and its condition to react to external things. So, the seeker would endure. To endure means to remember the Self amidst the ups and downs of the mind. The pain is there, but the pains are not new. Therefore, you endure when you have pain, and you remember, “I am the Self”.  

People in the pandemic, when their whole cities and country are in lockdown, are having much pain and difficulty these days. Yet, when I talk to them about Self-remembrance, they thank me for my talk and are not rejecting it as unrealistic. To some level, there is wisdom within them even though they suffer from pain. But to hear someone say, “The pains are not real. You are real. Your immortal Self is real. You are blissful in reality.” They are thankful. Therefore, we have to constantly repeat to ourselves the truth, even though our minds scream the untruth. Forbearance means to remember the truth so that you can bear the karma.

5. SHRADDHA: Faith

We need to cultivate faith. When we lose faith, we feed ourselves with doubts. Some people do not have any faith at all. Most people suffer a lot because they have no faith. For people in difficult situations that have faith, somehow they have a better quality of life, while people who don’t have any faith think that logic can explain everything. When their logic cannot explain things, they think everything is collapsing. In some way, it’s very good that everything is collapsing. This helps you to realize that the intellect is incapable of seeing the big picture.

How do we nurture faith? When we don’t have the answer and you say, “God knows,” you can also say, “I surrender to the wisdom of the universe, there must be a reason why things are like that.” Or you can say, “I have faith that it will work itself out.”

3 Types of Faith

1.  Faith in one’s own Self
Self-reliance, or faith in one’s Self, means we rely on our own inner strength, dwelling within us, as opposed to relying on an ego self. Fear exists when we don’t know the Truth about the Self (the Atman).  Until we have such knowledge of the Self from our own direct experience, we must rely on faith in order to progress in our life.  Ultimately faith is replaced by direct experience of the Self.  Truth or Knowledge can be glimpsed intuitively, even if we do not have a name for it.  SO CALM DOWN AND TRUST YOURSELF.  One student approached me very worried because she had a cough and had just travelled back from England and wondered if she should go to the hospital and be tested.  I told her, “Look within, ask yourself the question, “Am I going to die soon? Am I healthy?” To which she nodded. She regained confidence and overcame her fears by being asked to find the answer from within.

Until we have such knowledge of the Self from our own direct experience, we must rely on faith in order to progress in our life.

The Truth that sets us free from all fears, resides inside of us. It is a long, hard journey to find it.  We must start on that journey with humility and sincerity.  We lack experience in the beginning, as we do not really have a clue where to look when trying to look within.  Faith keeps us going on that journey.

2.  Faith in Nature and the Supreme Intelligence 
Meditate, shift consciousness from the past to the present.  Try to see a bigger picture and channel your emotions into devotion; have the courage to face your illusions. Faith in the Supreme springs from an inner feeling that there is something greater than you, a Supreme being that indwells one’s essential spirit.  When one is enriched with abiding faith, one recognizes Grace operating in all things.  We are on a journey of Self-discovery to uncover the truth of who we are, a journey guided by faith.  We can think of faith as the bridge that carries us from one experience of Grace to the next.

3.  Faith in the teachings and the practices
The sacred teachings say that you are like the Shining Sun untouched by fear and diseases. There are days when clouds fill the sky and we cannot see the sun.  You know the sun is there.  To regain that vision of the inner sun, we must learn to clear away the impurities of the mind by observing the Niyamas (purity, contentment, austerity, Self-study, Self-surrender). Self-surrender means accepting what is; letting go and letting the Divine will prevail. Let it be. Bear the consequences of past actions arising in the present. Have faith that eventually everything will pass. We must also practice endurance and know that the journey is not going to happen overnight. The challenge of enduring past karma is learning not to react or retaliate. Forgive and forget.

To qualify yourself, you need to gather these three conditions: 1) faith in your own true Self that will guide you toward wisdom; 2) faith in Nature and the Supreme Intelligence; 3) and faith in the teachings and the practices. Then keep practicing. If you don’t have complete faith in the teacher, fine, keep practicing and you will get there. Because it is very difficult to understand who the teacher is, but you can practice what you understand from the teaching and eventually you will understand the relationship.  

In case you have doubt, there are many things you can do to lift the doubt. Continue to practice of course, but the easiest thing to do is to keep company (satsanga) with those who have no doubt.

In the beginning, 40 years ago, I had a lot of doubts, because I had a lot of questions. I did not have peace. I had my intellect, my questions, my mind.  My mind was constantly churning, so I always came up with a long list of questions. I had a glimpse of peace when I met Swami Vishnudevananda, so when my mind went into that mode again, I wrote down my list of questions, or I had the list in my mind, and I went to see him. I just arrived at the gate of his residence and all my questions were gone. Yet, I was not even in Swamiji’s wise company.

When my mind went into that mode again, I wrote down my list of questions, or I had the list in my mind, and I went to see him. I just arrived at the gate of his residence and all my questions were gone.

I was uplifted without words and all my questions were gone. The high energy was radiating, so I found some peace. What I learned is that just by being near that high energy, I will find some answer. I didn’t even know what answer it was, because it was not a logical answer, it was not some intellectual answer. The fact is only that I have peace. So, I decided I would try to get karma yoga around Swamiji’s house. I always found some excuse to do karma yoga there. I volunteered to sweep the courtyard, do things around the house, and I didn’t even see Swamiji, I didn’t even have any conversation or ask any kind of question. But I had some calmness, some kind of peace because my mind, my questioning mind calmed down.

How can we dispel doubt? Keep company with those who have no doubt, because they radiate a different kind of energy. As the Atman in you and the Atman in those wise ones are the same, when you enter into the company of those that have realized that they are the Atman, you then have a glimpse of your own Atman. That’s how peace comes to you. That’s all it is.

Sometimes we think the teacher has to do something for you. The teacher is not doing anything for you. The teacher is being themselves. They live their life. They enjoy themselves. They are not a babysitter and they’re not helping anything. They are just being their happy Self. And when you are in their company and they are themselves, you see your Self.

You think that the teacher has to do something? Of course, the teacher also has to work, teach and uplift, and the teaching comes through depending on how ready the students are. I just want to make a point that the transmission of spiritual knowledge depends primarily on the readiness of the student. The comprehension of the greatness of the teacher depends on the greatness of the students. The greatness of the students depends on the greatness of the teacher who was able to help the students to realize him/herself. 

The transmission of spiritual knowledge depends primarily on the readiness of the student.

Swami Sivananda was a medical doctor. Then he became a seeker and a wandering monk, a sadhu. He met with a Sanyasi teacher who gave him initiation into Sannyas. He practiced serious meditation for seven years in his little meditation kutir. He went out to get alms and came back to meditation. At the same time, he healed people as a doctor but now he healed them not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. People started to come to him. When more people started to come to him he opened the ashram. Swami Sivananda was very much one of the exceptional disciples because he already had this knowledge. He met with the teacher and met with Vedanta. He realized very quickly, so didn’t stay with his teacher for a long time and became a teacher himself very quickly. We call this type of student a “gunpowder student”.

Swami Vishnudevananda met Swami Sivananda at a young age, stayed with him for 10 years in India before being sent to the West, and carried on working under the name of Swami Sivananda for the rest of his life. I myself am the same. I did not come into contact with any other teacher. I have stayed in the same teaching the whole time. Of course, there was the temptation to check out other teachings in the beginning. There is always some idea that some other teaching is better than what you are practicing because what you are practicing becomes boring. So, your mind starts to wander, finding fault with the teacher, thinking that what you are doing is not giving any result. So, in case you have a doubt about the teacher, you need to continue practicing until the doubts are cleared out. 

6. SAMADHANA: Balance with attention.

One of my favorite translations of this word is “balance with attention”. The story is that you practice so you become balanced in order to realize the big Self. If you are imbalanced, it means you are extreme in some way. Then you will fall. Why isn’t good to be extreme? To be extreme in something will have an opposite effect. You will fall where you were strong. Balance means you are good in everything and are keeping an eye on the goal of Self Realization all the time. Sometimes you might fall a little bit, go sidesways a little, get a little angry, get a little sad, get a little attached. But you never lose yourself completely, you do not lose your path. One needs to cultivate the virtue of balance, of equanimity, of detachment from the ups and downs, from the liking and the disliking. In this way, your attention is always on the goal. It is similar to keeping yourself balanced on one foot in the tree pose. Your eyes have to look at one point far away to balance in the tree pose. If someone praises you, you might lose it. If someone criticizes you, you might lose it. You have to keep your eye on the goal and not lose it in praise or censure, in good or bad conditions, you are all the time focused. That’s called “balance with attention,” or “concentration on the goal,” or the practice of “equanimity”.

SUMMARY

In order for us to qualify for Self-Realization, we need to gather the 6 qualities: 1) Sama, tranquility, control of the emotions to become peaceful. 2) Dama, control of the senses. Don’t let any sense pull you away, a little bit here a little bit there, but do not give yourself to anything that will pull you away from your center. 3) Uparati, turning resolutely inwards. That means you have to be at the point where you say to yourself, “Enough is enough is enough”. Enough of the external life, enough of seeking for pleasures in the wrong places, enough of these wanderings around, enough is enough is enough! At that time, you say, “I am turning inwards, I’m going to find my peace in the right place”.

4) Titiksha, endurance, forbearing the difficulties of the path, difficulties created by your own mind and the environment. Titiksha is to bear it, not losing it and not dropping it. 5) Shraddha, having faith in your own capacity for realization, faith in the teacher and faith in the teaching.

6) Samadhana, keeping the goal of Self-realization in view; to keep experiencing the “I am” and a little bit of “I am this and that,” and always coming back to yourself, never losing your balance.

By acquiring the 6 virtues (Shad-Sampat), you cultivate the desire to know, Mumukshutva, is the 4th qualification after Viveka, Vairagya, and the 6 virtues. Mumukshutva means you never drop the goal o Self Realization.

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.

Vedic Knowledge (Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, and Jyotish) to Alleviate Suffering

Vedic Knowledge (Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, and Jyotish) to Alleviate Suffering

A satsang by swami Sitaramananda

Introduction:

In this time of pandemic, our global society is suffering in many levels. Even if we can carry on with our lives and we are not directly affected by the virus, the news, the images and statistics are haunting. This is an attempt to summarize what we can make use of from the tool box of Yoga techniques, the philosophy and tradition of Vedanta, and the guidance of Ayurveda Vedic healing science, as well as Jyotish, the science of karma and of timing. These tools can be applied for all conditions, – either for a medical responder from New York, or a mother with kids out of school to care for at home, or a regular student of Yoga already on the path of self healing and self – transformation.

What is suffering?

The nature of our human condition is suffering (dukha). There are many teachings on the nature of our afflictions and sufferings. Sufferings can be of different types: (1) physical and emotional discomfort and pain we all experience due to birth, old age, sickness and death, (2) the suffering of change, when we cling to the impermanent expecting it to be permanent, (3) and the suffering of existence when we have to endure the fruits of our karma.

Swami Sivananda said “the gap between what you want and what you got is suffering”.

Patanjali said in Raja Yoga sutras 2.15 “every action brings pain due to the anticipation of loss, new desires, or conflicts arising out of the interaction between the mind and the three qualities of Nature” and in 2:16 “the misery that has not yet manifested should be avoided”.

Bhagavad Gita guidance: 2:14 “Endure the pairs of opposites from contact with the sense objects. Everything has a beginning and an end”

2:38 “Live life, stand up and engage in the struggle with your own lower tendencies and karmic results with equanimity”.

12:17 Sri Krishna guidance “He who neither rejoices, nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, renouncing good and evil, and who is full of devotion, is dear to Me.”

The motive for spiritual practices and disciplines is freedom from suffering. Yogis talk about freedom from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. They talk about liberation from ignorance, emancipation, enlightenment or attainment of Self Knowledge. Yoga talked about the 4 paths of Yoga to attain moksha, freedom from suffering. In fact, all Vedic sciences are based on the same idea, how to devise ways to facilitate liberation, the ultimate goal.

What is Vedic knowledge?

These 4 systems Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Jyotish are part of what is called Vedic Knowledge.Vedic Knowledge comes from the vedas, the oldest scripture of mankind and offers a universal view of life from physical to psychological well being to unleashing our highest creativity and deepest awareness. It is relevant to us today, in this exceptional times, to get inspiration from vedic knowledge in order to understand where we came from, where are we now and where are we going towards?

How Vedic knowledge is relevant in the world of today?

The pandemic has brought us close together as we are facing a common invisible threat and are learning from each other. Through the Internet, we are now in communication with individuals and cultures throughout the world that were regarded as foreign and alien not long ago, and we are also learning about the intricate web of nature through the planetary ecology. We can no longer ignore Climate change and recently, during the epidemic when everyone is obsessed with the virus itself, many conscious leaders of the world brought together the idea of Climate change and Corona virus. They pondered: What we did to nature and our planet that would bring about the epidemic? We need to step out of the main stream blame game, is it a Chinese virus or an American virus, who did what and when, cease the denial attitude and together take the opportunity to deeply question ourselves of our own responsibility in the problem humanity as a whole is facing. This is a time to be meditated upon.

The world is sick. Similarly, the world is like a sick individual. When striked by disease, we went through 3 phases. For example, a cancer patient or a sick individual would forcibly be staying at home and rest, stop all activities and rest, do automatically “social distancing” and rest. Does this sound familiar?

 The sick individual would ask the question in the beginning: “why me?”, “How can this happens?”, “When will I be cured?”, “When can I get back to my life as before?”. Our world is asking those questions.

Further along, the questions turn into: “what is the relationship between my mysterious disease and my lifestyle or what I did in my life?” In the same manner, the world as an organic entity would asks: “what is the relationship between the fierce corona virus outbreak and what humanity did as a whole?”, “What kind of lifestyle we are indulging in?”, “what are our impacts on the environment?”.

Later, the question would turn to: “This is a sacred opportunity, how can I learn from this disease? How do I truly heal? “; “how can we heal as humanity? how can we restore our connection to ourselves and to the earth? “. Instead of blaming, and rejection, we become grateful and aware.  

We realize more than ever our interdependence, our oneness. To echo Vedic scholar and author, dr. David Frawley, he said that “we are no longer content with older cultural models caught up in nationalistic concerns that do not address all humanity and the whole of life”. This is the time for rising above the same consciousness that has created the corona virus and move towards conscious living, in harmony with our own Self and with Nature. This is called Yoga. Yoga as a conscious Yoga Life, not just a physical system of exercises, but a traditional holistic system of life integrating body-mind-spirit, with roots from India.

Vedic sciences (Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Jyotish) are based on the same principles. This is not the context to go deep into each of these sciences but to bring to the attention to all, that they are not different and separated sciences, they are tightly interrelated. They are not old sciences, out of fashion, but they speak clearly in the world today. It is uncanny that we see these teachings reverberating everywhere in the messages we received in the world today:  

  • To make the world healthy, turn within and stay home.
  • To save lives, stay still, self quarantine, stop moving.
  • Sacrifice the old habits of turning outwards for distractions, be responsible, calm down, relax, be content.
  • To heal the outer world, heal ourselves first.
  • The answer lies within, do not look for it outside.
  • Happiness and Health are within, cease to look for them outside.
  • We are powerful beyond measures. Together we win, divided we perish.
  • The Self and the Universe are integrated.
  • Unity in Diversity: truth is one, paths are many.
  • The micro cosmos and the macro cosmos mirror each other.
  • What we experience is a universal dance of matter and consciousness.

In this context, health workers, warriors on the front line are quickly learning their lessons and in the best scenario, they become de facto teachers either they are aware or not. They can elevate themselves on the battlefield and learn precious lessons, showing examples to many. Not only health care workers, but anybody who become touched by the depth and dimension of the current world suffering, and specially yoga teachers, can all become leaders of humanity towards the Light, or liberation from suffering. Health workers can become Yogis and not traumatized victims to the disease, and Yogis can become healers actively working to uplift consciousness. In this context, the Sivananda Yoga Health education program started 3 years ago, becomes very relevant and helpful.

I. How Jyotish, the science of light (vedic astrology) can help us to alleviate suffering?  

Jyotish or Vedic astrology is the science aiming to bring light into the karmas experiencing as specific intricate situations.  Vedic astrology would help to see the relationships between aspects of our life, help us to detach and teach us to be patient in our attempt to be free from suffering situations.

  1. Everything in our life is the manifestation of our karmas. It is not the truth about ourselves. The more you are detached from the identification with aspects of our karmas, better it is. Seeing the 12 areas of our karmas as outlined in Jyotish, helps us to be aware of our purpose and tendencies (1.our birth in this body and our general intention in life, our life force and overall character, 2. Our resources and support system, 3. Our communications and free will, 4. Our heart and emotions, 5. Our education and intelligence 6. Our weaknesses 7. Our partnership, 8. Our deep psyche 9. Our dharma and faith, 10. Our career and Contribution 11. Our gains and 12. Our losses.).
  2. The karmas even though felt real and painful, are changing by nature. Vedic astrology teaches us the cyclical nature of the unfolding of karmas, represented by the dashas and transit system. 
  3. We are not our minds and our likes and dislikes: As you think is what you become, as you think, is what you see.  We do not live in the same world because our minds are different. We can understand people’s mindset so we do not suffer from expectations unfulfilled, and we can adapt ourselves and accept people for who they are, thus removing instances of suffering from relationships in our life.
  4. The moon (the mind) is important in Jyotish.  We can alleviate our suffering by recognizing out mental tendencies.  It is our perception of reality that creates reality. The countenance and behavior of our mind and emotions color everything we come in contact with. Suffering comes from our minds.

For example, there is the tendency of the mind to be alone, thinking in own head and not engaging or cooperating with others, creating isolation and loneliness (moon alone), disposition of the mind to be perfectionistic (moon mars Saturn), pessimistic and depressed (moon Saturn), fast and angry (moon mars), unsupported (hemmed in between malefics), optimistic open and dharmic (moon jupiter), fearful and desirous (rahu moon), edgy and spacy (moon ketu). There is dark moon, bright moon, weak moon and too emotional moon.

  • Vedic astrology shows us our ego from the disposition of the sun.  Our ego brings about suffering, why we have difficulty in self assertion, or too much self assertion, when we have too much dependence on relationships and too much independence. The sun also represents the government, and our relationship with authority.
  • Not knowing our purpose and motivation bring suffering. Vedic astrology can show us our deeper motivation when we come in this life, and why we feel sometimes that our life is not the life we are meant to live. It shows the motivation of the soul and how the soul plans to work out the karmas of this life.  It shows our areas of completeness and maturity and our areas of weaknesses and future growth.
  • Suffering comes from our unresolved inner conflicts, the unfulfilled areas of our life. Jyotish gives insights into how to mitigate these tendencies from past.
  • Vedic astrology when understood properly can help us becoming more aware of our journey and helps us to avoid suffering coming from making the same mistake. It shows us that our destiny is in our hands and in contrary of popular belief, it shows us that we can always do something to improve our situation, that nothing is desperate, it is difficult but this too shall pass.
  • Vedic astrology shows us our inner motivation, kama (enjoyment), artha (wealth), dharma (righteousness) and moksha (liberation) so we can consciously evolve in our motivation.
  • Vedic astrology shows us the timing of heavens. It is the science of time.

Example today is Akshaya Titriya an auspicious day to start a spiritual project, when both sun and moon are exalted.

 II. What Ayurveda has to teach us to free us from suffering?  

  • Ayurveda is the science of life. It is the traditional system of medicine from India which is based on the theory of the 5 elements. Ayurveda teaches us to honor the wisdom behind the processes of nature manifesting as our own our health and wellbeing. It prevents us from diseases by teaching us how to live peacefully with our body and our environment.
  • Ayurveda points out that we are to manage our doshas in order to be healthy.  (doshas are biological humours known as Vata, Pitta, Kapha which essentially are the powers of air, of fire and of water). They are not perfect and they are constantly changing. Doshas are primarily disease causing factors.
  • Ayurveda teaches us the virtue of balance, understanding of our constitution and balance between the doshas, between the energy of action and movement of Vata (ether and air), the energy of transformation, conversion, and metabolism of Pitta (fire and water) and the energy of construction, lubrication and nourishment of Kapha (water and earth).
  • Ayurveda aims at reducing excess doshas as disease causing factors. Ayurveda goes to the root cause of our imbalance, aims at treatment of the dosha behind the disease not simply the disease itself.
  • Ayurveda taught us to recognize our strength and weakness in our mind-body type and live a healthy lifestyle accordingly.
  • Lifestyle change leads to wellness.  For acute diseases, a clinician is required. Changing in lifestyle (food, sleep, sensual inputs , relaxation and activity etc..) can improve quality of life and leads to health and well being and not disease. It is important that we learn how to eat vegetarian non harmful food.
  •  In a deeper level, Ayurveda helps us to balance the  subtle energies of Prana, tejas and ojas that are the Master forms of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We knew that Prana can be strengthened through pranayama, Tejas increases by the practice of mantra, of concentration and intuition.  Ojas is the energy of sustenance and is increased through a rich nutritive vegetarian diet, ojas enhancing herbs, adequate rest and relaxation and by cultivation of faith, devotion, compassion and endurance and most importantly by contacting the inner Soma or nectar of bliss. Consequently, it is said that the world is missing ojas, thus the occurrence of corona virus, because the food is not sattvic (pure, natural and wholesome), lack of rest and relaxation, and lack of faith and devotion and endurance by too much rajasic activity, and lack of connection to higher Self which brings happiness and contentment. The shelter at home order is received by many as a permission to slow down and rest, meditate and connect with our blissful self.
  • Ayurveda helps us to optimize our connection to nature and teaches us to live according to the time of the day and the time of the seasons. We learn to follow our daily routine and to adjust our life according to the times.
  • Last but not least, Ayurveda, not only addresses proper nutrition, but also the relationship between food and elimination, as well as the necessity of giving the body rest and detoxification. By slowing down, the world is detoxifying.

III. What Yogic techniques and philosophy we can use daily and in case of emergency?  

  • From Yoga science, we understand that the body-mind are our instruments and not ourselves.  We take care of our vehicles and we are not the vehicles. We are the master of our vehicles. The physical body is not meant to live forever. Its function is birth, growth, decay and death.  This perspective alleviates greatly our suffering due to attachment to the body and identification with it.
  • We also know that the mind is our instrument only, that what we feel or our character, personality are not our true selves. This allows us to navigate the mind and not become a victim to it. Our emotions can be overwhelming but we are not our emotions.
  • We learnt how our inner instrument works, how to make use of our higher faculty of intellect to discriminate on the right action to take for progress in life and self realization. We knew that we are not our senses, and our subconscious habits, we learn to assert our power of choice.
  • Yoga taught us techniques to move our prana and unblock any blockages that can lead to tension and diseases. Asanas properly performed move our prana and induce well being, specially when relaxation and concentration and proper breathing are there.
  • The scripture of Yoga declares that by increasing our prana (life force) and by the purification of our subtle channels through pranayama, we can destroy diseases and live a vibrant life.
  • The most valuable teaching of Yoga is the knowledge how to increase our vibrational wavelength through pranayama and how it alleviates suffering immediately through the change of our thought quality in our mind.
  • Another precious teaching of Yoga is the teaching on concentration. How we can be free from suffering simply by keeping our minds one pointed. By doing so, the peaceful, blissful self can be revealed.
  • We have a direction to guide our endeavors. In all aspects of our life, we try to stay away from tamas (inertia, pulling down), we calm down rajas (action, egoism, passion) and we nourish sattwa (purity, balance, wisdom, harmony). The teaching of the gunas is invaluable to guide our external life and our inner life.
  • The deeper teaching of Yoga comes from the 4 paths of Yoga teaching. We go to the roots of our sufferings by transforming our Karma through Karma Yoga; by sublimating our desires and emotions through Bhakti Yoga, and by

controlling our minds with meditation (Raja Yoga) and last by detaching from the sense of false self to embrace the Truth within. In other words, healthcare workers can for example, accept internally the lessons of life and death, do the duty and let go of expectations and results, keep focusing and meditating while in action and know that there is another picture than this one, a level of beauty, of perfection untouched by anything, which is residing right in our heart.

  • When overwhelmed, relax into God’s love and care, detach from the dramas, breathe into the pain, exhale and let go, surrender to God’s will and let go of one’s will.

IV. How Vedanta philosophy helps us to alleviate our suffering?

  • Vedanta philosophy teaches us that all sufferings come from our forgetfulness of Self.
  • It teaches about the nature of our immortal spirit and how to realize it in our lives.
  • It teaches the nature of our changing illusions and misperceptions.
  • It points out to our ultimate oneness in consciousness.
  • It points out to a reality that is perfect, which we intuit in our soul.
  • We learn to change perspective in our thinking and see things differently.
  • Life is real and death is real but both are unreal, two aspects of the same reality that is beyond life and death.
  • Practicing Vedanta, we learn to think correctly about ourselves and the reality by learning to discriminate between the real and unreal, the self ad the not self. We learn to lose ourselves to find ourselves. The ego is not real; it can be an obstacle.
  • Vedanta philosophy encourages us to detach from what we think we are, to remember our eternal Self and and not losing ourselves in the unreal.
  • All things changing are unreal in essence. It is just an appearance, projected by our mind.
  • We learn to step back and see the bigger picture, and cease to take things personal.
  • We do not know who we are but we know who we are not.
  • By knowing who we are not, what remains is the truth.
  • By detaching from our minds, which function out of the past and the future, we can be ourselves, in the eternal present.
  • Happiness is not in this world, turn within and find the Atman, the Self that is Sat chit Ananda bliss absolute.
  • We do our duty, fulfill our karmas, do the best we can but at the same time

Know that perfection and fulfillment are not to be found in this relative world.

CONCLUSION:

–     All Yogic sadhanas, all Vedic sciences are wonderful tools helping us navigating our lives and becoming stronger and more sattvic, so to ultimately realize ourselves and be free from all suffering due to our ignorance.

The Yogis say: Ignorance is death, freedom of the soul from ignorance is liberation, self realization and conquest of death.

Lead me from darkness to light

From the fear of death to immortality.

Asato ma sad gamaya

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Mrityur ma amritam gamaya

Om purnamadah purnamidam purnat

Purnamudachyate

Purnasya purnamadaya

Purnamevavasishuate

Om shanti shanti shanti

Om peace, peace, peace,

Swami Sitaramananda

04/26/2020

6 Ayurvedic Tips for Winter Wellness

6 Ayurvedic Tips for Winter Wellness

This time of the year, colds are common in people. Symptoms include runny nose, cough, congestion, headache, drowsiness, and an achy body. In Ayurveda, colds are viewed as a kapha and vata disorder. Kapha is due to the congestion qualities (cool, moist properties in excess) along with high vat, manifesting as a decreased appetite, chills and body aches.

Here are 6 tips to deal with a cold according to Ayurveda:

  1. Rest – slow down and give your body the time to heal and balance. We have less energy during these winter months. It is a time when our energy wants to go inward so honor this and give yourself the space to relax and restore.
  2. Avoid dairy Products – dairy increases kapha, which manifests as mucous. If you are feeling congested then it is best to avoid all dairy so you don’t add to this congestion.
  3. Sip warm water – this will help you to flush your system as well as keep you warm throughout the day.
  4. Eucalyptus Steams – in a large pot boil water with either eucalyptus leaves or add a few drops of eucalyptus oil once the water is steaming hot. Cover face with towel and bend over pot. Breath in the steam for several minutes. This should help clear up congestion.
  5. Neti – Using a neti pot with salt water will help to flush out excess mucous from your nasal passages follow with breath of fire and alternate nostril breathing.
  6. Ginger – This is one of the best remedies out there for cold because it combats the kapha and vata qualities out of balance. We suggest using fresh herbs such as ginger root, turmeric root, and cinnamon sticks if these are available to you. If not powdered can work as well. 
Herbal medicine is an important aspect of Ayurvedic Healing.

Following an Ayurvedic routine can also help maximize wellness and also boost immunity to help ward off colds.

According to Ayurveda, each organ is at its highest functioning power during certain times. Reflect on different times in your day and utilize healing and balancing tools to bring clarity, routine, and ease mind this fall/winter season.

  1. 6-8 am Lunch (kapha) try gentle yoga, pranayama, or walking.
  2. 8-10am pancreas (kapha) have a breakfast, and allow digestion to occur.
  3. 10-12pm stomach (pitta) digest.
  4. 12-2pm heart (pitta) have a lunch and digest.
  5. 2-4pm spleen(vata) digest
  6. 4-6pm colon, kidneys, Bladder (vata) enjoy dinner
  7. 6-8pm lungs (kapha) walk outside.
  8. 8-12pm pancreas, small intestine, stomach (kapha+pitta) rest, digest, and sleep.

      Adding simple things to your daily routine, such as practicing self abhyanga (warm sesame oil self massages). An hour before shower or any form of exercise. Eat a seasonal warm cooked meal on time. Avoid cold drinks and food during cold winter months.

Ayurvedic oil massage (Abhyanga) is another important aspect of a health and wellness routine.

Jalpa Patel (Jagadamba)

Jalpa Patel (“Jagadamba”) is a knowledgeable Ayurveda Practitioner who is passionate about integrating Ayurveda and Yoga for health and healing. View courses with Jagadamba >

Healing with Medicine, Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish, and Vedanta

Healing with Medicine, Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish, and Vedanta

Healing with medicine, yoga, ayurveda, jyotish and vedanta

Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

Yoga Farm Director

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda and acharya of the US West Coast centers and Ashram.  Swamiji is also the acharya of the Sivananda mission in Asia, especially in Vietnam, where she hails from.

I want to share with you a true story of karmic disease and karmic healing. Disease can be karmic, i.e., not sure of the cause, but meant to happen for self-transformation and growth.

When we have disease, we always asked ourselves the question, “Why? Why me?” It is difficult to see that disease can be an opportunity, an opportunity to slow down, to reevaluate oneself, and to reconnect with what is essential in one ‘s life.

In the best case scenario, we also reconnect with the healing spiritual force within us and within Mother Nature, we reconnect with our natural ability to pray. Disease can make us strong in some way, restoring our faith, and teach us that there are higher forces at play that govern our lives, thus teaching us to surrender, accept, to become humble, and to contemplate life and death.

The other possibility is that disease can challenge our faith, awaken not our spirit, but our anger and hatred, the accumulation of all bitterness, desires unfulfilled, and disappointments of the past. Disease brings lots of negativity to the surface. Disease is purgatory and painful, detoxifying.

Spencer teaches with students standing nearby observing in the sunlight

A young lady named Hannah discovered she has breast cancer. She is in her 40s, a mother of two, happily married, manager at a bank, and normally a joyful person. She has never done yoga or meditated before. She tried to keep her composure during the days between the discovery of the lump and the confirmation that it is cancer. Her mother and sister are yoga teachers. So at that time, she took the trip to the ashram and asked for an appointment with the head teacher, the swami in charge, i.e., myself.

I looked at her and felt her anxiety. I even checked her Vedic astrology chart, which normally will reveal some karmic reasons for something happening. The chart is actually quite positive and balanced, there are no clear causes, no terrible imbalances, no long-term negativity, no big inner drama which would explain cancer. I am actually perplexed. She is in her Jupiter period of life which is a good period for learning, not a Saturn period where we have to pay our karmic debts.

A PDC student observes a flower in our permaculture garden.

Doctors diagnosed cancer and prescribed breast surgery and a course of chemotherapy. She lost her hair, became weak and pale. I prayed for her but did not know what to do besides following my intuitive advice as a yoga therapist: rest, recharge prana, take time, do Ayurvedic pancha karma . Her mother had a lot of faith. One day, She asked me to pull a fortune message card, the kind in a Chinese fortune cookie or on your yogi tea bag. The message said, “You will make a difference in somebody’s life”. The mother immediately said, “It is Hannah, you will save Hannah! I kept silent. Such expectation of cure of the number one disease killer placed on me!

Hannah went to India for 3 weeks of pancha karma treatments at the famous Ayurvedic healing village Vaidyagram, near Coimbatore. This is between her 3rd and 4th rounds of chemo. She wore a turban over her head, having lost all of her hair. She took time from her job and from her family, a new course of events. Her husband and his parents took care of the kids. She came back from her pancha karma feeling better, about to resume her chemotherapy.

It happened so, as karma dictated, that , one day I asked point-blank to the Ayurvedic Dr. Ram Kumar, “What should we do for her? Ayurveda pancha karma, but now what?
Dr. Ram Kumar said, “Maybe she can meet me and another cancer specialist doctor that I will meet for an international conference on cancer in Malaysia!

Students have fun in the permaculture garden at the Yoga Farm.

It happened so that the dates of the conference are a holiday, and Hannah was able to take time from work and her sister was able to accompany her.  During the conference, hearing many doctors talking about cancer, hearing stories of healing from cancer patients, Hannah gained strength. The doctors advised her to stop her chemo if hereditary cancer is not in the family, (she did not know that her own mother was a cancer survivor), and she agreed.

Upon return, she quit her high paying bank manager job, and checked into the ashram for a two months stay. She practiced yoga asanas for the first time, twice a day, practiced breathing exercises and conscious relaxation. She ate vegetarian food twice a day, did her one-hour karma yoga chores in the ashram, and took her time walking in the forest. I saw her walking slowly, relaxing and ẹnjoying herself. After a month of yoga vacation, she signed up for Yoga Teacher Training Course and learned yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, and followed the rigorous yoga discipline seriously. Indeed the disease opened a new door of knowledge for her. She was happy!

A permaculture designer tends to the garden.

After two months she came back and the doctor was amazed. There was no trace of cancer! Even her hepatitis of 5 years that was controlled by medicine had disappeared. Her doctor was so amazed that he himself came to the ashram and sent his own parents for yoga retreats.

The reoccurence of cancer is a commonly known fact. After returning home, she took a lower position in the bank and continued with her daily routine of yoga, meditation, pranayama, relaxation and vegetarian diet. Her spirit came back strong along with her faith.  Ten days later she came back impromptu for the Vedanta Self-enquiry course. I hesitated to take her as I did not want to compromise her new-found balance. I gave her a one-day trial and questioned her.

She was ready. I let her follow the 10-days intensive course, during which she fearlessly shared her past trauma, always with an inner smile. She nailed down the idea that, “I am the immortal atman, I am not this body, not this mind.” She is free from fear!

Yoga classes are an integral part of the permaculture design course.

The medicine of karma, Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish, and Vedanta work together for this amazing self-transformation journey.

Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) practitioners are trained to be the health catalyst; in wisdom counseling, prayer, yoga teaching, Ayurveda therapy and working with doctors. Disease is not simple. Life and death are not simple. Consciousness heals. Diseases are opportunities. May all become Yoga Health Educators and may Yoga and Ayurveda therapy be used more alone or with medicine!

Crest Jewel of Discrimination

Crest Jewel of Discrimination

In this podcast, Swami Sita teaches from the book Crest Jewel of Discrimination written by Adi Sankaracharya.  Sankara describes the need for devotion in order to experience truth and freedom.  We have to learn to have discernment between what is helping us and what is not.  By practicing right thinking we can cultivate an inner power / knowledge.  Our current state is that we are lost in an ocean of worldliness where we only see external things.  But we need to remember the Self and have the power of discrimination / discernment.  It is like a snake / rope where what we are seeing is not real, and we need the light to see correctly.

Listen in for Divine Wisdom