A satsang by swami Sitaramananda
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.
- 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.).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
– 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
Om shanti shanti shanti
Om peace, peace, peace,