Sannyasa and Self-Discipline

Paramahamsa Niranjanananda, Ganga Darshan 1994

The following satsang was given in response to a series of confessions by the BSY sannyasins of the shortcomings and weaknesses in personality that they had experienced in the preceding month.

It is easy to talk about the good things, but to actually recognise one's personal shortcomings, and confess to them, is even better. Several swamis have confessed to having problems in relation to Karma Yoga, problems with ego, feelings of anger, ambition, envy, greed, competition, lethargy, fear, anxiety, guilt, etc. and feelings of negativity towards me and the ashram at times.

Human beings tend to forget that they have two basic sides to their personality. One side is trying to be good, disciplined, so that he or she is accepted and recognised by society as a good person. The other side is the totally unstable personality which does not know what to aspire for, which does not have a direction in which to think and walk. So there is insecurity, fear, then drive, then again holding back.

Living in the present

No one wants to recognise this aspect. Yoga talks about being the observer, the seer. Along with this there has to be an acceptance of what is being experienced in the present. When there is no acceptance, there is a blocking out. We go to our room either in anger, frustration, depression or in a restless frame of mind. At that time we just want to block it out or let it out. If we block it out, then we lie down, close our eyes and go to sleep. If we let it out, then we try to find somebody else who is having the same problem, maybe under different circumstances, and we both start our verbal diarrhoea.

Some swamis still do not know the Shanti mantras off by heart. We can remember something many years later that has been said to us only once in our lifetime but we cannot remember something that we do for two hundred days of the year. This is being out of touch with the reality of the environment, and being more in touch with the fantasies and pulls of the mind. It is the non-accepting, escapist tendency of the mind, which is not fully aware of the present, and is too caught up in the web of individualistic personality. Our daily life becomes a mess and even the sadhana that we aspire for is not practised with continuity. Therefore, it is necessary to be alert to the present.

That is the concept of drashta, the observer, who is actually there with awareness in the present, watching and assimilating the present environment. If you do not behave like this there is bound to be a lot of mental conflict, disappointments, insecurities and building up of ambition.

Try not to do things in a mechanical way. Even in your department do not be mechanical. Do not pass the time, because if you are passing time, what are you waiting for? If you wait for something, then you pass the time. If you are not waiting for something, then you are involved. So be involved with clarity of mind, with simplicity of nature and with dignity in life. Otherwise life has no purpose or meaning. Be alert and aware of the environment and that way you will assimilate it.

Duty first

One swami has said that when he organised a special programme for my initiation birthday, I reprimanded him for not doing his assigned duty and would not allow him to present the programme. He felt hurt and requested me to allow people to express their sincere, sattwic emotions. I have never doubted anyone's sincerity. If there is something which I appreciate in everyone, it is their sincerity of feeling, whether it is directed towards guru or God or another person. But something else has to be there as well. If you can develop that then you have total freedom to express yourself in the way that you want to, and I will not object. If somebody praises me then it is food for my ego. It is good provided it is digested properly. If it is not digested properly then the ego will become filled with pride, and hypocrisy will find its way in. The only way to overcome this is to follow the direction which you were given at the time of your sannyasa initiation.

When I took sannyasa, I received these instructions from my guru : "Be alert towards your duty and never escape from work. Feel for those who support you and see them as your own. Feel for those who do not support you and see them as an important part of your life because that is also a reality. Teach the lesson of duty to everyone." These are the things that I aspire for.

So before duty, my own personal aspirations have little meaning. If the duty is complete, if we are free, then a different expression can take place. But as long as there is a step to be taken, I would like to keep on walking and not stop for any reason. It is that aspect of walking that I have been trying to explain to you in different ways at different times. They have been valid, not because I recognise them to be valid, but because my check, my guru, Paramahamsaji, has accepted them. In our lives we all need checks, someone who can tell us from time to time, "Look, enough is enough, get firm with yourself" For me, my check is my guru. For many of you, your check will be me. Those checks of mine will have to be accepted, otherwise there will be disharmony and discord in your life while trying to live a life of sannyasa here.

What I wish from all of you is that you gain an ability to discipline yourselves. If you want to give something, give self discipline. If you cannot give self-discipline, then you are not giving anything to yourself either because the ultimate benefactor of self-discipline is not me or the ashram, but yourself. This applies to everyone whether they are sannyasins, students, friends, relatives or disciples.

Tamas, rajas and sattwa

One swami has said that every so often he becomes depressed and feels the need for recognition. He feels that after so many years he should be able to control this state. We all want recognition in many ways for many things, sometimes for our being, our work, our lifestyle, for different reasons which can be emotional, selfish and unselfish. When that happens and it is seen as a shortcoming, the thought comes, "I've been through this so many times, why can't I get a grip on it?" At that time we need to try reduce the intensity of the feeling. We cannot stop the event from happening until we become totally sattwic, and we all still have a long way to go before that happens. Our life revolves around tamas and rajas and there is a total absence of sattwa.

There are theories that the three gunas interact with each other in equal quantities, as has been mentioned in the Gita, Yoga Vashishtha, Yoga Sutras, etc. But in practicality there is only an interaction of two gunas, which manifests in the form of our personality, mentality, as behaviour, as thinking patterns. In this context tamas would mean craving for a result, and rajas would mean finding newer ways and methods to attain the result. There is an absence of sattwa. So the thoughts, ambitions, desires and aspirations are all rajasic. Attainment of the fruit and being happy with that, entrenched in that, craving that, is tamasic. Tamas is stagnation, rajas is motivation; stagnation and motivation go hand in band. When stagnation takes place there is anxiety, depression, fear, insecurity, frustration and anger. When there is motivation there is that drive to win in which even other people are rejected, uncared for. Sattwa, equipoise, is something which does not exist, even in our life. So whenever such states are encountered again, with the realisation that it has happened before, then you should try to reduce the intensity of the state. In that way you will eventually gain equipoise.

Developing detachment

One swami has asked why he became so tired after teaching classes for a month. As human beings we interact in two ways. In one way we interact with total involvement and in the other we interact without this total feeling. For example, a doctor will work tranquilly while treating a patient who is not his relative, friend or beloved. But if a family member, relative, son or daughter has an accident, then the doctor does the same work but with a different mentality. He loses the vairagya aspect of work and becomes emotionally involved, both feeling and fearing. In one form of involvement his emotions and feelings are fully committed and he feels fear and anxiety. In the other form there is simple involvement without any feeling, in a non-attached, detached way, just letting things happen.

As a yoga teacher in a class, one should try to have that non-attached way of teaching and performing. Even now I am telling you this in a non-attached way. I don't really care whether you follow it or not, because it is your life. This applies to everyone. However, if I become subjectively involved in what I am saying, then every action and thought of an individual will begin to affect me because I am expecting something. This is the meaning of the statement that gurus take upon themselves the karmas of their disciples. They become too deeply and heavily involved. In the other aspect, guru gives us the strength to face our karmas without taking them upon himself. He makes sure that the disciple is able to face the karmas and emerge with flying colours. So these are the two approaches. In the first there is involvement and drainage of energy. It is not a shortcoming in your life, nor should you fear it. But remember that in the course of time, in order to succeed and assist and guide you will have to develop the other mentality.