Satsang at Ganga Darshan

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

If we don't want to live, what should we do?

People who do not want to live have no focus in their lives. It is necessary for each and everyone to have a specific focus, a direction, an aim. One has to strive to attain that aim and one has to be determined. The effort should not be half-hearted. One should have the sankalpa shakti, the willpower to achieve what one aspires for in life.

Life is successful and fulfilled when there is a focus. Life has no meaning when there is no focus. The focus should not be on having money, property, good friends and family. These are not the parameters of success in life. They are outcomes of your effort, outcomes of your wisdom and understanding, outcomes of your ability to manage situations and circumstances. Therefore, they cannot be the focus.

The focus at all times has always been transformation of the gross nature of the mind. Whether one is a renunciate or a person deeply engaged and involved in worldly activities, whether you are a yogi or a bhogi, a recluse or a social activist, success in life is attained only when the lower, gross and animal tendencies have been transformed into positive qualities. If depression or frustration, dissatisfaction, social or financial problems become the cause of the desire to take one's life, then the soul is not free. The spirit remains bound by the karmas, by samskaras and desires, and that bondage of spirit is anti-evolution.

God did not give you life for you to take it away. God gave you life so you could learn to cherish it, to respect it and to use it for the welfare of everyone. The members of a family are concerned for each other's welfare. That is one stage. The same concern and care can expand to other people, to many people. That is another stage, where the quality of caring and nurturing expands to such an extent that the concept of one's family is not confined to the few who live nearby - husband, wife and children - but expands to encompass other people as well, who are not your own. In that way the welfare of all becomes a selfless act and not a selfish act. True happiness comes with selfless action. There is happiness in selfish acts also but that is temporary. Stability of happiness is attained when one is able to perform a selfless act.

God has given us this opportunity, this life, to express the appropriate human qualities and to become the master of the environment, situations and circumstances and not be a subject or a slave to them. Appreciation of human qualities, human strengths and weaknesses, becomes the trademark of life. When appreciation becomes the trademark of life, when there is focus in life, then life is fulfilled.

What is the purpose of emotions? How can we use them to express ourselves and serve others?

Emotions are double-edged swords. Emotion, which is energy in motion, plays a double role. One role is to bind, the other role is to free. Anger can bind and anger can free. Love can bind and love can free. Compassion can bind and compassion can free you also. Management of emotion is the subject of bhakti yoga.

Bhakti yoga is not the ritualistic devotion that one expresses to God. Rather it is the division of feeling, division of an emotion from binding the personality the consciousness of the individual, to releasing the energy. Emotion cannot be understood logically. Intellect is a function of the head and emotion is a function of the heart. Where we try to combine both, we create confusion. Therefore, yoga has been very clear in stating that the meditative dimensions of yoga such as pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi deal with transformation of the manifestations of intellect in the realm of the mind. But once the mind is pacified then purity of heart has to take place. That purity of heart can be achieved by enlarging one's heart, by expanding one's feelings, by developing atma bhava. When we are able to see ourselves in other people, then definitely the emotions become bhakti. The emotions become purified. But to see oneself in others is not an easy thing to do.

How can I see myself in others? How can I discriminate as to how much I can do to make the other person happy? This is the role of viveka, which comes when the truth, satya, is experienced with the channelling of emotions. In Rikhia we have seen the way Swami Satyananda is teaching us to live. It is a learning process. It is excellence in the expression of personality, excellence in the expression of attitudes, excellence in performance, excellence in thought, excellence in knowing what is needed. It is that excellence which one has to imbibe and that can only come with atma bhava, when you are able to see yourself in others.

Seeing oneself in others is not easy because we are so caught up in our own desires and what we wish to achieve. Therefore, to develop atma bhava is not something that you can decide to start doing today. To perfect meditation is easier than perfecting atma bhava. To manage the mind is easier than managing one's emotions.

Just as there is pratyahara, dharana and dhyana for the mind, there is pratyahara, dharana and dhyana for the emotions as well. To stop the chatter of the mind you have to practise antar mouna. To stop the dissipated emotions you have to practise antar darshan. To be able to witness the mind you need to practise chidakasha dharana. To be able to witness the emotions you need to practise hridayakasha dharana. Yoga has stated very clearly that these are the techniques by which you can manage your mind and purify your emotions. If we maintain our effort in sadhana, then we will come to a point where we will be able to see ourselves as part of other people, and that is the fulfilment of yoga.

—December 6, 2000

What is the difference between self-confidence, self-esteem and ego?

Self-confidence is having belief in yourself, having trust in your abilities, having the conviction that you can achieve, attain. Self-esteem is seeing oneself in a positive light, seeing the positive and creative dimensions of one's life and living according to them. Self-esteem is knowing what your abilities and strengths are, what your limitations are, knowing how to manage them, and knowing that you are there to help all those who need your help.

Ego is knowing that 'I exist'. The negative side of ego is arrogance, hard-headedness. The positive side of ego is appreciation of the self, being thankful for existence, for being alive. Maintaining that identity that 'I live, I exist' is awareness of your existence.

How can one be confident without becoming egotistical?

Confidence has nothing to do with ego. Confidence is knowledge, understanding and awareness of one's strengths and ability to deal with a situation. When you know you are the master of the circumstance or event and can control it, and you have the wisdom to know what is right and wrong and act according to dharma, that is confidence. There is bound to be ego, whether you do anything or not. Ego is your personality, life without ego is no life.

Ego is subject to the three gunas. Sattwa guna leads to a deeper awareness and understanding of how one can link with the cosmic consciousness. At this point the sattwic ego becomes the motivating factor to unite with the transcendental. When this sattwic ego becomes subject to the influences of the senses and mind, it becomes rajasic. When it becomes rajasic, it begins to manipulate the expressions of the personality. It manipulates thoughts, it manipulates ambitions, it manipulates desires. You are affected by it and other people are affected by your actions. When this ego identifies with the basic instincts in your life, then it becomes tamasic. These are the three expressions of ego. The pure ego is known as sattwa; it is the enlightened ego which unites the individual being with the cosmic being. In association with the senses and mind the ego becomes rajasic and in association with the instincts it becomes tamasic.

All experiences, whether of compassion and love, or of jealousy and hatred, are connected. All the positive and negative emotions and all the positive and negative expressions of intellect, of manas, buddhi and chitta, are connected with ego. Thousands of strands from the dimensions of manas, buddhi and chitta emanate and come to the ego, ahamkara. Whenever there is movement in one of the strands, the vibration will be felt by the ego. Stimulation and activity will be felt by the ego. If you love somebody, the ego is being touched. If you feel compassion towards somebody, the ego is being stimulated. If you hate somebody, the ego is being activated. Ego is the final state of individual experience.

Confidence can affect the ego, but if the ego is tamasic, there will be one reaction and if the ego is sattwic, the reaction will be different. Love can influence the ego, but the same experience of love in the sattwic ego will be different to the experience in the tamasic ego.

The only other way of managing the rajasic ego and the tamasic ego is through the path of bhakti. Very few people can mange it through the path of jnana, knowledge. Only a person of special calibre, like Ramana Maharishi or Swami Vivekananda, with an enlightened buddhi can possibly manage their egos (sattwic, tamasic and rajasic) through jnana yoga. But the majority of people can learn to manage their ego through bhakti yoga.

In this context, bhakti is not the path of devotion but the path of becoming acutely aware of the need to channel one's feelings and emotions towards transcendence rather than towards the mundane. If you channel your feelings, emotions and actions toward transcendence by dedicating, surrendering and transforming them and by feeling that you are only a medium, a tool, then these egos can be managed. Therefore, bhakti has become a tool for channelling the expressions of human life towards transcendence. We need to understand bhakti in this context and not as a yoga of devotion.

Devotion is a natural outcome of diverting oneself from the mundane to the transcendental. Fulfilment is a natural process after having eaten a full meal. When you eat food it fills the stomach, not the mind. In the mind you feel happy and the thought comes, "Now I am full, happy, well fed, my heart is content." Why are all these thoughts coming when all you did was fill your stomach with food? Just as there is a science of mental and inner fulfilment when you eat, similarly devotion becomes a natural expression. It is not something you need to learn. What one has to learn is how to channel the expression of emotions, feelings, thoughts and actions towards transcendence. That is the way to manage the ego.

—November 30, 1998