Love and Sankalpa

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

If yogic life is about love and not about perfection, how can we keep the right direction and avoid fanatically pursuing an ideal perfection and forgetting about love?

Yogic life is not about love or perfection. The concept of love in today’s society makes a person weak, and that is not the purpose of love. Love is defined as affection, caring, sympathy and so on, but is that really love? The social concept of love is sensual, sexual, emotional. Something that pleases you through the senses is considered to be love. Something that is imbibed emotionally and is pleasing to the self is defined as love. We include so many things and believe it is all love, or express it in the garb of love, but it actually inhibits the development of inner strength and makes people weak. So it is wrong to say that yogic life is about love.

You cannot say that love is conditional or unconditional till you have come to a point where you are able to distinguish between personal love and impersonal love. What is the role of God in relation to humanity? What is the role of a mother in relation to her children? If you say that God loves us all and that a mother loves her children equally, then what is the expression of that love in life? The love that exists between parent and child is true love. Between husband and wife or between lovers, it is conditional love. The only unconditional love that exists in our lives is between mother and child. In that love any kind of sacrifice can be made. It is not an overprotective love; it does not suppress life but nurtures life. The nurturing is important because it develops inner strength.

As long as you are nice to the person you love, everything is rosy, but if one of you becomes angry for some reason, your entire concept of love is shattered. Therefore, although everybody wants to be loved, instead they fall in love. When you are in love with somebody, you say you fell in love, but you should rise in love, not fall in love. When love becomes conditional, you fall and when love becomes unconditional, you rise. Unconditional love exists between God and humanity, and therefore we are always looking up to God as a source of inspiration and strength, care and affection. We are trying to rise up to that level through our sincerity, our faith, our conviction, our belief. We are ready to go through all the trials and tribulations of life in order to experience that unconditional love.

A mother loves her child very much. The child is part of her body, part of her spirit. Propelled by that love, the mother ensures that the child always has the right opportunities to grow. If the child is sick, in pain, if the child has gangrene, for example, the mother will carry the child to the doctor and say, “Amputate the leg so the child can survive.” Will the child then say to the mother, “You are amputating my leg because you don’t love me anymore.” But this happens with adults. The moment something happens, the love is shattered.

So yoga can’t be about love, at least not in the way that we think of love. For many people love is an opportunity to hug everybody. They seek emotional fulfilment in the guise of love. But that cannot be love because love has to make a person strong, not weak.

What is perfection? If you define perfection, then it is not perfection anymore because perfection cannot be defined. Who is perfect in the world? Can a master be perfect? Can a teacher be perfect? Can an individual be perfect? As long as we are in this body, as long as we are in this world, we are slaves to the conditioning of the body, mind, emotions and spirit. These conditionings will not allow us to become perfect. So yoga is not about perfection either.

What is yoga about? Yoga is about becoming aware. Yoga is about managing the negative aspects of our character and developing the positive qualities which uplift our nature, and with that uplifting others as well. When we are expressing these qualities then other people are uplifted, and that is yoga! If you have the quality of loving, then love will manifest, but that love will be unconditional. If you don’t have that quality, no matter how hard you try, nothing will happen. You can hug a million people, you can say nice things, but you’ll never know what love is.

There is a story about a person who practised austerities for many years in order to manifest God in his life. Moved by these austerities, God appeared and said, “Ask me for any boon you want.” The person said, “I have nothing to ask. My wish was just to see you, not to ask for a boon.” God repeated his request, but each time the person refused to ask for a boon. So, as the person started to walk away, God granted the boon of healing to his shadow. Unaware that his shadow had received this boon, the person continued walking in ignorance

But miracles were happening behind him. His shadow fell on a dead tree, and the tree became green, laden with leaves, flowers and fruits. The shadow fell on a sick person, who became healthy and started to jump up and down with joy. The shadow fell on a blind person, who suddenly could see. The shadow fell on a lame person, who suddenly could walk. The shadow fell on a dead person, who came alive. In this way, one miracle after another happened, and the person did not even know about it. Wherever he went, the boon of healing worked behind his back through his shadow, without his knowledge.

This story conveys a simple message. In expressing your qualities, be like this person. Everything happens without expectation, without desire, as long as the heart is clear, open and simple. And that is the outcome of yogic life. Yogic life is not perfection, it is not love. It is knowing, realizing and expressing your best.

Please talk about the best sankalpa for a spiritual meeting with the Self, and the best sankalpa for an anxious, frustrated person. Signed: Hari Om and love to you.

You have already written your sankalpa – love to you. Extend that you into every being, so everyone becomes ‘you’. That is the ideal sankalpa.

What is sankalpa? Many people say it is a positive affirmation, a positive thought, but sankalpa is a process of training the mind to develop the will and to develop clarity of thought. Through sankalpa we learn how to train the mind so that the will becomes alive. We lack willpower because we are undisciplined inside. Most of us during our lifetime have wondered what we should or shouldn’t do. Often we are frustrated because we are unable to extract ourselves from a situation dominating our mental behaviour. It is possible to wake up maybe for a week or a month at four o’clock in the morning, but be unable to continue doing that for the whole lifetime. You can do it for a week because the motivation is there, but when the drive is gone, then you say, “Five minutes more, ten minutes more. Today I would like to rest, it’s not necessary to wake up.” When the initial drive finishes, one is left with lethargy.

If we have a sankalpa which maintains the motivation and drive, then lethargy will not set in. But the sankalpa has to develop the willpower. Just a positive affirmation will not do anything. We all think we should become this or become that. We need to get rid of a particular habit, nature or obsession. We can understand that rationally, but we cannot apply it due to lack of motivation. Sankalpa fills this vacuum in our life.

It is not necessary to have a very big sankalpa. Start with something small. For example, when I was young I used to sleep so deeply that the swamis could pick up my bed and take it to another corner of the ashram, without my waking up. When I was small it didn’t matter, but later on it became a problem. So I told myself that every morning I’d wake up at four, and I did that for one day. The second day it was five, the third day six, the fourth day seven. So I tried to discover my natural pattern. If I went to sleep at nine o’clock, what time would I wake up normally without an alarm clock? I found that it was around six a.m., after nine hours sleep. Then I set the alarm for five to six for one week, at ten to six the next week, at a quarter to six the third week and at twenty to six the fourth week. By decreasing five minutes each week, my mind became used to the training, and when it came to four o’clock, it had become a habit. This is the training of sankalpa.

Sankalpa is not only a thought, it is a power, a force. Whatever you think is projected into the environment. Just as there are radio waves and other invisible waves and frequencies in the environment which can be captured with the right instruments, in the same manner thoughts and desires also have a frequency. Negativity and positivity, pessimism and optimism, have a frequency. What you express leaves an impression on the channel in the mind and waves are transmitted. If there is an intensity behind a thought, behind a sankalpa, behind a resolution, then the channel selector, the imprint on the mind, will be stronger and you will be able to access that channel more frequently and easily. It is like the pre-set channel.

Sankalpa is not just a wish, it is a conviction. It is faith in oneself, faith that one can do it. The sankalpa cannot be “I wish it was like that” or “I wish to become that”. That is wishful thinking. Sankalpa is the conviction that “I will become that”. Sankalpa is trust and faith in oneself, in one’s own strength and courage. “I have that, therefore, I can become that.”

Sankalpa is not only thinking you will become that, but also striving to become that. If there has to be a positive sankalpa in people’s lives, to uplift their spirits and minds, the best sankalpa is to feel love and to see oneself in other people. That is the sankalpa that Swami Satyananda has shown us in the lifestyle that he is leading now. He says that if we can all see ourselves in others, if we can all share the beauty of real love with others, not sensual love, then the world can become a bright place. That should be the final sankalpa of our life.

To come to this state begin with something very basic: changing the habits, changing the limitations that inhibit your growth. Try to understand yourself, observe yourself, find the blocks, and overcome one thing at a time. Don’t have an abstract idea or an unattainable concept without prior training. Children want to grow up quickly. When they go to school, they want to complete school quickly. But the important factor is performing well in the class you are in, not worrying about when you are going to grow up and get your degree or diploma. If you can perform well in the class you are in, you will pass and move on to the next class.

Focus on the present. Ignore the insecurities of the future. If something is going to happen in the future, why are you worried now? Perfect your present. The problem is that we are so tense that our past is tense, our present is tense and our future is tense. But yoga teaches us that the present has to be perfect.

When you made your sankalpa, you were surrounded by your own feelings and the expressions of your own inner spirit. Nobody prodded or guided you to take that sankalpa. Try to be true to that sankalpa. Sankalpa is not making a wish every New Year’s Day. It is taking a step forward and once you take a step forward, stepping back has no meaning. So sankalpa is a step, not a thought, and when you take that step to fulfil the sankalpa, to fine-tune your life, remember that the more positive, optimistic and sattwic you are, the more strength you will gain and the further you will go.