The ashtanga yoga of Sage Patanjali deals with the exploration of the mind. The ashtanga yoga of Swami Sivananda deals with the expression of that mind.
- Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
Swami Sivananda's eightfold path (serve, love, give, purify, be good, do good, meditate and realise) is a sadhana, a roadmap to peace and harmony. Swami Sivananda's 18 ITIES (serenity, regularity, absence of vanity, sincerity, simplicity, veracity, equanimity, fixity, non-irritability, adaptability, humility, tenacity, integrity, nobility, magnanimity, charity, generosity and purity) are practical tools, which help us live and realise the roadmap until our life becomes a continuous spontaneous expression of all the eight steps.
"Service begins with connecting with other people. It is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person, not becoming the reformer, but experiencing the suffering of the sufferer. After you have experienced their suffering, then with your wisdom and attainment find a way to help that person. Then service begins, which is expressing and externalising what you have gained to help other people grow." (Swami Niranjanananda)
The SWAN meditation teaches us that we have different, ever changing SWANS. The barrier between people is broken down and we relate without prejudice. We know that the weakness causing his/her suffering today might well be our weakness tomorrow. With the ITIES we change every situation for the better. We know of the divine omnipresence. We want to share our knowledge and use it for the upliftment of others. The ITIES turn all our activities into duty and service.
"As we begin to identify with others more and more, and as we begin to help others more and more, a very beautiful quality develops within that is known as love. Real love is the ability to understand, appreciate and be one with others, and to feel for them as you feel for yourself. This quality comes after we have learned to express ourselves in the form of service. This love transcends all feeling, emotions, expectations and desires." (Swami Niranjanananda)
The ITY practice is based on the idea of the observer who does not react to any situation but is able to act with full awareness. Only the observer, free of self-interest, can act without expectations. With the ITIES we lose the confusion of false identity and emotional involvement. The ITIES are the 18 faces of love.
"After you love, what do you hold back? You give. There is only giving and giving and giving, without desiring anything in return." (Swami Niranjanananda)
The effort we make to practise the 18 ITIES is the greatest gift. Striving along the ITY path with the willingness to perfect ourselves is a selfless endeavour, and the outcome benefits all. The gift of the ITIES generates all further giving.
"Purification happens naturally and spontaneously when you have attained the ability to share, to give the beauty you have experienced. This purification does not mean the absence of negative qualities inside, but a feeling of satisfaction or wholeness which does not allow anything negative to influence you, so you remain in a pure state of being all the time." (Swami Niranjanananda)
The ITY practice is a process of purification. We consciously choose the positive view and the ITIES are our shield against the negative, the limiting or even destructive option. The purity of the ITIES is based on understanding, harmony and the courage to make the world a better place for all. The purity of the ITIES is the purity of sattwa.
"When you are purified and free from the influences of the sensorial, material world, all the good things come to your command. You become good." (Swami Niranjanananda)
We become good people because the ITIES are good qualities and every time we act in the spirit of an ITY we overcome callousness and ignorance. The ITIES make us want to be better people.
"When you become good, you do good." (Swami Niranjanananda)
When head and heart are good, then the action that follows must be good. The ITIES make us act in an organised, well-intentioned and constructive way. Every ITY applied initiates an act of goodness.
"When you do good, again you move into a natural meditative process. Now meditation is not a personal effort, but a universal connection with everything." (Swami Niranjanananda)
So-called obstacles are a challenge for the ITIES; life ceases to be a struggle, but turns into a continuous application of ITIES and they become the material our mind is made of. Ultimately, the ITIES live their life through us.
"When there is a universal connection with everything, a realisation takes place that 'I am one'." (Swami Niranjanananda)
Or in the words of Swami Sivananda in the second part of the 'Song of 18 ITIES':
Practise daily these eighteen 'ities. You will soon attain immortality. Brahman is the only real entity. Mr So and so is a false nonentity. You will abide in eternity and infinity, You will behold unity in diversity. You cannot attain this in the university.