Do Your Best and Leave the Rest

Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati, Switzerland


Whichever system, teaching or belief we choose it has to be put into practice in order to have any effect – be it a yogasana, a prayer or a school of philosophy. Reading the instruction of the asana or about the benefits of prayer or studying philosophical thoughts won’t give any results; we have to do the asana, say the prayer and live the teaching. From theory to practice, from speculation to action is the first step.


Even with aching knees or a stiff back, it is still your asana, no matter how perfectly everyone else is doing it or how little your body resembles the picture in the book. And it is your prayer, your understanding and your application. ‘Your’ is not too much self-identification. It means that you know your own strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and needs (SWAN). Your asana, your kirtan, your way of life correspond to your SWAN – and as the SWAN changes, so too will your practice and your life.


The next step uses this knowledge, directing the knowledge of SWAN towards improvement and perfection. How can this be expressed in the best way? How to reinforce strengths, how to deprive weaknesses of their impact? How to focus ambitions and reduce needs? How to live in harmony.


The first three steps establish our position in life; we act, we know who we are and what we can do, our limitations and possibilities. But there is more than that. The ‘and’ acknowledges another dimension and puts our achievements in the proper light. The ‘and’ is a humble recognition of something greater than us, yet intimately related to our existence.


After the recognition comes total surrender to this other force. ‘Leave’ implies first of all the ‘letting go’ of identification with all that is known; and secondly, it leaves space for the unknown to participate and to act. To leave is an expression of courage and unconditional faith.

The rest

It is ‘the’ rest and not ‘a’ rest. It embraces the immense expanse of the unknown that lies beyond our personal reach, not just a part of it. Though what that is, we do not know. It is left to the discretion of each of us to decide how much and to whom or what we leave ‘the rest’. What matters is accepting the fact that there is more to life than our own being and doing.

In a nutshell

‘Do your best and leave the rest’ or yoga in a nutshell? These instructions show us a way to understand and practise karma yoga by developing awareness of our full potential and expressing it in life. We learn about bhakti yoga while developing faith in a higher force or the unknown, and we catch a glimpse of jnana yoga once we know that there can’t be ‘the rest’ if ‘your best’ hasn’t gone before. Ultimately, ‘your best’, what is known and ‘the rest’, the unknown, will become one.

Through the chakras

‘Do your best and leave the rest’ or a journey through the chakras? The awakening of energy in mooladhara corresponds to the ‘do’, the self-analysis and finding of ‘your’ identity to swadhisthana. The ‘best’ is the power of manipura, the search for performance and achievement. The ‘and’ can then act as the selfless connection joining the above and the below in anahata. Vishuddhi removes the stain of identification and enables us to let go or to ‘leave’. Ajna as the controller makes sure that the passage is free, for ‘the’ whole unknown to unfold which is the final task of sahasrara, the expression of the ‘rest’.

From tamas to sattwa

‘Do your best and leave the rest’ or the development of sattwa? Any undertaking done in the spirit of ‘Do your best and leave the rest’ will be sattwic and the outcome will be sattwic also. Tamas is overcome because we act with awareness, rajas is controlled because the personal endeavour is seen only as part of and in relation to another dimension. The will and effort to strive and achieve are based on self-knowledge, which in turn guarantees a balanced execution of each action.

‘Do your best and leave the rest’ or playing with yoga? Yet putting it into practice will enhance awareness, nurture understanding and create a vision of life in the light of non-attachment. Using this phrase as a sankalpa may help us discover the qualities of discrimination, or viveka, and dispassion, or vairagya. Living this sentence will give the deep contentment of sannyasa.