Sadhana and Swabhava

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, talk at Bihar School of Yoga (Sivanandashram), Munger, in 1974

What happens when the mind becomes introverted?

In yoga introversion is known as antar mukha. There are two types of introversion - vishayakara vritti and brahmakara vritti. Vishayakara vritti means the tendencies of the mind in the frame of sensuality. During introversion the mind and its patterns assume the shape of the vishayas, the sensual objects. In brahmakara vritti, the mind and its patterns assume the shape of Brahman, the cosmic awareness, the divine awareness, God awareness or spiritual awareness.

When the person whose mind is in the frame of vishaya or sensual awareness becomes introvert, then he is the loser and society is the loser. He achieves nothing. He comes out only to balance his psychological state. If I lie down in the dark and become ecstatic and later go and jump around and talk a lot, I am only trying to balance my nervous and psychological reaction. However, when one who has developed the brahmakara vritti, spiritual awareness, becomes introverted, then he comes out with jewels, all the valuable ideas, philosophies, accurate decisions and so on.

So here introversion has to be defined. Is this the introversion of a person who is in brahmakara vritti, spiritual awareness, or is this the introversion of a person who is in vishayakara vritti, sensual awareness? First of all, the mental tendencies must remain in the frame of spiritual consciousness and then this antar mukha vritti, the introverted tendency, becomes the most precious vritti.

If a spiritually minded person becomes introverted, his senses are withdrawn; he is not the loser and society is not the loser. However, if an unevolved person who has not worked through his emotions and passions, through hatred and jealousy, through raga and dwesha, somehow becomes introverted due to a shock, a neurosis, a deep-rooted attachment, or sensual passions, he reverts to darkness. He is the first loser, his family is the second loser and society is the third loser.

So we have to make a very clear distinction between the introverted personality and introversion in the spiritual personality. There are people who live in fantasies. They may have fantasies for money, for enjoyment, for name and fame, or for anything. They live in a world of their own. That is not brahmakara vritti, spiritual awareness, that is vishayakara vritti, sensual awareness, because their mind is assuming the shape of enjoyment, or ordinary sensual enjoyments. We have to remember that in yoga it is antar mukha vritti in relation to brahmakara vritti that we are emphasising, not antar mukha vritti in relation to vishayakara vritti.

Can the swabhava be changed?

Swabhava is your own nature, what you are, what you are born with. You can influence it by adding samskaras, impressions, but the swabhava cannot be changed immediately. It takes much time. In principle it can be done, but in practice it is difficult.

What is your swabhava, what is your samskara and what is your dharma? According to your swabhava, you have your dharma. Dharma is not religion; it is an expression of the swabhava. The dharma of fire is to burn because that is the swabhava of fire. Samskara is a process of refinement, so that the fire will not only burn but can also be used for some other purpose. Electricity can produce light in bulbs and it can also short-circuit and kill a person. So you should not think about elimination or extermination of the swabhava, but you must try to influence it by adding samskaras.

The mind is the vehicle. All the seeds of samskaras can be seen in the mind. That is to say, whatever you want to do with yourself, you have to do with the mind and whatever you are doing with the mind, you are doing with yourself, because that is what you are. However, if you try to change your swabhava, you may create mental problems. You may become two personalities, the one you are born with and another you are trying to become. Therefore, the safest way is to change slowly through the integration of samskaras. Do not be completely antagonistic towards your swabhava.

You must have dharma, the expression is there. One well known example of this is the poet Valmiki. He was a dacoit, a bandit, but that was not his swabhava. His parents were dacoits, they had that tendency, so they made him a dacoit. Valmiki was a dacoit by samskara, not by swabhava; his circumstances made him one. Therefore, his dharma, his expressions, became entirely different. His first dharma was to loot and kill and rob, but when he met the wise man Saptashringi, his dharma was changed. He became a poet saint. Therefore, his swabhava must have been that of a great saint, but because his birth was in a family which had its own moral, social and philosophical limitations, he developed into a dacoit, although he was not meant for that. That is why we say that it is always good to imbibe more samskaras for a better dharma in your life.

According to certain philosophers one is not born with a swabhava but acquires it in the first two years of life. That swabhava stays for the whole lifetime. Then they say that through samskara you can superimpose that personality and bring about correction.

Yes, that is what they say. But the point is: what happens to your parentage? What happens to what you have brought with you from your previous life? It is forgotten; it is in a potential, dormant state, but anything that has dormant potential is not dead. It can come to the point of fructification at any time, in any situation. You are born with karmas from your previous life. Definitely you have brought plenty of inherited stuff from your parents and ancestors within your DNA molecules.

I have brought some very powerful karmas from my parents and forefathers through my unconscious body. I have forgotten that too. Up to the age of two, the situation in which I was brought up had a great impact on my life. Sometimes the influence during these two years is in complete agreement with what I have inherited and at times it is absolutely against the inheritance. That is how the personalities are made during the first two years of life. There is a struggle and conflict between swabhava and samskara.

In many cases, the swabhava which is inherited from one’s ancestors comes into conflict with one’s innate swabhava. There is conflict between this personality and the personality which has been imposed on me by my parents and family. If the two are in complete agreement, then a harmonious reaction is bound to take place. If they are in complete disagreement, then something else eventuates. That is why in many families it happens that the father is absolutely sattwic and the son is uncontrollable. In other families the father is a drunkard, a criminal and debauched, while the son is perfect and well behaved. This is how conflicts arise within the family and bring about an amazing reaction.