Integral Yoga Sadhana for a Balanced Personality

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, speech at the Gita Ashram, Monrovia, Liberia, May 1977, first printed in YOGA, Vol. 15, No. 8, August 1977

According to vedic dharma each person is a composite of four main qualities: dynamism, emotions, mysticism and rationalism. Some people are predominantly dynamic, others are more emotional, mystical or rational. Every personality is an integration of these four essential temperaments. For the evolution of our personality we have to integrate the four corresponding categories of yoga sadhana into our lives.

Sadhana is spiritual discipline or practice. Just as you train an animal, the personality must also be trained in order to be useful in this life. For the balanced development of our personality, we must practise an integral yoga sadhana. By emphasizing one aspect of sadhana, our development will be lopsided. If we eat protein and nothing else, what will happen? Just as we carefully provide a balanced diet for the physical body, so we must supply a balance of nutrition to the spiritual body also. In the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vashishtha, Srimad Bhagavata, and other scriptures, an integration of the four systems of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga is recommended. Those who overemphasize any one aspect of yoga should remember that this results in one-sided development.

Through the practice of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga, we can train the whole personality. This is what I want to tell everyone, everywhere. It is easy to attain temporary tranquillity through certain practices, but to train the mind is very difficult. To transform the entire consciousness into a creative instrument is not easy.

Transforming the mind

Some years ago some research was conducted to find out the influence of kirtan on the brain. When we do kirtan for half an hour, we feel relaxed. Why? What change takes place in the structure of the personality and in the hormonal make-up of the brain? Research has found that during repetitive singing of kirtan, the brain registers the sound waves, which influences other wave patterns of the brain. These waves awaken alpha rhythms which immediately induce tranquillity. Thus by singing kirtan we get peace of mind. This is well and good, but maintaining that state of mind during our daily life is not so easy. The peace we gain by practising this technique does not remain with us through the complicated and confusing patterns of our daily life. Therefore, side by side with yoga sadhana which gives us peace of mind, we must also remember the necessity of transforming the very structure of our mind. But how?

When we drive our car into the petrol station to fill up the tank we find that petrol is of different categories. But when this petrol was extracted from the depths of the earth, what was it like then? Crude oil is so dirty but after being refined it becomes a remarkable agent of energy. It can even provide the power to fly an aeroplane. Similarly, the mind, or chitta, which we have inherited from our previous incarnations still remains in its crude or raw state. In the mental body we have so many things which ought to be removed. When we become terribly angry or very tense, when we worry too much and pass sleepless nights due to family, business, social or political problems, then we feel the necessity of purifying the mind. We must free it from all these vrittis, those habits which we have formed in our personality from the present and previous incarnations.

We believe that the jiva or individual has undergone a process of self-incarnation in 8,400,000 yonis or wombs. According to science, evolution has passed through a fantastic panorama of existence, but despite these millions of incarnations that our jiva has undergone, we still carry a very crude mind with us. This mind is composed of three gunas: sattwa, rajas, and tamas, which are the essential manifestations of prakriti or nature. The three gunas are also used in a social or moral context because they indicate the personality of a person. Nature manifests as energy; in nature there are static (tamasic), kinetic (rajasic) and balanced (sattwic) energies.

If we want to make the mind infinite, we must cut and polish it just as we would a diamond. They say that tamas makes a person lethargic, rajas makes you violent and sattwa makes you balanced. Therefore, tamas and rajas have to be overcome by sattwa, and this is accomplished through the process of dhyana yoga. Dhyana has been translated as meditation, but actually it means awareness. This can be attained through raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, laya yoga, mantra yoga, and many other yogic processes.

The mind is not thought or emotion. Thought and emotion are patterns of mind. Happiness is a state of mind and so is depression. Mind is consciousness, awareness. Mind is a storehouse of energy, shakti. The pure mind is pure shakti. The mind can be purified and corrected by following the methods most suited to our personality. Those who are very strong can take up the path of kundalini and kriya yoga. For others who are not so strong and who haven’t yet developed much understanding of yoga, there are other ways like mantra yoga or japa yoga.

The mind is much more than thought or feeling. The mind is like an iceberg; only a small portion is visible, the remainder lies submerged under the ocean. According to modern psychology, the mind exists in three spheres: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. In Vedanta we call them: sthoola sharira, sukshma sharira and karana sharira.

Exploding the unconscious mind

The unconscious mind is very powerful. The word ‘unconscious’ should not be misunderstood. The unconscious mind is like a storehouse. All disease, success and tragedy in life originate in the unconscious mind. The experiences that you have had in life, important as well as unimportant, are all registered there. It is something like a hidden camera in the street. Everything that passes within its range is immediately photographed. In the same way, whatever experience you have is immediately transferred back to the unconscious through the indriyas or senses and the mind. There they are stored in bija or seed form. This process starts rights from the time when the child is in the womb of the mother. From the fourth month of pregnancy, children have certain experiences which are embedded deep in the unconscious mind.

Through the practices of kundalini, kriya and laya yoga, the unconscious mind can be exploded. What happens when we explode the unconscious mind? Here is an example of how an ordinary, insignificant experience can cause great damage to one’s mind. In our ashram there was an intelligent engineer who could not manage to complete his education or hold his job. Every morning from six till nine, he would go into a fit of depression. He became so restless that sometimes he felt he was going to die. In these fits of depression, he could not sit quietly, walk or talk. He left his career as a bright mechanical engineer in the UK and wandered around Africa. Finally, he came to India and found his way to our ashram.

One morning he was on the roof terrace and on the street below he saw a pig eating human filth. This is quite a common scene for those of us who have lived in Indian villages, but for this young man it was something new. The moment he saw it, he suddenly remembered an incident from his childhood. When he was eight years old, he used to go fishing. One morning when he was preparing his tackle, he opened the small tin in which he kept little maggots for bait. He had forgotten to empty it the last time he had gone fishing, and when he lifted the lid hundreds of flies swarmed in his face. The moment he saw the pig eating human filth, his unconscious exploded and this deep childhood memory came out. Since then the young man has never had another fit, and is perfectly all right.


Every action, every thought, every place is an experience. A satsang or a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita is an experience. Even an ordinary experience can become very consequential in later life. There are so many types of karma. Charity is one karma and plundering someone’s property is another. Even if you don’t do these things, still you are making karma. In the Gita, it is said that there is not one moment in life in which a person is free of karma. Only in samadhi can you completely do away with karma, otherwise not. Modern psychology and yoga agree that even during deep sleep when you are not aware of time and space, name and form, your mind is still working. Remember that the unconscious mind is the storehouse of all past experiences or karmas, not only in this life, but in our previous lives as well.

The unconscious body is called hiranyagarbha, the golden egg. By the practice of mantra sadhana we can penetrate it deeply and eliminate all kinds of karmas, one by one. That is why they say that by the practice of mantra one becomes free from the entanglements of karma.

Every action is born of a deep karma. Every thought, movement, success, failure is a re-enactment of one of our previous experiences. Here is another example, a clinical case concerning a husband and wife who loved each other very much. They were very happy together at home, but whenever they went out to dinner, for a walk, on a picnic, etc. they always fought. Why? When the husband was a child of four, he walked into the bathroom when his mother was taking a bath. She quickly covered her body with a dirty housedress, pushed him out and locked the door. Now, whenever the husband is at home, his wife is engaged in housework. She wears an old housedress and he loves her. He is still working out the problem of the old dress with which his mother covered herself in the bathroom. Whenever his wife is not wearing her old housedress, he doesn’t like her! Such simple childhood experiences can cause so many problems. Many good people suffer unnecessarily because they are unaware of their karmas and how they fructify.

Mantra yoga

There are two ways of practising mantra yoga: one is the repetition of a bija mantra like Aum, Hrim, Shrim, Klim; the other is using the name of one’s guru or favourite deity. Nowadays we have lost touch with the original mantra yoga system. If we feel devotion for Shiva, then we practise ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. If we feel more inclined towards Rama, we repeat ‘Sri Ram Jai Ram’. When we feel attracted towards Krishna, we say ‘Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya’. But according to mantra shastra, the mantra must be very carefully selected to suit each individual personality. The bija mantras are very powerful. They can allay the strong influence of karmas. Mantra should always be practised with a mala. Even in meditation when mantra is synchronized with the breath, a mala is still used.

Japa and antar mouna

When practising mantra, a lot of things come up in the mind which would not come up otherwise. When past incidents arise, what do we do? The usual response is to suppress these thoughts because we are more interested in our mantra. So when we are practising japa and a thought come, we push it out; another one comes and we push it out. But this is incorrect. We do not want to avoid karma, but to eliminate it. Therefore, it is necessary to observe each thought and let it pass of its own accord.

Thus japa yoga must be followed or accompanied by antar mouna, the process of witnessing our thoughts. When we are practising mantra and a thought comes into our mind, we must stop for a moment and see the thought, whatever it is, then continue the mantra until another thought comes. During the practice of japa and antar mouna, over a period of months the significant and insignificant memories of the past flash into our mind. These memories should be seen very clearly if we want to purify our mind. Every experience we have during mantra practice or meditation has an important bearing on our life.

I know of many people who have changed completely through the practice of japa and antar mouna and they were amazed to see how it happened. One French gentleman had a hernia and hydrocele. He left his job and went to his sister in the country. He told her that he was completely broken and could no longer work. There was no point in prolonging his life, he said, as he felt only pain everywhere. His sister, a staunch devotee of yoga, told him to put some cream on his eyebrow centre and concentrate on that point. One day while the French gentleman was practising this, a terrific sound exploded somewhere in his brain. Surprisingly his hernia was cured and his hydrocele problem was completely resolved – for him it was a miracle. When I met him, I asked what had happened when he was concentrating on bhrumadhya, the eyebrow centre. He said that when he was a schoolboy he went to the fish shop and while eating, a fish bone got stuck in his teeth which later had to be removed by the dentist. When he was practising concentration on his bhrumadhya, he saw fish coming out of his mouth. After that, he too became a great devotee of yoga.

Therefore, when practising mantra, do not discard or repress the experiences which arise. You may think that while practising mantra, worldly thoughts should not enter your mind, and if they do, then it is your duty to remove them in respect for the mantra, but this is incorrect. According to yoga and psychology, we must observe, analyze and respect whatever thoughts or experiences come into our mind while practising japa.

You will find that if the mantra is correct, it will work immediately. If it is not the right one for you, it will still work, but slowly. To be powerful the mantra has to correlate with all of our qualities and tendencies. The tantra and mantra shastras say that all mantras, with the exception of Aum, are classified into twelve main groups with five subdivisions. Only Aum can be repeated by anyone at any time, without restriction. The mantras which are used to explode the unconscious mind are very important. People with devotion for the Devi, particularly Durga or Kali, have fantastic experiences while practising her mantra. Many of my disciples had terrifying dreams all night after receiving her mantra. This is because the mantra is so powerful that it immediately starts exploding the karmas from the unconscious mind. Just as a strong purgative makes you go to the toilet every five minutes, so repetition of a powerful mantra purges karma very quickly.

Science of yoga

The science of yoga aims at perfecting human life. Every ordinary person has extraordinary potential, but to develop this a strong and well-trained mind is necessary. Through the practices of yoga we can gain complete mastery over the body and mind. The West gave technology to the world and made life very comfortable, easy and quick. India can give yoga and spirituality and the whole world is crying for it. People in the West are fed up and frightened of technology. They want a science to allay their fears and give them peace.

Only the system of yoga which is still alive today in India can adequately fulfil this need. Therefore, all Indians wherever they are, must represent this science correctly. Yoga is knowledge, not miracles, witchcraft or superstition. Yoga is a science which can be studied, practised, experienced, understood and explained by any educated and well-read person. Yoga can improve relations and create international goodwill. It is important to be able to give something to others which they can cherish deep in their hearts.

I give free discussions on yoga everywhere I go because I am fully convinced of its effectiveness. My experience and experiments in life with thousands and thousands of people, East and West are my proof. Now it is the duty of those who know that yoga produces an integrated personality to acquaint themselves with all aspects of yoga. It is no use saying that bhakti yoga alone is enough. If it were, why are religious people lying ill in hospitals and taking so many pills? Why are they unable to sleep in their cosy beds? Religion is bhakti yoga. We need an integrated approach to life. Just adding salt to the vegetables does not make a tasty dish. We must combine many spices. Life is too complex for one aspect of yoga to suffice. With a comprehensive approach, life becomes rich.