Finding Harmony

Swami Satyananda Saraswati. From satsangs at Rikhia, 1994–1996

Our mind is very disturbed by desires. When will our desires be fulfilled? What should we do until then?

Write poems and keep hoping. I kept hoping and that is how my life has passed away. The day my desire was fulfilled, I realized I had so many more desires inside.

Life is difficult and as you grow, you will find that life is also mysterious. The world is not a smooth road. Within the mind, intellect, heart and emotions, there is so much confusion and paradox. You are not able to understand life because you are within it. If you go out of life, like I have done, then it is easier, because you can see life from a distance. In the midst of life, it is difficult to make any proper judgements, assessments or calculations. This is the reason why everyone is going through the same experiences. Life passes away trying to straighten the dog’s tail. The hair turns grey and the final carnival begins.

I try very hard but cannot keep my mind under control.

How can you? If you want to collect water, you have to find a vessel. But you want to collect it on the ground where it will run off in different directions. The way has clearly been defined in the Ramacharitamanas:

Those who collect strings of attachment
With mother, father, relations, sons, wife,
Body, wealth, house, friends and family,
Make a rope out of them and tie it to my feet.
Those who are impartial, having no desires,
In whose heart there is no place
For happiness and sorrow, courage and fear,
Such bhaktas reside in my heart,
In the same manner as riches
Reside in the heart of a greedy man.

If you want to collect water, first get a vessel and then pour the water into it so it is contained in one place. You have to provide a base so the water does not run everywhere. In the same way, you need a base for the mind so that it becomes stable. You need a base to control the mind. At present, your base is defective. It is like a container with a hundred holes; water escapes as soon as you pour it in. It is better to get a new container rather than plugging the holes. The cost is the same.

Stabilizing the mind in one place is called yoga. The mind is always active, always restless. Yoga is fixing the mind at one point. The means adopted to reach this end is also called yoga. So, yoga is the means and also the end. When the mind becomes restless, it needs to be stabilized, and by stabilizing the mind one attains yoga. When the mind becomes quiet, that is the state of yoga. The means to attain this end is also called yoga.

Lord Krishna has described eighteen types of yoga in the Bhagavad Gita. The first chapter is called ‘Vishada Yoga’. Here it says that yoga begins with vishada, depression, unhappiness, sadness. When do you try to concentrate the mind? When there is depression and imbalance in the mind. The process of yoga begins with depression. In the Bhagavad Gita (2:7), Arjuna says to Krishna: “My heart is overpowered by the taint of pity; my mind is confused as to duty. I ask you: tell me decisively what is good for me. I am your disciple. Instruct me who has taken refuge in you.”

The second chapter is ‘Samkhya Yoga’. Samkhya means having a proper understanding of everything. What is the mind? What are thoughts? What are impressions? What are samskaras? What are karmas? What is buddhi? How do the faculties of the mind affect one another? All these concepts have to be clear because the mind is not one entity; it is not a homogeneous substance. It is a computer made of millions of parts joined together. It is necessary to know its circuits. For this, a proper guru is required who has the knowledge of these things and can help you to understand.

If you want to rob a house, you must know where the booty is. If you just turn up with a revolver, you won’t be able to find the valuables. You can kill everybody one by one, but you still won’t know where the ornaments are kept because you didn’t investigate beforehand. In the same way, everything must be investigated before the mind is attacked. The same mind which flits around restlessly can take you halfway towards God. It can carry you piggyback.

The mind is your friend when it is under control. When the mind is not under control, it is your worst enemy. In fact, the mind is the cause of both bondage and freedom. You should know the totality of the mind, the vrittis, sankalpas, passions, karmas, influences, innate desires and instincts. You should know everything. Once you know the mind, then you will know how to serve it, because the mind is not your enemy, it is your friend. Just as a horse out of your control will overturn the cart, so the mind is an enemy when it is not under control. In the Bhagavad Gita (2:67), Lord Krishna says: “The mind which follows in the wake of the wandering senses carries away discrimination, just as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.”

Can one change one’s swabhava?

No. One may change one’s karma, but to change the nature or personality is nearly an impossible task. The word swa means ‘one’s own’ and bhava means ‘way of thinking or feeling’. Swabhava is your way of thinking, your personality, your nature, which comes from your past life. For example, if you sow paddy seeds you get paddy, because it is the swabhava of paddy to beget paddy. What variety of paddy you get is a different issue. You may change your karmas, but your swabhava will change only if you encounter a drastic situation in life, like the circumstances which presented themselves before King Bhartrihari. A situation arose that shocked and hurt Bhartrihari so much that he instantly walked out of the palace. There have been many such incidents when people received a sudden blow which changed their entire swabhava.

When such an event takes place in your life, you get a jolt and your entire personality is overhauled. Otherwise, changing the personality is not possible. Your personality comes to you from a previous birth; that is the seed of your past life. It can change only through vairagya, dispassion, if somehow the veil of maya is lifted and suddenly you realize, “Oh, I have been such a fool! What was I doing until now?” When this transformation takes place, it is called vairagya.

At such a moment, all of your values are turned upside down. Sometimes you may think that the world has deceived you, but the earlier this happens in life, the better. If you realize at the age of fifty-five that the world has deceived you, your swabhava, your personality, may change; however, you may not be able to adjust to this new perception of the world. After all, you have already received the first letter from Yamaraj, the lord of death, and are awaiting the second. The third letter may also be just round the corner along with the warrant. Therefore, you should reconsider what you expect from the world and what the world expects from you early on in life, before you are twenty or twenty-five, long before you are married.

How can we accept the contradictions and conflicts in life and still remain harmonious and balanced?

Why shouldn’t there be contradictions in life? Contradiction is the law of life, progress and mobility. We are all contradictions. There is contradiction everywhere in creation, not uniformity. There is no uniform philosophy in life. The very fact of existence is a contradiction. Who is Lord Shiva? He has the moon on his forehead and the Ganga flowing from his hair. He rides on a bull and sits on a tiger skin with Parvati. By the example of his personal life, he is trying to teach you what life is like. In the day you work, in the night you sleep, and so there is balance. You eat lunch and digest it, and then you eat dinner and digest it, so there is balance. You don’t eat all the time, like birds and animals.

If there were no contradictions, no difficulties, no adverse situations in your life, there would be no progress. Friction is the secret of motion. When there is motion, there will be friction; when there is friction, there will be motion. Therefore, you should not worry about the various contradictions in your life, whether emotional, mental or even intellectual. People often get very concerned about them, but I think they are being neurotic.