Foundation for Growth, Development and Success

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The foundation of life consists of four things. The first is conviction, the second is participation, the third is trust and the fourth is faith.

To have conviction you have to know the nature of life, and the nature of life is karma. Life without karma, action and performance, is irrelevant. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna that the entire experience of life, from birth till death, is an experience of action. However, when we involve ourselves in action, our mind plays tricks on us, and when we fall prey to the tricks of the mind, we subject ourselves to experiences of success and failure. Along with these experiences, either a mood of happiness or of dejection comes up.

Each represents a state of mind which is identifying with an experience. Happiness identifies with a pleasant experience, suffering identifies with a negative experience. Thus happiness and success, or suffering and failure, are the outcomes of identification with action, with the world, with our aspirations, expectations, motivations and desires.

As we go through the different karmas, the most important thing is the conviction that `I can achieve'. If we possess the mental attitude and belief that we can achieve, then this conviction will lead us to development and growth. Usually we become either overachievers or underachievers, and we are not aware of how we do or do not achieve something. We identify far too much with our responses and expectations, and very little with the process. The process is enforced by the conviction that `I can'. Once you know that you can, then nothing is impossible. In fact, the word `impossible' does not really mean impossible. It contains within it `I'm possible'!

So, a person with conviction knows that nothing is impossible. The only trick is that we have to connect with a positive frame of mind. We can connect with a negative or destructive frame of mind through conviction just as we can connect with a positive state of mind. If we relate conviction to a negative state of mind, then the outcome will be negative and destructive, and if we associate conviction with a positive state of mind, then the outcome will be auspicious. Therefore, conviction also implies the component of wisdom. Without wisdom conviction can be detrimental, and with wisdom conviction becomes a force that transcends all human barriers. Thus conviction with positivity and wisdom leads to excellence and perfection in life. This is the first leg of the bed of success and growth.

The second leg is participation and involvement. This is a continuation of the first leg. If life is karma, if we must perform karma for material and spiritual gain, for the attainment of mental peace and harmony, then our participation in karma has to be total. There cannot be rejection of karma of any kind, or at any time. The essence of life is karma; therefore, the more we participate in karma, the more we interact with life. The purpose of karma is to improve our own nature, skills and personality, but people do not see it that way. If this understanding comes, then every action, even the most routine one, becomes pleasurable.

People often say that they are tired of routines. Those who say this have no understanding of what karma or karma yoga is. Their participation in life has become routine, and when something becomes routine, it stagnates and one becomes bored. However, if every moment and every action is seen as a chance to improve one's skills, one's nature and personality, then every action will be done for the first and the last time. No matter how thoroughly you do it or how many times you do it, the feeling will be that it is being done for the first and the last time. You will give it your best even if you do the same thing every day for twenty years. Each day will be a new day and each involvement will be the first and the last involvement. You will not say, "I will do better tomorrow", or "I will deal with it next time". You will give it your best shot. When you put things off for another day, it indicates a separation from involvement and participation. It indicates that you are not interested. The action feels like a burden; it feels heavy. However, the opportunity for growth, development and success comes if there is absolute and total participation.

The third component of the foundation for success in life is trust, and the fourth is faith. Trust and faith in what? Everyone has someone who inspires them, who encourages them to discover something better. Our trust has to be placed in that person. It can be our guru, a friend, or even a place with a conducive environment. Any place or person which is able to give us that inspiration can become the object in which we can place our trust. After all, even places are centres of energy. Tirthas or places of pilgrimage are locations where our innermost desires can be attained. And we do place our trust in tirthas, and in different images and forms of God. We do place our trust in the guru or a friend who inspires us, knowing that this person will not let us down. When we have that level of trust, the flame of inspiration and motivation keeps burning all the time. With loss of trust, the flame dies down. So, another important ingredient is trust in those who inspire us and who become the models we follow and emulate.

We all need a hero in our life, and we choose our hero according to our preferences, needs and mentality. But the ultimate hero is not a movie star or a person; the ultimate hero is God, divinity. So the person in whom the force and energy of God flows and who illuminates the dark, dull corners of our mind is one worthy of trust. This trust has to be preserved and protected from other influences just as you protect your precious jewellery. If you possess expensive jewellery, you protect it from prying eyes and hands; you safeguard it from theft and robbery by putting it under lock and key, and only wear it occasionally. In the same manner, this trust has to be protected from other influences. Many times disciples distrust their guru more than they distrust other associates. They say, `Guru is my everything' and yet they distrust the guru.

Trust should not be taken lightly. When you have doubts and questions, then those misgivings are not in relation to the person, the guru or the teacher, but in relation to yourself. You are reflecting your own inability to comprehend, grasp and advance. You are falling prey to your own weaknesses. As you are unable to understand your own weaknesses, you cast aspersions on others. This is the first breakdown in life. This is when life deviates from its original path and goal. So, trust is also an energy and power, a force which comes alive with purity of intention and identification with the source of inspiration.

The fourth leg of the foundation of success in life is faith in the divine will, in the cosmic will. Faith is the ability to say, "Let Thy will be done." When there is faith, you do not identify with your reactions and believe yourself to be the doer; you do not identify with enjoyment and believe yourself to be the enjoyer. Learning to flow according to the divine will indicates the development of faith. Faith is not only an intellectual concept. You do not just say, "I believe in this person", "I have faith in this thing", "I have surrendered myself to this power". In fact, if you try to understand trust and faith with your intellect, failure is guaranteed because trust and faith are expressions of a pure and innocent heart, not expressions of the intellect.

So faith and trust, conviction and participation, form the foundation for development, growth and success in life. The conviction that we can excel, participation with the knowledge that it is the first and the last time we are involving ourselves in something, and trust and faith. These are the four legs of the bed on which we can lie down to rest peacefully. They are the four walls of the house in which we live and where we can express our strengths. All other attributes are only decorations in the house. You can decorate your room with this virtue or that quality, this understanding and that perception, but the basic structure or the foundation which propels us in this journey is made up of conviction, participation, trust and faith.

Ganga Darshan, 1 August, 2008

What is the difference between self-discipline and demanding too much of oneself? How can we find a balance between them?

There is no need to find any balance between them, as they are two different things altogether. What is the meaning of self-discipline? Waking up at four o'clock is not self-discipline, leading a strictly routined life is not self-discipline. That is imposition, whereas self-discipline means regulation. There is a difference between regulation and imposition. When you demand something of yourself, you are imposing something on yourself, but when you are self-disciplined, you are regulating yourself. So where is the question of finding a balance between the two? They are opposites.

Demand comes from a mind which is distracted, which is not focused and not convinced that it can do something. Regulation is the expression of a mind which is observant and always trying to enhance its own abilities. With self-discipline you not only regulate your actions and responses to become constructive and positive, but you also enhance your creative abilities. However, by expecting and demanding too much from yourself, you are stunting the natural and spontaneous growth of your psyche, you are struggling with it. So don't be too demanding. Just be self-regulating and you will attain self-discipline.

Ganga Darshan, 1 January, 2009

How can we overcome self-consciousness?

To be aware of the self is a very natural human trait. It emanates from and is an is an expression of the ego principle. The reference here is not to arrogance, not to the bloated ego, but the normal ego which represents the human identity, the I-ness.

To project oneself in a good light is an instinct, just as fear, hunger and sleep are instincts. When we become aware of ourselves, or become self-conscious, our behaviour changes, and we try to project ourselves in a better way. This can be seen as positive as well as negative. Therefore, the question is not about being self-conscious or not. Everyone is self-conscious, but how we relate to that self-perception is the actual question. If it is done with the yogic attitude, then you are always trying to improve your expressions. If you do it with the normal attitude, then you are trying to project yourself. That is the difference.

There are some people who are incapable of taking a firm stand because they are afraid, because they feel that others will see them in a bad light. They always want to be seen as loving, compassionate and kind, and they will ignore all the systems and disciplines in order to express this. That is negative self-esteem. If one is only trying to highlight one aspect by hiding a weakness or a shortcoming in order to be seen in a good light, then that is negative self-esteem. Positive self-esteem or self-awareness is the conviction that there is always scope for change, improvement and adjustment.

This also indicates the difference between a yogi and a bhogi. The mind stuff is the same in everyone, but a yogi tries to fine-tune it and a bhogi tries to reinforce it. When you project yourself in a different way, you try to reinforce your self-esteem and self-awareness. So there is no harm in being self-conscious, but it has to be done in a positive manner in order to improve and grow.

Very few people are aware of their motivation. Most people are aware of their sensorial and sensual motivations, but not the inner motivation that makes them tick. Their behaviour is also aimed at influencing other people sensually and sensorially. This is why even when you try to change, you are not able to. You don't know the way to change; you are stuck in one idea and therefore you ask such questions. If you were not stuck in one idea, then you would always find ways to improve the environment, the situation and yourself so that everything is compatible. You would be adjusting to events, moments, situations and circumstances. If you have the ability to adjust, then self-esteem is not a problem. Self-esteem becomes a problem only when you cannot adjust, and see even a mild adjustment as a threat to the image you have of yourself.

Life is not only intellectual: why this and why that. Life is also adjustment. If you adjust to life, then the intellect has no role to play because it does not get an opportunity to ask such questions. When it is cold we put on warm clothes and when it is warm we put on light clothes. It happens naturally; there is no need to think about it. But if you begin to think, `This is nice and I should wear it' in order to show off even though it is unsuitable for the weather, then that is your head-trip and projection. If you try to walk around in light clothes in winter just to show that you are strong and an hour later you are sneezing, that is not self-consciousness but an idiotic nature.

If you are a realist, then nothing is a problem. However, nobody in this world is a realist. Only the masters are realists because they have been able to go beyond their own hang-ups and observe the reality as it is and adjust with it as it comes. Those who are caught up in their own hang-ups are people who care about self-esteem, self-prestige and so on. If you are willing to take the step to see the reality, the just and the appropriate, then self-consciousness and other such things will have no relevance. Self-consciousness is only a word through which we hide from our weaknesses and do not connect with our strengths.

Ganga Darshan, 28 July, 2008