Towards an Understanding of Life

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The future of mankind

The history of mankind is going to change. Man has made many errors in the past by ignoring the science of life. He has sponsored political movements, social movements, religious movements and military movements, but during the past few centuries he has failed to sponsor a yogic lifestyle movement. The world is changing now and its destiny is taking a complete turn about. People have begun to think of the fundamental issue of life. With the dawn of the Aquarian Age, millions of boys and girls, men and women, and the collective consciousness will be influenced or are already being influenced.

It is important to know that yogic training should never be understood as withdrawal from life. Every aspect of yogic training should make us more capable of facing and confronting ourselves. As the twentieth century ends and the new century begins, we can expect a generation which will have greater understanding of itself and thereby greater understanding of the whole world.

Some years ago, I had a vision in which the world of yoga was revealed. It became clear to me that, whether on a universal or an individual basis, mankind has to evolve with the personal life of every individual. That will be the fulfillment of yogic training.

Copenhagen, Denmark, 19 April 1977

Which yoga?

To know which branch of yoga to take up, you have to understand what your problem is. Although there are many medicines in the shop, you take the one prescribed by the doctor. In the same way, if you are physically unwell, you must take up asana and pranayama. If you are suffering from depression, hypertension or insomnia, you must practice meditation. If you are mentally exhausted, then you should take up the practice of pranayama. If you are suffering from insecurity, doubt and suspicion, you should practice mantra. If you have no faith in anything, neither God or this law or that law, if you do not want to live, you should take up jnana yoga. If you have an unchecked emotional personality, a lot of passions, anger or greed, then you must practice bhakti yoga.

However, if you do not want to do any of these things, but you want to occupy your mind, improve your personality and get rid of the negative traits in your personality, then you must practice karma yoga.

Karma yoga improves your relationship with your own life. It covers the whole scheme of life. Karma yoga helps you unburden the load of karma which you carry all the time in your mind, so that with a lighter mind you can have inner experiences. Bhakti yoga improves your relationship with your emotions. It is able to channel the wild emotions and helps you to adjust the surplus emotions which most of you have and on account of which you suffer and do not enjoy life.

Hatha yoga improves the quality of the body. Raja yoga improves the quality of the mind by releasing the unconscious and subconscious negative forces. Raja yoga teaches you how to control the mind, the mental force, and bring it to one central point. Jnana yoga improves the quality of the intellect. You know what you are doing and you try to nip the samskaras in the bud by thinking correctly. The emotional tensions, the tensions born of karma, of wrong thinking, will be stopped.

To avoid lopsided development, these paths of yoga should be practiced together, because as human beings you are a combination of body, emotion, psyche and intellect _ head, heart and hands. People are dynamic or rajasic by nature, they are also emotional, psychic and rational. Some are predominantly rational, others are predominantly psychic or emotional or dynamic. The different branches of yoga should be integrated into your life according to the predominant qualities.

Chennai, India, 8 February 1982

Enjoy life more through yoga

There are many necessities in life, such as food, shelter and family, but the most important is yoga. Human beings can satisfy all their material needs, without attaining any measure of peace. True happiness comes with the development of a steady mind through yoga. One who is restless, confused or disturbed cannot concentrate. The mind and body wander here and there, uncontrolled and dissipated. No amount of wealth or worldly pleasures can bring true happiness and contentment.

Can we enjoy delicious food if our digestion is weak due to poor habits and poor health? In order to experience the pleasure of eating, the body and mind must be functioning well. Through yogic practices we can adjust our life and thus begin to enjoy the experiences life has to offer. Whatever potential God has given us, let us experience it fully. This is the essence of yoga. Therefore, without yoga, pleasure is incomplete.

Due to habitual conditioning and weaknesses, we are unable to enjoy even half the pleasures given to us. To fully experience worldly happiness and pleasure, it is essential to follow the yogic path. This is a very important point to keep in mind. Without yoga it is impossible to enjoy life. Yoga enhances happiness by sharpening the perceptions and awareness.


Every human being, whether working as a cook, merchant, clerk or high official, wants to work efficiently. We all want to perform our duties well and be successful. But at times it seems so difficult. Due to lack of awareness, pressure and strain we often make mistakes, sometimes obvious and embarrassing ones. Blunders do happen in almost every sphere of life, and their adverse effects are often felt by the individual, the family and, ultimately, society. Developing the mind is an all-round method of perfecting the individual in relation to the environment.

There have been many lectures and discourses on efficiency in schools, colleges, industries and the business world. It all boils down to the fact that efficiency is achieved through one-pointed dedication. Unless the body-mind is functioning properly, how can you be efficient? In order to achieve anything, a strong mind is necessary. This is true in both professional and personal life.

Great scientists and saints have emphasized the importance of relaxation. Before embarking on any work, be it domestic or official, the mind should be free of tension. In order to eliminate tension you must first gather all the dissipated thought currents that drain our energy. Meditation is one of the best means of accomplishing relaxation. You must first gain awareness and control over the dissipated forces of the mind. A wet cloth dries quickly in the sun, but if the rays first pass through a magnifying glass, the cloth will burn. Similarly, if a river has a dam and a hydroelectric generator is installed, the same current that normally causes the river to flow produces electricity. The energy of the mind which is lost in stray thinking can be harnessed and utilized by means of yogic techniques. The process of collecting and concentrating the various thought processes is called meditation. To withdraw the wandering senses to a central point is the beginning of efficiency, which leads to a strong mind and success in life.

Meditation for the gunas

There are three main categories of people, and specific yogic techniques are prescribed for each. Tamasic people eat too much, drink too much and sleep too much. They are lazy and dull. Dynamic asanas and vigorous pranayama are best for these people as they need to be activated.

Rajasic people have a lot of high hopes and aspirations. Their minds are restless and entangled in countless thoughts. The meditative technique for rajasic people is simply to note the thoughts without trying to control them. The thoughts flow through the mind without being stopped. Whether the thoughts are pleasant or unpleasant does not matter, you just become the witness.

Thoughts are coming from the subconscious. When a painful, conflicting or negative thought enters the mind, you suppress it. If it reappears after some time, it is pushed back again. Repressed thoughts cause deep-rooted conflict and discontent. Mental problems and physical ailments such as epilepsy or asthma are the result. When rajasic people try to control their mind, they often become so tense that they cannot sleep at night. They resort to sleeping pills which causes further disorder and imbalance. Therefore, the meditative technique for rajasic people is simply to observe the thoughts.

Eventually there will be fewer and fewer thoughts invading the mind. If the thoughts calm down, then you should chant a mantra. You should alternate the awareness from thoughts to mantra and back to thoughts.

When the bulk of your subconscious thoughts have been eliminated and the mind is purified, then you are able to catch hold of the mind, bring it back from dissipation and control it. This meditation technique is only suitable for sattwic people, who are calm, steady, one-pointed and aware. Their desires are few and they are able to sit quietly. In order to relax and be efficient, you must first purify the mind using the method suitable for your nature.

Bhopal, India, 1976

Inner transformation

Life is a process in man's ultimate evolution. Self-realization is not confined to a puritan philosophy or an orthodox religious life. All the philosophies and systems which have told people to change advocate something which is impossible.

People cannot change unless an inner transformation takes place. Change without transformation is hypocrisy, a stage show. The transformation of the inner being can never happen just through the mind. How can one change through the mind, and who is changing? The transformation has to occur in matter itself, and one cannot tackle matter unless one does it scientifically. How does one change matter? To only change the intellect is not change, to change the emotional patterns is not change. Transformation is a spontaneous expression of that great event that is happening within. When matter becomes energy, that is transformation and change. When the 'I' becomes spiritually divine, that is transformation and change. Religions have failed in their promises. For thousands of years people have not cared for transformation. The law has failed and political orders have failed, because they want change without transformation. Transformation reshapes the basic structure of man.

The purpose of life

Tantra says that we should be honest and true. Even if I am not a saint, the affirmation does not disqualify me. Even if I am morally not acceptable according to religious and scriptural standards, I am not disqualified. I may be a saint, a rogue or a drunkard, but that does not disqualify me from experiencing the great happening in spiritual life.

What is that great happening? What is the purpose of life? Why is man here, why does the cosmos exist and what is this fantastic drama for? I am sure that a day will come when every individual must know himself to be different from matter. You are aware of yourself, of your matter, of the mind and the body, but still, you are only aware of gross matter.

You can begin to practice yoga here and now. You do not have to renounce your lifestyle nor who you are. If you go on with the practices, there is no reason why you should not achieve realization or spiritual awareness.

Mumbai, India, 9 March 1978

Peace at last

Inner peace is a balanced vision of life. It is not subject to achievements and losses. Inner peace is an understanding of everything in life. External life is a life of ups and downs, and for a weak person it sometimes becomes tiring and even exhausting. But for a strong person, every ascent is a joy and every descent is a game.

Peace has to be achieved within life and life is based on matter. There is no possibility of withdrawal from life. You may be able to withdraw from the external aspects, but you cannot withdraw yourself from awareness of matter. This problem has confronted the great thinkers from the very beginning. In India it has been under discussion for the last five to ten thousand years: "Withdraw yourself and inner peace will come to you." Then what is the fun of having inner peace? Some thinkers have said, "Live life, and think that it is inner peace." How is this possible? Peace within disturbances? This is what they have been discussing, and as a result, religions have arisen one after another.

Finally, a note was struck in the Bhagavad Gita: the philosophy of renunciation within action, inner peace during the fulfillment of your duties. It is not possible to achieve inner peace by renouncing all the karmas. So long as the mind broods over the material pleasures which it does not experience, it is hypocritical. But if you are living life in all its fullness, meaning the senses and the mind and matter, and at the same time you have defined your relationship with the material life, and have classified everything properly, then you know how far you can go.

This particular yoga is the yoga of active detachment. If you work in a bank and spend the whole day counting money, how much you receive and how much you pay out doesn't affect you, no matter how many thousands of dollars it is. But if you earn 120 dollars a week, a little more or a little less does affect you. What is personal affects you, and what is impersonal does not affect you.

Therefore, live this life. Do not withdraw from life. Fulfil your respective duties and inner peace will come to you when you accept whatever happens to you and when everything in life becomes impersonal. That is the secret.

Australia, 1979