Self-training

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The aim of the life of every individual is to develop a steady mind. Not only sannyasins, but artists, doctors, politicians need a steady mind, even a dictator is lost without a steady mind. A steady mind is one that does not waver, that remains the same even though circumstances and the environment may change, and one may change physically and emotionally. The mind remains fixed, purposeful, one-pointed. There is a difference in the mind when one is sick, and when one is feeling well. When one is sick the mind is topsy-turvy, and when one is well it is the opposite. This is not a steady mind for it is fluctuating. Therefore, the mind must be tamed, because it is wild and uncontrolled. It must be made steady, constant, unbroken, through self-training. Human nature is childish, but reason is more mature. Emotions are mostly immature and in constant conflict with reason. There is division which is a primary cause in preventing a steady mind.

Steady mind

An old disciple of mine had many professions in his life. In the beginning he was a doctor. Then he closed his practice and began writing books. Then he stopped writing, married and had children. His books are not published any more. He could have been a successful writer. This is one example of an unsteady mind which has no direction, and is going this way and that way.

Similarly, when the guru loves the disciple all the time, when he shows his love continually the disciple will definitely stay. But when the guru seems to withdraw his love, and the disciple begins to feel that his love is becoming lukewarm or even a little cold, then situations and circumstances appear to turn against him. If the disciple keeps a steady mind and stays on, oh, what a truly wonderful person he will be!

I could have been many things: a doctor, politician, an editor of a newspaper. My family wanted me to be a politician, but I decided to go to the ashram. Not long after arriving in Rishikesh, a professor who was staying a short time in the ashram tried to talk me into leaving. He said I was wasting my time. I was only nineteen, but his persuasion could not convince me to leave, because for me the most important thing was self-training.

Self-training

There is time enough for success later. It will come automatically after self-training is complete. The most important thing one needs is self-training and after one has developed this one can do anything with life. One can become a successful artist, politician, or have any other career. Many geniuses are lost simply through a lack of self-training.

When I first came to Rishikesh ashram it was very poor. It was as difficult to get from Rishikesh to the ashram as it is to go from Munger to Kolkata. Life was very hard. Many young men came and many left. There were no beds, no mosquito nets and thousands of big mosquitoes at night. There were scorpions, so one had to be very careful walking on the ground at night. One had to walk a long way to the jungle to go to the toilet and there were tigers in the jungle. It was very difficult if one had diarrhoea, because one had to walk down to the Ganga, which took fifteen minutes, to get water, then to the woods to find a place, and by the time one returned one would have to go again. I had diarrhoea once or twice, but I used to hold it with moolbandha, and store it up. In this way I used to go only once or twice.

I then began to carry seventy buckets of water a day to all the rooms. One bucket was on each end of a bamboo stick, across my shoulders. I did it not so much out of service to the others, but I wanted to make myself stronger. This was all part of self-training.

Need for the right time

When I was staying in Munger in 1957, Mr Goenka suggested that I go overseas and offered me the money to go, but it was not the right time. I declined his offer and simply asked him to give me a room and some food each day. I locked the door and stayed there in solitude for four months.

Ten years later, I was invited to open a fertilizer factory in Gujarat. The company offered to fly me there in their private plane. I agreed. By coincidence I remembered the pilot from my own flying days and once we were in the air he offered to hand over the controls. I said, “I will try, but not landing.” As soon as I took the controls something happened inside me and I knew that it was the right time to travel overseas.

As soon as I returned to Bombay I applied for a passport. Within two days someone donated 22,000 rupees. I got my passport and in fifteen days I was overseas.

The mechanic

I could have been a successful politician. Even today I could be one, and win any election easily for I have a printing press. I could print thousands of posters and pamphlets and have them distributed. But I am more successful as I am.

This point of self-training is important. You are the driver of your car. If you have a nice imported car but you are a bad driver it is of no use to you because you will have many accidents. You must learn to drive properly. I use professional drivers from outside the ashram to drive the ashram car because they have been properly trained and it is one thing they know how to do well.

Likewise, while you are learning to drive your spiritual car you must let your guru drive it for you. Or you do as Buddha did who put his car in the garage. He spent six years in the forest without thoughts, desires, or food. But can the average person do that? No. Only a Buddha can do it.

Therefore, take the easier way. While you are learning let someone else drive for you. You must learn how to use the brakes and the accelerator properly. What use is it to use the brakes all the time and not use the accelerator? And it is equally dangerous to use the accelerator not knowing when to apply the brakes.

Let your guru be the driver and after you have become a good driver yourself, he will hand back to you the controls, he will retire and you can go out and make anything of your life.

Hindu tradition says again and again that human birth is the highest and most precious incarnation. There is no other intelligent being like it in the universe. No other being can reach the highest point of realization. So look after your car and drive it carefully.

If the car itself is no good, you need a mechanic. The guru is also a mechanic. A good driver can have an accident but this is only by chance, and in time a good driver may also become a good mechanic.

—29 December 1976, India