Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Imposed rules are structures, which keep a building up, like scaffolding. ‘Wake up at this time, eat at this time, work at this time, sleep at this time' are imposed rules, but from the yogic perspective, real discipline is personal sanyam. Sanyam can be translated as control, restraint and self-discipline over one's behaviour. It is something that one has to be constantly and continuously aware of.

Defining the parameters

There is always a choice to either break the rules or to be responsible for our behaviour. If we are responsible for balanced behaviour, then that is discipline. However, first the parameters of the sanyam that we can and want to live have to be defined. These parameters are defined according to the place, environment and our need. If we keep in mind the environment, location and need, many of the abrupt behaviour that we encounter in our life can be managed.

The ashram tries to encourage an understanding of personal sanyam. There is silence at mealtimes, but many people don't observe it. What should the ashram do? Should someone be standing with a stick watching who is talking and who is not? No, this is incorrect. However, if we are aware of the parameters of our sanyam, saying, "Within these parameters I am going to live," then the conflict will not appear due to acceptance of and adherence to our choice. As long as we are aware of and adhere to the personal discipline we have outlined for ourselves, we will not go astray. As long as we can maintain our sanyam, no matter what other people do, we will act in the right and appropriate way all the time.

Discipline is not an imposed rule, but it is needed to create a habit. The mind works due to habits – creating and breaking discipline is the nature of the mind. Discipline indicates how much we can be aware of ourselves, control ourselves and guide ourselves on the right path, by keeping the focus on our personal sanyam.


In an ashram what is the routine? We wake up, go to classes, do our duty, in the evening we attend the satsang or kirtan sessions and then we go to sleep. That is the average routine.

The challenge is that we have to manage what is in between. We have to manage the work front and our mind front, influences at the work place and the moods of the mind. These are the only two things that have to be managed.

The only way to manage the moods of the mind is by trying to be positive and optimistic. For that we have to cultivate a different perspective and vision. We have to make an effort not to see the wrong all the time, but to see the right always, not to see the bad thing, the bad behaviour of others and our own, but to see the good thing, the appropriate behaviour and beauty everywhere.

Therefore, if we can change our perspective from the attitude of: ‘I don't like, I don't want', to a positive attitude, of: ‘oh this is nice, and I accept it, I am flowing with it', then our personal mental struggle in regard to discipline, rules and regulations ceases. Indiscipline comes only when there is mental struggle. When our mental struggle ceases, we are disciplined.

12 August 2012, Ganga Darshan, Munger, India