It is Always About the Mind

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Disease comes from outside and the person at the centre is affected. Sri Swami Satyananda said that a person becomes sick when he thinks he is sick. A person becomes sick when his mind becomes tense and disturbed in regard to his physical state. He becomes sad. Sri Swamiji said that when a person came to him complaining about being sick the first thing he would tell him was to stop saying 'I am sick'. Instead the person should say, "I am not sick. I am going through a physical state, the way the weather changes." Sometimes it is hot, at other times it is raining, and sometimes it is cold. According to the weather, people manage their clothes and their lives.

Similarly, due to outside conditions which act as stressors, people become influenced and the mind and body are affected. When they are affected by external stressors they start seeing themselves as weak, tense or sick.

DIFS and managing fear

Sri Swami Satyananda said that if a person can keep his mind separate from his body, then even if the body becomes sick he can never become sick. It is important to understand this message that the body and mind have to separate. The physical body tolerates pain according to the condition, however, if the mind starts thinking that 'I am tolerating this pain, I am sick', then the mind also becomes sick. As long as the mind has healthy and positive energy, illness does not even aggravate the body. The day the mind panics and becomes sad due to illness, then even a small boil can become cancer in the future.

Diseases like cancer and HIV are uncommon, and require great effort to be cured. They are complicated yet it is possible to cure them. Cancer, HIV, personal problems can be cured, any illness can be treated; with the right process and power of sankalpa one can even return from the door of Yama, the Lord of Death.

There is only one disease in the world that is impossible to cure: Disease-Induced Fear Syndrome (DIFS), where one struggles with one's states of mind. This fear syndrome is more threatening than cancer, HIV, asthma and diabetes. There is no cure for it. However, Swami Satyananda said that if one separates the mind from the fear within which makes one feel sick and weak, then the fear will free one from its clutches, and the disease can be cured easily.

In 1977, research was carried out in Australia on cancer. Six cancer patients were observed by Dr N. C. C. Meyers, the managing doctor of the Cancer Research Foundation, to see how they could be treated through yoga. The Foundation took our advice about which yogic practices could be taught to them. These patients who were in the third stage of cancer were taught a group of pawanmuktasana practices recommended by the Bihar School of Yoga; two pranayama practices: nadi shodhana and bhramari; and the practices of yoga nidra and ajapa japa dharana.

The patients did these four practices for six months, after which change started taking place. Today they are completely free of cancer and healthy.

In yoga nidra they went through the process of de-stressing. They held tension, fear, doubt and questions: 'Am I going to die?' 'I do not know whether I will survive or not', 'For how long will I have to live, for how many days I will have to carry the pain?' 'How long will I have to go for this treatment?' These fears about their physical state and weakness were removed through the medium of yoga nidra and sankalpa.

When the mind became free from fear through the practice of meditation, the power of the mind was expanded and strengthened through mantra, breath and ajapa japa. Through this strength the mind starts healing the body. The two practices of pranayama are not at all complicated. They increase the energy within. Pawanmuktasana practices are for the circulation and proper distribution of prana in the body.

In six months the reversion of the cancer started, and within three to four years the patients became completely healthy. Today their age is around eighty years plus. They are still alive and they have no traces of third-stage cancer.

Regulating life through upachara

Upachara is commonly known as therapy or treatment. Up means 'to come close', and achar is to organize one's daily routine and lifestyle. Therefore, the meaning of upachara is not treatment or therapy, but regulating the body and mind. To make an effort to remove imbalances is upachara. It means the expression of life.

Upachara involves making an effort to regulate oneself by understanding the expressions of life. From the yogic perspective, upachara begins with removing fear. The second state of upachara is increasing prana. When prana awakens and starts increasing, rectification and regeneration starts in the body. One can become one's own doctor every day and night, by removing the fear one has within. Just this much is required and nothing else.

Looking at a simple boil, one immediately wonders what happened, and the mind becomes obsessive. It starts worrying. The more one thinks, the more one's attention and mental energy goes to the boil, and the more the condition is aggravated. Therefore, the most basic principle is: first manage fear and then awaken prana.

It is not necessary to do all the asanas in yoga therapy, only the most suitable practices should be done, yet every day before going to sleep the mind should be de-stressed. Two signs indicate good health: good sleep and proper digestion of food. These two signs show that one is free of stress. When a person is unable to sleep at night, and keeps tossing and turning, then this is a sign of sickness.

Tension has disturbed the ease of the physical body. When the ease of the physical body is disturbed it is called disease. If one can fine tune oneself at home little by little, then one does not even need to do yoga. De-stressing oneself before going to sleep is important as stress is full of fear, insecurity, anxiety and depression.

The decision has to be made by the intellect and not yoga. For treatment, cure and solutions, one has to use the intellect and take responsibility of one's own karmas or actions.

Causes of stress

The principle that applies to the body also applies to the mind. For the management of the physical body there is hatha yoga, which removes the imbalances in the body, brings harmony and increases the pranas. However, stress also enters the mind where it expresses itself by grasping and holding on to one of the six traits. The expressions of stress in life have only six forms and not more than that.

The first stress is caused by anger, which makes one irritated and crabby. The second stress is based on desire, needs and longing and is expressed and activated as greed. The third stress is generated when one sees a competitor who is more successful; this stress stimulates jealousy. Krodha, anger; kama, passion; lobha, greed; moha, attachment; mada, arrogance; and matsarya, jealousy, are strengthened in life due to stress. If one has no stress in life then these six traits will reduce. Depending on the type of stress, a particular aspect of the mind is activated which causes behaviour different from one's normal behaviour. This behaviour is coloured by these six agents of the mind.

When the six agents of the mind keep changing your thoughts and expressions, then how can the mind become calm? Stress influences the mind at the level of behaviour and this is what degrades man. Seeing the expressions of the mind at the level of behaviour, you wonder how you reacted in a particular manner.

No road to bypass the mind

The main reason for the disturbance in the mind is these six agents. People say that one's likes and dislikes in the world are the reason for suffering; that if there were no likes and dislikes, there would be no reason for pain and suffering. I do not believe this for my experience is different. Like and dislike actually portrays a connection with life. It does not define one's behaviour.

Passion, ambition, lust, greed, envy, jealousy define your behaviour. Likes and dislikes do not define your traits and character. These six distortions become the reason for the disturbance in your life and mind. To manage this is difficult for every person.

People meditate for half an hour, twenty minutes or one hour, yet they lose themselves in their experiences during meditation. They do not make the mind a witness of itself. They do not see the expressions of their mind. They think if they do mantra they shall experience God and one day something good will happen. They want to bypass their mental behaviour and traits.

If it was possible to bypass them, then in these thousands of years with the yogis who come again and again to tell of the ways of sadhana, some achievement would surely have been made. However, there is no achievement in the mentality of society today, not even any achievement in the personal mentality of the individual. Every person wants to bypass the mind and no one wants to cross the mind. You want to bypass the mind, yet there is no way as that route has not been made; the road to bypass the mind has not been constructed. When the road has not been constructed then what will one attain by transcending the mind in meditation?

People have been meditating for the last forty years, yet until now they have not been able to control their aggression, fear and insecurity. They are not able to control their reactions. They show the same irritation or insecurity that they showed forty years ago. What kind of bypass have they done? A bypass could not happen, it was only an illusion.

Sources of raja yoga

In raja yoga, the method to organize the mind and its distortions is practical and not philosophical. Knowledge is practical when it includes theory and practice. People read the Bhagavad Gita and write their commentary by reading other people's books. However, the sadhana that Sri Krishna has expounded in the Bhagavad Gita, has not been written about, for until now no one has ever done the sadhana. Commentators are only able to write on the philosophical and theoretical aspects. They are unable to know the practical and scientific aspects, and are unable to understand themselves and others.

The person who knows that true knowledge includes both theory and practice pays more attention to practice, for only through practice is he able to change his life, and not through theory. If transformation has taken place in anyone's life, it is through practice and by accepting practical behaviour. No one has been able to improve his life by pondering upon a philosophical thought.

Discussions, debates, arguments take place about theory and practice without knowing and understanding the scripture or literature in which that theory was given. The discussion in the Bhagavad Gita on yoga is to remove the idiosyncrasies of the mind. The yoga discussed in the Bhagavad Gita is raja yoga, which Maharshi Patanjali described in his Yoga Sutras three thousand years later.

At the time of Sri Rama there was yoga and raja yoga; the concept of raja yoga was also mind management. When Sri Rama had depression and was seeing everything in the world as worthless, Guru Vasishtha gave him raja yoga to manage his mind, the teachings found in the Yoga Vasishtha. Similarly, when Arjuna had depression the teaching given by Sri Krishna was essentially of raja yoga. He said many things, yet fundamentally it was about managing the mind as per raja yoga. The practices of raja yoga, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi and steady wisdom are mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita.

Three thousand years after Sri Krishna, Maharshi Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras on raja yoga. He is not the propagator of raja yoga as it existed before him. He only put the practices in sequence. Many scholars have written theses and done dissertations on yoga. Maharshi Gheranda and Maharshi Swatmarama did their doctorate on hatha yoga. Maharshi Narada and Maharshi Sandilya wrote their thesis on bhakti yoga. Maharshi Patanjali wrote his thesis on raja yoga. These people are not the creators of a system; they have only written their research and received their degree. The subject already existed. These great sages propagated yoga as a sadhana in society for a complete and holistic development of the personality.

Purpose of raja yoga

The purpose of raja yoga is not samadhi, not renunciation of ahamkara, ego. The purpose of raja yoga is to free oneself of the six distortions of the mind. When one is free of these six distortions the mind becomes peaceful, steady, one-pointed and ready to open the inner doors of creativity. When one liberates oneself from these distortions, new energy patterns of the mind develop.

Generally it is said that by blocking the modifications of the mind one attains samadhi. If the modifications of the mind itself are blocked, then how will samadhi be experienced?

Therefore, the cessation of the patterns of the mind is not the attainment of samadhi. By transforming the vrittis, modifications of the mind, samadhi is attained. The transformation of the vrittis is to free the mind from these six distortions.

By attaining this freedom the peaceful and balanced vritti awakens, the brahmi vritti. The meaning of brahmi vritti is spiritual awareness. Right now, there is awareness of this world. This awareness of the world is effortless. No one has to think about husband, wife, home, family; everything is happening naturally. There is thought, passion, love, fighting, cooperation, confrontation, yet you are an inseparable part of the same process. Just as awareness of society is an inseparable part of life, similarly spiritual awareness becomes a natural part of life. For that you do not need to go to temples, blow the conch, go to a sadhu nor make any drastic change in your life.

Reflection is satsang

Let this vritti settle in your life in a natural way. You came to this program, you listen to the satsangs and you have an opportunity for a good and positive vritti to settle into your life. As long as you are here, you are free from the influence of the six distortions. As long as you are here, you are becoming aware of your six distortions. You may think that the next time one of the distortions occurs you will be more alert and aware.

It should happen like this. Life does not evolve on the basis of a single condition and a single idea. Life is progression, evolution, development, transformation and reflection. Through reflection old ideas change and new ideas emerge. Old thoughts change and new thoughts come. In this way progress goes on. Reflection has to take place, and this reflection is satsang. The reflection based on these talks is called satsang. Satsang is not discussion, philosophy or academic debate. Satsang is becoming aware of and identifying with what brings happiness and peace. Purification then happens by itself.

Developing awareness and alertness

People ask about what time to get up, what time to eat, and so on. I tell them that the need is to take care of the mind. There is no problem even if they wake up at ten o'clock, as long as they manage the distortions of the mind. Eating at twelve o'clock at the night is not a problem, yet according to yogic discipline it should not happen. The important point is that whatever one's daily routine, the mental state should not be affected by it.

Whenever these mental distortions manifest, whether in the morning or evening, whether every moment, second or hour, there should be awareness and alertness. That awareness and alertness makes a person a yogi. With the practices of asana, pranayama and meditation a person does not become a yogi. People in circuses perform better asanas than us, yet they are not yogis. Only a fool says that a person who does yoga is a yogi. Yoga is rectifying and correcting these six distortions or defects of the mind. Yoga is not just spreading legs and hands to get rid of a stomach ache, trying to lose twenty kilos by doing pranayama. Yoga is organizing the mind.

I am saying this clearly: anyone who wants to join me in Bihar Yoga should have the strength to confront life and the ability to improve it. People should also have the desire to connect with competence and strength in life and not with weakness and limitation.

This is the teaching of raja yoga. Thought waves, vrittis, are based on these distortions. Pain is generated through these distortions. Tension, weakness and limitation develop through them. Life is made or destroyed due to these distortions. These distortions are powerful and in the grip of the material world. People able to manage and reduce the impact of distortions, are able to attain spiritual thought waves, adhyatmic vrittis, with more awareness and ease.

For the evolution of life

According to the sequence of yoga, hatha yoga comes first for sound physical, mental and emotional health. Raja yoga is for a sense of balance and control, followed by kriya yoga. The culmination of hatha yoga is raja yoga and the culmination of raja yoga is kriya yoga. With kriya yoga one awakens one's inner potential and creativity.

Through kriya yoga the faculties that are not limited by worldly conditions and restrictions are awakened. These faculties unite the individual with the luminous state of life. They remove tamas from one's life. This is the sequence of our spiritual tradition.

Sri Swami Satyananda gave the sankalpa of yoga, which was the mandate received from his guru, Swami Sivananda. He made yoga the medium of sadhana for transformation, elevation, growth and progress. After this progress comes the expression of achievements through the medium of seva. The third seed is to connect oneself with good and positive samskaras, with spiritual samskaras. These three sankalpas of Swami Satyananda complement each other. The work of yoga is not limited to the attainment of spiritual sadhana, social service or the feeling of sannyasa.

Whatever work our Guruji thought about or accomplished, he performed with divine inspiration. His three sankalpas are complementary to each other, so that evolution of better human beings takes place in the future.

Through yoga, one is able to develop a disciplined and harmonious personality. Through seva one develops a mentality that connects with everyone and uses action as the medium to alleviate the suffering and pain of others. Through the spirit of sannyasa one is able to fill one's life with luminosity and sattwa by expressing goodness through positive samskaras.

This is a spiritual revolution. The seed was sown by our guru, Sri Swami Satyananda. The results will be seen in the future for this is a secret revolution. For the person who comes to this path and unites with devotion, faith, respect and the feeling of reverence, his sadhana surely becomes fruitful. This is the path of success for the evolution of life, for the journey through life.

29 July 2014, Netaji Subhash Stadium, Kolkata, India