On the Threshold of the Next Fifty Years

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

This yatra to Mumbai is a part of a plan to visit, in the course of time, each and every village, town and city of this country. And why? To bring the message and the prasad of our parampara, Sri Swami Sivananda and Sri Swami Satyananda; to bring the fruit, the teaching, the information and the knowledge of yoga sadhana to the masses.

Sri Swamiji stated that when people of our society had incorporated yoga in their life, our country and society were prosperous. Yoga gave a different understanding of dharma, kartavya, or duty, and the aim in life. When we separated ourselves from the subject of yoga, we encountered strife, conflict, poverty and dissatisfaction.

Sri Swamiji told us that yoga is part and parcel of our civilization, not in form of a philosophy or a tradition but as an effort to sublimate ourselves, as an effort to discover happiness and fulfillment in this life. The motivation and drive to achieve this is the birthright of every human being. This was the statement of our guru.

Fifty years of the Bihar School of Yoga, which concluded with the World Yoga Convention, gave many flowers and fruits. Those flowers and fruits have to be shared and distributed for the benefit of our human community. The inspiration for the Bharat Yatra came from this.

I am free from my formal and informal commitments to the Bihar School of Yoga. I have embarked on a new chapter of my life: to experience what sannyasa truly is and to imbibe the knowledge of yoga for which our paramguru, Sri Swami Sivananda, and for which my guru, Sri Swami Satyananda, devoted their lives, and for which I am aspiring to devote my life.

The attempt is to follow the path that our gurus have forged before us and reach the destination that they willed each one of us to reach as the aim of this journey through life.

Three generations

You have to know about the father, the grandfather and the grandson. Each human being is connected with three generations: father, grandfather, grandson. Similarly in spiritual life, you are connected: the grandfather is tantra; the son of the grandfather, is our father: yoga; and the grandson of tantra and the son of yoga is yet to be born: Vedanta.

Tantra represents the vidya, knowing about life, about the transcendental nature, about the gross nature, about the qualities, the gunas of life, the restrictions of life, the aspirations of life, the improvement of life. That is the vidya, the knowing of tantra.

The knowing of tantra is complemented with the action of yoga, with yoga sadhana. The knowing of tantra, the connection of vidya culminates in the development of an effort to discipline yourself. The purpose of yogic discipline is to culture yourself. Therefore, yoga becomes the sadhana, the process.

After you have cultured yourself the son is born. The son who is not yet born in your life is Vedanta. This is not the philosophy of Vedanta which you can read about in books, scriptures and literatures, but the experience of Vedanta that is natural and spontaneous, and which connects you to creation and to every individual.

These are the three progressions of human life on the spiritual journey. They are the three stages that a human being should be aware of when planning to take to the spiritual journey. The spiritual journey is not a journey of abstract imaginations, ideas or thoughts. It begins with understanding human nature: not trying to understand the divine, but trying to understand 'who I am'.

Power of sankalpa shakti

Many times spiritual aspirants ask me abstract questions as to: 'What is God? Who is God? Where is God? Have you seen God? Is God the purpose of human birth? Is God-realization the purpose of yoga sadhana?' God becomes an obsession with some aspirants when they think that they have become spiritual. They cannot differentiate their spirituality from their ambition to know something.

Spirituality is coming closer to the pureness of the human spirit. As you come closer to the pureness of the human spirit you become pure, and that is spirituality. Your ideas become clean, pure; your thoughts become clean and pure, positive and optimistic, hopeful and uplifting; your actions, your behaviour, your personality and your nature becomes that. That is spiritual awareness.

Spiritual awareness is not God-awareness. It is the awareness of the quality of life that you can live, in the best way that you can live it. Do the best in every situation, do the best in every environment, your wisdom, your skills and your creativity; do not be defeated, ever. There is no power on earth that can defeat human will. Always remember that. If you can connect with your sankalpa shakti, then there is nothing that cannot be achieved provided that your sankalpa shakti is given a clear direction for it to grow and develop. Provided the sankalpa shakti is protected from influences that can distract the mind from achieving its goal. This is the strength of life.

SWAN

You experience life in four ways. You can experience life as strengths and abilities, and connect with your strengths and abilities; or you can experience life in the form of limitations and weaknesses and then you connect with the idea that you are weak and limited. You can connect with life following your ambitions, which may be realistic or unrealistic, and you may not know the difference; or you can connect with life keeping in mind what your immediate needs are, and what you need to do to fulfil those needs and become content.

These are the four areas which guide your path and your journey. The strengths propel you forward, the weaknesses hold you back, the ambitions can create confusion for you do not know how to differentiate between the real and the imaginative; and needs are there and you cannot ignore them.

This is what you express every moment of your life: strength, weakness, ambition and need. There is no fifth component. When you are connected with your strength such as clarity of mind, conviction, having the right skills to complete what you have embarked upon, and creativity, then you are able to achieve anything and everything that you desire.

When you identify with your weaknesses, you begin to feel insecure, fearful and you see everything as dark and depressing. When you identify with your ambitions you do not know what destiny has in store for you. You try to become what you are not capable of. That is why the ambitions often become the cause of your downfall. You try to become something that you are not capable of becoming, which is an unrealistic ambition. If you can become and excel at what you are good at, that is a realistic ambition. To know the difference is difficult, for you have never objectively analysed what you want from your life, and you are always confused.

You are always seeking guidance and clarity from others. With every input you become more confused and lose your clarity. You stop believing in yourself, and you cannot be convinced that what you believe is correct. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of human life. When you stop believing in yourself confusion comes to mind. Your ambitions have to be realistic. Do not pursue unrealistic ambitions.

You also have to be aware of your needs. You cannot ignore those needs for they are the basic requirements of survival. Just as the body has its needs and is maintained and nourished by food, in the same way, the mind has its needs. The mind is maintained and nourished by contentment, joy and peace. When contentment and peace is not in the mind you sometimes begin to hate yourself for what you feel and experience. Your awareness has to be in the fulfillment of the needs connected with reality.

Moving towards change

If you can analyse what your strengths, weaknesses, your achievable and unachievable ambitions, and needs are, then you can practise balancing the strength with your weakness. You can pick one strength and cultivate it until you achieve excellence in it. You can pick one weakness every month and consciously try to remove it by making the necessary effort, by taking the necessary steps, by making the necessary adjustments in your thought, behaviour and lifestyle and by converting that limiting, restricting weakness into a strength.

If you are able to cultivate twelve strengths and overcome twelve weaknesses per year, just imagine how you will be by the end of the year. If you consider that there is an improvement of ten percent every month your improvement every year will be one hundred and twenty percent, even more than what is expected.

Swami Sivananda says this when he talks about the cultivation of the qualities that can help you progress and grow in life. Do not only be dependent on the mechanical movement of your body and the mechanical breathing of your lungs, but also make the fine adjustment to your brain and mind by modifying your thoughts, your understanding and your behaviour. Following the path of jnana yoga, karma yoga and bhakti yoga you are able to access all dimensions of your nature, and to come to a point of harmony and balance.

Cleaning the pipe of the mind

This harmony and balance leads to the awakening of the dormant faculties inherent in your nature and personality; it is what people know as chakras and as kundalini. The water will only flow through the pipe if the pipe is clean. The pipe of your mind through which the mental energy flows is not clean; it is blocked, it is constipated. You still carry the muck of some experience that has happened to you thirty years ago and is still as alive today as it was then. You have not been able to let go of that negativity. It is there inside as constipation. That has made you sick, it has made you dislike somebody, it has made you hate somebody, it has removed peace from your mind, and it has removed the contentment from your life.

Why do you hang on to that state? To satisfy your own ego. If that is how you wish to live life, then do not come to such conventions or satsangs. Come here if you are willing to take the step to change yourself, for this is the message of the parampara, the rishis and the sannyasins. They have not given this message in vain, to satisfy your curiosity. They have given this message to indicate a path through which you can achieve fulfillment in all respects, on all levels and live your destiny as a true human being.

Swami Sivananda says, "Practise serenity, regularity, absence of vanity, simplicity, veracity, tenacity and all the 18 ITIES. They are not just philosophical concepts or good words spoken by a sage; they are sadhanas to be performed per month. Take a sankalpa, "I will practise serenity for one month or one week. I will try to be serene in all situations that I encounter during the day."

Remind yourself from time to time, "I shall maintain my peace and happiness. I shall not allow situations to disturb or distract me. I shall not run away from them, I shall not shun them, I shall not confront them, I shall not fight them. I shall look at them and keep myself clean from their effect and influence."

Only do that much, remove the ill-will from your memory. That will help build better samskaras and build a better karma. As it is said, 'Construction takes many years but destruction can happen in a moment'. The good times that you live are forgotten in one strife. The sight of beauty is gone, and you disconnect yourself from divinity.

A new mind set

Do you know what divinity is? Divinity is not God. Divinity in life is realized by the achievement or experience of three things in life: truth, Satyam; understanding, Shivam; and appreciation of beauty, Sundaram.

If you can connect with these three concepts in relation to yourself, to the people around you, and to the world, you begin to see divinity. Divinity means a combination of these three aspects.

Satyam is truth and truthfulness. Truthfulness means no hypocrisy in life, no dual personality, no split personality in life. Be what you are. Do not put on masks to hide your true self and to present to other people what you are not. Ultimately the human nature will manifest.

It is that nature that you have to transform and transcend, so why not start from the beginning? You know the story of the donkey wearing the garb of a tiger. Just by wearing the garb of a tiger the donkey does not roar, it still brays. That is its character. So just by wearing the garb of a puritanical attitude you do not become a saint. Just by wearing the mask of a puritanical attitude you do not become a sage or spiritual person. You have to work through the dross of the mind.

Swami Sivananda was clear that each of these qualities and virtues strengthens the human nature and personality. Serenity, regularity, absence of vanity, simplicity, all these eighteen qualities that he has spoken about strengthen the human character. Strengthening the human character will make you a proper human being, a better and an enlightened human being. Therefore, always remember that there is suffering in life, yet there are always options to come out of the suffering. Look for the options that yoga can give. Many of the solutions are here, as a practical method to apply the vidya and to give birth to a new mind set of atmabhava.

Your inheritance

Sri Swamiji has given this to us as his inheritance. It is not only that you practise pawanmuktasana and surya namaskara as your yoga sadhana or that you practise yoga nidra twelve hours a day, keep on sleeping and say, "I'm practising yoga." Not only that you close your eyes, go on some imaginative journey and say, "I'm practising meditation." If it does not give you the control over your mental behaviour, then what is the use of an imaginative fantasy journey? It is a waste of time.

The purpose of meditation is to give you the ability to manage your mental behaviour, and not to make you into a person disconnected from reality. People who are misguided when they meditate lose control. They start imagining that they are the prophets of the age, they start searching for profit, and become the prophets of profit.

There is no clarity. Spirituality is thought of as something out there, yet spirituality begins by discovering the nature of the mind and modifying it.

The expression of this ability happens in the outer dimension. Those of you who have had the opportunity to go to Munger and Rikhia have seen these two aspects of Sri Swamiji's mission: yoga in Munger and seva in Rikhia. The third option is becoming available to express the hands in Sannyasa Peeth. So, there is a place for head, heart and hands.

When we meet again we shall take another leap into the next stage and level of yoga work. More will have been consolidated and prepared to give to you; to hand over for you to use, cherish, promote and preserve.

Let us make a new beginning by closing the first chapter of fifty years of work, and reconnect with a new sankalpa: to start the second chapter on a better, solid footing allowing yoga the breakthrough it seeks for the development of human nature. If we allow this breakthrough to happen, if the shakti, the power of yoga can break through the dross of the mind, then we can transform our life and many lives. That will be our achievement in this world as human beings.

—12 April 2014, Worli, Mumbai, India