If You Want To Be Victorious First Conquer the World Within

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Today in this battle arena one soldier is addressing another. You are a soldier and so am I. There are two kinds of wars which man must fight– one is waged on the battlefield of life and the other is fought within. The first is waged against external enemies and the second against internal foes. Military men are trained for the outer battle, while I train people for the inner. If we are not adequately prepared to face our external enemies, they will take advantage of our weaknesses and we will lose our independence. We are all aware of this. Similarly, if we are unable to control and master our internal enemies, they are bound to make us their servant and bring about much imbalance and disharmony.

Science of defence

Today, in every part of the world, mankind is in a state of suffering. Every individual feels imprisoned within himself, defeated, dumbfounded, oppressed and bewildered. He wants to liberate himself from his limitations, but he cannot. He has lost the fight even before he faces the din and roar of the battle front. The science of yoga frees man from his self-defeat. It is a highly developed science of defence containing a wide range of weapons which are limitless in their scope and application.

Until man is able to liberate himself from his inner shackles, he will never be able to breathe the air of real freedom. Our biggest enemy is our own limitations. In our ancient literature, these limitations were referred to as evil forces, demons and devils.

By purifying ourselves through yoga, we become like the general who controls and directs his own forces. We can also command our willpower to overcome our own limitations. We have certain in-built strengths of endurance, stability, poise, concentration and self-discipline. They are like the commanders of an army. When we know how to manipulate these inner strengths, then we can mobilize and gear them into achieving our desired objectives. This, in essence, is man’s true victory over himself. To fight the extraneous forces, we must first develop the ability to conquer within. The fortifications must be strong on both fronts.

Importance of discipline

Discipline is the path of yoga and the backbone of the army. Discipline is of two kinds: organizational and personal. Personal discipline is essential for spiritual progress in the same way as organizational discipline is necessary for the progress of society and the nation.

The country which has a disciplined army has no fears. Similarly, the person who has disciplined his senses is guaranteed success. How can one reach his destination when the horses of the chariot have no reins and the driver is restless? An alert driver who is clear about his destiny, and is able to command and steer his senses is bound to attain his goal.

That is why I mentioned here that one soldier is addressing another. The real goal lies within oneself. What I have mentioned to you is the path which leads there. This inner life is more real than the outer life, which is transitory, empirical, subject to time and space and objectivity. One who has experienced the inner life can face the outer life with equanimity and ease. To enable us to experience the inner life without cutting off the outer life, our ancestors have developed the practices of yoga.

By regular practice of yoga we can achieve and gain control over our bodies and minds. It is very simple and clear. The path of yoga has to be understood and incorporated into our lives. A few asanas, pranayama and meditation techniques to develop the concentration of mind form the daily program.

Asanas are not merely gymnastic exercises or body building techniques. Pranayama is not breathing exercises, and meditation is not ‘going out’. Asana is a posture in which you can remain steady and comfortable in body and mind. Asana and pranayama are important preparation for concentration and meditation.

Concentration and mental stability

Our mental power increases when we develop concentration. A piece of paper will not burn simply by holding it up to the sun, however, when the rays of the sun converge in a convex lens, the intensity of heat at the focal point enables the paper to catch alight. Similarly, when our mental energies are not channelled in a proper direction, they become dissipated very quickly and weaken the mind. A wavering, unsteady, restless mind is prone to all types of hallucinations, phobias and complexes.

A wavering mind is a sick mind. When we fix the mind on an inner point, like the jyoti or bindu, what we are trying to do is control the oscillations and fluctuations. We have to fix the mind on an inner point so that the consciousness revolves around it. After considerable practice of meditation the mind becomes concentrated and stabilized at the given point.

When concentration is achieved, mental energies are conserved. There is no tension or dissipation, and peace and inner strength are gained. When the mind is free of distractions, the higher intuitive faculties are revealed and begin to guide the individual. Confidence increases, imaginary fears vanish, and one is able to face the realities of life. This is yoga.

Yoga makes the mind strong, enabling it to endure pain and unhappiness. After regular practice of yoga, equilibrium and vitality become the normal state of mind. With the stability of mind, one is able to radiate strength and confidence. When the mind is dissipated, it becomes weak, thus hindering its progress.

Efficacy of the mind is as essential as the efficacy of the body. Exercises and drill, which all soldiers no doubt do, are good for the body, but this is not enough. A strong body with a weak mind is of no use. True strength lies in the mind. Only with this strength of mind will you be able to achieve something worthwhile in your civil life.

To achieve this mental stability, keep aside ten minutes for meditation every morning. Decide where to fix your mind. If you want to fix it on a candle fame, then just be aware of that and nothing else. When the mind is concentrated and one-pointed, even for a second, then one undergoes a wonderful experience.

True soldiers

In meditation we discipline our mental thoughts, just as the scientist has disciplined the forces of nature. Your mind is a force, thought is a force, emotion is a force, memory is a force. When you feel happy or unhappy that is also a condition of energy. Mind therefore is not a devil or a sinner. In the science of meditation we have to understand a few basic things and change some of our basic beliefs. How will we define the mind? Is mind a thinking machine or is there more to it than that? The ultimate definition I have concluded is that ‘mind is energy’.

Some people have been able to discipline this energy, but most have not. Mind is such a powerful force in man. Those who have tamed this mind have tamed the worlds. They have become great statesman, prophets, artists and scientists. All these are miracles of the mind. Those who have been feeling unhappy in life, depressed, frustrated, pessimistic, full of conflicts within themselves, have not been able to master this mind. Therefore, we have to find a way to harness the energies of the mind.

A great man in any field is not a product of destiny. He is not an accident or a combination of astrological or planetary conditions. A great man, who is able to handle the mind, is able to handle the world. This was realized by the rishis in India thousands of years ago. Then they decided to find the best way to achieve this. In the course of experimentation, they discovered innumerable techniques, but each one had its limitations.

These techniques which the boys and girls use now, LSD and hashish, were used in India thousands of years ago. During the vedic period, people used to take soma, a hallucinogenic drink, and go into trance, but going into a trance is not the ultimate thing. You must practise meditation in such a way that it transforms the quality of mind. When you change the quality of mind, you change the quality of actions also. And when you change the quality of actions, you change the quality of experience.

This mind is capable of expressing itself in very many ways, so much so that if the mind is held under control it can give you mastery over events and circumstances. This is what we are trying to explain. I don’t believe in any particular sect, or in preaching my own tradition, but I know that yoga is a great interdisciplinary science.

By following the path of yoga, one day you will become a true soldier. You will defeat your inner enemies and achieve real freedom. You are not liberated now, because you are not your own master. You get easily swayed by emotions and passions, anger and worries. You are not able to endure pain and sorrow, and you become easily frustrated by difficulties. Neither are you able to rule your thoughts nor command your actions. You are enslaved by your own mind. You will have to reverse this situation and attain mastery over it. Only then can you become true soldiers.

Printed in YOGA, Vol. 19, No. 11 (November 1981)