Connecting to the Spark

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Mind has three different natures — tamasic, rajasic and sattwic. The sattwic nature is the simple one, the pure, the clear one. The ambitions and the selfishness, swartha, belong to the tamasic mind. The motivation and drive for the swartha, selfish acquirements, belong to the rajasic mind. We all live between 75 percent tamasic 25 percent rajasic, yet we lead ourselves to believe that we live rajasic 75 percent and tamasic 25 percent. No, it is the other way around.

What is the heaviest element on Earth? The earth itself. Not air, not water, not fire. So what is the heaviest element in mind? The tamasic mind: the craving mind, the desirous mind, the ambitious mind, the greedy mind, the self-oriented mind which says 'I want,' 'I like.' In Vedanta wherever 'I' appears, it is considered to be the tamasic mind. Whenever 'He' appears, in Vedanta, that is considered to be the sattwic mind; the awareness of 'He' has to be in sattwa, not in tamas.

Application and motivation

In tamas, people manipulate even God and guru. They use them as stepping stones to achieve their own gains and aims. Once they achieve their goals and aims, then even God has no relevance in life. This is a clear indication that the most pious thing in life which humanity has aspired to experience, is used as a stepping stone for own personal gains. I am talking of God and guru, both. This is the quality of the tamasic mind.

The question is, how far has one progressed in life? You can spend twenty years. You can spend forty years and your whole lifetime, yet it is not the lifetime or time that matters. It is how much you have walked the path during the time which was available to you. This applies to everybody in life also children. When they study, how much time do they apply to their studies? The more they apply, the more hold they have over the subject. The less they apply, the less hold they have over the subject. Simple as that.

It is the application of time and adherence to the intention which is important for each and every one of us at every stage in life. For a child, moving on to the next class is the intention of studies, not learning the subject, and that is all right too. In order to go to the next class, the child has to study the subject and pass the term. If the child fails the term, they go back to the same class, however intention is always to move on to the next stage.

Does that apply only to studentship in life? Or in the other ashramas as well? Not only in the brahmacharya ashrama, but also in grihasta ashrama, the householder life, the life of responsibility and commitment. It should apply in the vanaprastha life, the life of post-retirement. How do we apply ourselves, our skills, our time, our mind? It should apply in the sannyasa life.

How can we overcome the baggage of the tamasic manas that holds back the peace and the harmony that yogis and spiritual traditions talk about? We are not able to experience it despite being involved and teaching it for some time. The fault is in our application of it. Even as teachers, how many people apply the principles of the teaching to their own life? One should reflect on that. This gives clarity of mind, this gives focus and purpose to life. This gives motivation to walk the path.

Types of aspirants

One has to findsecurity within oneself. One cannot find security and comfort with the help of other people. The real security and comfort in life comes when you are connected to the inner person, not the people around you. That inner person, that inner awareness has to come to a spiritual aspirant. Sri Swami Satyananda has said in one of his letters published in the Yoga Initiation Papers that there are two kinds of aspirants: one are sadhakas, and one are the needy ones, the experimental ones. They come for a special purpose, and when the purpose is over their participation is complete. The person who comes with a purpose, whether it be health, mind, emotion, devotion or even sadhana, they don't progress very far, because they are unable to let go of their ambitions. People who come with the intention of sadhana are definitely able to go a certain distance, but then external pulls of the distorted conditions of mind, like attraction-repulsion, love-hate – the opposites, again, try to pull you to their level. Many sadhakas succumb to that attraction and they fall back to the tamasic mind. Very few people are able to complete the journey to the sattwic mind.

When I read this letter, I said to myself, 'What everybody is facing today, Paramahamsaji was speaking of in 1956 and 1957.' The nature of the mind does not change. Sometimes it can be more distracted and dissipated; at other times it will be less distracted and dissipated, yet the stillness will never be there. If it becomes still, then that is the apex of yoga. What you experience as stillness for a few seconds, a few moments in your practice of meditation is nothing but a temporary, momentary disconnection. That's all. The mind is not strong enough to hold that state. If you try to hold the state forcefully, you become a lunatic, for the actions are all forced. It is obvious that you are pretending to be something you are not.

The spark

Once somebody asked Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, 'I want to be self-realized. You can give me that realization. Help me now. You are capable, qualified, competent. Put your hand on my head and give me the glimpse of God. Sri Ramakrishna looked up to the sky and said, 'It is nearly evening. It is time for my bath. You come to the bathing place and we can talk there. Saying this, Ramakrishna got up and went to his bathing place in the river Ganga. He went waist-deep in the water. The man standing outside said, 'You're not talking to me. I want to have darshan. I want to be self-realized. So Ramakrishna said to him, 'Come in, stand beside me and then we can talk. The man came waist-deep into the water, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa jumped on his back and put his head under water.

Due to lack of air, the person definitelywas desperate and he was making every kind of effort, forceful effort, big effort, tremendous effort, to throw Ramakrishna off his back, to surface again, to breathe and to leave the madman behind. Ultimately after a few desperate moments, he was successful. Once out of the river he started abusing Ramakrishna, 'You nearly drowned me! So Ramakrishna Paramahamsa asked him, 'When your head was under water, what did you feel? The man looked at him and said, 'What do you mean, 'What did I feel?' Of course, I had no breath. I was gasping for breath. I wanted air, and you were pressing me down, so my whole power, my whole shakti, went into throwing you off my back. Ramakrishna said, 'If you have the same intensity for darshan, and you have the same aversion of the world like you had of the water when you were drowning, then God-realization is possible.

If the aim is peace and harmony, then spiritual awareness is another aim. First there has to be peace and harmony, only then can you, as the next stage, take up the challenge of cultivating spiritual awareness. How can one cultivate spiritual awareness if there is no peace and harmony? How can one cultivate spiritual awareness if there is only distraction, dissipation and ambition in one's mind? Can Patanjali help at that time? No. Can your knowledge help you at that time? It hasn't and it does not. So what helps you at that time? Your conviction, your sincere commitment and connection. That connection need not be physical. It has to be the connection with your intention, which was the firsts park in your life. Place and people come later, but the spark is first.