The Hardest Sadhana

From Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Bhakti Yoga Book 4, In the Presence of Bhakti

What is the importance of being positive?

Swami Niranjanananda: Yoga has always maintained that one should maintain positivity and protect it from negative influences. Just as one protects one’s garden from rodents and insects, one has to protect the good one is trying to cultivate in life from the destructive negative influences which surround one. One has to be observant about the negative things in life. One rotten apple can spoil the whole basket of apples, yet one good apple cannot rectify even one rotten apple. Therefore, one always has to be observant about negative, detrimental influences and try to maintain optimism and positivity, and learn all the time. One should not worry about mistakes, everybody makes them. People who do not make mistakes have never tried anything new. People who make mistakes always try new things.

What is the hardest sadhana in life?

Swami Niranjanananda: One important effort has to be made, which is maintaining a positive and balanced attitude. This is possibly the most difficult practice due to the various types of stress one undergoes. Stress disconnects from one’s inner harmony, strength, optimism, clarity, creativity and constructive participation in life. To maintain a positive perspective is the hardest thing to acquire in life. One should analyse oneself for a few moments and see if one is optimistic or pessimistic by nature. Is there happiness or depression in the face of challenges? What kind of nature is predominant right now?

To remain positive is the hardest sadhana of life. The aspirant tries to understand the components of awareness and positivity that need to be cultivated. Just as salt gives taste to food, awareness gives taste to the mental expressions and experiences. One can be positive only if there is constant awareness.

What are some of the practices that can help one remain positive?

Swami Niranjanananda: Positive thinking in all situations and connecting and identifying with one’s inner strengths, sadvichara, is a sadhana of bhakti yoga. When one experiences any difficulty or suffering, one prays to God to help one overcome shortcomings and distress. One feels there is pain and suffering within and one cannot connect with the source of strength, so one prays to an outer figure, God, for help.

Another approach is to recognize one’s own strength and remain positive. It is difficult to maintain a balanced attitude in all situations. Arrogance has to be under control. If one is arrogant, one will see the negative in whatever is being said and done, and react. The moment one is able to manage the ego and learn humility, one will become more positive and, with humility, discover the strength within. In a tempest, a banyan tree can be uprooted by the force of the wind, yet a humble blade of grass simply bends over and stands upright when the wind has gone. If one remains inflexible, one will be uprooted. Thinking to be so strong that nothing can shake one is actually one’s weakness; however, if one begins to bend, that humility and acceptance will make one positive. It will give complete control over one’s strengths for it will allow one to become humble and face situations with a positive attitude of mind.

The aspirant should live in the present, maintain a positive attitude all the time and associate with people who are positive all the time. If one associates with people who are negative about others, one’s thoughts will not remain positive either. Sri Rama stated that there should be no falsity or crookedness in life. This is the process of coming to this point where one can develop a guileless disposition, a mind free from perversity, and absolute contentment. When one lives in the present, one will be contented. If one lives in the past or future, there will be discontent.