How to Tackle Life

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

What is the secret to inner peace?

Swami Satyananda: Inner peace is a balanced vision of life. It is not subject to achievements and losses. Inner peace is an understanding of everything in life. External life is full of ups and downs, and for a weak person it sometimes becomes tiring and exhausting. For a strong person, every ascent is a joy and every descent is a game.

This life must therefore be lived. Inner peace comes when one accepts whatever happens, and everything in life becomes impersonal. That is the secret. Peace of mind is not the ultimate state. The ultimate is to realize one’s real being, the supreme consciousness. Inner peace or happiness is only a means to an end.


How can one achieve balance between negativity and positivity in life?

Swami Satyananda: Negativity is asura and positivity is deva. These are the two tendencies in every personality. There is a constant, unending conflict between these two forces. If this conflict ceases there will be no progress or evolution. Many times people ask, “Why did God create evil?” That is a simple question from simple, religious people. “Why did He create evil? He should have created only good, because He could do it. Why if He is almighty does He not destroy evil?”

Evil has a place in the scheme of evolution and creation. Negativity in one’s personality has a purpose in the scheme of physical, mental, moral, social and spiritual evolution. If one is always positive, which of course is impossible, from the beginning of childhood one will go no further than being an idiot.

Negativity is charged with hyperactivity. Negativity is rajoguna and positivity without negativity is tamoguna. When positive nature and negative nature clash with each other and finally negativity is set aside and positivity wins, that is sattoguna. In Samkhya philosophy, tamoguna and sattoguna look alike and are pictured as almost the same. Positive and negative samskaras in one’s personality should be given a proper chance to balance each other.

From tamoguna one moves to rajoguna and from rajo to sattoguna. There is no direct transition from tamoguna to sattoguna. Tamoguna has to be balanced and then rajoguna will manifest. Rajoguna has to be conquered by sattoguna. Realizing that one has many negative qualities, instincts and traits one should not feel sorry about them. They have their place and an important role to play. They are an asset in the scheme of one’s spiritual evolution. However, one must maintain the conflict and keep the struggle constantly alive.

One should never think: God should destroy evil, or the guru or a greater spiritual, political or any other power should descend and destroy evil. Evil cannot be destroyed; it is a landmark, a milestone on the path of evolution. It will always be there. The so-called diabolical and evil tendencies go hand in hand with one’s evolution for a very long time, up to the stage of jivamukti when one is totally liberated.

The Bhagavad Gita was narrated to a person who was totally blind, Dhritarashtra. Secondly, it was taught to a person who was also blind, Arjuna. He did not have knowledge. All eighteen chapters are entitled ‘yoga’. The first chapter is called ‘Arjuna Vishadyoga’. Vishad means despondency, depression, dejection. Could depression be yoga? Yoga means a method of evolution of the self. Is dejection and depression a way to spiritual evolution?

The Bhagavad Gita says yes. When one is terribly angry, one loses one’s temper and says so many things. However, later what does one do? One is trying to balance. That balance is called samyam, control. Anger and passion do form a part of spiritual life. When one is accepting negativity one is walking on the razor’s edge. One has to be careful. One may fall this side or that, but after all, one has to walk.

How can one cultivate balance and contentment in life?

Swami Satyananda: Aspirants should keep the mind pure and life disciplined and restrained. In family life they give full scope to peace, tranquillity and cooperation. They are benevolent and of service to others. They should be forceful in their karmas, sweet and soft in their speech. They should be balanced in food habits, simple in dressing up and above all they should be highly knowledgeable.

These aspects should be thoroughly taken care of. They are fundamental elements and secrets of success in day-to-day life. Aspirants should be blissful, full of joy and exalted in spirit, learn to live in happiness and contentment and allow others to live that way. This is the perception and realization of ‘satyam’.

Aspirants should neither do back biting nor listen to it; not think evil nor do harm to anyone. They should avoid harshness and help the sick, poor, helpless, aggrieved and widows. They must stop extravagance, and instead write the personal Ramayana of their own life, not Tulsi Ramayana.

People should do pooja of human qualities instead of worshipping temples; learn to respect and worship restraint, instead of involvement in bhoga, enjoyment. They should display calmness and mildness instead of harshness. The world is brimming with crores of sermons, but what I have mentioned is enough for this life. Oceans have an immense amount of water but just a little bit is good enough to live by.

What did Swami Sivananda’s philosophy of surrender involve?

Swami Satyananda: In this complex world, if a person does not have a personality, if he does not have an ego, he will be in trouble for he will be exploited. Swami Sivananda had one answer to this. He was completely of one opinion: whoever the person is, even if he is wretched, even if he is a murderer, even if he has come to plunder, exploit or harm, one must surrender.

That was his philosophy, and he did it – he practised it throughout his life! To people who criticized him, who insulted him or spoke badly about him (of course there were no bad points in him but still there were people who criticized him), he used to give great respect.

Even in the ashram there were sannyasins who used to criticize Swami Sivananda. Four or five of them would sit down and say, “Swami Sivananda’s English is hopeless. He sings songs like that. He makes faces like this.” Swami Sivananda used to send them coffee and tea and cashew nuts!

Published in Conversations on the Science of Yoga, Bhakti Yoga Book 4, In the Presence of Bhakti