Foundations of a Yogic Lifestyle

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The foundation of ideal life, from the spiritual perspective, is sadvichara, sadvyavahara and satkarma: appropriate and correct thinking, appropriate and correct behaviour, appropriate and correct action. Once appropriateness comes into your thinking, behaviour and action, then you can begin to think of what to acquire and what to let go of in order to find harmony, peace and balance in life, away from the distractions of material life. Remember that by nature human beings are not spiritual beings, by nature they are tamasic beings.

A tree cannot say, “By nature I am fire;” it has to say, “By nature my form, my quality, everything is that of wood, although fire is contained in every grain of my body.” A tree has to recognize that it is a tree and not fire. In the same manner, you have to recognize that you are a conditioned, tamasic human being and not a transcendental divine being. Although that transcendental-ness and divine-ness is ingrained in each and every pore of your body, still you are made up of material, tamasic, sensorial stuff, and that is why everything happens at that level. You have to recognize that. This perception is what takes you towards sadvichara, satkarma and sadvyavahara.

As you exist in the conditioned state of tamas, all your expressions are also conditioned by the agents that fuel tamas. These agents are the tamasic expressions of mind. If you look at a child, you will see the manifestation of tamasic nature. When children fight, the expressions of jealousy or anger are manifesting naturally, nobody teaches them to feel these qualities. Without logic they become jealous of each other, that is matsarya spontaneously manifesting. One can see a little baby shaking with anger. From where did that anger come? It is the natural expression of krodha, which is inherent. This is the tamasic nature spontaneously manifesting and also growing along with the child.

The yogic perspective says that from tamas you have to evolve to sattwa. In order to cultivate sattwa, you have to know yourself. The practice of five or ten asanas and two or three pranayamas every day does not make you aware of yourself. They are done as exercise, rarely with the purpose of becoming aware of yourself. You do not access the purpose of yoga with this practice of asana and pranayama, rather you entertain the body.

The purpose of yoga is attained through imbibing yoga as a lifestyle. The movement has to take place from tamas to sattwa, and sattwa has to become a lifestyle. For this, the three foundations are: appropriate, correct and truthful thinking, behaviour and performance.

Published in Yoga Chakra 4