Essence of Spirituality

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What is the definition of spirituality? Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram is the real essence. They represent positivity which is the highway to heaven; just as negativity is the highway to hell. If you want to go to hell, take the highway of negativity and you will be there instantly.

Spirituality is not a different experience up there somewhere in a heaven. Rather that experience comes down here, we don’t go up there. The experience comes down for you are living in this world, in this body, in this environment, in this home, in this city, at this address.

Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram

Spirituality comes down, but when it comes down what is the form of it? The form is of Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.

Satyam is the external, Shivam is the internal, and when they converge together the result is Sundaram. Why is Satyam external? Why is Shivam internal? Satyam is external as you live in the outer, material, sensorial dimension interacting with other people. To have a harmonious environment and interaction the external connection to truth is important. As long as you are able to see the truth in the other person, there is no conflict, only peace. When you don’t see the truth in the other person, conflict comes. Therefore, connection to Satyam brings peace in the outer, the living dimension.

Shivam is internal and it is the state of auspiciousness, goodness that you experience and live after having eradicated most of the blocks and barriers which restrict your expression of positivity. When Shivam comes, the mind becomes auspicious. The absence of himsa, aggression and violence, the absence of all the negatives makes the mind Shivam, auspicious. It brings out the auspicious nature, the quality in which only dharma is highlighted.

The mirror

When Satyam and Shivam come together, the external and the internal, the complete, total experience is that of beauty, Sundaram. It is not only an experience, but also something which is created by you. You make the effort to become beautiful. Just as people make the effort every morning in front of the mirror to look beautiful, in the same manner by looking at yourself in your inner spiritual mirror, you can spend some time grooming, shaving polishing and powdering yourself. To look beautiful effort has to be made.

That effort has to become natural and spontaneous with the convergence of Satyam and Shivam. This is real spirituality, not God-realization. God is realized when you connect with Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram. The misunderstanding exists as we seek God without preparing the ground of Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram. Therefore, the search for God is always away from ourselves. Religions say, ‘God lives in heaven, away from ourselves’. My cultural upbringing says, ‘God has a very special place where he or she lives with all the people who are like-minded bhaktas’. The impression or the image is always that God is somewhere else.

In our effort too, we have to seek God yet we don’t look at ourselves. There is a very beautiful statement in Bhagavad Gita (15:1):

Urdhvamulamadhahshakhamashvattham prahuravyayam

Chandamsi yasya parnani yastam veda sa vedavit.

It talks of the mirror-world, the apparent and the real. What you see reflected in the mirror is not the real thing, it is only a reflection of what is out there. When you look at the mirror you say, “That is me.” Is that correct? Is that you in the mirror or are you on the other side of the mirror looking at your own reflection? When you say, “That is me,” it is incorrect, for that is not you.

You are not saying, “That is my reflection.” You are identifying not with yourself, but with your projection. That is maya, illusion, as you are identifying with something which you are not. Can you look at yourself from the reflection and say, “That is me?” If you can do that, if you can look at your real body from the eyes of the reflection and say, “That is me,” then that will be the real statement.


This is the theory of Vedanta too, the real and the unreal: how we identify with the unreal and ignore the real. We are not aware of the presence of the real because we are identifying with ‘me’ over there in the mirror and not with ‘me’ who is watching the reflection. If we think of God not as the epitome of goodness who is away from us, but as something that can be experienced by plugging our plug into the socket of Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram, then that will be the most appropriate experience.

When you connect your plug of life to the socket of Satyam that becomes the sadhana of spiritual life. What is truth? My interaction with you, is that real? Is it dependent on my desire, expectation, ambition, do I understand the person, do I support the person? The whole life can come into play. Not just a theoretical or philosophical idea, the actual practical dimensions of life can be lived by discovering the truth. Life can be improved by thinking auspicious things instead of taking recourse and resort to negative thinking. Then one experiences Shivam. Satyam and Shivam lead to Sundaram. The whole cosmic, heavenly experience descends in the individual’s field of perception and experience.

The cleaning of the spirit is connecting to Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram. If you cannot express the beauty of your life, then you are not spiritual. If you cannot express the Shivam the happy, auspicious, contented aspect, then you are not spiritual. If you are disconnected from truth, you are not spiritual, and that is the tree of the Bhagavad Gita. The verse means (15:1):

The universal tree has its roots in heaven, and the branches and the trunk grow downwards.

This is the reverse of what is known as samsara. The divine dimension is its opposite and both create the mirror image of each other – and therefore I used the example of reflection.

It is the connection with Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram that constitutes real spiritual life. This has to be the motivating factor and inspiration – to walk towards Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram. Therefore, make the effort with your own strength and clarity to remain true to your path and to retain your initial motivation and inspiration.

Diwali, 7 November 2018, Ganga Darshan, Munger