Coloured Glasses and Progress

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

I work in a negative, gloomy environment, and with colleagues who have strong personalities. How do I not let this situation drag me down?

At this time, you have to become a yogi. Do your duty as karma yoga, without any expectation and deep association. If you do that, you are free from this problem, and this question. If you can’t do it then this will be the cause of worry for a long time to come. The obvious answer lies in how you are able to perceive the world around you.

On a sunny day, when everything is glary, you put on dark-coloured glasses. That cuts out the glare, and it is easier to see. However, while you put on the dark glasses, everything begins to look dark. If you put on yellow glasses, everything will look yellow. If you put on red glasses, everything will look red. The choice of what type of glass you want to put on when you are looking at the world is yours. If you want to cut down the glare, put on the dark glasses. If you want to see better, put on the yellow glasses. If you want to be noticed, put on the red glasses.

This is the skill of being a yogi. I have been tempted to put on a different-coloured glass many times, yet I always try to hold myself back. I can wear the clear glasses. There are difficult situations in life, and some situations can be short-term, some can be long-term situations. The real ability is how we are able to manage our environment and different situations.

How can you be at peace without letting thoughts like these bother you day in and day out? Bad colleagues, bad boss, destructive and negative environment, yet you have to survive in it, so why not survive with a smiling face and be happy rather than cry for years about how to change your workplace or work environment. Use the same principle that people use when they drive in the fog: put on the yellow lights and you can see better.

Are there indications of progress in spiritual life?

There are indications of progress in spiritual life. They are not what you would normally expect. There are people who wake up very early in the morning, 2:30 am, 3 am to do their asanas, pranayamas and their meditation. I do not consider this to be an advancement of spiritual life. Advancement in spiritual life begins with the application of common sense, with the recognition of the condition of body and mind, and working with the limitations of body and mind. The moment you cultivate awareness to recognize the limitations of body and mind, and begin to work with them, certain things begin to happen naturally. The cultivation of awareness brings about greater perception of the outside dimension, the outer world. There is more involvement and more objectivity as well.

In spiritual life there is no isolation. With the cultivation of awareness, there is more advancement, more connection, more objectivity. This objectivity gives birth to a certain understanding about the natures and the qualities of everyone around. The personal desires, personal expectations diminish. In the beginning everything was centred around me and myself, and that gradually becomes less. These are some basic indications and symptoms of spiritual development. These are the milestones.

Buddha was once asked the same question, and he gave the same answer: “Lessening of desires is an indication. Lessening of subjective participation and more aware action with objective realization of the situation are the hallmarks of the person who is advancing spiritually.” This is it in a nutshell.

9 November 2011, Ganga Darshan, Munger