Deepening Sattvic Practice in Everyday Life
Question: Would you be able to provide us with something similar to the Ten Commandments in terms of maintaining or deepening our sattvic practice when we return to our settings?
Answer: Swami Vishnudevananda summarized the whole thing very beautifully. He said: “Health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, and yoga shows the way.” This is one summary. When Swami Vishnudevananda came to the West, he summarized the whole practice of yoga by following five principles: proper exercise (which is the yoga of asanas); proper breathing (which is pranayama); proper diet (which is the pure sattvic, or vegetarian, diet); proper relaxation (which is very difficult to learn, but it can be learned!), and positive thinking.
There are actually two types of positive thinking. Positive thinking according to Raja Yoga, where we learn to transmute the negative thoughts and emotions in the mind into positive thoughts and emotions. This is a method of Raja Yoga. But for Swami Vishnudevananda, the highest positive thinking was the study of Vedanta, because in Vedanta we are told about our true nature, which is glorious.
The fifth principle is meditation, which is the royal path to the knowledge of truth. Swami Sivananda says meditation is like a ladder that will take you from earth to the highest spiritual realms.
Swami Sivananda also summarized the whole practice of yoga using some beautiful words: serve (which is Karma Yoga); love (which is Bhakti Yoga); give. Give is very important. Give for Swami Sivananda was a major thing. Swami Vishnudevananda also taught us, anything good that you receive on the spiritual path, give it to others. Your first step is assimilating and then to give. Swami Sivananda always used three words: serve, serve, serve; love, love, love; give, give, give. Serve, love, give, purify. The path of purification is Raja Yoga. These things are the culmination of Raja Yoga.
Jnana Yoga is the practice of the yoga of wisdom. Do not think that because you are a yogi, you are going to have an easier time. No, people are not necessarily going to be nicer to you, nor will your life necessarily be easier. That is why Swami Sivananda taught “adapt, adjust, accommodate.”
So, serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize. Once you have done all this yoga and obtained all these wonderful realizations, what is the guidance of Swami Sivananda? He says, “Be good and do good.” All of your realizations are summarized in these words: be good. In yoga we call this the highest good. Many times in the Upanishads, you find aspirants asking their teachers, “How can we attain the highest good?” That highest good, when it is attained, Swami Sivananda describes it as “Be good.” To be good means to be established in the highest good, which is the highest realization, and then to do good. Do not keep it for yourself. Karma Yoga is at the foundation of yoga and Karma Yoga is also at the culmination of yoga. Once you realize the highest good, do good. Just go out and do good; teach others. Share this knowledge with others and elevate the suffering of humanity. Help your fellow beings. Be good. Do good. “Be kind,” he says. The nature of a Self-realized being is kindness, is compassion. Be kind. Be compassionate. Adapt, adjust and accommodate.
Life is not always going to be easy with us. We should be as flexible as water. If you look at water, it assumes the shape of every vessel in which it enters. If you put water into a cup, it will assume the form of a cup. If you put water into another vessel, it assumes the form of that vessel. And although water is so soft, it is the most powerful. And so he says adapt, adjust, accommodate. This is very important for yogis. Do not think that since you are a yogi then you do not have to wait in line at the airport. You will still have to wait in line. But as a yogi, you will be more patient. Adapt, adjust, accommodate.
Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is Director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and acharya (spiritual director) for the Sivananda centers and ashrams in the Bahamas and the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.