Ishvara Pranidhana is a practice of self-surrender in deep contemplation of the eternal source of all. Ishvara connotes God, Brahma, Lord of this universe. Historically, people have given it slightly different meanings but they all point to a higher power, a consciousness greater than our individual sense of self. Pranidhana also has multiple connotations but primarily means fixing attention on the Divine through meditation or prayer and generally implies self-surrender. This practice is one of surrendering your ideas, beliefs, constructs, control and most importantly your sense of self to the one Self, to pure essential being, to the Lord, God, the infinite Brahma, however you express it for yourself, your Source.
Inherent in this practice is knowledge of something greater than your small ego existence. If you let go and surrender, you just might get over yourself enough to perceive the immense shower of grace flowing from the eternal Divinity. And if you really let go, you just might melt into that ocean of love.
It is through surrendering to this infinite Self in the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana that the deep Selfknowledge of Svadhyaya arises and that all of the practices of Yama and Niyama really come into focus. Without Ishvara Pranidhana, it is not possible really to do the other practices.
Ishvara Pranidhana is the base of all practices of Yama and Niyama. If you are to know Divine Consciousness, you must come in direct contact with that consciousness. With direct contact, harmlessness, truth, integrity, purity of heart and mind, equanimity, and Self-knowledge become more accessible. Divine connection and the cultivation of the wisdom of Yama and Niyama go hand-in-hand. When you do the practices of Yama and Niyama, you purify the mind. At the same time when you ideate upon the Infinite in meditation, there is direction and focus for the mind. Without focus, your efforts become scattered and unproductive.
Through meditation and self-surrender in Ishvara Pranidhana, you come in direct contact with divine Presence. Ishvara Pranidhana allows you to focus all of your concentration upon the controlling point of this entire universe, often called Ishvara. This sublime Cosmic Consciousness, manifesting as the nexus of the entire manifest universe, is the Soul of your soul, the heart of your heart. When in your meditation you focus your mind in full surrender to the divine God Self, the nucleus of existence, then, by grace, it may become known.
The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana focuses upon this cosmic Self. When you first begin meditative practice, you may find you are spending all your time trying to concentrate. However, as you begin the practices of Yama and Niyama, you will find that your concentration in meditation grows better and better. When your lifestyle is made subtle with these practices, concentration is enhanced. As concentration is enhanced, a deeper knowledge of the Infinite arises. The noises about you when you meditate cease to bother you. The internal chatter of the mind, like the noise around you, does not bother you because you are focusing on something much more profound. As you focus your awareness on the profound consciousness that underlies all manifestation, you find that you begin to have a resonance with that infinite Divine Consciousness.
There are certain basic qualities that everyone’s mind possesses. The first is that mind is not static; it is in a perpetual process of movement. The second basic characteristic of mind is that it is malleable; whatever it moves toward, it takes the likeness of. Whatever you focus on, you tend to become absorbed in. When you frequently think of a material object and have a strong desire for it, then it will fill your awareness. As you continue to focus on the object of interest, the mind becomes more and more absorbed in the object until the image of it is fixed in the mind and your thoughts and feelings begin to revolve around it.
In the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, the characteristic movement and malleability of the mind is utilized to gain vision of the Infinite. The infinite cosmic Source, the controlling point of the entire manifest universe and of the unmanifest universe becomes the focus of your attention. When ideation upon infinite consciousness becomes your focus, then the first characteristic of the mind, mental movement, is set in motion toward the divine Self. As you continue to concentrate your attention in meditation upon the Divine, the second characteristic of mind, malleability, comes into play and the mind begins to take on the qualities and characteristics of that infinite Self. The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana gives us opportunity for knowing the depths in our meditation, in our contemplations and in our prayers.
I must apologize for my extended absence from this blog. My attention went elsewhere for a time, but I am back and now my intention is to write regularly on this blog. We have two more aspects of Yama and Niyama to cover, Svadhyaya (self reflection) and Ishvara Pranidhana ( surrender to God).
When we have completed these two aspects we will move on to discussion of other aspects of yogic teachings such as karma, samskara, the five elements, Ayurveda and the doshas, prana, meditation, Samadhi, Brahmachakra, and other relevant topics to our inner journeys. Please let me know what topics interest you the most to discuss. Also I invite you to share your personal experience and insights on each topic as we go along. We all have personal experiences and insights that can be enriching for everyone when shared. So please share your thoughts.
Svadhyaya the next aspect of the Niyamas, the practices to be cultivated, is self inquiry, or study and contemplation of the nature of Self. Svadhyaya is the search for knowledge and the practice of understanding truth. The word comes from the root sva (soul or self) and dhyaya, rooted in the word dhyia (to meditate, reflect upon, study or contemplate). Thus, Svadhyaya connotes self-study or reflection upon the nature of the soul or Atman.
It starts like most of the practices of Yama and Niyama with basic activities like reading books on spiritual life, articles on the internet on yoga and meditation, reading sacred texts, watching webinars or videos and going to relevant lectures, seminars and presentation. In other words, learning from other people’s personal experience and insights.
It can also involve studying with a Guru, a man or woman of wisdom who knows the way and can guide you. There is great benefit from being in the presence of spiritual masters and holy men and women. Many radiate a presence that has a direct influence on your mind, bringing it to a more subtle awareness.
Knowledge is not only for the mind. It is also for the heart, which is often wiser than the mind. Learning about devotion, singing the names of the gods and goddesses, chanting, doing kirtan, listening to stories of the lives and experiences of spiritual women and men open the heart. This is another form in which knowledge can come to you. Even myths and stories bring spiritual inspiration and hold the wisdom of the ages. Also, poetry that speaks the language of the heart holds truths only the heart can recognize; it gives wisdom and opens a doorway. The heart knows truth, recognizes it. Let these sources of divine knowledge and wisdom awaken your heart and inspire you to Self-knowledge.
Once you have explored what others have to say and their experiences, then comes the inner practice of self-inquiry. This involves asking your self who am I? It involves contemplating your own nature and trying to understand the nature of Self. What is consciousness? How do you become Self aware?
The internal practice of Svadhyaya is deeply contemplative. It involves truthful (Satya) self-observation and self-reflection. This may take the form of impartially observing your thoughts, words and behaviors or sitting in silent meditation and studying the Self within. This internal practice of Svadhyaya awakens when you take the knowledge that you acquire through your study and research and integrate it into your own experience.
When this internal practice of Svadhyaya is deeply cultivated, you become able attain direct access to the infinite knowledge that lies within the minds of all beings. You develop your intuition and you become able to access intuitional knowledge. When this happens, you will automatically know what is real and what is illusion.
So this aspect of spiritual practice is extremely important. I would encourage each of you to move forward in cultivating this aspect of your practice.
Today lets discuss the relationship we have to ideas like selflessness, self-sacrifice or selfless service. Ideas like self-sacrifice or selflessness have become associated for many people with letting yourself be stepped on or over run by others, of being a kind of dish rag, moping up others messes and not taking care of yourself. Being selfless for many has become a way of saying you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take care of yourself.
However being self-effacing and self-destructive is, in reality, not the same as being selfless and self-sacrificing. To do acts of service to another without wanting something for your self in return is to engage is selflessness. If you have to go out of your way a little to do this, or perhaps even a lot, you are engaging in self-sacrifice.
Most acts of self-sacrifice are a choice, a very powerful choice to give freely without expecting any return. These choices are not a result of being self-effacing and weak but, on the contrary, represent a powerful capacity to notice what is needed and give freely. People who on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ego development stages have healthy ego development become ‘self actualizing’ and gain the ability to dedicate themselves to something greater than their personal wants and needs.
The yogic practice of Tapas, the third principle of the Niyamas, literally means fire. It involves burning away our small since of self in the fire of selfless love. This teaching burns the ego on the fires of selfless love and liberates us from identity with the small ego self. It helps us to see all beings as part of our own Self. When we care for the welfare of other beings and engage in selfless service, seva, and random acts of kindness, with no expectation of getting something in return, then we become self actualizing.
Our ego development expands from focus on I and mine, to focus on the well being of all. Selfishness fades from us, and many of the sorrows and fears that often accompany self-absorption in our personal problems diminish. We find instead that we are carried on the power of our dedication to the welfare of all beings and whatever form of service that manifests as. It becomes more important and rewarding to know that we have done something good that has helped the world than to indulge in personal pleasures.
The practice of Tapas brings meaning and an expanded since of self. The seeds of selfishness are burnt on the fires of selfless love. Then you grow, you become more. By surrendering and letting go, doing something kind for someone despite your personal pain, you become a part of something larger. You expand towards the limitless, towards the one unconditional love of the Divine. It is amazing the healing impact of getting over yourself and taking the time to notice and care for others. It is a big world, and each of us is only a small presence in a vast, cosmic garden. But when we get over ourselves and connect in selfless love to the whole of life and live in seva, we in fact heal our own being and become whole. Tapasis an important practice of Niyama that is stressed for moving into alignment with your Divine Self.
As a point of note, some people over the centuries have gotten a bit confused on this particular point and thought that Tapas meant to somehow impose some harsh discipline on your body, like whipping yourself or starving yourself to burn out impure thoughts. These kinds of self-effacing and self-destructive behaviors represent a misunderstanding of Tapas. Tapas does involve discipline, but not self destruction. If you harm your body or mind, you do harm to the sacred vehicles that have been given to your care. You violate Ahimsa. This is not Tapas.
Tapas is instead the discipline of selfless love, the cultivation of the ability to look beyond the small ego self and live a life in service to the greater Self of all beings. It’s cultivation is an essential part of moving towards Moksha, liberation.
The practices of cultivating purity of heart and mind, contentment and well being, and selfless service to the One Eternal Self in the many forms of living beings on this earth, are all part of developing an expanding awareness.
Next time we will explore Svadhyaya, the practice of study of the Self, Self-inquiry and Self-reflection. If you want to explore all of this in more depth, please read my book Living Love, the yoga and Yama and Niyama.
Namaskar Dear Friends,
Today’s blog is about the second of the yogic principles to follow in Niyama, Santosha, that is inner peace or equanimity of mind.
Inner peace is a powerful state of being but requires the development of certain mental attitudes. If you keep your attention absorbed in the ups and downs of life, always worrying about something missing or striving to attain desired situations, your life will be filled with the turmoil and disruption of the need to acquire and the fear of loss.
To begin to practice the principle of Santosha, you will need to step back a bit from the drama of striving to acquire and avoidance of loss. Doing this entails acceptance. Equanimity of mind comes through letting go. It is not an avoidance of the conflicts or the struggles in life. On the contrary, equanimity comes when a person can find deep contentment, deep acceptance in the midst of conflict or struggle. A real peace comes not through avoidance, but through mental equilibrium in all situations and circumstance.
You can bring all of the pleasant and the unpleasant experiences of life into equanimity be recognizing that all life experiences are temporary. It works better not to feed the negative experiences in life with your anticipation, worry and distress or stress out trying to achieve the positive experiences. When instead you cultivate equanimity, peace with what is ensues.
As the old saying goes, the grass is always greener of the other side, but with this attitude you are never at peace. When you begin to really look around and appreciate the grass on your side of the fence, what is here and now, then you begin to discover Santosha, contentment.
This is where cultivating positive attitudes towards yourself and what life brings you comes in, no matter if it is difficult or wonderful. It is hard to find contentment in life when you cannot accept yourself or appreciate your own life. When you can practice real self acceptance is when you become free, when you can see not only others but your own shadows, look straight into them and see just as clearly as in the light - without response, reaction, or rejection.
As long as you reject the parts of yourself that are shadowy, you will not be the master of them. When you can love and accept all parts of yourself, you can love all parts of others, and the play of shadow and light becomes just a play in consciousness, not a struggling to acquire one state and reject another. This struggle is the human condition of bondage.
To be free is to accept light and shadow, joy and struggle, and to truly accept yourself, with both your strengths and your weaknesses. Life is complex, never back and white, never all good or all bad. It is a mix and each one of us is a mix also. When you stop running and are with what is, even learn to love what is, then life unfolds.
Peace comes when you can find a place inside of yourself that really accepts life as it is with deep love and appreciation, even when it isn’t going your way. This is Santosha, equanimity that allows you to be content and at peace with yourself in all circumstances. It is an amazing experience to really be OK, or even happy, with what is and not feel a restless, hungry need to be something other than what you are or to have something more. To be truly content is to be free.
If you want to explore these ideas further, you can get my book Living Love, the Yoga of Yama and Niyama on Amazon or Kindle.
Be well all,
The yogic concept of Saocha is about cleanliness, or purity, of both the body and the mind. This practice brings a kind of clarity and subtly of being. To practice it is to clean away all the dirt that may clutter the mind so that perception of the Infinite is possible. The mind has many layers. The outer-most layer of the mind is the physical body that resides in this physical world. Therefore there is a need to purify the body as well as the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
The first act you can do to develop in this practice is to keep your environment simple and clean so that you are surrounded with a feeling of aliveness and harmony. It can make a real difference when you create a beautiful room to be in or a home garden you can really feel alive and whole in, that expresses beauty and harmony.
Then how you attend to your body also makes a real difference in your experience. If you keep it fresh and alive inside and out you become vibrant. This is your ground, your vehicle in this world. It needs to be clean, fresh and vibrant to stay healthy and function optimally. Do you eat foods that give you radiant health? Do you bath, take steam baths, sauna, hot tub, engage in practices to purify your body? How about fasting? It is an ancient yogic practice to fast four days before the new and full moon (Ekadashi) to cleans and purify the body and then if more is desired also fast on the new and full moon. It helps balance the fluids in the body and maintain health. Modern research has supported this practice showing that fasting one day a week extends life expectancy.
These bathing and health practices make your physical body healthy and vibrant, but what of your mind and spirit? That too needs purification. A pure mind is a clean mind, a clear mind devoid of mess and debris, but how does one purify the mind? The mind can be purified in a clean vessel by doing meditation upon the Divine, and by maintaining pure thoughts.
Stress is a big problem in the world today. Although people are stressed by many different situations, much stress is self-made. If you want to solve your stress, learn to love yourself. Learn to appreciate what you have. Learn to feel that grace is in every moment of your life and all that you have is given in grace. Be happy with who you are, what you have and the manifestation that is your life.
Find the joy. Find the goodness and the brightness. Find your peace with what is and then in that brightness, that contentment, come to the equanimity where mind settles and acceptance, love and peace ensue. When you change your habitual thinking patterns to embrace self-love and a positive outlook it purifies the mind. It clears out the sludge and when you connect to the bright light of Divinity within, that light brings joy, clarity and a pure and open heart. Spirits brighten. This is where it all starts, with your spiritual connection and your mental habits. But if you want to manifest your good intentions, you will also need to practice Saocha to keep your body vibrant and healthy.
When mind and body have become clear vehicles for spirit, your relationship to everything around you changes. It becomes an expression of your inner state of well-being, an opportunity to express you pure thoughts and pure heart in the world.
For more on all of this and how to practically put it into play in your life, you can go to my book Living Love, the Yoga of Yama and Niyama.
I have been very busy this last three months finishing and publishing my new book on Yama and Niyama called Living Love, The Yoga of Yama and Niyama: Timeless Teachings for Transformation and Awakening. It is now available on Amazon, Kindle, Ibooks and through bookstores and it is now time for me to get back to my blog!
I am very excited to be able to offer these teachings to everyone. If you have an interest in yogic teachings and how you might incorporate them in your life to help you with the challenges that arise on your spiritual journey, then I strongly suggest you read this book. It gives far more insight and assistance than this simple blog.
So far in this blog we have explored the practices of Yama, the behaviors to avoid in spiritual life, including doing harm, lying, stealing, excess focus on desires, and accumulating beyond our needs. Now we will focus on the next limb of Asthanga Yoga, Niyama; those practices and habits that need to be incorporated in your life to be able to awaken from conditioned mind into the experience of Self-realization.
Niyama includes Saocha exploration of cleanliness or purity of both body and mind, a kind of clarity and subtly of being; Santosha: maintaining contentment and wellbeing; Tapas: practices and attitudes that move us beyond our obsession with our own body and ego and make us aware of the love we share with all beings; Svadhyaya: the practice of Self study to gain knowledge of the true nature of our own existence; and Ishvara Pranidhana: learning to let go, surrendering to a higher nature, God, the infinite Brahma.
All of these practices of Niyama form an approach to life that creates attitudes and ways of being in the world that foster living in truth and being connected in a deep way to our selves and all of life. They develop a psychology that can sustain higher states of consciousness. Without working on our attitudes and action in the world, meditation often falls short of our expectations. We become like a leaky vessel. You pour the water of life in but the vessel can’t hold it and everything you gain dissipates.
However with these practices of Yama and Niyama we have a road map of how to develop attitudes and behaviors that allow us to heal the wounds within that make us leaky vessels. We become whole and at peace with ourselves, more able to see and contain the knowledge and grace that the Divine bestows on us each and every day.
Next topic to explore will be Saocha!
The final practice of Yama the yogic avoidance's, is Aparigraha, that is, to avoid accumulating beyond your needs. It literally means to not (a) grab, hoard, hold on to things or take more than you need (parigraha). It encourages a life of simplicity and generosity on all levels, having what is truly necessary and no more.
This practice encourages you to not accumulate excessive material objects, as the mind becomes engrossed in and bound by material objects when you do. Having more than you need does not usually lead to satisfaction but instead to an increased desire to acquire more and more. It makes the mind cluttered as well as the house. It clutters the mind with desire. In addition, what you have gotten in excess will no doubt leave another with less than their due. A kind of imbalance occurs in your life, and mental balance cannot be maintained in this circumstance.
Aparigraha does not mean that you should sell all that you own and simply have the shirt on your back. It isn’t that you should not meet your needs, and depending upon your situation, your needs will vary. However if you accumulate beyond your needs the practice of Aparigraha is lost. Then the house becomes filled with an accumulation of so many things you don't need. They become a clutter in the environment and where is your cleanliness in your cluttered environment? Have what you need, take what you need for your own self, for your own family, for your basic wants, but when you accumulate beyond your needs it leaves the mind cluttered and it instills fear.
Most people accumulate because it makes them feel safe. You place your welfare in material objects and not in the Divine Self. This does not generally work. It will not buy you permanent safety; it will only buy you suffering. This acquisition is the path to hell. True safety, true shelter, can only be gotten in the Infinite Entity. No other shelter will be with you when you are old and feeble. And when your time to depart the physical world has come, there is no other shelter for you. You will not be able to take all of these objects with you. So do not make them your shelter. It will only cause you suffering. Have what you need to utilize for a good life. This is appropriate and is the maxim of Aparigraha.
Rather than accumulating more perhaps it is better to use wealth in service to living beings. Excess accumulation of wealth not only harms you by misdirecting your trust and energy, but it harms others as well, for when excess material wealth lies in the hands of a few it creates a lack of needed resources among others. Practicing generosity instead of hording leads to a more balanced and spiritual life. That is why the yogis say live a simple life. Lead a life based in the solid ground of being and the love that weaves all living beings into one interdependent, interwoven community. Put your trust in your Divine source rather than what you can accumulate.
The Sanskrit Brahmacharya blends two words, Brahma meaning God and Charya meaning to follow. This practice involves seeing everything in this universe as the manifestation of the Brahma, the Primal Source of Being. Some scholars limit this transmutation of desires in Brahmacharya to controlling sexual desires and the practice of celibacy. Although the idea of celibacy and restraint is often associated with Bramacharya, it is not actually the deepest interpretation.
Though, for certain spiritual purposes celibacy may be beneficial, in the deeper understanding of Brahmacarya one sees all desires of the body and mind as manifestations of the desire for the one true Divine Self. all desires are dedicated to Brahma, the primordial Self of all beings. This practice is based on a the fundamental knowledge that all existence is composed of one eternal unending self aware consciousness and that each and every object of this universe from a blade of grass to your body is in its essence composed of this primordial consciousness. All beings long for and return to this state of wholeness where lasting happiness and true fulfillment abide.
But living in this temporal world of forms and colors we become forgetful of this source of being. Our restless yearning for our eternal source gets attached to different forms and experiences in the world that we hope will make us happy. We believe that if only we acquire this or that object or person we desire, then we will be happy. But of course all things change in this world and that which acquiring today brings us happiness, tomorrow becomes the source of our suffering when circumstances change. When we desire something, be it an object, power, a person, wealth or sexual pleasure, the desire for form is an externalization of our deeper yearning for the lasting happiness that comes when we return to our primordial source of being.
We forget that it is the eternal Brahma for which we long. And we fail to recognize that all forms are composed of the one eternal being, consciousness, love Divine. We fail to see that what attracts us in that for which yearn is the true nature of all that is, the infinite primordial Being. Brahmacharya is a practice of remembrance of what we really long for in all of our desires. When we are connected to truth and we practice this remembrance all things change. Suddenly the ordinary world becomes Devine. Brahma, the eternal beloved is everywhere is all things, all people we know, in every act, in all life, in everything that surrounds us. Then we truly live in grace.
So this practice involves transmuting your worldly desires into longing for God. As a practice it entails remembrance the deep divine nature of all that is and thus transmuting desires for worldly things to desires for the Divine. This curbing of the desire mind brings us in touch with our deeper need that drives all desires. The deed for lasting happiness and wholeness of being that we mistakenly believe can be satisfied with temporary worldly fixes.
This deep practice does not involve shrinking from the world or not enjoying life. If you want to share a pizza and a movie with some friends and have a fun evening, do so. But remember the deeper longing that is manifesting the in casual desire. Remember the infinite One Self in the action you are doing, in the pizza, in your friends, in the movie, in everything. As is pointed out by Krishna in a famous passage in the Bhagavad Gita, the one doing the action is Brahma, the one receiving the action is Brahma, the act itself is Brahma and the offering or object is also Brahma. This is Brahmacharya, to truly follow or see Brahma, the primordial essence of being. In this practice the transmuted energy held in our desires propels us towards the infinite truth. Om Madhu, Om Madhu, Om Madhu.
Asteya is the yogic practice of avoiding taking what does not belong to you and is not freely offered to you. It includes greedy desires expressed in our thoughts, words, and our deeds. There are many reasons we may covet what we do not have and be jealous, feeling someone else has more than we do. Maybe they have success, money, popularity, health, power, a good job, a partner we wish we had, or even spiritual experiences we want to have. Whatever it is we feel another has and we wish was ours instead of theirs, it comes from a since of lack within ourselves, a feeling that we are not enough as we are.
The desire to take from others is inherently rooted in our own sense of inadequacy and discontent with ourselves and what life has given us. We feel dis-empowered and unable to manifest what we feel we need in life. From this since of personal dis-empowerment comes the need to somehow acquire what ever it is we feel we need from outside of ourselves. We begin to resent people who have things we do not have and to begin to feel justified in taking them. This can lead to actual theft, not only of property but of ideas, relationships and even identity. If not actual theft, it leads to jealousy and avarice. And this leads to more unhappiness and discontent with ourselves and with our lives in general.
So goes the downward spiral of low self worth, discontent, dis-empowerment, resentment, anger, jealousy, greed. This leads to more since of lack and finally bitterness, resentment and despair. It is not the yogic way, nor is it how to have a since of well-being. Even the rich may wish for what they do not have and live in miserable discontent as a result. Those who are successful thieves may be glory in their success for a time, but as they continue to take from others they begin to feel very afraid of others taking from them. They build walls of distrust with all and barrier themselves behind their own growing fears and ruthless attitudes. They do not walk a path towards happiness or psychological health.
So the yogis of ancient times warned against following this self-destructive path, encouraging us to be honest, do no harm and not covet what others have. This is the way to belief in ourselves, contentment and enjoyment of our lives, however simple they may be. It is the path to self-empowerment, realization that we can make our own lives beautiful on our own. By developing positive attitudes, generosity of heart and mind, and seeing what is good about our own lives rather than living in the shadow of thoughts that lead to feeling we are somehow less than someone else who has something we don’t, we move toward well being and wholeness. This is part of Dharma, the way towards the one eternal Self.
This week we will explore Satya, the practice of truthfulness and the second tenant of the Yamas. This is the practice of not deceiving oneself or others. Being truthful with others and with ones self is extremely important on the spiritual path, as the goal of yoga is to know the ultimate truth.
Satya is not simply literal truth. It is compassionate truthfulness - truth given with a sense of benevolence. This benevolent truthfulness imbues truth with the quality of Ahimsa, or the intent of not doing harm. This is truth used to heal and to bring people towards their own deep love within, not to hurt them or scar them.
For example if the father of someone you know has passed away and you need to tell the daughter, you would not want to email the information to her, or just say it casually while in passing. Though that would be truthful, it would probably also be hurtful. So instead to follow Satya would be to share the information with kindness and consideration for her feelings, taking time to sit with her and gently tell her in a supportive atmosphere. Satya requires kindness in your words and in your deeds as well as honesty.
Now the razors edge of the practice of Satya is distinguishing between what is compassionate truthfulness and the little white lies we tell ourselves and others that are self serving and deceitful. I once knew some orange robed swamis in India I was spending time with. I thought, now these guys are yogis. They have dedicated their lives to yogic practices and service to humanity. But then I noticed one day they were putting out a newsletter and in it they wrote about an event that occurred in which they completely distorted the description of the event and basically lied. When I commented on this and said it was against Satya, they said it was for peoples own good. They were so dedicated to their mission that they perceived the lie as a practice of Satya, bending the truth for what they felt was people’s own good.
I found this experience very disturbing because from my view they were actually lying to people and not giving people accurate information so they could make up their own minds. I felt they were justifying lying for self-serving purposes, but they saw it differently. You see the same in political campaigns and on some news stations where the truth is intentionally distorted in order to influence people towards a particular viewpoint or action. To me this is not what is meant by benevolent truthfulness.
To practice truthfulness with compassion does not mean to lie to people to serve a purpose you believe in. It means to practice being truthful with deep love for the person you are speaking to.
It also means being deeply honest with yourself about your strengths and your weaknesses without tearing yourself down and diminishing your own being. To know yourself, both what you are good at and your faults and failings is an important part of self-honesty. But it is also important to recognize the beauty and love that is essential to your deeper nature, to acknowledge your divine essential core. This is real self-honesty.
Loving yourself and all beings unconditionally is the result of deep and perceptive self-honesty. We are all flawed and in our deepest core we are all divine. This world is a place of pain but it is also a place of great beauty and joy. The edict “Know thy Self” is the true essence of the practice of Satya.
Maetreyii Ma: a teacher of yogic wisdom & practices