Moving towards Equilibrium : Calmly Active, Actively Calm By Marshall Govindan “Satchidananda”
Our lives are often disturbed by unpredictable events. Our minds are also often invaded by thoughts, desires and fears that can be even more disturbing. These set in motion a chain reaction, which involves our emotions, speech, physiological reactions and more disturbing thoughts. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of such disturbances and later, when the storm of emotions and thoughts has subsided, feel remorse or guilt about how weak we seem to be. What is going on ?
How can Yoga help us to master our human nature, so that we are not carried away by disturbing reactions ?
Patanjali addresses this problem early in his Yoga-Sutras, in verse 1.16: “That freedom from the constituent forces (of nature) (which arises) due to an individual’s (Self)-realization is supreme.” The constituent forces of nature, the gunas, as they are known in the Samkhya philosophy underlying Yoga, are rajas (the tendency towards activity), tamas (the tendency towards inertia) and sattva (the tendency towards balance). Most of the time, we are moved by rajas or tamas. For example, when we feel restless, or a need to go and attend to something, it is the universal force of rajas, which is acting upon us. When we feel fatigue or our mind is daydreaming or confused, we are subject to that universal force of tamas. However, because we are ego-centered, we consider our restlessness or fatigue merely to be a personal condition and attempt to counter their influence by such things as smoking, talking, athletics, eating or drinking. While these may provide some short term compensatory effect, they do nothing to really free us from these universal forces.
Sages like Patanjali recognized this universal human dilemma, and developed the techniques of Yoga as a means of strengthening the third universal force: sattva. One can feel this force whenever one is calm, peaceful, content, inspired. With it comes a sense of brightness. One experiences being “calmly active, and actively calm.” The practice of asana, pranayama, dhyana, mantras and bhakti increase sattva, and reduce the influence of tamas and rajas. Consequently, the mental fluctuations, or vrittis, begin to calm down, and one begins to detach from the objects of desire, which were former sources of pleasure and pain. While still subject to their memory, fantasy will arise. Samskaras or habitual tendencies will cause one to respond to the forces of tamas and rajas, just as in the past. So, detachment will require effort.
There is a debate between proponents of Classical Yoga, who like Patanjali recognized the need for effort to overcome the influence of the gunas and ones’ samskaras, and Advaita Vedantins, who assert that because only the Self is real, one does not need to “do” anything to realize it, only “be.” Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of “non-dualism” asserts that “tat tvam asi,” “I am That,” and that the world is illusionary; therefore the practice of Yoga is not only unnecessary, but even a distraction. The Vedantin would say: because the gunas are only apparent, one need do nothing to counter their influence, simply be your Self. Classical Yoga grew out of the philosophies of Vedanta and Samkhya, as a practical approach to Self-realization and transformation.
Which philosophy is right ?
I believe it depends upon your perspective. When one is calm, centered, very present and aware, one does not need to do anything, or make any effort to realize the Self ; sattva dominates. One need only be. But usually that is not the condition we are in. When we are stressed, agitated, restless, full of doubt, anxiety or fatigue, we need to make some effort to counter the effects of tamas and rajas, until we become permanently anchored in the state of Self-realization. Then, as Patanjali says in verse I.16, one’s freedom from the gunas becomes supreme. When one permanently realizes the Self, the joy and peace is so fulfilling that automatically he or she gains discrimination between the Self and the non-Self, and with this loses desire for involvement even in subconscious fantasies. Desires are no longer able to have an effect. For the realized soul, detachment and desirelessness are not based on control but due to the spontaneous and constant awareness of the greater Self, all pervasive and ever joyful, in all circumstances. For the realized soul, supreme detachment is effortless. In this state of equanimity, one no longer identifies with various desires.
How to maintain it ?
By cultivating detachment, contentment, endurance, fearlessness, cheerfulness and adaptability in all situations. If you cannot feel this in any particular situation ask yourself “Why?” Only by truthfully answering this question will you gain permanent and effortless release from what keeps you from Self-realization.
All rights reserved. © 2007 by Marshall Govindan
This article is an extract from the book Kriya Yoga Insights Along the Path, https://www.babajiskriyayoga.net/english/bookstore.htm#kriya_insights_book
Marshall Govindan is the author of the Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas, Babaji and the Kriya Yoga tradition of the 18 Siddhas, and many other books about Yoga. He offers training in Babaji's Kriya Yoga at his ashram in the Eastern townships of Quebec since 1992. www.babajiskriyayoga.net email: info à babajiskriyayoga.net