Sathya Sai Baba

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The Yoga of Tranquillity

Abstract:
Explaination of yogic tranquillity and how to achieve it

Author: Swami Swahananda

According to the Upanishads, the nature of the Atman, the ultimate condition of ourselves, is peacefulness - santo ayam hi atma. This Atman, the undying persistent Self of man, is of the nature of santa - calm, serene, tranquil. Whenever man is disturbed, that means he has lost his tranquillity. He has lost his real nature and has acquired something assumed. Until he recognizes this and recaptures his true nature, he will remain restless. Thus in the Chandogya Upanishad it has been advocated that meditation is the way to quietness; but that same meditation is to be done after becoming tranquil - santo upasita. To know the secrets of the universe, of oneself, or of God, meditation is necessary. But meditation can only be properly done when a person is, to a great extent, tranquil. Meditation itself is also a method to bring tranquillity, but tranquillity is also necessary in the beginning; so mutually they interact.

The spiritual seekers in the Upanishadic Age discovered that they must get help from all possible directions in order to receive this peace of mind. In this connection, there is the custom that after every Vedic chant recited, one must end with "Om, santi, santi, santi, peace, peace, peace." Why is this repeated three times? The ancient Hindus thought that the major source of trouble for man is threefold.

The first trouble comes from man himself, either from his body or from his mind. The body doesn't always function smoothly; it becomes diseased, disfigured, etc. But more important than the body is the mind. The mind has its own vagaries, its ups and downs. When somebody says something good, it is happy; and when somebody says something bad, it is unhappy. So the mind and the body are the two immediate sources of one's troubles. In other words, we are the major source of all our trouble.
The second source of trouble is other beings - friends, relations and enemies. Children are a source of joy, but also a source of trouble; so also with husband and wife. All human beings and creatures bring joy as well as suffering.

The third source is terrestrial - volcanoes, storms, etc. So these are the three major sources of duhkha, suffering, and to ward off these three major afflictions, the ancient Hindus prescribe chanting the mantra, "Om, santi, santi, santi". The purpose is to soak the mind with peace.
If we analyse, we will find why peace and tranquillity are not present in our lives. We have tutored ourselves, as it were, to remain unhappy. Eighty per cent of our unhappiness is our own creation. That does not mean that we are not justified in being unhappy. For example, if somebody ill-treats us, why should we not be unhappy. But if unhappiness is too much with us, then we begin to think that somehow or other we must be free from this misery, even if we cannot be totally happy. Thus, we have to make up our minds that we want to be free from restlessness and peacelessness. Then cultivation of serenity, tranquillity, and peace of mind become the goal as well as the means to attain it.

Psychological systems give a variety of techniques - hints that are directly useful. But philosophy and religion solve the problem at the roots - they try to bring out the basic cause of our restlessness and its cure. Why do we want serenity, calmness, or peace? Because that is our condition when we are happy. For example, if we are hungry, we feel restless. When we have eaten enough, we then feel satisfied. The mind has become calm and serene. The feeling of want has gone; the feeling of pain has gone; the feeling of lack has gone. So with the fulfilment of every desire, some measure of peacefulness comes.
However, when a desire persists, restlessness will remain until we find the ways and means of satisfying that desire. There are some human situations where we can do something about our wants, but there are many emotional moments which can only be worked out by changing our mind. Therefore, the only alternative is to try to cultivate peace.

The ancient Hindus perfected two methods of cultivating tranquillity. First, we recognize that desires bring the feeling of want. When the desire is unfulfilled, we feel unhappy. So if we stop desiring, then there will be no suffering. Perhaps we expect our friend to behave well because we have been very nice to him. But if he doesn't behave well, what are we going to do? The yogis say, don't have that desire, that expectation, to begin with. Don't expect any return. In youth you have vitality. Even if you have a few heartbreaking experiences, you can recover. But as you grow older, that resiliency is not there, so some sort of philosophy must be developed.

One of the charges against this remedy is that if we cut out all desire, the enjoyment also goes. But the Hindus say, it's all right, cut out the desire. If you completely root out all desire, you are absolutely free; you are then of the nature and condition of the Atman. However, the ability to do this is rare. Otherwise, root out only the inordinate desires. A few people may get what they want, but at what price? So the Buddhists and others analysed and found that the major source of all suffering is expectation, or desire.

One of the signs of a strong character is the absence of too many desires. Psychologists say, what is a strong character? It is the character of a person whose emotions are centred around just a few desires. When we are young, we want to become whatever we see, whether it is a scholar, a scientist, a swimmer, or a movie actor. But after ten or fifteen years, gradually our emotions become settled around several choices. Ultimately, those who have centred their lives around one or two desires achieve those desires, as far as possible. That is the sign of a strong character. Of course, along with a strong character we also want good character, as even a robber has a strong character. Strong desire, when it is illumined by higher considerations - considerations for others or for a higher goal of life - is the covetable thing for society and also for the individual.
So whenever there is a conflict, we should analyse why we are suffering. In day-to-day life, expectation is the source of all trouble. This does not apply to normal expectations. However, if we experience a pain for only fifteen minutes, yet go on reliving the pain for three days, or, perhaps, three years, then it is time to consider the second method: either we must try to change the world or change ourselves. If we can remedy the situation, we must, of course, try. However, if nothing can be done, the whole reaction is only within our own mind anyway. We may think, "But why should I change?" On the other hand, if the objective of life is happiness, why should we be unhappy? Therefore, if a situation makes us unhappy, we must decide that we will not have that unhappiness. Ultimately we come to realize that the only person at our disposal is ourself. We must, therefore, try to gain some control over ourselves. Thus, the yogic idea is that, instead of always trying to change the other person, we must try to change ourselves, so that we will be able to lessen our own reaction.

The basic idea is to decide that we shall remain calm. Often we feel justified: "I am angry today! And I am justified in being angry!" But ultimately it doesn't pay. A little anger may pay for a short time. If it is necessary, we may go ahead and be angry knowingly - to show our anger when sweetness and cajoling fail; but why should we really be angry? That is the yogic position.

When we lose our tempers, there are two harmful results. First, we lose our own peace of mind and we ourselves suffer. All the reactions of the anger will come to us, and if we are older, our blood pressure will shoot up. The second harmful result is from the spiritual standpoint - we have lost our grip over ourselves. We have succumbed to the passions of the moment, however justified. But an aspirant considers this to be a fall from his own spiritual nature.

Behind this idea of lessening the reaction, there is a philosophy. What does a religious philosophy like Vedanta say in this connection? Vedanta analyses man's real nature. It comes to the conclusion that our real nature cannot be restlessness, but rather calmness and serenity. First comes the body, which dies after a hundred years. So the body is not our real nature. The mind is all the time changing, so the mind is not our real nature. Thus, if pain comes to the mind, Vedanta's strict philosophical method is to disassociate: "I am not the mind. Let there be pain, but it is not my pain." In this connection, suppose I have a nice garment. If I am wearing it, and it catches on fire, I also catch on fire. But if I remove the garment and put it on a hanger, and it catches on fire there, I won't catch on fire. Similarly, I can disassociate myself from my own mind, because I have found, through philosophical speculation and understanding, that I am not the mind. The mind is only an instrument for me, like a garment. If the garment causes discomfort, I can remove it. So also, if the mind is troubling, stop it for the time being by the philosophical assertion that "I am not the body, nor the mind, but the Spirit." My real nature is spiritual, which cannot be disturbed by any external experiences. A convincing philosophy is one method that lessens the reaction.

Another method is assertion every day by meditation. What is meditation? Meditation means disassociating oneself from the surroundings and trying to focus the mind on one goal. If the goal is God, it is religion. But the major technique is to withdraw from the mind. Instead of thinking of many things, think of only one thing - God, God, God. That is how to learn the technique of withdrawing the mind. Thus the second technique is to develop the capacity for withdrawing the mind at will. For example, if something has brought suffering, loss of peace or calmness, learn how to withdraw the mind from that thought. When the thought comes round and round and pierces you, try to forget about it. Daily cultivation of calmness by deliberate effort is what is initially meant by meditation.

To inspire us with this idea, several ideals have been put before us. It is good to keep some holy pictures in one's own room, in one's own shrine, or wherever they can be seen. In this way, we feel inspired by these holy pictures and feel that life is not all activity; it is also calmness, serenity and tranquillity. In Ramakrishna's picture, he is meditating, absorbed in samadhi. Thus, whenever you look at his picture you will see a state of peace, and, in turn, your mind will think of calmness.

Buddha is also represented as calm and serene. In this connection, there is a story. A man who was Buddha's adversary came and started to revile Buddha. But Buddha remained calm and serene. As a one-sided quarrel cannot go on for very long, the man got up and started to go away. Then Buddha called after him: "My friend, I have a question to ask." "What is that?" the man replied. "Suppose," Buddha said, "a man was going on a journey and brought some jewellery to his neighbour to keep for him during his absence, but the neighbour said, 'Oh, I cannot keep it. It is too costly.' Now where will the jewellery go?" "It is very simple," said the man. "The one who brought the jewellery will take it back." "Then," said Buddha, "I have not accepted your insults. The jewellery that you brought me I did not accept. You must take it back."

Now who is the master of the situation? The man who frets and fumes at the slightest irregularity of someone else's behaviour, or a man like Buddha who can hold his own in spite of all the provocations of the world? So that is another ideal that is held before us. If you remember some of the incidents of his life, that will inspire you to imitate his example.

In the Hindu tradition, there is the ideal of Shiva, who is capable of creation and destruction, but who, by and large, is calm and serene. Many different ideals are put before us so that we can remember, in our moments of desperation and restlessness, that calmness and serenity is another condition of one's life, and that we must try to imbibe this idea. Daily meditation - remembering this calm nature of ourselves - will gradually bring that condition.

The third method of lessening the reaction is creating a faith in a personal God or a Great Teacher. When pain comes, it makes us feel restless, helpless, and disturbed. At that time, devotees try to cultivate a little faith and devotion and surrender to the Divine. They try to believe that if I don't get this or that, God must have His own reason for denying it. For example, though a child with an upset stomach may complain because he is receiving a bland diet, instead of getting the special dishes that his brothers and sisters are receiving, the mother knows best. Likewise, devotees try to understand that whatever may come - good or bad - it is the Lord's will. In other words, God does what is best for His devotees.

But suppose good experiences don't come in spite of one's efforts and will. How can one adjust to that? We will have to return to our philosophy and consider the real condition of man - that all sacrifices are pushing us to the higher realization of our spiritual nature. In life there are many sacrifices that we undergo in order to make life sweeter and more comfortable. And there are always some people who will have to make more sacrifices. In Swami Vivekananda's famous lecture, "Work and Its Secret," he said, "Nature will compel you to give up. Why not give up voluntarily?" The moment sacrifice becomes voluntary, it loses its sting. It is no longer a source of suffering. Suppose you are pickpocketed. Naturally you suffer. But if you pity somebody who is starving and give them money, then you are happy. Our reactions differ according to the nature of the sacrifice - whether it is involuntary or voluntary.

Once in a while the thought may come, "By becoming religious am I losing more than I am gaining?" In this connection, Swami Vivekananda said, "If there is a God, no amount of sacrifice matters." Then he added, "If there is no God, what do our lives matter?" In other words, spiritual life means sacrifice - willing sacrifice. Moreover, if there is no God, then there is nothing permanent and abiding; so what does it matter whether or not I have enjoyed a little more or less?
The whole life experience is that we really live in our minds. The yogis say that one hundred per cent of the time we live in our minds. An external situation - good or bad - only brings the feeling to the mind. Suppose a child is in a good mood; even if he is slapped, he will laugh. Likewise, if he's in a bad mood, even if he is given sweets, he will cry. That means the objective situation - the slap or the good food - doesn't matter. Our mood is the important thing. So before blaming everybody else, remember that the major cause of your pain is yourself - how you respond to the situation.

Normally, a little reaction is all right. Side by side with that is the idea of self-expression - to let off steam. Due to the last five or six decades of psychology, everyone is letting off steam, because they are told that if they bottle it up, it will become repression, which will create more problems. But then if you are always angry, life becomes a source of trouble, because nobody wants to be around you. That will ultimately cause you much more pain. Later psychological systems gradually evolved the idea that letting off steam means diverting the mind from the source of anger. In other words, if you are in a mood to quarrel, go and run around the block or work in the garden.
The Gita also tells us that whenever any cause for unhappiness comes, a yogi or a man of wisdom always remains calm and serene. As one cultivates higher moral virtues for spiritual realization, suffering does not bring apprehension; one remains calm and serene. According to some psychological studies, forty per cent of man's troubles are focused on the past. Fifty per cent of his worries are for the future. Only ten per cent of man's troubles are for the present and are, therefore, legitimate. We cannot do anything about the past, unless we thereby learn a lesson; the future has not yet come, and half the time it will not come as we think; so only ten per cent of our worries require a remedy.

Another Gita application of this spiritual principle in day-to-day life is: do your duty, but don't be worried about the result. "But," you may say, "without fruits, who will work?" If we want peace of mind, we must remember that the fruits of our actions are not always under our control. So the best way to be free from anxiety is not to expect the result. That is one method of remaining calm.

A third Gita application of this spiritual principle is the verse, Sukhesu vigatasprahah. When enjoyment comes, we jump for joy. The problem with elation is that it brings in its wake agitation. When the mind goes up, it will also come down. So if we do not want peacelessness, then we will have to give up both ups and downs. Yogic enjoyment is a serene enjoyment - not the exuberant type. That comes from vairagya. Perfect peace only comes to a person who does not strongly desire anything. So ups and downs will come to an average person, but the spiritual aspirant learns how to lessen them.

Holy Mother once said very excitedly, "Why do people say they are unhappy? I have never felt unhappiness," though she did not live an ordinary married life. Then she prescribed happiness: "Why don't you sit and repeat the mantra twenty thousand times a day? Let me see if this peace of mind does not come back!" Trouble can only come when the mind is left alone and when there is nothing to do; then there is loneliness. So Holy Mother's prescription was "be alone, but don't be lonely". If we repeat the name of the Lord, the Lord is always with us. The Lord is not a physical substance, but emotionally and mentally we can imagine and think of Him. Through the repetition of His name, His presence is invoked. Japa is also one type of occupation. It is considered to be the easiest spiritual practice, because we can do it anywhere and at any time. With this recollection, a type of companionship comes, as if we are always accompanied by the Lord.

In conclusion, the main idea is that man's ultimate nature is spiritual. We are not the body, nor the mind, but the spirit; and spirit is of the nature of calmness and serenity because it has no desire. Because of the feeling of want, restlessness comes. One root method of eradicating peacelessness is to cut out the desire itself. If we don't expect anything, then we will not be disheartened. Because life is based on expectation and desire, the average man will continue to desire. But knowing the philosophy and rationale behind life, we must try to lessen the impact on ourselves by cultivating this resolve: whenever any inordinate desire comes and is not fulfilled, we must acquire the capacity of throwing off the reaction in our minds.

Throwing off the reaction can be done in three major ways. One is through philosophical understanding and the conviction that calmness is better than restlessness. The second way is to bring in the idea of the personal God, and, with His help, try to surrender to the Divine in spite of all failures. "It is the Lord's will" - so saying, surrender to the will of the Divine. The third most potent and direct method is to get a grip over oneself.

All these methods are good. All three must be combined and cultivated in our day-to-day lives. But the yogi's idea is: "I won't feel disturbed." Calmness and even-mindedness - that is yoga. So cultivate that calmness and serenity in spite of all provocation. Convince yourself that it is better to be calm than to be angry - both for oneself and for society. Then gradually try to get a grip over oneself with the help of a philosophy, by cultivating devotion, and by a daily technique of mind control and mind mastery. That is the special training of the yogis.

Either through mastery of the mind, calmness and serenity will naturally come, or by the daily practice of serenity, mastery of the mind will come. Stage by stage, you will then become established in your calmness and serenity, which, according to the yogis, is the condition wherein the bliss of the Self manifests itself. That is the ultimate objective.

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