Looking after one’s mind living in the present embracing silence

In the path of yoga, looking after one’s mind, through observing maximum silence and seclusion, renouncing ‘worldly connections/relationships’, retreating from ‘worldly affairs/activities’, to be focusing on freeing one’s mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities of pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, hurts, regret, guilt, desire, longing, craving, offensiveness, defensiveness, intimidation, hostility, agitation, depression, bitterness, misery, fear and worry, to be developing and maintaining the sanity, clarity and serenity of the thinking faculty, living in the present as it is, being at peace unconditionally, undetermined/undisturbed by the impermanent and selfless quality of names and forms, without violating/interfering/intruding all the different people/communities with different kinds of thinking/belief/disbelief/ideas/values/practice/way of life/behavior/action and reaction, without claiming ownership towards the world expecting ‘my world’ or ‘our world’ has to be in certain ways that the mind would like it to be, or the way that the mind thinks and believes how it should be, is the greatest form of selfless/unconditional love towards ‘the world’.

Many people including ‘yoga enthusiasts’ might disagree with this, where they perceive ‘silence’/’renunciation’/’non-association’/’dispassion’ as a form of ‘selfishness’/’irresponsibility’/’wrongfulness’, as they believe everyone’s duty of humanity is to be actively/passionately engaging in the worldly/social affairs/activities performing actions to ‘create’ a world/society the way that they like/desire/aspire, to ‘make’/’control’/’influence’ the world/society to be the way that they think how it should be, to be all ‘good’ and ‘right’ according to what they think and believe is ‘good’ and ‘right’, to be empowering/protecting/propagating their own particular ideas/visions/values, while either intentionally or unintentionally, condemning/interfering/intruding/oppressing/intimidating/eliminating/fighting/declaring war against others who are different from them, who don’t embrace the similar ideas/visions/values, who might be obstructing ‘my desire/aspiration towards ‘having’ a world that I think how it should be’. And that’s their freedom of thinking, action and reaction.

Looking after one’s mind embracing silence being at peace unconditionally free from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and all kinds of impurity, it’s the purest selfless/intentionless form of ‘karma yoga’ contributing to the society, even without much contact/involvement/association with the society and allowing the society being what it is.

Actions that arise/come from intention/desire/aspiration to ‘influence’/’change’/’control’/’create’ a world/society to be the way that ‘I’ desire it to be, that ‘I’ think and believe how it should be, are nothing to do with ‘karma yoga’, even if it’s out of what the mind thinks and believes as ‘good’ and ‘rightful’ intention/aspiration.

All and everything being here forming ‘the world’ being what it is, where the mind perceives ‘a world of names and forms through the senses’, but the world doesn’t belong to anyone or the mind. Once the mind generates attachment and claims possession/ownership towards the world, taking the perception of a worldly existence/manifestation of impermanent and selfless names and forms as ‘my world’ or ‘our world’, there will be intention/desire/expectation/aspiration/protectiveness to ‘make’/’influence’/’control’/’limit’ the world to be the way that the mind would like it to be, or the way that the mind thinks and believes how it should be, which unwittingly lead to the existence of all kinds of discrimination, interference, intrusion, intimidation, oppression, clash, conflict, violence, and etc.

Once the mind is free from ignorance and egoism, transcending all the different qualities of names and forms, being unattached towards or undetermined by ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’, ‘rightfulness’ and ‘wrongfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘negativeness’, ‘meaningfulness’ and ‘meaninglessness’, this mind could be performing selfless/intentionless ‘actions’ in the world that promote peace and harmony effectively among the different names and forms, while allowing the world to be what it is, being impermanent and selfless, without possessiveness towards the world, without expectation/aspiration towards the world has to be in certain ways that ‘I’ like/desire/aspire, that ‘I’ think and believe how it should be, is truly ‘loving’ the world.

Peace manifest as it is when the mind transcends ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’, ‘rightfulness’ and ‘wrongfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘negativeness’, ‘meaningfulness’ and ‘meaninglessness’, ‘action’ and ‘inaction’. But for that to happen, the mind needs to know how to look after itself that would free the mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and all kinds of impurity. Or else, the mind thinks and believes that everyone needs to perform actions to achieve ‘goodness’, ‘rightfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘meaningfulness’ and getting rid of ‘badness’, ‘wrongfulness’, ‘negativeness’ and ‘meaninglessness’, in order to have peace and harmony in the world/society.

Beware of the hidden/subtle ‘ambition’/’desire’/’aspiration’/’intention’ that feed ignorance and egoism, that pulls the mind further away from yoga, while thinking and believing that “I am a good yogi performing lots of karma yoga to help the world to be a better place.”

Look into the world, where most countries need to have ‘authority’ and ‘law enforcement’ to ‘control’ the society to behave and not behaving in certain ways, to ‘create’ a world/society that conform to certain ideas/values/visions/beliefs/practice. Peace cannot be achieved by ‘controlling’ people to behave and not behaving in certain ways, or to think and not thinking in certain ways.

Peace is there as it is, when everyone has self-control out of own free-will, minding their own mind and have peace in themselves, without interference/intimidation/intrusion towards others who are being different from one another, and there’s no need the existence of ‘authority’ or ‘law enforcement’ to ‘control’ people should and shouldn’t behave or think in certain ways, that leads to further ignorant actions and reactions, violence, unrest and disharmony.

Be free.

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Learn to be alone and independent

If one wants to practice yoga and meditation, one needs to learn to be alone and independent, as well as allow others to also learn to be alone and independent, learning to look after oneself.

Somehow quite many people think and believe that ‘aloneness’ of solitude and seclusion is something ‘wrong’ and ‘selfish’. Many people, including health professionals and yoga teachers, would think and believe that it’s ‘abnormal’ and ‘unhealthy’ for the body and the mind if someone is being ‘isolated’ from other human beings for a prolonged period of time, that people would get sick and die due to loneliness and without any ‘physical touch/contact’ or ‘mental connection/interaction’ with other human beings. So they believe, and so they become. It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to think and believe.

For yoga practitioners, one must inquire the truth of everything. Do not blind-agreeing, blind-believing, blind-following, or blind-sharing any information of anything coming from anyone or any source.

Look into the history, of those who had been observing serious prolonged solitude and seclusion, voluntary being isolated from other human beings in the society to cut-off social activities, communication and interaction, to minimize mind inputs of worldly ideas, habits, thinking and belief, to quiet the restless modification of the mind, they were able to conquer their minds and attained the knowledge that liberates the mind from ignorance and suffering. These liberated minds were no longer be influenced or determined by all the others in the society of all kinds of thinking and belief and behavior.

Yoga practitioners who truly want to be free from ignorance and suffering, must inquire the truth of all those worldly thinking and belief coming from someone and somewhere, while letting go the worldly habit of minding other people’s worldly affair, allowing others to learn to be independent to look after their own minds, or not.

No doubt that all living beings must depend on nature to provide the source of energy in the form of food, water and air for survival, and human beings living in the modern society are limited by necessary dependence on some others for certain things. Such as those who don’t farm or cook, will have to depend on those who involve in farming, transporting, food processing, handling and cooking, to allow food to be available to them. Or, people who don’t know how to build a house need to depend on house builders to build houses for them. Or, babies, toddlers and young children need the attentive care and guidance from others who are physically/mentally/emotionally matured. Or, those who have physical or mental limitation or illness, also need to depend on other people to look after their everyday living and to rehabilitate. Or, most people depend on clean treated running water, gas and electricity supply to their home for modern living convenience. Or people who are critically sick need to depend on health professionals who have the knowledge of medicines and treatments for all kinds of critical illness, and depending on the availability of the medicines or treatments to counter that particular illness.

Otherwise, most people could be physically, mentally and emotionally independent most of the time for most of the things in everyday life, but people just wouldn’t, where people are either reluctant to look after themselves physically, mentally and emotionally even when they could, but they rather depending on other people to be there for them physically, mentally and emotionally, or people have fear and aversion towards the sense of lovelessness, companionlessness, loneliness, boredom and meaninglessness.

Survival instinct, love seeking, companion seeking, loneliness, boredom and meaninglessness are some of the significant reasons why people don’t like or don’t agree with ‘aloneness’ and ‘independence’. Meanwhile there are selfish greedy people in the world also don’t like the society to be ‘independent’ as that means they can no longer easily ‘manipulate’ or ‘control’ the society to get what they want.

It’s common that many people want to think and believe that all human beings somehow NEEDING each other in life. People like to think and feel, “My children need me”, “My family needs me”, “My friends need me”, “My partner needs me”, “My students need me”, “My pets need me”, “My country needs me”, and so on. Or “I need my children/my family/my friends/my partner/my students/my pets/my country being there for me, or else my life is empty, lonely, bored, joyless and meaningless.”

It makes the egoistic minds feel good and meaningful about themselves when they think they are needed by other people or beings, that they can contribute something to other beings. If everyone is physically, mentally and emotionally independent and doesn’t really need anyone to be there for them physically, mentally and emotionally, then this ‘craving for needing one another in life’ will not be gratified. People are no longer be able to attain that kind of good and meaningful feelings coming from the perception of “I am needed by some others. I am a useful being. I can contribute to the family/society/country/world/humanity.” But, this is only because of ignorance and egoism.

The mind can be free from the idea of “I am needed by some others” or “I want to be there for some others” and be free from the craving for attaining good feelings and the sense of meaningfulness coming from being needed by others, but still being kind and generous and helpful to those who really need physical, mental and emotional care and support from others, unconditionally without discrimination of ‘superiority or inferiority’, ‘people whom I know or don’t know’, ‘people whom I like or don’t like’, or ‘people whom I agree with or disagree with’.

And then there are those who become physically, mentally and emotionally frustrated, exhausted and restless deriving from pushing oneself beyond one’s limitation to look after other people who want to or need to depend on the others physically, mentally and emotionally. This is because the egoistic mind would feel bad, guilty and regret if they think they are not always there or couldn’t be there for people who want to or need to depend on them. And if their body and mind breakdown due to over exhaustion from looking after others, themselves need to be looked after by some others. If one can’t even look after oneself properly, then how can one look after the others efficiently?

When the mind is free from ignorance and egoism, it can truly serve the world efficiently, selflessly and unconditionally, under a pure, calm, dispassionate, desireless and selfless mind.

In the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre/Ashram, most people see the sequence of the teachings of Swami Sivananda as SERVE, LOVE, GIVE, PURIFY, MEDITATE, REALIZE. That is also what Swami Sivananda taught and had written in most of his books.

SERVE, LOVE, GIVE is when the mind turning outward performing selfless actions in the world (Karma Yoga) to serve the purpose of purifying the mind via the elimination of egoism through selfless service. While PURIFY allows the mind be free from impurities and restlessness to meditate and realize the truth of selflessness. MEDITATE is when the mind turning inward ceased all actions or studies in the world, stands as the silent witness towards the mind perception of a world of names and forms. And REALIZE is the fruit of meditation.

SERVE, LOVE, GIVE are supposed to help in the elimination of egoism while performing karma yoga/selfless service, however, it’s because most minds are not free from ignorance and egoism, that’s why they need to be purified. While SERVE, LOVE, GIVE under the influence of ignorance and egoism could actually empowering ignorance and egoism, and would generate more impurities and restlessness into the mind than to purify the mind, which in fact, hindering the mind to meditate and realize.

And so, the more efficient way might be first taking care of PURIFY (by turning the mind inward via dispassion, renunciation, solitude, seclusion and silence), MEDITATE and REALIZE, and then this mind that is free from ignorance and egoism can truly SERVE, LOVE, GIVE through performing selfless actions or Karma Yoga in the world, efficiently, selflessly and unconditionally. At this point, even though the body and mind is performing actions in the world, but the mind is unmoved/unaffected/undetermined by the actions and the fruit of actions. This mind is void of restlessness or exhaustion. This is INACTION in ACTIONS that doesn’t bind the mind to karma.

In fact, meditation practice being done with the correct understanding and attitude is the best mind purification, as during the time of sitting quietly by oneself, moving the body and mind away from worldly interactions and activities, turning the attention inward, withdrawing the senses from the sense objects, witnessing/observing the mind activities without association/identification with the modifications of the mind, without craving, aversion, judgment and expectation, without intention, the mind is being purified naturally and efficiently.

PURIFY, MEDITATE, REALIZE is indeed the mind SERVING, LOVING, GIVING the mind itself, and thus, purifying itself. Upon the realization of Selflessness, this mind can truly SERVE, LOVE, GIVE to others.

And hence, the importance of silence, solitude and seclusion, aloneness and independence for those who truly want to practice yoga and realize yoga.

One must look after one’s mind before one can truly benefit the others.

Those who disagree with this don’t have to take up this teaching. Be free.

Asteya and Aparigraha – Non-stealing and non-covetousness

From the surface meaning of the word Asteya or non-stealing, it’s about not stealing or not taking anything that doesn’t belong to us, whether those things has an owner or not, or belonged to somebody or not.

And, from the surface meaning of the word Aparigraha or non-covetousness, it’s about not coveting, or not possessing, or not grasping, or not greedy towards worldly objects or material and sensual enjoyments. As well as not accepting bribe or supporting bribery.

Both of them are related to greed. Greed is one of the characteristics of egoism.

Practicing Asteya and Aparigraha, abstaining from stealing and coveting, can help to eliminate greed from one’s mind and helps eliminate egoism on the path of self-inquiry.

There are some teachings beyond these literal meanings.

Before we know what is the ego and the truth of names and forms, when we are still influenced by greed, then the practice of non-stealing and non-covetousness has its importance and merits.

When one is observing the practice of Asteya and Aparigraha, one doesn’t need to acknowledge others or to glorify oneself for observing Asteya and Aparigraha, one just is. There’s no attachment or identification of “I am observing Asteya and Aparigraha.”

When we know what is the ego and the truth of names and forms, and we are free from the influence of greed, then all these practice don’t mean anything, or are useless. One who is free from egoism and ignorance doesn’t need to practice Asteya or Aparigraha as one doesn’t need to remind oneself or to restrain oneself not to steal or not to be greedy, as there is no greed or the desire to steal existing in this mind.

Greed exists in many places that we might not be aware of. There are many ‘spiritual’ aspirants fall into the trap of greed without being aware of it. Greed doesn’t just apply to attachment, craving, longing and grasping towards worldly material objects and achievements.

Longing for merits and virtues is a form of greed. Longing for accumulating good karma by performing good actions is a form of greed. Longing for spiritual achievements, entitlements and acknowledgement is a form of greed. Longing for agreement, supports and association is a form of greed. Longing for good conditions, good relationships and happiness is also a form of greed. Longing for something that we like and want may it be something good and right which doesn’t exist in the present moment now is a form of greed. Longing for assistance or blessing from any external source is a form a of greed. Longing for good health and longer life span is also a form of greed. Longing for changing the world to be the way that we think it should be is also a form of greed. Longing to have bigger and more yoga centres is also a form of greed. Longing to be a great yoga teacher to teach yoga is also a form of greed.

One is free from greed when one is completely free from attachment, identification, clinging, longing, craving and aversion, whether towards spiritual or worldly objects and achievements.

One will enter into silence when all forms of gross and subtle greed, desire, attachment, clinging, longing, grasping, craving and aversion subsided.

The realization of unconditional love and peace has nothing to do with the quantity or amount of Karma yoga or selfless service that we can perform through this life existence. Performing lots of charity work or volunteering service might generate some satisfactory happy and joyful feelings, and sense of meaningfulness in the mind, but it doesn’t guarantee us liberation from ignorance and suffering, if we don’t know what is performing actions without the influence of egoism, without intention, without attachment, identification, craving and aversion.

When we know the truth of names and forms, we will realize there is nothing in this life existence that the mind perceives through the senses that really belongs to ‘us’, or who we think is ‘I’, including the existence of the body and the mind, and their functions.

We can be in a relationship with someone. But, this relationship and the person in the relationship with us don’t belong to us. We will generate ‘problems and unhappiness’ for ourselves and the person in the relationship with us, if we think we own this relationship and the person in the relationship with us, or we think they belong to ‘I’.

If there is nothing belongs to anyone in this worldly existence of names and forms, there’s no such accusation of somebody ‘steals’ or ‘takes’ something that ‘belongs’ to somebody else. It’s the same as the teachings of yoga about oneness or non-separateness, and selflessness or I-lessness. The idea of something being stolen from someone by someone (objects and subjects) doesn’t exist when we realize oneness or non-separateness.

This doesn’t mean that one can take advantage of this teaching to ‘take’ or ‘steal’ anything that we like and want, thinking that “I am not stealing anything from anyone, as everything doesn’t belong to anyone anyway.” This is corrupted thinking influenced by ignorance.

Just like someone might take advantage of the teachings of yoga about “everything is just what it is, it is neither good nor bad” to be doing bad actions, while thinking that “I didn’t do anything bad as there is no bad.” It is the desires, intention, attachment and identification that makes the difference. While being ‘aware’ of such actions are ‘bad’ and still intentionally doing ‘bad’, while thinking and believing that there is no ‘bad’, doesn’t free one from the consequences of actions, or the bondage of cause and effect.

It also doesn’t mean that one can ‘take’ or ‘steal’ other people’s spouse or children freely, or one can ‘take’ or ‘steal’ other people’s ‘belongings’ or ‘properties’ influenced by some egoistic selfish desires and greed, and thinking ‘I’ am not committing any violation or intrusion towards anyone’s existing life and property. Taking anything that doesn’t ‘belong’ to us is ‘stealing’, even when there are no owners for anything. Everything and anything is not just doesn’t belong to anyone, but also doesn’t belong to ‘I’.

When one is free from ignorance, egoism, attachment, identification, craving, aversion, and all sorts of impurities, when one is beyond all the perceptions of name and form, one won’t be ‘taking’ or ‘stealing’ anything or anyone from anybody or anywhere.

When we are living on the earth, being in this space, and consuming the sunlight, the water and the air to be existing, did we ever ask permission from them, or did they give us any permission? The elements of fire, water, wind, earth and ether pervade the entire body and mind, did they ask the permission of this body and mind, or did the body and mind give permission to them?

The elements of fire, water, wind, earth and ether don’t exist if the universe doesn’t exist. And vice versa.

The universe exists because of the elements, and the elements exist because of the universe.

But out of compassion, everyone and everything co-existing and depending on one another to be existing. The sun, the water, the air, the earth and the space have no intention to be involved in actions of ‘giving’ and ‘taking’. They have no intention to allow or disallow anything to be existing or not. They have no identification of ‘I’ am ‘giving’ something from ‘I’ to someone or something for everything to be existing, or ‘I’ am ‘taking’ something from someone or something for everything to cease existing, it doesn’t matter who they are, what they are, how they are, where they are.

And above all, there’s no ‘I’ involved in all these ‘gives and takes’ that is happening from moment to moment.

Before the realization of selflessness or I-lessness, all actions are bound by the idea of give and take, and are not free from the bondage of cause and effect.

Upon the realization of selflessness or I-lessness, all actions are neither give nor take, or are beyond giving and taking, and are free from the bondage of cause and effect.

Om shanti.

Strength and Flexibility?

The greatest strength and flexibility is realizing the truth of our true nature, which is wisdom and the unconditional love or compassion, which also manifested, or can be found or seen in patience, tolerance, perseverance, determination, forbearance, forgiveness, adaptation, accommodation, adjustment, acceptance, non-violence, non-hatred, non-discrimination, non-judgment, non-expectation, non-attachment, non-possessiveness, non-dualism, non-separateness, namelessness and formlessness, egolessness or selflessness, beyond the identification as ‘I’ and all the mind perceptions with all the different qualities of names and forms.

This can be illustrated as being free from egoism or ignorance, or being free from craving and aversion, or being free from all the impurities and restlessness, or being free from desires of want and don’t want, or being free from fear and worry, or being free from anger and hatred, or being free from being conditioned by the mind and the perception of names and forms through the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking.

Realize this real strength and flexibility, there is even no need to forbear nor to endure anything that the mind thinks or believes as ‘bad’, ‘negative’, or ‘suffering’. There’s no longing nor clinging onto what the mind thinks or believes as ‘good’, ‘positive’, or ‘happiness’. As in truth, all the perceptions of good and bad, positive and negative, happiness and suffering, they don’t really exist at all. It is all manifested in the mind itself and will dissolve in the mind itself once the mind realizes its true nature, which is nameless and formless, attributeless, beginningless and endless, birthless and deathless.

The optimum physical strength and flexibility that we can attain through this physical body cannot be compared to this real strength and flexibility that allow us to be existing and living in this world of names and forms, but being able to ‘forbear’ and ‘withstand’ any ‘difficult’ and ‘discomfortable’ conditions and situations, and being unaffected, undisturbed, uninfluenced, undetermined by all these names and forms, but able to fully utilize this life existence, or the body and mind, to be performing some beneficial actions for all beings, but knowing that everything is impermanent, there is no attachment at all towards all the actions being performed and the fruit of the action.

There’s no disappointment nor depression about “Why bother and waste energy in performing actions, as everything is impermanent, everything will come to an end?”

In Buddhism, the monks spend lots of time, doing ‘something’ occupying the mind with ‘something’, so that the mind doesn’t have spare ‘space’ or ‘room’ for any ‘evil’ thinking, or speculation, or imagination, or projection. As the mind is being restrained to be in the present moment on the physical actions being performed.

Same as when we perform yoga asana practice, it is not so much about gaining some physical or mental benefits from spending some time and energy doing the practice, but mostly it’s to engage the body and mind in some wholesome activities, as there are energy in the body and mind that needs to be directed to ‘somewhere’. At the same time, refraining the body and mind from some unwholesome activities while engaging in the yoga asana practice. And that itself is a great purification process for the mind, as well as it is benefiting the whole world of life existence, as this body and this mind is not generating any harmful thoughts or actions into the world during that time being.

There is a very efficient practice in Buddhism about realizing and accepting impermanence, and practicing non-attachment and letting go. Everyone will spend lots of time and energy, sincerely and attentively to make ‘complicated’ and ‘beautiful’ mandala using coloured sand or different colours beans on the ground, and as soon as it is finished, they will mess it up with their own hand, to realize what is perform all our actions for the benefits of all beings, but without attachment towards the action or the fruit of the action.

If we don’t know the truth, we will feel very meaningless and wasting energy or effort to perform actions but then in the end it is nothingness or emptiness. But when we know the truth, there is no gain when we perform any action, nor there is any loss when the fruit of our actions experience impermanence and disappear. There is no wasting energy or effort at all. It is beyond creation and emptiness. There is nothing being created. There’s no actions being performed. Names and forms are not different from emptiness. Emptiness is not separated from names and forms.

Perform Karma yoga, or selfless service is what we can do for ourselves and others with this body and this mind, to make good use of them. Karma yoga is not just about performing beneficial actions for others, but it is not separated from performing beneficial actions for ourselves. There’s no difference whether the actions being performed is for ourselves or for others, there’s no priority nor less priority, superiority nor inferiority, as whether it is for ourselves or for others, it is the same and is benefiting everyone. There’s no intention to be good, or to do good, or to be benefiting anyone, or to be receiving anything good in return. Just perform action and let go. And that is selflessness or compassion.

It doesn’t matter everything will come to an end, we do our best and let go. As this body and this mind has some ‘spare time’ and ‘energy’ that doesn’t belong to them, to be spent without gaining or losing anything. Why not use it for something constructive and beneficial for all beings?

Om shanti.

Yoga workshops?

Strength, flexibility, stamina and skills to perform the asana poses are not attained just by a few hours of practice in a workshop, but consistent practice regularly after attending a workshop, will bring tremendous improvement in all these elements.

Peace and compassion is not determined by how fit and strong we are physically, but with a strong and healthy body it allows us to perform yoga sadhana and karma yoga selfless service for ourselves and other beings to evolve in life.

Om shanti.