Why Hesitate?

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

People hesitate for different reasons. Hesitation is internal. When a baby is born, the skin colour is quite evident. Similarly, in spiritual life each person has a nature which can be clearly recognized by the gurus. Recognition of that nature leads to an awareness or understanding of how far a person can go. There is no misunderstanding in recognizing the nature, just as there is no confusion in deciding the skin colour of a newborn baby.

Each person functions according to their particular nature. Although this nature is not evident in the normal behaviour or character, it can be perceived in a different way and educated to be receptive and true to the aim or direction that you have set for yourself in life. It is reflected in every kind of thinking, behaviour, attitude and performance.

Inner nature reflected in performance

When difficulties arise in performance, this is a clear example of the functioning of a particular nature. There are people to whom you can explain very clearly how you want things done, and when you ask them if they understand, they say yes. But when it comes to the actual implementation, it is all crooked, topsy-turvy. It was not that you explained it incorrectly, but their nature could just go that far and not beyond.

Difficulties also occur in setting priorities. When the priorities are decided, there is no hesitation. When self-interest and the greater interest are not coordinated, there will be problems and confusion, but when self-interest and the greater interest go together, then there are no difficulties. For example, if you come to the ashram as a visitor, when you see something happen you will say, "Oh, that is not my area. I am only a guest here." Although you may sympathize with and have a feeling for the ashram, until you develop a sense of belonging, you will not consider yourself to be responsible for anything that happens. But the moment you develop a sense of belonging, even a shoe placed out of alignment will strike your eye.

Your own home belongs to you and you are responsible for it. When you go to a hotel, it does not belong to you and you are not responsible for it. There is a shift in attitude. How we relate to the different situations we face is the factor which ultimately decides how we are going to be in life. Some people are able to fit anywhere at anytime without any adjustment difficulties. This is one type of nature. That nature is the factor observed by the gurus. What you can or cannot do is irrelevant. Even a donkey can be trained to do many things that a horse can do.

Another factor to observe in yourself is whether, when you try to be useful to someone, you are doing so in order to make the other person happy. For example, when people are doing some work for me, their idea is to please me. However, that changes the entire concept because they were asked to do some work for me, not to please me. When you are disconnected from the work and connected with self-interest, such as pleasing someone, you will not be able to do the work properly. So human nature is very complex and categorical answers can't be given.

Our grey world of ordinary logic

Human beings are not black and white, human existence is grey. We don't know where white ends and where black begins. We live in a grey world, our personality is grey, our mentality, emotions and attitudes are grey. Clarity cannot be found in logic, although people have tried. For example, what is the essence of the teachings of Ramana Maharishi, or Aurobindo, or Swami Vivekananda, or others who profess to be jnana yogis, in relation to their nature, to themselves, their relationship with the cosmos, God, the universe? Except for the person who has become realized, jnana yoga has not helped anybody. There are more hatha yogis, bhakti yogis and raja yogis than jnana yogis in the world.

When you are trying to understand human nature, there is a great difference between normal and actual understanding. For an un-initiate the sun is a ball of fire, giving light and warmth. For a research scientist, the sun is a dynamic and complex composition of many different gases, chemicals, radiations etc. If you remove one item from the sun, the quality of light and warmth will change.

In the same manner there are two dimensions to logic. We try to understand ourselves, our difficulties and the world around us through the tiny mind. The full mind, the total mind, is much bigger than our experience in our life. The tiny mind is the fraction of the mind which is thinking. The thinking mind is not even aware of the origin or nature of our thoughts. Thinking is an unconscious process; the tiny mind has no grip on understanding this process.

You come across many different ideas on ways to centre, motivate and inspire yourself; you have heard many Satsangs, but have you applied any of these ideas in your life? The tiny mind appreciates but it cannot adopt, it cannot become that. So the logic that we tend to use as to help in knowing everything actually has a very minor role to play in our life scenario.

Effort for oneself

Effort plays the major role in one's life. We actually only have a forty year life span. We prepare ourselves till we are approximately twenty, then we live our lives between the ages of twenty and sixty, which is about forty years. After sixty, we again sit back and observe life. Until the age of twenty we are learning about life, then for the next forty years we are involved, then for twenty years we step back. For the forty years, infinity becomes a big problem for our minds to handle. People go through physical, psychological and social traumas, because that temporary moment in infinity becomes the holder of awareness.

When that temporary moment becomes the holder of awareness, where is the expansion of consciousness? There is no expansion. Rather consciousness implodes towards the self. 'I' becomes the predominant factor - and that is known as maya. When you pinpoint a torchlight on an object in the dark, only the object is illuminated. That means all the energy of the torch is illuminating only one object. That happens with ourselves. We become so self-centred or self-aware that 'I' becomes the centre of the universe.

Even in spiritual life, when everything else is negated and you attain samadhi, who attains samadhi, you or other people? When you attain peace, who attains the peace, you or other people? When you attain moksha, who attains moksha, you or other people? When you awaken kundalini, who awakens kundalini, you or someone else? So Patanjali yoga is self-illumination, focusing the torchlight on one thing - the self. From the yamas to samadhi - that is the effort.

Effort to uplift others

Just as you make this effort in your personal life, it can also happen in your communal, social, external life. Effort in the outer realm is the yogic way of life. When you are able to illuminate yourself, the consciousness begins to radiate outwards and you begin to educate yourself. As you educate yourself, a new dimension, a new level or stage of life begins. Then you are recognized as somebody who has attained something. Then the light radiates outwards. This is the process of success in life. When you become a scientist you educate yourself first, then you experiment. Sometimes the experiments are failures, sometimes successful. The rate of success decides how good a scientist you will become in the future. When you become a doctor you have to educate yourself before you start treating people. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed. How good a doctor you are is decided by your rate of success in treatment, not by your degree or certificate.

It is the same in sannyasa. It is not the wearing of geru or the shaved head which decides whether you are a sannyasin or not; it is the rate of success and failure that decides how good you are. The rate of failure in sannyasa is so much more because one thought, one obsession, one idea becomes magnified - because the torchlight is on 'self-illumination.

Focus on the solution

In modern terminology the purpose of yoga sadhana as described in the Yoga Sutras is to increase our rate of success as a yogi by doing what is right, appropriate and uplifting. You have to manage somehow on that level. This is a different perspective to the causes of hesitation. If we try to understand everything through the little mind, confusion will result.

When Swami Satyananda left the ashram he said very clearly, "Don't ask me about your problems any more. Read my books. I have given the answers there. For so many years I have given the answers, now read it and do it!"

We tend to identify not with the solutions but with the problems. Therefore, when solutions are given, they are not attractive, because our problems are more attractive. That is where we get stuck. Often people say, "Swamiji, this is my problem, and I don't know what to do." My reply is, "What is the solution? Don't come to me with problems, come to me with solutions." You will always face problems, but you have to train yourself to find solutions. So one just has to take the first step in being bold. Boldness implies that you begin to like what you know. Once that boldness comes, then all the hang-ups go away.

Ganga Darshan, January 8, 2002