Become a True Soldier

Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Talk at Gyan Mandir Military Centre, Sagar (MP), March 1979

There are two kinds of wars that a human being must fight – one is waged on the battlefield of life and the other is fought within. The first is waged against external enemies and the second against internal foes. Military personnel are trained for the outer battle, while I train people for the inner battle. If we are not adequately prepared to face our external enemies, they will take advantage of our weaknesses and we will lose our independence. We are all aware of this. Similarly, if we are unable to control and master our internal enemies, they are bound to make us their servant and bring about much imbalance and disharmony.

First conquer within

Today, in every part of the world, mankind is in a state of suffering. Every individual feels imprisoned within, defeated, dumbfounded, oppressed and bewildered. We want to liberate ourselves from our limitations, but we cannot. We have lost the fight even before we face the din and roar of the battlefront. The science of yoga frees us from self-defeat. It is a highly developed science of defence, containing a wide range of weapons which are limitless in their scope and application.

Until we are able to liberate ourselves from our inner shackles, we will never be able to breathe the air of real freedom. Our biggest enemies are our own limitations. In our ancient literature these limitations were referred to as evil forces, devils and demons. By purifying ourselves through yoga, we can become like the general who controls and directs his own forces.

We can also command our willpower to overcome our limitations. We have certain inbuilt strengths of endurance, stability, poise, concentration and self-discipline. They are like the commanders of an army. When we know how to manipulate these inner strengths, then we can mobilize and gear them to achieving our desired objectives. In essence, this is man’s true victory over himself. To light the extraneous forces, we must first develop the ability to conquer within.

Two kinds of discipline

Discipline is the path of yoga and the backbone of the army. Discipline is of two kinds: organizational and personal. Personal discipline is essential for spiritual progress, in the same way as organizational discipline is necessary for the progress of the society and the nation. The country which has a disciplined army has no fears. Similarly, the person who has disciplined his senses is guaranteed success. How can we reach our destination when the horses of our chariot have no reins and the driver is restless? An alert driver who is clear about his destiny and is able to command and steer his senses is bound to attain his goal.

The real goal lies within yourself. What I have mentioned to you is the path which leads there. This inner life is more real than the outer life which is transitory, empirical, subject to time, space and objectivity. One who has understood and experienced the inner life can face the outer life with equanimity and ease. To enable us to experience the inner life without cutting off the outer life, our ancestors have developed the practices of yoga. By regular practice of yoga we can achieve and gain control over our body and mind. It is very simple and clear.

The path of yoga has to be understood and incorporated into our life. A few asanas, pranayamas and meditation techniques to develop concentration of mind form the daily program. Asanas are not merely gymnastic exercises or body-building techniques. Pranayama is not a breathing exercise, and meditation is not ‘going out’. Asana means a posture in which you can remain steady and comfortable in body and mind. Asana and pranayama are important preparations for concentration and meditation.

Mental strength

Our mental power increases when we develop concentration. A piece of paper will not burn simply by holding it up to the sun. However, when the rays of the sun converge in a convex lens, the intensity of heat at the focal point enables the paper to catch alight. Similarly, when our mental energies are not channelled in a proper direction, they become dissipated very quickly and weaken the mind. A wavering, unsteady, restless mind is prone to all types of hallucinations, phobias and complexes.

A wavering mind is a sick mind. When we fix the mind on an inner point, like the flame or a bindu, what we are actually trying to do is control the oscillations and fluctuations. We have to fix the mind on this inner point so that the consciousness revolves around it. After considerable practice of meditation, the mind becomes concentrated and stabilized at the given point. When concentration is achieved, mental energies are conserved. There is no tension or dissipation, and peace and inner strength are gained.

When the mind is free of distractions, the higher intuitive faculties are revealed and begin to guide the individual. Confidence increases, imaginary fears vanish and one is able to face the realities of life. This is yoga. Yoga makes the mind strong, enabling it to endure pain and unhappiness. After regular practice of yoga, equilibrium and vitality become the normal state of mind. With stability of mind, a person is able to radiate strength and confidence. When the mind is dissipated, it becomes weak, thus hindering its progress.

Efficacy of the mind is as essential as efficacy of the body. The exercises and drill which all soldiers no doubt do are good for the body, but this is not enough. A strong body with a weak mind is of no use. True strength lies in the mind. Only with this strength of mind will you be able to achieve something worthwhile in your life. In order to attain mental strength and stability, keep aside ten minutes for meditation every morning. Decide where to fix your mind. If you want to fix it on a candle flame, then just be aware of that and nothing else. When the mind is concentrated and one-pointed, even for a second, then one undergoes a wonderful experience.

Tame the mind and tame the world

In meditation we discipline our mental thoughts, just as scientists have disciplined the forces of nature. Your mind is a force, emotion is a force, memory is a force. When you feel happy or unhappy, that is also a condition of energy. The mind, therefore, is not a devil or a sinner. In the science of meditation, we have to understand a few basic things and change some of our basic beliefs. How will we define the mind? Is the mind a thinking machine or is there more to it than that? The ultimate definition, I have concluded, is that the mind is energy.

Some people have been able to discipline this energy, but most have not. The mind is such a powerful force. Those who have tamed this mind have tamed the worlds. They have become great statesmen, prophets, artists and scientists. All such achievements are miracles of the mind. Those who have been feeling unhappy in life, depressed, frustrated, pessimistic, full of conflicts within themselves, have not been able to master the mind. Therefore, we have to find a way to harness the energies of the mind.

A great person in any field is not a product of destiny, not an accident or a combination of astrological or planetary conditions. A great person who is able to handle the mind is able to handle the world. This was realized by the rishis in India thousands of years ago.

Meditation must be practised in such a way that it transforms the quality of the mind. When you change the quality of your actions, you change the quality of experience. The mind is capable of expressing itself in very many ways, so much so that if the mind is held under control, it can give you mastery over events and circumstances. This is what we are trying to explain.

I do not believe in any particular sect or in preaching my own tradition. But I know that yoga is a great interdisciplinary science. By following the path of yoga, one day you will become a true soldier. You will defeat your inner enemies and achieve real freedom. You are not liberated now because you are not your own master. You are easily swayed by emotions and passions, anger and worries. You are not able to endure pain and sorrow, and you become easily frustrated by difficulties. You are neither able to rule your thoughts nor command your actions. You are enslaved by your own mind. You will have to reverse this situation and attain mastery over it. Only then will you become a true soldier.