Question: I am in a relationship, but I have chosen for now to live by myself.  I have more time and energy to give to others than people who have their own families to care for. So living by myself is my stress management and peace maintenance program.  But I don’t  want to wind up like the man who went into the cave for 10 years to find peace. How can one know that the path one chooses is the right one?

Answer: Very good question. See, in the spiritual field, there are two aspects: the contemplative life, and the, if I could say, the community life. Both are necessary. Going into the cave also is necessary. But don’t do it always. See how far you have achieved in your goal. Come out to the field and see if you lose your peace. If you do, go back into the cave again. Here the cave means personal practices. Your asana, pranayama, meditation. Spend a little time for that. Then come out into the world. See how you face it, how strong you are. If you feel shaken, go back to meditation again. I still remember once my good friend Brother David wanted me always to give the example I gave him. If you want to give a good shave, your razor should be sharp enough. So for that you sharpen the razor. But if you keep on sharpening the razor day and night, when will you have time to give the shave? You can say, “I am getting ready to give you the shave, but I am sharpening, sharpening, sharpening.” But that won’t work. You sharpen it. Start shaving. In the middle of the shaving, if it gets blunt, sharpen it again. That is what.

Contemplative life and community life. Karma Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga, or Raja Yoga. Put yourself in the field. But watch carefully. When you go out to work in a public way, you are not really going there to help. That’s a sad mistake we always make. “I am here to help them.” Nonsense. Who are you to help them? You are helping yourself by working in the midst of people. You are finding out how your mind reacts to situations. You are not helping them. You are putting yourself to test. That’s how we should do our activities. Otherwise you will be constantly blaming them. You should watch your mind and its reactions in every situation. When do you find happiness, when do you become miserable, when do you become angry, when do you become disappointed? Watch yourself carefully. Then you are learning, correcting yourself. Self reformation. The world doesn’t need our help. We should get help from the world. If you are interested in developing your spiritual side, calming your mind, these are the ways. Practice daily your personal sadhana, and adjust it in the field, watching carefully. Sitting in meditation you find peace, calm. OK. Going out in the world you should see do you feel the same peace? If not, find out the reason. Why am I losing my peace? Please don’t put the blame on others. Find out the reason. So activities also are a form of meditation. You meditate all alone, and then you meditate in the public, in the middle of activities.

Essentially, that is what you call spiritual practice. Constantly, constantly remembering you goal, keeping the goal of spirit in mind, making sure the mind doesn’t get disturbed over anything. Bhagavad Gita says “Perfection in action is Yoga.” Where is the action if you sit quietly and close your eyes and meditate? Get into the field. And make sure that the mind is totally focused, one-pointed, not shaken. With the calmness of the mind, you are continuing your work. That is the goal of spirituality. Otherwise as you say, going into the cave, seeing nobody, and say, “Oh, I have won over my anger.” If the fellow asks you, “Did you get victory over your anger?” “Yes, certainly, for the last 10 years, I never got angry once.” “Are you sure, sir, can you remember the past 10 years what happened, not even once?” “You fool! How many times do I have to tell you!” There goes your meditation. But that’s also a good thing, an opportunity, because unless you faced him, you wouldn’t know that you still had anger. So the world is there to educate your true nature, how you are, what you are, what you should be doing to yourself. In a way, even the so-called karma yoga and other things are not selfless action. People say, “Oh, he is so selfless.” I would say the most selfish action. Why? You are doing selfless action to maintain your selfish peace. Your goal is to maintain your peace, not serving others. So serving others is a way to find out whether you have peace or not. But there’s nothing wrong in being that kind of selfish. Why? Because if you become perfect in your peace, the immediate benefit is you won’t be a nuisance to others. Forget about helping others.

And then if opportunity comes, you can serve others also. So know yourself, find your own peace, find your own health and happiness, and move around as a happy, healthy, jovial person. You don’t have to do anything else. Your mere presence will educate others. “That guy, I’ve never seen him brooding, grumpy, angry. How come?” See, you’re setting a good example. That’s what life’s all about. Set good examples. Let people learn from your own life. Teaching and giving lectures is all OK. But that’s secondary. That’s why I don’t even like to talk much. But what can I do. People make me talk. I follow the scriptures: “Ask, it shall be given.” So you ask, I give what I can. I don’t promise that I give you everything. I tell you what I know, what I experience. Whether you like it or not, that’s your job. Be an enlightened being. just walk around. give light to others. If you are not enlightened, shut yourself completely, don’t even walk around. Then the world will be free from problems.

Swami Satchidananda

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