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Keys to Successful Living

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL LIVING Swami Rama Everyone wants to be successful in life, but where are the keys to success? Do we have to go out and search for those
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2005
      Swami Rama

      Everyone wants to be successful in life, but where are the keys to
      success? Do we have to go out and search for those keys, or do we
      have those potentials already within ourselves? When we begin to
      examine life, we can see that it is divided into two aspects -- life
      within and life without; internal life and external life -- and we
      can see that these aspects are of equal importance. Even if we have
      renounced the world, gone far away from civilization, and live in the
      wilderness doing nothing but meditation, we cannot ignore external
      life. We still have to see that we eat, do our ablutions, and perform
      our practices on time. So life in the external world is as important
      as life in the internal world. Even one who has renounced the world
      has to understand the word relationship properly, because life itself
      is actually relationship. The body is related to the breath, and the
      breath is related to the mind. The body, breath, senses, and mind all
      function together as a unit. So life virtually means relationship,
      and thus the art of living and being requires an understanding of
      one's relationship to the external world and the relationships within

      All human beings have inner potentials, but many people are not aware
      of those potentials and do not know how to use them to have a
      successful life. Those who are not happy internally can never be
      happy externally; those who are not happy within themselves can never
      make others happy. Those who do not love themselves can never love

      If we are not happy, how can we be successful in life? Success lies
      in our happiness. The keys to happiness lie within us, but our modern
      education does not teach us how to find them. It is helpful to have a
      few formulas to practice in daily life to make it more successful. I
      have not created these formulas; they are derived from observations
      based on experience. There are five points to remember: first, how to
      decide things on time; second, how to study personal habit patterns;
      third, how to conduct ourselves in the external world; fourth, what
      attitude to take; fifth, where to find happiness. To attain success
      in life, one should learn and apply these five points.


      The first point to understand is the philosophy and science of
      decision -- how to make decisions on time. The most successful person
      is that person who knows how to decide on time. There are many
      extraordinarily brilliant people who understand things very quickly,
      but when the time comes to make a decision, when an opportunity
      comes, they withdraw and are not able to act. They do not know how to
      decide. They know they should learn to decide on time, but they don't
      do it. They always say, "Well, I knew it. I understood the key, but I
      did not act in time." Though they may think correctly, and accurately
      understand the situation properly, they suddenly lose confidence.
      This is a world of competition; someone else is always trying to
      attain the same thing we are. So if we do not decide on time, someone
      else will attain what we want. Time is valuable in the external
      world. A tender bamboo can be easily bent, but if we try to bend a
      mature bamboo, it will break. That which we have to do today, we
      should not postpone for tomorrow, but we should also not make
      decisions in haste.

      We may have a setback if we make a wrong decision, but our mistakes
      will teach us. Many people avoid making decisions their whole lives,
      so their decisive faculty of mind, the faculty of discrimination,
      becomes rusty and dies. Such people become totally dependent on
      others. When we study the four functions of the mind -- buddhi, the
      faculty of decisiveness; ego, the principle of identity; chitta, the
      storehouse of impressions; and manas, the importer and exporter of
      sensations and experience -- then we become aware of the power of the
      will. Will power is that something within us that comes forward and
      says, "Do this. It will I be helpful for you." Training the internal
      functions helps us to understand the decisive faculty of the mind,
      without which we cannot be successful.

      We should understand our capacities and potentials, and then we
      should express ourselves in the external world with full confidence,
      acting without any reservations. Thus there are three steps in
      performing an action: first, forming an opinion within ourselves;
      second, expressing our opinion to others; and third, executing our
      opinion in action.


      The main thing that one should learn in life -- and it is not taught
      in the home or in the schools -- is self-analysis. We should learn to
      analyze ourselves. If we really want to understand ourselves, we can
      analyze our personality by understanding our habit patterns. This is
      not difficult. We should simply try to be consciously aware of every
      action we perform and realize that our actions are virtually our
      thoughts. Without thought there can be no action. Habit patterns and
      thoughts are revealed through behavior.

      There is a branch of psychology called behaviorism that is based on
      this concept. But one should understand that external behavior alone
      cannot reveal everything about a person. Laughter, for example,
      cannot be analyzed behaviorally. If I were to laugh, you might also
      laugh with me simply because I was laughing but without understanding
      why I was laughing. Your laughter is out of sheer reaction. Then you
      might laugh a second time, this time at yourself because you did not
      understand why you were laughing and yet you laughed. You might also
      laugh a third time because you finally understand what I was laughing
      at and you now also find it funny. All three times your laughter
      might seem the same to others, but each time it had a different
      motivation. So internal states cannot be understood through behavior
      analysis alone. Only a small part of oneself and others can be
      understood through observing behavior. But knowing our habit patterns
      can help us to analyze and understand our personality.

      What is personality? The word "personality" comes from the root
      persona, which means "mask." Our personality is a mask that we wear.
      We don't have to wear a mask when we are by ourselves; we wear a mask
      to express ourselves to others. Our personality is a character, and
      that character is composed of certain habits. Each of us has numerous
      habits; so when we want to understand our personality, we should
      understand our habit patterns. A habit pattern is a conscious thought
      or action that one repeats again and again. This creates a groove in
      the unconscious mind and forms an unconscious habit. Unconscious
      habits are stronger than conscious habits. All habit patterns are
      self-created. When we sit down and try to understand which of our
      habits control our life, we see that there are many deep-rooted
      habits within us. We should learn to study them. Once we become aware
      of harmful thoughts and emotions that have created deep grooves in
      the mind, we can begin to change them by creating new grooves. Then
      the mind will stop flowing to the old grooves and start flowing to
      the new ones. In this way we can change our habits.

      You should also learn to execute your intentions. For instance, many
      people have very good intentions to do something nice for their
      neighbors, and they think about it all the time, but then those
      thoughts are never executed, they are never allowed to become
      actions. We have many thoughts that have never been executed, and
      that is why we are miserable. If we learn to select those thoughts
      that are helpful and then allow ourselves to execute them, that
      brings fulfillment, and life will be happy. We create misery for
      ourselves when we do not bring our good thoughts into action. One of
      the French writers has explained this concept beautifully: "All good
      thoughts that are not brought into action are either treachery or
      abortion." Good thoughts are those that help others and that help us
      also. Bad thoughts are those that obstruct our progress and create
      barriers for others.

      Deep-seated habits can keep you from doing that which you know would
      be good for you to do. You become helpless because of the obsessions
      and addictions that are caused by your habits. You may continue in a
      habit that you know is not good -- that is neither healthy nor
      helpful and that should not be done -- because the habit has become
      so deep-rooted that you are powerless to change your behavior.
      Society does not help you change your bad habits, and there are very
      few places where you can get help. Many people who are in the
      penitentiary know that what they have done is a crime, but the force
      of habit led them to act improperly. Their faculty of discrimination
      within functions -- they understand what is right and what is not
      right -- but their deep-seated habits have motivated them to do
      something that is not good, that is not acceptable. Actually, no one
      should be considered either a good person or a bad person. In
      traditional English law, when someone was punished, he was told, "We
      are not punishing you for yourself. We are punishing you for your bad


      Habit patterns are very strong motivations in life; we should not
      ignore them. We should not create a defense mechanism and say, "Well,
      so what if I have this habit?" We should learn to study our habit
      patterns and work with our habits to change them. There are very few
      basic habits, and they arise from four fountains: food, sex, sleep,
      and self-preservation. By understanding these four primitive
      fountains, we can understand our habit patterns, and then we can
      learn to change them and to transform the personality.

      Food is the first basic urge. If a husband tells his wife, "Don't
      overeat," she may say, "I overeat because of you. You don't pay
      attention to me, so I have to overeat." Sometimes when the sexual
      appetite is not dealt with properly, people overeat. This is the
      universal law of compensation. If we maintain a nutritious diet, we
      will not have any problem from the primitive fountain called food.
      Food goes through the body and then affects the mind, but sex
      originates in the mind and then is expressed through the body. If our
      mind is balanced and we have attained emotional maturity, then we can
      deal competently with the sex urge. For it is the mind, not the body,
      that deals with sex. The poor body cannot handle the rush, the flood,
      of mind, and so almost no one is sexually happy. To have a balanced
      sex life, one should understand that a calm, tranquil mind is very

      Sleep is another primitive fountain. We consider ourselves to be
      extremely knowledgeable and highly advanced, but we do not know
      anything about how to sleep. It is very important to understand the
      anatomy of sleep. If you wanted to go to sleep right now, you could
      not do it because you need many accommodations to create the proper
      atmosphere for sleep, but yogis know how to go to sleep voluntarily,
      remain conscious, and then wake up at the exact moment they had
      determined they would. People go to sleep just out of habit, but we
      should learn to train our will so we can go to sleep or wake up
      anytime we want to. And when we sleep, we should be conscious. This
      is possible. There are methods for going to deep sleep, recording
      what is going on around us, and then waking up and remembering it.
      Yogis know these methods and have demonstrated them scientifically.
      People do not need to sleep as much as they are in the habit of
      doing. We can go to the state of deep sleep for just two hours and
      awaken totally refreshed. This has been observed by scientists who
      have done research on the anatomy of sleep. If we know how to sleep,
      we can give complete rest to the body and to the conscious mind

      The fourth fountain is self-preservation. Fear comes from the urge
      for self-preservation, and when fears are deepened, they create
      phobias. People are always trying to protect themselves; they are
      always afraid. It is good to protect ourselves from the physical
      world, but it is not good to protect ourselves from the mental world -
      - that is very dangerous. People should learn to face their inner
      fears and to understand why they are afraid. People always want to
      avoid unpleasant things, and so they never examine their fears. That
      is why they have innumerable fears within them. Most fears are
      unexamined, and they are imaginary; they are not valid. "My husband
      has not come home. Perhaps he has had an accident. Perhaps something
      awful has happened!" Why imagine only the negative; why not imagine
      the positive also? "My husband has not come home. Perhaps he has won
      the lottery today. Perhaps he has become a millionaire!" People are
      in the habit of creating imaginary fears, and when they don't come
      true, they forget them. They don't go back and analyze those fears.
      Even when people know that their fear is imaginary, that self-created
      fear still makes them miserable.

      Even when people are in love, they are afraid of the
      beloved. "Perhaps she is angry. Perhaps I have done something wrong
      and made her unhappy." People are also always afraid of their
      enemies. People form a strong habit of being afraid of everything.
      But when they learn to examine their fears, they realize that all
      fears are imaginary. Imaginary means there is an image within. We
      receive an image from outside, from our relationship, and then we
      create an image within; we have millions of images within us. To be
      free from all fears, we must learn to face fearsome images and to
      examine them. Fears are extremely dangerous, but they are all self-
      created. Learning to live free from the fears that arise from the
      urge of self-preservation is very important.


      How can one live successfully in the external world? It is very
      difficult to live in the external world, to put up with the world, to
      deal with the whims of many people, to please everyone. So it is
      helpful to have a few principles to apply to the various situations
      and circumstances we find ourselves involved in. Then alone is it
      possible for us to be successful. We have numerous experiences every
      day -- some pleasant, some unpleasant. But there is one category of
      experience for which we long: the kind of experience that guides us,
      that motivates us to do something helpful for others and for
      ourselves. But such experiences are very rare.

      We waste our time and energy. Even the time and energy I that we
      think we are spending in pleasure we do not enjoy, because we do not
      really know how to enjoy the things of the world. But we can learn
      how to do this; all the things of the world can be enjoyed. The
      renunciates say, "Your world does not have anything. It's not a good
      world. All things are fleeting, all things are changing. All things
      are momentary, and nothing makes you happy. Why are you in this
      world? Why do you not renounce?" But they are wrong. We can live in
      the world and learn to use the things of the world as means. As St.
      Bernard says, "Learn to use the things of the world, but love God
      alone." The things of the world should not be loved. Their nature
      should be understood, and they should become means, but they should
      not be loved. When we use them, we tend to get attached to them --
      that is not healthy. We should love God alone, and we should learn
      that all the things of the world are to be used solely as means for
      attaining the center of love. The Lord of life is called love. We
      should learn to love our responsibilities and to discharge our duties
      lovingly, without any attachment.

      Western students think that it is not possible to love someone
      without attachment. But perhaps the word attachment is not
      understood. Love is different from attachment. In love we give -- we
      do our duties lovingly -- and that is entirely different from
      attachment. Attachment is unauthorized. In attachment we become
      blindfolded and selfish. In attachment we expect all the time and we
      are never fulfilled, and thus we become miserable. There is not one
      single thing that we can say is really ours. We can have things --
      and we should learn to look after them properly -- but we should not
      try to possess them. In attachment people are afraid. "This is mine.
      What will happen to me if it dies? What will happen to me if it is
      destroyed?" People remain constantly under the pressure of the fear
      of losing what they have or of not gaining what they want. The whole
      problem of fear arises from these two sources.

      Most people are not aware that they are on a voyage. They are in the
      habit of collecting useless garbage, and it creates problems for
      them. People should learn to understand that needs and necessities
      are different from wants and desires. If we need something, we should
      have it, but we should not uselessly want to have unnecessary things.
      In studying the lives of great people, we find they share one trait
      that has made them successful: they do not take what they do not
      need. Once when Buddha was going as usual from door to door with his
      begging bowl to beg for alms, housewife shouted at him, "You idiot!
      You are so healthy, so strong, and so handsome. You were a prince!
      Why did you renounce your home and start troubling us? Every day you
      come with your begging bowl. It has become too much for us." She was
      very angry because the whole city was full of renunciates, and there
      were very few householders; it was a problem for the householders to
      feed all the monks. She became so angry that she picked up some filth
      and tried to give it to him. He smiled and said, "Mother, I don't
      need it." He started to go on his way, but one of his disciples got
      angry and told the woman, "I am going to kill you for behaving like
      this with my Lord!" Buddha turned back to him and said, "You are not
      my disciple. You have not learned anything from me. If somebody wants
      to give you something undesirable, don't take it. If somebody says
      you are bad, don't accept such a negative suggestion." We should
      learn to understand this point, and then we can go through the
      process of life unaffected.

      But instead of remaining unaffected, people allow their cultural
      values to make them dependent on external suggestions. We are blasted
      by suggestions all the time, and the power of suggestion is immense.
      If ten people say that we look ill, then we begin to feel sick. If
      someone says "You ugly person," then your whole day is ruined. But if
      someone says "Oh, you look beautiful then you say "You have made my
      day." You are already beautiful, but if nobody appreciates you, you
      don't believe in your beauty. You should learn to appreciate and
      admire yourself; you should learn to understand and come in touch
      with that beauty which is within you all the time. You are already
      beautiful just as you are! You do not need others to tell you are
      beautiful. You should not become dependent on others' opinions; you
      should not try to know yourself through others.

      There is a very dangerous characteristic in this culture: people make
      themselves dependent on each other. People live on suggestions; they
      are swayed by whatever anyone says. People are in the habit of always
      wanting and expecting attention from others, and this is very
      dangerous, because then life becomes totally dependent on others.
      This is the worst trait I have seen in Western culture. Wives nag
      their husbands and husbands criticize their wives because they expect
      too much from each other. When people become dependent on their
      relationships, when they expect too much from their relationships,
      then they are bound to suffer.

      When a girl goes to school, the thought that constantly lives in her
      mind is that she will meet a good boy, get married, and be happy. But
      there is no Bible in the world that says marriage will make someone
      happy. Marriage does not make anyone happy; it is only a means for
      happiness in life, and if this is understood, then it is very good.
      But if one expects too much and thinks that marriage is the answer to
      all the vital questions of life, then that person will find only
      disappointment. People grow up with unreal expectations about
      marriage, and the philosophy of marriage is not taught. What is the
      purpose of marriage? What is the philosophy of remaining single? If a
      single person does not know how to use his time positively, and if he
      has no personal philosophy of life, then he becomes perverted. Those
      who are unmarried are not happy, and those who are married are also
      not happy. Marriage is like a fortress: those who are inside cannot
      come out, and those who are outside are rushing to get in. So I have
      not seen anyone who is happy. This does not mean that people should
      not get married; the institution of marriage is very necessary. If it
      crumbles, all of society will crumble. This is a great discipline for
      human society.


      What should our attitude in the world be? It should be that
      relationships and all the things of the world are means. The world
      has never given anyone enlightenment, but at the same time it is
      impossible for one to get enlightened if one does not live in the
      world. What helplessness! The world does not give enlightenment, and
      yet we have to live in the world. Therefore let us understand that
      the world should be a means for enlightenment. There are two ways of
      using the world for this purpose: first, you can have the attitude
      that you will not allow the world to disturb you, so that you can
      thereby get enlightenment; and second, you can have the attitude that
      you can use the world to help you, so that you can thereby get
      enlightenment. Both attitudes should be applied. One should have the
      same attitudes toward relationships: "I will behave in such a way
      with my spouse and children that they don't disturb my inner peace; I
      will behave in such a way that they become helpful to me and that
      they also grow."

      You should first have the attitude that no matter what happens, you
      will not be disturbed. Otherwise, when you get something, you become
      emotional and imbalanced, and when you don't get something, you
      become depressed and disorganized. This means that you do not have
      the proper attitude behind your thinking and behavior. Great leaders
      like Moses and Jesus had to face many serious problems, but they had
      the proper attitude. That attitude can be built only when you
      consider all relationships in the external world and all the objects
      of the world simply as means, not ends. Then it doesn't matter if
      today you expect something to become your means, and tomorrow you see
      that it will not. When your attitude toward the external world is
      that all the things of the world are means, and not disturbances,
      then you can find happiness.


      If happiness were external, Americans would have it. Americans have
      many things, but they are not happy. Many people are very nice to
      others, but they are not nice to themselves. They have a mechanical
      way of behaving nicely with others, but they do not know how to be
      happy within themselves. They are creating a great conflict, a split
      personality, by pretending to express a happiness that is not there.
      Happiness is not in the external world; it is not attained through
      objects. People spend their whole lives wanting to have this and have
      that; they love objects, and they cannot love without objects. But
      the day you learn to love without an object, that will be the day of
      greatest happiness. When one learns to love God, that is love without
      an object. God is not an object; God is beyond all objects. So love
      without an object is love for God.

      Happiness lies within you, and you should learn to use all things and
      apply all means to attain that happiness. This inner happiness is in
      a dormant form; you have to unfold yourself to experience it.
      Therefore you should learn to be still, so that the godly part in you
      can reveal itself to you. "Be still and know that I am God." What a
      great promise! This is the greatest aphorism. Many Christians and
      Jews think that there is no meditation in the Bible, but this one
      sentence reveals the entire philosophy of meditation.

      Every human being should learn to be calm and quiet, and to see God
      in others. Then you can be detached from the nongodly part, and you
      will be loving the godly part. You are a shrine of God. I should love
      you because I should love God in you. It's good to love people
      because everyone is a temple of God. People do not worship the walls
      of a temple; their love is directed toward that which dwells inside
      it. So whomever you love, love God in that person.

      I pray to the divinity within you.

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