Although often ignored by many modern-day practitioners, mastering the yamas—five practices to perfect harmlessness—which together form the first limb of the eight-limbed (ashtanga) yoga, is an essential step in the journey toward the ultimate goal of Yoga, Self-realization.
In this brief article, we'll take a look at the second of the yamas, satya. Generally translated as “truth”, satya means more than just speaking the truth. Because the paramount yama is ahimsa, non-harming, when practicing satya, not only do we seek to speak the truth, but that truth must be one that doesn't harm.
One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
“Many westerners grow up believing their lives ought to be perfect. That will not happen. That is not the nature of life. Life is always changing, shifting, decaying, dying. That is its nature. To accept and understand that is the way to contentment.
Life's so-called setbacks, as well as its so-called victories, are the same from a spiritual point of view. When the disappointments of life come along, treat them as instructive. There is a dark side to life, and everyone casts a shadow. The shadow shows the way to light. Don't hide from the shadow, but don't try to cling to it either. Examine and accept your dark side. Treat your setbacks, misfortunes, as well as victories and what you call good fortune, with the same equanimity.
Contentment is a wonderful way to stay focused and preserve energy. Discontent breeds unhappiness and negative emotions that expend energy and disturb concentration. This is not to say you should be satisfied. Contentment and satisfaction are not the same. You should not be satisfied until the goal is reached. The journey should be made with contentment.
In abhyasa follow three golden rules:
1) Be aware of the goal and work toward it all the time.
2) Make the best use of your time.
3) Be happy in every situation in life.
The goal of these practices is to calm and focus the mind, and elevate the mind beyond worldly attachments. This is a process of purification of the mind, to clean it of all the habits that keep the mind running outward toward various desires.
To truly do this work of calming, focusing, and purifying, the student needs the practice of meditation. This is the practice of concentrating the mind and learning to even out all the mind's fluctuations, all its dips, turns, and eruptions. Concentrating the mind gives the individual a tool to focus on the mind itself, to penetrate this formidable power to reach the real Self.”
- Swami Rama in Sacred Journey: Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully pages 70-71