Doesn’t Self-Control Lead to Suppression and Repression?


Hello, forgive me if I have the wrong idea. Yogananda teaches about self-control all the time, but most of the time those teachings will lead to self-suppression/repression. Self-suppression/repression is psychologically harmful. I feel like repression will only magnify negative emotions. I don’t believe in the path of resistance. Can you clarify if that is not what he teaches?

—Tesla , United States


Dear Tesla,

This is a good question.

Basically yes, Yogananda teaches self-control. But he wouldn’t ask you to do what you are not ready for. For example, asking a person to practice complete sexual self-control, when he is not ready for that step can, as you said, be very harmful, as experience has shown.

It is a fine line to walk: resistance is necessary when we have harmful habits. It’s called tapasya, meaning heat, which develops because of a friction between our self-control and our habit. There is an inner fight (the inner Bhagavad Gita) going on, and it is necessary. On the other hand non-violence, called ahimsa, is another most important teaching. We never want to act in such as a way as to harm ourselves.

Swami Kriyananda taught us, on the path of self-control, to practice it where it is feasible, and to recognize that at times there are things which we have to put on a shelf, so to speak, for now: we aren’t able to tackle them yet.

So you have to appeal to your wise inner discrimination. During any given “temptation”, is it the right decision to pull out your inner warrior and practice self-control? Or is it simply too much for now, for your momentary situation, and it has to wait for a future moment?

In short: not believing in resistance at all will not make you happy. You will let your habits and whims rule you. Self-control is nothing bad at all — on the contrary, it is the path to freedom and happiness. But again, it has to be applied with wisdom. Too much self-control becomes suppressive.

We also need to discriminate what is important to control and what isn’t. Once Swami Kriyananda went on a grape-fast, controlling his desire for good food, thinking that it would help him make rapid progress on the spiritual path. Yogananda discouraged him. It was an unnecessary self-control. He commented: “A pure heart is the way to God, not a pure stomach!”

So good luck in your development of wise self-control. Make friendship with it, for it is your friend.

With blessings for your inner path,