Vacillating from Spiritual to Materialistic States


I experience dialectical/cyclical urges -at one time feeling highly spiritualized and inspired to practice the Raja Yoga exercises and read devotional literature and at other times given to hedonistic pleasures like incessant eating, thinking vain and useless thoughts, and killing time. How can I be permanently rooted in purity and cleanse myself ?

—Ashutosh, India


Dear Ashutosh,

Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras defines the state of “yoga” as a state in which the unceasing vacillations of thoughts, moods, feelings, and actions are neutralized in the state of expanded consciousness called “samadhi.”

The journey to such a state is a gradual calming of the “natural turbulence” of the mind’s ceaseless fluctuations. It may be surprising to you for me to say this but non-attachment and mindfulness are even needed in the midst of our devotional, spiritual practices. Otherwise, what happens is exactly what you are describing: the up and down, back and forth polarity of the opposites!

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita states that rites and rituals (any outward spiritual actions, including yoga) cannot bring us to the transcended state beyond the gunas (“triguna rahitam”) by simply performing them with our body and mind. The mind itself must withdraw (or strive to do so) from identification with ALL outward forms.

Chanting and devotion should lead us into silent, inner communion. Meditation techniques should lead us beyond mental activities of thoughts and emotions. Spiritual reading should expand our consciousness beyond the body and ego.

Obviously it is easier to be centered and God-conscious while meditating, chanting and reading spiritual literature than when engaged in hedonistic activities but nonetheless, we must strive to enter the state of “upward relaxation” toward soul consciousness lest these otherwise opposite states just continue to alternate!

Krishna further assures Arjuna in the Gita that true yoga practice DOES NOT cause the opposite states to come but this is only and to the extent one’s consciousness enters (or even strives to enter) a state beyond emotions and thought.

As you do so day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, your states of mind will begin to settle down. It’s like putting some dirt into a glass of water and stirring it up. If the glass is placed on a table and left alone, the dirt will gradually settle to the bottom leaving the water clear. The “fluctuations” of the mind will gradually become steadily focused in the heart and at the spiritual eye. Gradually you will become identified with the still state and the voice of inner silence as your best friends, as the living soul and deity within you.

Steadiness of heart, thoughts, emotions and actions comes from the inner silence, opened to the love of God.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA