This is an excerpt from the book Demystifying Patanjali: The Yoga Sutras (Aphorisms) by Swami Kriyananda.
Samadhi Pada (Book 1) Verses 1 – 3: Then, (spiritually free), the sage abides (tranquilly) in his inner Self.
Modern living leads us to confuse fulfillment with excitement. From excitement, however, ensues tension. And tension causes all happiness to vanish. The thrill of the imaginary happiness that people equate with excitement shatters their nerves, and fills them with suppressed fears that emerge with the exhaustion that follows after their emotional jumping up and down. “Kiss me as though this were the last time ever,” goes a popular song in Mexico. And then the desperate affirmation, also from a Mexican song: “Just this once; never again.” (“Besame mucho, como si fuera esta noche la ultima vez.” And, “Una vez, nada mas.”)
People grasp at happiness, then wonder why it slips from their grasp the very moment they clutch at it.
Calmness is the only possible foundation for any true, lasting fulfillment and happiness. Calmness is possible only when the ego stops shouting for attention. The most important thing on the spiritual path is to silence the demands of ego. Therefore, in my own life there are two things I simply refuse to do: to pray for myself; and to defend myself.
Many years ago, I was suddenly seized with a severe kidney stone attack. It was a Sunday morning, and at eleven o’clock I was scheduled to conduct the weekly service at our retreat. The attack hit me at nine o’clock. I shook all over like a leaf in a gale. Friends urged me to go with them to the nearest hospital. That hospital, however, was more than a half hour away by car, over winding roads. The thought of being moved at all threatened me with more pain than I felt I could bear. I refused. My friends thought, of course, that at least I would pray, but, though I said nothing, inwardly I refused to do that. So I knelt over my bed, shaking violently for nearly two hours. At last I glanced at my watch. Ten forty-five: only fifteen minutes and the service was to begin! Would it begin without me?
At this point I prayed, “Divine Mother, I will not pray for myself, but if You want me to give that service, You’re going to have to do something about it.”
Instantly, in the time it would take you to wave your hand quickly from left to right, the pain vanished, and was replaced by an intense inner joy—a joy so great, in fact, that I could hardly lecture that morning at all anyway, so filled with bliss was my heart. I did give the sermon, and everyone present felt uplifted in bliss, but I don’t think it was because of anything I said!
Experience over many years has convinced me that, if we really repose our trust in God, and ask nothing for ourselves, He (or She; God is both, and also neither!) will supply all our needs. Long experience has convinced me, also, that Divine Mother (as I think of God) will protect me.
A calm mind, moreover, usually calms opposition. When it fails to do so, it disarms it.
Many years ago, when I was new in America, thirteen years old and weighing only 107 lbs., a schoolmate of mine, Tommy Maters, two years older than I and weighing 230 lbs., decided he didn’t like the English accent I had in those days. He kept threatening me.
I remained calm. At lunch one day he sat next to me and kept criticizing my table manners. (“Don’t you know you should spoon your soup out of the far side of the bowl? Peasant!”) I calmly ignored him.
“Boy am I going to get you!” he exclaimed fiercely at last. I knew he meant it. On returning to my room, and since there were no locks on our doors, I pushed the chest of drawers across the opening as an obstruction. But of course it was child’s play for Tommy to push the door open. Charging into my room, he threw me onto the bed and began to pummel me ruthlessly. There was nothing I could do about it but lie there and protect my face as well as I could with my hands.
“I’m going to throw you out the window,” he kept whispering, making sure to keep his voice low so as not to attract attention on the corridor. My room was three storeys above the ground. I said nothing. Finally, exhausted, he left me—somewhat the worse for wear than he’d found me, but still alive.
“Why didn’t you cry for help?” a classmate of mine asked me afterward. “Because I wasn’t afraid,” I answered.
“Whatever happens,” I’d told myself during the pummeling, “I accept.” Interestingly, from then on Tommy left me alone.
Calm, passive resistance—an attitude we’ll discuss at more length later on—wins out over violent emotions.
Thus, the calmness that Patanjali describes in this aphorism is not only to be attained through spiritual endeavor: The practice of calmness under adversity also hastens that attainment.
Every spiritual fruit comes from right attitude. If you want to know peace, practice being peaceful now, especially under adverse circumstances. If you want to know joy, be joyful now, especially when matters look bleak! And if you want to know divine love, love everybody, even your self-proclaimed enemies. (No, I can’t say I ever loved Tommy, but at least I never felt anything against him.)
An interesting aspect of the spiritual path, even if unsettling for the neophyte, is the assurance that, whatever your faults and shortcomings, God will see to it that your nose gets rubbed in them—if, of course, you sincerely want to free yourself from those shortcomings.
This aphorism of Patanjali, therefore, should be taken not only as a promise of reward, but as counsel for the right attitude to hold under every circumstance.