Asatoma Sadgamaya – Making Life Work
I generally insist that whenever there is a meeting in Isha, they chant Asatoma Sadgamaya. This is not about establishing a culture. Asatoma Sadgamaya is an invocation and a reminder to see if what you create works for everyone’s wellbeing or not. This applies to everything we create – be it within ourselves in terms of thoughts and emotions, or on the outside to make money, do business, and earn a living, or, on a larger scale in terms of politics, economics, wars, etc. Whatever the situation, the fundamental question is, is it working for everyone’s wellbeing or not? Or at least, is it working for a large number of people? If you want to do something the way it works, you have to figure out the truth about that aspect of life, both in terms of the world around you and your inner nature.
Yoga is about moving toward a life where everything works better – your body, your mind, your energies, your emotions, even the situations around you. If you follow this order – first you figure out how the body works, then what makes your mind tick, what makes your emotions pleasant, what makes your energies happen well, then figuring out what makes the world happen well is not much of an effort. But right now, we have set up a social situation where you don’t care how your body and your mind work – you just want your bank account to work. You are bound to suffer. If you try to walk without strengthening your legs, of course you are going to rub your face in the soil. Getting our priorities right is most important.
I’m interested in anything that works, and machines usually do work. That’s why I sometimes read car advertisements, but what I generally find, it’s all about the extras, the stereo, the upholstery, and the special paint. These days of course, because people are paranoid about their safety, it’s also about the kind of airbag it has. Not a word about the engine, transmission, or driving dynamics. This is symptomatic of the life that the majority of people are living. They are interested in looks and gadgets. People have a life insurance, but they don’t have a life. They are ensuring their misery.
Spiritual process is about shifting your priorities and aligning everything about you in such a way that it all works well. If you don’t get your priorities right, you won’t even know how to sit peacefully. Almost ninety percent of the population needs a lesson in being peaceful. A cow and a donkey can sit peacefully once the stomach is full, but humans are struggling even with that. Without outside help, people cause enormous misery to themselves. If something happens that they don’t want, people will suffer. If something that they want doesn’t happen, they will suffer even more. Spiritual process is not about going to some other place – it’s about putting everything in the right perspective. If you see everything the way it is, priorities will arrange themselves accordingly.
If you want to grow a tree, should you attend to the visually most obvious parts – the leaves, the branches, and the trunk – or should you nurture the not so obvious root? Maybe forty years ago, when I had a farm near Mysore, someone came to me and tried to sell me what they claimed to be a miracle solution. I had lots of mango trees in my garden, and they said that if I spray this solution on the fruits, they will become huge. I was not yet enlightened at that time, but I had enough sense. Their slogan was “Fruit, not root.” This idea was so ridiculous it became a running joke in our area. Once they realized that, they gave up on the project. The exact opposite is true. If you nurture the root, you don’t have to bother about the fruit – it will come naturally.
The other day, I happened to meet someone and I asked them jokingly, “So they are praising you for what you’re doing?” They replied, “Whatever you do, no one ever praises you for anything in Isha. They only tell you what’s wrong.” I said, “That’s good if they picked up that culture from me. Only what’s not working needs attention.” I don’t have to praise you for what you are doing well. Anyway, the fruits will come and you will taste them. If what you do is not in line with the fundamentals of creation, it will not work. It is the strength of the root that produces the fruit. Even if you come up with some formula that will artificially blow up the fruit in a few days, we don’t know what kind of effect that will have on the tree and the root.
Spirituality means to understand it’s about the root, not the fruit. It is like the Gita tells you that you should not bother about the fruit of action. It also says yogastha kuru karmani. First establish yourself in yoga, then do whatever you want to do – it will work. Being rooted in yoga means being rooted in union. You are one with everything around you. With this consciousness, do whatever you want. Consciousness is not an ideology. If you are rooted in the experience of yoga, then whatever you do, you will find the fruit of life.
What fruit will come depends on what kind of tree you are. If you are a coconut tree visualizing a mango, you are bound to be a failure. If a coconut comes, you will not recognize it as a fruit. I see this happen to too many people. The best things come their way, but they don’t have the brains to recognize them. They want something else that will never happen to them. Life gets wasted if you don’t know how to relish the fruit that is here and instead look for another fruit that will never come. Wrong expectations drive people crazy. This is happening because societies have become goal-oriented. People are not interested in how they should be but what they should have. Society today recognizes you for what you have, not for who you are. If you call someone a “big man,” it does not mean he has a big brain, a huge heart, or much wisdom – it means he has a big pocket. “What has he got?” is the only thing that seems to matter today. People think the only way to enhance themselves is through accumulations.
Everything that we have, we robbed it from the earth. We have to do that for our survival to some extent. But if we all knew how to sit here absolutely blissed out, we would do everything only to the extent necessary – nothing more, nothing less. When who you are is determined by what furniture and things you have around you, you are doing everything in excess, destroying the planet. You cannot control that, because what one person thinks is a luxury, another one thinks is a must. Perceptions differ depending upon one’s social experiences. But that does not determine the nature of your life. This is why Asatoma Sadgamaya. First establish yourself in truth, then forage into the world around you. If you are not rooted within you, you will keep doing things that will ultimately work against you.