“Be cheerful, be brave, bathe daily, have patience, purity, and perseverance, then you will become a Yogi in truth.”
It all started in class nursery when I asked my parents for designer pencils. They bought them for me and I was ecstatic, thinking that I would never need anything else. The next week, I asked my parents for designer erasers and later new pens, pouches, bags, expensive phones, laptops, and clothing, always saying that this was the last thing that I needed.
“Oh my god! How can someone live like a yogi wearing clothes like that...” is what I would hear my friends say in fifth grade and I would gladly agree with them. Fast forward to class tenth, here I am writing an essay on “Youth and Spirituality” indicating how important it is to remain calm, composed, focused, and unbothered in this world full of greed, jealousy, and hatred.
Like any other Indian child, I would always feel that the Western culture of living was far superior to ours. Sleeping late at night and waking up late in the morning, talking back to elders, solely focused on earning for lifestyle and increasing one's possessions, etc. seemed fashionable. During COVID times, when the world adopted certain habits, that were considered a normal part of our value system, like removing shoes outside our houses, less consumerism, healthy and fresh food for building immunity, yoga and meditation, doing namaskar instead of a handshake et al was the first time when I felt as a proud Indian would It prompted me to explore more about my Indian values.
Earlier, I was convinced that only expensive things could make me happy. It is now that I realize that happiness can neither be bought nor be found in materialistic things. To be truly happy, we need to be happy and content from within. According to Hinduism, spirituality is defined as one's journey towards moksha, awareness of self, the discovery of higher truths, the true nature of reality, and a consciousness that is liberated and content. Traditionally, Hinduism identifies three ways of spiritual practice, namely Gyaan yoga, the way of knowledge, Bhakti yoga, the way of devotion, and Karma yoga, the way of selfless actions. But in the 19th century, Swamiji popularized and added Raja yoga, the way of contemplation and meditation as the fourth way. Raja yoga is the path of cultivating necessary virtues, self-discipline, and self-reflection, sometimes with isolation and renunciation of the world, to a pinnacle state called samadhi.
All is an illusion. Nobody can possess everything. When we get one thing, we are only temporarily happy and would soon be demanding something else which in the end turns into a vicious never-ending cycle of greed and desire. Thus, true happiness can only be attained when we give up on the illusionary aspect of the material world.
“Until you get out of this wheel of Samsâra, until the slavery of desire is shaken off, you can’t attain either Bhakti or Mukti”
Swamiji was a follower and proponent of Vedanta which mentions one God — omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. Despite his upbringing in a spiritual family, he did not have strong faith in God as a kid, which was one of the reasons he kept asking all priests, “Have you seen God?”. This was the reason he became acquainted with Sri Ramkrishna because for the first time he got a positive reply saying “Yes, I have seen God”.
God in Vedanta is unlike what an average person thinks. Vedanta defines God as “Brahman” (with and without attributes). This “Brahman” is known also as Absolute Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss. When Swamiji had the experience that all is ‘it’, he stayed in that state and was not aware of anything in this world, for him all that exists was nothing but Brahman.
Who is Ishvara? Janmâdyasya yatah — “From whom is the birth, continuation, and dissolution of the universe,” — He is Ishvara — “the Eternal, the Pure, the Ever-Free, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Merciful, the Teacher of all teachers”; and above all, Sa Ishvarah anirvachaniya premasvarupah — “He the Lord is, of his own nature, inexpressible Love.”
Swamiji’s contribution to the domain of religion was immeasurable. He rejuvenated Hinduism and Vedanta. According to him, real religion is the realization of the divine within every soul. This divinity is latent within each one of us and the religious practices only bring it to our conscious level. When one has realized one’s divinity as a direct experience one has no fear of anything not even death itself. He must realize this divinity in his thoughts and selfless actions. Religion is not a matter of imagination; we must apply religion to our practical world and life. (5.2 Swami Vivekanand- Universal Religion - Swami Vivekananda’s Philosophy of Universal Religion - Studocu)
“God is an infinite circle whose circumference is nowhere, but whose center is everywhere. He works through all hands, sees through all eyes, walks on all feet, breathes through all bodies, lives in all life, speaks through every mouth, and thinks through every brain.”
A popular question asked by people is how to start with spirituality. Today, the word has so many meanings, that a person gets overwhelmed and quits even before starting. It will be tough at the beginning as our mind wanders off easily. Even 5 minutes of meditation daily is a good way to start. Afterwards, people can gradually increase and then there is no looking back! Daily mediation is really important as it helps us attain peace of mind.
The relation between inner peace and the dharma is made evident in the Bhagavad Gita as it states “treating pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat alike, engage yourself in your duty. By doing your duty this way you will not incur sin.” Bhagavad Gita was Swamiji’s lifelong companion.
Let us look at this conversation between Arjun and Lord Krishna- Arjun said-
“The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong, and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.” Bhagavad Gita, chapter 6, verse 34 Krishna replies by saying- “O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.” Bhagavad Gita, chapter-6, verse 35
Our mind runs toward the objects of its attachment. The elimination of attachment eradicates the unnecessary wanderings of the mind. Abhyas means practice, or a concerted and persistent effort to change an old habit or develop a new one. In all fields of human endeavor, practice is the key that opens the door to mastery and excellence. Both shlokas were beautifully explained by our Sanskrit teacher.
“The great secret of true success, of true happiness, is this: the man or woman who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish person is the most successful.”
Spirituality can be attained through various ways. Raja Yoga paves the way for discipline, self-control, mental peace, and inner joy. It is a unique form of yoga where one doesn’t need any mantras or rituals to be followed and can be practiced anytime and anywhere. It is not just a physical exercise; it’s a holistic approach to harmonizing the mind, body, and spirit.
In this fast-paced world, people are self-centered, pessimist, and egoistic. It is thus essential to be happy and content from within, for which we should hunt for joy in our everyday lives. This can be done by sharing, interacting with good people, helping others, being sympathetic, spreading love and happiness, being kind and compassionate, meditating, doing yoga, and eating healthy. Then only can we understand the true essence of life and fruitfully enjoy every moment.
Thus, Swamiji's way of practicing religion and spirituality can be the torch bearer for the youth of the 21st century, as spirituality helps people to establish a connection with the unknown power that resides within them. It helps deal with stress, anxiety, and negativity. As a young girl, I would get influenced easily. My moods would fluctuate, I would become very negative, compare myself with others, and be ungrateful. Meditation and self-reflection have helped me heal from within, grow over a materialistic mindset, and be positive.
Desire, expectation, and yearning for various objects make our happiness dependent on external things. But this is not what real happiness or “Anand” is. “Anand” that we seek is not born of the contact of senses with the sense objects. Whenever there is a sense of finitude, limitation, or incompleteness it will express itself in some kind of sorrow. But real Anand means completeness, fullness, and no more desire or cravings.
“Let us be at peace, perfect peace, with ourselves, and give up our whole body and mind and everything as an eternal sacrifice unto the Lord.”
About the article
Explore the transformative journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening in Radhika Joshi's article, "Youth and Spirituality." From a materialistic mindset to embracing Swamiji's teachings, the narrative unfolds through personal experiences, highlighting the profound impact of Raja Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita. Swamiji's philosophy becomes a guiding light for the 21st-century youth, emphasizing the importance of inner peace, selfless actions, and detachment from material desires. The article delves into the essence of true happiness, encouraging readers to seek joy within and cultivate a holistic approach to life. Discover the timeless wisdom that empowers the youth to navigate challenges with resilience and embrace the path of spirituality for a fulfilling existence.