Through my nearly 25 years in India, I have learned that spirituality is not about becoming something or someone else. It’s about becoming YOU, the truth of who YOU are.
When I first came to India from California, after graduating from Stanford University and in the midst of my PhD degree, at the tender age of 25, I thought that in order to succeed in life, I needed to be someone different, someone better.
In the West (and now tragically in much of “modern” India) we are taught that in order to be truly successful and deeply happy, we need to be richer, more beautiful, more popular, smarter, funnier, more talented. There is a pervasive sense of lack, even amongst those of us who “have it all.”
However, living on the banks of Mother Ganga, steeped in Indian truth and teachings, I’ve learned that true success is not about changing the self, but about expanding the Self, to experience its truth.
True happiness comes not in acquiring and attaining more and more possessions or prestige but rather in connecting to the Divine, and finding that experience of divinity within the Self… and then in those around you!
Each evening at Parmarth Niketan, after my Guru Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji leads the sacred Ganga Aarti, I have been blessed to lead the satsang, our evening spiritual question-answer session, where people come from every corner of the world and ask the questions plaguing their minds and hearts.
To be able to serve as the vehicle, the vessel through which the answers flow, has been a great blessing.
The truth, that Truth into which we dive together in satsang, is the same even when circumstances of individual lives differ:
We must learn to be energetic transmitters of love and peace regardless of whether the negativity in our lives comes from our in-laws, our neighbours or our colleagues. We must let go, forgive and unhook our peace from other people’s actions whether they are our spouses, our siblings or our extended family.
One of the most important teachings for me is the power of our own minds to create our destiny. No one is injecting you with misery or anger, jealousy or resentment.
When you feel those emotions, it is because you have chosen to co-create that reality for yourself.
Just as we stay away from food that we know will upset our stomachs or that which has the likelihood of giving us food poisoning, similarly, we must avoid engaging in thought patterns or communication patterns that poison our minds and hearts with misery.
Just as we have the power to say “no” to unsafe street food and choose to eat an apple instead, in order to protect the health of our bodies, we must realise we have the power to say “no” to thoughts of resentment, jealousy, anger and greed. We must choose thoughts of love instead, and protect the health of our minds and hearts.
Ultimately as you move through the world, the connection to the truth of YOU, the depth of YOU, the fullness, wholeness and divinity of YOU is what will determine whether you live in peace or in pieces, whether you feel whole or full of holes.
The boundless, borderless, eternal consciousness that is YOU is accessible whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a CEO, married or unmarried, 20 or 70.
Each of us has the same purpose in life: to discover and experience the truth of ourselves, the highest, deepest, fullest Truth that is one with both the Creator and all of Creation. It’s never too early or too late. The right time is now.
Spirituality is not a race or competition. It’s an unfolding. Think of the way rose petals open to the sun. Slowly, gracefully, but fully. That is the point. Open fully. Let it be slow if that’s what your heart and mind need.
But let each petal of you, each aspect of you that causes suffering to yourself or others, each aspect that is rooted in ignorance and illusion, each aspect that is running on auto-pilot rather than deeply present, let each aspect of you open fully to the light of Truth.
And then, like a rose, share your fragrance with the world. Give not for what you’ll get in return, but give because it is your nature to share your light, to share your fragrance, to share your love.
These teachings of our sacred evening satsangs are now encompassed in Come Home to Yourself: Wisdom for Life from Parmarth Niketan Ashram.
The book is written in a beautifully simple and conversational style —that covers many of life’s most prevalent and daunting challenges: How to balance spirituality and the material world; overcoming anger, frustration and other emotions; quieting the mind and taming the thoughts; breaking out of negative patterns; having loving, peaceful relationships even with difficult people, and walking the path of spirituality throughout our lives.
It will touch you deeply, awaken your spirituality and connect you to your true self, allowing you to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, who lives and teaches at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram on the banks of the River Ganga, has written Come Home to Yourself: Wisdom for Life from Parmarth Niketan Ashram, published by Penguin