Emotions are part of the mind and are one part of its functioning. According to Raja Yoga, there are several different ways the mind functions: the analytic mind, the feeling mind, the thinking mind and the desiring mind.

Some people think if you are a big yogi, you will not ever have or show emotions. Having emotions and being a yogi are not contradictory. But, a yogi is not affected by his or her emotions. That is the most important thing. Temporarily you can show pain, you can cry with people who cry, laugh with people who laugh. And that’s the way it should be. Otherwise what is the difference between you and a stone? A stone is also above pleasure and pain.

You can have the emotions, show them, but not for your sake. You can show emotions to console others when you go to a funeral. Everybody is crying. What would you do? “Oh I am a Raja yogi. Why should I cry? I want to keep my mind balanced.” No. Use the emotions. Cry with the people who cry. But the trick is, don’t really cry. You only use the tears, use the anger, but don’t actually get sad or angry.

You see the difference? Emotions are created by God. You can use them. But don’t get affected by them. If you are taking a knife to cut some fruit, should you cut yourself with the knife? You are using the knife to cut the fruit. The knife should not cut you. You can use anything and everything for the benefit of others. As Thiruvalluvar says in Thirukural: “You can even tell a lie, if it is going to bring some benefit to somebody and no harm to anybody.”

Emotion is good if it is used in a helpful way. Compassion is also a sort of emotion. Compassion is necessary and emotion is necessary but you should not get affected by that for a long time. So, when you are in the human level, moving with human beings, there’s nothing wrong in showing emotions, but within yourself you should be centered always. Keep your center and play with the emotions. So, it’s not contradiction at all.

Suppressing or denying emotions is not good. Instead, you can put some positive thoughts into the mind. This is what Patanjali called pratipaksha bhavanam. Bring in the opposite positive and those virtues. If hateful thoughts come, shout from the rooftop, “I love you, I love everybody!” Keep on shouting it.  And if you keep on doing it, that negative thought will wait for a little while and then it will get tired and walk out.

Ignore the negative and bring in positive ideas. It’s as if you are in an office working. An uninvited guest wants to come in and distract you. He comes in but you ignore him. You are busy with your work or talking with your co-workers. The unwanted guest will express his presence there—maybe clearing his throat to get your attention. You notice it but you don’t acknowledge him. You keep busy with other people. He will wait and wait and a make few more coughs and then say, “I’ll come back later.”

He’ll come another day and do the same thing. If you pay attention to him, that will only encourage him. It is the same with negative or unwanted emotions, thoughts and habits also want. They feed on your attention. They live on your indulgences.

How many times do you say, “This is the last time I will give in to this feeling?” Every time you do, you are renewing it. When you remove the firewood there is nothing to feed the fire and the fire will die. Our negative emotions and desires are like that. We should never feed them, even by thinking of them in the name of purging them out. It’s a wrong philosophy.

You can never purge out a thought by repeating it. Every time you go through it, it gets renewed. It’s almost like cutting off the demon Ravana’s head. Some of you might remember seeing the great Hindu epic the Ramayana. Every time Rama chopped one of Ravana’s heads, another head came. So, Vibishana told him, “The secret is, aim your arrow at the nabhi, at the very pivot, the naval center. That’s where his energy, his life dwells.” And that destroyed Ravana.

So, go to the very core, instead of chopping out the superficial things. And the best method is to put in new thoughts. Your desires cannot be fulfilled by expressing them or indulging them, but rather by ignoring them and replacing them with the opposite positive. As you think, so you become.

Remember the car service in the garage. When you want to take away the old grease, you don’t have to worry about taking the engine apart and cleaning out the grease. Under high pressure, inject new grease and that will squeeze out the old grease and then the car runs smoothly. For our lives to run smoothly, we should put in new grease under pressure. And that’s what you call spiritual practice.

If you are not strong in thinking positively and if the negative thought is more strong and stubborn than your new positive thought, then, use your intelligence. Analyze it, but never suppress it. Question yourself, “Who has the emotion? Am I having the emotion or is it in my mind? If I am having emotional problems, how will I know?” You see? If you are insane you will not know that you are insane. The moment you admit, “Yes, I am insane,” you are no longer insane. Self-inquiry means you are the subject and your emotions are your objects. You are analyzing, “Why do I have this feeling? Where did it come from?” Ultimately you will realize that it is in the mind. The mind acts in different levels, sometimes in a sort of discriminative way, sometimes in an emotional way.

So, you as a witness can analyze it. What is the cause for your negative emotion? Ultimately you find that the mind says, “Yes, I was looking for something. I thought I would get at least one red rose from that guy. He used to send one every Sunday. I didn’t get one this Sunday so I’m emotionally disturbed.” Then you can ask the mind, “Did he promise you a rose?” “Well no, he didn’t promise.” So? You realize you created the expectation. Even if he promised, you made it an appointment that he had to do it. It was your expectation. You wanted something and you did not get it, so you are disturbed.

You become your own psychiatrist. Yes. You be the doctor and you be the patient. You can do that. Because you are always the knower of what is happening within you. As I said earlier, if you are the person who is emotionally disturbed you won’t even know that you are disturbed. So the knowing you is different from the disturbed you. Do you follow me?

And that’s what you call self-inquiry in Yoga. And I would add one thing. There is a nice saying in Tamil: “Kita dayin vetana mara.” The translation is, “If you don’t get it, immediately forget it. How simple it is. Keep that written out. Read it often. It will be very handy for you. You will save a lot of your energy.

~Sri Swami Satchidananda