In children, the mind is pure. It is the world that goes in and contaminates our mind, otherwise, the mind is always plain and pure, like a crystal. No mind is bad, no mind is dirty; it’s always crystal clear. But it is the proximity of the mind to other things that colors the mind. If you bring a rose close to a crystal, it will appear rosy. If you bring a blue flower close, the crystal will appear to be blue. The mind is really not bad at all, but if you accumulate ugly things around the mind, the mind will appear to be ugly. The associations are so important. Originally you are all pure, you’re always crystal clear. That’s why we are asked to take care of all our associations. Take care of the “mines” around you. It is the “mines” that color the mind. If you are free from all those things, if you don’t allow those things to contaminate or color your mind, you are liberated.

That’s what we see in meditation, also. In meditation we go deep. We see a lot of unpleasant things, a lot of colors in and around the mind. Then, we slowly push them away. That is a form of meditation. Once we learn meditation, we can apply that to anything and everything. That’s why I say that if you are a good meditator, you can meditate on your business; you can meditate on your household problems, teaching problems, learning problems. You become your own psychiatrist. The entire mind is in front of you. You can analyze it piece by piece. Nothing is impossible in a meditative mood. That is meditation: the application of the total mind.

That’s why the scriptures say that there is nothing impossible in this world to achieve if you really have a strong will. In the yogic terminology, this is called willpower. But in a devotee’s outlook, it’s called faith. Do you see the difference? In the yogic terminology we say, apply your entire will. But if you are a devotee we say, have absolute, unshakeable faith, undivided faith. Then, you can move mountains. If you have the faith that’s the size of a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. So faith and willpower are the same. Because to have that faith, you must have a one-pointed mind.

If you believe in a person, if you have total faith in them, even if the whole world comes and tries to shake your faith, you will say, “No, I believe. I know that person. Nobody can shake me.” The person may not even be worthy of that faith. But still, if you have that faith, you’ll get the benefit. Because your own faith works wonders. It’s not that the thing—or the person in whom you have the faith—that is going to work wonders. You may believe an ordinary man to be a great master, and if you have tremendous faith in him, you’ll get the benefit. The faith itself acts even though the man may not even know that you are getting the benefit. But that kind of faith, or will, needs a pure mind. The mind is dissipated by hundreds of wants. You can’t just gather it, you can’t collect it all together. That’s why concentration, one-pointedness, is so important to control of the mind. Whether it is through devotion, analysis, application of the will, or whatever it is, the mind must be pure.

But there can’t be a pure mind if it is selfish. A selfish mind can never be pure, remember that. It will always lean to a side. It will lose its neutrality. Only a completely unselfish mind will have that crystal clear purity, will stick to that neutrality. That’s why, even in the name of God, even in the name of religion, even in the name of preaching, we see people leaning to sides. We see a lot of wars and quarrels, fights, hatred, and bloodshed. How on earth can there be bloodshed in the name of religion? It is only because we understand religion in our own limited, selfish way. If I am going to use Yoga for myself alone, for selfish reasons, then I will not receive any benefit myself and I will not be able to bring benefit to anybody else. Let the mind be clean and pure. That’s why all the religions talk of basic purity.

The commandments tell us to be pure: don’t tell lies, don’t steal others’ property, do not harm others. These are part of the ethical practices of Yoga called yama and niyama. Ahimsa is non-injury. Satya is truthfulness and asteya is non-stealing. Every religion speaks  of these ethical observances. You can ignore all the religious rituals. Nobody is going to be bothered by how high the altar should be, how big the cross should be, how small the deity should be, how many tons of flowers you must offer, how many candles you should light—nobody bothers about these things. If you have plenty of money, burn thousands of candles. If you don’t have money, do not burn any candle at all. God is not going to count your candles and then grace you based on the amount. No. God wants to see how much you have in you, how much purity you have in you.

The rituals, the external parts of the religion are not the essence of the religion. We have to raise above the non-essentials. There is no harm having some incense to satisfy our senses. But, know that when we burn incense, it’s not for God to inhale the fragrance, it’s for us. Beyond the rituals, we must have the basic fundamental things. All the religions are built on the idea of purity, selflessness, and having a giving and loving nature.

The Islamic religion speaks of the brotherhood of all humanity. The Bible tells us to  “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Hindu religion teaches “Anbe Sivam,” that love is God and God is love. It’s all based on love. How can you love with a selfish mind? You can’t. That kind of love is only a business. You call it love, but you expect something in return. If you don’t get what you want, you won’t hesitate to hate that person. But, true love knows no bargaining. You just love for the sake of love. You are happy in loving, that’s all.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda