You can be in the world but do not be of the world. Then, you are free. The mind has to be in the world and that is why we try to have a detached outlook. Of course, this is very difficult to achieve. And, many people misunderstand the idea of detachment. They might think that this means they should neglect their responsibilities or they shouldn’t feel love or compassion. On the contrary, someone with a detached awareness will be living a very important and responsible life. The moment you desire to live for the sake of others, you find yourself doing everything with a selfless motivation. You eat, sleep, act, and do everything to bring some benefit to others. We see this kind of attitude in nature. It’s only in the human beings that we don’t naturally see this, but everything else in nature is selfless. Nothing lives just for itself. A tree doesn’t grow for its own enjoyment, but to provide fruit for others. A plant grows to give flowers for you to use and a candle burns to give you light. You can see the sacrifice in each and every thing in life. Sacrifice is the law of life. None of these things take any credit for themselves.

Only human beings want to take credit for what they do—even if it is just a little thing! And if other people don’t appreciate what you do, immediately you find fault with that person. You say, “Oh what an ignorant person. I’ve just given them such good advice and they don’t even know the value of it.” Because you don’t get the honor, reverence, or appreciation, you put them down as if something is wrong with them. That should not be the attitude. In all of our actions, let us ask ourselves, For whose sake am I doing this? Is it for my sake or for the benefit of others? If the answer is that you are thinking of the benefit to others, then you are free. You can never get bound; you are always happy.

There is nothing on this earth that can make you unhappy. And this is not just mere words. Many who have really understood this are currently living a carefree, happy life. It’s not something that is impractical. Every one of us can be always happy, peaceful. Nature, or God, never intended for us to be unhappy. But we make ourselves unhappy. It’s important to first understand why you are unhappy. And you will find that it is because you expected something from somewhere or someone. You made some kind of appointment—or had some kind of expectation—and things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, so you are unhappy. But then, you blame the situation or the person and say that they are the cause for your unhappiness. That’s not really the case. If you make an appointment to go somewhere at ten o’clock, and you leave at 9:30 and find that the city traffic is heavy, you become upset and worry about being late. So you become angry at the traffic, even though you knew there would be plenty of traffic at that time. You blame the other drivers for your being delayed. But you should have known there would be traffic and planned ahead to leave earlier. Your delay was caused by your improper planning, not by the traffic.

If you can understand this point, you will turn within and learn from your mistake instead of blaming others. But it is very difficult because we are in the habit of blaming our unhappiness, or our disappointments, on others. This kind of thinking creates a double loss—you lose your peace and also the friends that you blame. If you want to be happy always, there is no other way than to stop depending on outside circumstances for your happiness. If you think properly, any problem can be solved.

Recently, I was talking to a psychiatrist who was telling me about the different kinds of fixations that make people unhappy. It put me in a kind of a fix! I asked myself, What is it that is being fixed? I remembered how the process of “fixing” is found in photography. You create a picture, develop it in the darkroom, and then it becomes fixed. The fixing comes after you created and developed the picture. Fixations are nothing but deep impressions in the mind. You allow an image to come into the mind. Once the impression is there, if you want to remove it, you have to bring an even deeper impression to erase the previous impression.

Suppose you are stung by a scorpion and the pain is very great. You shake your hand, jump around shouting “Oh it hurts so much!” You can’t get rid of the pain. The very best way to remove the pain of a sting is to put a drop of salt water in the eyes. This is the best pain medicine! Nothing will go wrong, but in that moment your eye will feel like it’s on fire. That will take your mind away from the painful sting. You will forget the sting and after a short while, your tears will wash away the salt and the eye irritation will go away. By then you will have completely forgotten the sting. Both irritations will then be gone.

Likewise, if you want to remove a psychological fixation, develop a deeper fixation. In the yogic philosophy this is known as pratipaksha bhavana, which means to cultivate an opposite positive idea. This is part of the branch of Yoga known as Raja Yoga. I call it psychology par excellence! It is at least five thousand years old. There is no fixation that is difficult to be eradicated if you understand  this principle. By analyzing your own mind, and understanding how it works, you can become your own psychiatrist. Whenever you see anything unhelpful in your mind, just remove it by putting in something positive. By this method, you can always keep the mind free from disturbance. This is the goal of Yoga: to clean the mind so that it will remain calm and peaceful.

Yoga is not just some postures you do. They are very good to keep you healthy but, beyond that, we should understand the mental aspect of Yoga. It is our thoughts that create our experience, so we have to mind the mind. Once you are free from the mind, you will experience your True Nature—your inner peace. Raja Yoga teaches you what the mind is, how it functions, and the different stages of the mind. You become a mechanic of sorts. You should be familiar with every nut, bolt, and spring of the mind. Then you become a master mechanic and your journey is safe and free of disturbance. You can function in the world, without the unhappiness that comes from being of the world.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda