Question: For people who are new on the path of spirituality, what do you recommend for them? Are there steps or procedures?
Swami Satchidananda: You have already taken the first step by wanting to become a spiritual student. That is the most important thing. You want to follow the spiritual path and you want to know your own true spirit. The next thing is to make yourself fit for that, physically and mentally. You can follow the steps given by Sri Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. It is called the eight limbs of Yoga. It begins with yama and niyama – practical guidelines to live by to help keep the mind calm. It continues with asana (physical postures), pranayama ( breathing techniques), pratyahara ( sense-control), dharana (concentration), dhyana ( meditation). The eighth step is the experience of Yoga, or Self-realization.
But, most of all, learn to be a fool! A fool is one who is mad after a goal. In a way, everybody is a mad person. Some are mad after money, some are mad after power; everything is a madness. The whole world is filled with mad people! Some are mad after God. For that, learn to be selfless by renouncing your selfishness. That is the first and foremost thing. Sacrifice the I, me, mine. And always be ready to serve others. If that quality is there, then your mind will always be clean and peaceful. You need a peaceful mind, a steady mind, to realize your own spirituality.
That realization is not given to you by somebody else. You are that spirit. You are the image of God. To realize that, you have to keep a clean, peaceful, and steady mind. The only way to make the mind fit for that is to become totally selfless. When we project our egos and begin to do things only for our own benefit, that certainly disturbs the mind. Those who are selfish can never find peace. The mind will be always disturbed. So, learn to serve others. And be kind and compassionate to one and all. These qualities will make you a fit instrument to understand and to realize your own spirit or the image of God in you. And if you can’t do it by yourself, seek the company of other people who have the same interest. That’s why ashrams and spiritual centers are set up—so that like-minded people can live together and help each other. You may not know or see your own faults. If you have a dirty spot on your face, you cannot see it. But your friends can see it. They can show you there is something on your face and tell you to go and wash it. That is the advantage of being in good company.
Sage Thiruvalluvar says, “Friends are not only to live together and laugh.” If there is something wrong with you, if you are slipping away from your goal, it’s the duty of your friend to point it out—however hard it is. We need friends for that. That’s why we keep the company of other spiritual seekers. The others can help you if you make a mistake. That’s called satsanga or good company. Satsanga itself, can go a long way to make you a better person.