Spirituality means feeling the Spirit, knowing the real you. If you want to feel the Spirit, you have to put your focus there, more than on the body and senses. The foods we eat won’t help us to experience our essential nature. Thinking often about what to eat, where to eat, or putting too much importance on the taste of the foods is a distraction on the spiritual path.

In Yoga, we come across that idea in the practice of pratyahara. You learn to have a more balanced and harmonious relationship with the senses by refraining from constantly satisfying them.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We should eat to live; we should not live to eat.” But so many of us live to eat! You can see how various advertising companies take advantage of our need for constant sense gratification. Businesses understand how much people are involved in satisfying their senses. So many things in the present day world encourage the satisfaction this. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying sensory pleasures as long as you are not attached to those pleasures or are continually running after them.

If day and night, night and day, we are always trying to satisfy our senses they will create more and more demands on us. But as spiritual seekers, we should learn that calming and mastering the senses—as well as any desires—can calm the mind. If we can calm the body, we can calm the mind. People should learn to be content with a simple life. The spiritual practices are there to help you to discipline and balance your mind rather than allowing every thought and desire to control you. If you can do that you have cultivated self-mastery.

In the ancient times, it was said that when a seeker learned to sit in one asana during meditation, without making any movement, that was known as the asana siddhi. Mantra siddhi was attained when the seeker was given a mantra and stuck to that mantra. The idea was that no matter what practice was given to you, you should stick to that practice. That kind of discipline requires a sattvic or pure faith. Discipline and faith go together. It is your faith and your constant repetition of a mantra that brings you the benefit—not just the mantra by itself. If you don’t have faith, no matter what you repeat and how much you repeat it you won’t get the benefit. That’s why many seekers give up and say “This mantra is not the right mantra. I must go to another teacher and get the get a better one.”

All the mantras are good, but if you don’t have faith in the mantra, you will be continually changing and that is a mistake. It’s like digging shallow wells all over the place. If you only dig a bit and then move on you will never get to the water. But if you keep on digging, without giving up, then wherever you dig, if you dig deep, you’ll get water. The seeker should stick to one thing, one place, one mantra, and one teacher. That’s the way to achieve success and to become accomplished in whatever you do.

 Karma Yoga can be helpful in this pursuit because there is no egoism in it. You are doing something, but at the same time, you are not. To others, it looks as though you are involved in some dynamic action, but inside you are quiet and calm. An example of this is an actor. If the actor is playing the part of someone who is sad, they must cry. But at the same time, they must remain calm because if they are really crying they will forget their lines! A yogi is like the actor.

We don’t say that you should not experience nice things in this life. You should enjoy the life. But at the same time, do not let not your mind run after the things it is enjoying. Then you are keeping yourself steady and you are experiencing things as they come to you. There will be joy in getting something and there will also be joy in losing it. If you get a million dollars you will say, “Great.” If you lose a million dollars, you will say, “Wonderful.” That is Yoga.

Whether you are thinking about money, people, friends, partners, children, or whatever it is, if they want to come, let them come. If they want to go, let them go. Nothing is permanent. Everything comes when it’s supposed to come, and then there has to be a time to go. If I sit here in a conference hall and never leave, I will never get another invitation to come again. But if I go when it is time, when I come back again there will be a nice welcome. So let things come and let things go. Don’t allow your mind to depend on anything.

What should be most important to you in this life? What is the something you should never lose? You should never, ever lose your peace. But, if you continue to depend on things to make you happy, you certainly will lose your peace. Remember, your money, your name, fame are all worth nothing compared to your peace. You must always think, I care more for my peace than anything else. Protect your peace at any cost.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda