There is a beautiful connection between Raja Yoga and the Bible. Both scriptures talk about the heart. One of the Beatitudes is, “Blessed are the Pure in Heart; they shall see God.” That is the heart of Yoga. At the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, sage Patanjali talks about that sutra 1.2: “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha.” We can loosely translate that as: blessed are the pure in heart. The actual translation is saying that you will experience Yoga when the mind is without any problems—an unblemished, pure mind. The second part of the biblical beatitude is, “Then they shall see God.” Patanjali gives that same teaching in sutra 1.3. He didn’t use the word “God.” Instead he says, “Then a person can experience his or her True Self (or true nature) which is the image of God.

I don’t know who copied who, but they both said the same thing! Unless you have a clear, pure heart, a well-balanced mind, you won’t be able to see yourself as God. The teachings of all the scriptures of the world, and the essential purpose of any spiritual pursuit, is this: to keep the heart pure and then you will know yourself as the image of God. Know thyself, or soham, is another related teaching. It means, know who you really are. It’s very hard to grasp that abstract idea without experiencing it, because you are the subject. You can never see yourself. If you want to see yourself, you have to have a reflector. When you want to see your face, you have to have a mirror. When you want to see your Self, you also have to have a mirror. The mirror is your mind or your heart. The heart, or mind, acts like a pure mirror. And it reflects your own true nature. When that happens, not only will you know your Self, you will see your Self.

In our normal lives, we do see ourselves but, unfortunately, we don’t see ourselves in the right mirror. We see ourselves in a  mirror that is shaky, dirty, and crooked. That’s why we usually identify ourselves as the image that we see in the mind. And we say things like, “Oh, I’m unhappy,” “I’m upset,”or “I am this and that,”because that’s what we see.

In the scriptures, and in the teachings of sages and saints, it is said that you are made in the image of God. How can the image of God be unhappy, angry, or disturbed? God can never be like that and as the image of God you can never be like that. The problem is that you don’t see yourself clearly. You see things differently because of the differences in the reflector—the mirror. To know your Self and to see your Self clearly, all you need is a clean mirror, a clean mind. All our spiritual practices—call them by any name you want: Yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam— talk about keeping the mind clean. By doing so, your mind becomes balanced and you see your Self and you know your Self. That’s why the study of the heart and mind is very important.

What makes the mind and the heart impure or disturbed? What creates the chitta vritti, or waves, in the mind? It’s nothing but your thoughts. If you want to keep the mind clean, you should not think. Is that possible? You might answer, “Well, I can try to not think of anything. But then what am I doing? I’m thinking of not thinking of anything.” Even a thought of not thinking of anything is a thought. What good are all these teachings then? Patanjali says: Chitta vritti nirodha. Are you asked to do something that is not possible? Are you wasting your time? Is it really possible to live without thoughts? No. It’s impossible. So then what is this? What to do? You are asked to keep the mind clean, free from thoughts, but you cannot be without thoughts. It seems like a contradiction. Is there really a way to think something and not disturb the mind?

Yes. There is a way. Any thought that is based on selfishness will disturb the mind. A thought that is based on selflessness, will never disturb the mind. The difference between selfish and selfless is that selfish means that you want something in return. If a thought is selfless, there is no personal expectation: I am thinking and doing for the joy of doing it. That means that your entire life should be free from any expectation from the fruit or the result of your actions. Let your thoughts, words, and deeds be for the benefit of others, with no personal expectations.

That is the basic teaching that was given to humanity in the beginning: “Do not eat the fruit.” That was the only teaching God gave to Adam. I don’t think God spoke after that! But after some time, when God saw that people could not follow that teaching, God started talking more. When Adam and his generation, and even the descendants of that generation, did not understand the teaching, God spoke to Moses. God must have thought, I gave one piece of advice, no one listened. Maybe I made a mistake and they were not ready for that, so let me dilute it. That’s when he gave the Ten Commandments, instead of the One Commandment. God just added a zero to the one and gave ten commandments in the form of two pills or two tablets!

If you analyze all Ten Commandments, they are based on not expecting anything in return. Keep your mind clean and calm. Thou shall not steal, lie, or do harm. It all boils down to the fact that if you stay away from those negative things, the mind will be calm and clean. I don’t know whether Moses told Patanjali or Patanjali told Moses. Patanjali also gave ten commandments in the form of the five yamas and five niyamas. The yama “tablets” given by Patanjali are to refrain from causing harm, lying, stealing, hoarding, and any excess in behavior. The five niyama “tablets” are to be pure in body and mind, content, to accept pain that comes in the service of purification, to study and reflect, and self-surrender. Tablets are given to chew well, swallow, and then digest. If we observe those things, we automatically stay away from eating our own fruits.

That way our entire life becomes selfless. You can have families, a business, earn money—no restrictions whatsoever. The only thing is to do it all selflessly. Then you won’t be doing anything that disturbs the mind. You can’t go and rob a bank selflessly! You can’t tell a lie or harm anybody selflessly. Automatically, by refraining from these behaviors, your mind becomes calm and clean. It is the selfish thought of, I want it  for me, that disturbs the mind. You give something as a gift to somebody and you look for a thank-you note. If you don’t get it you grumble and call the person uncultured or ungrateful. Your joy in giving the gift is lost by your grumbling about not getting a thank you.

Learn to live selflessly. That is what you call renunciation. You renounce your selfishness. That’s what monks do. You don’t have to run away from friends and family or anything. Renunciation doesn’t mean that you have to throw things away. Just learn to live a selfless life. If you don’t learn to live that way, the world is going to teach you in a hard way. So either be intelligent and learn it yourself, or learn by your own troubles and difficulties in the world. Either way, we are learning, no doubt. But the sooner we learn, the better for the world and the better our own life will be.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda