Svadhyaya as translated in english is ‘the study of Self’. To study that Self which is the Self of all.
The question is where do we start? How do we begin to study ourselves…? What are the parameters? What is the objective?
In the day-to-day life; we are busy observing others, finding faults with others but never really bother to see our own behavior. And another extreme will be; we’ll be blaming ourselves for all situations in our lives and live with guilt pangs. Both are unhealthy ways of life.
So the starting point is to be aware of such tendencies that we have developed over the time. We often say that God has made me like this or like that. What can I do? But Swami Rama always points out that we are our habits patterns. If we have to change ourselves; we have to change our unhealthy habit patterns. So by first studying the mere self; one needs to transform the way of being towards a more positive outlook. One needs to accept and acknowledge all that one likes and dislikes about their own personalities . And to simply change that is no longer healthy for us…
All of us have an intention to be good and do good. But the mind which always had its way since all these years will create obstacles. Will make one trip again and again in the grooves of the habits that we have formed unconsciously. We simple need to make new grooves of habit consciously so the unhelpful ones fade out.
One needs to have coherence of mind, action and speech in life to practice Svadhyaya – the study of that SELF that is the Self of all; the same Self that is in Everyone. One cannot do this study of Self through the mind. But making mind one pointed; focussed on the Self; being in that state of a witnesser; one will transcend and experience the Oneness that is present in All.
And as Swami Rama puts it:
But studying one’s own thoughts, emotions, deeds, and actions is the real study. Mere study of the scriptures is the sort of information that is really not knowledge, but only a part of knowing. We intellectually know many things, yet our ignorance is not dispelled. By self-study, or studying within and without, we experience directly that which dispels the darkness of avidya, or ignorance. Only when one has carefully learned the study of his own internal states will the true knowledge of the Self begin to dawn. This deeper study of one’s own internal states is called “svadhyaya,” and is the fourth of the “niyamas.”
So where do we start?
Everyday do an internal dialogue and a quiet reflection on the events of the day. Without making any judgements we reflect on how we handled a particular situation. And ask to oneself, “Could I have done it in a different way?”
These dialogues are between ‘you and you’. So be honest. And if the answer comes you over-reacted, you could have let it go or you did good, keep it up. Embrace all. Acknowledge all and then Release it. Be mindful when the next time one again faces a similar situation. Just remind that I don’t need to act from fear or greed. Listen to the voice of the conscience.
Now everyday the external world presents us with unseen and unpredictable challenges. We need to be rooted and centered at all times and respond to situations from that center.
It’s a continuous and lifelong practice. And all of us need to keep on practicing.
We can also take a scriptural saying from the texts; contemplate on it and apply it in everyday life.
For eg. Speak truth.
Now whose truth are we talking about? My truth or yours… There is only one ultimate truth. But in practical lives — there are many truths. So what is the best way to speak truth? By being silent. Unless one can improve upon silence; there is no need of speaking.
So we need to keep playing and slowly peel away the layers of the mind; that has made our inner vision so distorted.