All of us seek the secret of happiness. Who in this world wants suffering? Certain sects in the Hindu religion, the Islamic religion, the Buddhist religion, and Christianity go through various penances and make their bodies suffer. In India, I have seen certain so-called Yogis that would stand on one foot for Kingdom to come and think that they would reach enlightenment by doing that penance. I have seen others in India who would stare into the sun until they became blind, and of course, in the Christian religion, we have penances too.

I believe in one thing no amount of penance can lead you to enlightenment, and if you overdo it too, it will lead you to disillusionment. A certain amount of penance is necessary for one purpose only: to discipline oneself. Because human beings require some discipline, and by having some discipline, you do not go wild; that is the whole purpose behind it.

We are like horses, and disciplines are the reins. You allow the horses to run, but the reins control the horses in what path to go and not run wild. We must have a certain amount of discipline but not extreme penances that make us suffer, which could often become fanaticism.

For example, the Hindu Swamis preach celibacy; it is a form of penance. They say you sublimate your sexual energies and turn them into Ojas. This Sanskrit word means light, but that is impossible, scientifically impossible, and in every mystical way, it is impossible. They say it is a certain kind of suffering you have brought upon yourself. But that causes a lot of repressions and inhibitions. You are stopping something natural, so why go through penances.


Everything must have its natural course, and it is not necessary to inflict any misery or suffering upon us. If suffering comes to us without our doing, then what. There is only one way. You cannot change the man that makes you suffer. But you can change yourself and gain inner strength that whatever is inflicted upon you will run off you like water off a duck’s back.

There is a secret to how to avoid suffering. There you strengthen yourself, and you strengthen yourself with spiritual practices, which is a way of finding happiness. As you proceed away from misery, more and more and more happiness comes, and when more and more happiness comes, the misery starts diminishing and leads to happiness. By instilling a more significant thought, a better thought, a more substantial thought in one’s mind, the pain will disappear because nobody willfully wants to be miserable.


You do find some religions with fanatical ideas that want you to go through penances, as I told you; you stand and just stare at the sun for months and months and months until you become blind. What use are you to the world if you do that? It would be straightforward for me, for example, to go and sit in a Himalayan cave and meditate all the time, but then what use am I going to be to my people around the world. Let me be up and about and work to do something good, which should be the aim of all. Because the more you do good for others, the more will rebound on you. The giver is always the receiver. You do one little good, and that goodwill rebounds on you ten times.

Look at the mental peace you get. You do some good service to someone, and you will find much more at peace. But let that come as a service without any motivation, that “Oh, for this organisation or for that church or that synagogue, I go around with the collection box, and they will put in this and that.” Fine. I am doing good. I may myself be good. But the motivation must not be ego. Because once the ego-self is involved, then you are thinking of yourself. You are not selfless, and no amount of good will be of any value if it is not selfless. It must be a total giving of oneself; body. mind and spirit whatever little service can be done in life with complete sincerity.


Look at the time when Jesus lived. You know the story of the widow’s might. She just had one little coin; that was all the poor widow had, and she gave it. Yet, those that were rich gave thousands and thousands, but Jesus said that the widow’s might was more critical and of far greater value than all the thousands that they provided. For here was real giving, her last.

I will tell you this story of myself; I arrived in South Africa penniless. I qualified as an accountant before I came to South Africa. Any professional person will tell you that it is a challenging job to build a practice; it could be a medical practice, an accountancy practise or a legal practice. It takes time to build up your practice, get more and more clients, and expand. I had just started, and I did not know anyone. I did not have a car or anything, so one day, I was standing at a bus stop, and I had about three miles to go to reach where I lived with some people, and I had sixpence. It was pounds, shillings, and pence in South Africa at that time. Today it is the rand and cents. So, I had sixpence in my pocket, and I was at the bus stop waiting for the bus. A woman came up to me, it was freezing, and she had a baby in her arms, and she said, “Sir, could you help me with the bus fare”. I looked at her and gave her the sixpence I had, the only sixpence I had. “Take it, take it”, and I walked for three, four miles to where I stayed in the cold. I only use these examples to illustrate the point I am trying to make because a moment can get driven home far better by illustration. So, the secret of suffering is not necessary for our lives. But the secret of happiness is necessary.


I like some of the teachings of Buddha. He was born as a Prince and lived in Royal Palace; he had all the wealth and everything his heart desired. When he left his home, he left his wife and child behind. Because of certain things he had experienced, he wanted to find the meaning of life. He saw a man suffering; he saw an older man, a corpse passing etc. And he wanted to know why, why, why the suffering, why? He left home, went into the forests, and did so many penances and meditations and things. His penances were severe until he became emaciated, and when he found both lots of pleasure and lots of penances and suffering, he decided the best way was to choose the middle road, where there is a balance. Because as long as this world will exist, as long as you live, be sure to know that you will never achieve total happiness.


Total happiness only comes to the God-realised man because he is beyond pleasure. After all, happiness must have its opposite, pain. You could never have pain without happiness and neither happiness without pain. You might have a high today and a low tomorrow. Just like a seesaw, as I said many times. But when you rise above all that, you are in the area of Bliss that has no opposites at all. The practical thing in man’s life is to find the middle road. Do not go for extreme happiness, and do not go for extreme misery. Balance the two, and life becomes better until you reach the stage where you can go beyond them all. And when you go beyond them all, you live in a different world. You can be embodied; you have all your biological functions, and nothing is done to excess. Everything is adequately balanced, and you become a better person.

A cruel thought comes into the mind; an unhappy thought comes into the mind; you become the observer of the thought and let the thought play; as I said before, the thoughts are like monkeys in a tree. If you want those monkeys to be quiet, they will jump more if you go to shake the tree. Thoughts are like that. But if you just leave them alone, they will quieten down by themselves. So, learn the middle road, the middle-balanced road.


I have to work for 8 hours a day, you say, then work for 8 hours and put your best into it. By placing your best into your 8 hours of work, your mind will be lightened, and it will say, “I have done a good day’s job,” and by doing that, you have a good 8 hours of sleep. Many people have insomnia because they have a conscience; inside, they feel like, “I have not done a good day’s job today”. How can you sleep properly unless you must just be loco?

This is just a simple example, but if we put our best, according to our capacity and ability, into anything we do, happiness grows, and suffering diminishes. You cannot say, “away suffering.” The more you say this, the more it comes back to you. “Resist not evil,” as it is told in the Scriptures. Do not resist it; let it just flow, observe it, and become happier as it diminishes.

… Gururaj Ananda Yogi: Satsang IR 1984 – 02