Spiritual Message for the Day – Self-Restraint is Self-Recognition by Sri Swami Krishnananda

Baba Times Digest© | 15 May 2014 21:25 EST | New York Edition

Self-Restraint is Self-Recognition

Divine Life Society Publication: - The Meaning and Importance of Self-Control in Spiritual Practice by Sri Swami Krishnananda

1.       To exercise self-control is to grow progressively in impersonality because the self is associated with the personality to such an extent that the greater is the affirmation of the self, the greater also is the assertion of personality, and vice versa. In this sense, self-control is commensurate and co-extensive with self-expansion.

2.       Self-control is not controlling merely our bodily individuality. Our efforts at the control of the self do not yield much success because our concept of self is erroneous. Thought precedes action. Understanding is presupposed by every kind of effort.

3.       Most people, regard the self to be that conscious operation within the walls of our bodily individuality. This is the crude conception of self which a man has in his mind: “When I have to control the self, I control my bodily individuality. I mortify my body, harass my mind, torture my intellect, and put myself to such a hardship that I may pass for a yogi or a seeker of Reality, having achieved a lot of success in the practice.”

4.       Success in yoga is not success in social life. The world may regard us as a genius, but we may be a nothing, a hollow personality inside, so the judgment of the world is no judgment because all people in the world are like our own selves. What judgment can they pass? Therefore, we should not make the mistake of taking world judgment for the criterion of progress that we make in the practice of yoga.

5.       The control or restraint of the self, or atma-vinigraha, is yoga. Sometimes it is said that we have to realize the Self. Sometimes it is also said that we have to restrain the self. The goal of life is atma-sakshatkara, or the realization of the Self, but the method to be adopted in the realization of this Self is control of the self.

6.       Control of the self would be proportionately realization of the Self. The restraint of the self is at the same time a parallel advancement along the line of the realization of the Self.

7.       Self-control, is not merely the control of psychological activities even within the body. Even in our daily social life, we do not necessarily come in physical contact with persons and things; but psychologically we are in contact with many things in the world, organic as well as inorganic. Inorganic objects like wealth, money, property may influence our life to a large extent. Organic entities like human beings can equally influence our personality. So when we take to the path of yoga seriously, we have to understand where we actually are. It is restraining our self in all its operations.

8.       The method is said to be the restraint of the self by the Self, or the lifting up of the self by the Self: uddhared atmanatmana (Bhagavad Gita). What is meant is, a lower meaning of the self should be raised into a higher meaning of the self. The lower connotation has to be absorbed by sublimation into the higher connotation. We do not rise from self to Self. We rise from a lower understanding of Self to a higher understanding of it. This is the subtlety of the process of practice.

9.       The lowest concept of Self is the situation in which we are today at this present moment – its connections, its operations, its fields of activity, its pleasures and pains, and its objects for the time being. The spiritual seeker, the sadhaka, has to live in the present. Concern yourself with the present state of your consciousness, and make a study of it. Live from moment to moment. That would be to live perpetually in the present. Make your life a life of the present, rather than of the past or of the future. That is perhaps the proper way of living life. By this way, you can make your life happy.

10.   The process of perception is very illusive in its operation. This is the reason why we detect errors and mistakes outside but we cannot see what is erroneous or wrong in our own selves.

11.   The consciousness, which is the substance of the Self, does not rest within the bodily encasement. In its attempt at overcoming the limitations of the consciousness, which is the Self essentially, projects itself outside through the senses and operates upon the objects outside. We begin to see ourselves outside in a mirror, as it were, and in this recognition of ourselves in other persons and things outside, we, for the time being, forget our bodily personality. That is its error. This is the essence of samsara. This is earthly existence. This is the seed of transmigration. This is our bondage.

12.   For instance, people who are extremely attached to certain persons and things are more conscious of these loved persons and things than of their own selves. Day in and day out they will be brooding over these things because the Self has transferred itself to that object.

13.   Consciousness, when it moves outside the body and casts itself in the mould of persons and things outside, limits itself to those persons and things. So from one limitation, it has gone to another limitation. Nobody can belong to us, but we appear to believe that there are many persons and things really belonging to us. This is a greater bondage and a greater stupidity than to regard this body as the self. So we are entangled not merely in this particular body of ours but in many other bodies outside in the world with which we are connected positively or negatively – positively by love, negatively by hatred. Either way, we are connected with these objects.

14.   It is essential in the practice of self-control to extricate the consciousness from these unwarranted associations with the objects of sense. Nothing can belong to another thing because there is a logical error in this physical association which is imperceptible to the consciousness itself.

15.   The most difficult part of the practice of yoga is the extrication of consciousness from the objects of sense. Everyone knows how hard it is to give up affections. Why? We are involved psychologically and physically in processes which Patanjali, in his Sutras, calls kleshas. From these kleshas we have to extricate the consciousness. The klesha, or the pain, is nothing but the involvement of consciousness. To regard yourself as something other than what you are is the worst of things that you can think of.

16.   Therefore, the severance of attachment is the first step in the practice of self-control. The first duty (step) of a sadhaka would be to live in a congenial atmosphere which will not tempt you to the objects of sense. This is only a negative aspect of the practice, but the positive side of it is that you live in the midst of congenial persons in a suitable atmosphere which is spiritually advantageous and beneficial.

17.   The next step is to diminish the diet of the senses. You know very well by actual practice if one sense is controlled, there is a compensation made by the other senses by becoming more active, more vehement in their operation. Hence, you should study the activities of the senses by the daily maintenance of a spiritual diary, as it was insisted upon by Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.

18.   You have got ten senses. Of them, five are more powerful because they are jnanindriyas, and they set to action the karmendriyas. Make a list of the sense organs, and every day keep a watch on every one of the senses. And the intake of diet of the senses should be sattvika. All the senses have to receive sattvika ahara. You must see only pure things, hear pure things, taste pure things, touch pure things, smell pure things.

19.   Take only one step at a time, but let it be a firm step which you may not have to retrace. Be very cautious at every step as to what is happening to you, and be satisfied, be contented to reach this state of attainment gradually.

20.   Thus, the control of the senses has to be done by a gradual process of elimination of undesirable factors associated with the senses, in the beginning by living in a holy atmosphere, and then by intake of sattvika ahara of the senses, side by side reducing the magnitude or quantity of intake also.

21.   Various methods have to be adopted in controlling the self. Sometimes we have to talk to it pleasantly, as we talk to our only child. Sometimes we have to threaten it. Sometimes we have to be a hard taskmaster with it, but not unwisely.

22.   Consciousness cannot be trained by any application of physical methods of hardship, or the observance of mere social etiquette, and so on. So we have to know the nature of consciousness and the way in which it works.  Unfortunately, we are not somebody outside the consciousness. It is Self-study, which is the highest meaning of svadhyaya.

23.   Sva-adhyaya is study of one’s own self, which begins with study of scriptures, of course, concerning the nature of the Self. So study of the Self is study of consciousness; study of consciousness is study of Self for the sake of control of self, for the sake of restraining of consciousness from its external operation in the field of objects of sense.

24.   Now, in all these stages of practice, we should never miss the ideal before us. We may sometimes, by an error, mistake the means for the end. The means and the end are a little different. We are studying consciousness and controlling it or, to be more precise, it is consciousness trying to restrain itself voluntarily by an imposition of tapas of its own accord. This is real tapas. The restraint of consciousness is tapas, austerity. This is self-control.

25.   When we are sufficiently advanced in self-control, we have also sufficiently expanded the purview or the activity of our real Self. The expansion of the real Self is different from the expansion of the false self. The false self is what they usually call in Vedantic scriptures the gaunatman, or the secondary self. The self can expand itself in the whole world in the form of social attachments. By affections and hatreds, the self can be falsely expanded into the whole world, but that is not the real Self. The real Self cannot be expanded externally. The Self can never become an object. So whenever you love an object or hate an object, you are in a false world. The real Self is pure subjectivity.

26.   The Self is not an object, and it cannot be recognized through an object, so even if we are world famous, we are not necessarily Self-realized because world fame is nothing but externality of consciousness. The Self is pure subjectivity, universalized. This is very difficult to conceive by the mind. It eludes the grasp of the understanding. So Self-realization is not world recognition, universal fame, which are far, far removed from true Realization.

27.   The criterion that we have to apply to the Realization of the Self is indivisibility, perfection and fullness, wherein there is no chance of bereavement, loss of property, etc. We never come to grief of any kind, even in a small measure or a small percentage, after Self-realization.

28.   Thus, self-restraint is simultaneously Self-recognition. Atma-nigraha is, at the same time, atma-sakshatkara. While it is atma-nigraha in the sense of the lower self, it is atma-sakshatkara in the sense of the higher Self. Freedom from poverty is richness. When we know that we are not poor, we know that we are rich. Similarly, self-restraint is Self-recognition, Self-realization. The lower self is restrained and, at the same time, simultaneously, we achieve mastery over the higher self.

29.   The more is the advance made in the control of the self, which has externalized itself, the more also is the simultaneous advance that we make in the realization of the universal Self. This is the secret of spiritual practice. Glorious is this practice, most wonderful is the achievement, most hard is the technique, painful is the process. But it is worth attempting. It is good that we pay this price for the sake of that everlasting perfection, satchitananda, which is the goal of our life.

Excerpts from:

Self-Restraint is Self-Recognition - The Meaning and Importance of Self-Control in Spiritual Practice by Swami Krishnananda

If you would like to purchase the print edition, visit:

If you would like to contribute to the dissemination of spiritual knowledge please contact the General Secretary at:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=Contribution%20to%20Dissemination%20of%20Spiritual%20Knowledge">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SEND FEED BACK ON THIS ARTICLE >>> Email to BT Digest EditorThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=DLS%20Posts"> (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=DLS%20Posts">


Overcome the sources of trouble by Swami Krishnananda