Resources of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition

Self Observation

There is one simple principle of self-observation, one very simple central principle of self-observation that is taught mainly to swamis, but it can be taught to others also, and that principle is called manana (contemplation), based on one maha-vakya, one great guiding sentence. It need not always be assigned by a preceptor. You may take some sentence from the scriptures and say, “This year I shall mold my acts according to this sentence.” And then you check whether all your mental acts are based on that or not. For example, find excuses for everybody else but don’t find excuses for yourself. Justify everybody else’s wrong acts except your own. I guarantee that next year, if you practice this for one year, this tent will be empty because nobody will need any more teaching. But the center of that manana practice is taking one ideal sentence from the scriptures, from the teachings, and making that your holiest practice, and molding all your mental acts around that. And then keeping on checking: This mental act, was it according to this? I have to make a decision, a very practical decision. Does it fit with the ideal I have set for myself according to this particular sentence? The swamis are given a maha-vakya when they are given the vows of swamihood. They speak of four maha-vakyas, but there are more. I know thirty-two so far that I have used from time to time. So these are advanced spiritual practices, and they are much more difficult than sitting down with your eyes closed and turning your mala beads. And if you’ve got this basic principle of contemplation you can develop the whole system for your own progress on that basis.


You need to check your own causes of addiction. You know that during this two weeks eleven different people have come to me and said that I said this and this exactly pointing at them. Eleven different people have said that to me. “Why did you choose me particularly to talk about?” It’s because we all have the same problem. We all have the same problem.
You know the Indian story of Chahoti Dahemitra? You know that story? The thief could not be caught, could not be caught, could not be caught. So the king issued an order to the ministers that if the thief is not caught within three days, off with all the ministers heads. So one wise minister called all the possible suspects to the court and watched them carefully. And he said, “Well, I know which one of you is the thief. The one who has the tiny bit of straw stuck in his beard is the one.” And just one went looking for the tiny bit of straw in the beard. “You are the one!”

So people listen to this and say, “He’s talking about me!” And this used to happen with my Master too, and I would think, “He’s only talking about me.”

And then someone else would say, “Dr. Arya, did you see how he was criticizing me so badly?”

“Oh, I thought it was me.” So the instruction was just like that. So these are universal. Everybody has the same universal problems. Everybody has the same universal impurities. Just apply the principles to yourself. Someone says something, and you take it badly. All right! And you interpret it as a hostile sentence.

Sit back and see if there is any other possible positive interpretation of that sentence somebody has said. Write that down. That is an advanced practice. Reinterpreting that which we have negatively, previously negatively interpreted and giving it a positive interpretation. Why would someone be saying this? Why would someone be doing it? Find all the possible arguments in his or her favor. Okay.