Intention – Sankalpa
Another year, another resolution.
Each year the most common resolution ends up being about health – a desire to initiate change through exercise and nutrition. Any type of change is born as an intention and morphs into a resolution. They say intention to monitor change at the level of thought process is where change must begin in order to create new habits.
This year, I wanted to share a few quotes by saints, mystics and yogis which have helped me transform ordinary intentions into uplifting, spiritual intentions, called sankalpa. Of course, this transformation does not happen overnight, but every little effort counts.
Gurus and spiritual teachers declare that spiritual intentions are well thought-out, conscious motives that have a quality of discernment and simplicity. Relying on the wisdom of the ancients in creating my intention has been inspirational.
Holy Name – Mantram
I believe a prayer of your choosing especially in a familiar language, has the power to effect change in your consciousness and can also become your spiritual intention. Sri Easwaran calls a prayer – Holy Name or Mantram. The ritual of chanting the Holy Name, mantram exists in most religious and spiritual traditions. In his book, The Mantram Handbook, Easwaran describes what a mantram is, how to choose one and how to use it as a tool in daily practice. Although I was introduced to mantram chanting in my childhood, it was more a mechanical repetition than a spiritual intention.
Now, my chosen mantram (in Samskritham) is a spiritual intention that supports and guides, calms and inspires. With years of sincere and disciplined practice it has proved itself to be a tool that transforms – one I cannot live without. For example, if I happen to dwell in greedy thoughts, it helps me realize that I don’t need to imitate the neighbors, that I already have ‘enough’ and should choose to abide in abundance. This type of transformation takes constant policing of thoughts through the yogic practice, abhyasa.
Practice – Abhyasa
Along with the mantram, I began memorizing these words of wisdom in order to make them an intrinsic part of my thought process – my sankalpa. It is taking immense practice to police my varying degrees of selfish thoughts and actions, and replace them with selfless ones. I believe these powerful spiritual intentions have changed some of my old, unhealthy thought patterns into new, loving ones. I still have a long way to go.
Besides, Paramahamsa Yogananda and Shri Easwaran both affirm that practice of meditation using the Holy Name or Mantram will take us beyond the ego-mind into the silence of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant the seeds of uplifting, spiritual intentions.
Words of Wisdom
The following are a few quotes that are helping to reframe my thoughts; making me a better person, one day at a time.
“Yesterday I was clever and I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, I am changing myself”. Jalaluddin Rumi
“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.” Swami Vivekananda
Changing myself has been a tedious process. Slowly, I am learning to enjoy the process of chipping away at negative, unhealthy, judgmental attitudes in hopes to discover the core of my being.
“Accept each inhale as a gift from God/Universe; Make each exhale as an offering to God/ Universe”. Unknown
This simple wisdom has allowed me to be aware of my breath, to be present – making my daily practice better on and off the yoga mat.
St. Francis of Assisi’s words have the power to arouse unconditional compassion within and teach us to turn tolerance into love. Although practicing the whole quote is inspiring, just the first two lines was enough to make a dent in my psyche years ago. Sincere gratitude to Easwaran for bringing this quote into my life.
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying (of the self ) that we are born to Eternal Life
Although everyday comes with failures and successes, I believe that these words of wisdom not only help in purifying my intention, sankalpa, but also in transforming current habits that are not supportive to my spiritual practice.
“Habits of thought control one’s life. Success is hastened or delayed by one’s habits. It is not your passing inspirations or brilliant ideas so much as your everyday habits (thoughts and actions) that control your life”. Paramahamsa Yogananda
When the sankalpa of making Raja Yoga was born, it took years to transform it from a 9:30 a.m. weekday class into a daily habit and eventually a lifestyle. A handful of yoga poses, asana, along with a few rounds of breathing, pranayama did not mean I was ‘doing’ yoga. It took years to understand that asana is the third limb of Raja Yoga and only the beginning.
The eight fold path works not just on the body and breath, but on transforming the mind. Slowly, a daily practice of reflection and ‘sitting for meditation’ became a routine which overhauled my thought process. As I continue to juggle between failures and progress, eight steps of Raja Yoga are a constant reminder to be aware of my thoughts and motives before unleashing them onto the world of words and actions.
The words below have become my sankalpa, spiritual intention in preparation to face each day with courage and kindness.
“Always – pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad and a soul that never loses faith in God.” Unknown
Repeating these words is almost like repeating the mantram, the Holy Name. Easwaran advises that repeating them aloud a few times can help you get it started in the mind. He says the idea is to heal the divisions in our consciousness that create likes and dislikes, love and hate, and to slow down the mind in order to begin working from the inside out.
And finally, the one below has become my staff that carries me through the day.
‘”May I open my eyes in the morning with the Holy Name (Mantram) on my lips. May I see God everywhere and in everyone. May I never hurt anyone and may I never be afraid of anyone. May I be inspired to choose persuasive words, loving language, creative and positive thoughts, to carry peace and goodwill throughout the world. May my meditation deepen, so I can draw upon the source of all life. May I fall asleep with the Holy Name on my lips, to heal my wounds and prepare me for another day of service.” Sri Eknath Easwaran
To meticulously peel the layers of unwanted debris of conflicting motives to reveal truer intentions can be annoyingly slow. I need strict reminders to stop wallowing and enjoy the practice. The philosophy of Raja Yoga has helped me to be forgiving of my failures and continue working towards changing my thoughts and habits.
This ‘new’ year, I hesitatingly admit (to avoid being jinxed) that these inspiring words are eliciting conscious motives at least some of the time. Leaving the liability of misunderstood perceptions to God and Gurudev, I promise to practice daily in hopes to unveil a ‘new’ me.
Easwaran, Eknath. 1977, 1998. The Mantram Handbook. Niligiri Press. CA
Vivekananda, Swami. 1896. 2015. Raja Yoga – Conquering the Inner Nature. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.