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Liberation from the Afflictions which Cause Suffering:

Emotions are the motivating force in our lives. This motivation can be productive, empowering and creative or it can be addictive, negative and abusive. Whether we are happy or sad, healthy or diseased, liberated or imprisoned in our own mentally created hell depends upon our ability to manage our emotions. Our emotions are constantly manipulated by advertising, politics and popular art forms trying to sell their wares and sway public opinion. Rather than practical training to control the mind, we have a culture that medicates everyone from pre-school children to seniors because we lack the told to adapt to emotional pressure. Millions are prescribed tranquillizers, anti-depressants and other mood-modifying drugs; or they self medicate with alcohol, recreational drugs, and countless other addictions.

Consider the depression epidemic as one example of emotional imbalance:

  • Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S population age 18 and older in a given year. This includes major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.
  • Everyone will at some time in their life be affected by depression- their own or someone else’s, according to Australian Government statistics.
  • Pre-schoolers are the fasted growing market for antidepressants. Atleast four percent of preschoolers, over a million, are clinically depressed.

Alcoholism, obesity and other addictive disorders are equally serious problems. Compared to easters culture, western culture is both emotionally immature and imbalanced.

Swami Vishnudevananda recognized that with our entire Western technological know-how and industriousness, we have very little understanding or control of our emotions. He stated half-jokingly that his mission in the West was to teach people to “stand on their own heads.”

The ancient science of yoga shows the way to reclaim mastery of our emotions. By recognizing painful conditions of alienation, guilt, self-hatred, addiction, fear and the destructive habits associated with these perceptions and by developing new healthy habits negative emotions can be gradually thinned out and replaced with positive ones. Some indications of emotional strength addressed by the yoga discipline are: the ability to concentrate and remove distractions from the mind; to express compassion by listening and seeing the Divine in all; to be a witness of our thoughts and choose the thoughts we want to nourish and those we want to transform; to act from awareness, rather than to emotionally react; to be established in contentment and gratitude for gifts in this life; not allowing our happiness to depend on external conditions; to maintain nonviolence, truth, control of senses; to restrain from habits of stealing and greed; and to constantly remember God.

……to be continued next week!

Srinivasan is the director of the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne,NY, and a direct disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda, having personally served and lived with Swamiji for many years.