Cultivating Sankalpa Shakti

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.

This is an excerpt from Path of Fire and Light, Volume II, by Swami Rama, published by Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A., 1988.

When you have developed a still posture and when you have done the breathing practices, you have made the first preparations for the technique of meditation. Next, you have to deal with your conscious mind. The moment you start meditating, the mind becomes very independent. The whole mind will come forward to fight with you. You also want to eventually come in touch with the unconscious. Psychologists have not yet found a way of taming the unconscious, of knowing its vast reservoir, of tapping the unconscious, the source of the infinite library within you. The unconscious mind brings up things that are of the past, such as images. In meditation you are trying to maintain that state that is in between, neither the past nor the future, but the present – this moment.

The Power of Sankalpa shaktiThis is a battlefield within. A meditator has to face this battlefield. Meditation was not meant to be a battlefield, but you use it as a battlefield. Perhaps an image or sensation comes to mind that you decide is good, or a memory of a boyfriend whom you have forgotten long ago comes into your meditation, and then you decide that is bad. Thus, you fight with yourself. All your impressions from your conscious and your unconscious mind come forward.

You think you are small, petty, and good-for-nothing. You condemn yourself because of the limitations of the mind; therefore, you need to purify the mind. You need to understand your mind and to make it one-pointed. You need to make your mind dynamic so that you do not think that you are limited. All your troubles are created in your mind. But the mind also has the capacity to lead you. It works both ways; if you do not know how to make use of your mind, it can create hellish problems for you. If you know how to use it, it can lead you to a kind of heaven.  You can realize that hell and heaven are concepts created by your mind. There are no such physical places according to yoga science. One is not punished and sent to hell; it is your mind that takes you there. Many times you experience hell here in this world, but your efforts with the mind can convert this hell into heaven, and then you can enjoy this life.

So the next step is learning to cultivate sankalpa, determination, that feeling, “I will do it! I can do it, and I have to do it!” no matter what happens. You make the effort and the determination should be there. It is not like being forced by an outside authority; you are committing yourself, and this is your sankalpa, or resolve. You cannot attain anything without sankalpa. There are many intelligent students that do not have sankalpa, and that is why they lack confidence. They may be brilliant, but they do not have self-confidence, because they do not have sankalpa. They never disciplined themselves, so they lack sankalpa shakti.

Sankalpa shakti is a power. Without shakti you cannot be successful. All the great ones on the earth needed shakti; there was a shakti behind them to inspire them. Without inspiration, even the greatest ability is scattered. If you do not have sankalpa shakti, no mere technique imparted by either your teacher or the scriptures will help you. The teacher can give you all the techniques, but if you do not have sankalpa, nothing will happen.

Sankalpa is determination. Willpower is a one-pointed mind plus determination.  The more one-pointed your mind and the more determined you are, the more you will have willpower. If these two things are absent, then you will have no willpower. Usually you do not have enough concentration or determination to develop willpower, but you can build your dynamic will, and then you can do wonders.

But the first aspect of shakti that you can see is not kundalini herself, but sankalpa shakti. One aspect of the great power of manifestation and creation is actually sankalpa shakti, or determination. You can reduce a mountain into a molehill, or you can magnify that molehill into a mountain with sankalpa shakti.

You need to decide, “I am going to sit for my meditation, and no intruding thoughts will be able to control or sway my mind. What thoughts can disturb my mind? I am someone, I am initiated. There is a tradition behind me. I am a human being. I have the infinite Source within me. How can a mere thought disturb me? I have allowed myself to be disturbed; that is why this thought is disturbing me. I am not going to allow this!” This is sankalpa shakti; it inspires you. Although you do not recognize it, you have immense shakti.

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