Create a Life of Spiritual and
Material Success

by Brother Satyananda
Excerpts from a talk at 2010 Convocation

How can we be successful in life?

At most Satsangas, young people question ‘how can we be successful in this life?’  I ask them: “How should we define success?”  Usually 3 points emerge:

1. The need to experience God

2. A quality of lifestyle which blances material and spiritual acpects

3. Usuful work, serving humanity and the planet

A young man said “I want to enjoy the finer things in life.”  What are they?  Happiness?  What kind of happiness?  Really big, endless happiness, that grows forever and ever, ever new and joyful, bliss.

Even if we know what we want, life is complex and it is constantly changing and we are constantly changing, and we become easily diverted by maya.  Achieving success is like a moving target. We need a life structure that is fluid, and will keep us focused on our goal.

For a plan for living that will keep us focused on our goal, we find in Raja Yoga a timeless model for planning material and spiritual success.  Refer to the four ashrams of Vedic life in “God Talks with Arjuna“…

1. Bramacharya — Student
2. Garhasthya — Married Householder
3. Vanaprastha — Retirement & Contemplation
4. Sannyas — Monastic Life

Youth needs training and wisdom guidance.

Middle age needs structure, clarity and purpose.

Older age needs more freedom for spiritual renewal.

Elderly needs new heights of spiritual striving.

But ancient times in India were much different than now, and so it is useful to consider how classic wisdom can be re-applied to modern life.

These concepts can only come alive if they are applied to some context in our lives.


1) Bramacharya: celibate life
(Student, early teens to early 20s)

Brahmacharya for Youth:  Celibate student life receiving education, character and spiritual training, and wisdom guidance for 15 years (through the teen years into adulthood).  In ancient times these years were spent with living with a Guru in an Ashram. 

During this time, samskaras (sleeping desires and habits), karmic seeds are waiting to sprout.  Some samskaras are good; some are not good at all.  Many of them are woken during youth like little karmic bombs exploding. 

Refer to SRF Lesson 2 on the evolution of human will – first ‘Blind will’; ‘thinking will’ comes later, followed by ‘wisdom guided will’ and attunement with God).

Satan lays a vicious trap.  Satan developed before ‘thinking will’ develops.  Bad Satan and ‘blind will’ spells trouble.  There is an ancient antidote:  Discipline – self-discipline.  Our world preys upon blind imitators. 

Children have resilience (do a web search on this word), it is also the ability to face intense hardship and thrive.  Children have resilience that comes from the soul.  One wise caring adult can bring out the resilience in a small child.  First giving loving discipline, and then encouraging self-discipline.  The basis of Bramacharya stage is self-control.

“Years in my Master’s Hermitage” in Autobiography of a Yogi, is one of the longest chapters.  If you study this, you will learn a lot about parenting.  If anger manifests at an early age, and children do not get what they want, old samskaras will manifest.  First the parent will need to discipline and restrain the tantrum.  Teach transmutation (inhale and tense the body; exhale and relax deeply).  Reason with the child on the consequences of rage and the virtues of peace.  Parents can observe their children and notice their natural virtues and can then begin to encourage them to bring out their virtues.

Dr Jane Goodall’s mother encouraged her as a child, setting a safe passage through her teen years and setting a wise course for the future.

Teens today project a cool attitude.  They should  be cautiously courageous.  There is no need to be afraid.  However, do not be reckless or stupid, the world eats stupid for lunch.  Build confidence on actual achievements.   As self-confidence grows, then we can take risks and make powerful decisions.

There are two primary choices in lifestyle – householder or monastic.  Youth look ahead – you have an option for monastic life.  In the 1970s I visited Brother Anandamoy several times at Encinitas and said I want to be a monastic.   When he saw that I was firm, he became my best champion.  At Encinitas on the bluffs, I read my acceptance letter and cried and said thank you for creating a place for people like me.  I joined the Ashram in 1975, a week after Convocation.  Have now been 35 years in the Ashram. 

Some disciples take a solo journey in life.  Especially for women who are single- if you do not feel inclined toward marriage, then feel free to choose a single life.  Be noble about it.  Do not play the dating game if you are not serious about coupling.  Single men playing around – your ex-girlfriends come for counseling!

Do not make karma faster than kriya yoga can burn it off.

From Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Whispers from Eternity”:  O Lord, may I realize that in my journey toward divine expansion, incarnation after incarnation Thou and Guru have been and will always be my only Eternal Friends.

Through self-discovery, find out about yourself and choose your direction in life.  Success in this stage sets the course for the next stage.


2) Garhasthya: Married Householder, 25-55 yrs

This stage is for building a home – a safe place, sleeping place, working place, a sanctuary.

In your 20s and 30s, really strive to centre your lives on Master’s teachings.

Singles and couples - with and without children.

Three decades - 25-55 years, serving, seeking God through yoga.

Build a family and professional life.

Serve in marriage, have a sanctuary, chapel, sacred place to pray and meditate.
Modern spiritual living can be a lonely enterprise.

A season to greet and network with like-minded friends. 

When Master came to the US, he came alone; he prayed:  “Lord send me true hearts and souls”.  He had no one.  He built his work and his collection of disciples. 

Karma gave us blood family, but we choose our friends. 

Indian families who come to America, extend their family group by adopting members:  Mejda (2nd brother), mamaji (uncle) and maamaji (aunty)

We can adopt quality spiritual minded friends (especially single people) as family and we can care for them and they for us, and create a ‘nuclear spiritual family’. Caring friends also reach out to others in their group – spiritual help groups.

Professional life is part of Garhasthya

Master advises us to become world citizens.

Lahiri Mahasaya was an accountant for the British Army Corps for 30 years and all the time he was serving a different Queen.

Take a sattvic approach to professional life – consider Maslov’s hierarchy of needs.  Go for the top (self-actualisation: personal growth and fulfillment) – we can find spirituality in every profession; we have to seek and can find that niche.

Large companies look for virtue in applicants.  Put your spiritual qualities on your resume. Promote your spiritual values. 

Even wealthy people do not have security.  A disciple had  a goal to make $1 million and dedicate his time to serving at the temple and meditate.  He made $1m and when asked what about the lifestyle change ; he said “I need another 250,000”! This extremely selfish individual did not feel any less fearful.

Give charitably to noble social causes.

Regularly support the Guru’s work.

Serving and giving creates a partnership with the Guru, creating a dynamic balance with God at the Centre.


3) Vanaprastha: Retirement and Contemplation (50s, 60s and early 70s)

Stepping back a little bit from life. 

Looking forward - 21st century restructure, rejuvenate, aim toward a deeper spiritual life.

The empty nest gives one an opportunity to make a quantum spiritual shift - converting the home into a hermitage.  Cleansing heart and mind to awaken divine inspiration.  

Why a makeover?  Because it is normal for human beings to carry their burdens to the grave.  We can take the opportunity for a Disk cleanup now, we do not have to wait for death.

Possessions – we have too much stuff.  Take inventory and start unloading the junk - the stuff you do not use, but feel you cannot live without.

Even monks have this stuff.  People give us gifts.  I have a box under my bed to put any things I never use but do not think I can live without.  When filled, I put the top on it and pull it out and give it to charity, but I do not open it.  I have no idea what is inside.  If I open it, all the desires and attachments come out with it.  I call it Pandora’s Box.  I do not know what I am giving away and I never regret.

Daya Mata practices simplicity.  She keeps only what she uses and she takes good care of it.   When she receives gifts from people, she receives  the gifts gratefully and then she will give it away.  The person who has given it is pleased, she gives it away and the blessing is compounded again.

For the body:  We arrive at the Vabnaprastha exceedingly overweight and under-exercised.

We need to eat less, exercise more.

The body is resilient and you can rejuvenate at the half-century mark.

Right eating – educate yourself (lower your food intake and refine diet - eat whole foods – more fibre; eat more sattvic foods (avoid fresh onions, garlic, peppers; consume less salt; less sugar; eat other foods in moderation).

Never eat more than you can digest comfortably.

Fast to rest and purify the body.

Are we getting enough exercise?  Gradually increase your exercise till you have a good physical workout. 

Engage in right thinking for a renewal of heart and mind.  Fears, regrets, grudges, grief – do we carry them around with us?  We need to cleanse our consciences and cleanse our heart.

At death, everything is packaged and taken to the next life.

This stage prepares us for making vital lifestyle decisions.  Recalibrating our lifestyle, trying to find the way to put God first.

Aim to look ahead – what will my future look like?

Use the wisdom of experience to build our dreams.  Refresh our dreams.  Our dreams connect closer with our spiritual aspirations.  Dreaming can be more powerful.  Imagineering – a combination of dreaming and imagination.

Visualise the new you – a modern yogi disciple.  Make it realistic, make a timeline.  Dream about these things, even if it seems impossible.

The Guru supports your wisdom-guided dreams.

Sex and Celibacy - To our youth-adoring world we think we need more sex than we do. 

Master says it is ever-fed, never satisfied. 

Sex and celibacy:
it's ever fed and never satisfied

As we age, let’s be honest, sexual activity can be a routine. 

Celibacy can occur naturally in a very beautiful way.  It is like breathlessness in Hong Sau.  A breathing pause and then the duration between breaths expands.  Then there comes a moment when you can breathe or not breathe.  You choose not to breathe and then you experience breathlessness.  This is how celibacy can occur. 

With right spiritual living, sexual desire can naturally subside and passion for God can increase.

Read more in the Second Coming of Christ  pages 1204-05

Natural celibacy and spiritual material lead to love, respect and friendship and deepen our intimacy.

To raise the topic, ask – “Would you feel any less love if we have less physical sex?”

New ways to deepen love - compassionate holding; practicing mastery and spiritual intimacy. 

How about a meditation together and afterwards sitting in silence together and enjoying God together.  Vedic marriage.  (Deep satisfaction; closer attunement, divine friendship has grown).


4) Sannyas: Monastic Life

What you are at the end of life is what you will be at the beginning of the next.  The sum total of your thoughts, feelings and actions.

Our society adores youth, shuns old age and fears death.

A survey of seniors showed that they like being old. 

Paul McCartney  – the love, the energy and gravity - keep getting better and better

Sri Gyanamata, said at 80 “I do not mind being old”.

This is the last ashram of our life: hermitage of freedom and universal love.

Do not get bogged down in complaining.   Do not waste this precious time on pettiness.  We are so engaged and over-involved in misery.  We can gradually give up the pettiness and invest ourselves in God.

As we get older, life gets more complex – family dramas; grandparenting. 
Co-parenting is not essential. 

You have the freedom to choose how much time you spend with family.  Requires setting some boundaries. - you are free to redefine family expectations.  If you want more space in your spiritual life, you can set boundaries. 

A devotee told his family that he wanted to set aside more time for meditation.  At first there were complaints and criticism from the family and then there was acceptance.  Then the children and grandchildren came to him for spiritual advice.  The family now have a wise rishi.

aFor human love to become wise and unconditional, it must be blended with non-attachment. 

Non-exclusivity in human relationships.

Care equally for all.

Redefine the expectations of others.

Strive to love all and to meditate more deeply.

Sowing the seeds of an ancient concept that can be developed in a new way.

A new millennium life plan – it has to be developed by you.

Do a little bit of thinking and planning and talk it around.


These notes are not an official publication of SRF. They were taken by the devotees during talks given by the monks and nuns. Please be aware that there is a degree of human error involved in taking and transcribing notes.