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Is a Sattvic Lifestyle Possible in Business?
Robert: Hi, Tan.
A question popped up while listening to one of James’ satsangs in which he was talking about a sattvic lifestyle, which is necessary for self-inquiry. His advice was to avoid people that are too tamasic or too rajasic, because of their influence.
Tan: Hi, Robert.
A sattvic lifestyle has the target of creating a subtle body that is predominantly sattvic, which has two main results:
1. Feelings of bliss and happiness: The reflection of the self can be experienced by the mind, more easily leading to life full of experiences and feelings of bliss and happiness. This is what yoga can create. But this can also be risky business if the yogi gets attached to sattva and becomes a bliss junkie who is no longer looking for moksa but for bliss, thereby mistaking bliss for moksa. Bliss is not moksa. Moksa is the freedom from the need for bliss.
2. Qualifications for self-inquiry (sadhana catustaya): A sattvic subtle body more or less should have the qualifications required for successful self-inquiry, such as [a] the capability of discriminating between the transient and eternal (nitya anitya viveka), [b] indifference to the fruits of action (karma phala vairagya), [c] control of the mind and senses, power of concentration, spirit of renunciation, acceptance of one’s dharma, fortitude, faith pending results, i.e. trust in the scripture (samadi shatka sampati).
Now, a sattvic lifestyle consists of multiple facets:
- A sattvic environment, which includes sattvic people and sattvic places (e.g. a clean home, tidy workspace, well-kept clothes).
- Sattvic activities for your body, such as eating sattvic foods, cleanliness, exercise, etc.
- Sattvic activities for the mind, which should be dharmic activities, such as self-inquiry, study of scripture, prayer, etc.
This means that if you cannot avoid a rajasic or tamasic environment (e.g. people or places), there are other multiple areas that you can work on to create a sattvic lifestyle.
Nevertheless, if you can avoid rajasic or tamasic people it is good do to so.
In the Vedas highly rajasic people are called “raksasa.” They have a lot of ambition, which fills their day with activities and vanity. In the process of fulfiling their ambitions they destroy anyone or anything in their path because in their mind the end justifies the means. There are many raksasas in the corporate world. The typical goal of the corporate raksasa is profit and power, and he will intrigue, destroy and assimilate any competitor in his way. Because of his lack of discrimination, he cannot appreciate the self and Isvara. This lack of seeing anything holy in this world leads to this demonic behaviour.
Highly tamasic people are called “asuras”; they will eat or drink anything. There are no rules at all. They will have untidy homes, they will passively watch TV while eating leftover pizza from two days ago.
Robert: But how can you practically do this when you have to earn a living every day?
In your own case, for example, if I remember well, you’re a businessman, so I guess there are many very rajasic people you have to deal with. How can you maintain a sattvic lifestyle in a business environment?
Tan: Well, you can select your work environment. Not every work environment has the same level of rajas and tamas. Also, there is a difference between whether you are employed or self-employed. Obviously your degree of freedom increases with self-employment. You can choose whether you will work for a rajasic client or not.
As an employee, you can also try to identify the work place or the department that is less rajasic.
Once I had changed to a new work environment. My main motivation was apparent security (income) and apparent respect (position). The work environment, however, was so rajasic that my mind and my discrimination suffered badly, which was not worth only apparent security and respect. I changed that environment.
A peaceful, sattvic mind is more valuable than apparent security or pleasure because – as mentioned above – a rajasic or tamasic mind cannot really have a blissful experience for long, since after each goal the next one awaits. And since it is always disturbed and not a peaceful inner instrument (antah karana suddhi) anymore, it is not supportive of self-inquiry and the path to moksa, which is what we Vedantins want.
Regardless of whether your mind is enlightened or not, it is going to suffer in a rajasic environment. Self-knowledge can be firm but still, rajas and tamas have their disturbing impact on the mind.
Now, regarding your questions about what I did during my self-inquiry, I would like to point out that my life is not an example that can be copied, since every jiva has its own karma and dharma, but I will list a few things I did.
Although I was a manager at a firm with a rajasic environment, I tried to incorporate many sattvic elements into the daily routine:
- Food: I ate vegetarian and vegan.
- Exercise: I practised meditative exercises (like tai chi and qi gong) daily.
- Thinking: I read Vedantic texts daily and watched James’ videos.
And I took time off work, sometimes just a day or two. But on those days I went into solitude in a cottage just for self-inquiry with my Vedic scriptures and James’ satsangs to read and contemplate.
But I would recommend reading the satsangs on the gunas at the ShiningWorld website. There are some very detailed satsangs by Sundari on them. You should create your own list of sattvic elements that are a good fit for you to incorporate into your life.
I do not think it makes sense for me to give you lifestyle tips; you have to decide the right actions to create a sattvic lifestyle for yourself.
Robert: It’s impossible to avoid these people – I don’t even think I would really want to, that is, not always.
But maybe there is some kind of self-protection possible, and if so, how do you do this?
Tan: Yes, it is impossible to avoid rajasic or tamasic people, because the world (maya) is made up of the gunas. And we should also not condemn rajas and tamas per se. Rajas is needed to create, and tamas is needed to recuperate. All gunas have their positive and negative side.
The most beautiful works of art need rajas to be created. The Mona Lisa was done through rajas. Rajas builds ashrams, such as the ones of the Chinmaya Mission and Swami Dayananda.
In terms of your question on self-protection, the self needs no protection. It is trigunatitam, beyond the gunas. Each time you see rajas or tamas, you can discriminate between yourself, consciousness, and the gunas. This will help to keep your mind fixed on the self. But if the environment is so rajasic or tamasic that your mind loses its quality of discrimination, you may need to change your environment.
Robert: Thank you very, very much for your long and very interesting answer. This helps a lot!
Will your answer appear at James’ website or anywhere else? I think it will be very interesting for other people as well.
~ Kind regards, Robert
Tan: You are welcome, Robert. I will post them at James’ website.
~ Love, Tan