Last weekend I attended a retreat with Chinmya Mission UK, a non-profit organisation which promotes the Advaita Vedanta philosophies. I got to meet one of their teachers - Swami Swaroopananda. He was a jolly fellow, always with a smile on his face and very accomodating to our questions. The topic of the weekend was “The 14 Spiritual laws of success” and Swami-ji (what people call him out of respect) gave us a number of inspiring lectures covering this topic, littered throughout with funny observations and anecdotes from his own life. I found it to be an inspirational weekend and decided to write up my notes in this blog post. So without further adue…
Before we can work out how to be successful we need to properly define success. And different people have different ideas of what it means to be successful so our definition must be general enough yet still be precise and applicable to everyone. So,
Success = getting what you want, by the right means, resulting in fulfillment.
The getting what you want part is obvious. The right means is stating that you achieve the success in a way in which you are not cheating yourself (e.g. by lying, stealing, etc.). The fulfillment part states that what you want (and get) must fulfill you. It’s linked to the right means (e.g. achieve success through honest, hard work) but also asks you to first work out what true fulfillment is to you. For example, if more money is your goal then is it just having the money which matters? or is it something deeper such as the feeling you give yourself by having the money? or is it even deeper such as just being happy? Fulfillment can be thought of as a deeper sense of gratification so a fulfilling achievement gives you the feeling of happiness for longer and at a deeper level than an unfulfilling achievement.
In addition to the above, Swami-ji mentions that most of the time, success depends not only your own level of confidence in yourself, but also on the confidence other people have in you - because you will need other peoples’ help in order to achieve success.
1: Law of Eternity
The law of eternity states that your are eternal. Energy is eternal - it never gets created or destroyed, it only changes form. Because matter equals a form of energy it is also eternal in that sense. So when you die the matter which makes up your body gets converted into a different form.
But the eternity spoken of here goes deeper than this. At no point in your life do you ever feel old. Yes, your mind acknowledges that you are old and perhaps in certain situations you feel like an “oldie”. But when you are simply thinking in your mind there is sense of me there - this core identity of who you are - which never really changes in your own mind. From your childhood this me feeling has remained unchanged. Swami-ji argues that this me is the real, eternal you and that the only reason you do not sense this eternity yourself is because you are not yet self-realised. You cannot intellectually arrive at the realisation that your true essence is eternal, you can only come to know it as a deep truth, i.e. one day the penny will drop (strange, huh?).
So given that on the deepest level the me is eternal you have no reason to fear anything in this world. You are fearless. And this is different to courage. Courage can be thought of as acting in spite of your fear. An extremely courageous person can reach a point where fear becomes irrelevant to them because they know they will be able to overcome it. But the idea of fearlessness proposed here allows you to prevent any fear occuring in the first place through knowing that you are eternal. You are no longer afraid of death. You know you can handle anything life throws at you. You no longer need to compete with other people in this world to live happily.
Now you may disagree with the above idea of this inner me feeling and its sense of eternity and that’s ok. The important point to remember is to be fearless as much as you can. For those who do believe in the above idea of eternity and self-realisation it should be apparent that mastering this law of success will result in not needing any other law of success - in that respect it’s the most important one.
2: Law of Change
According to the first law the inner me is changeless. The flip side to that is that everything else that is not the inner me is changing, all the time. Your personality, your body, the objects around you, the world, other peoples’ personalities and bodies. Everything. It’s all changing. And thus you can always change your feeling of unfulfillment into fulfillment. If time’s are bad right now, don’t worry, they can change for the better. It time’s are good then hang on, they’re going to get even better :)
To take advantage of change you must be an adaptable person. If you’re adaptable you will see opportunities even in difficult times (e.g. recession). You will never be without hope.
3: Law of Time
Every moment is an opportunity. Time is the one thing you can never get back. Therefore time is your most precious asset. The only time you every really have is Now. The past has already gone by, and the future is not yet written. So if you want to do something, say something or be something then the time to take action is now, without delay.
There is a right time for everything. A right time to eat, sleep, wake up, etc. It doesn’t really matter what time you goto bed but you should wake up at dawn. You should get enough sleep each night. You should try and eat at the same times each day. Never skip breakfast. Work when you must work, don’t procrastinate. If you study successful people you will notice that nearly all of them have a disciplined routine.
Swami-ji opined that India’s inability to achieve it’s maximum potential so far as has been due to the lack of respect for time in the Indian attitude. He’s probably right about that one.
Time also relates to patience and perseverance. You’ve got to stick things through to the end. Even when things aren’t working out don’t give up. Sometimes you may spend a lot of time working on a problem only to have made little progress. Though you may be feel that you haven’t achieved much and are tempted to give up, stop and realise that the time you spent working on the problem only made you more knowledgable and capable in dealing with that problem and you may actually be closer to a breakthrough than you realise.
4: Law of Integrity
Having integrity means your mind and intellect are in alignment with each other. Your mind consists of your thoughts and emotions. Your intellect is the logical, reasoning part of your brain which knows right from wrong (atleast from your own subjective point of view). Every time you tell a lie your mind is disobeying your intellect. Over time this leads to your intellect taking a “back seat” when it comes to everything you do. You may think that you can tell a white lie once and then be truthful from then on but you don’t realise that you are actually training yourself to tell more lies in future. And when you tell a lie or act dishonestly you are not only cheating other people, you are also cheating yourself. Swami-ji’s words:
“Truth is that which exists and therefore cannot be denied. A lie is successful only in so far as it is able to appear as the truth. Even the mafia are only successful because they are honest amongst themselves. Because only truth brings unity. But speaking the truth is not enough. If you don’t also live upto your convictions your words and actions will lack real power.”
When you are being dishonest you have opposing thoughts in your head. This leads to slower decision making. When you are being honest your mind and intellect are integrated, which leads to quicker, more spontaneous decision making. People tend to follow the latter type of person as a leader. Building your integrity will thus help build the confidence other people have in you.
Finally, your mind and intellect must be aligned if you are to progress in meditation. In other words your mind must be at peace with itself. Another reason why integrity is important.
5: Law of Courtesy
How you present the truth to others is an important factor in your success. And how you do this depends on your character. It is necessary for other to people to trust and like you in order to achieve success. Therefore speak the truth. But only if it is for the well-being of the other person. And be polite and courteous when you speak it - don’t be brash.
On a related note, an action by itself is not necessarily hurtful. It is the intention behind the action which is important.
6: Law of Dynamism
By dynamism in this context we mean strength and power. You always have the energy when you do something you enjoy. In order to achieve success you nead a goal which inspires you. In fact, you need a goal you love. Greed, anger and fear can certainly give you strength and power but only for a short while. Only love and inspiration can give you the stamina to keep going for longer. Love leads to dedication and commitment which in turn lead to physical strength, emotional strength and intellectual determination.
Note that it is important to articulate your desire as a goal. This is key to achieving it.
7: Law of Conservation
In a nutshell, produce more than you consume. Live within your means, live in moderation. This means to spend your resources intelligently and not excessively. By ‘resources’ Swami-ji don’t just mean money but everything else too - time, food, water, natural resources, the environment, etc.
It is also important to rest your mind and body since they are also resources in a sense. If all your energy is spent on sense pleasures (e.g. TV, shopping, consuming) then your resources become liabilities instead of assets. Instead, re-investing your resources to produce more vitality - e.g. resting, saving money, protecting the environment - leads to them being assets rather than liabilities.
8: Law of Forgiveness
Learn to forgive yourself of past failures.
There are 3 channels through which we often waste our energy - past regrets, present over-excitement and future anxiety. And we tend to chain ourselves to past grievances rather than past successes. Thus we’re often not ready to do something new due to attachment to our past.
When we learn to forgive others we learn to forgive ourselves. And forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest things to do.
Forgiving someone who has hurt you is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is strength because it shows you are refusing to retaliate even though you can.
9: Law of Compassion
If forgiveness frees you from the past then compassion “frees” you in the present. Compassion leads to empathy, sympathy and kindness. These qualities have their own strength and stamina which will help you weather crises better.
10: Law of Acceptance
Accept what you can’t change. Accept whatever life throws at you (even failure). Acceptance does not mean giving up - it means taking responsibility for the result no matter what. If you can do this then you will no longer worry about outcomes.
Accept this present moment as it is. There is no other moment, just Now.
11: Law of Action & Reaction
Every action has a consequence/reaction. This implies that you are responsible for your success or lack thereof. Live your consequences and don’t cheat yourself. When you blame others for your failures it’s the same as saying that you are no longer responsible for your own life.
You get what you deserve for your efforts, not what you desire. The results may not always come in the form you expect, but they will come. No effort is wasted - you always gain from your experiences.
12: Law of Existence
As long as something exists it is not useless. Try and think of something which exists in this world which can have no possible use whatsoever - it’s impossible. Thus if a thing were to become useless it would become extinct.
There is something special in you as long as you exist. Therefore never give up on yourself.
13: Law of Sharing
It is important to share with others. When the people around you become prosperous, so do you. This implies that there is a natural synergy between your’s and others’ successes. This is due to the underlying unity we have as human beings living together.
Nature’s ecosystem has evolved to be one of sharing. This is the only way to achieve long-term stability.
14: Law of Grace
Grace is the universe’s way of conspiring to give you what you want. To benefit from grace you must first put in your best effort (the first 13 laws) and be grateful for what you have.
You may not agree with everything written above, and indeed I found myself disagreeing with Swami-ji on some things. But I was able to take away many useful ideas from what he said and hopefully it will be the same for you.