A Change of Heart
Second Limb of Yoga
Niyamas, The Observances
I decided at the age of sixteen to become a monk. In my culture this kind of decision could be changed without shame or criticism. You will find several stories about my life as a monk, including one where I was determined not to get involved with a girl. By the time I was twenty I felt I had had enough of the life of a ‘ holy man’. I felt the need to settle down to family life. I returned to my family home. My mother was delighted.
“So, Ramu, you have returned to us. I’m sure you have learnt a lot during your travels and your studies with your Guru. But how will you adapt to family life now? What will you do?”
“Do not be concerned, Mother,” I replied. “I am well versed in the scriptures. I can take up work in the temple alongside Father. It will not be a problem.”
So my father made an opening for me in temple life. There was plenty to do. Being a junior I had to do quite a lot of menial work at first, but when the priests saw the quality of my script and understood fully how my experiences had matured me, I was soon given interesting and important work to do. I would be sent to discuss various unwritten scriptures with holy men. It would then be my job to record those meetings, to translate those words of wisdom into Sanskrit. Soon my mother became quite agitated, saying that I was losing my healthy glow.
“Too much writing and thinking,” she said. “You need to go and visit your brother and spend some time on Uncle Sanjay’s farm.”
I agreed to go, as I had not altogether settled back into the routine of family life. It is always difficult for a young person to return to the way of life he or she had as a child. One's parents still want to advise and help, and also to control and regulate. I did not feel comfortable with this any more. I needed my freedom. Staying with Uncle Sanjay would be a good start.
There was a festival in my uncle’s village. Many visitors had arrived.
To my surprise I found myself sitting next to a beautiful young girl and her family as we watched the dancing display. I felt that I wanted to know all about her. Her mother and my uncle were nodding and smiling and we found ourselves free to talk uninterrupted for most of the afternoon. Suddenly I knew that this girl was for me. Everything about her appealed to me; the way her eyes smiled, the way she paused to think before saying anything, the look of her, the smell of her, everything was right!
At the end of the day her family were invited to my uncle’s house where they stayed on for three days. During this time Meera and I got to know each other well enough for us both to know that we liked what we saw very much indeed. I found out later that my uncle had arranged this meeting as he knew from my father that I was unsettled. He had known the girl’s family for many years and had watched Meera grow up to be a very sweet and interesting young lady. He thought we would make a very good match. My parents approved and within six months we were married.
We were both very happy indeed. We lived in temple accommodation. I would work during the day at the temple. Meera would often come with me, as there was plenty of work of all sorts to be done. We were never blessed with a family, although our relationship was full and complete. I found that the discipline I had learnt as a monk stood me in good stead as a husband. Though I was disappointed not to become a father, I knew that contentment with one’s lot leads to happiness, so I accepted our fate and did not lament the lack of children. We led a well-regulated life, where we worked well and played well, often walking along the riverbank, swimming and having picnics. We were self-disciplined so we stayed healthy and happy. We had plenty of nephews and nieces to keep us amused.
If we did argue we would give each other the opportunity to express our grievances, and we would try to come to a decision that suited both of us if possible. We tried to understand each other and ourselves and to learn from our mistakes. We did not harbour unkind thoughts about each other or anyone else, keeping our hearts and minds as clear as we could.
All the time in the background was a recognition of our part in the world; that each of us had a soul which was part of that Great Divine Soul or God. We would give thanks for our part in the divine nature of things. We lived a busy life, full of interest and excitement, happiness and sadness, challenges, successes and some failures.
After ten years of very happy married life my wife took ill and died. I was distraught, but came again to realise that there was still a place for me in the world. I chose to return to my life as a monk, travelling and teaching until I could no longer do so. The niyamas played a great part in my life, leading to contentment and happiness. I have found it very useful to have the guidelines mapped out by people cleverer than me. Everyone has choices to make throughout life. In the end, hopefully, each individual learns for him or herself what leads to the greatest good for all.