As written by Sri Swami Satchidananda in the introduction to the Yoga Sutras, “Truth is one, paths are many.” We all have our different ways of understanding, accepting and exploring our individual truths.
Svadhyaya, also defined as self-study, is the ability to see our true divine nature through the contemplation of our life lessons and through the study of ancient scriptures and texts. It is a form of inquiry, examination, getting to know oneself. Through this process of inquiring about our own nature, we come to the distractions, the mental afflictions and all that stands in our way of reaching our highest potential.
When we use the yoga practice of Svadhyaya effectively, our actions become much more than a way to achieve something external; they can become a mirror in which we learn to see ourselves on a deeper level. If we are willing to look at behaviors, motivations, and strategies we habitually use to maintain our own self-image, we can use Svadhyaya to pierce through the veil that this self-image creates and into the nature of our own essential being. Once we understand ourselves well enough to know how to detach from this habitual behavior, we are able to move forward and quiet the mind.
Our deepest life experiences directly tie into how we see ourselves. If we spend time in contemplation, either through study of self and/or study of scriptures, we can understand our perception and see it from a place of perspective instead of attaching ourselves to it. In Book 1, Sutra 7 – “The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference and scriptural testimony”. The “right” knowledge is what we perceive it to be. But the “truth” or declared truthful knowledge, is that which is written in ancient scriptures and has somehow been proven or declared as truth.
Ultimately, we are all looking for that inner peace that comes from our contemplative truth. In order to manage situations that may come up in life, knowing ourselves well enough to resist the urge for drama or high intensity for that which breeds emotion, Svadhyaya allows us to recognize the triggers, and enables us to stay calm without labeling or attaching.
Although extremely challenging at times, I do believe that this is the only way to live, and it’s largely how I live my life. I believe strongly that we are handed the same lesson until we overcome what is necessary in order to see our true Selves. Whether these reoccurring feelings, actions or thoughts are at work, our minds are unable to release the grasping until we understand the root to where they come from. If we don’t clear these lessons in the organic way, by dealing, then they will undoubtedly keep on repeating themselves until our perceptions shift. In discovering the liberation from our minds and perception via our individual paths, we come to our divine truth.