imageSwami Sivamurti - Adaptability

Adaptability is the 6th ITY of Swami Sivananda’s 18 ITIES. These eighteen ITIES are otherwise known as positive qualities or virtues. The practice of these qualities leads the aspirant towards living a divine life.

Abuses, insults, injuries, taunts, harassments and discomforts have all strengthened my personality. Let me repeat the mantra which my guru whispered into my ear: Adapt, adjust, accommodate; bear insult, bear injury, this is the highest sadhana.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Patience, tolerance and the ability to go with the flow that we developed through the practice of nonirritability, leads to adaptability. To quote the famous words of Swami Sivananda: “Adapt, adjust, and accommodate to changing circumstances and other people.” He continues, “Adaptability is the knack of winning the hearts of others and, ultimately, the battle of life by a little bit of bending. If you want to adapt yourself to all, you must be flexible, humble and simple, gentle and soft. Adaptability kills selfishness and develops universal love. The world runs on adaptability. An adaptable person can move about harmoniously with anybody in the world. Adaptability gives immense strength and profound joy. It develops a strong will and balance of mind. Adaptability develops the feeling of oneness or unity of life.” Circumstances are always changing. It is good to have a plan or a running schedule for the day or week, but we must be prepared for change. Change is just around the corner. We need to be flexible and able to accept change. Adaptability is also adapting to the various personality types discussed in relation to equanimity.

When we are quick enough with adaptability we can use it to ‘save’ a situation. Sometimes situations arise out of the blue, a person with a quick mind can change a difficult or negative situation into something positive. There is a beautiful example of Swami Sivananda’s ability to quickly save a situation. One day he had a group of people in for afternoon tea. His disciples had brought out the best porcelain china to serve the tea to the guests. One lady was so nervous, being in the presence of the great master, that her cup was clattering on the saucer as she picked it up to drink and she dropped it. The cup fell on the floor and broke into many pieces. Swami Sivananda immediately said, “Ah, now I know how the One became many!” Thus, he saved the situation from being potentially embarrassing and uncomfortable.


Understanding and adapting to others involves a touch of psychology. We need to have a basic understanding of how people are and what their psychological make-up is. Just a glimpse of it helps us to adapt to others and improve our communication. We should not expect others to adapt to us. We should make the effort and take the first step when working with adaptability. In an ashram we learn to adapt and communicate with people of other cultures and backgrounds. An ashram is an ideal place to learn this because the residents and visitors are from many parts of the world, they have different cultural habits and languages.

Adapt Adjust Accommodate

Swami Sivananda used the three words, “adapt, adjust, accommodate,” to indicate the need for openness and flexibility. Adapting implies acceptance of new conditions, when we adapt we try to blend two perspectives and may end up accepting one which is not our own. As we adjust we are willing to alter or regulate our opinion, a situation, or the environment we are in. A change is required and we have to be ready to leave our normal comfort zone. When we accommodate we not only have to make room for change, we also have to make an effort to bring harmony into the new situation. Mental rigidity and being opinionated are barriers to adaptability, and sometimes we have to be quick-minded.

Understand well the nature of people with whom you come into contact. Adjust your mode of approach to them. Adjust yourself in such a way as to be pleasing to them. Joyfully bear with the eccentricities of others. Always react in a harmonious manner.

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

An extract from Swami Sivamurti Saraswati, Swami Sivananda’s 18 ITIES & the Practice of Pratyahara, Yoga Publications trust, Munger, 2013, pp.88-99.

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