St. Francis of Assisi ends his world-famous prayer with the words: "And it is in dying to the little self that we are born to eternal life." Another mystic said, "Then shall I be free, when 'I' shall cease to be." So, the essence of darkness, of bondage, ignorance and slumber would seem to be the feeling that one is a certain specific individual with a name and form, a date of birth, a height and weight, with a certain personality and an ego. And, they say, until that is got rid of, liberation is a far cry. Swami Sivananda himself said, "Kill this little 'I.' Die to live. Lead the divine life. Within you is hidden God; within you is the immortal soul, an ocean of bliss and a fountain of joy. All this we are not able to perceive, but why?
Gurudev says that you are not experiencing the hidden God because you are so much preoccupied with this little "I" and are so much involved, entangled, overpowered and overwhelmed by it. It is like a fire that is completely obscured by thick, black smoke. Thus Gurudev says that due to so much preoccupation with the little "I" you are not able to see the bliss and joy. So, once again, this little "I" or ego must be killed. How is this to be done? By leading the divine life. The two words that imply bondage are "I" and "mine." As long as our nature is characterised and dominated by this "I" especially if it is self-assertive, aggressive and violent, then such a life is spiritual death. This is why the ancients said, "From death, O Lord, take us unto immortality." This could not be a reference to the body, because the body is not going to be immortal. What then is the mortality and immortality that are being referred to? Mortality has to do with the ego-ridden life, which actually constitutes spiritual death. This ego-characterised human personality is the transient unreality. To rise up from this to the Reality is to be aware of ourselves as part and parcel of the cosmic soul-divine in nature, beginningless, beyond time and space, without name and form, birth and death. This awareness is truth, it is the reality, it is light and immortality, liberation, salvation, enlightenment or any name you might give to it.
It is possible to attain God, to attain liberation if the intense desire to do so occupies your heart as the first and foremost of all desires and wishes that you long for. If liberation is your top priority and it fills your heart, mind and intellect, and all other wishes come after it, then nothing in this universe can prevent you from attaining liberation in this very life. This is for sure!
Let us be practical. Does this mean that one should cease wishing or working for anything else? It is not absolutely necessary, and it is not absolutely possible either. As long as you are in this body, you have to work for food, clothing and shelter-for the body has its hard demands. So, taking care of the body's minimal wants is something that no one can afford to totally deny or ignore. If you inwardly give up everything, yet on the outer plane exert to attain what is essential to survive and work out your liberation, then the body does not become an obstacle. Rather, it becomes the boat to cross the ocean of transmigration, and your instrument of liberation. Therefore view it from this angle. Even the secular life can be made part of the spiritual. No part of your life is left out of the spiritual life. One hundred percent of your life, twenty-four hours of the day, becomes spiritual if viewed in the right way and lived in the right manner. It becomes an integral part of a comprehensive movement towards God.
That's the way Gurudev taught: have no dichotomy, make no separation. Feel that all your life is only meant for sadhana, for liberation. If thus, with all your heart, mind and soul, you long for it, let me assure you that liberation is one hundred percent certain. No power on earth can prevent you from receiving what you deserve. For, by your very longing, you have earned it.