1. When did you get up from bed?
"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." You must get up at 4 a.m., and practise Japa and meditation. The meditative state of the mind will come by itself without exertion at this period.
2. How many hours did you sleep?
Sleep for six hours is quite sufficient for every individual. Go to bed at 10 p.m., and get up at 4 a.m. Napoleon Bonaparte believed in only four hours of sleep. Too much sleep makes a man dull and lethargic. Too much sleep causes premature decay and weakens the brain-power. Those spiritual aspirants who want to do rigorous Sadhana should reduce the sleep gradually. For three months reduce the sleep by half an hour. During the next three months go to bed at 11 p.m., and get up at 4 a.m. In this way you can conquer sleep and become one like Arjuna or Lakshmana.
3. How many Malas of Japa?
Japa is an important limb of Yoga. In this Kali Yuga, Japa and Kirtan are effective Sadhanas for God-realisation. Japa results in Samadhi or communion with God. Japa is the repetition of the name of the Lord. There are three varieties of Japa, viz., Vaikhari (verbal), Upamsu (whispering), and Manasic (mental). Have a Japa Mala (rosary) round your neck or in your pocket or underneath your pillow at night. Use a Mala of 108 beads. A Mala is a whip to goad the mind towards God. The fruits of Manasic Japa are ten thousand times more than Vaikhari or Upamsu. Always try to do mental Japa when you are busy in daily activities. Make it a point to repeat the Mantra some thousand times and record the number in the diary.
4. How long in Kirtan?
Repetition of God's name enables the devotee to feel the divine presence, the divine glory and the divine consciousness within himself and also everywhere. How powerful is God's name! When one sings His name or hears its sound, he is unconsciously raised to sublime spiritual heights. He loses his body-consciousness. He is immersed in joy and drinks deep the divine nectar of immortality. Sankirtan is singing God's name with Bhava and Prema or divine feeling. Sankirtan brings Darshan of God or attainment of divine consciousness easily in this Kali Yuga.
5. How many Pranayamas?
Pranayama is 'control of breath'. Sit in Padmasana, Sukhasana, or any other comfortable pose, with an empty stomach. Close your eyes. Close the right nostril with the thumb. Draw in the air very very slowly through the left nostril. Now close your left nostril with the little and right fingers, and retain the breath as long as you can comfortably keep. Then very very slowly exhale through the right nostril after removing the thumb. Again draw in the air through the right nostril retain it as long as you can and exhale through the left nostril very slowly. This is one Pranayama. To start with, do five Pranayamas in the morning and evening and gradually increase to 10 or 20. This is Sukhapurvaka-easy, comfortable Pranayama.
6. How long did you perform Asanas?
Asana is the first stage of Ashtanga Yoga. Padmasana and Siddhasana are intended for doing Japa and meditation. Do not often change the Asana. Stick to one and gradually increase the period to even three hours. Sirshasana, Sarvangasana and other exercises are intended for maintaining good health. They remove various diseases. These Asanas will awaken the Kundalini Sakti. Perform the Asanas when the stomach is empty or light. Early morning and evening are very good for the practice of Asanas. Practise the Asanas in well-ventilated room or on the sandy beds of rivers, open airy places, or seaside. During the practice repeat your Ishta or Guru Mantra.
7. How long did you meditate in one Asana?
Sit in Padmasana or Sukhasana in your meditation room. Early morning between 4 and 6 is the best period for contemplation and Japa. You can have another sitting in the night also. Take your seat before the picture of your Ishta Devata. Look at the picture steadily for a few minutes. Repeat some Stotras mentally. Then close your eyes and visualise the picture. Repeat the Ishta Mantra mentally. Sit for meditation for half an hour in the beginning and try to increase the period to three hours by gradual daily practice. When you sit on your Asana for meditation, do not shake the body. Try to keep up one current of thought of God.
8. How many Gita Slokas did you read or get by heart?
Study of scriptures is Kriya Yoga or Niyama. It purifies the heart and fills the mind with sublime and elevating thoughts. Gita is a unique book for Svadhyaya. It contains the essence of all the Yogas and the cream of the Vedas. You can devote half an hour to three hours for this purpose according to the time at your disposal.
9. How long in the company of the wise (Satsanga)?
The glory and power of Satsanga or association with the wise, Saints, Yogins, Sannyasins and Mahatmas, is described in detail in Bhagavata, Ramayana, and other holy scriptures. Even a moment's company is quite sufficient to overhaul the old vicious Samskaras of the people. Service to Mahatmas purifies the mind of passionate men rapidly. Satsanga elevates the mind to magnanimous heights. Study of books written by realised persons will also be tantamount to Satsanga.
10. How many hours did you observe Mouna?
Monna means vow of silence. Energy is wasted in idle talking and gossiping. Mouna develops will-power. Mouna checks the impulse of speech. It is a great help for the observance of truth and control of anger. Emotions are controlled and irritability vanishes. Observe Mouna at least for one hour or two hours a day. During Mouna, sublime thoughts should replace worldly thoughts and Japa should be done.
11. How long in disinterested selfless service?
The practice of Nishkama Karma Yoga destroys sins and impurities of the mind and causes Chitta Suddhi or purity of Antahkarana. Knowledge of Self dawns in a pure mind. Knowledge of Self is the only direct means to freedom. Nishkama Karma Yoga is selfless service to humanity. The important point is to serve humanity without any attachment or egoism. The central teaching of the Gita is non-attachment to work. Sri Krishna says: "Work incessantly. Your duty is to work but not to expect the fruits thereof." Do vigorous service for some time. You will grasp the spirit of Nishkama Karma.
12. How much did you give in charity?
When you walk along the road or street, keep always some loose coins in your pocket and distribute them to the poor. Be liberal. Feel that you are enjoying in all the bodies. Your heart will expand. You will begin to realise unity or oneness. You will become more generous. Do regular charity of one tenth of your income. Performance of virtuous actions is the beginning of spiritual life.
13. How many Mantras did you write?
Maintain a Mantra notebook. Write your Ishta Mantra, Guru Mantra or Maha Mantra for half an hour in this notebook. You should preferably do this item of Sadhana just before the commencement of the household duties. You should observe Mouna or silence while writing the Mantra. There should be perfect calm and quietude. You should concentrate on the writing alone. In Mantra writing, the eyes, the hands and the mind are all engaged. There is no restriction of language. If this practice is continued with sincerity, the aspirant gets concentration easily and much internal peace and happiness.
14. How long did you practise physical exercise?
Physical culture or the development of the body is as much important as the development of the mind, will, or memory. If the body is not kept strong and healthy, vigorous and active, no culture is possible. "Mens sana in corpore sano" is a wise saying which means-a sound mind in a sound body. There are different kinds of physical culture. You will have to select one according to your capacity, taste and temperament.
15. How many lies did you tell and with what Self-punishment?
Srutis emphatically declare: "Satyam Vada-Speak the Truth". "Satyameva Jayate Nanritam-Truth alone triumphs but not falsehood". A truthful man is absolutely free from worries and anxieties. He has a calm mind. He is respected by all. If you observe speaking the truth for twelve years, you will have Vak-Siddhi. Then whatever you speak will come to pass. Speak the truth. Truth is Knowledge. Truth is Bliss. Truth guides you in all your actions. Write in bold types the words: "Speak Truth" on cardboards and hang them in different places in your house. This will remind you when you speak a lie. You will check yourself at once. Punish yourself by fasting if you tell a lie and record the lies in the diary. Gradually the number of lies will decrease and you will become a truthful man.
16. How many times and how long of anger and with what self-punishment?
Anger is an enemy to peace. It is a modification of lust. When a desire is not gratified, a man becomes angry. He loses his memory and understanding. Control anger by the practice of Kshama, love and killing egoism. Drink a little water when you become angry. It will cool the brain and calm the excited nerves. Repeat "Om Santi" several times. If you find it extremely difficult to control anger, leave the place immediately and take a walk for half an hour. Pray to God. Do Japa. Meditation gives immense strength to destroy anger and other obstacles.
17. How many hours did you spend in useless company?
The so-called friends are real enemies. You cannot find even a single unselfish friend in this universe. Be careful. Friends come to have idle talks with you and they waste your time. They want to pull you down and make you also worldly. Do not be carried away by the flowery speech of such friends. Cut off connections ruthlessly. Live alone at all times. Trust in that immortal friend who dwells in your heart. If you cannot have positive Satsanga of Mahatmas, have indirect Satsanga with books written by realised Sages, Saints and Bhagavatas.
18. How many times did you fail in Brahmacharya?
No spiritual progress is possible without the practice of celibacy. Veerya is a dynamic force. It should be converted into Ojas-Sakti. Those who are very eager to have God-realisation should observe unbroken celibacy strictly. Observe the vow of Brahmacharya strictly.
19. How long in study of religious books?
Be regular in the study of religious books, Ramayana, Bhagavata, Yoga Vasishtha and other good books, for Svadhyaya. If you reflect on the ideas of Gita and fix the mind on these ideas, this itself is a form of lower Samadhi. Svadhyaya is an auxiliary for concentration. Svadhyaya will check mind-wandering also.
20. How many times did you fail in the control of evil habits and with what self-punishment?
There are some who are unconscious of their bad habits and many who do not recognise them as bad. If they recognise them to be bad, then the correction is very simple. Alcohol is a strong devil, which if once enters the system of a man will never leave him. Then comes, smoking. Another evil habit is betel-chewing. Drinking of strong tea and coffee often develops a bad habit. Novel reading, visiting cinemas, sleeping in the daytime, using slang terms and abuses, etc., are some of the evil habits. First realise that you have got an evil habit and intensely desire that you should give it up at any cost. Then your success has already come. Giving up any bad habit at once is better. Use your subconscious mind for eradication. Establish new healthy habits and develop your will. There is nothing impossible under the Sun.
21. How long you did concentrate on your Ishta Devata (Saguna or Nirguna Dhyana)?
Concentration can be done only if you are free from all distractions. Concentrate on anything that appeals to you as good or anything which the mind likes best. The mind should be trained to concentrate on gross objects in the beginning and, later on, you can successfully concentrate on subtle objects and abstract ideas. Regularity in the practice is of paramount importance.
Gross Forms: Concentrate on a black dot on the wall or a candle-flame, a bright star, moon, on the picture of Om, Lord Siva, Rama, Krishna, Devi, or your Ishta Devata in front of you with open eyes.
Subtle Forms: Sit before the picture of your Ishta Devata and close your eyes. Keep a mental picture of your Ishta Devata at the space between the two eyebrows, or heart (Anahata Chakra); concentrate on Muladhara, Anahata, Ajna or any other internal Chakra; concentrate on the divine qualities such as love, mercy, or any other abstract ideas, Sat Chit Ananda, purity, perfection, peace.
22. How many days did you observe fast and vigil?
Keeping wide awake throughout the night is called vigil. You will derive incalculable benefit if you practise vigil on Vaikuntha-Ekadasi, Sivaratri, Gokulashtami day (the birthday of Sri Krishna). Complete fasting helps to control the sleep. Control of sleep by taking recourse to tea is not desirable. You will not gain spiritual strength as you depend upon an extraneous drug. During fasting avoid company. Live alone. Utilise your time in Yogic Sadhana. After a fast, do not take any heavy food. Milk or some fruit-juice is beneficial.
23. Were you regular in your meditation?
Never miss a day in meditation. Be regular and systematic. Regularity in meditation is of paramount importance. The meditative state will come by itself at the appointed time. Take Sattvic food. Fruits and milk will help mental focussing. When the mind is tired, do not concentrate. Give it a little rest.
24. What virtues are you developing?
Develop that virtue in which you are hopelessly lacking. Courage, mercy, universal love, nobility, Kshama, contentment, frankness and honesty must be developed one by one. Take up one virtue every month and meditate on that virtue regularly. You will manifest that virtue in your character. If you develop one important virtue, all other virtues will cling to you. If you have humility and courage, all other virtues will come of their own accord. You should spend daily some time, say half an hour, for development of virtues.
25. What evil quality are you trying to eradicate?
The development of virtuous qualities will itself remove the negative qualities. But it is better to make a positive attempt also in the eradication of the evil qualities. Then the progress will be rapid. It is a double attack on the enemy. If you remove lust or anger or egoism, all other evil qualities will disappear by themselves. All evil qualities are the attendants of egoism. All vices originate from anger. If these are destroyed, all sorts of vices will vanish. Therefore, concentrate your attention in killing egoism or anger.
26. Which Indriya is troubling you most?
Discipline of the Indriyas is a very important point. If the Indriyas are turbulent, you cannot have concentration. Watch every Indriya carefully and curb it by suitable methods, such as fasting, Mouna, Tratak, celibacy, renunciation of articles, Dama and Pratyahara. Curbing of Indriyas means curbing of mind. They cannot do any independent work without the direct help of the mind. Celibacy checks the genitals; Mouna will control the organ of speech; Tratak controls the eyes. Sufficient practice for a long time is necessary. Then the Indriyas become emaciated and thin and are starved to death.
27. When did you go to bed?
Sleep is nature's tonic, for healthy living. The more sound sleep one has, the more healthy he would be. Hours of sleep depend upon your physical or mental capacity for resisting fatigue. Without a sufficiency of sleep, you will not have efficiency. The amount of sleep required varies with age, temperament and amount of work. According to an old adage there should be six hours' sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool. As age advances, people require more sleep. Avoid going late to bed. Do not take drugs to induce sleep. If you do not get sleep, take a brisk walk in the open air for fifteen minutes and then go to bed. You will have refreshing sleep.