Qualifications of Aspirants
by Swami Sivananda
Who is a qualified person for attaining immortality?
That man who has shaken off earthly impurities, who has removed worldliness and all sorts of worldly attachments is fit to tread the path of Yoga. He must have purity of nature and cleanliness of life also.
A man who has removed his sins by lot of Tapascharya, who is calm (Santa) and free from attachment (Veeta Raga Purusha) and who longs for liberation from Samsara (wheel of birth and death) is only entitled to read books on Vedanta and other Atma Jnana books.
Those spiritual aspirants, who have destroyed their sins by severe Tapas (austerities), who possess a tranquil mind, who are free from attachment of all sorts, who have controlled the Indriyas, who have intense faith in Guru and Srutis, and who long for liberation are fit for the attainment of Jnana (Knowledge of the Self). They are Adhikarins to approach Brahmanishtha Guru for getting instructions.
Have Vairagya with the world and its objects and Prema (love) with God and spiritual Sadhana.
The way of the enlightened sage is sinless. The way to liberation of freedom of perfect happiness and peace is through perfect purity of mind and heart, of every act, of character and life, through self-restraint and control of mind, and through regular meditation on the pure, self-luminous, indivisible, all-pervading Atman.
Even if there is a small white patch (leucoderma) on the face of a young damsel, it certainly mars her beauty. Even so, even if there is a small defect in an aspirant, it undoubtedly spoils his character and life. An aspirant should be absolutely free from all kinds of weaknesses and faults. He should be an ideal person endowed with all virtues.
Direct realisation of the Self is a means to liberation. He who is endowed with the four means of salvation will be able to realise the Self. One can acquire these four qualifications-Viveka, Vairagya, Shad-Sampat and Mumukshutva, by following strictly the duties of his own caste and order, by Tapas and selfless service, by propitiating his own Ishta Devata or tutelary deity and serving his Guru.
You cannot do tailoring without scissors, needle and thread. You cannot dig the earth without a spade. Even so, you cannot attain Brahma Jnana without possessing the four means-Discrimination, dispassion, sixfold virtues and yearning for liberation. The teachings of Vedanta can enter the mind of that person who has attained purity of heart by performing selfless service or Nishkamya Karma Yoga.
Even an Avatar will not help you unless you possess these qualifications of an aspirant: "santo, veeta-raga, nishpriya, sarvasanga parityaga, astika, sadachara, jitendriya, real sustained Vairagya, strong determination, patience, perseverance, obedience, humility, etc."
The preliminary qualification for a student of Vedanta is an earnest desire to search for the truth. He must always keep alive this desire for truth. It is the fundamental pre-requisite for an aspirant. If one has this qualification or merit, all merits will cling to him. All good qualities will come by themselves. Then alone he will be able to tread the path of truth easily.
Manushyatva (human birth), Mumukshutva (keen yearning for liberation), Sat-sanga (company of sages), service of Guru, hearing of Srutis, reflection and constant, protracted and profound meditation are necessary for the attainment of salvation.
Faith, dispassion, self-restraint, one-pointedness of mind, purity of heart, devotion, desire for liberation and meditation are the immediate factors of liberation for the aspirant. He who is endowed with these qualities attains immortality and knowledge.
Absence of egoism, development of good qualities, cheerfulness, self-surrender, absence of passion and anger, keeping up a balanced mind at all times, facing honour and dishonour with same feeling, aversion to sensual objects, heat and cold are some of the signs of the person who is on the path of Realisation. These are not to be achieved in a day or two. It is the work of years of ceaseless and protracted Sadhana.
In the spiritual path, there is no preference for graduates Masters of Arts or Doctors of Philosophy. University qualifications can hardly benefit a man in the rigorous path of truth. He who is endowed with dispassion, discrimination, humility, devotion and power of endurance, who has subdued his mind and senses is a qualified person for this path. You are nowhere if you argue too much. The education of the present day induces a man to enter always into unnecessary discussions and controversies. He misses the goal. He only becomes a dry, talkative Pundit.
The Guru will only impart spiritual instructions to that aspirant who thirsts for liberation, who duly obeys the injunctions of the Sastras, who has subdued his passions and senses, who has a calm mind, and who possesses virtues like mercy, cosmic love, patience, humility, endurance, forbearance, etc.
Uttama Adhikarins (first class aspirants) only can have Self-realisation within 3 days. Madhyama Adhikarins (middle class) should do rigorous Sadhana for a long time.
An aspirant should be firm as the Meru, free as the ether, fragrant as the jasmine, broad as the sky, forbearing as the earth, forgiving as the parents, radiant as the sun, fearless as the lion, generous as Ranti Deva.
Live without the feeling of "I-ness", and attachment. Restrain the senses. Observe the rules of right conduct. Get purity of the heart. Hear the Truth. Abide in the Self. Be happy.
A selfish man is unrighteous. Attachment and sense of separateness are present in him to a remarkable degree. He cannot develop those qualities which Yoga needs. A desire to become a Yogi and to learn Yoga can only arise in a man who is free from selfishness, who is righteous, and who has religious disposition. Selfishness constricts the heart and forces a man to do injury to others and to get hold of the property of others by foul means. It is selfishness that prompts a man to do sinful acts.
Austerity, study of religious books and Japa of Mantra, devotion to the Lord and surrender to God constitute Kriya Yoga or action according to Patanjali Maharshi. This is the first Sutra in Second Chapter, Sadhanapada. This is a Yoga of discipline. The practice of Kriya Yoga prepares the Yogic student for entering into Samadhi or superconscious state. It purifies the heart and thins out the five afflictions viz., Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesa (ignorance, egoism, love, hatred and clinging to earthly life). The pure and the unselfish alone will be quite fit to receive the divine light and drink the nectar of immortality.
If you fail to ask the wise what you know not, you will remain a dunce throughout your life.
Sit at the lotus-feet of your Guru with Bhava and faith. Serve him with sincerity, humility and love. Prostrate before him morning and evening. Clear your doubts. Hear the Srutis from him. Reflect. Meditate. Behold the Supreme, transcendental Light of lights. Drink deep the wisdom-nectar and attain Immortality.
You will have to do minor Sadhana in purifying yourself before you are fit to approach any preceptor or Guru. You must be in possession of the preliminary qualifications of an aspirant.
The student of Yoga should be abstemious in his diet. He should avoid laziness, ease, habitual languor and excess of sleep. He should observe silence and occasional mild fasts to ensure a good tone to his constitution. He should develop correct habits. He should check all sorts of ambitions and the counter currents of the worldly desires by enquiry, thinking and discrimination. He should say unto the deceiving mind: "O Mind, I know your tricks. I have got dispassion and discrimination now. Do not wag your tail now. I will clip it off mercilessly. I have learnt many lessons. It is only ignorance that makes a man to prefer a transient gain to permanent benefits. I do not want again these sensual enjoyments. They are like vomited matter for me. I have resolved to attain the free, everlasting fruits of Yoga, viz., eternal peace, infinite bliss and supreme joy."
If you remove a fish out of water and place it on the shore, it will flutter about in intense agony. It will be thirsting for re-entry into the water. If you keep a boy in the cold water of the Ganga for a short time, he will be in a greatly agitated condition. He will shriek and yell out. He will be eager to come out of water. When the house of a man has caught fire, the owner of the house runs immediately to the municipal office to get the fire-brigade for extinguishing the fire. He takes immediate steps. Similarly you should have earnestness and desire for liberation.
Abandon the idea of becoming a Yogi within a few months' practice. It takes years and years of sincere Sadhana, practice of Brahmacharya and Ahimsa. You have to labour hard for many years to become a graduate and to earn even a small salary. How much more difficult it will be to become a Yogi and to attain immortality.
O aspirants, have the strong determination: "I will realise God now or I will die."
Do not say: "I will realise in my next birth." I will take a cudgel to beat you. I will become very angry. You can realise in this very second if you thirst for God and God alone and do sincere, intense Sadhana.