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Prerequisites of Spiritual Sadhana

by Swami Sivananda


I will dwell here upon the main qualifications necessary for launching upon the actual Sadhana. All the ancient saints, seers, men of God that have had intuitive experience of the Truth have been declaring to all mankind the great bliss, the vast power and knowledge that can be experienced if only man would turn from sensual sinful life and strive for the higher divine life. Yet we see today that man is as much immersed-if not more-in worldliness as he was centuries ago and the state of mankind is as apathetic and lethargic towards these questions of a life in the spirit as it was at the beginning of creation. Why is it that in spite of the clarion call of very many great seers, the confident assurance of the scriptures, the repeated experiences of man himself in failing miserably to attain happiness amidst external physical world, man is again and again being deceived? Why is it that man has not yet learnt to take to Sadhana? We read hundreds of spiritual books; we attend discourses; we convene gatherings as during the Sadhana Week. After years of intense study of spiritual books, contact with saints, after hearing these things again and again, yet man does not actually do anything. Because he does not have a deep and abiding faith in the admonitions of saints, in the scriptures, in the words of those who have trodden the path and attained bliss. His faith in external objects is something more real to him. If only man did really believe in these great ones he would certainly be induced to act up to their words. It is this basic lack of faith in man that is at the root of his failure to do Sadhana. Sadhana is necessary; but man will not do it because he does not really believe in its necessity. Man believes that for his happiness money is required. Man believes that if only he will get a good job he will get money. Man believes that if he has good college education he will get this job; and through that money; and through that, happiness that he desires. Believing in it every parent sends his child to school and from a young age he is taught to believe that if he passes his examinations creditably he will get a good job, salary, motor cars, etc. The child believes in the words; he studies, passes the examinations and the remuneration he expects comes. Because he had a feeling, because he thought all these things were necessary he desired them. But ultimately, of course, it is the unfortunate experience of all men that this happiness they get is mixed up more than tenfold with pain. Man gets an anna of happiness and with it fifteen annas of pain, suffering, for which he did not bargain when he first set about searching for this happiness. Thus if man has faith in spiritual course of action he will act up to it.

Lacking this faith he does not do Sadhana. If a man has to take up to Sadhana, if he really wants to obtain this bliss which is not mixed with pain, he will certainly have to repose faith. It may be called blind faith; but there is nothing like blind faith because all things on this earth go upon faith only and if man lives today it is on account of mutual trust and faith. A ten rupee note is a piece of paper and it is because you have the Asoka Chakra ensign on it, it will immediately get you whatever you want if presented at the bazaar. Because you have the faith in this piece of paper. If you do not have faith upon this paper, you would not have the confidence to start from the house; you would never be sure of reaching your destination. The doctor gives you a prescription on a piece of paper. If you do not have faith you will not take it from him. But the faith upon which all society is based makes you take his word, pay him money for his advice, take it to the chemist, get the medicine and you are cured. The entire social structure and order upon which mankind smoothly runs is based upon faith and trust. When you are prepared to put faith in mankind which is but a passing phenomena-those in whom you put your faith are dying before your eyes-when you are prepared to put faith upon these passing entities like mankind, why should you not put faith upon the very Creator of these things? Having first of all full faith in the words of the seers and known the necessity of Sadhana, what is the procedure, what is to be done next? You may have faith. Thousands of well-wishers may suggest good lines of action for your welfare and you may believe in them fully. If you do not put them into practice-if you do not begin to translate them into function-they will ever remain plans in the blue-print stage. If you don't set about procuring money, cement, bricks, various other building materials and labour, the whole construction will remain in blue-print only. It will not see the light of the day. After faith in Sadhana comes practice. You must set about doing. No question of believing. A belief must become an act. One must set about doing. Having reposed faith in the words of sages, you begin doing Sadhana. Once you commence Sadhana, the next important thing you should bear in mind is you should not easily give it up. Perseverance is of the utmost importance. All processes in this universe are gradual. They have got stages. Agriculture is gradual; it takes twelve months. You have to sow, water the field, cut out the weeds, and in course of time you will be able to take the grain. If you are impatient-if you sow the seed and as soon as it sprouts forth, you take it out-it will perish. If you want to go through all the stages and attain the end you must have patience and perseverance. A man who wants to lift a vessel from the well-water when the vessel is full, he begins to draw up the water upon the wheel; suddenly if he stops pulling, the vessel will fall back into the well. He will have to proceed with the drawing motion until the vessel is at the top. Persevere till the ultimate fruit is obtained. You must not give up. There is another important point that in spiritual Sadhana, man does not merely have to contend with the positive force. There are active forces that oppose him, that actually assail him and pull him down. Herein comes the necessity of the fourth important weapon in the hand-that is fortitude. While persevering, man has to have a little courage not to be easily shaken by the obstacles that assail him. He will have to brave the storm and proceed in spite of the difficulties and adverse conditions trying to cow him down, to push him off from the path of Sadhana. It is with fortitude he refuses to be discouraged and, relying upon the inner Self, he proceeds with the Sadhana. Ultimately he will attain the ideal for which he has been born upon earth; and while going through this process he will have to see that he keeps in mind the necessity of giving minute attention to all the small details upon the path because in every process all such small details of the process are to be attended to carefully. If any small detail is left out, thinking that it is superfluous he will find that ultimately he has lost valuable time and labour. This delays progress. It is the conglomeration of small things that go up to achieve high ideals.

Therefore with firm faith, practical application, perseverance, careful attention to even small details and fortitude in trials, you must set foot and proceed on the path of Sadhana.


When we consider any question, a number of different aspects of the same question will have to be thought over if we are dealing with the matter so as to be complete. Usually it is some one of the aspects that gets the emphasis and others are missed because, according to the particular disposition of those who take up the subject, they lay stress upon certain aspects. It is natural when so many different Rishis have dealt in general about life-human life-what it constitutes, how it is impermanent, how its real goal is the achievement of Self-realisation or the vision of God, now, for instance, taking the Name of God, as the means to achieve this end, how Patanjali Maharshi has pointed out Yama, Niyama, Sama, Dama, etc., have to be practised, how we have to build the walls of Yama, Niyama, and the doors and windows of Sama, Dama to raise this mansion of Immortality. There is nothing you can call your own; everywhere life is impermanent; there is insecurity. Now these are all aspects; but then they have presented only the problem-side of the subject. There is the solution-aspect and here, too, the theory of the solution is one sub-aspect of this and the practice of the solution is yet another sub-aspect. When dealing with life, we put it as the problem of life, that is, sorrow, suffering, pain, and how to get rid of it, we should consider the solution, touch upon the various methods of Satsanga, taking His Name, Sama, Dama and Dharana. In the solution-aspect, the theory of the solution is present; but as spiritual aspirants, as sincere seekers, as all of you are, you want the practical side of the solution-aspect more than anything else. There are the two aspects. In books, for instance, there is the book that says, if you have got a certain trouble it can be cured by a course of such and such a medicine. This is like saying, "Vikshepa can be removed by Japa and Upasana." But there is another book which says-if you have got this trouble, procure so many tolas of this medicine, purify it in this manner, mix it in this proportion, heat it up, let it be on the oven for so many minutes, mix it with such and such a thing-the detailed process of the solution is given so that anyone who reads it at once is able to act up to it. Information is different and complete explanation of the detail is different. Having now said that this practical aspect of the solution is all-important for earnest seekers, I shall put before you one or two points which are found to be most useful equipments for putting into practice this solution. When you actually start doing Sadhana, you find that various practical difficulties crop up. When you get the ingredients, supposing you grind them and find they do not mix properly, when you actually do certain things, some practical difficulties arise. These practical difficulties have to be dealt with on the spot. Thus, when we consider the aspect of Sadhana, we find one big difficulty for seekers, that is, they have to contend more with forces that are interior than forces that are exterior. For instance, among diseases we find that certain external conditions bring about certain diseases. We remove the external conditions by means of external forces-we clean the gutter; we spray the drain with anti-mosquito solution; we burn up refuse; we disinfect water; we inject people with anti-cholera vaccine; and we get over that disease. But here most of the forces you have to contend with are mental. Thus the big difficulty is that we cannot easily take the help of external agents to constantly keep a watch on these enemies as the Sanitary Department, for instance, and call them when they rise up. Therefore, while you carry on these spiritual practices like taking the Name of God, developing virtues, you have to develop a mental monitor; you have to train up a portion of the mind to act as a sort of ever vigilant guide. Immediately any forces come up to obstruct you; any bad thought, any anti-spiritual force; anything that is detrimental to your Sadhana crops up in your mental field; this mental monitor should be so trained that it should immediately strike and put down the adverse factor. This can come only through diligent cultivation and practice. Mind is so bad that every time you turn or direct it to a particular direction, the old Samskaras or Vrittis will ever be troubling you. Therefore, we have to put it down in a more severe manner. We have to get a mental monitor ready-which will at once check the anti-spiritual force that rises in him. If this mental monitor is kept, the process of Sadhana will be smoother; it will be greatly facilitated. This is like going through deep waters.

This ship of a seeker is like the ship that goes into enemy waters which are sown with depth-charges and mines. These mines are under the surface of the water; they are potential destructive weapons. We have heard that early in the War the Germans used the magnetic mine. The enemy ship would at once attract it as the ship is constructed with metal-the mine would be drawn towards it and destroy the ship. There are magnetic mines without number in this deep ocean of Samsara where we have to steer the ship. For this the only method is we have to take the precautions as they did towards the magnetic mine. What they did was-they perfected a method of completely insulating the ship which rendered it safe against the magnetic mine. This insulation made the magnetic mine useless. It was not attracted, even though it was there and even though the ship passed near it. Thus, while going through the path of Sadhana, we have to see that we have insulated ourselves with the insulation of aspiration and trust in God. If ever your aspiration is always climbing upwards, these forces fail to be attracted towards you. Only when your aspiration is not upwards, when you are still in the plane of sensual pleasures and desires that it easily attracts the sense-objects towards you and the sense-objects destroy the spiritual progress that you are trying to make. Having insulated, there is another precaution we have to take. We should make that ideal the main interest of our life. The seeker may have a hundred interests according to the position in which he is placed, his family circumstances, the society, the environments; yet, if he will do what the military experts do-supposing they wished to direct the course of a certain apparatus-say a torpedo, rocket bomb-to a certain destination, they set its course before it starts. Thus, in whatever circumstances the seekers are placed, in whatever professions, in whatever society, family environments, by God, let them fix the purpose of their life as Moksha, to attain Self-realisation; let them so set up this dial, so strongly implant this idea into their mind and constantly remember it day and night as the setting of the compass in this machine. They will see even though here and there ups and downs may come, there may be temporary obstacles to the flight in that course, due to overwhelming external circumstances, this one being established in his ideal and constantly remembering it he is not shaken by the vicissitudes of life in his march towards the goal. While in this passing towards the goal, in spite of insulation against external forces we have to see through the whole process. Man has got to be constantly in the field of activity. Because circumstances are like that. Man has to work. While working naturally it is the tendency of the human mind to take the colouring of that thing with which it comes into contact-a man living in a smoky room will be affected by the smoke. He will have his clothing blackened. But there is one thing: even though the currents of Raga and Dvesha affect man, let us see that there is a constant force which will keep our inner state always divine, equipoised, spiritual; actions will be there and the forces will act upon you, but you must so develop the technique that you must not react. It is when the man reacts to the action of external forces that he fails. Therefore, trouble comes. You have the rapidity of the machine gun, an incredible number of shots are fired within the split-second and the barrel gets terribly heated. If there were no device to keep down the temperature of the barrel the machine gun would at once melt. They have perfected the technique of warfare-a flow of cold oil is made to circulate round the barrel and the temperature of the machine gun is kept down. While coming in contact with Raga, Dvesha, lust, anger and greed, we have to see the friction does not ignite us. Let us always keep handy the cooling balm of Bhagavan's Divine Name, and His reflection. Let us constantly keep this cooling balm ever close to us. Thus, it will ever keep our natures cool. It will not allow our natures to get heated. It will see that the spiritual equipoise is always kept. If there are certain vicious traits in man which he cannot escape, such things let him by a mere technique of transformation turn to his own use. During war the prisoners of war were caught; they were all enemies; but once they were caught as prisoners, they were made to work for our own benefit so that the soldiers of this nation may be fit. They were turned to the use of the victorious nation. We have got the nature of fault-finding. Everywhere we do not see the good. We always try to pick out defects. This is a great defect in spiritual aspirants; it retards spiritual progress. But this practice is there. Supposing the spiritual aspirant has it, let him not be very much upset about it. Supposing he turns this practice upon himself, he will see that this practice far from being an enemy, becomes his friend. He will have no time to think about the defects of others. He will be stunned in dealing with his own defects. Then he will see that even a mustard-seed of goodwill appear before his eyes because instituting a comparison with himself which is full of defects and shortcomings, he will find even small things in others a virtue.

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