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Aspects of Spiritual Sadhana

by Swami Sivananda

I

When your house is on fire how daringly you enter the house to take your child who is sleeping in the room. Even so you must be very courageous when you tread on the spiritual path. You must be absolutely fearless. You must not have the least attachment to your body. Then only you will have Self-realisation quickly. Timid people are absolutely unfit for the spiritual line.

If there are mangoes on the top of a big tree you do not jump all at once to pluck them. It is impossible. You gradually climb up the tree by getting hold of different branches and then reach the top of the tree. Even so you cannot jump all at once to the summit of the spiritual ladder. You will have to place your foot with caution in each rung of the ladder. You will have to practise Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana. Then only you will reach the highest rung of the ladder of Yoga viz., Samadhi. If you are a student of Vedanta you will have to equip yourself with the four means first. Then you will have to do Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana. Then only you will attain Brahma-Sakshatkara. If you are a student of Bhakti Yoga, you will have to practise the nine modes of Bhakti viz., Sravana, Kirtana, Smarana, Padasevana, Archana, Vandana, Dasya, Sakhya and Atma-Nivedana. Then only you will attain the state of Para-Bhakti.

If the chicken and fowl run hither and thither to eat various sorts of rubbish, what does the owner of the poultry do? He gives a slight tap on their heads and throws before them some grains to eat. Gradually they leave their habit of eating filth. Even so this mind runs hither and thither to eat filthy things and enjoy the five kinds of sensual objects. Give a tap on its head and make it taste gradually the spiritual bliss by practice of Japa and Meditation.

A Jivanmukta or a Bhagavata has lustrous eyes. He has a protrusion on the top of the head and Trikuti, the space between the two eyebrows. Whatever he says will be indelibly impressed in your mind. You cannot forget it till the end of your life. He possesses tremendous power of attraction. He will clear all your doubts in a marvellous manner. You will enjoy a peculiar joy and peace in his presence. All your doubts will be cleared in his presence. Silence is his language. He is very compassionate and free from selfishness, anger, greed, egoism, lust and pride. He is an embodiment of truth, peace, knowledge and bliss.

It takes a long time for the charcoal to catch fire but gun-powder can be ignited within the twinkling of an eye. Even so it takes a long time for igniting the fire of knowledge for a man whose heart is impure. But an aspirant with great purity of heart gets knowledge of the Self within the twinkling of an eye, within the time taken to squeeze a flower by the fingers.

Maya is a very huge saw. Lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride, jealousy, hatred, egoism etc., are the teeth of this huge saw. All-worldly minded persons are caught up in the teeth of this saw and are crushed. Those who are endowed with purity, humility, love, dispassion, devotion and enquiry are not hurt. They escape through the divine grace. They pass smoothly below the saw and reach the other side of immortality.

A piece of ordinary white paper or coloured paper has no value. You throw it away. But if there is the stamp or the picture of the Asoka Chakra on the paper (currency notes) you keep it safe in your money purse or trunk. Even so an ordinary piece of stone has no value for you. You throw it away. But if you behold the stone-Murthy of Lord Krishna at Pandarpur or any other Murthy in shrines, you bow your head with folded hands, because there is the stamp of the Lord in the stone. The devotee superimposes on the stone-Murthy, his own Beloved and all the attributes of the Lord. Image-worship is very necessary for beginners.

II

Some Sadhakas do constant Sadhana in a mild manner; some do intense Sadhana for two hours in the morning and two hours at night. If you want to attain Self-realisation quickly you must do intense and constant Sadhana for a protracted period.

You may have Darshan of Lord Krishna face to face. You may talk to Him also several times. You may play and eat with Him also. But if you want to have final liberation you must have Atma-Sakshatkara. Nama Deva had Darshan of Lord Krishna several times and yet he was declared to be a half-baked saint by the potter-saint Gora Kumbhar. He had to go to Vishoba Khesar for attaining perfection and Kaivalya.

When you sit on an Asana for meditation you want to get up soon, not on account of pain in the legs but on account of impatience. Conquer this undesirable negative quality by developing patience gradually. Then you will be able to sit for three or four hours at a stretch.

During meditation you will be frequently talking to somebody mentally. Stop this evil habit. Have a careful watch over the mind.

An aspirant writes to me: "Somebody tapped at my door at 3 a.m. I woke up and opened the door. I saw Lord Krishna with crown on His head. He disappeared soon. I went through the lane in search of Him. I was not able to find Him out. Then I came back to my house and sat in front of my door till day-break to see Him again."

Cases of somnambulists or sleep-walkers are not uncommon. They dream even while standing and walking also. The above case might have been a pure case of somnambulism. You will have to be very careful in ascertaining the true nature of your spiritual experiences, whether it is a dream or an actual reality. Darshan of Lord Krishna is not so very cheap. Aspirants make mistakes in the beginning.

Just as you remove at once a pebble in your shoe that troubles you, so also you must be able to remove any tormenting thought from your mind at once. Then only you have gained sufficient strength in control of thought. Then only you have attained some real progress in the spiritual path.

An aspirant says: "I am able to meditate on one Asana for three hours. In the end I become senseless but I do not fall down to the ground." If there is real meditation you will never become senseless. You will experience perfect awareness. This is a negative undesirable mental state. You will have to get over this state by keeping up perfect vigilance.

Suppose the mind runs outside during meditation forty times within one hour. If you can make it run only 38 times, it is a decided improvement. You have gained some control over the mind. It demands strenuous practice for a long time to check the mind-wandering. Vikshepa Sakti is very powerful. But Sattva is more powerful than Vikshepa Sakti. Increase your Sattva. You can very easily control the oscillation of the mind.

When there is deep concentration, you will experience great joy and spiritual intoxication. You will forget the body and the surroundings. All the Prana will be taken up to your head.

If you find it difficult to concentrate your mind within a room come outside and sit in an open place or terrace or by the side of a river, or in a quiet corner of a garden. You will have good concentration.

When you are lying down in your bed, sometimes a big light will pass along your forehead. As soon as you try to behold the light by meditating on the sitting posture it may disappear. You may ask "How is it that I fail to catch the light by exertion, whereas it comes by itself when I am lying down without an effort?" The reason is you lost the concentration as soon as you sat for meditation by entry of Rajas.

Find out your centre. Dwell always in the centre. The centre is Atman or Immortal Soul. This centre is the Garden of Eden. This is your original abode. This is Param Dhama. You can be above care, worry and fear now. How sweet is this home wherein there is eternal sunshine and perennial joy!

O friend! wake up! sleep no more. Meditate. It is Brahmamuhurta now! Open the gate of the temple of the Lord in your heart with the key of love. Hear the music of the soul. Sing the song of Prem to your Beloved. Play the melody of the Infinite. Melt your mind in His contemplation. Unite with Him. Immerse yourself in the ocean of Love and Bliss.

III

The moment you think during meditation, "I am pure now. I do not get any evil thoughts as before," a whole battalion of evil thoughts will enter the conscious surface of the mind. But they will pass off soon. You are in the struggling stage now. A time will come when you will not entertain even a single evil thought. Meditation is a powerful enemy of evil thoughts. The evil thoughts think "We will be quelled soon. Our host has started the meditation. Let us pounce upon the man once more." Continue your meditation vigorously. Mists and clouds cannot stand before the sun.

It is difficult to fix your mind in the beginning on the whole picture of Lord Krishna, because all the rays of the mind are not collected. Sometimes you can visualise the face, sometimes the feet, sometimes the eyes. Fix the mind on any part of the picture which the mind likes best.

The mind has attraction for certain new words or names of towns or persons. Suppose you have come across certain new words or names of towns or persons such as "ecstasy," "Fyzabad," "John Herbert." If you sit for meditation the mind will repeat "ecstasy," "Fyzabad," "John Herbert." Sometimes it will sing some songs, repeat some old poems or Sanskrit Slokas which you got by heart during your boyhood. Watch the mind carefully and try to bring it back to the point or centre.

Winter is very congenial for vigorous meditation. You will not get tired even if you meditate for hours together, at a stretch. But in the morning hours laziness tries its level best to overpower you. If you cover yourself with one or two warm blankets you will feel quite comfortable. You do not want to get up in the early morning, even though the repeated alarm wakes you up again and again. You decide now "Let me sleep for fifteen minutes more and then let me start my meditation." Then you begin to cover nicely with the blanket certain exposed parts of the feet. You feel quite pleasant now. What is the net result? You begin to snore nicely and get up only after the sun has risen. Days, weeks and months will roll on like this. Every winter also passes away in this manner. Just at that time which is quite favourable for meditation, mind deceives you and overpowers you by sleep. Mind is a master-magician. He knows several tricks and illusions. Maya operates through mind. Mysterious is mind. Mysterious is Maya. Be on your alert. Be vigilant. You can control mind and Maya. Throw the blanket as soon as you hear the alarm. Sit on Vajra Asana. Do a few Pranayamas. Drowsiness will disappear.

When you meditate with open eyes you may see a friend in front of you and hear his voice also; but you may not be able to make out the person and his voice; because the mind is not attached to the ears or the eyes. If the mind is entirely withdrawn from the sensual objects, if the thoughts are annihilated, if likes and dislikes are destroyed, how can you perceive the world at all? You will become mindless. You will behold the Self only everywhere. All names and forms will vanish.

It is very difficult to fix the mind all at once on a point. The mind moves with a tremendous velocity. Just as the horse in a circus runs in a circle again and again, so also the mind runs in a circle again and again. Instead of allowing the mind to run in a big circle, make it run in smaller and smaller circles. Eventually it can be fixed on a point. You will have to catch hold of the mind through intelligent methods. Mere coercion and force will not do. It will make matters worse.

Sometimes you may become despondent and feel, "I have many weaknesses and defects. How can I eradicate them? How can I control this strong and impetuous mind? Will I get liberation or Nirvikalpa Samadhi in this very birth? I have not gained much even though I have practised meditation for the last 8 years." Do not be disheartened. Even if you have controlled one or two Indriyas, even if you have controlled some thoughts, half the battle is won. Control of even one thought or destruction of even one Vasana will give you mental strength. Every thought that is controlled, every desire that is destroyed, every Indriya that is subdued, every defect or weakness that is eradicated will add strength to the mind, will develop your will and take you one step nearer to the goal. Friend! Why then lamentation and despair? Fight bravely in the Adhyatmic battle-field. Become a spiritual soldier. Come out victorious and wear the spiritual laurels of divine wisdom, eternal peace and supreme bliss.

IV

Sometimes the mind will be sluggish or slothful. You cannot concentrate. It will refuse to work. The same vigorous mind may become sluggish in the latter part of concentration, just as the horse that was running with good speed in the beginning of the journey becomes sluggish in the end. Just as the driver freshens the horse by giving a little grass and water, so also you will have to freshen the mind with some elevating thoughts and discipline with undistracted attention.

If the mind is restless or wandering sit in a quiet room. Or lie down in Savasana like a dead man for 15 minutes and relax the body and mind completely. Entertain some pleasant thoughts. Think of some beautiful flowers, the glaciers of the Himalayas, the blue expansive sky, the vast ocean or some beautiful scenery in Himalayas, or Kashmir or in any other place. Now you can sit again for meditation.

Sometimes the mind will revolt seriously. You will feel "I have not gained much through Tapas, discipline and meditation. Let me break the vow of Brahmacharya. Let me give up entirely all dietetic discipline. Let me revel in sensual objects. Let me eat sumptuously." Do not yield. Coax or cajole the mind. Do vigorous Japa and Kirtan. Study the book "How to get Vairagya" or "Bhartrihari's Vairagya Sataka" again and again. Remember the pains of Samsara and the defects of sensual life. Remember the saints and their teachings again and again. Stand adamant. Be cautious. Be vigilant. Watch and pray. The rebellious mind will cool down gradually.

Sometimes the mind will be in a total passive state. There will be diversion of attention. The mind will be in a perfect blank state. If this state is continued for a short time you will merge into sleep. This is the state called Laya. This is a serious obstacle in meditation. Do 10 or 20 Pranayamas vigorously. Then chant Om loudly for 10 minutes. This state will vanish rapidly.

Even a pure Brahmachari will be troubled in the beginning by curiosity. He will be curious to know and feel what sort of enjoyment will the sexual enjoyment be. He thinks sometimes, "Let me have the carnal knowledge of a woman once. Then I will be able to root out this sexual impulse and desire completely. This sexual curiosity is troubling me very much." Mind wants to delude this Brahmachari. Maya havocs through curiosity. Curiosity is transmuted into a strong desire. Enjoyment cannot bring at satisfaction of a desire. Just as a tiger, man-eater, runs after human flesh even if it tastes once human blood, so also the mind which has once tasted sexual pleasure will be ever hankering after it. The wise way is to kill the wave of curiosity by Vichara or enquiry of that pure sexless Atman, renunciation of sexual desire totally and constant meditation, by thinking over the glory of Brahmacharya and the defects of an impure life.

Even in a blind man who is a celibate who has not seen the face of a woman, the sexual impulse is very strong. Why? This is due to the force of Samskaras or impressions of previous births which are embedded in the subconscious mind. Whatever you do, whatever you think are lodged or printed or indelibly impressed in the layers of the Chitta or subconscious mind. These impressions can be burnt or obliterated only by the dawn of knowledge of Atman or the Supreme Self. When the sexual Vasana fills the whole mind and body the Samskaras assume the form of big Vrittis or waves and torment the poor blind man. This clearly proves that there is transmigration of soul.

Thought is the real action. But there is a great deal of difference between actually shooting a man and thinking to shoot a man, between actual copulation and thinking to have coitus with a woman.

Philosophically speaking, thinking to shoot a man, thinking to have copulation is the real act. Desire is more than the act. God gives fruits according to the motives of the man. Be pure in your thoughts. Then only you can enter the kingdom of God within. Then only the Lord will be enthroned in your heart.

The aspirant or Yogi in the cave in the Himalayas or a silent meditator in the plains thinks that he is very much advanced in spirituality. He looks with contempt at his brother who is plodding to reach the goal through untiring selfless service and meditation combined. The former may be rich in Vairagya and Titiksha. He may be proficient in the study of scriptures. He may be able to bear cold. He may be able to live on bread and dhal alone. He may be able to sit on one Asana at a stretch for a longer time. But he may be lacking in mercy, cosmic love, broad tolerance, generosity, courage, etc. He may not be able to bear heat, he may complain of strong Vikshepa, he may not be able to keep up a balanced mind when he comes to the plains. While the latter may possess his own special virtues and balanced mind and may excel the Yogi of Himalayas or the silent meditator of the plains in many respects. One should have excellence in all virtues. One should be able to bear heat and cold. Then only he will become a perfect sage. Equanimity is Yoga.

A worldly man has Abhimana for his wealth and position. He has great Moha for his children and wife. But a Sannyasi or a Yogi has very great spiritual and moral pride. He thinks and feels "I am superior to a householder. I am a great Yogi. I can meditate for 12 hours. I possess great purity, renunciation and dispassion." The Abhimana of a Sannyasi is more dangerous and powerful than the Abhimana of a worldly man and so more difficult for eradication.

The enquiry of 'Who am I?' is a difficult Sadhana. It can only be practised by one who has a strong, pure and subtle intellect, who is equipped with the fourfold means, who has a sound knowledge of the Vedantic Prakriyas, Pancheekarana, Neti-Neti doctrine, the processes of Anvaya-Vyatireka, Bhaga-Tyaga Lakshana, Adhyaropa Apavada, Dharmas of the five Kosas, nature of Atman, etc. The qualified student only will get the proper answer for the question 'Who am I?' during meditation. Otherwise the mind will delude the aspirant.

V

Just as the light is burning within the hurricane lantern, so also the divine light is burning within the heart. You can behold the divine light through your inner third eye or the eye of intuition by withdrawing the senses and stilling the mind.

In a cage of nine doors there dwelleth the little bird Jiva, the little illusory 'I'. He can come out of the cage of flesh if he annihilates 'I'-ness and 'mine'-ness and the Vasanas.

Even the stone can melt sometimes. But the heart of an egoistic man cannot melt. It is harder than flint or diamond or granite. But it can melt sometimes. But it can be rendered soft as butter by constant, untiring service of humanity, Satsanga, Japa of God's Name and meditation.

How sweet is the Name of the Lord! How soothing and elevating are the Names of Hari, Rama, Krishna, Siva! The Name drives away your fear, anguish, sorrow and pain, and fills your heart with joy, peace, strength and courage. The Name is a healing balm to your wounded heart and tired nerves. The Name is manna or panacea or divine elixir that confers immortality and eternal bliss. Remember the Name of the Lord always. Sing His Name and associate it with your breath; you will be freed from the round of births and deaths.

The fruit of concentration is meditation. The fruit of meditation is realisation. The fruit of realisation is liberation. In concentration you gather all thoughts and fix the mind on one point or one idea. In meditation you have a continuous flow of one idea.

He who provides for the frog that lives inside the rock will look after you. Why this lack of faith! Have living, unshakable faith in the Lord and His Grace and be at ease, O beloved Ram!

He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak. Empty vessels make much sound. He who talks much, thinks little, does little.

Be cautious. Study the nature of people. Move very carefully with people. Do not be deceived. Have a knowledge of psychology. Know people by their behaviour, talks, looks, smile, gait. Know them by the food they take, the books they study, and the companions they keep.

You can gauge your spiritual growth by the careful study of your dreams. If you have no evil thoughts in dreams, if you get frequent visions of your Ishta Devata in dreams, if you repeat your Ishta Mantra even in dreams, if you do worship or Puja even in dreams, you have made great advance in the spiritual path.

There is no mention of either Kundalini or will in Yoga Sutras by Patanjali Maharshi or in any Vedantic book. A Jnana Yogi enters into Nirvikalpa Samadhi by raising the Brahmakara Vritti through meditation on the significance of Maha Vakyas such as "Tat Tvam Asi," or "Aham Brahma Asmi." He never attempts to awaken the Kundalini Sakti. He can enter into Samadhi without awakening the Kundalini. But if he wants to manifest some physical Siddhis he awakens the Kundalini. By mere willing he awakens the Kundalini. He never practises Pranayama, Asanas, Bandhas, Mudras or any Hatha Yogic Kriyas for this purpose.

You can have perfect or absolute non-attachment only when you realise the Self. During the course of Sadhana the mind will try its best to cling to one form or the other. Again and again you will have to cut ruthlessly all sorts of attachments with the sword of non-attachment-Asanga Sastrena Dridhena Chhitva (Gita XV-3).

You must have the Bhava that Atman, Isvara, Devata, Mantra are one. With this Bhava you will have to repeat your Guru Mantra or Ishta Mantra. Then alone you will have Mantra-Siddhi or God-realisation quickly.

The best flower that can be offered to the Lord is your heart. Penetrate more deeply into the infinite domain of Kailasa, the Kingdom of illimitable bliss and boundless peace within.

May you be in direct communion with the Lord, thy Ishtam, guide, supreme refuge and solace!

VI

Pure as the snow of Himalayas, bright as sun-light, expansive as the sky, all-pervading as the ether, unfathomable as the ocean, cool as the waters of the Ganga in Rishikesh, is the Immortal Atman, the Substratum for this world, body, mind and Prana. Nothing is sweeter than this Atman.

Purify your heart and meditate. Plunge deep in your heart. Dive deep into the innermost recesses. You will find it. If you search in deep water only you will find the pearl of Atman. If you keep only to the shore you will find broken shells only.

Just as rain exists in clouds, butter in milk, fragrance in flowers, so also this Atman lies hidden in all these names and forms. He who has a pure, one-pointed, sharp, subtle intellect will behold the Self through constant and intense meditation.

He who looks upon a woman as a son does his mother and also keeps aloof from her, he who has controlled lust and anger, he who has no attraction for the perishable objects of this universe, he who is practising meditation regularly will soon reach the Param Dhama or the Abode of Supreme Peace from where there is no return to this Mrityuloka or the world of death.

The sugar and the sugar toys, pot and the earth, iron nail and the sword, water and foam, the earrings and gold are not two things. They are one. Even so when real knowledge dawns, the manifold universe is nothing but Atman; the individual soul and Supreme Soul become identical.

Self fills the whole world. All is Self. There is nothing which is not in you. What should you desire, then, when you have realised the Self, because for you there is no object to be desired?

The old vicious Samskaras can be changed and destroyed. Mind is nothing but a bundle of Samskaras. Fight with them bravely. Fight bravely not for bread, nor for money, nor for name and fame, but for acquiring the Kingdom of Self or the vast domain of eternal peace, through destruction of worldly Samskaras. Chivalrous soldier is he who fights in the Adhyatmic inner battle-field with his old Samskaras with the sword of dispassion and armour of discrimination but not he who fights in the battle-field with his enemies with machine-guns. Fight with the Samskaras is more serious, more dangerous, more frightful than the external physical fight. The basis for the spiritual soldier is Sattva but the basis for the worldly soldier is a mixture of Rajas and Tamas. Rama and Ravana fought. Rama was Sattvic but Ravana was Tamasic. It is easy to go on an expedition to ascend the summit of Mount Everest. It is easy to scale the heights of Nanda Parvat. It is easy to reach the peak of Mandhata. But it is difficult to ascend the peak of the spiritual Himalayas of the soul. The undaunted aspirant armed with patience, perseverance, tranquillity, and courage slowly ascends peak after peak, subdues the Indriyas one by one, controls the thoughts one by one, eradicates the Vasanas one by one and eventually reaches the summit of Self-realisation or divine glory. Glory to such exalted souls or spiritual heroes!

Neophytes should not sit for meditation in a room just by the side of the kitchen. The mind will think of palatable dishes and cause distraction. The sweet aroma of certain preparations will tickle the olfactory nerves of the nose and glossopharyngeal nerves of the tongue.

If you keep a cup of hot tea and some sweetmeats in front of you and if you begin to study Upanishads or meditate, you will not have deep concentration. A portion of the mind will be ever thinking of the tea or sweetmeats. Neophytes should remove all such minor causes of distraction before they sit for meditation.

Treat all alike. Serve the poor and the sick. Cut off all sorts of attachment. Help the needy. Crush appetites. Eradicate the Vasanas and egoism. Abandon carnal pleasures. Meditate and realise the oneness of the Self. Help others also to acquire the knowledge of the Supreme Being.

The sage or a Jivanmukta inspired with Divine Spirit, intoxicated with the immortal nectar, filled with the infinite Atman, endowed with an equal vision and balanced mind beholds only the Self everywhere and embraces all with pure love.


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