Young aspirants, because of old habit, used to sleep in the winter cold till sunrise or till 6 or 7 in the morning. They must not waste their precious life in sleeping in the Brahmamuhurta, between 4 and 6 in the early morning. That period is highly favourable for deep meditation. The atmosphere also is charged with Sattvic vibrations. Without much effort one can have wonderful concentration at this period.
From my Kutir, I used to chant aloud several times the Mantras: "OM OM OM, SHYAM SHYAM SHYAM, RADHESHYAM RADHESHYAM RADHESHYAM" and thus made my students get up early for prayers and meditation. This had no effect on the Tamasic type of aspirants. I arranged their night meals before sunset. That enabled some to get up early morning. It is only those who load the stomach heavily at night that find it difficult to get up early in the morning.
In the beginning stages of Sadhana, even if people meditate alone in a room, they get up in the morning only to see that they were overpowered by sleep, and sleep the whole period in a sitting posture. This gave me an idea of a common prayer and meditation during Brahmamuhurta. One student would ring the bell in front of every Kutir and collect the aspirants in a common place for the collective Sadhana. I joined the group daily for some months and years.
PRAYER AND STUDY CLASSES
The function started with prayers to Lord Ganesha, Guru Stotra and Mahamantra Kirtans. One student would read a Chapter of the Gita and explain the meaning of one Sloka. Another student gave some short hints on concentration and meditation. In the end, I spoke for half an hour on attaining quick spiritual progress and suggested various methods for destroying the evil tendencies of the mind and controlling the turbulent senses. I laid great emphasis on ethical perfection. The function came to an end with the chanting of ten Santi Mantras in chorus. The students kept up the divine consciousness even during their work in the day.
Some students lived in Brahmananda Ashram, a furlong away from my Kutir. On many occasions I paid surprise visits to the Kutirs at 4 a.m., and chanted OM several times and made them get up for prayers. I did not compel all the students to join the common meditation. I permitted them to have their own Sadhana in their own Kutirs. Thus I paid all my attention to the spiritual uplift of my students. Even now many students who attended in those days the common prayer and meditation say how they were inspired by my short speeches on Sadhana.
In the evening also I organised a "Study Class" between 3 and 4. I asked one student to read a Chapter from any of my books. On the next day I used to put questions on the important points. I trained the aspirants in a variety of ways. They all specialised in chanting the Mantras of the scriptures, conducting Kirtans, delivering short lectures. I asked one student to put questions and others to answer them. In the evening class, I introduced Likhita-Japa and in the early morning, Trataka and other Yoga exercises. During the day, they should all prepare essays on Yoga and philosophy and write about their own experiences. Even today when school boys and young children come to the Ashram, I teach them a few short sentences in English and ask them to deliver a powerful lecture. Many have learnt my English Kirtans, like "Eat a little."
I trained my students in organisational work, typing, maintaining proper accounts managing the affairs of the Society and in attending to the devotees, visitors and the sick. Thus even in the early stages, the Yoga-Vedanta Forest University was vigorously in its working.
ATTENTION TO VISITORS
When visitors came to me, instead of talking to them on their family affairs, I asked them to forget the past and sing Kirtans with me. I taught them music, Bhajan, Kirtan and philosophy. Even today when devotees come to the Ashram, I prescribe a book for their study and on the next day, I ask them questions. I clear all their doubts and give helpful suggestions for the removal of their troubles and obstacles.
They all feel happy in receiving my personal attention. The systematic work done at this sacred centre in the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganga, attracted thousands of seekers after Truth from all distant places in India and other countries. The Divine Life Society, the Yoga-Vedanta Forest University and the Sivananda Ashram became "watch-words" for all aspirants. Similar work is now organised systematically in various centres with the formation of Branches of the University, The Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram and Sivananda School of Yoga.
I pay much attention to the diet of the aspirants at the Ashram. Here they have enough to keep themselves quite fit-not for luxury or craving of the senses, but helpful items for progressing in Sadhana.
I introduced saltless diet on Sundays, simple boiled potatoes and bread on Ekadasi days or only milk and fruits for some students. I started the work with a dozen students.
In a short period, a large number of devotees came to me during holidays from Delhi, Madras, Calcutta and other cities in India. Then I introduced a Collective Sadhana-a special programme with the important items of Sadhana-a kind of Spiritual Conference on the practical side of Yoga. This took the shape of Sadhana Weeks during Easter and Christmas holidays. And now this has become a regular feature during the last twenty years.
Various Branches of the Divine Life Society in India organised similar Conferences with the routine of the Sadhana Week at the Ashram. They invite great men to deliver lectures during these Conferences. They print several leaflets, pamphlets and books for free distribution on the occasion. Thus there is a dynamic work for spiritual awakening all over the world.