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Instructions to Aspirants

by Swami Sivananda

Pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance, irritability, self-assertive Rajasic nature, curiosity about the affairs of other people and hypocrisy are all obstacles to the practice of meditation. Subtle forms of these Vrittis lurk in the mind. They operate as oceanic undercurrents. Under pressure of Yoga and meditation various kinds of impurities in the mind come out, just as the dirt of a room that has been shut up for six months, comes out when you carefully sweep. Aspirants should introspect and watch their minds. They should remove their weaknesses one by one by applying suitable effective methods. Pride is inveterate. Its branches ramify in all directions in the regions of the Rajasic mind. Again and again it manifests although the wave subsides temporarily for some time. It asserts when opportunities arise.

If the aspirant has the nature of being offended easily over trifling things, he cannot make any progress in meditation. He should cultivate an amiable, loving nature and adaptability. Then this bad quality will disappear. Some aspirants easily get offended if their bad qualities and defects are pointed out. They become indignant and begin to fight with the man who points out the defects. They think that the man is concocting them out of jealousy and hatred. This is bad. Other people can very easily find out our defects. A man who has no life of introspection, whose mind is of outgoing tendencies (Bahirmukha Vritti) cannot find out his own mistakes. The self-conceit acts as a veil and blurs the mental vision. If an aspirant wants to grow he must admit his defects if they are pointed out by others. He must try his level best to eradicate them and must thank the man who points them out. Then only can he grow in spirituality and meditation.

It becomes a difficult task to eradicate the self-assertive nature. Every man has built his personality from Anadi Kala (beginningless time). He has also given a long rope to the Rajasic mind to have its own ways. This personality has grown very strong. It becomes difficult to bend this personality and make it pliable and elastic. The man of self-assertive nature wants to dominate over others. He does not want to hear the opinions and arguments of others, even though they are logical and reasonable. He has a pair of jaundiced eyes with Timira also. He will say: "Whatever I say is correct. Whatever I do is correct. The actions and views of others are incorrect. I am infallible." He will never admit his mistakes. He will try his level best to support his own whimsical views by crooked arguments and reasonings. If arguments fail he will take to vituperation and hand to hand fight also. If people fail to show respect and honour to him he is thrown into a state of fury. He is immensely pleased when someone begins to flatter him. He will tell any number of lies to justify himself. Self-justification goes hand in hand with the self-assertive nature. This is a very dangerous habit. He can never grow in spirituality and meditation so long as he has the self-assertive nature with the habit of self-justification. The self-assertive man should change his mental attitude. He must develop the habit of looking at matters from the viewpoint of others. He must have a new vision of righteousness and truthfulness. An aspirant should treat respect and honour as offal and poison, and censure and insult as ornaments and as nectar.

Man finds it difficult to adjust to the ways and habits of others. His mind is filled with prejudice of caste, creed and colour. He is quite intolerant. He thinks that his views, opinions and ways of living are right and that the views of others are incorrect. The faultfinding nature is ingrained in him. He jumps at once to find faults in others. He has morbid eyes. He cannot see the good in others. He cannot appreciate the meritorious actions of others. He talks of his own abilities and actions. That is the reason why he fights with people all around and cannot keep up friendship with others for a long time. Aspirants do not make progress in the path because they too have these defects to a great degree. They should eradicate them by developing tolerance, pure love and other Sattvic qualities.

Introspect. Look within. Try to remove all your defects. This is real Sadhana. This is the most difficult Sadhana. You will have to do it at any cost. Mere intellectual development is nothing. It is easy. Sit in the Central Library at Baroda or in the Calcutta Library for six years with a dictionary at your side, you can develop your intellect. But the former needs a great deal of struggle for many years. Many old vicious habits will have to be rent asunder. There are many famous and learned Sannyasins and Pandits who can deliver lectures for a week on one Sloka of the Gita and the Upanishads. They command respect and yet they are disliked by the public because they still have great defects. They have not done any drastic Sadhana to remove their defects. They have developed only their intellect to a high degree. What a great pity!

The old Samskaras of vanity, cunningness, crookedness, arrogance, petty-mindedness, fighting nature, pride, self-esteem or thinking too much of one's self, speaking ill of others, belittling others, may be still lurking in your mind. You cannot shine unless you remove them thoroughly. Success in meditation is not possible without eradication of these undesirable negative qualities of the lower nature.

Those who engage themselves frequently in hot debates, vain discussions, wrangling, lingual warfare and intellectual gymnastics cause serious damage to the astral body. Much energy is wasted. Hostility is the result. Time is wasted. The astral body gets actually inflamed by heated discussions. An open sore is formed in the astral body. The blood becomes hot. It bubbles like milk over the fire. Ignorant people have no idea of the disastrous effects caused by unnecessary heated discussions and vain argumentation. Those who have the habit of arguing unnecessarily and entering into vain discussions cannot expect to make an iota of progress in the spiritual path. They must entirely give up arguing and discussions. They should destroy the impulses of arguing through careful introspection.

You have heard several eloquent lectures delivered by learned Sannyasins. You have heard Kathas, discourses and exposition of the Gita, the Ramayana and the Upanishads. You have heard several valuable moral and spiritual instructions. But you have not at all endeavoured to put anything into serious earnest practice and to do protracted solid Sadhana. Mere intellectual assent to religious ideas, a little closing of the eyes in the morning and at night just to deceive oneself and the Indweller, a little endeavour to stick to the daily spiritual routine and to develop some virtues in a half-hearted careless manner, some mild effort to carry out the instructions of your spiritual preceptor perfunctorily, will not suffice. This kind of mentality should be entirely given up. An aspirant should follow the instructions of his Guru and the teachings of the scriptures to the very letter. No leniency should be allowed to the mind. There can be no half measures in the spiritual path. You cannot say: "I will see to them later on. I can devote more time when I retire. I have followed the instructions as far as possible or more or less." This 'more or less' and 'as far as possible' business is disastrous to an aspirant. There is neither 'exception to the general rule' nor 'allowing margin' nor any 'discount' in the practice of spiritual instructions. Exact, implicit, strict obedience to the instructions is expected of you.

Do not make thoughtless remarks. Do not speak even a single idle word. Give up idle talk, long talk, big talk and loose talk. Become silent. Do not assert for rights in this physical, illusory plane. Do not fight for rights. Think more about your duties and less about your rights. Asserting for rights comes out of Rajasic egoism. These rights are worthless. It is wasting of time and energy. Assert your birthright of God-consciousness. 'Thou art Brahman'-assert this real birthright. Then you are a wise man.

If you are endowed with good character, mercy, Brahmacharya, truthfulness, pure love, tolerance and serenity, these qualities will more than counterbalance many evil qualities you may possess. In time to come the evil qualities also will vanish if you are careful and if you focus your attention on them.

If you remain in the company of a developed saint, you will be immensely benefited by his magnetic aura and spiritual currents. His company will be like a fortress for you. You will not be affected by evil influences. There is no fear of a downfall. You can have rapid spiritual progress. The company of a saint hastens remarkably the growth of Sattvic virtues in the aspirant and gives him strength to awaken the dormant powers and to eradicate undesirable negative qualities and various defects. Young aspirants should remain in the company of their Gurus or saints till they are firmly moulded or established in the spiritual path and in deep meditation. In these days many young aspirants wander aimlessly from place to place and do not want to hear the instructions of their teachers or experienced saints. Hence they do not make any progress in spirituality. They remain as burdens on society. They have not elevated themselves. They are of no use to others also. They are free gentlemen at large!

A sense of humour is a rare gift of nature. It helps the aspirants in their march on the spiritual path. It removes depression. It keeps one cheerful. It brings joy and mirth to others also. But you must not cut such jokes as would wound the feelings of others. The humorous remarks must educate and correct others. They should serve the purpose of spiritual teachings. One should laugh in a mild and delicate manner. Silly giggling, guffaw or boisterous, indecent and unrefined laughter in a rude manner should be completely avoided. They prevent the spiritual progress of the aspirant and destroy serenity of the mind and serious magnanimous attitude. The sage smiles through the eyes. It is grand and thrilling. Only intelligent aspirants can understand this. Do not be childish and silly.

Even slight annoyance and irritability affects the mind and the astral body. Aspirants should not allow these evil Vrittis to manifest in the mind-lake. They may burst out as big waves of anger at any moment, if you are careless and weak. They should be nipped in the bud through the practice of forgiveness, love and sympathy for others. There should not be the least disturbance in the mind-lake. It should be calm and perfectly serene. Then only will meditation be possible.

Just as a turbulent horse carries away the rider along with him, so also the emotion of anger carries away the little Jiva who has no self-control. He becomes a helpless victim of emotion. Just as a capable rider controls the horses and reaches the destination safely, so also a man of self-restraint controls the emotion of anger, enjoys peace and reaches the goal of life.

A terrible fit of anger shatters the physical nervous system and produces a deep and lasting impression on the inner astral body. Dark arrows shoot from the astral body. The germs that cause an epidemic of Spanish flu may die, but the wave of influenza still continues in various parts for a long time. Even so, though the effect of a fit of anger in the mind subsides in a short time, the vibration or wave continues to exist for days and weeks together in the Linga Sarira or astral body. Slight unpleasant feeling that lasts in the mind for five minutes may produce vibrations in the astral body for two or three days. A terrible fit of wrath will produce deep inflammation of the astral body. It will take several months for the healing of the ulcer. Have you realised now the disastrous consequences of anger? Do not become a victim of this terrible malady. Control it by the practice of mercy, love, sympathy, Vichara and tolerance.

Worry, depression, unholy thoughts, anger and hatred produce a kind of crust or dark layer on the surface of the mind or astral body. This crust or rust or dirt prevents the beneficial influences to get entry inside and allows the evil force or lower influences to operate. Worry does great harm to the astral body and the mind. Energy is wasted by the worry-habit. Nothing is gained by worrying. It causes inflammation of the astral body and drains the vitality of man. It should be eradicated by vigilant introspection and by keeping the mind fully occupied.

Do not relax your efforts. Keep the divine flame burning steadily. You are nearing the goal now. Thy light has come now. There is Brahmic aura in your face. You have crossed many peaks and insurmountable summits in the spiritual path by dint of your untiring and patient Sadhana. It is highly creditable. You have made remarkable progress indeed! I am highly pleased with you, O Svaroopananda! You have still to ascend one more peak and go through one narrow pass. This demands still more patient efforts and strength. You will have to melt the Sattvic egoism also. You will have to transcend the blissful state of Savikalpa Samadhi also. You can do it. I am quite confident.

Have a strong determination and strong will. Do not think of returning home after taking up Nivritti Marga. Look before you leap. Have courage, fixity of mind and a definite purpose in life. Be not wavering. Are you ready to give up all possessions, including your body and life? Then alone come to me. Then alone take to Nivritti Marga and embrace Sannyasa. Think twice before you come to definite conclusions. This is not a rosy path as you may think. It is full of thorns. It is beset with countless trials and difficulties. Be humble, patient and persevering. Never care for Siddhis or quick awakening of the Kundalini. I shall serve you. Be not troubled. Be not anxious. I am your servant always. Be noble-minded. Mere emotional bubbling will not help you much. Some young men have returned to their homes. There are many difficulties in this path. A man of patience, perseverance and iron will alone can tread this path. This path can make you a King of kings. This path is easy for a man of determination, patience, endurance, self-sacrifice, dispassion, discrimination and strong will.

Those who want to take to seclusion and Nivritti Marga should observe Mauna, non-mixing and discipline of the Indriyas, mind and body while living in the world. They should train themselves to a hard, laborious life, coarse food, sleeping on the ground or on a hard mattress without pillows, walking bare-footed and refraining to use umbrellas. Then they can bear the rigorous austerities of an ascetic's life. They should give up timidity and shyness in getting alms. Those who want to have an independent living should bring Rs. 1,600. This will fetch an interest of Rs. 5 monthly. Times have changed now. It is difficult to get Bhiksha. There is a cry for work everywhere. Sannyasins should keep money now for the maintenance of Sannyasa itself. They must have economical independence. Then only can they get along smoothly with their spiritual Sadhana.

By continence, devotion to the Guru and steady practice, success in Yoga comes after a long time. The aspirant should always be patient in his efforts.

Aspirants who take to Nivritti Marga generally become lazy after some time, as they do not know how to utilise their mental energy, as they do not keep daily routine, and as they do not follow the instructions of the preceptors. They get Vairagya, but they have no experience in the spiritual line. They do not make any progress in the end. Intense and constant meditation is necessary for entering into Samadhi.

If the Yogic student who practises meditation is gloomy, depressed and weak, surely there is some error in his meditation. Meditation makes one strong, cheerful and healthy. If aspirants themselves are gloomy and peevish how are they going to impart joy, peace and strength to others!

Master every step in Yoga. Gradually ascend the successive stages boldly and cheerfully. Do not take a higher step before you completely master the lower one. This is the royal road to perfect meditation and Samadhi.

The student and the teacher should live together as father and devoted son or as husband and wife with extreme sincerity and devotion. Aspirants must have an eager receptive attitude to imbibe the teachings of the master. Then only will they be spiritually benefited, otherwise there is not the least hope of spiritual life and spiritual progress of the aspirant and complete regeneration of his old Asuric life.

It is a great pity that the present system of education in India is not favourable for the spiritual growth of a Sadhaka. The minds of students are saturated with materialistic poison. Aspirants of the present day have not any idea of the true relationship of a student and a Guru. It is not like the relationship of a student and a teacher or professor in schools and colleges. Spiritual relationship is quite different. It entails complete dedication. It is very sacred. It is purely divine. Turn the pages of the Upanishads. In days of yore Brahmacharins used to approach their teachers with profound humility, sincerity and Bhava with sacred sticks (Samiths) in their hands.

Have you fully determined with an iron will to stick to this line at any cost? Are you prepared to sacrifice this body and life in the cause of truth? Have you understood the glory and importance of Sannyasa and seclusion? If your daughter, brother or mother comes here and weeps, have you the strength of mind to resist Moha?

I shall keep you in the Gerua (orange-coloured) cloth, with holy thread and tuft of hair for some time. This is preparatory to Sannyasa. After studying your Vritti and mental state I shall initiate you into Sannyasa with proper Vedic rites, Vraja Homa, etc.

After coming here can you cut off your connections with your relatives? Can you stop all correspondence with your friends? Do not hide anything. Be very guileless, frank and candid like a child. Speak the truth now. Open your heart.

Aspirants do not have unshakable faith in the Guru or in the Srutis. They have half or wavering faith. That is the reason why they fail to attain success in Yoga or Jnana.
Sri Vasishthaji says to Sri Rama: "Even though one may find refuge in a Guru, it is only through his own effort and will that he can destroy all pains arising from the association with diverse objects and kinsmen." (Story of Bali-Yoga Vasishtha).

Many foolishly think that one drop of water from the Kamandalu of a Sannyasin or Yogi, or a small magic pill will transmute them into divinities, will awaken the Kundalini and put them into Samadhi within the twinkling of an eye. They themselves do not wish to do any kind of Sadhana. They expect that the Guru should do everything for them.

They want the 'master's touch' or 'influence'. Queer people indeed, with strange preposterous ideas!

You can know the unknowable Brahman through purity of mind, by serving the Guru who is a Brahmanishtha (who is established in Brahman), by getting lessons from him and by practising constant meditation.

When the mind is concentrated on one thing, there will arise in it, through the action of the Guru, another kind of knowledge not anticipated. Though initiation by an Acharya will not by itself enable a person to obtain Jnana, it will be the means of developing Jnana in him.
Sleepless vigilance is necessary if you wish to have rapid spiritual advancement. Never rest contented with a little achievement or success in the path, a little serenity of mind, a little one-pointedness, some visions of angels, some Siddhis, a little faculty of thought reading, etc. There are still higher summits to ascend, higher regions to climb.

Be ever ready to serve. Serve with pure love, kindness and courtesy. Never grumble or murmur during service. Never show a wry or gloomy face when you serve. The man whom you serve will refuse to accept such service. You will lose an opportunity. Watch for opportunities to serve. Never miss a single chance. Create opportunities. Create field for good service. Create work.

Live a life of utter devotion to service. Fill your heart with fervour and enthusiasm for service. Live only to be a blessing to others. If you want to achieve this you will have to refine your mind. You will have to polish your character. You will have to mould or build your character. You should develop sympathy, affection, benevolence, tolerance and humility. Do not fight with others if their viewpoint differs from you. There are many types of minds. There are many modes of thinking. There are honest differences of opinion. There are various shades of opinion. Every one is correct from his own viewpoint. Adjust yourself to their views. Hear their views also with love, sympathy and attention and give them a place. Come out of the centre of your small egoistic narrow circle and have a broader vision. Have catholic or liberal views. Give a place for the views of all. Then only will you have an expanded life and a very large heart. You must speak sweetly and gently in a courteous manner. You must talk very little. You must eradicate undesirable thoughts and feelings. There must not be the least tinge of pride and irritability. You must forget yourself entirely. You must not reserve even a trace of personal element or feeling. Complete dedication to service is needed. If you are equipped with the above qualification, you are a beacon-light and a rare blessing to the world at large. You are indeed a rare and sweet flower whose delicious aroma will permeate and pervade throughout the length and breadth of the land. You would have attained the exalted state of Buddhahood.

Be polite, courteous, kind, obliging and helpful, not now and then, not by fits and starts, but all the time, all throughout your life's career. Never speak a word that can jar or offend others. Think before you speak and see whether what you are going to say will not hurt the feelings of others, whether it is sensible, sweet, truthful and soft. Carefully note beforehand what will be the consequences of your thoughts, speech and actions. You may fail in the beginning several times, but you are bound to attain success in the end if you persist in the practice.

You must not do any work perfunctorily or in a careless, half-hearted manner, without taking any interest. You cannot evolve if you take this attitude of mind. The whole heart, mind, intellect and soul must be in the work. Then only can you call it Yoga or Isvararpana. Some people have their hands at the work, the mind at the market, the intellect in the office and the soul upon the wife or son. This is bad. You must do all work efficiently and perfectly. The motto should be: 'One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell.' If your Guru or friend asks you to wash a towel, take his clothes also for washing without his knowledge. If your preceptor says: "Amritam, bring me some groundnut oil," extract the oil in the twinkling of an eye and take it in a cup to your Guru. Run to him with the cup in your hand, with panting breath, with your body bathed in profuse perspiration, and say: "O venerable Master, dispeller of my ignorance! Here is the oil for thee." If a passer-by asks for a cup of water, say to him with courtesy, in sweet words: "Brother, take your seat. Here is water. Here is a cup of milk for you. Rest awhile on this seat. I shall shampoo your legs and fan you. You are tired." This is real service. This is real Yoga. If you do service with this mental attitude for one or two years, you will become an entirely changed being, a veritable God-man on this earth.

Do not do anything in a surry scurry, in haste or flurry. Do every bit of work with a cool, unruffled mind. Be perfectly accurate in doing any kind of work. Collect all your scattered thoughts and apply your full mind to the work on hand. Many spoil their work by doing it in haste without reflection or consideration. They repent later on. This is bad. Take your own time, it does not matter. But do it well with scientific or geometrical accuracy in a dextrous and masterly manner.

Be on the alert when you do service in society. Unselfish service of any kind, platform lectures or any kind of public activity will surely bring name and fame. Name and fame will destroy you like a canker in a blossom or in a young plant. Treat name and fame as poison. Become very, very humble. Let this virtue be ingrained in your heart, in every cell, in every nerve, in every fibre of your being. Many have had their downfall by becoming victims to this powerful intoxicant, name and fame. Their progress was stopped. Hence I seriously warn you.

You must develop to a remarkable degree the spirit of discrimination, discernment, alacrity, alertness, the faculty of 'Daksha' (expertness) which will help you to decide a right line of action when you are in a dilemma. Then only will you be able to find out what is exactly required at a critical juncture or at the right time and not an hour afterwards. You will not regret afterwards in any way.
It is extremely difficult to have a calm and pure mind. But you must have such a mind if you want to progress in meditation, if you desire to do Nishkamya Karma Yoga. Then only will you have a perfect instrument, a well-controlled mind at your disposal. This is one of the most important qualifications for aspirants. You will have to struggle hard for a long time with patience and perseverance to get this. Nothing is impossible for a Sadhaka who has an iron will and strong determination.

You must not be discouraged even a bit by repeated failures. You should know the causes which brought about the failures and should be careful in future to avoid them. You will have to fortify yourself carefully. In your weakness lies the secret of your strength. You will have to stick doggedly to your ideals, convictions and Sadhana despite repeated failures, and march boldly on the path. Say: "Come what may, I will surely come out with perfect success in this spiritual struggle. I will realise the Self in this very birth, nay, this very second. Failures or slips cannot in any way affect me."

I am always ready to help you. My sympathies are ever with you. I will radiate joy, peace and thought-currents of love towards you. I will inspire you. But I cannot do the work for you. You yourself will have to do the work. The struggle and exertion must come from your side. A hungry man will have to eat for himself. A thirsty man will have to drink for himself. You will have to place each step yourself on the spiritual ladder. Remember this point always.

Hey Saumya! Dear immortal soul! Be bold. Be cheerful even though you are on the roll of unemployment, even though you have nothing to eat, even though you are clad in rags. Thy essential nature is Satchidananda. The outer cloak, this mortal physical sheath is an illusory Mayaic production. Smile, laugh, whistle and dance in joy and ecstasy. Sing 'Om, Om, Om', 'Ram, Ram, Ram', 'Shyam, Shyam, Shyam', 'Sivoham, Sivoham, Sivoham', 'Soham, Soham, Soham'. Come out of this cage of flesh. Thou art not this perishable body. Thou art the immortal soul. Thou art the sexless Atman. Thou art the son of the King of kings, of the Emperor of emperors-the Brahman of the Upanishads, the Atman that dwells in the chambers of your heart (Hridaya Guha). Act as such, feel as such and claim your birthright, not from tomorrow or the day after, but right now at this very second. Tat Tvam Asi-Thou art That.

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