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Special Instructions

by Swami Sivananda

1. 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 path.

2. 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 on each rung of the ladder. You will have to practice 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 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 practice 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.

3. If the chicken and fowls 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 dirty habit of eating filth. Even so this mind runs hither and thither to eat filthy things and enjoy 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 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 arisen. Days, weeks and months will roll on like this. Every winter also will pass 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 Maya. Be on your alert. Be vigilant. You can control mind and Maya. Throw away the blanket as soon as you hear the alarm. Sit on Vajra Asana. Do 20 Pranayamas. Drowsiness will disappear.

7. O friends! 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 Prema 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.

8. Just as you remove at once a pebble in your shoes 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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 in 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.

14. It is very 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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 and weakness that is eradicated will add strength to the mind, will develop your will and take you one step nearer to the goal. Friends! Why then lamentations and despair? Fight bravely in the Adhyatmic battlefield. Become a spiritual soldier. Come out victorious and wear the spiritual laurels of divine wisdom, eternal peace and supreme bliss.

19. 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 it with undistracted attention.

20. 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.

21. When you enter into deep meditation, you will have no consciousness of your body or surroundings. You will have equanimity of mind. You will not hear any sound. There will be stoppage of up-going and down-going sensations. The consciousness of egoism also will gradually vanish. You will experience inexplicable joy and indescribable happiness. Gradually reasoning and reflection also will cease.

22. When you enter into deep meditation, the pulse-beats may come to 30. The on-looker may not be able to perceive the breathing. The breath may not come out of the nostrils. In Jada Samadhi of Hatha Yogins the breathing and heart-beats will entirely stop. In Chaitanya Samadhi the lungs and heart will be functioning very, very slowly.

23. Advanced aspirants should stop all sorts of work and study of religious books even, if they want to enter into Samadhi quickly. They should observe Mouna and remain in a solitary place on the banks of the Ganga, Yamuna or Narmada or any other river. They should live on milk alone or milk and fruits. They should plunge themselves in Sadhana in right earnest. They should reduce sleep to 2 to 3 hours. They should start the practice in the beginning of winter, in November. There is real rest in meditation. This rest is far superior to the rest that is obtained from sleep even for half an hour or one hour and will suffice.

24. The aspirant or Yogi in the cave in the Himalayas or a silent meditator in the plains thinks that he is very much advanced spiritually. 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. Then only he will become a perfect sage. Equanimity is Yoga.

25. A worldly man has Abhimana for his wealth and position. He has great Moha for his children and wife. But a Sannyasi or Yogi has great spiritual and moral pride. He thinks: "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.

26. 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, look, smile, gait. Know them by the food they take, the books they study, and the companions they keep.

27. 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 my book 'How to get Vairagya' or Bhartrihari's 'Vairagya Sataka' again and again. Remember the pains of Samsara and the defects of the 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.

28. Even a pure Brahmachari will be troubled in the beginning by curiosity. He will be curious to know and feel what sort of happiness will the sexual enjoyment give. 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 satisfaction of a desire. Just as the tiger, man-eater, runs after human flesh only 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 eradicated by constant meditation, by thinking over the glory of Brahmacharya and the defects of an impure life.

29. 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 imbedded in the subconscious mind. Whatever you do, whatever you think, all 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.

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

31. 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 and 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 experience, whether it is a dream or an actual reality. Darshan of Lord Krishna is not so very cheap. Aspirants make mistakes in the beginning.

32. A piece of ordinary white paper or coloured paper has no value. You throw it away. But if there is the stamp or picture of the king or the emperor 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-Murty of Lord Krishna at Pandharpur or any other Murty 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-Murty, his own beloved and all the attributes of the Lord. Image-worship is very necessary for beginners.

33. 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 a 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.

34. 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.

35. 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.

36. May you be in direct communion with the Lord, thy Ishtam, Guide, Supreme Refuge and Solace!
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!

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