Obstacles in God-realization #5

Aimless Wandering

Swami Sivananda

Some aspirants have got a habit of wandering aimlessly. They cannot stick to one place even for a week. The wandering habit must be checked. They want to see new places, new faces and want to talk with new people. A rolling stone gathers no moss. A Sadhaka should stick to one place at least for a period of twelve years (one Tapah period). If his health is delicate, he can stay for six months in one place during summer and rainy season and in another place for six months during winter. Sadhana suffers if one wanders constantly. Those who want to do rigorous Tapas and Sadhana must stay in one place. Too much walking produces weakness and fatigue.

Lingual Diarrhea

Much energy is wasted by too much talking. The energy that is spent in talking must be conserved and utilized for divine contemplation. talkative man is unfit for the spiritual path. Practise Mauna (Silence) daily for two hours and especially during meals. On Sundays observe full Mauna for 24 hours. Do a lot of Japa and meditation during Mauna. The Mauna that is observed during meditation cannot be taken as Mauna. Mauna should be observed by householders at such a time when there are great opportunities for talking and when visitors come to meet. Now only the impulses of speech can be checked. Ladies are very talkative. They create troubles in the house by idle talk and gossiping. They should observe Mauna particularly. You should speak measured words only. Too much talking is Rajasic nature.

Discussing too much

Too much discussions end in enmity and hostility. Much energy is wasted in useless discussions. Intellect is a help if it is used in the right direction of Atmic Vichara. Intellect is a hindrance if it is used in unnecessary discussions. Intellect takes the aspirant to the threshold of intuition. Thus far and no further. Reason helps in inferring the existence of God and finding out suitable methods for Self-realisation. Intuition transcends reason but does not contradict reason. Intuition is direct perception of Truth. There is no reasoning here. Reasoning concerns matters of the physical plane. Wherever there is ‘Why’ and ‘Wherefore’, there is reasoning. In transcendental matters which are beyond the reach of reason, reason is of no use.

Intellect helps a lot in reflection and ratiocination. But people in whom reasoning has highly developed become skeptical. Their reason becomes perverted also. They lose faith in Vedas and in the teachings of Mahatmas.

Irregularity of Sadhana

Just as a man is regular in taking his food, so also he must be strictly regular in his Sadhana. One can get the meditative mood quite easily without effort if he does his Sadhana at fixed hours, both morning and night. In winter one can have four sittings. One should have the same pose, the same room, the same seat, the same Bhava or the same mental attitude, the same hours for meditation.

One should meditate regularly. He should do the spiritual Sadhana untiringly with indefatigable energy, asinine patience, adamantine will and iron determination. Then only sure success is possible. Meals should be taken at regular hours. One should go to sleep at fixed time. See how the sun is very regular in its rising and daily work!

Sometimes the mind gets disgusted with one particular kind of Sadhana. It wants some new kind of Sadhana. Just as mind wants some variety in food and other things, so also it wants variety in the mode of Sadhana also. It rebels against monotonous practice.

Do not expect anything. Be sincere and regular in your daily routine, Tapas and meditation. The Sadhana will take care of itself. You mind your own daily business. The fruit will come by itself. Let me repeat here the words of Lord Krishna: “Thy business is with the action (Tapas, Sadhana and meditation) only, never with its fruit; so let not the fruit of action be thy motive, nor be thou to inaction attached.” (Gita: ll-47.) Your efforts will be crowned with sanguine success by the Lord. It takes a long time for purification of the mind and getting a one-pointed mind. Be cool and patience. Continue your Sadhana regularly.

Fault-finding

This is a detestable old habit of man. If you spend even a fraction of the time that you waste in finding your own faults you would have become a great saint by this time. He who applies himself diligently to his spiritual practices cannot find even a single second to look into the affairs of others. Much time is wasted in back-biting, scandal-mongering etc. Time is most precious.

Fear

This is a very great obstacle in the path of God-realisation. A timid aspirant is absolutely unfit for the spiritual path. One must risk the life, if he wants to attain immortality. The spiritual wealth cannot be gained without self-sacrifice, self-denial or self-abnegation. A fearless dacoit who has no Deha-Adhyasa is fit for God-realisation. Only his current will have to be changed. Fear is not an imaginary non-entity. It assumes solid forms and troubles the aspirant in various ways. If one conquers fear, he is on the road to success. He has almost reached the goal. Tantrik Sadhana makes the student fearless.

Fear assumes various forms. Some are not afraid of tigers in the forests. They are not afraid of gun shots in the battlefield. But they are awfully afraid of public criticism. Fear of public criticism stands in the way of an aspirant in his spiritual progress. He should stick to his own principles, and own convictions, even though he is persecuted and even though he is at the point of being blown up at the mouth of a machine-gun. Then only he will grow and realise. Fear of all sorts should be totally eradicated by Atma-Chintana, Vichara, devotion and cultivation of the opposite quality, courage. Positive overcomes negative. Courage overpowers fear and timidity.

Force of Old Samskaras

When the aspirant does intense Sadhana to obliterate the old Samskaras, they try to rebound upon him with a vengeance and with redoubled force. They take forms and come before him as stumbling-blocks. The old Samskaras of hatred, enmity, jealousy, feeling of shame, respect, honour, fear etc., assume grave forms. Samskaras are not imaginary non-entities. They turn into actualities when opportunities crop up. The aspirant should not be discouraged. They will lose their force after some time and die by themselves. Just as the dying wick burns with intensity just before it gets extinguished, so also those old Samskaras show their teeth and force before they are eradicated. The aspirant should not get unnecessarily alarmed. He will have to increase the force or momentum of spiritual Samskaras by doing Japa, Dhyana, Svadhyaya, virtuous actions, Satsanga and cultivation of Sattvic virtues. These new spiritual Samskaras will neutralise the old vicious Samskaras. He should plunge himself into his spiritual practices. This is his Kartavya or duty.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda

Obstacles in God-realization #4

Swami SivanandaEvil Company

A man is known by the company he keeps. Birds of the same feather flock together. These are all proverbs or wise maxims. They are quite true. Just as a nursery is to be well fenced in the beginning for protection against cows etc., so also a neophyte should protect himself very carefully from foreign evil influences. Otherwise he is ruined totally. The company of those who speak lies, who commit adultery, theft, cheating, double-dealing, who are greedy, who indulge in idle talks, back-biting, tale-bearing, who have no faith in God and in the scriptures etc., should be strictly avoided.

Newspapers deal with all sorts of worldly topics. Aspirants should entirely give up reading of newspapers. Reading of newspapers kindles worldly Samskaras, causes sensational excitement in the mind, makes the mind outgoing, produces an impression that the world is a solid reality and makes one forget the Truth that lies underneath these names and forms.

False Tushti & Rasasvada

The Sadhaka gets some experience during the course of his Sadhana. He sees wonderful visions of Rishis, Mahatmas, astral entities of various description, etc. He hears various melodious Anahata sounds (Nada). He smells Divya Gandha. He gets the powers of thought-reading, foretelling etc. The Sadhaka now foolishly imagines that he has reached the highest goal and stops his further Sadhana. This is a serious mistake. He gets false Tushti or contentment. These are all auspicious signs that manifest on account of a little purity and concentration. These are all encouragements which God gives as a sort of incentive for further progress and intense Sadhana. The aspirant gets more strength of conviction by having these experiences.

Rasasvada is another kind of experience. It is bliss that comes from lower Savikalpa Samadhi. The Sadhaka who has experienced this supersensual bliss imagines that he has reached the final destination and gives up his Sadhana. He should never be satisfied with alpam or lower experiences. He should compare his experiences with the highest experiences of sages that are described in the Upanishads and find out whether they exactly tally with them or not. He should exert till he reaches the seventh Jnana Bhumika. “I have obtained all desires, I have done everything, I know everything. There is nothing more to be known. There is nothing more to be obtained.”

So-called Friends

The so-called friends are your real enemies. You cannot find even a single, unselfish friend in this universe. Your real friend in need who attends on you sincerely is God, the indweller of your heart. Trust in that Immortal Friend only who dwells in your heart. Then alone you are perfectly safe. He will give you whatever you want. Hear His sweet counsel from within with one-pointed mind and follow.

Depression

Aspirants get moods of depression occasionally. These moods may be due to indigestion, cloudy condition, influence of lower astral entities, and revival of old Samskaras from within. Treat the cause. Remove the cause. Do not allow depression to overpower you. Immediately take a brisk, long walk. Run in the open air. Sing divine songs. Chant Om loudly for one hour. Walk along the sea-side or river-side. Play on the harmonium if you know the art. Do some Kumbhakas and Sitali Pranayamas. Drink a small cup of orange-juice or hot tea or coffee. Read some of the elevating portions of Avadhoota Gita and Upanishads.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda

Obstacles in God-realization #3

Lack of Brahmacharya

Swami SivanandaNo spiritual progress is possible without the practice of celibacy. The semen is a dynamic force. It should be converted into Ojas or spiritual energy by pure thoughts, Japa and meditation. Those who are very eager to have God-realisation should observe unbroken celibacy strictly.

Women have got greater self-restraint than men, though Sastras say that they are eight times more passionate than men. They should sleep separately.

Wastage of semen brings nervous weakness, exhaustion and brings premature death.
Sexual act destroys vigor of mind, body and Indriyas and annihilates memory, understanding and intellect. This body is meant for God-realisation. It must be well utilised for higher, spiritual purpose. It is very difficult to get a human birth. Remember those Brahmachari-saints who had earned undying reputation and glory. You can also achieve greatness if you preserve this vital energy and utilise it for divine contemplation. You are not crawling now. You have learnt to stand up and walk. You are a man. Behave like a real man.

Ojas is spiritual energy that is stored up in the brain. By sublime thoughts, meditation, Japa, worship and Pranayama the sexual energy can be transmuted into Ojas-Sakti and be stored up in the brain. This Anger and muscular energy can also be transmuted into Ojas. A man who has great deal of Ojas in his brain can turn out immense mental work. He is very intelligent. He has a magnetic aura in his face and lustrous eyes. He can influence people by speaking a few words. A short speech can produce tremendous impression on the minds of hearers. His speech is thrilling. He has an awe-inspiring personality. A Yogi always directs his attention in the accumulation of this divine energy by unbroken chastity.

Name and Fame (Kirti and Pratishtha)

One can renounce even wife, son, property, but it is difficult to renounce name and fame. Pratishtha is established name and fame. This is a great obstacle in the path of God-realisation. This brings downfall in the end. This does not allow the aspirant to march forward in the spiritual path. He becomes a slave of respect and honor. 

Therefore an aspirant should hide himself always. Nobody should know what sort of Sadhana he is doing. He should never attempt to exhibit any Siddhi. He should be very humble. He should pass for quite an ordinary man. He should not accept any rich present from householders. He will be affected by the bad thoughts of those who offer presents. He should never think that he is superior to anybody. He should not treat others with contempt. He should always treat others with respect. Then only respect will come by itself. He should treat respect, honour, name and fame as dung or poison. He should wear disrespect and dishonour as a golden-necklace. Then only he will reach the goal safely.

Building of Ashrams and making of disciples bring about the downfall of the aspirant. They are also stumbling blocks in the path of God-realisation. The aspirant becomes another sort of householder. He develops institutional egoism. He gets attached to the Ashram and disciples.

It is very difficult to get good workers for the Ashram. Then why do you bother about building Ashrams when you have neither money, nor workers, nor dynamic, spiritual force? Keep quite. Do meditation. Evolve yourself. Mind your own business. Reform yourself first. How can you help others, when you yourself grope in darkness, when you are blind? How can a blind man lead another blind man? Both will fall in the deep abyss and break their legs.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda

 

Obstacles in God-realization #2

Doubt (Samsaya)

Swami SivanandaMind deludes people through doubting. Sometimes he gives up his Sadhana altogether. This is a serious mistake. Whenever doubt tries to overpower any student he should at once take recourse to the company of Mahatmas and remain with them for some time under the influence of their currents.  There are various kinds of impurities in the mind. It takes a long time for purification of the mind and getting a one-pointed mind. Concentration is a question of practice for several lives. Concentration is the most difficult thing in the world. Even if you do a little practice the effect is there. The Samskaras are there. Nothing is lost. That is the immutable law of nature. You will not be able to detect the little improvement that has come out of a little practice, as you have no subtle intellect and as you have many kinds of impurities from beginningless time. You must develop virtues, Vairagya, patience and perseverance to a maximum degree; you must have an unshakable conviction in the existence of God and in the efficacy of spiritual practices. You must have a strong determination: “I will realise God right now in this very birth, nay in this very second. I will realise or die.”

Tandri-Alasya-Nidra

Tandri is half-sleepy state. Alasya is laziness. Nidra is sleep. The first two are the precursors of sleep. These three are great obstacles in the path of realisation. Sleep is a powerful force of Maya. It is called Laya. It is Nidra Sakti. Sleep is the greatest obstacle as it is very powerful. It takes time and demands great strength of will to tear this old, old habit.

Arjuna is called Gudakesa or conqueror of sleep. Lord Krishna addresses him: “O Gudakesa”. Lakshmana also had conquered sleep. Besides these two persons who had conquered sleep, we have not heard of anyone. There are people who have reduced the sleep to 2 or 3 hours. Even Yogins and Jnanins sleep for two or three hours. Sleep is a psychological phenomenon. Brain needs rest at least for a short time. Otherwise man feels drowsy and tired. He can neither work nor meditate. The sleep of a Jnani is different from the sleep of a worldly man. In a Jnani the powerful Samskaras of Brahmabhyasa are there.

Sadhakas can gain time for their Sadhana by reducing sleep. The practice of reducing sleep will be very troublesome in the beginning. When the habits are changed, it will be pleasant in the end. When drowsiness tries to manifest, stand up and do the Japa. Dash cold water on the face and head. Take milk and fruits only at night. Avoid overloading the stomach at night. Take the night meals before sunset. Do Pranayama morning and evening before starting meditation. Do Sirshasana and Sarvangasana. Run for five minutes in your compound. Drowsiness and sleep will vanish.
The Practice of keeping vigils on Sivaratri and Sri Krishna Janmashtami is highly commendable. The Christians also keep vigils on Christmas and New Year’s night.

Manorajya

Manorajya is building castles in the air. This is a trick of the mind. The power of imagination is tremendous. Maya havocs through the power of imagination. Imagination fattens the mind.
The power of imagination will not allow the mind to keep quiet even for a second. Just as swans of locusts or flies come forth in a continuous stream, so also currents of Manorajya will stream forth incessantly. Vichara, discrimination, prayer, Japa, meditation, Satsanga, fasting, Pranayama, practice of thoughtlessness will obviate this obstacle. Pranayama checks the velocity of the mind and calms the bubbling mind. A young ambitious man is unfit to remain in a solitary cave. He who has done selfless service in the world for some years, and who has practised meditation for several years in the plains in solitary rooms can live in a cave. Such a man only can really enjoy the solitude of Himalayan retreats.

Lack of a Preceptor

The spiritual path is thorny, rugged and precipitous. It is enveloped by darkness. The guidance of a Guru who has already trodden the path is imperatively necessary. He will be able to throw light and remove the obstacles on the path. The knowledge of the Self is revealed through Parampara and handed down from Guru to the disciple in succession.

Beware of pseudo-Gurus. They are knocking about in abundance in these days. They will exhibit some tricks or feats to attract people. Think that those who are proud, who are roaming about to make disciples and to amass money, who talk of worldly matters, who speak untruth, who boast of themselves, who are talkative, who keep company with worldly people and women, and who are luxurious, are false impostors. Do not be deceived by their sweet talk and lectures. In this connection it will not be out of place to mention the story of a man who was in search of a Sat-Guru. He found out after all one Sat-Guru. The student asked the Guru: “O Venerable Sir, give me Upadesh.” The Guru asked: “What sort of Upadesh do you want?” The disciple asked: “O Beloved Master! Who is superior, disciple or Guru?” The Guru said: “Guru is superior to disciple.” The disciple said: “O Revered Guru! Make me a Guru. I like that.” Such sort of disciples are plenty in these days.

Vishayasakti (SENSUALITY)

This is the greatest of all obstacles. The mind refuses to leave completely the sensual pleasures. Through the force of Vairagya and meditation, the desires get suppressed for some time. All of a sudden the mind thinks of sensual pleasures through the force of habit and memory. There arises mental disturbance. Concentration decreases. The mind moves outwards in sensual objects.

In the Gita (II-6O, 67) you will find: “The turbulent senses, O Arjuna, do violently carry away the mind of a wise man, even though he be striving (to control them). For the mind, which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away his discrimination, as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.” “The objects of senses turn away from the abstinent man leaving the longing (behind); but his longing also turns away on seeing the Supreme.” (II-59.)

Some desires lurk in the corners of the mind. Just as old dirt from the corners of the room comes out when you sweep, so also through the pressure of Yogic practices, these old lurking desires come out to the surface of the mind with redoubled force. The Sadhaka should be very careful. He should be ever watching the mind vigilantly. He must nip the desires in the bud by developing his Vairagya, Viveka and increasing his period of Japa and meditation.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda

Obstacles in God-realization #1

Swami SivanandaAn intelligent and comprehensive understanding of the various obstacles that act as stumbling blocks in the path of God-realisation is indispensably requisite for an aspirant.

According to Patanjali Maharshi the following are the obstacles in God-realisation:
Vyadhi- styana- samsaya-pramada-alasya-avirati-bhrani
darsana-alabdha bhumikatva-anavasthitatvani
chitta-vikshepaste-antarayah.


Diseases, remission of Sadhana, doubt, carelessness, laziness, worldly-mindedness, illusion, false perception, tossing of mind and inability to remain in the state of Samadhi on account of Vikshepa are the obstacles in the path of God-Realisation. (I-30.)

Poor Health

You will find in the Yoga-Kundalini-Upanishad:
“Diseases are generated in one’s body through the following causes, viz., sleeping in the day time, late vigils overnight, excess of sexual intercourse, moving in crowd, the checking of the urine and feces, the evil of unwholesome food and laborious mental operations with Prana. “

God-realisation is not possible without Sadhana or spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is not possible without good health. A sickly, dilapidated body stands in the way of doing Abhyasa or discipline. The aspirant should try his level best to keep good health always by regular exercise, Asana, Pranayama, moderation in diet, walking, running in open air, regularity in his work, meals, sleep, etc. He should avoid drugging as far as possible. He must take recourse to nature cure such as fresh air, wholesome food, cold bath and dietetic adjustment. He should always keep a cheerful attitude of mind, under all conditions of life. Cheerfulness is a powerful mental tonic.
Vedanta says: “Have no attachment for this body. But keep it clean, strong and healthy for constant rigid Sadhana. This body is a boat to cross to the other shore of Immortality. It is a horse to take you to the destination. Feed the horse well-but give up ‘mine-ness’.”

Impure and Immoderate Food

Mind is formed out of the subtlest portion of food. If the food is impure, the mind also becomes impure. Food plays an important part in the evolution of mind. It has direct influence on the mind. Meat, fish, eggs, stale, unwholesome food, onions, garlic etc., should be avoided by spiritual practitioners as they excite passion and anger. The food should be simple, bland, light, wholesome and nutritious. Liquors and narcotics should be strictly abandoned. Chillies, condiments, spiced dishes, pungent articles, hot things, things that are sour, sweetmeats etc., must be rejected.
Aspirants should not overload the stomach. Ninety per cent of diseases take their origin in immoderation in diet. People have developed a strong habit of eating more food than what is actually necessary from their very boyhood. Overloading brings drowsiness and sleep immediately. The night-meals should be very light for Sadhakas. Half a seer of milk, with one or two plantains is quite sufficient. Overloading is the chief factor in bringing night-pollution.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda