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 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 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

Bhakti & Jnana Part #1

swami sivanandaPratima is a substitute or symbol. For a beginner Pratima is an absolute necessity. By worshiping an idol Isvara is pleased. The Pratima is made up of five elements. Five elements constitute the body of the Lord. The idol remains an idol; but the worship goes to the Lord. Just as a man is pleased by shaking hands with his friends by touching a small portion of his body, so also God is pleased when a small portion of His Virat (cosmic) body is worshiped. Just as the child develops the maternal Bhava (mother-feeling) by playing with its imaginary toy-child made up of rags, and suckling it in an imaginary manner, so also the devotee develops the feeling of devotion by worshiping the Pratima and by concentrating upon it. Pictures, drawing, etc., are only a form of Pratima. The devotee associates the attributes of God with the image and feels His presence or immanence there. He finds it easy to concentrate his mind on the image. The mind wants a concrete prop to lean upon in the beginning stage of practice.

Bhagavan Sri Sankaracharya defines Bhalrti as devotion unto Atman. You cannot entirely separate Bhakti from Jnana. When Bhakti matures, it becomes transmuted into Jnana. A real Jnani is a devotee of Lord Hari, Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Siva, Durga, Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Lord Jesus and Buddha. He is a Samarasa Bhakta.

If a Vedantin excludes Bhakti, remember, he has not really grasped and understood Vedanta.
Lord Krishna takes a Jnani as a first-class Bhakta. “Of these, the wise, constantly harmonised, worshiping the One, is the best; I am supremely dear to the wise, and he is dear to Me. Noble are all these but I hold the wise as verily Myself; he self-united, is fixed on Me, the highest path.” (Gita: VII-17, 18.) Jnana intensifies Bhakti.

God takes a human form for elevating human beings. There is descent of God for the ascent of man. This is known as Avatara or incarnation of God. In the Gita (IV-6, 7, 8) you will find: “Though unborn, the imperishable Self, and also the Lord of all beings, brooding over nature, which is Mine own, yet I am born through My own power. Whenever there is decay of righteousness, then I Myself come forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers, for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age.”

Avataras generally proceed from Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. They cannot come out of Isvara Himself. Just as a tailor who makes coats for others can make a coat for himself also, God who has created the bodies for others, can create a body for Himself as well.

Lord Krishna told Arjuna that this was the ancient and imperishable Yoga which he taught to Vivasvan the Sun-God; Vivasvan taught it to Manu; Manu taught it to Ikshvaku and so it was handed down through Parampara from royal sage to royal sage till it is decayed in the world by great efflux of time and was now renewed for Arjuna as he was His devotee and friend.

God is the Antaryamin, the Inner Self of all beings. He is not an absolute landlord of this world. He is not extra-cosmic or super-cosmic deity. He pervades and permeates all atoms and the whole universe. He is the Lord of the breath, mind and all organs. In him we live, move and have our very being.

A simple Jivanmukta is like a star that glitters at night. He throws a little light only. Somehow or other he has crossed to the other shore through some Tapas and Sadhana. He cannot elevate a large number of people. Whereas an Avatara is a mighty person. He removes the veil of ignorance of thousands of men and women and takes them to the land of eternal rest, bliss and sunshine.

The Lord incarnated as Nara and Narayana. The object of the incarnation was to teach by precept and example the performance of duty without desire for reward. Nara and Narayana were doing severe penance at Badrikashram. The Lord appeared as a swan to teach Atma-Yoga to Brahma. Dattatreya, the Kumaras, four sons of Brahma are all partial incarnations of Vishnu. Lord Vishnu has taken ten Avataras up till now. Dakshinamoorthy was an Avatara of Lord Siva.

The philosophy of Jesus Christ, the Yogi of Nazareth, is the best of its kind for the European world as is the philosophy of Buddha for Thailand, China, Japan and Sri Lanka. So is the philosophy of Mohammed for Arabia. All are the sons of God made in His image to give to the different parts of the great wide world a message of peace and of the secret of life.

Very few people like Bhishma recognized Lord Krishna as the Avatara. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says: “The foolish disregard Me, when clad in human semblance, ignorant of My Supreme nature, the great Lord of beings.” (Gita: IX-11.) “Those devoid of reason think of Me, the unmanifest, as having manifestation, knowing not My supreme nature, imperishable, most excellent.” (Gita: Vll-24.)

The pseudo-Avataras dress themselves as Lord Krishna with crown and peacock-feathers on their heads and appear before credulous disciples and say: “I am Lord Krishna. Drink my Charanamrita. I shall give you Mukti.” Any saint who wants to rise up should not allow his disciples to advertise.

In this Kali-Yuga, Kali-Avatara is expected.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda