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From Caterpillar to Butterfly

Satguru-Sivaya-Subramuniyaswami-26There are no shortcuts to enlightenment, but there are detours. Impatience with the natural process is one of them. I am saying that impatient striving, the kind of striving that puts aside all common sense and says “I am going to get realization no matter what” is itself an obstacle to that realization which is not a something to get. We must work to perfect an inner serenity that can accept spending a lifetime or several lifetimes in search of Truth, that can accept that some of us are by our nature and unfoldment better suited to service and devotion, and others to yoga and the various sâdhanas. This is a far more enlightened perspective than the Western notion which subtly maintains that there is but a single life in which all the final goals must be reached. The eternal spiritual path, the way of God, is broad. It accepts all and rejects none. No matter where a seeker is in his inner development, the eternal path embraces and encourages him.

According to the Ågamic tradition, four categories of charyâ, kriyâ, yoga and jñâna are the natural sequence of the soul’s evolutionary process, much like the development of a butterfly from egg to larva, from larva to caterpillar, from caterpillar to pupa, and then the final metamorphosis from pupa to butterfly. Every butterfly, without exception, will follow this pattern of development, and every soul will mature through charyâ to kriyâ, through kriyâ to yoga and into jñâna. Charyâ, or karma yoga, may be simply defined as service. Kriyâ, or bhakti yoga, is devotion. Yoga, or râja yoga, is meditation, and jñâna is the state of wisdom reached toward the end of the path as the result of God Realization and the subsequent enlivened kundalinî and unfoldment of the chakras through the practices of yoga. The soul does not move quickly from one stage to another. It is a deliberate process, and within each stage there exist vast libraries of knowledge containing the sum of thousands of years of teachings unraveling that particular experiential vista.

The evolution of the soul through the stage of charyâ, or service, may itself take many, many lives. We see people every day who are working to be of service, to be more efficient, to be more useful to others. Charyâ is the state of overcoming basic instinctive patterns and learning to work for the sake of work rather than the fruits of our labor. It is the simple fulfillment of right action and the first step on the spiritual path. The instinctive mind at this stage of evolution is so strong that it must be governed firmly by external laws, external forces. Tendencies toward selfishness lose their hold on the devotee as he strives to become the perfect servant to God and mankind.

Worship during the charyâ stage is entirely external. As the devotee unfolds into the next stage, of kriyâ or bhakti yoga, he will want to worship and serve in the temple in more internalized ways. Singing the sacred hymns, chanting the names of the Lord and performing japa will become an important part of his devotion, which is partly internal and partly external. Kriyâ blossoms into its fullness when there arises in his heart a desire, a strong desire, to know and experience God.

It is through the devotees in the kriyâ, or bhakti yoga, stage of the unfoldment of the soul that we have all over the world today magnificent Hindu temples, built by people who have performed well, who have controlled their thoughts and actions, who have understood the laws of karma and the penalties of wrong action. They have avoided wrong action not out of fear, but because they have evolved into performing right action. As he matures in kriyâ, the devotee unfolds a more and more intense love of God, to the point that he may well shed joyful tears during intense moments of worship. When that love is constant from day to day, when it is strong enough that he is capable of surrendering his individual will to God’s Cosmic Will, then kriyâ or bhakti yoga has reached its zenith.

At this stage of kriyâ the devotee learns patience. He learns to wait for the proper timing of things in his life. He is in no hurry. He is willing to wait for another life, or for many more lives. There is no urgency. He trusts God and trusts the path he is on. He settles down, and his life comes into a balance.

In the stages of charyâ and kriyâ, the deep-seated impurities of the mind are cleansed as past karmas are resolved and a foundation laid for the third stage on the divine path, that of yoga. Yoga is a very advanced science. It cannot be sustained except by the soul that has unfolded into the fullness of charyâ and kriyâ and maintains the qualities of service and devotion as meditation is pursued. The devotee who has served God well now embarks upon finding union with God in his sanctum within.

In yoga, the devotee worships the transcendent aspect of God. He strengthens his body and nerve system. He disciplines the energies of mind and body. He learns to regulate his breath and to control the prânas that flow as life’s force through his nerve system. In this process, the kundalinî Sakti is lifted and the multi-petaled chakras unfold in all their splendor. Lord Siva now brings the earnest  devotee to meet his sat guru, who will guide him through the traditional disciplines of yoga on his inward journey. It is his spiritual preceptor, his guru, who takes care that he avoids the abysses and psychic pitfalls along the path. In this stage of yoga, the devotee looks upon God as a friend, a companion. Finally, one day, in his first samâdhi, he penetrates to the essence of being. In this ultimate experience, which remains forever beyond description, he has reached the union which is yoga.

Returning from this state of ineffable fulfillment, the devotee brings back into his life a new understanding, a new perspective. He is never the same after that experience. He can never again look at life in the same way. Each time he enters into that God Realization, that samâdhi, he returns to consciousness more and more the knower. His knowing matures through the years as his yoga sâdhana is regulated, and as it matures he enters ever so imperceptibly into the fourth and final stage of unfoldment, into jñâna.

One does not become a jñânî simply by reading philosophy. Understanding another person’s wisdom does not make us wise. Each has to experience the fullness of the path to enlightenment himself. The jñânî becomes one who postulates that what he has himself realized are the final conclusions for all mankind. His postulations are filled with assuredness, for he has experienced what the Vedas, the Ågamas and the Upanishads speak of. He has awakened the power and force of his own realization. He knows. He becomes the embodiment of that knowing, of the Truth he once sought as something other than himself. He finds within the scriptures confirmation of his realization echoed in the verses of rishis written at the dawn of human history. This matured soul sees reflected in their writings that same state of complete merging with the Divine that he himself has come to know as the timeless, formless, spaceless Absolute which he once worshiped symbolically as a stone image in previous life wanderings within the instinctive mind. He has removed the veils of ignorance, removed the obstacles to understanding. He has come into his true being, union with God, union with Siva, and in this serene state he sees God as his beloved, as that which is dearer to him than life itself, as he is consumed by that all-encompassing love. He has become the source of light and darshan which radiate out through the nâdîs and prânas of his being.

The final conclusions are that mankind is on a spiritual path as old as time itself, that this journey progresses from birth to birth as the soul evolves through the perfection of charyâ into the perfection of kriyâ, and from there into the perfection of yoga, emerging as a jñânî. This is the path followed by all souls. Whatever religion they espouse, whatsoever they may believe or deny, all of mankind is on the one path to Truth. It begins with the dvaita of charyâ and ends in the advaita of jñâna.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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Two Forces of Life

Satguru-Sivaya-Subramuniyaswami-26There are two basic forces in the universe, which you can look up in the dictionary. One is called odic force. The other is actinic force. Odic force is magnetic force. Odic force is the force of collective energies that make things—trees, chairs, tables, houses, the physical body. Odic force is of the material world—dense and heavy. The aura around the physical body and the forces of nature which govern much of man’s life on Earth are odic force. Actinic force is your pure life force coming from the central source deep within, out through the nerve system. But as soon as this pure life force begins to mingle with the astral atoms and the physical body atoms, it turns to odic force. The study of these two forces can give you a great awakening—two primal forces.

The sahasrâra chakra, the âjñâ chakra, the visuddha chakra—the top three, the head and throat centers—are primarily actinic force centers of rarefied inner consciousness within the superconscious itself. The anâhata chakra, the heart center, which allows us to look out into the external world and within to the internal areas, is primarily a mixture of actinic force and odic force. It’s called actinodic . It’s a mixture of these two forces. However, the lower three chakras—manipûra, svâdhishthâna and mûlâdhâra—are primarily odic force chakras . They are the forces that make up what we call the world.

The ida and pingalâ forces are basically odic forces. So, therefore, when the odic force is withdrawn back into the sushumnâ, back into its actinic substance, we completely lose awareness of the external world. That is how we enter meditation , by withdrawing the odic forces. The prâna is the in-between. It is the actinodic force that flows in and through odic and actinic forces. It is the binder of these two forces.

To stabilize awareness, so it does not flow through the first chakra, the fifth chakra, the third chakra, the second chakra, to stabilize awareness, what do we do? Attention, concentration, meditation. We work daily within ourselves so we stabilize, and so that willpower and awareness become one and the same great motivating force, so we travel through the areas of the mind that we want to, not propelled by the forces of karma as they boomerang back, not propelled by those forces. We have to work within daily to stabilize the breath and the body so that will and awareness become one and the same great motivating force.

In the evolutionary cycle, man eventually becomes conscious of the actinic force as it flows through the odic areas of the mind. On these rays, education comes from the inside of himself out to the conscious mind. A person going through such an experience feels he has tapped a higher, intuitive resource.

It is known that sages have learned languages, mathematics and all flows of knowledge in meditation. Uneducated men have become scholars by opening what Jnanaguru Yoga swami called “your own book.”

As soon as we stop making the effort to penetrate the actinic realms, the ordinary forces of attachment, fear and desire force in upon us. It then requires extra effort to balance the forces and penetrate the life-giving, light-giving regions in meditation.

A guru-disciple relationship may be established on the actinic plane for years before a physical meeting and training takes place. The study and unfoldment begins when one turns within himself, creating the irrevocable “golden yoke” and attuning himself to the same actinic ray of consciousness in which the guru functions. Teachings can then be conveyed on these rays, as long as guru and disciple are in harmony. By working with this golden yoke, one’s karmic experiences are hastened, but at the same time they are encountered in a more orderly fashion.

The state of contemplation

The force field of actinic consciousness is one which a guru has worked perhaps for many years to enter. His awareness of it is his control of it. This mechanism works in the same way a corporate executive guides the forces of his business, through knowledge of the field and experience. A guru learns control of actinic force fields just as a businessman learns to control his odic force fields. The odic force and the actinic force make up this planet. The action and interaction of these two forces working together cause the life that we see on Earth.

The woman holds the power of the odic force field. The man holds the power of the actinic force field. Between them they cause a chemicalization that brings through the soul and the physical and emotional body of a newborn child. Depending upon this chemical balance, they give birth to an old soul or a young soul. That is why it is so important for families to have a deeply religious life. What is a religious life? It is the balance of these two forces, the odic force and the actinic force. It is so important that there is an absolute harmony between the man and the woman. This guides and governs the inner currents of the children until the age of twenty-one. At that time, the inner forces dissolve from the family and are governed by their own superconscious mind.

Striving in meditation for a continuing contemplative awareness, a strong actinic vehicle is built. The aura of a person who has created access to this inner world gives evidence of a higher energy source. This is what is behind the ancient myths wherein the Gods rode through the skies in golden chariots. The golden chariot is the actinic vehicle of the superconscious. A satguru must be able to control his travel on more than one actinic ray. In doing so, he is able to establish a continuity of contact in the deeper consciousness within his various disciples. It is on an actinic ray that intuitive knowledge is gained and passed along.

The actinic world is only attained and sustained by initiating definite controls over the odic world. One state of consciousness is controlled in the process of awareness moving and expanding into another state. As we progress along the path, we become more and more and more sensitive. This sensitivity that you will begin to recognize is so refined and yet so strong. You communicate with yourself through the nerve currents which extend out, around and through the physical body—physical nerve currents as well as psychic nerve currents. Before we get deeply within on the path, we’re not too sensitive. But as this sensitivity develops, we begin to see through our hands. We begin to hear feeling. We begin to see sound, and all sorts of new faculties manifest.

We want to be sensitive, and yet we want protection, psychic protection. Our dreams become more well defined, but we don’t want to be vulnerable to negative areas of the mind, disruptive areas, experiential areas of the astral plane, while we are sleeping. Neither do we wish to be attacked on the astral plane by the mischievous beings, entities, that are on that particular side of life. We need this astral protection. We need this psychic protection. The group helps the individual and the individual helps the group. The force field of a group of people on the path goes along at a certain rate of intensity which is not broken, and this gives us tremendous psychic protection. In the very same way, a positive group of people only admit into their midst other positive people. A group of businessmen have a well-managed force field, and generally only a businessman of their same caliber can come and mix with them. A group of artists has a force field, and only artists of the same caliber can get into it. Why? If they let everybody in, they wouldn’t have a force field. The business would fail. The art would go into chaos. Friendships would be destroyed because of other influences coming in and amongst the people.

Force fields protect and sustain not only our outer forms of expression, but deep spiritual layers as well. When we go “out” into superconsciousness, if we are sensitive and unable to protect our subconscious mind, all sorts of other types of influences can enter. We don’t want this to happen, and it’s not necessary. It is a deterrent on the path, for we then are exposed to unseemly astral influences that detract us from our quest.

Make friends with those who are on the path. Be with fine, positive people. Don’t be with negative, complaining people who have no relationship to what you are doing on the inside, or who are criticizing you for what you are doing. There’s the old statement, “One bad apple can turn the whole bushel rotten.”

Psychic protection

Psychic protection, to sensitive people, is extremely important. It involves every detail of life—your home, friends, clothes, diet, even your dreams.

By keeping your house, your meditation room, as clean as possible. By entertaining few guests and then only people of the same caliber and nature. Guests, other than close relatives, should not stay more than three nights. Why? Because otherwise they bring too much distraction, too many other influences into the home. Finally, the whole atmosphere may be disrupted. Many families have broken up and lost their home, and children have gone homeless, simply because guests have stayed too long and worked into the inner atmosphere and brought in too many influences of a distracting and disturbing nature.

Keep your environment positive, so that the inner feeling is always content. Keep your home shrine or meditation space radiant, so that the inner feeling there is always uplifting.

As you advance along the path, the radio mechanism will become highly tuned, very positive. Being positive, it will register all types of influences. Influences that are distasteful to you will come through as strongly as influences that are really magnificent. You have to learn to shield out the static by finely tuning this mechanism. That is why you strive for mastery of sâdhana, mastery of concentration, your ability to hold awareness where you want it by taking awareness out of the entire context into just being aware. You pull awareness out of the thought processes. You pull awareness out of the emotion processes. You pull awareness out of the bodily processes, and you’re just completely on that pinnacle of being aware of being aware. That’s so necessary to practice every day, even if you do it for a split second. To hold that experience and to stabilize the physical and emotional elements long enough to hold that intensity for even a minute takes more practice—not too much, but consistent practice, more effort, more will, more dedication to the life of sâdhana.

When you meditate, you become inwardly strong. You become extremely sensitive, and sensitivity is strength. Now, it is true that if you are centered in yourself completely enough to be all spine and just a being of energy, you can go anyplace in any type of environment, inside or outside, and the environment would be better for your having been there. You would not absorb any of the distracting or negative vibrations. But until that day comes, it is better to be wise and live in a positive vibration and among people who can help stabilize the force field around you, so that your inner life goes on without interruptions—of spinning out, having to crawl back, and spinning out and then having to crawl back.

Part of the psychic pitfall is the belief that in order to be spiritually awakened, one must also be psychically awakened, seeing auras, visions, hearing celestial music and such. We do not have to awaken the third eye. To me, that is a translation error made in the old scriptures. This third eye has never been asleep. It’s always awake. We are not aware, however, of the visual mechanism of the third eye. As we become more and more sensitive, the third eye becomes more and more apparent to us, because we keenly observe through that faculty more than we did before.

You have often noticed that you moved your foot or some other part of your body out of the way of danger just in time. Well, your third eye wasn’t asleep then, and you didn’t see that foot coming down on you with your physical eyes. You saw it with your third eye. We use this third eye all the time. When someone greets you who is apparently looking fine and you sense otherwise, thinking, “I feel he’s disturbed. I wonder what’s wrong,” you’re seeing his inner condition with your third eye. When you walk up to someone’s house and you have the feeling that nobody is home because you don’t feel vibrations coming from the house, you’re seeing this with your third eye. We see and respond to things seen with the third eye every day, whether we are fully conscious of it or not.

Protect yourself as you protect a precious jewel. Guard your awareness from coarse influences and you will enjoy the bliss of the natural state of the mind—pure, clear and undisturbed.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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The Glory of Brahmacharya

Swami SivanandaThe meaning of brahmacharya

Brahmacharya literally means Achara or conduct that leads to the realization of Brahman or one’s own Self. It means the control of semen, the study of the Vedas and contemplation on God. The technical meaning of Brahmacharya is self-restraint, particularly mastery of perfect control over the sexual organ or freedom from lust in thought, word and deed. It must further involve a permanent abstention from indulgence in erotic imagination and voluptuous reverie.

Brahmacharya is the vow of celibacy. The avenue to the abode of supreme peace begins from Brahmacharya or purity. Brahmacharya is absolute freedom from sexual desires and thoughts. Brahmacharya is meant for both men and women. Bhishma, Hanuman, Lakshman, Mira Bai, Sulabha and Gargi were all established in Brahmacharya.

Mere control of the animal passion will not constitute Brahmacharya. This is incomplete Brahmacharya. You must control all the organs—the ears that want to hear lustful stories, the lustful eye that wants to see objects that excite passion, the tongue that wants to taste exciting things and the skin that wants to touch exciting objects.

It is very necessary that you should be pure in mind if you wish to be a Brahmachari. Mental Brahmacharya is more important. You may succeed in physical Brahmacharya, but you must succeed in mental Brahmacharya also. That state of mind wherein no single sexual thought enters the mind is termed mental Brahmacharya. If thoughts are impure, the sex impulse will be very strong. Brahmacharya depends upon regulating the whole course of life.

When you cannot control the lustful thoughts, at least control the physical body. Physical Brahmacharya must be strictly practiced at first. Control the body when the sex impulse troubles you. Mental purity or mental Brahmacharya will gradually manifest.

You may be able to stop copulation for months and years, but there should not be any sexual craving or attraction for women. Evil thoughts also should not arise when you look at a woman, when you are in the company of women. If you succeed in this direction, then you are established in perfect Brahmacharya. You have crossed the danger zone. Thought is the real action. An evil desire is tantamount to adultery. The desire is more than the act.

The state of mental Brahmacharya must be kept up even amidst temptations and sickness. Then only you are safe. The senses begin to revolt during times of ailment and also when you come in contact with sense objects.

Keep the mind fully occupied. Intense musing on the objects of sense does more harm to the inner spiritual life than actual sense-gratification. If the mind is not rendered pure by Sadhana, mere mortification of the external senses will not produce the desired effect. Although the external senses are mortified, their internal counterparts, which are still energetic and vigorous, revenge upon the mind and produce intense mental disturbance and wild imagination.

It is the mind that really does all actions. A desire arises in your mind and then you think. Then you proceed to act. The determination of the mind is put into action. First there is Sankalpa or thought and then comes action. Therefore, do not allow the sexual thoughts to enter the mind.

No space is empty at any time. This is the law of nature. If one thing is removed from a place, immediately another comes in to take its place. The same law holds good in the case of the inner mental world also. Therefore, it is necessary to entertain sublime divine thoughts to replace evil thoughts. As you think, so you become. This is the immutable psychological law. The vicious mind is gradually divinised by entertaining divine thoughts.

The glory of brahmacharya

You cannot have health and spiritual life without Brahmacharya. Brahmacharya brings material progress and psychic advancement. It is the basis for morality. It is the basis for eternal life. It is the shield for waging war against the internal Asuras—lust, anger and greed. It serves as a gateway to the bliss beyond. It opens the door of Moksha. Brahmacharya is the only key to open the Sushumna and awaken Kundalini. Just as the oil comes up in a wick and burns with glowing light, so also, the Veerya or semen flows up by the practice of Yoga Sadhana and is converted into Tejas or Ojas. The Brahmachari shines with Brahmic aura in his face. Brahmacharya is the bright light that shines in the house of the human body. The scriptures declare emphatically:

“Ayustejo Balam Veeryam Prajna Sreescha Yashastatha
Punyamcha Sat-Priyatvamcha Vardhate Brahmacharyaya”

By the practice of Brahmacharya, longevity, glory, strength, vigour, knowledge, wealth, undying fame, virtues and devotion to the truth increase. Truth cannot dwell where passion lives.

Without Brahmacharya, all your exercises are nothing. It is the master-key for opening the realms of health and happiness. He who has even a little bit of Brahmacharya will tide over a crisis of any disease very easily.

After Dhanvantari had taught all the details about Ayurveda to his disciples, they enquired about the keynote of this medical science. The Master replied, “I tell you that Brahmacharya is truly a precious jewel. It is the one most effective medicine—nectar indeed—which destroys diseases, decay and death. For attaining peace, brightness, memory, knowledge, health and Self-realization, one should observe Brahmacharya, which is the highest Dharma. Brahmacharya is the highest knowledge; Brahmacharya is the greatest strength. Of the nature of Brahmacharya is verily this Atman and in Brahmacharya It resides. Saluting Brahmacharya first, the cases beyond cure, I cure. Aye, Brahmacharya can undo all the inauspicious signs.”

The power of celibacy

By the establishment of continence, vigour is obtained. The Yogi gets Siddhi or perfection by attaining perfect mental and physical Brahmacharya. Brahmacharya helps him in gaining divine knowledge and other Siddhis. When there is purity, the rays of the mind are not dissipated. Focusing of the mind becomes easy. Concentration and purity go together. Although a sage talks a few words only, a deep impression is produced in the minds of the hearers. This is due to his Ojas Sakti, which is conserved by the preservation of semen and its transmutation.
A true Brahmachari in thought, word and deed has wonderful thought-power. He can move the world. If you develop strict celibacy, Vichara Sakti and Dharana Sakti will develop. Vichara Sakti is the power of enquiry. Dharan’a Sakti is the power of grasping and holding the Truth. Continence increases infinitely the power of retentive memory. The strict celibate has keen and acute memory even in old age. A man who has the power of Brahmacharya can turn out immense mental, physical and intellectual work.

Jesus, Sankara, Jnana Deva and Samarth Ramdas were all Brahmacharins. Even among electrons, there are bachelor electrons and married electrons. Married electrons manifest in pairs. Bachelor electrons exist singly. It is these bachelor electrons only that create magnetic force. The power of Brahmacharya is seen in electrons also. Friend, will you learn some lessons from these electrons? Will you practice Brahmacharya and develop power and spiritual force? Nature is your best teacher and spiritual guide.

Brahmacharya for householders

It is beyond all doubt that a life of Brahmacharya is glorious and marvellous. At the same time, a life of moderation in the household life is equally good and helpful for spiritual growth. Both have their own advantages. You must have great strength to tread the path either way. The life of an ideal householder is as much difficult and rigid as that of an ideal Sannyasin. Pravritti Marga or the path of Karma Yoga is as much difficult and rigid as that of Nivritti Marga or the path of renunciation.

Even as a householder you can be a Brahmachari, by sticking to the principles of Grihastha Dharma, by moderation and regular worship of God. Brahmacharya in Grihasthashrama is absolute moderation in sexual intercourse. Marriage should not in any way lead you downwards in your spiritual path. You should keep the spiritual fire ever blazing. You should make your wife also understand the real glory of a spiritual life. If both of you observe Brahmacharya for sometime and then avoid excesses, she will give birth to robust children who will be the pride of the country. Conserved energy can be used for higher spiritual purposes. Prevention of frequent maternity will preserve your wife’s health too.

If you want to practice Brahmacharya, think and feel that your wife is your sister. Destroy the idea of husband and wife and develop the idea of brother and sister.

As soon as a son is born to you, your wife becomes your mother, because you yourself are born as the son. A son is nothing but the energy of the father. Change the mental attitude. Serve your wife as the World Mother. Start spiritual Sadhana. Destroy passion. Every morning, as soon as you get up from bed, touch your wife’s feet and prostrate before her taking her for Kali or the World Mother. Do not feel ashamed. This practice will remove the idea of ‘wife’ from your mind. If you cannot do the prostration physically, at least do it mentally.

As soon as a child is born, man must give up lust. He must observe celibacy. He must treat his wife as his own mother. This is a great Sadhana for the householder.

Says Manu: “The first-born child is born of Dharma and the rest of Kama or lust. The sexual act for mere pleasure is not justifiable”.

When the couples who live around you vie with one another in materialism, and in their individual capacity, to drag each other down, both of you should compete with each other in advancing rapidly in spiritual Sadhana. What a novel competition! What a blessing it is to have such a competitor as the lifepartner!

Duty of teachers and parents

If you compare the present system of education with our ancient Gurukul system, there is a wide gulf between the two. In the first place, the present system of education is very costly. The moral side of education is absolutely ignored at the present moment. Every student in the Gurukul was pure. Every student, had perfect moral training. This was the predominating feature of ancient culture. Every student had a knowledge of Pranayama, Mantra Yoga, Asanas, the code of morals, Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads. Every student possessed humility, self-restraint, obedience, a spirit of service and self-sacrifice, good demeanour, politeness, a courteous nature, and last but not the least, a desire to acquire Atma-Jnana.

A great and onerous duty rests with the teachers and professors of schools and colleges to train the students in the path of Sadachara or right conduct and to mould their character properly. Brahmacharya includes character-building or right moulding of character. They say that knowledge is power. But I assert boldly, with great assurance and practical experience, that character is power and that character is far superior to knowledge even.

Your whole life and your success in life depend entirely upon the formation of your character. All the great persons in this world have achieved their greatness through character and character alone. The brilliant luminaries of the world have won their laurels of fame, reputation and honour through character and character alone.

The teachers themselves should be strictly moral and pure. They should be endowed with ethical perfection.

When students reach the age of maturity, certain growths and changes take place in the physical body. The voice changes. New emotions and sentiments arise. Naturally, the youngsters become curious. They consult the street boys. They get ill advised. They ruin their health by vile habits. A clear knowledge of sexual health, hygiene and Brahmacharya, of how to attain longevity and how to control passion, should be imparted to them. Parents should teach their children the various stories from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana that relate to Brahmacharya and right conduct.

Parents should advise their children, often and often, on the subject of Brahmacharya. This is their imperative duty. Candid talks to the boys and girls are very necessary when they begin to show signs of puberty. It is no use beating about the bush. Matters that relate  to sex should not be kept hidden. It will be only false modesty if the parents feel shy to talk to their children on this important subject. Silence will only excite the curiosity of the adolescent children. Whereas, if they can understand these things clearly in time, surely they will not be misguided by evil companions and they will not develop bad habits.

Teachers and parents should give proper instructions to the boys and girls as to how they should lead a clean life of Brahmacharya. They should get rid of their false sense of modesty and shame.

O teachers and professors! Wake up now! Train the students in the path of Brahmacharya and righteousness and morality. Make them true Brahmacharins. Do not neglect this divine work. You are morally responsible for this onerous task. This is your Yoga.

Excerpts from “Practice of Brahmacharya” by Swami Sivananda

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The Superconscious Mind

Satguru-Sivaya-Subramuniyaswami-26We have to adjust our subconscious to the idea that we are a superconscious being, rather than an instinctive being or an intellectual being driven by the impulses of the five senses. Awareness is the core of us. If we stepped into another physical body tomorrow, we would still be a superconscious being, but with another physical body, different than the one we had yesterday, with an entirely new subconscious and new external environment. You would have a new physical body, a new subconscious mind and a new external environment to adjust to. In this new body you would soon forget that you are a superconscious being.

When Are You Superconscious?

It is easier to know when you are not superconscious than when you are superconscious, because your superconsciousness is such a natural state. When you are feeling really good and satisfied within yourself, you are superconscious. When your timing is right, when everything is happening just right during the day, you are superconscious. When nothing seems to be happening right, then your awareness is flowing through one of the congested areas of the thought realm. When everything seems to be going wrong, you are flowing through an instinctive area or a congested intellectual area. When you are arguing with yourself, you are not superconscious. When discussing something with someone, you are not superconscious, for superconsciousness is a one-way street. You speak right from the core of existence without really thinking about what you are going to say. When you are disturbed about yesterday, or even have a consciousness that there was a yesterday, you are not in a superconscious state. When you are afraid, you are not in a superconscious state. When you are peaceful, when you are calm, when you are in the eternity of the moment, when you feel secure on the inside of you, you are in a superconscious state. Super consciousness is not something you will get, because you have never been without it. You are superconscious this very minute, and functioning in all five states of the mind.

If you can remain totally centered in awareness of the energy within your spine and the energy within the head, you become aware of the same energy within everybody and everything you see. You are immediately in a superconscious state when this happens. You may find yourself beginning to lean on other people rather than on your own spine. When you discover this happening, then begin to meditate. Go deep within yourself again and find superconsciousness. Seek the company of people who center their awareness within. This will make it easier for you to do so. Being around people who center awareness in the external areas of the mind is difficult because they draw your awareness into the external areas of the thought strata. You actually see from the inside of everything that you look at to the exterior of it. You look at a tree. You first see the energy within the tree. The bark is the last thing you see. When you are in an outer consciousness, first you see the bark of the tree and then you intellectually surmise that there must be energies within it because you happen to notice that a leaf is growing and assume that it must be alive.

Learn to Move Awareness

All you have to do is to reprogram the subconscious a little and move awareness out of the conscious mind, and your journey is within. You are super conscious now. You do not have to “get to be” superconscious. This is not something that is going to happen to you all of a sudden and then cause you to be different. The thing that is going to happen to you is that you will release your individual awareness from the so-called bondages of the habit patterns of the external mind that it had been accustomed to flowing through. Once it is released, you will automatically flow into other inner areas of the mind. Though you are superconscious right now, awareness is still externalized enough that you touch into it only a little bit and then are pulled back to the subconscious or to the conscious mind.

Through regular practice of meditation, one learns to move awareness through the superconscious areas like a dancer learns to move across the stage according to the rhythm of the music.

The Use Of Intuition

Intuition is the natural way in which man expresses himself on Earth or any other planet on which he might find expression of his being. This natural flow of mana, the Polynesian word for prânic sakti, from and through him only becomes inhibited when he disconnects from the nerve system of the celestial into the nerve system of the animal. When this occurs, there, therefore, is a disconnect between superconsciousness and external consciousness. Man’s individual awareness is either captured by the nerve system of external consciousness, of the successive animal bodies which his soul inhabits as a vehicle to live on Earth in, or man’s individual awareness is captured by his celestial nerve system, matured on aged planets in the galaxy prior to arrival here on Earth. This, then, is superconsciousness—the natural expression of the transcendental soul known as man.

Intuition day by day occurs spasmodically, but it does occur. And systematically one can gear his observation of his own intuitional faculties and find out exactly when these intuitive functions occur within him.

How does one distinguish between intuition and usual thought-feeling processes? Desires come through feeling, warmth of emotion, as do thoughts, schemes, ways of manipulating the media forces for one’s own personal benefit or that of a loved one. This is contrary to the power of intuition, which runs cold and is direct, like a bolt of lightning in the inner sky or the subtle rainbow of an etheric aura which bypasses the processes of current thinking, giving answers before the question and solving problems before they have accrued.

It is only through sâdhana and divesting oneself—in order to perform sâdhana—from the social structure of the conglomerate of mortals that surround you that you will actually be able to prudently delineate between true intuition and the imposing factors of need and greed that often seem paramount when living up to the externalities of the instinctive nerve system.

Subduing The Intellect

Though we often use the terms “unfolding intuitive faculties” and “developing intuition,” they are only used in an effort to encourage the aspirant on the path to work within himself in subduing his intellect so that he can actually observe the already functioning totality of the intuitive area of the mind. In order to subdue the intellect, that conglomerate of thought patterns and established modes of procedure according to the culture of the day, it is first quite necessary to inwardly observe how one’s acquired intellect actually functions. Observation is a faculty of the intuitive area of the mind, and this particular aspect of observation that I have just described comes into usage only after regular periods of meditation have been maintained over a long period of time. True, our intuitive faculties do constantly mingle through thought sequences each day, but our ability to distinguish one from another is accrued only through regulated discipline of our individual power of awareness. Once an inkling of success comes in knowing intuition and how it differs from reasoning, emotional impulses and pre-programmed patterns within the subconscious, the contest is won. Then and then only we must persist to sustain this knowledge and dive deeper into the inevitable, all the time losing the future and the past, and loosening the reins of the intellect.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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Message of Prem


Prem or Bhakti is intense love or highest form of devotion to God. There is not a bit of effort. There is a genuine, natural, spontaneous longing to meet God in the heart. Just as fish cannot live without water, just as the sun-flower cannot live without the sun, just as the chaste wife cannot live without her husband, so also a true Bhakta cannot live without God even for a moment.Swami Sivananda

Physical love is passion or Moha. Universal Love is Divine Love. Cosmic Love, Visva Prem, Universal Love are all synonymous terms. God is Love. Love is God. Selfishness, greed, egoism, vanity, pride, jealousy and anger contract the heart and stand in the way of developing Universal Love.

Just as taking of food brings Tushti (satisfaction), Pushti (nourishment to the body) and cessation of hunger, so also Bhakti brings Vairagya and Jnana.

No development of Prem or Bhakti is possible without right conduct (Sadachara). Just as a disease can be cured by medicine as well as dietetic adjustment, so also realisation of God can be had by devotion and Sadachara. Bhakti is the medicine. Sadachara represents dietetic adjustment or Pathya.

What is Sadachara then? To speak the truth, to practise Ahimsa, not to hurt the feelings of others in thought, word and deed, not to speak harsh words to anyone, not to show any anger towards anybody, not to abuse others or speak ill of others and to see God in all living beings is Sadachara. If you abuse anyone, if you hurt the feelings of others, really you are abusing yourself and hurting the feelings of God only. Himsa (injuring) is a deadly enemy of Bhakti and Jnana. It separates and divides. It stands in the way of realising unity or oneness of Self. You begin to injure others the moment you forget to see God in others.

Make hay while the sun shines. Winnow the corn while the wind blows. Sow the spiritual seeds when you are young. In old age you will have no strength of body and mind to do rigorous Sadhana.

That from which this universe has evolved, That in which this universe subsists and That in which this universe involves should be understood as Brahman, Atman or God or Supreme Being.

That in which there is neither East nor West, neither light nor darkness should be understood as Brahman.

The highest end of human existence than gaining which there is no greater gain, than whose bliss there is no greater bliss, than knowing which there is no higher knowledge-that should be understood as Svaroopa or Brahman or God.

A drunkard is not one who drinks liquors, but one who is intoxicated with the pride of wealth, power, position, rank, intelligence and false learning from books and passion. A blind man is not one who is not able to see with these physical eyes, but one who is not able to perceive the One Imperishable Essence “Avinasi Vastu” that is seated equally in all these beings through the inner eye of intuition or Divya Chakshus. A dead man is not one whose Pranas have departed from his physical body, but one who spends his life in eating, drinking and sleeping only and who is not doing worship of God for his liberation. 

There are two ways for attaining God-Consciousness. They are the Pravritti Marga and Nivritti Marga. Pravritti Marga is the path of action or Karma Yoga. Nivritti Marga is the path of renunciation or Jnana Yoga.

Let me say a word on practical Sadhana. The Sastras are endless; there is much to be known; time is short, obstacles are many; That which is the Essence should be grasped, just as the swan does in the case of milk mixed with water.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda

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The Subconscious Mind #1

Satguru-Sivaya-Subramuniyaswami-26The Form of the Subconscious

Everything that has once passed through your conscious mind in the form of experience is resident right now within your subconscious. The life, the biological evolution of your  forefathers, is all registered in the molecular strands of your subconscious, capable of being recalled into memory. The life, the biological evolution of your forefathers, is all registered in the molecular strands of your subconscious, capable of being recalled into memory.

The subconscious mind, like the conscious mind, has a form of its own. It is given form, shape and momentum by the nature of your experiences in life and the way you react to them. Most people are not happy with the form of their subconscious mind. They are still reacting to early experiences, early environments. Some people go to great expense in trying to change the form of their subconscious through therapy or travel, but because there is no absolution in either, in time they generally manage to recreate their subconscious in the same old form. Childhood experiences do have a profound influence on  one’s make-up in this life, but these influences are by no means binding. Any attitude, any personality conflict or block in the subconscious can be demagnetized and resolved.

How do we change the form of the subconscious? We purify it by resolving in understanding those experiences which have created it. How do we resolve those experiences through understanding? We bring them up into the light and face them without reaction. By resolving our reactive experiences in understanding, the subconscious becomes more and more transparent to our own view and, therefore, necessarily undergoes positive change. To be able to objectively observe one’s own experiences without reaction is one of the powers acquired through the performance of sâdhana.

The subconscious mind may appear to be a very complex state of mind, as anything is when we do not understand it. Through daily sâdhana you will learn how to clear the subconscious of its unnatural states of confusion and how to keep it clear, transparent. 

Your mind being at rest and no longer disturbed, intuition can flow through it unhampered. Your best answers often come after you have removed the searchlight of your conscious mind’s focus for a time. This is the superconscious working through the subconscious, making it subsuperconscious. You have now unfolded the key to living an intuitive and productive life. People who live positive lives have clear goals well impressed in the subconscious mind. They often draw upon their subsuperconscious mind, though they may call it by another name—perception, insight, intuition, instinct or sixth sense.

The subconscious mind performs many, many functions for us. In fact, it would be impossible to do without it. But think of some of the uses of the subconscious—the skills which your memory bank acquires, such as typing, driving, playing musical instruments or speaking a language. As soon as any learning process becomes subconscious, the conscious mind is free to direct its attention to new areas of learning. Even all the processes of the physical body are governed by the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind is a storehouse, a reflection of all previous conscious mind experiences. The power of our decisions creates our reactions of tomorrow. When tomorrow’s reactions happen, they program the subconscious. We have to be careful that our programming is just right, so that the channels to superconsciousness begin to open through the subconscious.

Facing Old Memories

When man finally turns inward, sits down and asks “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” what is the first thing he discovers? The subconscious mind, of course. Do not be afraid of the subconscious. It is useless to be afraid of the past.

When you begin to meditate, you become keen and perceptive enough to begin to see within yourself. Occasionally, you will see into the subconscious area and begin emotionally to relive the past. This means that many of the predominantly strong memory and reactionary patterns of the past loom up before you, one after another, and you may begin to react to them all over again, emotionally and even physically. These are not real experiences. It is only a layer of the subconscious exposing itself to your inner vision, indicating that reprogramming is needed. Handle each layer dynamically. Welcome the thoughts and accompanying feelings in a hospitable way. Do not fear them or regret them, and certainly do not criticize yourself for having them. The reaction will subside, but the memory will linger as an education upon which you can formulate decisions for the future, thus avoiding the same problem.

On the path to enlightenment, you have to face everything that has gone into the subconscious, not only in this life, but what has been registered in past lives. Until you do, you will never attain Self Realization. Your final obstacle will be that last subconscious area that you were afraid to face, looming up before you in the form of worries, fears and repressions that you will wish to push away, hide from, so that neither you nor anyone else can see them.

To hear of the Self is a great blessing, indeed, but to desire to realize the Self means that in this and your past lives you have gone through all of the experiences that this Earth consciousness has to offer. You have died all of the deaths and had all of the emotional experiences. You have had the good of the world and the bad of the world, and the mixed good and bad of the world through all of your many lives before you come to the life where you say, “I want to realize the Self in this life.” Now you begin to tie up all the loose ends of past experiences that have not been fulfilled or resolved, because those loose ends are what bring you back to birth.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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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

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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

 

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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

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Background of Thought

Swami SivanandaThe background of thought of a Manradi is about his money. His mind is always on the safe. He plans, speculates and schemes as how to increase his money in the bank from one lakh to two lakhs. The background of thought of a young man is about his wife. The background of thought of a doctor is about his patients, dispensary and drugs. The background of thought of a lawyer is about his clients, courts and rulings of the High court. The background of thought of an old grandmother is about her grand-children. The vast majority of people indulge in thoughts of jealousy and hatred and these thoughts form their background.

But the background of thought of a Bhakta is about his Ishta-Devata. A devotee of Lord Krishna always thinks of Krishna with flute in hand. He has a concrete background. A Vedantin or a student of Yoga has an abstract background. He meditates on abstract ideas. A Sattvic background keeps the mind always pure and takes the devotee to the goal. The mental image of Lord Krishna destroys all other worldly thoughts. A sacred background of thought either concrete or abstract is a valuable spiritual asset for a man. A habit to think of the image is formed by constant thinking of one’s Ishta Devata. Even in the office when you leave the pen on the table, the mind through the force of habit will at once move to the background of thought and think of the picture of Lord Krishna. Even in dream you will have vision of Lord Krishna only. The greater the Sadhana, the stronger the background of thought of the mental image.

The image leaves a definite impression on the mind. This is called Samskara. If this impression is repeated very often, a tendency or habit is formed in the mind. That is the reason why the aspirant is asked to repeat the Mantra several lakhs of times. A man can shape his mind for good or bad. It depends upon the nature of food he gives to the mind. Every thought produces a definite change in the substance of the brain also.

One has to create a Sattvic background of thought through continued struggle. The mind will run back to its old ruts and manufacture images of worldly objects. The Sadhaka will have to bring back again and again the mind to the Sattvic background of thought that he has developed. The struggle will be keen in the beginning. Later on the mind will quietly rest in the spiritual background of thought.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda