Study systematically the Gita, the Ramayana, the Bhagavata, Vishnu-Sahasranama, Lalita-Sahasranama, Aditya Hridaya, Upanishads or Yoga Vasishtha, the Bible, Zend Avesta, the Koran, the Tripitakas, the Granth Sahib, etc., from half an hour to one hour daily and have Suddha Vichara.
Within the context of Satya Sanathana Vaidic Dharma which is called Hinduism, within the context of Indian culture, there is a certain concept—that all beings are indebted to the universe around them. We are not isolated. Thomas Merton wrote a book called No man is an island. We are not cut off from others, we cannot isolate ourselves. We are beholden to a hundred different things around us without which we cannot exist, we cannot survive. We cannot even go about doing our day-to-day work. Our whole life depends upon so many things, so many factors, so many people, so many functions of others—living and non-living. If someone did not sweat and drill in Ankleshwar or somewhere to get crude oil and make petroleum and if petrol was not manufactured and taken by truck or wagon or train to the petrol stations, do you think Swami Chidananda can come up here every morning?
It is because some car brings him up here. We must with humility understand that we are dependent, on many other things, many other persons. I have to be grateful to whosoever brings the petrol up from the bowels of the earth—the Petrol Company and its personnel, its staff and its labourers which enables the car to bring me here. We cannot move a little finger unless someone is there to bring it about, make it possible. So, we are dependent, we must recognise this and be grateful.
The greatest virtue of the human heart is gratitude. Even dogs have it. Therefore, they say that nothing is so terrible as a person’s ungratefulness. There is a sonnet: “Blow, Blow, thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.” So we have to be grateful to them from whom we have received something. There is a concept of Pancha Maha Yajnas (five main sacrifices). Through yajna (sacrifice) we offer a part of ourselves, our time, our energy, our intelligence and thus repay a little bit of the debt of gratitude we owe to others.
(1) Pitru Yajna: We are grateful to our ancestors in whose line we are born. We inherited this body from them in which we live and function and also do spiritual sadhana and attain enlightenment and then try to serve humanity. In this way we are grateful to our ancestors—immediate as well as remote.
(2) Deva Yajna: We are grateful to the various cosmic forces that keep this cosmos in perfect order and precision—fire burns, water flows, wind blows. So to Vayu Devata, Agni Devata and Varuna Devata we are grateful. We have to give a part of our gratitude to the Devatas.
(3) Bhuta Yajna: We are beholden to so many creatures, insects, even crows because they scavange. This is bhuta yajna. (bhuta means creatures).
(4) Atithi Yajna: An unexpected visitor arriving at your door affords you an opportunity to serve him with your hospitality. An opportunity to serve is a great blessedness because service makes you shed your selfishness, it purifies your heart and opens up a feeling for others, a feeling of love and oneness. Therefore, be grateful.
(5) Rishi Yajna: And then, for our guidance, for our practical instructions, for our inspiration, for our caution, for our protection, for our warning—due warning before danger comes—the great men of wisdom and enlightenment, the illumined sages of God-realisation have left their wisdom teachings in the form of scriptures. So to them the whole world is eternally grateful. These Maha Rishis have produced the scriptures and that debt gets repaid by making use of these wisdom teachings by daily study. This study is an attempt to repay our debt of gratitude to the great sages, remote as well as recent. This is called swadhyaya.
Gurudev says: “Do swadhyaya, study systematically holy scriptures according to your religion for half an hour to one hour daily and have pure thoughts.” Holy scriptural reading should be backed up by pure thoughts, and pure thoughts induce you to take to holy scriptural study, and this study, encourages and brings about purity of thought. They are all inter-connected. Therefore, study of scriptures is an important part of the 20 Spiritual Instructions and forms what is known as Rishi Yajna. To repay our debt of gratitude to these great sages of yore, the ancient men of wisdom who have given us the greatest of all treasures, jnana (knowledge)—which alone distinguishes the human being from all lesser species—we should make a sincere, earnest, daily attempt on our part to study these wisdom teachings. Jnana (knowledge) makes the difference between the pashu (animal), the manava or manushya (human being) and the haivan (devil).
The richest sources of Jnana, the most precious part of global human heritage is the wisdom teachings of the great ones. Not to take recourse to them is the height of ingratitude, not to take recourse to them is failure to recognise their great worth and value, their place in our lives and the role they have to play in our evolution. It would be behaving like swine before whom some pearls were cast, if we do not take recourse to these great treasures and study them daily. Therefore we must assert our humanity, our human status, exercise our wisdom and go to these sources of living waters and drink of them daily, attain immortality and make our life fruitful with supreme blessedness and liberation. May God help us and Gurudev bless us to attain success in this sincere endeavour.
[TWENTY IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS, A Series of talks on Swami Sivananda’s Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions.]