The scriptures tell us that we live, move and have our being in God. More than that, they affirm our identity with God. To realise these truths, Gurudev urged us to practise integral yoga: “See your work as worship. Be devoted to God. Repeat His name. Meditate on Him. Think about Him. Enquire who am I?” But even if we are fortunate enough to have the temperament and ability to fill our days with spiritual practices, we can come to what could be called a stalemate.
Pujya Swami Chidanandaji dealt with this in his book Ponder These Truths in a talk called “Practise Your Conviction.” In that talk, Swamiji related how a devotee had approached him saying, “We are convinced of the truth of the scriptures. There is no doubt in our minds that God alone is; He is the only permanent Reality. But our conviction doesn’t seem to make a change in our lives. We seem much the same as we have always been.” Swamiji offered a solution. Not a magic one, but a very practical one that follows the scriptures. He said, “You must practise your conviction.”
Is there a difference between doing spiritual practices and actually practising them? The truth is, we can live a spiritual life without coming to the essence of it. So Swamiji said, “You are convinced that God alone is; He is the only reality; your only true relationship is with Him—which means that all other relationships are false relationships—therefore, practise that conviction. Constantly affirm the truth of your true relationship and deny and reject all other relationships.” This includes our relationships to our family, to our institution, even to our guru. All these are temporary relationships. Our only true relationship is with God. Swamiji continued, “If you will practise this, then gradually your intellectual conviction will deepen into feeling. You will feel the truth of it, and ultimately that bhav will ripen into anubhav or direct experience.”
We can bring about the same results through devotion, through surrender, offering everything to God and putting ourselves into His hands. But it is only when we move away from the surface of our life right down to where we live, to where our deepest convictions are, that our spiritual life actually begins to move. We have to get down to who we think we are and to where our relationships have their source. Most of us are filled with a network of relationships and identities that have nothing to do with God in His essence. We must deny all those temporary relationships and affirm the truth of our real relationship.
This is the practice of our conviction that Swamiji urged us to follow. He said, “This is the Vedantic method—the affirmation of your true relationship with God and the denial and rejection of all false, temporary relationships.”
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh