Swami Chidananda: Three things are necessary—Faith, Receptivity and Devotion. Faith is the most important factor. If a man studies spiritual literature with faith, he will try to live up to the lofty ideas and ideals contained in such literature. It is faith which makes possible what is otherwise impossible. Without faith, full benefits cannot be derived from the reading of any spiritual book. But, however, the very reading of spiritual books creates faith in those who might have formerly lacked firm faith in spiritual matters. Thus, though these three i.e., faith, receptivity and devotion may be said to be necessary to derive the fullest benefit from study of spiritual literature, yet they are not so indispensable as to render such study useless in their absence.
Many a time, these qualities themselves emerge as results from study of spiritual books. Therefore, while such attitude of mind is desirable for spiritual study, yet even those devoid of such attitude should engage themselves in the study of pure and inspiring spiritual literature. The right attitude and the necessary faith and devotion will develop gradually. Have you not heard the well-known saying, “Those who came to scoff remained to pray”? Even so, those people who read sacred literature with curiosity and critical spirit in the beginning later on become devoted to their regular study. Such is the holy influence of sacred books.
During the time of study, an attitude of receptivity should also be maintained. Spiritual literature should not be read in a casual manner as newspapers are read. Spiritual literature should be read with attention, since the object of reading here is not just to while away the time in a pleasant manner but to absorb the teachings and mould our very lives on the pattern of those teachings.
Also, an attitude of devotion, an attitude of reverence for the book and its author should be maintained while we are engaged in Svadhyaya. Otherwise, our study may degenerate into mechanical, parrot-like reading. Feel the blessedness of such study. Be aware that you are enriching yourself thereby. Then you will derive maximum benefit.
(Part 13, Students, Spiritual Literature and Sivananda)