But then, all this knowledge gets stored in the mind, in the intellect. And the person possessing this knowledge, having immense information through so much reading and so much listening, still continues to be in the same state of consciousness as before. Because, this intellectual grasp of certain fundamental great truths, and also an inner conviction based upon the intellectual grasp of these great truths, nevertheless fails to penetrate deeper into the consciousness and fails to manifest itself or produce actual experience of this truth. Everyone knows for example that we are parts of God. God has made us in His image and therefore we are divine, we are immortal Spirit. Everyone is convinced, “Yes, I am divine.” But it makes no difference to our here and now personality. We continue to remain very, very human and all that that implies.
So, therefore, an important question arises. It was put to me by a sincere seeker: “Swamiji, we know so many things, have grasped these things. We are absolutely convinced about these things, yet the actual experience of these things still seems far away. How to bring about this experience? How to make this conviction an experience?”
It is in answer to this question that all the different Yoga systems, all the different systems of sadhana, have come into being. The Bhagavad Gita gives not less than sixteen different kinds of sadhana. If you leave aside the first two chapters as an introduction and a preparation for sadhana, then from the third chapter onwards until the eighteenth, Yoga after Yoga, sadhana after sadhana, is expounded. And all the various Yoga Sutras, Vedanta Sutras and Bhakti Sutras, they also expound an answer to this question.
We are convinced God is our own. We are convinced we belong to God wholly and solely, we belong to no one else. We are only passers-by here; all connections are temporary. Our connection with God is a permanent, eternal, unchanging connection. We know that. God is our all-in-all. He is our father, mother, friend, relative, wealth, wisdom, everything. This knowledge is there; we are convinced also, we believe it, but we do not experience this fatherhood of God, this motherhood of God—the living experience. What to do?
All the scriptures answer this question. All the lives of saints answer this question. And what is the quintessence of this answer? Whatever your conviction is, commence, start practising the conviction in the form of again and again affirming the truth that you are convinced of, again and again asserting it, again and again dwelling upon it, again and again meditating upon this truth. And time and again as any contrary state of mind begins to emerge in your interior, any thought that contradicts this, immediately reject it. This is the classical method given by great teachers of Vedanta.
They say it is only by practise of the truth-affirming, asserting, reflecting upon, deeply pondering and meditating upon that truth, trying to listen to it again and again, trying to absorb it even more by study—that it will go deeper. Do it through satsang, through sravana, through svadhyaya, through manana and through nididhyasana. And if anything of a contrary nature comes into your consciousness, immediately reject it.
Contrary thoughts will keep coming, because they do not come from outside, they are right within us. We have practised error for such a long time, since our birth. We have constantly lived in error and taken that to be the truth. We are groomed, reared up in error. Therefore, you cannot simply transform yourself overnight. The error will keep coming back and, you have to reject it.
So they say: “satya ka pushtikaran asat ka nirakaran, jnana ka pushtikaran ajnana ka nirakaran; neti, neti (the strengthening of truth, the rejecting of untruth; the strengthening of wisdom, the rejecting of ignorance; not this, not this).” “This is not right, this is not the correct thing. This is not the truth; I don’t want it.” Reject it, throw it out! And affirm, assert the Reality, the truth. Both of these are simultaneous. Both of these have to go together.
And, add to it deep study of the Goal. Absorb it, think of it constantly and then meditate upon it. “Tat srotavyo mantavyo nididhyasitavyah (That should be heard, reflected upon and contemplated).” So Yajnavalkya tells his disciple Maitreyi who was also his wife. On the eve of renouncing the householder status and entering the monastic life, when questioned about the Reality he said: “It is the greatest thing, dearer than the dearest, nearer than the nearest, the highest of all values, the one supreme thing.” He said: “Yes, this is the Atman. It has to be heard about, it has to be reflected upon, it has to be deeply meditated upon, O Maitreyi.”
He addresses Maitreyi, but actually he tells us this is what has to be done in order for conviction to gradually start developing into a feeling. First of all you experience it as a feeling. Though it may be on your psychical level, yet it is better than mere intellectual conviction. You are one step further. Not only are you convinced about it, you begin to feel it. That means it has started to approach closer to your consciousness. And then this bhava (feeling), if it is maintained, if it is brought into your daily life, if it is made to permeate your vision, then gradually this bhava begins to ripen into anubhava (direct perception).
So it is the result of a continuous, unceasing abhyasa, practice of affirming the truth, asserting the truth, reflecting upon it, meditating upon it and rejecting anything contrary to it. Thus, that which is only a conviction on the level of the intellect becomes an experience deep, deep within your innermost centre of consciousness. That is the beginning of liberation. So abhyasa is what is indicated and abhyasa is to be continuous. Abhyasa also includes the rejection of that which is contrary, not in consonance with the truth, with the Reality. Both are necessary.
When it says in the Gita: “You must focus your mind upon that great Reality, O Arjuna, and kascidanyan na cintayet—you should not think of anything else,” it means the entire mind should be focused upon the one great object of your meditation, the great Reality, to the exclusion of all other contrary thoughts. No other contrary thoughts should be allowed to enter in, to interfere with the focus. This is the way. And the law behind this practice is: “As a man thinketh, so he becometh.” “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandhamokshayoh—The mind alone of man is the main cause of either bondage or liberation.”
So there you have a method given to you. You have your mind, bring it under your control. You have your intellect which is already convinced. Now practise this conviction by affirmation. Assert, affirm, and reject all things that are contrary. Reflect upon it, meditate upon it, listen to it again and again. Read and absorb, take it deeper down. These are all abhyasas. It may be any path—bhakti, jnana or Yoga, any path. Practise this constant affirmation, the assertion of your relationship with God.
“God is my Father, I am the child of God”—this should be practised, this should be affirmed. Any other thing such as: “I belong to so and so, I am the son of this family,” should be rejected. “No, no, this is a false relationship. Any other relationship except with the source of my being, the cosmic origin, source and support of my being, is not authentic, is not genuine. The real, authentic relationship is with that Being alone Who is my Father, Mother, God. Any other relationship is an imagined one.” In that way one should practise.
Even upon the path of bhakti, even upon the path of duality, the same process is to be carried on, but modified and suited to that approach—through the heart, through emotion, through sentiment, through love, through devotion. But the technique is the same, the practice is the same, the sadhana is the same. “Mere to Giridhara Gopala dusara na koyi (So far as I am concerned, my God is Lord Krishna and nobody else).” That is bhakti. That is the same practice applied.
Whatever your path may be, God bless you to practise your conviction, strengthen it, take it ever deeper, and rejecting all that is contrary, may your efforts be crowned with success, with God-experience!
(pgs. 353-358, Ponder These Truths)