How to Recognise a Sincere Spiritualist?

Question 1: How to recognise a sincere and truthful devotee of God?

Answer 1: Let not appearance deceive you. There goes the devotee, chanting the scared Name of Narayana. He sings in ecstacy and dances in rapture for an hour or two. He is vehement in asserting that all indeed is Narayana. Here is a great monist who would not stop repeating: ‘I am God, I am God’. Profound is his learning, and mighty his swordsmanship in argument. Tarry a while, friend. Watch them under three conditions: (1) when desperatively hungry, (2) when bitterly provoked and insulted, and (3) when another man is pathetically distressed. Now, if they fulfil former assertions, all hail to them, obeisance to them, veritable gods on earth they are, and let the dust of their feet adorn our foreheads.” (pg. 66, Self-Realisation by Swami Sivananda)

Question 2: Who is deemed an unspiritual and worldly-minded person?



Answer 2: “A worldly-minded person is a prey to sexual thoughts, and thoughts of hatred, anger and revenge. He is enslaved by these two type of thoughts which take possessions of his mind. He does not know the laws of thoughts, and how to divert his mind, and fix it on good, noble thoughts. He cannot resist an evil desire, craving or temptation on account of his weak will. He is completely ignorant of the nature and workings of the mind. His position is extremely deplorable, despite his earthly possessions and knowledge obtained from universities. Dispassion and discrimination have not awakened in him. He has no faith in saints, in scriptures and in God….” (pg. 355, Science of Yoga, Vol. 2 by Swami Sivananda)


What is Ego? Do Spiritual people have ego?

Question 1: Everyone in spiritual life talks about ego, and that it is the greatest impediment when it comes to attaining God. What, actually, is ego? How does it cause trouble to us?

Answer 1: “Ego… is the self-asserting principle…born of ignorance…It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman, It is the ego which is the ROOT CAUSE of ALL human sufferings and births and deaths.” (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 2: How do we know whether we have ego? Or, whether we are acting out of egoistic tendencies? Are there are definite signs of the existence of ego?

Answer 2: “…ego identifies itself with the body, mind, prana, and the senses. Wherever there IS ego, there are mine-ness, SELFISHNESS, LIKES and DISLIKES, LUST, ANGER, greed, HYPOCRISY, PRIDE, JEALOUSY, delusion, arrogance, conceit, impertinence, vasanas (=tendencies), trishnas (=cravings)…”   (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 3: How do we get rid of this ego that causes so much trouble?

Answer 3: “…destrouction of thought, DESIRES, cravings, mineness, selfishness, JEALOUSY, PRIDE, LUST is really destruction of mind or egoism. Control of SENSES also is annihilation of the mind or egoism.” ( (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Do people who are in spiritual life or who practise religions have ego?

Answer 4: “This egoism assumes a subtle form. The gross egoism is NOT so dangerous as the subtle egoism.”  (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 5: I have known people who claim that their religion is the truest and the rest are bogus, or they claim that their group, congregation, church, mosque or temple is genuine and the others, although they may belong to the same religion, do not belong to the true path of and to God. Are they actually working under the influence of ego?

Answer 5: “..Institutional egoism is a subtle form of egoism. The man identifies himself with the institution and gets ATTACHED to the institution or cult. He has no broadmindedness or catholicity.”  (pgs. 44-45, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 6: How to easily detect ego as it is so subtle and abstruse?

Answer 6: “The working of egoism is very mysterious. It is VERY difficult to detect its various ways of working. It NEEDS a SUBTLE and SHARP intellect to find out its operation. If you practise INTROSPECTION DAILY in silence, you WILL be able to find out its mysterious ways of working.”  (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 7: In your answer to Question 2 you said if we identify ourselves with the body, mind, senses, etc., it is an indication that we have that lurking ego in us. If this is so, what about our feelings regarding foreigners, strangers and people who do not belong to our society, culture, etc. Is that feeling of seeing the difference between us and others in terms of nationality, attainment, class, status, etc., the work of ego too?

Answer 7: “The seed of this ego is the differentiating intellect or Bheda Buddhi… This ego likes his own birth, place, and district, people of his district, own mother tongue, his own relations, and friends, his own ways of eating, mode of dressing. He has his own predilection and preferences, He dislikes others’ ways of eating, dressing, etc. (pgs. 44, 45 Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda).

Question 8: You see, I have spiritual friends—great spiritual friends, who are excellent advisers, guide and counsels. They have the little tendencies that you have described. Does it mean they too have the ego?

Answer 8: “It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman… This ego wants to exercise POWER and INFLUENCE over others. He wants TITLES, prestige, STATUS, RESPECT, prosperity, house, wife, children. He wishes to domineer and rule over others. If anybody points out his defect his vanity feels offended. If anyone praises him he is elated. This ego says, ‘I know everything. He does not know anything. What I say is quite correct. What he says is quite incorrect. He is inferior to me. I am superior to him.’ He forces others to follow his ways and views.”  (pgs. 44, 45 Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 9: It, indeed, is subtle and dangerous. But how to destroy it?

Answer 9: “This ego lurks like a thief when you start introspection and self-analysis. It will ELUDE your grasp and understanding. You must be alert and vigilant. If you obtain the GRACE of the Lord through JAPA, kirtan, prayer and DEVOTION, you CAN EASILY kill this ego.”  (pg. 46, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda) 

"Temptation" by Swami Chidananda

Vibrant spiritual presence, beloved and worshipful Gurudev! Adorable Presence Divine, Thou Who art the all-pervading, the all-immanent, our source and origin, our support and inner sustainer, our fulfilment and Goal Ultimate! One Thou art—manifest as Guru, unmanifest as the Universal Being. Gurur-brahma gurur-vishnuh gurur-devo mahesvarah; guruh sakshat param brahma tasmai sri gurave namah (Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu, Guru is Siva, Guru is the Supreme Brahman Itself—prostrations to that Guru).

Thus those who have realised through their highest transcendental spiritual experience the oneness, the inseparable unity of the illumined and enlightened jnani and the Supreme Brahman, have uttered this sublime ideal: yasya deve para bhaktih yatha deve tatha gurau, tasyaite kathita hyarthah prakasante mahatmanah (He whose devotion to God is supreme and whose devotion to the Guru is as great as to the Lord, to that high-souled one all the knowledge of the scriptures stands revealed). The path-pointer, the remover of the veil and the truth hidden behind the veil, the destination to which the path leads—they are linked up and bound up by a relationship of identity and unity.

Knowing this, vibrant spiritual presence, Gurudev, in whose proximity and before whom we have come this beautiful day, and adorable Divine Presence, Who art the all-pervading, the all-immanent, alpha and omega, the beginning and end of all things, we bow to Thee, two in one. We bow to Thee, offer our heart’s devotion, our gratitude for this perennial flow of continued grace, for the gift of proximity, the grace of spiritual fellowship and the blessedness of this silent hour of meditation and prayer to commence the day in an ideal way. May your benedictions and grace be our wealth and our treasure, our sure support and strength, our unfailing help and light upon the path!

Radiant Immortal Atman! Beloved seekers and sadhaks! Great is your good fortune, unparalleled is your supreme good fortune. Most blessed are you, thrice blessed, even more so. Sankara spoke of three blessings: human birth, longing for liberation and the proximity of liberated sages, spiritual masters and their wisdom teachings. We have a fourth blessedness which makes the other three blessednesses worthwhile and fruitful: that is an environment and a facility affording every favourable factor for the practice of the living of the inner life, practice of spiritual discipline, contemplating the Divine and engaging in sadhana, a facility affording every factor that is necessary, helpful and favourable.

If you reflect upon it seriously, contemplate it earnestly, consider it with great sincerity, you will be amazed and you will start wondering what you have done for this unutterable, unparalleled, incomparable good fortune. This four-fold blessedness conferred upon you in this age, which they call the iron age, the godless age, the age of materialism, hedonism, atheism—in this age, if you will consider your unique position, then it will percolate into your mind, you will begin to wonder, and then you will understand what ahetuki kripa, motiveless grace is.

Turn to God with sincerity. Turn to God for help and you will receive it. Turn to Him day after day. Meditate. Direct your mind, focus your heart and meditate upon Him with faith, with love and with humility. What you ask for shall never be denied.

But then, as we have to contend with God, we also have to contend with our own unregenerate, self-assertive, persistent, die-hard, lesser nature, the animal in man. As we have to connect ourselves with God, we have also to contend with ourselves, our grosser, lower, unspiritual, carnal nature—carnal passion, physical appetites, lust, greed, and anger which is inseparably linked up with carnal passion and desire. These are the dire enemies of the sadhak upon the spiritual path, hard to overcome, but not impossible. It is possible.

Jahi satrum mahabaho kamarupam durasadam (Slay thou, O Arjuna, the enemy in the form of desire which is hard to conquer). This is the fact, this is the ades (command): “O Arjuna, slay this enemy, great enemy, in the form of impure desire, carnal passion and physical lust.” It is formidable, but slay it. It is difficult to overcome, but can be overcome.

Therefore, the seeking soul should never lay down his arms before this enemy and surrender—never, never! But more often than not, not recognising this foe, this enemy, we think it is our well-wisher, friend. We befriend it. Such is the beguiling, alluring nature of this dire enemy. The devil comes as an angel; the poison comes as delicious sweetness. It is only one who is on guard, it is one who is awake, standing ready for action, that can contend with this enemy within one’s own self. Uttisthata jagrata (Arise, awake).

Kamah krodhascha lobhascha dehe tisthanti taskarah jnanaratnapaharaya tasmat jagrata jagrata—Lust anger and greed, they are dacoits to rob and plunder the pearl of wisdom, not coming from outside to assail or invade you, but residing within your own body. Therefore, be awake, be awake,” says Sankaracharya in Vairagya Dindima. But such is the folly, the ignorance, such is the extraordinary delusion, the perverse nature of deluded seekers, that seeing not the enemy about whom ample warning is given again and again by all masters, all teachers, all Gurus, all saints and sages from the most ancient times up till Gurudev himself, we go into the camp of the enemy as though it was our well-wisher, our friend.
We invite temptations; we go into that area where we are tempted. We cultivate the company of such persons who are our temptation, who are our downfall, who are the ones through whom these lower propensities assail us, by whom they are stimulated and made manifest.

Therefore, a wise seeker, a true aspirant, an authentic, genuine Yogi, a true lover of God, will and must shun those persons and places where temptation lies—not rush in where angels fear to tread. It is only if you are true to yourself, honest with your teacher, and before the eyes of God you are His child, His devotee, His lover, then alone these teachings will mean a turning point to you, these teachings can transform you once and for all.

Turn to God for help and you will receive it without fail, unfailingly. Turn to Him every day in meditation—meditation with faith, meditation with love, meditation with humility. And be on guard against these inner enemies to which you are host, inner enemies dwelling within your self, meaning you no good. This is the mystery of God and His creation, the great maya which is duratyaya (difficult to cross). Be on guard, never lay down arms, never give way. Always know that one day you have to overcome and you will overcome.

Nothing is more formidable than intense aspiration, mumukshutva. Nothing is more powerful than the power of faith and determination, sattvic determination. Nothing is more powerful than the Name of God. Nothing is more powerful than sincerity. Everything can be overcome. But then, you should not multiply, you should not strengthen the enemy, you should not run into his camp and then bewail. It is futile, in vain. For our undoing will be ourselves and not anyone else.

With all the four blessednesses, nothing will avail if you are not true to yourself and if you are not determined to avoid all such places and all such persons that constitute your temptation—morning, noon and night, every hour of every day of this golden gift of God, this piece of life we call a day. If you make each day given to you through His unutterable love, immeasurable love, a day of alertness, vigilance, watchfulness, wakefulness, a day of sincerity, earnest determination, true aspiration, a day of genuine love for God, then each day you will be a step nearer to that grand, glorious goal of life. Thus, day by day, living in a perfect way, making it divine, a life sublime, bless yourself, bless yourself, bless yourself! In this task, God speed you! In this task, Gurudev bless you!

(Chap. 35, Ponder These Truths)

Rituals in Hinduism… Lower Bhakti Vs Higher Bhakti

The following is an excerpt from Srila Sri Sivananda Maharaj’s “All About Hinduism” (pg. 119-120, Chap. 7)
From Ritualistic Bhakti To Para-Bhakti
Bhakti is of two kinds, viz., higher Bhakti or Para-Bhakti, and lower Bhakti or ritualistic Bhakti. Ritualistic worship is Vaidhi or Gauni Bhakti. It is formal Bhakti. Vaidhi Bhakti is the lower type of devotion depending on external aids. The mind becomes purer and purer. The aspirant gradually develops love for God through ritualistic worship. He who does ritualistic worship rings bells, adores a Pratika (symbol) or Pratima (image), does Puja with flowers and sandal paste, burns incense, waves light before the image, offers Naivedya or food for God, etc.Mukhya Bhakti or Para Bhakti is advanced type of devotion. It is higher Bhakti. It transcends all convention. A devotee of this type knows no rule. He does not perform any external worship. He beholds his Lord everywhere, in every object. His heart is saturated with love for God. The whole world is Vrindavana for him. His state is ineffable. He attains the acme of bliss. He radiates love, purity and joy wherever he goes and inspires all who come in contact with him.

The aspirant who worships the idol in the beginning beholds the Lord everywhere and develops Para Bhakti. From Vaidhi Bhakti, he passes on to Ragatmika Bhakti or Prema Bhakti. He beholds the whole world as the Lord. The ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, etc., vanish. He sees the Lord in a rogue, dacoit, cobra, scorpion, ant, dog, tree, log of wood, block of stone, sun, moon, stars, fire, water, earth, etc. His vision or experience baffles description. Glory to such exalted Bhaktas who are veritable Gods on earth, who live to lift others from the quagmire of Samsara and save them from the clutches of death!

Hinduism leads the aspirants gradually from material images to mental images, from the diverse mental-images to the one Personal God, and from the Personal God to the Impersonal Absolute or the Transcendental Nirguna Brahman.