Scriptural Knowledge and Abominable Scoundrels

Question 1: I have known people who can volubly quote chunks of verses from the scriptures but they seem to have serious moral turpitude. How do we reconcile their vast knowledge with their character defect?

Answer 1: “Quoting scriptures is….not a sign to indicate the spiritual development of a person. A man may recite the whole of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras; and yet he may be the greatest and the most abominable scoundrel.” (pg. 24, Satsanga and Svadhyaya by Swami Sivananda)

[“Scoundrel” refers to a dishonest or unscrupulous (=having or showing NO moral principles) person: Oxford Dictionary]

Question 2: I have known people who give impressive lectures; yet, they have every trait that qualifies them to be un-spiritual. Oftentimes, some of them are even bad and hypocritical. How do we reconcile their impressive knowledge with their lack of spirituality?

Answer 2: “One may deliver a lecture on Adwaita Philosophy for several hours. One may interpret a verse in hundred and one ways. One may give a discourse on one verse of the Gita for a week and yet these people may not possess an iota of devotion or practical realisation of Vedantic oneness. It is all dry intellectual exercise. Nothing more than that.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Answer 2: Swami Sivananda: “It is practice that counts. You know the Gita by heart. But are you living in the spirit of the Gita—that is what matters.” (Swamiji’s speech on 25.9.1950: pg. 150, Sivananda’s Lectures: All-India and Ceylon Tour).

Answer 2Mata Amritanandamayi: “Memorising something is NOT that difficult; putting what YOU have LEARNT into practice IS difficult.” (pg. 43, Lead Us to the Light)

Question 3: How is it that their knowledge of the scriptures does not help to eradicate their bad and evil tendencies?

Answer 3: “It is easy to become a lecturer on Vedanta. If you sit in a library for some years and enrich your vocabulary and phraseology and commit to memory some passages, you can deliver good lectures, in two or three years, but it is not so easy to eradicate an evil quality. Only a real aspirant who is doing Sadhana will realise his difficulty.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Some of these people who are so-called well-versed in the scriptures often say that there should be a balance between pleasure of living in this world, enjoying the sense satisfaction and leading a spiritual life. Can one make substantial progress in attaining God-Realisation in this way?

Answer 4: “Spiritual life starts with your recognition that as long as you keep going headlong in the pursuit of sense satisfaction and pleasure, you are NOT going to move one step. So all will be academic and theoretical. Our aspiration, our wanting spiritual life will only be in theory—a fancy and a feeling. You have not started. So, the beginning stage itself of the spiritual life is a turning away from sense experience and sense indulgence and starting to move in the opposite direction,” (pg. 19, The Role Celibacy in Spiritual Life by Swami Chidananda)

Question 5: So, what are the uses of spiritual or scriptural knowledge?

Answer 5: “It is not enough…merely to read the scriptures. We must hold their teachings up to the watchful presence within us…,” (pg. 203, The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda) [Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”].

Answer 5: “Even if we memorise the most complicated… texts, without an innocent love for God, it will be difficult to make any real spiritual progress,” Swami Ramakrishnananda (pg. 246, The Blessed Life)

Answer 5: Mata Amritanandamayi: “Knowledge is good, but ONLY when expressed in life is its benefit experienced both by ourselves and by society….(Scriptural study) must be practised in DAILY life… ONLY when we live BY its principles can we progress without flagging, no matter what the circumstance.” (pgs. 4-5, Matruvani, March 2013, Vol.24, No.7)

Answer 5: “All too often the intellect becomes satisfied with just theory about God. Great and glorious is the story of God’s presence, but greater and more glorious is the actual perception of the Infinite….If you practice one millionth of the things that I tell you…you will reach God. Success doesn’t lie in listening to my sermons, but in practising what I have told you.” (pg. 94, The Divine Romance by Paramahansa Yogananda)

Answer 5: “It is true that our ancient teachers were great, their wisdom was profound, their morals were high, and their spiritual insight transcended the limitations of time and place. HOWEVER, we have NOT been able to take advantage of the great treasure that could have made life better and brighter.” (pg. 51, Spirituality by Swami Rama)

Answer 5: “It is not enough to read the scriptures as a form of duty. One should think deeply about the meaning they contain and try to get a firm conviction about the possibility of realising the Truth.” (pg. 514, Meditation and Spiritual Life by Swami Yatiswarananda)

Attending Talks and Satsangs—Any Value at All?

Question 1: Is it wrong to attend spiritual talks by people who are quite well-read and informed?

Mata Amritanandamayi: Everyone has something to say on every topic. People are under the impression that they are all authorised to speak on any subject under the sun. Amma remembers a story. A boy once said, “I know a professor. What a great man he was!” When asked why he thought the man was great, the boy said, “He can talk for hours, no matter what the topic (is). Even if you give him an insignificant topic, he can speak for more than five hours!” Another boy who overheard this said, “Your professor can speak for only five hours, and that (has to be on) a topic! My neighbour, however, can go on talking for days on end without any topic!… (People) do not practise anything that (they) preach. (pgs. 2-3, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

Question 2: For many years, I have been studying the holy scriptures, viz., Gita, Upanishads, etc., and I have mastered them in a way. But I do not feel the oneness of life in all. I still take delight in gossiping, backbiting, rumour-mongering, etc; I still get jealous, angry; hypocrisy subtly exists in me. Therefore, are scriptural studies of no avail? Are the scriptures for mere study alone?

Swami Sivananda: “Mere study of the Vichar Sagar or Panchadasi cannot bring in the experience of pure Advaitic consciousness. Vedantic gossiping and dry discussions on scriptures cannot help a man in feeling the unity and oneness of life. You should destroy ruthlessly all sorts of impurities, hatred, jealousy, envy, idea of superiority and all barriers that separate man from man. This can be done by incessant, selfless service of humanity with the right mental attitude. Practical Vedanta is rare in these days. There are dry discussions and meaningless fights over the non-essentials of religions. People study a few books and pose as Jivanmuktas. Even if there be one real Jivanmukta, he will be a great dynamic force to guide the whole world. He can change the destiny of the world. The present-day Jivanmuktas are mere bookworms. Many imagine that they can become Jivanmuktas by a little study of Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi and Tarka. Oneness of life can be had only by Self-realization through constant spiritual practice. Study of scriptures can help you a bit, but it cannot make you a Jivanmukta.” (pgs. 143-144, May I Answer that?)

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…Learning becomes complete only when one is able to express what one has learnt in one’s life. One who strives to do is a true disciple.” (pg. 4, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)


Gita Jayanti By Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj

THE HOLY Gita Jayanti, or the birthday of the Bhagavad Gita, is celebrated throughout India by all the admirers and lovers of this most sacred scripture on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the bright half of the month of Margaseersha (December-January), according to the Hindu almanac. It was on this day that Sanjaya narrated to King Dhritarashtra the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, and thus made the glorious teachings of the Lord available to us, and to people of the world, for all time.

The Gita Jayanti marks one of the greatest days in the history of mankind. Nearly six thousand years ago on that day a dazzling flash of brilliant light lit up the firmament of human civilization. That flash, that marvellous spiritual effulgence, was the message of the Bhagavad Gita, given by the Lord Himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Unlike ordinary flashes of light which die away after a split-second, this brilliant flash of that memorable day has continued to shine through the centuries, and even now illumines the path of humanity on its onward march to perfection.

The Gita is the most beautiful and the only truly philosophical song. It contains sublime lessons on wisdom and philosophy. It is the “Song Celestial”. It is the universal gospel. It contains the message of life that appeals to all, irrespective of race, creed, age or religion.

The Gita was given to us about six thousand years ago by Sri Krishna, the Lord incarnate, through His most devoted disciple, Arjuna. Its teachings are based on the sacred Upanishads, the ancient, revealed metaphysical classics of India.

The Gita shows a way to rise above the world of duality and the pairs of opposites, and to acquire eternal bliss and immortality. It is a gospel of action. It teaches the rigid performance of one’s duty in society, and a life of active struggle, keeping the inner being untouched by outer surroundings, and renouncing the fruits of actions as offerings unto the Lord.

The Gita is a source of power and wisdom. It strengthens you when you are weak, and inspires you when you feel dejected and feeble. It teaches you how to resist unrighteousness and follow the path of virtue and righteousness.

The Gita is not merely a book or just a scripture. It is a living voice carrying an eternally indispensable and vital message to mankind. Its verses embody words of wisdom coming from the infinite ocean of knowledge, the Absolute Itself.

The voice of the Gita is the call of the Supreme. It is the divine sound explained. The primal source of all existence, all power, is the manifested sound—Om. This is the Divine Word. It is Nada Brahman, whose unceasing call is: “Be ye all ever merged in the eternal, unbroken, continuous consciousness of the Supreme Truth.” This is the sublime message that the Gita elaborates and presents in all comprehensiveness and in a universally acceptable form. It is this message of the Gita that I wish to recall and reproclaim with emphasis to you.

To be always conscious of the Divine, to ever feel the Divine Presence, to live always in the awareness of the Supreme Being in the chambers of your heart and everywhere around you, is verily to live a life of fullness and divine perfection on earth itself. Such a constant remembrance of God and such an attitude of mind will release you forever from the clutches of illusion and free you from all fear. To forget the Supreme is to fall into illusion. To forget Him is to be assailed by fear. To live in unbroken remembrance of the Supreme Truth is to remain always in the region of light, peace and bliss, far beyond the reach of illusion and delusion.
Mark carefully how the Gita stresses again and again this lofty message.

The Lord declares: “Keep thou thy mind in Me, in Me place thy reason”.
In another verse He says: “Therefore, at all times remember Me and fight. You will surely attain Me, having thus offered yourself”.

And yet again: “Perform thou action, remaining united with Me at heart”.

The Gita guides you to glory with the watchwords: “Be thou divine-minded, devoted to Me as your goal, and let your subconscious mind be divine”.

The Lord gives the following firm assurance also: “I become the saviour from this mortal world for those whose minds are set on Me”.

Such is the most illuminating message of the Gita, seeking to lead man to a life of perfection even while performing his ordained role here. Long has this message been neglected by man. Forgetting the Lord, the world has turned towards sense indulgence and mammon. A terrible price has been paid. O man, enough of this forgetfulness! The Lord has warned you against heedlessness: “If, out of egoism, thou wilt not hear, then thou shalt perish”.

It is a matter of great regret that many young men and women of India know very little of this most unique scripture. One cannot consider oneself as having attained a good standard of education if one does not have a sound knowledge of the Gita. All post-graduate knowledge, all research in universities is mere husk or chaff when compared to the wisdom of the Gita.

Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talks or lectures will not help you in any way. Put into practice the teachings of this most sacred scripture and attain eternal bliss and peace.

The Gita may be summarised in the following seven verses:

1. “Uttering the one-syllabled Om, the Brahman, and remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body thus, attains the Supreme Goal”.

2. “It is meet, O Lord, that the world delights and rejoices in Thy praise; the demons fly in fear to all quarters, and all the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee!”

3. “With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the world, enveloping all”.

4. “Whosoever meditates on the omniscient, ancient ruler of the whole world, minuter than an atom, the supporter of all, of form inconceivable, effulgent like the sun, such a one goeth beyond the darkness of ignorance”.

5. “They, the wise, speak of the indestructible Asvattha, having its roots above and branches below, whose leaves are the metres or hymns; he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas”.

6. “And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory and knowledge, as well as their absence. I am verily that which has to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta, and the knower of the Vedas am I”.

7. “Fix thy mind on Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice to Me; bow down to Me; having thus united thy whole Self with Me, taking Me as the Supreme Lord, thou shalt verily come to Me”.
Read the whole of the Gita on Sundays and other holidays. Study carefully again and again the verses in the second discourse, which deal with the state of the Sthitaprajna (a perfected Yogi and sage). Also study the eight nectarine verses in the twelfth discourse.

The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the purpose of scriptural study. You will find in it a solution to all your problems. The more you study it with devotion and faith, the deeper will your knowledge become, the more penetrative would be your insight, and the clearer your thinking. Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the Gita, all your miseries will come to an end and you will attain the goal of life—immortality and eternal peace.

None but the Lord can bring out such a marvellous and unprecedented book, which grants peace to its readers, and which guides them in the attainment of supreme bliss.
The teachings of the Gita are broad, sublime and universal. They do not belong to any particular cult, sect, creed, age, place or country. They are meant for all. They are within the reach of all. The Gita has a message for the solace, peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all human beings.
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the holy and auspicious Gita Jayanti is observed every year on a grand scale:

All the aspirants wake up at 4 am and meditate on the Lord. From sunrise to sunset there is unbroken recitation of the Gita. The Samputa method is used, that is, before and after each verse the following Samputa is recited:

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja;
Aham twaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucha.

Thus, between two verses, this verse is recited twice. This is an extremely efficacious method of earning the Grace of the Supreme Lord and the Gita, the Mother.

Aspirants fast on the day, as it is also the Ekadashi day. Competitions are held among the little children, to develop their talents in the recitation of the Gita. In the case of the slightly older children, they are given a chance to deliver discourses. This is a wonderful way of encouraging them to study the scripture.

In the evening, a special Satsang is held at which scholars, Yogis and Sannyasins discourse upon the Gita. Leaflets, pamphlets and books containing the teachings of the Gita, as also translations of the holy scripture, are distributed.

Take a resolve on Gita Jayanti that you will read at least one discourse every day. Recite the fifteenth discourse before taking your meals. This is done at the Sivananda Ashram.

Keep a pocket-sized edition of the Gita with you at all times. Mark a few verses in it which inspire you. Everyday, while you wait for your bus or train, or whenever you have a little leisure, pull out the book and read these verses. You will be ever inspired.

May you all lead the life taught by the Gita! May the Gita, the blessed Mother of the Vedas, guide and protect you! May it nourish you with the milk of the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads!

Glory to Lord Krishna, the Divine Teacher! Glory to Sri Vyasa, the poet of poets, who composed the Gita! May his blessings be upon you all!

(pgs. 79-86, Hindu Fasts & Festivals)

Gita Jayanti by Swami Sivananda

By the grace of Bhagavan Vyasa this unique Gospel of the Gita was revealed to the world by Sanjaya on the eleventh day (Ekadasi) of the bright half of the Margasirsha month (December) according to the Hindu almanac. This day is celebrated as the Gita Jayanti or the Birthday of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, throughout India by all admirers and lovers of this wonderful treasure of wisdom.

Worship the Srimad Bhagavad Gita as a holy scripture. Study a chapter from it daily. But, stop not with that. Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talk and lecture will not help you in any way. You may know the whole of the Gita by heart; you may deliver lectures on the Gita for hours together; and yet, you may not have a ray of the wisdom of the Gita. What is wanted is regular practice of the teachings of the Gita. Become intensely practical. Let the Gita guide your thoughts, prompt your speech, and rule your actions. Then your whole attitude towards life will be gradually changed. You will become a God-man with God-vision. You will no more be perturbed by success or failure, pleasure or pain, loss or gain. You will attain courage, strength, peace and bliss in this very life, right where you are. May the blessings of Lord Krishna be upon you all!
An excerpt from The Bhagavad Gita

Message of the Gita By Sri Swami Sivananda

Blessed Immortal Souls!

My amiable friends! Many Gita Jayantis have come and gone and yet the darkness of your heart has not disappeared. Become a practical man. Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita daily. Aspire fervently. Lead a pure life. Watch the evil Vrittis of the mind carefully and nip them in the bud. Introspect and remove your defects. Cultivate good and sublime thoughts. Do daily virtuous actions. Serve the society with a disinterested spirit. Constantly remember those Slokas of the Gita which will help you daily to lead a virtuous and divine life. Repeat them daily.

Stick to your Dharma and truthfulness. Do selfless service. Surrender yourself to the Lord. Have equal vision and balanced mind in success and failure, honour and dishonour, heat and cold, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. Give the mind to the Lord and hands to the service of humanity. Be established in the vow of Brahmacharya. Give up selfishness, meanness, attachment and egoism. You will free yourself from the wheel of births and deaths, from the bonds of Karma and attain Supreme peace, eternal bliss and immortality. This is the Message of the Gita.

You may know the whole Gita by heart. You may deliver lectures on the Gita for hours together and yet you may not have a ray of the wisdom of the Gita. What is wanted is actual living a life with mental non-attachment following the teachings of the Gita.

Gita gives two Mantras for constant repetition. They are “OM” in eighth chapter and “OM TAT SAT” in the seventeenth chapter. Live in OM or OM TAT SAT, the symbol of Para Brahman or Para Brahman Itself.
Practise the three vows given in the sixteenth chapter. Develop the virtues that are enumerated in the thirteenth and the sixteenth chapters which are aids for the attainment of the Knowledge of the Self. You may fail several times and fall down but again stand up as a hero and march forward fearlessly in the spiritual path and reach the goal of life.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the cream of the Vedas. It is the quintessence of the Upanishads. It is a unique book for all times. The teachings of the Gita are universal and sublime. It has a message for the solace, peace, freedom and perfection of all human beings. Dive deep in the ocean of the Gita, bring out the most precious pearls of Knowledge and attain Immortality.

May the Lord grant you strength to stick to your vows, resolves, truth and Dharma. May you ever abide in Lord Krishna and His precious teachings. May you all become like Arjuna. May the life of Arjuna inspire you all with noble instincts, noble ideals. Glory to Lord Krishna! Glory to the Gita! Glory to Arjuna! Glory to those who follow the valuable teachings of the Gita.

Swami Sivanandaji’s Gita Jayanti Message in 1942

Is God Partially Impartial or Impartially Partial?


The Lord, who advises against any feelings of likes and dislikes (Gita Chap 3: 34), and who also says that one should not be swayed by raga-dvesa, i.e., to treat everyone equally (Bhagavatam 4:20:13), and goes even a step further to proclaim that He has an even outlook towards all, i.e., He regards all living beings alike (Gita Chap 9:29), however says nine times in the Gita that there are some people who are very dear to Him:

Dear to Him

Let us see whether we fall within any one of the categories He has given:

1. Gita 7:17— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:

a. One who is steadfast, devoted to Him (the Wise man, that is)

2. Gita 12:14— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who has santosh,
b. One who does not have vikshepa,
c. One who practises his conviction,
d. One who has control over his senses, and
e. One who has dedicated everything (mind and intellect) to God.

3. Gita 12:15: Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who never injures anyone in any way,
b. One who is indifferent to everything (including injuries) of the world, and
c. One who is freed from joy, envy, fear and anxiety.

[Note: Srimad Bhagavatam 11:7:10 talks about such a person too: such a person has the conclusive knowledge of the Vedas, and especially puts that into practice— He, therefore, perceives the Self in everything; he hates none and loves none. He becomes dear to all living beings]

4. Gita 12:16— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who is free from dependence,
b. One who is indifferent to the body, the senses, the objects of the senses and their mutual connections,
c. One who cultivates virtues,
d. One who is efficient,
e. One who is disinterested,
f. One who is fearless,
g. One who is equipoise,
h. One who does not do anything for personal aggrandizement,
i. One who abides in His Will,
j. One who has no raga-dvesa, and
k.One who has done isvara-pranidhana (surrendered)

5. Gita 12:17— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who is unflappable, sangfroid, and
b. One who has abnegated everything to the care of the Lord

6. Gita 12:19— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who is impervious to censure and accolades,
b. One who is equipoise,
c. One who cherishes silence,
d. One who has controlled his thoughts, and
e. One who is abstemious.

7. Gita 12:20— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who follows His dharma,
b. One who has unshaken faith,
c. One whose goal is God.

[Note: Read the above with what He has declared in Uddhava Gita: “There are many created bodies such as those with one, two, three, four, or many legs, as well as without legs; of these the human body is My favourite.” (Uddhava Gita 2:22 or Bhagavatam 11:7:22)]

8. Gita 18:65— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dear to Him:
a. One who has a concentrated mind,
b. One who has dedicated everything to Him,
c. One who chants,
d. One whose body, mind and intellect work for Him,
e. One who has surrendered.

9. Gita 18:69— Sri Krsna says one who has the following qualities is dearest to Him:
a. One who preaches the Gita to His devotees.

Mutually Contradictory
But you must be wondering after reading the first three slokas in the first paragraph whether there is an unforgivable contradiction in the Lord’s assertions: that He regards all living beings alike yet considers someone dear to Him.

This is precisely the same question that King Pariksit had in mind, and had asked Sukadev Gosvami when the former discerned the seeming partiality in the Lord. Thus, he catechised Sukadev Gosvami about the doubt: “……Viṣṇu, being everyone’s well-wisher, is equal and extremely dear to everyone. How, then, did He become partial like a common man for the sake of Indra and thus kill Indra’s enemies? How can a person equal to everyone be partial to some and inimical toward others? (Bhagavatam 7:1:1)

An obvious spiritual anomaly: Can the Lord, who has been described as “the friend of all beings” (= suhridam sarvabhootaanaam) [Gita 5:29] concurrently be relentless towards someone or something— that is King Pariksit’s misgiving.

Disinterested God
The Lord responds according to the nature of things for “He dwells in the hearts of all beings” (Eeshwarah sarvabhootaanaam hriddesherjuna tishthati) [Gita 18:61] What anyone or anything demonstrates as a result of His response is his or its intrinsic nature, and not that of the Lord.

Swami Sivananda explains that the Lord is “like the fire. Just as fire removes the cold of those who draw near it, but not of those who keep away from it, even so (does He) bestow (His) Grace on (His) devotees, but not, as ignorant people may believe owing to any kind of attachment on (His) part. Just as the light of the sun, though pervading everywhere, is reflected only in a clean mirror and not in a pot, so also (He)… being present everywhere, manifests (Himself) only in those from whose minds all kinds of impurities, accumulated on account of ignorance, have been removed through their sincere love and devotion… The sun has neither attachment to the mirror nor hatred for the pot…. He bestows the desired object only on those who go near Him.” (Purport to Gita 9:29)

Assuming a dog-owner has two dogs. When he returns home, his dog called Albert scurries to him, and licks him all over. His other dog, Santha, looks on docilely, taking in the scene quite disinterestedly. The owner neither has any partiality towards Albert nor any aversion towards Santha; yet, he pets Albert on his head and compliments him, and says a “hullo” to his Santha. He does not deprive Santha of her rights to her food and comfort and neither does he increase Albert’s share of food and comfort because of his affectionate nature. If he is such, then, he would have disowned Santha long ago. He understands Santha’s nature and leaves her be.

When rain water collects in an unbroken pot, yet flows through the cracks in another that is broken, the fault, in the case of the second pot, is not the rain’s but the pot’s.  

The Founder-acarya of the Hare Krsna Movement, Srila Prabhupada, has given a good analogy that further explains the anomaly: “… electrician connects both a heater and a cooler to the same electrical energy. The cause of the heating and cooling is the electrician’s manipulation of the electrical energy according to his desire, but factually the electrician has nothing to do with causing heat or cold, nor with the enjoyment or suffering that results.” (Purport to Bhagavatam 7:1:12)

That is why the impartial Lord accepts even the most sinful person when he begins to worship Him with an undivided heart. (Gita 9:30) Even (“api”) the vilest becomes a deserving soul when his nature changes. And His undifferentiated Grace naturally flows without any prejudice.

>Talking Philosophy When Things Are Getting On Well

>Why was Gita taught on the battlefield?

Swami Sivananda, “There was some meaning in the Lord’s choosing the battlefield for the Gita teaching. Yes. He wanted to point out to us that wisdom should not recline on the armchair. If his wisdom did not accompany a man to the field of battle, it was no wisdom at all! Any man could talk philosophy “after dinner”; any man could discourse upon the most intricate points in the Yoga Shastras sitting comfortably near the fireplace. But that is no wisdom at all; it is mere lip-service to the supreme science of Knowledge of the Self. It is hypocrisy. These people generally fail when they face a trial, when their wisdom is put to the acid test of practical demonstration, when they find themselves in a crisis.

“Krishna’s Panchajanya roars a big ‘No’! No, no. That is not wisdom; real wisdom will serve you right on the battlefield, right in a crisis, and will enable you to surmount the obstacle, resist the temptation, arise victoriously from the trial. You will convert the trial into a great opportunity for revealing your genius. For, genius is often made by crisis.

“A strong character will not succumb to tests and temptations, however strong and powerful they may be. On the contrary, a strong character reveals its strength only at the time of such crises. A morally weak man talks philosophy when things are getting on the way he wishes them to; but his philosophy takes leave of him at the sight of a test. Whereas, a morally strong man may give no indication whatsoever of his strength in ordinary times, but when a great trial faces him, he reacts most surprisingly and reveals his character.

“That is what Sadhaks should understand from Krishna’s choice of the dreadful platform of the battlefield for His discourse. It was, as it were, a fitting prelude to the great Yoga of Equanimity that He was about to preach through Arjuna to the entire humanity.”

(pg. 71, May I Answer That?)

Sadhana is a Necessity By Sri Swami Sivananda

One simple Brahma-Sankalpa produced these countless universes. When the time comes, in the twinkling of an eye, you will realise the Self and attain liberation. While you are in a dark room, you grope in the dark and almost endlessly search for the torch. You stumble over many things and knock your head here and there. At last you get hold of the torch, which you so frantically searched. Now no more of this groping in the darkness, no more trials and pains; instantly there is light in the room. It is the search that takes a long time. It is the preparatory step in Sadhana that takes a considerable time.
And, then, even when you feel that Truth is within your grasp, you ought to be vigilant, till it becomes part and parcel of your consciousness, till you actually live in it. It is not enough if merely the light of Truth illumines a dark corner; you must live in it. When in a dark room, you light the lamp, darkness vanishes; but if you put the light out, the darkness returns. Till the sun rises there is need for a constant flame of light in the room to keep it illumined. Similarly in the dark cavern of your heart, there is a lamp lit—it is Bhakti or a little understanding of the Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence of God. 
This gives sufficient light to see things clearly and understand the nature of this universe, the Self and God. But if you put the light out by negligence or wilful indifference to Sadhana, in the false belief that you have attained the goal, you will again be enveloped by the darkness. You must keep the flame bright till the sun of Self-realisation arises within you. Then there will be light and light alone everywhere. The darkness has vanished forever. Light becomes part of the very nature. Darkness does not approach you. What was Sadhana done with effort previously becomes Svabhava or second-nature now. Bhakti is the aspirant’s Sadhana and the sage’s Svabhava. Righteousness is the aspirant’s Sadhana and the sage’s Svabhava. At no time, therefore, are these things given up. The aspirant studies and hears the Divine Lilas of the Lord as a necessary part or basis of his Sadhana; the sage listens to them with great joy, as he naturally loves to listen to the Lilas of the Lord.
Therefore, study of scriptures, hearing the sacred truths propounded by men of wisdom, listening to the Lilas of the Lord are never to be given up by sincere Sadhakas at whatever stage of spiritual evolution they may be in. Are you more advanced than Sri Sukadeva who was a born-sage and Siddha? Are you more advanced than the great sages who assembled at Naimisaranya to listen to the Srimad Bhagavata narrated by Suka? Learn a lesson from these illustrious examples of great sages. Be forever a Sadhaka. Be forever a thirsting aspirant after spiritual knowledge
Be forever a Mumukshu (a student). He and he alone is an old man who feels that he has learnt enough and has need for no more knowledge. He is a man dead while alive who does not feel a compelling eagerness to listen to the stories of the Lord’s glories or to spiritual discourses. You can stave off old age and even death itself by preserving within you the youthful zealous and devout eagerness to learn more, to practise more and to realise more deeply, the great Spiritual Truth, which is inexhaustible in spite of having been extolled and expounded by numberless saints, sages and seers from time immemorial.
Moreover, forget not that on all sides you are surrounded by materialistic influences. If you are slack even for a day, the evil forces around you would find their opportunity and play havoc with you. The ball dropped on the top of the staircase takes less than a split-second to reach the ground, whereas it took much longer to take it up. In a moment of heedlessness much could be lost. Life is short, time is fleeting, and you cannot afford to lose an inch of ground that you have gained with so much effort, in your battle against the formidable foe—Maya or Satan or the evil mind.
Side by side with your work, you should do Japa, meditation, study of scriptures, Sat-vichara and Sat-Vyavahara. Do not let this monkey-mind have a minute’s respite. It is here that Satsanga and spiritual literature come to your great aid. The scriptures are your saviours. How many sublime thoughts are brought by them to your very doors! Study them carefully. Underline the sentences that strike you as having a direct bearing on your life and reflect over them in leisure moments. 
Thus would you find that you are able to surmount many obstacles and avoid many pitfalls. Is the mind disinclined to read these passages over and over again? That is Maya’s potent weapon to put you to sleep! Therefore beware. Are you not taking the same food daily over and over again? You will have to go on reading and re-reading the self-same spiritual sentences over and over again till they are indelibly engraved on the tablet of your heart, till they become part and parcel of your inner nature.
Then will a fortress of Nirodha Samskaras be erected within you. Repetition gives strength and pushes the ideas into the innermost chambers of your heart. Then the ideas will percolate your subconscious mind. The evil thoughts lurking there will be scorched and annihilated. You may not even know what wonders have been effected within you. Such is the salutary effect of repeatedly studying the same spiritual texts. 
That is why our ancestors have insisted on our ceremoniously reading texts like the Gita, the Ramayana, the Bhagavata etc., daily, regularly, with faith and devotion. These will augment your inner strength and you will grow stronger and stronger and ascend higher and higher on the ladder of Yoga Sadhana. When thus the entire inner nature is transformed into divine nature, then a single effort to meditate will lead you to Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Super-consciousness. You will then realise God in the twinkling of an eye.
Be regular in your Sadhana and maintain Spiritual Diary. Get up at Brahma-muhurta, at 4 a.m., and meditate. Do Japa and Kirtan. Wherever there is spiritual gathering, try to be present there and take active part. You should never miss a single opportunity, if you could possibly help it. Regularity is the most important factor in Sadhana, without which progress will not be marked. Take notes of all the sublime thoughts imparted to you at the time of hearing the discourses, contemplate over the important points and put them into practice in your daily life. Purify your heart through service and charity. Worship the Lord through Japa and meditation and obtain His Grace. Cultivate Vairagya or dispassion. Equip yourself with the knowledge of the fourfold means of Vedanta-Sadhana and march forward to your Goal—Moksha or Kaivalya. May you all shine as Jivanmuktas in this very birth. May your sincere endeavours to attain the knowledge of the Ultimate Truth bear fruit.

"Practice (Abhyasa)" by Swami Chidananda

Lord Dattatreya spoke about 24 Gurus from whom he learnt, but then, he did not mention them as beings from whom he learnt only. He said: “Because of having learnt these things from all these Gurus, I am what I am today. What you see of me, O King of the Yadu Race, you are marvelling at because I lived What I learnt. What I grasped and understood from these Gurus, I assimilated into my life, I became what I saw and learnt. From the earth, air, ether, water, fire, the moon, the sun, the pigeon, the python, the sea, the moth, the elephant, the bee, the honey-gatherer, the deer, the fish, the courtesan Pingala, the osprey, the child, the maiden, the arrow-maker, the snake, the spider, and a particular insect known as Bhramarakita, everything that I encountered and which had a message, I learnt, assimilated and acted upon. I am the product of my practice.” This, the Avadhuta Dattatreya made clear to the King of the Yadu Race.

So it is practice that brings about ultimate perfection and not a great amount of knowledge of the way of attaining perfection. A little knowledge accompanied by a great deal of practice, may perhaps achieve far more. A low caste person like Kabir from the weaver caste, was not able to get any instructions. He did not know the way. Somehow or the other, he managed to get one word, that too by a subterfuge, and a word uttered in a moment of sudden surprise by Guru Ramananda. It is the practice of the word, Rama, that made him a great Vedantin and a devotee in one. He became Kabirdas, whose bhajans have been translated into many languages today. The practice of the little knowledge he had gained, gave him that great experience and filled him with jnana (wisdom). He got paravidya (highest knowledge). Therefore his bhajans are full of that great jnana (wisdom).

Abhyasa (practice)—this is the key-word given by the world teacher, Lord Krishna, in His Gita Jnana Upadesh for success in overcoming all the adverse circumstances and temptations that surround you in this world and achieving the goal. Abhyasa—that is the key-word. He said: “Nothing is impossible. It is possible where there is abhyasa.” And where there is no abhyasa, maybe everything is difficult, maybe everything is impossible. I recommend that you thus adopt this new feeling, and approach the 20 Important Spiritual Instructions and see what it has to offer you.

[TWENTY IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS, A Series of talks on Swami Sivananda’s Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions.]