Don’t Dream of Self-realisation

3That man who has a wavering mind and turbulent senses, and who has not ethical training, can never obtain this Atman.

There is no salvation obtained through the mere holding of the staff or making the head bald or other disguise or through ostentatious observances. Sitting for six hours on one Asana at stretch and reading Gita or Bhagawata for two hours, cannot give Mukti for a man. Though the man is seated with closed eyes, he may have day-dream and many evil thoughts. He may not possess right conduct and ethical cultureHe tells lots of lies daily. He injures others. He does backbiting and tale-bearing. He has an unchaste look. He has jealousy. Purification of the mind and cultivation of virtuous qualities are of vital importance. Then only the divine light will descend. Then only the vessel will be strong enough to hold on the divine light.

The mirror must be quite clean. Then only the reflection of the face in the mirror will be quite clear. The turbidity of the water in the lake must be removed. Then only you can see the bottom of the lake. Even so all impurities of the mind should be removed. The senses should be subdued. The mind should be rendered quite steady. The mind-wandering should be eradicated by constant practice and by eradication of Vasanas. Then only the aspirant can realise the Self in this self. Then only he can get Atma-Sakshatkara. Aspirants do not move on right lines. They do not practise the right kind of Sadhana and the right kind of Tapas. They do not attempt to control the Indriyas. That is the reason why they do not make any real progress in the spiritual path.

Just as there is a lot of pus in the sinus inside the apparently healed ulcer or wound, so also there are lots of impurities in the minds of aspirants, though they move about from Kashmir to Brindawan, from Gangotri to Badri-Narayan, under the pretext of realised souls. This is the real state of affairs. There is only Rupantara-Bheda or difference in colour and dress. Nobody wants to do any rigid Sadhana with patience. Nobody does introspection and careful self-analysis and correction of the mistakes, weaknesses and defects. They blow out empty powerless ‘SIVOHAM, SIVOHAM, and AHAM BRAHMA ASMI’. They cram some Slokas here and there, something from Panchadasi, something from Upanishads and repeat them like parrots in the presence of some selfish householder, their so-called admirers and Bhaktas (Bhagawatha) who are waiting with the false hopes of getting some wealth or a son or some Bhooti (herb from the Himalayas) from them. This is their Self-realisation. Great Pity! Life is wasted! No real improvement has come!

Renunciation is not lethargy, escapism, frustration or irresponsibility. Renunciation is getting rid of egoism, desires and cravings. When all the desires are annihilated, then this very mortal becomes Immortal. Freedom is supreme happiness. Dependence is extreme misery. Renunciation moves hand in hand with Peace.

Source: pg. 79, Self Realisation by Swami Sivananda

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)

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)

People in Spiritual Life Fall

Question 1: I know many people who, despite many years of associating with enlightened masters, and even after attending many spiritual discourses, have scant regard for the Guru, mahatmas and spiritual life. What blocks their understanding?
Answer 1: “Even when the nature of God is explained, those who have not been purged of their faults and impurities would either disbelieve or misbelieve it, as was the case with Indra and Virochana. Therefore, knowledge as inculcated arises only in him who has purified himself by austerity, performed either in this or in a previous birth.” (pg. xiii, The Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda)

Question 2: I know a few people, who claim that they read (or studied?) the scriptures and spiritual books. But they not changed a wee bit; worst of all, they have got bad to worse?

Answer 2: “Just as coloured dye stands out more clearly only when the original material is pure white, so also the instructions of a sage penetrate and settle down only in the hearts of aspirants whose minds are calm, who have no desire for enjoyments and whose impurities have been destroyed.” (pg. xiii, The Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda)

BhagavatmQuestion 3: What are the qualifications that one should possess before one could read, understand and absorb the significance of scriptures like the Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, for instance?

Answer 3: “An aspirant is expected to possess the qualifications of keen discrimination, dispassioncontrol of the mind and senses, and AVERSION to worldly attractions, before he can practise the threefold Sadhana of hearing the scriptures, reflecting upon them, and meditating upon their significance. (pg. xiii, The Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: It has become fashionable these days to hear people saying that they are hoping to get self-realisation or God-realisation. What are the prerequisites for that?

Answer 4: “Discipline and purification of the mind and the senses are the prerequisites for aspirants on the path of God-realisation.” (pg. xiii, The Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda)

Spiritual and Religious Hypocrites

Question: Can a so-called “spiritual” or “religious” person, who prays, chants and does spiritual practices, be egoistic? It seems remarkably strange that someone who reads and talks about God and spiritual living could act and behave with so much self-importance. Aren’t spirituality and egotistical conduct polar opposites? If someone IS “spiritual” yet egotistical, then, he is a hypocrite. Right? Hypocrite

Answer: “…egoism assumes a SUBTLE form. The GROSS ego is NOT as dangerous as the subtle egoism… The working of egoism is VERY mysterious. It is VERY difficult to detect it’s VARIOUS ways of working. It needs SUBTLE and SHARP INTELLECT to find out its operation… (The) ego wants to exercise POWER and influence over OTHERS. He wants titles, prestige, STATUS, RESPECT, prosperity, house, wife, children. He wants self-aggrandisement. He wishes to domineer and rule over others. If anybody points out his DEFECTS, his vanity feels offended. If anyone PRAISES him, he is elated. This ego says, ‘I know everything. He doesn’t 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.” (pg. 84, Conquest of Mind by Swami Sivananda)

“…(The) ego wants to exercise power and influence over others. He wants titles, prestige, status, RESPECT, prosperity, house, wife, children. He wants self-aggrandisement. He wishes to domineer and rule over others…”

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…it may happen that a spiritual person learns to hide his ego and PRETENDS to be very humble…. acts and behaves like a spiritually mature person… A person who wears the FALSE mask of a spiritually advanced person does not know what terrible HARM he is doing. He is MISLEADING others, and also paving the way for his OWN destruction. (pgs. 185, 186, 187, 188, Awaken, Children Vol. 7)

HYPOCRISY in the garb of religion is CRIME.” (pg. 273, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda)

“Hypocrisy, arrogance, self-conceit, anger and also harshness and ignorance, belong to one who is born in a demoniacal state, O Arjuna!” [Gita 16:04]

“Religious hypocrisy is the WORST form. Hypocrisy is a mixture of deceit and falsehood. Asuras are those who have waged war and who are still waging war with the gods in heaven. Those who are endowed with Asuric tendencies or evil qualities are Asuras or demons. They exist in abundance in this Iron Age.” (pg. 426, Commentary on Bhagavad Gita 16:04 by Swami Sivananda [South African Edition])