What is Devotion?
Satya Sai Baba: “Devotion means seeking unity with the Divine through purity in thought, word and deed and concentrating on the oneness of the Godhead. Devotion aims at acquiring friendship with God through this triple purity. Devotion is of three kinds:
a. Saamaanya Bhakti (Ordinary devotion);
b. Ekantha Bhakthi (Devotion in Solitude) and
c. Ananya Bhakti (Exclusive, one-pointed devotion).
Saamaanya Bhakti has nine forms: Sravanam (listening to the glories of God); Kirthanam (Chanting the praise of God); Vishnu Smaranam (ever remembering the name of the Lord);Paada Sevanam (Worshipping the Lord’s feet); Vandanam (Prostration); Archanam (Worshipping the figure of the Lord); Daasyam (Service); Sneham (friendship); Atmanivedanam (Self-surrender).” (Satyam, Sivan, Sundram- Vol- 22) [Internet]
Mata Amritanandamayi: “We should understand that God-realisation is the aim of life, and worship Him with this goal firmly fixed in our mind. ‘devotion in principle’ means recognising that it is the one and the same God who manifests in all living beings and in all the deities — in all names and forms. It means surrendering selflessly to Him. That is the kind of devotion we should have.” (pgs. 79-80, Eternal Wisdom, Vol. 1).
Paramahansa Yogananda: “Devotion means that you know He is omnipresent around you in the dark conundrum of cosmos, playing a divine game of hide-and-seek with you. Behind the leaves, behind the wind, behind the warm rays of the sun—He is hiding, but He is there. He is not far away; that is why it becomes easy to love Him. (Excerpts from 1998 SRF Magazine – (http://yogananda.com.au/pyr/pyr_devotion1.html).
Anandamayi Ma: “Devotion means total dedication and surrender, and love for the Lord”. (pg. 71, Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama).
Sadhana, the Importance of
Question: Everyone talks about spiritual life, or leading a divine life. What, indeed, is spiritual life?
Swami Sivananda: “The most important thing about divine life is in the living of, not so much in the knowing of it.” (pg. 437, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda).
Question: I have been doing sadhana; but I am not making any progress: why?
Swami Sivananda: “Unless one delves within and tries to understand the inner machinery (=mind), one cannot practise sadhana successfully.” (pg. 440, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda).
Sri Tulsidas: “You can create a blaze of fire from a block of ice, you can squeeze dry sand and make oil drip out of it, but this is sure, without sadhana, without worship, without adoration , you can NEVER cross this ocean of samsara (=life through repeated births and deaths, the process of worldly life)”. (pg. 173, “Ponder These Truths” by Swami Chidananda)
Question: What, then, is the solution?
Swami chidananda: “Exertion, exertion, exertion, sadhana, sadhana, sadhana.” (pg. 173, “Ponder These Truths” by Swami Chidananda)
Is it Necessary for Everyone to do Sadhana? Isn’t faith in one’s Guru enough?
Question: One devotee says that there is no need to perform Sadhana so long as one has faith in one’s Guru.
Mata Amritanandamayi: “Son, a person who has faith in mother will perform sadhana as mother instructs. Such a person will live without erring even a little bit. Will your disease be cured if you only believe the doctor but do not take the medicine? Not only that, faith will gain strength and stediness only if sadhana brings experience. Otherwise, faith will slip into irresoluteness. You cannot progress without sadhana. Can’t you see even jivenmuktas (those who have achieved liberation while tenanting the body) doing meditation and japa (repetitions of the mantra) to set an example? No progress will accrue to him who simply sits saying faith will save me without doing anything. Unquestioning obedience is what is meant by faith and devotion. Whatever the Guru says, one should unconditionally obey. Do not ask any questions. Do not doubt the guru. One should unconditionally obey the Guru whatever he says, whether it is doing service to the Guru, service to society, Japa, Dhyana or anything else.” (pgs. 82-83, Awaken, Children! Vol. 3)
Mata Amritanandamayi: “Concentrate on your sadhana…. Mother gave a mantra to everyone. Do not be puffed up because of that and think, ‘I am mother’s disciple.’ Do not feel proud thinking, ‘I have the ticket’ after getting onto a bus or train. If you do not show the ticket when the ticket collector comes, he will immediately make you get off. He will let you alight at your destination ONLY if you use your ticket for the proper place and in the proper way. Otherwise, you will have to get off before your destination.” (pg. 219, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)
No Progress Despite Sadhana: Why?
Question: Why is it that I don’t seem to be making much progress despite years of my performing Sadhana?
Swami Sivananda: “…Even if you do Japa and prayers for ten or fifteen minutes DAILY but spend the REST of the time in WORLDLY activities, you CANNOT make very great spiritual advancement,” (pg. 84, Kingly Science, Kingly Secret)
Mata Amritanandamayi: “We do some kind of spiritual practice, and then, dissipate the acquired spiritual energy by indulging in worldly affairs.” (pg. 71, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)
Mata Amritanandamayi: “Whatever spiritual power is gained through meditation and other spiritual practices gets dissipated through indulgence.” (pg. 123, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)
Swami Sivananda: “Neither progress in the spiritual path nor success in meditation is possible without self-control. No spiritual growth is ever possible without the control of the senses and the mind. An uncontrolled mind is the greatest barrier to Self-realisation. Strict disciplined life will lead to Self-realisation.” (pg. 131, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda)
Swami Sivananda: “A FANCIFUL interest in the spiritual path is of no use. Take recourse to dynamic and many-sided Sadhana… Relentless effort to live a spiritual life is very necessary. The angle of vision has to be changed. Regular Sadhana will keep the mind always CLEAN and CONQUERED,” Swami Sivananda (pg. xiL, Conquest of Mind)
Swami Sivananda: “…a little bit of japa or puja and THEN running after sense-enjoyments will NOT help you much.” (pg. 215, Sivananda’s Lectures: All-India and Ceylon Tour).
Swami Sivananda: “If (Sadhaks) are IRREGULAR in their practice, if their Vairagya wanes, if they mix FREELY with worldly people, they get a DEFINITE setback, the grace VANISHES, the experiences disappear. They are NOT able to rise up again to their original heights of spiritual glory. Therefore, REGULARITY in sadhana and Para-vairagya should be ALWAYS maintained,” Swami Sivananda (pg. 87, Spiritual Experiences).
Swami Sivananda: “If you are in the company of saints, if you read books on Yoga and Vedanta, an attachment to idea of God-consciousness will take place. BUT mere attachment will NOT help you much. BURNING dispassion, KEEN desire for liberation, CAPACITY for Sadhana and INTENSE and CONSTANT meditation IS required,” (pg. 372, Science of Yoga Vol 5).
No Time to Do Sadhana
Question: But I don’t have much time to do any sadhana.
Mata Amritanandamayi: “Out of 24 hours, allow 22 hours for worldly affairs. Think of His for at least 2 hours. Japa should also be done for some time while sitting in solitude. It should be performed whenever you have the time, even at work. (pg. 84, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)
How long do I have to do sadhana?
Mata Amritanandamayi: “Out of 24 hours, allow 22 hours for worldly affairs. Think of His for at least 2 hours. (pg. 84, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)
Swami Sivananda: “…do…Japa for TWO hours. (pg. 45, Japa Yoga).
Mata Amritanandamayi: “Do not do sadhana with the intention of making it known to others or to please them. We don’t stop brushing our teeth, taking a shower or eating food because those are necessities. In the same way, we should remember that sadhana is also necessary for us every day. We will stink of we do not take a bath and brush our teeth. It will be troublesome for others also. We should understand that refraining from doing sadhana is at least as harmful as this. Sadhana should become a part of our life.” (pgs. 122-123, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)
Question: When I sit to do my meditation every morning, my mind wanders wildly. It is a big hassle every day to do my meditation, japa or for that matter even prayers, which are always interrupted by varied thoughts and feelings. How to achieve success in my sadhana, i.e., meditation and japa?
Swami Satchidananda: “Ultimately meditation should be lived all through the 24 hours of the day. It’s NOT that you just meditate only in the morning or in the evening. Meditate on everything you do, on everything you THINK. When you TALK, meditate on that. When you EAT, meditate on that. When you sleep, meditate on that. So I say concentration should be on everything. When we eat, we don’t seem to concentrate on eating. We are very busy doing business or talking about some serious world problem. When you eat, if you DON’T concentrate on eating, you don’t know exactly what you ate and how much you ate. Concentrate on eating. Chew well. Swallow well. Drink all your solids. Eat all your liquids.” [Weekly Words of Wisdom, Integral Yoga Magazine, Winter 2013 issue]
Swami Chidananda: “The entire process of the spiritual ascent is from start to finish one of earnest practice. There is no other road except Abhyasa (=Spiritual practice). One may have the best feeling, the best heart, the most sublime Bhava, but UNLESS and UNTIL every part of this is put into ACTUAL PRACTICE, there is no hope. Abhyasa is the keynote of the life of Sadhana. Without it, Sadhana will not go towards its fruition of Anubhuti or experience.” (pg. xiii, Lord Shanmukha & His Worship)
Arjuna said: Destroyed is my delusion, as I have gained my memory (knowledge) through Thy Grace, O Krishna. I am firm; my doubts are gone. I will act according to Thy word. [Gita 18:73]
Swami Sivananda’s commentary on the sloka: “The whole aim of Sadhana and study of scriptures is the annihilation of delusion and the attainment of knowledge of the Self. When one attains it, the three knots or ties of ignorance, namely, ignorance, desire and action, are destroyed. All doubts are cleared and all Kamas destroyed.” (Pg 527, The Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda)
Mata Amritanandamayi: “The period of SADHANA is like climbing a high mountain. You need a lot of strength and energy. Mountain climbers use rope for pulling themselves up. For you, the only rope is JAPA. Therefore, children, try to repeat your MANTRA constantly. Once you reach the peak, you can relax and rest FOREVER.” (Awaken, Children vol 4 page 50)
What is the Easiest and the Best Sadhana for this Age of Quarrel and Confusion?
Swami Sivananda: “Japa sadhana is considered a COMPLETE sadhana in itself, i.e., it is CAPABLE of bringing about God-Realisation.” (pg. 74, Commentary on Verse 15 of Kandar Anubhuti—Divine Life Society Publication)
Swami Sivananda: “Even a dull aspirant will notice a change in himself if he continues the practice of Japa and meditation for two or three years.” (pg. 340, Science of Yoga, Vol. 2 by Swami Sivananda)
How Long Do I have to do Japa Every Day?
Swami Sivananda: “…do…Japa for TWO hours. (pg. 45, Japa Yoga).
Swami Sivananda: “Do the treatment of Nama-Japa for at least 2 hours in the MORNING and EVENING. You will find the miraculous effect within a short time.” (pg. 123, Japa Yoga).
Swami Sivananda: “Get up at 4 a.m. and do Japa for TWO hours….Repeat the Name mentally throughout the day.” (pg. 148, Japa Yoga).
Swami Sivananda: “Have FOUR sittings for Japa daily-early morning, noon, evening and night.” (pg. 53, Japa Yoga).
Swami Sivananda: “…you must evince extreme keenness in doing Japa also 4 times, in the morning, noon, evening and night.”(pg. 91, Japa Yoga).
Swami Sivananda: “If you are tired of repeating the Mantra at one stroke, have 3 or more
sittings, say, in the morning from 4 o’clock to 7, in the evening from 4 to 5, and at night from 6 to 8. (pg. 82, Japa Yoga).
Swami Sivananda: “If a man repeats the Mantra for 6 hours daily, his heart will be purified quickly. He can feel the purity.” (pg. 45, Japa Yoga)
How Do I do Japa?
Swami Sivananda: “Roll the beads with single-minded devotion. Repeat His Name with unswerving faith.” (pg. 140, Self-Knowledge)
Swami Sivananda: “Japa should NOT be done when walking here and there or looking this side and that side. The Upasaka should never be engaged in other activities even in mind…” (pg. 114, Japa Yoga)
Question: How and where should I concentrate on when I am doing Japa?
Swami Sivananda: “… gaze fixed between the eyebrows… This is known as the “Frontal Gaze”, (or)…fix the gaze on the tip of the nose… This is Nasal Gaze… You can select for yourself either the Frontal or the Nasal Gaze. Even when you pass along the road, practise the gaze. You will have wonderful concentration. The Japa can go nicely even while you are walking.” (pg. 81, Japa Yoga)
Doing Japa without Knowing the Meaning of the Mantra I am chanting
Question: Mother, is it beneficial if one chants mantras even without knowing the meaning ?
Mata Amritanandamayi: “…if you chant your mantra without knowing its meaning, it has its own powers. Even then, it is better if it is chanted with faith and love. Concentration is also necessary.” “Out of 24 hours, allow 22 hours for worldly affairs. Think of His for at least 2 hours. Japa should also be done for some time while sitting in solitude. It should be performed whenever you have the time, even at work. (pg. 97, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)