Devotion and Sadhana: How to Make Progress Today — Right Now?

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 – (

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 ofnot 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)

Swami Yatiswarananda: “We must MINIMIZE all unnecessary waste of time in FUTILE thinking, GOSSIPING, aimless ACTIVITIES, wandering, etc. THEN, we will get PLENTY of time for our spiritual practice.” (pg. 341, Meditation and Spiritual Practice by Swami Yatiswarananda)

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)

How to Achieve Success in Sadhana?

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: “Meditation is to help you control, discipline and thus gain mastery over the mind. If you sleep for 8 hours, you have 16 hours of waking life per day. During that time, if you discipline the mind during AN HOUR of meditation, what are you doing the other 15 HOURS? If you allow the mind to be your master for those 15 hours, who wins ultimately? The MIND. If you really want to achieve something in meditation, all 16 hours must be taken care of. It doesn’t matter even if you slip, but remember to have DISCIPLINE in your DAILY life. After you do that ONE HOUR of meditation, DON’T LOSE the AWARENESS during the 15 REMAINING HOURS of the day. That’s why all of one’s daily life must be disciplined in order to reach your goal.” [Weekly Words of Wisdom, Integral Yoga Magazine, Spring 2013 issue]

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 saidDestroyed 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)

Mata Amritanandamayi:”…although God’s Name has a power of its own, when we chant it with bhava or concentration, it becomes more powerful.” (pg. 117, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

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)

Spiritual Life — Are you Really Serious about it? Do you Really Want God?

Question 1: What is the first thing that I should ask myself even before I think about God and spiritual life?


Answer 1a: “Enquire whether you really want liberation or whether you are simply talking of higher things out of curiosity…”, Swami Sivananda (pg. 269, Science of Yoga, vol. 6).

sivananda color smile

Answer 1b: “Do you want God?… Do not cheat yourself: be straightforward,” Swami Sivananda (pg. 413, Sadhana)


Question 2: What is the next most important thing that I should do about my determination to continue in spiritual life?

 Answer 2: “Even if Lord Krishna remains with you, he cannot do anything for you unless you are fit to receive him and his teachings. Realise this point well and purify yourself thoroughly by means of… Japabrahmacharya and control of the senses,” Swami Sivananda (pg. 265, Science of Yoga, Vol. 6)

Question 3: I am serious but I don’t have the time.

 Answer 3 a: “Plod on in your sadhana. Give up idle talk, tall talk, gossip and backbiting. Save your time,” Swami Sivananda (pg 169, Science of Yoga, Vol. 6)


Answer 3 b: “We must minimize all unnecessary waste of time in futile thinking, gossiping, aimless activities, wandering, etc. Then, we will get plenty of time for our spiritual practice.” (pg. 341, meditation and spiritual practice by Swami Yatiswarananda)

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)

Busy, Busy, Busy

The ordinary man with his everyday responsibilities can be just as busy as the president of the United States. Busy, busy, busy! that is life’s demand. You have to reserve time each day to get away from the world and be with God. Control your life, and set aside time to practice meditation for communion with Him. Then everything in this world will be a wonder to you.

As scientists made their discoveries by following certain disciplines and physical laws, so will you find God without fail when you scientifically follow spiritual laws. You are helping yourself in the highest way when you study and apply these laws as set forth in the Self-Realization teachings. 

Forget not the things I have told you. “A word to the wise—those who are spiritually awakened—is sufficient.” Yet Jesus said: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” If you receive these teachings and practice them, you will realize every truth I have told you. It is not complicated; I have given only those spiritual techniques that will enable you to perceive and commune with God. No matter how unpleasant your circumstances in this world, when you discover God you will see Him working through you and manifesting in everything, and you will be filled with His love and joy.

India’s rishis remind us that health and prosperity, material accomplishments and possessions, are not lasting. Why concentrate only on goals that are perishable? What is lasting is the ever-new joyous contact of God and the attainment of Self-realization—finding out who you are, knowing that the image of God is within you. When you have that realization, you will be a satisfied person. The scriptures of India describe one who attains this state as a siddha, “successful one.” When I was teaching congregations of hundreds and thousands I was often called “successful.” That did not impress me. One may be recognized by the whole world and yet be unknown to the only One whose attention matters; and he who attracts the notice of God may be entirely unknown to the world. Which would you prefer? I wanted only the recognition of my Father. The acclaim of the world can be so intoxicating that man forgets to cultivate the all-fulfilling approbation of the Lord.

It is natural for man to yearn for the role of king on this earthly stage, but if all were kings, there could be no play. Your part is just as important as anyone else’s. The point is that you must play your role according to the Divine Director’s wish; when you live your part to please God, you will be successful. This should be the constant prayer in every human heart:

“My Lord, work Thou through my hands; they were made to serve Thee and to pick flowers for Thy temple. Mine eyes were made to behold Thy presence in the flickering stars, in the eyes of soulful devotees; my feet were made to take me to Thy temples everywhere to sip the nectar of Thy sermons to seeking souls, – my voice was made only to speak of Thee. I taste wholesome food that I may be reminded of Thine all-nourishing goodness; I inhale the perfume of flowers that I may breathe Thy fragrant presence there. I dedicate my thoughts, feelings, and love to Thee. All my senses are in harmony with Thy celestial orchestra of fragrance, beauty, and joy playing their refrain in the eternal symphony of the cosmos.

“Lead me from darkness to light. Lead me from hatred to love. Lead me from limitations to Thine inexhaustible power, – lead me from ignorance to wisdom. Lead me from suffering and death to everlasting life and enjoyment in Thee. Above all, lead me from the delusion of human attachment into realization of Thy love eternal, which plays hide-and-seek with me in all forms of human love.

“Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God, reveal Thyself unto me! Leave me in ignorance no longer. All delusion I cast from the sacred shrine of my soul. Be Thou the only King sitting on the throne of my ambitions, the only Queen in the castle of my love, the only Deity in the temple of my soul. Keep me awake in Thy consciousness, that I may pray and demand unceasingly until Thou dost open all doors into Thy home of wisdom, and there receive me, Thy prodigal child, and entertain me with the fatted calf of immortality and eternal joy.”

(pgs. 258-260, Man’s Eternal Wisdom)

Signs of Spiritual Progress

Swami Sivananda: “These are the signs that indicate that you are growing in meditation and approaching God: You will have no attraction for the world. The sensual objects will no longer tempt you. You will become desireless, fearless, ‘I’-less and ‘mine’-less. Deha-adhyasa or attachment to the body will gradually dwindle. You will not entertain the ideas, “She is my wife; he is my son; this is my house.” You will feel that all are manifestations of the Lord. You will behold God in every object.

“The body and mind will become light. You will always be cheerful and happy. The name of the Lord will always be on your lips. The mind will be ever fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord. The mind will be ever producing the image of the Lord. It will be ever seeing the picture of the Lord. You will actually feel that Sattva or purity, light, bliss, knowledge and Prema are ever flowing from the Lord to you and filling up your heart.

“You will have no body-consciousness. Even if there be body-consciousness, it will be in the form of a mental retentum. A drunkard may not have full consciousness that he has a cloth round his body. He may feel that something is loosely hanging from his body. Even so, you have a feeling of the body. You will feel that something is sticking to you like a loose cloth or loose shoes.

“You will have no attraction for the sex. You will have no sex-idea. Woman will appear to you as manifestation of the Lord. Money and gold will appear to you as pieces of stone. You will have intense love for all creatures. You will be absolutely free from lust, greed, anger, jealousy, pride, delusion, etc. You will have peace of mind even when people insult you, beat you and persecute you. The reason why you are not perturbed is that you get immense spiritual strength from the Indweller or the Lord. Pain and pleasure, success or failure, honour or dishonour, respect or disrespect, gain or loss are alike to you.

“Even in dreams, you are in communion with the Lord. You will not behold any worldly pictures.
You will converse with the Lord in the beginning. You will see Him in physical form. When your consciousness becomes cosmic, conversation will stop. You will enjoy the language of the silence or the language of the heart. From Vaikhari (vocal speech), you will pass on to Madhyama, Pasyanti and Para (subtle forms of sounds) and eventually you will rest in soundless Omkara or soundless Brahman. 

Dispassion and discrimination, serenity, self-restraint, one-pointedness of mind, Ahimsa, Satyam, purity, forbearance, fortitude, patience, forgiveness, absence of anger, spirit of service, sacrifice, love for all, will be your habitual qualities. You will be a cosmic friend and benefactor.

“During meditation you will have no idea of time. You will not hear any sound. You will have no idea of the environments. You will forget your name and all sorts of relationship with others. You will enjoy perfect peace and bliss. Gradually you will rest in Samadhi.

“Samadhi is an indescribable state. It is beyond the reach of mind and speech. In Samadhi or the superconscious state the meditator loses his individuality and becomes identical with the Supreme Self. He becomes an embodiment of bliss, peace and knowledge. So much only can be said. You have to experience this yourself through constant meditation.

“Contentment, unruffled state of the mind, cheerfulness, patience, decrease in the excretions, sweet voice, eagerness and steadiness in the practice of meditation, disgust for worldly prosperity or success and company, desire to remain alone in a quiet room or in seclusion, desire for association with Sadhus and Sannyasins, Ekagrata or one-pointedness of mind are some of the signs which indicate that you are growing in purity, that you are prospering in the spiritual path.

“You will hear various kinds of Anahata sounds, of a bell, a kettle drum, thunder, conch, Veena or flute, the humming sound of a bee, etc., during meditation. The mind can be fixed in any of these sounds. This also will lead to Samadhi. You will behold various kinds of colours and lights during meditation. This is not the goal. You will have to merge the mind in that which is the source of these lights and colours.

“A student in the path of Vedanta ignores these sounds and lights. He meditates on the significance of the Mahavakyas of the Upanishads by negating all forms. “The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor does this lightning shine and much less this fire. When He shines, everything shines after Him; by His light all these shine.” He meditates, also like this: “The air does not blow there. The fire does not burn there. There is neither sound nor touch, neither smell nor colour, neither mind nor Prana in the homogeneous essence. Asabda, Asparsa, Arupa, Agandha, Aprana, Amana, Atindriya, Adrishya, Chidanandarupa Sivoham, Sivoham. I am blissful Siva, I am blissful Siva.”

“Be a spiritual hero in the Adhyatmic battlefield. Be a brave, undaunted, spiritual soldier. The inner war with the mind, senses, Vasanas and Samskaras is more terrible than the external war. Fight against the mind, senses, evil Vasanas, Trishnas, Vrittis and Samskaras boldly. Use the machine-gun of Brahma-Vichara to explode the mind efficiently. Dive deep and destroy the undercurrents of passion, greed, hatred, pride and jealousy, through the submarine or torpedo of Japa of OM or Soham. Soar high in the higher regions of bliss of the Self with the help of the aeroplane of Brahmakara Vritti. Use the ‘mines’ of chanting of OM to explode the Vasanas that are hidden in the sea of subconscious mind. Sometimes move the ‘tanks’ of discrimination to crush your ten enemies, the ten turbulent senses.

“Start the Divine League and make friendship with your powerful allies viz., dispassion, fortitude, endurance, serenity, self-restraint, to attack your enemy-mind. Throw the bomb of “Sivoham Bhavana” to destroy the big mansion of body and the idea “I am the body,” “I am the doer” and “I am the enjoyer.” Spread profusely the gas of “Sattva” to destroy your internal enemies viz., Rajas and Tamas quickly. “Black-out” the mind by destroying the Vrittis or Sankalpas by putting out all the lights or bulbs of sensual objects so that the enemy ‘mind’ will not be able to attack you.

“Fight closely against your enemy ‘mind’ with the bayonet of one-pointedness (Samadhana) to get hold of the priceless treasure or Atmic pearl. The joy of Samadhi, the bliss of Moksha, the peace of Nirvana are now yours, whoever you may be, in whatever clime you are born. Whatever might be your past life or history, work out your salvation. O beloved Rama, with the help of these means come out victorious right now, this very second.”


Idle Talk, Gossiping and Other Obstacles

Swami Sivananda: “If you can give up idle talks and gossiping and idle curiosity to hear rumours and news of others and if you do not meddle with the affairs of others, you will have ample time to do meditation. Make the mind quiet during meditation. If worldly thoughts try to enter the mind during meditation reject them. Have steady devotion to truth. Be cheerful. Increase the Sattvic materials in you. You can enjoy everlasting bliss.

“Environments are not bad, but your mind is bad. Your mind is not disciplined properly. Wage a war with this horrible and terrible mind. Do not complain against bad environments but complain first against your own mind. Train your mind first. If you practise concentration amidst unfavorable environments, you will grow strong, you will develop your will-force quickly and you will become a dynamic personality. See good in everything and transmute evil into good. This is real Yoga. This is the real work of a Yogi.

“Leakage of energy, hidden undercurrent of Vasanas, lack of control of senses, slackness in Sadhana, waning of dispassion, lack of intense aspiration, irregularity in Sadhana are the various obstacles in the path of concentration.”

(Source: pgs. 216-217, Concentration and Meditation)

Swami Sivananda’s Unique Way of Teaching By Sri Swami Venkatesananda

Swami Sivananda accepted the supreme and vital need for what is known as Sadhana-Chatushtaya. Whereas the orthodox Rishis, sages, Yogis or holy men waited for the ripe seeker (one who was ready, who had disciplined himself, who had prepared himself) to approach them, Swami Sivananda said that it is perhaps too much to expect a person living in the modern world, assailed on all sides by distractions and temptations, to develop discrimination and dispassion. He said that even in the case of a person who runs away from failure, it is possible to find a spark which could be fanned into a big flame. Sometimes if the spark didn’t exist he even ignited it. That was the extraordinary beauty in Swami Sivananda.

One of the methods adopted by him was massive dissemination of spiritual knowledge. It was absolutely and totally indiscriminate. Viveka is often translated into discrimination. Here was a master who performed indiscriminate charity and undertook indiscriminate dissemination of spiritual knowledge in the hope that one of these pamphlets or books, dropping into the hands of a man at a certain psychological moment, might ignite true Viveka, true aspiration, in him.

I’ll give you just one or two instances. He used to send lots of free books to devotees and non-devotees. Among the recipients of these free books were Sir Winston Churchill (Prime Minister, London, Great Britan), President Truman (Washington) and Marshall Stalin (Moscow). Once somebody said, “Swamiji, these will never reach those men.” He replied, “Never mind, they are books after all and they are parcelled and addressed to Moscow, London, Washington. They have got to get there. Somebody has got to open them to find out what the parcel contains. He will read them.

Now another rather interesting incident which is relevant to the discussion. One day an official letter had been received from a government department. On top of it there was the name and address of the head of that department. Immediately Swamiji autographed a book, “May God bless you, with regards, Prem and Om, Sivananda”, and sent it to this address. That man’s name was also put on the Divine Life Magazine free register. He received the book and a couple of days later a copy of the Divine Life Magazine. Probably he threw it away. Next month again there was the Divine Life Magazine, so he asked his assistant to write a stiff letter to the Divine Life Society saying, “Do not waste time sending these to me, I don’t like them. I can’t bother to look at them.” When this letter was received Swamiji said, “Ah, he doesn’t want, all right. Take his name off the magazine free register. We don’t want to impose a thing upon him.” It looked as though the story was completed there.

No, two years later this man wrote to Swamiji a letter that moved all of us: “I received a book from you two years ago, heaven knows how you got my name and address. At that time I was so arrogant and haughty—I was occupying a position of power and prestige—that when I received your book I threw it away. I was on top, then a little later I came down—I lost my job, my money, everything went wrong. One day I had suicidal thoughts and wandered into my study. Sitting dejected in a depressed mood, I happened to look up and there I saw ‘Sure Ways for Success in Life and God-realisation‘. Almost mechanically I pulled out that book, opened a page and there was ‘Never Despair’. I saw this and suddenly I remembered that I had received this book two years ago from you and had callously thrown it into the waste paper basket. But my servant who cleaned my room had emptied the basket and thought I might have accidentally dropped that book into the basket, so he took it out, dusted it and put it on the shelf without my knowledge. So I am thankful to him and I am thankful to you. That book saved my life.

Then he picked up the threads of what was left and made a success of his life.

That was Gurudev’s method. I am quite sure that of the thousands and thousands of people who received books, pamphlets and magazines from him, only a few made use of them in this manner. But it might strike a sympathetic cord in the heart of somebody, somewhere, at sometime. In Swamiji’s case it was indiscriminate dissemination of spiritual knowledge. If you bestow some thought upon it you’ll probably feel (like me) that he must have been a divine incarnation, because only God adopts this attitude. Only in God’s nature you find such an approach. If you look at a fruit tree (or any tree which bears fruits and berries with seeds) you’ll understand this philosophy very beautifully. Can you count the number of seeds that one single tree produces in one single season? Imagine what would happen if all of them germinated and became trees. There wouldn’t be space even for one species of tree to exist on this earth! But it does not happen. (I’m not interested in explanations, I’m only looking at the truth.)

God has created a fruit-bearing tree; that tree yields thousands of fruits every season and not all of those seeds germinate. This omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God is quite satisfied with that. You may argue that the rest of the fruits become fertiliser. Excellent, that suits me! That is precisely what Swami Sivananda did. He went on sowing thousands and thousands of seeds. A few of them germinated and became mighty trees in themselves, and the others acted (or act) as fertilisers for the preparation of the soil for a future growth. People whom Swami Sivananda loved and trained, served and guided, people in whom Swami Sivananda sowed the seeds of spiritual aspiration—and who perhaps did not respond as zealously as you might have expected them to respond—are now with different Gurus, and there they shine as great Yogis, great Mahatmas, great seekers.

So the seeds that he planted have germinated and become mighty trees in the case of some; in the case of others they probably fertilised the consciousness of other non-seekers and made them seekers. When they were inwardly awakened they found some holy man and followed him. That was his beautiful approach. He was an extraordinary optimist who felt that given this indiscriminate dissemination of spiritual knowledge, eventually each one will find the path and the goal.

So he agreed that Sadhana-Chatushtaya—or Viveka, Vairagya, Shatsampat (or divine qualities) and Mumukshutva, (a keen yearning for liberation) are the essential prerequisites for Sadhana; without these you are not going to get anywhere—you would not even be able to recognise your Guru and any training that you undertake would be useless, fruitless. But he insisted that it is the duty of enlightened people (or even senior spiritual aspirants) to plant the seeds regardless of the readiness of the soil to receive these seeds. That is our service. These seeds will germinate sometime or other.

There is another very interesting feature. Now the Ashram is modern, life is fairly comfortable. It’s not easy in such an atmosphere to understand what the seekers who came here in the early 40’s felt. Some of them had read Swami Sivananda’s flaming words. Some of those original writings of Gurudev were so inspiring that if you read them you wanted to tear off all your clothes and run away to the Himalayas and practise Tapasya (austerities) and attain Self-realisation at that moment. That was the peculiarity of his style. Many of them were inspired by his writings and came here. Usually they came without even a change of clothing because in Swami Sivananda’s ‘How to Get Vairagya’ they had read “Renounce everything”—and so they renounced everything; “Seek solitude”—and so they came to seek solitude here. Some of them on entering this place might even have discovered that others who had joined earlier had a nice coat. There was a tendency to feel, “Ah, they have lost the path, they have fallen away. Look how dispassionate I am. My aspiration is far greater than the aspiration of these people who have been with Swami Sivananda for such a long time. They don’t know what Tapasya, Vairagya and Mumukshutva (burning aspiration) mean. Every morning I am sitting here at 4 o’clock meditating. Look at all these older Ashramites.”

Swamiji used to watch them and appreciate them. Whatever you did, first came encouragement. Then he would gently push a little bit. “Enthusiasm is very good. You have got brilliant, wonderful aspiration. You are supreme, you are like a Sukadeva. But juvenile enthusiasm is no good.” First a lot of butter and then a little bitter pill—that was his method. You should never be discouraged, you should never feel that what you are doing is totally wrong. No, do it, it is wonderful, but make sure that it is not only juvenile enthusiasm, something which might lead to a reaction. Burning aspiration is necessary, but it must be steady, not quickly going up and quickly coming down like a balloon. If it is true aspiration it will continue to stay with you throughout your life. If there is some kind of juvenile enthusiasm it not only disappears, but it leads to a reaction which is usually equal and opposite. For instance for six months you walk about naked and you don’t talk, eating very little. God knows what your motives and intentions are. God knows what goes on in your own mind and in your heart. If, somehow, after those six months you discover that that was useless, then you would never stop talking, never stop eating, and you would go to the opposite extreme.

Swamiji was extremely cautious, and he cautioned the disciples also to be cautious. There was one instance which illustrates this: When I came to the Ashram there was another young man also with me. This young man is quite a wonderful person; there is nothing wrong with him. While here, even though he was very devoted to the Master and his work, he also developed an extraordinary friendship with one of the senior disciples of Swami Sivananda. This is natural if you stay here for six months or one year you feel drawn to one or other of the senior Mahatmas here. Some time later this senior Swami decided to leave and go away. Suddenly my friend also decided to leave. He was disappointed with the Ashram because the Swami he admired was leaving. He sent word to Swamiji that he intended to leave, and he even wanted me to go back with him. I told him, “Though I came with you, I’m not going to go back with you.” I used to be in the Bhajan Hall in those days and Swamiji lived down below right on the bank of the Ganges. Three or four times on a single day he came up and down. At that time there were no steps, so he had to negotiate a hill-side. The first time he came he said, “I believe he’s going. Ask him not to go. He has lived this life for one year now and if he goes back there will be a great reaction. He might lose all this.”

I told my friend and he said, “No, my father is not well, my mother is not well and I have to go to support my family.” I went down and told Swamiji this. He came up again later and said, “How much will he earn? We will send money to his mother.” The Ashram was living a hand-to-mouth existence in those days, but he said, “We will support you. We will support the family. The spiritual wealth is so precious.” Gurudev realised that Sadhana-Chatushtaya Sampat, the wealth of aspiration, is so delicate. Spiritual aspiration is not found to be a natural thing in the heart of man. It is there, deep within you, but it is so deep and the dust and the ash that cover this aspiration are so thick that it has become precious. The Master has to plant the seed and only he knows how precious, how valuable it is and how necessary it is to safeguard it against reaction.

That was Gurudev’s extraordinary love, and extraordinary attitude towards this Sadhana-Chatushtaya.

Since the students were not only raw, but not even awake, even the awakening influence had to come from the Master. The people who came often came with their own bad habits. I know on some occasions very senior disciples of Swamiji (who were also authorities in the Ashram) would go to him with all sorts of complaints. Gurudev had to please the authorities also. He would pretend to be really angry. The secretary was satisfied and went away, thinking that Swamiji would deal with the young seeker. On the contrary, the man against whom the complaint was filed would first of all get a couple of bananas—there was a little boy serving Gurudev in those days who would come running to you and say, “Swamiji gave you some fruits, Prasad.”

Half an hour later somebody else might come running to you, “Swamiji gave you some coffee.” An hour later you might have his Darshan. He’d say, “You’re shining, you’re radiant. You’re meditating nicely. You’re doing Japa—good. You’re studying Vedanta? Very good.” What happened to all the complaints? He would watch to see if this encouragement works. Instead of telling you that you are a bad man, Gurudev insisted on concentrating on the good qualities in you, telling you that you were a great worker, even if you had no spiritual aspiration or devotion at all. There are some good qualities in each person, so why not promote them? He would say, “You are a tremendous worker. There is nobody who works as hard as you do.” He would throw one seed there—it is planting the seed that is important—then gently add “Whenever you work, see God in all. Why don’t you go and serve food in the kitchen? You’re a tremendous man, you’ve got a nice body and a fine voice. When you serve Roti (bread), say ‘Roti Bhagavan, Roti Narayan, Roti Maharaj’.”

In this manner the seed of aspiration was planted.


Your Spiritual Efforts are Useless!

Swami Sivananda: “Semen or vital juice tones the nerves and brain and energises the system. He who has preserved his vital force by the vow of celibacy and sublimated it to Ojas-Sakti, can practise steady meditation for a long period. Only he can ascend the ladder of Yoga. Without Brahmacharya no iota of spiritual progress is possible. Brahmacharya is the very foundation on which the superstructure of meditation and Samadhi can be built up. Many people waste this vital energy—a great spiritual treasure indeed—when they become blind and lose their power of reason under excitement. Pitiable indeed is their lot! They cannotmake any substantial progress in Yoga.

(Source: pgs. 107-108, Concentration and Meditation)

The Disastrous Effects of Evil Company by Swami Sivananda

The effects of evil company are highly disastrous. The aspirant should shun all sorts of evil company. The mind is filled with bad ideas by contact with evil companions. The little faith in God and scriptures also vanishes. A man is known by the company he keeps. Birds of the same feather flock together. These are all proverbs or wise maxims. They are quite true. Just as a nursery is to be well-fenced in the beginning for protection against cows, etc., so also, a neophyte should protect himself very carefully from foreign evil influences. Otherwise he is ruined totally. The company of those who speak lies, who commit adultery, theft, cheating, double-dealing, who indulge in idle talks, backbiting and talebearing, who have no faith in God and in the scriptures, should be strictly avoided. The company of women and of those who associate with women is dangerous. Vilwamangal attended once the nautch party of Chintamani. His whole Antahkarana was poisoned. He was the virtuous son of a pious Brahmin. All his good traits disappeared. He fell in love with her. He ruined his life. There are thousand and one instances like this. In Andhra Pradesh, Vemanna also was spoiled by evil company in the beginning. There is nothing more dangerous than evil company. If the wife has no religious tendencies and is of a worldly nature, her company also is tantamount to evil company. That is the reason why scriptures speak very highly of solitary places in the Himalayas and on the banks of the Ganga.

What Constitutes Evil Company

Bad surroundings, obscene pictures, obscene songs, novels that deal with love, cinemas, theatres, the sight of pairing of animals, words which give rise to bad ideas in the mind—in short, anything that causes evil thoughts in the mind constitutes evil company. Whatever induces in us evil tendencies, impure ideas, and likewise, is to be considered as Kusanga. Kusanga is an antonym of Satsanga. It means ‘the company of the evil.’

Place, food, water, family, neighbourhood, sight, literature, criticism, livelihood, and the mode of meditation or worship are the ten most important factors which according to their nature either serve for us as Satsanga or Kusanga.

Aspirants generally complain: “We are doing Sadhana for the last fifteen years. We have not made any solid spiritual progress.” The obvious answer is that they have not totally shunned evil company. Newspapers deal with all sorts of worldly topics. Aspirants should entirely give up reading of newspapers. Reading of newspapers kindles worldly Samskaras, causes sensational excitement in the mind, makes the mind outgoing, produces an impression that the world is a solid reality, and makes one forget the Truth that underlies these names and forms.

The So-called Friends

If you put an ounce of alum in ten maunds of milk, the whole quantity of milk becomes unfit for drinking. Even so, evil company, even for a few minutes, will nullify the good effects created by Satsanga for ten years. Evil company is an enemy of devotion. Give up evil company. Take recourse to Satsanga or company of the saints.

The so-called friends are real enemies. You cannot find even a single unselfish friend in this universe. Be careful. Friends come to have idle talks with you and they waste your time. They want to pull you down and make you also worldly. Do not be carried away by the flowery speech of such friends. Cut off connection ruthlessly. Live alone at all times. Trust in that Immortal Friend who dwells in your heart. He will give you whatever you want. If you cannot have positive Satsanga of Mahatmas, have negative Satsanga with books written by realised sages, saints and Bhagavatas

pgs. 33-35, Satsanga and Svadhyaya