Chapter 5: The Stages of Practice
When the loss of something disturbs our minds, we may be said to be emotionally connected with it. This is the test of emotional attachment. When possessions or objects with which we are associated are taken away from us and it does not seriously affect our minds, it may be said that the emotions are not primarily connected with those things or objects.
The practice of yoga consists primarily of two stages, known as vairagya and abhyasa. Vairagya is the emotional detachment of the personality from objects with which one is related in that manner, while abhyasa is a higher process still, which we shall consider in outline shortly.
As I pointed out previously, most of our experiences are emotional, which means that the gain or the loss of those things affects us seriously. We feel exhilarated on the possession of them and depressed at the loss of them. Thus, most of the experiences of humanity may be regarded as emotional, and not impersonal or psychological in the general sense of the term. Yoga psychology deals effectively with these two aspects of human experience – emotion and pure psychological observations of objects. These two processes are known as vairagya and abhyasa.
In the emotional context, we are also subject simultaneously to loves and hatreds. Raga and dvesha, affection and the opposite of it, are inseparable from our emotional relationship with objects. It is when the emotions are connected with things that we get excited over them. A thing that is seen or something that is heard may disturb us to such an extent that we may lose intellectual comprehension of the situation and become upset in our entire personality, during which occasion it is that we lose consciousness of our personal decorum, even our ethical principles, and above all, our logical understanding. When we are possessed of emotion, we lose the capacity to argue logically. Everything seems to be an expression of the object of that emotion in which state of excitement we lose control over ourselves and also lose control over the principles of ethics, morality, and understanding.
The first process of yoga is, therefore, to free ourselves from emotional entanglements of every kind. Our observation of objects should not be tinged with affection or hatred. This is easy to analyse in principle, but very difficult to practise, because emotions cannot be analysed when one is under the grip of emotions. Anything that has become a part and parcel of our own life cannot become an object of observation or study. This is why we cannot study our own minds, because we and our minds are one and the same thing.
All observation is of external objects, but not of one’s own self. There is no such thing as observation of one’s own self. That is not possible in practical life. And as emotion is nothing but one of the aspects of the function of the mind, the study of one's own emotions is equally difficult. But, by gradual dissociation of ourselves from situations which are emotionally related to us, we can free ourselves from these illnesses of the mind.
The disciplines of yoga ask us to detach ourselves from emotional relationships gradually, by systematic stages. Gross entanglements are to be dealt with first, and subtler relationships may be dealt with a little later. The visible and the grosser manifestations of emotional attachment have to be remedied by physical dissociation of oneself from objects which cause emotional disturbances.
There are certain things, objects in the world, the sight of which emotionally disturb us. You should be physically away from them for a part of the day at least, to commence the practice. For a few hours of the day you should try to be away from the physical proximity of those persons and things who may be the causes of emotional tension in your mind. They may be objects of your affection or objects of your dislike; both are equally emotions. It may be your son, daughter, husband, wife; it makes no difference. These are all objects of emotional attachment.
In the earlier stages, you should dissociate yourself for only a few hours. For at least one or two hours of the day you should not look at them, speak to them or have any relationship with them. You should confine yourself to a room, or you may even go for a walk for two hours so that you will not see them. Various methods suitable to your circumstances of life can be adopted to physically wean yourself from these objects of attachment for one or two hours of the day.
Then you must be away from them for at least one day a week. On Sunday, do not be at home at all. Go away somewhere. Do not speak to your wife or husband, and have nothing to do with your children for at least this one day. Go wherever you like, such as to some distant shrine or temple. You may adopt whatever is possible in your social circumstances to wean yourself from them for one day in a week. Thus, you may gradually increase the time of physical separation from your objects of attachment.
The fulfilment of this process is called the vanaprastha stage. When this detachment becomes complete socially, you are supposed to be in a state of vanaprastha. You are not householders anymore. But this stage cannot be reached quickly. That is why the suggestion is made that you wean yourself gradually from one or two hours to days, weeks and months. If it is perpetual detachment, it is vanaprastha.
This would be the first stage of vairagya. It is the first stage because you are dealing now with physical relationships, and not their subtler aspects. Just because you do not look at an object of your affection, it does not mean that you have no affection for it. Your mind will be contemplating those very things which are physically out of sight and with which you are not physically in contact due to the discipline which you have imposed upon yourself.
Though physical detachment is not sufficient, and the mental cessation of emotions is what we are aiming at, this aim cannot be realised at once. Hence, in the beginning try to be physically away from the objects of love and hatred. It is not merely objects of affection with which you are concerned, but also objects of dislike, whatever they be. These objects vary from person to person according to one’s social condition.
This is a very serious suggestion in the practice of yoga, because no progress can be made when you are in the midst of these emotional entanglements. Whatever be your japa and meditation, you will achieve nothing because you are still in an atmosphere of emotional disturbance. Most of the obstacles in yoga practice are effects of emotional activities taking place within. Emotional disturbances should be removed first, and later on we shall think of higher practices in yoga. So, as I said, the first practice is to be physically away from emotional objects.
The next step is to deal with the subtler causative factors of emotion, which are responsible for their physical activities. If you are away from your house for a month – say you are in the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh or you have gone to Badrinath for tapasya or you are in a shrine undergoing some spiritual discipline – watch your mind. Watch what your mind thinks for one month at least. Your mind will think of many things that are likely to be taking place at your house, such as commitments, something to be done, some needs, some problems or difficulties. All these that are associated with your family life will come to your memory even in Badrinath. These are the causative factors of emotional entanglements, and they cannot be observed when you are in the midst of physical relationships with objects.
Often, if you are away from physical relationships you will be able to observe the mental operation of emotion. Here it is proper and necessary to keep a very strict watch over the rise of these emotions subtly taking place in a lonely atmosphere. What are the emotions that arise in your mind when you are alone? Tabulate them. List them in your diary. You may have a desire to eat, a desire to drink, a desire to speak with certain persons, and you may have a desire for certain kinds of pleasure or enjoyment. Make note of these aspects of the rise of emotion. This is the second stage of an observation that you can make about your mind.
In this second stage of mental observation you should be like physicians, judges in a court, or scientists in a laboratory – very impersonal and dispassionate. You should not give a long rope to your emotions and start weeping and feeling sorry for having been away from the objects of affection. The nature of the observation should be to find out the causes of the rise of these emotions. Why is it that you are thinking of these objects? What do you get from them?
There are two arguments which the mind may put forth. One is, it is your duty to be with them. It is your obligation to educate your children, to take care of your family and to perform certain services in the society in which you are placed, and so you must go back. This is the argument of duty. The other argument is that you are not yet ready for it, you are just a beginner on the path, and you have to fulfil your desires first and then see whether it possible for you to be away in Godly contemplation. But a third vehement argument of the mind can also come – that it is impossible to be entirely starved of all these pleasures of life. They are rebellious in their nature. Then your one month stay in Badrinath may be cut short. You may return in a few days. It will actually happen to you if you do it. You will have your own arguments for it, which look very logical and satisfactory. Every argument is satisfactory when it proceeds from you.
This is a setback in sadhana. This is why we say we should take the guidance of a Guru and be under the observation of the Guru. If the Guru has asked you to be away for one month, you will not have the courage to return earlier, lest you should displease or disobey the orders of the Guru. Even if you are not in a position to obey these instructions quickly, you will have the opportunity to approach the Guru again and ask what is wrong with you that you have not been able to stick to this discipline for even one month.
The reason is that the mind has been trained to be in an atmosphere of pleasure and leniency right from the very beginning. It has never been taught any kind of strictness or discipline. The power of the will is very weak. You know how children are brought up in a family. They are given a long rope for everything. Discipline is totally unknown in families these days. Children are given whatever they ask for, whether it is good or bad, necessary or otherwise. And the example is set by the parents themselves. The parents are the most undisciplined of all, so naturally their children will be of the same sort because they have been brought up right from the beginning in such an atmosphere.
We have become very soft in the texture of our personality. Hardship is unknown to us. Difficulties cannot be faced, and even the first kick that we receive from nature is taken as hell falling on our heads. The spiritual path is a path of hardship in the sense that it is one of discipline, because it is a voluntary submission of oneself to the demands of the soul rather than the desires of the mind.
The desires of the mind are different from the demand of our soul. We have completely closed our eyes to the latter and are fully engaged in the former. We sometimes mistake the call of the soul for the askings of the mind. The mind is always connected with the objects of sense, while the soul always aspires to be absolutely independent. It asks for freedom. The mind is in bondage always, while the spirit is always free. We always make a mistake of connecting the mind with the spirit, and vice versa, and the freedom of the mind is mistaken for the freedom of the spirit. As a matter of fact, what we have is only a licence given to the mind, and not freedom.
The vairagya required of a spiritual aspirant is, therefore, an emotional sublimation of oneself by gradual detachment from gross relationships as well as from subtler contemplations of enjoyments. This is the first stage in the practice of yoga. But this will take perhaps all one’s life, though it is the first stage. According to the teachings of Patanjali, at least, it is a detachment of the emotions from objects both seen and heard. It is very hard indeed even to conceive. Dṛṣṭa ānuśravika viṣaya vitṛṣṇasya vaśīkārasaṁjñā vairāgyam (1.15) is the definition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Vairagya is the mastery that we gain over our emotions by detachment from or dispassion for objects that are seen with the eyes or sensed with the senses, as well as those which we have merely heard of though we have not seen them. This is regarded as the lower vairagya, though it is so difficult, so hard even to think, and much worse to practice. But when we actually enter the field of graduated discipline, it will not be so difficult.
Suppose we hear that tomorrow we are going to have a saltless diet. Even to hear of it is a shock to most people because it is like ekadasi, or even worse. We have never been able to give up salt even for one day in our life because salt makes the food so tasty. It is the most essential item of diet. One day in a year, perhaps, we give it up when we are here, in an ashram. One day in a year, and even that is shocking. We feel morose today itself just by hearing it. But this is a very silly form of discipline, very small and insignificant from the point of view of the larger disciplines that we are called upon to impose upon ourselves.
If you cannot impose discipline upon yourself deliberately and voluntarily, it may have to be imposed upon you by your teacher or the Guru. The rules of the institution demand this kind of discipline from the student. So it is essential to be in an atmosphere of an ashram or an institution where you are deliberately compelled to be under an atmosphere of discipline for some time in your life. For example, in an ashram you cannot drink or smoke. While you are in your own house if you are asked to impose discipline upon yourself and not smoke for a day, you will say all right, but after a few hours you will have one because there is nobody to control you. But in an ashram you are afraid, so it is not possible.
There are certain disciplines which are obligatory, and you cannot escape them. So it is essential to be in a holy atmosphere at least for some period of your life – in a temple or it may be an ashram of monks or sadhaks where these disciplines are natural and spontaneous. And as I mentioned, the subtler aspects have to be made an object of your observation, and you should try to dissociate yourself from even contemplation of objects. While you are physically detached from the objects of your pleasure, you should not simultaneously be thinking of them.
Karmendriyāṇi saṁyama ya āste manasā smaran, indriyarthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate (Gita 3.6). Failure is the result and folly is its name if you think of objects of satisfaction and enjoyment while you are physically away from them, because the real bondage is mental. Samsara is a mental phenomenon, not a physical connection. Birth and death are experiences of the mind, not of the body; therefore, the liberation that is achieved is also a mental phenomenon, not a physical phenomenon. The body is not connected with your pleasures and pains. It is the mind that enjoys and suffers, so what the mind does is more important; perhaps it is the only important factor. It is not the physical relationship that is of greater consequence. Hence, mental contemplation of objects of enjoyment is very reprehensible and should be controlled by methods which have to be dexterously employed.
There are three methods prescribed in Yoga Sastras, which can be employed. The first method that you can adopt when the mind thinks of an object of pleasure is to think of the opposite. It is called pratipaksha�bhavana, or the sudden opposite reaction that you set up in the mind when an emotion of enjoyment arises. You may simply think of an object of pleasure and your hair will stand on end. There will be creeping of the blood in the system, the nerves will be activated, and you may subtly have an enjoyment even if it is only in thought. This can be put an end to by thinking of the opposite. If an emotion of incontinence arises in the mind, suddenly think of a continent master like Hanuman or Bhishma.
Look at the power of Hanuman! What energy, what understanding, what knowledge, what strength he had! You cannot think of a power like Hanuman. What is the reason for that strength? From where did it come? It came by control of the senses – complete sublimation of the powers of sensory activity. What power and strength Bhishma had! The whole world of kings and an entire army of all these valiant princes could not face one person, Bhishma. If you go on thinking like this, the emotion of attachment and affection comes down. The titillation of the nerves that has been created by the contemplation of an object of pleasure ceases and a positive, virtuous emotion rises in the mind.
If you hate a person from the bottom of your heart and you start thinking of that person even when you are in a holy atmosphere, then think of Buddha’s compassion – how compassionate he was and how broad was his vision of things. Even insults poured upon him could not set up a reaction from him. Coolness, calmness, positivity, appreciation – this was the substance out of which the mind of Buddha was made. Then hatred ceases. Raga ceases by the thought of masters like Hanuman and Bhishma, and dvesha ceases by thinking of masters like Buddha.
Various other emotions of your mind can be counteracted by a pratipaksha�bhavana of a corresponding type. This is the method of substitution in psychoanalysis. We substitute one thing for another thing. If a child asks for a knife to play with, you give it a beautiful toy instead, and so on. The method of substitution, of replacing one emotion with another emotion, the vicious one with the virtuous one, the lower with the higher, is pratipaksha�bhavana, a very effective method which is prescribed by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.
The other method which you can adopt is to think of the consequences of the control of the senses. What result will follow by control of the senses? If you control the senses, what happens? You become a master of things. Some of these phenomena are described by Patanjali in some of his sutras in the Vibhuti Pada, the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras. Mastery over the self is mastery over the universe, because the controlling apparatus of all objects is in the subject. You may wonder how this could happen. It is because the subject, as I mentioned yesterday, is not merely the individual or a person. The subject that we are seeking is the universal background of the individual mental activity and the individual psychological structure. Behind the individual subject there is the universal subject, which pulsates through every mental activity of the individual subject.
I gave the example of the ocean behind the waves. The wave on the surface of the ocean may be regarded as an individual subject, but behind it and at the bottom of it is the universal subject which is the ocean. Control of the senses is nothing but making the wave subside into the ocean. You become a master of the universe in the same sense as the ocean is the master of all waters. How can a wave become master of the ocean? How can a subject control the whole cosmos? It cannot be done as long as the individual remains an individual, just as the wave cannot control the ocean because the wave is so small and the ocean so large. But when the wave subsides into the ocean, there is no wave at all; it has become the ocean. Then it has control over the whole ocean itself. The ocean controls itself, because there are no other persons or other factors to interfere with it.
The control of the cosmos is the control of the self, and vice versa, because this is a consequence of mastery over the senses, the control of the mind. The control of the mind is the cessation of the activity of the mind in terms of objects, which is the same as control of the senses. Mental activity and sensory activity are inseparable, just as the foam and the minor ripples on the crest of the wave are a part of the wave, and when the wave subsides, the other forms – in the form of the ripples and crest, etc. – also subside into the ocean.
The individual subject cannot control the cosmos, it is true. But we are not talking about that. Yoga practice leads you to an experience which is beyond the bodily, individual, physical, subjective experience. You become a cosmic factor when you become a master of the mind and the senses. Mastery over the mind and the senses is the cessation of the activity of the mind and the senses. This is something inconceivable in the present circumstances of our life. But by a deep, dispassionate analysis we can understand what it could be. As I said, this can be experienced and explained only by analogies, comparisons, etc., and not by scientific argumentation, because science is only a method of investigating sensory phenomena and, at best, mental phenomena. But this is something super-mental, super-sensory – buddhi-grāhyam atīndriyam (Gita 6.21). It is capable of being grasped by the subtle intelligence, not by sensory activities and observations. Therefore, control of oneself is control of the cosmos in the sense that when you control the self, you cease to be an individual self. You become a power that is pervading the whole cosmos. You become Antaryamin yourself. To again give the example of the wave and the ocean, when a wave subsides into the ocean, it becomes the ocean, and no more does it exist as an individual wave.
Thus, when emotions are subdued by the contemplation of the opposite of that factor which causes the emotions of affection and hatred, you assume a sort of mastery over yourself. And you also control the mind by another method, the second one I mentioned – the contemplation of the consequences or the effects of the control of the mind and the senses. You are not going to be a loser. You are going to be a gainer. This is what we have to teach the mind.
Why are we afraid of detachment and vairagya? We fear them because we think that we lose all centres of pleasure. “If I became a virakta, if I do not enjoy pleasures, I am going to be the loser.” But you are not going to be a loser in the same way, again to give an analogy, as when you wake up into the consciousness of the world from a dream enjoyment of an emperorship, you are not a loser. Suppose you are a king in dream. You have mastery over a vast kingdom, and you wake up suddenly from your dream; do you think you are a loser? “Oh, I was a king. Why did I wake up to this small Mr. so-and-so? This small Mr. so-and-so in the waking state is a better condition than my kingship in dream.” Which is better, to be a beggar in waking or to be a king in dream? It is better to be a beggar in waking because it is qualitatively a higher reality, though it is a beggar’s condition, than the qualitatively inferior condition of imagining a kingship in dream. All your enjoyments in this world are like dream enjoyments. They appear to be all right as long as they are there.
But you are not going to be a loser when you rise to a higher awakening, so do not be afraid of losing anything. All these pleasures of the world will be given to you in a real form. Sankaracharya gives an analogy, a comparison, in one of his minor works. When you are to enjoy a meal, you would like have the meal in its originality and not as a reflection. Suppose a lunch is reflected in a mirror and shown to you; you are not going to enjoy that meal. It is there; you can see all the items in the mirror, but you cannot enjoy it. You can try to grab it, but you cannot really grab it, because it is a reflection. The reflected enjoyment is not a real enjoyment. If you garland yourself in front of a mirror, do you garland the person in the mirror because it is seen there? You garland yourself outside the mirror; you do not garland the reflection. Just because you are seen there, it does not mean that you are there. Similarly, just because the objects are there outside, it does not mean that they are really there. They are somewhere else.
You are thoroughly mistaken in thinking that what you see is really there. It is not there in the same sense as you are not in the mirror. You are somewhere else. You are an invisible object. The person that is reflected in the mirror is invisible to one’s own self. But the visible is not the real; the invisible is the real. So when you want to enjoy an object, do not go to that which is seen, because that which is seen is not there; it is somewhere else. Just as when you garland the invisible personality rather than the visible one reflected in a mirror, the reflected person is also automatically garlanded, when the original is beautified, the reflection is automatically beautified; when the original is satisfied, the reflection is also automatically satisfied, and when that original Absolute is satisfied and contemplated, the whole world is satisfied.
Do not try to run after the objects of the world and try to please people in the world. They are only reflections of an original which is somewhere else. When you touch the bottom of things, the surface is automatically touched. To serve God is to serve all humanity. To please the Absolute is to please the whole of creation. All this is ethically described in a story in the Mahabharata, where it is said that when Sri Krishna Bhagavan took a leaf of vegetable from the vessel in which Draupadi used to cook her meal, the world was satisfied. This is because Sri Krishna represented the root of the cosmos, and when that was satisfied the entire tree of samsara, the whole creation, was satisfied. So do not be under the impression that when you are virakta or when you practise vairagya, self-discipline – when you detach yourself from objects of pleasure – you are going to be a loser. You are going to be an immense gainer by spiritual practice.
Thus, contemplation on the wonderful consequences of self-discipline and self-control allows the emotions of the satisfaction of the objects of sense to come down. The mind will come down automatically. “Oh, it is such a wonderful thing that I am going to get. I am going to be a great master, a magnificent being. Why should I be a silly person of this mortal world? I am going to be the great, magnanimous, magnificent wonder of creation by the practice of yoga.” When the mind is taught this lesson and told this, automatically the emotions of love and hatred, pleasure and pain subside. This is another method by which you can control the emotions by operating upon the subtle causative base.
The third method is the entire sublimation by direct meditation, which is abhyasa. This is the real yoga. The sublimation of all emotions and mental activities of every kind is the direct practice of yoga. While the first stage is the control of emotions, the second stage is an attempt at the cessation of every mental activity, even the direct impersonal perception of things. You will not even be conscious of the existence of objects, let alone be attached or averse to them. Abhyasa is the outcome of vairagya. Abhyasa is real yoga, which is meditation on reality.
Tatpratiṣedhārtham ekatattva abhyāsaḥ (1.32) is Patanjali’s sutra. To put an end to all mental vrittis, you have to concentrate on one reality. This one reality may be any one of your chosen concepts. The Ishta Devata, or the chosen deity, is the reality as far as you are concerned in the practice of yoga or abhyasa. What that reality is, what that Ishta Devata is, what that object of meditation is going to be, has to be selected in consultation with your Guru, who will initiate you into the method of meditation. I cannot discourse on meditation here in detail, as this is a very secret and subtle technique which varies from person to person, and it has to be received personally through initiation from a preceptor – which you should have, whatever be your advancement in spirituality.
The practice of yoga is meditation. In meditation, the mind fixes upon a given concept or an object, by which it is automatically abstracted by way of pratyahara from objects of sense. Pratyahara, dharana and dhyana go together as a concentrated focus of mental activity. In dhyana, it is not merely the conscious mind that functions. It is the whole of your personality that comes up and acts with a force of whatever you are in the base or bottom of your being. In intense pleasure and intense pain, the whole of your personality begins to act. Very rarely does your entire personality work in your life. Mostly you are only on a conscious level, but in meditation the whole psychological personality is brought up into a focussed attention on the object that has been chosen. Your whole being meditates. It is not your mind that thinks. Meditation is not merely thinking. It is much more an activity of your individuality and personality than you can think of. It is not thinking, willing, loving, and so on; it is something much more than that. It is the whole of the subjective activity of your becoming coordinated with the objective phenomenon in the form of creation. You contemplate the whole world through that object.
The image or the symbol that you use in meditation, therefore, is not a selected isolated object but a representation of the entire cosmos. A currency note represents governmental authority in economics and finance. A flag represents the nationality to which we belong, though the flag itself is not nationality; it is something else. Likewise, in meditation when you choose a symbol, it does not mean that you have chosen a false object. It is a representation of the power that is behind it. The whole cosmos is the ultimate object of meditation, but as you cannot think of it immediately, you choose only a representation of the cosmos, a single object. You cannot think of the whole ocean, so you think only of a single wave, and through the wave you can enter the ocean. Likewise, through any object that you choose for the purpose of your meditation, you can enter all the objective phenomena by the gradual ascendance of the meditative processes.
In the sutras of Patanjali, various stages are described. Savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, sananda, sasmita, etc., are called samadhis, or stages of meditation. These are nothing but stages by which the mind ascends into the higher ladders of objectivity from a single given concept or a form or an image to a wider and wider expression of it, until you reach the whole cosmos of the five elements and their subtle background in the form of the tanmatras, and go still higher into the mahatattva; and finally, Isvaratattva itself becomes the object of your meditation. The supreme omnipotent, omnipresent Isvara, the Lord of Creation, becomes the ultimate object of your meditation.
As I mentioned, these are all difficult techniques. But once you taste the beauty and the bliss of meditation, you will not leave it. You will not think of any object of sense afterwards, just as when you have tasted the delicious nectar of life, you will not go for a cup of coffee or tea because they are insipid compared to nectar. But you have not tasted it even once, and therefore mistake the pleasures of sense for the delights of life.
Again, I would advise you to be serious and honest in your practice, and God Himself will take the form of a Master, and the Guru and Guide comes to you unasked, and takes you by the hand to the higher stages of life. Gurus are not lacking in life. There are plenty of Gurus. As God is everywhere, Gurus are also everywhere. God is not a mere concept, a theory or an idea in your mind. Let this foolish notion be swept off your mind. We do not love God. We cannot have real devotion to God, because still, till today at this present moment, God is only an idea before us, conjured up before our minds, while the world is a reality for us. God has to become the reality.
The object of your meditation is a reality. It is not an imagination of your mind, because the imagination cannot produce real results. If you want concrete results to follow from meditation, the object has to be a reality. For that you have to educate yourself, as I mentioned in the first session, into a new method altogether by which you have to rise from the world of phenomena to the world of noumena or reality.
Within these few days that you are in this ashram, it would be good that you sit for a while and think over the seriousness of this matter in your life. You do not know how many years more you will live in this world. You may not have a long lease of life before you. It may be a few years, a few months, a few days – nobody knows. And you do not know where you will go. All this is very serious indeed. Nothing can be more serious than this unknown future that is ahead of you. So make a decision of your future. Decide what is going to be the programme of your life tomorrow, and adjust your daily programme according to the programme of the life that is to follow. Cut short all unnecessary activities. Your daily programme should consist only of those items which are absolutely essential for the maintenance of your life socially and spiritually, and the cumulative effect of this day-to-day programme is the programme of your life.
When you leave this world one day, go with an asset. Remember that the people of this world are not going to help you when you are on your deathbed, when you are about to leave this world. Nothing will follow you – not your friends, not your family, not the wealth that you possess, not the status that you occupy in society, nothing of the kind. You go alone, unbefriended, and you do not know what will follow you.
The virtues and the vices of your actions today will follow you. Manu says in his Smritis that one alone is born, and one alone dies. You come alone, you go alone and you experience the pleasures and pains in this world alone. Nobody can come to share the miseries of your life. You alone have to swallow the bitter pill of life. Therefore, when you leave this world, the very same samskaras of your experience here, which you have gathered up by virtue or vice, will came to your aid. The objects of sense will not come. And do not think that those days are very far off. This is again the maya that is before you. It is not far off. At any moment, a grain of rice can stick in one’s throat, and that may be the end. Anything can be the cause of death, and the next moment what happens to you? You do not know. It is a horror before you.
But you need not be horrified of it if you have been consciously living your life according to the canons of virtue, unselfishness and devotion to the Maker of all things. The devotion, the spiritual attitude that you have enshrined in your heart, the meritorious actions that you have performed in the form of philanthropy, charity, etc., the goodness that you have manifested in your life – that will follow you. The things of the world will not follow you because when you enter another realm altogether after leaving this body, the laws of this world will not apply to that world, just as when you leave one country and go to another country, the laws of the country which you have left will not apply in the country into which you have entered.
There are various lokas, planes of existence, realms of experience, and when you die to this world you enter another realm, another loka, where another law altogether operates, and these social and ethical laws of this world will not apply there. And so you have to take note of the eternal law of the cosmos, not merely the tentative and apparent rules and regulations that you have socially created for your pleasures and enjoyments of the world.
The eternal law is dharma, sanatana as it is called. Follow the canons of eternal law, which will help you wherever you go. Whichever be the realm into which you enter after you leave this world, the eternal law which you have followed in this life will sustain you even there. The law of God, the law of the Absolute, the divine law is the eternal law.
Thus, by awakening ourselves into the realities of a higher life, we tread the path of spirituality and become blessed even in this very life. We live a really happy life in this world, and happy we duly become even in a future life. This is so because God is the determining factor. The law of the Absolute is the regulating principle of the life that we live in any loka, or any plane of existence. The planes of existence change; but the eternal principle – immanent, present, regulating our experiences in various lokas – does not change.
In conclusion, may I request you all to contemplate a little more profoundly than you have been doing up to this time, the realities of your life and the essentiality of living a truly spiritual life in the sense that spirituality is the expression of the spirit of the cosmos. It is not merely a joke that you are playing with life. It is not a hobby into which you are entering for diversion or enjoyment. It is the most serious factor that you can think of in your life, because that is the law Eternal, that is satya, that is rita, that is God Himself speaking to you in the form of law and discipline. Be a disciplined person, be a good person, be a spiritual person, be an aspirant of the Reality rather than the phenomena which pass before the eyes, which see them today and will not see them tomorrow.
Thus, be a child of God, a student of yoga, and live a life of blessedness wherein you will have the yogic experience of eternity and infinity blending together. Thus, you may be said to be in a state of sahaja samadhi, seeing the Truth everywhere, Reality everywhere. You will be in such a state of high meditation then that wherever the mind goes, you will be in a state of meditation because whatever the mind fixes itself upon, it will be observing Reality alone. In a forest, wherever you cast your eyes, you see only trees. In the ocean, wherever you cast your eyes, you see only water. In empty space, you see only space wherever you cast your eyes. In the same way, in a state of intense meditation, wherever you cast your glance, you see the flood of eternity, the Vishvarupa, inundating you from within and without. This is spirituality. This is yoga. God bless you.