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An Introduction to Sadhana
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken during the Sadhana Week held at Sivanandanagar in the year 1965.)

The Sadhana Saptaha or the Sadhana-week is a period in which we are supposed to recall to our mind the principles for which we live on earth and the way in which we have to conduct ourselves in life. This sadhana is not a programme for mere seven days but, as all of you are aware, it is the programme for human life as a whole. Sadhana is not to be segregated to a part of one's life. One is expected to be good always. The highest goodness is to aspire for Godliness. Spiritual sadhana is not one aspect of life but is the essence of life itself, because we cannot be something in one part of our being and some other in another part, just as we cannot have half of a hen alive and another half for cooking. We are one thing at all times, and not different things. But it so happens that we manifest different natures in different occasions.

It does not, however, mean that we have two different natures at one and the same moment. This manifestation of our nature, though variegated on account of the fickleness of our emotion, is to be steadied if we are to achieve any substantial progress in life, because a fickle mind can achieve nothing substantial. In no walk of life can you achieve real success, if there is not a steady aim before you, and no properly chalked out method to achieve this ideal.

There should be two programmes for every person—a programme for the day and a programme for life, and it is very clear that the programme for the day will depend on the programme for life. ‘What am I to do?', you may ask. That depends upon what you want to do in life, and the daily programme is nothing but one link in the long chain of the programme that you have chalked out for the whole life. This again depends upon what your aim is in life. If you want to know the path that you have to tread, you must know the place that you have to reach. But this concept of the ideal that is to be achieved in life is again dependent upon the knowledge that you have of the world. A child will have one concept of the ideal, and a mature mind another. There are minds and minds in the world, and all do not take the world in the same sense. We have each one of us a philosophy of our own. We have different concepts of life and we form different aims and objectives in our minds according to the knowledge with which we are equipped. Our education is to some extent a determining factor in assessing the nature of the ideal that we have to set before us.


The people who are assembled here at least, as far as I can comprehend, are a chosen group who have almost a similar type of inner education and who do not have variegated ideals in life. You may have different professions but your ideals are not so very variegated. There is a difference between the vocation that you follow and the ideal that you hold. The ideal is the same for all of us, the ideal that has been placed before us by sages and saints. Especially we, as disciples of His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, follow those lofty examples that he has set before us in blending together the relative and the Absolute. The World and God blend in our own life. We do not reject anything. The specific nature of the sadhana and the philosophy as propounded by Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is this—he neither rejects God nor the world. In his philosophy there is no rejection; it is only inclusion. He was one of those saints, sages and seers who had nothing to avoid or abandon or reject in this world. Everything was to be absorbed, sublimated, transformed and redeemed; that was his philosophy, and sadhana is naturally a practice of this philosophy. He used to tell me, and some of the Gurubhais, that the moment he gets up from bed in the morning, the first person whom he would see would be his servant, who would come for giving him something or other, then the attendant, and then the sweeper. “Swami Krishnanandaji, do you know what I feel at that time when all these people come? Of course I do not have flowers in my hands. I mentally offer flowers on the head of these people, servants, attendants and sweepers, and so on. What I do is to repeat mentally at that time: Sahasrashirsha Purushah Sahasrakshah Sahasrapat.... I repeat this mentally.” There is no sweeper, attendant, no menial or inferior; at least to him there was no such thing. And he wanted us to observe in mind this equanimity in creation.

The putting into practice, to the extent possible, of this supreme principle in our own life, is sadhana. According to him, sadhana is essentially a mental act, not a physical feat. Sadhana is an attitude you have towards your own self and others, and finally towards God. Sadhana is a march towards the Supreme Being, and it means the requisite adjustment of our personality in social life also. It is a movement as well as an expansion. It is a movement, vertical and horizontal. You move towards God in an ascent, and then you expand yourself also in social life so that you take the world with you when you reach God. With this attitude, if you endeavour to work in life, fulfil your duties whatever they may be, it will be observed that there is no occasion for feeling of disgust towards anything. To see God in the world is the highest sadhana. They say the footprint of an elephant includes the footprints of all other animals, because it is the biggest footprint. This supreme concept of the immanence of God in the world is inclusive of every concept which is spiritually valuable. To contemplate on God in this world is the highest sadhana, and this automatically implies love towards all beings. You can see God in all and yet not love all people. These are contraries. You see God in all and love all equally. It is implied, and you need not mention it separately, and this also implies service to all. To recognise one's own self in others and to work for the fulfilment of this in life is a part of our sadhana. Love all, serve all, because God is in all. The Christ said, “Love thy neighbour as thy self.” What did he mean, and what is the reason behind it? Because, your neighbour is your own self. Therefore, you have to love him as your own self. There is a rationale behind this teaching. In daily life, we have to conduct ourselves in a manner which is in consonance with this supreme principle which is our ideal, objective and the object of realisation.


Suppose you want to go to Badrinath. You walk along this road, and always you have one idea in your mind, “I am going to Badrinath”, and you follow that particular road which leads to Badrinath, without going this way or that way. There are many footpaths also on the way, some leading to the right and some to the left, but you will never go either this way or that way because you always remember: “I am going to Badrinath and so this is my path, I am not to divert either to the right or to the left.” You never forget this point when you are travelling, because you want to reach that destination. Our life is a journey in a similar sense and we cannot afford to forget that it is a journey. Naturally a journey has a destination and we have to reach some place. We can never forget that we are marching towards a goal which is to be realised; if possible in this life, if not in some other life, and we cannot afford therefore to miss the path that is leading to it. There are many other paths leading both ways, good and bad, to the right and to the left.

In the Kathopanishad, it is said that you have both the sreyas and the preyas, the good and the pleasant. You may choose any one you like. Whilst going to Badrinath, you will find after a little distance a way to Lakshman Jhula and when you reach Lakshman Jhula, you will find another path which is leading to the village on the top of the hill. Well, you can go anywhere you like—no objection. But you will not do like that. You know that you have to go to Badrinath. When we are following this path, when we are journeying in this life, we will also see many other paths leading to many other destinations, and we are actually seeing every day, but most of us forget that we are moving towards one goal and make the mistake of getting side-tracked. And firstly we forget that we have been side-tracked. We think we are treading the correct path while we have been moving away from the correct path. This is one great danger in the practice of spiritual sadhana. Apramattastada bhavati. The Spiritual seeker is apramatta, he is always vigilant, and always walks with open eyes so that he may not fall into a pit. The spiritual aspirant can never afford to be wool-gathering or absent­minded. “Oh, I did it by mistake,” one cannot say. He cannot afford to make that mistake.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to give an analogy. Suppose you are on a journey and you are going through a forest. There is very heavy raining and you have no proper shelter. And you are in sight of a hut, just near. To save yourself from the rain, you enter into that hut and somehow you have to pass that night there, and you have no other way. You find a cobra showing its head through a hole. You just shy away from it. And when you look this side, you find a scorpion moving towards you. In the front, you find another creature. It is horrible. You cannot stay there, and you cannot go out of it also, because it is pouring outside and it is all dark. What will you do? You will be seeing all round with eyes wide open. Every moment you will be vigilant. You have the will-power to withstand that supervening sleep at that time. You may not have slept for many days, but that day you will not sleep—complete ‘Sivaratri'. Why are you so careful? You constantly go on looking to both sides, because on that side there is the cobra, on this side there is scorpion and there is another thing coming in front. “Oh God!” You will pray, and then you will stand as if you are an imprisoned captive. The spiritual Sadhaka should be as vigilant as one is in the analogy of Sri Ramkrishna Paramahamsa—a very hard and direct hitting, though homely.