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Pick Up the Pearls
A compilation from the scintillating writings of Swami Krishnananda

(Released in print on the auspicious occasion of the 75th Birth Anniversary of our most Revered and Worshipful H.H. Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj on 25th April 1997.)


Brethren: Meet together, talk together;
let your minds apprehend alike ;
common be your prayer ;
common be your assembly's end and aim;
common be your purpose;
common be your deliberation ;
I advise you to have a common policy.

Common be your desires;
united be your hearts;
united be your intention,
so that there may be a thorough union among you.
May our Father grant this.

—Rig Veda

Yoga is not just bending and stretching the limbs,
not staring at a candle or looking at a dot on the wall

Patanjali is a great name in India's scriptural lore. He was a mighty sage.

“Yoga” is a much misunderstood and abused term these days. Yoga, let it be understood, is a sacred word. It signifies both the means and the end. It is the aim of human existence. It is to live yoga that one is born. By a stroke of mysterious misfortune, man has fallen from heaven, is separated from God. The “why”of this is a divine secret. Yoga, rightly practised, promises to restore the lost Kingdom to man, assures him to re-unite him with the Ultimate Reality, once again.

It will be clear how yoga is not just bending and stretching the limbs in various postures, yoga is not ringing the bell or beating cymbals, not staring at a candle or looking at a dot on the wall. Not that these processes are without significance, but they are preliminary, all too preliminary aids, rather starting points in the long, long march of the student of yoga in his quest of Reality.

Yoga is not merely a practice, or a set of practices, but the whole science of life itself. We are living muted lives. Yoga offers the whole life. Yoga promises to cure all our diseases—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—all of them. Yoga promises perfection. Yoga promises perennial bliss shorn of all misery.

Major defects of worldly enjoyments and earthly joys

The worldly enjoyments of the human being are tainted with two major defects. Firstly, all earthly joys are fleeting, temporary in nature. Secondly, every enjoyment is mixed simultaneously with a measure of misery. Now, yoga guarantees, at the end of the journey, perpetual bliss totally unmixed with sorrow. Is it not worthwhile? In fact, all human striving, knowingly or unknowingly, is directed only towards the state of perpetual and unending bliss. The basic aim of all human endeavour is the same, though the effort is often directed along mistaken channels resulting in wrong results.

Lord Krishna—The authority on yoga

We need not search here and there for Gurus and God-men to give us right guidance in the matter of the meaning of the word ‘yoga'. The Lord Krishna, other than whom it is difficult to imagine a greater authority, gives a number of definitions in His lovable spiritual classic, “The Bhagavad Gita.” The whole of the Gita is God's teaching to man, telling him the means to regain the lost Kingdom, expounding all the intricacies of the spiritual journey, the return journey to the Universal Being. In this sacred book, the word ‘yoga' is defined in a number of places from different angles. There are some unambiguous and straight definitions such as “yogah karmasu kausalam: Yoga is skill in action” (II, 50) and “samatvam yoga uchyate: Evenness of mind is called yoga” (II, 48). Patanjali himself defines yoga as “chitta-vritti-nirodhah” or control of the modifications of the mind-stuff. These definitions of Sri Krishna and Patanjali are various guidelines to the means for attaining the ultimate end of yoga, which is the eternal establishment in lasting perfection.

There is one classic definition of yoga in the Gita

There is one classic definition of yoga in the Gita which is perhaps the most comprehensive of all definitions, because it defines yoga by the end sought to be achieved through practice. The means may be different, but the end is the same. And this end, this universal goal of human aspiration, is to attain perennial bliss, to secure release from the pain of empirical entanglement. So, Sri Krishna gives us this remarkable definition in Chapter VI, Verse 23, where He says that yoga is “duhkhasamyoga-viyogam” or “severance from union with pain”. That is the last word on the subject. What is yoga? Yoga is that which relieves the individual of all his misery, for all time. Yoga is that which separates man from pain and instals him in his own Infinitude.

Yoga is inner purification and progressive elimination of the ego clouding the truth shining within

For the sake of convenience and clarity of understanding, we generally speak of different methods of the yoga approach to life's problems. The better known methods are karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga. While the emphasis is laid on different aspects of yoga in these methods, yoga is basically the same, viz., inner purification and progressive elimination of the ego clouding the Truth shining within. In the working out of this yoga process, there is much common ground as between the different teachings of yoga. Physical health, ethical discipline, concentration, selflessness, development of a universal outlook—these are common to all the systems of yoga. While Patanjali's system lays stress on control of the mind as the kingpin of the dynamics of spiritual evolution, it encompasses not merely mind control, but the entire gamut of the spiritual ascent.

Yoga is meant for everyone, not exclusively for cave dwellers

Patanjali's yoga is not a secret system for exclusive practice by recluses living in mountain caves. If that were so, its value would become minimal. No. The yoga of Patanjali is meant for everyone, in much the same way as the Bhagavad Gita. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Gita are universal scriptures, dealing with the Science of Life, the Science of Reality, and no one is outside its purview. It is an all-inclusive science, meant for everyone's practical living. As such, the Yoga Sutras is a priceless scripture. It is not merely the culture of India, but the entire human race, which is indebted to Patanjali for his generous gift of this remarkable science designed to restore to man his Divine Heritage, his forgotten identity.

Nothing can be dearer to man than yoga

While people, the world over, are generally acquainted with the word ‘yoga,' there are perhaps as many ideas and definitions of yoga as there are minds in the world. It is often said that there is a world under every hat. Each person has his own conception of what yoga is, sometimes overemphasised, sometimes underestimated, sometimes misconstrued, and oftentimes deliberately misrepresented for reasons or motives of one's own. But, seekers of what they call ‘Perfection' would do well to take things seriously, and not dabble with the subject as a sociological problem, or something that will win wealth, name and fame. Yoga is something which is dear to all. Nothing can be dearer to man than yoga, if one can know what it really means. It is not merely a subject that one may choose for one's studies, as in a college, for the purpose of a pass or a degree. It is a system which we are to accommodate into our own personal and practical day-to-clay life as an art, by which we shall place ourselves in a greater proximity to that great ideal of all life than is the circumstance or situation of ours today, at this hour.

Then what is Yoga?

There is a glib definition of yoga as ‘union', an offhand description of it with which we are all familiar. But it is not easily known as to what this union is about, and who is going to be united with what. And what for is this union, is also a kind of doubt that will occur to our minds. Firstly, it may not be clear as to what are the items that are to be united in this union called yoga. The second thing: Why should one struggle to have this union? What does one gain out of this? What is the purpose and what is the mystery behind it? These difficulties, psychologically, may present themselves, all of which have to be cleared at the very outset.

Respect the law of the world or the universe

The system of yoga is a practice, and this practice is nothing but the conduct of our life in our day-to-day manoeuvring of facts, in the light of the nature of things, or we may say, in the light of the structure of the universe. We cannot behave in a way which is irrelevant to the nature of things, because we are in the world, and not outside the world. Hence, the system or principle that is operating behind the world, or the universe, will expect us to respect the law which is reigning supreme in the world, or the universe, and anyone who is adamant enough to turn a deaf ear to the cause of the law of life would be penalised by the law, by an automatic working of the rule of the universe. The system of the universe is so automatic and spontaneous that it does not require an operator independent of it.

The universe works like a large computer system—Reaction is set to action automatically

In a way, we may say that the universe works like a large computer system. It works of its own accord. Reaction is set to action automatically, without any person operating this machine. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. This is something known to everyone in the physical and mathematical realms. This is so, because of the arrangement of things which we call the universe. And we should not forget that we are not outside this universe. Neither are we outside human society, nor are we outside the world or this planet earth or this astronomical cosmos. Inasmuch as we are inseparably related to this large atmosphere called human society, the world, and the universe, our conduct should be in consonance with the way in which this atmosphere works. Thus, it may be said that yoga is that necessary conduct of the personality or the individuality of anyone which abides by the requisition of the law of the universe. Many a time we go wrong in our outlook of life, in our judgement of things, and in our behaviour in society, due to the fact that we have no knowledge adequately of the way in which the universe is working, and therefore we do not know what is our precise relation to the universe. It follows naturally from this ignorance of ours that our conduct in life can be an aberration from the requirements of the laws or rules of the universe.

Our relationship to the universe is eternal and it cannot die

Our relationship to the universe is not like the relationship of the members of a parliament or a corporate body. Our relationship to the universe is internal, inviolable, inexorable and eternal; it cannot die. We are related to the universe for ever and ever, and we can never sever this relationship at any time. Well, we may consider the limbs of the body as inviolably related to the body, but even this organic connection of the limbs of the body to the structure called the body is of an inferior type. This is so, because a part of the body can be severed. We can cut off the arm of a person, or any other limb of a person, by amputation, and the relationship of this part to the body will cease, but with no amputation and under no circumstances can we sever our relationship with this world or the universe. No amputation is possible here. No kind of severance of relationship of the particulars or individuals is possible under any circumstance in respect of this vast universe. We are eternally related to it since ages, and in the scheme of evolution, if we have risen to this level of humanity by rising from the bottom, we did exist before we were human beings. The prior existence of the individual in other bodies or other species of beings is proved automatically by the fact of the evolution of things, and this fact also proves post-existence for the individual.

We did exist centuries before and we will continue to exist aeons hence also

Evolution is a fact, and mankind is certainly not the ultimate pinnacle of the process of evolution. If there has been evolution from lower levels to the present level, then it also has to be there from the present level to even higher levels. We did exist centuries and aeons before, and we will continue to exist aeons hence also. We are eternal units of this large structure called the universe. We are not citizens of this world at all. We belong neither to Orissa nor to Madras. What puny, petty ideas we have got in our minds! I am a Maharashtrian, I am a Punjabi, a Tamilian, a Keralite.... and so on! How low have we come! How shameful is our existence when we think of these little things as our real marks of identification! In truth, we seem to belong to a large structure, a universe which is behind us and ahead of us through various realms of being. Even while we try to conceive of this structure, we will have consternation every moment of time. We will be looking around on all sides trying to figure out where we are standing at all. “Am I of this world? Am I in this world? Am I in a world at all or am I somewhere else?” Faced with these questions, one is bound to be shocked; one will not be able to say anything. Such would be one's wonder and consternation at this little insight into the nature of the universe and one's own relationship to it. So, this little picture of the structure of things or the nature of the universe may be regarded as a preface or an introduction to certain other details that we may have to know about the universe itself.

People think that in the religions of India there are many Gods—This is a wrong idea

Generally, people think that in the religions of India there are many Gods, resulting in a sort of polytheism. This is a thorough misconception of the philosophical foundation of India. There are not many Gods. The many Gods are the manifold levels through which the one Supreme Being manifests Itself by different densities of descent, becoming grosser and grosser, coming further and further down, for the purpose of maintaining the relationship between the subject and the object. As there are several levels of descent, it appears as if there are many Gods, but they all are but different levels of the one supreme connecting Principle. Several levels of manifestation of one and the same thing cannot be regarded as many things; so, there are not many Gods. This wrong idea of many Gods should be brushed aside from the mind. There is only one God and this superintending Principle is the Adhi Devata, the very very essential Reality without which no experience can be accounted for.

Renouncing of home, father, mother, job and sitting somewhere is not yoga

Now, the whole purpose of yoga practice is to regain the lost kingdom. First of all, we have to know where our kingdom is. We have been thrown further and further, down and down, away from the centre of our being. The system of Patanjali, particularly, is very scientific and very logical. And the great teacher takes his stand on the lowest of realities because educational psychology requires that a teacher or a student should take the lowest standpoint first and not go to the higher ones when the lower ones have not been properly investigated into, studied and transcended. Yoga is a gradual transcendence and not an abnegation of realities. Yoga does not require one to renounce realities, but to transcend lower realities for the purpose of gaining the higher. So many a time we think that yoga means Sannyasa, and we equate Sannyasa with a throwing out of physical particulars, a renouncing of homesteads and chattel, father and mother and job, and sitting somewhere. This is not yoga, because yoga is not a giving up of things, but a giving up of wrong notions about things, and about the world as a whole. The essence of renunciation or Sannyasa, monkhood or nunhood, is not a renunciation of objects, but the renunciation of the object-ness or the externality of the objects. It is the renunciation of the idea that the objects are outside us. That is Sannyasa. Merely to move from one place to another and think that we have renounced something is a mistake because even if we move geographically, physically, from one place to another, the object of our supposed renunciation still remains outside our perception; we still think of it as an external thing, we still have a judgement or an opinion over it, and the renunciation of it has not taken place.

Renounce attachment to things and not things as such

Yoga requires of us a renunciation, no doubt. Patanjali says that vairagya and abhyasa should go together. The Bhagavad Gita also says the same thing. Vairagya means renunciation, abnegation, tyaga or relinquishment. Abhyasa is positive practice. But, relinquishment or abandonment or abnegation or renunciation of what? That has to be made clear first. The great gospel of the Bhagavad Gita is a standing message to all seekers of yoga, wherein is hammered into our minds the necessity to understand what renunciation is, what asakti is. It is attachment to things that is to be renounced, and not the things as such, though there are various physical methods and social needs that may have to be abided by for the purpose of achieving this true renunciation. But, basically, it is an absence of taste for things which is called renunciation, and not an absence of the physical proximity of objects. If taste remains, true renunciation has not taken place, even if the objects are left physically far behind. Here, the problem is a problem of consciousness. The whole of yoga or philosophy is a study of consciousness ultimately. And the problem does not leave us merely because the senses have been severed from their contact with the physical nature of their objects.

Patanjali gives the whole of yoga

Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah. Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. In two verses, in two sutras, Patanjali gives the whole of yoga. What is yoga? Yoga is chitta-vritti-nirodhah: the restraint of the mind-stuff. What happens when the mind-stuff is restrained? Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam: the seer establishes himself in his own Self. The seer means the conscious subjectivity in us. This so-called subjectivity of consciousness ceases to be a subjectivity anymore, because the subject has no meaning if there is no object outside. Subject and object are co-related terms, one hanging on the other for their subsistence. If the outside does not exist, there is no inside, and vice versa. So, when the person who has restrained the mind-stuff has realised that the things are not outside himself, the object ceases to be, and with it, the inside also goes. So, no more is there such a thing as subjectivity or individuality for that person. It does not exist anymore. Thus, from the restraint of the mind or the control of the mind, follows a re-installation of one's own self in one's own true nature.

A little brushing of the brain is necessary to free ourselves

Here again, we have to strike a note of caution as to what is “one's own true nature”. Many a time we are likely to mistake the meaning of this phrase, “establishment of one's self in one's own Self”. We have an inveterate habit of thinking that we are sons and daughters of some parents. We cannot forget this. We are also inveterately affirming that we are men and women, that we are in a body. We cannot forget this also, whatever be the yoga we might practise. So, what is the sort of establishment in one's Self that one is going to achieve or attain with this sort of a persisting malady in one's own thinking? If one is a man or a woman, a son or a daughter, a rich man or a poor man, he cannot get out of the corresponding idea which limits his vision. What sort of yoga can anybody practise in such a situation? A little bit of brushing of the brain is necessary to free ourselves from at least the grosser misconceptions in which we are involved. There are subtler misconceptions and grosser misconceptions. While the subtler ones are the more powerful ones, and they have to be tackled at the appropriate time, the grosser ones at least should be given up initially. But, we are prepared for neither. We are hard-boiled persons, persisting somehow or the other in our own preconceived notions, and set attitudes and relationships. We are friends to some, and enemies to others; we are related to some in some ways, to others in other ways. This is most unfortunate, because such wrong attitudes come in the way of our regarding ourselves as real students of yoga.

Yoga is not abstract thinking. It is an attitude that we establish with reference to all things, everywhere

The most important of all pieces of advice which come to us from the great adept Patanjali is that we should have a true love for yoga. One practises yoga, not because one wants to become a teacher or gain fame, but because one wishes to achieve perfection. Yoga is considered by the ancient masters as far, far superior in affection to thousands of fathers and mothers. Yoga protects us when we protect yoga. Yoga loves us when we love yoga. What is the meaning of loving yoga? Yoga is not a person; it is not a thing. It is not something existent. How can one love it? Yoga is not abstract thinking. It is an outlook, an attitude that we establish with reference to all things, everywhere. All things become friendly. Love of yoga is not love of the word called ‘yoga'. It is not even a notion in our mind. It is inseparable from the existence of things. Thought is being, and being is thought, finally. Love is the same as the object which we love, and vice versa. The two cannot be separated. The Yogi becomes a lover of all beings—sarva bhuta hite ratah—and all beings love him. “Sarva siso balim asmai haranti” says the Upanishad. The student of yoga has to love all beings as his own self, as it were—nay, more than his own self. And then, all beings love him.

Whatever we think of others or do to others will return to us

This is because world experience is a question of action and reaction. Whatever attitude we project towards things, that attitude is meted out to us in return. Whatever we think of others, that will be thought of about us also. Whatever we do to others, will be done to us. Whatever be our notion about others outside, that will be the notion others will have about us also. This is very interesting and very important to note. So, yoga is to be practised with tremendous zeal and a feeling of intense love surpassing all other temporal loves in this world, a love which swallows up every other love. It is not to be one of the loves, one among the many. No. It is to be the only love that the seeker can have. When the seeker loves yoga, that love embraces and encompasses everything. Because, everything is in yoga. That is why Patanjali says that yoga is to be practised with a deep sense of affection for it, as if it were one's mother or father. And when we conduct ourselves in yoga in this manner, we will be established in it. For a long time, we have to practise it with unremitting effort and great love. These are the preliminary instructions of the great yoga teacher Patanjali.

It would be in the interest of all seekers of yoga to go slowly, and not in a hurry. Each step should be a considered step, and one should not walk on slippery ground. The student of yoga should not feel the necessity, later on, to retrace his steps because of any mistake that he might commit early in the practice. It is better to go slow, take time to reach the succeeding step, rather than hurry and then retrace one's steps to correct a mistake or to avoid the committal of a mistake.

The essential yogic practice is meditation—But how to reach this state?

The essential yogic practice is meditation. But to reach this state, one has to pass through various purificatory, earlier stages. Teachers of yoga and Vedanta have been untiringly telling us that the heights of yoga are reached only as the fruit of sustained effort in the direction of internal purification, which has to be achieved through service and worship. We are often told that karma, upasana and jnana are the three stages of spiritual attainment. These are familiar terms—karma, upasana and jnana or service, worship and wisdom. We are unable to free ourselves totally from selfishness in our day-to-day life. We have some selfishness always. A subtle selfishness is there even in the most advanced spiritual personalities. It can be got over only by exercising an unselfish attitude towards other people, which is easily called service. Unselfish service is regarded as the essential prerequisite in the purificatory processes necessary for the final practice of yoga. This unselfish service to others is very important; and one should not imagine that one is in a higher state, so that one can get out of this necessity to practise selfless service. Service does not necessarily mean providing physical amenities to people, though that also is a part of service.

A charitable disposition towards others is the essence of service

A charitable disposition towards others is the essence of service. Charity of feeling is the greatest of charities. Giving donations of some dollars is not necessarily charity. That is only an outward expression of one's internal recognition of the value of people outside. The discovery of great spiritual value in all things in the world is the essence of the serviceful outlook of life. We do not serve people because they are inferior to us, or because they are beggars and we are rich. That is not the reason why we do service. Service is the outcome of our feeling that the great aspiration that is throbbing in our heart is also present in other hearts. Social circumstances might have converted the other people into what they are, but that is not their essential being. The charitable feeling, which is the essence of service, arises on account of a recognition of Divinity in all things, rather than on account of the discovery that others are poor fellows, beggars on the road, and unwanted units in society. There is no putting on of a superior attitude in unselfish service. We do not become important men because we do service. It would be a blunder to think so. Perhaps, one who is capable of doing the highest service regards himself as the humblest of people. He is the last and the least, and not the first. These are again subtle points which one has to be able to appreciate in one's own self, by careful examination of oneself daily.

This will reduce the pains of others

A prayer for the welfare of all beings from the bottom of one's heart is also a great service. This is one of the greatest forms of service that one can do. Prayer can work miracles and wonders which even the most powerful productions of atoms cannot achieve, cannot do. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of” is the great oracle of a poet. To pray for the welfare of all beings is the greatest of service, and we can reduce the pains of people by invoking the miraculous intervention of divine hands. Here, in the offering of prayer, we have to see to it that it arises from our deepest feelings in the heart and not merely from the lips that utter: “0 Lord ! Help us.” Lip prayer is not prayer. Unless these cries come from our soul, they cannot be regarded as real prayers.

Our essences have been dried up in our search for pleasures

It is very difficult to know where our soul is. We have lost our soul! We are only shells of personalities, broken pieces and flints of individuals. We are not essences. Our essences have been dried up by our wanderings in the desert of life, in search of pleasures which we cannot have. So, great masters like Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj were untiringly insisting on the necessity for service, which has to be understood in its proper connotation. By this means we can free ourselves and live the life of a St. Francis of Assisi, or a Jesus Christ, or a Buddha. It is a matter for surprise that such persons should have existed in the world at all. They personify the complete abnegation of one's very being itself in the interest of the welfare of all. Such abnegation consummates itself in the seeing of God in all things. Thus, it is the recognition of divinity in things, and a participation in the life of people by an inward attunernent of our feelings with them, which may help us in outward service. The inward feeling is most important and a mind thus purified becomes fit for the worship of God. An impure mind cannot adore God. That is why karma, or selfless service, becomes necessary to purify the mind and make it fit for upasana, or the worship of God.

If an emperor visits our house how do we receive him? Such should be our love for God

Worship of God is carried on through various methods, which are elaborated in the bhakti yoga system of practice. How do we express our love towards any person? This does not require a large commentary. Everyone knows it so well. When we love a person immensely, we would do a thousand things to manifest that love. If an emperor comes to visit our cottage, how do we greet him? We begin to think of his arrival and make preparations even one month before his actual arrival. We are stimulated inside in an anxiety of joy, and we put forth our best efforts to satisfy the august visitor. Such should be our love for God, where, in each and every detail, we try to satisfy God.

Love does not require an object finally. It is self-satisfying and self-complete. Finally, in the long run, love has no object in front of it. It itself is its object. When we do worship of the sun with a candlelight or the waving of a camphor flame, we are not going to illumine the sun in any way and make it happy on that account. Nor is the ocean going to be satisfied by our doing abhisheka to it with water. Our devotion is primarily a subjective requirement for self-transformation. We can cite an analogy. A very rich man comes to us with millions of dollars in his pocket. When he comes to us, we give him a cup of tea. It does not mean that he is in need of it. The need of the person is a different matter. Our offering tea to him is an expression of our respect, regard and affection for him, though that little cup of tea, by itself, may mean nothing to him, the rich man that he is. Likewise, we show our regard, love and respect to people even by a mere folding of the hand, which means nothing in essence finally. But it means everything. Everyone knows the value of a ‘namaste'.

One may say ritual is nonsense—but it is not

So, the love that we cherish for God and the worship that we conduct in respect of Him are to be carried on through rituals in the beginning. One may say that ritual is nonsense. It is not. It is a very essential pillar or leg of the huge edifice of religion. It cannot be said that the leg is unimportant in the human body. The legs are very important, because it is on our legs that we stand. The pillars are important. It cannot be said that pillars are not the building. When the pillars go, the building falls. The ritualistic part of religion is the pillar of the structure of religious practice. It is as important as the feet on which we stand. True, the feet are not the only important limbs of our body, but their importance cannot be ignored.

The stone is not God, but our feeling of the presence of a higher power in it is our God

In the beginning, religion begins with ritual. It is the case with every religion in the world, and with every form of religion, from the lowest form of religion to the highest form. A ritual or a performance represents an attitude, a conduct, expressed outside in action. We may offer a leaf or pour a drop of water on a piece of stone, considering that piece of stone as our God. There begins religion. The stone is not God, but our feeling of the presence of a higher power in it is our God. These are psychological aspects of religion—these rituals in all the various forms that we see in temples and in churches, for instance. The devotee kneels down; he looks up; he folds his hands; he bows his head down and he offers a deeply felt prayer through words of utter affection and agonised feeling of devotion. This he does by ritualistic worships, offerings and sacraments. While religion starts with ritual, and ritual is an indispensable, unavoidable part of religious devotion, religion rises higher, where the external materials used in ritual lose their importance gradually, and the devotee begins to manifest his devotion to God with lesser accompaniments of material apparatus. In the beginning it looks as if we require a cartload of material to worship God, and even that stage is an essential stage. When people perform yajnas or sacrifices, or large temple worships, considerable material is gathered and much money is spent also. That is important enough. But gradually one rises higher, and one feels that the spending of so much ritualistic material is not, after all, necessary in religion, and one can get on with a few items of worship. It may be just one joss-stick or a piece of camphor, or a little bael leaf, or a leaf of tulsi or the holy basil. Why, even one spoon of the holy Ganga water offered on the linga of Siva may be as satisfying to Him as an ocean of milk that may be poured over the same linga as part of a larger ritualistic worship.

Chanting of the Name of God is one of the best forms of divine worship

Even higher than this worship with a token offering, like a leaf or a flower representing the heart's love, is the worship through the Name of God. Taking on the Name of God does not require even the little drop of water or milk or honey. It does not require even a leaf or a flower. No, it does not require any material for its fulfilment. Nothing is required from the outside world for the purpose of this kind of worship of God. Here, the mind itself is the apparatus or the instrument of worship, and the thing that is offered at the lotus feet of the Lord is also the mind. The greatest devotion is revealed in acts of mental worship.

In this way, there is a gradual movement in the history of religious practice in India, beginning from the Vedic ceremonialism, proceeding to the ignorant contemplations in the Aranyakas, and ending with the pure metaphysical meditations of the Upanishads. In the beginning, external material is necessary for worship. Later on, one's own self is sufficient for worship. One's own mind is adequate. In the final stage of worship, the soul of the devotee itself performs the worship by offering itself, by surrendering itself, in an intimate union of itself with its Beloved. A chanting of the Name of God, known as japa, is often considered as one of the best forms of divine worship, and it is also accompanied by studies of holy scriptures, and musical recitations of songs in praise of God and His glory, the type of Satsanga that is usually conducted in many of the Ashrams in India.

Be in a prayerful mood of humble submission to Almighty every moment—
Then God does Sadhana for you

So, again we come to a point of importance we discussed earlier, namely, prayer. We must be in a prayerful mood of humble submission to the Almighty every moment of time. Let no one be under the impression that he is a raja yogi, and therefore not in need of God. That is a mistake. One cannot perform this feat of yoga practice alone. God's grace is necessary. The greatest yogis were humble and submissive in their attitude. Prayer works miracles, wonders; and a humility of attitude on our side will be a great asset to us. Every day we have to offer our prayers to the great Master, our Guru, and to the great Almighty who is our great benefactor and friend. And, by the sincere prayers that we offer to God, we invoke His benedictions, and God's actions are instantaneous. He will do the sadhana for us; in fact, He does the sadhana. All our activities are God's activities, finally speaking. We are like small children imagining that we are doing many things, while all these things are being done by somebody else for our sake. He is a kind parent. We should not forget His existence. Prayer to God every day is a sure source of strength to us in this arduous, adventurous task of the practice of yoga, especially sense-control. So goes the technique.

The essence of what Patanjali has said about yoga

Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind-stuff. This leads to the resting of the Self in its essential nature. The control of the mental modifications is effected through practice and dispassion. Of these, practice is the effort to secure steadiness in meditation. It becomes established when practised for a long time, without any break, and with perfect devotion. Dispassion is the consciousness of mastery arrived at through desirelessness for objects both seen and heard. Higher than that is the desirelessness even for the primal modes of existence, reached through the consciousness of the Self. Success is quick to those whose practice is intense with dispassion. Then comes the attainment of the Inner Consciousness, and also the absence of all obstacles. Practice of Affirmation should be done of the One Reality. Then, the consciousness is filled with Truth. Thus, with the restraint of all mental modifications and impressions, is attained the seedless Super-Consciousness. —Yoga–Sutras: Samadhi Pada.

Om chanting—Can take the seeker to Brahma-Loka itself

The scriptures dealing with the subject of nada tell us that there are many varieties in the pronunciation or chant of Om. Upanishads, such as the Prasna Upanishad, speak of three types of intonation in the chanting of Om, as a mantra or as an invocation of Divinity—the short, the middling and the elongated. The different types of chanting of Om produce different effects, too. The Upanishad goes to the extent of telling us that a continued practice of this recitation of Om, as a sadhana by itself, can take the seeker to higher regions, even upto Brahma-Loka itself. The short modulation of Om is somewhat like this: “O..m, O..m, O..m.” The middling chant is a little longer : “O....m, O....m, O....m.” The elongated chant of Om, known as the dhirga pranava, is longer still: “Om, Om, Om.” In any of these chants, the sound can be seen to taper off gradually into thinner and thinner vibrations. It is the recognition of a system of yoga, called nada yoga, that the sound actually starts from the region of the navel, where it has its root, and gradually rises up into more and more audible forms, until it is expressed through the physical sound-box and the lips, the tongue and the mouth. These various stages of the manifestation or the development of sound, right from the navel onwards, are known in Sanskrit as para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari. Para is a soundless seed, as it were, the vary possibility of the production of sound. Pasyanti is a little more pronounced. And the more intensified form is madhyama; and the audible manifestation of it is vaikhari. Often, these stages are identified, in the cosmical context, with the four metaphysical realities advanced in the Vedanta Philosophy, namely Brahma, Isvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat. We may identify the four stages of sound with other quartets also of the cosmological process.

When we chant Om in the proper manner, we set up an all-comprehensive, all-inclusive vibration in our system. By chanting Om, we do not create a jarring sound, but a harmonious sound which creeps into the entire nervous system slowly and soothingly. It is as if we smear all the ramifications of nerves with honey. In contrast, ordinary cries and shouts are distracting. The nerves are violently disturbed, kicked up, by cries and shouts which are rajasic in nature. Whereas, a very harmonious, all-inclusive sound like an Om chant is sattvic in its nature. It sets up an all-inclusive vibration in the whole nervous system and in the pranas that flow through the nerves. It is almost like administering a gentle massage to the whole system of nerves and pranas. The pranas feel satisfied, and one feels happy as a consequence. One has only to practise this Om chanting every,day for ten or fifteen minutes to see what a difference it makes to one's well-being. The person who practises Om chanting regularly will soon become a calm, sober and controlled person.... automatically. He will not fly into a fit of rage, anger or outburst of any kind, because of the daily massage that he gives to the nerves and the pranas in a very, very affectionate manner through Om chanting. The harmonious vibration that is set up in the system has an effect upon the muscles, the nerves and the pranas, and finally, upon the mind itself—because, all these are interconnected.

What should be the length and depth of Om chanting?

Just as consciousness is in your heart, it is in the heart of everybody. Try to meditate on this consciousness as present everywhere, in everything (outside and inside) uniformly. This is the absolute form of meditation, i.e., the supreme state.

To help achieve this universal state of meditation, you can chant Om (Pranava) in a methodical manner. There are three types of Om chanting: 1) Short, about one second, i.e. 30 in 30 seconds; 2) middle, each chant for five seconds, i.e. 6 chants in 30 seconds; 3) long, each chant for fifteen seconds, i.e. 2 chants in 30 seconds. The elongated process is the best form of chanting. It makes the cells of the body subside in their activities; the nervous system becomes calm. You need not take any tranquilizers. If you are disturbed, chant this elongated way for fifteen minutes. The whole system will become calm and quiet. When you chant like this, feel also that you are expanding slowly in to the cosmos.

Om is not merely a sound that we make, but a symbol of a universal vibration. This is really the vibration that was made at the beginning of the creation of the world. This universal vibration (of creation) is the controlling force behind everything in the world. So, when you chant Om and create this vibration in your system, you set yourself in tune with (the vibration) of the cosmos. The forces of the universe begin to enter into your body; you will feel strong and energetic; your hunger and thirst will decrease; you will feel absolute happiness even if you have nothing (i.e. no material possesions) and are absolutely alone, unknown and unseen by people. You will have no desire for anything in the world, because you have become one with all things.

In this state, if you possess any desire it will be immediately fulfilled

When you become the friend of the universal forces, then the world will take care of you (in times of difficulty) and you will have no fear from anywhere. Then, it is, you become a saint or a sage. In this state, if you possess any desire it will be immediately fulfilled, because you have become the friend of all forces in the world. In this state of ecstasy of bliss great saints sing and dance (because they possess everything in the world). Here, it is, you will realize you are a child of God.

God Himself will perpetually take care of you and you will have no fear, just as the son of a king has no fear because the king protects him always (and everywhere in the kingdom).

The glory of contentment

When one is pure in mind, pure in speech and pure in body, there is a contentment arising from oneself. There is santosha. It is very essential that one should be happy under any circumstance. This is very important. If a person is weighed down heavily with some grief or sorrow, and he becomes melancholy and moody, and gets into a state of weeping and crying, and is not able to sleep because of the sorrow that is eating into his vitals, how could he do any meditation? How is it possible for him to practise asana, pranayama, pratyahara? Though it is well said and easily said that one has to be happy, it is not easy for people to be always happy. It is a very difficult thing. And we know very well the reason why we cannot be happy always. The world is a terrible ogress. And, hard it is to live in this world; very problematic is the situation in which we find ourselves everyday. How could we always smile, even when we are feeling helpless in every manner; but a day must come in the life of every one of us when we must succeed. Failure is not the goal of any person. The ultimate goal of life is success only. The whole universe is moving towards a great Cosmic Success. Any individual is a part of this cosmos, and therefore he is also moving towards the achievement of a success par excellence, though it may appear that he may have to bear the brunt of tentatively confronting sorrows, and those sorrows have to be taken in their true spirit and judged against their true worth.

All sorrows will pass away one day. Therefore, don't worry

“Even this will pass away”: many of us have read a poem of this kind in our younger days. A king of Persia wrote on the signet of his ring: “Even this will pass away.” It is not a mere story-poem, but a great teaching to every one of us. Even the worst of things will pass away, and no one will always be in the same condition. One may be downtrodden, and may feel about to be crushed under the weight of this grinding mill of the world. Yet, no one can be ground completely. There is something in everyone which is imperishable. All these sorrows, whatever be the intensity of them, will pass away one day or the other. Even if they are not likely to pass away in this life, they will pass away in another life. Why should anyone think that he is bound to achieve every blessed thing in this little span of physical existence which is nothing but a second, as it were, or even less than that, in the large expanse of the time process? The universe does not think as we think. Its time calculation is something very vast, and our little span of a hundred years or even less, is something which is almost a zero before the vast astronomical cosmic perspectives of time.


To be satisfied with the minimum of necessities for a healthy living is tapas, or austerity. One should not ask for more. Austerity is that discipline by which one feels internally contented with the barest of facilities in life. The practice of the ‘golden mean' in everything is tapas. Etymologically, tapas is what produces heat. It stirs energy or power within the yogin. The practice of brahmacharya and of the yamas in general stimulates supernatural power. The yamas themselves constitute an intense tapas. In a broad sense, moderateness in life may be said to constitute tapas. Sense-control is tapas. To speak sweetly, and not hurtingly, is tapas. To eat a little is tapas. To sleep less is tapas. Not to exhibit animal qualities is tapas. To be humane is tapas. To be good and to do good is tapas. Tapas is mental, verbal or physical. Calmness of mind and subdued emotions form mental tapas. Sweet but truthful speech is verbal tapas. Unselfish service to others is physical tapas.

Way to the ocean of bliss

Our folly lies in that we allow the mind to run in all directions. The dissipated rays of the mind take interest in countless objects of the universe, both seen and heard. The essential power of the mind manifests itself only when it is centred in infinity as its object. It is the concentrated ray of the sun passing through a lens that burns things focussed through it, not so much the rays that are scattered in all directions. The mind should be concentrated on the One Substance, not localised in space, but filling all existence. This One Substance is the Supreme Being, God, the object of devout meditation. Love for the objects of samsara has a selfish origin and so is a fetter to bind the self to birth, life and death in transmigratory existence. The love for God is a veritable sacrifice of the self to the universal, and is, therefore, redemptive of phenomenal consciousness. The love for the Universal Being is the zenith of love. The ego cannot assert itself, for God is everywhere. The mind cannot modify itself into various psychoses, for, to it, there is no object but God. Wherever it moves, it feels the presence of the One Being. The whole world is clothed with the glory of God. He who is supremely powerful and supremely wise pervades the earth and the heaven at one stretch. The mind, not being fed by sensual food, dies of itself, and the self reaches God, the consummation of all desires and aspirations.

“This is the final Goal ; from this they do not return; thus, this is the check (of samsara).” —Prash. Up., I. 10

This is drowning oneself in Truth-Consciousness. This is plunging into the ocean of bliss. This is taking a bath in the sea of ambrosia. This is drinking deep the immortal essence.

Whatever is outside us, is also inside us—strikes terror into the man of the world

Our Self and His Self are one; whatever is outside us, is also inside us:

“In reality, great as this external space is, so great is this space within the heart ; in it are contained both the heaven and the earth, both fire and air, both sun and moon, lightning and stars, whatever is here, and whatever is not here,—everything thereof is contained within it.”— Chh. Up., VIII. 1. 3

A declaration is made in this, which strikes terror into the man of the world; the individual and the cosmos, the soul and God are one! “That thou art, 0 Svetaketu !” This may not be easy to accept, but only this can be the truth. This alone removes all contradictions in life, this truth alone stands unsublated. “The Purusha is what is and what is not.”

“He who dwells in all beings, and is other than all beings, whom all beings do not know, whose body are all beings, who controls all beings from within—This is thy Self, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal.”—Brih. Up., III. 7. 15

“In the space within the heart lies the Ruler of all, the Lord of all, the King of all... He is the Overlord of all beings, the King of all beings, the Protector of all beings.” —Brih. Up., IV. 4. 22

“Etad Vai Tat—This, verily, is that.”

Turn your gaze inward and behold the glorious light

The ordinary man of the world has his mind and senses turned extrovert. Childish, he runs after external pleasures and walks into the net of death which pervades all created things. The wise, however, knowing the Immortal, seek not that Eternal Being among things fleeting here. Some blessed one turns his gaze inward and beholds the glorious light of the Self. This Self is dearer than the dearest of things, this Self is nearer than the nearest. If one would speak of anything else than the Self as dear, he would certainly lose what he holds as dear. One should adore the Self alone as dear. He who adores the Self alone as dear does not lose what he holds as dear. The Self is Imperishable.


The three methods which the mind employs usually are repression, substitution and sublimation. Sublimation is the proper course to adopt, but it cannot always be done, for obvious reasons. People repress desires into the subconscious due to social taboo, but later on this causes complexities. Repression is not a remedy. When one cannot fulfil one's desires, one swallows them, which, in the long run, become complexes that may turn into illness of various kinds. The moods of people are nothing but the occasional eruption of repressed emotions and attitudes. Repression is not the method prescribed by Patanjali, though he suggests substitution as a middle course leading to sublimation by yoga.

Meditation should be continued till death or till the rise of Self-Knowledge

Meditation should be practised by one sitting in one asana, preferably padmasana, with fingers showing chinmudra and arms stretched straight to touch the knees or with arms bent and with palms opened upward and kept one over the other midway between the two heels (in padmasana). Though there is no restriction regarding posture in the practice of jnana yoga, it is helpful for one to start meditation or manana and nididhyasana being seated in padmasana. Meditation should be continued till death, or till the rise of Self-Knowledge.

In the beginning, it is advisable to select a suitable place and time for meditation, conducive to the psychological factors that are likely to promote it. When, however, the sadhaka is well established in meditation, it can be practised at any place or time, by merely withdrawing the mind from awareness of externals.

The misery of the present-day world and the way to blessedness

This important factor is forgotten by the modern man, however much educated he may be. He has refused to walk freely with the workings of the Spiritual Nature and has attempted his best to centre himself in the state of individualised existence. The misery of the present-day world may be attributed to this constrictive tendency in the human being, which is ever trying to block the way of the expansion of the spiritual consciousness. The case of the half-baked material science and psychology may be specially mentioned here as being one of the forces obstructive to the happy process of Truth-realisation. The ills caused by wrong methods of education, the locial and political strifes, the individual evils and the world-degeneration are all effected by the one terrible fact that humanity has turned against the law of the Spiritual Reality. So long as this self-destructive tendency of the human mind is not controlled, and man is not shown the correct way of procedure, the unhappy world has to be contented with its fate. The remedy lies in our being sincere in taking recourse to the direct method of such Realisation here and now. Humanity has to be cent-per-cent spiritual. Those who think that they are doing injustice to the world through their act of Self-realisation have naturally to be regarded as having not gone above the credulity of childhood. For, they have forgotten that the Self which is the Absolute includes the whole universe, and far transcends it. It is the obtaining of everything, and not the losing of anything.

Unity in the world necessitates a heart-to-heart feeling of oneness among its inhabitants

The welfare of society rests in its spirituality. Society is a formation of bodies effected through the unconscious spiritual bond existing among beings belonging to the same genus or species. The social bond is stronger among those who think alike and who practise the same conduct. This bond is the strongest among those who are in the same level of the depth of consciousness. All this is a feeble reflection of the essential nature of the indivisibility of Existence which is One. Human beings have to know and act according to this spiritual law, and its acceptance should not be merely for the purpose of academical research, but has to be the foundation of the daily life of everyone in general. Unity in the world necessitates a heart-to-heart feeling of oneness among its inhabitants. This is the need of the hour. This is the task of the political and the religious heads. This is what is going to pave the way of blessedness to the whole universe.

The Upanishads are our guide-lights in this supreme pursuit. Let us understand and follow them with sincerity, faith, calmness, surety and persistence.

The grace of the Guru is essential

The knowledge cannot be obtained through mere study for oneself, by private enterprise, merely. It requires the grace of a master. Knowledge acquired through a Guru is a living knowledge. It has vitality about it, whereas the knowledge that you acquire merely by study of books is inert knowledge. It is like tinned food which has no life in it. There is a difference between a mango that is plucked from a tree and the mango that is saturated in syrup for three years in a tin. Academic knowledge is also knowledge, but it cannot carry conviction and cannot transform your heart. What you gain through the Guru is full of living force and energy and vitality and power which the Guru conveys to the disciple through initiation, which is called the process Shaktipata, by which the will of the Guru enters the mind of the disciple.

The miracle of Guru's grace

In the case of spiritual seekers, Guru's grace can cause a dream, and catastrophic experiences which one may have to pass through in the waking world may pass lightly as a dream experience by his grace. Due to the power of the Guru, one may have a dream suffering instead of a waking one. If the disciple has to fall down and break his leg due to a prarabdha, the Guru will make him experience it in dream and save him the trouble in waking. One may have a dream temperature, or fever, instead of a waking fever. One may have a calamity in dream instead of its coming in waking. This is due to the grace of the Guru.