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Everything About Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 12: The Trident of the Sadhana Process

There is a very interesting secret about the first and last words of the Bhagavadgita. It starts with the word dharma: dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre (Gita 1.1). The first word of the Gita is dharma; the last word is mama: nītir matir mama (Gita 18.78). If you join them together, it is mama dharma. So, the Bhagavadgita tells you mama dharma: your duty. Don't you think it is interesting? Mama dharma is the subject of the Bhagavadgita.

You should have a daily routine, a program for your day. Sri Aurobindo has written that you have to divide the whole day into four parts – six hours for meditation, six hours for work, six hours for sleep, and six hours for other things. Sometimes we have to work for more than six hours; this is the fate of the people working in offices these days. But, if it is systematically done, and the arrangement of the work is computerised in a beautiful manner without any kind of pressure, perhaps in six hours you may finish the work of the day. Six hours you sleep; very good. Six hours of meditation is a wonderful thing. Very few people are able to meditate like that for such a long time. And we have other titbits, for which he has allotted six hours: you have to take bath, to go for a walk, to eat, to take rest, to meet visitors, to read the newspaper or go somewhere; that you have to do within six hours.

Though it looks very fine, you feel you cannot get on like that. Why? Think it over for yourself. Firstly, the debility is in the duration of work; you have to work for eight hours, at least. Sometimes, officials even work till midnight. They carry on till late hours, and sometimes have to work at home also. It is up to you. Though Aurobindo's idea was very good, you can have your own program. You have to sleep well. You should not cut short your sleep due to any kind of enthusiasm.

Yuktāhāravihārasya yuktaceṣṭasya karmasu, yuktasvapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkhahā (Gita 6.17), says the Bhagavadgita: moderate eating, neither in excess, nor to the point of starvation; vihara: a diversion, a little change for your health also is necessary – activity in a moderate manner – neither being excessively active like a busy-body, nor a do-nothing; svapnavabodha: necessary sleep – neither you oversleep, so that you may become dull and lethargic, nor you cut short your sleep. That is to say, the sign of good sleep is that when you wake up in the morning, you feel refreshed. If you have good sleep, you will wake up refreshed.

The feeling at the time of waking up from sleep is the indication of the condition of your health. When you wake up in the morning, don't jump up from your bed. Make it a point to sit quietly for a few minutes. Close your eyes. The tamas of sleep has ended, and the rajas of activity has not yet commenced. You are in the middle, between the tamasic condition and the rajasic condition. So, you may say, it is a flash of sattva that is available in the early morning when you wake up.

The meditation should be along the lines we have discussed. An ocean of information has been supplied to you. Along these lines, try to collect yourself. Actually, the quality of your thinking at the time of your meditation is what is important. It is like a spark of fire. It is only a momentary phenomenon, but yet it is radiant enough and sufficient for igniting your enthusiasm.

How do you improve the quality of your meditation, apart from the fact that you may have to sit longer for this purpose? Even if you sit for several hours, the mind may not get ignited. You will feel that nothing has happened, though you have sat for hours, because the mind refuses to accommodate itself to your requirement. The refusal may be due to various reasons. It is not that everyone can do real meditation; only a very few can do that. The mind refuses to act, just as sometimes horses will refuse to move forward, for their own reasons.

Distress of any kind, anguish, expectations which are dubious in their nature, financial penury, and a sense of hopelessness that oftentimes catches hold of people for various reasons in their life may bring some such situation that the mind will say that you have better things to do than meditation. People who have a family have such an experience. It is not that every family man is happy. Only one who has a family will know what it is to have a family. All are not born with a silver spoon in their mouths. They have to work hard with the sweat of their brow, and they are not satisfied with what they earn. Even if they are working in a factory or an office, sometimes their salaries may be inadequate, and the expenditure to maintain a family may not be in harmony with the salary that is earned. You may have to borrow, and borrowing is the worst thing that one can do. You will have another agony of having to pay back your debt. Many such things are there. Very dexterously, you have to adjust your daily program considering all these difficulties in your life.

No one in the world can be said to be entirely free from problems. Everyone has a difficulty, but how to handle it is an art that you may have to discover. Yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam (Gita 2.50): Expertness in your dealings is also yoga, says the Bhagavadgita. In handling all your day-to-day enterprises, you must have expertise. There are certain things which you cannot handle, even though you may try your best. When handling a situation, you may apply yourself to the task to the maximum limit of your resources. When everything is found to be inadequate and you have no support whatsoever, then only can you give it up.

Many a time, we make a mistake in not distinguishing between what is possible and what is impossible. There are certain things which are possible, and you can try to do that; certain things also are impossible, and those things you should not try. The attempt at achieving the impossible is a source of suffering to the mind. “Give me the will to change what I can, and the courage to bear what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference” is an old proverb. But for us, the wisdom is not coming forth. We try to change what we cannot change. There are people who try to change the entire society, all of humanity, with a new perspective. Yes, in a very few rare cases that attempt may succeed, but mostly it becomes a failure and a great sorrow befalling the person who has made the attempt. To understand your own capacity and the position that you are occupying in society is important. You must understand in what situation you are placed. You have to know fully your social placement. Do not make mistakes and imagine something which is not you.

With your determination, coupled with proper understanding, you may be able to organise your day, allotting enough time for sleep, for work, for diversion and some recreation, and for meditation. Again, it has to be reiterated that if you have understood the true spirit of spirituality, you would realise that meditation is not one of the works that you are performing. Though some time has been given for various things and some time for meditation, it does not mean that meditation is one of the functions that you have to perform. It is the vitality behind all your performances. Vitality cannot be regarded as one among the many. It is the all-in-all.

You may find it hard to accommodate yourself to the requirements of the meditational process, because again and again the old habit of thought will persist in thinking that meditation is a religious requirement imposed by scriptures, saints and Gurus, while the world is real indeed, as real as anything else. One of the torments into which we may enter in our spiritual aspirations is that the world, and the activities in the world, will look more concrete than the requirement of meditation. Meditation oftentimes appears abstract because it is a thinking process, and thinking is abstract while the world is very solid. All the things and people with which you come in contact in the world are solid events in your life, while meditation looks like some airy, ethereal performance in respect of something of which you have no knowledge. The fear of the contrast between an ethereal, airy pursuit in comparison with the realities of life will harass the mind.

In the earliest stages, you do not require any guidance. Whatever be the success in your meditation – success or no success – sit for 15 minutes before you go to the office, and let it be a ritual, almost. But if you are very honest and determined to pursue this path as an all-inclusive recharging of yourself in terms of the Ultimate Reality of life, then you may require daily guidance from a teacher. It is something like walking on a tightrope or learning to handle and ride an elephant. When you take to exclusive meditations, guidance is necessary; otherwise, things may turn topsy-turvy. The emotions are strong, senses are very impetuous, the world is very real, and people around you are more real than anything else.

The pursuit of God, the practice of meditation, may look like the pursuit of the will o' the wisp; something may be there, or it may not be there. Nobody has seen God, and nobody has ever seen the success that anyone has attained in meditation. We hear that it is good, but we don't know anything about it. We have not practically seen the results of it. Such difficulties will arise. In these lessons you have been told that you are a Total Being attempting to put yourself in a state of en rapport with the Total Being of the universe, which is called meditation. Meditation is not a work that you are performing, in the same way as your existence in this world is not a work. When you are living, existing, and breathing, that condition cannot be regarded as an activity of your life. It is prior to all activity. Similarly, the thing called meditation may look like a work or activity, but it is something more than that. It is a recharging of your whole personality with a condition of superior health.

To regain health is not a process of acting or working; it is not work at all. To regain health from a condition of illness is the gradual rise into a wholeness of your being, from the condition of malady which is the illness. All the activities of the world are included in meditation. This is something which is not easy to understand. All your duties are included in this great duty of meditation, because thought is so powerful that it can bring about transformations even in respect of things which are so solid and real to sense organs in this world of human beings.

The last, penultimate instruction in the Bhagavadgita is to renounce all duties, dharmas, for the sake of some other duty: sarvadharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (Gita 18.66). Many people put a question: What is it that you are renouncing? People are asked to pursue and practise dharma; instead of that, we are told here to renounce all dharmas. What is it? You are renouncing a dharma for the sake of another dharma, which includes these renounced dharmas. The lower wholeness is included in the higher Wholeness. A larger Integration includes the lower integration. Dharmas, or the duties that you perform in life, are of course very necessary because they are connected with your very being itself, but they are lower forms of holistic experience. As you rise higher and higher in your dimension of being, the duty so-called becomes more a consciousness of your being, rather than the entanglement or association of your being with something outside.

Finite beings, finite individualities, personalities as we are, are perforce made to relate to some other thing externally, which is called work. The work that you are doing every day is only an attempt to whitewash this peculiar suffering unit called finitude, and you are trying to feel that the finitude is diminished to a satisfactory extent by coming in contact with other finites called other people, other things in the world, so that you feel – wrongly though – that the connection of one finitude with other finitudes is a sort of enlargement of finitude in the direction of the infinity. It may look like that, but it is not so. All works are perishable. All relationships will come to an end one day or the other, notwithstanding the fact that you cannot get on in this world without relationships and without some kind of performance.

Actually, the intention behind this connection of one finitude with other finitudes is to attain the non-finite. This cannot be done by merely dovetailing one finite with another finite, as many wrongs cannot make one right. Many untruths joined together do not make one truth. So, a multitude of finitudes put together in a collaboration or a parliamentary action do not bring truth because they are only quantitative enlargements, not qualitative. Your dimension should increase qualitatively, in the sense of your being itself becoming larger, not appearing to be wider on account of possessions which are external things. If you know a little of these things, meditation will bring you great satisfaction. In the state of meditation, you are touching the borderland of that power, which actually is what you seek even in your daily routine performances of work, duty, and the like. This you have to understand as far as possible.

You cannot go to this height immediately. You have to frequent again and again ashrams, guides, masters, and also study more and more, as much as possible, to recharge yourself into the concept of this ultimate validity in the practice of meditation. However much you may try to accommodate yourself with this thought, it will slip from your mind because the senses are more powerful than your conceptualisations. The senses are connected with visible, solid, practical realities, and the mind conceptualises and synthesises the reports of the sense organs. It has actually nothing new to tell. It begins to perform a real duty of enhancing the quality of your dimension only when the senses are withdrawn. When sense restraint is practised, the energy of the senses, which move in terms of the objects, revert to their source, and so the mind thinks not in terms of sense perception, but in terms of the origin of its own emanation from consciousness.

Study, svadhyaya is also something very important. You will not be able to go on meditating, and do nothing else. When the actual entry into direct meditation on the Supreme Reality of life is found to be impracticable on a particular day for some reason or the other, stop the meditation. Don't tire the mind and whip it up unnecessarily when it is not willing to do it. At that time, take up a scripture – anything that enthuses you, rouses your feelings, and enables your spirit to rise – whatever be the scripture or a textbook that you may find most suitable for the purpose.

When you are calmed, and your mind is properly prepared after this study of a scripture, you may take to meditation a second time. But, even then, if you find it is difficult, take to mantra japa. A mantra is a summoning of the Ultimate Being by associating it with the principle of sound. Just as everything has a name, the Universal Reality also may be summoned by some kind of description, a designation. Previously I mentioned to you to call upon the Absolute by simply shouting, “The Absolute Being, come on! The Absolute Being, come on! The Absolute Being, come on!” This is a mantra. The sound that you produce in this manner of the utterance of a formula that describes the characteristic of the Ultimate Reality charges you with an enthusiasm. Or, otherwise, you can take to any mantra japa. If you have an ishta devata – a god whom you worship dearly – a mantra of that deity can be taken up for your daily japa. A few rounds of the japa mala with chanting for some 15 minutes, or even half an hour, will prepare your mind for meditation.

So, three prongs of this trident of the sadhana process may be said to be meditation, svadhyaya and japa. All the three may have to be attempted every day. Keep a few minutes for japa, a few minutes for study, and a few minutes for actual meditation. But more than all these, there is satsanga. Nothing can equal satsanga, the company of a great person who will sustain your enthusiasm for spiritual living. You must have satsanga as much as possible. In the conditions in which you are living it may not be possible to have it daily, but sometimes, as much as possible, for a few days, a few months, as it may be practicable, you may resort to satsanga of these great masters.

Suppose that also is difficult. Where are these masters? You cannot find them. At least you must have heard that there were great masters. Though today you find it difficult to locate a great master, you can imagine there were great masters. Keep a portrait of them in front of you. It may be the great master Bhagavan Sri Krishna, Ramachandra, Vasishtha, Vyasa, or great Nayanmars or Alvars, or any great saint or sage whom you consider to be a great master. Place the portrait, a picture, or a photograph of that great master in front of you, and go on gazing at it. What you see with your eyes, you should also think at the same time. There is a direct connection between sight and thought. It is up to you to choose whose portrait you will keep in front of you. If you love something immensely, keep it in front of you, and your mind will go towards that. Nothing can attract you unless it is also an object of affection. Is there anything that you love most in this world? Let it be anything. Keep it in front of you. Go on looking at it, and the mind directly concentrates itself on that form or that concept which you love, because nothing can be stronger than love as a force in this world. All other forces are secondary to love, which is the highest of forces. So, ishta is the name that we give to this form that you place before yourself for the purpose of meditation – the dear one. Ishta means ‘the dear one'. What is the dear one to you? Nobody can prescribe this to you. Sometimes, you may have to go to a teacher and mention your present mental condition, and that Guru may be able to tell you which kind of form is suitable for your meditation.

If you have terrible attachment to certain things in this world – so much so, you cannot sleep unless you have it – then you can have it. There is no objection, but have it in such a way that you don't ruin yourself. This, again, has to be done with the guidance of a Guru. You don't have a dear object only to end your life with it. You have to live, not die. You may have a dear thing, and kill yourself afterwards. There are people who commit suicide, hang themselves, or fall from a tree for the sake of a love; they become martyrs in the name of their patriotism. It is not proper. It is necessary to live as long as the prarabdha requires you to continue in this body. So, your affection for a thing, though it is permissible – because, after all, it is an affection, and you cannot get on without it – it has to be made a part of your life with discrimination and control. You can enjoy, but enjoy with great control, and not in an abandon and loss of yourself. All this requires advice from a Guru. You cannot understand all these things. Some problem arises in front of you and you cannot know how to solve it. It will simply give a shock, and you will not know what to do. When you have lost something which is very dear and important, you don't know how to get on with this loss. You must have a referee, someone to whom you will turn when there is agony in your mind.

So, with these preparations, try to find out which is the ishta for you. Perhaps, you may be fond of the great saint Guru Nanak; you consider Guru Nanak as a great master. Keep a photograph, picture, portrait of Guru Nanak. “Great Master! I am seeing you. Great Master, protect me! Great Master, energise me! Great Master, bless me! You are all powerful. Therefore, protect me; remove my agonies. Make me your own, Great Master! I am at your feet!” Tell this to Guru Nanak, or any deity, any bhagavan, any Guru – Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, or Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sadasiva Brahmendra. They will come and protect you. Saints never die, because a saint is a spirit that has reached a great height of experience. So, such a spirit cannot die. It can be summoned at any time.

You can summon anything. That power you have got, if you really want it. The whole point is that you must really want it, and you should not want it only as one thing among the many other things that you also want. That would be vyabhichara bhakti, as it is called. It is a hypocrisy of affection: “I love you, but I love many other things also equally as I love you.” This kind of love is not real love. The mind wants many things, and one of the things is yourself. This kind of thing is not ishta. “I love you, all-in-all, completely, as everything, and bestower of everything that I require.” Mortal objects in the world cannot bless you with such a thing. So, your must-have ishta does not mean a perishable object, because a perishable object can give you only perishable satisfaction. Thus, when you do not have an actual Guru whom you can befriend and receive instructions from, you must have something imperishable in front you for your purpose of concentration.

Therefore, we have japa, svadhaya, meditation, dhyana, and satsanga with great ones. Even now, there are great people in this world. It does not mean the world is bereft of great masters. The only thing is, you cannot find where they are; it is difficult to locate them and to recognise them even if you actually rub shoulders with them. Somehow, if you are sincere, you will come in contact with these Gurus. The Almighty Lord, who is seated in your heart, who loves you very much, who is your real friend, will bring you in contact with a Great Master. The Guru will come to you, instead of your going to the Guru. Suhṛdaṁ sarvabhūtānāṁ jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati (Gita 5.29): “Remember, I am your real friend,” says the Great Master Yogi, with humility in the Bhagavadgita. He will come to you for every little thing, and satisfy you with His succour.

Study the Bhagavadgita every day. I mentioned to you that some svadhyaya is to be done every day. There are many holy books. The Bhagavadgita is very good because it tells you what your duty, mama dharma, is. The Bhagavadgita is not easy to understand, though you may chant it any number of times. Its intricacy is very difficult to make out. It is a comprehensive teaching, touching every aspect of life. Or you can have any other book – the New Testament, or the Koran, or the Bible. Whatever you like, take to it with the heart, and study that.

Never forget that God sees you; all your thoughts and feelings, your actions and your performances are seen by millions of eyes around you. You are always watched with a caretaking eye, and it notes all your deeds. Whenever you do something, or speak, or act, remember that you are doing it in the presence of an all-seeing eye. Every atom is an eye of God. Sarvatokṣiśiromukham (Gita 13.13): Everywhere He has got eyes. Every sand particle is an eye of God; it sees. Every brick, every leaf of a tree are all eyes of God. They see. They see, not merely to punish you for your bad deeds, but also to protect you, to warn you and take care of you, and to provide you with all your needs – to see to your yogakshema, and to give you what you need and take care of you in every way.

So, trust in God; do the right. When you do the right, you must remember that it is possible only if you trust in God. Only a person who trusts in God can do the right. Otherwise, your concept of righteousness may sometimes be tarnished by a little bit of your personal selfishness. The great Master Jesus Christ said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmy aham (Gita 9.22): “Whoever is intently thinking of Me, is contemplating on Me, is united in his heart with Me, I shall take care of that person continuously and provide that person with every little need.” The world will follow you, instead of your running after the world. The tables will be turned completely; the subject will become the object, the object will become the subject. God will be with you for ever and ever.