The Heart and Soul of Spiritual Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 1: Introductory

All of you should consider yourselves as blessed because an opportunity has been provided to you to come to this place, this sacred Rishikesh, and this holy ashram of Worshipful Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. His benedictions are upon you all abundantly, which is demonstrated by the fact that it has become possible for you to come here. Here is an ashram which, in its atmosphere, will direct you along a path that will bring you peace of mind and enlighten you along the way of making you a true human personality – strong in yourself, satisfied in every way, and complete, so to say, from every angle of your vision of life.

The great Master Swami Sivananda was a complete person. He lacked nothing. You may be wondering how it is possible for anyone to be complete, since it is seen that everything in the world is incomplete. There is no person, nothing whatsoever, which is complete in itself. Everyone, everything, lacks something. There is an inadequacy characterising every person and all things in the world, whatever they are. But by a method which usually goes by the name of 'yoga', into the meaning of which you are going to be introduced through the course of these teachings, this great Master integrated himself into a structure of personality which stood far above the shoulders of all humanity, and he became what can be designated as a superman. To such a place you have come.

It is not merely that you have come to a place. You have come to an atmosphere, a circumstance, which distinguishes itself from the usual conditions of humdrum city and town life with which you are acquainted. Stay here for some time and see the difference it makes in your mind, your feelings – your vision of things, generally. This is in order to acquaint you with the techniques that were followed and practised by this great Master – in a way, to show you a path, treading which you may approximate the completion that he has achieved, so that if you yourself do not actually become a superman, you will at least have the satisfaction that you are moving towards that ideal.

Education is a progressive march in the direction of the completion of life. So here, you have an opportunity to attend a course of teachings which will highlight the aims and objectives of this ashram, and the great will of the Master who founded this institution. Education, enlightenment, knowledge – these were the things which were emphasised first and foremost by this great saint and sage, Swami Sivananda. Everything else comes afterwards. Your mind makes you what you are. And, what is the mind, except a process of thinking? The manner of your thinking will describe the nature of your whole person. Inasmuch as it is the wish of everyone to get enlightened more and more into the style of one's own personality, it is education that comes first and foremost in the careers of one's life. Economic, political, social needs are important enough, but they pale into insignificance when your mind is not sufficiently educated in understanding yourself, understanding the conditions in which you are living, understanding the society in the midst of which you are living, and understanding several other factors connected with this issue.

First and foremost, a person seems to be concerned with himself or herself. The most pressing issue in life, if you consider it deeply, is yourself. If something has no connection with you, you do not seem to be interested in it. "I am here, and I have to live." You have to live; this is the first issue that comes to your mind, and you have to live comfortably, not merely in the material sense of the term. You may be a wealthy person from the material point of view, but that would not make you a true person unless your mind also is educated. An idiotic person may be physically strong and materially wealthy, but do you consider that person complete?

Your aspirations are multifarious, to make you satisfactory in every sense of the term. You are worried about yourself. You are conscious of your inadequacies. You are thinking of yourself every day. "How will I get on? How will I live?" And you are also conscious of the irreconcilable issues also in life, in the midst of which you have to get on. You are disturbed, you are anxious, and you do not know how to proceed further in your life. You look at the world – a huge expanse of indescribable and incredible thing you call this world. "What is this in front of me?" You are here; and in front of you is a majestic panorama spread out that you call this world. You have to live in this world. You have to get on in this world, and you find it very difficult. Don't you feel it is difficult for you to get on in this world?

There are problems galore and you do not know how to proceed with things. You are worried; and if you are the type who is accustomed to deep thinking, you will be wondering as to how you came into this world at all, how this world has come; and you look up and conclude, in a vague and indescribable, indistinct manner, that something must be there. "How are things going on? How am I alive? Who has brought me into this world? How has this world come at all? There must be something!"

So, there is a principle which is yourself, there is another principle which is the world outside, and a third principal which beckons you into a wonderment of some superb being. "Something must be there. Something must be there above me. Something must be there above this world. Something must be there, but I do not know what it is. It is neither me nor the world. It is something more than both of us!"

In religious language, we call this God Almighty. There must be a God. There must be a supreme power. Otherwise, how are things going on? "How am I living in this world? How do I breathe? How does my heart operate? How do I digest food in my stomach without my participating in this activity? How does the sun rise – systematically, with mathematical precision? How do the seasons come and recede? How does the sun rise, and how does the sun set? What are these stars that seem so high above us? Are we in the middle of the stars? Wonder, wonder!" Philosophical investigation primarily commences with a wonderment about oneself, about the world, about how things came into being at all.

There are three great issues in life, three principles which attract the attention of any thinking mind: God, world and the individual. Everything – whatever may occur to your mind in any manner whatsoever – is included within the relationship that obtains between the three great principles I mentioned: God, world and the individual. You may say there are many things in the world, but all these many things are included within these three principles; they merge themselves in these principles. There is nothing for you to study at any time in your life except the relationship of these three great principles, whose cognisance cannot escape your notice. Can you forget that you are? Can you forget that there is a world? Can you forget that there is a great wonder which is superintending over the whole of creation? And all your office work, your factory-going, your clerical job, your family – every kind of blessed thing is included in this mighty relationship of three fundamental principles. You may call these principles by any other name, if you like. Usually, philosophically, from the point of view of religion, these principles are recognised as God, world and the individual – yourself, myself and everybody.

Do you not find it interesting to think like this? All the multifarious issues that attract your attention are now boiled down to three things only. There are not many things in this world. An omnipresent controlling power which seems to be operating this world, including yourself, is a wonderment. And the world itself is a wonder! It has not been understood by you properly. You are living in this world. Every day you look at it but you do not know what you are seeing. You may see a mountain, you may see a river, you may see trees, and you may see people walking about, but this is not the world. This is a manifestation, an expression in a diversified manner of something which philosophers sometimes call nature – the whole setup of things which you call this world, and from which you cannot separate yourself.

Are you in the world? As I mentioned to you, you are going to be introduced into a new way of thinking here – which is not the way you thought in your house, in your family, or on the streets. A great question arises in your mind, and it should arise in your mind: are you living in the world, or are you looking at the world as if it is outside and you are standing outside it as an observer of this world? You have seen that it is a cosmic nature which works through you and through everybody. Your existence is conditioned by the nature of the world outside. You cannot go against the law of nature. If anybody behaves or conducts himself or herself against the principles along which nature is working, they are not a fit person to live here in this world. But it is not enough if you understand the world in which you may somehow, condescendingly, agree to include yourself. There is another great thing: how are you connected to this world? Let it be inside or let it be outside. Is the world sticking to you or is it standing outside you? How will you answer this question?

There cannot be a relationship between two things unless there is a third thing that cements these two issues. Let us say that you are inside the world, that the world is outside you. Let us take this as a given. But how are you connected with this world? What business have you got in this world? And what has the world to do with you? This question can be answered by the acceptance of a cementing link between yourself and the world – transcending both yourself and the world. Religion calls that principle God. Philosophers call it the Supreme Absolute, or any other thing which may come to the mind suggesting the inclusiveness of this principle.

Your life in this world might have taught you that you have to cooperate with this world. Life is a one-hundred-percent cooperative activity. In no manner whatsoever can you live in this world independently. People require your cooperation, and you require the cooperation not only of people but even of air, of sunlight, of the food that you eat. Your body does not manufacture food. Food comes from the world. Air, sunlight and water do not get manufactured by your body. Unless you are set in tune with these principles which constitute the world, you will not be a happy individual. You will be complaining against everything.

Firstly, the conclusion is that you have to be in harmony with the world of people and nature. Much more than this harmony, you have to be in harmony with the power that dominates your life and the whole world outside. What would you conclude from this analysis that you are controlled by that which controls the world also? Is it not good for you to be friendly with that great Being? Hundreds of questions will arise in your mind. "How will I become friendly with It?" Omnipresence is the nature of that superintending principle which controls the world and, incidentally, yourself. How will you be friendly with what is omnipresent? Affection, love and consideration are the characteristics of a successful life. Can you oppose another person and be comfortable in life? Can you oppose anything in nature and be comfortable? If not, you cannot be comfortable unless you are in harmony with this omnipresence also.

As the cause conditions the effect, the first determines the second and the second determines the third. The omnipresent controlling power conditions the world, and the world conditions you. Finally, you are conditioned by the omnipresent Being, whose existence automatically gets accepted by the very nature of the life that you are living in the world. Affection succeeds in this world; opposition does not succeed. Cooperation succeeds; war, strife, do not succeed. Friendliness succeeds; enmity does not succeed. This principle of cooperation, love, affection, friendliness and at-one-ment with what determines you is called for. Firstly, it is with what is around you – people, things and nature. Then, primarily it is with that which determines the world and yourself.

So, if love succeeds – and everywhere it is love that succeeds, consideration that succeeds, affection that succeeds – then it will succeed with God also. Love of God includes love of the world, love of your neighbour and love of yourself. Do not wrongly imagine that you can love yourself and be comfortable in this world without your love for That which determines you in this world, and That which also determines the world – God Almighty. I am introducing you to a system of thinking which is impossible to avoid in your life. Logic, argumentation, conflict, strife, fear, battle and war – do they succeed finally? An amiable nature, a smiling face, love, consideration, goodness, acceptance of the nature of another person, acceptance of the nature of the world as a whole, and an acceptance in your heart of the nature of God – that is what succeeds. I am particularly going to introduce you to a way of living which is determined by love of God. You may be wondering what is the meaning of 'love of God'. To introduce you into the very concept of God is a hard task in the beginning.

If you are logically minded, philosophically minded, and investigative in your nature, you would have followed the few words which I have just spoken – that it is impossible to exist in this world as a person without understanding the world and without also understanding That which determines the world. A foolhardy, idiotic person cannot be comfortable in this world. He must be enlightened into the nature of the conditions prevailing outside and everywhere, as a total. Please think deeply. Do not forget what I have told you in these introductory remarks. You will find that you are well guarded by That to which you belong. Who will protect you and guard you? Only That to which you belong. If you do not belong to something, how will it protect you? You have to belong to people. You have to belong to the world. And you have to belong to That which rules this world of people, of nature, and yourself.

Here is the necessity for love of God. Devotion works wonders in this world. Devotion – maybe to God, or even to a friend, a human being – the path which is called devotion, or love, will introduce into your own self another thing, which appears to be outside you. If I really love you, you become part of me; you do not stand outside me. Your soul enters my soul, and my soul enters you. Love, truly speaking, is about friendship. With friendship, though it may be very deep, there is a possibility of separation because most types of friendship prevailing in the world are conditioned by social circumstances, personal prejudice included. But love is supernal in its nature. It arises from the depths of your spirit in the recognition of the spirit that is the people outside, the spirit that is operating in the world as a whole – the Supreme Spirit, God himself.

Do you accept my point of view that love succeeds? A tiger is a very fierce animal; you cannot go near it. But, have you seen a tiger's cub sitting on the body of its mother and licking her ears without any fear whatsoever? Why does not the mother tiger fiercely attack her little cub, as she would do with anybody else? There is that biological unity, a soul-to-soul communication. They do not stand apart, due to the affection that is between the two, arisen out of various factors, including biological and psychological, and they seem to have one soul.

Nobody can harm you in this world if you have no instinct in you which can harm. This is a difficult thing to think in your mind. A religious person is not an out-of-the-way, queer individuality disconnected from the usual way in which people live in the world. Religion is the supreme cementing factor in every aspect of life. These words – 'religion', 'devotion', 'God', etc. – have been abused by teachers of philosophy and religion who did not explain them properly, in a manner that is satisfying to the soul of the person who listens to them. Religion has somehow been segregated from the normal way of life, as if it is one type of living disconnected from the kind of life that other people live in the world. It would be good for you to coin your own word to describe that way of life which includes the lives of other people. Service, love, social welfare, communion with nature, and love of the Supreme Absolute – all these are included within the purview of what religion truly means, not religion as it is denominationally understood by people or understood by fundamentalists, as they are called these days. Religion is the aspiration of the soul of the human individual. It is not one of the 'isms' – Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and so on. These are only ramifications of a sociological character arisen from the true consciousness which can be called religious consciousness, which supersedes the concept of ordinary denominational religions.

This subject into which I am introducing you is hard at the outset to understand, appreciate, and make your own, because this way of thinking practically revolutionises your way of life in the world, as if you have woken up from a dream and seen the daylight of a new world altogether – not the world in which you have been living up to this time. An enlightened world is found tearing at you, and life is not as you thought it to be. There are more secrets in life which have escaped the notice of most people in the world, and things are not what they seem, as the poet tells you. You must now try to understand things as they are, and not as they appear.

Briefly, I have brought you in contact with a vision of life, a way of thinking which will finally startle you, which will bring you into a state of wonder and completely stir your personality into a circumstance of life which will make you a better person, a good person, a happy person, a serviceful person, a divine person, to mention the least. God bless you!