4. Practical Hints for Sadhakas
The more we try to depend on God, the more He seems to test us with the pleasures of sense and the delights of the ego. Finally, the last kick He gives is, indeed, unbearable. Those who bear it are themselves gods.
Who is a fool? He who thinks that the world has any regard for him and is really in need of him.
“Do the best and leave the rest” is the key motto in Karma Yoga. The ‘doing of the best’, of course, does not mean being foolhardy or going headlong without thought on consequences, but the harnessing of one’s full resources to the execution of a noble ideal which is calculated to aid one in the attainment of God-realisation. To ‘leave the rest’ is to resign the results of the work to God, for, when even the best that one can do falls short of the effort needed to achieve a desired result, the mind is likely to get upset, which is not the spirit of Karma Yoga. All work is God’s,—even the Sadhana that we do.
Īśvara, Jiva and Jagat are not three entities standing apart like father, son and their house. They are three presentations of reality or viewpoints of the Absolute from the level of the Jiva.
Doubts on the path of Sadhana indicate that the spirit of Sadhana has not been properly grasped. When there is enough conviction about the correctness of the method adopted, Sadhana quickly bears fruit.
Every moment of life should be regarded as the last moment, as there is no knowing when this moment will come. When it is said that the last thought of a person should be God’s thought, we are impliedly admonished to remember God every day and every moment.
It may be that we try to remember God when we are comfortably placed. But the test as to whether He has really entered our hearts is whether we remember Him in sickness, suffering, opposition and times of temptation.
The highest fulfilment is the result of the highest renunciation. The less you want, the more you get. He who wants nothing from the world finds the world falling at his feet. Even the gods are afraid of him who wants nothing for himself.
Mostly, the mind is where the eyes are. Look not at anything which may stimulate desire, or rouse egoistic ambition. The eyes have to be carefully guarded.
The energy that leaks through the senses by way of excitation and pleasure-seeking diminishes the psychic force that is necessary for meditation. Hence before any attempt at successful meditation this energy-leakage has to be blocked, and the direction of the flow of this energy turned inward.
We should not try to be more strict on others than we are on ourselves. Our task is not so much to change the world as to change ourselves.
The Prarabdha Karma is like an extortioner who will not let loose the victim until the last vestige of dues is cleared out. It cannot be exhausted without being worked out through experience and the role of spiritual Sadhana in relation to Prarabdha is not one of negating or counteracting it but of bringing about a transformation in the vision that evaluates and judges experience, pleasurable or miserable.
The tiger called the mind is prowling in the dense forest of sense-objects. Let the seekers of freedom beware!
Avoid contact with such things as are likely to stimulate sense desire or excite the ego. This is necessary until strength is gained to stand the forces of the world.
Buddha and Shankara-Acharya represent two sides in the picture of life. The purely phenomenal approach of Buddha empties the so-called solid content of the appearance called the world, and the spiritual doctrine of Shankara fills this emptiness with Soul, and completes the picture.
The importance of Sadhana in spiritual life is great enough to compel the attention of anyone wishing to be freed from botherations. The vexations of life are due to entanglement in externalised forms, while freedom at once manifests itself when the universal nature of these forms is beheld. Sadhana is nothing but an attempt to withdraw from the particulars and sink into the Universal.
Just as, when we touch a live wire, the electric force infuses itself into our body, when we deeply meditate on God the power of the whole universe seeks entry into our personality.
There are three grades of Self: The real, secondary and false. The real is the Atman which is universal; the secondary is the person or thing which one likes or dislikes; the false is the aggregate of the five sheaths. Meditation disentangles the real from the secondary and the false.
The strength to bear suffering comes not merely from a determination of the will but the discovery that a vast treasure is awaiting one who practices such endurance. Students lose sleep and comfort, a lover undergoes untold pains, and an employee tolerates the unpleasantness of work, not because of a mere determination of will but due to the sure promise of an enjoyment which is known to exceed the pains which pave its way. So it is with spiritual Sadhana.
Space, Time and Gravitation divide and pull the body by isolating it from other bodies. With this division and pull of the body, consciousness also appears to be affected due to its association with the body through the mind, Prana and the nervous system. The overcoming of this distracting effect of Space, Time and Gravitation in one’s consciousness is Yoga.
The Sadhana that one does should speak through the actions and the words which manifest themselves through one’s personality. The personality is the vehicle of the aspiration that wells up within. And the face is the index of the mind.
The test of spiritual advancement is a gradual attainment of freedom from doubts of all kinds and a conviction of having reached a settled understanding in regard to one’s true aim of life. It is this conviction that brings inner strength and power to face all opposition.
Sadhana is a sort of constant remembering a thing against heavy odds and pulling up oneself from sinking into deep mires. To retain the thought of God in a world of colours and sounds that dazzle the eyes and din the ears is hard enough. This is Sadhana, a feat of will and understanding.
No saint has been able to maintain the spiritual balance throughout his life. There have been occasional reversals though these might not have left any impression on their minds, any more than the mark left by a stick drawn on water. But the mark is there when it appears. Such is the difficulty of leading the spiritual life. The case of immature seekers is much more precarious, indeed.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are two great epics of the forces of lust and greed, respectively. The passion of Ravana and the greed of Duryodhana caused the wars of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These are the twin forces of the devil which can be faced only with Divine Help.
The contacts of persons or things with others is brought about by the law of contiguity as determined by the pattern of the universe at any given moment. This pattern or structural form changes constantly with the Gunas of Prakriti, and the union of things which was called for once may be withdrawn and a separation caused as determined by the change pattern of the universe. Birth and death, union and separation are not in anyone’s hands and so man’s love and hatred are a mere phantasmagoria in his mind.
Spiritual Sadhana is ultimately an effort to cease from all effort. This is the highest effort, because no one normally can be without exerting oneself in some direction. All activity is a process of moving away from the centre. The activity to cease from such activity is Sadhana.
Passion is not merely a sexual urge. It is any form of vehement impulse to objectify or externalise oneself in relation to someone or something with which an emotional contact has been established. Thus, passion is ‘the devil’, if there is any devil at all in the universe. It is the force which drags the mind impetuously towards an object either as love or hatred. It is therefore ‘the’ obstacle to all meditation.
The proximity of the senses to their objects is a cause of their stimulation and the mind craves for that thing which the particular sense beholds as its desirable counterpart. At this stage, self-control is difficult, because the mind finds itself robbed of its discriminative powers and lodged in the mire of the senses. Physical isolation from sense-objects is very necessary, since even great sages had to fall a prey to the lure of the senses.
The strength of Brahmacharya is seen in the prowess of Hanuman. The vitality of the body and mind gets accentuated and energised by the living force which is Brahmacharya-Shakti by getting transformed into ‘Ojas’ or the spiritual radiance that vibrates through the entire personality. Such a hero is a thunderbolt to all desire and evil.
The more are we ‘ourselves’, the more are we satisfied and happy. Our pains are when we are not ‘ourselves’ but become ‘another’ through longing or desire, brooding over objects and affection for persons and things. The suffering of the mind continues so long as it contemplates an ‘external’ to itself, for this is called ‘desire’ which is the bane of all peaceful living. In love of God there is an abolition of this externalisation of oneself, and the mind evaporates into infinite bliss in meditation on God practised with earnestness and intensity of feeling. In meditation on the Selfhood of God or Godhood of the Self, human questions get solved and all problems are seen as tangles of thinking rather than facts in the outer universe.
There are ups and downs in spiritual life, even if one might have reached a high stage of development. The prominent hurdles are lust and ego. There has not been one who could overcome both these forces completely. Whatever caution we may exercise in this regard, we will find, when the time comes, that it is insufficient.