Chapter 1: Preparation for Sadhana
The annual holy Sri Guru Purnima is generally the commencement of a sacred function in the ashram culminating in the most sacred day of worship, the Punyatithi Aradhana Mahotsava of Revered Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. Devotees who come from far and wide to this ashram to participate in these two important occasions of worship have also a rather novel and unexpected opportunity of attending a week’s series of sessions usually called the Sadhana Week or the Sadhana Shabira, during which interim period of these few days there is time enough for everyone to prepare one’s heart and soul for the reception of the Divine Grace that is supposed to descend upon the deepest recesses of our being on this day of contemplation of Sri Gurudev’s entering the Cosmic.
Thus is this initial and inaugural session here today of adjusting and adapting our understandings, thoughts and feelings in a manner necessary for the reception of this divine compassion. Even to collect rainwater, we require an adequately wide vessel. In a similar way, we may say we have to become the apt receptacles for the coming of this grace as a consequence of our dedication and worship which we commence with our obeisance to Bhagavan Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa on Sri Guru Purnima, and we shall have the purnavarti of it in that other sacred consecration and worship which is our day of prayer to Worshipful Sri Gurudev.
During these days of the Sadhana Week called the Sadhana Shabira, we are, therefore, to equip ourselves with appurtenances and necessities which will prepare ourselves – our body, mind and soul, our entire makeup – for receiving God Almighty Himself into our hearts, who sends His incessant messages through these great incarnations and prophets and masters, and to us through the visible and veritable Gurudev Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj.
What is the sadhana, what is the spiritual practice, what is the discipline that you are thinking in your minds during these days? It is that education, it is that discipline and preparation by which you can allow and permit the entry of the Almighty into your hearts. Do you make preparations in your own house, in your institution when a dignitary pays a visit to your place? Do you sweep, do you keep everything clean? Are you actively engaged – in body, mind and soul – to see that the environment in your place is adequately suited and fitted to the grandeur, the position and the perfection of the personality that is going to pay a visit to your house, your organisation, your institution? And are you preparing yourself through this process of sadhana for keeping the environment of your life ready for receiving that great perfection into your own life? In this connection, what kind of preparation would you be required to complete before this perfection condescends to enter you, enter your family and your whole social association, call it country, call it nation, call it the world?
When a great genius and a master and a superior personality comes to you, what are the preparations that you make? You set aside all your idiosyncrasies, your internal skirmishes, your ideas of personal likes and dislikes. Your little petty difficulties are brushed aside as if they do not exist at all in order that your prepared environment fits adequately into the great perfection that is going to pay a visit to you. He may be the president of your country, he may be the prime minister, he may be a great dignitary whom you are compelled to respect and adore as something valuable and indeed magnificent.
Who can be more magnificent than God Almighty Himself? And what is the preparation that we have to make? This preparation is sadhana. It is that preparation which will fit into the nature of God. That is spiritual practice – call it religion, call it spirituality, call it by any jargon that may be the feature of the religions and the cults and the creeds and the organisations in this world. Remember this little recipe. Spiritual discipline or religious practice is not a social occupation; it is not a business into which you enter, or a give-and-take policy that you may bargain with God for a thing that you may expect from Him. Remember, you will expect nothing from God. Here is the difference between the other dignitaries that you may gladly and happily receive into yourself and the one whom you are calling God the Almighty perfection.
Why do you receive a dignitary into your organisation, into your house? You know very well. Your conscience speaks. Here is a personality who can be an immediate instrument for the removal of all your problems. In a sense, God is also a singular perfection. It is a symbol by which every problem is melted down into the unified perfection of His own Being. It is true in a way that there can be no greater dignitary than God Himself anywhere; therefore, there is nothing which anyone can offer to you more than what God can offer to you. This is one side of the matter.
But there is something very peculiar with God which you may not be able to decipher and recognise in the mortal dignitaries whom you adore so much. God does not give you anything because there is nothing outside Him, while your mortal dignitaries have many things outside them; therefore, they can pour their wealth on you. The dignitary will never become your servant. However much you may worship him, adore him, he will never be subservient to you. He cannot become your property. That great gentleman you call genius, perfection, dignitary, master, the president, is not going to be under your thumb, and you cannot dictate terms to him, whatever be the expectation from him that you may have. He cannot become a part of you; he maintains his independence still. And he is what he is, whatever be your attitude towards him and your expectations from him. That is one thing in regard to the great men of the world and the great personalities of this Earth.
But there is a peculiar difference with God. This makes all the difference, and every kind of difference. He cannot offer you anything because God has nothing outside Himself. If He has outside Him something which you would covet as a desirable possession, your concept of God is a poor denigration of His greatness. You are giving a poor certificate to God, a very unfortunate one indeed, if you expect an offering from God, inasmuch as He has no offerings that He can bequeath to you for the simple reason that He is soul supreme, infinite, unlimited existence. In this unlimitedness, a limited object cannot be outside Him, so to expect anything from Him, through Him, by means of Him would be a catastrophic demonstration of your utter ignorance of His grandeur, greatness and perfection.
Revered Worshipful Master Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj should be considered as nothing short of an incarnation of a divine perfection in the light of the message that he gave to mankind in the sense that he was never tired of emphasising this peculiar characteristic of the goal of life, which has to be differentiated from every other goal that you consider as necessary and worthwhile. Is not a comfortable physical life in the world covetable? Is not a long life in this world worthwhile? Is not perfect health worthwhile? Is not recognition in the whole world by the society of people worthwhile? Is not, last but not least, the possession of vast riches worthwhile?
Each one of you as a citizen of this world knows very well what you are longing for. Do not deceive yourself. Be honest to your own self. “To thine own self be true,” is a great saying of the poet Shakespeare. To thine own self be true. Atmanam vidhi, says the Upanishad. “Know thyself,” said also the Oracle of Delphi and the oracle of the Upanishad. Be honest to yourself. Do not be running to Gurus, running to ashramas, running to libraries, running to organisations of yoga conferences, seminars, international setups. That will bring you nothing if you are honest only to your own predilections and the axes that you grind, and if your God is kept in your bag and you let Him out only if necessary; otherwise, let Him be tied down and not come out.
To be honest is more difficult than to be even the emperor of the whole world. You can be the king of the whole Earth under given circumstances; but the circumstances under which you can be so honest with God Himself in the sense of the little description I tried to place before you would be the highest laurel that anyone can bestow upon you. Even a thousand Nobel prizes will not equal this – this honesty that is to reveal itself and manifest itself for you. But that honesty is not the usual human characteristic because of the very nature of the human makeup and constitution. The human individual is a self-assertive unit. This is a very important psychological feature of human nature. Every human individual is self-assertive, and when the time for it comes, you will assert yourself as supreme above everything else.
The consideration for others is very rarely capable of being equated with the reason behind our own self-assertiveness. We have consideration for our husbands and wives, and our family members. We have consideration for our brethren who are less fortunate than us. We have consideration for our own citizens in this country. We say we have consideration for humanity also. But this concern is an eyewash. It is not a real concern, because it is very well known to everyone that this concern is not going to affect one’s intentions. Your deepest longings of that assertive personality are not going to be uprooted by these concerns of yours. On the other hand, they may enhance them. You may become prominent and comfortable and more happy by these considerations; your assertions may become more potent and the ego can be fattened still more by these considerations, while you will be a pauper, a dry straw unrecognised and wanted by nobody if these considerations are absent in you. You will be dubbed as a good-for-nothing and useless burden, a parasite to society. These are secret psychoanalytical roots of human individuality. Man is not such a simple thing as it appears in a photograph.
But with this peculiar, negative, dark side of human nature, there is also a deeply positive radiance in humanity. This is the reason why man is a child of God and also sometimes the friend of the devil. He can be both things at the same time, and it is up to him to choose which side to take part in under the circumstances. You can shift your emphasis either this side or that side, according to the need of the hour. Often you may feel that it is better to be a devil rather than a God, for reasons you know very well. Sometimes you feel it is better to be an angel. The reason is that both sides are present in you. Do you sometimes feel that it is advisable and worthwhile to retaliate, to be vindictive, and to destroy the welfare and well-being of another for reasons you may have in your mind? At that time, one side of your personality operates, superseding another which may speak to you in a language whose voice is completely hushed by the din and bustle of the roused wrath of your empirical personality.
Most of us are angry people, and no one can afford not to be angry one day or the other. But the anger is not manifest, and it cannot be manifest because you know very well that it will ruin you. But where it will not ruin you and ruin only another, then it will come. So you can very well know what kind of person anyone is.
While this is so, there is something in you which has made you come to an ashram like The Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram. Whatever be your problems and difficulties, you have spent some money out of your meagre earnings, with the sweat of your brow, and with some difficulty, with paid leave or without pay, and whatever the difficulty be, with hardships known to each one of you, you have come here, but not for any feast or a very comfortable living in a five-star hotel. There are difficulties and difficulties, hardships and hardships, problems and problems, inconveniences and inconveniences. With all that, you have come.
This reason and background behind your coming here with so much of effort is the impulse that arises from another side of your nature which is the representation of God Almighty in you. You are also an ambassador of God in this world, though at times you have your own personality and predilections, due to which you come in clash with people and cannot accommodate yourself with anybody else except with those who are agreeing with you in thought, in feeling and in adjustability.
There is something in the human being which is divine. You are like an ambassador. An ambassador is a representative of a government. He has a double personality. He is the husband of a wife, or it may be the wife of a husband, and that person may be anyone like you. This representative of the government called the ambassador is just one person like you with all the little personal problems and pinpricks of life, just exactly like every one of you without the least of difference. That is one aspect of the ambassador.
But he has another aspect. He has that feature in him by which he has the capacity to draw the attention of that large power called the government which he represents. He is not just like you in every way, though in some ways he is just like you. So while you may be like any Tom, Dick and Harry in this world as a sadhaka, as a seeker, as an honest devout follower in the footsteps of masters like Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, you are also a representative of something which is not capable of accommodation in this world of selfishness, give and take policy, and commercialism of every type.
Thus during these days of the Sadhana Shabira, you will prepare yourself to be a real representative of that where you have come. You may say, “I have come from the womb of a mother,” or, “I have come from the Delhi railway station,” or, “I have come from my office.” Maybe you have come from these places, but you have not originally come from these tentative exits. These are all empirical descriptions of your coming.
You have not come from the womb of your mother. Prior to the entry into the womb, you were somewhere else, and prior to that condition you were somewhere else, somewhere else, and you have come from one root which is the origin of your total being. And in this discipline of these days called the Sadhana Shabira or the Sadhana Saptaha, prepare yourself for recognising yourself as a true representative of that kingdom from where you have come. You have not come from Delhi, Madras, Bombay, nothing of the kind. These notions may be shed for the time being. You have come from a cause which originates every atom of this universe. In this Big Bang, as modern scientists tell us, which is supposed to be the beginning of the solar system and the entire physical astronomical universe, you were also created as a product which is to come to this ashram one day or the other. Your career is recorded in that original constitution, the ordinance which was accepted by the original will that created this Big Bang, the splitting of the cosmos into this diversity of perception.
Thus, you do not represent your family merely, in spite of the fact you may be a representative of them. You are an ambassador of your family and represent all the welfare, well-being and needs of your family members; you are a representative of your country and the whole mankind and international setup. Yes, you are representing all these things – very well, fine, accepted. But finally, you represent another altogether which decides your fate. The original constitution of the centre is the final deciding factor of every official of the world, though he has other, smaller deciding factors in the hierarchy of administration, like the boss and many other things.
Thus, there are many other little grades of hierarchy of superintending principles in your life, such as the cooperation of your family members, the facility you have in your office, and the like. But the final deciding factor is a different thing altogether. You cannot be unfriendly with the Supreme Creator and friendly with people in the world. Your cooperation with anyone in this world and the services that you may expect from anyone in this world will be set at naught in one second if the winds of the cosmos blow in a different direction. The wind of the cosmos is the will of the Almighty.
Do not say, “I am well off, I have riches, I have strength, I am youthful, and I am an officer with a four-digit salary.” Nothing will cut ice. The winds can blow in any direction at any time. These winds do not blow from the North Pole or the South Pole. These winds are not blowing from the Himalayas or the Arabian Ocean. They originate from that centre which created this universe. And if, in your ignorance, you are not agreeable to accommodate yourself with the intention of the origin of all things, unfortunate will be your life. All your riches will go to the dogs in one second. Political catastrophes are demonstrations before you. The vicissitudes of human history are before your eyes today, and you can know what can happen to man the next moment. Be it anyone placed in any position, whatever he be, you know what will happen to anyone the next moment if the Earth shakes and the Sun opens his eyes.
Thus, be a little cautious. Shed your petty feelings of prejudice, selfishness, wrath and anger, disagreement and self-assertiveness for the time being at least when you are here under the auspices of this holy precinct of Worshipful Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj in this Samadhi Shrine. He sees you, he knows you, and he is ready to shower his benedictions upon you. Unless you are fortunate enough to have done some good deeds either in this life or in your previous lives, would you have the blessing of sitting here for a few minutes and breathing this air in the presence of this holy master’s shrine? Are you not blessed? Should you not be grateful to him? Should you not express your gratitude to God who has directed you here, instead of to a hotel or a club or a ballroom? What makes you come here? Is it not a kind eye and a loving glance from this great compassionate being upon you? Know it, or not, with your ignorant minds.
May I request you during these few days to adjust yourself, adapt yourself, align yourself, tune yourself to this original intention of that One which has sent you here as its representative for completing your duties in this world in regard to yourself as well as to other people here, and also to perform that duty which it expects you to perform in the light of its own intentions.
To repeat once again, while you have all the facilities of an ambassador – you can have a very happy life in a mahal, yes – but you have also to bear in mind you have to fulfil the intentions of that power which has sent you as a deputy, an ambassador. If you flout and go against the intentions of that force which has sent you, your comforts will be no more. They will be in the winds. Therefore, have fear of God first. This fear of God is nothing but fear of law, and you know very well the fear of law is not a frightening thing; fear of law is nothing but a necessity that you feel for protection from law. And obedience to law may look like a fear of law, but it is such a necessity that it is not a fear. It is like a fear of falling ill by flouting the laws of health. You cannot call it a fear. It is a need, it is an affection, and, therefore, it is a positive approach.
Thus, sadhana is the most positive effort that you put forth in your personal life to be truthful to that Being who sent you here. He alone sent you here. Don’t say your father sent you, your mother sent you. Nobody has sent you. The destiny, the fate, the career, the future of you all is in the invisible hands of that Almighty Being which has sent you and whose laws, regulations and ordinances, whose constitution, whose principles of universal affection, love and cooperation and devotion are the determining factors of your life.
For a few days, I may say for the days and nights you are here, focus yourself, become a total being and a compact individuality, not a fragmented individual broken into pieces, not like a house divided against itself. Be a total indivisible being. Focus your entire energy in the direction of this contemplation which will draw the grace, the energy, the power of perhaps the whole creation. What else do you need, what else do you require, and what other blessing can you expect?