Chapter 4: Preliminary Instructions on Yoga Practice
The modifications of the mind called the non-painful ones are somewhat like organic defects, and the others known as the painful ones are somewhat like functional disorders, the latter following from the former. A functional disorder can be a direct consequence of an organic defect. There is a basic structural malady in the very process of our knowledge, so that what we know has no direct correspondence to reality. This world is called an empirical existence, a transiency of process, phenomena rather than noumena. These descriptions of the world and the world-experience are common to most of the philosophers in the world. We are not living in a world of reality. Our cognitions and perceptions are false representations, and not correct perceptions, of Reality. Patanjali holds that what usually goes by the name of pramana, or right knowledge, also is, in the end, a misrepresentation of Truth, due to a particular form of the modification of the mind. And when the mind is to be restrained in Yoga, every modification is to be restrained, even if it be in the form of what we may call practically right perception. It is right only from our point of view, but not from the true point of view of Reality as such. Our knowledge is right, only because it is workable in the world of phenomena. It has a utilitarian value, but it is not ultimately valid when it is made to stand the test of perfection. The other processes of the mind, such as logical deduction and induction, inference, and other well-known methods of right knowledge in this world, proceed from perception. Perception through the senses is the principal avenue of knowledge for us. Everything else is a result that follows from sensory perception. Thus, logic, whether it is inductive or deductive, also cannot be regarded as finally valid and capable of giving us the knowledge of Truth, since it hangs on perception. And perception is through the senses, and senses do not represent Reality. So, all perceptions, whatever be their nature, and all modifications of the mind are, in essence, psychic transformations. And, inasmuch as Yoga is the inhibition of the very stuff of the mind, even our knowledge of the world outside has to be made subject to transformation by means of the practice of Yoga.
Yoga Is Not an Individual Affair
The knowledge that we acquire, through the senses, of the world outside, is conditioned by the very structure of the world, of which we are also a part. And conditioned knowledge cannot be regarded as finally valid in an unconditional manner. This defective perception of the human individual, or any other individual for the matter of that, breeds the pains in the form of the klishta vrittis. Our sorrows are caused by our erroneous notions. When we wrongly perceive, wrongly think, and wrongly understand, the consequences thereof have to be borne by us, because our joys and sorrows are practically the way in which the mind reacts to circumstances outside. Action and reaction, psychologically, are the joys and sorrows of life. Hence, when we enter into the realm of the practice of Yoga, we have to be doubly cautious about any mistake creeping into the very technique of practice, because of the prejudice already in us, in the form of our individualities, and a persistent notion which will not leave us till the day of doom, vehemently asserting that the world is outside of us and that the object of knowledge is totally cut off from the subject. This misconception that Yoga is an individual affair, and that it has nothing to do with the outside world or human society, is the basis for other doubts arising in the minds of novices in Yoga practice. It is surprising that even the so-called adepts in Yoga carry this misrepresentation in their heads, and social well-being and the world's future are dissociated from the values entertained by them in connection with the practice of Yoga.
The practice of Yoga, surely, is not an individual affair. It is not some individual sitting in a corner, doing something in the name of Yoga. Individual existence itself is a misnomer. It is a falsity to the core, and if with this false affirmation one takes to the practice of Yoga, one could well imagine the result that would follow. Nothing will come of it. One will be wasting one's time. Thus it is that thousands of people who may be engaged in the practice of Yoga may be in a state of despair, in a mood of dejection, having achieved nothing and entered into greater and greater mental difficulties. It has been hammered into our minds again and again by ancient masters that unless there are the essential prerequisites with which one has to be equipped, one should not take seriously to Yoga. An impure mind, ridden over with gross desires and prejudices galore, should not touch even the border of Yoga. Otherwise, it will burst open like a dynamite which is handled by a person who knows not what it is. While Yoga is the solace to the whole of mankind, and there is no other panacea for the ills of life, it can also prove to be a dangerous thing if it is not handled properly. We may go crazy or become mad or gain nothing in the end, if our enthusiasm in the line of Yoga is misdirected and prejudiced and rooted in old desires, which persist even when we enter the ‘Temple of God'.
The metaphysical foundations of Yoga are as important as the actual technique or the actual practice of Yoga. That is why the Yoga practice is always based on the Samkhya of Kapila or on the Vedanta. A person who has no knowledge of the philosophical basis of Yoga would be performing a mechanical routine of practice. As a machine moves, the individual may move, thinking that Yoga is being done. Inasmuch as the universe is one whole, and is not capable of being partitioned into individuals, there cannot be such a thing called individual practice of Yoga. The moment one enters into the realm of Yoga, one enters into an oceanic expanse, where one can recognise all the friends and brothers of the world. The greatest service that one can do to humanity, to the world, or to the universe as a whole, is to enter into Yoga; and we cannot isolate social welfare or the world's good from Yoga meditation. They are one and the same, rather. The dedication to Yoga is the greatest of all services one can render, because one enters here, or at least attempts to enter, into the heart of things, instead of merely working on the surface, superficially, in the name of social service. The world will not change merely because we have a notion about it, and on the basis of that notion, tackle its problems. No problem of the world has been solved even to this day. They are there, because one cannot even understand how these problems have arisen. They have arisen as the result of a total misconception in the minds of individuals.
Yoga—A State of Inward Being, Rather than Outward Doing
And so, if, Yoga means union, naturally it should be a union with that which is in its own status, and not with that which is made into an appearance of somebody's cognition or perception. This is a very subtle point, difficult to comprehend. The significance behind it is exceedingly hard to appreciate. This is because we have not been accustomed to think in this manner. We have been told by teachers, and the popular books on Yoga, the commonplace routines which we have to pass through when we become religious or devoted or inclined towards Yoga. But then, inasmuch as true Yoga is an internal adjustment rather than an external practice, it requires greater effort on one's own part than in the usual routine affairs of life. Yoga is more a state of being rather than outward doing. Any amount of external doing may not be Yoga at all. Because one will be the same person inwardly with no difference whatsoever, if one's outlook of life has not changed. If the mind persists in thinking in the same old manner there would be no progress made. Honesty in one's own heart is essential. We should not be self-deceptive individuals. Oftentimes people take to Yoga because they want to become teachers of Yoga. It is an insult to Yoga, rather than an appreciation of the glory of Yoga, to learn it only so that one may teach it. For, then it looks as if Yoga is intended to be an instrument for one's way of life, rather than for an inward transformation of the spirit. In the language of religion, we may say that Yoga is the art by which we have a vision of God. It is nothing if one teaches Yoga in society. One may teach it or not teach it. That is a different subject altogether. The vision of God, the cognition of the Ultimate Reality, union with the Absolute finally, is the aim of Yoga. If this aspiration is inwardly absent, the practice of Yoga becomes a mere mockery and a waste. The point that Patanjali makes out in telling us that even the so-called right perceptions are wrong perceptions should awaken us from our slumber. But what do we do in our Yoga? Our practices are rooted in the wrong perceptions only. We cannot get over the old psychological prejudices concerning the externality of things. To get over these prejudices inwardly, there is a need to purify one's mind. Gross debris in which the mind may be sunk has to be cleared, for which many methods are suggested by the ancient adepts. These are: humble service of the Master or Guru, humility of conduct, an inward capacity to assess one's own position in life, not over-estimating oneself in any manner, and a clarity which is free from the desires that are consequent upon the wrong perception of the world as an object outside.
Vairagya and Its True Implication
The last-mentioned characteristic is indicated by Patanjali in one word, namely, vairagya. Unless one is endowed with this glorious strength known as vairagya, abhyasa or practice of Yoga is not possible. One cannot attach oneself to the Absolute unless one practises non-attachment to the false values of life. Herein we have to strike a note of caution. Non-attachment, or rather detachment, from the false values of life may again be misrepresented due to the notion that we are entertaining in our life. Vairagya, or detachment from the false values, does not mean a physical closure of one's eyes to the existence of things. This has been very clearly indicated in such scriptures as the Bhagavad Gita and affiliated texts. Our problem is not the existence of things. Our problem is the nature of our notion about the existence of things. Unless our current wrong notion about the existence of the things of the world, or the world as a whole, is transformed, a physical disassociation from objects may not help us much. Patanjali defines vairagya in a most psychological manner. Vairagya has nothing to do with our view of the so-called sannyasa. It has nothing to do with entering into monasteries or chapels or nunneries. No outward exhibition in conduct is indicated in vairagya. Vairagya simply means an absence of sensory taste in respect of things. The taste for things is called desire. An absence of desires is called vairagya. Raga is desire or attachment, and vairagya is the opposite of it. The taste for things, the desire for objects, is to be sublimated in a higher perception. Our problems are our desires, not the existence of objects; because, the things will be there always. They were there even before we were born in this world, and even if we are not to be here, they will continue to be. The taste for things arises on account of a wrong knowledge of things. We love a thing or hate a thing, because we do not understand anything. The taste for objects, the desire for things, arises on account of a first miscalculation of our position in the universe, and a consequent miscalculation of our relationship to the objects outside. All this amounts to saying finally that desires melt away spontaneously when understanding arises.
The great confusion in the mind of Arjuna, described in the First Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, was considered by Sri Krishna as the consequence of an absence of understanding, an absence of samkhya-buddhi, a point that is made out in the Second Chapter. We lack samkhya-buddhi, or right understanding. We cannot see things as they are, and so, we have wrong attitudes towards them. We cling to them or try to run away from them. There is no necessity to cling to things, and there is no necessity also to run away from things. Both these are unwarranted attitudes of ours in the context of objects as they really are. Everything is as we ourselves are. The world is a kingdom of ends. The Atman is the Reality of all objects in the world. There is a supreme subjectivity present in all things. Nothing is an object here. Everyone is a subject with a status of his own. Inasmuch as everything is an end in itself, and not a means to something else, nobody can be exploited in this world as an instrument of somebody else. Therefore, no one is an object. Hence, no one can be taken in an utilitarian sense as a thing for the satisfaction of oneself—a satisfaction that may arise either by love or by hatred.
A complete absence of taste for things seen, heard, or even imagined in the mind, is defined as vairagya. Drishtanusravika-vishaya-vitrishnasya vasikara-samjna vairagyam: this is the aphorism (I-15) of Patanjali. We see things and we hear things. We see this world of objects, very beautiful indeed, very attractive oftentimes, and sometimes repulsive also. We hear also of the glories of heaven, the paradise, the Garden of Eden, Indra-Loka. One would wish to go there and enjoy life. That is a desire arising from things heard only and not seen. Desires also arise from objects seen, which is our practical experience. When there is an absence of taste for things seen or heard or thought of in the mind, on account of the recognition of the true circumstance of all things in their inter-relationship with the whole universe, desire ceases. One becomes a master. Mastery over the mind is mastery over desires.
In a sense, we may say that the mind is only desires. Desires constitute the mind. The loves and hatreds of life constitute the warp and woof of the mind. When these loves and hatreds are transcended, the mind is overcome automatically. As threads constitute the cloth, desires constitute the mind. Desires and mind are not two different things. Hence, any kind of a religious attitude is not Yoga; because, Yoga is not religion at all. Yoga is a systematic, scientific approach to things as they are. It has nothing to do with Hinduism or Christianity or any other ‘ism'. Yoga is like mathematics or logic, which is not Hindu or Muslim or Christian. Yoga is a perfect scientific outlook which is expected of every individual situated in this cosmos. It is necessary to develop this outlook, this capacity to understand, rather than jump into a routine of practice unintelligently. If this is not done, all one's time will be taken up in the effort to understand the technique of practice. And years of such practice may bring no palpable result, if it is misdirected at the base by a wrong understanding. We are not here to fulfil desires. The aim of life is not the satisfaction of the senses or the pampering of one's ego. We are here as trainees in a large school or institution of education. We do not enrol in an educational institution for the purpose of satisfying our desires. This life, this existence of ours on earth, is a training ground for every one of us. We are like boys in a school, undergoing a process of right education, under the guidance of the Supreme Being Himself.
Vrittis—The Fundamental Source of Life's Difficulties
Vairagya and abhyasa are the two essential words with which we have to be acquainted when we study Patanjali's Yoga. Vairagya is defined in many ways, translated in many ways. Renunciation, self-abnegation, and abandonment of the temporary values of life are usually associated with the term vairagya. To be in a state of Yoga is, in a way, to behold the objects of the world as God Himself beholds them. If one sees things as God sees, one is in a state of Yoga. It is very difficult to understand what could be that state, though one may be able to appreciate that it is the state of total impersonality of awareness of things, inseparable from oneself. The whole universe is considered as the body of God in almost all the religions. And one does not look upon one's own body as an object of attraction. So, one should develop an impersonality of outlook in respect of things which appear to be outside on account of their so-called location in space and time. God has no space, and no time also. So, to look at things as God beholds them would be to transcend space and time. This technique of overcoming the limitations of space and time is meditation, dhyana. It leads to samadhi, which is the pinnacle of Yoga.
In the beginning, this transcendence of space and time cannot be achieved. Teachers of Yoga tell us that, even in the practice of vairagya or renunciation, there are stages. One cannot suddenly jump to the summit of vairagya at once. The absence of taste for things is not easily practicable. The taste remains, even when one may be physically away from the objects of attraction. We love objects, though we may not see them with our eyes. Achievement of vairagya is possible only through a gradual conducting of oneself on right lines. One should seat himself in a composed manner and should conduct this analysis. In the beginning, it appears that the problems are outside in the world. “The people around me are my difficulties”: so says any person complaining about circumstances. Nobody would accept that one's own self is the source of the problems. So, this is the initial result that will follow from an analysis of the problems of life. But later on, if one is a little more philosophical and dispassionate in his analysis, he will realise that it is not the persons and things outside, but rather his own relationship with those persons and things which constitute his problem. Because, the experiences in life, whether pleasurable or otherwise, are brought about by relationships among things. If there is no kind of a relationship between the subject and the object, there would be no experience of the object. So, the experience of pleasure or pain, the feeling of problems, is due to a particular type of relationship that subsists between oneself and others. So, from the grossest stage of complaining against other persons and things as the source of our difficulties, we rise a little higher to the recognition of a more subtle reason behind our difficulties, namely, spatial and temporal relationship. The persons and things are not really the problem; our relationship with them is the problem. It is not a properly adjusted relationship. There is a maladjustment in that relationship. So, this knowledge is a little superior compared to the earlier feeling that things as such are the source of our difficulty. But, what are relationships, but psychological operations. One's relationship with another is nothing but the mental operation of the former in respect of the latter. So, life's difficulty arises due to the mental operations of this person or that person, of this thing or that thing.
To recapitulate: The things of the world are not the source of our difficulty; they are not the problem. The relationship to things is the source, and the relationship is nothing but the mental activity. We now come to the very root of the matter. The vrittis of the mind are the problem behind all the difficulties in one's adjustment in life. Until the operations of the mind are restrained and directed in the right channel, there is the possibility of wrong adjustments with others and the consequential problems. The mind is the source of all troubles. So, vairagya has to be achieved by stages of self-reflection and self-analysis.
What is vairagya? What is renunciation? Renunciation does not mean a renunciation of persons and things, because they are not the sources of the trouble. The sources of the trouble are wrong relationships; and renunciation means the renunciation of these wrong relationships. And what are relationships, but attitudes of the mind, actually speaking? So, vairagya is a mental condition. It is not a physical activity. It is not something that one does outwardly in society. It is, rather, what one thinks in one's mind. The thought is the act. What man thinks, that he is. So, the complete mastery which Patanjali speaks of, in his sutra in respect of vairagya, is a graduated process of attainment, and one has to go on with this practice daily, hourly, without any remission.
Vairagya and Abhyasa Should Go Together
The sutra (I-12) of Patanjali says that vairagya and abhyasa should go together: Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tannirodhah. The modifications of the mind, whether painful or non-painful, are controlled by vairagya and abhyasa. Because, these modifications of the mind, painful and non-painful, are the cause of all the misrepresentations in life, which we call samsara. Abhyasa and vairagya go together, and often we feel that they cannot be separated, one from the other. A persistent effort in the direction of the detachment of oneself from all false values in life is the essence of spiritual practice, or abhyasa, though it has a more positive side also. Here, as in the medical treatment of an illness a twofold process is involved, namely, the removal of the illness and the helping of the growth of positive health. The medicines that are administered to a sick person have two purposes to fulfil, namely, to remove the disease and also to improve the health. A concentration of our attention, our consciousness, on the Reality in its own status, may be abhyasa or true practice. But, it is accompanied also by detachment from the falsity of notions, of perceptions. The two have to go together, in the same way as we walk with both the legs and not with only one! As the bird flies with its two wings and not with only one wing, the two processes are to proceed simultaneously. This is an essential requirement. At one and the same time, we must withdraw ourselves from the false relationships that we have developed in relation to things, and also direct our consciousness to concentrate on the nature of Reality. But these are questions of detail which have to be sorted out in the presence of a Guru. Because, a general instruction about every little bit of detail in Yoga cannot be given to the masses. We can give only an outline about the general process or the samanya dharma of Yoga, but the visesha dharma or the particular details will vary from individual to individual. There are personal difficulties which each individual may feel, which each seeker may have in himself or herself, besides the general problems of life which are common to all. So, we are discussing mostly the general aspects of Yoga, not the details. The details are not to be taught in public and cannot also be read in a book, because they are purely personal and they vary with each individual. In this matter, proper instruction has to be given individually or isolatedly, in respect of each case, just as a physician administers drugs to each individual patient separately. Because, in the practice of vairagya, and also in positive spiritual practice or abhyasa, the techniques naturally have to vary, according to the physical condition, and also the psychological state, of the seeker concerned.
Yoga Demands Our Whole Life
A very important caution is given again by Patanjali in his sutra. We cannot practise Yoga in a slipshod manner, with a half-hearted attitude. Yoga demands a dedicated spirit on the part of the seeker. It calls for a complete surrender of the individual personality to the great purpose to be achieved through Yoga. It is not possible to give half of one's life to Yoga and half to something else. Yoga demands our whole life and not just a part of our life. There need be no fear that to be wholly devoted to Yoga implies running away from family circumstances and severance of oneself from the usual duties of life. This mistake again has to be removed from the mind by a correct understanding of what vairagya is. Yoga encompasses our whole life and not a part of our life, because whenever we have an attitude towards anything, it is a whole attitude and not merely a partial attitude. Our outlook of life is a total encounter of consciousness in respect of things in general. The outlook may be complete, and has to be complete, though this complete outlook may require us to perform various functions in respect of the particular object about which we have this total outlook. The various duties of life are part and parcel of our total outlook of life. As such, we cannot run away from them; we cannot cut them off.
So, we have to understand clearly and carefully what it means to say that Yoga is a total dedication, a whole-souled surrender, and a complete attitude. Everyone has a view of things in general. In that sense, everyone has a philosophy. Nobody is a non-philosopher. A person's attitude towards things in general, the world over, is his philosophy; and he conducts his activities on the basis of this outlook that he has about things in general. So, in that sense, it may be said that he has always a total outlook. And in Yoga, this total outlook should be in consonance with the true nature of things. This is philosophical analysis again.
Every day the practice has to be undergone, nay, every moment of time. Patanjali says: Dirgha-kala-nairantarya... One gets established in Yoga by hard, unremitting practice, for a long time conducted. All the time, the mind must be in it. All the time the seeker must be aware of the fact that he is a student of Yoga and must remain in a state of Yoga. As a matter of fact, what is the gospel of the Bhagavad Gita but this great teaching that one has to be perpetually in a state of Yoga, even when one is doing the least of actions in life? That is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is not worship in temples or doing something some time only during the day. Karma Yoga is maintaining the right mental attitude behind every kind of activity, even the least of them. So, the outlook or the attitude wherein lies true Yoga is to be a perpetual mental affair. It has to be carried on for a protracted period. What is protracted period? Throughout life—dirgha-kala means a long time—and Yoga practice has to be carried on for a long time, till the last breath of one's life. And when it is carried on like this continuously, every day, it should be without remission of effort, which means to say, that there should be no break in the practice and no severance of oneself from the right internal outlook. There should be no split or gap in this continuous process that is Yoga.
Yoga Should Be Practised with Zeal and Love
And then, 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 diso 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. 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.
Internal Purification through Karma, Upasana and Jnana
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. 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.
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 services, 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: “O Lord! Help us.” Lip prayer is not prayer. Unless these cries come from our soul, they cannot be regarded as real prayers.
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 attunement 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.