Guruji on Overcoming hindrances on the Spiritual path
We have been blessed with this spiritual earthly life, yet we find ourselves turning our attention away from God and the divinity within us. Though we are aware that our ultimate life-purpose is to become one with God, we are attracted more towards the sensory objects of this world. This earthly life has been bestowed upon us so that we may rise above our animalistic tendencies. We must at our own pace, strive to work towards uncovering the divinity that dwells within us. We must stop identifying ourselves with our bodies. We must strive to know that we are immortal beings. The ‘atma’ is the eternal source of all intelligence and wisdom, and it exists forever, untouched by external changes.
The ‘atma’ is present in all living beings. However, it should be understood that it is only the human being who has the capacity to reach the highest peak of divinity, and merge with the Divine. Only human beings are capable of experiencing the highest truth – God-realisation. Knowing this, it is our responsibility to work towards utilising the unique opportunity granted to us. Do not socialise much with people, or indulge in talks of worldly nature. For those who are on the spiritual path, it is important to cultivate a mind that will remain balanced, in success or failure, criticism or praise, honour or dishonour, gain or loss, etc.
A divine life can be achieved only when we embark upon this journey of life, with truthfulness and awareness, and with a complete synchronisation between our thoughts, words and deeds. We must strive to eliminate the sense of ‘I-ness’ that we carry within us, and replace it with an all-encompassing love for fellow creatures. With faith and devotion, we must meditate upon the divine within us. Meditation is the time-tested method to rediscover our divinity, to rediscover our true nature. To achieve this, we must at the outset, identify and overcome the obstacles that confront us during our meditation practice.
The main hindrances on the path of spirituality are ‘laya’ (sleep), ‘vikshepa’ (distraction), ‘vasanas’ (hidden desires), ‘rasavada’ (bliss of ‘savikalpa samadhi’), lack of ‘brahmacharya’ (self-restraint/celibacy), spiritual arrogance, laziness, over-eating, over-working, excessive socialising, over-assertiveness, etc. Work towards eliminating or reducing these obstacles, which are found in plenty, as we move on our spiritual path. Work towards conquering them, one by one.
Eliminate excessive sleep through practice of ‘pranayama’ and ‘yogasana’. Reduce food-intake consciously, by partaking in a light diet. Overcome ‘vikshepa’ -distraction of the mind – by practising ‘pranayama’ or ‘japa’ as a preliminary to meditation. Get rid of your ‘vasanas’ by consciously working on yourself. Cultivate dispassion towards your cravings and desires. Immerse yourself in spiritual practices that will help you progress towards your goal, such that your cravings and desires no longer occupy the mind. As you meditate, do not get lost in the bliss of ‘savikalpa samadhi’. This state is very deceptive because then the ‘sadhak’ starts imagining that he or she has already reached the goal of Self-realisation.
An oath taken to practise self-restraint and celibacy, helps one advance on the path towards spirituality. Generally, when the ‘sadhak’ makes spiritual progress, there arises a tendency to develop spiritual arrogance. It is important to eliminate this arrogance through self-analysis and enquiry. Practise humility and service to others, in order to do away with the assertive and ‘rajasic’ nature. For overcoming laziness and lethargy, practice asanas and pranayama before engaging in meditation. Also, over-working will make one too tired to sit for meditation. Maintain equanimity in all actions and then embark upon meditation.
Meditation is freeing the mind from all distractions and dwelling only upon God. In meditation, it is possible for the meditator to gradually experience the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states of consciousness. As the meditator advances further, the ‘turiya’ state of consciousness can be experienced. The ‘sadhak’ can further strengthen the practice of meditation and contemplation, and learn to analyse and resolve all desires, thoughts and feelings, through the practice of yoga-nidra. The technique of yoga-nidra is practised in order to attain a state where the mind is placed in deep rest. It is a state of sleep in which the ‘sadhak’ is in deep sleep yet fully conscious. This advanced technique can help a sadhak to eliminate laziness and lethargy. The quality of rest received through this method is far superior to that received through restful sleep. This technique gives rest to the conscious as well as unconscious mind.
Yoga-nidra has immeasurable benefits and can be used for learning the subtleties of life. It is revitalising, and should be practised in the ‘shavasana’ position in order to give rest to the mind, brain, nervous system, senses and body. This technique also supports and strengthens the practice of meditation. Equip yourselves with all the necessary tools that are required for removing the obstacles on the path of your spiritual progress. Engage yourself in spiritual practices, and advance rapidly on your spiritual path, towards your final goal of Self- realisation – God-realisation. May you attain the divinity within you.
FROM THE EDITORIAL DESK: SAFEGUARD YOUR SADHANA
… (Talk given by Swami Chidananda of The Divine Life Society)
A Fort and an armour are different in the sense, that the Fort keeps the adverse factors from you at a far distance, but an armour keeps you safe even from someone very near to you. A husband can become an obstacle to his wife’s spiritual Sadhana, a wife can become an obstacle to her husband’s spiritual Sadhana. They live together under the same roof all days, months, years, all life, and unless this protecting armour of spiritual resolution for adherence to the chosen ideal is created and maintained, they are vulnerable, and this is not wise.
Therefore, we use the analogy of the Fort which keeps opposing forces at a distance from us. We gave the analogy of the armour also which safeguards us from such factors that are very close to us, almost one with us. Similarly, we have to go one step deeper, inward and create a factor which has the power to act as protector against such adversities arising from within our own being due to our own foolishness, our lack of will power to say “NO”, our lack of active discrimination and our lack of alert wakefulness. These things can bring about such a negative and opposite factor right from within ourselves. It doesn’t depend on someone else, we become ourselves the other someone else, because within ourselves is the friend and the enemy.
To bring home this point there is the great epic of the Mahabharata war. This situation of the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas describes for us and contains the same message. Within the same family there were two inimical and antagonistic sections, the Kauravas being the very contradiction of the Pandavas. Though being within one family the Pandavas constituted the upper ascending push whereas the Kauravas constituted the descending force, and they had to contend with each other. This is an indication that such a situation is possible within our own inward dimension.
So, the one who has discrimination, learns the art and science of keeping oneself aloof and rising above them, and despite these factors going straight towards the great goal for which the gift of life has been given to us. Herein lies wisdom, and may God and Gurudev give us this wisdom. This is the humble prayer on behalf of all of us. May God bless us all!