Radiant Immortal Atman! Beloved and blessed children of the Divine, Jijnasus and mumukshus! A jijnasu is one who is in quest of knowledge, jnana. A mumukshu is one who is desirous of liberation or moksha. It is with a quest, a desire for knowledge, a seeking for knowledge — knowledge of the purpose of life, how to live it effectively, what is dharma, what is adhyatma (spirituality)— that you have come here. Through sravana (listening), through satsanga, you wish to imbibe knowledge that may help you to live your life in a more effective manner. Therefore you are a Jijnasu.
You want this knowledge because you have been told and you have believed that such knowledge may help you to attain liberation from pain, sorrow, suffering, fear, anxiety—all the unpleasant, negative experiences a person is subjected to in this earth plane. During this life span, one is subjected to sorrow as well as joy, pain as well as pleasure, misery as well as happiness. And whereas the latter is desirable—joy, pleasure, happiness—everyone wants it, strives for it, no one wants the former, namely sorrow, pain, misery. So the human quest is for liberation from these undesirable, painful experiences, which make one suffer. Simultaneously, the human quest is also for the attainment of all the positive, pleasurable experiences, sukha, ananda, santi, tripti, santosha, comfort, convenience, joy, happiness, pleasure. And due to the belief that knowledge gained here may help you in fulfilling this central quest—liberation from all that is painful and undesirable you have come here for instruction, guidance, inspiration, study and reflection that will be helpful to you. Therefore, you are mumukshus. You are sadhakas actively engaged in spiritual sadhana.
As such, you want to know how to improve your sadhana, better your concentration, overcome vikshepa (tossing) of the mind. Now, with the intention of meeting the needs of sadhakas, jijnasus, mumukshus, satsangis such as you, Gurudev long ago decided to provide a handy manual giving all the necessary information about spiritual life, Yoga and sadhana, so that one who is keenly desirous of a life of sadhana may find all the material, all the ingredients necessary, to immediately launch into this life of sadhana, to immediately commence leading a practical spiritual life of daily spiritual practices.
To this end, he did not want to leave anything untouched. He wanted to include everything. And this compact volume gives, therefore, the essence of all the Yoga paths—hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga, japa yoga, laya yoga etc. And it gives invaluable practical instructions and hints on how to successfully carry on such sadhana—how to plan it, how to arrange the time of your day from morning till night, what time to allot for what sadhana, how to carefully plan it in a systematic manner, and then how to keep watch upon it so that at a glance you will be in a position to know how well you are proceeding. You will then be in a position to key yourself up periodically, to take specific resolves or resolutions, so as to keep the intensity of the sadhana at a desired pitch, so that it does not slacken.
Thus, beloved Gurudev provided for us in this compact manual everything that is necessary, helpful and useful to a sadhaka. And it is this manual that is given to every member of the Divine Life Society upon enrolling as a member, as part of the package that each new member receives. This package has the significant name “Sadhana Set,” and the name of the manual is Essence of Yoga.
The very purpose of membership in the Divine Life Society is to commence an active, practical and progressive spiritual life. It is to know everything about spiritual Sadhana, to know everything about the very essence of all the different types of Yoga. Therefore, if you want to know about sadhana, obtain a copy of this book and study if diligently. You will understand yourself, understand the mind, understand the finer points of spiritual life and the secret of Yoga Sadhana. It is given in a very concise way—not in an elaborate way but concise, compact, brief—yet not leaving any essential point out. Thus equip yourself in the knowledge of right sadhana and proceed upon the path!
Sadhana is directing all your activities towards the ultimate experience of the great Reality, sad-darshana.
The ultimate objective of sadhana is sad-darshana for which we always pray asato ma sad gamaya. We know that here we have to live amidst passing unrealities, and that passing unrealities are the only thing that we know. Since birth we have lived only amidst passing unrealities, this changing phenomenal appearance. That is our only knowledge, our only experience. But we have been told that there is something higher than this, something that does not pass, which is nitya, permanent. Because it is nitya, it is satya. Therefore, we want darsan of the sat. The ancient prayer, therefore, is: Lead us from unrealities to the great Eternal Reality, the Cosmic Reality.
It is very difficult to believe that what we perceive, what we live right in the middle of, what we experience day after day is not the reality; whereas, that which you have never perceived, about which you have no knowledge, that which you have never experienced—neither the nose has smelt it, nor the eye has seen it, nor the hands have touched it, nor the ear has heard it, nor the tongue has tasted it—is the reality.
Therefore, faith, sraddha, is required in the apta vakya (words of a trustworthy person), in the sruti vakya (words of the Vedas), in the guru vakya (words of the Guru). For the srutis, the saints, sages, mystics and world teachers and your own Guru have no axe to grind; they have no ulterior motives, nothing to gain by misleading you, telling you something which is not true. They have no self-interest; they stand to gain nothing. Therefore you must believe.
The srutis proclaim that which is beneficial to you, conducive to your highest welfare. They proclaim it without any motivation, without any purpose except to benefit you. Therefore, believe in the apta vakya, believe in the sruti vakya, believe in the guru vakya. For, if at all in this entire universe of man, there is anything that is totally unselfish, it is sruti, it is great immortal teachers who have attained everything that has to be attained, who have fulfilled all their duties, done everything that has to be done. Their hearts are full; they have no more desires. Such ones cannot misguide you. Therefore, believe, have faith, sraddha.
You should not think that a logical and rational approach in anyway excludes faith, that they are incompatible—”Faith is blind, whereas we want to know, we want everything to be proved before we believe, because we are rational people.” Long ago our ancient discovered a super-rational approach to the great Reality. They were people of keen intellect, incisive, sharp, probing, analytical. They were a hundred times more logical, rational and scientific minded than any of us. And yet it was these jnanis, practising the vichara marga, jnanayoga, vedanta, who said: “sraddhavan labhate jnanam (The man who is full of faith obtains knowledge).” They also declared that if you wish to listen to the exposition of Vedantic truths, one of the virtues you must equip yourself with is sraddha, faith, belief.
Go through the Essence of Yoga devoutly. The great heart of Swami Sivanandaji had only one desire, one objective, that is, your own highest welfare, your own highest good. It was you he was thinking about when he produced all this great literature. He was not thinking of himself. He was thinking firstly of you, secondly of you and thirdly, also, only of you. He wanted to benefit you; he was thinking of your success in life. He was thinking of your highest good and welfare, of your happiness. Therefore, with faith and devotion, sincerely make an attempt to earnestly study the wisdom teachings of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji. That is the greatest investment. You could not do a wiser thing than this.
But, you must have earnestness and sincerity; you must not have superficiality and frivolity; you must not have only curiosity in Yoga and spiritual life. There should be deep earnestness to imbibe the knowledge and to start living the life, to plunge into practice. This is the great thing needful.
Sadhana was the keynote of all of worshipful Gurudev’s teachings. Sadhana is the central theme of all his writings. Sadhana was the thing that he wanted you to actively live in your daily life; he wanted you to give it a central place.
How to do Sadhana? In what manner to set about doing it? What are all the helpful practices to further it? To impart this knowledge to you, he carefully wrote “Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions,” which has been translated into all the Indian languages and has spread everywhere throughout the world. He also compiled and produced “Sadhana Tattva,” the science of Seven Cultures, which contains a carefully graded series of thirty-two instructions covering Health Culture, Energy Culture, Ethical Culture, Will Culture, Heart Culture, Psychic Culture and Spiritual Culture. He compiled “Twenty Hints on Meditation,” the Resolve Form, Daily Routine Timetable and the Spiritual Diary. He put the essence of all of them into the Universal Prayer. And almost everything that I have just now mentioned, you will find in the Essence of Yoga, which you cannot purchase because it is not for sale. It is given only to genuine sadhakas who want to commence serious spiritual practice in their daily life.
Therefore, if you wish to know how to lead a life of spiritual sadhana, you could do no better than to obtain this book by becoming a member of the Divine Life Society. Then commence living a practical spiritual life in a systematic way, in a scientific way. That is why Gurudev came and lived. That is why he left behind him a Sivananda Ashram. That is why he left behind him a Divine Life Society—in order that you may do spiritual sadhana, you may move towards God. You must seek the Immortal and become blessed.
Therefore, what is a member of the Divine Life Society? A member is a sadhaka engaged in spiritual practices with an earnest desire, earnest aspiration, to improve one’s life, to spiritualise one’s activities, to live in a Yogic way, so that one’s entire life becomes a process of gradually ascending towards the supreme Goal.
Ponder well this aspect of your personality, and see whether you are well established in this great aspiration, this great ideal of being a sadhaka. Ponder well and see whether you have acquired all the qualifications of a sadhaka, whether day by day you are improving these qualifications and becoming a true mumukshu, a true jijnasu, becoming one established in yama and niyama, one established in viveka, in vairagya, in the shat-sampada, in mumukshutva, becoming one well established in all these important aspects of the preparatory sadhanas. Constantly keep analysing your life. Be so much absorbed in it that you have no time for miscellaneous thinking and activities. This is because you are earnest, you are sincere, you are focused upon your most important vocation, your spiritual sadhana.
It is such an attitude of earnestness, sincerity, seriousness, that pay dividends. Ultimately it will take you to supreme blessedness, crown your life with the glorious attainment of peace, bliss, fearlessness and freedom. That is the purpose, that is the objective of sadhana. Therefore, be a sincere, practical sadhaka. Improve day by day. Move towards perfection.
May Gurudev’s choicest blessing be with you in this great adventure! May the divine grace of God grant you steady, unhampered progress and grant you fulfilment, all success, in your sadhana!