1. Ambition and Desire
Whenever desires trouble you, try to attain Vairagya by looking into the defects of sensual life. Cultivate dispassion or indifference to sensual pleasures. Think that enjoyment produces pain and various troubles and everything is perishable. Withdraw the mind again and again from the objects and fix it on the Immortal Self or the picture of the Lord. When the mind attains a state of equanimity, when it is freed from distraction and Laya, do not disturb it.
Ambitious objects, desires and various disturbing thoughts are other obstacles. Destroy desires by Vichara, control of In-driyas, Vairagya, Viveka and Brahmacharya. Do not plan. Do not imagine. Do not try to fulfil them. Be indifferent. Annihilate emotion. Do not be attached to desires. Desires are powerless in the absence of emotions and attachment. They dwindle and die. Find out the causes of disturbing thoughts and remove them one by one. Watch the mind carefully. Dwell in solitude. Do not mix. Have patience, Utsaha and courage. If you find great interest and happiness in meditation, if you are progressing, stop study also for some time. Study also is a Vishaya. God is not in books. He can be reached only by constant meditation. Erudition is to gain applause in society. Avoid pedantry. Sometimes the mind feels tired. Then take complete rest. Do not strain the mind. Go in for evening stroll along the seaside, along the banks of Ganga or any other delightful spot. Chant OM. Feel OM. Hum Om. Reduce the period of meditation for a couple of days. Use your strong common-sense and hear the voice from within often. Observe the moods of the mind. The two currents, Harsha and Soka, are moving in the mind. When you are depressed, go in for a good walk. Close the books. Think of sublime thoughts. Feel you are all joy. Remember that these are all Dharmas of the Upadhi and they do not belong to the thing itself-ATMAN. They will pass away quickly.
Power, name, fame and wealth stiffen the ego. They strengthen the personality. Hence renounce them if you want to attain Immortality and Eternal Peace.
2. Moral and Spiritual Pride
As soon as aspirant gets some spiritual experiences or Siddhis, he is puffed up with vanity and pride. He thinks too much of himself. He separates himself from others. He treats others with contempt. He cannot mix with others. If any one has some moral qualifications such as spirit of service or self-sacrifice, or Brahmacharya, he will say: "I am an Akhanda-Brahmachari for the last twelve years. Who is pure like myself? I lived on leaves and gram for four years. I have done service in the Ashram for ten years. No one can serve like myself." Just as worldly people are puffed up with the pride of wealth, so also Sadhus and aspirants are puffed up with their moral qualifications. This kind of pride is also a serious obstacle in the path of God-realisation. It must be eradicated thoroughly. As long as a man boasts of himself, so long he is in the same little Jiva only. He cannot have Divinity.
3. Religious Hypocrisy (Dambha)
There are as many fashions in Sadhus as there are in worldly persons. Just as hypocrisy prevails in the worldly persons, so also hypocrisy manifests in aspirants, Sadhus and San-nyasins who have not completely purified the lower nature. They pretend to be what they are not in reality. They pose as big Mahatmas and Siddha-Purushas when they do not know even the alphabet of Yoga or spirituality. They put on serious Sunday-faces which some Christian Missionaries sometimes assume on Sabbath days. This is a dangerous Vritti. They cheat others. They boast and brag too much of themselves. They do mischief wherever they go. They practise hypocrisy to get respect, honour, good food and clothing and to cheat credulous simpletons. There is no greater crime than trading in religion. This is a capital sin. Householders can be excused. But we cannot excuse the aspirants and Sadhus who are treading the path of spirituality and who have renounced everything for God-realisation. Religious hypocrisy is more dangerous than the hypocrisy of worldly persons. A long drastic course of treatment is needed for its eradication. A religious hypocrite is very far away from God. He cannot dream of God-realisation. Thick Tilakas, elaborate painting of the forehead, wearing of too many Tulasi and Rudraksha Malas on neck, arms, forearms and ears are some of the external signs of religious hypocrisy.
4. Name and Fame (Kirti and Pratishtha)
One can renounce even wife, son, property, but it is difficult to renounce name and fame. Pratishtha is established name and fame. This is a great obstacle in the path of God-realisation. This brings downfall in the end. This does not allow the aspirant to march forward in the spiritual path. He becomes a slave of respect and honour. As soon as the aspirant gets some purity and ethical progress, ignorant people flock to him and pay homage and salutations. The aspirant gets puffed up with pride. He thinks he is a great Mahatma now. He becomes eventually a slave of his admirers. He cannot notice his slow downfall. The moment he mixes up freely with householders, he loses what little he had gained during eight or ten years. He cannot influence the public now. The admirers also leave him because they do not find any solace or influence in his company.
The people imagine that the Mahatma has got Siddhis and they can get wealth and children through his grace, and roots for removal of diseases. They always approach a Sadhu with various motives. The aspirant through bad association loses his Vairagya and Viveka. Attachment and desires crop up now in his mind. Therefore an aspirant should hide himself always. Nobody should know what sort of Sadhana he is doing. He should never attempt to exhibit any Siddhi. He should be very humble. He should pass for quite an ordinary man. He should not accept any rich present from householders. He will be affected by the bad thoughts of those who offer presents. He should never think that he is superior to anybody. He should always treat others with respect. He should not treat others with contempt. Then only respect will come by itself. He should treat respect, honour, name and fame as dung or poison. He should wear disrespect and dishonour as a golden necklace. Then only he will reach the goal safely.
Building Ashrams and making disciples bring about the downfall of the aspirant. They are also stumbling-blocks in the path of God-realisation. The aspirant becomes another sort of householder. He develops institutional egoism. He gets attached to the Ashram and disciples. He gets Mamata (mine-ness) for the building and Chelas. He has the same cares, worries and anxieties for running the Ashram and magazine and feeding his disciples. He develops slave mentality and weak will. Thoughts of the Ashram revolve in his mind when he is in a dying condition. Some Ashram is nicely conducted by the 'spiritual head,' of the institution while he is alive. When he passes away, the disciples who are petty-minded fight amongst themselves. Cases in the courts are going on. The Ashram becomes a fighting centre afterwards. Ashram-owners have to flatter the donors and have to appeal for funds very often. How can thoughts of God remain in his mind when one has his mind fixed on collection of money and developing the Ashram? Those who have started the Ashram may say now: "We are doing good to the people in various ways. We are having religious classes daily. We feed poor people in various ways. We are training religious students."
It is quite true that an Ashram that is run by a selfless dynamic Yogi and a realised Jivanmukta is a dynamic centre of spirituality. It is spiritual nucleus for the spiritual uplift of thousands of people. Such centres are needed in all parts of the world. Such Ashrams can do immense spiritual good to the country. But such ideal Ashrams with ideal spiritual heads to run the institution are very, very rare nowadays.
The founders of the Ashram in course of time become unconsciously slaves of worship and Puja. Maya works in various ways. They are quite eager that people should drink their Charanamrita. How can a man who has the Bhava that he should be worshipped as Avatara serve the public? Workers are petty-minded. The fight amongst themselves for trifling matters and disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the Ashram. Where is peace in the Ashram then? How can outsiders who visit the Ashram for getting Santi enjoy peace there?
The founders of the Ashram should live on daily Bhiksha from outside. They should lead an ideal life of absolute self-sacrifice, a life of ideal simplicity, like the late Kalikamliwala of Rishikesh who carried water-pot on his head for the Ashram and who lived on Bhiksha from outside. Then only they can do real good to the people. Founders of the Ashram should never appeal for funds to the public. It brings great discredit to those who tread the path of God-realisation. It is another way of respectable begging. The habit of begging destroys the subtle, sensitive nature of the intellect and those who appeal for funds frequently do not know what they are exactly doing, just as the lawyers and those who visit the houses of ill-fame have lost the discriminative faculty of finding out the truth from untruth, purity from impurity. Intelligent people use intelligent methods for collecting money. Nowadays there are intelligent thieves who knock away the money in tram-cars by giving morphine injection. The following one is an intelligent way of modern begging. An intelligent young educated boy boards the train with a dozen printed cards in his hands and distributes them to the passengers. There it is written: "I am the grandson of the Dewan of Mysore. My father died all of a sudden. My mother is aged 85. One brother is dumb. Another is blind. Kindly help me with some money." This is begging on modern lines. He never stretches a plate or bowl for begging nor talks anything. But he distributes printed cards. He appears with neat open coat, collar, tie, shirt, pants and Ell-wood hat. He collects some money, gets back the cards, quietly walks down and then enters another compartment. Begging kills Atma-Balam. It produces wrong impression on the minds of the public. Where is freedom if one begs? People have lost faith in the founders of the Ashram. If anything comes by itself without asking, it can be accepted. Then you can do some work independently. Householders who conduct Ashrams can appeal for funds.
It is very difficult to get good workers for the Ashram. Then why do you bother about building Ashrams when you have neither money, nor workers nor dynamic, spiritual force? Keep quiet. Do meditation. Evolve yourself. Mind your own business. Reform yourself first. How can you help others when you yourself grope in darkness, when you are blind? How can a blind man lead another blind man? Both will fall in the deep abyss and break their legs.
Lastly, I have to point out that though we have not got at present the first-class type of Ashrams, yet there are good Ashrams of the second-class type that are run by noble, Sattvic souls, who do great service to the country in a variety of ways, bring out valuable philosophical books and train students in the practice of meditation and Yoga. They render selfless service. Their works are to be greatly congratulated indeed. It is the duty of rich people to render them spontaneously financial and all sorts of help. May God bestow on them inner spiritual strength to disseminate their message of love, service and peace! My silent homage and salutations to these rare, exalted and selfless souls!
5. Elementals (Bhuta-Ganas)
Sometimes, these elementals appear during meditation. They are strange figures, some long teeth, some with big faces, some with big bellies, some with faces on the belly and some with faces on the head. They are inhabitants of the Bhuta Loka. They are the attendants of Lord Siva. They have terrifying forms. They do not cause any harm at all. They simply appear on the stage. They come to test your strength and courage. They can do nothing. They cannot stand before a pure, ethical aspirant. Repetition of OM will throw them at a distance. You must be fearless. A coward is absolutely unfit for the spiritual line. Develop courage by constantly feeling you are Atman. Deny and negate the body-idea. Practise Nidid-hyasana always.
Visions and experiences come and go. They are not in themselves the culminating point in the Sadhana. He who attaches much importance to these small visions does not march swiftly on the path. Therefore abandon the idea of these experiences. The final experience, intuitional and direct, of the Supreme alone is the true one.
Rise above the visions. The vision that you see in meditation is a hindrance in the path to Samadhi or God-realisation. When you see them, the mind will be fixed on these visions throughout the day instead of on God. Avoid these visions and the thought of them. Be indifferent. Substitute the thought of the Lord.
There are nine Riddhis and eight major Siddhis and eighteen minor Siddhis. The eight Siddhis are Anima (atomic size), Mahima (colossal size), Garima (excessive bulk), Laghima (extreme lightness), Prapti (attainment of whatever you desire), Prakamya (unhampered will), Isitva (Lordliness) and Vasistva (control over everything). Riddhi means affluence. It is inferior to Siddhi.
Do not think too much of psychic Siddhis. Clairvoyance and clairaudience are not worth having when far greater illumination and peace are possible without the Siddhis than with them.
Desire for powers will act like puffs of air which may blow out the lamp of Yoga that is being carefully tended. Any slackness in feeling it due to carefulness or selfish desires for Siddhis will blow out the little spiritual light that the Yogi has kindled after so much struggle and will hurl the student down into the deep abyss of ignorance. He cannot rise up again to the original height which he ascended in the hill of Yoga. Temptations are simply waiting to overwhelm the unwary student. Temptations of the astral, mental and Gandharva worlds are more powerful than the earthly temptations.
Various psychic Siddhis and other powers come to the Yogi who has controlled his senses, Prana and mind. They are stumbling-blocks. They allure the Yogic students. Sadhakas should be very careful. They should shun them ruthlessly as mere trifles or worthless things.
If you practise regular meditation and concentration, you are bound to get some psychic powers. You should not use these powers for base and selfish purposes, for gaining some material end or other. You will then face a downfall. You will be punished by Mother Nature. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Every wrong action is bound to cause reaction. I again and again seriously warn you. Beware! Power, women, money and erudition act as powerful intoxicants. The possessor does not know what he is exactly doing. His intellect becomes turbid. His understanding gets clouded. You will not be tempted by these powers if you are established in the practice of Yama or Self-restraint.
There is no such thing as miracle or Siddhi. An ordinary man is quite ignorant of higher spiritual things. He is sunk in oblivion. He is shut up from higher transcendental knowledge. So he calls some extraordinary occurrences or events as miracles. To a Yogi who understands things in the light of Yoga, miracle is nothing. Just as a man of the village is astonished when he sees an aeroplane or a talkie picture for the first time, so also a man of the world is stunned when he witnesses an 'extraordinary' spectacle for the first time.
Kashaya is the subtle influence in the mind produced by enjoyment and left there to fructify in time to come and distract the mind from Samadhi. This is a serious obstacle in . meditation. It does not allow the Sadhaka to enter into Samadhi Nishtha. It induces the subtle memory of pleasures enjoyed. It is hidden Vasana. From the Samskaras, Vasanas originate. Samskara is the cause and Vasana is the effect. It is a king of Mala (impurity of mind).
Kashaya means colouring. Raga, Dvesha and Moha are the Kashaya or colouring of the mind. Constant Vichara coupled with Brahma-Bhavana is the only potent remedy to eradicate this dire malady, Kashaya.
Wake up the mind in Laya. Even though you have conquered Laya and distraction by repeated practice by Vairagya and Jnanabhyasa or Brahma-Chintana, yet the mind will not enter a state of perfect balance or serenity. It will be in an intermediate stage. The mind is still not freed from Raga or attachment which is the seed of all its activity in the direction of external objects. There is still lurking passion or hidden Vasanas or Kashaya. You will have to restrain the mind again and again by Vichara and do rigorous meditation and practise Samprajnata or Savikalpa Samadhi. Finally, you must rest yourself in Asamprajnata or Seedless Samadhi (Nirbija Samadhi).
Rasasvada is another kind of experience. It is bliss that comes from lower Savikalpa Samadhi. The Sadhaka who has experienced this supersensual bliss imagines that he has reached the final destination and gives up his Sadhana. Just as a man digs the earth very deep to find out the most precious treasure and gems, just as a man is not satisfied with petty things he has found out just beneath the surface of the ground, so also the Sadhaka should continue his Sadhana till he gets the unconditioned Bhuma, or highest goal of life. He should never be satisfied with Alpam or lower experiences. He should compare his experiences with the highest experiences of sages that are described in the Upanishads and find out whether they exactly tally with them or not. He should exert till he reaches the Jnana Bhumika, till he becomes a Brahma-Varishtha. He should struggle till he gets the inner feeling of Apta-Kama, Krita-Kritya, and Prapta-Prapya. "I have obtained all desires. I have done everything. I know everything. There is nothing more to be known. There is nothing more to be obtained."
This obstacle (Rasasvada) prevents the Sadhaka from enjoying the highest Nirvikalpa Bliss. Vichara, discrimination, prayer, Pranayama, further earnestness and struggle in meditation will remove the above obstacle.
11. Tushnimbhuta Avastha
Sometimes the mind remains quiet for a short time. You will find neither Raga nor Dvesha in the mind. This silent state of the mind is called Tushnim Avastha. It occurs in the Jagrat state. The aspirant mistakes this for Samadhi. This is a neutral state of the mind. This is an obstacle in the path of God-realisation. He should overcome this state of mind by careful introspection and vigorous meditation. A Sadhaka through experience and acute acumen can find out exactly the nature of the various states of the mind. He should adopt effective methods to control those states. Mere study of books will not help him much. Experience and practice will do him much real good.
12. Stabdha Avastha
Stabdha Avastha is another kind of mental state. It is stupefaction arising from fear or wonder. It is akin to Tushnim Avastha. This is also another obstacle in the path. When you experience some astounding news the mind gets stunned for some time. This is Stabdha Avastha. Tushnim and Stabdha Avasthas are Jada states. There is no perfect awareness. The mind remains like a log of wood in a state of inertia. It becomes unfit for active meditation. When these states prevail, there is heaviness of body. The mind is dull. There is lack of cheerfulness. The mind also becomes dull for the time being. The student can find out these states by these symptoms. An intelligent Sadhaka who practises meditation daily can easily find out the different states into which the mind passes. A beginner finds meditation dry in the beginning. But an advanced student who has an intelligent and comprehensive understanding of the nature of the mind and its operations and the laws of the mental plane will find meditation very interesting. The more he meditates, the more he gains control of the mind. He can understand the nature of the Vrittis and the different mental states. He can control them. He will actually feel that he is gaining inner spiritual strength and that he cannot be easily swayed by the mind now.
When you practise Samadhi, many obstacles, such as sleep, laziness, break of continuity, confusion, temptation, infatuation, desire for worldly pleasure and feeling of blankness will assail you. You must be on the alert. You must be vigilant and circumspective. You will have to get over these impediments step by step through patient dauntless efforts. You will have to cross the void also. What appears to you as a void when all the Vrittis have perished is not really a void. This is Avyaktam. Cross this void also. It will try to overpower you. You are left alone now. You have nothing to see and nothing to hear. There is none to cheer you. You will have to depend on yourself. Presence of mind is needed at this critical juncture.
Draw courage and strength from within. Sage Uddalaka also encountered much difficulty in crossing this void.
O My Dear Aspirants! I send you the thought-currents of Peace from the peaceful atmosphere of the sacred Himalayas, the abode of Rishis.
God is Santi Svarupa (Embodiment of Peace). Srutis emphatically declare: "Ayam Atma Santah-This Atman (Self) is Silence." Desire is the greatest enemy of Peace. Desire causes distraction of various sorts. There is no Peace for him who has no concentration. There can be no happiness for the unpeace-ful. In the Supreme Peace all pains, sorrows, miseries and tribulations vanish for ever.
Dear brothers! Children of Immortality! Plod on. Push on. Do not look backward. Forget the past. Forget the body and world. But forget not the centre. Forget not the source. A glorious brilliant future is awaiting you. Purify. Serve. Love. Give. Live in Om. Feel always and everywhere the Indwelling, All-pervading Presence. Realise the Self. Rest in the magnanimous Ocean of Peace, in the stupendous Sea of Stillness. Drink the nectar of Immortality. May the Indwelling Presence be your Centre, Ideal and Goal. May joy, Bliss, Immortality, Peace, Glory and Splendour abide with you for ever.
Nectar's Sons! I have placed before you in detail all obstacles that stand in the way of God-realisation and have suggested various effective methods to remove these obstacles. Stand up now like an undaunted spiritual soldier in the Ad-hyatmic battlefield. Become a spiritual hero of great intrepidity and unique chivalry. Get over the obstacles fearlessly one by one and manifest divine glory, splendour, purity and sanctity. Wait patiently with a calm and serene mind for results. Do not be hasty, rash and impetuous. Allow proper time for regeneration and renovation Nil desperandum-Never despair. Wear the Vairagya-coat of arms. Wield the shield of Viveka. Hold the banner of faith. March boldly and cheerfully with the band of BHUM BHUM BHUM; OM OM OM; RAM RAM RAM; SHYAM SHYAM SHYAM. Stop not till you drink the elixir of immortality to heart's content. Stop not, dear Sadhakas, till you enter the immortal realms of eternal sunshine, undecaying beauty, unfading ecstasy, supreme bliss, infinite joy, unalloyed felicity and unbroken peace. This is your final destination. You can take eternal rest now. This is your goal. This is your highest aim and purpose of life. Rest now in everlasting peace, friends! Goodbye unto you all. Clear yourselves. Share this rare panacea with your brothers. Elevate them. This noble and stupendous selfless work is awaiting you now in the grand plan. Fulfil the Divine Will and become a Buddha of undying fame. Salutations unto you all!
When a bee finds that its feet are stuck in the honey, it slowly licks its feet several times and then flies away with joy. Even so, extricate yourself from the mind's sticking and clinging to this body and children owing to Raga and Moha (attachment and attraction) through Vairagya (dispassion) and meditation. Fly away with joy from this cage of flesh and bone to the source, Brahman or Absolute!
No more words. Enough of discussions and heated debates. Retire into solitary room. Close your eyes. Have deep silent meditation. Feel His presence. Repeat His name OM with fervour, joy and love. Fill your heart with Prema (love). Destroy the Sankalpas, thoughts, whims, fancies and desires when they arise from the surface of the mind. Withdraw the wandering mind and fix it upon the Lord. Now, Nishtha, meditation will become deep and intense. Do not open your eyes. Do not stir from your seat. Merge in Him. Dive deep into the innermost recesses of the heart. Plunge into the shining Atman (Soul) within. Drink the nectar of Immortality. Enjoy the silence now. I shall leave you there alone. Nectar's sons, Rejoice! Peace, Peace! Silence! Glory, Glory!