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Practical Hints on the Spiritual Path

1. TRAINING OF STUDENTS THROUGH POST

I have no stereo-typed, printed lessons in Yoga for coaching up students through post. I usually send some of my books suitable to the taste of the students. I give them lessons through correspondence. The lessons are well graded. They write to me about their daily routine, welfare and progress. They maintain the Spiritual Diary and follow my "Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions." I help them with advice and remove their troubles and obstacles. I send my thought-currents of peace. Thousands of students in all countries have made wonderful progress through this personal attention. For the advanced courses they come to the Ashram and stay with me for some weeks or months and receive initiation.

They all like this kind of individual attention. I do not take any fees from any one for the training given in Yoga, and do not demand any money for their maintenance at the Ashram. Invariably all students who come to me pay me liberally or take pleasure in voluntarily contributing their mite to the progress of the institution and helping the Society in its dissemination of knowledge. Through such acts, they obtain Chitta-Suddhi and spiritual progress.

In the following pages are reproduced some of my typical letters to different aspirants, delineating the methods of my training in the path of Yoga, the spiritual perspective. I emphasise to all, the moral and ethical ideals. I exhort others to emulate-in short, showing the way to lead the divine life.

2. WAY TO PEACE

Swarg Ashram,
16th August, 1930.

Revered Brother,

Your kind line. Thank you very much indeed. Get up at 4 in the morning. Have a meditation room under lock and key. Do not allow anybody to enter it. Have a Gayatri picture, the Gita, etc., in the room. Meditate on the Gayatri. Repeat the Gayatri Mantra with meaning. Concentrate on the Trikuti, the space between the two eye-brows, with closed eyes. Sit on Padma-Asana. Try to sit for two hours continuously. Study the Gita regularly. Speak the truth at any cost. Control anger. Serve poor persons, the sick and the saints. Spend some money on charity. That will purify your heart. Don't join worldly persons. Serve, love, respect everybody. Give up Ninda (criticising), back-biting, fault-finding, tale-bearing. Be humble. Be obedient. Speak sweetly. You will enter into Peace. Observe Mauna for one hour daily and three hours on holidays.

Yours fraternally,

Swami Sivananda

3. HAVE STRONG THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

I advise aspirants against emotionalism and impetuosity in taking to the path of renunciation, but counsel diligent cultivation of a strong urge for spiritual life while yet in the world.

Swargashram, Kutir 22,
29th August, 1930.
Om Sat-Chit-Ananda,

You are the Atma. You are immortal. Be fearless. Assert the majesty of your Self. Free yourself from the deceptions of the mind and worldly objects. My Dear Yogi, May God bless you.

I am filled with infinite delight to peruse your line of the 21st instant. You are a man of spiritual Samskaras. Nurture them. Protect them. Increase them.

DO NOT COME TO ME

If you can manage, and if you are quite sure that you will not become a menace to society, if you can control lust, be a Brahmachari till the end of life (Naishthika Brahmachari). You are not rich. How can you manage a family and children? That will bar your spiritual progress.

Mere juvenile enthusiasm will not do. Mere emotions will not do in the spiritual line. It is not a rosy path. It is full of thorns, scorpions and snakes. The path is rugged, precipitous, extremely difficult, but easy for a man of the strong determination: "I must realise-I will give up life even." This kind of strong thirst for Knowledge is needed.

Develop Sattvic virtues gradually-patience to counteract anger, contentment to check greed, service (Seva Bhava) to destroy pride, arrogance. Develop humility, truth-speaking, Titiksha (bearing heat, cold, pain). Love all. Be kind to all. Never become irritated, excited. Keep a diary of spiritual progress. Record everything. Live amidst developed persons. Visit the Ramakrishna Mission and serve the Mahatmas. Serve elders with enthusiasm, love and affection (deep).
Clear your doubts. Wishing you peace and beatitude,

Yours
Sivananda
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM SANTI!

Get a copy of my Yogic & Vedantic Sadhana.
In future send me a reply post card or postal envelope for my reply.

4. Do Not Be Hasty in Leaving the World
c/o. Vizianagaram House,
Camp/Calcutta,
12th December, 1930.
OM SAT-CHIT-ANANDA

Come to Rishikesh for some time. You will enjoy the solitude and the spiritual vibrations undoubtedly. Tell my name. People will accommodate you and serve you. Have Darshan of Sri Swami Advaitanandaji, Sri Swami Tapovanji Maharaj, Sri Swami Purushottamanandaji. They are all in close touch with me,-advanced souls.

Do not be hasty in leaving the world. The world is an arena for developing various Sattvic qualities. The world is the best teacher for those who want to be benefited. Remain for some time longer there. Earn and enjoy. Vairagya comes out of Bhoga. Then it will be strong, steady and intense. DO NOT MARRY. That is a different point. The world is not a hell. It is all Ananda when ego and Raga-dvesha die away. Change the mental attitude. Come and see all these places and Mahatmas. You will have inspiration.

Lead a divine life when you are there. The spiritual path is not all rosy. It is full of thorns. Qualify yourself. Attain purity and spiritual strength through Japa and meditation. Cheer yourself.

Wishing you Kaivalya Moksha,
Swami Sivananda
Hari Om Tat Sat
Tat Tvam Asi

5. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP

The preceding two letters, addressed to one of my disciples, would show how I caution aspirants against any hasty decision. But when I find that one is endowed with strong Vairagya and unshakable determination, I am at once filled with joy and delight. On those days, when I lived alone and had no Ashram of my own, I was very reluctant to have any disciple by my side. I did not want anybody to come and stay with me. Hence, in the case of the above-mentioned aspirant, when I found that he had strong aspiration and unwavering will, I felt that it would be better for him to stay in an active Ashram, so that he might improve there rapidly. Thus I preferred forgoing my own interest by not availing myself of the services of aspirants, and always looked to their own welfare and the progress of other religious institutions.

Beloved Self,

Your devotion towards God and religion will doubtless elevate you from Samsara. May God bestow on you spiritual strength and power to attain the Goal of life-God-realisation.

Kindly join Sri Aurobindo Ashram or the Ramakrishna Mission. There you will improve a lot. I promise you. I assure you. Stick to the Ashram for some years. You may come here for visiting and not for permanent stay. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP. Think. Consider well. The world is the best teacher. You have to learn a lot. Do not be hasty and run away to the Himalayan caves. Youthful buoyancy, juvenile enthusiasm, may not help you much. This line is an arduous, hazardous path. You may not know how to spend your time usefully here.

I am only a common Sadhu. I may not be able to help you much. Further, I do not make disciples. I can be your sincere friend till the end of my life. I don't like to keep persons by my side for a long time. I give lessons for couple of months and ask them to meditate in some solitary centres in Kashmir or Uttarakashi.

I reiterate: Join a good Ashram where you will have spiritual gain. Stick to the centre. Bear difficulties. The end is immortality, infinite Ananda.

Thy Own Self,
Swami Sivananda

Cheer yourself. Be free, courageous, fearless. You are Nectar's son. Hari OM Tat Sat. Develop patience. Speak the truth. Control anger. Develop Titiksha. Serve. Love. Give. Forgive others. Speak a little. Speak sweetly.

6. SNIPPETS FOR EVOLUTION

Here are some valuable instructions in tablet form-succinct to the point and sorted out for immediate application.

Swargashram
3rd October, 1930.

(a) Fear not.
(b) Grieve not.
You are Sat-Chit-Ananda Rupa, Amrita Atma. You are not this Jada body.

May God bless you.

Kindly go through my book: "Mind, Its Mysteries and Control." The lessons will be of much practical use for progress in meditation. Save as much money as possible. In these days money is needed even by Sannyasin, as there is lack of support from householders. Have these two important pleasure-centres: STUDY and MEDITATION. Cut off all external pleasure-centres.

1. Search. Understand. Realise.
2. Analyse (objects). Realise (their true nature) and abandon.
3. Know Thyself and be free.
4. Always be Self-centred.
5. Pray and be virtuous.
6. Aspire and draw.
7. Negate (body) and Assert (Brahman)
8. Tat Tvam Asi-never forget this.

SIVANANDA

7. UNFOLD THE LATENT DIVINE

True to my advice, the aspirant joined the Ramakrishna Mission, and yet continued to be in touch with me. I did not deny him my constant care and instructions for evolution, as I consider all Ashrams my own and do not recognise any exclusive monopoly over any aspirant who approaches me for guidance:

Swargashram,
Rishikesh.
Revered Brother,
Om Namo Narayanaya. May God bless you.

I have returned from a long Kailas trip. I am glad to hear that you have joined the Ramakrishna Mission. My heartfelt congratulations. Stick to the Ashram with leech-like tenacity. The Ashram is your own. Feel this. You are bound to progress. You are the Sun of suns. You are hope of the world. You have taken a responsible gown. Unfold the Divinity. May holiness, splendour, glory attend on thee.

You have cut asunder all the earthly ties. Now you can proceed unhampered in your way. Stick to the Mission and serve all your elders with respect and sincerity and disinterestedness. Speak the truth at any cost. Speaking the truth cannot harm anybody. It will give you spiritual power. Truth can be achieved only by speaking the truth. Control anger by developing patience, Kshama, cosmic love, service and Daya. You must cultivate humility, magnanimity (Audarya) and courage.

Six hours of study and six hours of meditation should go on uninterruptedly. That is my method. Forget the past. Live in the solid present. Give up all kinds of fancied expectations. Even if people persecute you, hate you, mock at you, keep quiet. Don't revenge. Study the 'Sermon on the Mount' daily before you proceed to work. I shall quote one passage. If you remember this once daily you will have wisdom. Practise this unceasingly:

'Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you and pray for those who despise and persecute you.' -St. Matthew.

The practice is difficult but must be done and can be done. This is being practised by Mahatma Gandhi. This is the secret of his success.

With regards and Prem,
Your humble brother
SWAMI SIVANANDA

8. REGENERATION OF THE LOWER NATURE

In spite of my reluctance and initial objection when the aspirant subsequently came to me and made a strong impression about his spirit of renunciation and adamantine will-power. I willingly initiated him into the Order of Sannyasa, and he immediately plunged himself into the arena of the divine work, which was then in its initial stages and which was soon to assume gigantic proportions and astound the world with a tremendous whirlwind of spiritual revival and divine inspiration among millions of aspirants all over the world. Yet, I never forget the object of life and the purpose with which one renounces the world, and, therefore, repeatedly exhorted him to pay attention to practical Sadhana and self-discipline:

SIVOHAM SIVAH KEVALOHAM. May God bless you.

I have great hopes in you. You are a glory to India and the world at large. May the Divine Light, Divine Splendour and Glory shine in you for ever. Live in Truth. Feel Truth. Realise Truth. Disseminate Truth. Regulate your energy. Conserve it. Utilise it when needed. Meditate well. Live in a closed room. Don't mix much. Do not multiply friends. One real and sincere friend is quite sufficient. Don't beg with the begging spirit. Command and get whatever you need. The whole world is your home. Prakriti and nine Riddhis are ready to serve you with folded hands. Control Indriyas. AWAY FROM LADIES. Be fiery. Don't become a lazy Zenana Vedantin or a moustache-lady Sannyasin. There must be fire in every cell, in every word. I know you will do wonders within a short time. Read the Upanishads and the Gita. Master them well. You are a zero in that direction.

You should have regular, systematic study, meditation and Japa. Don't think: 'I will study in Uttarakashi when I am alone without work.' That is wrong. That is foolishness. You must have the daily habit. That 'tomorrow' will never come. Make hay while the sun shines. Winnow the corn when the wind blows. Concentrate. Meditate. Live alone for some hours. Be polite. Never be arrogant. Have tolerance and patience. Manifest these virtues while talking. Watch every thought: There is no play. You have taken a responsible garb. Do you feel this? Away from ladies. No joking and laughing with them. These are all manifestations of lust only.

Don't beg. Don't ask with the begging spirit. Command. Everything will come. The whole world is your own home. Feel this. Feel this. Show me a report of your systematic Sadhana. Method and discipline must be there in your daily routine. Scrutinise your motives. Destroy selfish motives. Crush all sorts of meanness. Become noble in every inch of your action. Don't fight for petty trifles. Give up back-biting, tale-bearing. Regeneration of the Asuric nature is imperative.

OM
SIVOHAM

9. THE BANE OF SENSUAL LIFE

I once again emphasise the importance of Sadhana and the necessity of shielding oneself from the baneful effects of a sensual life:

Don't look at the filth again. Don't ruin yourself. You have sufficiently enjoyed a life of joy and bliss in the spiritual path. What to speak of further glories if you blossom fully through Yoga. Beware. Beware. Don't become a slave to your senses. Don't come out of your room. Stop all activities. Hide yourself in a room or come back to Ananda Kutir at once. Introspect and meditate.

If you cannot resist Moha, it is better you leave the city at once. Proofs will take care of themselves. I do not care for work at all. If you are strong enough, you may stay there for some time more and finish the work. Anyhow make arrangements for coming to Rishikesh soon.

Without ideal life, resting in the indwelling, interpenetrating Presence, sensual life becomes a burden. It is tantamount to brutal life. The world is a dream. The Essence is the solid Reality. Never forget this. You are the Atma, Akarta, Sakshi.

10. SADHANA SHOULD BE A DAILY HABIT

The following are some of the important hints on the path of Yoga which are culled from my different letters to aspirants, and which will be found very useful to one and all for a correct knowledge of some of the practical aspects of the spiritual path.

You should have regular, systematic meditation, Japa, study and service. Don't think: "I will study and meditate when I finish all my responsibilities, when I am alone in the Himalayan Caves." Live alone for some hours and study the mind. Prepare now slowly for the life in seclusion.

11. NISHKAMA SEVA

This does not require big funds. If you are fit to serve humanity, the Lord will arrange everything for you. Get some useful medicines and distribute to the sick persons or nurse them nicely. Do not expect anything from anybody for the service you do. Give education to the poor boys in your village. Maintain yourself by getting alms from 4 or 5 houses. Live in seclusion. Do Sadhana. Destroy Manorajya, building castles in the air. It is an enemy of peace. Do service according to your ability, capacity and means, as much as you can, with the right mental attitude and spirit.

12. TROUBLES THROUGH PRANAYAMA

I have received similar reports of troubles from many students who try to awaken the Kundalini Power by forcible methods of Pranayama and Kriya Yoga. I pity them for their over enthusiasm and incomplete knowledge. Reduction or giving up of food may not help you at all. The field must nicely be prepared by regular daily practice. In the advanced stages you must have the personal guidance and supervision of the elder's who have attained mastery and perfection in the path of Yoga. Purity of heart, congenial company, correct understanding of the scriptures, favourable atmosphere and environments charged with spiritual vibrations play a vital part in your quick success. Do not be hasty or impatient. One-sided development will not help you. Do not spoil your health by too much fasting. That will weaken your system. Take plenty of energy-giving, easily digestible, nutritious food, and fruits and milk. For some months, breathe in and out very, very slowly. Do not retain the breath (Kumbhaka). When you advance a bit, move to a cool place during summer and have three sittings in Pranayama. Follow the proportion 1:4:2 for inhalation, retention and exhalation. The benefits are incalculable. It is a harmless exercise for advanced students.

13. OVERCOME DEPRESSION AND GLOOM

Run in the open air. Do mild Pranayama. Chant OM. Sing with devotion. Dance in ecstasy. Depression will vanish soon. You are Ananda Svarupa-where is gloom and depression? They are mental creations only. Remain silent. You can gain more by silence. Soak a few Badams (almonds) overnight in water. Take them in the early morning with sugar-candy. It is very efficacious as a brain-tonic for Sadhakas. Apply Amalaka oil on the head. Take Huxley's Syrup also.

14. WHEN YOU ARE AGITATED

Do not leave Japa and Sadhana even for a day. Adjust and adapt. Bear insult and injury. Learn to forget trifles. Tactfully move with people. Train everyone in Bhajan and Kirtan. Create spiritual vibrations wherever you go. Then you will find peace, joy, happiness and prosperity. There will be joy in all faces. This is the way for harmony. When you are agitated and irritated, take to Japa or leave the place for some time. Love all and serve all.

15. AVOID EXTREMES IN YOGA

In Yoga exercises, do as much as you comfortably can. Avoid extremes. Do not tax yourself. People in foreign countries find it difficult to do Padmasana (folding the legs in lotus pose) and Sirshasana (head-stand pose). For prayers and meditation, you can have any comfortable position. You must select a fine pose in which you can sit for a long time comfortably. The only condition is that your neck and back should be erect. Close your eyes, breathe in and out very slowly and mentally repeat the Mantra OM OM OM and think of the divine qualities of the Lord. Now you will enter into silent meditation. You will enjoy great peace and acquire inner spiritual strength.

16. WHAT IS ACTUAL YOGA

Yoga does not consist in sitting cross-legged for six hours or stopping the beatings of the heart or getting oneself buried underneath the ground for a week or a month. These are all physical feats only. Yoga is the science that teaches you the method of uniting the individual will with the Cosmic Will. Yoga transmutes the unregenerate nature and increases energy, vitality, vigour, and bestows longevity and a high standard of health. Try to increase the power of concentration. Japa will help you to have a one-pointed mind.


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