Aids to Spiritual Life
me now refer to what the great Swami Vivekananda said on one
occasion on the role that is played by imagination in one's
spiritual endeavour. 'Imagine yourself to be in a condition
which approximates more and more to the perfect; you would
thus approach perfection. You would again gain greater harmony
and your spiritual radiance would grow. Your dynamism would
may be that the goal has not been reached right now, but that
does not debar us from imagining that we are already perfect.
Here a criticism may well be made, 'Why do you speak of imagination
or autosuggestion? How can one come nearer to the Goal Supreme
through imagination or auto-suggestion?' What Swami Vivekananda
said is, 'Imagine yourself to be in a condition which approximates
more and more to perfection.' This imagination, this auto-suggestion,
is based upon a solid philosophy. And this philosophy teaches
that the ultimate Truth behind the universe is unity, oneness
of existence. Everywhere we see multiplicity. Now with the
help of auto-suggestion, we are asked to see unity behind
the veil of multiplicity. So that kind of auto-suggestion,
which has as its basis a solid philosophy to guide us, will
be always beneficial and should be welcomed.
have a journey to undertake. Slowly we are approaching the
Goal Supreme. All will agree that it is a fact that whilst
making our pilgrimage, sometime we find it a hard struggle.
At this point, let us see what the Hindu psychologists have
to say. Very rightly, our great, ancient Rishis, who were
also psychologists of great excellence, pointed out that error
intervenes when our Buddhi descends to a lower level. The
psychic or the Antahkarana, therefore, needs absolute purification.
The psychic or Antahkarana in most of us, is not pure. It
is surcharged with impurities of both Rajas and Tamas and
we have to take pains to purify this Antahkarana. Here also,
auto-suggestion helps. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that we
have to take the help of one thorn to remove another thorn
that has stuck in the foot. Now, when with the help of one
thorn we are able to remove another thorn, then both the thorns
can be got rid of. With the help of auto-suggestion we can
generate in us thoughts sublime and elevating. With the help
of such ennobling thoughts, we are to rise above the region
of thoughts, and ultimately we shall have direct experience.
It is said that today's imagination is tomorrow's realisation.
As we think, so we become. So if we think noble thoughts,
if we think we are already perfect, this will help us to proceed
towards the Goal Supreme.
let us see what is the role that is played by meditation.
We are supposed to meditate. Those of us who have already
learnt the spiritual path from competent spiritual masters
know that at the time of initiation, the Guru, out of his
compassion and graciousness, gives us a Siddha Bija Mantra.
Says he, 'This is your Ishtam. If you meditate on your Ishtam,
in course of time you will reach perfection.' With the help
of meditation, we can create in us new life. But when we are
asked to meditate on our Chosen Ideal, we should also remember
that we are never asked to meditate on the physical form of
our Ishta Devata. If we are asked to meditate on Sri Ramakrishna
or Sri Krishna, Sri Rama or any other Ishta Devata, we shall
do well not to meditate just on the physical aspect. We are
to meditate upon His radiant form. We should remember this
and also must practise to remain at the feet of our Chosen
Ideal, our Ishta Devata, in the course of the day. We ought
to habituate our mind to remain settled at the feet of our
beloved Ishtam. Sometimes, people make mistakes. Suppose they
take one Ishtam and they accept one Guru, and then they go
on changing the Guru and the Ishta Devata. This is quite improper.
We ought to concentrate our mind on the same Deity and must
be unflinching in our adherence to our chosen Devata. We may
try to meditate on our Ishta Devata, but we may fail. The
mind, being restless, wanders in different directions. The
mind plays tricks. This mind is wild and it is very difficult
to control. Now this writer is reminded of what one of the
most revered Swamis of our Order told a close attendant of
his about the Sadhana he was himself practising. He said to
the attendant: 'I practise Anasakti, non-attachment; I would
meditate on a particular Bhashya on the Bhagavad Gita which
emphasises non-attachment. I look upon Sri Ramakrishna and
Sarada Devi, the Divine Consort of Sri Ramakrishna, as embodiments
of Anasakti or non-attachment, which was preached on the battle
field of Kurukshetra by Sri Krishna. Then I do Japa Sadhana.
Further, I also spend some time on Leela Chintana. I spend
a few minutes recalling the Leela at the holy spot of Kamarpukur,
where Sri Ramakrishna was born, how he came to Dakshineshwar
and then to Cossipore. This was of great help in my spiritual
when we do Japa and meditation, we find our mind wandering
away from the object of our meditation. At such times one
can try Leela Chintana or going on the wings of imagination
to the places associated with the Divine Leela of an incarnation
of God who forms the object of our meditation. That may be
found very helpful. Meditation is really difficult and we
should realise the distinction between quality and quantity
in meditation. A devotee comes and sits in the temple for
half an hour and says, 'Oh, I meditated for half an hour.'
It is not possible to keep the mind fixed at a stretch for
half an hour on one's Ishtam. If one can be successful in
fixing the mind at the feet of one's Ishta Devata for one
or two minutes, even that is sufficient. So, meditation being
difficult, Leela Chintana helps. And another thing. When we
sit for meditation sometime we make some pious resolutions.
But in the course of our activities we relapse into our normal
scheme of life. We forget all about our pious resolutions.
What is the remedy? When some of his disciples wanted to unburden
their minds to him, Sri Ramakrishna would say, 'Under all
circumstances the spiritual attitude of the mind is to be
kept up.' If we sit for Japa and meditation for half an hour,
and we get concentration for five minutes in the course of
it, those five minutes are most precious. It is not the time
but the intensity of concentration that is more important.
We then feel that we are happy, elevated, as if we have some
tangible experience of the living presence of the Lord within.
If we are sucessful even for two or three minutes in the course
of the day, we should try to remember it.
the midst of multifarious activities of the day to day life,
if we are not careful enough to continue meditation on our
Ishta Devata, then we are likely to be drawn to the attractions
of the empirical world. So those who are really serious in
reaching the Goal Supreme in this life itself should try to
withdraw their minds from all objects of form, smell, taste,
touch and sound.
Ramakrishna said: A person can achieve such single-mindedness
in meditation, that he will see nothing or hear nothing, will
not be conscious even of a touch. A snake may crawl over his
body but he will not know it. Neither of them will be aware
of the other. In deep meditation, the sense organs stop functioning.
The mind does not look outward. It is like closing the gate
of the outer court in a house. There are five objects of the
senses; form, taste, smell, touch and sound. They are all
fortunately, we can have that inward vision, then we shall
be able to penetrate beyond false appearances and reach Reality.
As Swamiji said, 'See God in every man, woman and child, see
by the Antarjyoti.' But is it possible? Yes, it is possible,
if one has real Vairagya, real dispassion. Sometime devotees
come, and they want to know where good Sadhus can be found.
They go and visit monks or Sadhus and say that they are 'Vairagyavan
Sadhus'. One would like to amend it as 'Vairagyavan Grihasti',
i.e., a householder devotee with mental detachment and dispassion.
For householders aspiring to reach the Goal Supreme while
discharging all their worldly duties, it is essential that
they develop real dispassion for things of this external world.
For this, one has to practise fourfold Sadhanas, or what is
called Sadhana Chatushtaya - Viveka, Vairagya, Shatsampatti,
i.e., the aggregate of the six virtues namely Sama, Dama,
Titiksha, Uparati, Sraddha and Samadhana. Finally comes Mumukshutvam.
The foremost is Viveka. We have to discriminate between the
real and the unreal. If we want to reach the Goal Supreme
in this life, we must have this burning discrimination that
anything of this world cannot give us lasting happiness. Once
we develop Viveka or right discrimination, we develop dispassion,
Vairagya. So automatically it follows that Vairagya comes
from Viveka and then one has to plod on and on till the Goal
is reached. How is one to do Sadhana? We have to practise
Sama and Dama, tranquillity of the mind. Sometime, when we
are agitated, we must try to practise mastery of the mind
to remain unruffled. Dama, sense-control comes next. The senses
are to be brought under control. Then there is Titiksha. In
suffering, in hardships we have to remain unperturbed. And
then Uparati. The mind has a tendency to drag us to the outside
world; we have to bring it back again, withdrawing it repeatedly
from the sense objects. Next, we must have Sraddha. We must
have tremendous self-confidence. We must have faith in the
guidance of the Guru and also in our scriptures. Lastly, one-pointedness
or Samadhana. Only when we have Viveka, Vairagya and the aggregate
of six virtues, are we qualified to strive after realisation
of the ultimate goal.
it comes to this; Vairagya is the fulfilment of Viveka. Take
the case of any businessman. If he wants to be sucessful in
his profession and if he wants to amass huge wealth, he does
not even care for food and health, he works very hard. Why?
Because, he is sincere in this profession, in his business.
If we possess that amount of sincerity, tenacity and perseverance
in respect of spiritual life, we shall surely reach the goal
in this life. Therefore, in our pilgrimage towards the Goal
Supreme, renunciation is of primary importance. Sri Ramakrishna
used to tell a story. Some boatmen got heavily drunk and the
whole night they plied the boat. The boat, however, remained
at the same place, because they forgot to lift the anchor
by which it was tied. Similarly, if there is any hole in a
jar in the form of different Vasanas or attachments, all our
Sadhana will leak our. Like the boat, if it is tied to an
anchor, however much we may ply for the whole night, it would
not move. So, if we want to move towards the ultimate reality,
we must try to uproot all that pulls us down.
is all very easy to say, but difficult to practise. We admit
it is difficult, but we also say here boldly, it is not impossible.
It is true that millions and millions of people are swimming
with the current. But the few who want to reach the Goal Supreme,
have to go against the current. Naturally, they are up against
a struggle. There are, however, people, who live animal lives,
live on the sensuous level. As they do not want to rise above
the animal level of existence, they have no struggle. One
who is aiming at the Goal Supreme should not only rise above
the animal level, but must also manifest the divinity within.
One must become a God or Goddess in this very life. For this
one has, no doubt, to face an uphill task. Why is it so? The
answer is given in the Kathopanishad.
we are all aware, God has created our senses in such a way
that they try to possess the things of the outside world.
That means, God has created the mind in such a way that it
tends towards external things. Only 'Kaschid Dheerah' (those
who are introverts), who want to withdraw their minds from
the outside world, practise real Uparati. Such persons alone
reach the Goal. Kathopanishad says:
dhirah pratyag-atmanam aiksat |
amrtatvam icchan ||
A wise man here and there, desirous of immortality, turns
his senses (including the mind) inward to realise the inner
if we are after the Goal Supreme, then what have we got to
do? We have to practise introspection. We have to practise
withdrawing the mind from the outside world. Who can do that?
Only the few determined wise men. If we want to realise our
real divine nature, then we have to withdraw the mind from
the outside world. If we do not do that, we shall only see
the external world and not the inner self, the Atman, and
this human life goes in vain.
it is true that the path to ultimate realisation is hard to
tread. It is not meant for all, but only for a very few. Then
one may ask, 'If supreme realisation is not for all, what
is the use of the study of Vedantic texts and listening to
discourses on this subject?' The reply is, if one in a million
can reach the goal, why don't you have the thought that I
am that one in the million? Have faith. Have that robust optimism.
difficulty facing the spiritual aspirant will be clear from
the following quotation (verse 79) from Sri Sankaracharya's
pratiyatum udyatan |
kanthe vinivartya vegat ||
The shark of hankering catches by the throat, those seekers
after liberation who have got only an apparent dispassion
(Vairagya), and are yet tying to cross the ocean of Samsara
(worldly life). Violently snatching them away, it drowns them
Sankaracharya warns us that false Vairagya cannot sustain
us long. There may be temporary Vairagya, say due to a tragic
bereavement, or a painful disease or a shocking disappointment.
This Vairagya cannot endure long in the case of many. Vairagya
or dispassion which has its roots in the solid foundation
of real discrimination alone can sustain us. One may have
no bereavement in the family, no serious illness, no failure
or disappointment. One may be enjoying perfect health. But
one must be conscious that at any moment the cruel hand of
death may snatch one away. And when this would happen, we
do not know. We must be prepared for it. 'The paths of glory
lead but to the grave', the poet said. Only this kind of discrimination
will sustain us.
makes a distinction between apparent Vairagya and real Vairagya
based on discrimination. If we want to reach the Goal Supreme
with the help of apparent dispassion and if we claim that
we are Mumukshus or aspirants for liberation, then we are
terribly mistaken. So Sankaracharya says that those who want
to cross this ocean of Samsara, but are not possessed of real
Vairagya and have only superficial Vairagya, are caught at
the throat by the shark of desire. Not only are we drowned
half-way across the ocean of Samsara, but desires violently
take possession of us and drag us down midway. Only those
who have real and genuine Vairagya can cross the ocean. Further
Sankaracharya points out that if one wants to cross this Ocean
of Samsara, but is terribly attached to the body, liberation
is not possible. Tulsidas has said, "Where there is Kama
(lust) there is no Rama.' In verse 85 of Vivekachudamani Sankara-charya
vapur adisu |
mukti-padam arhati ||
For a seeker after liberation, infatuation with the body is
dire death. He alone who has thoroughly conquered this deserves
the state of freedom. Only those who have overcome the false
infatuation with the body and can resist temptations and allurements
of different kinds, deserve the state of liberation.
says that so long as we allow ourselves to become the victims
of the allurements of the flesh and infatuation of the body,
there is no question of liberation. Only when we can overcome
all kinds of attractions of the body, is it possible. Only
he, who has totally conquered this attachment can become liberated.
Totally, mark the language, no half-way house. We are to conquer
it completely. Therefore what is to be done? In verse 321
Sankaracharya gives another valuable guideline. It refers
to eternal vigilance, carefulness:
kartavyah kadacana |
brahmanah sutah ||
One should never be careless in one's steadfastness to Brahman.
Bhagavan Sanat-Kumara, who is Brahma's son, has called inadvertence
we really want or desire salvation? Do we want to reach the
Goal Supreme in this very life? If so, every moment of our
life we must be careful, alert and vigilant, and we must continuously
attempt to hold on to what may be called 'Brahman Consciousness'
or Brahma Nishtha. If we fail to do this, then it will not
be possible for us to make substantial progress towards the
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