Saadhana is important for spiritual progress

Saadhana is important for spiritual progress

Saadhana is a Sanskrit word meaning a system of regular practices exercised by an individual to learn and realize till perfection is achieved. For example if you want to play sitar perfectly you are supposed to learn the tunes and do intensive saadhana till you can play melodiously. It does not however stop there. You may have to continue to do saadhana even after you have learnt a particular raga so that the raga and the instrument continue to be in your grip or control and can produce the same experience and ecstasy always. Similarly in spirituality, universally and in the Indian context in particular, saadhana plays a very important role.

Saadhana is:

  • A system of regular practices to achieve a noble Objective
  • Dedicated learning to do things methodically
  • Practicing with devotion till attainment of perfection
  • Spiritual journey.

Basically saadhana assumes that there is a saadhaka, the one who is an aspirant or practitioner; a goal to be achieved (like a raga in music, Self-realization in spirituality); a sutra or a ‘siddhanta’ i.e., a system of theories and hypotheses in philosophy, or a mantra or formula serving to focus the mind and a regimen of practices like yoga. In fact the system of yoga is the best example for saadhana – be it physical exercise for health or ‘raja yoga’ or orientations of life as in ‘karma yoga’. Saadhana in spiritual life can include life attitude, Raja yoga, linking up mind with the Lord, service to Guru, study of Vedanta or Bhagavat puran or Gita, developing absolute concentration, delving deep into the mind intellect and spirit and the like. It can be either one or more of these practices mentioned plus many more esoteric practices prescribed by a Guru – with a view to finally realizing God and merging Self with God. It is difficult to say what exactly that state will be but some explanation of what it is not is available in literature. To quote Adi Shankara,

अहं निर्विकल्पॊ निराकार रूपॊ
विभुत्वाच सर्वत्र सर्वॆन्द्रियाणाम् /
न चा संगतं नैव मुक्तिर्नमॆय:
चिदानंदरूप: शिवॊहम् शिवॊहम् //

“aham nirvikalpo niraakaara rupo,
Vibhuthwascha sarvathra sarvendriyanaam,
Na chaa sangatham naiva mukthir na meyah
Chidaananda rupa sivoham sivoham”

                                             –{Adi Sankaracharya in ‘nirvana shatkam’}

{“I have no form or fancy, the all pervading am I; everywhere I exist, and yet am beyond the senses; neither salvation am I, nor anything to be known. I am eternal, bliss and awareness; – I am Siva! I am Siva!”}

Words can not explain that final state but what is heard and read by tradition gives some indication of the same. It is here that one requires the guidance and supervision of a Sadguru, a true Guru and Master who can take care of the disciple wherever he is, irrespective of time and distance.

 Lord Krishna, the ‘Jagadguru’ i.e., the Teacher and Master to the whole world said in Bhagavad Gita:

अभ्यास यॊगयुक्तॆन चॆतसा नान्यगामिना
परमं पुरुषं दिव्यं यति पार्थानुचिंतयन्  //
“abhyaasa-yoga-yuktena chetasaa naanya-gamina
 Paramam purusham divyam yati paarthanuchintayan.”

                                                  –(Bhagavad Gita ch.8;sl.8)

{“He who meditates on the supreme Godhead, with constant practice, his mind engaged in remembering Me, without deviation from the path, he, O Partha, is sure to reach Me”}.

Lord Krishna further assures the aspirants that even if one dies before achieving perfection in saadhana  or ‘moksha’ i.e., liberation from the cycle of births and deaths, one continues the spiritual saadhana in the next birth from the stage where one left in the previous birth.

पूर्वाभ्यासॆन तॆनैव ह्रियतॆ ह्यवशॊपि स:
जिज्नासुरपि यॊगस्य श्ब्दब्रह्मातिवर्ततॆ //
purvabhyasena te naiva hriyate hyavasopi sah
Jijnaasurapi yogasya shabda brahmaati vartate.”

                                                         –(Bhagavad Gita ch.6;sl.44)

{By virtue of practice of his previous birth, he is automatically attracted towards yoga and continues saadhana and transcends the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.}

Every individual is unique. The family and social background, the upbringing, education, occupation and life style etc., are known to the outer world. The inner world is different and has to be understood psychologically. Some psycho- analytical methods and exercises may help to understand to some extent. But when it comes to spirituality, the spiritual Guru needs to see much more: the cause of the individual coming into this life, his past lives, samskaaras, vaasanas, his past spiritual practices and the process of his upliftment in the present birth. This is what a Sadguru does.

The ability of the Guru in visualizing the individual’s link with the Almighty and guiding him towards super-consciousness is what distinguishes among the Gurus. A real Guru keen on advancement of his disciple will impart whatever knowledge he possesses and may also direct to another guru for a particular system of practice or experience and guidance. The transference of knowledge is not necessarily by physical presence or word and it can be by silent vibes from far off distances. Saadhana is what the Guru imparts and prescribes and how he carries the disciple on his spiritual journey and saadhana is what the disciple learns and practices till he achieves the highest goal on his spiritual journey. Lord Krishna said:

यॊगी युन्जीत सततमात्मानम् रहसि स्थित:
ऎकाकी यत चित्तात्मा निराशीर् अपरिग्र: //

“Yogi yunjita satatam atmanaam rahasi sthitah,
 Ekaaki yata-chittaatmaa niraasir aparigrahah.”

                                                     –(Bhagavad Gita ch.6; sl.10)

{“A transcendentalist yogi should always engage his body, mind and self in relationship with the Supreme; he should live alone in a secluded place and should always carefully control his mind. He should be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness”}.

How saadhana has to be learnt and practiced  in this modern world and how a perfect yogi lives can be learnt from the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Saibaba of Shirdi, Sadguru Mathaji Krishnapriya (disciple of Saibaba), Swami Yogananda, Swami Rama,  Paramachaarya Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati and host of other Sadgurus known and unknown to the public.

Some excerpts from spiritual teachings of Sadguru Mathaji Krishnapriya are given here under which will help in a better understanding of Sadhana and Indian philosophy. For detailed exposition the reader may please refer to the books “Essence of sadhana”  and “Essence of Divine Life” (vol.2 and 3 of ‘Essence of Spirituality’ series, published by Sai Krishna Seva Samiti)[1]

The ‘Jnana’ theory says that God is not having a Form or attributes. The ‘Bhakti’ theory says that He has a Form and attributes. Actually Supreme God is beyond these concepts. He has no transformations. He is beyond the trinity of Godhead. The bliss of God realization is totally experiential. One has to strive hard to realize that state. The aspirant needs to have a combined path of Bhakti and Jnana.

Some aspirants think that by practicing certain mantras and tantras they can achieve various things in life.    Although Tantra is a powerful tool to achieve certain objectives, too much use and dependence on the same to achieve apparently supernatural powers is detrimental to spiritual progress. Such practices grow like thorns on a smooth path. If you really want the supreme God these tantric studies will not help and you need to discard them. The ego caused by them can also make you fall disgracefully.

Kundalini: yogic power

Many aspirants are eager to know how the “Kundalini Shakti” {referred to as ‘Serpent power’ etc., in some literature} is awakened in yogic sadhana. It needs to be learnt under strict guidance of an experienced Guru. The first step in Yoga Sadhana is to practice ‘Pranaayaam’ with a satvik mind (a totally positive mind). Then the ‘sushumna’ merges in consciousness.

The practitioners of yoga need to sit in a ‘padmasan’ or crossed-legs posture with straight spine and with a stable mind and concentration; compress the base in such a manner and make the ‘prana’ gases move upward using ‘kumbhaka’ technique of ‘pranayama’. As soon as Kundalini is awakened the practitioner gets great concentration on the object Form of Dhyana; the mind becomes still. In that state one forgets how long one could remain in Dhyana. The yogi would see light and glow. The body consciousness and the illusions attached to it would vanish. One feels and becomes very light; gets peace of mind; attain purity, steadiness, tranquillity, concentration and bliss.

It is rewarding to know that Kundalini gets awakened due to the constant remembrance of the Lord and chanting His holy name or even by the mere Grace of a Sadguru as well. So it is not necessary that all aspirants need to undergo a rigorous kind of Kundalini yoga training.

“Samyaman”; the combined process in yoga

The combination of ‘Dharana’, ‘Dhyana’ and ‘Samadhi’ in yoga[2] is known as Samyaman. Dharana is to hold a concept or thought steadily. Dhyana is meditating on that thought and controlling other thoughts. Samadhi is the finest state of meditation where the mind gets totally absorbed. When Dharana and Dhyana are perfectly practiced, it leads to Samadhi automatically. How to practice it? Firstly, concentrate mind on some gross object. When you practice it, slowly the sense of time is lost; it is like when we are engrossed in reading a favorite novel we don’t know how much time was spent in it. Hours spent look like a few minutes. We do not even recognize who was passing by or what is happening around. Similarly, in a true Dhyana, the limitation of time on mind is lost; long hours seem like a single minute. When the state of Samadhi is attained, all the samskaras in the chitta are eliminated; that is to say all wavering of mind is annihilated and all processes in consciousness come to stand still.

The path of devotion with staunch faith is the best suited for the aspirants which will give strength to face all the challenges and difficulties in life. Some people are under the wrong impression that after some sadhana the past karma will diminish so that only pleasures in life remain to be enjoyed. It is seen from the biographies and stories of great devotees (eg. ‘Bhaktavijayam’[3]) that they were undergoing very difficult times in life but were always immersed in the bliss of Brahman. Difficulties and troubles will come to those who have taken refuge in the Lord as well to those who have not. But there will be great difference in how they experience it.

Always think and feel that the Lord is yours and is constantly with you. Due to the constant remembrance the feeling will be strongly embedded in your mind. The strong feeling will lead you to experience His presence every moment of life. Mukti, that is liberation or emancipation is not far off. It lies in your association with the Lord. The constant repetition of Lord’s name alone is a powerful mantra which will surely take the aspirant on the path of liberation.

Real yogi is one whose strength is contentment. Else, there is no end to man’s desire. Faith is what uplifts you. Chanting the Lord’s holy name is the sure prop that holds one from falling into the abyss of worldliness. Never entertain the thought that you are not given what you want by God. He knows what to give and when. Patience and equanimity help.

The above teachings of sadguru Mathaji Krishnapriya will go a long way in guiding the aspirants on spiritual path, and in properly understanding their experiences in Sadhana and progress in life. The words of realized masters are always simple and soothing.

We conclude this article with Salutations to all the Gurus and yogis who have shown the path of Sadhana for salvation.

“Hari Om Tat Sat”

~ Surampudi Venkateswara Rao, (Bengaluru: 9740084561)

[1] E-mail: saikrishnaseva@gmail.com

[2] These are the later part or final steps of ‘Ashtanaga yoga’ defined by Patanjali.

[3] What little knowledge we have on the Saints of medieval India comes mostly from the two books, Bhakta Vijaya and Bhakta Lilamrita, written by Mahipati (1715 – 1790) who lived in  Maharashtra.”Bhakta Vijaya” contains soul-stirring stories of several saints including Jayadeva, Tulsidas, Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath, Jnaneshwar, Eknath, Tukaram, Namdev, Janabai, Gora, Kabir, Rohidas, Narsi Mehta, Ramdas, Sena, Mirabai, Bhanudas, et al. Bhakta Vijaya has been translated into almost all prominent Indian languages. It has been a source of inspiration to millions of devotees and has been used for daily reading and Harikatha all over India.