by Swami Krishnananda
You have to draw up a systematised programme: what is the thing to be done first, what is the thing to come next, what is the third item to be taken up, etc. The thing that is to be done after three days should not be done today, and so on. Have a graduated programme of the practice according to your own capacity. This suggestion is general and is not intended as a particular instruction to each and every person without distinction, because interests vary. You have to maintain your own spiritual diary, to put it in the way of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. You can have a diary of your own according to your need and capacity, the stage of your mental evolution, the studies that you have made, the aptitude of your mind, the technique that you are going to adopt, etc. Have a positive attitude towards the practice.
Just as a sick person feels happy when he is in the process of moving towards health, yoga, as a process of one's growing towards healthier and healthier conditions of personality from states of illness, makes for a state of happiness. When one becomes healthier, one also becomes happier. Suppose you have high temperature, and the temperature comes down gradually; as it comes down, you feel greater relief, a satisfaction which arises from within, automatically and spontaneously. So is the case with yoga. It is your mother. She will not torture you. She takes care of you. Even one thousand mothers will not equal yoga in tending the child with affection. As is the affection that yoga has for you, so should be the affection that you must have for yoga.
Why is it that yoga has such love for you? You will be wondering what is this consideration that yoga has for you. Yoga is not a human being. Yes; but it is more than a human being. Yoga is not a word that we utter. It is a surprising revelation to us. The great thing that is called yoga is God Himself conceived in our minds, according to our own manner; and our love for yoga is nothing but our love for God, love for Reality, love for the Absolute, love for 'That which is'. If that Being has no love for us, what else can care for us? Not all the humans put together can have such concern over us as this great Reality has. It wants us more than we want It. All the worlds conceivable will not equal the positive affectionate reaction that this Mystery exerts upon us at every moment of time.
Feel happy: "I am in proper position with Reality. God is seeing me." This is a fact. That God sees you is not merely a doctrine; it is a truth and there cannot be a greater truth than this. Every atom is looking at you. The whole world is awake and is conscious as to what is happening. The world is made up of love and not enmity, hatred or dissociation; it is affection that the world is made of. It is made of love, and there is nothing else here.
Love is the essence of things. You want things, and everything wants you. Feel this, assert this. Chant mantras, recite slokas, read scriptures which awaken you to this consciousness of the presence of the divine love exuberant in everything, even in the air that you breathe, the sun that shines, the rain that falls, the atmosphere that is around you, the people that are in society. All are centres of affection, really. They appear to be otherwise sometimes on account of a misconstruing and miscalculation of fact that we make in our perceptions.
The world is, therefore, a yoga by itself; things are in a state of yoga even now, and they are going to be in a state of yoga always. One is only going to realise this truth. We are getting awakened to this presence which is already there and we are not going to manufacture yoga after some time. It is not that yoga is not here now and it is going to take place afterwards. It is not a product artificially to be concocted with the effort of the human being. Yoga is an eternal truth. The great central Absolute is perpetually there; it was not different, it is not different, and it will not be different in the future. We have only to wake up from sleep and see what is there.
So, yoga is not a creation of something which is not now and is to be there after some time. It is rather a consciousness into which we rise as we wake up from deep sleep and become aware of the world outside. When we wake from sleep, we are not creating the world outside; it is already there, but we become aware that it is there, a fact which was not known to us when we were in sleep. Yoga, when it is said to be a gradual developmental process, is really a development and enhancement of the consciousness of reality, an increase into a depth of the awareness of things and the lessening of the gap that appears to be between us and the world.
The point, then, is that you should have a fixed place, and it would be good that a person is in one place for a period of some years; in the initial stage it may be one year, two years or three years. Later on it can be even for a lifetime. Do not be drifting from place to place like a tourist; that is not the way of yoga. You must be in one place for a protracted period, as far as possible.
The time, also, should be selective. You have your own convenient time, not necessarily four o'clock in the morning. If it is four o'clock in the morning, and that is convenient, very good; if it is not, let it be six o'clock. Whatever the time be, you are to be comfortably woken up from your sleep, and have no other engagements.
What is the time that you have to fix for yoga? The time when you will not be distracted by attention to other activities in life. Suppose you have to catch a train after half an hour; that would not be the time for meditation, because there is a distraction. Or you have to meet some official in the government, or there is a case in the court, etc.; these would be unsuitable occasions.
At least for the next three hours after you commence yoga, there should be no engagements for the mind. Let the conscious mind and the subconscious mind tell you, "Yes, for the next three hours you are not going to be disturbed by anything." Well, then, sit up for yoga.
The early morning hours are supposed to be good for a peculiar reason. You are not much conscious of your subjectivity which has been in sleep, and you are also, then, not acutely aware of the world outside.
The time can also be the last hour of the night. An hour before you go to bed is a very useful one. The last few minutes that you spend before you sleep should be the time for the most noble thoughts. And who knows that one will get up in the morning tomorrow? This is a well-known fact. The last thought will determine one's next birth. What we shall be after this life is over is conditioned by our last thought. And why should we entertain distracting thoughts when we go to bed? It is always good to think of the most sublime things possible at the time of retiring. Read a passage from the Bhagavad
And, well, if it is God's will that we are not going to wake up in the morning, let it be. But we shall get up in the very atmosphere which is in harmony with the last thoughts with which we went to sleep. Therefore, it is important that people should not spend the last hours of the day in clubs, hotels, cinemas, etc. It is a bad habit, highly distractive, very injurious to psychic health. One should never go out of one's room after sunset, as far as this is practicable. People have a habit of going to shops in the night. And you know what you see in the shops, the market place and the streets. It is all confusion, chaos, noise, distraction. The last hours of the day should be spent in such a way that you are alone to yourself studying elevating scriptures of yoga and thinking noble and lofty thoughts which are to the advantage of your own soul.
The place and the time are to be chosen according to your convenience, under the guidance of a Teacher. It is important that you should have a guide until you are able to stand on your own legs, till you are confident that you can do everything for yourself, when you have no doubts in your mind, when everything is clear and you are not going to have any kind of difficulty on the path. Until that time, you require a guide. You may call him a Guru, a friend, or a philosopher. Whatever be the way you regard the guide, such a one is necessary because the world is full of mysteries, and you do not know what it contains.
Every step is a new step, and it will take you to the unknown. The path of yoga is difficult to tread because the further steps cannot be visualised at the initial one. You can see only one step at a time and when you are taken by surprise by a phenomenon to which you are not accustomed, you will not know how to adjust yourself to that situation. That is why guidance from a competent master, or teacher, is necessary – help from one who has already trodden the path. He will help you even in these small matters like place, time, and the like.
Then comes the method. The method that you adopt should be uniform. You should not take to different Gurus. You should not go on changing your techniques of meditation. There should be only one system, even as you drive a nail into the wall at the same spot, and then it goes inside by hammering again and again, and you do not hit it at ten places, which will be of no avail. To find water, you dig in the same place, and not go three feet down in a hundred places. So also do you tap the source of reality at one spot and go deep into it, and you will find there what you seek. But if you merely scratch the surface at different places, you will not find anything; no treasure will come forth. You have dug the earth three feet down in one thousand places, and you have found nothing because you have gone to various places unnecessarily. Dig deep at one place. This is the uniformity that you have to adopt in the method of practice.
What is method? This touches the process called initiation. You might have heard that a disciple, a student, gets initiated into the mysteries of yoga. Initiation is the prescription of the technique or the method of meditation. You will not be able to choose it for yourself always, because you may have doubts as to whether 'this is good, or that is good', and so on. A competent teacher will tell you, considering your psychological make-up, what would be the proper method of practice for you. This is known as initiation into yoga. The prescription of the method is important. Just as a physician gives a prescription, and you go to the same doctor and follow the same prescription – you do not go on changing the doctors or the prescriptions every day, for that is not the way of curing the illness – so do you persist in the adoption of a single technique, the prescription given by your Teacher. The method is selected according to the nature of the student, the circumstances in which the student is placed in society, etc., and so it varies from person to person. You cannot have a general method for everyone.
Then there is regularity. You must be honest about things. You should not make a joke of yoga. It is a very serious matter. Just as you do not take lunch at different times on different days, for that would spoil the tummy, you must take to the practice at the same time every day, and that is regularity. You should not miss this concentration even on a single day. Suppose, you take your meal today, and tomorrow you do not have it, and the day after tomorrow you take it again, and the practice continues; you know how it affects your health. Even if you are in a moving train, the meditation should not cease. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to do sirshasana even in moving trains in order to teach it to the interested passengers. He had a system. Every day he used to do asanas. Likewise, even if you are in travels by some occupation of yours, you must be able to find a little time to withdraw yourself into concentration some time, because the cyclic order of Nature, and the cyclic method with which the mind works, have a connection with the effects of all processes and activities. At a particular point there is a connection of factors and they are ready to contribute to success. Just as the gastric juices begin to secrete themselves at a particular hour of the day and cause hunger in the stomach, so does the hunger of the spirit manifest itself under specific conditions. You must take advantage of this structure of the mind according to which it asks for a thing at a particular time. Hence, keep to regularity. If you start sitting for meditation at a particular time, sit at that time alone every day, unless something unavoidable intervenes. Normally, one must be able to stick to an appointed time.
Then, lastly, you should have a surging affection and love for the practice of yoga. You must have made a decision: "This is my goal. I have been born for this purpose only. I have nothing else desirable in life." When this conviction comes, everything shall come. This decision of yours is the great love that you evince to God. We do not merely shake hands with yoga. There is a real communion established with this great Reality, from the bottom of your soul. If this love is there, God will love you as His own, and there will be nothing that you lack in this world.