Book of Wisdom - Isha Upanishad

  • By Swami Rama
  • August 2003

Mind and Sadhana      

The process in which the aspirant unfolds, develops, and enlightens himself is called sadhana. Sadhana is that practice which has the power to carry the seeker (sadhaka) to his objective. Our object is to realize the truth of life. We have to bring about our maximum development and arouse and express the power lying dormant within us. It is possible through sadhana alone. Life itself should be sadhana. We can achieve the object of life if our mind, body and everything else we call our own, becomes sadhana or a means of attaining our goal Our object is to attain absolute peace, an unalloyed happiness or perennials bliss; and this is possible only when we use all circumstances in life, whether good or bad, happy or painful, to promote our sadhana. All circumstances in life cannot be made to suit us, but continuous sadhana makes us feel that the condition which is hostile to us at present is in fact an opportunity for advancement on the path. Sadhana leads to concentration, and concentration leads in turn to realization. When a sadhaka tastes the bliss of realization, all his doubts are resolved and only then absolutely unshakable faith takes root in his heart. Without sadhana and Self-realization, the mind is reluctant to believe what is merely heard or read in the great scriptures and the saying of the sages.

To start sadhana one must shun all weakness and create maximum inner strength. The sadhaka should never allow the animal tendencies to obstruct his path. The first duty of man is to develop in himself the human qualities and to be a true humanitarian. He should never allow the destructive aspect of animality to enter his heart, or his thought, speech, or action. Purity is gained by refraining from the easy path of falsehood, vice, and vicious activity. Sadhana is required to free us completely from such evils, and the resultant purification carries us to the threshold of salvation. As purification advances, power increases. When power increases, wisdom dawns, and wisdom is accompanied by bliss divine.

That which separates the sadhaka from his goal is impurity and the ignorance of his mind and heart. The aim of sadhana is to make the heart and mind pure and enlightened. The experience of Self-illumination is possible only in a pure heart and mind, and there are various methods of sadhana for the purpose of purification. To speak of realization without sadhana is only empty talk, a mere reflection of ego. By the constant practice of self-purification the ego is gradually dissolved and ceases to govern one’s life. 

In the sacred books of East and West the antah-karana, or inner being of man, has been described at length. In Western philosophies, owing to lack of adequate knowledge of sadhana (discipline), it has not been analyzed properly. But our sages (Rishis) have given a very beautiful description of it on the basis of their personal experience. The Upanishads and other books of wisdom have dwelt upon various forms of mind and emphasized its strict control. In Yoga philosophy the system of sadhana for controlling mind, intellect and ego by merging them into consciousness (cit) and its attributes has been scientifically elaborated. Antahkarana means that which works within. Just as we have first senses for the perception of gross manifestation, so we have other, subtler functions working within. The four functions of the antahkarana are mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), consciousness (citta), and ego (ahamkara). Manas is that which questions whether we should do a certain thing; it is the doubting function. Buddhi (intellect) is the function which classifies, discriminates, and decides that we should do a certain thing. Citta is a storehouse of subconscious impression from past experience, and comes into play when for example, we begin to brood and enlarge the sphere of resolves and counter-resolves. The ahamkara (ego) is what gives our consciousness a feeling of “I” and “mine.”

Mind is like an employer of this body-whose function is to carry external impressions through sense perception. Mind is an outstanding instrument without which no sadhana is possible.

Some of the primary rules of sadhana are as follows:

1. At a fixed time in the serenity of morning and evening, the sadhaka should daily sit silently in some quiet place. The greater the solitude, peacefulness and purity of the place, the greater the concentration of mind.

2. Any asana (posture) which provides a steady and comfortable position should be used daily for practice at the appointed time.

3. The seat should be comfortable and not be hard ground. If one sits cross-legged, a cushion or folded blanket may be used. Otherwise, one may sit in a straight backed chair.

4. The head, neck and trunk should be aligned.

5. The anus should be contracted (mula-lock) and held contracted during the meditation.

6. Calmly, smoothly and slowly the sadhaka should exhale. There should be no jerkiness or sound either in inhaling or exhaling. The body should remain unmoved and relaxed.

7. Eyelids should not be strained or tensed as to affect the eyes.

8. The practice should be carried on daily at a fixed time and place with a definite method of concentration. The carefully selected method should not be changed.

9. The first resolve should be that no external thought will be allowed to enter the mind. Next, effort should be made to stop the activity of mind. The mind should not be allowed to ruminate over any idea or object. After a period of such practice, Pranava (Om) or some other mantra should be repeated. This fills the mind with an ecstasy of its spirit. The mind should be repeatedly brought to concentrate on the meaning and spirit of the mantra. Some mantras are useless, either because they are so difficult that they make the breathing irregular or because the student does not understand the meaning.

10. The mantra should not be repeated without understanding its meaning. Before repeating the mantra, the student should be fully convinced of its importance. It should be repeated with meaning and feeling. Parrot-like repetition is not of much use.

11. Repeating the mantra merely with the rosary and the tongue is a very inferior sadhana. It won’t to do merely to complete a given count. The purpose of japa, or repetition of the mantra is to lead the mind to the higher dimensions and to rungs of meditation.

12. Eventually, the mantra becomes a part and parcel of life which infuses awareness at all times. The meaning and spirit of the mantra should so intertwine with every incoming and out-going breath that, in whatever circumstances the sadhaka might be, he is always conscious of it. as the mind grows one-pointed by thus uttering the mantra and concentrating on it, interest in sadhana also deepens. When japa is thus carried on in the midst of worldly activities, it is called meditation in action.

13. The period of practice should be gradually increased but the mind and body should not be fatigued.

14. In one’s external life, those deeds which are not helpful in the path of progress will become evident and can be discarded. Energy should not be wasted unnecessarily. The cause of hindrance should be watched carefully and eliminated with sincere effort. Truthfulness, sincerity, faithfulness and one-pointed devotion are helpful.
15. Eliminating profane thoughts leads to a purified mind. It is the purified and one-pointed mind of the sadhaka that offers him the fragrant flower of joy in his concentration. When the mind is one-pointed and stable, peace is definitely experienced within and without. This experience is the foundation of faith.

Concentration and control of mind are essential for progress in every walk of life. Just as we perform certain duties in daily life, concentration of mind is also one of the necessities. So every thoughtful person for the sake of a fully developed and concentrated mind must adopt a system of sadhana. Indolence and laxity are great obstacles in the path of enlightenment. Sadhana is enhanced by a well-regulated life, and by moderation of diet and the pursuit of pleasure. Thoughts are strengthened by study and the company of wise and saintly persons. Then the vine of sadhana blossoms and fructifies. Tireless and ceaseless labor is the splendor of life. Everything is possible with constant and sincere practice. By practice we can awaken out true nature, bringing it out from the depth of forgetfulness and can enjoy and give expression to the feeling of bliss in every direction of life. The life of sadhana is the only true life.

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