Development of Sadhana

From Yogadrishti Series: Sadhana, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The process which takes you from tamas to sattwa has a name, and that is sadhana. Generally, when we use the word 'sadhana', people identify it with a spiritual discipline, a spiritual practice. However, sadhana means attainment of perfection in that which you do.

Define your intention

Sadhana is the attainment of excellence and perfection in everything that you do. It begins with involvement in constant, continuous awareness and focus. In the absence of awareness and focus, sadhana is not sadhana; it is only a waste of time. There has to be focus, there has to be awareness of the present mood and there has to be clarity of intention as to what you want to achieve.

Often people say, "I want to learn to meditate." Why do they want to learn to meditate? That, they themselves do not know. They have heard that meditation is good, so they want to meditate, but they do not know what their aim is and their teacher also does not know how to guide them. First, the intention has to be defined. Once the intention is clear then a path can be mapped. When you know that you have to go from point 'A' to point 'B' then you can plot a path on the map; however, if you do not know that you are going to point 'B' how will you plot your map? You will just go around in circles and not reach anywhere.

First of all, know what your intention is. That is the primary requirement of starting the sadhana, otherwise it is like ordering pizza. Imagine you go to a Pizza Hut and the person behind the counter asks, "What kind of pizza do you want?" and you say, "I don't know. Give me one with everything." The pizza maker then puts a little bit of everything on it and gives it to you, and as there are so many items on the pizza you cannot taste any single item properly; it is a khichari pizza. You have to be clear about what kind of pizza you want; you have to state whether it should be cheese and onion, or cheese and mushrooms. There has to be an understanding of what you want. This applies to the food you consume and it also applies to your mental intentions. When you have decided, 'This is where I want to go' you can plot a path on the map, which becomes the starting point for every aspirant.

If the intention is not clear, you cannot start your journey. You reach the airport, but which flight are you going to catch? You want to go to London but end up in Timbuktu without a visa and you are deported from there. The same thing happens in your spiritual journey. Often, when you bypass your mind and go to a different place which you think is bigger, better and nicer, you reach there, then you find that you have no visa and have to come back. You cannot stay in that state, as there is no understanding and preparation.

Have conviction in the practice

The second point is that you must have conviction in and dedication to your practice. You have to believe that what you practise is going to lead you to your goal. Conviction and practice must go together. If you are practising something, you should believe, you should be convinced, you should know that your practice is going to lead you to your goal, and that becomes your focus, that becomes your aim.

Every practice in yoga, every branch of yoga has a specific aim. Every yoga and every practice has an aim, a goal, a target, and once the intention is clear and the path can be plotted, then the appropriate practices can be selected for you to achieve your goal. Conviction in practice is the second aspect: intention and conviction.

Accept the change

The third aspect is accepting the change. Accept the change that takes place. If through your sadhana you are experiencing some change, some transformation, then be ready to accept it and not negate, deny or confront it. Many people do not accept change. They want to remain the same with an added quality, but how can you remain the same with an added quality? If you bring in some new quality, the reflection of that quality will be seen in your behaviour, your responses, your actions and your performance. There is already a change, a new identity being reflected. There has to be an openness to accept the change that occurs spontaneously and naturally, without compulsive and obsessive thinking as to why this is happening or why that is not happening.

Often spiritual aspirants become confused by their own mind. This confusion is in itself a creation of their own mind. If I say, "In my practice today, I had this particular experience," then you sit down to think, "Swamiji had that experience, so I should also have it." You try and you do not have that experience. Then you begin to think, "Maybe I am not doing it in the right manner." The most important thing that you have forgotten is that you are not Swamiji. How can you compare yourself with another person? You have forgotten that and you are saying, "Maybe I am doing the wrong practice because I am not getting the experience which Swamiji had." It is not a question of having the experience that Swamiji had, it is a question of having the same mind as Swamiji in order to have the same experience. That very few understand.

Accept the change in whatever way you feel it, you observe it. It is your response to sadhana. When you eat or drink, external things are going into your body, but the satisfaction, happiness and enjoyment is you responding to what you are eating and drinking. In the same manner, accepting the change and allowing it to take place is your response, knowing that it is going to take you in a different direction where you can be different; perhaps better, perhaps expressive, but different from what you were before.

Practise continuous improvement

First is intention, second is conviction in practice and third is accepting the change. Fourth is improving the changed nature with more conviction, faith, determination and belief. You integrate that practice and the change into your life and improve upon that.

This is the process of sadhana in four categories. It can happen at a sensory level, at a mental level, at an emotional level and at a spiritual level. After all, the asanas that you practise are sadhana for the body. In order to practise one posture you have to go through preparation beforehand. In order to sit in the lotus posture, you need to practise pawanmuktasana for six months just to limber up your joints, legs and knees. Although the aim is padmasana, the lotus pose, your sadhana is not of padmasana; your sadhana is of pawanmuktasana. Your aim is to sit in padmasana, but your knees, legs and muscles are stiff and cannot bend. Do you make an attempt every day to sit in the lotus pose and crack your knee? Or do you practise pawanmuktasana for six months to limber up, become flexible and then sit in the padmasana pose? In this way, at times the sadhana is different from what the aim is, and only a teacher, a guru, can tell what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for you.