Spiritual Diary

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Along with psychic sleep, I will tell you another method of correcting your habits, remodelling your behaviour and cultivating more virtues.

This is the method of writing the Spiritual Diary. Spiritual Diary is of immense aid to self-analysis and spiritual progress.

Let me explain here the method of maintaining it. In the beginning, it is a mechanical and slow process. You are not supposed to analyse yourself. For, self-analysis can create a complex in the mind of a beginner and there is every possibility of his becoming abnormal. Therefore, I do not advise spiritual aspirants to approach psychoanalysis. They may give you a way to know yourself, but this in itself causes abnormalcy.

How to make a spiritual diary? Take a full-scapepaper and draw as many as thirty perpendicular lines and make it like a sheet of a roll-call register.

These are a few items which need some explanation.

'When did you get up in the morning?' In this column you should write down the time of rising from bed. Here the purpose is not to compel you to rise earlier by launching a fight against your habits, but to refashion the underground structure of habits itself. You should just write down the time when you leave your bed and take out a monthly average of the time of rising.

Another column is 'How many hours did you sleep?' People are confused at this question, because they are unable to decide minimum and maximum hours of sleep. We need as much sleep as is needed for proper de-carbonization in the system, which may differ from individual to individual. Six hours for intellectuals, eight hours for manual labourers, four hours for sadhakas of yoga and ajapa. He who has attained samadhi does not sleep at all, he does not even need it. Those who sleep in excess must be having accumulated toxins in the system. If not, then there might be psychological suppressions or deeply engrained tensions, maybe due to failures in their career. So long as a person is normal or near normal, I am sure, he cannot oversleep. He who takes to excess in sleeping has got some wrong somewhere in him. You can minimize the hours of sleep by taking recourse to sattwic diet, asanas, ajapa japa and meditation.

Then there is an item regarding asanas. Practise asanas for fifteen minutes daily. You can select a few asanas for yourself or have them selected by your guru.

Regarding pranayama, the only point to be noted is the duration, which is from five to fifteen minutes.

'How long ajapa?' Some practise meditation, some namasmaran, and others say prayers. Let the aspirant attend to this item according to his daily practice. If you are doing all this, write down everything.

'How many malas of japa?' is an important item. Take a resolve that you will do a certain number of malas daily, Resolve for minimum and maximum number, according to your convenience. Over enthusiasm is no good. Japa should be done on guru mantra and not from a book as many aspirants do.

The mind deceives. It will suggest, 'What is the use of doing japa, all this is mechanical, it is just hypocrisy'. Then this devil mind quotes Kabir, Nanak and other saints.

Therefore, one has to resolve positively and stick to those resolves. One mala of Om Namah Shivaya mantra is finished in two minutes. It takes about twenty minutes for mahamrityunjaya mantra, while the mantra of Om takes one minute. Therefore, according to your capacity and circumstances, make a sensible resolve, and stick to it at any cost.

Do more japa, for instance on Rama Navami, Gokulashtami, Good Friday, Christmas and such other holidays. Spend your birthday, marriage anniversary and such other memorable days in japa, prayers and self-checking and self-auditing, instead of wasting money and time.

There are positive as well as negative resolves. For one negative resolve you should make a corresponding positive resolve. Otherwise the negative resolves will cause unwanted complexes. If you make a resolve that you will not visit pictures on sacred days, you should also make a corresponding resolve that you will spend such days in sacred kriyas.

Make as many resolves as possible. There is no use saying that resolves should be made according to one's capacity of practice. Nor is it absolutely necessary that one should be after fulfilling every resolve at any cost. One does not become perfect on the very day he makes resolves. This bitter but actual fact should not be forgotten at any time. Failures in resolves is no failure in life. Rather failure in making resolves is irreparable failure in life.

You will have to note down all the difficulties and complexes you face and preserve such notes in the pooja room. Whenever you are restless and depressed, you should go to your pooja room, meditate for a while and look at your resolves. You will get peace of mind.

In the resolve you should write that you will do minimum twenty and maximum Elements-five malas of Om Namah Shivaya or any other mantra. If you miss to act according to your resolves, it only means that you lack sufficient willpower.

'How long did you do karma yoga?' Whatever work you have to do at home or in the office, write the total hours of work. What is the difference between karma and karma yoga? If you do every act mindfully and consciously, that becomes karma yoga. It is karma, when you do it mechanically. You do many actions in your life mechanically. You just do it. But a raja yogi is aware that he is doing a particular action. This is karma yoga. His actions are called karma, who does not have mindfulness.

By this practice, you will handle the technique of detachment. You will not be affected by alien influences. I know that detachment is very nice, because by its practice we complete the work and feel peaceful. This is the only way of handling the intricate detachment: every word, action, thought, breath, should be accompanied by perfect awareness. If you practise awareness, the art of detachment will be available to you in no time; success and failure, pain and pleasure, defeat and victory, all these and others will leave no trace in the mind.

'How many times did you get angry and with what self-punishment?' If anyhow you get angry, you must punish yourself. As a token of self-punishment, the dearest thing must be given up. If you do not punish yourself for undesirable actions every time, you can impose cumulative punishment for a month's negligent acts. There is no benefit in getting angry. For this act of indiscrimination and foolishness, you must punish yourself. You must beg pardon and assure that you are definitely going to correct yourself. You have to decide for yourself the form of self-punishment.

'Which good quality are you trying to cultivate?' First of all resolve to cultivate one good quality, but that should not be a difficult one. For instance, you can resolve to speak less and avoid irrelevant, useless, sensational and futile talks.

Then month by month you can go on with one virtue to be cultivated.

'Which bad quality are you trying to eradicate?' Do not take up a difficult one. Take for example, 'I shall not speak harsh words.'

Selfless service purifies the soul. It is because of selfishness that the entire personality is lost in darkness. If we practise selfless service, life will grow in happiness and mind will become strong and powerful.

Something should be said about satsang. Because, satsang plays the first role in making one's life and personality. There is nothing as powerful as satsang in changing thoughts, moods, sentiments and actions of an individual. If you have any mind to change the broken and disorganized patterns of your life, please go through a course of satsang for some time. Reading of sacred texts, dwelling in pious thoughts and thoughts about atman, company of saints, hearing of devotional songs and divine stories, all these are various forms of satsang.

Satsang is the surest cure for the dire disease of loneliness. Even in the midst of thousands of people, there are people who feel lonely. To relieve your loneliness you may play badminton, mix in society and do similar things. But this is not the ultimate remedy, my friend. That is self-hypnotism. There is every possibility of self-deception and self-hypnotism. So sit alone and think of God. Make Him your best friend and talk to Him mentally.

You can add your own new items. Write the diary every month and compare it with the earlier entries. After some time, by the grace of God you will give up bad things, and holiness, peace and happiness will be experienced by you.

Form of Spiritual Diary for Self-Elevation

For the month of: _______________

1. When did you leave the bed?

2. How many hours slept?

3. How long asanas?

4. How long pranayama?

5. How long pooja, prayer or dhyana?

6. How many malas of japa?

7. How long in satsang?

8. How many times angry?

9. What self-punishment?

10. What virtues cultivating?

11. What bad qualities eradicating?

12. Salt free diet/fasting

13. Selfless service

14. How many hours of karma yoga?

15. Likhit japa

16. Charity

17. Scriptural studies

18. When did you go to bed?

February 1963, Cama Hall, Bombay, printed in YOGA, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1964