A Guru’s Sadhana

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I really did not practise or learn any sadhana from my guru. I have been searching for the cause of an experience which I had when I was only six years old. That experience which came to me, a very average child at the age of six, set my mind into motion and it brought me to maturity in thinking. I wanted to know whether it was a sickness, or an evil spirit or a divine spirit possessing me. ‘What is it?’ At the age of six, I had an experience where I could see my body as it is – hands, feet and everything, but I could not feel it. It was very frightening, it was not a soft, smooth experience. Every time it came to me I did not know what was going to happen and fear crept into my mind.

That was the reason why I went for many sadhanas. I did japa, I prayed, I chanted Hanuman Chalisa and many other things. I read the Bible and went to church. Then I practised asanas, pranayama and hatha yoga – neti, dhauti, basti. At the age of twelve, I practised khechari by cutting the tongue and all kinds of things. I do not know whether anything did produce any result because I was too small to make a judgement.

At the age of eighteen I met a lady of thirty-five. She was a tantric, illiterate lady from Nepal and she taught me tantra, practically all the forms of tantra that there are. That did produce results and hallucinations. It did transport me to a different realm of experience during the practice and also after the practice. Sometimes I could go a bit within myself. Sometimes I could go very far within myself. Sometimes I used to go within myself and be frightened and come out. Maybe what was happening to me was due to the sadhana that I had practised earlier and which might have purified my body. I learnt from her for about six months. That gave me very good results and I was very happy with it. After she left I still did have experiences but eventually they ceased to come, and she had told me that this would happen because these experiences belong to the lower divine planes. She said that one day these experiences would cease and I would go into samadhi.

It happened. I used to sit in the asana and then get lost. I did not know where I was. I lost total connection with time, space and myself too. It was much deeper than sleep, deeper than anything. It was something like death. I died and then I came back. By that time, I had lots of books and was studying Sanskrit. I can speak Sanskrit even better than English and Hindi. I love Sanskrit. It is perhaps the only language I love. So I used to read those books, the yoga, Samkhya and Nyaya texts. The various philosophies like Buddhist and Jaina texts and the texts related to the philosophies of India and Greece, and the Epicureans and Hedonists. I came to know that what I was attaining was jada samadhi, where the consciousness is suspended. It is suspended animation and therefore the karmas are not roasted, the karmas are not extinguished.

Karma is the seed of existence: you are born again and again, you are unhappy, you get this incarnation and you feel this ‘I’ ness. It is the cause, the seed, the sperm of duality. Karma is in a suspended animation stage, and therefore once you come out of jada samadhi you are the same – same soul, same rogue, and there is practically no change in you.

Then I read Swami Vivekananda. I have very great respect for him as a swami, but as far as academic things are concerned or yoga I did not read his books because he is talking about something beyond what I need. I don’t need inspiration. His book on the Yoga Sutras is very concise, and a book which can give you some experience. He said without guru kripa, without guru’s grace, you cannot cross the barrier.

Until that time, I did not like the idea of guru and serving someone – it was not possible for me. When I was born, the first thing that my parents placed in my hand was a gun. That was my tradition. My ancestors fought on the battlefield and that was the traditional training, for we are fighters and warriors. We do not care for death. Death is just a passing show. It is nothing important, you do not have to worry or cry about it. So then I read about many gurus, like Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, then I met Anandmayi Ma at that time. Finally, I left my place in search of a guru, not to learn sadhana from him but to get his grace – a free donation!

I went to Rajasthan and I lived with a tantric yogi for about nine months. He was a master in tantra but not in practice. He did not know as much as that lady knew but he was a scholar. He told me all the different systems of tantra, the Kashmir system and South Indian system and others, but I was in search of a guru who could just bring me out of that jada samadhi. I left the yogi and I do not remember the intermediate journey. I have a good memory, but I do not know what happened. Until a point near Saharanpur in U.P. There was a sadhu with matted locks and he was smoking a cigarette. I had not smoked for many months and I asked him to give me a cigarette. He got angry with me. He said, “You want a cigarette? You are a young boy.” Finally, he asked me where I was going. I said that I was in search of my guru. He sent me to Rishikesh where I met Swami Sivananda within three days. Swami Sivananda told me only one thing, “Stay here. Work hard. That’s all.” I stayed.

I did not do sadhana as a matter of fact. From time to time I used to meditate or sit on the Ganges bank, that kind of thing. The sadhana which I did in Rishikesh was hard work, physical work as a kitchen servant, as a bullock cart driver. I used to cut grass for the bullocks in the ashram. I used to clean the cows and milk the cows, cook food for them, bring vegetables or take the post from Sivananda Ashram to Rishikesh two miles on my head and post it there and come back – no cycle. I used to go to deposit the money in the bank. From Rishikesh ashram to Dehradun is twenty-six miles, the nearest bank was twenty-six miles away. The nearest ration shop was six miles up. I had diseases like hepatitis, typhoid, paratyphoid, dysentery and ulcers in the mouth, vitamin A deficiency. Tuberculosis also I had. That was my sadhana.

Sadhanas like kriya yoga, kundalini yoga, swara yoga, prana vidya, ajapa japa, hatha yoga are intended for different categories of aspirants and really you do not know which will suit you and which you will be able to do regularly with great success. Those who are practising different sadhanas can do so but ultimately they will have to assess as to which is the particular sadhana to which the mind gets stuck, or which appeals to your mind, and as a result of that gives some kind of regularity and inner equanimity, and an inner experience is born.

You do not have to say which sadhana is greater. To some it is ajapa japa, to some kriya yoga and for others it can be any other sadhana. The central theme of every sadhana is life itself. If you practise sadhana in ‘isolation’ by extracting it from the flow of life, I do not think that you can get anything. A candle is burning and the windows are open, when a gale comes, the candle is extinguished. Whatever tranquillity, one-pointedness or equanimity you attain through the practice of raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga or any yoga sadhana is immediately destroyed by the terrific currents of life, the day-to-day life. Therefore, it is more important to adjust your life current and the work you do in life, the karma and acts you do. They are really intended to purify yourself. That is the greatest sadhana.

You have children, parents, a wife, friends, property, money, passions, ambitions, desires and hatred. That is the totality of life. It is like a garden where you do not have only mango trees but also oranges. Different forms of experiences in your life become important and you will have to decide how to face them and fix them up. If you think that you are going to renounce and abandon them, perhaps you are going to have to come back again, as I did once. When you leave your karma, it is necessary to come back again. Life has to be understood whatever you do. Anger, passions, ambitions, worries, hatred, anxieties, ill health, good health, good friends, bad friends, disappointments, frustrations – it is a big list. That’s life! How are you going to understand it? Swami Sivananda said, “Work hard and everything will be all right.”

People consider life in two compartments. Marketing, banking, driving, cooking, counting money, writing letters, talking to your wife and children, having good food are worldly things. Sitting for meditation and doing pranayama, reading the Gita and Bible are spiritual things. You have divided life into two compartments. Now break those compartments for they are just one and the same if you are a sadhaka. If you are a traveller on the spiritual path life is just one. If you are not a traveller on the path, then your worldly life is worldly life and spiritual life is spiritual life because you are not aware.

For people who have been searching for a way there is no one way, there are no two ways. There are only ways. Everything, the entire existence, manifestation, reaction, life as a whole is an experience within yourself. Your interaction with your family is taking place within yourself. Your interactions with worldly things are taking place within yourself. If you see some dirty, obnoxious stuff outside and visualize it, it is yourself. You are experiencing that dirty stuff within yourself in the form of your mind. You are experiencing yourself. Pain, pleasure, disappointments, the dull life and hatred, which you experience in your day-to-day life is an experience of yourself.

If it can be realized by you that every work which you do will be a part of the inner experience, then it can help you. This did happen to me in Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda has clearly written that my capacity to run the ashram was so fantastic – I am talking 25, 26, 27 years ago – so fantastic that the whole Divine Life Society is not Swami Sivananda’s dream – it is my dream. I dreamt it. I saw the houses, the quarters, the ladders, the staircases, the temple, the building, the colour, the painting, the woodwork, everything else, the mail, the money and the kitchen, everything. It used to go into my mind during the night all the time, for hours and hours together and for nothing. The day I left I just left it. It is not in my mind. I am not sorry that I am not there, I am happy that I am here. This is how you have to arrange yourself.

Practise any sadhana you like. Practise swara yoga and after a few years or a few months you can give it up and practise kriya yoga; then you can give up kriya yoga and you can do some other yoga. That is not important. You need just two things in life in order to make a breakthrough. One is the tantric way of practising which is something very powerful. It can explode the mind. Every householder can do tantric practice.

For example, marriage is not necessary for progeny, though once upon a time it was necessary. Enjoyment can also not be the purpose of marriage. The purpose of marriage is to establish a relationship between the two poles of reality which in the universe are known as time and space.

There are two forms of energy called time and space, what you call positive and negative, two forms of energy interlinked with man’s consciousness. They are the two aspects of consciousness which always remain separate, apart from each other, diametrically opposite. There is a time when they travel in the opposite direction, towards each other. There is a point where they meet and where the experience begins.

Man and woman represent time and space. I am not talking of a social science or biology. I am talking spirituality. They are different and they have to be different. Positive and negative poles of energy are different from each other therefore they create an effect. This is the opportunity for everyone to make a breakthrough through tantra which is the easiest path: the body merges with the senses. The senses merge with the mind. Mind merges with buddhi. Buddhi merges with ahamkara. Ahamkara merges with mahatattwa, the great principle. Then, the second thing, you have to find a guru who should create a final breakthrough.

14 November 1987, Munger