A human being is a repository of innumerable potentials. Being the highest creation of God (Supreme Consciousness) on earth, human beings have, in principle, inherited all His divine attributes. Nevertheless, God has placed necessary safeguards against the misuse of these faculties. These divine capabilities are accessible only to those who have the wisdom of their righteous use. It is a time-tested principle of Nature that boons are granted according to the worthiness of the aspirant.
All those who have risen to great heights could do so only by practising this principle in their lives. The principle of accessing supernormal faculties (siddhi) through sadhana (self-discipline) is unquestionable. In fact, through the medium of deities, we endeavour to infuse self-discipline in ourselves. It has been possible for mankind to achieve material and cultural progress through the formulation and observance of the necessary codes of conduct and behaviour for the control and refinement of the wayward and crude impulses of the lower human self.
Those who aspire for self-transformation have to adopt this practice of conscious self-discipline in their lives.
Human life, with myriads of latent physical, mental and spiritual qualities, may be likened to a garden of sweet fruits. Even if only a few of these qualities are cultivated systematically, one can relish the fruits of joy. But if the baser tendencies and bodily habits are left undisciplined, they run amuck. Such aimless life leads to the growth of thorny bushes of misery and suffering in the garden of life.
Like a kalpavriksha (a mythological tree supposed to fulfil every desire of a person sitting beneath it), the human life is potentially full of innumerable precious gifts. One can benefit from these divine gifts only when life's energies are properly focused, disciplined and directed towards noble deeds. The efforts made towards this end have been called sadhana.
Many deities are worshipped and it is believed that they grant suitable boons to their devotee. The underlying truth is that while moving along the path of sadhana, an intrinsic faith has to be developed and the wayward propensities and perversities of the lower self have to be identified, curbed, refined and transformed into divine virtues. Natural adoption of virtuous life is a visible sign of divine grace. Once it is accomplished, an aspirant can smoothly move ahead in the direction of the ultimate goal of human endeavour - self-realisation.
The field of sadhana is one's own inner being. Buried herein is a treasure-trove of immense spiritual wealth. Futile then is the need of seeking it in the outer world. In fact, the intrinsic virtues have been described as devi-devata (deities) by the seers. They have devised external rituals for the awakening of specific virtues within and in the process unearthing the hidden treasure. In order to acquire physical strength one makes use of various appliances of the gymnasium. There is no strength in these appliances; strength is embedded in the muscles.
The equipments are helpful only in activating the latent strength in the muscles. The same is true about the external rituals of atma sadhana (sadhana of the soul). One can learn a lot by keenly observing the mental state and the physical activities of a wrestler who does his regular practice each day with enthusiasm. Not only does he do the physical exercises but also takes nutritious food, observes continence, massages his body, adheres to a healthy daily routine and above all keeps himself free from worry. If all other aspects are neglected and only the physical exercises are given importance, his aim of becoming a wrestler will remain a fantasy. Similarly, the rituals of upasana (worship) have their own significance, but they alone do not lead to the achievement of the desired aim.
The seeker has to mould his thinking as well as activities according to the set goal.
Musicians do not become expert in either vocal or instrumental music in a day. They have to make a persistent effort. In the absence of practice, the voice of a vocalist sounds erratic and jarring and the fingers of an instrumentalist lack coordination. A true artist remains indifferent both to the reaction of the audience and to the remuneration paid to him. He feels contented with the joy derived from his daily sadhana of music.
A true devotee of art would maintain his inner peace even if he does not get any immediate and tangible reward or recognition for his art. He would continue to do his sadhana of music without any lessening of interest, even though he may have to dwell in a hut in a remote forest. The mental make-up of a person practicing atma sadhana should have at least this much dedication and commitment.
Dancers, actors, sculptors, etc. know the importance of daily practice to maintain their art. Soldiers participate compulsorily in routine parades to maintain their skills of marksmanship and fighting.
Fulfilment of an inner resolution (samkalpa
) for some worldly purpose may be achieved by performing the specific sadhana of chanting a particular mantra for a fixed number of times. But the mere ritual will not satisfy a true aspirant of atma sadhana. He understands that in order to mine the gems of his hidden talents he must plunge into the silent depths of his inner self daily and persistently. Brushing teeth, bathing, washing the clothes etc. is a part of daily routine. One cannot ignore them. The perturbed and perverse environment of the outer world pollutes the inner-consciousness. If it is not cleaned out every day, pollutants keep on accumulating and ultimately give rise to some serious problems.
In order to keep the body alive and functional, there are two basic needs: first, daily intake of food; and second, regular excretion of waste. Obviously, neither of these can be ignored. Through food one obtains the necessary nutrients and energy for the growth and functioning of the body. The disposal of waste through the excretory systems gets rid of toxins produced in the body. Like a physical body, the soul (the consciousness present inside the physical body) also has its own needs. It also feels hungry. It is also contaminated by the inner pollution of perverse thoughts and feelings and so requires regular cleansing. The method by which the needs of the physical and the subtle bodies are fulfilled is called sadhana. With its help, virtues are awakened that satiate the hunger of the soul. Thus, happiness and prosperity flourish in the field of life.
" is also instrumental in the eradication of those vices and evil traits which obstruct, like huge rocks, the progress of the soul. The two-fold process of self-purification and self-development uproots kusamskaras (evil tendencies) and in their place sows the seeds of divine traits leading to progressive spiritual and material enrichment. Thus, the devotee simultaneously gets rid of the thorny bushes of vices and receives the ambrosial fruits of inner enlightenment. The spirit (also referred to as atma deva, meaning soul deity) is the source of the cosmos and its highest culmination. Its pursuit (sadhana) is the highest endeavour; its worship (upasana) never goes in vain. With a set goal in mind, if the right attitude towards life is adopted, the atma sadhana may truly be called amrita (nectar), paras (philosopher's stone), kalpavriksha
(the mythological heavenly cow supposed to bestow the objects of desire).
After disciplining, even animals perform unusual feats. A wild cow in the jungle does not tolerate the proximity of a human being and destroys the crops. But once it is tamed, it becomes an asset to the farmer, providing milk, calves and many other benefits. In this way, both become mutually beneficial the cow gets protection and comfort and the farmer gets milk, calves, manure etc. The same also holds good for other wild animals. The wild horses, dogs, pigs and elephants of the jungle have to remain hungry frequently, face many difficulties and live an uncertain life. After domestication, they live comfortably and also provide benefits to their masters. The human body and its inner sentient field of mind, intellect, feelings etc. is a whirlpool of many powerful currents and crosscurrents. In the absence of any direction and control they remain wayward like wild animals. As a result, they get contaminated and make the entire surroundings toxic. Where there is a wild fire, it burns the materials around it. Wherever a bottle of acid spills, it destroys the objects that come into contact with it. The uncontrolled animal instincts within the human beings are very much like the wild fire or spilled acid. They can destroy the life of an individual. On the other hand, just as controlled fire and acid are useful, controlled thoughts and feelings create miracles for the concerned person. The accruing benefits are so immense and so many that an ordinary looking person manifests extraordinary qualities and virtues. Sadhana is the process of bringing about harmony, orderliness and refinement in thoughts and actions in life. Understanding and implementing this concept in life is similar to the benefits earned by farmers and other professionals who have mastered the art of domesticating the wild animals.
The quartet of internal senses, namely, manas (the mind), buddhi (intellect), citta (psyche; the unconscious mind) and ahamkara (egotism), of a human being can be compared to a group of four wild animals. In its natural form this quartet is undisciplined. A thick coating of animal instincts of previous births covers them. The method that is used to peel off these coatings may be called sadhana. It is a special skill of refining the animal traits and moulding them into humane traits, and then into divine attributes. The process of mastering this skill is called atma sadhana. Although this endeavour is as difficult as the training of wild animals or chiselling a statue out of a raw piece of rock, it is full of innumerable benefits and gifts.
The miracles shown by puppeteers and the magicians and the surprising feats performed by the animals of a circus are nothing but the results of persistent, persevering, enthusiastic and dedicated efforts in a specific direction. Such miracles can be seen in all spheres of life, whether it is an ordinary entertainment show or some extraordinary achievement by individuals in their specialized fields. The process of awakening one's own talents and utilising them for meaningful purposes is called sadhana. It always culminates in supranormal attainments. This is an established law of nature and is eternally true. One who is prepared to follow this course of self-discipline and makes an earnest effort towards refining his personality, is assured of an unending series of miraculous achievements emerging within his inner self, which he had been ignorantly and vainly seeking in the outside world. Note:
1. Here "lower human self" refers to lowly desires, wishes and ambitions