What Is Sadhana?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 43


"Sadhana is practiced...wherever a pure, serene atmosphere can be found." Achieve steadiness, control of emotions through abhyasa-regular consistent practice with devotion, yoga-the restraint of mental activities and vairaghya-dispassion. Like the growth of a kauri tree, it's a slow process; check it every few years, see the progress.

Path to Siva, Lesson 43. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Reading this morning from "Path to Siva" Lesson 43.

"What Is Sadhana?

"There are three dimensions to our being: physical, emotional/intellectual and spiritual. All three need attention for optimum health. Exercise strengthens our physical body. Learning and practicing self control expands and enhances our emotional/mental capacity. Through sadhana, spiritual practice, we exercise our spiritual nature by taking time to experience it. Most of the time we are so wrapped up in our outer nature that we are hardly aware of our deep, glorious inner reality. This can go on life after life, as many people only begin to think of greater realities when nearing the point of death. We give time to our spiritual nature by performing religious activities, ideally as a daily vigil or spiritual exercise. During this quiet time alone we focus on life's inner purpose, which is to make spiritual progress. Puja, japa, scriptural study, hatha yoga and meditation are all forms of sadhana. Some sadhanas are yearly, such as going on pilgrimage. Some may be assigned by the guru as a one-time practice. A popular sadhana is chanting 'AUM' 108 times each day. The ten-minute spiritual workout is becoming popular in today's busy world. These times of quiet retreat from life's hustle and bustle are underrated, their benefits overlooked. Sadhana builds willpower, faith and confidence in oneself and in God, Gods and guru. It harnesses our instinctive-intellectual nature, allowing unfoldment into the superconscious realizations and innate abilities of the soul. Gurudeva noted: 'Through sadhana we learn to control the energies of the body and nerve system, and we experience that through the control of the breath the mind becomes peaceful. Sadhana is practiced in the home, in the forest, by a flowing river, under a favorite tree, in the temple, in gurukulas or wherever a pure, serene atmosphere can be found.' Yogaswami directed his devotees to follow the sadhana marga, the path of religious effort, all through life."

And we have Gurudeva's quote:

"For consistent progress, sadhana should be performed regularly without fail, at the same time each day preferably in the early hours before dawn."

The idea of a regular daily practice, as I've mentioned regularly, is somehow, got left behind in India and Sri Lanka. Managed to bring over the temples, wonderful priests, Hindu philosophy, the idea of attending a puja, but the idea of a personal daily practice didn't come over, still there in India and Sri Lanka. Not as much as it used to be but it's still there.

I was reflecting on a story, it impressed me, think it was 1974 in Jaffna, we were visiting a priest's home, one of our hosts was taking us there. And, the priest had a personal practice; I think it took him about two hours every morning. So, in addition to his priestly duties at the temple, every morning before he started his priestly duties he spent two hours doing his vigil. I said: "Oh that's dedication." Wasn't used to seeing a priest also doing a personal vigil so that impressed me a lot. So of course, two hours is a lot and life is getting busier every year. So, that's why our spiritual workout is ten minutes. Everyone can find ten minutes, you know you just shut off the TV ten minutes earlier, stop chatting about the day ten minutes earlier, whatever. You know, you go to bed ten minutes earlier, get up ten minutes earlier and there's ten minutes. Easy to do. And of course it's not supposed to just remain ten minutes but ten minutes is a good start. And then Gurudeva in the Master Course, suggests half an hour is good for adults. And then, of course for our initiates we expect a full hour. You know gets more and more.

One of the names for the daily practice is sandhya upasana or sandhya vandana. So it just means a practice done when when the time of day is changing from night to day or day to night. Sandhya. The change of the day. And of the two the one in the morning is the more important. Sets the mood for the whole day. Once you get used to doing a daily vigil in the morning it's hard to imagine starting the day without it. Kind of puts you in the right mood.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras has the same idea as sadhana. Regular practice. In the terminology of the Yoga Sutras it's called abhyasa. A b h y a s a. Abhyasa. Just means regular practice. And in the Yoga Sutras first pada starts out by explaining: "Yoga is the restraint of mental activities," as we know. And, that our awareness is usually identified with these activities but that we can identify it with itself through practice. And it talks about the five kinds of of activities. And then, after that, it talks about abhyasa-how to restrain the mental activities. And, as some of you will probably remember I sometimes phrase this as a question. "What would we think Patanjali would say is needed to restrain mental activity? So, you know, say practice for sure, right? Well, practice, that's what we're talking about. Sadhana, abhyasa.

But he has a second one which is vairagya or dispassion. So the verse reads: "The restraint of these mental activities is achieved through practice and dispassion." So dispassion is the opposite of passion. Passion is when we're strongly attracted to something. Dispassion is when we have no attraction toward something. Dispassion. So we're just looking at the abhyasa today. Defines it in the next verse:

"Practice, abhyasa, is the exertion to achieve steadiness and the state of restraint."

So my comment is: The verse is defining what we're trying to do. The point of yoga is to sit with a controlled mind without losing control. You want to achieve steadiness and practice is the effort to achieve that.

And he goes on with, next verse goes on to explain further:

"But this practice becomes firmly grounded only after it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion for a long time."

So, that's longer than a weekend seminar, right? Weekend seminar won't do it. Even a couple of years won't do it. A long time is a long time. So talking about years of practice. And, uninterruptedly, that is another way of saying regularly or daily. So we need our practice to be virtually daily for it to build. And then he brings in the other ideas; we need devotion. Patanjali's not usually thought, just talking a lot about devotion but it pops up regularly. Couple of times each chapter the idea of devotion pops up.

So my comment is: This verse is stating that we will be successful if we do the practice with devotion and consistently for long periods of time, is not a quick process but rather takes time. Therefore, the expectation is progress occurs but it's slow. It's not an overnight happening and that's because the mind changes slowly but it does change. Both the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Our ability (as Gurudeva pointed out) our ability to control the emotions is important because change, and we need to stick with it, uninterruptedly and with devotion and then change will take place. And as you know, the best way to measure change is not one day to the next or even one month to the next but a couple of years. You know, if you look at your ability to restrain mental activity now and you look back two, three, four, five years, you should see progress over a period of years. So, like one of these slow growing trees. What is it the kauri tree takes a thousand years to grow. You know, don't want to check it every day. So we're like the kauri tree. It's just, it's a slow process but it is taking place and if you only check it every few years you can see the progress.

So, thank you very much.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
It's very simple: the energy within our body is the same energy that pervades the universe, and it's all emanating right out of Lord Siva.
—Gurudeva