Advancing In Sadhana
From a Talk given by Swami Vishnu-devananda at the inauguration of the first Sivananda Yoga Sadhana Intensive in June, 1988
I would like to begin by speaking about the spiritual path we are climbing through Yoga. You might say that it is an uphill climb. There are ups and downs. You climb up and then once again go down. There is no straight path to the top and there are many obstacles. In some places the road is wide but then suddenly narrows. We may come to a bush through which it is very difficult to penetrate, and even though we continue, we do not know where we are going.
So it is with the spiritual journey. In the beginning it is all very wonderful: "Ah, yes, I can do asanas, pranayama, etc." But then suddenly you come to that big bush in your path and you don't know in which direction to go. If somehow you come out of the bush, you come next to a swamp. Some students disappear in the quicksand and never come out. Perhaps they see a beautiful girl or a handsome man and get married, and oh, they want to enjoy their life with children, home and family - once again swallowed by Maya, their spiritual purpose completely forgotten.
Nevertheless, it is possible to penetrate these obstacles and reach the top. Now you can see all around beautifully. Now you can meditate and enjoy full freedom. No more birth; no more death; you' ve got an eternal holiday.
These experiences are familiar to the yogi. He finds no smooth road to the top. Those who succeed come from different directions, having followed different teachers, but once they reach the top, everything is the same. On the way the obstacles will differ, but at the top the view is the same.
The purpose of the practice of Yoga is to give your life a boost, to put your spiritual progress in first gear. Then you may go into second gear and maybe into third gear where you can cruise comfortably after climbing the hills. This is unlike most worldly people who just coast downhill without knowing about brakes, thinking that happiness is somewhere down there, waiting for them. They go straight down hill, faster and faster into numerous disasters such as cancer, AIDS, high blood pressure, heart trouble. Soon it is too late and they crash. So even though it may seem very easy, please don't coast downhill. We will show you another way.
The path was laid out by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an ancient text used by Yogis to create the power to go uphill all the way to the top. This path was laid out by great beings called siddhas: Matsyendranath, his disciple Gorakshanath and others, fourteen in all. This is one of the earliest treatises on Hatha Yoga; all the modern books are based on it. It is the central route. All of us have only expanded and expounded on it in different ways. In addition to following the practices laid out in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, I strongly recommend the study of books such as Shankaracharya's Viveka Chudamani, and the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Viveka Chudamani is a very beautiful book; those who follow its instruction will create the necessary dispassion to surmount the obstacles created by rajas (passion or activity). In addition, we also need devotion, because without God's grace we cannot reach the Source no matter how hard we strive. To help create this devotion, we read from the Bhagavatam.
This practice is not something I invented; it is the traditional method which I myself followed intensively when I was with Master Sivananda in the Himalayas. I lived in the forest where there were cobras and tigers. Sometimes I could hear the tigers from my cottage when they would come by to drink water and they would roar. I had only a flimsy door which they could easily have pushed through. Nevertheless, in such an environment I went through this training morning, noon, evening, and midnight, practicing for almost fourteen hours daily. I hardly slept - just two or three hours a night. But I can't begin to describe the tremendous power that builds up.
The purpose here is to increase the vibratory level in a very short time. In Sanskrit this work is expressed as "Shakti Sanchar." We want to make the Shakti move from its dormant or static state to the dynamic state through sadhana or spiritual practice.
However please be careful not to go beyond your capacity. Do not do too much at once; do not go too deep or too fast; do not work too intensively, or else a kickback will come. That is why I modify the practice to suit the particular evolution of my students. I never give a practice unless I myself have experienced it. Also, though I like discipline, I believe that this discipline must come from within. I show my students how this can be accomplished and then leave them to practise as if they were alone in the forest. To this I added just a little group practice for reinforcement. In addition, my students make out a resolve form and keep a spiritual diary which I look at to check their progress so that I can prescribe a little more or a little less of a particular practice. We meet together for an hour each day to talk about our practice, to receive some instruction about technical things and to improve the performance of some of these procedures.
My main instruction, is to control the mind. Secondly, avoid unnecessary desires with one exception - desire to increase your will power. If you satisfy one desire, ten more will come to take its place. When will you ever be finished with all those desires? But if you develop your will power and kill even one desire, you will be strong. Then you will easily kill ten more, and then hundred.
Om Namah Sivaya!
- Swami Vishnu-devananda
The Sadhana Intensive is a two week programme designed by Swami Vishnu-devananda. It is based on the traditional Yoga practice that Swamiji himself followed during his period of intensive Sadhana in the Himalayas. Students are closely guided by senior disciples of Swami Vishnu-devananda in:
All participants must have completed the Sivananda Yoga Teachers' Training Course and have an interest in developing their personal sadhana through guided practice. During the Sadhana Intensive, the focus will be on individual practice. Some theory and group practice will supplement your daily routine, but for the most part, you will be on your own - under the guidance of the senior swamis of the ashram.
- Basic and Advanced Asanas
- Concentrated and increasingly prolonged periods of Pranayama
- Discussion and practice of Kriyas, Mudras and Bandhas
- Study of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the earliest and most respected treatises on Hatha Yoga
- Study of Srimad Bhagavatham, one of the 18 Puranas of India, designed to inspire devotion in the spiritual aspirant.
- Study of Viveka Chudamani, Sankaracharya's poetic masterpiece of Advaita Vedanta philosophy
- Chanting of Kirtan, Mantras and Bhagavad Gita
- All will meet daily to discuss their practice and receive personal instruction
All programmes, even meals, are conducted separately from the regular ashram events. Yogic dietary regulations are followed very closely.
Please bring your Teachers' Training uniform. If you need to purchase a new one, please let us know in advance, with the size required.
The next Sadhana Intensive courses will take place:
- February 9-23, '97 at the Sivananda Dhanwantari Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala, South India
- June 8-22, '97 at the Sivananda Yoga Camp, Val Morin, Quebec, Canada.
Texts used during the course:
All texts are available from the on-line Boutique
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika with commentary by Swami Vishnu-devananda, published by Om Lotus Publishing.
- Viveka Chudamani, commentary by Swami Madhavananda, published by Advaita Ashram Press.
- Srimad Bhagavatham, translated by Kamala Subramanyam, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
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