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Living the Bhagavad Gita Way

3. Spiritual Life and Sadhana, Part I

‘Spiritual Life and Sadhana, Part I’ is the third video in the series, ‘Living the Bhagavad Gita Way’. This series is a study of a better way of living, based on the translation and flow in, ‘Gita Meditations’ by Swami Sivananda. (1 hour, 15 minutes)

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Spiritual Life and Sadhana, Part I

The last time, we talked about the mahatmas and saints – those great ones who went beyond the limitations of the mind and realized the truth by their direct experience. The next two sessions will deal the spiritual life and sadhana according to the Bhagavad Gita. As we discussed earlier, everything in the Gita is verified and verifiable. The journey or adventure of realizing the truth or seeing one’s own nature is spiritual living and sadhana.

The topics for today are…

Three kinds of sukha: sukha is happiness or joy but we are told that much that appears to be happiness at first, quickly changes and brings pain. The three kinds of sukha are the satvic, rajasic and tamasic kind. Of these three, only satvic sukha is good. We traverse from the Gita to the Katha Upanishad where an there is excellent clarity on the difference between the good and the pleasant to understand the what made Nachiketas turn away from all that he was tempted with in order to pursue the good.

Great enemies of man: we may think that there are many enemies in this world and that they are all outside. But, Krishna tells us that we have only one enemy called rajas, it is deadly, all devouring, it destroys even the wise who seek to understand and go beyond it. Rajas destroys knowledge and realization and brings us back to samsara or the cycle of birth and death repeatedly in different conditions over which we will have no choice unless we destroy this most sinful thing. We are given several hints on thinning and destroying rajas and this section concludes by telling us that “Triple is the gate of hell, destructive of self – lust, anger and greed…” and these must be abandoned.

Yogic discipline: it is not punitive but positive and liberating. Unless one lives a simple and well-regulated life, one will not be able to attain sense-control and self-control. These are necessary before any kind of serious or deep meditation. How can you meditate when the mind that meditates is disorderly and full of desires? The mind for meditation is made when you are not meditating as such – in what is called one’s normal life. To live in such a way that the inner instrument is purified, sharpened is very important and most beneficial to you. Money, power and such things come and go – the move around the table of this world. But, no one, not even the hands of time can take away what you invest in your self – the being that you are. Perhaps, this is why it is called an in-vestment. Yogic discipline is the fire, life is the anvil, your aspiration and self-effort are the tongs and hammer with which the mind for meditation will be forged. The way one lives to bring this about is called yogic discipline.

Three kinds of tapas: translated as austerity and often taken as some form of bodily punishment which it is not. Tapas is psychological burning that takes place when one lives a life of yogic discipline and inner refinement. The dross in the mind begins to burn by disuse as new, better and more conducive ways are embraced for living. The Gita tells us there are three kinds of austerity: physical austerity, austerity of speech and mental austerity. When these are practiced together intelligently with heart and understanding – old ways are burnt and new vistas open their doors.

Control of mind: building on sense control which has already been discussed earlier under yogic discipline, the Gita girds up its loins towards control of mind. We are introduced to one single word: abstinence – which usually has a very limited scope in day-to-day conversations and probably implies sexual abstinence. But, abstinence is much more. To abstain is to turn away from and when one faces something more satisfying, more fulfilling and better – the old ways run out of steam because of disuse. When you face the light, the shadow is not seen. In this one word ‘abstinence’, the alpha-omega of yoga: vairagya and abhyasa or dispassion and right exertion comes into play.

Virtues to be cultivated: for the seeker, virtues are not for others but for his own self. All vices increase duality in the mind, this aside from filling the mind with its results like anger, greed, jealousy etc. If there is selfishness for example, you can be selfish to all and exempt those dear to you. Virtues do not need duality: if you decide to be unselfish for example – you have to be unselfish to all and not selectively. Virtues heal the mind from fragmentation and as a byproduct, improve your relations with the world at large.

We conclude with Swami Sivananda’s ‘Song of Eighteen ‘Ities’’ – an inspiring song which brings to mind the eighteen most important virtues or qualities for the seeker.

Song of Eighteen ’Ities

By H. H. Sri Swami Sivananda

Serenity, regularity, absence of vanity,
Sincerity, simplicity, veracity,
Equanimity, fixity, non-irritability,
Adaptability, humility, tenacity,
Integrity, nobility, magnanimity,
Charity, generosity, purity.

Practice daily these eighteen ’ities,
You will soon attain immortality.
Brahman is the only real entity,
Mr. So-and-so is a false non-entity.
You will abide in Eternity and Infinity,
You will behold unity in diversity,

You cannot attain this in the university,
You can attain this in the Forest University.
..Serenity, regularity, absence of vanity,
Sincerity, simplicity, veracity.

Note: From the book, ‘Inspiring Songs and Kirtans of Swami Sivananda’, published by The Divine Life Society. This is an excellent and most inspiring books of English songs where the highest wisdom and teachings are culled together in songs, set to simple tunes. You can even purchase CDs of a good amount of the songs sung by Swami Sivananda himself. Here is insight into each of the eighteen qualities or virtues in the words of Gurudev Swami Sivananda…

For everyone’s success in life, and especially for a sadhaka’s success in the spiritual life, it is essential that he should develop certain cardinal virtues. Virtue is strength, power and the key to peace. A virtuous man is ever happy, peaceful and prosperous. People ask me for a specific mention of the virtues that one should develop. The “Song of Eighteen ’Ities” enumerates the virtues that everyone should cultivate. Take up any one virtue and develop it to a very high degree of perfection: eradicate in toto its opposite evil quality even in its most subtle form. Meditate on these virtues, their benefits; the methods of cultivating these virtues. The Eighteen ’Ities are:

1. Serenity: Be tranquil within. Let that inner peace and inner joy radiate through a serene countenance. A serene countenance is peaceful, smiling, serious, and does not betray any violent emotions. It is like the surface of a still lake.

2. Regularity: Be regular in your daily habits, work and sadhana. Get up at a particular time daily; go to bed at a particular time. Be clock-like in your daily activities. You will be free from worry, anxiety, haphazard and shabby work. You will do the right thing at the right moment.

3. Absence of vanity: Do not boast of your birth, position, qualifications and spiritual attainments. Remember the evanescent nature of all things phenomenal. Praise others. See good in all. Treat even the lowliest creatures as your equal.

4. Sincerity: Let your words agree with your thoughts: let actions agree with your words. Let there be harmony between your thoughts, words and actions.

5.  Simplicity: Be artless. Be simple in your speech. Do not twist words and topics. Be plain, avoid diplomacy, cunningness and crookedness. Be simple in your dress. Be simple in your diet. Develop a child-like nature.

6. Veracity: Be truthful. Stick to your promises. Do not exaggerate. Do not twist facts. Think twice before you speak. Speak truthfully, speak sweetly; be precise in what you say.

7. Equanimity: Be calm. Bear patiently insult, injury, suffering, failures, and disrespect. Be not elated by praise, pleasure, success and honour. Look upon both with equal vision. Behave alike towards friends and foes. Never let a thing disturb your inner peace.

8. Fixity: Remember you can achieve nothing if you are fickle-minded. Do vichara. Choose your goal or ideal. Always remember that. Never let it go out of your mind even for a moment.

9. Non-irritability: Irritability is the precursor of violent outbursts of anger. Watch for the disturbance in the mental equilibrium. Watch for the ripples of anger that might arise in the lake of the mind. Quell them then and there. Do not allow them to assume greater proportions. Then you will attain a non-irritable state of peace and love.

10. Adaptability: Understand the nature of the people with whom you come into contact. Adjust your mode of approach to them, your conduct towards them in such a way as would be pleasing to them. Joyfully bear with the eccentricities of other people. Always react in a harmonious manner. Serve all and love all. Have the bhavana that the Lord is in all as the Self of all.

11. Humility: Respect everybody. Bow with folded palms before everybody. Do not talk in a loud voice in the presence of elders and venerable persons. Look at the toes while you walk. See the Lord in all and feel that you are His servant and so the servant of all. Consider none as inferior to you.

12. Tenacity: This is the natural friend of fixity. Once you have fixed your aim and chosen your path, stick to it. Do not waver. Be steadfast. Never compromise your fundamental principles. Have the mental attitude “I may give up my life: but I will not swerve from the path, I will not break my vows.”

13. Integrity: Develop an integral personality. Tie all the loose ends of your character. Become a man of high moral principles. Lead a dharmic life. Let righteousness waft its fragrance from you. Everyone will trust you, obey you, respect you and revere you.

14. Nobility: Shun mean-mindedness as dung and poison. Never look into other people’s defects. Appreciate everyone’s good qualities. Be dignified in bearing. Never stoop to low thoughts, words or actions.

15. Magnanimity: Take a broad view of things. Ignore other people’s faults. Be great and high-minded in whatever you do. Avoid silly talk and childish prattle. Let not the mind dwell on little things and insignificant incidents.

16. Charity: Give, give and give. Radiate thoughts of goodwill and love. Forgive other people’s faults. Bless the man who injures you. Share what you have with others. Feed and clothe all. Disseminate spiritual knowledge to one and all. Use the material wealth, knowledge and spiritual wisdom that you possess as a divine trust, entrusted to you by God, to be distributed among His children.

17. Generosity: In whatever you give, be liberal. Have a large heart. Be not stingy. Take delight in other people’s joys, in making other people happy. Generosity is a sister-virtue of charity. Generosity is the fulfilment of charity, magnanimity and nobility.

18. Purity: Be pure at heart. Eradicate lust, anger, greed and other evil tendencies. Be pure in your thoughts; let no evil thought enter the mind. Think of God always; think of the well-being of all. Be pure in your words; never utter a vulgar, harsh or unkind word. Be pure in body also; keep it clean, keep your dress and your surroundings clean. Observe the rules of physical, mental, moral and spiritual hygiene.

These eighteen ’Ities will pave the way for you to march into the kingdom of God. They will open out the gates of immortality for you. You will achieve great success in this life on earth also. A man who possesses these qualities in a very large measure is a saint indeed, who will be respected, adored and worshipped by one and all. May you all become Jivanmuktas and the very embodiments of these virtues!

Swami Sivananda

With best wishes,

Swami Suryadevananda