7.5 SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
WISE SAYINGS FROM DIFFERENT FAITHS
"And remember your Lord within your soul in humility and awe, morning and evening, without ostentation in words; and do not be of the heedless." Mohammed
"Last of all, meditate on the Oneness of the Self with God, the One blissful existence, the One I am." Sri Krishna
"Therefore, at all times, constantly remember Me and fight. With mind and intellect absorbed in Me, thou shalt doubtless come to Me." Sri Krishna
"Meditation widens wisdom; without meditation wisdom is lost ..... toward progress or failure do these two pathways guide. Know this then, and live according to the path that makes your wisdom wide." Buddha
DISCOURSES OF SAI BABA
SPIRITUAL PRACTICE IS ALL OF LIFE
The literal meaning of 'sadhana' (spiritual practice) is the effort you make to achieve the object you desire or to reach the goal you have in view. Spiritual practice is thus the primary means to realise your aim or objective. A second meaning of the term is 'Saa-dhana', that is, the wealth that is associated with Divinity. Material wealth will not accompany us when we give up the body. If wealth is lost, it can be regained. If strength is lost, it may be recovered. But if life is lost, it cannot be got back. Hence, while life still remains, one must strive to acquire the Divine wealth that is imperishable and everlasting. Your conduct constitutes this Divine wealth. It is only by the way we live that we can acquire this Divine wealth. (290588)
Good conduct alone is our real wealth. Good qualities alone constitute our real treasure. An unsullied character expressing itself in a pure and perfect life constitutes the most precious riches one can possess. Good conduct, good qualities and an exemplary character are the most valuable riches one can possess. But men today have given up these three and are seeking worldly goods and, immersed in their own concerns, are imagining that they are leading pious lives. The Divine cannot be attained through such delusions. All the teachings one listens to, the books one studies and the education one receives are only serving to nourish these delusions and not helping men to seek the Divine. (290588)
Spiritual practice is all of life; every act, thought and word is a step towards or away from God. And God is not high up in the heavens; He is in us, with us, beside us, behind us, before us. He is in every cell, as life; He is in every atom as activity. He is all this and more beside.
Every human being is equipped with intelligence by means of which he can inquire, investigate and experience the central Truth: God is His own Truth. Spiritual practice leads one to the Inward Path, as distinct from the other path which leads him away into the objective world where the senses misinterpret and mislead. (Kasturi 180876)
PRACTICES ARE NOT FOR REALISING THE DIVINE
All spiritual practices are not pursued for realising the Atma (Divine). There is no need to seek the Atma, which is all-pervasive and present everywhere. Spiritual practices are performed to get rid of that which bars the vision of the Atma. Man forgets his real nature and loses himself in the consciousness of what he is not. He forgets that he is the Divine in reality.
In the state of deep sleep, one is totally unaware of his name, form, position, etc. But on waking, he realises that the 'I', of which he is conscious in the waking state, was present in deep sleep also. The purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to discover the nature of the 'I' that is experienced in all the different states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. (300387)
The aim of spiritual practices is to make man recognise the unity that subsumes creation and enable him to realise the bliss of oneness with the Divine through the means of rituals, meditation and knowledge. (150988)
It is not possible to realise God by spiritual practices, exercises or sacrifices, meditation or good deeds. All these are only aids for achieving purity of mind and heart. This truth has been clearly enunciated by Sri Krishna in the Gita. "Neither by the Vedas, nor by austerities, nor by gifts, nor by sacrifices, can I be seen in this form as you (Arjuna) have seen Me." What, then, is the purpose of these spiritual practices, which are being performed by earnest and knowledgeable aspirants? All these spiritual practices are intended to help man to get rid of the veil in which he is enveloped by attachment and hatred. The inner meaning of all spiritual disciplines is to make man realise his true nature.
Man inherently is the embodiment of Being-Awareness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda). Being is the unchanging state which is unaffected by the process of time (the past, present and the future). Chit is the capacity of Awareness which enables one to know the outer and inner truth about everything. Ananda is that state of unalloyed Bliss which is pure and permanent. (110787)
All religions are different paths, leading to one and the same destination. All devotees should experience this truth and live up to it in their daily lives, setting an example to the rest of the world. Their devotion should not be artificial. They should adhere to the right path, lead righteous lives and thereby experience enduring bliss. Only then will their spiritual practice be fruitful. (080188)
The greatest sin man commits is to forget his Divinity and, failing to recognise his true nature, considers himself as a distinct individual and fills his mind with desires and hatreds. We should not look upon human existence as something pitiful or weak and powerless. Man is the embodiment of the Divine - Being-Awareness-Bliss. The Divine in him is always radiating light and bliss. But, because of the barrier of bad thoughts, he is unable to experience this bliss.
The Divine is not something different or separate from one's self. Although one is identical with the Divine, the dark cloaks of attachment and hatred envelop his Divine essence and prevent him from recognising his inner Reality. The only truth man has to discover is the truth about himself. All the spiritual disciplines that are practised are intended to remove the veil that conceals this Reality in man. But all spiritual practices or enquiries that may be carried on for any length of time will be of no avail if the mind is not pure. (110787)
Today we have an ever-growing number of people who are unaware of the nature of Divinity. No special spiritual practices are required to experience Divinity. Not all the religious rites performed by many are done for the sake of God. God cannot be seen in an exclusive way. When one realises his own true nature and rids himself of impurities like attachment and hatred, he shines in his own true Self. Hence, all spiritual practices are intended to eliminate impurities in a person. (110787)
All forms of worship and penance are only for control of the mind. They will not give you the realisation of God. God is within you, around you, beside you. He is the only true friend. You develop friendship with worldly people, who may desert you when you are bereft of your wealth, power or status. God alone will be with you always. (110494)
INTEGRATE SPIRITUAL IDEALS WITH DAILY ACTIVITY
There are three doorways to hell for man: lust, hatred and greed. Desires tend to get out of bounds. Hence it is essential to try to curb them as far as possible. The process of controlling desires is called spiritual practice. (290588)
What use is there in meditation in which one counts the beads of the rosary while his thoughts are centred on some petty thing? Listen to the words of the wise, purify your thoughts and concentrate your mind on God. God can be installed only in a pure heart. The aim of all spiritual practice should be to purify the heart. All the available time and opportunities should be utilised for this purpose. It should not be wasted in any way. (080188)
People claim to spend hours in meditation. But of what use is it if there is no concentration of mind? It is better if you engage yourself in your regular duties or render social service or participate in devotional singing. By these means try to bring the mind under control. Also, such work will be transformed into worship. Dedicate all your thoughts and actions to God. "All actions are done to please God." Then your acts get purified. (010191)
We should try to seek fulfilment in our day-to-day life by basing our mundane activities on spiritual values. As I have been telling you off and on, you must have your hands in the society and head in the forest. That is to say, whatever be the activities with which you are preoccupied in society, you must be steadfast in holding on to the spiritual ideal. This alone is the true practice which will bestow lasting peace on you. Whatever may be the change in the various reflections, there will be no change whatsoever in the Original. Remember that you are that changeless original - the Divine. All your practices should be directed towards establishing yourself in this firm conviction and unwavering faith, culminating in your life's fulfilment. (010191)
Once, three persons reached the gates of Heaven. One of them declared that he was a master of all the scriptures and therefore the gates should be opened to let him in. The guardians of the gate said: "You are familiar only with the texts. You have no practical experience. You may leave."
The second man said: "I have performed many rites and sacrifices." The guardians told him: "You performed the sacrifices for selfish aims. You have no place here."
The third person, a farmer, neared the gates and said: "I am a poor farmer, owning a hut on two acres of land. I have been offering food and drink to passersby and giving them shelter when necessary. I have shared with them whatever little I had. This is all the spiritual practice I have been able to do." The guardians said: "You may enter."
The story illustrates the truth that only those who are prepared to sacrifice what little they have for relieving others in need, are entitled to enter heaven. (260388)
Spiritual practices of various kinds, including repeating the Name, yoga and the like, will not lead you to God-realisation. I do not suggest that you should discontinue these exercises. The devotional activities are better than many other useless pastimes. But, if you want to get near to God and to experience God, you have to transform the heart. As you sow, so shall you reap. Sow the seeds of love and reap the fruit of love. (090495)
To start with, the individual must reform himself. Without the individual realising his true nature, all other accomplishments are of no avail. Man is exploring the most distant regions in space, but is not moving even an inch towards understanding his heart. Is this the journey man should undertake? He must turn the mind inwards. Turning the mind towards the external world can only breed sorrow. Enduring bliss can be got only by directing the mind towards God. That is the real spiritual practice. Without mental transformation all other changes are meaningless. Without changing your qualities you remain in the same state as before. Develop good qualities and sanctify yourself. This is the message for everyone. (070790)
If you want to experience God, you have to do it through your duties and actions. This is not so easy. You have been listening to me for many years. You take notes and listen to tape records. Has there been the slightest change in you? Such is your life. Only when some change takes place in you, that alone is the fruit of your spiritual practice. You go on spending your days and nights in the same routine, but are you making any efforts to sublimate your life? Endeavour to lead an ideal life. In the absence of any change for the better in your daily conduct, all your so called practices will be futile. (010191)
Remember: God never forgets devotees, it is devotees who forget God. God never gives up the devotee; only the devotee leaves God. (250590)
The purpose of all spiritual practice is to see the good, the Divine in everything and to be able to overlook the bad, the evil. From the viewpoint of Divinity, there is no good or bad; all is Divine. But the mind sees this as good and that as bad, this as right and that as wrong. It is the mind that must be trained to see the Divine in everyone and in each difficulty.
A small example: A dead dog is on the road, crows are pecking at it. People walk by and say, "Oh, what a terrible sight and horrible smell!" But Jesus was walking by and He said, "What beautiful teeth the dog has, so white and shiny. Nobody was brushing or taking care, but still the dog kept such beautiful teeth." Jesus was showing that one can see the best qualities in even the worst situations. People who are saintly look always to the good and do not become entangled in the bad.
Do not fill the mind with thoughts of the evil actions that may be perceived in the world. The purpose of all types of spiritual practice is to train the mind to see the Divine in everything. This is true adjustment practice. This you can carry on in everything you do. (CSSB 151)
There is only One Divine in all things. It is shining effulgently in everyone. But like the ashes that cover the fire in a burning charcoal, this light is covered by man's own ignorance of the light within. To see the fire in the charcoal, the ash covering it has to be blown off. Likewise, the light of the Atma in the individual is covered by the sense of separateness and multiplicity. When, through spiritual disciplines, this feeling of manifoldness goes, the real nature of the self is realised. (230787)
Whatever the nature of your work, if you dedicate it as an offering to God, you will have no worry at all. This is real spiritual practice. Even when you are engaged in your daily chores, you can convert them into worship of God. While you are sweeping the floor, you can deem it as clearing your heart of all impurities. All work should be done with a pure heart filled with devotion, just as cooking must be done in a clean vessel. Whatever good you may do without a genuine feeling of love is of no use. It is love in a pure heart that transforms work into worship. (110494)
The easiest spiritual practice is to reflect on God with love that is expanding and embracing one and all. It is the only way to realise the Divine. (110494)