Spiritual Lessons

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222 pages.


by Swami Sivananda

Table of Contents

Publishers’ Note
Universal Prayers
Sadguru StotraSECTION I1. God-Realisation
2. Prayer
3. Miseries of the World
4. Vairagya
5. Karma Yoga
6. Bhakti Yoga
7. Gist of Jnana Yoga
8. Pranayama

SECTION II9. Brahmacharya
10. How to Develop Virtues–I
11. Sleep
12. Mauna
13. Dietetic Discipline
14. Guru
15. Humility
16. Control of Anger
17. A Simple and Pious Life
18. Vanity
19. Obstacles in Yoga

SECTION III20. Mantras for Japa
21. Power of Japa
22. Three Sittings for Doing Japa
23. Three Kinds of Japa
24. Ajapa Japa
25. Bhaktas Who Realised God Through Japa
26. What Is Meditation?
27. Meditation Room
28. Preparation for Meditation
29. Uses of Asanas
30. Asana for Meditation
31. Padmasana (The Lotus Pose)
32. Siddhasana (The Perfect Pose)
33. Svastikasana
34. Sukhasana
35. When to Meditate?
36. Where to Concentrate?
37. Saguna Meditation
38. Nirguna Meditation
39. Meditation on Mahavakhyas
40. Meditation on 12 Virtues
41. Mula Bandha in Meditation
42. Kumbhaka in Meditation
43. Regularity in Sadhana
44. Hints on Meditation
45. Some Experiences in Meditation
46. Mystic Experiences in Meditation

SECTION IV47. General Hints
44. Special Spiritual Instructions–I
45. Miscellaneous Spiritual Lessons–I
50. Rambles in Yoga

SECTION V51. Qualifications of a Sadhaka
52. Instructions to Sadhakas
53. How to Develop Virtues–II
54. Benefits of Mauna
55. Seclusion
56. Satsanga
57. Brahmacharya
58. Nishkamya Karma
59. Vairagya–Dispassion
59. Yoga Sadhana
60. Prarabdha and Purushartha
62. Hatha Yogic Kriyas

SECTION VI63. What Is Bhakti?
64. Apara and Para Bhakti
65. Bhava in Bhakti Yoga
66. Nishkamya Bhakti
67. Para Bhakti
68. Obstacles in Bhakti Yoga
69. How to Develop Bhakti
70. Navavidha Bhakti
71. Japa
72. Self-Surrender

SECTION VII73. Mind and Its Mysteries
74. Mind and Gunas
75. Vasanas
76. Miracle of Thoughts
77. Control of Mind
78. Hints on Meditation

SECTION VIII79. What Is Brahman
80. Theory of Vedanta
81. Jnana Yoga Sadhana
82. Lessons on Jnana Yoga Through Drishtanta
83. Who Is a Jivanmukta

SECTION IX84. Special Spiritual Instructions–II
85. Miscellaneous Spiritual Lessons–II

APPENDICESA. Ahimsa–Satyam–Brahmacharya
B. Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions
C. (1) Spiritual Daily Routine
(2) New Year Resolves for Quick Spiritual Progress
(3) Specimen Resolves Form
(4) Importance of Keeping a Spiritual Diary
(5) The Spiritual Diary












Publishers’ Note

The modern Seer, Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, filled with cosmic love, has churned out the Vedas, the Srutis, the Puranas and scriptures of every sort and of all religions, and collecting the very cream of them all, the ambrosia of life, has presented for the ready consumption of everyone on earth.

Busy householders have exactly what they want in the form of brief and easy lessons in the book, Spiritual Lessons. This work is in reality so great a blessing to the man of the world that he has every reason to be eternally grateful to the inspired Author.

The learned Author focuses his light upon the innumerable phases of human life and it is remarkable how within the course of 1,000 lessons he hardly ever repeats himself or deals with what is stale or commonplace. An interesting feature of these lessons is the wide range and versatility of these Spiritual Lessons.

Sri Swamiji represents the voice of the most enlightened and uptodate Hinduism recognising that there is Truth in all religions and there are Common Factors underlying all Moral Teachings. This book will therefore do its mite towards a better mutual understanding between various religionists.

The great value of the Author’s work is now recognised by the thoughtful section of the nation, and his writings rightly enjoy a well deserved popularity. His unmistakable influence in determining the attitude of a vast section of contemporary India and considerable numbers abroad, on the question of spiritual life and Sadhana, is very great indeed.

There was a magazine from Madras, the My Magazine of India, which had a large circulation not only in India, but also in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Burma and other countries. Swami Sivanandaji used to contribute his powerful spiritual lessons regularly to this magazine from 1931 onwards. The first 500 lessons were published in a book form, Spiritual Lessons Part I, in 1934. The second set of 500 lessons were printed as a book, Spiritual Lessons Part II, in 1935. In 1939, both parts were combined together and brought out in a single volume.

We usher this book into the world in the full hope that it may bring light and joy into numerous hearts which have sought for them in this world and found them not.



Life is so very complex in these days that a busy man of the world finds it very difficult to go through the Darshan philosophical books, Prasthna Traya, Sankara Bhashya, etc. So I thought it better to present the philosophical ideas, moral lessons, Upanishadic utterances and Yogic facts and experiences of a practical life in a simple style, in a lucid manner, in the form of short, sweet, laconic lessons. The people nowadays want sweet, compressed, sugar-coated spiritual tablets for easy swallowing and ready assimilation. These terse spiritual lessons which are given in this book are suitable to everyone.

Some of the lessons that appeared in ‘My Magazine of India’ were published in book form, ‘Spiritual Lessons Part I’, in April ’34 and already two editions have been exhausted, and a third edition is in print; and the book ‘Spiritual Lessons Part II’, contains another set of 500 lessons. These practical lessons have stirred and awakened many persons to walk in the spiritual path and to do some sort of spiritual Sadhana. They have opened the eyes of many. This has given me immense joy and satisfaction. Even in this materialistic age there are thousands who get up at 4 a.m., sing and repeat His Name, do meditation, study Gita, Upanishads and other religious books, perform many Asanas, Pranayamas, Madras, etc., observe the rules of conduct (Sadachara) and right living and develop various virtuous qualities.

My purpose here is to remind you that the goal of life, the be-all, the summum bonum of existence is Self-realisation or the attainment of God-consciousness. I am here not to teach you; but to stir or awaken you all. You have forgotten your real Svaroopa or purpose of life on account of Avidya, Maya, Moha and Raga. You are tossed up hither and thither aimlessly by the two currents of Raga and Dvesha. You are caught up in the Samsara Chakra on account of your egoism, Vasanas, Trishnas and passions of various sorts. I would remind you that the real happiness is within and not without. In essence you are the all-pervading pure consciousness and you are not the perishable body composed of five elements. I am here to remind you of the Mahavakya “Tat Tvam Asi–Thou art That,” which connotes the identity of Jivatma with the Paramatma, the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Just as the bubble becomes one with the ocean when it bursts, the individual soul becomes one with Paramatma when it melts in the Supreme Silence. Even if you have nothing to eat, even if you have nothing to wear, remember you are in essence the living Truth, the living Reality. Destroy the slave mentality.

Roar Om Om Om, Ram Ram Ram, and come out of the cage of flesh, O Satyakama! Assert. Recognise. Realise the Truth. Be bold and fearless, my child!

The cause for pain is pleasure. Sensual pleasure is as much an evil as pain. Avoid it ruthlessly. Sensual pleasure is mixed with pain, fear, worry, anxiety, sin and exertion. Enjoyment cannot bring about satisfaction of a desire. Just as ghee when poured over fire intensifies it, so also sensual enjoyment aggravates the desire and makes the mind restless through cravings. Sensual pleasure is transitory, momentary or evanescent. When you seriously ponder over it, you will find that sensual pleasure is no pleasure at all. It is Bhranti-sukha. It is mere mental imagination. It is mere titilation of nerves. It is mere itching of nerves or Indriyas. Just as you feel some satisfaction where you scratch the itching part, so also you find some nervous sensation when you put some Jilebee or orange in your mouth. For a serious thinker, a man of discrimination, a Viveki or Vicharvan, there is no pleasure in sensual objects. It is all pain: “Sarvam Duhkham Vivekinah.” On account of Maya or ignorance, pain is mistaken for pleasure by worldly-minded persons.

The Indriyas and mind delude you at every moment. They are your enemies. The greatest enemy is your body. Milk gives pleasure to some and pain to others. The third cup of milk produces vomitting. If there is real pleasure in objects, in milk, there should be homogeneous experience by all at all times. Beauty is of mental creation or imaginary. An ugly woman appears very beautiful in the eyes of her husband. Where is the beauty, my dear friends, in the wrinkled skin of an old lady? Where is the beauty, when your wife is sick? Where is the beauty when the lady gets angry? Where is the beauty in the dead body of a lady? The beauty in the face is mere reflection. The real undecaying beauty, beauty of beauties, the fountain of beauties, can be found in Atman or Rama who is ever shining in the chambers of your heart. You have ignored the substance and taken hold of the shadow. You have missed the diamond and caught hold of a broken piece of glass. What a serious blunder you have committed! Have you realised your mistake? Will you open your eyes at least now?

Study carefully the Sushupti Avastha, the state of deep sleep. There is neither the play of mind, nor the play of Indriyas, nor any object in deep sleep. There are no currents of attraction and repulsion. Wherefrom do you get the Ananda or pure bliss? You derive the bliss from Atman who resides in the chambers of your heart. The mind rests in Brahman during sleep. There is a thin veil of ignorance during sleep. That is the reason why you do not return from sleep with super-intuitional knowledge. This is the difference between sleep and Samadhi. When you come down from Samadhi, you come down with the Divine Knowledge. You infer four things from sleep: (1) You feel that ‘I exist’; (2) In essence you are Ananda Svaroopa or embodiment of bliss; (3) There is one Vastu without a second; and (4) This world is a mere appearance or illusion.

A desire arises in the mind-lake and agitates the mind. As soon as a desire is gratified, the mind moves back towards Atman in the heart and rests there for a short time and you get the bliss of Atman. Just as a dog foolishly imagines when it sucks a dry bone that the blood oozes from the dry bone, whereas in reality it comes from its own palate, so also the ignorant worldly-minded persons foolishly imagine that the happiness comes from the sensual objects whereas in reality it comes from Atman within by the movement of mind towards the heart, when a desire is gratified. You rest in God when you have a sound sleep. You also rest in God whenever a desire is gratified. You become mindless when you enjoy an object.

There is an eternal, unchanging, immortal Vastu that is independent of body and mind, that is beyond time, space and causation. It is Svayambhu (self-existent), Svatantra (independent) and Svayam Prakasha (self-effulgent), Sat-chit-ananda. You can attain the immortal abode of Peace and Bliss by realising the Supreme Reality.

The mighty sage Yajnavalkya wanted to retire into the forest and take Sannyasa to enjoy the Jivanmukti Sukha. He called his two wives Maitreyi and Katyayani. He divided his property between them. The sagacious Maitreyi asked her husband: “O my Lord, can this property give me immortality?” Yajnavalkya said: “It cannot make you immortal.” Then Maitreyi said: “Show me the way to attain immortality.” Then Yajnavalkya said: “This Atman should be seen, heard, reflected and meditated upon. Then and then alone you will attain immortality.”

An aspirant went to a seer and asked him to explain the nature of Atman. The sage kept silent. The aspirant again went to the teacher and put the same question. The Jnani remained again silent. The student went the third time to the master. The sage said: “I have already given you the answer: Ayam Atma Santo–This Atman is silence or peace. It has to be approached through Nididhyasana, intense and constant, deep silent meditation.”

This Atman is hidden in all beings. That man who has subtle, sharp-pointed intellect can realise this Atman. Just as you extract the pith from the Munja grass, you will have to take the essence, Atman, from the five sheaths through patience and Sadhana. Brahma created the senses with outgoing tendencies and so this little Jiva beholds the external universe and not the internal Self. But that aspirant who is desirous of immortality with strong will and firm determination realises the Pratyag Atma by turning the gaze inwards and having Antarmukha Vritti by withdrawing the senses from the objects.

He who has acquired the four means of salvation, Sadhana Chatushtaya: Viveka, Vairagya, Shat Sampat and Mumukshutva, who is proficient in Srutis and who has the virtues: Brahmacharya, compassion, love, etc., is a qualified person for the attainment of the knowledge of the Self. Then he should approach a Brahma Nishta Guru with presents in his hand, should serve him with Sraddha, humility and obedience and hear the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and the real significance of Mahavakhyas. He should have profound meditation. Then comes Atma Sakshatkar (direct realisation). Then all doubts and delusions melt away. The knot of ignorance is cut asunder. All Karmas (Sanchita, Prarabdha and Agami) are destroyed. He becomes a Jnani and attains the Satchidananda state. Then only he is freed from Samsara Chakra (the wheel of births and deaths) with its concomitant evils.

This has, however, to be achieved by self-effort on the part of the aspirant. There is no virtue greater than self-reliance. The possession of this important quality is the sine-qua-non for all aspirants who search for Truth. Gurus, Acharyas and teachers will only show the spiritual path, remove doubts and give some inspiration. You are your own redeemer. You are your own Saviour. Remember this point well. You will have to tread the spiritual path yourself. You will have to place each step yourself. The Srutis declare emphatically that there are three means for attaining salvation. They are: Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana. You can have Sravana from your Guru. You will have to do yourself Manana and Nididhyasana. It will simply be preposterous to think that your Guru will do the Manana and meditation also for you. A hungry and thirsty man will have to reflect and meditate for himself. If a Guru or a teacher can give you liberation, where then is the necessity for the Srutis to proclaim with force the vital importance of Manana and meditation? Lord Krishna says in the Gita “Uddharet Atmana Atmanam“–“Raise the self by the Self.”

Lord Buddha relied on his own Self only. He performed severe Tapas for a period of six years in the Uruvala forest, the modern Buddha Gaya. Lord Jesus did severe Sadhana during the missing period of his life as well as during the forty days in the desert. It his highly lamentable indeed to see that even intelligent persons are labouring under great misapprehension and delusion and thereby wasting their precious lives owing to false hopes. They are thinking in vain that they will get a Spiritual Pill from their Masters and get immediate Mukti without undergoing any discipline, Tapas or course of silent meditation. What a queer, foolish idea they are entertaining! It is highly deplorable indeed!

The one great Master, the Living Master of Masters, the Source of the world, Jivas and everything, is ever shining in the chambers of your heart. He is very close to you. He is sitting with outstretched hands to lift you up and embrace you with His Sweet Love. Rely on Him alone. Identify yourself with bold and clear understanding with that eternal, living, indweller of your hearts. Then alone will come Eternal Peace, Infinite Bliss, Supreme Satisfaction and sure Immortality. Glory, glory to those persons who have reached this Highest State by relying on their Great Master within, the Indweller of our hearts. The glory of a Jivanmukta, a liberated sage, is indescribable. He is Brahman himself. Eight Siddhis and nine Riddhis roll under his feet. Through Sat-Sankalpa he can work wonders and miracles. Glory, Glory to such Jivanmuktas who are blessed souls on earth! May their blessings be upon you all! May joy, bliss, peace, poise, glory and splendour abide in you for ever! Just as the diver dives deep into the ocean and brings forth the pearls, let us dive deep into the Divine Source and bring forth the Atmic Pearl and the Divine Knowledge. Let us all assimilate and absorb the beautiful, soul-stirring, sublime and Divine thoughts and rest in that inexpressible, supreme silence, that stupendous ocean of stillness, that Infinite, magnanimous ocean of Shanti!

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niramaya
Sarve Bhadrani Pasyantu
Ma Kaschit duhkha bhagbhavet!

Om Shanti! Shanti! Shantih!

Swami Sivananda
1st January, 1939

Universal Prayers


OM. O Beloved Ram (God)! The Indweller of our hearts (Antaryami, Antar Atma)! Thou art Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, and Bliss Absolute). Thou art the Silence of the Temple of our hearts! Thou art the effulgence in the Sun, the splendour in the Moon, the glory in the stars, the beauty in the blue sky and the magnanimity in the ocean and the Himalayas! Thou art Krishna, Siva, Durga, Gayatri and the four Vedas.

I promise sincerely to walk in Thy footsteps, ever working, living, moving and breathing in Thee every second of my life. I promise to see Thy Sweet Face in everyone, to see Thy Glory all around, and to recognise Thy Presence everywhere and in everything, in trees and flowers, in stones and chairs, in birds and dogs, in Sun, Moon and stars, in the spring and the autumn.

O Sweet Ram (Lord) of Mercy and Compassion! Bless me that I may live in the ceaseless flow of Thee–the Light of lights, ever recognising my eternal oneness with Thee–from eternity to eternity!


Salutations unto Thee, All-pervading One, the Multi-formed!
Salutations unto Thee, Thou Embodiment of Knowledge and Bliss!
Salutations unto Thee, Who art attainable by austerities and spiritual practices!
Salutations unto Thee, Who art attainable through the Wisdom of the Scriptures!


He, who is worshipped as Siva by the Saivites, as Brahman by the Vedantins, as Buddha by the Buddhists, as Karta by the logicians, as Arhat by those who are devoted to the teachings of Jainas, as Karma by the Mimamsakas,–may that Hari, the Lord of the three worlds, fulfil our desires!


Sadguru Stotra

Prostrations to the Guru, the Embodiment of Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute–Sat-Chit-Ananda–free from all worldliness, Eternally silent, having no support, and the Light of lights, Lord Siva Himself.

That Gurudeva, who is the object of Knowledge, the object to be known, and he who is beyond knowledge and beyond the object to be known, eternally pure, intelligent, liberated, beyond destruction (indestructible), Truth Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Existence Absolute, and Bliss Absolute–should be meditated upon.

To him who is manifested in different forms, as Isvara, as the Guru, and as the Self, who is all-pervading like ether–to that Sri Dakshinamurti (the Effulgent Form, facing the South) be this prostration!

Salutations to Dakshinamurti, the abode of all learning, the physician to all those afflicted with the disease of worldly existence, the teacher of all.

Salutations to the Guru, whose form is radiant with the jewel of Vedanta and who is the Sun that causes to blossom the lotus of Vedanta.

I bow to that Guru who is my Lord, the Lord of the Universe, my own Self, the Self of all beings.


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