The Difficulty of Progress in Sadhana


Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is a chapter from the book Sadhana.

The workings of Maya are very extremely subtle, so very difficult to overcome and human nature is fundamentally so Asuric and unregenerate that real spiritual development and progress in Sadhana are indeed very hard to obtain. To achieve success in any measure in the spiritual life is the most difficult and an up-hill task that truly it is Divine Grace alone that can raise the aspirant from darkness to Light. So vehement, self-assertive and rebellious is the egoistic self of man that it refuses to be changed from its vicious state to a state of virtue, goodness and saintliness. It is a great blunder to think that the mere act of renunciation is sufficient achievement in spiritual life. If renunciation makes you feel that you have at once become quite superior to the rest of mankind and has bestowed on you the right to preach and to dictate to others, then the very purpose of renunciation gets blasted. You destroy the very foundation of spiritual life by this egoistic assumption. The eradication of egoism in all its numerous aggressive forms comprises the very core of spirituality and all spiritual Sadhana.

Right from the very beginning of your spiritual life, you must understand clearly that in true humility, sincere desire to root out gradually pride, egoism and jealousy, earnest and unceasing introspection to find out one’s own defects and improve oneself lies your hope of progress. Without this basis, any Sadhana becomes a delusion and waste. It makes the aspirant puffed up, more proud and egoistic. When this happens, all good advices and instructions fall flat upon him. Higher influences cease to have any effect as the aspirant becomes deliberately and obstinately non-respective to them.

Eternal vigilance should be exercised by every aspirant if he is to avoid falling into this dangerous state. Spiritual life is not a light matter. To grow in Yoga is not an easy joke. Sadhakas must take to the path sincerely. Always feel that you are just a beginner and strive diligently to acquire the primary virtues of kindness, charitability, patience, forbearance. With boldness, manliness and self-reliance, combine humility, softness of speech and behaviour and self-denial. Be ready to serve others and put up with provocation and abuse without retaliation. Remove all harshness and rudeness from your nature. Courtesy and politeness must become part of your very nature. Then alone the hardened heart gets softened and good sentiments and spiritual emotions arise in it.

Concentration, meditation and Samadhi are still far from him who has not purified himself and got rid of his evil traits. Sinning and evil has become so much a habit with man that he never feels that he is committing them even though day and night he is doing so constantly. And the greatest harm is done by the fact that even while in this unregenerate state, the aspirant becomes deluded by Maya into thinking that he has already progressed considerably in spirituality. He deceives himself with the thought that as far as he is concerned he is pretty advanced in Sadhana. He thinks he has acquired that Nirlipta (unattached) attitude where he can commit any sort of act and yet remain unaffected by it. This self-deception puts a bar to all progress. Under this grave delusion he allows himself to be unrestrained and runs wild, intolerant of criticism, resentful of the least opposition, utterly disregardful of others feelings and absolutely unamenable to advice and correction. All senses of discrimination, sane judgment and introspection vanish from him. Even the common courtesy and culture possessed by an ordinary worldly man take leave of the aspirant on account of his presumption of spiritual advancement and growth of wisdom. He becomes disposed to attack even venerable and elderly persons and spiritually superior souls.

O aspirants! Beware of these dangers in your spiritual life. Be vigilant always. Always regard yourself as a beginner just commencing Sadhana. Never underestimate the importance of Yama, Niyama, of ethical culture and Sadhana-Chatushtaya. They are everything. Japa, Kirtan, Svadhyaya, Upasana should all be done side by side with this ethical training and character-building. Without the latter, Sadhana becomes fruitless as filling a vessel which is full of holes in the bottom. Without the eager and earnest desire to obey the Guru and improve oneself, without service, humility, sincerity, simplicity and eagerness to learn and improve oneself, Sadhana is useless like rowing a boat which is firmly anchored to the river-bed or like sowing seeds upon the rock.

Spirituality means growing into the form of the Divine Ideal. It is the transformation of your nature from the human to the Divine. You can hope to achieve perfection only when you effect this transformation. It is purification and change of heart alone that makes Dharana and Dhyana possible. To grow in Sattva, you must entirely destroy the Asuric side of your nature. Never imagine for a moment that you are anywhere near the Goal unless and until you strive with earnestness and diligence to rid yourself of evil tendencies, get established in a pure Sattvic ethical character.

Remember this point clearly. Constantly reflect upon this. Meditate upon this. Know what true spirituality is. Fully realise the importance of becoming a changed man ethically and morally, before you can claim to be a Sadhaka. Carefully avoid the dangers of self-deception by constant vigilance and introspection. Do Sadhana regularly and pray for His grace. Imagine not that you have scaled the heights of spirituality. Patiently wait for the result. When your nature is changed, purified and prepared, Grace will flow down of itself, illumination will flash by itself, in the firmament of your pure heart. Bliss and Ananda will spontaneously flow in and fill you when you have emptied yourself of all harshness, egoism, pride and passion. Perfection and Immortality will be yours. Where there is kindness, humility and purity, there spirituality springs up, saintliness shines, divinity descends and perfection manifests itself.

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