The Key to Effort


Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda

Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh

Gurudev never tired of reminding his disciples both in writing and by word that the goal of life is God-realisation. Indeed, it is only when those words become real to us that we become a seeker. Whether they become real through the words of a guru or through a spiritual experience doesn’t matter. Suddenly we know that there is something more important in life than what we have been previously seeking.

Normally, we have worked hard to achieve what we have been previously seeking. And so it is natural that we want to put effort into achieving the highest goal of all, God realisation. As a result sometimes we can tackle our sadhana in a fairly aggressive manner, being determined that we are going to achieve the goal, being determined to pay whatever sacrifices that are required.

However, the normal experience of most seekers is to discover that God-realisation is not a goal like most goals. Somehow it doesn’t yield to our normal way of making effort. Ultimately, we begin to understand that it is because we’re going in the wrong direction. We’re trying to achieve something for me, the ego, on our terms, whereas to realise God requires a reversal in our approach. We’re told to let go and let God, because He is everything. Surrender, and trust in Him.

Thus we can become somewhat confused. What about me? What am I to do? Maybe I can just do what I want and leave it to God. Sometimes we find that in spite of the fact that the gurus tell us to make effort, we find we just can’t make effort any more.

This is the time when we need to imbibe another of Gurudev’s admonitions. He also constantly reminded his disciples, “Use your common sense.” Yes, everything is God. One alone is. The plants are God, the animals are God and you too are God. Without God’s sunshine and the nutrition in the ground, how can a plant grow? It is helpless. But still, unless the plant has within itself that which makes it put down its roots and lift its leaves to the sun, it will not grow. No doubt, God guides the birds in their migration, but unless they do what they can do–flap their wings and fly–there will be no migration.

As human beings we too have certain faculties, including an intellect, including the power of devotion. And so if we want to realise God we have to use our intellect and our devotion to the very best of our ability–at all times acknowledging that the power to think and the ability to be devoted comes from God, just as the nourishment in the soil and the sunshine does.

Our effort is to realise that God alone is, to acknowledge Him in all things. Without that effort nothing is going to happen. With this properly directed effort, with this selfless effort, our gurus promise us that success is assured.

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