Basic Path of Realization

Sri Swami Sivananda

(Text of Address at the Inaugural Session of the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Divine Life Society, on April 3, 1960)

Adorable Atma Swaroop! Virat Swaroop of the Lord.

At the very outset let me remind you of your real nature. Let me remind you of the last word of the Upanishad: ‘Tat Twam Asi’ – thou art that, the self, which is existence, knowledge-bliss absolute.

Tat Twam Asi – That thou art. Never forget this. You are not this perishable body, composed of the five elements. When you are asleep, dreaming, you are not conscious of the body or the outside world, yet you exist. You are not the mind, either. In deep sleep the mind also does not function. Yet you experience peace and well-being on waking up. This shows clearly that you are not the mind also. In deep sleep you rest in your Atma: therefore, you are peaceful, blissful and refreshed. But because there is a thin veil of ignorance, you do not know the Atman. You are ignorant, and therefore say: ‘I slept well. I did not know anything.’

Thy Real Nature

You are the birthless, deathless, self-luminous, all-pervading Swaroop, existence-knowledge-bliss absolute, beyond time, space and causation. Forget this not, forget this not, O children of Light! This thought will elevate you, it will fill your heart with new energy, with a new spirit and new dynamism. Even when you are sick, even the doctors have declared the case to be hopeless, repeat ‘Sham Brahmasmi, Sivoham, Soham, Satchidananda, Swaroopaham.’

The Srutis declare: ‘Brahmavit brahmatvadevati, brahmavidapnoti param.’ You become one with the object of knowledge. As you think, so you become. You have been thinking ‘I am this body; I am so and so.’ Now reverse this process and think: ‘I am the Satchidananda Atma.’ You will soon realize the Self and rejoice in the Absolute.

Threefold Impurity

Do Japa. Sing Kirtan. Meditate and realize the Self. Serve, serve, serve. Service is important. It is very, very important. Simply studying Panchadasi or Vicharasagara (Vedantic texts) will not do.

The mind has three impurities. There is the Mala or the dirt of sin that has been accumulated in countless past births. This Mala it is that prevents us from believing in God, in Kirtan, in Japa and meditation. When you sit for Japa, you get sleep, because this Mala has not been removed. This Mala should be removed by selfless service, cultivation of virtues and eradication of negative traits.

Then there is Vikshepa or the tossing of the mind, account of the preponderance of Rajas. You are not able to make it one-pointed. It has to be steadied through Upasana (worship, formal or abstract).

The third impurity is in Avarna or the veil of ignorance. This must be removed by self-knowledge, attained through protracted meditation, this alone can become identical with the divine. Thus you can realize your oneness with the supreme being.


The Upanishads, the Japi Sahib and other scriptures, start with such sublime declarations as Satnam ek Onkar (the one name of truth is Om), Isavasyam idam sarvam (all this is pervaded by reality). At once you are elevated. What do mundane books teach you? They add to your ignorance! After reading huge tomes, you come to the conclusion that God is not knowable or that God does not exist!

Study the Kenopanishad. The Atman is the mind of pranas, the eye of eyes. It is the Self alone that gives light to your intellect, light to your mind, light to the senses, and the source, the substratum, the light of lights. ‘The sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor the stars'. However can this little fire shine? All these lights shine because of that light, the self – in the light borrowed from the self. God is self luminous, swayam jyoti, swayam prakash. He is the absolute. He is para brahman. The self is the supreme, all pervading intelligence. Realise this. Understand this. Contemplate on this. This is your essential nature.

Glory of Divine Name

By mere study and scholarship you cannot become a real Vedatin. You will attain that glorious state of Atma only through selfless service, through constant Japa, Nama-smaran (remembrance of this name of God) is the one ringing note of the Guru granthi Saheb, the Bible of the Sikhs, and all other scriptures. People imagine that Yoga can be practiced only in the caves of the Himalayas or that Yoga will suddenly drop down from heaven. Some torture their body – standing on the head in the hot sun, doing Pranayama for hours, eating mango leaves – thinking that by such means they will attain Atma-Jnana. They do not know the power of the Divine Name. Each Mantra is filled with matchless potencies.

Study the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Study the teachings of Guru Nanakdev. All the saints and sages have insisted upon Kamesmaran: repeat Sri Ram, Sri Ram, Sri Ram, (Swamiji chants and the audience chants with him).

Start from now, this very moment. Even while you take bath, play tennis or when you are engaged in your worldly activities – always repeat mentally ‘Sri Ram, Sri Ram’, or any other name of God you like. The truth of Vedanta will be revealed unto you. Otherwise you will become a dry lip Vedantin.

The Lip Vedantin

Listen to the story of such a lip Vedantin.

A man had studied some Vedantic texts. He thought within himself he had become a great Vedantin. Once he was walking along a road. There was a sweetmeat shop on the way. The shop was open and there was nobody inside. A Vedantin truth came to his help. ‘l am the all. I am the all in the all. The shopkeeper is myself. Everything is my own Self,’ thinking thus, he drank some milk, ate a few sweets and also took the cash from the cash-box. Just then the shop-keeper returned, caught hold of the Vedantin and took him to the police. But the Vedantin pleaded before the police inspector: ‘I am not guilty at all sir. Vedanta teaches me to identify myself with all. Identifying myself with the shop-keeper I realised that everything in the shop was already mine. Wherefore should I be punished?’

The police inspector was a learned person. He asked a constable to thrash the Vedantin, who then began to cry out and wail. The inspector said: ‘Oh foolish man! Vedanta says that you are not the body, nor the mind. You are immortal Atman. Nothing can harm the Atman. Wherefore do you weep now?’ The Vedantin cried out: ‘Stop, stop, I have realised my mistake. I won’t do it again.’ The inspector explained: ‘Only when you go beyond body consciousness can you proclaim that you are one with all. Till then you must take recourse to Vairagya (dispassion), Vivek (discrimination), cultivate the Shat-Sampat (six-fold virtues) and Mumkshatvwa (desire for salvation)'.

Basic Preparation

How is that all pervading Atma is not seen by anybody or experienced by all everywhere? The Upanishads declare that it is not experienced by those who have a gross intellect.

Drishyate agrya buddhha sukshmaya svkshmadarshi-bhih.

It is seen by the seer of subtle vision, whose intelligence is keen and sharp.

You have first to purify your mind through selfless service. Till then, even seclusion, Mouna, austerities and meditation have only a secondary value.

I shall tell you another story.

An aspirant went to Uttarkashi, in the Himalayas. He shut himself up in a room. He went on repeating:

Na Guruh, na sishyah, chidanandarupah sivoham, sivoham:

There is no Guru no disciple: I am the Self, Sivoham.

He did not go for alms but expected others to feed him. He did not even take bath, and said that be was not the body and there is no bondage, no liberation. A wise old man wanted to teach him a lesson. There is a plant called bicchu-ka-buti which grows in Uttarkashi as elsewhere. When its leaves come in contact with the body, you feel a sharp pain, as though a scorpion has stung you. The old Sadhu brought this plant and rubbed it on the body of the young aspirant. The latter began to howl with pain. The old man said: 'How now, young man, why do you cry? You are not this body, nor the mind, you are the immortal, all-pervading Atman.' The young man realised his mistake and mended his ways. Since that day, the began to say: ‘Dasoham, Krishna Dasoham - I am servant, the servant of the Lord'.

Do Not Cheat Yourself

Such is Sadhana. Ascend the ladder of Yoga-Vedanta, step-by-step. You will realise the Self, not by repeating 'Sivoham, Sivoham' but by doing selfless service. When a man is in trouble, serve him. Money is not essential for service. Kind words are charity. Sympathetic words are charity. When a man is sick, take him to the hospital or get him some medicine, this is service. Any help done to a man in need is service. Serve with intense dedication.

Be regular in your Sadhana. Regularity in Sadhana is of paramount importance. You have heard many lectures. You have read many books. But what is needed is practice. You must have faith and devotion, sincere. Be truthful. You cannot deceive God.

A young man was appearing for his matriculation examination. He was weak in mathematics. He wanted to pass the examination anyhow. He prayed to Sri Ganesha ‘O Lord, if I am able to answer the questions on mathematics properly I shall offer at your temple pudding worth Rs50.’

On the day of mathematics paper, he went to the examination hall. The miracle happened. The questions were easy. He felt very happy. He answered them all in half the time. Then he remembered his promise. He thought: ‘After all the Lord is not going to eat the Prasad. Why spend Rs50? He looks only to the inner attitude of devotion.’ So arguing within himself he began to work out the cost, on paper, of what he purchased for Prasad and brought the amount down to Rs2.

The original idea of offering pudding had gone; he felt that a couple of coconuts would do. At this time the bell rang and the invigilator came to his for the answer paper. He gave it and went home. To his horror he found that he had brought with him the answer paper, but given to the examiner the notebook on which he had worked out the cost of the prasad. Now nothing could be of any help. He got a big zero.

He tried to cheat God, but how could he? He only cheated himself.

Be Practical

You cannot cheat God. Be sincere. Be honest. Be truthful. God is the witness of all your thoughts. He looks to your motives.

Cultivate Vairagya. Cultivate the spirit of renunciation. Tyaga is not running away from the world. It is renunciation of egoism and selfishness, renunciation of 'doership' and 'enjoyership'. Spiritualise your activities. Feel that you are an instrument in the hands of the Lord (Nimitta Bhava) if you are a Bhakta.

Or feel that the Prakriti does everything and that you are a silent witness (Sakshi Bhava) if you are a student of Jnana Yoga.

Thus will you free yourself from the bonds of Karma, from attachment.

Whatever you do, offer it to the Lord. Watch your mind. Keep a spiritual diary and record your Sadhana and your successes and failures in it. It will enable you to rectify your mistakes.

Find out your defects and cultivate the opposite virtues. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana. If you are irritable, cultivate patience; if you are miserly, acquire generosity. It is very difficult to eradicate the negative traits, because they are deep rooted. But positive qualities will ultimately overcome all that is negative through steady practice. Cultivation of positive virtues will make your heart pure. Amanitwnm adambhitwtm shunti, arjanom - if you develop these virtues, they will open the eye of wisdom and will make you divine. You will become one with the Lord and enjoy divine bliss, eternal bliss, everlasting peace and joy. Develop virtues.

This is the first condition in spiritual life. Expand your heart. Serve. Love. Purify. Give. Share with others. Then only will the heart expand. You cannot enthrone the Cosmic Being in your constricted heart. Expand the heart through cosmic love, selfless service and charity.

Do Sadhana

When the heart expands, the veil that covers the wonderous Atman within will be rent asunder. Instantly you will realize the eternal, infinite, self luminous Atman. Side by side with your daily activities, practice meditation.

Do Asana, Pranayama moderately and keep the body strong and healthy.

Practice Pratyahara or withdrawal of the mind from external objects; through Dharana or concentration on the spiritual ideal, make it steady. Then Dhyana or meditation will automatically come. When meditation becomes habitual you will enter into Samadhi.

You cannot wait to bathe in the sea when the waves subside! The waves will be there, and at the same time you will have to take bath. Do not put off Sadhana till old age.

Life is uncertain here. Arise. Awake. Realize the self now. Change the angle of vision. Transform your daily life into divine life. Stick to the ideals of truth, love and purity. Get up at 4 a.m. Meditate. Have Satsanga at night. Do Kirtan or remember God before retiring to bed. By systematic Sadhana, ascend the ladder of Yoga, here and now.

May God bless you all.