Spiritual progress depends on faith - faith in God, faith in the scriptures, faith in the guru. Faith is the basis of all progress. Even material progress, inventions and discoveries depend upon faith - faith in oneself. Men have travelled in space. If the scientists who had been responsible for putting astronauts into space had kept on wondering if it would ever be possible to do so, had kept on doubting their own ability to do so, space travel would have continued to remain a dream.
Have faith in yourself. Have faith in God. Have faith in the guru. It may be easy to place faith in mathematics, in astrophysics, in known scientific laws, and work towards the achievement of your object. In the spiritual realm, with its unseen laws and unseen effects, it is more difficult to place faith. But initial faith is necessary. Even if you do sincere sadhana for one full year, you will obtain some little experience, some concrete evidence to convince you of the existence of an unseen power, of the existence of laws which science cannot explain, which reason is powerless to analyze.
The more the sadhana, the greater and deeper the experience. With every fresh experience, your faith in guru, in God, in scriptures, in spiritual laws, grows. And with every increase in faith, you do more sadhana. The chain goes on and, provided you are vigilant and do not fall prey to the temptations which are placed before all aspirants, one day you will certainly attain that final experience, that direct experience, the pratyaksha pramana - the proof positive.
Sadhakas often come to me and complain of lack of faith, I tell them, "Do not worry. Do sadhana. It is precisely to induce faith that sadhana is prescribed." There is no place in spirituality for doubters. Doubters cannot progress. No doubt, faith is difficult. Look at Thomas. He doubted Jesus.
Even after the great master had shown miracles to induce faith in the disciple, the disciple did not believe. He wanted the master to show more miracles. That is the doubting nature. That is the trick of the mind. Kill this doubting nature if you want to progress. It is easy to sing, "I am neither mind nor body, Immortal Self I am"; but, if you are asked to give up even one meal on Ekadasi night, you will not. And still you complain that you have not progressed spiritually!
It has become the fashion nowadays to blame the guru for lack of progress in one's own sadhana. You can only take the horse to the water's edge, but you cannot make it drink. The guru can only teach. It is for the disciple to do sadhana. The guru cannot do the disciple's sadhana. The guru can only ask the disciple to place initial faith in him and do sadhana; beyond that he can do nothing. Leave alone the question of a personal guru.
The world has been blessed with a line of Godmen who have trodden this fair earth with their divine footsteps. We all know their teachings. The school child knows that he should not steal, that he should speak the truth. The lawyer knows that he should not coach up false witnesses. The doctor knows that he should not fleece the poor by giving injections with coloured tincture. The husband knows that he should be true to his wife. Yet how many of you practise what you already know? How many of you practise all the good things that you already know to be good and desist from indulging in all those things that you already know to be bad? Very few. If only a man would begin to practise all that he knows to be good, and give up all that he knows to be bad, even as he practises the virtues and gives up the vices, God will send him further guidance; and if guru in physical form is necessary, God will send him that guru also.
Shed hypocrisy. Have sincerity. If you want to turn over a new leaf in life and make progress in spiritual life, no one can stop you, not all the world put together. But if you are not sincere, if you are just curious, if you do not mean what you say and do not practise what you profess, then God Himself cannot help you. The solution rests fundamentally with yourself.
The guru is like a torch only. He shows light on your path, but you yourself have to walk on the path. The guru cannot place the footsteps for you. I am reiterating this point, so that it may enter deep into your heart. Have an inner view. Look within yourself. Sit alone and introspect. Find your own faults and remove them. Seek new avenues for the practice of virtues; and practise. Theory is of no use unless it is put into practice. Do not blame the theory without putting it to the test.
"Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize." That is the spiritual formula. Do you serve the sick, the suffering and the illiterate? Do you love your neighbour's child as your own? Do you give one-tenth of your income in charity, whatever that income may be? Have you tried to remove lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy from your heart through japa, through kirtan, through swadhyaya, through ekadasi vrata? If you are not practising these, you cannot have even a minute of meditation. And without meditation, you cannot have God-realization, even if you take one thousand births.
Do not blame the teachers. Jesus and Buddha, Shankara and Ramanuja, the Sikh gurus and the Jain tirthankaras -all have lived and died for you. The teachers have always given you more than you deserve. Bow to them. Prostrate yourself before them. Garland their portraits. Read their scriptures. Follow their teachings. The holy Guru Poornima day is a day of remembrance and thanksgiving. It is a day for reiteration of your faith in the guru and the beginning of a new life in accordance with the guru's teachings, In accordance with his upadesha (instruction). Make the resolution this day to live a new life. And live it.
May God bless you all! May the blessings of the Brahma Vidya Gurus be upon you all!