The Necessity of Yoga Sadhana

Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Talk at Fifth International Yoga Convention, Raigarh, November 1968, originally printed in YOGA, Vol. 7, No. 9, 1969

Just as medicine is indispensable for those who are ill, yoga sadhana is also a must for those who feel something is missing from their life, be it physical, mental, or a personality error of their being. Yoga sadhana, in fact, is a collective name for all those techniques which are deliberately adopted to remove the imperfections of the personality. Man is restless because he feels the absence of virtues in his life. Rather he is more conscious of his vicious nature and habits which do not permit him to realize his own glorious and powerful self in the image of God.

Yoga sadhana means practising yoga and is indicative of undergoing some self-imposed discipline to weed out physical and mental errors. The disciplinary exercises of yoga are meant to condition the mind, the intellect, the emotions and the body. Doctors who are at home with the science of physiology, anatomy and medicine are available in our society to treat the physical body, but very few are available who know the causes and cures of mental, emotional and supramental disorders. Western psychology, no doubt, is progressing towards this end, but it is yet in its infancy.

Understanding the total person

Let us therefore examine how yoga is an advanced system of psychotherapy too, and discuss the useful points from both the spiritual and psychological angles. When we talk about a person, we do not think about his physical body alone. At the same time there also comes remembrance of the nature of his inner personality, with all its evils and goodness. This idea of inner personality may not be very clear at first, but to us a human being definitely means his body and appearance along with his virtues, vices and learning. Thus, when we recollect the quality of a particular person, it is known as the inner personality which has preferred to make the cave of the physical body its abode.

Inner conflicts

Sometimes these two personalities, the outer and the inner, are not at peace with each other. A person thinks, speculates, desires or imagines something that is quite alien to his physical habits. He expects and aspires for something which he can never get, he imagines and dreams of what is really beyond his reach. It is here that he begins to develop a nature which causes personality conflict. Unconsciously and unknowingly, he becomes a victim of frustration, weak will, indecisiveness, fluctuating emotions and desires, inferiority complex, etc.

At the same time, other things such as environment, wrong advice and guidance from friends, and failures shatter his personality. Ultimately, he is left behind in the race and competition of success and evolution. In order to overcome or compensate for these weaknesses, assertion of the lower self which is indeed a part of the inner self, begins to manifest in various aspects which are wrong, anti-social and anti-moral. Success brings confidence and strength, but failures weaken the personality in toto. In such a situation, what is a man to do? Can man get all he wants and aspires for? A person born on this earth has to taste life in its entirety because amidst pains and pleasures he learns the lessons of life.

Life is both sweet and painful, and that is why man loves life. One who has seen the bright light of day cannot avoid the darkness of night, nor is it desirable or in his interests. This is the law of nature and she makes no concession. She treats all alike and the wheel of karma must go on rolling, rewarding each physical and mental action of life. It is therefore very essential to cultivate and develop the inner personality which is still in its period of formation.

A state of perfection

It is believed that after passing through 86 lakh (8,600,000) births, life comes to acquire the human form. The various stages through which life passes are mineral, plant, animal and lastly the human life. Arriving at the human state of life means that matter and form have reached the stage of perfection. Now the subtle power of inner personality has to grow and reach the stage of perfection where a man becomes a deva or superman. The gross, coarse and undeveloped mind of animal life has now to grow more subtle, refined, sensitive, dynamic and all powerful.

Human life is the most blessed one as it is a signal indicating the beginning and growth of the divine life within. In animal life, we are compelled to learn the use and control of limbs and forms. In the human life, man learns to use and control the mind and develops latent mental powers to the extreme. But the potentialities of the mind are not known to everyone. In fact, man is unaware of the dormant faculties which lie within his reach. These potentialities are just like unexcavated nature preserves. Through the practices of yoga man unearths the hidden powers of his mind which could be utilized: (i) for successful living, (ii) for acquiring siddhis, or psychic powers, and (iii) for spiritual realization. The first and the third are desirable and harmless.

Through yoga sadhana one acquires equanimity, serenity, one-pointedness of mind and strong determination. One also regains one’s lost confidence. All these qualities are essential for successful living in all spheres of life, provided one knows how to utilize the energies generated by yoga sadhana. To acquire siddhis, one has to crush and demolish the whole physical and mental structure by vigorous practices and divert all mental faculties in toto towards achieving one siddhi only. These siddhis, though hard-earned, have no permanent value. You cannot utilize them in this world for your own sake nor can you do good to others by their demonstration.

Breaking the bondage

From birth man is chained with strong iron links of endless desires or anadi vasanas, and no siddhi can ever sever the bond of his ignorance and avidya. Exhaustion of karma is possible only through one’s own effort at sadhana. Through meditation alone past samskaras and bad karmas can be burnt. Through the practice of meditation the light of knowledge dawns, which burns out all samskaras.

Yoga sadhana is good for self-realization because all the generated and unconsumed energies of the mind and emotions are directed towards one healthy end, the realization of the supreme Self, which is the ultimate goal of life. All emotions and mental powers are thus deposited in the safe deposit account of Self-realization. But for the proper practice of yoga an adept’s advice and guidance is always necessary for a beginner; otherwise he may get lost in the psychic wilderness.