To stop the breath by means of kumbhaka for two hours, to twirl the beads for twenty-four hours, to sit in samadhi for forty days in an underground cellar without food by cutting the frenulum linguae of the tongue and practising khechari mudra, to stand up on one leg in the scorching heat of the summer sun, to do trataka on the sun at midday, to chant Om, Om, Om in silent and sequestered jungles, to shed an ocean of tears while doing sankirtan all these are of no avail unless one combines burning love for Him in all beings and a fiery spirit of service in serving Him in all beings.
Most aspirants are sadly lacking in the above two indispensable qualifications. This is the root cause why they do not make any headway at all in their meditation in solitude. They have not prepared the ground, the antahkarana, inner instrument, by protracted practice of love and service in the beginning. I have seen several bhaktas in all my experiences of life in this line bhaktas who wear half a dozen rosaries around their necks and wrists, and mutter Hare Rama Hare Krishna day in and day out with a long japa mala in their hands. These bhaktas will never approach a sick man even when he is in a dying condition, give him a drop of water or milk, or ask: What do you want, brother? How can I serve you? Instead, just out of curiosity they will be looking at him from a distance, but will not be moved to offer any assistance.
Can you call these people true bhaktas? Can there be an iota of real benefit in their meditation or bhajan? A living Narayana in the form of a sick patient is in a dying state. They do not have the heart to go and serve him or even speak a few kind and encouraging words at the critical juncture when his life is trembling in the balance! How can they expect to have darshan of that all-merciful Hari? How can they hope for God-realization when they do not have the eyes to see God in all beings and the spirit of service to serve Him in all forms?
Simply sitting quiet cannot make a man actionless when there are a thousand and one thoughts in the mind. The mind must become perfectly quiet. One should be absolutely thoughtless. Then only is there freedom from action. If anyone sits quiet by merely controlling the organs of action through the practice of hatha yoga, and yet his mind constantly dwells on the objects of the senses, he is no doubt a perfect hypocrite.
That man who meditates in a cave in the Himalayas finds it difficult to work in the world. He cannot meditate in the upstairs of a building that is situated in the heart of a city. Yet the man who works in the world finds it equally difficult to remain in a solitary place. Neither has a balanced mind or perfected understanding. Both have lopsided development. The man who can meditate in a solitary retreat for six months and who can work in the world for another six months wholeheartedly, is an ideal yogi or a perfect man. He is the ideal karma yogi. He alone has strong integral development. Nothing can upset his mind even when he is placed under any unfavourable conditions and environments.
If one has practised pratyahara or abstraction of the senses, one can withdraw the mind, just as the tortoise withdraws its feet underneath its shell. No sound can disturb his mind. The firing of cannon or the rolling sound of traffic in the streets cannot make any impression on his mind. He is practically dead to the world, but he is really very busy inside. He can convert a busy city into a big forest. But if a man has no abstraction or concentration he will find a big city in the thick of the forest.
Aspirants should always watch and test the mind. They should try to keep this perfect balance. Real meditation gives immense inner strength. If one cannot realize this inner peace and strength, surely there is some error in the sadhana or meditation. Building castles in the air or slumbering, brooding, and other negative states of the mind should not be mistaken for samadhi or meditation. Untrained, inexperienced aspirants always make mistakes and are deluded. Only a microscopic minority are fit for full and deep meditation. The vast majority should combine meditation with action in the beginning. When they really advance in meditation, they can slowly give up action.
The seva you do is a greater yoga than the important, so-called meditation (sleep and building air-castles combined). Work like a lion. Roar like a lion. Feel that all work is His grace. It is His will that is working through your mind, intellect and body.
Serve people wholeheartedly, willingly, untiringly, without grumbling, without showing even an occasional Sunday face. This is rather difficult. Try your utmost. Then it will become pure yoga. You need not meditate. You need not do japa. You need not close the nostrils for pranayama. Convert every motion, every breath, every movement of the body into such pure yoga. Entertain the bhava that you work, live and breathe for Him alone. You will have cosmic consciousness soon.
Remember this point: Work is worship. Work is meditation. Do not forget this. You will have to evolve through work and meditation. Scavenging is yoga when done in the right spirit. The first duty before you is to bow to all, be it a scavenger or a big man. Feel oneness. Train the mind to be even in all circumstances and places. Then only can you be really strong.
God dwells within everything. God is to be realized. Performance of duty leads to God-vision. Goodness leads to God. Love leads to God. Jnana and bhakti can be combined with karma yoga with much advantage. The jnana-karma-yogi thinks and feels that he is serving his own atman and realizes advaitic consciousness. The bhakti-karma-yogi thinks and feels that he is serving his Lord in all, and realizes God-consciousness and has darshan of his Beloved.
Become a flame of God. Attain eternal bliss through the Life Divine. He who lives for the service of others is very happy. He is blessed. This is real sadhana. Claim your birthright to self-realization amidst typewriting, editing books and writing articles. This is better than a cave-life. This is dynamic, integral yoga. Though you are in the city, feel that you are in the ashram in the Himalayas. This is real yoga.