How I Synthesized My Sadhana

From the Autobiography of Swami Sivananda

Service of the sick and poor and the mahatmas, great souls, purifies the heart. It is a field for developing divine qualities such as compassion, sympathy, mercy and generosity. It helps to destroy the negative qualities and impurities of the mind such as selfishness, pride, anger, jealousy, and so on.

Mahatmas and the poor villagers who were sick did not have proper medical aid. Thousands of pilgrims going to Badrinath and Kedarnath also needed medical help. Therefore, I started a small dispensary, Satyasevashram, at Lakshmanjhula on the way to Badri-Kedar, and served the devotees with great love and devotion. I arranged a special diet for the serious cases and provided milk and other requirements. Spiritual evolution is quicker through service done with proper bhava, feeling and attitude.

For maintaining a high standard of health, I practised asanas, pranayamas, mudras and bandhas, and I used to go out for long brisk walks in the evenings. I paid special attention to simple living, high thinking, light food, deep study, silent meditation and regular prayers.

I loved seclusion and observed mouna. I did not like company and futile talk. From the Ram Ashram Library in Muni-ki-reti I used to get some books for my study and devoted some time to study every day. I always kept a dictionary by my side and looked up the meaning of difficult words. Rest and relaxation gave me enough strength to carry on intense sadhana. I lived closely with some mahatmas, but I never indulged in discussions and debates. Self-analysis and introspection were my guide.

With a view to devoting more time to prayer and meditation, I moved to the Swargashram. I lived in a small kutir, eight feet by ten feet, with a small veranda in front. I depended on the Kali Kambliwala Kshetra for my food. I continued my sadhana and service to the sick people of the place. Just for an hour daily, I used to go from kutir to kutir to attend to the sick mahatmas, enquire about their welfare and supply their requirements.

I spent much of my time in meditation and practised various kinds of yogas in my sadhana, and my experiences have come out in many of my publications as advice to aspirants. It was usual at the time for great mahatmas to keep their rare knowledge as a secret and teach only a chosen few. However, I quickly sent out my thoughts and experiences to help the world and struggling seekers after truth. For me the first step on the spiritual path is selfless service of humanity.