The Aspirant

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Just as the dirt of a room which has been shut for six months comes out when it is carefully swept, so too do the various impurities of the mind come out with the practice of yoga and meditation. Aspirants should introspect, watch their minds and remove their weaknesses one by one.


Pride is inveterate. Its branches ramify in all directions of the rajasic mind. It asserts itself when opportunities arise. If the aspirant has the nature of being offended easily over trifling matters, he cannot make any progress. When he cultivates an amiable, loving and adaptable nature, this negative trait will disappear. Some aspirants are easily offended if their negative side or defects are pointed out. They become indignant and begin to fight with the person who points out any defects. They think that the criticism is based on jealousy and hatred. If an aspirant wants to grow, he must not only admit those defects which are pointed out by others, but he must also thank the person who points them out. Only then will he be able to grow in meditation and spirituality.

Without introspection and without controlling bahirmukha vritti, the outgoing tendencies of the mind, the aspirant cannot discover his mistakes. Conceit blurs the mental vision. Pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance, irritability, the self-assertive nature, curiosity about the affairs of other people and hypocrisy are all obstacles to the successful practice of meditation.


Daily self-analysis is an indispensable requisite to the removal of defects which are inhibiting an individual’s rapid spiritual growth. A gardener watches the young plants carefully. He removes the weeds daily, puts a strong fence around them, and waters them at the proper time. Then the young plants grow beautifully and yield fruits quickly.

One should find out one’s defects through daily introspection and self-analysis and eradicate them by any suitable method. If one method fails, one must adopt a combined method. If prayer fails, one should take recourse to satsang or association with the wise, pranayama, meditation, dietetic regulation, enquiry or anything that may help.

One should destroy not only big waves of pride, hypocrisy, passion and anger that manifest on the surface of the conscious mind, but also their subtle impressions which lurk in the corners of the subconscious mind. These subtle impressions are dangerous. The practice of introspection and self-analysis demands patience, perseverance, tenacity, application, iron will and determination, subtle intellect and courage. One will gain fruit of incalculable value: immortality, supreme peace and infinite bliss.


Keep a daily spiritual diary and practise self-analysis at night. Note down how many good actions you performed during the day, as well as any mistakes that you may have made. In the morning resolve: I will not yield to anger today. I will practise celibacy today. I will speak the truth today.

Introspect. Look within. Try to remove all of your defects. This is real sadhana. This is the most difficult sadhana. The old samskaras of vanity, arrogance, petty-mindedness, fighting nature, pride, or thinking too much of one’s own self, speaking ill of others, belittling others, may still be lurking in your mind. You cannot shine unless you remove them thoroughly. Think more about your duties and less about your rights. These rights are worthless. It is wasting time and energy. Assert your birthright of God-consciousness. ‘Thou art Brahman’ – when you assert this real birthright, then you will be a wise man. If you are endowed with a character of mercy, brahmacharya, truthfulness, pure love, tolerance and serenity, then these qualities will more than counterbalance many of the negative qualities which you may possess.


The company of a saint hastens the growth of sattwic virtues, gives strength to awaken dormant powers and eradicates the undesirable negative qualities. Young aspirants should remain in the company of their guru or saint until they are firmly molded and established on the spiritual path. Today many young aspirants wander aimlessly from place to place and do not want to hear the instructions of teachers or saints. They do not make any spiritual progress. Therefore, they remain a burden to society and are of no use to others.

Aspirants do not have unshakable faith in the guru or in the shrutis. They have only half or wavering faith. That is the reason why they fail to attain success in yoga or jnana, knowledge and wisdom. Rishi Vasishtha says to Sri Rama: “Even though you may find refuge in a guru, it is only through your own effort and will that you can destroy the pains arising from association with objects and kinsmen.”

When the mind is concentrated on one object, there will, through the action of the guru, arise in it another kind of knowledge which was not anticipated. Yet, initiation by a guru will not by itself enable a person to obtain jnana, rather when properly used, it can be the means for one to develop jnana.

Guru diksha

Yoga should be learnt from a guru. It is the guru who will recognize the class to which the aspirant belongs and prescribe a suitable sadhana. Aspirants have the dangerous and wrong notion of imagining that they are highly qualified to adopt the highest form of yoga in the very beginning of their sadhana. This is the reason for the early downfall of many aspirants. It shows that they are not ready to take to yoga. The real, qualified aspirant is humble enough to approach and serve the guru, surrender to, and learn yoga from the guru.

At the time of diksha the mantra is given by the guru. Initiation bestows spiritual knowledge. As one lamp is lit at the flame of another, so the divine shakti consists of mantra communicated from guru to disciple.

Initiation enables the disciple to grasp the hidden truth behind scriptural truths which are generally veiled in mystic language. One cannot understand them by self-study. Through diksha the guru gives the right perspective in which to study the scriptures. He will flash his torch of self-realization on the truth which the disciple will grasp immediately.

The guru’s mind

The mind of the guru is nearest to the absolute condition of changeless existence and possesses limitless powers beyond imagination. The initiation of the disciple by the guru is a process of infusion by the guru of his supernormal force of spiritual consciousness into the grosser state of the disciple’s mind. The result is the dispelling of darkness and enlightening of the aspirant’s mind. The length of time taken for the disciple’s spiritual illumination is directly proportional to the receptive capacity of the disciple and the force of consciousness of the guru.

The world is the materialization of the collective totality of thoughts of all beings. Therefore, the dissolution of the mind of one being among them requires a reshuffling in the thoughts of the others. The sustenance of the world is the work of the remaining ones. The guru’s unlimited consciousness invades the dark corner of the disciple who is able to bear it through the strength of truth and purity and who receives it to the extent that his mind is purged of rajas and tamas. The guru is identical with Existence, and the help which is derived from him cannot be estimated by the faculty of thinking.

Guru bhakti

The guru is none other than the supreme divine Mother, descended into the world in order to elevate the aspirant. Only when he deifies the guru will he be really benefited. As he serves him untiringly the guru will, of his own accord, bestow the supreme blessing of diksha upon the aspirant.

Deification of the guru is a mysterious powerful method of having his grace. When you deify him, you see only the storehouse of perfection in him. Even if you cannot understand his actions, do not misunderstand them. Be humble, silent and wait patiently. You will be rewarded with light, later on.

The treasure of guru bhakti is not acquired in a day. The disciple has to cultivate it gradually and painstakingly, increasing it day by day. It develops through constant earnest prayers in the secret chamber of the heart. One must make oneself perfectly blind to the human aspects of the guru. Then true guru bhakti will develop.

A disciple should not act against the wishes of his guru, nor speak displeasing words to him. He should learn to view everyone with guru bhava which is the culmination of guru bhakti. A disciple without devotion to his guru is like a flower without fragrance, a well without water, a cow without milk or a body without life. If one wants to be a true disciple, one should follow the instructions of the guru to the very letter and spirit. If a promise is made to the guru it should be fulfilled even at the cost of one’s life.

Guru bhakti is the magic-wand in the hands of the disciple to cross the ocean of samsara. Guru bhakti will make the impossible possible.