Steps on the Spiritual Path

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

The salt of life is selfless service, the bread of life is universal love, the water of life is purity. Hence, serve, love and be pure. The fragrance of life is generosity, the sweetness of life is devotion, the pivot of life is meditation. The goal of life is self-realization. Therefore, be pure and generous, be good and do good, meditate and realize the Self.

Ashtanga yoga

Serve: The first step on the spiritual path is selfless service of humanity. Selfless service is the watchword along the road to salvation. Service always elevates and makes one divine. Service purifies, redeems and energizes. To live life through service is to be intimate with life's innermost secret. To serve humanity with sincerity and feeling is to be in union with the cosmic consciousness.

Love: Love is truth and love is good. It is the highest expression of the soul. It is the hope of the world. Wherever there is love, there is peace, and wherever there is peace, there is joy. One should spread the gospel of cosmic love throughout the world. Let the message of love reach the hearts of all and awaken brotherhood in the bosom of humanity. The world has to be encircled with a heart of love.

Give: One must help the poor, sick, forlorn, orphans and widows. If a person gives, the wealth of the world is his. It is the secret of abundance and divine life. Therefore, give, give, give. A person makes a living by what he gets, but he makes a life by what he gives. If one gives in plenty, one will enjoy peace and prosperity, attain purity of heart and experience an indescribable thrill of divine ecstasy and spiritual bliss. This gives tremendous inner strength. An aspirant must radiate thoughts of goodwill and share what he has with others. He should use his material wealth, knowledge, and spiritual wisdom as a divine trust for the benefit of God's children. Prayer takes the aspirant halfway to God, fasting to the door of His supreme abode, and charity procures him admission.

Purify: Mental purity bestows calmness, cheerfulness, one-pointedness, victory over the senses and fitness to attain God-realization. The mind must be purified by the practice of virtues, self-control and devotion to God. A purified mind becomes a friend, for it wears out the shell that covers the truth. There is no greater undertaking for any aspirant than purifying his life of enmity, hatred and passion and filling it with love, goodness and peace.

Be good: Goodness is the highest virtue. It implies kindness, benevolence and morality. Positive habits have to be cultivated and good, sublime divine thoughts entertained. To be good is divine. If an aspirant wants to be good, he must see what is good, hear what is good, think what is good, do what is good, speak what is good, read what is good, write what is good, eat what is good and drink what is good. Ultimately, he will be good.

Do good: A good deed is never lost. It purifies the heart and leads to the descent of divine light and the dawn of divine grace. Every good deed is a seed of immortality. People should do all the good they can, in all the ways they can, to all the people they can, in every place they can, at all times they can, with all the zeal, strength and love they can, and as long as ever they can. Their nature must be to do good.

Meditate: Meditation destroys the causes of sorrow and pain. Regular meditation makes the mind calm and steady, and opens the avenues of intuitional knowledge. When the practitioner enters the silence through deep meditation, the outside world and his troubles drop away, and he enjoys supreme peace. In this silence lies the light of lights, real strength and joy. He has to shut the doors of the senses and still his thoughts and emotions. When he sits motionless in the early morning hours, has a receptive attitude and communes with the Lord, he will enjoy the abiding peace of silence.

Realize: Everyone should live to realize the higher self within. No vision of truth or God is possible without annihilating the ego. The goal of life is God-realization.