From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

The self-existent Brahman created the mind and senses with outgoing tendencies. The mind has a pernicious habit of externalization from time immemorial. So you behold the external universe and not the internal Self.

It is the vikshepa shakti or Maya that draws you out. From your childhood, you are taught to look to the external world and not to the internal, psychic world. You have entirely lost the faculty of introspection. To have a comprehensive understanding of what is going on in the inner ‘mental factory’, a shuddha buddhi, pure reason, and subtle intellect with power of introspection is needed. You will have to turn the mind inside, then concentrate all its powers and throw them upon the mind itself, in order that it may know its own nature and analyse itself.

This is raja yoga. Make a vigorous and earnest search within. Do not trust the mind and the indriyas. They are your enemies. In introspection, the mind itself is the subject of study. A portion of the mind studies the remaining portion of the mind. The higher mind studies the lower mind.

Become a witness

Introspection is apperception. Just as you watch the work done by a coolie, a portion of the mind watches the movements of the rest of the mind. If you are one with the mind, if you identify yourself with the mind, you cannot know your defects. If you are a sakshi or the silent witness of the mind and if you practise introspection, you can know your various defects.

By a careful watch, many defects are detected and removed by suitable sadhana. Enter a quiet room. Enter into silence daily for about fifteen minutes, morning and evening. Introspect. Watch the mind carefully. The mind will be doing either thinking, planning, feeling, knowing or willing. You will have to find out through subjective introspection what the mind is exactly doing at a particular time. To go through this practice, you must have antarmukha vritti, a subjective mind and a subtle buddhi.

Buddhi can be rendered subtle by studying philosophical books, satsang, control of indriyas, dama, and sattvic food. The constant utterance of holy names of God as Hari, Om, Narayana, Rama, Shiva purifies the mind-stuff and helps make the mind introspective.

Be ready to change

You are the best judge of your mind. Introspect by living alone in solitude or retiring into a calm room for an hour. You must sit quietly in a solitary room alone, with closed eyes and watch the activities of the mind. You will then know your defects and weaknesses very clearly.

You should afterwards feel the necessity of removing them. Then your swabhava, your nature, should agree to change. You must know the right method to remove the defect. You must apply the method constantly. Then only improvement will set in. Constant application of the sadhana is an indispensable requisite.

You must watch the improvement every now and then, say, once a week, a fortnight or a month. You will have to keep a record of your progress in a spiritual daily diary. You must watch carefully whether you are progressing on the spiritual path, whether you remain stationary or are retrograding, whether the mind is distracted or concentrated. If it is distracted, you must remove the distracting causes one by one with patience and vigilance by suitable methods. If one method fails to bring about the desired results, you will have to combine two methods – the yogic methods and vichara, enquiry.

The triplet

Remember the triplet: self-analysis, self-reliance, self-determination. It will be of immense use in your spiritual sadhana. Analyse yourself through introspection. Find out the nature of your vrittis. Find out what guna or quality is predominant at a particular moment, whether it is sattwa, rajas or tamas.

How long can the mind be absolutely fixed on your lakshya, the point of meditation, be it God, Brahman, an idea or object, whether internal or external?

How long can the mind be fixed on the object, rose and rose alone to the exclusion of all other objects, be it two seconds or two minutes or five minutes or half an hour? This is self-analysis.

Rely on yourself alone. You are your own redeemer and saviour. Nobody can give you moksha. You will have to tread the spiritual path step by step. Books and gurus can show the path and guide you. This is self-reliance.

Make strong self-determination: “I will realize God. I will have atma sakshatkara, self-realization, or Brahmanubhava, experience of Brahman, this very moment and not in the uncertain future.” This is self-determination.

The worldly nature

Worldly-minded people have no time to think even for a few minutes over the problems and the mystery of life. They get up in the morning. Their minds usually run to the special objects of enjoyment on account of raga, attraction. Their mental energies are poured forth in the usual grooves and avenues in thoughts of body, eating and dressing, wife, children, friends and also thoughts of office work and business. Thus, the day is over. The same routine follows day after day, week after week. Years roll by and life is wasted. It is highly lamentable, indeed!

Only they who do manana, reflection, and introspection through antarmukha vritti can change their worldly nature. Only in these aspirants the idea of Brahman can get permanently lodged.