Sunday Satsang

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What it the difference between sadhana and tapasya?

There are two concepts in yoga, the concept of sadhana and the concept of tapasya. The concept of sadhana is for having a grip over the mind and the concept of tapasya is for self-purification. Sadhana does not lead to self-purification. It only leads to mental dominance, victory and mastery over the mind.

When gold is put in fire and melted, the impurities are separated and can be extracted from the purity of the gold. At each level, the gold can be purified more and more. That is shuddhi and the purpose of tapasya, whereas sadhana leads to control over the mental behaviour.

People are failures in sadhana, and therefore they cannot conceive of how they can do tapasya. If initiates cannot do their one mala of mantra at night, then what kind of sadhana will they be able to do in the future? If that simple sadhana which takes ten minutes cannot be sustained or maintained by an initiate, how can an initiate have any spiritual aspiration? Why does that break in sadhana happen? It happens due to the mind, saying 'Oh I'm exhausted', 'Oh I'm tired', 'Oh I'm this', 'Oh I'm that'.

The purpose of sadhana is to allow you control over the mind. In sadhana you have to bypass the mind, and be regular in it. If you follow the whims of the mind, forget it. The mind is always anti-discipline. The mind’s behaviour can never be pro-discipline. Mental behaviour is always anti-discipline. Therefore, the sadhana component is only used for correcting this mental deficiency.

Doing one mala of mantra every day is a sadhana, doing one’s yoga practice every morning is a sadhana. Maintaining positivity of mind every moment is a sadhana, for it can be broken at any given moment by a whim of one’s own creation.

Even if you fall asleep during your mantra japa, you will say, “Oh, I did my mantra.” You are not going to say, “I slept in my mantra practice,” but you will say, “I did my mantra.” Such hypocritical behaviour of your mind in relation to yourself is mental imbalance, and that imbalance has to be corrected.

Tapasya is a totally different thing. In tapasya or austerity, if the mind is not controlled, one cannot do it.

How can we cultivate sakshi bhava in daily life? Even the slightest attention to something like breath seems to modify it, and thereby is moving us away from being a witness? Are there any practices that we can bring into our daily routine?

Once you become a witness, the correction process begins. You cannot be a witness and not begin a correction process. The moment you begin to witness your breath, the correction of breathing will begin. If the correction in breathing is not happening, you are not a witness. Awareness and correction form part of the witnessing aspect.

That is the essence of drashta. If you are observing your thoughts, you are also managing and correcting your thoughts. You are eliminating, accepting and analysing your thoughts; it is not just watching them. This is one difficulty when the concept of drashta is not clear to people. They think of drashta as simply observing.

Some people suggest that you should watch yourself as you watch a movie, yet a movie is not you. That is not a correct idea. With a movie you can be objective. It does not reflect your involvement and participation. When you are watching yourself, when you are watching your thoughts and your mind, you are involved and you are already in that state. If negative thoughts come to your mind, you are already involved in negativity. How can you maintain your objectivity?

If you are to maintain your objectivity, negative thoughts should not even come. When you are doing that to yourself, you are already in a state of experience, which you begin to observe. You are not detached from that experience, you are in that experience.

If I see two people fighting, they are separate. I can observe them fight. However, if I am seeing myself fighting with someone, I am involved. I cannot be separate as a drashta at that time. I can observe, yet I cannot be the true drashta. I am involved, I am in it. Therefore, I have to manage where I am. If I am in the lake, I have to swim in the lake. If I am on the land, I have to walk on the land. I have to change my responses depending on the situation I am in.

Development of objectivity is not as simple as saying, ‘Okay, I am a drashta. I am objective and I am watching everything.’ Drashta is an indication of being aware of your responses and correcting them. That is the meaning of the word drashta.

If you begin to observe your breath, and the breath corrects itself without you interfering, just by the act of your observation, that is okay. However, if you begin to purposely interfere to regulate your breath, that is not drashta, then it becomes pranayama.

Just watching the breath, you find you are breathing incorrectly and it rectifies itself, this is well and good. The drashta ability has brought your breathing to a correct state and level. Awareness and correctness form part of becoming the drashta.