Crises on the Spiritual Path

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When you start the spiritual life, you must understand that you are treading a path hitherto unknown to you. The spiritual path means the path of the evolution of your consciousness. The consciousness has traveled so far and has come to represent the human incarnation. Every time the consciousness passes from one incarnation into another it faced a crisis. Whenever transformation takes place, and whenever the transition takes place, there is always a crisis.

Therefore, let us not use the word difficulties; we should use the word crisis. When you make a transition from childhood to youth, you are facing a crisis. The soul’s journey through different incarnations is beset with great many crises. These are the experiences that one goes through. Sometimes it becomes so difficult to handle the various experiences which you have during your spiritual practices. If you follow the laws of nature, you may have the crisis but you may not feel the intensity. But when you make the effort to traverse the spiritual path and evolve your consciousness, you have a lot of intensity in the crisis.

What happens is, when we practise spiritual sadhana, we miss so many essential items related to that. Most of us are in a great hurry to reach the ultimate. Therefore, we ignore the essential preparations and the essential basis. Many a time we involve ourselves in intense meditation, but we have not purified the mind. We have not rectified the elements of the body, so there is intensity in crisis. We feel horrible experiences, we have very unbearable feelings. Many times we are not able to handle the expressions of our behaviours. Therefore, I said the crisis is there but it is so intense that we are not able to handle it properly.

Intense crisis

Then, when we involve ourselves in intense meditation, the temperature in the body alters. As a result of that altered temperature, the digestion process also changes. As a result of that, sometimes diseases pertaining to the digestive system occur. Sometimes diseases pertaining to the respiratory system occur because the inner body temperature is not able to follow the natural process of digestion.

I come across many aspirants of this type, they come with their stomach complaint, they come with the complaint of the respiratory system. They come to complain about the fluctuating nervous depressions, because they believe that if they practise meditation they are practising real yoga. But you must understand that whatever sadhana you practise, it does make some sort of changes in the physical body and the mind as well.

Meditation or the sadhana of kundalini yoga are not merely metaphysical. Many of us are mistaken when we say that asana affects the body and meditation affects the soul. In fact, asanas and meditation have an overall effect on the whole of our personality more or less. So after some time of practice, people begin to feel sick or ill. After a certain time of practice, they begin to become lazy. Then again comes a time when they begin to doubt whether what they are doing is right. These and many more forms of intense crisis come if we do not follow the systematic and graduated courses of spiritual practice. Since the body and mind are interacting with each other, it is necessary to understand that whatever sadhana you do it should be properly graduated.

The most intense crisis I have seen in spiritual life is impatience. People want to get there overnight. They do not really understand what they want. As a result of that, they want such practices that will give them samadhi in the shortest possible time. If you can understand that we are dealing with the evolution of consciousness in our practices, then it should definitely take more than a lifetime. If everybody realizes in one lifetime there will be another universal crisis.

You must integrate in your sadhana the elements of karma yoga, then that should be tempered with bhakti yoga, then that should be improved by raja yoga, and that should be surveyed properly by jnana yoga. Then there will be less awareness of intense crisis.

—September 1981, Zinal Conference, Switzerland