The process which takes you from tamas to sattwa has a name, and that is sadhana. Generally, when we use the word ‘sadhana’, people identify it with a spiritual discipline, a spiritual practice. However, sadhana means attainment of perfection in that which you do.

When you were learning to write ABC at school, you had to fill many pages by writing each letter repeatedly. After three or four pages of writing ‘A,’ you had to write ‘B’, and so on. You were given lined pages and you had to write in between those lines. That is sadhana for a child, and the result of that sadhana is received. If you write properly, you get plus marks, you get a gold star, and if you do not write properly then you get a red ‘x’. The sadhana of a child gets results then and there. The more you write, the more flowing you become, the more clarity there is in the writing, and the letter is recognized the more easily. The result of any sadhana you do well is attainment of maturity. Through sadhana you get plus marks in life. Those who do not do sadhana get minus marks, become lazy and stay ignorant.

Another form of sadhana is found in the story of Arjuna, friend and disciple of Sri Krishna. When he was young, he was an avid archer. Once, while he was eating his dinner at night, the candle blew out and there was pitch darkness in the dining room. Arjuna kept on eating and suddenly he realized that his hands were going automatically to his mouth; they were not going to his nose, or to his eyes, or to his ears, but straight to his mouth. He recognized that even in absolute darkness, if the senses are trained, they will follow their course of action.

With this in mind, he started training himself to shoot the arrow at night without seeing where he was shooting. Of course, this sadhana had its own problems, but he overcame them all and became the greatest archer of his time. The story indicates that if you train your senses and your mind, then there is nothing that you cannot achieve; everything is achieved naturally and spontaneously.

Training regulates the behaviour of the senses and the mind. This is the kind of training you lack in your life. This regulation of sensory and mental behaviour is known as sadhana. Sensory education takes place at the physical level, the sensorial level and the interactive level. It is an interactive process: you and the world. Mental sadhana is practised to pacify mental agitation and to develop concentration and focused awareness. Emotional sadhana takes place in the form of bhakti, intellectual sadhana in the form of jnana and spiritual sadhana in the form of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and absorption.

Spiritual sadhana takes place in form of developing an understanding of your own nature and managing the problem areas in the mind. Sadhana means a process that leads you to mastery and perfection. It is also a type of discipline, as without discipline no sadhana can be achieved or fulfilled. Therefore, the main subject and focus of sadhana is the preparation of the mind.

The mind is always being directed outward, and this mind has to be retrained. Sri Swamiji says never to fight with the mind, but to always guide it. If there is a fight at home between husband and wife, there is disturbance; there is emotional pain and suffering, intellectual confusion and conflict. That is happening between two people who may be a couple, may be friends, may be parents, that is it. If you fight with your mind, however, the mind lives with you twenty-four hours of the day. The mind is with you in the same bed when you go to sleep; it follows you around when you eat, when you shower, when you brush your teeth, when you work and when you visit your friends.

The association with the mind is much greater than the other associations. A problem, a fight, a conflict in the family can disturb the environment at home. What would happen when you confront your own mind? When you fight with your own mind? Who gets disturbed? It is not the mind that gets disturbed, it is you.

Sri Swamiji says, “I never disturb my mind, as then the mind will disturb me. It is always better to be a friend to the mind and keep it happy all the time.” Keeping the mind happy does not mean that you allow it to follow its whims. It means you do not come into direct confrontation or conflict with the mind. You guide your mind just as you would guide your child to do certain things, to behave and act in a certain manner. In this way you guide your mind, but do not fight with the mind. The moment you fight with your mind, you become the loser; you get disturbed and you lose your peace, your shanti.

It is mental training that allows you to discipline the mind and, after that discipline, to embark on the path of sadhana. This has been explained to some extent by Sage Patanjali and by other rishis who have developed the subject of yoga. Sage Patanjali says that the management of mental moods is yoga. He uses the phrase chitta vritti; I use the expression ‘mental mood’. It is the mood in the existing environment of the mind that influences your thought process, behaviour, performance, responses, everything. If the mental mood is happy then the whole world is happy; if the mental mood is depressive then the whole world is dark and depressing. If you are fearful then you will experience fear everywhere. If you are angry, you will find cause for anger everywhere.

If you are kind, you will find ways to express your kindness everywhere. It is the predominant mood of the mind which becomes the vritti, and it is the management of those vrittis which is the purpose of yoga. The vrittis colour the mind, and yogic sadhana, which is aimed at cultivating spiritual awareness, begins with understanding the vrittis of the mind.

April 2011, Ganga Darshan