Posted by Swami Sadasivananda on his blog and reproduced here with his permission.
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Prior to lighting the fire on Arunachala (said to be the heart of the universe), the arduous effort of ascending the sacred hill with all of the implements required was needful. This fact is symbolic of the effort required by us to light a fire within the heart. The Sanskrit word “sadhana”, coming from the root “sadhan – implements or tools”, actually means the way we use the tools that the masters and the scriptures have shown us by example. Without the needful preparation (sadhana), no fire will appear.
HOW DOES ONE LIGHT A FIRE WITHIN THE HEART?
Such a question of, “How to light a fire within the heart?” will only arise to one who is seeking spiritual growth. But a common error also simultaneously arises. In essence, this error is a trick of the ego, whose very life depends on being as far away from the heart as possible. So the ego says to us, “Go my dearest, visit the playground of the heart, I will help you, for I know a short-cut.” This short cut is in truth a bypass, right around the mind.
We cannot even collect the firewood; much less light a fire in a place where we have not yet found the path. We need to make the mind a guiding light, which will illumine our vision and our way towards the heart. But there are obstacles.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi stressed practice that produces purification (removal of that fog of ignorance, the obstacles and habits of the mercurial mind which diminish our pure vision) as well as the grace of the knowledge of the Self as the eternal companions of those who would be led:
From the unreal to the Real,
From darkness to Light
From death to Immortality!
This place of the Real, the Light and Immortality is a firm stance within the heart. But first the obstacles must be removed. So Bhagavan tells us outright what is needful. The mind must first become free of restlessness. In fact it must first be transcended: “How to transcend the mind?” The Master answers: “Mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from restlessness: give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing all obstacles to peace of mind.” (Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 26 p. 129.)
“The obstacles that hinder realization are habits of the mind (vasanas), and the aids to realization are the teachings of the scriptures and of realized souls.” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 13, p. 5.)
The teachings of the scriptures and of realized souls tell us that meditation, daily meditation, without interruption is the way. Through meditation an awareness and recognition of the intoxicating addiction to heedlessness is brought to light together with a resolve to strive for true spiritual growth. Thus the all-knowing God begins by infusing into us the will to change and seek a pure life.
Far before we even get close to the heart, we must begin to change our habits and train our mind to look inwards. This means that we must bring about change through a determined and protracted effort to purify, and thus literally dismantle our vasanas. Yes, this not only can be done, but this must be done. Grace is our essential source of guidance that illumines our path to true ‘spirit life’. We attract the Grace of God mainly through prayer and meditation! “The quality of soul that makes it possible for man to rise to spirit life is purity…that which one wills to do, he has the power to do. Knowledge of that power is faith; and when faith moves, the soul begins its flight.” (The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi)
The Path of Ascent through the Sky of the Heart (the mind!) We have begun; we have made a start. In the truest sense we have now set our hands to the plough. In the entire Srimad Bhagavatam Sri Krishna reveals the quintessence of His teaching in one statement:
“Shake free of sloth, and merge your mind within Me.”
(Srimad Bhagavata, Book Eleven, Uddhava Gita.)
Though we might believe that only a simple start has been made, the shaking free of slothful heedlessness is declared by God to be half the battle. We have recognized that there is a fog that clouds our vision, and obstacles (restlessness and slothfulness), that literally obscure the manifestation of the light of the Self in abode of our true consciousness; within our spiritual heart!
Regardless of whatever label we choose to call this effort, whether it be deemed purification, removal of defilement, awakening, being in oneness or even becoming still, it should be known that Bhagavan said it is “effort that instills purity” and stressed that without it the goal of lighting a fire within the heart will not be reached.
Prior to lighting a fire in the heart, we must light a fire within the mind to burn down sloth, anger, and ultimately all fear. This being done, we will have the doors of the heart flung open to reveal that God has already created a bonfire, the flames of which will be our love of Him.
The fire within the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary blazes forth to illumine the path all human souls must progress through. This became possible only through Her willingness to, like Her Son, take upon Herself the image of our likeness and endure patiently the suffering that instills spiritual perfection, signified by the sword piercing Her most pure heart. Sri Ramana Maharshi echoed this truth when asked by Paramahansa Yogananda if God could not have ordained it differently, so we would not suffer so? Bhagavan replied: “Suffering is the way to self realization.” (Talks #107)
Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi web site: http://www.ramanateaching.org
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