What Is Sadhana? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Dear Harsha,

I have come across the Sanskrit term “Sadhana” in many articles on Eastern spirituality. What is the true meaning of “Sadhana” and what is the goal?

A Seeker


Dear Seeker,

In practical terms, the word “Sadhana”  refers to spiritual practices in the form of prayers, meditation, yoga, meditation, inquiry. etc.

What the goal of Sadhana might be is described differently in various religions and traditions. In some religions, the goal of spiritual practice is to go to heaven and be with angels, divine beings, and God. In some spiritual traditions, the goal of Sadhana is said to be union with God. Still, in other schools of thought, the goal of Sadhana is freedom from bondage from all concepts including the notions of heaven and God. There are many variations on these themes in the world religions.

How we frame such questions about the nature of life and existence and the type of answers we can accept is generally determined by our previous cultural conditioning and upbringing.

From an Eastern meditative perspective, anything that allows the mind to be quiet and content and peaceful in awareness is Sadhana. Generally speaking, the schools of yoga in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism emphasize the path of nonviolence in their Sadhana. The goal of Sadhana in these traditions is Moksha or Nirvana. Moksha or Nirvana imply release from all bondage and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

The Advaita Vedanta perspective within Hinduism emphasizes Self-knowledge as the only means to overcome the idea that we are separate from God or the Universe.  According to this philosophy, when the Self is Realized, the false cognition that the world is different from the Self simply vanishes.

According to the teachings of the Indian Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, there is only God or Self, however one conceptualizes That. Therefore there is no attainment of goal outside of God who sits in the Center of our Being as the Universal Being. This Universal Spirit or Being is our own True Self.

So based on all this, In my view, holding on to the awareness that the ocean of compassion sits in one’s Heart and is one’s own Self as Pure Awareness of Being is Sadhana. The goal is only to know what we already are. Self-Knowledge is the goal.

Sri Ramana Maharshi in speaking of these matters often said that all questions can be answered if you first find out who you are by doing Sadhana and inquiring into your true nature. Sri Ramana’s lesson to the devotees was to do your best in engaging in Sadhana and leave the rest to the higher power. If one surrenders unconditionally to the Divine, then Sadhana is carried on automatically and one arrives at Self-Knowledge.

From S.S. Cohen writing about Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi:

Rationality was the very essence of his arguments, while the ultimate answer to all the questions was always the same, namely, “Find out who you are.”

Sri Ramana first met every questioner on his own ground, and then slowly steered him round to the source of all problems – the Self – the realisation of which he held to be the universal panacea.

When the audience shrank, Sri Ramana at times became humorously autobiographical about his early school and home life or about his many experiences on the hill with sadhus, devotees, etc. As time passed and the Master’s state of mind and ideas took firm root in me, I ceased to ask questions, or to intercept him in his walks outside the Ashram grounds, as I used to do in the first six months.

The final conclusion to which I came in the end of these six months I reported one day to Bhagavan. He showed his gracious approval by a gesture of finality with his hand and said: “So much lies in your power, the rest must be left entirely to the Guru, who is the ocean of grace and mercy seated in the heart as the seeker’s own Self.”

Bhagavan Ramana

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