Light a Fire Within the Heart: By Swami Sadasivananda

Posted by Swami Sadasivananda on his blog and reproduced here with his permission.
For more information on Swamiji, click here:   About Swami Sadasivananda

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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.

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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
Ask your question in relation to Bhagavan’s teachings, meditation and spirituality at:
http://www.ramanateaching.org/faq
To contact Swami Sadasivananda:
http://www.ramanateaching.org/contact.html

 

Removing the Dross from the Mind in Meditation: By Swami Sadasivananda

Posted by Swami Sadasivananda on his blog and reproduced here with his permission.
For more information on Swamiji, click here:   About Swami Sadasivananda

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Fiery Gem, shining in all directions,
do Thou burn up my dross, Oh Arunachala!”
Five Hymns to Arunachala

In Talks, Sri Ramana Maharshi is being questioned concerning how to remove the obstacles (dross) within meditation.
D.: Impurities of limitation, ignorance and desire (anava, mayika, and kamya) place obstacles in the way of meditation. How to conquer them?
M.: Not to be swayed by them.
D.: Grace is necessary.
M.: Yes, Grace is both the beginning and the end. Introversion (meditation) is due to Grace: Perseverance is Grace; and Realization is Grace.

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“Significance of Om, unrivalled — unsurpassed!
Who can comprehend Thee, Oh Arunachala?”
Five Hymns to Arunachala


“The purport of prescribing meditation on the pranava (OM) is this. The Pranava is Omkara…the advaita-mantra which is the essence of all mantras such as Panchakshara. In order to get at this true significance, one should meditate on the Pranava. This is meditation which is of the nature of devotion consisting in reflection on the truth of the Self. The fruition of this process is samadhi which yields release moksha  [liberation from all aspects of mental dross, ed. note], which is the state of unsurpassable bliss.” (Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, 6th edition, Self Enquiry #28 p. 23-24)

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Further in Talks #59, Bhagavan teaches us:
D.: Was Visvamitra a rishi?
M.: When contaminated [dross produced by excessive worldly attachment, ed. addition] he was not a rishi.
D.: Can he become a rishi even afterwards?
M.: Yes. By proper bhakti he could become a good rishi. Repentance and prayer will set him right.
D.: With all your penance for so many years what have you got?
M.: I have got what need be got. I see what need be seen.
D.: Can all see the same?
M.: I see only just what all do. It is immanent in all.
D.: Is this the way for seeing It?
M.: Method may be anything. From whatever directions the pilgrims may foregather, they must enter the Kaaba only by one route (passage) or all gather only to enter the Kaaba.
D.: Please tell me two upadesas on the way to salvation as known by you.
M.: What upadesa do I know? Everything is upadesa. Worship of God is the only upadesa.
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About Swami Sadasivananda

Sadasivananda

Sometime in early 2009, Alan Jacobs posted his first note to the Harshasatsangh group authored by Swami Sadasivananda.  In it Alan mentioned that Swamiji was available privately to answer any questions people might have, which I thought was quite generous of him, as time is such a limited commodity for most people, even those who populate the spiritual egroups.  Alan then followed this note with the first in a three part series on Surrender written by Swamiji, and I was touched by his combination of wisdom and wit, and his compassionate nature.   Since then, he forwarded a number of his articles to us and I began posting them to the blog with his permission not long afterwards. ( I do take the liberty of changing the format and the photos, but his words remain his. ) I look forward to them, because they are uplifting and sincere, and reach out to the reader with an honest clarity of expression. I always feel uplifted after I have read something he has written.  And I always feel as if he has included everyone…no student left behind!   His bio is below…

Swamiji was born in Florida in 1950. He studied comparative religion at a University in Colorado. He visited Sri  Ramanashramam in 1971. From that Darshan of Arunachala he determined to take Sanyas.In 1974 he received initiation in the disciple lineage of Puri Sankaracharya. He visited Anandamayi Ma’s Ashram while she was still alive and received the golden touch of this Joy-Permeated Mother, and remained under her guidance until her passing. He was there for thirty years giving service and practicing sadhana. Since then he has been living in Tiruvannamalai and is a frequent visitor to Ramanasramam where he is available, and gives advice to questioners. He has made a thorough study of Bhagavan’s teachings as well as those of Sri Ramakrishna.

Swami has also completed a new book regarding Bhagavan’s teachings on “Practical Sadhana” that isto be published by Sri Ramanashramam this spring. This book, as well as a great deal of additional works by direct disciples of Bhagavan including various other aspects of spiritual instructions are  posted on a website that is maintained by the Swami.

Are You Letting God In? by Swami Sadasivananda

As posted by Swami Sadasivananda on his blog   http://www.ramanateaching.org/

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There is one mystical understanding of life that runs through the very core of all major religions. This is the belief, and to many the cherished experience, that our sojourn on earth is not true life. These most ancient scriptures and Masters teach that everything appearing to us here is a mere appearance, behind which we should penetrate, or that it is only a forecourt of the true world, a forecourt which we should cross without paying much attention to.

    Hidden within these very scriptures, though obscured through individual bias or misinterpretation, is a profound truth that utterly refutes this belief. The Vedas, and their essential distillation given in the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Bible, the Torah, and the Koran definitively proclaim that what a man does here and now with holy intent is no less important, no less true – being a terrestrial indeed, but non the less a factual, link with Divine Being – than the life in the world to come.

    Unfortunately, there is a universal acceptance that the highest gift of grace bestowed upon mankind is a “One way ticket to heaven”. Some call it “salvation”, some say “realization”, some “awakening”. In our modern era this ticket is on sale – being reduced to just a fleeting thought of “oneness” while ferociously consuming whatever is in reach with the righteous indignation permitted within “the present moment”.

    One hallmark of a real spiritual aspirant is an acute awareness of active evolution. Yes, “religion” does mean moving into purity and union through change and improvement.  Although a higher world is perceived, it is erroneous to conclude that we are separated and severed from it. When the day of even partial attainment dawns, we begin to experience that the two worlds are essentially one and shall in fact become one.

    In their true essence, the two worlds are one. They only have, as it were, moved apart. But they shall again become one, as they are in their true essence. Man was created for the purpose of unifying the two worlds. He contributes towards this unity by holy living, in relationship to the world in which he has been set, at the place on which he stands.

    How is it then true that when we suffer in our attempts to live a holy life we are told that such is a gift of grace? Sri Ramana Maharshi declared, with seeming sternness, to Paramahansa Yogananda (in Talks #107), that: “Suffering is the way to Self-Realization.” The Masters of all religions, upon seeing the great misery among the needy, raise their heads and cry out to us and say: “Let us draw God into the world, and all need will be quenched!”

    But is this possible, to draw God into this world? Is this not an arrogant, presumptuous idea?

    The advent of God, His actual gracious Presence, abides within the law that He Himself created and abides by. This law consists precisely in this, that God wants to let Himself be “won” by man, that He places Himself, so to speak, into man’s hands. God wants to come into this world factually, never being satisfied to remain a theory or at best an illusive and flighty “friend in need”. God wants to come to this world, but he wants to come to it through man. This is the mystery of our existence, the superhuman chance of mankind!

    The Masters and their scriptures entice us with the perplexing question: “ Where then is the dwelling of God?” The human mind really does not waiver with the passing of centuries. Therefore the answer to this question from ancient to modern man is: “What a thing to ask! Is not the whole world full of the glory of God? We are then perplexed when the these very saints reply:
                             “God dwells wherever man lets Him in!”

    This is the ultimate purpose; to let God in. But we can let Him in only where we really stand, where we live, where we live a true life. If we maintain holy intercourse with the little world entrusted to us, if we help the holy spiritual substance to accomplish itself in that section of Creation in which we are living, then we are establishing, in this our place, a dwelling for the Divine Presence.
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Some of the ideas expressed in this article are paraphrased excerpts from the writings of Martin Buber.

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Love Embracing the Beloved: By Swami Sadasivananda

By Swami Sadasivananda

“In Thy Presence is fullness of joy,
The simplicity that is Christ.”
~
Brother Lawrence

This article contains the Spiritual Maxims of one Nicholas Herman of Lorraine, a lowly born and unlearned man; who, after having been a soldier and a footman, was admitted a lay brother among the Carmelites Deschausses (bare-footed) at Paris in 1666, where he served in the kitchen of the community. He was afterwards known by the name of Brother Lawrence. He died in February 1691, at the advanced age of eighty, after a life the true saintliness of which can be well realized from his words of guidance. ( Almost the entirety of this article is paraphrased or directly quoted from The Practice of the Presence of God, The Complete Book, by Brother Lawrence. )

“Herein you will not find set out a devotion which is merely speculative, or which can only be practiced in a cloister. No, there is an obligation laid on every man to worship God and to love Him, and we cannot carry out this solemn duty as we ought, unless our heart is knit in love to God, and our communion is so close as to constrain us to run to Him at every moment, just like little children, who cannot stand upright without their mother’s arms of love.”

Brother Lawrence, an earnest seeker of God, had a transforming experience at the age of 18. He was a changed person since then and till the last day of his life he was in commune with God to whom he surrendered himself entirely. His experience, and thus his guidance has a special significance as the theme is universal, and so is the endeavor to practice the Presence of God. The practice or sadhana explained herein is referred to thus in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; (I-23): “Isvarapranidhanadva”.

Brother Lawrence thus sought “Goodness”, in the highest sense of the word proclaimed by his Lord Jesus: “Only God is Good.” It is necessary to be good, but the good must then progress on to become godlike, to be a deva, a “shining one” filled with the Divine Light. Fixing their mind on God they make themselves living offerings. That is why the Manu Smriti (Laws of Manu) says that the greatest sacrifice is the offering of ourselves (purushamedha). And Patanjali says: “Samadhi is attained by offering our lives to God  (Isvarapranidhana).”

God is the essence and the apex of Consciousness, so Patanjali further says: “In Him is the highest limit of omniscience.” (Yoga Sutras 1:25) In seeking constant abidance with this highest limit of omniscience, Brother Lawrence eventually abandoned all previously set devotions except those prescribed to his station within the Carmelite Society. Often he said: “All that he had heard others say, all that he had found in books, all that he had himself written, seemed savorless, dull and heavy, when compared with what faith had unfolded to him of the unspeakable riches of God and of Jesus Christ. He alone can reveal Himself to us; we toil and exercise our mind in reason and in science, forgetting that therein we can see only a copy, whilst we neglect to gaze on the Incomparable Original. In the depths of our soul, God reveals Himself, could we but realize it, yet we will not look there for Him. We leave Him to spend our time in fooleries, and affect disdain at commune with Him, Who is ever present, Who is our King.”

Not only did Brother Lawrence perceive God as present in his soul by faith, but also in all events of life, whensoever they befell, instantly he could arise and seek the Presence of God. Yet he confessed that it was hard at first, that many a time he had been unmindful of this practice, but that, after humble prayer and confession to God of his failure, he had betaken himself to it again without trouble.

Of his life within God, his failures and attainments, he left a legacy of direction for those who would likewise seek “The Way, the Truth, and the Light (Life) in the Presence of God.” Thus his declaration most central to this undertaking was: “That the Presence of God can be reached rather by the heart and by love than by understanding. In the way of God thoughts count for little, love is everything.” mira30

“We search for stated ways and methods of learning how to love God, and to come to that love we disquiet our minds by I know not how many devices; we give ourselves a world of trouble and pursue a multitude of practices to attain to a sense of the Presence of God. And yet it is so simple. How very much shorter it is and easier to do our common business purely for the love of God, to set His consecrating mark on all we lay our hands to, and thereby to foster the sense of His abiding Presence by communion of our heart with His! There is no need either of art or science; just as we are, we can go to Him, simply and with a single heart.”

He no longer perplexed himself with thoughts of virtue, or of his salvation. He entirely forgot self; he never any longer thought of heaven or hell or his past sins or his deeds of striving for goodness and compassion. In the Presence of God he entered upon a perfect peace; after which he commended himself to God, as he used to say: “For life and for death, for time and for eternity – For we are made for God, and for Him alone.”

His one method of going to God and abiding in His Presence was to do all for the love of Him.

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When we enter upon spiritual life, we ought to consider thoroughly what we are, probing to the very depth. Though creatures made for God, we are prone to all manner of maladies and subject to countless infirmities, which distress us and impair the soul’s health, rendering us wavering and unstable in our humors and dispositions. We must believe steadfastly, never once doubting, that all such is from God and for our good; that it is God’s will to visit us therein.

“Good when He gives, supremely good;
Nor less when He denies.
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.”

Sri Ramana Maharshi, also declared this truth in conversation with Paramahansa Yogananda, evidenced in Talks #107:

Swami Yogananda: “Why does God permit suffering in the world? Should He not with His omnipotence do away with it at one stroke and ordain the universal realisation of God?”

Maharshi: “Suffering is the way for Realization of God.”

Swami Yogananda: “Should He not ordain differently?”

Maharshi: “It is the way.”

Brother Lawrence entreats us that we: “Must do all things thoughtfully and soberly, without impetuosity or precipitancy, with denotes a mind undisciplined. We must go about our labors quietly, calmly, and lovingly, entreating Him to prosper the works of our hands; thus keeping heart and mind fixed on God.

Sri Ramana Maharshi echoed this same truth when saying in Talks #91:

“The nature of the mind to wander. One must bring one’s thoughts to bear on God. By long practice the mind is controlled and made steady.”

“That useless thoughts spoil all: that the mischief began there; but that we ought to be diligent to reject them as soon as we perceived their impertinence to the matter at hand, or to our salvation; and return to our communion with God. When we are busied, as well as while meditating on spiritual things, even in our time of set devotion, whilst our voice is rising in prayer, we ought to cease for one brief moment, as often as we can, to worship God in the depths of our being, to taste Him though it be in passing, to touch Him though as it were by stealth. Since you cannot but know that God is with you in all you undertake, that He is at the very depth and center of your soul, why should you not thus pause an instant from time to time in your outward business, and even in the act of prayer, to worship Him with your soul, to praise Him, to entreat His aid, to offer Him the service of your heart, and give Him thanks for all His loving-kindness and tender-mercies?”

Brother Lawrence emphasizes that necessity is laid upon us to examine ourselves with diligence and to find out what are the virtues, which we chiefly lack, and which are the hardest for us to acquire. We should seek to learn the failures in virtue that most easily beset us, and the times and occasions, and through which associations we do most often fall. For the world, and association within it, is fraught with danger. So much so that reliance upon God’s grace is paramount.

“A soul is more dependant on grace, the higher the perfection to which it aspires; and the grace of God is the more needful for each moment, as without it the soul can do nothing. The world, the flesh and the association with evil join forces and assault the soul so straitly and so untiringly that, without humble reliance on the ever-present aid of God, they drag the soul down in spite of all resistance. Thus to rely seems hard to nature, but grace makes it become easy, and brings with it joy.”

In this same regard, Sanatana Dharma entreats us to “Seek satsanga…while abandoning dussanga.” (Narada Bhakti Sutras II: 42,43)

A proper understanding of the Sanskrit words satsanga (good association) and dussanga (evil association) is essential. Especially when applying them not only in the context of worldly associations, but as is more precisely scripturally intended, to associations within the mind. Here the spiritual maxim: “As above, so below… As without, so within” is applicable.

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The gopis in satsangha with Radha, yearning for the Lord

While good association with others enables one to develop purity (sattwa) and is the gateway to Liberation, evil association intensifies distraction and inertia (rajas and tamas), and is the gateway to hellish conditions in life. But even more harmful to the soul is the effect of evil association. There is nothing so disastrous in an aspirant’s life as when evil association nourishes the mental impurities of anger, hate, greed, pride, egoism, selfishness, hypocrisy and passion. Once these mental impurities become strong through external nourishment, they become formidable enemies of the soul in and of themselves. They then no longer need to rely on external sustenance, for through mainly memory, imagination and fantasy they, as Brother Lawrence warns us, “assault the soul untiringly.”

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The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence systematically guides us through the means for attaining unto the Presence of God.

1. The first is a great purity of life; in guarding ourselves with care lest we should do or say or think on anything, which might be displeasing to God.

2. Second is a great faithfulness in the practice of His Presence, and in keeping the soul’s gaze fixed on God in faith, calmly, humbly, lovingly, without allowing an entrance to anxious cares and disquietude.

3. Make it your study, before taking up any task to look to God, be it only for a moment, as also when you are engaged thereon, and lastly when you have performed the same. And forasmuch as without time and patience this practice cannot be attained, be not disheartened at your many falls; truly this habit can only be formed with difficulty, yet when it is so formed, how great will be your joy therein.
4. Let us mark well, however, that this intercourse with God is held in the depth of our being; there it is that the soul speaks to God, heart to heart, and over the soul thus holding converse there steals a great and profound peace. All that passes without concerns the soul no more than a fire of straw, which the more it flares, the sooner burns itself out; and rarely indeed do the cares of the world ever intrude to trouble the peace that is within.

5. It is here therefore, in the heart, that we ought to strive to make a habit of this gaze on God; but that which is needful to bring the heart to this obedience we must do, as has been said, quite simply, without strain or study.

6. When the mind, for lack of discipline when first engaged in this practice, has contracted bad habits of wandering and dissipation, such habits are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us, even against our will, to things of earth. One remedy for this is to humbly offer prayer to God. A multiplicity of words in prayer is not advised; discursive forms of prayer are often an occasion for wandering.

7. One way to recall easily the mind in time of prayer, and to preserve it more in rest, is not to let it wander too far at other times.

8. This practice of the Presence of God is somewhat hard at the outset, yet, pursued faithfully, it works imperceptibly within the soul most marvelous effects; it draws down God’s grace abundantly, and leads the soul insensibly to the ever-present vision of God, loving and beloved, which is the most spiritual and most real, the most free and most life-giving manner of prayer.

9. Remember that to attain this state, we must control the senses, inasmuch as no soul, which takes delight in earthly things above those in their Creator, can find full joy in the Presence of God; to be with Him we must leave behind the creature.

Thus, Brother Lawrence compassionately entreats us to ‘seek and find’, to ‘knock and the door will be opened unto us’, for his final guidance is:
“All things are possible to him who believes, they are less difficult to him who hopes, they are easier to him who loves, and still more easy to him who practices and perseveres in these three virtues…

Believe me, count as lost each day you have not used in loving God.”
Just prior to the final moment when this lover of the Beloved passed away in the embrace of His Lord, a brother asked him if he was at ease and what his mind was busied with? He said:

“I am doing what I shall do, through all eternity – blessing God, praising God, adoring God, giving him the love of my whole heart. It is our one business, my brethren, to worship Him and love Him, without thought of anything else.”

The brethren then begged him to entreat of God for them to possess the true spirit of prayer. Brother Lawrence, without pain or struggle, without losing in the slightest the use of any of his faculties, in perfect peace and calm replied:

“There was need of labor on his part also
to make himself worthy of such a gift.”

These were his last words.  untitle

You can access Swami Sadasivananda’s website at   http://www.ramanateaching.org/

On Prayer-From the Words of Mahatma Gandhi by Swami Sadasivananda

From a post by Swami Sadasivananda on http://blog.spiritualpracticeofbhagavan.org/

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“If we had attained the full vision of Truth,
we would no longer be mere seekers,
but have become one with God, for truth is God…
Prayer has saved my life.
Without it I should have been a lunatic long ago.”

“The meaning of prayer is that I want to invoke the Divinity in me. You may describe it as a continual longing to lose myself in the Divinity which compels us all. Prayer really is a complete meditation and melting into the higher Self, though one may occasionally lapse into it, as a child would call out to its mother “Ah, Ma!” In such an instance, the greater the distance between the child and its Mother, the greater the longing within the heart of the child. Thus, in the mind of the child, the Mother is present in thought. And thought, you know, has a greater velocity than light. Therefore though the distance between Him and me is told to be so incalculably far, in truth He is so very near.

There is an eternal struggle raging in man’s breast between the powers of darkness and light, and he who has the sheet anchor of prayer to lay upon will not be overcome by the powers of darkness. The man of prayer will be at peace with himself, and with the whole world. The man who moves about the world without a prayerful heart will be miserable, and also will make the world miserable. It is a universal experience that every calamity brings the sensible man down on his knees. Millions of human beings call out for God through prayer, thus the calamities of the world are seen as a means for self-improvement.

Prayers are the only way of bringing about orderliness, peace and repose in our daily practice. He who hungers for the awakening of the Divine in him must fall back on prayer.  But it is not the recitation of a set formula. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words, than words without a heart. It must be in clear response for the Spirit that hungers for us. Even as a hungry man will relish a hearty meal, a hungry soul will relish a heartfelt prayer.

I will give you a bit from my own experience, and from that of my companions, that he who has experienced the magic of prayer may go days together without food, but not a single moment without prayer. For without prayer, there is no peace.  It is so needful for me. When it springs from the heart. prayer needs no speech. It is an unfailing means of cleansing the heart from passion. But it must be combined with an atmosphere of humility. Our prayer is our heart’s step that reminds us that we are helpless without God’s support. The greatest of human endeavor is of no effect if it has not God’s blessing behind it! Real prayer is an absolute shield and protection against evil. But God does not always assent by our very first effort through prayer. We have to strive against ourselves. We have to believe in spite of ourselves. We have, therefore, to cultivate inimitable patience, if we are to realize the efficacy of the prayer. There is the darkness, disappointments and even worse, but we must have courage in us to battle against all these and not succumb to cowardess. There is no such thing as retreat for the man of prayer.

It may take time for the recitation to come from the heart, even as the seed that is sown has to be nurtured and bears fruit only in due season. If the desire to have God within us is there, progress however slow, is bound to be. Man cannot be transformed from bad to good overnight. God does not exercise panic. He too is within His own law. His law is written on the tablets of the heart. There can be no fixed role laid down as to when a devotional act should take place. It depends on individual temperaments. There are precious moments in one’s daily life, these are exercises intended to soften and humble and enable us to realize that nothing happens without His will, and that we are but clay in the hands of the Potter. These are moments that one can use when one’s need confesses ones weakness, asks for forgiveness, and strength to be and to do better. One minute may be enough for some; 24 hours would be too little for others.  For those who are filled with the presence of God in them, to labor is to pray. Their life is one continuous prayer, or act of worship. For those who act only to sin, to indulge themselves, and to live for self, no time is too much.  If they are patient and have the will to be pure, they would pray until they feel the definite purifying presence of God within them.

For us ordinary mortals, there must be a middle path between these two extremes. We are not as exalted to be able to say that all of our acts are a dedication, nor perhaps are we so far gone as to live purely for self. Hence all religions have set apart time for general devotion. I believe that prayer is the very soul and essence of religion and therefore prayer must be the very core of the life of man.”

A note from Swamiji on the source of the quotes above:  ” This was from a transcription I was doing of a speech,
in which the speaker was reading from an unknown compilation of all 100 of Gandhiji’s volumes!
But the words of this saint, not just Mahatma, are unmistakably Divinely inspired.

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