Definition of Sadhana
What activity constitutes “Sadhana”?
Sadhana is any activity which we perform for the express purpose of demonstrating our devotion to God.
Regularity in Sadhana
How important is it to do daily Sadhana program at the same place and time everyday?
The more we perform at the same place and same time, the easier it becomes. It becomes second nature to us. Then it becomes our true nature.
First, when we are out and about, our minds are engaged in various contemplations, so it is all the more difficult to make the mind sit still. Second, when we have new surroundings and new timings, it is that much more difficult to compose ourselves and get into the bhava of true devotion. When we perform at the same time and place, we go deeper and are less distracted. After some time, the mantras remember us, rather than our having to memorize the mantras.
What are the most important texts and/or classes from your “college of higher learning.” Is there a best order of study?
There are seven distinct aspects of our practice:
1. Puja: which includes japa and meditation
2. Path: which is the recitation of the scriptures
3. Homa: which is the sacred fire ceremony
4. Sangeet: singing
5. Nrita: dancing
6.Pravachan: understanding what we are doing and why we are doing it
7.Arpana: offering our actions as a demonstration of our love
Pujas: To learn the pujas, start with the smaller ones first: Shiva and Durga Beginners. Then work your way to the intermediate pujas like Hanuman. Then go to the advanced like Shiva Advanced and the Cosmic Puja. Add some new material from each book on a regular basis, expanding your worship 15 minutes a month.
Path: To learn the Path, how to recite the scriptures, take a scripture and chant for a specified period every day. There are many of them to choose from: Chandi, Bhagavad Gita, Devi Gita, Guru Gita, Lalita, and Sundar Kanda. Start with a few chapters and become comfortable with them, and then add more chapters every week. If you take the Chandi, for example, start with the Armor, Bolt, and Pin, and then add the Highest Meaning, the Tantric Devi Shukta, and the Key to Perfection. Then keep adding to it every month. Let your sadhana grow organically and naturally.
Homa: There is a beginner’s homa in the Hanuman Puja and a more advanced homa in the Shiva Advanced. Also there is a Video CD which describes how to do the Homa. Start by reciting the Sahasranama of one of the dieties: Shiva, Kali, Lakshmi, Vishnu, Annapurna, and Gayatri.
Philosophy: In the evenings, study the philosophy behind the sadhana by studying the Kashyap Sutras, Before Becoming This, Life of a Saint, Devi Gita, and Ramakrishna’s story. In addition, you can integrate the Devi Mandir’s internet classes into the study and review all of the stories and articles on this web site. You’ll find menus for the pujas, stories, parables, quite a collection.
What sadhana is suggested as a daily practice for a beginner and as someone new to Hinduism?
Beginner’s Shiva Puja is a great place to start.
Learning to Recite Scriptures
Is it appropriate to start at the beginning of a scripture, go as far as possible in one sitting, then take a break and come back where they left off until the text is finished?
Yes, as long as we are students, She will certainly forgive us. We are trying to do our best. The prescription to perform the entire recitation in one asana is for those who are striving for the highest goal. The rest of us will perform to the extent of our capacity, and then continually try to increase our capacity. That is the tapasya.
Sankalpa, Sadhana, Tapasya
What is the difference between “sankalpa”, “sadhana”, and “tapasya”.
“Sadhana” refers to any spiritual practice. This can be Puja, Path, Homa, Singing, Dancing or any action that you perform in a disciplined way with the intention of bringing you closer to the Supreme Divinity.
A “Sankalpa” is a vow to perform any Sadhana for a definite purpose. For example most Sadhus make a “Sankalpa” to perform a specific Sadhana for 9 days, 30 days, 108 day, 1008 days or as long as they feel necessary, usually beginning on an auspicious day in the lunar calendar. Taking a Sankalpa is a great way to create a strong discipline and is a way to direct Sadhus life energy.
Tapasya means to “create heat”, and, for our purpose, means an expanded intensified Sadhana.
How does one stay inspired in performing a sankalpa or daily sadhana?
In the Ramayana there are nine steps of Devotion explained:
- Associate with saintly people
- Enjoy stories of divinity and divinely inspired beings
- Feel the privilege to perform selfless service as an expression of love
- Sing of divine qualities or characteristics without any selfish motivation
- Recite mantras with full faith
- Perform all actions with tranquility, and see every circumstance as an opportunity to manifest perfection
- See the world as equal to God, and regard the company of saintly beings as a greater opportunity than the perception of God
- Be satisfied with whatever we receive as the fruit of our actions, and do not contemplate the faults of others
- Remain with simplicity all the time, renounce conniving for selfish ends, and take delight in faith in God with neither exultation nor unhappiness.
These are the nine steps of devotion. Try these in order to keep your inspiration alive.
Reducing Body Consciousness
How does a sadhak reduce body consciousness?
The longer the asana, the more intense the contemplation, the less reflection on body. Therefore, expand your asana.
What is the best way to endure fatigue, bodily illness and pain so that we can overcome them? Can we minimize these pains through goals and planning?
Yes, that is the function of Sankalpa, a spiritual vow or promise. It says that no matter what the mind may say, no matter what the body may feel, I am going to recite this puja or text of worship. When we complete our vows we understand that the pain was just another thought – not enough to deflect us from the completion of our goals.
Sadhana Intensity and Group Sadhana
Which sadhana approach is most conducive to spiritual growth– a long term moderate regular daily practice or short term intensives such as a retreat with a saint?
Both in combination make for real spiritual growth. The short intensive sadhanas inspire us to make our regular practices longer and more meaningful.
Is group sadhana more effective than individual sadhana? Are there any scriptural references to the number of people that when chanting in a group makes the chanting more powerful?
Both are effective. There is a time for each type of sadhana. Sometimes it is more appropriate in a group, sometimes individually. In Devi Bhagavatam there is mention of 3, 9, and 108 participants.
What technique would be most efficient for cultivating the will to support the Sankalpa? I am thinking devotion to the Guru.
Devotion to the Guru is certainly a key element. But in addition let’s subscribe to a new definition of who we are and what are our goals in life! If I can’t trust myself, then who can I trust?
Serving through Sadhana
How do we dedicate the fruits of our sadhana to others if we still need the benefits and to progress ourselves?
Love is such a thing: the more you give it, the more it grows. You never run out. We give our sadhana in different ways: by dedicating it to others, by exemplifying it for others, by teaching its practical aspects, by incorporating it into our lives and living it.
What should our mindset be while dedicating our sadhana to others? What should we avoid to eliminate the consequences of a curse while doing spiritual practices for others?
If we are praying from our sincere desire to help others, with no expectation for ourselves, then this prayer has purity and we can hope to achieve results. If we are selling our services to pray for others, to change others’ karma because of our prayer in exchange for a material benefit, we are clearly in violation of the spirit of the scripture.
Manifesting our Sadhana as Love and Compassion
Is sadhana for the sake of sadhana is counter productive?
Certainly our intention in performing sadhana is of paramount importance.
What is the essential practice/attitude/method for realizing/opening and living from our heart? How do we merge heart and mind?
SADHANA! Do sadhana with the pure intention of merging with the divine.
If the most advanced Yogi had made a sankalpa for a lengthy sadhana and, in the middle of the sadhana, a hurt and dependant child fell into his field of influence and required care in order to continue life in her body, would the yogi ignore this child or adapt his sadhana to care for it? What adaptations would he make to the sadhana?
Adapt the sadhana. By continuous japa of a mantra, What a privilege it is to serve God by doing Her work in this way!
Sadhana and Personality/Purification
What is the effect of continuous sadhana on the personality of the sadhak? Can it transform an impatient person to a patient one, an ill-tempered nature to a sweet one etc.? Are there any signs to look for – in terms of improvement of qualities?
Yes, yes, yes! You will feel the difference, BUT …The old samskaras could come back at any time without warning. Therefore, we must be ever vigilant.
How does one become purified?
The impure and the pure reside within all, but, whoever remembers the Lotus-eyed Consciousness is conveyed to radiant purity!”
“The pure and impure reside in all objects” seems more like acceptance of the quality of impurity. Why purify ourselves in sadhana instead of accepting the impurity within us?
Who am I?
Should one engage in contemplations/inquiry, such as “Who Am I?” or “So Ham” (I Am) as a sadhana practice? Can devotion be fully engaged in this path?
A sadhu’s focus will constantly evolve. Sometimes we are jnanis and sometimes bhaktas. As such, contemplations and inquiry are one aspect of sadhana.
Time Spent in Sadhana
On the one hand, we advocate expanding the length of our sadhana and disciplining ourselves to remain in the asan, on the other hand we say that saying the name of Ram once is sufficient. Which is correct?
They are both correct. The sinful King, if he has faith, will sin no more. The sadhu, who wants to do more, should do more!
Break in Sadhana
If one misses sadhana for a day, is it inappropriate or appropriate to contemplate one’s own shortcomings?
In the Chandi we see the Great Ego, Self Conceit and Self Deprecation sending army after army to attack the Goddess time and time again. Even after the Goddess has held the Ego by Her foot, he keeps changing his form, struggling as at were, to get away from Her. It is not a phase — it is a constant battle to hold the ego in check, to make him surrender to the Divine.
Tapasya and Siddhis
In Vedic Religion, it is written that yogis can attain Siddhis, or boons, by performing tapasya. What is the relationship between Tapasya and Siddhis?
It is incumbent upon every deity to grant a boon to those who perform tapasya with pure devotion. That is a law of dharma. It is also true that a deity may test the sincerity of the devotee, and may give the boon of His or Her own choice at the time of His or Her own choice.
Some tapasya seems to be merely torturing the body, which is the temple of the Divine. Can doing martial arts in the middle of the winter with minimal clothing be considered as Tapasya, thereby accumulating the merits for the boon or Siddhi?
Like every other action, there is tapasya which is sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. Torturing the body is tamasic, martial arts training is rajasic, and the state of mind which wants to surrender to God and demonstrate the sincerity of your devotion is sattvic.
Sitting still and being with God
I know there are many spiritual paths and techniques of sadhana. When is it time to just sit still and be with God?
All of the worship that we have shared teaches and trains our awareness to come to the stillness, to be in the presence of God. There is no technique by which One can make that quantum shift in consciousness, by which we just “let go”. That is called Grace.
In part, this Grace is earned by our actions: all of the worship, meditation, prayer makes us worthy of receiving that Grace. But, that Grace “descends from above” and is granted to those She has “chosen” for reasons only She knows.
You can’t practice being in the stillness, but you can practice approaching the stillness. That is why we teach techniques of worship: how to sit, breathe, chant, and be silent — all the things we can do until She grants that Darshan. The rishis called it neti neti – not this, not that; the Buddhists called it Sunya, the absolute silence or Void; we call it Nirvikalpa, beyond any idea. You are calling the it Stillness. I believe they are all the same.
When is brahmamuhurtha?
Brahmamuhurtha is the time period before the dawn.
Devas and sages are with us
There are many stories of devas and sages appearing and helping at times of need (usually potentially fatal accidents). Likewise, is it true that devas and sages may also become aware of worship, and perhaps join in, help, or simply enjoy?
It is true.