Only One Thing to Overcome
There is something truly unique about being on top of a mountain, in a remote place, with the performance of sadhana as the main focus of our day. Normally in life, we have so many different obstacles and tasks imposed upon us from the outside, which we may or may not want to complete, but still we must.
Here in the Himalayas, engaged in sadhana for most of the day, we have only one thing to overcome, and that is our own selves. Truly, there is nothing else more worthwhile than to be victorious.
Sitting in the asana, reciting the mantras, there is no one to disturb us, but we ourselves. As the Bhagavad Gita states: “Only the atmana (the Reflector of the mind) is the friend of the soul; only the atmana (the Reflector of the mind) is the enemy of the soul. Who has conquered the atmana (mind, Reflector of the mind) has the peace of the Supreme Soul.” (Chapter 6, Verse 5)
It is difficult to sit in an asana and perform sadhana for eight or more hours if the mind is not united with the highest intentions of our soul, our own eternal self. Who would be capable to sit there with a restless mind jumping from one thought to another for more than half the day?
In such conducive circumstances for sadhana, if you don’t stop yourself from performing sadhana and moving deeper inside, nothing else will. There is nobody but ourselves to put the brakes on our sadhana. There is nothing else to divert us from moving deeper inside, but for the jabbering mind. Taking the mind and body as our support, we constantly create reasons or justifications for why we should make less efforts in our sadhana.
The mind will always call out in various ways “My back hurts, my knees hurt, we should move. This is too long. I need to pee. It’s hot, it’s cold. I have other things to do…” etc. It is up to us to withdraw our attention from these thoughts and move the attention back to the mantras.
Even during this trip, I have seen people come to join Swamiji and I who were sincerely interested in performing sadhana with us. They had the same conducive circumstances and environment, even the example of the Guru, yet somehow they were stopped by their own selves, and left quoting some reason or the other for their inability to stay quietly.
If we can continue in our sadhana, not accepting the suggestions of the mind, then we can focus on the meanings of the mantras and tap into the constant flow of inspiration coming through them. The mind eventually gives way and becomes focused in worship, and when that happens it is really beautiful.
What an incredible circumstance, where the only thing to do is to overcome oneself, and overcoming that, what difficulty can confront us? Everything just flows with joy and ease, “Who has conquered the atmana (the Reflector of the mind), has the peace of the Supreme Soul.”
Expanding the amount of time we sit for sadhana is certainly a major part of our day, but it’s not the only thing we do! Traveling with Swamiji, I have really gotten to see how he makes sadhana a way of life, and how we can as well.
In short, our day is something like this: In the morning we perform our sadhana (currently around nine hours), in the afternoon we do whatever activities need to be done (answer emails, cook, clean etc.), in the evening we study the meaning of what we chanted and after that we find some medium to share our activities and inspiration (this travelogue for example).
It is really a beautiful and efficient cycle to follow. Each evening, we read the translations of the texts we are chanting. Then when we chant in the morning, I always notice meanings from what we had read in the evening!
In the morning we perform our sadhana and in the evening we study what it is we are saying when we chant. Each activity enhances the other, and together they keep us focused on God the whole day!
In this way, we not only expand the amount of time we sit for worship each day, but also the amount that we understand and apply to our lives. The sadhana grows in length, intensity and meaning.
So we perform the sadhana, we study what we are saying, and then we act in accordance by applying the meanings to our lives.
As a small example, we are chanting the Devi Gita each day. In the Devi Gita and many other texts, you will find passages about feeding both the brahmans, the knowers of divinity, and the sadhus, those striving towards God and efficient action. It is a great privilege to help empower those who are striving towards God, and to help provide some of their material necessities.
Swamiji has applied this wisdom from the Devi Gita. Gangotri, being a remote location, has very few vegetables. There are no nearby farms and so nutritious vegetables are a valuable commodity. As such, before departing from Uttarkashi, Swamiji, with the help of Uttam, purchased an abundance of vegetables to distribute to the ashrams and sadhus in Gangotri.
One day after finishing our morning Sadhana, Uttam and I divided up the vegetables so we would have enough for ourselves and plenty to share with a couple of different ashrams. Then, led by Swamiji, we took the vegetables and offered them to the Harihara Ashram (which we had visited on our first trip to Gangotri).
Upon receiving our food offering, they were so grateful and we too were very happy to have the opportunity to give. After all, the scriptures had recommended it!
Of course, Swamiji doesn’t stop there. He always offers dakshina to every temple and sadhu we visit, helping to empower them to continue what they are doing.
He doesn’t only empower those who are physically nearby either — he also makes every effort during the gaps in our chanting and studying, by email or otherwise, to keep everyone connected and inspired.
He is a true example of pure love, inspiration, and appreciation. He always makes sure we have something to share. Depending on our internet connection the medium may change from video, to audio, to pictures, down to just plain typing, but always Swamiji makes sure we have something to share!