Swami Bhumanandaji Paramhansa
Different methods of Sadhana (meditation) are prevalent among various sects in India. The type of Sadhana taught by the preacher to his followers has led to the formation of separate sects such as Nanak sect, Kabir sect, Dadu sect etc. In some cases it has been observed that the method of one sect is opposite to that of the other. Some believe in the worship of Statues while others strongly oppose it. Some practice Ahimsa (non-violence) while others have accepted Himsa (Violence) as a ritual. On observing such diverse and conflicting paths, obviously the questions arise - What is the true method of Sadhana? Can there be more than one acceptable method? And Is Sadhana really necessary? These questions create a sense of fear among the seekers.
2. The literal meaning of Sadhana is the effort and ritual performed to achieve the aim of life. Therefore, before accepting a path, one has to agree that it is necessary to decide - What is the aim or purpose of life? If the purpose of life is universally common, irrespective of the country, race, caste, time or individual; then the Sadhana method should also be only one and not many. Now we need to think - What is the aim of life?
3. On observing minutely, the activities and efforts of human beings, animals, birds, insects and mosquitoes etc, it is quite evident that the only aim of living being is to attain Happiness. All living beings try to attain this happiness throughout their lives, but it is astonishing that nobody is satisfied; desires remain unfulfilled till the last breath. Many people do attain partial happiness by obtaining worldly possessions, but still their desires continue to multiply. There are many shlokas(verses) in the scriptures that support the above view. This confirms that we have not identified the real purpose of life; hence even after achieving worldly success, we do not feel fully satisfied and the feeling of want always exists. Therefore the ultimate goal or purpose of life is not temporary happiness but man from the very beginning of its creation is in search of infinite eternal happiness, free from the bonds of desire. Unfortunately, he is unaware of the correct method and the right course of action by which this everlasting eternal happiness could be achieved. All living beings have the same goal. Therefore one has to agree that if goal is same, then the method to achieve it should also be only one and not many.
4. Now we should decide, who needs this infinite happiness? On observing our body and whatever activity-deed, joy-sorrow, desire-attachment etc, we can easily conclude that body is a lifeless mass made up of bones-skin, flesh-blood, fat, bone-marrow etc. On the other hand it has knowledge, intellect, thoughts and emotions etc, and none of these are qualities of lifeless matter; hence we are bound to accept that the body is a mixture of Life-Force and Lifeless-matter. The desire is also seen developing in the body and controls the acts of this lifeless body.
Now the question is - Who has this desire? Who is the driving force or controller of this body? The scriptures identify the driving force as soul (Atman, Chaitanya, Gyan, Akshar or Jeev etc). When we say, "This is my body" then also we have this belief that body is not "I" but body is "Mine"; here too we accept that "I" is bodiless, still we do not recognize What is this "I". On careful observation, it is found that feeling of want or desire is that of the soul, and body acts according to the wishes of this soul. But being unaware of the right path, we ignorantly consider the needs of the body to be that of the soul and waste our whole life in fulfilling the body needs through other lifeless bodies. Hence the desire of the soul is never fulfilled and in the hope to attain happiness it continually engages the body in one object after another endlessly from life to life resulting in more suffering.
5. Now the question is - What is the method? On observing we find that, we are trying to fulfil the want of soul through sensory objects, hence the soul remains restless and materialistic desires keep on increasing. If worldly objects had been the desire of the soul then it would have found peace after getting that desired object. Many times we do manage to get the desired object, but then why don't we remain happy? Why we are no more interested in that object and desire another? Human beings consider the pleasures of food and sex to be the ultimate, but these momentary pleasures make them more restless. The amount of pleasure we hope to derive while making efforts to fulfil a desire, the same is not experienced at the time of fulfillment or shortly thereafter; again we feel restlessness and desire another object.
It is observed that the wants of soul are of infinite and everlasting nature whereas the objects through which it seeks happiness and the body, both are finite and temporary. The finite objects fail to satisfy the infinite wants of soul. Infact, soul does not have the desire for worldly objects. Sensory objects cannot cross the body barrier and reach the soul. The want of soul is only to know itself. On achieving "Self-Realization", the soul is liberated from the bonds of desire and attains everlasting infinite happiness. Thus the true knowledge of "Self" is the only aim of human beings.
6. Thoughtful and sincere seekers are never satisfied with external worship, because they understand that sensory objects can never be the medium to attain Self-realization. That is why they search Internal Sadhana method, but it is a pity that both seekers and preachers of this Internal Sadhana method are very rare. However, now the question is - What is the method of this Internal Sadhana? The Upanishads are the proven and most authentic scriptures of Hindu religion. The preachings of the Upanishads are essential and relevant for humans in general, and not confined to a particular sect, caste or creed. Hence we should first see what Upanishads say regarding self-realization.
7. Upanishads consider AUM (Pranav) Sadhana as the best method as evident from the shlokas -
(a) Let the physical body be brought to the least excited state/level, AUM be propagated to the highest level, and churn them through the process of concentration, to realize the hidden Truth.
(b) AUM is the bow, Soul is the arrow, and the target is Brahma (Absolute). Seeker who has overcome the desire of sensory pleasures, should cautiously aim it by being in unison like the arrow.
(c) AUM is SELF (Realization of Self).
(d) From AUM is Brahma, from AUM is Vishnu, from AUM is Shiva. AUM is the supreme ELEMENT.
But in the present world very few people know about the real identity of AUM (i.e. very few people are self-realized). Most of them consider chanting of AUM loudly or mentally as Pranav Sadhana. But according to Upanishad, AUM cannot be pronounced, it is neither a vowel, nor a consonant and it cannot be pronounced through the help of throat, lips, nose, tongue, palate, teeth etc. AUM is the mystic syllable.
8. Now the question arises that generally all the letters are pronounced from the throat, but if AUM cannot be pronounced by vibration of air through the throat then, What is that sound and by which method or process can it be experienced? In Upanishad, this sound has been called as Anahat naad (Untouched or Pure Sound), in Tantra it is named as Akrat naad (Sound that is not created). By practicing the process by which this sound emanates automatically is the true and only real method of Sadhana. Other methods are just false and lead to nothing.
9. Now the question arises - What is this Sound? On careful observation it is found that there is an activity or vibration in all living and non-living objects. Science tells us that vibration has two type of motions - one is attraction and the other is repulsion. In the present world science has proved with the help of instruments that even stone, sand etc has this vibration in minute form. In human beings, animals, birds, insects, mosquitoes etc this vibration is clearly visible.
In short, it can be said attraction-repulsion vibration regulates the whole universe. The "Jagat" (Universe) has been named "Jagat" because of this non-stop vibration. In connection with Sadhana method we will discuss only about human activity.
10. On concentrating at the breathing process it is found that some air rises up the nose and then it comes out through the nostrils. Science says, where there is vibration there is a corresponding sound, and where there is a sound, there is vibration accordingly. But we may or may not be able to listen this sound since our hearing capability is limited, thus we have to accept that the natural activity of inhalation (attraction) and exhalation (repulsion) produces its own sound. There is one more thing, whenever there is a vibration, there should be a Creator. Who is this Creator? If we say "I" am creator, then it is unacceptable because while sleeping this knowledge of "I" disappears as well as all the desires vanish but his inhalation and exhalation continues at that time too. Even in mother's womb, this activity goes on very minutely and is the reason for body growth. Hence we have to accept that the creator of this activity is not "I" but certainly something else is operating this magical instrument. If it is my "I" even then it is incomprehensible, meaning thereby that I do not recognize Myself. My introduction and relation is with the body only, while Creator is beyond body, the body belongs to Him. So it is essential to know this Creator "I". Knowledge of this "I" or Self-realization both are one and the same. It is said in Christianity - "Know Thyself". Sadhana is the only way to attain Self-realization. What is that method of Sadhana?
11. If we observe very carefully, the sound produced in the nose at the time of inhalation (attraction activity) we find that it is like UM (pronounced as oom) or indistinct Pranav, this sound does not depend on throat, tongue, palate etc, not even on the air that goes in. On analyzing this UM sound, it is found that it is a combination of two letters or words U(oo) and M (ma). This UM during inhalation gradually leaves U (oo) and merges in M (ma). This self-emanating M (ma) is the Sadhana. Upanishads also say that the last state of this mystic syllable M(ma) is known as AUM (Pranav) and its ultimate merger with Vibration-less state of complete inactivity is SELF-REALIZATION, or Experience of TRUTH, or True Knowledge of "I".
There is no doubt that by practicing a particular method, this state of M (ma) can be attained. (Lord Krishna has also said it). Even after reaching the state of M (ma) by any method, the exhalation (repulsion activity) process will again pull us down to the earlier state. On observing the sound of natural exhalation, we find that it is indistinct HUM (pronounced as hoom). This repulsive sound HUM (hoom) is responsible for bringing us down from the state of attraction or original state of UM (oom). It is clear that 'H' (pronounced as ha) is the Repulsion activity which pulls us down. Now the need arises, how to get rid of this monster 'H'(ha) sound. Only by practicing Sadhana can one get rid of this deadly evil, there is no other way.
12. The practice of the Sadhana method that gradually reduces the repulsion vibration 'H'(ha) and increases the upward attraction vibration till it reaches the ultimate state of inactivity is called "Hansa Yoga". This is the supreme path to Self-realization. This has different names like 'Sahaj-yoga', 'Sahaj-path', 'Sahaj-pranayama', 'Atma-yoga', 'Ajapa-yoga', or 'Pranav-sadhana'.
By practicing this Yoga, "Knowledge of Self" is revealed, that is why it is known as 'Atma yoga' or Yoga of Soul. Since Repulsion is eliminated, that is why it is also called 'Laya-yoga' (Vibration-less).
In this method, different mantra is not practiced, hence called 'Ajapa sadhana' (Unrepeated).
Since this yoga is practiced with the help of natural activity and the sound present in the body, therefore it is called Sahaj-Sadhana (effortless).
By this method desires merge in Pranav (AUM) so it is called 'Pranav sadhana'.
Also since this Yoga is practiced with the help of sounds 'Han' and 'Sa' it is called 'Hansa-Yoga'. This Hansa and Pranav are inseparable and same.
During the ancient period of sages and seers this Sadhana was very popular. Gradually the attraction capacity of man deteriorated and due to increased repulsion, several new vowels and consonants mixed Mantras were created along with various forms of imaginary statues. This is how Internal Spiritual Sadhana changed into external worship process.
One has to accept this fact that everybody cannot practice 'Hansa-yoga'. But on learning the method from a Self-realized Guru and practicing with devotion for a long time, self-realization can certainly be achieved. Self-realization, Freedom from Bondage and Eternal Happiness are one and the same. After attaining this "Ultimate State" there is nothing left to attain and all the doubts are cleared. No subject is worth understanding. Shankracharya has termed this state as 'Brahma'.
13. "Hansa" is the combination of attraction sound 'Han' and repulsion 'sa'. In scriptures it is named as "HANSA Mantra", "SOHAM Mantra", "AJAPA Mantra", "AJAPA Gayatri", "ATMAN Mantra", "ANAHAT Mantra", "PUM-PRAKRITI Mantra", "BRAHMA Mantra", "JEEV Mantra", "PRANAV Mantra", "VIDYA Mantra" and "SHIV-SHAKTI Mantra" etc. The Upanishad, Tantra and Purana are full with the glories of this Mantra. Inspite of recognition as the ultimate technique, the Seers realized that very few people in the present age would qualify for it. Therefore they introduced various other methods of Meditation.
14. On going through the quotations of the great Saints of medieval period, it is quite evident that only by practicing 'Hansa-Yoga' they could experience Divine-Light and by merging into the self emanating pure sound, attained Self-realization. Several Muslim Saints like Dariya saheb, Yari saheb etc were also practitioners of this Yoga. Self-realized Saints like Dadu, Kabir, Nanak etc also preached 'Hansa-Yoga' to their disciples. It is a pity that afterwards their disciples restricted this Universal Yoga method to small communities and gave different names to it. I talked to many seekers from different communities but astonishingly none of them knew the secret about the teachings of their founder Guru, and hence they do not practice accordingly. They consider methods like reading scriptures, chanting and singing of hymns as meditation.
15. To advance in Sadhana, discipline and practice are essential. The indisciplined soul is seeking pleasure outside. Therefore to seek Internal pleasure, first discipline is to be practiced. Broadly the seeker should follow three fold discipline - Discipline in Food, Discipline in Speech and Body Discipline. To practice these disciplines, seeker does not require help from others.
For discipline in food, two things are to be taken care of - Quantity of food and Type of food.
The type of food one can digest fully is acceptable. Food that does not result in constipation, gestation or acidity is the proof of right type of food. There can be no fixed rule regarding quantity. Quantity depends on the digestive capacity of an individual. The Scriptures define a simple rule - Fill half stomach with food, a quarter with water and leave quarter free for air movement. Regarding type of food there are various opinions. GITA clearly mentions which food seeker should accept and which should be avoided. Food that is juicy, stable, balanced and naturally of pleasant taste is liked by Satvik (spiritual) people. It enhances age, intellect, strength, health, happiness and affection.
Bitter, sour, salty, very hot, spicy and dry food is liked by Rajsik (seeking worldly enjoyment) people. It increases sorrow, depression and diseases.
Food that is half baked, dry, stinking, stale and discardable is liked by Tamsik (unholy) people.
It is very essential to increase the spiritual characteristics of body for the advancement in Sadhana, therefore seeker should adopt food liked by Satvik (spiritual) people; and discard food liked by Rajsik and Tamsik people.
True, loving, inspirational and limited conversation is the discipline in speech. Discipline in speech does not mean practicing total silence (vow of silence). In such a case various unnatural ways of communication result in mental disorder.
Thoughts that both life and worldly possessions are uncertain, and by practicing Sadhana in 'Siddhasana Posture', desires will decrease and thus discipline of body is achieved.
Interaction with person or persons one is associated with, in daily life is the root cause of all changes; the nature, habits, acts and thinkings become like that person or persons. It is an undisputed fact of daily life. Hence according to the type of Sadhana method, one should seek the company of only those Seers, spiritual people and scriptures which impart that knowledge. One more discipline is very essential in which we have no control, that is the discipline of thoughts. By following the instructions of GURU (Master), thoughts are controlled. Once the thoughts are controlled, sensory desires die down and repulsive vibrations of the body and speech disappear permanently.
Those who try to control the thoughts by applying their own mind or self-devised methods, fool themselves. Due to artificial suppression, their excitement for an object may appear controlled but the thoughts get four times excited in some other. They can never attain a de-excited and vibration-less state.
The most important aspect of Sadhana is Mumukshutva (Strong urge to set oneself free from the Bondage). Unless Mumukshutva develops, the attraction towards Sadhana is not felt. As soon as Mumukshutva develops the seeker must go under the guidance of Self-realized Guru. Only Self-realized Guru can show right path, and through preaching can enlighten the disciple with the knowledge of Self. Although in the present age of extreme immorality and materialism, the coincidence of meeting a Self-realized Guru is almost impossible, even then India being a spiritual Country, here it is not impossible. A pure search with strong determination will yield the desired result. The preaching of saints and scriptures are full with the glory of GURU.