(Translation of a discourse by Poojya Gurudev Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya on
"Atmonnati Ke Char Adhara " delivered in 1980 - Continued from the previous issue)
Swadhaya means study of and contemplation over the elevated thoughts of enlightened personalities. You should examine your convictions, your prejudices, blind beliefs and illusions in the light of discerning wisdom and guidance of the thoughts and works of those who have lived glorious and purposeful lives. Many of the great personalities, saints and sages may not be living anymore in the physical bodies; many of them might be living far away. Moreover, even if some sagacious personality is staying near your place, it won’t be possible for him or her to give precious time to you, as per your convenience; he/she will have so many things to do, will have so many seekers like you who would be waiting to meet him/her. Thus, having a satsang with the great persons in their physical being is indeed a rare opportunity. But you can always communicate with them, have their guidance and experience the benefits of their company by having proximity with their thoughts through their books, compilations of their speeches, writings on their lives and works, etc. Reading good literature and pondering over it is essential for wholesome nurturing of human intellect.
The intellectuals or educated ones among you must be aware of the significance of good books (reading material). Anyone who wants to prevent mental degeneration must read and think. If reading is a problem, one may listen to what is written in a book. But, in either case, our reading should not be confined only to university texts or worldly knowledge. What is underlined in swadhyaya
is pondering over good thoughts that link our minds with the radiance of the sagacious wisdom and saintly inspirations and thus illuminating and re-orientating our own thinking accordingly. In order to engage the mind in swadhyaya
singing devotional songs, mental engrossment in spiritual music, listening to recordings of enlightening discourses may also be incorporated in it, along with studying the thoughts of elevated souls.
However, adoption of the teachings of great souls is not so easy! Swadhyaya
gives you the direction and inspiration but it is only you who has to make a resolute attempt towards changing your deep rooted animal tendencies and your old habits and remold your ‘nature’ by inculcating the values inspired by swadhyaya. In short, the purpose of swadhyaya
is fulfilled only by sadhana.
The third important discipline for ascent of human self is sadhana
– devout endeavor of self-refinement and improvement. It includes upasana
and tapa. Most of us understand upasana
as some kind of devotional practice such as – worshiping a deity, praying before it, chanting a mantra, meditating on divine attributes, etc. Well, these are certainly the steps or methods to attain the real purpose of upasana. But we should also know its real meaning. Upasana
of God means faith in divine values, sitting near divine realms, invocating divinity. If we sit near fire, we feel the heat and our clothing and body parts also get warmer. Sitting near a rock of ice similarly generates a cooling effect around us. The area surrounding a sandalwood tree is also permeated with the fragrance of sandalwood. The soothing fragrance also makes the nearby plants fragrant. So you see the effect of proximity! Upasana
is a process of mental and emotional proximity with the Almighty. With enhanced purity of our inner self, our sincerity in the devotional practices, and depth of our faith, upasana
gradually connects our "individual self" with the Supreme Self. Inculcation of divine virtues, awakening of our indwelling divinity
is a natural consequence of devout upasana.
Upasana and sadhana
go hand in hand. Either is incomplete without the other. Upasana
induces the inspiration and strength required for sadhana
and the latter is vital for the purification and inner engrossment required for thorough upasana. The word "sadhana" means to perfect. It includes excellence of qualities, deeds and behavior, eminence of personality. Uprooting the vices, evil tendencies, bad habits, etc and cultivation of virtuous tendencies, good conduct and attitude is sadhana. The wild animals are trained in circus to perform skilled feats some of which are difficult even for humans. Sadhana
is also an arduous training of the mind. It is two-folded: refinement by tapa, that is by ascetic disciplines, penance etc and improvement by encouraging, inspiring and engaging the mind in illuminating benefits of virtuous qualities and activities. Eminent transmutation of personality by sadhana
is like the tedious process of clearing the wild shrubs from a field and making beautiful garden thereon; converting raw metal into shining gold by processing it in fire; or the Herculean task of ploughing a barren rocky land and harvesting healthy food grains from it.