Daily Readings

Spiritual Diary - April

compiled by Yogeshwari Muhl - Cape Province - SA

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

April 1


Life is spiritual.
The spirit is indivisible, and it is also invisible.
It therefore does not satisfy man's craving to experience it, to possess it and to express it.
Therefore we see in him a savage compulsion to materialize this spirit.
This idolatry of matter is seen in our veneration of someone who is able "to materialize things" by a wave of his hand.
But, our own life is full of such materializations, the whole world is the materialization of the spirit, all the machines and all the weapons have been "materialized" by a wave of someone's hand.

Life is an art.
Spiritual life or Sadhana is still greater art.
Every stroke of the brush matters very much - we should carefully plan it, and do every action after great thought.
Thought, word and deed must be delicate and purposeful.

April 2


It is this materialization of the spirit that has prevented us from realizing the spiritual nature of life.
The mind serves as a veil to hide the reality, and promotes the worship of matter.
The mind is clever enough to conjure up, like an adept magician false concepts and images of God, of religion, of love, of peace and of happiness, so that even in a moment of disillusionment we might not turn away from the unreal, and discover the reality.
Only the greatest of spiritual heroes is able to discover this plot, and to realize that these concepts or images are not only not the reality, but also the greatest and most potent obstructions to the realization of the reality, which is pure and spiritual.
The spiritual is indivisible.
The indivisible is also eternal and indestructible.
Hence the spirit is never lost, though, in ignorance, it may be lost sight of.
It is forever waiting to be discovered.

April 3


Right from infancy we have been bombarded with concepts that have created divisions in our consciousness.
The infant's vision is pure.
Perhaps even the notion that there is an object external to itself has not arisen in it, because its own ego-sense has not been developed.
The notions of "I" and "you" arise simultaneously.
In the little infant these are absent.
The parents strive to condition the infant's mind, and call it "training".
The child is prevented from seeking to find its true identity, by being forced to identify itself with this or that.
"I" am constantly pressurized into accepting it as an incontrovertible fact that I am a man, an Indian, a Brahmin; it hardly ever occurs to me that I am even a human being, leave alone the purest truth that the spirit alone is real, and "I" am but a cell in the cosmic body of the spirit, which is the universe.
This cell is what we call the soul.

April 4


In the spirit "we" are all one, and that oneness is love.
The "we" seems to suggest a diversity; it is diversity without division.
It is like saying there are many cells in the body.
It is the cells that constitute the body, and they are not different from the body in truth.
The difference between them is notional: like the two ends of a stick, the stick and the two ends are non-different.
The direct realization of the spirit, which is indivisible, is religion.
It is also love that is God.
That love is not partial, limited, contractual, nor is it the antithesis of hate.
It is the spontaneous manifestation of the already existing indivisible oneness, which alone is the truth.

Butter is hidden in milk.
But milk, if thrown into water, gets lost, with the butter.
Butter itself won't get lost in water.
Churn that butter of devotion in your heart, and God will steal it from you.
You won't even have to offer it to him.

April 5

See God in All

Philosophy unrelated to life is not entertainment but is sheer waste of time.
It can be worse, for it can pull the wool over our eyes, and blind us to the real problems that have to be tackled.
If we are awake to life, then we shall immediately see that our problems do not relate to God, or our soul, nor to the truth, or otherwise, of some antiquated religious doctrine or dogma.
Nor can these problems be solved therefore, by intensifying certain forms of religious activities.
This does not mean that these religious activities are unnecessary.
They have their own vital role in our life.
It is more difficult to stand on your feet (be self-reliant) than to stand on your head (in the yogi's head-stand).
Even so, it is easier to see God than to see God in all.
One may imagine that one can "see God", and this hallucination maybe quite satisfying, and even soul-uplifting to oneself - and this again may have its own role in our life.
But when it comes to "see God in all", such imaginings and hallucinations are utterly useless, and even dangerous.

April 6


Religion has not failed us; we have failed religion, and we have dragged religion down with us.
How deeply religious we are is revealed by how well we relate to others in this world.
It is when we are full of love in all our relationships that we really and truly love God, Who is Omnipresent.
This is the essence of religion, the essence of yoga.
However, we have cleverly redefined all these doctrines; and we console ourselves that we are indeed religious people, inasmuch as we love God with all our heart, and we rationalize the disharmony in our relations with fellowmen, by declaring that the other person is evil or wicked.
It is here that we have miserably failed.
But this teaching cannot be intellectualized nor reduced to a set of concepts and precepts.
It has to be directly seen, first in a dialogue with an enlightened Sage, and then with oneself.
"Bear insult, bear injury - this is the highest Sadhana (yoga practice)" said Swami Sivananda.
"Never hurt others' feelings," He added to complete the picture.
This is the highest yoga, the greatest yoga.
Yet it does not make much sense unless one sees it, as we saw in the life of Sri Gurudev Himself.

April 7


There is one serious difficulty, which we experience in life - solutions come at a time when there are no problems, and problems arise at a time when there are no solutions.
That's obvious, isn't it?
I lose my temper, blow your brains out, and then sit and meditate, reconstruct the whole thing in a very calm way.
If that calmness had been there to begin with, I would not have lost my temper.
There was no calmness when I lost my temper, and when the calmness was regained, there was no problem.
It's a very serious difficulty.
That's why most lessons that we learn cannot be applied.
We've all been told to apply what we have learned to daily life, but this application is like lipstick - from the outside.
Growth is from inside, and application from outside.
Therefore no application helps us.
You've seen people who are heavily made up - if there is a sudden shower of rain, all the application disappears.
In real life also we are all the time caught in the rain, and the rain falls suddenly.
Therefore it is not possible to learn a few rules and simply apply them.

April 8

Look Within

Get hold of yourself and look within.
This is possible if you are practicing meditation, and have acquired the ability to catch yourself halfway between waking and sleeping.
If you have trained yourself in this, then it is also possible to see a thing happening inside, to see anxiety or anger bubbling up.
And when it is seen, you don't have to react to it.
You don't have to justify it.
You only want to find this thing, find its source. You are not suppressing it.
If it is suppressed, it will blow up again some time later.
You are not going to analyze it, or find a reason for it, but out of curiosity, try to find an answer to this series of three questions.
One, "If I was fairly calm before those words were uttered, how is it possible for a calm mind to undergo this change?"
Two, "Where exactly does this build-up happen? Is it in my stomach, my solar plexus, my head, my fingertips?"
And, three, "What is it made of?"

April 9


You're just curious.
It's not as if the heavens are going to fall if you lose your temper once more - you've done it a few hundred times before.
But there is something that is happening inside, and you do not know what it is.
This is unbearable.
When something happens to you physically, you don't sit quiet saying you don't know what it is.
Let's say you have a throbbing toothache.
You don't say, "I don't know what it is."
You jolly well run to the dentist the next morning.
Life does not keep quiet and say, "I don't know."
If you have a toothache, you can't afford to say, "I don' t know," and if you are irritated you can't afford to say, "I don't know," either.
What is it? You must find out.
But not with the idea that hereafter you are not going to lose your temper.
Why not? Why make up your mind?
When you make up your mind, you apply some powder and lipstick and rouge to it, but even then it is filthy inside.

April 10


You merely want to know how a mind which is so calm and loving, suddenly became so violent.
The external provocation is not important.
That's not what we are talking about.
We are talking about the potentiality for this change to take place, and the nature of this change.
But let us not come up with verbalized, intellectualized answers.
You can read in any book that all this is mental modification, but you don't know what mind is, and you don't know what modification means.
You must come face to face with this just once, and it must be a serious thing.
But there is a danger in the course of this investigation.
You're looking within, watching irritability come up, then suddenly there is a distracting thought, "It won't happen again; it's not so bad after all."
You've looked away and it's gone.
Never let it go, because, though it seems to have gone, it can still come back again.
So, find it now.
You may still get irritable again; you may still lose your temper again.
But your life immediately loses one thing, and that is regret.
Whatever you do, you take full responsibility for.

April 11


The rising sun shone on a group of meditating yogis on the morning of Good Friday.
"There will be a Puja at 9.30," read the announcement, "and silence will be observed till its conclusion."
A solemn atmosphere prevailed; and cheerful faces of the yogis were serene with introvert vision.
After the Puja offered to Lord Venkatesa, the Durga Saptashati was read.
The three days of the Easter were observed as a "mini-Durga Puja".
Many of us fasted, and the day was packed with yoga practices.
And, the interpretation of the Durga Saptashati also took a Christian accent.
Why should we divide scriptures into Hindu scriptures and Christian scriptures?
They are common: they have a common message; they are the heritage of the whole of mankind.
By regarding some as "mine" and some as "other", we develop blind faith in the former, and equally blind antipathy in the latter.
Sanskrit is not my mother tongue; nor is English!
If I can learn them, there is no reason why the average "westerner" should think he is incompetent to read Sanskrit, and understand the scriptures in their original.

April 12


Translations are always subject to corruption, though unintentional.
The two words "Durga Saptashati" can be simply translated into "700 verses concerning Durga"; not to be deified, not to be feared or discarded, but to be carefully studied.
Even the word "Durga" has a simple meaning: "difficult to reach or approach".
A scientist may think it refers to electricity or nuclear power; a moralist may see it as ethical perfection; and a mystic may think it is nirvana.
Jesus Christ illustrated how difficult it is for man to seek true salvation, by demanding of the man, who professed to be a faithful adherent of the Commandments, "Sell all that you have and follow Me"; he did not!
The spiritual truth, which is ever-present in all, is revealed only by a crisis.
The divinity of Jesus was revealed by the crucifixion; and the Durga Saptashati tells us that the divine Mother revealed Herself whenever evil threatened to overwhelm the good.
Yet it is the evil that helps reveal the good; which is perhaps a reason why the day of Christ's crucifixion is called Good Friday, and a reason why the demons that oppressed the devas and challenged the divine mother Durga, are also remembered in the scripture.

April 13


The Easter story and the stories of the Durga Saptashati have much in common: the immortality of the spirit, and the availability of redemption to all are dramatically proclaimed.
The words of the angels on the Golgotha, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?", reminds us that resurrection is not of the dead but of the ever living.
Jesus spoke in parables; and the Durga Saptashati is in parables, too!
The first of the three stories deals with the power of sleep; and one is reminded of how the disciples of Jesus fell asleep on the night of betrayal.
You do not sleep; but sleep overpowers you.
And so, you cannot wake up.
When sleep leaves you, you wake up.
Yet, with the help of an alarm clock, you can wake up and throw off sleep.
Similarly, you are in the grip of spiritual ignorance.
You cannot shake it off by self-effort, unaided by divine Grace; the divine Grace is like the alarm clock.
This Grace is earned by utter devotion to God, in humble recognition of one's own powerlessness to conquer the great delusion.
Hence, we pray, we worship.
On the night of betrayal, Jesus went into seclusion and prayed fervently.
When threatened by the demons, the gods prayed to the divine mother Durga.
At the ashram, we similarly worshipped Lord Jesus, Lord Venkatesa and mother Durga.

April 14


Education is integral and should not be divided into the "sacred" and the "secular"!
The human being has obviously three aspects, which are inextricably interwoven: body, mind and spirit.
Education is that which is able to "bring out" the best in each one of us.
To ensure that what is thus brought out is best, education trains the moral and the intellectual faculties of man.
None of these can be neglected without disastrous results.
We need "secular" education - the arts and the sciences (which is the "form" of the body of education).
Equally we need moral and intellectual training, so that we are able to discriminate between the constructive and the destructive uses of technology.
Here again it is when the human heart attains maturity through "moral training" that we begin to see that our worst enemy is the "me" (selfishness).
A truly mature and therefore educated person arises from this realization.
It can therefore be easily seen that education is the surest means to the eradication of the ills (evils?) humanity is suffering from today.

April 15


"When does integral education begin?"
It is beginningless!
Hence it is a fresh beginning every day, every moment.
It is a spiritual adventure undertaken by the parent, teacher and student together.
None of the three has authority over the others, all of them being part of this maturing process.
All of them learn all the time from one another and from themselves.
In this spirit of co-operation there is no compulsion, no surrender, no repression and no rebellion.
Education is the expression of whatever is best in man, and the spirit of education is the focusing of attention within one's own heart to observe what is thus expressed!
Such observation is itself maturity.

We do not deny that science has discovered many laws of nature - that the atom has so many protons and electrons.
But I only beg of you not to forget Him who put them there - I assure you that the scientist did not.

April 16


Spring is here!
The trees had shed their burdensome foliage for the winter, and had apparently withdrawn their life force into their roots.
They know the actual timing of the arrival of spring; they do not need either a calendar or a weather bureau.
It is a joy to watch the little shoots, the myriad little buds that proclaim the sanctity and the glory of life.
Nothing can destroy life; and the trees know this.
When a cyclone strikes, the trees shed their leaves or even some branches.
They drop their burdens.
Have you seen how quickly the gardens begin to smile again?
They do not continue to bemoan the past.
They are free of hope and the accompanying fear; free of memory and the accompanying despair.
All these - the hope, the fear etc. are dreadful burdens.
Shedding them is enlightenment, lightening one' s burden.
Enlightenment has nothing to do with seeing lights and visions, which are at best "encouraging signs of divine Grace" in the words of Gurudev Swami Sivananda.

April 17


At the Yasodhara Ashram we observed Buddha Jayanti on the full moon day in April with a long meditation.
It is good to meditate on such occasions.
It is good to ask ourselves frequently: "Why is it that, in spite of the teachings of the great masters like Buddha, Jesus and Krishna, mankind is still groping in darkness? What have we done to them?"
We worship them.
We read their teachings.
We recite their sermons.
Then, we argue endlessly about which is true and which is not true; we argue about the nature of God, etc., etc.
These have no relevance to our life and, what is worse, such polemics divert our attention from the most vital truth embodied in their teachings - that as long as our life is ruled by selfishness, we shall continue to be tormented by sorrow.

April 18


We endeavor to cover up our present sorrow with hope in a distant future.
Hope does not eradicate sorrow.
It is accompanied by fear that the hope may be vain.
It leads to progressively worsening frustration, as life inevitably unveils facets and changes that are the direct contradictions of our hopes and expectations.
We do not look at life itself.
If we do, we shall at once realize that it is sufficient unto itself.
We shall realize that it is indistinguishably one with the Intelligence that is beyond the grasp of our intellect.
Life is inherent in this Intelligence, which is known by different names - cosmic consciousness, atman, Brahman, God, etc.
When that Intelligence becomes as real to you as this paper, in that light you will see that selfishness (which was but a shadow) has disappeared, taking with it the unnecessary burdens, known as hope and fear, recollection of the past and despair.
You are enlightened: that is, you travel through life, treading softly, without unnecessary weight or burden.

April 19


If something has gone wrong with my yoga practice, I must see where it has gone wrong.
Either I am doing it mechanically, or there is some inefficiency in it.
So, it is good to stop and think, "What has gone wrong?"
Then I will put some spirit back into my spiritual practice.
Without spirit it is not spiritual practice, it is mechanical practice.
Let it come from your heart; put some meaning into it.
There is nothing wrong with your yoga practices.
Because the spirit has been lost, why must you throw the whole thing away?
Why shouldn't you put the spirit back into it?
There is the same problem with these iconoclastic trends.
"I don't like all these formalities," I used to hear.
"What do you want to do then?"
"I want to sit and meditate," I was told.
But sitting in a quiet place is also a ritual, as much a ritual as worshipping a statue.
And, in discarding the formal ritual, you have lost some of the mystique.
So, instead of condemning the whole thing for the fault of a part, repair the part.
If in your way of worship something has gone, put the spirit back in and keep it.

April 20


God created the world, and He saw it was good.
If I look round and it doesn't seem to be so good, something has gone wrong.
Either my vision has gone wrong, or the world is polluted.
I can do something about it.
If my roof is leaking, I don't pull the whole house down, I merely patch the roof.
So, when the promised result doesn't seem to be in sight, then I must reexamine the whole situation.
Incidentally, our practice of yoga or meditation has no goal at all, because when I introduce the concept of goal into this, I get worried.
The whole spirit of yoga practice is lost; meditation is lost.
Instead of relaxing me, it makes me more tense.
Instead of leading me to some kind of inner peace, it makes me anxious, worried, and full of expectation, full of frustrations.

Do not look for results, for only God knows what goes on in the world, and the results may be quite different to what anyone expects.
There is no connection between action and reward - that is God's business.

April 21


Why are goals mentioned in the scriptures?
They are not goals, but landmarks.
The scripture says that if you practice yoga, you will have peace of mind; peace of mind is not your goal, it is a landmark.
If it is not there, then your practice is wrong.
You have missed out on something.
All the techniques, all the Mantras, all the rituals, are given in great detail in the yoga texts.
And then there is a tailpiece: that there is a secret, which must be learnt from a Guru.
There is no secret.
When you go to a Guru, He is going to repeat the same thing all over again.
But He is there to tell you when something has gone wrong, what you have omitted to do, the reason why the whole thing has gone wrong.
It may be as simple as this: instead of sitting upright for your meditation, probably you are slumping.
Three hours later, you sit up and wonder why there is no peace of mind or no bliss experience, and also there is a bit of stiffness in the back.
It is nothing.
It is absolutely simple, and the great and tremendous secret, which you have learned from the Guru, is that you have been sleeping.

April 22


If we are practicing yoga techniques from a book we may also need to consult an expert as to whether our understanding is correct.
If we are missing out on some detail, which may be vital and essential, the expert or teacher or Guru may be able to tell us that there is some error there, and rectify it.
It is inevitable that, when we read or watch somebody or learn something, it is learned by the mind, and having learned it intellectually, we're tempted to apply it.
All such applications are only cosmetic.
I may not always have the opportunity of staying with a great master from whom I can inhale the truth or spirit, as I inhale perfume, so that the truth manifests from within.
That is how it should be ideally.
But this learning may not take the form of a verbal dialogue.
When we were in the ashram, we hardly had time to sit and discuss things with Swami Sivananda.
We picked it up from His writings, or occasionally when visitors asked Him some question, we might have simply been sitting there and listening.

April 23


In the ashram, I had the job of recording Swami Sivananda's dialogues with visitors, and in the course of My work, as I listened, My doubts were forestalled.
Over a period of time something happens within you, as you go on inhaling this perfume, and you become that perfume.
It's a process from within to without, quite different from the cosmetic approach.
When I learn something intellectually, it is an external thing, which I apply.
It is also possible that, if I go on applying it thickly enough, some of the juice enters into me; possible, but a bit tricky.
The other way is to swallow or inhale it so that, from within, it blossoms out like a lotus.
When this opportunity is not available though, I must try to apply it, and the scriptures guide me by providing the landmarks, the teacher helps me by correcting the errors.
The spirit that says, "My yoga is cosmetic," is a healthy, living spirit that has the courage to deal with that fault.

April 24


For someone just beginning yoga practice, who is prepared to get up at 4.30 or 5 a.m., how could they best use an hour and a half? What proportion of time should they give to meditation, asanas, pranayama, etc.?
It depends a lot on whether that person is fresh at that hour.
Some are night birds and some day birds.
People who go to bed late may find their minds sleepy and dull at 4.30 a.m.
Others are early birds, who go to bed at 9 p.m. and are awake at 4 a.m.
If a person is wide awake at 4 a.m., then it is good to jump out of bed and practice some meditation first thing - it is better to catch the mental agitation at its source.
It is possible then to look at that agitation as it rises, as it wakes up.
If a person is not wide awake in the morning, then a quick wash and one asana for a couple of minutes, without too much physical movement, will help.
Too much physical movement will bring you into mid-day at 4 a.m.
One quick posture will wake you up, just enough to enable you to meditate.
Pranayama may also help; two or three minutes of asana, two or three minutes of pranayama, and then meditation.

April 25


There is a beautiful exercise if one is alert; not quite awake, but alert.
If you walk out of this room and go into the open, inevitably you must cross a threshold.
That is the analogy.
Here I am awake.
Where was I thirty minutes ago? Asleep.
Asleep was like being in the room, and awake like being outside.
At what moment, and how, did I cross that threshold, and what is that threshold like?
How does it feel to be just entering the wakeful state or the sleep state?
It applies both ways.
You can do it at bedtime and watch what it is like to fall asleep, or in the morning watch what it is you cross in order to come out of the sleep into the waking state.
The biggest snag is that I ask the question only after waking up.
So I use all the other tricks: I watch my breath, repeat the Mantra, etc., and if I have just woken up, the mind will be fresh, without too much agitation.
That is the right condition.

April 26


You are watching.
If the mind is fresh, it drops, and it drops and it drops.
You are still watching.
It drops into a bottomless pit.
You thought you were nearly at the door, but then you nodded off.
All right, never mind, sit up again.
When you nod your head, something happens to your back and it snaps up.
Unfortunately you wake up too much.
All right, start all over again.
One must not be disappointed at all in this game, otherwise you have failed.
If you are disappointed, either you give up the practice, or there is frustration.
Try again - the breath and the Mantra, the attention focused within on the mind.
You can literally see the body relaxing bit by bit.
Once again you slept.
It may not happen so quickly next time though; probably each spasm takes about ten or fifteen minutes.
Nothing happened this morning, although you sat like this for an hour, spasmodically sleeping.
Never mind, you have slept for years.
What does it matter if you don't make it this morning?
Tomorrow morning you'll start again.
That is a very beautiful form of meditation.

April 27


One must use the landmarks; the mind must be alert and fresh during meditation, and if it is not, then something has gone wrong.
Either a quick shower was indicated, or a few more yoga postures, or a little more yoga breathing.
One must learn to adjust all that.
And again, if you are too wide-awake and the mind is completely restless, it is possible that you have over-done one thing or the other: the previous night's dinner maybe!
It is a funny thing, but one can never be sure why the mind is restless in the morning, when yesterday it was more peaceful.
There is no reason at all.
One day you enjoy sitting in meditation, the next day you don't.

Something that is changing from moment to moment seems to be constant - like the flame of a lamp.
The flames of "fire" are being renewed every moment, by fresh fuel being converted into fire, but the single flame appears constant.
Yet it seems a mystery that, remaining constant and doing nothing, that flame has consumed all the oil!

April 28


These terms, "God's Will", "God's Grace", etc., have been used in very different ways.
In order to dismiss an unpleasant event from one's mind, one can say, "Oh, it's God's Will, or, it's my Karma."
But in regard to the future, do you know what God's Will is for you?
The same thing is often suggested for Karma.
If you throw something at me and injure me, I am supposed to say it is my Karma, instead of retaliating and hitting you back.
But if you hit someone and break his nose, you dare not say that it was his Karma to have his nose broken, and so you did him a good service, unless you knew this beforehand.
Instead of apportioning blame and brooding over it, I throw the whole thing over my shoulders and say, "It was God's Will."
Even that sounds absurd.
Why must I throw it over my shoulders?
It has already passed.
I am foolishly imagining that I am carrying this load on my shoulders, and in order to relieve myself of this non-existent burden, I introduce God's Will or Karma.
This is one aspect.

April 29


Wise people also use another aspect of God's Will or Grace, in order to disassociate themselves from honor and praise.
If you do something marvelous and people praise you, you say, "No, it was not me, it was God's Grace. I am an instrument in the hands of God. I haven't done anything at all. You have benefited not by me but by the Grace of God."
In both these instances God's Will, Karma, destiny, etc., are all used in connection with a past event, not with a future thing.
When it comes to the future, if you are worried about it, you may say, "Well, God's Will be done."
But that's a very hazy way of using it.
Future is future.
I don't know what will happen or what God's Will is.
What does one do?
I may say, "Exist for the present," but there is no present.
Before I say "Now," it's past.

April 30


The yogi knows that all things in this world are subject to change, and therefore he doesn't crave for anything, and he doesn't endeavor to hold onto any pleasures.
It is when you try to capture pleasure - to hold it back from flowing on, or to enjoy it again and again - that it becomes boring.
As long as it comes floating, it is delightful; but you have hugged it and crushed it; it is dead.
Now you are dancing with a skeleton - the pleasure is gone, only the dullness is left.
In the case of pain, if you allow it to go on, it will go away; it is gone.
Otherwise you are unnecessarily and stupidly immortalizing that pain and suffering it day after day.
It is gone.
Leave it; let it go.
Prayer enables us to see the truth of the continuity of change, and thus we are rooted in the wisdom, which is the continuity in the change.
The wisdom, the understanding, the perception, the realization of this truth, is the continuity in this constant change.

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