SADHANAS OF ACTION, KNOWLEDGE AND LOVE
The individual soul is entangled in the world of forms and does not know itself as one with the being of God. This ignorance constitutes the bondage of the soul, and spiritual sadhana must aim at securing emancipation from this bondage. External renunciation of the things of this world is therefore often counted among the sadhanas that lead to Liberation. Though such external renunciation may have its own value, it is not absolutely necessary. What is needed is internal renunciation of craving for the things of this world. When craving is given up, it matters little whether the soul has or has not externally renounced the things of this world, because the soul has internally disentangled itself from the illusory world of forms and has prepared itself for the state of Mukti, or Liberation. Detachment is an important part of the sadhana of knowledge.
Meditation is another means through which spiritual knowledge is sought. Meditation should not be regarded as some odd pursuit peculiar to dwellers in caves. Every person finds himself meditating on something or another. The difference between such natural meditation and the meditation of an aspirant is that the latter is systematic and organized thinking about things that have spiritual importance. Meditation, as sadhana, may be personal or impersonal.
Meditation is personal when it is concerned with one who is spiritually perfect. A suitable object for personal meditation may be taken (according to the inclination of the aspirant) from among the living or past Perfect Masters or the Avatar. Through such personal meditation the aspirant imbibes all the divine qualities and the spiritual knowledge of the Master. Since it involves love and self-surrender, personal meditation invites the grace of the Master, which alone can give final Realization. So the sadhana of personal meditation not only makes the aspirant similar to the Master on whom he meditates but also prepares his way to be united with the Master in the Truth.
Impersonal meditation is concerned with the formless and infinite aspect of God. This may lead a person toward the realization of the impersonal aspect of God; but on the whole, this meditation becomes barren unless the aspirant has been duly prepared by the pursuit of personal meditation and a life of virtue. In the ultimate realization of Infinity there is neither the limitation of personality nor the distinction of the opposites of good and evil. In order to achieve Realization, one has to pass from the personal to the impersonal and from goodness to God, who is beyond the opposites of good and evil. Another condition of attaining Truth through impersonal meditation is that the aspirant should be able to make his mind absolutely still. This becomes possible only when all the diverse sanskaras (impressions) in the mind have vanished. As the final wiping out of the sanskaras is possible only through the grace of a Master, the Master is indispensable for success even along the path of impersonal meditation.
Uses of discrimination and intuition
The sadhana of knowledge, or dnyan, remains incomplete unless the aspirant exercises constant discrimination and unveils his highest intuitions. Realization of God comes to the aspirant who uses discrimination as well as his intuitions about true and lasting values. Infinite knowledge is latent in everyone, but it has to be unveiled. The way to increase knowledge is to put into practice that bit of spiritual wisdom a person may already happen to have. The teachings that have come to humanity through the Masters of wisdom and the inborn sense of value that the aspirant brings with him shed sufficient light upon the next step the aspirant has to take. The difficult thing is to act upon the knowledge he has. One of the best methods of adding to one's own spiritual wisdom is to make use of the knowledge one already has. If the sadhana of knowledge is to be fruitful, it must be implemented at every step by due emphasis on action. Everyday life must be guided by discrimination and inspired by the highest intuitions.
Importance of action
Karma-yoga, or the yoga of action, consists in acting according to the best intuitions of the heart without fear or hesitation. In sadhana what counts is practice and not mere theory. Sound practice is far more important than sound theory. Practice based upon right knowledge will of course be more fruitful, but even a mistake in a practical direction may have its own valuable lessons to bring. Mere theoretical speculation, however, remains spiritually barren, even when it is flawless. Thus a person who is not very learned but who sincerely takes the name of God and does his humble duties whole-heartedly may actually be nearer to God than one who knows all the metaphysics of the world but does not allow any of his theories to modify his everyday life.
The difference between the comparative importance of theory and practice in the realm of sadhanas may be brought out by means of a well-known story of an ass. An ass, who was plodding along a road for a long time and was very hungry, happened to see two heaps of grass one at some distance on the right side of the road and the other at some distance on the left side of the road. Now the ass thought that it was of utmost importance to be absolutely certain which of the two heaps was clearly the better before he could intelligently decide to go to one heap rather than the other. If he decided without thorough thinking and without having sufficient grounds for his preference, that would be impulsive action and not intelligent action.
Therefore he first considered the distance at which the two heaps were respectively placed from the road he was treading. Unfortunately for him, after elaborate consideration, he concluded that the heaps were equally distant from the road. So he wondered if there were some other consideration that might enable him to make the "right" choice and speculated upon the respective sizes of the heaps. Even with this second attempt to be theoretically sure before acting, his efforts were not crowned with success because he concluded that both heaps were of equal size. Then, with the tenacity and patience of an ass, he considered other things, such as the quality of the grass. But as fate would have it, in all the points of comparison he could think of, the two heaps turned out to be equally desirable.
Ultimately it happened that since the ass could not discover any deciding factor that would make his preference appear theoretically sound, he did not go to either of the two heaps but went straight ahead hungry and tired as before and not a whit better off for having come upon two heaps of grass. If the ass had gone to one heap, without insisting upon the theoretical certainty of having chosen wisely, he might perhaps have gone to the heap that was not as good as the other. And despite any mistakes in his intellectual judgment, he would have been infinitely better off from a practical point of view.
In the spiritual life it is not necessary to have a complete map of the path in order to begin traveling. On the contrary, insistence upon having such complete knowledge may actually hinder rather than help the onward march. The deeper secrets of spiritual life are unraveled to those who take risks and who make bold experiments with it. They are not meant for the idler who seeks guarantees for every step. Those who speculate from the shore about the ocean shall know only its surface, but those who would know the depths of the ocean must be willing to plunge into it.
Fulfillment of the sadhana of karma-yoga requires that action should spring from perception of the Truth. Enlightened action does not bind because it is not rooted in the ego and is selfless. Selfishness represents ignorance, while selflessness is a reflection of the Truth. The real justification for a life of selfless service is to be found in this intrinsic worth of such a life and not in any ulterior result or consequence. The paradox of selfless action is that it actually brings to the aspirant much more than could ever come within the purview of ignorant selfishness. Selfishness leads to a narrow life that revolves around the false idea of a limited and separate individual. Whereas selfless action contributes toward the dissipation of the illusion of separateness and turns out to be the gateway to the unlimited life where there is realization of All-selfness. What a person has may be lost and what he desires to have may never come to him; but if he parts with something in the spirit of an offering to God, it has already come back to him. Such is the sadhana of karma-yoga.
Even more important than the sadhana of knowledge (dnyan) and action (karma) is the sadhana of love (bhakti). Love is its own excuse for being. It is complete in itself and does not need to be supplemented by anything. The greatest saints have been content with their love for God, desiring nothing else. Love is not love if it is based upon any expectation. In the intensity of divine love, the lover becomes one with the divine Beloved. There is no sadhana greater than love, there is no law higher than love, and there is no goal that is beyond love for love in its divine state becomes infinite. God and love are identical, and one who has divine love already has God.
Through effort to effortlessness
Love may be regarded as being equally a part of sadhana and a part of the goal. The intrinsic worth of love is so obvious that it is often considered a mistake to look upon it as a sadhana for some other end. In no sadhana is the merging in God so easy and complete as in love. When love is the presiding genius, the path of Truth is effortless and joyous. As a rule sadhana involves effort and sometimes even desperate effort, as in the case of an aspirant who may strive for detachment in the face of temptations. In love, though, there is no sense of effort because it is spontaneous. Spontaneity is the essence of true spirituality. The highest state of consciousness, in which the mind is completely merged in the Truth, is known as Sahajawastha, the state of unlimited spontaneity in which there is uninterrupted Self-knowledge. One of the paradoxes connected with spiritual sadhana is that all effort of the aspirant is intended for arriving at a state of effortlessness.
Story of kasturi-mriga
There is a beautiful story of a kasturi-mriga, or musk deer, that brings out the nature of all spiritual sadhana. Once, while roaming about and frolicking among hills and dales, the kasturi-mriga was suddenly aware of an exquisitely beautiful scent, the like of which it had never known. The scent stirred the inner depths of its soul so profoundly that it determined to find the source. So keen was its longing that notwithstanding the severity of cold and the intensity of scorching heat, by day as well as by night, the deer carried on its desperate search for the source of the sweet scent. It knew no fear or hesitation but undaunted went on its elusive search, until at last, happening to lose its foothold on a cliff, it had a precipitous fall resulting in a fatal injury. While breathing its last, the deer found that the scent that had ravished its heart and inspired all these efforts came from its own navel. This last moment of the deer's life was its happiest, and there was on its face inexpressible peace.
Goal of sadhana is Self-knowledge
All spiritual sadhanas of the aspirant are like the efforts of the kasturi-mriga. The final
fructification of sadhana involves the termination of the ego-life of the aspirant. At that
moment there is the realization that he himself has, in a sense, been the object of all
his search and endeavor. All that he suffered and enjoyed all his risks and
adventures, all his sacrifices and desperate strivings were intended for achieving
true Self-knowledge, in which he loses his limited individuality only to discover that he
is really identical with God, who is in everything.
DISCOURSES, 7th ed, pp. 260-265
1987 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust