Instructions on Spiritual Life

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January this year is special. Of the three monastic direct disciples of  Sri Ramakrishna, whose birthdays [according to the lunar calendar] fall in January this year, two  did tremendous work in the West. Swami Saradananda [23 December 1865 – 19 August 1927] and Swami Turiyananda [3 January 1863 – 21 july 1922] , both went to the United States upon the instructions of Swami Vivekananda and did enormous work. Eventually Swami Saradananda became the first General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Order, building up the global spiritual organisation and setting its foundations strong and firm. Swami Turiyananda was austerity, knowledge and devotion personified. He blended the blazing unextinguishable fire of  Vedanta that Swami Vivekananda set in the West with the fire of austerity and spiritual illumination.

The third disciple of  Sri Ramakrishna, whose birthday {according to the lunar calendar] was celebrated this month was Swami Shivananda, the second president of the Ramakrishna Order. About his glorious spiritual lustre, born of decades of intense austerities, the illumination  he passed on to everyone who came in touch with him is the best evidence.

 

Swami Saradananda

With regard to spiritual practices, the general rule is wise discernment and  moderation in everything. Do not strain yourself toomuch. Do as much as you can. Indeed, you must see that you get sufficient rest and maintain good health. But at the same time you must  not give way to lukewarmnesss and become lax in your struggle. Regularity is very important in spiritual life. Therefore you must try to keep to the same hours as far as possible for spiritual practices. Keep a watch over your mind and see that recollectedness continues throughout the day. There is no need to observe the vow of silence. One can practice recollectedness even without it. What you should avoid is gossip and worldly talk.

Swami Saradananda

About food: Whatever you eat, make it an offering to the Lord. You are to think that God resides in the body in the form of fire and all items of food are given as an oblation to that fire. At His command you are performing an internal sacrificial ceremony. by this act the physical act of eating will be consecrated into a ritual and the scruple about injury to animals will be avoided. But to keep this attitude strong in  mind is not an easy matter. It needs regular practice of inner check and rightmindedness.

With every act of love and sympathy, every performance of duty, every observance of morality, man is trying to go beyond himself, by feeling himself one with the universe. He who lives up to this truth has truly renounced himself. He who knows not this truth, but tries to become a perfectly moral person in thought, word and deed, is unconsciously living up to that truth.

The goal of spiritual discipline is to fix the mind on the lotus feet of the Lord through persistant effort and practice. Observance of continence is necessary. It is simply conservation of energies of the body and mind and not allowing their dissipation by thinking low thoughts of lust and greed. If that energy is not wasted in sense gratification but stored within, it will aid one to advance toward God and make one the recipient of perfect knowledge and devotion. This is true renunciation.

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Swami Turiyananda

The mind should not be occupied by such questions as problems of diet and personal habits. The entire mind should be devoted to God alone; everything else comes after. We should see that we don’t tie up the corner of the cloth we are wearing leaving out the piece of gold. The tying is meant only for securing the gold in it. What is the use of tying if the gold is not there? In the same way, all rules and spiritual practices are for the realization of God. What meaning can rules have if they do not help one to realize God or to turn the mind toward him? Everything becomes vain in that case.

Control of the sense organs is not to be brought about by a violent effort. Only by realizing Him is it perfectly achieved. But at the outset one must struggle for this end. Afterwards it becomes quite natural. Still one should not be overconfident.

Truth is God. Falsehood is maya.  One gets everything by holding onto the truth… It is a tremendous ordeal to abide by truth.  A good deal of sacrifice is needed. Innocent lies are untruths all the same. To keep something secret, saying. “I won’t tell it,” is also a kind of untruth. To be absolutely frank and open in one’s dealings is real truthfulness.

 

You should do your duties. There is no freedom, no respite, until you have done your duties. That which you have given up without performing will be waiting for you—only to appear again. You cannot save yourself by flight. To take up the monastic life is advantageous, while to take up the householder’s life is disadvantageous—such considerations as these are futile. Aspire after higher things, but never shirk from present duties. You cannot come to the next stage without performing the duties of the previous one. Do your duties in the world but think of God all the while.

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Swami Shivananda

The building of a pure life and character are the sole concern of the spiritual aspirant. It is the primary object of hiss life: character, and everything else is secondary.  A pure and spotless life is a source of real welfare to the world. When such a life is actually lived, there is no need for oral preaching. Example is more potent than precepts,

Visiting holy places is an easy thing. It requires a little hardship. But to have devotion and faith in God is a rare achievement.

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