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Sivananda Yoga FAQ

Q 1: How to make the mind subtle and pure?

A: Do Japa. Do selfless service. Pray to God from the bottom of your heart (Antarika). Have Satsang. Meditate. Read the Gita and the Upanishads. Live alone. Live in seclusion for six months. Take Sattvic food. Give up meat, fish, eggs, liquors, chillies, oil, black sugar, onions and garlic.

Q 2: What are the ‘Sastras’ – the age-old rigid principles of ancient Hindu religious scriptures? Have these principles not become time-barred due to the fast-changing conditions? I don’t think any rigid principle can stand the test of time?

A: Yes, the age-old, written or unwritten set principles of the ancient Hindu religious scriptures are termed ‘Sastras’. But because of this, it need not follow that they should become time-barred. The fundamental tenets of right living are unchanging. There cannot be any sort of difference in the fundamentals. Modifications, alterations and adjustments are necessary; but these should be affected in the external modes of interpretation and methods of application to suit the changing times and the new environments of a new generation. There is no harm in changing the externals so long as it does not affect the fundamental principles. Fundamental virtues like truth, fellowship, non-injury, purity, justice, integrity, etc., will continue to be applicable to the life of humanity. Violation of these would always be a signal for coming calamity.

Q 3: Why should I-the Brahman, I-the Cosmic Consciousness, the Existence without another, the Infinite, the All-pervading and the Omniscient, at all project Prakriti? Why must I be bound by the laws of Prakriti and be limited by the phenomena of time, space, causation and substance, and above all, why must I get involved in this process of evolution and involution??

A:  All enquiry into the Ultimate Cause, the causeless Cause of all creation, is first confronted with a formidable wall of primordial ignorance. He who annihilates his ego to nothing at this point, and who thus obtains the grace of Isvara, gets through this wall and enters the Kingdom of the Infinite. Then he knows. But this knowledge cannot be communicated to others, as this great wall is obstructing others from perceiving the Truth. Therefore the ancient sage termed it an Ati-prasna or transcendental question. Suffice it to know that God has created this world in order to enable you to evolve and realize the Self, in order to serve all and love all as His manifestations. The dacoit of ignorance has kidnapped man from his palace of Self-awareness and brought him to a thick forest; when the man wakes up, he does not brood over how he came there, but tries to get out of the forest. Even so, the earnest Sadhak tries to break the chain of transmigration by attaining Self- realization.

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Truth is Brahman. Truth reveals itself only to those who seek and love it. – Swami Sivananda.

Quick Links

Raja Yoga

Discourse IV: Kaivalya Pada- On Realization
‘If one mind could perceive another, then there would be cognition of cognition, as well as confusion of memory.’

The mind can neither perceive itself nor perceive another mind, for if this were the case there would be complete confusion of the knowledge and memory of the different minds. The mind is but an instrument; all knowledge comes from beyond it.

From Discourse II: “Sadhana Pada – On Spiritual Disciplines”
“When negative or harmful thoughts disturbs the mind, they can be overcome by constant pondering over their opposites.”

The yogi is ever alert, watching his mind. When he sees useless thought waves arising, he immediately replaces them with positive thoughts, thus creating new mental habits that are conducive to spiritual growth.

When you are free from attachment to all external objects, the mind will be at peace. – Sri Swami Sivananda

Bhagavad Gita Quote

Chapter XI: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form

(Arjuna speaking to Krishna)

Thou art the primal God, the ancient Purusha, the supreme refuge of this Universe, the knower, the knowable and the supreme abode. By Thee is the Universe pervaded, O Being of infinite forms!

Renunciation alone can make you fearless and happy. – Sri Swami Sivananda


PRAKRITI – the primordial creative force
Prakriti refers to a primordial creative or natural force; the natural or original intended state of something or of an individual’s being. The term is derived from the Sanskrit pra, meaning “beginning,” and kriti, meaning “creation.”
Prakriti is composed of three gunas (elements):
Rajas – Creation
Sattva – Preservation
Tamas – Destruction

The three gunas give movement to the force of Prakriti in the world, allowing modification and change to that which is primal and original in nature. Prakriti is considered to be a feminine, creative energy. Its counterpart, Purusha, is the masculine energy.

VICHARA – the enquiry into the real nature of things.

Vichara results in Viveka or discrimination between the real and the unreal.
Atma Vichara is a yogic practice that involves analysis or inquiry into the Self. The term comes from the Sanskrit, atma, which means the “self” or “soul,” and vichara, meaning thought, deliberation” or analysis. Atma Vichara is one of the main practices of Jnana yoga, or the yoga of knowledge.

Vichara results in Viveka or discrimination between the real and the unreal. It helps the aspirant to sift the true from the false. Swami Sivananda asserts that without cogitation, the Truth cannot be known or realized. Vichara sharpens the intellect and leads to the discernment of the Truth that lies behind the phenomenal universe. Swami Sivananda suggests that the spiritual aspirant should practice Vichar.
The justification for this method of Vichara or enquiry is contained in the saying, “As you think, so you become”. By constant reflection on the Reality behind the appearances, the seeker attains oneness with the Reality and becomes that Reality itself.

ATI-PRASNA – a transcendental question

The question, “Why has God created the world?”, is an Ati-prasna question.

The Mind generally plays this trick of asking ‘Ati-Prasna’ during the initial stages of practice of vichara. As Swami Sivananda states, these ati prasnas, or transcendental questions, are questions that are beyond the scope of human mind and intellect. There can’t be a suitable explanation for these questions within the scope of humanity’s words and ideas. Generally, the Mind plays the vichara by showing few ati-prasnas without a solution within its domain and hints that vichara is not much use. However, the key is to get over these open ended questions like this and continue ahead on one’s path. The Ati-Prasna hints to the sadhaka there is a greater phenomenon than life on Earth and to search for the Truth that lies behind the phenomenal universe.

When you are free from attachment to all external objects, the mind will be at peace. – Sri Swami Sivananda