The Basics of Sahaj Marg

The Basics of Sahaj Marg

by A. P. Durai

What is the system of yoga practiced in Sahaj Marg?

This is the ancient system of raja yoga -- yoga of the mind. It is the king among yoga as it seeks to lead to self-realisation through regulation, refinement and eventual divinisation of the mind. The ancient system of raja yoga of Patanjali had eight steps. They were: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Only after perfecting the first six stages (a moral and ethical life, right posture, breath control, withdrawal of the senses from their outgoing tendencies and focussing the mind within oneself), was the spiritual aspirant initiated into meditation (dhyana) through which one was expected to go into samadhi, the last stage of the yoga.

Our system has been modified and simplified to suit the lifestyles of modern human beings, particularly the grihastha (householder). Here an aspirant is inducted into meditation directly, bypassing the prelimininary stages mentioned above. Besides, the goal of sadhana (practice) has also been extended far beyond samadhi as will be discussed later.

Why is it called Sahaj Marg?

The system goes by the name of Sahaj Marg (the natural or the simple way) because it integrates one's physical, mental and spiritual aspects without employing any pressure or force. It does not call for austerities, self-denial, penance, external renunciation, celibacy, etc. The Masters (gurus) of our system have been grihasthas themselves and they have taught us that people must live full and natural lives (without any extremes) which can then carry them with the current of Nature towards the ultimate goal of existence.

The Goal and the Guru

What is meant by the ultimate goal of existence?

Our Masters teach us that human existence, with all its attractions as well as repulsion's, is not an end in itself. When we were created by God, we were very much like Him and with Him. But through the process of evolution, we have developed a feeling of separate identity commonly known as ego, forgotten our Divine home and are pursuing lesser goals in this life.

Master says we have to set in motion the process of 'involution' to become what we were at the time of creation as souls -- truly Divine -- with only a nominal difference of identity between Him as us. He teaches us that this is possible only if we withdraw our outgoing tendencies, gather the mind in a single focus and redirect it inwards to light our way towards the Divine which resides in our hearts. He is the real Self in us and, therefore, Self-realisation is God-realisation. This is made possible for any sincere seeker through our system of meditation which is backed by the spiritual power of the guide, the Master.

What is the need for a guru or Master? Can we not do spiritual sadhana by ourselves and attain the goal?

Sahaj Marg believes in the need for a Master in human form. For most human beings, it is not possible to attain the goal by following what is written in books. One who is familiar with the way and has attained the goal himself can guide others on this difficult spiritual journey which is full of pitfalls of ego and self-deception. Unless we leave our sense of ego and self-sufficiency behind and learn to depend totally on the guide, attainment of the goal will be next to impossible.

How does one find such a Master?

The founder of this Mission, Shri Ram Chandraji, (also known as Babuji) has stated that earnest prayer for such a guru will bring him to your door!

When I find him, how will I know that he is the one I should follow?

Primarily by testing the system of sadhana that he asks you to practice. If you find that it is effective in bringing about speedy spiritual progress, you will naturally understand the level of attainment and capacity of the man behind the system of sadhana. In Sahaj Marg, a new entrant is advised to sincerely practice sadhana for a minimum period of three months to be able to judge its effectiveness. Master says our inner condition should grow progressively lighter as we continue practicing the system.

The System and the Masters

How do I judge the efficacy of the Sahaj Marg system?
By the process of change that starts off within you from day one. Lightness of mind and a state of inner composure is felt. Mental tensions bid farewell. The mind gets purified and clarified. The obstructions put up by your ego in the form of negative traits, attitudes, attachments, aversions, pride and prejudice, anger, etc., get dissolved in the inner state created by regular sadhana. Combined with the spiritual power of the Master, your heart is cleaned of various impurities accumulated there as a result of past ego-based thoughts and actions.

In due course, the animal tendencies become tamed and one embarks on the journey towards divinisation.

What is the need for such sadhana when we already have our religions, and scriptures?

The founder, Shri Ram Chandraji of Shahjahanpur, has stated that God cannot be found within the fold of any form, name, religion, place of worship, or scriptures, and that He has to be found in the innermost chamber of the human heart. Religion is like the nursery school where we get some basic idea of God, the need for a moral life, modes of worshiping Him, etc.

Babuji said that spirituality begins where religion ends. Spirituality transcends the names, forms and attributes of God which human imagination has devised for Him through the centuries. The real God, according to Sahaj Marg, is the subtlest -- beyond the reach of our mind and senses, formless, nameless and attributeless -- but yet within the experience of the human being.

In spiritual sadhana, therefore, we seek to experience the Real as It is. This we hope to achieve through a process which progressively dilutes and dissolves one's attachments to one's consciousness. So, when we become like That in our nature, we start experiencing or feeling at one with That which is within us.

Basically, sadhana re-establishes the link between us and the Divine Being within. This link brings the Divine nature and power to bear on our ego/identity which gets erased gradually. The Divine that is present in us starts manifesting in our thoughts and actions.

If I lose my own identity, how can I survive in a competitive society?

The process described above is called transformation in our system. In the first stage, our animal-like tendencies are removed and we become human beings without any abnormalities.

The advanced or ultimate stage is called Divinisation, when the Divine Being within guides, informs and pervades all our thoughts and actions and when we begin to float with the current of Nature without offering any resistance, conscious or unconscious. While still living in this human body, our physical and mental functions are naturalized, put in perfect balance and are then in harmony with Nature. The efficiency of our faculties is maximized and we become more effective in our worldly life, precisely because we have realised our spiritual existence and identity, which are eternal. As the Eternal pervades the present existence, it illuminates human life and makes it meaningful for ourselves and for others who live around us.

Shri Ram Chandraji points out that the distinction between human and Divine, material and spiritual, is artificial. If both are balanced and integrated, our existence becomes unified and whole. Therefore, Sahaj Marg teaches us not to run away from worldly life or spurn the material side of human existence as irrelevant to spiritual growth. If one neglects the material existence, the spiritual existence is affected, and vice versa.

Who are the Teachers of the Sahaj Marg system?

The first guru was Shri Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh, U.P. who lived from 1873 to 1931. He is fondly referred to as Lalaji. He is the adi guru (first Master) of the system. He rediscovered the ancient method of pranahuti --transmission of the spiritual power of the guru into the heart of the aspirant to remove the impurities therein and to accelerate one's spiritual progress. He had a small band of disciples. He worked in the Collector's Office in Fatehgarh and he had to support a family on a meagre income. In short, he lived a normal worldly existence.

Lalaji's most devoted disciple and spiritual successor was Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur, U.P. (affectionately called Babuji) (1899-1983). His life was also full of worldly troubles and noble sacrifice for fellow human beings. He perfected the system of pranahuti, established Shri Ram Chandra Mission in 1945, in memory of his Master, created a network of preceptors (trainers),and toured widely in India and abroad. Due to his work, the Mission experienced speedy growth in his lifetime. His Reality at Dawn and other books on raja yoga and personal letters to abhyasis (those who practice this system) reveal his deep and wide-ranging research in the little-known area of spirituality.

The present spiritual teacher, Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari (born 1927 and affectionately known as Chariji) lives in Madras. He was a close associate and the chief disciple of Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur from 1964 till the latter's mahasamadhi* in 1983 at which time he became the spiritual representative and President of the Mission. He is a retired Executive Director of a private group of companies in Tamil Nadu state. He was a very dynamic General Secretary of the Mission and contributed greatly to the strengthening of the organizational structure of the Mission and publication of the Mission literature. He accompanied his Master on travels abroad and ably assisted him in his spiritual work. His book, My Master is a monumental tribute to his guru. His other books include diaries of his overseas travels with Babuji, his spiritual autobiography and several volumes of his talks in India and abroad interpreting, amplifying and re-presenting his Master's teachings. His indefatigable spiritual labours have resulted in remarkable growth and expansion of the Mission's activities all over India, Europe, the U.S.A. and many other countries.

*Mahasamadhi occurs at death and is the final mergence of a liberated soul with the Ultimate Reality.

What is so special or unique about this system which sets it apart from other systems?

The pranahuti method mentioned earlier is the most unique aspect of this system. Prana is not to be confused with breath. It is the Divine Energy or Essence which the guru is able to focus by virtue of his spiritual attainments and pour into the heart of the aspirant. It removes impurities and impressions and transmits into an abhyasi spiritual growth-potential.

Cleaning and transmission employing the same Divine energy are, therefore, the special aspects of this system. Master has also authorized preceptors all over the world to do this work of cleaning and transmission so that this spiritual service is accessible to the largest number of people.

Any aspirant, therefore, has to take a minimum of three introductory sittings from the Master or the preceptor who will carry out the initial cleaning which makes meditation possible. Such sittings are necessary even after one starts the daily practice because there are innumerable layers of samskaras (impressions, impurities, heaviness, complexities) in the heart.

The second unique aspect of this system is that it recognises our worldly commitments and balances them with our spiritual sadhana. We are not asked to renounce possessions but are helped to develop non-attachments in our minds. The system demands minimum time and exertion and is specifically designed for modern human beings, and householders. Sahaj Marg emphatically asserts that a householder's life is the best school for spiritual progress.

The third unique aspect is the extreme simplicity and naturalness of the system and absence of rigid dogma, rituals and mechanical practices.

Effect of Samskaras

What are samskaras?

Science says every action has a reaction in the physical plane. Spirituality says every thought or action performed with the feeling of "I" or consciousness of the self leaves a trail of subtle impressions in the heart which become the seeds of future thoughts and actions which again lead to formation of more impressions. Repeated impressions of the same kind solidify into tendencies, and we become a slave of samskars and have to come back again and again into human existence to exhaust our samskaras. Due to this vicious cycle, our progress toward the goal is arrested.

So, no system of sadhana which does not offer a solution to the accumulation of samskaras in the form of innumerable veils around the human soul can take us far. As of today, Sahaj Marg has the backing of a living Master and his spiritual power offers us an opportunity to cleanse ourselves of our samskaras -- provided we are willing to get rid of them!

What about 'good' samskaras? Can we not retain them?

No doubt, 'good' samaskaras, which are the results of meritorious acts, may lead us to a better life at the human level. But they do not help to release us from this earthly existence. According to Babuji, good samskaras are like a golden cage, but a cage nevertheless. Therefore, it is necessary to give up ideas of good and bad, sin and virtue, heaven and hell which are all human concepts, transcend such dualities or pairs of opposites and re-establish our mind in the Divine. Such transcendence of the mind opens the gateway to the transcendence in many ways. Only spirituality can initiate the process of inner expansion and eventual freedom from such finite existence, according to Master.

The Aspirant and Abhyas

How does one qualify to become an abhyasi?

One should be at least 18 years old and be willing to practice sadhana in our system, at least on a trial basis, for a continuous period of three months under the supervision of one of the preceptors of Shri Ram Chandra Mission.

How does a spiritual aspirant start meditation in this system?

The spiritual seeker who desires to start abhyas (practice) has to take a minimum of three introductory sittings (meditation sessions) from a preceptor over a period of two or three days, consecutively. Each session will last about half-an-hour during which the preceptor directs the Master's transmission to the abhyasi's heart and cleans it of samskaras. This brings about mental lightness and enables the abhyasi to meditate alone.

Abhyasis continue to get individual sittings from a preceptor throughout their abhyas. This is because there is really no end to the cleaning process, considering the innumerable layers of samskaras we have accumulated. Therefore, repeated sessions of cleaning during individual sittings and group sittings (satsangh) done by Master or his preceptors create and progressively enlarge the vacuum in the heart. This automatically opens the heart to the entry of divine grace and the resultant experience is one of expansion, subtlety and other manifestations of transformation.

Primary international centres are listed in Centres Around the World. Contact them for information of Sahaj Marg centre in your area.

What is the daily practice prescribed for an abhyasi?

The abhyas consists of three parts:

  1. Meditation in the morning;
  2. Cleaning in the evening;
  3. Prayer at bedtime.


    Why should I meditate?

    The word meditate means continuously paying attention or resting the mind on one thought. The spiritual Masters say (and it is proved in experience) that we become that on which we meditate. In other words, we acquire the nature, quality or condition of the object on which we meditate.

    Therefore when we meditate on the subtlest, i.e., God, we shall lose our grossness and gain His subtle and thus become like Him. Only then can mergence with Him which is the highest goal of life, be possible. But this can be attained only through sustained practice of daily meditation with single-minded devotion.

    How do I get ready for my daily meditation?

    The way to prepare oneself for meditation in the morning is given below:

    1. Arise before sunrise.
    2. Brush your teeth and wash your face.
    3. Have a shower or bath if you feel unclean. (The idea is that you start your meditation as early as possible without spending time on routine activities like tea, newspaper reading, physical exercise, etc.)
    4. Wear loose and comfortable clothes.
    5. Fix a time and particular place for daily meditation.
    6. Inform members of your family not to disturb you during meditation.
    7. Begin with half-an-hour of meditation. Increase the time as you feel comfortable and bring it to one hour. If you open your eyes ahead of time, you can close your eyes again and continue with meditation.
    8. Sit comfortably, relaxed, but with your back and head erect. You may sit on the floor, in a chair and with your back (but not head) resting against a wall. If the head droops after you start meditation (induced by loss of body consciousness) you need not worry about it. Lying down is not permitted as too much comfort can lull you to sleep!
    9. Please understand that meditation on the Divine in your heart is puja (worship) and, therefore, start with a mental prayer for spiritual elevation with your heart full of love and devotion.

    How do I meditate?

    Close your eyes and start with the thought that Divine Light is present in the heart. Afterwards, sit in a relaxed manner in an attitude of looking inward. It is very simple.

    Should I go on repeating the thought of Divine Light?

    No. Master says that taking this thought once in the beginning is enough. With that thought, the sub-conscious mind is linked to the Divine in the heart during the entire period of meditation. The conscious mind might go on generating thoughts, images, etc., but we are advised not to pay attention to them, as this is one way of getting rid of samskaras.

    Note: Please understand that in this system there is no work for the mind after starting the meditation -- no concentration or repetition of any idea like a mantra. The earlier systems have apparently employed such methods only to shut out or suppress thoughts with the result that samskaras find no outlet and they continue to create havoc from within.

    How is it possible to meditate without the mind doing any work (during meditation)?

    Our Masters have said that thought is very potent. Therefore, the mere suggestion at the beginning of Divine Light in the heart is powerful enough to link your mind with the Divine. It can be compared to switching on a light. The concentration is on continuously and there is no need to keep on operating the switch.

    Should I try to `see' the Divine Light during meditation?

    No. Master says that the Divine is too subtle for sensory perception. Even light has a materiality or heaviness and so the Divine should not be visualised as sunlight, moonlight or electric light. As the human mind cannot meditate on `nothingness' we keep the Divine as an abstract idea and meditate on It thinking that It is illuminating our consciousness from within.

    Then, what do I do during meditation?

    Our Master says that you do nothing, you are not active, you are passive during meditation. Meditation, according to Master, is a state of waiting for divine grace to enter into us. This is the most natural way of meditation, because there is no activity at the physical or mental level and we assume an attitude of surrender (total passivity) to the Divine and await Him in our hearts.

    Sahaj Marg teaches us that, on the spiritual path, there is no room for two -- yourself and God. As long as you are conscious of yourself by indulging in activity even in the name of meditation and sadhana, He cannot be there. He is certainly with you when you forget yourself and this is what is attained through Sahaj Marg meditation where such a state of self-forgetfulness is speedily brought about by the spiritual power (pranahuti) of Master.

    What shall I do if my thoughts disturb me during meditation?

    You should treat them as if they were someone else's thoughts and thus create a distance between yourself and the thoughts that come. Our Master advises us to treat them as uninvited guests -- they will go away if you do not pay attention to them. If you find yourself actively involved in thoughts, you are advised to gently detach the mind and bring it back to the original thought, namely, divine light in your heart. (But this should not be done mechanically, turning it into a mantra!)

    However, this is a transitory problem for the new abhyasi. With regular daily meditation and periodic sittings with preceptors, you will find that thoughts lose their heaviness and they cease to disturb your feelings of inner repose and tranquillity.

    Importance of the Heart

    This is yoga of the mind, but the attention seems to be more towards the heart than the mind?

    You are right. The reason is that the samskaras we referred to earlier are deposited in a subtle form in the region of the heart. Our Master says that the heart is the field of action of the mind. If the heart is impure, the mind is impure. If the heart is purified of grossness created by samskaras, the mind becomes pure, subtle, crystal-clear and at one with the Divine deriving all power from the Divine in the heart.

    So the Master and his preceptors pay attention to the heart and clean the accumulated samskaras. The result of this cleaning is felt in the condition of the mind.

    What about meditation on other centres?

    Master says that meditation on the point between the eyebrows awakens power (shakti ) which is not required for spiritual advancement. Similarly, meditation on the tip of the nose might awaken siddhis (powers) like clairvoyance, etc., which also would distract a spiritual aspirant from the real goal.

    All religions and mystic traditions say that God resides in the human heart. Therefore, He can be experienced only in the heart. Further, the quality of love is always associated with the heart. So this meditation awakens our latent love for the Divine and speeds us towards the goal. Ultimately, love alone wins Him over.

    We should do well to understand that Sahaj Marg sadhana is not merely a dry and mechanical routine but one that creates love for the Divine. We meditate on the heart (the divine core of our being), live in the heart and act through the heart. This brings about perfect attunement of our human aspect with the divine base of our existence.

    Our Masters have stated several other reasons for meditation on the heart:

    1. The heart is where human existence begins and ends; where life throbs and takes leave of the body at the moment of death.
    2. A human being's nature derives from the heart. One may be `good-hearted' or `evil-hearted'. If his nature needs change or transformation, the heart should be the focus of attention.
    3. At the biological level, the heart purifies blood and pumps it to all parts of the body. So purification of the heart through yoga will have an effect of refinement of the entire physical system. According to our Master, cleaning of the heart also has a purifying effect on other chakras (points) situated below and above the heart in the human body.

    Miscellaneous Questions on Meditation

    Is there any advice regarding diet?

    Master says that vegetarian diet is best suited for spiritual sadhana. Meat, fish and eggs tend to create grossness or heaviness in our physical and mental system and, therefore, persons who are habitual to them are advised to avoid them. However, this need not deter spiritual aspirants from starting the sadhana. With regular practice of sadhana, they will be able to get rid of such attachments in a natural and relaxed way without forcing the mind, which would be against nature.

    Liquor, according to our Master, creates a very gross form of intoxication in us whereas we are trying to attain an extremely subtle divine intoxication through spiritual sadhana. So, a serious abhyasi should free himself from such attachments with an effort of the will coupled with earnest prayers to the divine Master to strengthen his will.

    Is there any requirement of celibacy (brahmacharya) for an abhyasi?

    Married abhyasis are expected to live naturally. Through regular practice of this sadhana, all faculties and functions will be normalized and brought to a state of moderation and balance in all aspects of life.

    Unmarried abhyasis, however, should note that immorality in any form will affect their spiritual progress and so purity of thought and action in this regard should be maintained at all times.

    Can I meditate when I am sick?

    Master says that if you are so ill that you cannot sit up to meditate, then you need not meditate.

    How do I meditate while I am travelling?

    You can simply close your eyes and meditate normally while travelling in a bus, train or plane. Also, the Mission publishes a list of preceptors and ashrams around the world. You may carry a copy with you on your travels so that you can keep in touch with them and get together with local preceptors to take individual sittings and attend satsangh at such places.

    Supposing I am on night shift duty, how can I meditate early in the morning?

    You may fix a convenient time during the day to meditate. This also applies to women who are too busy with household chores to meditate in the morning.

    Thus, you will see that there are no rigid rules regarding the peripheral aspects of sadhana. The important thing is regularity in meditation. Place and time should not be a constraint.

    If I have time on my hand, can I meditate more than once in a day?

    Yes. What is prescribed by Master is only the minimum. You may do more than that. But Master says that at any one time the duration of meditation should not exceed one hour. A gap of 10 to 15 minutes is advised before you meditate again.

    Can I go back to sleep immediately after meditation?

    It is generally not advised to sleep immediately after meditation. My Master says that sleep is a gross state and has the effect of neutralizing the condition of subtlety obtained through meditation. In case you meditate too early in the morning and go to bed again, you should meditate again after getting up.

    After starting Sahaj Marg sadhana, can I continue with my old religious or spiritual practices?

    Master says that there is no need. When you internalize worship through meditation, other forms of worship are unnecessary and must be given up. Besides, if you want to assess the efficacy of this system of sadhana you will have to practice it exclusively for at least three months without mixing it with other practices.

    Cleaning in the Evening

    What is meant by cleaning?

    As mentioned before, we need the intervention of Master or his preceptor to get rid of old samskaras which are nothing but mental impressions solidified into tendencies. But it becomes the responsibility of the abhyasi to prevent formation of new samskaras by practising the cleaning method prescribed by Master. Though this self-cleaning every evening, an abhyasi will be able to remove the impressions formed in his heart during the day as a result of his interaction with the environment through his mind and senses.

    What time should I do the cleaning?

    After the day's work is over, when you go home, you may refresh and relax yourself and sit for cleaning. It is best done when you are mentally alert and not sleepy.

    How long should I do the cleaning?

    Half-an-hour is the prescribed time.

    What is the prescribed posture?

    Just sit for meditation, a comfortable sitting posture.

    What is the difference between meditation and cleaning?

    It is simple. In meditation we do not do anything with our mind. There we assume an attitude of inviting divine grace into our hearts and then wait.

    In cleaning, we apply the power of our own will to remove the impurities in our heart. This is an active process, not passive like meditation.

    What is the method of cleaning?

    Close your eyes and start with the thought (no need to go on repeating it) that all impressions, impurities, grossness, darkness, etc., are leaving from behind your back in the form of smoke or vapour. Mentally assume that the sacred current of the Divine is entering your heart from the Master's heart into the vacuum created by the exit of impurities and grossness. After doing this for half-an-hour, you should feel mental lightness which is the proof of cleaning.

    Am I supposed to see the impurities leaving me during cleaning?

    No. We are not expected to try to see them. Master says we should not get involved with or meditate over them but mentally brush them off.

    Should I recall or review all the happenings of the day and then throw them out during the cleaning process?

    It can be done in bed before the night prayer-meditation. If that too is not possible, then you should do cleaning for ten to fifteen minutes the next morning before you start your meditation.

    Prayer-Meditation at Bedtime

    What is a prayer?

    Prayer is a petition addressed to Lord God, the divine Master in your heart.

    What is the purpose of prayer?

    According to Babuji, prayer is begging and meditation is having. Normally, people use prayer for begging material favours from God. But the prayer prescribed by Babuji does not beg, it only reaffirms the spiritual seeker's complete dependence on the Divine Master for his progress towards the goal of realising Him. Therefore, it is the highest kind of prayer which does not beg for any favour but enables one to surrender oneself to the Divine.

    What is the Sahaj Marg prayer?

    It is as follows:
    O Master!
    Thou art the real goal of human life;
    We are yet but slaves of wishes
    Putting bar to our advancement.
    Thou art the only God and power
    To bring us up to that stage.

    When and how should I say this prayer?

    It is to be said once mentally before commencing your morning meditation. Then again, it is to be said before retiring. However, it should not be mechanically said and forgotten. It should be mentally repeated twice or thrice with the heart full of devotion, assuming a supplicant attitude. Then we should try to meditate (think deeply) over the meaning of the prayer and get lost in it before we go to sleep. Therefore, this is called prayer-meditation, to be done for about 10 minutes.

    This is a very special prayer evolved by Babuji Maharaj in a super-conscious state and according to him, it is packed with spiritual power and efficacy. To draw full advantage from it, the prayer should be offered with deep insight into its meaning. Let us examine the meaning of the prayer in parts:

    "O Master"

    The Divine in our hearts is the real Master, not our desires and attachments, official superiors, wives, husbands and friends, not even the gods with names, forms and attributes. The subtlest One who resides in our hearts is our Master. One who realises His supremacy in all aspects of life -- physical, mental, material and spiritual -- is truly poised for speedy spiritual advancement.

    The mode of the address "O Master", also indicates the supplicant attitude is sure to create a vacuum in our hearts that will automatically attract the flow of divine grace into us.

    "Thou art the real goal of human life."

    Master repeatedly emphasizes that the goal of our existence should ever be in our view, otherwise we are likely to get distracted by various other lesser goals of this life in the material plane and thus lose our way again.

    Here, we assert that He is the real goal, not the wants and attractions of this life. Even the gifts that He bestows on us are not the aim. We want to have Him and Him alone. Of course, in Him we shall certainly have all the needs (not wants) of our earthly existence, too.

    As our Master has put it beautifully:

    "My Beloved, you are the real goal of my life. What is standing between us are my foolish wishes and desires for your powers, your beauty, your wealth. You alone can give me yourself."

    This sentence of the prayer also proclaims our love for the Ultimate. Once we have set our hearts on the object of our love, no other object can distract our attention and pursuit of the real goal.

    "We are yet but slaves of wishes putting bar to our advancement."

    This is a humble admission before the divine Master of our enslavement to desires and attachments which are the chief cause of our samskaras; that they are barring our advancement towards Him by pulling us back and tripping us up; that, by ourselves, we are totally helpless and unable to take even one step forward.

    This is the cry of the helpless and agonized soul whose desperation naturally attracts the attention of the divine Master in the heart. An admission of our inner condition bespeaks humility and artlessness when we seek Divine favour.

    "Thou art the only God and power to bring us up to that stage."

    Here, the devotee declares complete dependency and makes an act of surrender before the divine Master. One acknowledges that He is the only God and His is the only power that can help one to reach the goal. This shows one's complete and unqualified faith in Him and one's implicit repudiation of all lesser gods and powers which can certainly give some benefits and powers at the material level but cannot take one forward towards God realisation.

    Why should prayer be offered at night?

    By this practice, we will be able to maintain the link with the Divine in the heart at the sub-conscious level. When we wake up in the morning, the thought of the Divine will again be uppermost in our mind -- which is a most desirable state of mind for any abhyasi.

    Constant Remembrance

    By simply practicing meditation, cleaning and prayer, will I automatically attain the goal of life?

    These three practices constitute the main frame of our sadhana. What lends it life and a throbbing heart is what is known as constant remembrance, that is, constantly remembering the divine Master.

    Why should we remember Him constantly?

    Master says that, normally, we remember those people (or objects) whom we love. But here, the divine Master, who is without name, form and attributes but only a subtle presence in our hearts, appears to be a stranger to begin with. Therefore, at first there is no way of loving Him. But, we can develop love for Him by first remembering Him, a reversal of the equation, as our Master calls it. But, he assures us that it brings about the desired result of bringing Him closer and closer to us so that, in due course, our identification with Him is complete.

    How do we practice this method?

    It is easy. During the day, all through our various activities, personal, domestic, official or social, we have to deliberately bring up the suggestion in the mind that it is the divine Master within who is performing all activities, e.g., thoughts like, "He is bathing, He is eating, He is going to office, He is starting some work, He has completed it, He is relaxing with friends or playing with children, meditating, cleaning, solving problems, undergoing mental disturbances, etc., etc."

    How does this method help me in spiritual progress?

    As mentioned earlier, this helps to develop love for the divine Master which is essential for spiritual advancement.

    Love for Him expels our ego from the field of thoughts and actions. Once the ego is absent, we stop creating new samskaras. When we attain this stage by regular practice of remembrance, it can be said to be the take-off point towards God realisation of self-realisation.

    Master also points out that, through this practice, remembrance, which starts at the conscious level, slowly percolates to the sub-conscious levels of the mind. And when this is achieved, our mind becomes divinised and permanently attuned to Him. At that stage, conscious remembrance is not so important as we are always lost in Him.

    Our Master's definition of constant remembrance is:

    "First, we forget to remember,
    Then, we remember to remember,
    And, finally, we remember to forget."

    Master and Preceptors

    To whom do the words 'Divine Master' and 'My Master' refer?

    Our Master says that the divine Master in our hearts is God Himself and the Master in living human form is His representative. Sahaj Marg believes that without the guidance and active assistance of a living Master of high calibre, attainment of the goal is impossible in this life for most of us. The Master in human form is one who has realised the divine Master in himself through his own dedicated sadhana and devotion to his Master. By virtue of his human-ness, selfless love for humanity and accessibility to all God-seekers, he is able to remove our fears, guilt feelings and diffidence and lead us, step by step, towards the Ultimate goal. Those who co-operate with him by dedicated sadhana and sincere compliance with his instructions will be able to realise the divine Self in their own selves in this very life. This is the promise of Sahaj Marg system.

    Who are the preceptors, and what should be my relationship with them?

    The preceptors are also basically abhyasis (sadhakas). In addition, they have taken up voluntary spiritual work. When one is committed to one's sadhana, is convinced about the efficacy of the system, and is willing to give one's time for taking up spiritual work for Master, he or she can be appointed preceptor by Master. One is then authorised by Master to do the work of yogic transmission and prana on His behalf, and serve spiritual seekers and abhyasis of the Mission. But, a preceptor has to continue his or her own daily sadhana as prescribed for all abhyasis. You should, therefore, treat the preceptor as your brother or sister and pay attention to any instructions regarding the sadhana. You are also welcome to approach Master freely at any time, or to write to him, seeking clarification on spiritual matters. You are advised to restrict your relationship with preceptors to spiritual training only as they are grihasthas (householders) with worldly commitments and cannot be expected to socialize with abhyasis. Treat all preceptors as equal and do not develop any preference or attachment to any of them.

    Problems of Worldly Life

    Will Sahaj Marg sadhana improve my physical health?

    Our Master says that since in this system mind is purified and regulated progressively, many abhyasis who suffer from physical ailments as a result of mental (psychosomatic) tensions will show considerable improvement. Since we meditate on the heart and remove the grossness in the heart, Master says that it results in toning up of the biological heart also. During meditation, an abhyasi finds the consciousness shifted from the body and senses to the Divine within and this results in easing of pressure on the physical system. The breathing and pulse rate as well as the blood pressure come down perceptibly. This state of complete physical relaxation during meditation conserves physical energy and this state continues even after meditation if an abhyasi is regular in sadhana.

    Can physically handicapped or mentally retarded persons be inducted into meditation?

    There is no problem if the handicap is only physical. But a mentally retarded person lacks the apparatus -- a normal mind -- for meditation and, unfortunately, cannot do our meditation.

    Will all my worldly problems disappear if I practise sadhana regularly?

    We should know that the end of sadhana is to realise Him and not to get rid of problems in this life. It is worldly problems that test us and strengthen us and this is very necessary for spiritual progress. But, it is a fact that many problems that used to arise as a result of our egotism and samskaras stop coming up due to the removal of those samskaras. However, Master says that some samskaras are left behind so that some troubles and challenges that are necessary for our spiritual evolution will be permitted to come our way. They should, therefore, be accepted as Divine blessings. Sadhana, therefore, strengthens us to face life's problems in a masterly way and we are not expected to run away from them.

    Tips for Progress

    How can a new entrant to Sahaj Marg make quick progress?

    I would suggest the following steps:
    1. Be regular in the daily abhyas: meditation, cleaning and prayer-meditation. For your own good give up laziness, mental inertia, and the tendency to postpone; and develop energy and enthusiasm for sadhana.
    2. Take individual sittings and attend group sittings as directed by preceptors.
    3. Read the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg again and again and try to practice them in daily life.
    4. Develop constant remembrance as explained above.
    5. Whenever your heart prompts you, arrange to meet Master and spend time in his company. Develop the habit of writing to him regarding your abhyas, progress, spiritual experiences and problems. You can obtain his tour schedule and home address from your preceptor.
    6. Maintain a daily diary and make brief entries every day, regarding your practice, experiences, condition of the mind, changes observed, problems encountered, etc. Read Babuji's autobiography for guidance.
    7. Do not be discouraged by your faults and shortcomings. Babuji advises, "Treat them (the faults) as Master's and proceed with your abhyas." The result will be that you improve from day to day.
    8. Develop internal alertness and watch every thought and action. This will prevent your slipping into error and enable you to consciously correct and improve yourself.
    9. Unnecessary thoughts and irrelevant talk dissipate your energy and distract you from your goal. So try to maintain silence both within and without by linking your mind to the Divine all the time. Our Master says that it is the abhyasi who maintains silence (except when talking is necessary or in the line of duty) who is making progress.
    10. Swami Vivekananda says that the Kingdom of Heaven is not for the faint-hearted. Babuji Maharaj says that in spirituality we should be like lions, proud of performing sadhana under a capable guru, brave against odds and obstacles and confident of attaining the goal. So, negative feelings like fear, doubt, uncertainty and lack of confidence in one's own self should be consciously avoided.