12 Spiritual Practices (Sadhanas or Yagyas) from Bhagavad Gita
Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, mentions 12 types of powerful spiritual sadhana's (spiritual practices or yajnas) one can choose to purify one's mind and strengthen one's relationship with the Lord.
Their end result (karma-phala) can be compared to washing a dirty car (mind) with a hose (sadhana). Yes, the car will attract new dirt sooner or later the more it moves or engages in the world (EG: friends, nightclubs, news, other people's unverified opinions, etc).
For this reason, common mistake within spiritual world is to endlessly purify one's mind. We call this “stuck in sattva”.
Sattva feels fulfilling. One experiences peacefulness and is generally happy about everything. Then mistakes this feeling as Enlightenment.
How to know if “stuck in sattva”? Spiritual practices are diligently performed to get something out of it. Like more peace of mind, sharpness, clarity, calmness. One ends up depending on yet another worldly object, no different then child depends on his/her toys for it's well-being. Except object is different, but problem is same; dependence.
In reality, feeling top of the world or in spiritual ecstasy has NOTHING to do with Enlightenment. But everything to do with a purified-peaceful mind.
Brahman and mind are two different orders of reality (Satya/Mithya). Thus how one's body-mind feels is order of appearance (anatma/mithya/not-I).
It's unfortunate most spiritual seekers unsuspectingly subscribe to notion of “Experiential Enlightenment”, attempting to experience transcendence or some higher state that's better then the present. Only to be disappointed decades or lifetimes later, still chasing Liberation.
In summary: Mind with little to no thoughts just means a mind that's clear/pure. That's it! It doesn't mean ignorance of “I” is resolved. In fact a jñāni (wise person) couldn't care less whether his/her mind is undergoing a torrential storm or it's quiet. The mind is NOT-I. Thus jnani won't even need nor have inclination to say “I have a clear mind“.
Let's revise: What is the purpose of spiritual sadhana? Purify the mind. Why?
Because it makes contemplation/self-enquiry meaningful and fruitful under guidance of a guru (whose using a proven means of knowledge; pramana.)
The guru/teacher uses jñāna-yoga as a MEANS to lead a sincere student to moksha (Liberation). Student having a clear mind from previous sadhana work, also uses guidance of jñāna-yoga to shift “I” from apparent body-mind to Ātma (Awareness).
After this, one has accomplished all there is to accomplish on Earth. It's their last lifetime here. Body will die when prārabdha karma is over (meaning body dies when unfinished business is finished in this lifetime). Then there's no more rebirth.
So order is: sādhana > jñāna-yoga > mokṣa
Now that we have clarified purpose of sādhana, let's get into them below. And before we do…
You'll see word “yajña” below. It means “Ritualistic fire worship”.
In context of the list, it also means spiritual practice whose purpose is two fold:
- Purify and ready the mind for Self-Knowledge (jñāna-yoga; being the Highest if we were to make a hierarchy)
- Dissolve false difference between individual “I” (aham kāra; I-sense associated to Body-Mind) and Brahman.
Here they are…
- Daiva-yajña: This spiritual practice involves propitiating the presiding deities by offering various materials into the sacrificial fire chanting various mantras (4.25).
- Brahma-yajña: This spiritual practice involves offering of oneself into the fire of the supreme Truth (Brahman). This means to meditate on the supreme Truth as being one with the pure Self. Such practice of meditation (brahma-abhyāsa) leads one to the Realisation ‘I am the supreme infinite Truth.’ (4.25)
- Indriya-yajña: Herein the various sense objects (sounds, touch, forms, tastes and smells) are offered to the sense organs of perception (hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling) which in turn are offered to the fire of control. This means to control one’s sense intake, take in only what is conducive (sāttvika) and that too as an act of worship (4.26). For example, the eyes feast on the glorious form of the Lord or the ears listen to music that quietens the mind. Spoken in the language of negation it means ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’ as depicted by the famous three monkeys. In the language of assertion it translates as, ‘May we hear auspicious words through our ears and see auspicious sights by the eyes.’
- Saṃyama-yajña: This is to offer all the sense organs of perception and action along with the physiological functions (prāṇa-karma) into the fire of self control (4.27). This meditation practice elaborated in the Gītā, Chapter 6, involves the total withdrawal of the senses from all external pursuits (pratyāhāra) and focusing the controlled mind on the Self.
- Dravya-yajña: This involves offering material (cash or kind) to the needy (4.28). Social work and charity are also considered spiritual practices of a high order when done as an act of worship of the Lord. Herein the needy one is considered the form of the Lord Himself (daridra-nārāyaṇa).
- Tapo-yajna: Living an austere and simple life, or performing special austerities like fasting are spiritual practices which help to conserve our time and energy and increase our endurance and control. (4.28)
- Yoga-yajña: This refers to the eight-fold steps of: (1) yama: practicing values like non-injury, (2) niyama: taking vows like purity of body and mind, (3) āsana: practice of postures, (4) prāṇāyāma: breath control exercises, (5) pratyāhāra: withdrawal of senses, (6) dhāraṇā: practicing concentration, (7) dhyāna: practice of meditation, and (8) samādhi: practicing total absorption of the mind. (4.28). Yoga is in vogue all over the world, but generally understood only as the practice of postures, that too done for health purposes. This, however, is a spiritual practice which can lead us to the highest Realization when practiced rightly and regularly.
- Svādhyāya-yajña: This can be understood as the spiritual practice of reading of the scriptures (pārāyaṇa) or repetition of a mantra (japa) or study of the scripture (svādhyāya) or introspection (sva-adhyayana) (4.28).
- Jñāna-yajña: This is the spiritual practice of understanding the scriptures through listening to discourses, self study or in groups (4.28).
- Vrata-yajna: Involves taking up special vows which help sharpen one’s mind and senses (4.28).
- Prāṇāyāma-yajña: This spiritual practice has to be done under the guidance of an experienced practitioner. It involves the control of inhalation (pūraka), exhalation (recaka), and also the holding of the breath outside or inside us (kumbhaka) (4.28).
- āhāra-yajña: This means to offer right food in the right quantity for the digestive fire (4.30). Controlled eating by itself becomes a spiritual practice when done as an offering. This can be done by all each day at each meal time. Uncontrolled eating is the cause for obesity and many diseases.
Number 2/9 is jñāna-yoga, which is taught here.
beautiful practices! thanks for publishing! also for the statement that no more rebirth occurs WHEN THE AFOREMENTIONED CONDITIONS ARE FULFILLED: is it based on scripture? because I happened to come across a sect which claim that no more rebirth to members (actually to everyone who asks “initiation” from the Guru) happens, due to the Guru’s divine powers and irrespective of the initiate’s state of mind/life. Just be vegetarian and obey the Guru, the rest is HIS JOB. So my question is, is the practice of that sect clearly deviation from scripture?
“When The Aforementioned Conditions Are Fulfilled: Is It Based On Scripture”
Yes. It’s provable by logic: When child grows out of toys, he never finds himself again in toy world. Now it’ girls world! But girls are also toys. So he grows out of girls. Then it’s career world. But career is also materialistic toys. Etc. NOTE: We are NOT degrading value of toys/girls/career in this example. Only providing observation most are familiar with, which is: Growing out of __. Thus never again finding oneself in world of __.
Thus when person grows out of all wordily interests, owning to knowledge that all is Brahman, then there’s no logical reason to be reborn in world of objects. Why? Ask yourself this… what is the only reason why person is born? To get stuff. Is there any other reason?
Even if one disagrees, then that implies, “I’m not here to get stuff, I’m here to ___”. Which is another desire to get ___.
Thus being born = desire to get __.
So if one no longer wants anything in this world… then what’s the point of rebirth?
“due to the Guru’s divine powers… irrespective of the initiate’s state of mind/life…. is the practice of that sect clearly deviation from scripture”
Firstly, “guru” word is only to be used if it means: That one who speaks on behalf of śāstra, whose logic is non-negatable, by whichever view confronted. What’s more, guru is one who surrenders one’s opinion to the teachings of śāstra. And whose ONLY job is to: help student remove ignorance (avidyā), by a systematic approach, EXACTLY as progressed in śāstra.
EG: Isha Upanishad, verse 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > etc.
No different then learning mathematics from a teacher. Next lesson builds onto previous.
Finally, one never calls anyone guru. “Guru” is only known to one months/years after spending time with some man/woman (because one happened to resonate with them). Then after listening to them and persistently contemplating on the heard knowledge, one realizes it’s because of them that one “gained” TOTAL CLARITY of Reality. Only from ***that liberated perspective*** can one confidently say “Wow! So THAT person was and is my Guru”.
For example, James Swartz was just another guy to me while listening to his lectures. It’s only after assimilating the knowledge and relistening to the lectures and spending hundreds of hours contemplating on them… that CLARITY of Reality ensued. From that perspective, James is then attributed, “My Guru”.
If I call him “guru” before CLARITY, then it’s Ego making that claim to make me feel good, which has nothing to do with Reality.
So let’s get clear on this: Nobody is ever deserving of label “Guru”, until such person has COMPLETELY removed aspirants ignorance and thus aspirant has consequently attained the highest purpose of human life: mokṣa. How to know it’s COMPLETE? Only aspirant will know, nobody else ever will, except the aspirants Guru.
If one hears people throwing around the word “Guru” like laundry (as is the case), then one can appreciate the wide-spread ignorance of even the simplest principles of what it really means to say “Guru”. It’s not a joke. But the most humbling of words to be used only ONCE in one’s entire lifetime! And it’s especially NEVER EVER announced to anyone, not even the Guru. It’s 100% private and personal between you and God.
Business of throwing the word “Guru” left and right, is Ego attempting at another method to feel important by claiming “I found my Guru!”.
Lastly, above quote doesn’t give me enough context to provide accurate answer. Other then, reminds me of common “savior” spirituality I’ve seen before hundreds of times and never took interest in such claims.
If I said “I have divine powers”, I’d feel guilty and fraud. Because I’m insulting the listener by implying “I have something that you don’t, therefore I am more special then you!”.
But how can one say that if all is Brahman? If one is truly living vision of Oneness, then idea of “Divine power” is as disinterestedly objective as dog-poop. Both are Īśvara-sṛṣṭi (transaction/empirical reality made of 5 elements).
Also what does “divine power” even mean? If one has such ability, then one should CLEARLY be able to explain it specifically. Else one can’t just generalize like that and get away with it. It’s listeners job to immediately stop speaker when statements are made, which demand proof.
thank you for the time and effort to give such an extensive reply; what you are saying makes absolute sense to me, as well as depicts the sad state of current spiritual marketplace – because 99% of so-called gurus, masters etc. do not meet even half the criteria you mention and are just “blind leading the blind”; deep gratitude to you and James Swartz for your authenticity, selfless efforts and solid scriptural foundation; NAMASTE!
Om Krshna. It is quite elevating to see your sadhana.
I just thought of scribbling some of my understanding in the context.
Jñāna-yajña is the ultimate spiritual sadhana as Bhagawan had said in 4.33 with further clarification in 4.38 “na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ pavitramiha vidyate” There is nothing in the world equal in purity to higher knowledge or spiritual wisdom. His concluding words 18.70 adhyeṣyate ca ya imaṁ dharmyaṁ saṁvādamāvayoḥ, jñānayajñena tenāhamiṣṭaḥ syāmiti me matiḥ” conveys that Jñāna-yajña is the true sadhana.
A sadhaka can make himself free from any karma phala only when he goes for Jñāna-yajña. Here, the ultimate goal or dhyEya would be Self Realization without no aspiration for karma phala. Moreover, Jñāna-yajña being non-ritualistic would free us from any karma dosha. Jñāna-yajña is a self-healing process. It rids of the chitta-dosha or samskara dosha as Sadhaka keeps progressing. Because, each and every verse is a mantra. It puts us in enquiry mode, correction mode, review-correction mode and in the process would purify our Janma or life. However, as we know no single verse should be understood in isolation. We need to arrive at the essential truth which is pure unworldly. The ultimate goal of human life is not living the best Satvik life. Living life of a Suddha Satvik life towards Jivanmukti.
Blessed are the ones who embrace Bhagavad Gita.
Bhagavad Gita is the ultimate spiritual practice gifted to humanity.
Every other yajña sadhana
Excellent Venkataramana, especially “no single verse should be understood in isolation”. Complete vision of B.Gītā leaves no doubt in buddhi.
Doubtless mind is thus one’s barometer of niṣṭhā-jñānam (firm knowledge). As per 2.53: śruti-vipratipannā te yadā sthāsyati niścalā | samādhāvacalā buddhistadā yogam avāpsyasi ||