By Yogi Svatmarama
Introduction By Swami Vishnudevananda to the 1987 Translation
I would like to begin by speaking about the spiritual path we are climbing through Yoga. You might say that it is an uphill climb. There are ups and downs. We climb up and then once again go down. There is no straight path to the top and there are many obstacles. In some places the road is wide but then suddenly it narrows. We come to a bush through which it is very difficult to penetrate. And even though we continue, we do not know where we are going.
So it is with the spiritual journey. In the beginning it is all very wonderful: "Ah, yes. I can do asanas. pranayama. etc.", but then suddenly you come to that big bush in your path and you don't know in which direction to go. If somehow you come out of the bush, you come next to a swamp. Some students disappear in the quicksand and never come out. Perhaps they see a beautiful girl or a handsome man and get married. and oh, they want to enjoy their life with children, home and family - once again swallowed by Maya, their spiritual purpose completely forgotten.
Nevertheless, it is possible to penetrate these obstacles and reach the top. Now you can see all around beautifully. Now you can meditate and enjoy full freedom. No more birth, no more death; you've got an eternal holiday.
These experiences are familiar to the yogi. He finds no smooth road to the top. Those who succeed come from different directions having followed different teachers, but once they reach the top everything is the same. On the way the obstacles will differ but at the top the view is the same.
The purpose of the practice of Yoga is to give your life a boost, to put your spiritual progress in first gear. Then you may go into second gear and maybe into third gear where you can cruise comfortably after climbing the hills. This is unlike most worldly people who just coast downhill without knowing about brakes thinking that happiness is somewhere down there waiting. They go straight downhill faster and faster into numerous disasters such as cancer, AIDS, high blood pressure, heart trouble. Soon it is too late and they crash. So even though it may seem very easy please don't coast downhill. We will show you another way.
The path was laid out by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika an ancient text used by Yogis to create the power to go uphill all the way to the top. This path was laid out by great beings called siddhas: Matsyendranath, his disciple Gorakshanath and others fourteen in all. This is one of the earliest treatises on Hatha Yoga: all the modern books are based on it. It is the central route. All of us have only expanded and expounded on it in different ways.
In addition to following the practices laid out in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, I strongly recommend the study of books such as Shankaracharya's Viveka Chudamant and the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Viveka Chudamani is a very beautiful book, and those who follow its instruction will create the necessary dispassion to surmount the obstacles created by rajas (passion or activity). In addition, we also need devotion, because without God's grace we cannot reach the Source, no matter how hard we strive. To help create this devotion we read from the Bhagavatam.
This practice is not something I invented: it is the traditional method which I myself followed intensively when I was with Master Sivananda in the Himalayas. I lived in the forest where there were cobras and tigers. Sometimes I could hear the tigers from my cottage when they would come by to drink water and they would roar. I had only a flimsy door which they could easily have pushed through. Nevertheless, in such an environment I went through this training morning, noon, evening and midnight, practicing for almost fourteen hours daily. I hardly slept - just two or three hours a night. But I can't begin to describe the power that builds up.
Our purpose here is to increase the vibratory level in a very short time. In Sanskrit this work is expressed as "Shakti Sanchar." Shakti is the "power" and Sanchar means "awakening of." We want to make the Shakti move from its dormant or static state to the dynamic state through sadhana or spiritual practice. However please be careful not to go beyond your capacity. Do not do too much at once, do not go too deep or too fast, do not work too intensively, or else a kickback will come. That is why I modify the practice to suit the particular evolution of my students. I never give a practice unless I myself have experienced it. Also, though I like discipline, I believe that this discipline must come from within. I show my students how this can be accomplished and then leave them to practice as if they were alone in the forest. To this is added just a little group practice for reinforcement. In addition, my students make out a resolve form and keep a spiritual diary which I look at to check their progress so that I can prescribe a little more or a little less of a particular practice. We meet together for an hour each day to talk about our practice, to receive some instruction about technical things and to improve the performance of some of these procedures.
My main instruction is to control the mind. Secondly avoid unnecessary desires with one exception - desire to increase your will power. If you satisfy one desire ten more will come to take its place, and then when will you ever be finished with all those desires? But if you develop your will power and kill even one desire, then you will be strong. Then you will easily kill ten more and then a hundred.