The goal of sádhaná [spiritual practice] is the all-round elevation of human beings.
Spiritual practices do not teach renunciation of the world, they teach only the proper utilization of the subtle and crude potentialities. Just as it is necessary to follow a suitable system in the social and economic spheres, in exactly the same manner it is necessary to advance scientifically with proper discipline in the physical and mental spheres.
To develop a healthy body and mind, the following items must be strictly followed:
(1) Yama Sádhaná and (2) Niyama Sádhaná.
Special instructions regarding the items of Yama and Niyama should be learned from an ácárya/á. In fact, the principles of Yama and Niyama perfectly illustrate how one should deal with the surrounding world.
The potentiality of an ideal humanity is inherent in Yama and Niyama. Those who are established in Yama and Niyama attain emancipation from the aśt́apásha and śad́aripu arising from Avidyá [the extroversial force]. In this connection it is important to remember that overcoming the aśt́apásha and śad́aripu is not the same as eliminating them. In order to survive, one will have to maintain these páshas and ripus, but you should not be subservient to them, rather they should be subservient to you.
Ásanas are postures in which one can remain in physical comfort and psychic composure. The practice of ásanas cures the body’s glandular system of all its maladies and helps the mind to attain balance for spiritual practices. Ásanas should be practised only after obtaining instructions from an ácárya/á.
There is an inseparable relationship between the váyus of the body [ten basic energy flows] and the mind. Unsteadiness of respiration means unsteadiness of mind and vice versa. Práńáyáma is the scientific process to control respiration and hence the mind, as a result of which sádhaná is especially facilitated.
The practice of dhyána [meditation in which the psyche is directed towards Consciousness] becomes a time-consuming affair if práńáyáma is not adequately practised. Práńáyáma must be learned from an ácárya/á, otherwise it may be harmful.
Pratyáhára literally means “withdrawal” - withdrawing the unsteady mind from the allurement of particular objects. Varńárghyadána [Guru Pújá], offering the colours of the mind to Márga Guru, is the simplest means for withdrawal, but this process of pratyáhára can be practised even if Márga Guru is not present in His physical form. Ácárya/ás will give training in pratyáhára.
Dhárańá is concentrating the citta [objective mind, mind-stuff] on prescribed points. Ácárya/ás will teach this process to eligible persons.
Dhyána is the unbroken flow of the mind-stuff, or citta, in one continuous stream, like the flow of oil, where all the propensities of the mind are fixed on the goal.
The state in which the tendencies of the mind are completely suspended following the practice of dhyána is called nirvikalpa samádhi.
Though in the samádhi attained through the practice of Iishvara prańidhána the “I” feeling as well as the mental propensities are not totally suspended, one becomes ensconced in the Cosmic stance. The jiiva [unit] gets established in Infinity. This state is called savikalpa samádhi.