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Archive for April, 2010

The Eighteen “Ities”
By
Sri Swami Sivananda
For everyone’s success in life and especially for an aspirant’s success in spiritual life, it is essential that he should develop certain cardinal virtues. Virtue is strength, power and the key to peace. A virtuous man is ever happy, peaceful and prosperous. People ask me for the specific mention of the virtues that one should develop. The Song of Eighteen “Ities” enumerates the virtues that one should cultivate.
Take up any one virtue and develop it to a very high degree of perfection; eradicate in toto its opposite evil quality even in its most subtle form. Meditate on these virtues, on their benefits and the methods of cultivating them. Here is the Song of Eighteen “Ities”:
Serenity, regularity, absence of vanity,Sincerity, simplicity, veracity, Equanimity, fixity, non-irritability, Adaptability, humility, tenacity, Integrity, nobility, magnanimity, Charity, generosity, purity. Practice daily these eighteen ‘ities’, You will soon attain immortality. Brahman is the only real entity, Mr. So and so is a false non-entity. You will abide in eternity and infinity; You will behold unity in diversity; You cannot attain this in the university. You can attain this in the Forest University.
Click here to listen to Swami Sivananda singing the Song of Eighteen “Ities” (requires Real Audio).
1. SERENITY
Be tranquil within. Let that inner peace and joy radiate through a serene countenance. A serene countenance is peaceful, smiling and serious and does not betray any violent emotions. It is like the surface of a still lake.
2. REGULARITY
Be regular in your daily habits, and in your work and spiritual practices. Get up at a particular time. Be clock-like in your daily activities. You will be free from worry, fear, anxiety, haphazard and shabby work. You will do the right thing at the right moment.
3. ABSENCE OF VANITY
Do not boast of your birth, position, qualifications and spiritual attainments. Praise others. See good in all. Treat even the lowliest creatures as your equal and with respect.
4. SINCERITY
Let your words agree with the thoughts; let your actions agree with your words. Let there be harmony among your thoughts, words and actions.
5. SIMPLICITY
Be artless. Be simple in your speech. Do not twist words and topics. Be plain; avoid diplomacy, cunningness and crookedness. Be simple in your dress. Be simple in your food.
6. VERACITY
Be truthful. Stick to your promises. Do not exaggerate. Do not twist facts. Think twice before you speak. Speak truthfully. Speak sweetly. Be precise in what you say.
7. EQUANIMITY
Be calm. Bear insult patiently. Bear injury, suffering, failures and disrespect calmly. Do not be elated by praise, pleasure, success and honour. Look upon both with equal vision. Behave alike towards friends and foes. Never let anything disturb your inner peace.
8. FIXITY
Remember that you cannot achieve anything if you are fickle-minded. Choose your goal or ideal and remember it always. Never let it go out of mind even for a moment.
9. NON-IRRITABILITY
Irritability is the precursor of violent outbursts of anger. Watch carefully for the disturbance in the mental equilibrium. Watch for the ripples of anger that might rise in the lake of the mind. Quell them then and there. Do not allow them to assume greater proportions. Then you will attain peace.
10. ADAPTABILITY
Understand well the nature of people with whom you come into contact. Adjust your mode of approach to them. Adjust yourself in such a way as to be pleasing to them. Joyfully bear with the eccentricities of others. Always react in a harmonious manner. Serve all and love all. Have the feeling that the Lord dwells in the hearts of all as the Self of all.
11. HUMILITY
Respect everybody. Bow with folded hands before all. Do not talk in a loud voice before elders and venerable persons. Look at the toes while you walk. See the Lord in all and feel that you are His servant and so the servant of all. Consider none as inferior to you.
12. TENACITY
This is the natural friend of fixity. Once you have fixed your aim and chosen your path, stick to it. Do not waver. Be steadfast. Never compromise on your fundamental principles. Have the attitude: “I may give up my life but I will not swerve from the path; I will not break my vows.”
13. INTEGRITY
Develop an integral personality. Tie all the loose ends of your character. Become a man of high moral principles. Lead a life of righteousness. Let righteousness waft its sweet fragrance from you. Everyone will trust you, obey you, respect you and revere you.
14. NOBILITY
Shun mean-mindedness as dung and poison. Never look into the defects of others. Always appreciate the good qualities of everyone. Be dignified in bearing. Never stoop to ignoble thoughts, words and actions.
15. MAGNANIMITY
Take a broad view of things. Ignore the faults of others: Be great and noble-minded in whatever you do. Avoid silly talk and childish prattle. Let not the mind dwell on little things and insignificant things.
16. CHARITY
Give, give and give. This is the secret of abundance. Radiate thoughts of goodness and love. Forgive the faults of others. Bless the man who injures you. Share what you have with others. Disseminate spiritual knowledge to one and all. Use the material wealth, knowledge and spiritual wisdom that you possess as a divine trust.
17. GENEROSITY
In whatever you give be liberal. Have a large heart. Do not be miserly. Take delight in the joy of others, in making them happy. Generosity is a sister-virtue of charity. It is the fulfilment of charity, magnanimity and nobility.
18. PURITY
Be pure at heart. Eradicate lust, anger and greed. Be pure in your thoughts. Think of God always. Think of the well-being of all. Be pure in your words; never utter harsh, unkind words. Be pure in body. Keep it clean and healthy. Let the dress and surroundings be clean. Observe the rules of physical, moral and spiritual hygiene.
These eighteen “Ities” will pave the way for you to march into the kingdom of God. They will open for you the gates of immortality. You will achieve great success in this life itself. A man who possesses these qualities in a very large measure is a saint indeed, who will be respected, adored and worshipped by one and all.

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Sadhana Tattva

Sadhana Tattva
OR
THE SCIENCE OF SEVEN CULTURES
For Quick Evolution of the Human BeingBy
Sri Swami Sivananda
INTRODUCTION
(a) An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory. Practice Yoga, Religion and Philosophy in daily life and attain Self-realization.
(b)These thirty-two instructions give the essence of the Eternal Religion (Sanatana Dharma) in its purest form. They are suitable for modern busy householders with fixed hours of work. Modify them to suit your convenience and increase the period gradually.
(c) In the beginning take only a few practicable resolves which form a small but definite advance over your present habits and character. In case of ill-health, pressure of work or unavoidable engagements replace your active Sadhana (spiritual practice) by frequent remembrance of God.
HEALTH CULTURE
1. Eat moderately. Take light and simple food. Offer it to God before you eat. Have a balanced diet. 2. Avoid spicy and hot foods, like chilies, garlic, onions, tamarind, etc., as far as possible. Give up tea, coffee, smoking, betels, meat and wine entirely. 3. Fast on Ekadasi days or once in a fortnight. Take milk, fruits or roots only. 4. Practice Yoga Asana (Hatha Yoga exercises) or physical exercises for 15 to 30 minutes every day. Take a long walk or play some vigorous games daily.
ENERGY CULTURE
5. Observe silence (Mouna) for 2 hours daily and 4 to 8 hours on Sundays. 6. Observe celibacy according to your age and circumstances. Restrict the indulgence to once a month. Decrease it gradually to once a year. Finally take a vow of abstinence for whole life.
ETHICAL CULTURE
7. Speak the TRUTH. Speak little. Speak kindly. Speak sweetly. 8. Do not injure anyone in thought, word or deed. Be kind to all. 9. Be sincere, straightforward and open-hearted in your talks and dealings. 10. Be honest. Earn by the sweat of your brow. Do not accept any money, things or favour unless earned lawfully. Develop nobility and integrity. 11. Control fits of anger by serenity, patience, love, mercy and tolerance. Forget and forgive. Adapt yourself to men and events.
WILL CULTURE
12. Live without sugar for a week or month. Give up salt on Sundays. 13. Give up cards, novels, cinemas and clubs. Fly from evil company. Avoid discussions with materialists. Do not mix with persons who have no faith in God or who criticize your Sadhana (spiritual practices). 14. Curtail your wants. Reduce your possessions. Have plain living and high thinking.
HEART CULTURE
15. Doing good to others is the highest religion. Do some selfless service for a few hours every week, without egoism or expectation of reward. Do your worldly duties in the same spirit. Work is worship. Dedicate it to God. 16. Give 2 to 10 percent of your income in charity every month. Share what you have with others. Let the world be your family. Remove selfishness. 17. Be humble and prostrate yourself to all beings mentally. Feel the Divine Presence everywhere. Give up vanity, pride and hypocrisy. 18. Have unwavering faith in God, the Bhagavad-Gita and your Guru. Make a total self-surrender to God and pray: “Thy Will be done; I want nothing.” Submit to the Divine Will in all events and happenings with equanimity. 19. See God in all beings and love them as your own Self. Do not hate anyone. 20. Remember God at all times or, at least, on rising from bed, during a pause in work and before going to bed. Keep a Mala (rosary) in your pocket.
PSYCHIC CULTURE
21. Study one chapter or ten to twenty-five verses of the Gita or your scriptures with meaning, daily. Learn the original language of your scripture, at least sufficient to understand it in original. 22. Memorize important and inspiring portions of your sacred scripture according to your capacity. Memorize also any inspiring quotations from other spiritual books. Keep a pocket version your scripture with you at all times. 23. Read the Ramayana, the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavata, the Upanishads, the Yogavasishtha or other religious books daily without fail. Study more during holidays. 24. Attend religious meetings and seek Satsanga (company) with saints at every opportunity. If not, create opportunities. Listen to spiritual discourses from learned and holy people. If possible, organize such functions on Sundays or holidays. 25. Visit a temple or place of worship daily. Preferably before you leave and upon your return from work, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. 26. Spend holidays and leave-periods, when possible, in the company of saints or practice Sadhana at holy places in seclusion.
SPIRITUAL CULTURE
27. Go to bed early. Get up at four o’clock. Answer calls of nature, clean your mouth and take a bath. 28. Recite some prayers and Kirtan Dhvanis (devotional songs). Practice Pranayama (breathing exercises), Japa (repetition of the Divine Name of God) and meditation in the early morning. Sit on Padma, Siddha, or Sukha Asana throughout, without movement, by gradual practice. While you meditate, forget the outside world totally. Gradually increase the period of meditation. 29. Perform the daily prayers of your religion. Do not fail to fulfil your obligatory duties. 30. Write your favourite Mantra or Name of God in a notebook for ten to thirty minutes, daily. 31. Sing the Names of God (Kirtan) and pray for half to one hour at night with family and friends. 32. Make annual resolves on the above lines. Regularity, tenacity and fixity are essential. Record your Sadhana in a spiritual diary daily. Review it every month and correct your failures.

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Introduction

In considering the role of celibacy in the spiritual life, it is important to remember that, in the context of Hindu society, the subject of brahmacharya or celibacy or self-restraint does not necessarily have any connection at all with the spiritual life, or sadhana (spiritual practices), or with Self-realisation as such. It is not normally discussed or recommended only with a view to promote spiritual life. The situation is totally different because of a certain uniqueness that has come to be part and parcel of the life of a Hindu in Indian-Hindu society.
That uniqueness is that our ancients have drawn up a certain social structure and also a pattern of social life for the individual. In ancient India, a person’s life was reckoned as 100 years, divided into four stages. The first stage was the student stage, or brahmacharya stage, where the young people were expected to study hard, build a good physique, cultivate a noble character and in all ways prepare themselves for their adult lives. During this first stage they were expected to observe strict celibacy.
The second stage was the householder stage, where the exercise of the sexual faculty was taken for granted and recognised as a legitimate part of human life. It was regarded as a fundamental, sacred duty of a family to create and offer progeny to form the next generation—for the perpetuation of society and also of the species. So here there was no question of celibacy in the strict sense of the term implying total abstinence. On the other hand, the exercise of sex was an indispensable duty for the householder. Of course, its exercise was not meant to be unbridled and unrestrained; otherwise it would be degrading. But it was given the full sanction of society and was considered to he something sacred and quite accepted.
The third stage of life was the retired stage, when the couple turned over to their sons the burdens of earning a living and themselves turned their minds to higher things. Here again brahmacharya was expected. The lawgivers said: “Do you want to go on being just a physical creature, bound down to physical consciousness, all your life? Now, raise your consciousness above its present total identification with the body and aspire to go higher!” So they said, restraint is necessary. But peculiarly enough this restraint was not an ordinary restraint; it was a sort of a challenge. It became part of their sadhana.
Then during the fourth stage, one’s entire life was to be devoted to God and God alone. One became a sannyasin, or monk, and then, of course, celibacy was automatically total. Therefore, the concept of brahmacharva was part and parcel of the Indian-Hindu social tradition. In its narrowest, restricted sense, brahmacharya meant complete celibacy, but in its broader sense, as it could be applied to the life of a householder, it meant moderation and self-restraint, not abusing the sex function, and strict fidelity to one’s partner.
Man is a mixture of three ingredients: first, an animal with all the physical propensities and sense urges that one shares in common with animals; second, the rational, logical human level; and third, the dormant Divinity, the sleeping God within. The whole of the spiritual life is a gradual elimination, eradication, of the animal within, and the refinement or purification and education of the entire human nature so that it stops its movement in all other directions and starts taking on an ascending vertical direction. Once the human nature is given an upward turn, one simultaneously starts awakening the sleeping Divinity with the help of all one’s spiritual practices.
If one knows that the spiritual process, the spiritual life, is the elimination of the animal, the refining and directing upwards of the human, and the awakening and unfoldment of the Divine, then all spiritual practices, including the role that brahmacharya plays, fall into their right place.
Swami Chidananda

The Role of Celibacy in the Spiritual Life

An Interview with
SWAMI CHIDANANDA
Question: Celibacy or brahmacharya has always been given a prominent place in the spiritual life, and we know that both Swami Sivananda and yourself have subscribed to its importance. Why is celibacy important and what is its role in the spiritual life?
Swamiji: One of the reasons for its importance is that we have received as part and parcel of our heritage from our spiritual past the concept and view of celibacy being a basic requirement, a prerequisite, of spiritual life. And this concept and view has continued to have a certain recognition over many, many centuries during which time Indian society has changed, and many other old concepts have been discarded.
The normal Hindu has always been progressive. He has never hesitated to change if he felt that the change would enhance his knowledge and take him in a better direction. And in coming into contact with views and knowledge from other societies, there has been an ongoing reappraisal of our ancient concepts and views. In spite of this we find that the concept of brahmacharya and its having an important role to play in the spiritual life has continued. It has stood the test of time; it has become time-honoured.
Had it not been something of enduring value, it would also have changed. But it has not. As it used to be regarded thousands of years ago, so is it regarded even today amongst spiritual teachers, gurus and yogis—with the same attitude of its being a necessary and important thing.
So, even though Swami Sivananda was very broadminded and up to date in his outlook, a modern sage—a prophet of the new age, as they say—he never hesitated to stick to tradition if he found that it had something of permanent value. He was most flexible, and he also could be inflexible. And that is his disciple also, Swami Chidananda, for the same reason.
Another reason I have always been an advocate of celibacy is that the towering spiritual personalities who have been a moulding influence in my life ever since I can remember—personalities like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo Ghosh—were all people who swore by celibacy. They were people who said that it is most important, indispensable. So naturally, when these people who were the source of my inspiration in the spiritual life were so forthright and absolutely clear—they didn’t seem to have any doubt about it—I said, well, this is it! So that decided the matter for me in my approach to the life spiritual.
Brahmacharya or celibacy is a rational process of preserving and conserving precious energy so that it can be utilised in other very essential and indispensable functions. And if it is preserved like this, it can be converted, just as tangible, gross water is converted into subtle steam. Then it can do wonders. A river may not have much power in it by itself. You may be easily able to row or swim across it. But, if it is dammed up and its waters conserved, then it has the power, when properly channelled, to turn huge turbines and produce electricity. The hot sun, even in summer, does not normally cause a fire, but if you concentrate its rays through a lens, those rays will immediately burn whatever they are focused on. That is what celibacy actually is.
Now, the interesting question is: What is the origin, the source, of this energy? After years and years of theory and discovery, modern physicists have arrived at the conclusion that what exists in nature is not palpable or solid matter as such. It is energy, energy that fills the entire cosmos, all space. Everything that exists is filled with unutterable energy, energy which takes so many forms. Everything that you see here, every force derives from that ultimate source of cosmic energy.
And our ancients have said that it is this cosmic energy that holds the heavenly bodies in their course. They are all kept moving by this mysterious, inexplicable, indescribable, unimaginable energy. And they regarded that energy as something divine, something that has neither a beginning nor an end. It is eternal and pervades everywhere. There is nowhere that it is not. And it is this energy, which not only keeps this universe going but countless such universes, that is present in living beings as the sex force.
So Hindus regarded this energy as sacred, something that is worthy of being worshipped, not frittered away. They said that this energy is none other than the manifestation of the Divine Mother, the cosmic energy. Therefore, it should be regarded with reverence.
This cosmic force manifests in our own system as prana (vital energy, life force). And prana is the precious reserve of the seeker. Any sense activity or sense experience consumes a lot of prana. And the activity that consumes the greatest amount of prana is the sex act. Gurudev has put it very strongly: “It shatters the entire nervous system.” Because it creates great excitement, great agitation, and such an intensity of feeling that as an aftermath it leaves the person exhausted and depleted.
The highest of all goals in human life—spiritual attainment—requires the maximum available pranic energy on all levels: mental, intellectual and emotional. It is through prana that one has to restrain one’s senses. It is through prana that one has to still the restless activity of the mind. It is through prana that one has to centralise all the scattered rays of the mind and make it one-pointed in concentration. It is through prana that one has to direct the concentrated mind upon the object of meditation.
Prana is required for spiritual reflection and discrimination. The thinking must be sharp and the intellect penetrating. To understand the inner implications of a guru’s instructions requires a special type of intelligence. You may be a very intellectual person, and you may immediately grasp the language meaning of something the guru is telling you, but if the guru is speaking of an abstruse subject not within the normal range of your ordinary human experience, you require a special subtle type of understanding. And that understanding develops through brahmacharya.
So as I said, all these various practices require the use of prana, and celibacy insures that an abundance of pranic reserve is available to the seeker. So viewed from this angle, it is a rational and very positive process.
Many orthodox Hindus have said that you can worship God, want to have union with Him, to attain His vision, but still marry and lead a normal life. But our ancients also knew that that is not an easy path, because there are so many distractions, so many pressures, so many tensions, so many demands made upon the person in family life, that to give yourself wholly and totally to God—well, anything may be possible, but not this.
You cannot serve God and Mammon. Mammon sums up the worldly life, earthly life. Because, if you marry, you want mammon. Without mammon you cannot look after your household, keep the home fires burning, the pot boiling, and do everything that is necessary. Only the married person knows all that he has to do. Therefore, they said that renunciation of the earthly life is necessary to go whole hog into the spiritual quest; and the entire energy potential is also necessary if you really and truly mean to make the supreme effort to throw yourself entirely into the spiritual pursuit and its necessary disciplines.
Gurudev Swami Sivananda himself built his intense penance and austerity in yoga practice upon the basis of brahmacharva. So what he spoke about was a leaf from his own book of life. He had had a brief episode of a householder’s life way back when he was in Malaysia as a doctor, and perhaps that also must have given him, being a doctor, an idea of how much expending of energy it constitutes. So all the more his comparative experience confirmed him in the belief of the importance of brahmacharya for the yogi and the spiritual person.
This is the rationale behind celibacy. If you conserve this vital energy and divert it to the spiritual process of contemplation, philosophical study and reflection, and meditation, it becomes successful, because you have concentrated your force and you are able to direct the concentrated force by focusing it upon your spiritual practices. If it is preserved, concentrated and diverted into a specific channel, it works wonders.
There is another reason why brahmacharya is important. I am not now talking about exceptional persons who have a sudden illumination and then they are once and for all lifted from the gross physical plane of body consciousness into another, never to return back. In one moment of illumination, Ramana Maharshi became established in “I am neither mind nor body, Immortal Self am I. I have neither time nor space, I was never born.” In one split second—one moment he was just an ordinary student and then suddenly he knows that he is what the Bhagavad Gita describes as “Fire cannot burn you; water cannot wet you; weapons cannot injure you; wind cannot dry you. You are unborn, permanent, eternal, beyond time. Death is nothing to you”—he became established once and for all in that experience, and he never budged from that state. All his life, no matter what was going on around him, it did not touch him. It did not affect him. I am not talking about such people.
Vedanta long ago probed into this subject of the human situation, and the sages saw clearly that 999 persons out of every 1000 or 9,999 out of every 10,000 were completely caught up in a state of “I am this body.” They knew of their identity only as a physical entity, a being with hands and feet and ears and eyes, eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, doing things. So they are totally body-bound. Their consciousness is held upon the level of the physical body.
This is the situation. But the goal of the spiritual seeker is Cosmic Consciousness, which is their inner reality beyond time, space, name and form. So, when you juxtapose their present state of consciousness and the experience they wish to attain, you can just imagine how impossible this would be if they go on perpetuating this total identification with the physical body and all its processes.
Among all these bodily processes, most have become mechanical. Most people are not intensely aware of eating, drinking, sleeping, voiding. All these things have become automatic. But the one process that most of them purposefully engage in, with great desire for it—wanting it, thinking about it, planning for it and going after it—is sex enjoyment, which means that this is a process that concentrates their entire consciousness, entire mind, entire attention upon the physical, their physical identity. From one angle the sex act is the acme of physicality or animality. It is a process that perforce directs your entire attention upon the physical, and even more, the full focusing of your desire and intention upon that part of your physical nature that you share in common with the entire animal kingdom. Is this going to be in any way helpful for attaining Cosmic Consciousness?
So here is a human being, the crown and glory of God’s creation, high above all the rest of the living species, going down to the gross, physical, material animal level and giving oneself totally to it—seeking it, wanting it, going after it, doing everything one can in order to obtain it, indulging in it, and wanting to have it always available. That means that one is voluntarily binding oneself down to a level of physical consciousness.
If you are a spiritual seeker, can you not see that you are working against yourself? You have to liberate your consciousness from the lesser levels and go on lifting it to progressively higher and higher levels of finer and more refined states. For if the whole of the spiritual process of illumination and enlightenment is a process of rising into a higher state of consciousness, it automatically implies liberating yourself from a lower state of consciousness. If you want to move northward it means moving away from the south.
And one of the things that helps you to free yourself from being caught in this physical level is celibacy. Cosmic Consciousness, Absolute Consciousness, is a far cry if you don’t recognise the necessity of liberating yourself from your total identification with the body.
Question: Are there particular stages in the spiritual life when celibacy becomes especially important or even essential?
Swamiji: Yes and no. From one point of view, celibacy forms the very foundation, and the foundation is not any later stage of a constructive process. It is the very first stage, the ABC stage. So we may say that it is not at some stage that it becomes important or indispensable, but that it is essential right from the very beginning.
Question: If you wanted to call it a stage, then it means you’d call it the stage where you start taking the spiritual life seriously.
Swamiji: Yes, seriously—when you say it and you mean what you say. If your aspiration is to be authentic and genuine, and if the aspiration is to take the form of an all-out commitment towards the spiritual experience and an all-out effort to move in that direction, then you must keep moving only in that direction. You cannot run after two things. Because then it will be taking one step forward and one step backwards, and you will never really progress.
The spiritual life starts with your recognition that as long as you keep going headlong in the pursuit of sense satisfaction and pleasure, you are not going to move one step. So all will be academic and theoretical. Our aspiration, our wanting spiritual life will only be in theory—a fancy and a feeling. You have not started. So the beginning stage itself of the spiritual life is a turning away from sense experience and sense indulgence and starting to move in the opposite direction.
It is perhaps precisely for this reason that Maharshi Patanjali put brahmacharya right at the very commencement of his eight-stage Raja Yoga and not at any later stage. It is one of the five vows that constitute the first stage. If he had thought that it was only important or essential at a later stage, he would have brought it in at the third or fourth stage. But no, he did it at the very beginning.
Swami Sivananda used to say: “Brahmacharya is the basis of immortality.” And in many places in the Upanishads it says: “Wisdom experience cannot come to one who has not his senses under restraint and who has not controlled the vagaries of his wandering mind.”
So I believe that it is not at some stage, but it is the all of the life spiritual. Because spiritual life is a transcendence of your human nature, human consciousness. And if it is a transcendence, you have to leave behind all that constitutes your human nature, your physicality. You will have to commence with it and keep on with it. You view celibacy in a positive manner, not as something anti-nature. You do not at all feel that you are doing any violence to yourself.
Finally, from a purely scientific and technical point of view, one of the yogas where celibacy is absolutely essential and indispensable is kundalini yoga. There is no compromise with that. Right from the beginning it is absolutely essential and indispensable. Otherwise it is dangerous to go into kundalini yoga which is based upon pranayama and many mudras, bandhas and asanas.
That’s the “no” part of the answer.
The “yes” part is to state that in the total context of spiritual life in India, there are certain stages and states where one can be highly spiritual and yet at the same time be leading a normal sex life. That is true especially in the bhakti path—people who are following the path of love of God, devotion, prayer and worship, chanting the Divine Name, singing His glories. This path does not make any distinction between a celibate brahmachari, a married householder, and a retired couple living a spiritually oriented life after they have finished their duties as householders.
So the path of devotion seems to be a dimension of spiritual life in India where total celibacy in its sense of absolute abstinence is not insisted upon. It is not looked upon with disfavour, but it is not insisted upon either. But because the sexual act consumes a great amount of pranic energy, naturally self-restraint is also important. And promiscuous sex was never countenanced, never looked upon with favour. So a sort of celibacy in the form of self-control and fidelity in your sexual relationship with your recognised legal partner can also be regarded as brahmacharya. Here, the husband looks upon all other women as mothers. He has only one woman and that is his lawfully wedded wife. He is what is called an eka-patni-vrata husband, one who has taken the vow of a single wife. There is no question of having a mistress or of even thinking of another woman. And the wife bases her life on the vow of pati-vrata. In a total sense, she has only one part

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20 Important Spiritual Instructions
By
Sri Swami Sivananda
These twenty instructions contain the very essence of all Yoga Sadhana, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Yoga will all come to one who follows them whole-heartedly. They are the unfailing keys to quick and effective development and culture of the physical, mental, moral and spiritual self of man.
1. BRAHMAMUHURTA
Get up at 4 a.m. daily. This is Brahmamuhurta which is extremely favourable for Sadhana. Do all your morning spiritual Sadhana during this period from 4 a.m. to 6:30 or 7 a.m. Such Sadhana gives quick and maximum progress.
2. ASANA
Sit on Padmasana (lotus pose), Siddhasana (adept’s pose) or Sukhasana (any pose you like) for your Japa and meditation for half an hour, facing east or north. Increase the period gradually to three hours. Practice Sirshasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) for maintenance of health and Brahmacharya. Take light physical exercises as walking, etc., regularly. Do twenty rounds of easy, comfortable Pranayama (breathing exercises). Do not strain yourself while doing Pranayama.
3. JAPA
You can repeat any Mantra (sacred syllable), such as pure Om or Om Namo Narayanaya, Sri Ram, Sita Ram, Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram, Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Om Saravanabhavaya Namah, Hari Om, or Gayatri (a sacred Vedic Mantra), according to your taste or inclination, from 108 times to 21,600 times daily. Devotees of Christ may repeat the name Jesus or Hail Mary, Mother of Jesus. Parsis, Sikhs and Muslims may select a name or Mantra from the Zend Avesta, Granth Sahib or Koran respectively.
4. DIETETIC DISCIPLINE
Take Sattvic food. Give up chillies, tamarind, garlic, onion, sour articles, oil, mustard, asafoetida. Observe moderation in diet (Mitahara). Do not overload the stomach. Give up those things which the mind likes best for a fortnight once or twice in a year. Eat simple simple food. Milk and fruits help concentration. Take food as medicine to keep the life going. Eating for enjoyment is a sin. Give up salt and sugar for a week or a fortnight. You must be able to live on rice, dhal and bread without any pickle. Do not ask for extra salt for dhal, and sugar for tea, coffee and milk. People taking non-vegetaraian diet should try their best to gradually give up flesh-eating as completely as possible. They will be immensely benefited.
5. MEDITATION
Have a separate meditation room under lock and key. If this is not possible then a corner of the room should be set apart with a small cloth screen or curtain drawn across. Keep the room spotlessly clean.
6. SVADHYAYA
Study systematically the Gita, Ramayana, Bhagavatam, Vishnu-Sahasranama, Lalita-Sahasranama, Adityahridaya, Upanishads, Yoga Vasishta, Bible, Imitation of Christ, Zend Avesta, Quran, the Tripitakas, the Granth Sahib and other religious books from half an hour to one hour daily, and have Suddha Vichara (pure thoughts).
7. ELEVATE THE MIND
Get by heart some prayer – Slokas (prayer verses), Stotras (hymns) and repeat them as soon as you sit in the Asana before starting Japa or meditation. This will elevate the mind quickly.
8. BRAHMACHARYA
Preserve the vital force (Veerya (seminal energy)) very, very carefully. Veerya is God in motion or manifestation (Vibhuti). Veerya is all power. Veerya is all money. Veerya is the essence of life, thought and intelligence. This instruction is not for bachelors only. Householders also must follow it as far as possible. They must be extremely moderate in their marital connections with their spouse. This is very important.
9. CHARITY
Do charity regularly, every month, or even daily according to your means. Never fail in this item. If necessary forego some personal wants but keep up this charity regularly.
10. HAVE SATSANG
Give up bad company, smoking, meat and alcoholic liquors entirely. Have constant Satsang (association with holy people). Do not develop any evil habits. Deliberately exert to develop positive virtuous qualities.
11. FAST
Fast on Ekadasi (11th day of the Hindu lunar fortnight) or live on milk and fruits only. Christians must fast on alternate Sundays, Muslims on alternate Fridays, and Parsis on a suitable day every fortnight.
12. JAPA MALA
Have a Japa Mala (rosary) around your neck or in your pocket or underneath your pillow at night. This will remind you of God. Twirl the beads during your leisure. You should repeat the Name at all times, whatever task you may be engaged in.
13. OBSERVE MOUNA
Observe Mouna (vow of silence) for a couple of hours daily. Do not make gestures and inarticulate noises during the period of silence.
14. DISCIPLINE OF SPEECH
Speak the truth at all cost. Speak a little. Speak sweetly. Always utter encouraging words. Never condemn, criticize or discourage. Do not raise your voice and shout at little children or subordinates.
15. BE CONTENT
Reduce your wants. If you have four shirts, reduce the number to three or two. Lead a happy, contented life. Avoid unnecessary worry. Be mentally detached. Have plain living and high thinking. Think of those who do not possess even one-tenth of what you have. Share with others.
16. PRACTICE LOVE
Never hurt anybody. Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah (Non-injury is the highest virtue). Control anger by love, Kshama (forgiveness) and Daya (compassion). Serve the sick and the poor with love and affection. This is service of God.
17. BE SELF RELIANT
Do not depend upon servants. Self-reliance is the highest of all virtues.
18. HAVE SELF-ANALYSIS
Think of the mistakes you have committed during the course of the day, just before retiring to bed (self-analysis). Keep a daily spiritual diary and self-correction register as Benjamin Franklin did. Maintain a daily routine and resolve-form. Do not brood over past mistakes.
19. DO YOUR DUTY
Remember that death is awaiting you at every moment. Never fail to fulfil your duties. Have pure conduct (Sadachara).
20. REMEMBER GOD
Think of God as soon as you wake up and just before you go to sleep, and at all other times whether engaged in any work or not. Repeat His Name always. Surrender yourself completely to God (Saranagati).
This is the essence of all spiritual Sadhana. It will lead you to liberation. All these spiritual canons must be rigidly observed. You must not give any leniency to the mind.

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