Recently a letter has come to the ashram from a devotee in Orissa. The devotee has been practising the normal meditation on his ishta devata, but he seems to be feeling a call to meditate on the Universal and is wondering whether he should heed that call. That would seem to bring up a counter-question. Where is the call coming from? Is it some idea in the mind that it would be a good idea to meditate on the Universal or even an ambition to feel superior by meditating on the Universal rather on the istha devata? Or is the call from something deep within? If it is the former, of course the advice will be to follow the guidance of Lord Krishna, who points out to Arjuna in Chapter 12 of the Gita that very few are fit to meditate on the Impersonal. On the other hand, if the call is coming from somewhere other than the ego, from deep within, then it is the Universal wanting to meditate on Itself, and it will come about in a very natural way.
This brings up a question of how much we should listen to specific sadhana teachings. It is rather interesting that in the very early days Pujya Swami Chidanandaji used to put considerable emphasis on repetition of God’s name and on brahmacharya. In recent years, if you study his talks, there is very little mention, relatively speaking, on these two subjects. Not that Swamiji has changed his viewpoint on them, but he seems to prefer to save his instructions to relatively general ones, which, if we wanted to summarize them, could be, "Whatever you are now doing, do more of it."
In other words, the important thing isn’t so much what we think or how we feel, but, as the great philosopher Kant pointed out, it is where our will is. Kant pointed out that we often identify ourselves with what we think or what we feel, but in actual fact, our will is much closer to who we really are. But then, what is it that we are willing? We seem to have one will that wants to take us towards worldly things, and we have another will that wants to take us towards God. Thus ultimately it becomes a matter of identification. Are we going to identify with and follow that will that takes us towards worldly things or that part of ourselves that wants God.
Ultimately, we may discover that we transcend both, but in the meantime our task is to put all our energy into that part of ourselves that wants God. How that expresses itself is not nearly as important as the amount of effort we put behind our will. It is how much we want God, backed by our effort, that counts. It means putting everything within us behind our effort. As Swamiji so frequently points out: "There is not much use pouring water into a bowl if it has got a hole in the bottom." We must be careful how much of our energy we allow to leak out in worldly pursuits. Everything must be bent to our sadhana.
We all have to follow worldly pursuits of one sort or another, but they too must be brought into our sadhana and offered to God. That will purify them and we will get to know whether we are following those pursuits for our sake or because it is God’s will for us. In the final analysis the one thing that Swamiji emphasises is that every part of ourselves, every activity, must be an offering to the Divine, keeping our goal constantly in mind.
Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda
Source: Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh