The following article is taken from Atma Jyoti Blog
(The Yogi’s Retreat from the World
May 23rd, 2009 • By Swami Nirmalananda Giri
How to Develop an Effective Spiritual Life )
There is no doubt that the yogi may have to work among the noise of urban business, that telephone, fax, and computer may be ringing, buzzing, and beeping, and people be talking, talking, and talking throughout the day. But when the work time is over it should really be over and the guidelines given by Krishna should be adhered to as much as possible. Here they are:
“The yogi should retire into a solitary place, and live alone. He must exercise control over his mind and body. He must free himself from the hopes and possessions of this world. He should meditate on the Atman unceasingly.” (Bhagavad Gita 6:10)
Retire into a solitary place. In the thirteenth chapter Krishna will say: “Adore me only with heart undistracted; turn all your thought toward solitude, spurning the noise of the crowd, its fruitless commotion.” (Bhagavad Gita 13:10) This can be done in two ways.
Perpetually you should live in a quiet place where after your daily work you can go and be by yourself, where the world can be shut out and forgotten about. If the place is in a solitary location away from the town or neighbors, that is best, but any place where you can shut and lock the door and be alone is sufficient–if it is quiet and free from noises of the world and the worldly. Even if you have to move occasionally to ensure this, you will be glad you did.
In the thirteenth chapter of Autobiography of a Yogi, the master yogi, Ram Gopal Muzumdar, asked Yogananda: “Are you able to have a little room where you can close the door and be alone?” When he said that he did have such a room, the saint told him: “That is your cave. That is your sacred mountain. That is where you will find the kingdom of God.”
Occasionally you should go away even from your home and live in solitude–not in some busy ashram where you will be pestered to do “karma yoga” and be expected to take part in “spiritual” group activities. It is better to stay at home than waste your time in this way. Instead, you should find a place where you can really be all to yourself. If you can prepare your food and eat in solitude, this is good, but if you can go somewhere for (vegetarian) meals where you need speak to no one socially and can immediately go back to your place, that is also good, though not as good. A truly quiet hotel that has room service can be perfectly acceptable, but if you can be in some kind of house or cabin, or room in a single-story building, it is better.
Sri Ramakrishna had this to say about such solitude:
“It is very necessary now and then to retire into solitude and think of him. In the beginning it is very difficult to keep the mind on God without retiring into solitude.
“When a plant is young it is necessary to put a fence round it. Without a fence it is eaten up by goats and cows. To meditate you should withdraw yourself within or retire to a secluded spot or into the forest and always discriminate between the real and the unreal. God alone is truth; namely, the reality, and all the rest is unreal and transitory. Discriminating in this manner renounce the transient things from the mind.…
“Keshab Sen, Pratap and others told me, ‘Sir, ours is the view of King Janaka.’ I said, ‘One doesn’t become King Janaka by mere words of mouth. King Janaka first performed so many austerities in solitude. Do something first. Then only you may become King Janaka.’…
“And notice also that this very mind acquires knowledge, dispassion and devotion by dwelling on God in solitude.… The world is water and the mind is like milk. If you pour milk into water they get mixed and you cannot find pure milk anymore. If you churn butter after turning milk into curd and put it in water it will float. So first churn the butter of knowledge and devotion by following spiritual practices in solitude. That butter will never mix. Even if you put it in the water of the world it will float.”
Sri Mahendranath Gupta, known as “M,” was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the recorder of these words in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. In Yogananda’s autobiography he is called “Master Mahashaya, the blissful devotee.” He followed these words of Sri Ramakrishna all his life. He had several isolated places right in Calcutta, known only to himself, where he would go for days at a time to practice meditation. On occasion he would come home for meals and then go back to his secret haven. At other times he left Calcutta for a solitary ashram owned by him.
Both forms of solitude–at home and away–are necessary for the yogi.
By Swami Nirmalananda Giri