Nine approaches to spiritual practices
Swami J's Newsletter
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July 14, 2001
The science of yoga is described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
Three of the sutras (sentences or verses; literally "threads") talk
of nine different kinds of yogis or students, whether they are slow,
moderate, or quick, and whether (within those three) they are gentle,
middling, or intense in their practices. This can seem so simplistic
as to be easily overlooked. But there's something very practical in
this, which goes far beyond merely categorizing people.
Examples will help. Imagine a monk who goes off to the forest to do
meditation, contemplation, and prayer. We might think of this person
as one who is on the fast track to enlightenment (being the quicker
of the three choices of slow, moderate, or quick). But the other
three dimensions ask of intensity (gentle, middling, or intense). How
is the time used? What if such a monk uses very little intensity?
What if such monks just waste their time, sitting around daydreaming
or gossiping with their monk friends? They may be on the fast track
to enlightenment in the sense of time, but that time may be of little
value if not well utilized.
Many students of meditation who live in the busy world feel they do
not have time for their practices of meditation, contemplation, and
prayer. It can easily seem that the deeper practices and experiences
are reserved for the monks. Or, it can seem like since there is not
enough time now, these practices can be done later in life, when
there is theoretically more time, such as after the children are
grown and gone, and retirement from career comes.
However, there's another choice, at the other end of the spectrum.
Imagine a person with a full-time job, a spouse, a couple children,
and the many activities that go along with such a lifestyle. Imagine
that those few, precious minutes of silence in the early morning and
late evening are used wisely, as a time of transition between the
outer and the inner, and that during those times the challenges of
the day are simply let go of, while the Deeper is remembered with
full devotion and love. Imagine that more and more, during the day,
one simply "remembers" their inner Self, Truth, God, the divine, or
whatever you choose to call it. And imagine that the day is lived in
a spirit of selfless-service to others, whether family, friends, co-
workers, clients or customers.
Ask yourself this: "Am I, and my lifestyle such that I better follow
the fast track, the middling path, or the slower path?" Be honest
But then, most importantly, ask yourself "How am I willing to use my
time for practice of meditation, contemplation, and prayer? Will I
use my small amount of private time effectively, lovingly, and
intensely? Or, will I waste my precious quiet time? Will I learn the
principles of meditation in action, of karma yoga (the yoga of action
in the world), so that I may intensely (though gently) do my
practices right in the middle of daily life, so as to not need so
much extra time? Am I willing to practice self-awareness all day
long, and to `remember' That which is within?"
Ask yourself this question, "Which is better, to be a monk in the
forest, with lots of time which is wasted, while dreaming of the
world, or is it better to be at home, living with family and friends,
while quietly remembering the Himalayas in the heart?"
You may even find that just a little bit more time creeps into your
May your meditations today bring you a glimpse of peace, happiness,
In loving service,