By Patrick Horn (“Rishi”)
Swami Vivekananda says, “The soul is one with Freedom, and the soul is one with Existence, and the soul is one with Knowledge. The Sat-Chit-Ânanda — Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute — is the nature, the birthright of the Soul, and all the manifestations that we see are Its expressions, dimly or brightly manifesting Itself…. This idea seems to be the most prominent in Vedanta, and, as I have said, it appears to me that every religion holds it. I have yet to know the religion which does not. It is the one universal idea working through all religions…. The monistic Vedanta is the simplest form in which you can put truth.” Truth will make you Free.
Swamiji’s fellow monastic Swami Abhedananda developed the work in New York and traveled in America between 1897 and 1921. He said, “Very few indeed in this world can realize we are living the life of a slave… the majority delude themselves by thinking that they are free, consequently, they like their present condition and do not care for any other.” He outlines initiation as seven steps. First, the awakening of the soul: “We must wake up and see things as they are in reality and not as they appear to be…. When the soul is awakened, it begins to see how far the animal nature leads us and what is the next step, where we are going, what we are doing, what all this means.” Second, purification of the heart by honesty, control of the senses and mind, disinterested love of humanity, and unselfish work. The third step is right discrimination; the fourth step is non-attachment. The fifth step is spiritual enlightenment. “We then understand we are not of this world. This world is not our home.” The sixth step is spiritual illumination. “Thereafter, nothing remains unknown…. Rising above the celestial pleasures then you will become divine…. all the divine qualities will reveal through you.” The seventh step is superconsciousness and the Vision of God.
A similar method of realization is described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (c. 400 CE). First, yama – self-control in five ways: ahimsa – peace in mind, mouth, and hand; satya – sincerity and honesty; asteya – freedom from hoarding and greed; aparigraha – austerity and simple lifestyle; and brahmacharya – association with righteous company and transformation of needs for food and sex. Second, niyama – discipline by five practices: shoaca – clean body and home, correct diet, simplicity in dress; santosha – contentment; tapas – service and generosity; sradhyaya – inquiry and study; ishwarapranidhana – attention to God through devotional practices. Third, asana – body postures as preparation for meditation. Fourth, pranayama – breath control and command of vitality. There is a need for right guidance when attempting these exercises; if done incorrectly or in the wrong context, madness and death are possible. The fifth step is pratyahara – withdrawal to solitude; withdrawal from senses, withdrawal from thought. The sixth step is dharana – concentration. The seventh step is dhyana – contemplation. This leads to samadhi – unitary consciousness, extrasensory perception, intuitive inspiration, and absorption in the timeless Reality.