PRACTICES AND RITUALS
“ For consistent progress, sadhana should be performed regularly, without fail, at the same time each day, preferably in the early hours before dawn.”
- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
Sādhanā (साधना) Spiritual practices exercise our divine nature by giving us time to experience it. During this time we focus on life’s inner purpose, which is to make spiritual progress. Puja, japa, scriptural study, hatha yoga and meditation are all forms of sadhana. These practices harnesses our instinctive-intellectual nature, allowing unfoldment into the superconscious realizations and innate abilities of the soul.
Meditation (ध्यान) is the yoga practice of quieting the mind, the body, and the emotions, and go deep within oneself. When your body is still and your mind and emotions are quiet, you can find peace and discover new knowledge inside yourself. Meditation is the study of awareness, and therefore a study of yourself, God, and the universe. With practice, meditation becomes a door to contemplation, where you experience the highest states of consciousness and see the clear white light of your soul. By learning to meditate, your life becomes more interesting and less stressful. You become more alive and alert, more present and able to live in the eternal now.
Pūja (पूजा) is a ritual in which offerings are made to the Divine with devotion to earn his love and blessings. Every morning, Karma Yogis gather in the shrine room to honor God. The act of pūja is also a symbolic offering of one’s whole mind and body, thoughts, desires, and actions to God as a mark of devotion and surrender. It’s a sophisticated practice of letting go that allows us to develop a personal relationship with the Divine.
Here, we practice daily Ganesha Pūja. Ganesha is one of the most important Gods of Hinduism, as he is the first one devotees go to before any other God. He is the ruler and remover of obstacles, and is whom devotees go to for help with overcoming worldly karmas.
Hatha Yoga (हठयोग) is a system of handling the physical body so that the mind and the nerve system are calmed and quieted. It is primarily a means to prepare oneself for meditation. Hatha yoga is founded on a principle of putting the body into a position so that the nerve currents in the body get tuned up to a perfect pitch. It is like tuning the strings on a violin; if you tune the violin just right, then each string will be in harmony with the other strings.
Karma yoga (कर्मयोग) is selfless service, or "seva." In its broadest sense, karma yoga is spiritualized action. It is doing each and every task consciously, selflessly, excellently, as an offering to the Divine. Satguru Yogaswami advised devotees, “Whatever work you have to do, do it well. That in itself is yoga.” Work done in this spirit is a form of worship. Doing our ordinary daily duties becomes a powerful sadhana that contributes to our spiritual progress. This yoga makes us more focused, effective and fulfilled.
At Siva Ashram, Karma yoga is an important part of our daily life. Everyday we have around 3-4hours of Karma yoga, where we are assigned a task for the day. As we do our task, we try to surrender to God all of the work being done, and to let the Divine be the receiver of the fruits of our actions, learning true selfless service. Since we live as a community, selfless service is an important part of living in coherence with each other and building this energy of divine love in the sangam. Even more than this, karma yoga is a strong means in building a connection with the Divine and realizing that God is the only actor and that the work being done by you is actually His work being done through you. In this way, karma yoga can help you to see the truth of what God is, and that he is all. He is the giver, he is the receiver, he is the actor and the acted.
Bhajan (भजन) Singing is a powerful form of sadhana (spiritual practice), an expression of bhakti (devotion) that opens the heart, lifts the spirit and directs our energies toward the Divine. We regularly gather in the evening to chant in unison, generally led in turn by one among us and then another, singing our praises to the Gods to the accompaniment of the harmonium and drums.
Mauna (मौनम) We observe one day of silence twice a month. But mauna is about training our minds, not just our mouths. It is deeply transformative because it helps us quiet our thoughts and, more importantly, acquire the mindfulness that allows us to gain a higher level of spiritual awareness.