Introduction to Sadhana
Sadhana is a spiritual discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal, which is to realize the divinity within you, which is Pure Awareness (Shiva). It is the movement from being a contracted individual back to your essential divine nature.
To be fully in the spirit of Kashmir Shaivism we have to start from Shiva and keep going back to Shiva. We assume the point of view of Shiva, which is Pure Awareness. “Shiva Shivena sadhana” means “the sadhana of Shiva is Shiva”. We become Shiva by being Shiva.
Easier said than done right? Well, will we need a little (or a lot) of trust, faith or conviction.
The knowledge of the Self is conviction.
– Shiva Sutras 1.17
As a yogi, our goal is to reach absolute certainty of our true Shiva nature, of which we are of course very much in doubt in the moment, otherwise we would be living in a very different way. When a yogi holds the idea, I am the Self of the universe, Shiva, with unwavering conviction, he is established in the Self. One may have heard and understood the teaching but residual doubt and negative emotion can wash it away (concealment). Sadhana then becomes a process of strengthening the hold of ‘I am the Self, and weakening the hold of doubt. As sadhana progresses, conviction gradually overcomes doubt.
How do we Practice Sadhana
Step 1. Choose a Practice
The first stage of sadhana is to choose a practice. Even the most simple sadhana will be challenging to the newcomer. Consider the sadhana of lighting a candle every night, then immediately blowing it out. Nothing more or nothing less. Do this for one month. You will observe the mind coming up with every reason why you shouldn’t do it and every excuse why you missed a few (or many) nights. Yet by accepting it as a sadhana, you make a choice to do it and it becomes a spiritual practice.
Other practices can be puja, yoga asana, mantra, meditation, reading scriptures, etc.
Step 2. Consistent Practice
The second aspect of sadhana relates to consistent practice—doing something at periodic intervals. This typically would be at the same time in the same place everyday. Yet it doesn’t have to be everyday; it could be every other day, as long as it is consistent. Once the schedule is selected, the challenge of sadhana is to stick with it—not to miss the appointed time. This is a big test to our commitment to the spiritual life.
Protect your practice. Protect your sadhana. Protect your consciousness. And understand that there are levels of enactment: How you are in society; how you are with your friends and neighbours; how you are in the intimacy of your own heart.
These are different domains of life. Your sadhana belongs to the most intimate domain of your life. It therefore must be protected so that it grows. What does your sadhana actually accomplish for you? This is an important consideration.
– Paul Muller-Ortega
Step 3. Conscious During Practice
Yet choice and regularity are not the only aspects of sadhana. If they were, simply dressing every day would be a sadhana. We choose what clothes to wear and we do it. Dressing could be a sadhana, yet it is just a mechanical action done every day. Thus, the final key to a successful sadhana is conscious intention.
Step 4. Make Everything your Sadhana
The great sages realized that all things in our experience, which is made up of the divine Shakti herself, can be used for spiritual practice. For the Tantric, anything and everything was a potential doorway to the infinite. The stronger and the more intense the worldly energy, the more the potential it offers for realisation.
That by which you fall, will be that by which you rise (see Kundalini).
– Tantric Proverb
You literally climb back up the pathways that Shakti descended. Tantric sadhana is all about reversing the process of manifestation.
What are the Fruits of our Sadhana?
Often during our practice of devotion to the ever present God-Consciousness within, we will ask ourselves the fundamental question:
What are the fruits of my sadhana, how do I see my practice of God-Consciousness manifest itself?
– Common Spiritual Question
One immediate result of sadhana is the remembrance of “who we really are” during the brief moments the sadhana takes place. Repetitively remembering our inner essence nature is at the heart of all spiritual growth. One day we will remember our spiritual essence in every moment. That is the enlightened state.
Well, it appears that I won’t be reborn. But if I were to be reborn, it would be terrific. I would get a new body and do my sadhana with great zest!
– Baba Muktananda
The fruits of your sadhana are all around, the magic is right in front of you. Other than realizing your essential nature, sadhana also helps to “open your eyes” so that you can notice the jaw-dropping magnificence of Shakti that unfolds perfectly in each and every moment, until your Heart becomes so saturated with bliss and fullness, that you have to calm yourself down.
These polar opposite moments of stillness and action (see Nataraja), continue in an endless cycle. The dynamic and beautiful dance of Shiva and Shakti, which takes place in the Heart.