I must apologize for my extended absence from this blog. My attention went elsewhere for a time, but I am back and now my intention is to write regularly on this blog. We have two more aspects of Yama and Niyama to cover, Svadhyaya (self reflection) and Ishvara Pranidhana ( surrender to God).
When we have completed these two aspects we will move on to discussion of other aspects of yogic teachings such as karma, samskara, the five elements, Ayurveda and the doshas, prana, meditation, Samadhi, Brahmachakra, and other relevant topics to our inner journeys. Please let me know what topics interest you the most to discuss. Also I invite you to share your personal experience and insights on each topic as we go along. We all have personal experiences and insights that can be enriching for everyone when shared. So please share your thoughts.
Svadhyaya the next aspect of the Niyamas, the practices to be cultivated, is self inquiry, or study and contemplation of the nature of Self. Svadhyaya is the search for knowledge and the practice of understanding truth. The word comes from the root sva (soul or self) and dhyaya, rooted in the word dhyia (to meditate, reflect upon, study or contemplate). Thus, Svadhyaya connotes self-study or reflection upon the nature of the soul or Atman.
It starts like most of the practices of Yama and Niyama with basic activities like reading books on spiritual life, articles on the internet on yoga and meditation, reading sacred texts, watching webinars or videos and going to relevant lectures, seminars and presentation. In other words, learning from other people’s personal experience and insights.
It can also involve studying with a Guru, a man or woman of wisdom who knows the way and can guide you. There is great benefit from being in the presence of spiritual masters and holy men and women. Many radiate a presence that has a direct influence on your mind, bringing it to a more subtle awareness.
Knowledge is not only for the mind. It is also for the heart, which is often wiser than the mind. Learning about devotion, singing the names of the gods and goddesses, chanting, doing kirtan, listening to stories of the lives and experiences of spiritual women and men open the heart. This is another form in which knowledge can come to you. Even myths and stories bring spiritual inspiration and hold the wisdom of the ages. Also, poetry that speaks the language of the heart holds truths only the heart can recognize; it gives wisdom and opens a doorway. The heart knows truth, recognizes it. Let these sources of divine knowledge and wisdom awaken your heart and inspire you to Self-knowledge.
Once you have explored what others have to say and their experiences, then comes the inner practice of self-inquiry. This involves asking your self who am I? It involves contemplating your own nature and trying to understand the nature of Self. What is consciousness? How do you become Self aware?
The internal practice of Svadhyaya is deeply contemplative. It involves truthful (Satya) self-observation and self-reflection. This may take the form of impartially observing your thoughts, words and behaviors or sitting in silent meditation and studying the Self within. This internal practice of Svadhyaya awakens when you take the knowledge that you acquire through your study and research and integrate it into your own experience.
When this internal practice of Svadhyaya is deeply cultivated, you become able attain direct access to the infinite knowledge that lies within the minds of all beings. You develop your intuition and you become able to access intuitional knowledge. When this happens, you will automatically know what is real and what is illusion.
So this aspect of spiritual practice is extremely important. I would encourage each of you to move forward in cultivating this aspect of your practice.