The life, philosophy and mission of Swami Madhavnath is based upon the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Since it is difficult to understand the subtle meaning of such texts, saints undertake the mission of explaining them to the masses. They explain the intricacies of the meaning of these texts according to the level of spiritual understanding of the people who come to them.

If these people are spiritual aspirants, they not only explain the theory but also give practical tips regarding the spiritual practices to be pursued. This task can really be done only by those saints who have attained Self-realization themselves. Swami Madhavnath was one such saint. He also had a deep study of the scriptures and the power of impressing spirituality on the minds of people.

Over the years, Swami Madhavnath responded to hundreds of questions asked by people from all kinds of backgrounds and especially by spiritual aspirants with different levels of experience and understanding. Here follows a selection:

1.  How is spirituality (Adhyatma) relevant to my life?
2.  What is meant by leading a spiritual life?
3.  What is Self-realization (Atma-jnana)?
4.  What is the nature of the Self (Atma)?
5.  How can I attain Self-realization?
6.   What are the different spiritual practices (Sadhana)?
7.   Will I need a spiritual guide (Sadguru) to help me in my spiritual practice?
8.   What is the role of the spiritual guide in my progress towards Self-realization?
9.  Can my daily duties / actions (Karma) help me to attain Self-realization?
10.  What is meditation?
11.  How can ‘no-mind’ state be attained?
12.  How does meditation lead to Self-realization?
13.  What is devotion (Bhakti)? How can it be practised?
14.  How does devotion lead to Self-realization?
15.  If spiritual practice is undertaken, how can I assess my spiritual progress?
1. How is spirituality (Adhyatma) relevant to my life?

Generally speaking, the happiness in your present life is always dependent upon something or the other. If your wishes are fulfilled, you are happy, and if they are not, you are frustrated. You are always in search of happiness but cannot really find permanent happiness because your happiness is dependent on sensual pleasures, and on the outside world. Your happiness is both conditional and temporary. It is simply a state of mind.

Spirituality is relevant to your life because it teaches you to enjoy the unconditional and eternal joy that is within you. This inner joy is not a state of mind. It is the Pure Bliss of the Self (Atma)/ soul. Spirituality is that branch of knowledge which is concerned with the Self. It shows you the path towards realizing the Self, the nature of which is Pure Bliss. It enables you to awaken the divine potential within you and lead your daily life on a higher plane of consciousness.

2. What is meant by leading a spiritual life?

There is no separate kind of life that is called a spiritual life. It is not necessary to give up worldly life in order to lead a spiritual life.

Actually, leading a spiritual life simply means leading your ordinary life on a higher plane of consciousness. In other words, it means leading your daily life on a higher level by dedicating it to the pursuit of the Self. A spiritual life is one in which you realize the divine spark within you and subsequently experience Divinity everywhere. Naturally, such a life will be filled with virtues like love, peace, forgiveness, compassion and humility. It will not only make the person who leads such a life happy, but also those who come in contact with him.

3. What is Self-realization (Atma-jnana)?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, ‘Who Am I?’ Normally, you are aware of yourself as being limited to only your body, mind and intellect. You identify with this ‘outer self ’ because all your activities are performed through your body, mind and intellect. You use words like ‘I did,’ ‘I thought,’ ‘I decided,’ without ever stopping to ask the question ‘Who really am I?’

Actually, the body, mind and intellect are only instruments through which actions are performed. They can function only due to the presence of the Self. The realization that I am nothing but the Self and total identification with this Self is Self-realization. In other words, the realization that I am separate or detached from my body, mind and intellect and that I am one with the all-pervading Divinity is Self-realization.

4. What is the nature of the Self (Atma)?

The nature of the Self is Existence Absolute (Sat), Consciousness Absolute (Chit), and Bliss Absolute (Anand). It is unborn, eternal, permanent and primeval. It is unchanging and indestructible. It is all-pervading.

5. How can I attain Self-realization?

Actually Self-realization, the awareness ‘I am the Self,’ is already present within you. It is not to be acquired from outside. When false notions and impurities are removed it unfolds itself. Hence purification is a prerequisite for Self-realization.

In order to remove the impurities and false notions that come in the way of Self-realization, spiritual practice must be undertaken.

6. What are the different spiritual practices (Sadhana)?

There are many spiritual practices. The main spiritual practices are meditation, recalling / repeating the name of God and maintaining constant awareness of the Self.

Other spiritual practices include the reading of scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita, listening to discourses on them, making pilgrimages, performing ritualistic worship, chanting prayers, etc.

In addition to these, the worldly duties that you perform are also part of your spiritual practice. It is important to remember that they must be performed with detachment and in a spirit of service to God.

7. Will I need a spiritual guide (Sadguru) to help me in my spiritual practice?

A spiritual guide is certainly necessary for the attainment of Self-realization. Even for simple skills like swimming and driving we need a guide. Spirituality is subtle science. Therefore, only a spiritual guide who has attained Self-realization himself can give the necessary guidance.

8. What is the role of the spiritual guide in my progress towards Self-realization?

The spiritual guide initiates the disciple into spirituality. He awakens the dormant divine energy within the disciple and also explains the method of the spiritual practice to be undertaken.

While the sustained efforts of the spiritual aspirant (sadhak) are absolutely necessary only his own efforts cannot suffice. It is with the grace of the spiritual guide that a disciple who follows exactly the given spiritual practice attains Self-realization.

9. Can my daily duties / actions (Karma) help me to attain Self-realization?

Your actions can lead you towards Self-realization if you renounce the ego-centric consciousness that ‘I am the doer of the action.’ Your duties should be performed in a spirit of selfless sacrifice without desire for the fruit of action. They must be performed conscientiously, with great love and respect and dedicated to God.

It must be remembered that only those actions should be performed, which are good for the welfare of the individual, society and nation, and which are within the framework of righteousness. Nevertheless, it is the attitude, motive and spiritual understanding with which the action is performed that is really important.

If your daily duties are performed in this way your detachment and equanimity increase. You begin to understand that all actions are performed at the level of the body, mind and intellect only, and that they are performed only due to the Self within. This understanding takes one close to Self-realization.

10. What is meditation?

Meditation involves ‘no-mind’ state, a state of restful alertness wherein all activities of the mind have stopped. It is to be distinguished from concentration and contemplation since in both these activities the mind is present. However, the practice of concentration and contemplation are useful for meditation.

11. How can ‘no-mind’ state be attained?

In order to meditate, you should sit still (preferably cross-legged), with eyes closed. You can start meditation by concentrating upon the rhythm of the breath. This is because it is difficult to control the mind since it is abstract in nature. However, it can be brought under control by controlling the breath which is more concrete. This is possible because the mind and the breath are closely related.

After the mind is made to concentrate on the rhythm of the breath for about five to ten breathing cycles, you should then take on the role of a witness or onlooker and observe with detachment the thoughts arising in the mind. You can do this by focusing your attention at the brow centre, a little above the meeting place of the eyebrows (bhrumadhya). If you practise watching the mind in this way, the frequency of the thoughts reduces as you stop responding to the thoughts.

As the frequency of the thoughts reduces, it will be noticed that it is possible to witness a gap or interval between two thoughts. This gap is the ‘thought-less’ or ‘no-mind’ state. The observer of ‘no-mind’ state starts realizing the true existence of the Self which is beyond the level of the body, mind and intellect. In other words, he begins to experience oneness with the Self.

12. How does meditation lead to Self-realization?

As the spiritual aspirant continues to practise meditation for several years, the duration of this ‘no-mind’ state increases. Realization of the Self starts taking place as the aspirant clearly experiences his oneness with the Self, which is the Pure Consciousness beyond the body, mind and intellect. He experiences the Bliss of the Self.

When the state of Self-realization gets stabilized over the years, it is not restricted only to one\'s period of meditation. Ultimately, Self-realization is a state in which the identification with the Self remains throughout, in any circumstances. The Self is experienced everywhere in the animate as well as the inanimate. Such a Self-realized soul becomes Divinity Incarnate.

13. What is devotion (Bhakti)? How can it be practised?

Devotion means love for God. Love is natural to all human beings. When this love is directed towards God, it is called devotion.

Devotion can be practised by worshipping Divine Incarnations, saints and the idols of God; by recalling their divine virtues, by singing hymns, listening to their scriptures, etc.

It can also be practised by recalling / repeating the name of God with great love and reverence. This can be done by sitting still with eyes closed, and associating the repetition of the name with the rhythm of the breath. Such practice calms the mind and fills it with divine love. It gradually leads to oneness with the all-pervading God. The name of God can also be repeated whenever it is possible while performing your worldly duties.

14. How does devotion lead to Self-realization?

While devotion is the means with which Self-realization can be attained, it is also the result of Self-realization. A spiritual aspirant starts with the worship of a particular God and then gradually begins to experience that God is everywhere.

As he progresses, his love which is restricted to the object of worship, becomes not only purer but also boundless in scope. It is extended to everything animate as well as inanimate and the final stage of oneness with God is attained. This oneness with God is oneness with the all-pervading Self. In other words, it is Self-realization.

15. If spiritual practice is undertaken, how can I assess my spiritual progress?

If you undertake spiritual practice your lifestyle and habits should be balanced and moderate. You should be disciplined in your habits regarding food, recreation, sleep and waking. Your spiritual practice should be performed regularly, punctually, and with increasing love and reverence.

A good spiritual aspirant is introverted and introspective. If he has progressed, he should have divine virtues like love, serenity, compassion, forbearance, forgiveness, humility, firm faith in God, etc. If even after long practice such virtues have not been inculcated, then there certainly has been some inadequacy in his spiritual practice.

Above all, a spiritual aspirant should be happy himself and make others happy too. Happiness coupled with detachment and serenity are indications that your spiritual practice is on the right path.