Do we need to make effort on a spiritual path?

The fifth in the archive series of 2003 from the Satyananda Tapovanam Ashram in Bangalore, India. Conversation and Discourse from Swami Nishchalananda. The informality of these sessions is what makes them so delightful. Sometimes Swamiji has a topic he wants to pursue, but often he’s prompted to go in a particular direction by questions from the people who are visiting the ashram.

The paradox: Is there a need to make effort in order to ‘progress’ on any spiritual path, when many of the classic texts, not only in Yoga, state that meditation and the discovery of the true Self comes from a place of no effort. For example in the Yoga Vasistha we find both viewpoints expressed in different places.

This leads Swamiji on to explore the realm of thought. We assume that we think and plan our lives, but is there in fact a more passive process. Are we ‘subject to’ thoughts which come from somewhere and mistakenly think that we created them?

For a baby, embedded in their being is the fact that they are obliged to try to walk. The seed is already there as an ‘imperative’.

 Returning to ‘effort’, consider a young baby learning to walk; there must be effort, but also embedded in their being is the fact that they are obliged to try (to walk). The seed is already there as an ‘imperative’.

Is this the same as those of us who are attracted to Yoga practice; that we are obliged to try to ‘go deeper’? And perhaps we can extend that idea to say the ‘seed of effort’ is there in different people to do different things like becoming rich, or famous, or achieving this or that.

A different aspect of effort is that in the West, we sometimes feel guilty when our energy is low and we don’t want to do anything. We feel we should be doing something. This is contrasted with other cultures, especially in India, where the obsession with ‘doing something’ is absent or at least not so strong.

Swamiji continues from the standpoint of pre-determination of life events. It’s his proposition that this kind of ‘fatalism’ allows such freedom that it brings one into the present, the Now. And the mysteries can be revealed only in the Present moment, not the future or the past.

Finally, Swamiji answers a question, ‘What is the difference between reason, logic and intuition?’

Please enjoy this edited session from Swami Nishchalananda’s archived material.

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