The following are a collection of practical teachings from the instructions of Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that will help us to develop our spiritual potential. Sadhana must be performed regularly without faltering.
Just as we daily take our food, sleep, bathe and so on without fail, so in the same way we should without fail daily practice our spiritual sadhana to purify ourselves and advance in spiritual life. We should check our progress everyday by asking ourselves if today we have improved ourselves and come closer to God.
1. Rise early, this will keep us in the mode of goodness (sattva guna) which is conducive for spiritual advancement. Early morning, one hour and thirty minutes before sunrise is the auspicious time known as Brahma Muhurta. At this time our mind will be very focused and fit for spiritual practices, thereby multiplying the effect of the sadhana.
2. Daily chant the names of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama on a japa mala (sacred rosary made of tulasi wood). In the present age of quarrel (kali yuga), there is no method to attain spiritual realization as effective as by chanting the holy names of the Lord.
3. Observe a proper spiritual diet by taking only Sattvic foods. Eat simply and avoid meat, fish, eggs, onion and garlic as these foods increase our lower tendencies and result in bad karma. Offer all food to Lord Krishna before eating and partake the remnants as prasadam. Eat in moderation and do not let your tongue and belly control your mind. People taking a non-vegetaraian diet should try their best to gradually give up flesh-eating as completely as possible. They will be immensely benefited.
4. Study the sacred Vedic literatures very systematically and reverently, especially the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana. Spend at least one hour reading these holy texts each day, and discuss them with other devotees whenever possible. There is no difference between Lord Krishna and Lord Krishna’s instructions. By reading the Bhagavad Gita and hearing Sri Krishna’s upadesha we are directly associating with the Supreme Lord.
5. Have a seperate puja room where you keep deities of Lord Krishna and Radha, or other forms of the Lord. If its not possible to have a seperate room, then at least keep one corner of the room seperated with a cloth screen for the altar of the Lord. Daily offer worship to the deities in the morning and evening with incense, flowers, water, camphor, deepam and with what ever else is within your capacity. Before taking your meals first present the food in front of the Lord for Him to accept.
6. Observe brahmacharya in thought and deed to preserve the vital forces (virya, prana, etc.) Virya is the essence of life, thought and intelligence. Householders should also follow this as far as possible. They must be extremely moderate in their marital connections with their spouse. By austerity and brahmacharya our spiritual intelligence will develop very rapidly.
7. Every day offer some form of charity to those in need. This includes giving in charity to needy people as well as feeding other living entities such as dogs, cows and insects. Do not take your meals without first having offered something to another living entity. Do not limit your charity to food and money. Giving spiritual knowledge is the highest form of charity, so also engage in spreading Lord Krishna’s instructions of the Gita to other interested people. On marriages, birthdays and other festivals distribute copies of the Bhagavad Gita instead of giving mundane gifts.
8. Associate with like minded devotees and develop their godly qualities. This is known as sat-sanga or sadhu-sanga. Sat sanga is coming directly in contact with the Lord through His devotees. By always keeping good association and avoiding bad association we will quickly begin to reflect the divine qualities of the Lord. Give up bad habits such as smoking and drinking, and instead replace them with the good habits of service. Service to God in the company of devotees is the quickest method to advance in spiritual life.
9. Voluntarily observe a fast on ekadashi days (11th day after the full moon and new moon) by eating only fruits, vegetables and milk while avoiding grains and beans. This day is very dear to Lord Krishna and should be used for meditating on His pastimes and transcendental activities. Increase your sadhana on these days while decreasing your mundane activities. At least two days in the month can be fully dedicated to God and spiritual practice.
10. Carry a small japa mala (sacred rosary made from Tulasi wood) with you wherever you go so that you can be reminded of the Lord as much as possible. In your free time roll the beads with your fingers and chant the names of Krishna around the mala. Even when performing work or activities at least mentally try to chant the names of the Lord. This will keep you always Krishna conscious and situated above the modes of material nature.
11. Learn to discipline your speech by speaking truth at all times, always offer encouraging words to others, and by observing silence when no necessary talk is required. Never engage in gossip or criticize people. Try not to discourage people, and never raise your voice to others out of pride or anger.
12. Reduce your wants and learn to be content with less than the mind demands. Contentment is an internal treasure, it is not attained by acquiring external objects. Do not let the mind fool you into chasing material possessions. One cannot extinguish a fire by pouring fuel on top of it. Trying to satisfy our material desires will only increase the fire of material suffering. Learn to extinguish this fire by removing the fuel of material sense gratification. Only through simple living and high thinking can we attain contentment in spiritual life.
13. Practice ahimsa by never harming other living entities. Show compassion to others including the lower life forms such as animals and insects. Compassion, forgiveness, kindness and love can conquer our internal enemies of anger, greed and lust.
14. Always think of Lord Krishna, as this is the essence of all scriptural injunctions. When you wake up in the morning, remember Lord Krishna and offer obeisances to Him before rising from bed. In the night offer your obeisances to Him before sleeping. Throughout the day always chant His name and keep His thought in your mind. By so doing we can remain free from material contamination. This material world is like an ocean of darkness, but by remembering the Lord we can be like the lotus leaf which always remains dry above the water level despite being situated within the water.