Question: What do you actually mean by the word “Sadhana”?

Sadhana is a daily spiritual practice or vow. It does not refer to whimsical religious activity, but to very dedicated and focussed spiritual activity. One’s entire life should become sadhana. By offering the results of our activities to God our work becomes sadhana. By offering our food to God, our eating becomes sadhana. And by always trying to chant the names of Krishna, our every step should become sadhana. Within sadhana there is a regulated aspect that one follows as a vow. For example, our guruji has instructed us to daily recite the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra 1728 times (or 16 times around a japa mala of 108 beads). This is a vow we accept at the time of initiation. A serious sadhana is essential for making spiritual advancement.

In this present age of Kali the scriptures advise us to chant the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. The process of hari-nama sankirtana, or the chanting of Sri Hari’s names, is the yuga-dharma for this age. No other method for self-realization will be effective in this age of Kali.

By the process of bhakti-yoga all the seeds of karma are burnt to ashes just as dry grass is quickly burnt by fire. There are many stages of karmic reactions. When we perform an activity, the reaction first exists in a seed stage. We do not immediately receive the results to our activities. The nature plants the seed of karma, and creates a suitable situation for you to receive your results. As the seed sprouts and grows, eventually a fruit will develop (karma-phala). It is at this point that the reaction is actually experienced. Sometimes many lives may pass before we recieve the results of our past activities. Thus it is advised that we take to the process of bhakti-yoga and burn up the karma-bijas (seeds of reaction) before they sprout and develop fruit which we will be forced to taste.

This process of spiritual advancement is described as a cleansing process:

ceto darpana marjanam

“Sadhana is the cleansing of the mirror of the mind.”

Our heart has much dust piled on it from many countless lives. The chanting of Krishna’s names will remove the dust from the mirror of our consciousness, so we can see clearly who we actually are. But when you begin the process of cleaning, the first thing that will happen is the dust will become unsettled. If there is a house that has been abandoned for many years, there will be piles of dirt and dust, and even large stones and branches scattered here and there. The first step is to remove the large objects, such as branches and stones. In spiritual life this is like stopping the external sinful habits such as meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. Once the large objects are removed, we must then begin the process of removing the finer dirt by sweeping. This is like the internal cleansing of the heart of all bad qualities such as kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), etc. When one first starts to sweep this dust, it will become unsettled and fill the air. It will almost appear that the house has become dirtier! Actually the dust was always there, but it had not been disturbed. As you go on cleaning, the dust will eventually be collected and removed and the house will be spotless. The same is the case while performing sadhana. At first one’s mind may not be strong or focussed, but as one continues the process, one will begin to purify oneself and the pollution in the heart will be permanently removed.