In its basic form, the Sanskrit word sadhana is “the means of accomplishing something.” To be more specific, it refers to a spiritual practice prescribed by ancient Indian religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. In short, sadhana is a spiritual discipline which is essential for all seekers of truth. But, as we may appreciate, every seeker after truth is different in temperament, in personality, in mental and in spiritual strength. Therefore, there are several sadhanas or techniques available to the seeker on the path of spiritual growth.
There are literally hundreds of sadhanas or means that one can undertake in pursuit of spiritual growth: we can take to prayer, which is one of the simplest and easiest; we can take to puja or organised ritual worship; we can choose dhyana or meditation, which is nothing but a journey inward in pursuit of truth; we can choose japa yoga, which is intensely focused chanting of a sacred mantra; naam smaran (naam simran as it is known in Sikhism) is one of the simplest and most effective; there are tougher austerities too, like fasting, penance, tapasya and so on.
Why should we practice sadhana? What will it achieve for us? What will we get out of it? These are questions that many people ask themselves when they hear about sadhana and its necessity for the seeker.
God helps those who help themselves, is not just a commonplace statement; it is the proven truth.
If these questions arise in your mind too, I can offer you a simple answer: there is a simple input-output ratio that operates in sadhana; you will get as much as you put into it! Put in sincerity, dedication, commitment, faith and perseverance: and you will achieve your goal indeed, you will achieve much more than you expect, with the grace of God.
You may come up with yet another question: if the grace of God is all that it is described to be, why should we fritter away our effort in sadhanas? Isn’t it better to leave our spiritual growth in his safe hands, and just live our daily life? Moreover, our saints and sages tell us that spiritual progress can only happen with the grace of God. Isn’t it better for that divine grace to drop from heaven on us like the gentle rain?
To this question too, I have a simple answer: why wait for God’s grace when you are not sure whether you have deserved it by your actions in this birth and in all countless births that you have gone before this one? His grace is sure to come to you when you work for it sincerely; God helps those who help themselves, is not just a commonplace statement; it is the proven truth. The great saints and sages of this land undertook the great austerities and penances to grow in the life of the spirit; then can we show reluctance to undertake a few disciplines for such a great goal?