Gurudev Sadhu Vaswani said to us: “The first step on the path is awakening. The second is that of sadhana or self-discipline.” When the awakening has come, the seeker desires to discipline himself. And let us not forget, discipline is required both on the mental and physical plane. What is physical discipline for the aspirant who takes to sadhana? Let me dwell a little on this aspect.
The peace chant in the Upanishads begins with the words: May my senses grow in perfection. Do you find it strange that the rishi asks for his senses to ‘grow’? Strange indeed, but true. For asceticism is not always true mysticism.
Lacerations of the body, my master taught us, will not lead us Godward: for the body, too, is an element in self-realisation. The natural is not cut off from the spiritual. Even Gautama Buddha learnt this valuable lesson before he finally attained Buddhahood or Enlightenment. The song of the maiden, “Tune the Sitar neither low nor high,” made him realise that excessive austerity and penance would lead to emaciation and exhaustion, but not necessarily the Enlightenment he sought!
We all know the story: he accepted the maiden’s offering of sweetened milk, breaking his long fast of several days. Refreshed and rejuvenated with a new determination, he went back to his meditation; and the rest, as we say, is history!