Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

What are the basic elements of sadhana (spiritual practice)? The first element is wisdom, the second element is self-control and the third element is love. If you can practice this kind of sadhana, then you can practice the real thing. The Vedanta-sutra mentions that these are the three basic elements of sadhana.


Why is it starting with wisdom? First you have to learn; because if you do nоt know what we are practicing, what will be the result? We have to understand first what we are doing. And we should not be satisfied with knowledge; it should be wisdom. The knowledge can be something theoretical, but wisdom is practical. Wisdom is realized knowledge. Usually we become wise when we are old, but then it is too late. It is very practical to act wise in the beginning also, because you have had so many lifetimes before, you had the time to gather your wisdom.


Then comes the element of self-control. It is not some artificial negation of our bodily, practical level – but this is engaging the senses in the service of the Supreme. This is one definition of bhakti: „to engage the senses in the service to the Lord of the senses” [1]. So this is to control the material level and cultivate the spiritual. Self-control means that we should control the three levels of our existence: action, speech and thoughts. Bhagavad Gita gives in the late chapters how to control these three fields: by following ahimsa (nonviolence); brahmacharya (chastity); paying respect to elders and superiors – to the brahmins, to the spiritual master, to God and to the parents also; purity – this is control of the body.


Next is how to control the speech. We have a very bad friend – the urge to speak – and most of the time we are speaking so much nonsense. But speech has very important function; it is given by God, so if it is there, it has some good use also. If we can control the urge to speak, then we can gain more energy. If we speak we should speak in a gentle way, not hurting anybody, always according to the truth and also often quoting the Vedas.


Finally we should control our mind and thoughts. We must have purity of heart, purity of thoughts, simplicity. We should always try to associate with the highest ideals.


What is most difficult to control – the action, the words or the thoughts? The thoughts, because to control the actions is quite easy, to control the speech is more difficult, but the mind and thoughts are really difficult to be controlled. Self-control and self-cultivation should be focused on these three levels. How to accomplish this? We can accomplish this by engaging everything that we have in the service – with the body we can serve Krishna practically, with our words we can also serve Him and His purpose and our thoughts we can focus on His lotus feet.


So that kind of practice is very beneficial. And this is not a psychological trick, but this is the way to come to the higher level of our self-identity. Self-control should be focused on ourselves. Don’t focus it on others. Try to give good example. What you should focus on others is the third element of our sadhana – this is affection, love. Affectionate mood, affectionate service, service to humanity, service to a friend or a new-comer should be based on love.

If you have controlled yourself you are not only a knowledgeable, wise man anymore – you become a devotee, because “even a wise man acts according to the material nature”, but the devotee is trying to act according to the spiritual nature. The first person is under the influence of the material energy, the devotee is under the divine energy.



[1] “hrishikena hrishikesha sevanam” – a verse from Narada-pancharatra, quoted in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.12 and Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.170

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