In one of those cycles that comes with consistent practice where I feel a little lost. Not that I am slacking with practice, yet it has been feeling rather mechanical, like on autopilot. I’ve been doing this long enough to recognize it for what it is—a natural ebb and flow, and I know that continuing to practice, even without bhava (faith) is important.
Swami Sivananda, in speaking about japa practice, states:
“The name of God chanted correctly or incorrectly, knowingly or unknowingly, carefully or carelessly, with bhava or without bhava is sure to give the desired fruit. The bhava will come itself after some time…” (Essence of Yoga. p 17)
It is easy to apply Swamiji’s statement to the entirety of the practice. But waiting for that bhava to re-appear is a challenge.
Seeking inspiration, I have been reading a lot. More accurately reading a little from a lot of different books. Various translations of The Ramayana, The Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, The Dhamapada, The Upanishads, etc. Somewhere along the way, maybe in one translation of The Yoga Sutras or another, the text mentions [paraphrasing] keeping the company of Saints as a good practice. The commentator writes about reading positive books; Swami Sivananda also encourages reading of the lives of Saints. The general agreement is that you don’t have to be in the physical presence of Saints to be positively influenced by them.
Taking a step back, I realize how lucky I am to live in this time. Even though I feel completely lost and directionless with my practice (temporary, I know, temporary), I have the teachings of countless Saints within easy reach. My book shelf, my flash drive, Google books, The Guttenberg Project, an infinite number of websites all with writings from great teachers. There has been no other time when everyone can instantly be surrounded by Saints—most of this stuff was not written down or translated even 100 years ago, and it is only very recently that so many of these teachings have been placed online for free and easy access. For countless eons, one had to be in the direct company of a teacher to gain their wisdom. The Information Age has truly let us transcend both time and space.
Even if my faith is not there right now, I take comfort knowing that I am completely surrounded by saints, and their faith gives me the strength to carry on.