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20 Precepts for Practice

Swami Chidananda's instructive poem for practicing Hindus

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20 Precepts for Practice

Swami Sivananda's Ashram in Rishikesh, in the Indian Himalayas

Image © The Divine Life Society
This is for those who are striving to live a highly spiritual life and seeking guidance on how to be an ideal Hindu. The poem appears in Swami Chidananda's book Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions - a series of talks by his guru Swami Sivananda that prescribes 20 duties for daily spiritual practice.

The book touches all aspects of the spiritual life and serves as a useful vade mecum for people who want to lead a pious and righteous lifestyle. It talks about the prerequisites for all-round discipline - a forerunner to enlightening meditation.

The poem in simple words and rhyme professes a pure and wise life of spiritual 'sadhana' that can lead one to blessedness and enlightenment guided by Swami Sivananda's spiritual instructions in verse form.

These instructions attempt at harmonizing the outer and the inner, with an emphasis on practicing the teachings of the ancient sages and seers of the Upanishads, the saints, who through the centuries, have graced and blessed India by their ideal life and immortal works.

The 20 precepts mentioned in the following poem revolve around Brahmamuhurta, asana, japa, dietetic discipline, meditation, charity, svadhyaya, brahmacharya, slokas, satsanga, fasting, japa mala, mouna, speaking the truth, frugal living, compassion and forgiveness, self-reliance, self-analysis, sadachara, sarangati or surrender to god. For details, please refer to the article on 20 Important Spiritual Instructions.

20 Precepts for Practice

O Traveler on earth! Speed up, speed up thy pace,
For many are the pitfalls to impede thy race;
The distance is long, very rough is thy road
Thy Strength will fast fail thee, yet heavy thy load.

Harken, traveler! To these golden precepts,
The Essence of Wisdom of ancient adepts;
In twenty short maxims I'll tell thee the way,
To true Bliss and Freedom from Mayavic sway.

Wake up at four a.m., Brahmamuhurta,
Filled with vibrations of Sattva and Truth,
Sit in Sukha, Siddha, or Padmasana,
Meditate on God and do Brahmachintana.

The most holy Name of the Lord do repeat,
To destroy delusion and to Satan defeat;
Rotating the rosary of hundred-eight beads,
To Bliss and Perfection this Japayoga leads.

In Meditation-room with divine vibration,
Take firm, erect pose, practice concentration;
Chant Slokas sublime full with inspiration,
Advance through Dhyana to Supreme Salvation.

A select few Yogasanas without fail do,
A few rounds of vigorous Pranayama too
Health, strength, harmony, will to you accrue,
From such exercises, I assure you.

Elevating scriptures of all religions great,
Study revelations that sages narrate;
Ramayana, Gita and Bhagavata its mate,
Will all purify three, to Sattva elevate.

Observe a period of silence each day,
Such Mouna the tumult of Rajas will slay;
Speak little, speak sweetly whatever you say,
On firm base of Truth thy life's foundation lay.

To have rigid control over palate do try,
In discipline of diet does true success lie;
Through fasting both body and mind purify,
By restraint of tongue all base passions will die.

Reduce thy wants, and learn plainly to live,
To the poor and needy in charity give;
'Tis a veritable curse and a constant worry,
To possess more wealth than is necessary.

Guard with great care precious Vitality,
In thought, word and deed observe strict purity;
Continence is basis of Spirituality,
Leading to Bliss and Immortality.

Never give way to an angry outburst,
For Anger is modified passion and lust;
Wisely over anger do victory gain,
By love and forgiveness 'tis finally slain.

Think daily of God and to Him surrender,
To Him thy whole-hearted allegiance render;
Cutting the Mayaic heart-knot asunder,
He'll raise thee to high heights of Atmic Splendour.

Always on thyself in all things rely,
By Purushartha you can Prarabdha defy;
To stick to righteousness and Svadharma try,
To twin-steeds of Yama-Niyama life's chariot tie.

Always associate with good and the wise,
They'll help you from Samsara to Moksha to rise;
The Power of Satsanga will life spiritualize,
And quickly will make you life's Goal realize.

Of Spiritual practices a diary maintain,
The detailed items of Sadhana 'twill contain;
Have regular routine, thereby greatly you'll gain,
An insight and idea of progress obtain.

The motives hidden of thy day to day deeds,
Ungodly traits and of passion the seeds;
Search and remove as the gardener the weeds,
Such self-search to success in Sadhana leads.

Cling with firmness to these canons divine,
They're most precious gems out of Wisdom's deep mine;
The Essence of Sadhana they nicely combine,
Practice! As dynamic Yogi you'll shine!

From "Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions" by Swami Chidananda
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