6. Niyama - Scriptural Study | Siddhānta Śravaṇa
Summary of the Sixth Observance
Eagerly hear the scriptures, study the teachings and listen to the wise of your lineage.
Choose a guru, follow his path and don’t waste time exploring other ways.
Read, study and, above all, listen to readings and dissertations by which wisdom flows from knower to seeker.
Avoid secondary texts that preach violence.
Revere and study the revealed scriptures, the Vedas and Āgamas.
The Sixth Observance
Siddhānta Śravaṇa / सिद्धान्त श्रवण
Siddhānta Śravaṇa, scriptural study, the sixth niyama, is the end of the search:
Prior to this end, prior to finding the satguru, we are free to study all the scriptures of the world, of all religions, relate and interrelate them in our mind, manipulate their meanings and justify their final conclusions:
We are free to study all of the sects and sampradāyas, all denominations, lineages and teachings, everything under the banner of Hinduism— the Śaivites, the Vaiṣṇavites, the Smārtas, Gaṇapatis, Ayyappans, Śaktas and Murugans and their branches.
Scriptures within Hinduism are voluminous. The methods of teaching are awesome in their multiplicity. As for teachers, there is one on every corner in India:
Ask a simple question of an elder, and he is duty-bound to give a lengthy response from the window he is looking out of, opened by the sampradāya he or his family has subscribed to, maybe centuries ago, of one or another sect within this great pantheon we call Hinduism.
Before we come to the fullness of Siddhānta Śravaṇa, we are also free to investigate psychologies, psychiatries, pseudo-sciences, ways of behaviour of the human species, existentialism, humanism, secular humanism, materialism and the many other modern “-isms,” which are so multitudinous and still multiplying:
Their spokesmen are many. Libraries are full of them. All the “-isms” and “-ologies” are there, and they beckon, hands outstretched to receive, to seduce, sometimes even seize, the seeker.
The seeker on the path of Siddhānta Śravaṇa who is at least relatively successful at the ten restraints must make a choice. He knows he has to. He knows he must. He has just entered the consciousness of the Mūlādhāra chakra and is becoming steadfast on the upward climb.
Have full faith that when your guru does appear, after you have made yourself ready through the ten restraints and the first five practices, you will know in every nerve current of your being that this is your guide on the path through the next five practices:
1) Siddhānta Śravaṇa, scriptural study—following one verbal lineage and not pursuing any others;
2) mati, cognition—developing a spiritual will and intellect with a guru’s guidance;
3) vrata, sacred vows — fulfilling religious vows, rules, and observances faithfully;
4) japa, recitation of holy mantras—here we seek initiation from the guru to perform this practice; and
5) tapas, performing austerity, sādhana, penance and sacrifice, also under the guru’s guidance.
Siddhānta Śravaṇa is a discipline, an ancient traditional practice in satguru lineages, to carry the devotee from one chakra in consciousness to another.
Each sampradāya defends its own teachings and principles against other sampradāyas to maintain its pristine purity and admonishes followers from investigating any of them:
Such exploration of other texts should all be done before seeking to fulfil Siddhānta Śravaṇa. Once under the direction of and having been accepted by a guru, any further delving into extraneous doctrines would be disapproved and disallowed.
Siddhānta Śravaṇa is more than just focusing on a single doctrine:
It is developing through scriptural study an entirely new mind fabric, subconsciously and consciously, which will entertain an explanation for all future prārabdha karmas and karmas created in this life to be experienced for the duration of the physical life of the disciple.
Siddhānta Śravaṇa is even more. It lays the foundation for initiation within the fabric of the nerve system of the disciple.
Even more, it portrays any differences in his thinking, the guru’s thought, the sampradāya’s principles, philosophy and underlying practices.
Siddhānta Śravaṇa literally means “scriptural listening.”
It is one thing to read the Vedas, Upanishads and Yoga Sūtras, but it is quite another to hear their teachings from one who knows,
because it is through hearing that the transmission of subtle knowledge occurs, from knower to seeker. And that is why listening is preferred over intellectual study.
Because sound is the first creation, knowledge is transferred through sound of all kinds. It is important that one listen to the highest truths of a sampradāya from one who has realized them.
The words, of course, will be familiar:
They have been read by the devotee literally hundreds of times, but to hear them from the mouth of the enlightened Ṛishi is to absorb his unspoken realization, as he re-realizes his realization while he reads them and speaks them out.
This is true sampradāya—thought, meaning and knowledge conveyed through words spoken by one who has realized the Ultimate.
The words will be heard, the meaning the satguru understands as meaning will be absorbed by the subconscious mind of the devotee,
and the superconscious, intuitive knowledge will impress the sub-superconscious mind of the devotees who absorb it, who milk it out of the satguru himself.
This and only this changes the life pattern of the devotee. There is no other way. This is why one must come to the guru open, like a child, ready and willing to absorb, and to go through many tests. And this is why one must choose one’s guru wisely and be ready for such an event in one’s life.
Sampradāya actually means an orally transmitted tradition, unwritten and unrecorded in any other way.
True, satgurus of sampradāyas do write books nowadays, make tape recordings, videos and correspond:
This is mini-sampradāya—just a taste, but it does lay a foundation within the śiṣya’s mind of who the guru is, what he thinks, what he represents, the beginning and ending of his path, the sampradāya he represents, carries forth and is bound to carry forth to the next generation, the next and the next.
But really potent sampradāya is listening, actually listening to the guru’s words, his explanations. It stimulates thought. Once-remembered words take on new meanings. Old knowledge is burnt out and replaced with new. This is sampradāya.
When you are ready for a satguru, and he comes into your life through a dream, a vision or a personal meeting, the process begins. The devotee takes one step toward the guru—a simple meeting, a simple dream.
The guru is bound to take nine steps toward the devotee, not ten, not eleven or twelve, only nine, and then wait for the devotee to take one more step. Then another nine ensue. This is the dance. This is sampradāya.
When a spiritual experience comes, a real awakening of light, a flash of realization, a knowing that has never been seen in print, or if it had been is long-since forgotten, it gives great courage to the devotee to find that it had already been experienced and written about by others within his chosen sampradāya.
If all the temples were destroyed, the gurus would come forth and rebuild them. If all the scriptures were destroyed, the Ṛishis would reincarnate and rewrite them.
If all the gurus, swamis, Ṛishis, Sādhus, saints and sages were systematically destroyed, they would take births here and there around the globe and continue as if nothing had ever happened.
So secure is the Eternal truth on the planet, so unshakable, that it forges ahead undaunted through the mouths of many. It forges ahead undaunted through the temples’ open doors. It forges ahead undaunted in scriptures now lodged in nearly every library in the world.
It forges ahead undaunted, mystically hidden from the unworthy, revealed only to the worthy, who restrain themselves by observing some or all of the yamas and who practice a few niyamas.
Coming under a satguru of one lineage, all scripture, temple and home tradition may be taken away from the eyes of the experience of the newly accepted devotee.
In another tradition, scripture may be taken away and temple worship allowed to remain, so that only the words of the guru are heard.
In still another tradition, the temple, the scripture and the voice of the guru are always there—
but traditionally only the scripture which has the approval of the satguru and is totally in accord with his principles, practices and the underlying philosophy of the sampradāya.
Living One Path Perfectly
Life is long; there are apparently many years ahead. But time is short. One never knows when he is going to die. The purpose of sampradāya is to restrict and narrow down, to reach out to an attainable goal.
We must not consider our life and expected longevity as giving us the time and permission to do investigative comparisons of one sampradāya to another.
This may be done before making up one’s mind to follow a traditional verbal lineage. After that, pursuing other paths, even in passing, would be totally unacceptable.
But it is also totally unacceptable to assume the attitude of denigration of other paths, or to assume the attitude that “our way is the only way.”
There are fourteen currents in the sushumṇā. Each one is a valid way to escalate consciousness into the chakra at the top of the skull and beyond.
And at every point in time, there is a living guru, possessing a physical body, ordained to control one or more of these Nāḍis, currents, within the sushumṇā. All are valid paths. One should not present itself as superseding another. Let here be no mistake about this.
The yamas and niyamas are the core of Hindu disciplines and restraints for individuals, groups, communities and nations.
In fact, they outline various stages of the path in the development of the soul, leading out of the marul pāda into the arul pāda, from confusion into grace, leading to the feet of the satguru, as the last five practices indicate— Siddhāṅta Śravaṇa, mati, vrata, japa and tapas.
Since the sampradāyas are all based on Hinduism, which is based on the Vedas, any teacher of Indian spirituality who rejects the Vedas is therefore not a Hindu and should not be considered as such.
Anybody in his right mind will be able to accept the last section of the Vedas, the Upanishads, and see the truth therein. One at least has to accept that as the basis of Siddhānta Śravaṇa.
If even that is rejected, we must consider the teacher a promulgator of a new Indian religion, neo-American religion, neo-European religion, neo-New Age religion, non-religion, neo-sannyāsi religion, or some other “neo-ism” or “neo-ology.”
This is not sampradāya. This is not Siddhānta Śravaṇa. This is what we speak against. These are not the eternal paths.
Why? Because they have not been tried and tested. They are not based on traditional lineages; nor have they survived the ravages of time, changing societies, wars, famine and the infiltration of ignorance.
For sādhakas, yogis, swamis and mendicants who have freed themselves from the world, permanently or for a period of time according to their vows, these yamas and niyamas are not only restraints and practices, but mandatory controls.
They are not only practices, but obligatory disciplines, and once performed with this belief and attitude, they will surely lead the mendicant to his chosen goal,
which can only be the height that his prārabdha karmas in this life permit, unless those karmas are burned out under extreme tapas under the guidance of a satguru.
Some might still wonder, why limit oneself to listening to scripture of one particular lineage, especially if it has been practically memorized?
The answer is that what has been learned must be experienced personally, and experience comes in many depths.
This is the purpose of disregarding or rejecting all other sampradāyas, -ism’s, -ologies and sects, or denominations, and of limiting scriptural listening to just one sampradāya,
so that each subtle increment of the divine truths amplified within it is realized through personal experience. This and only this—experience, realization, illumination—can be carried on to the next birth.
What one has merely memorized is not transforming and is forgotten perhaps shortly after death. Let there be no mistake that Siddhānta Śravaṇa, scriptural listening, is the only way; and when the seeker is ready, the guru will appear and enter his life.