Swadhyaya: Studying the Sacred, Studying Yourself
“Swadhyaya inspires and elevates the mind to high spiritual altitude.”
-Swami Sivananda on Swadhyaya
Swadhyaya, also known as “self-study” or daily study of the scriptures, is one of the five niyamas. An important tool the yogi uses to overcome the “monkey mind,” Swadhyaya can be practiced as a way to develop devotion, remind us who we truly are, and prevent backsliding into the material world.
Any avid reader knows that books can be friends. They remove doubts, instill faith, and purify the heart. A sure way to keep a positive daily Swadhyaya practice is to read a spiritual book that reminds you of your true nature.
Reading yogic scriptures, like the Bhagavad Gita, is an important spiritual practice.
Yogic scriptures are timeless and can teach us profound knowledge in short, wisdom-filled passages. It's recommended to study one verse of the Bhagavad Gita per day until you finish it completely ... and then start again! Other examples of yogic scriptures include the Upanishads, Ramayana, and Bhagavata. The study should be done with concentration and the intention of spiritual evolution.
“You should understand what you have studied and try to put in your everyday life all you have learnt,” recommends Swami Sivananda in his essay on Swadhyaya.
Books written by realized masters also count!
Swami Sivananda says, “When you study the sacred books, you are in tune with the authors who are realized souls.”
Here are some of our favorite books by Masters Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda, as well as suggested ways you can make them part of your daily Swadhyaya routine:
Bliss Divine by Swami Sivananda
Read one chapter a day. Arranged alphabetically, every chapter is different, focusing on a wide assortment of topics like Life, Prayer, Fear, Happiness, Yoga Asanas, Vegetarianism, and Service.
Open up to a handwritten letter by Swami Sivananda himself and receive a message to start or conclude your day. In this large collection of Swami Sivananda’s letters to his disciples around the world, you'll find practical and meaningful advice you can take to heart. You can also use this book to ask for a message from Swami Sivananda on your birthday or other important life events.
Swami Vishnudevananda had a special way of explaining yogic principles to people of all cultures and backgrounds. This book is friendly and accessible, even for the busiest people. His humor-filled stories and analogies will remind you of your true nature and aspire for your best in this life. Read one or two pages a day and carry the message within your heart. Yoga Life is another book with similar vitality to this one, with messages directly from Swami Vishnudevananda.
How to Cultivate Virtues and Eradicate Vices by Swami Sivananda
This book not only gives you the tools for self-improvement, but you'll get to take your self-study to the next level by objectively witnessing your successes and setbacks. The table of contents contains entire lists of virtues and vices you can choose to work on. Each chapter zooms in on one virtue (like kindness, patience, or self-discipline) or it focuses on a vice (like gossiping, anger, or procrastination) and tells you how to grow through the cultivation or eradication of those qualities.
Choose one virtue and one vice per month, study their chapters, and take a few minutes each evening to examine your improvements and shortcomings throughout the day.
What spiritual book have you been reading?
Does it remind you of true nature? How else does it affect you? Let us know in the comments below so we all can benefit!