From the Jacket
In each of the ten lectures collected in this book, Swami Ashokananda, a master of Vedantic elucidation, speaks to the average spiritual aspirant-one who desires spiritual enlightenment, but who is not yet willing to let go of worldly pleasures.
He shows us a gradual way-not a way of compromise, but a way of steady and sure advancement toward the ultimate goal of illumination.
The Swami was convinced that every man and woman was fully capable of such achievement. In these lectures he tells us how to go about it and why going about it is the only natural and rational thing for human beings to do.
To ascend to illumination with open eyes and a sure tread is, to the Swami, what it means to be human. And to be human in this true sense is the whole point of being alive. These lectures speak to us all, wherever we are on the spiritual path, whatever we think we are doing, and whoever we think we are.
Students of the Swami's other books will find that the lectures collected here will serve as practical guides to his more philosophical expositions of Vedanta.
We take pleasure in presenting a third book of lectures delivered by Swami Ashokananda. As was the case in the two previous books-Meditation, Ecstasy, and Illumination and The Soul's Journey to Its Destiny- The lectures that comprise the present book were for the most part delivered in San Francisco in the 1950s. After 1952 until 1969 the swami's lectures were recorded. Many of the tapes have been transcribed, and, in order to transpose the swami's extemporaneous spoken words into printed ones, they have been edited. The swami's students who, under the auspices of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, have undertaken the task of editing have, they assure us, used a very light hand so as to retain fully as possible the unique flavour of his lecturing style.
In the ten lectures on spiritual practice presented in the present book Swami Ashokananda necessarily gives us a good deal of Vedanta Philosophy along with instruction, for before one can earnestly undertake spiritual practice, one has to know what the goal of that practice will be and what one's relationship is to that goal. At every step of the way one needs to have at least some idea of what one is doing and why one is doing it. These lectures, therefore, are not only practical in the sense that they tell us how to proceed our chosen path, whatever it may be, they also expound the great principles of Vedanta. In other words, they point to the summit of a towering mountain and, at the same time, they give us the equipment to climb it and show us the various techniques of doing so, until at length we stand victorious on the highest peak.
But the spiritual aspirant should not expect to find a cut-and-dried "how-to" manual in the pages of this book Just, as there are no charts to tell a plant how to bloom, there are no maps to guide our individual spiritual growth. Still, a guide there must be in the uncharted ocean of spiritual, life and the reader will find an expert one in these pages. Through stories, analogies, and metaphors, as well as through tough philosophy, Swami Ashokananda presents the subject matter in his characteristic simple, charming way.
The swami was born in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1893. He joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1920 and was ordained a sannyasin by Swami Shivananda, an apostle of Sri Ramakrishna, in 1923. After five years in the Order's monastery in Madras (now Chennai), he was stationed at Mayavati in the Himalayas and there became editor of Prabuddha Bharata one of the Order's primary English-language journals. In 1931 the swami was sent to San Francisco, where a year later he took charge of the Vedanta Society in that city, a post he held until his death in 1969.
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