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The Pitfalls of Sadhana

The Pitfalls of Sadhana

They [people] like not being afraid; they like feeling safe and secure. But what I’m saying to you is that you are already safe and secure in God, and you basically have identified with things that are temporary, and associate that with your security and that’s why you feel threatened.  Conditional existence has no security; there is no stability in anything that is temporary.  Our existence is only momentary, it’s like grasping at something that’s here for a moment and then it’s gone. 

So we get into that kind of process, through the process of being born. We become identified with objects, states, conditions that we find consoling.  

It basically springs out of individuation.  Out of that comes the desire to seek.  So when you are talking about happiness or enlightenment, you are talking about completion, actually being full.  It’s like having everything you want out of life and not being afraid to die anymore. 

Basically, the whole society is driven on people avoiding this understanding.  In essence, the ego tends to avoid Reality.  So the ego survives by living in fantasies, or illusions. With actual teachers, their job is to communicate Reality.  And ultimately, when we are talking about Reality, we are talking about something that you can’t communicate through words. 

So the problem is that people have a lot of ideas about what Reality is, that are false.  So people are living in a false reality, they are deluding themselves.  And the reasons you have so many misconceptions in spirituality is because all conceptions are false.  Basically, enlightenment can’t be achieved.  So when people say they have achieved it, they are deluding themselves.  It’s actually a big risk, under ‘sadhana’ [picks up sheet of paper and reads], *it says, ‘one of the big risks of sadhana, spiritual work, is increased ego.’  Because what happens is that you start thinking you are ‘spiritual’, when you are still just as egoic as you were before. But now you are calling it ‘spiritual’.  Sort of like saying, ‘I’m being spiritual now,’ when they are seeking just as much as they were before.  So you find that, just like you were saying in that movie, people will spend time with gurus and follow them around and that whole time they believe they are being spiritual, when really they are actually brainwashed.    

*Hermes is referring to one of the pitfalls as outlined in samasti sadhanaSadhana is a spiritual practice done for the purpose of attaining higher aims such as liberation (moksha) or enlightment.  Samasti sadhana is the higher form of niskam sadhana, of which is only possible with a correct guru.  Samasti sadhana benefits both the individual and the community, instead of solely the individual who is practicing sadhana as in the other forms, I.E. niskam sadhana, and vyasti sadhana.

(This is a transcript from a talk given by Hermes in 2012)

Copyright © Hermes 2012


  1. Hi, was just going through the google looking for good info and stumbled across your website. I am stunned at the design that you’ve on this site. It shows how you appreciate this subject.

    • Hi I consider my self a genuine person in whatever endeavor I may take and I also consider myself intelligent enough to identify whether I am deluded or not. I believe that it is down to the individual to decide to what level they may become spiritual and its not necessary to see a guru to be genuine. If a person has responsibilities and is busy then they may not have time to take their spirituality to the fullest extent, does that mean they are not genuine? I do not think this article is fair.

      • Hello Pandelis, I am sorry you found this post disagreeable. I agree with you, we can only be genuine to the best of our ability, as people can only be as genuine as they can be under the circumstances. When it comes to the ego though, there is always room for improvement. We should never stop progressing in our development of genuineness. There is always opportunity to improve our circumstances and become more genuine. This is what enlightenment is about. Namaste

  2. Insightful and well versed. I followed a guru once, do you think I was being brainwashed? I had good intentions, felt I needed to be apart of a community because the world was full of cults. In the end, experiance was enlightening, but like most friendships, for one reason or another, you lose touch, life just kinda happens. Do you think there is still hope for the community, or should I except the world is full of cults and get ready for my inevitable crucifixion, so to speak? Blessed Be.

    • Thank you lloyde. To put it bluntly, hope is mediocre! Regardless of whether community is established, it is impermanent. Community as an ideal is an illusion. Even if community is established it usually degenerates. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be trying to create community. Eventually everything will pass; this is why transcendence is primary. We should all be preparing for our inevitable death and creating community at the same time. When you do sadhana you make yourself capable of being love, this is community. Transcendence = Communion


      • I understand nothing lasts forever, not to get caught up in emotions, thoughts, material wealth, etc., but after community disappeared, I found myself with a heightened sense and unable to relate to society, though I’ve always felt like an outcast, now it’s like their isn’t a place for me, like I lost my spot in line, neither part of a cult nor a community I would not recommend spiritual life to anyone; in the end, the very people who love and enlighten will also abandon, which seems to be going on anyway, with or without community. As far as I’m concerned, people are either awake or sleep walking, thinking of others or self, sharing or hoarding, opening up your home or locking doors, most are doing the latter, including spiritual teachers. It feels like I’m being punished for doing the right thing. Do you have any advice? Do I got it backwards? Sadhana. Sad and alone.

        • I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying, but I don’t associate sadhana with feeling sad and alone. Sad and alone is a form of contraction, it is the feeling of individual separate existence and abandonment. Sadhana is about being indifferent to individualized perceptions and sensations. Sad and alone may be your experience, that is the nature of conditional existence. Conditional existence is all about suffering and loss, no spiritual life could change that. The best thing I can advise is to not believe in appearances, undermine your perceptions of your separate life. Transcend your beliefs about spiritual life and conditional existence altogether. Truth is not realized in groups.

      • Hi Lloyd,
        I understand your cynicism towards the world, and though I never had to experience the falsity of cults, I understand your disillusionment. There are so many false prophets out there trying to make a dollar in our hyper-material driven world, and finding a true teacher is rare and often hidden (and most likely don’t have stage lights shining on them, speaking to a sold out audience.) Real teachers who don’t manipulate you, or true communities who aren’t filled with egoic individuals are hard to come by as we all want to be a part of something in this bleak human existence. I learned that life doesn’t give me what I want, but only what I need at the time, and just as much as finding a true guru is difficult, so are real students who are able to truly listen to the Teaching.
        Here’s my take on finding a true guru:

  3. Natalie Belley says:

    In Common Ground magazine of this month, December 2012, page23, bottom, there is a quote that says:

    “It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community -a community practising understanding and loving kindness, a community practising mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth. -Thich Nhat Hanh

    • It is very nice to see a blog like this. Nice platform for discussion. I beleive our ego is the essence of idividuality. It is the reason for our “apparent” seperateness. It is our “body”. I feel that the ego is the only part of us that “dies”. Ego is the source of all fear and sadness as a result. I also believe the the earth will not “die”. Human egos will “die” but the earth will remain. Community, love, friends, etc. are of course part of the “seperateness” illusion. It is an ego choice between happiness or sadness or indifference. “I” – my ego – chooses happiness … I feel happy making other beings happy … Bringing happiness to others is the way to bring about positivity and community in one’s life … If one so chooses …

  4. says:

    In regards to community, please view the following post on the subject of collectivism. Namaste

  5. Hermes,
    What you are saying about saadhana is so true. It is an ego trip and nothing more if it is not practiced with the right attitude. I recently finished translating Siddha Sivavakkiyar’s songs. He is known for his bluntness and forthrightness. That may have been the reason for him not being included among the 18 siddhas. He has an interesting verse which says “if bathing in sacred waters will grant you liberation what about the fish that lives eternally in the water?” He says breath control without the right attitude is nothing but pumping air through the bellows. I am planning to post one verse a day at my blog. I would appreciate it if you can check it out and send me your comments.



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