Navaratri ceremony with devotees from the Sivananda School of Yoga, during a yatra to the Divine Life Society of India

Philosophy of the Masters

The Highest Yoga and our Way to Liberation

The Rationale

Compiled and edited by Swami Isvaramayananda

Immortal Atmaswarupa,

Because the process of rebirth renders you oblivious of your previous incarnations, you do not draw the conclusion that, after this lifespan, you will again be born, and yet again and again … for yet more rounds of diseases, injuries, anxieties, troubled relationships, bereavements, etcetera, and you are destined to remain in the cycle of rebirth until you learn how to raise your awareness, thus opening yourself to a profound spiritual awakening-and-rebirth which will lead you to liberation. The applicable philosophy and practices are esoteric; of necessity kept semi-secret.

The Avatar Jesus the Nazarene cautioned:

“Do not give dogs what is holy; neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn on you and rip you open.” — Matthew 7:6

When his apostles asked the master why he taught in parables, he replied:

“The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.” — Matthew 13:11

“I tell you truly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.” — Matthew 13:17

But even to these, his initiates, he said:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you could not bear them now.” — John 16:12

But there have always been some to whom the mysteries could safely be revealed: who were ready to receive the spiritual science whereby mystics have “gone within” and been

“… caught up into paradise and heard things which should not and cannot be expressed.” — 2 Corinthians 12

Swami Sivananda said that man has an innate awareness of an attainable state of bliss and that, whether he is aware of it or not, his every action is part of his evolutionary striving towards bliss. To teach it he has to be taught how to fulfil the timeless injunction: “Man, Know Thy Self,” thereby attaining Self-Realisation and, concomitantly, God-Realisation, via the “Second Coming of the Christ.” This he can only do by learning the secret of going within from a guru.

The universe is so structured that no sentient being except the God-Realised can be satisfied. Inner yearning — “the divine discontent” — is the cause of all activity, from molecular vibration to the turning of a flower to the sun; to the busy exertions of the birds and insects; to mankind’s every exploration and discovery; to the movements of the galaxies, and beyond …

Every achievement and every individual act, whether enlightened or misguided, can be traced to the same conscious or unconscious motive: the removal of pain the attainment of bliss. And because reconciliation to God is the only release from perpetual suffering, in a sense all are more or less religious inasmuch as all are trying to free themselves from discomfort and find eternal happiness.

Even the murderer, the drug abuser, the pervert and the defrauder are seeking eternal joy but, in their insecurity, egotism and primitive mentality, confusedly and selfishly. Indeed, our perception is so clouded that even our best deeds are not enlightened, but compensating errors tainted by our motives. From the subtlest effects of our actions, and even the intentions behind the finest of them, there is no complete escape. God’s will is expressed and fulfilled in the inexorable processes of natural law. Karma, the Law of Cause and Effect (“As a man sows, so shall he reap.” “God is not mocked.” “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I shall repay”) automatically and relentlessly rewards right effort and dispenses corrective education and, contrary to religious doctrines which have arisen from misinterpretation, there is no allowance in the scheme of things for any consequence to be evaded through divine intervention. All masters teach the perfection of the Law: the perfection of Karma in ensuring the only salvation which exists — the gradual, stage by stage evolution of the soul, which can be accelerated by those who are receptive to the philosophy of the masters. No master has ever taught otherwise.

Yet the general run of humanity is unaware of its predicament — the fact that we have been coming into this world of struggle and suffering time after time, and are destined to continue doing so, because

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting…” —William Wordsworth

and so they feel secure in their utterly false belief that after a single human lifespan they will dwell permanently in a heaven, forever free of this earthly plane of sorrow.

The reality is that there is no easy release from the cycle of reincarnation. Fed the legacy of misunderstanding of their religious leaders, millions rely futilely on a salvation formula based on a mystical vicarious atonement in the form of the sacrificial death of a great master. But believe as they may, the fact is they are destined to return to this unhappy world again and again, as they have been doing down the ages, for yet more rounds of fears, financial problems conflicts and embarrassments, for they do not know the Truth which would set them free — the Truth which is no respecter of scriptures, creeds or religions.

Our religious practices avail us little if, using traditional rituals and ceremonies, we worship we “know not what” in ways which are of less use to God than they are in temporarily allaying our insecurity. Maintaining a steady, ignorant, albeit devout, relationship with God can be relatively fruitless.

“Among thousands of men perhaps one strives for perfection; and among thousands who strive, perhaps one knows me in truth.” — Bhagavad Gita 7:3

“Narrow is the gate and cramped the way leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” — Matthew 7:14

“There is the path of joy, and there is the path of pleasure. Both attract the soul. Who follows the first comes to good; who follows pleasure, reaches not the end.” — Katha Upanishad 2:1

The path of pleasure is not simply hedonism, but virtually any way of life in which the soul tries to relieve its discomfort in the transitory ephemeral enjoyments of the world to the neglect of those inner practices which lead to “that peace which the world cannot give.”

The path of joy is the way of sadhana — a spiritual curriculum to which one applies oneself under the guidance of a master who has proven its efficacy.

The direct approach to God, as revealed by the saints to their initiates, does not entail foregoing the beauties of creation and fulfillment through the divinely intended pattern of life. It does not mean denying oneself life’s happy and pleasurable experiences, but in coming to appreciate them in the light of ever-increasing understanding as meditation expands awareness, clarifies perception, and exhausts and reduces karma.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all else will be given to you also.” — Matthew 6:33

The masters know the way to enlightenment, bliss, and the true salvation which is liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. They prescribe a sadhana which includes selfless, charitable living; and those accepted for mantra-diksa (initiation) receive a specific meditation technique which facilitates expansion of consciousness and leads towards the “peace which passeth understanding.”

“The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more.” — Revelation 3:12

Candidates for initiation by a guru at the Sivananda School of Yoga are taught the fundamental principles of the Philosophy of the Masters, and receive, preparatory to more esoteric detail, the following basic explanations —

“The prana stream which is taken into the system through the breathing is impressed by the thought and character of the individual. Therefore, through thought control in breathing, you can transform the prana into a dynamic force.

The etheric body — the pranamaya kosha — which links the physical body to the soul body, and the soul body, both depend upon the prana (life force; breath of life) inhaled with ordinary breathing for their vitality and sustenance. The more the prana is impressed with noble thoughts consciously directed, the more will the subconscious mind be brought into line with things spiritual. Therefore, instead of having part of your ‘household’ against you, you make of the soul an ally — the three of you (physical, spiritual and soul) co-operating as a whole.

It should be remembered that the soul is the repository of all experiences to do with the natural world: it is prompted by primitive conditioning —vasanas and samskaras which are atavistic and instinctive.

By breathing rhythmically, the physical body benefits from the steady supply of oxygen. The prana which is inhaled with it does not go with the air into the lungs, but is retained by a sieve at the root of the nose.

Between entering the nostrils and passing into the throat, the inhaled air has the prana sieved from it, and there the prana receives the impression of thought intention and attitude. This is important in imparting both physical health and etheric vitality. Hence the yogis’ insistence that inhalation should always be through the nose and that thoughts should always be positive. Prana is associated with and takes its quality from that with which it is associated, and is impressed by the individual’s qualities at the ‘sieve’.

“Thereafter the inhaled pranas pass alternately down either the Pingala or Ida Nadi, carrying the character with which they have been impressed into the Muladhara Chakra, where the reservoir of pranic energy, Kundalini Shakti, lies. The raising of Kundalini Shakti, energiser of the siddhis and vibhutis, sensitiser of the soul, expander of consciousness and facilitator of psychic communication, is an automatic effect of the esoteric meditation practice.”

— Extracted and interpreted by Swami Isvaramayananda from comments by a rishi (seer-sage) on Pranamaya (Life-force control) by regulation of thought and respiration.

“The headquarters of the soul is in the head, at the Third Eye Centre, in the border region of the mind and a quality of consciousness higher than mind. It is at the Eye Centre that we gather the scattered attention before we there contact the Satguru, who will take us higher.

In each region of the body a different quality of consciousness predominates. When our awareness is centred at the level of the physical faculties and senses in the head our awareness is immersed in and at one with the quality known as the mind. We mistakenly identify with, and feel that we are, the mind. From here the mind pervades the body, whose activities it controls and regulates, and has its attention drawn outwards by the senses.

Unless we know the secret of reversing the outgoing tendency of the excursive mind, we cannot go within and be drawn upwards by the Satguru into qualities of consciousness higher than the mind.

The technique includes immersing the attention in a divine emanation, which the meditating yogi is taught how to contact during initiation, and being attracted inwards — and — upwards thereby.

Eventually this practice leads to Samadhi, and receptively to mystically enlightening flashes of cosmic consciousness and direct perception. The yogi becomes ever more intuitive and ever less inclined towards unenlightened attitudes, motives and conduct which lead to guilt and binding karmic consequences. The yogi is on the path to moksha (liberation from the cycle of reincarnation).

— Swami Isvaramayananda

The devotee who appreciates the rationale for sadhana under a guru’s guidance may attend satsang with a spiritual preceptor and become more conversant with the Philosophy of the Masters. Preceding detailed expositions, the following fundamental assertions lay the foundations for the philosophy —


“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Primordially, God separates the material regions of the universe from the heavens. The universe is eternally existent, but in its non-manifest state is homogenous and static: in this infinite cosmic ocean there is nothing observable, and nothing able to observe — no subject, object or movement, and therefore no time. Potential observer and observed being one, there can be no apparent existence. This self-absorbed ocean of consciousness — the “waters” — is God itself.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light:’ and there was light.”

Manifestation occurs when the only existence — the omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient ocean of consciousness which is the universe — self-modifies. It changes from the inert homogeneity by conceiving a second vibratory quality — the “Light” — the “First Son Begotten of the Father.” To the Light is delegated the work of forming, maintaining and disintegrating all of the grand divisio0ns and planes of live which constitute the visible and invisible universe. This only directly begotten Son begets all else in turn; the Light being the “First and Only Begotten Son of the Father.”

Irradiating the universe, the Light — also known as the Christ, Ringing Radiance, Om, Nam, Holy Spirit, Word; and by numerous other names — stirs to evolutionary movement the kaleidoscope infinity of life forms in which God expresses Itself.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended* it not.” — Prologue to Saint John’s Gospel

*realised; understood

In the Gayatri Mantra the Word is called “Savitur” — Son of the Sun — whence we derive the word “saviour.” Just as the sun sustains life and growth, so does the Word-Light stir every monad (atman; atom of consciousness) to movement and, because elementary movement is primitive experience and all experience is evolutionary movement, and the only true salvation is the process of evolution, the Word-Light is the Saviour.

There is no Creation separate from the Creator, Creation being the Creator expressing itself as the Creation. Everything which exists is God expressing Itself as two sides of the same coin: matter and /or energy, the universe being a trinity of consciousness, matter and energy (or intelligence, substance and radiation) in which each of the three is also the other two, and any two are also the third. Indeed, if we could examine metaphysically the tiniest and shortest-lived sub-atomic particles and radiations, and magnetic and gravitational fields, we would see that they are intelligent.

Manifestation of the universe could be likened to an infinite ocean metamorphosing, like water forming ice within itself. Manifestation proceeds “downwards and outwards,” each grand division of the universe and each vibratory stratum (plane of life; level of consciousness) within it being pre-existent to, and the support and survivor of, the region “below” it. These dimensions are interpenetrating and co-extensive.

The higher & purer the plane of life, the finer its vibration. By cosmic law all vibrations are in sets of seven: the range from any level to the resonant level of the next set being an octave.

The masters are aware of three of the grand divisions of the universe:-

1. The Celestial Spheres of Divine Contemplation — abode of the archangels.

2. The Spiritual-Mental Region — the seven heavens referred to in sacred scriptures, inhabited on the higher planes by angels, and on lower levels by souls at various stages of evolution, most of whom will reincarnate.

3. The Mental-Material Region — of which ours is the highest plane.

The material region of the universe includes galactic, stellar and solar systems, and everything, including life-forms, which can be detected by our faculties and technology, as also undetected pre-human life and denizens of spheres below our own. Our region forms from the dust and energy which appear when the material region of the universe manifests, and disintegrates when the environment for evolution which it provides has served its purpose.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will never pass away.” — Master Jesus the Nazarene

From the vibrations of inanimate substances to the research, exploration and endeavours of the most advanced intelligences, all is life; all movement is evolutionary; all is by divine design: all is Grace.

God is the universe. Grace is whatever promotes evolution, which is synonymous with salvation. God’s only activity — the only activity of the universe — is evolution: the process of love towards the state of Love.

A highly evolved master whose life, lived in contact with the Word, expresses the Divine Will, is called an avatar (divine incarnation) or Christ (anointed with the Word).


The body of God, the ocean of consciousness which is the universe, consists of monads (primary units of consciousness), also called atmans (atoms of consciousness) which, by divine design, evolve. Evolution is the atman’s extrication and progress from bondage and nescience, through ever freer movement, ever wider experience, ever clearer perception and ever increasing enlightenment, towards identity with Cosmic Consciousness.

Consciousness incubates and germinates. Irradiating the mineral kingdom it stimulates biochemical substance to become, evoke and mutate primitive bacteria and bacilli which, in the course of biomineralisation and further development, unite to constitute more complex organisms, each a coherent congregation of atmans. In more advanced constitutions there is a dominant atman which receives sensory impressions from, and governs, the rest of the constitution. In humans this atman, known as the Self, or I Am, or Spark of God, or Divine Indweller, is the aware sentient Self which regards the rest of its constitution as its vehicle: the body.

Although the Word-Light is the cause of every atomic movement and molecular vibration, the bound consciousness of the lowest kingdoms, that is, consciousness which is unaware, without instinct, mentality or self-motion, as we find in minerals, cannot effect its own progress. At that inert level of life, evolution is mechanical: relying on fracture, erosion, heat, cold, radiation and chemical reactions for the beginning of the process of liberation. Then, by ingestion and assimilation into the higher constitutions of plants and animals as the latter feed, and becoming one with these higher constitutions, the primitive consciousness is temporarily allowed a higher experience. Eventually, after innumerable cycles of such experience, an evolving entity breaks ranks as it attains an “established state” — a level from which it will never again descend. At this indefinable stage of its upward progress each entity attains dominion over its constitution, at which stage its evolution becomes kama-manasic (desiring-thinking): henceforth its evolution is driven, to incalculably varying degrees, by instinct, yearning, intention and exploration. For further progress it becomes essential for the individual creature to have its own experience-filled life-span. Being assimilated, by being fed upon, into the shared experience of another life-form is no longer possible for the atman. Moreover, it is a spiritual crime for one who understands and believes this principle to feed by willingly causing the death of any sentient creature.

“In creation it appears that God sleeps in the minerals, dreams in the flowers, awakens in the animals, and in man knows that He is awake.” — Paramahansa Yogananda


Man is the apex of the evolution of sub-mundane life, from the mineral through the vegetable; and the crown of all animal ambition.

Sub-mundane life is characterised by a vast brooding soul which is not individualised: it controls its physical counterparts as a whole, not as individuals, and its intelligence is colossal. We personify it as Mother Nature.

Sharing a group soul, between the animal realm and man on the scale of evolution, stand the elemental nature spirits. Their work in nature ranges from the geological realm up through all the activities of nature, including flowers and insects: they are even associated with the air we breathe and the water we drink. Manipulating the natural ethers with ease, they can be employed to transport solid objects through matter. When, lacking discipline, they disport themselves by simple antics, they are the cause of poltergeist phenomena. Their one ambition is to attain the human realm and, whenever one of them does, a new human being is born.

Having attained a higher established state — that of the human — the atman will never again dwell below the human level, and in due course it will become aware of its inevitable yearning for yet higher attainments: Liberation from Reincarnation and God-realisation.


The Law of Cause and Effect — Karma — operates by affinity: that is, we encounter and experience not what we, in our nescience, believe we want, but what we are. And what we are is revealed by what we value.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Master Jesus the Nazarene

To what we value, we are attached, and through our attachments we are hurt. Fearing failure to attain what we believe will satisfy us, and fearing to lose what we have, we strive egotistically and compete selfishly, our affinities being of the world as well as in the world.

If we would liberate ourselves from this world, we must lose our affinity for it — the values & attachments which lead us into guilt-ridden conduct and binding karmic consequences — not merely yearn for, but become, of the quality of a higher plane of life. And, in endeavouring to achieve this, we have to transcend the lower nature. Moreover, to transcend the lower nature, we have first to learn just what this lower nature is and how to deal with it, whereafter, under the guidance of a guru, we have to learn how to transcend the susceptibilities of the mind.

The secret lies in the yogi’s sadhana (spiritual curriculum), and essentially in a specific occult reality and mystical effect of a particular technique of meditation, known to the masters and revealed at initiation to those accepted for discipleship. For success (and safety) in this sadhana the guidance of a guru is absolutely necessary.