Spiritual progress depends to a considerable extent upon one's earnest personal endeavor. "Arise, awake! Approach the wise teachers and learn from them," the Katha Upanishad says. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita we find Sri Krishna exhorting his disciple Arjuna in a similar strain: "O mighty descendant of Bharata, arise; shake off all doubt and hesitation and hold fast to the practice of yoga."
After the Shvetashvataropanishad, descriptions of yogic practice continued to evolve, and finally Patanjali gathered together all that was known from the experience of the seers and yogins before him and systematized it as the eight-limbed yoga (ashtanga yoga). His Yogasutra is the classic manual on the technology of spiritual science, and the core of its teaching is the series of eight steps that Patanjali lays out for us to follow.
In the 1920s, when archeologists were excavating a ruined city near the Indus River, they discovered a huge chapter of Indian cultural history that had been long forgotten. Four and a half thousand years earlier, Mohenjo-daro had been one of the largest cities of the Bronze Age world, with broad avenues, marketplaces and residential districts, a municipal sanitation system, and impressive public buildings.
Every religious tradition offers the world a unique and particular gift, without which humankind would be infinitely poorer. The Hindu tradition's unique gift to the human family is the concept of the Atman, the ultimate Reality which lies at the core of our being. While the religious traditions of the West categorize human beings in terms of a body/mind dichotomy, the Hindu traditions see all living beings as trichotomous—that is, possessing three aspects—body, mind and Atman. The Atman, the ultimate divine Reality which lies within us, is one with Brahman, the infinite divine Reality which pervades the universe.
In the past three readings, three aspects of the personality of Sri Ramakrishna have been mentioned—namely, the ideal person, the world teacher and the deity—and it was pointed out that his status as the ideal person of the present age lay in his being the embodiment of the vijnani and rishi ideals. Before proceeding further, it is necessary to state the view of his chief apostle Swami Vivekananda on this matter.