Consuming the Text as a Sacrament – The Practice of Svadhyaya

When I was young, I always remember seeing my mother’s bible as a constant presence. It was filled with bookmarks and tabs marking key pages she was studying. And it was always accompanied by a small notepad filled with notes and quotes. She would spend hours doing this, often daily which included going to “bible class.”

I assumed everyone who was a devoted Christian was doing this. I was not particularly interested in the Bible as a child but around the age of 11, I was gifted a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and this book fascinated me. So I created a small notebook with verses, made paper book marks, and attempted to memorize as many verses as possible.

When I was gifted copies of the Srimad-Bhagavatam a year later, I was in awe and wondered how many notebooks and bookmarks would be needed for this study. I assumed everyone was doing this. Sadly, this was not the case. 

I also remember being in the basement of the library at Louisiana State University while working on my Religious Studies degree, examining the infamous and at the time mysteries “Gospel of
Thomas” on microfiche. I would spend hours studying the text and making notes. I assumed everyone was doing this. 

Now at age 50, I’m constantly amazed at the lack of scriptural study by individuals claiming to be devoted or interested in a particular spiritual path. We have literal instant access to voluminous amounts of scriptures today, and so few take advantage. 

In Yoga, the practice of Svadhyaya is an important Sadhana. Svadhyaya is the memorization and study of Moksha Shastras. The devotee is literally consuming the text as a sacrament, as the texts are viewed as a literary embodiment of the Divine. This included source texts as well as official commentaries. I write about this extensively in my “Tantric Physics” books. 

While In India and over my 30 plus years of study of Vedic sciences and Chinese Medicine,my teachers consistently demanded I not only study but memorize texts word-for-word. Many would quiz me on what information was contained on a random particular page. One teacher in particular demanded I only study source texts for years before graduating to the commentaries. Over time, this gave me unlimited freedom. 

Why are people who claim to be “dedicated” or “devoted” refuse to closely study source texts?

Why do they often at best only study second-hand sources or at worst completely refuse to read?

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