What is a Spiritual Diary?
A spiritual diary is a record of your spiritual practice or sadhana. Generally, any spiritual, religious, or other activity that you do regularly can be recorded in a daily diary.
Here we will speak of the spiritual diary with mainly a yogic perspective in order to keep the explanation simple, not discounting any practices from any other discipline that you would choose to keep. Also, while it is recommended that you practice sadhana daily, it is more important to practice something than nothing at all. Therefore, if your schedule allows your practice only a certain number of times a week, then that is what you should do.
A diary is a whip for goading the mind towards righteousness and God. The diary is your teacher and guide. It is the eye-opener. Swami Sivananda
Swami Sivananada advocated practice of the Yoga of synthesis. This means practicing all of the different types of Yoga such as Raja, Bhakti, Jnana and Karma Yoga together. This makes for a well-rounded individual, capable of mixing in the world while feeling compassion and love and able to control the mind in varied circumstances, rather than being a yogi full of nothing but book-knowledge who can’t relate to others. He advocated practicing the different kinds of Yoga together but with more emphasis on the Yogas that the practitioner liked the best.
Keeping a spiritual diary is especially suited to this type of Yoga practice. In fact, Swami Sivananda instructed his students to keep not one but five different kinds of notebooks in order to perfect not only their Yoga practice but also themselves as people.
Many other well-known people kept diaries. Mahatma Gandhi and his students kept diaries. Even Ben Franklin is known to have maintained a diary.
Why Keep a Diary?
Sincere aspirants are in the habit of recording their spiritual practice so they have a log of how much practice they have actually done. Since Yoga is about ultimate control of the mind in order to remove the veil of ignorance and know the Truth, it is interesting to note how the mind plays tricks with the aspirant as far as how much sadhana actually is accomplished as compared to what you believe your practice probably is. Like the saying goes, numbers don’t lie, and keeping a log of your spiritual journey is the best way to look back and see where you have been.
“Blessed is he who keeps daily diary and compares the work of this week with that of the last week, for he will realise God quickly.” Swami Sivananda
There are many other reasons for keeping a diary. Arguably the most important reason for keeping a spiritual diary is that it keeps you focused on your sadhana. Everybody knows the myriad ways the world distracts you from your practice. When you keep a diary, it helps you remember that every day you should try to do the sadhanas you resolved to do. The diary can help remind you to give your spiritual practice the time and effort it deserves.
Another reason for keeping a diary is that over time you may get bored or have difficulty with your Yoga or religious practice. By having a diary it can spur you on to “fill out the numbers” as it were, because it doesn’t feel good to have a diary full of zeros. The main goal here is that a spiritual diary can help you to not leave the practice during the tough times. The most important factor for success is regularity over time. Being strong in your practice through the difficult periods which come to all practitioners is “what separates the men from the boys”, so to speak. We all must pass through some serious tests before reaching the final goal, and the spiritual diary is a tremendously useful tool during these tougher times.
“Do not be ashamed of mentioning your mistakes, vices and failures. You should not utter any falsehood anywhere. You are keeping it only for your own benefit.” Swami Sivananda
Also, Yoga and other spiritual and religious practices should be considered non-competitive as they relate to other people. Only Saints and Masters know the true spiritual advancement of any individual and so comparing yourself to others does not help you. By maintaining a spiritual diary, over time you are able to look back and see just how far your own practice has come as compared to yourself. You can see what areas have been difficult, where you can improve, where you did better than you thought, how consistent you were, etc. Comparison to yourself is helpful, comparison to others is not.
Importance of the Devotional Aspect
One note of caution needs to be mentioned when keeping a diary. It is important to always maintain the devotional aspect of your practice. Without this, diary recording can become just another ego trip for analyzing how great a yogi you think yourself to be.
In order to receive the grace of God and the gurus, it is important to remain humble in our sadhana, recognizing that without their help we are nowhere, and always thanking them and asking for their blessing.
Reprinted from Advaita Yoga Ashrama