Ms. Matsuda, who has eagerly been taking the Yoga classes at Nagaokakyo City since they began, is attending the Satsangha with her two sons. She says that her motivation to begin practicing Yoga was to strengthen her mind, and that she thinks that strengthening means purifying the mind. Ms. Matsuda takes her problems so seriously, and as such she is constantly troubled and suffering. She speaks about the way society views life, about the idea that living smoothly without coming into conflict with others is quite right and proper and leads to happiness, which confuses her about what she should do. She says that coming into conflict with others may be viewed by some as a projection of immaturity, and that creates another complication for her. She wants to be pure and she wants to be unshakable regardless of what others may say, and as she continues to speak about her current state of mind and the situations she is facing, she pauses to look for the right words from time to time.
Shri Mahayogi continues to listen to her and nods, then responds once she has finished speaking.
The mind is such that if there are 10 different people, there are ten different colors, that is to say, ten different ways of thinking. This is because each person has had different experiences in the past. Since birth—and it can actually be traced further back to past lives—the impressions that arise from your experiences [as they occur in time] differ; the thoughts created by the mind, including the fortitude or the weakness of the mind, all result differently in 10 different people with 10 different colors, and that is the way the world of the mind is. You can recognize that the memories which are formed as a result of those experiences are different; so then, if you seek further into the cause of those thoughts that are recorded as memories, you can recognize the fact that everyone tends to prefer that which they find favorable or desirable and to avoid that which they find unfavorable or undesirable, and you can also recognize that the objects of one's likes and dislikes differ from person to person as they too depend upon one's experiences.
If you examine it further and inquire into the original cause of these different objects, you can recognize that, ultimately, the cause of them all is the power of the attachments you have to this world. And the cause of these attachments [to various things] lies in having the wrong view, which in one word can be said to be ignorance. Simply put, since you desire materialistic pleasures or a sense of happiness in this world, and because you attach to those things, your tendency becomes stronger and stronger and the impressions that result are etched into the mind as memory. Taking it further still, in order to materialize these memories, one chases after them each time one is born. Nevertheless, this world is not forever; nor is the body eternal, and worldly desire is not something that can be fulfilled unilaterally, it is dependent upon various things and various circumstances, or on your relations to others. Regardless of the relationship you have with others, whether it is one of love or a parent-child relationship, for example, or in any relationship at all, since there are two persons involved there are two minds; so it is impossible for each one's ideas of pleasure or happiness to be in perfect accord. This is because the two people's memories are different. When you reflect further along these lines, you come to understand that there is a fundamental error in your understanding or your view toward these matters. So it is nonsense to think about strengthening or weakening the mind in that case.
First of all, what you need to do is seek and inquire into who you are with the utmost seriousness. If you learn the teachings of the Truth, then you must teach the mind that it is not your True Self. The True Self is that which sees the mind, it is the Pure Consciousness itself. It is not the mind; it is, so to speak, like the soul behind the mind. That is the only thing that can be called Consciousness, in fact. However, ordinarily the mind functions by utilizing the power of that Consciousness such that you misunderstand it, as if the mind is the Self. Since the mind holds onto the idea of ego-consciousness, this makes it more difficult for the mind to realize its error by itself.
Now, where does that True Self, the Truth, exist? It appears to exist in the depths of the mind, in other words, that which obstructs the True Self is the mind. It is as if the mind is covering It up. If I put it in simple language, the soul, or the True Self, is like a simple light. Without light we see nothing. And It really is like a light. The thing that is illuminated [by that light], as if it were covering or obscuring this soul, is the mind, and you see things through the mind's filter. Just as when you look through colored glasses, things change color according to the color of the glasses, the views or ideas of the world that you have dramatized through the mind are formed there. To purify the mind is to remove the color from those colored glasses. When the glasses truly become transparent, you will find things to be as they actually are.
By listening to the Truth like this and then studying and learning it, you must heighten your will to realize the True Self. It requires belief at first, and then that will grow into pure faith in due time. Anyway, that true Soul or Consciousness is omnipresent, and that exists within you—this is the right belief. So, by holding onto this belief firmly, the mind will, in a manner of speaking, gain strength and become stout.
To sum it all up, since there are so many different senses of value, when the mind attaches to various things the mind loses its strength, and in this world of dualistic things and events, even though you may be attracted to one thing today, you may be attracted to a different thing tomorrow. Remaining in this cycle, continuously being attached to something, cannot make the mind gain any strength at all because it is always wavering. In fact, the expression of a strong mind lies in entrenching your belief. So, what your belief is based on is the crucial point in all this. As long as you hold onto any part of the chaotic and confused worldly view with its capriciously formed sense of value, your mind continues to roam as it always has. If it stays like that, your mind cannot become stout.
Studying the right Truth and searching further for the True Self with that [firm] belief will strengthen the mind as a result. A strong mind does not mean that you become obstinate and try to have your own way at any time. (laughing) Everybody at least knows that that is wrong. Conversely, if the mind is detached from everything, and instead continuously anchors itself on the Truth by directing all of your thoughts toward what is real and unmistakable, the mind becomes stout.
Ms. Matsuda: But, thinking that I have things in common with friends of the same sex or being attracted to the opposite sex is coming from a biased mind, too, isn't it?
MASTER: Rather than it being about bias or prejudice, it is simply a phenomenon that is part of the changing mind stream.
Ms. Matsuda: In that case, there is nothing wrong with that?
MASTER: It is not about whether something is wrong or not, it is about [the facts regarding] how the mind works and moves. Your feelings can change too. While you conceive a crush on someone, you justify that he or she is right for you, and when the infatuation fades, you feel the opposite. It means that right or wrong are mere dualistic expressions dependent on momentary situations.
Ms. Matsuda: Does that mean that there is no need to deny my past emotions?
MASTER: There is really no need for any of that. [As I said,] that is the way the mind operates. However, there is something more important that [you do have to pay attention to]. It is to find out who the True Self is. Yoga is not only the practice of asana (posture), but also the teachings by which to find out what the True Self is. It would be great if you could realize It within three or four years of practice and inquiry, though more often than not it is an undertaking that requires perseverance.
Ms. Matsuda: I might have been too superficial to hope that I could...
MASTER: But it usually requires great diligence, indeed. However, considering the fact that you might have had to go through many reincarnations and spent countless lives, and further, that you might continue into your future lives in the same way, there is nothing greater than possibly having the opportunity to know the Truth in this very lifetime and to realize the Truth in such a short time. Because It alone in this entire universe is the Eternal Existence.
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Ms. Endo (Mirabai): I would like to understand the difference between righting our lives and making the right kind of effort in The Eightfold Noble Path. Shri Mahayogi teaches that the steps of The Eightfold Noble Path go from gross to subtle [practice]. So I think that probably righting one's life is not founded only on the previous steps: [right] thoughts, speech and behavior. Please teach me because I am not clear about it.
MASTER: [The right way of] living corresponds to that which is called Right Life in older [Buddhist] vocabulary. In modern language, it refers to one's entire life. This 'Life', as also described in the Yoga Sutra, primarily expresses that the span of one's life, the circumstances [in which one lives] and one's experiences of both happiness and unhappiness are received according to one's own karma.
One's lifespan is already determined and impossible to change, but as for one's circumstances, one is born into a specific environment and lives life according to the results of one's karma [created in past lives.] For this reason it is said that one follows the path of karma as long as one lives according to those conditions. However, if one follows the Eightfold Noble Path, that is, if one experiences the awakening of the religious mind, (the determination to attain Enlightenment) and embarks upon the path of [spiritual] disciplines by engaging in actual practice, then one must work to correct one's environment by moving out of the sphere of karma. Right Life means creating an active, suitable environment conducive to the practice of the disciplines. By practicing this, your job and all your other activities also naturally fall under control. Although one is still subject to the conditions of time and space, one will create an environment more suitable for a practitioner. This means changing the environment or circumstances so as not to create any new karma and such that you receive less impact from the arrows of karma which you have already shot.
Right Effort, which comes after Right Life, implies much more active effort. It refers to abhyasa and vairagya, which entails actively applying effort to both the action of training, such as studying the Truth and meditating concretely using the body and mind, and to one's thoughts of detachment. This also extends to the daily diet. Right Effort involves carrying out the real practice of that kind of intense discipline.
Ms. Umeda (Madhuri): Would you explain what you mean by "environments that cause us to receive less karma"?
MASTER: This applies to both the physical and the mental. Just as the saying goes [in Japan], "Turn great problems into medium-sized problems, and medium-sized problems into small problems," if one gives up the pursuit of the path of karma and enters into the pursuit of the path of Yoga, or [determines to accept and practice] the Eightfold Noble Path, one will receive less of one's karma as a result. After all, karma is created by the mind and received by the mind. You can say that when one becomes clear about the law of karma, and through concrete action, which includes training the mind's thoughts, truly enters the path of Yoga, the mind itself comes to be transformed. So, the state of the mind when one is creating karma, and the state of the mind after entering the path of Yoga are completely different. Therefore, [in the latter,] even if the same results manifest, a lesser effect is received since the mind's capacity has expanded.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): At what point is it considered that one has entered the path of Yoga?
MASTER: The awakening of the religious mind, that is the very first step. After it comes, then the next step is initiation. Once one has been initiated, [traditionally, this means that one has the commitment to dedicate oneself entirely and completely to the Path of Yoga alone,] one hears [and applies] the guru's teachings earnestly and sincerely, and through them, deliberately works to transform the mind.
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Karma Is Born Out Of Ignorance
What would you like to have or to do right now more than anything else? Perhaps you would like to have a nice car, travel abroad in some exotic country, be surrounded by beautiful music or art, enjoy delicious food or drink, or wear the latest fashions.
How nice all that would be!! How wonderful and joyous! Money is something we can never have too much of or for too long. There are so many pleasures in the world, much more than anyone can possibly enjoy in one lifetime. Those who deeply indulge in chasing after such pleasures will continue to do so whether you leave them be or try to stop them. One desires something, works hard to get it, gets satisfaction from fulfilling that desire, then continues to desire even greater things, going back to the grind of chasing what one wants. Sound familiar? It's called life.
Most people have probably been running around in this cycle as if it were the norm. But is it really the norm?
Life is full of ups and downs. The more ups and downs we have and the more we have going on, the more dramatically things happen and the more interesting and fulfilling life seems to be. However, the joy of getting what we want is temporary, and we suffer two-fold when we lose what we have gained. Still, after a while, the suffering is forgotten and everyone goes back to the grind of chasing what he or she wants again. Consequently, pleasure and pain come back to us over and over again, like waves. Why does this happen?
Every single thing and every single event is transient and ever-changing. They will all disappear in the end. Since ancient times, it has been said that everything is impermanent. Not only is this true of the marvels of nature and human society, but the entire universe is constantly changing; nothing remains the same, not even for an instant. We human beings continue to chase after material things throughout our whole lives in the tiny part of the world that we inhabit. Our job situation and the circumstances at work change every day. We even lose interest in the work that we once felt was worth doing as time passes, or the work itself might suddenly come to a complete halt. The loving relationship with the person you fall in love with changes very rapidly in most cases. The various entertainment activities that we get so engrossed in will fade away before we even realize it. Our jobs, money, entertainment, love-life, family, health... Our surroundings and the circumstances we live in and all the various relationships we have are constantly changing. There is nothing that does not change or that does not come to an end. No matter how strongly we defend what we have gained, all ends in death. Yet, in daily life, we are oblivious to this fact, or we simply see it as the way things are and do not worry at all.
If we contemplate more deeply, we can see that it is inevitable that suffering and sorrow eventually follow after the chasing and clinging to ever-changing things. Your lover's mind changes and he or she falls out of love with you. People's minds change. Even our own minds change. How can we even begin to think that we can stop others' minds from changing? Nevertheless, we forget the truth that things change, and we get attracted to so many things and become attached to them. We become attached to a certain thing and we stick to it; and strangely enough, we believe that these things are absolutely essential. Nothing is permanent—constant change indicates that there is no substance to any of this; however, we pursue that which lacks substance as if it were a mirage, and we get immersed in it. This is all really quite comical and bizarre. This strange power is called ignorance in Yoga.
Even though we know that there is no substance to any of this, we forget about that fact and we cannot help but chase after these things that are transient and ever-changing. Our ignorance of the fact that nothing is permanent repeatedly creates desires that can never be fulfilled. Negative results then arise out of desire-based, selfish actions, which are their cause.
It is said that every outcome has its cause.
This is the rule of cause and effect—the rule of karma (causality). This rule is the rule that governs the entire universe and all of creation, and it works on a human being's psyche and actions just like it works in the physical sciences. Of course, even for human society, we cannot live outside of this law [of nature.] Based on this law, karma is created. Karma means action: the action becomes the cause and then the result manifests. The actions done in the past, whose results have not yet been received, are also called karma.
It is said that our current life, the environment and the situation we live in, were given to us in order to fulfill the results of our past actions [including our past lives.] This means that our actions have invited these circumstances. And even at this very moment, karma continues to be created, time and time again.
All the results of our selfish actions come back to us. When this happens, the mind becomes agitated, and as a reaction, further selfish actions based on ignorance are repeated, and, consequently, the creation of unlimited karma results. It is exactly as they say, "as we sow, so shall we reap."
The reality that underlies what we experience is thus explained by Yoga. And this hankering we feel is not only limited to the modern age. Even in the societies of past millennia people hoped to live lives of comfort and ease, and as they yearned time and again for wealth, fame and pleasures, time and again they died. No matter how advanced our civilization may seem, perhaps people's minds have not changed much at all.
To begin with, why do we suffer even though we are trying to realize the happiness we have incessantly yearned for?
What if the type of happiness we are seeking is false? Is there such a thing as perfect happiness? How can we realize absolute happiness?
What is Eternal Happiness? Does it really exist?
Yoga answers that question:
The feeling of wanting to be happy is not only characteristic of human beings, but it is the nature of all living things. There is nothing wrong with it. However, the objects that we seek are false. It is not that which is constantly changing, but rather that which is never changing—this is what we ought to seek. What is certain and eternal—That is the Truth, and it is That which is called True Existence.
Wealth, fame, pleasures—everything material, continues to change.
If we seriously consider the maxim that "everything is impermanent" and analyze it thoroughly, then the objects of our attachment ought to cease to exist. Yoga teaches that the attachment we feel toward the things that are dear to us will [one day] fade away. I think that as we practice, the power of attachment will naturally weaken. It is said that eventually, the desire arises to renounce everything. It is at this point that actions based on our own desires ought to diminish. And conversely, unselfish actions, actions done not for our own desires, ought to occur naturally. And most importantly, the non-selfish actions do not bear karma. Non-selfish actions are neither good deeds nor bad deeds, nor do they bring about good or bad results.
It is often incorrectly understood that such a life would be devoid of pleasure; that if there are no joys or pains any more, then life must not be very interesting, and nobody would want to lose these emotions. This is a misunderstanding. Yogi, too, feel that beauty is beautiful, that enjoyment is enjoyable, and that comfort is comfortable. However, their minds do not attach to these things. A yogi will not be disappointed if the delicious food he ate today is gone tomorrow. If a beautiful lover leaves, there is no lingering regret. On the contrary, because yogi act simply by concentrating on tasks at hand without any selfish motives or attachments to the results, they do not receive any negative results. Since he or she renounces even a successful result the very moment it arrives, they are free, they are light, and they are also truly fascinating. A person who acts simply for the joy of others—just imagine! Our lives can be as intriguing as theirs Don't you want to live his way? Do such persons truly exist in this age? Yes, without a doubt, such a person exists.
For example, when someone asks for advice, this person listens, paying full attention to the internal rather than the external impressions coming from one's physical appearance or manner of speaking. All are equal in his eyes, and the words that emanate from him are the best and the easiest for the listener, are delivered with a beaming smile, without any wasted words, in an impeccable sentence and in exquisite style.
You might already have guessed who this person is—this was my impression of Shri Mahayogi when I first met him.
Once you see such a fascinating living being in front of your own eyes...seeing is believing. We can recognize the complete form and ideal of a Yogi in such a being. Rather than having vague aspirations, I am sure that a strong ambition to become like him, to live like him, will arise in you, too.
I finally recognized the ignorance of the impermanence of everything, that everything in this world is transient and changing, and the ignorance of causality, that the seeds that are sown from all the selfish actions that we have committed must be reaped by us as a result. It becomes evident to me that karma is born out of ignorance.
Whether a person is a mogul or a fool, there comes a time when they question the vain repetitions born out of ignorance. The timing might vary, some may feel it in early adolescence, or some may feel it in their fifties. Some may feel it even if they have everything and have lacked nothing since birth. Some may feel it for the first time only after ending up like an old rag, totally broken after being at the mercy of their own desires.
It is fortunate that some who have walked the path of karma encountered Yoga at the moment when these questions or this feeling of emptiness arose, because Yoga reveals the ignorance of seeking happiness in the wrong things, and it elucidates the way in which to weaken the power of karma. I am also one of these fortunate persons. After encountering the teachings of Yoga, an alarm went off that said, "perhaps the way I have been living until now is fundamentally mistaken..."
The moment when we realize the error of our ways (the path of karma) is the moment when the resolve to sincerely learn the new way (the path of Yoga) is born—
This is called religious awakening.
The firmness and urgency of this religious awakening is the power and determination by which to continue the practice of Yoga. Perhaps, the more pain and bitterness, the more shameful the past one has had, the more firm the religious awakening might be; therefore, one must persevere in the practice without giving up. To convert from the path of karma to the path of Yoga is to let go of clinging to the wrong things, to seek eternal happiness while maintaining the power of religious awakening, and to see it through.
Click here to read What is Yoga? Part I.
2 Mr. Shimada is a devoted disciple of Shri Mahayogi in Japan who has practiced with MYM since 2010. He is a single father to a teenage son and works a full-time job.
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