Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): I would like to ask you about a book I am thinking about writing, the purpose of which would be to assist in stabilizing the reader’s mind in the proper way. In that regard, I feel that the teachings of raja yoga or Buddha do exactly that just the way they are.
As you mentioned in Pranava Sara, “It is very difficult to practice the teachings of Buddha perfectly.” It is true that it is a difficult path for the average person to follow with precision, and if I were to try to write something that is immediately applicable and practicable in modern life, then I feel that perhaps even the teachings [of raja yoga or Buddha] may not be that useful. At the same time, I also think that the path of Truth ought to be presented.
MASTER: Both of them are essential since they will be understood in different ways depending on the reader, and even the same person may have a different level of understanding and recognition due to the passage of time; so rather than fixating on one or the other for the theme, it is important to bring the focus back to the most important thing: the eagerness with which one seeks the Truth. Even if you do not mention the True Self or the Truth directly, at the very least you can ask the question with regard to, for example, their desires, or the comfortable life they live even in this world—“Is this the Truth?” Regardless of the situation one may be in, one cannot help but feel something in response to that question whether one wants to or not. If one can begin to inquire from this point, it is then that the correct desire [to seek the Truth] will arise—though it may be strange to say “correct” desire—to put it another way, one finally arrives at the fork in the road between pain-bearing obstacles and non-obstacles. Beyond that point, the teachings of Buddha, as well as the psychology of Yoga become important. After going through these stages, the final point that emerges is nothing other than their ultimate source, “Who am I?” or, “What is the Truth?” I think that having these three steps as a structure would make it most easily understood and practical for everybody. And if you do that, probably the four types of yoga or Buddha’s teachings could be introduced according to each step, respectively. That is one suggestion.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): When we experience troubles or sufferings, we all try to resolve them, but we often come up with solutions that are convenient for us, and then we pretend that the issue has been solved only to have it rear its head again. Therefore, I feel that in order to solve these individual problems it would be useful to develop the main content of the book as something that would provide the space for one to look within oneself objectively, in such a way as to transform one’s consciousness through practical examples or practical methods, which would be just like making something that was moving horizontally to move vertically.
MASTER: I think that would be good. In most cases, the teachings of Buddha and the yogi lay out concrete examples that demonstrate what is being taught, generally in the style of taikiseppo (teachings adjusted according to what is most appropriate to the student’s level and circumstances). Even though the individual problems varied, [the teachings and the way they were taught] always led toward vertically-oriented suggestions, while the answers they gave addressed the specific issues. It would be most ideal if you could express those kinds of methods and teachings.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): So, these methods are about discrimination, renunciation and detachment from desires, if I put it into yogic terms. In that case, should they be expressed in a straightforward manner, without holding back? I initially thought that discrimination did not require [religious] faith, and that it could be done if one considered the matter rationally and calmly. However, I am starting to think that this is not the case. At times, if one truly suffers, then one will proceed towards detachment from desires; however, if the suffering is mild and not sufficient, then renunciation and detachment from desires will not be possible. I have begun to think that if all of these people might not yet be ripe enough to discriminate and renounce, then most of the audience will not qualify [or will not relate to the content], and the book will not be useful to them.
MASTER: That is exactly why you need to place the ultimate question before them, or you need to mention it from time to time, I think. So always deal with everything from this foundation, or else things will lose focus and remain in limbo.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): I think that I can also mention that karma yoga and bhakti yoga both have positive [or additive] aspects, unlike discrimination and renunciation, which have negative [or subtractive] aspects.
MASTER: You could mention all of these as concrete and practical examples: karma yoga, bhakti yoga and, of course, meditation and asana. These examples are only a means to an end, yet in order to reach the goal one requires these methods, too. It would be great if the goal could remain steadfast and unchanging, while the methods [to reach it] could be expressed interchangeably, as practical examples.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): So let’s say that we provide these practical examples. Then, gradually, the reader's thoughts will gravitate towards the Truth, I think. So ultimately, the reader may come face-to-face with [the question of] who that self that wants to renounce the suffering truly is. I am not sure how we should deal with this last process.
MASTER: Again, it will all come down to, “Who is the one suffering?” or, “What is suffering?” And the true nature of the protagonist of that suffering, along with the true nature of what suffering itself is, will at that point be revealed. Finally, it will all boil down to, “Who am 'I'?” or, “What is the Self?”
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): Actually, this issue is not just about the book’s content, but it is an issue I am still experiencing within myself, and I know that I have to cut off a certain branch through discrimination, yet it is just as if one branch were cutting another one [because discrimination is, strictly speaking, also one of the mind’s thoughts]; but if I do not cut any of them off, these branches will continue to grow and things will remain the same. In that case, what I need is some sort of a turning point, for example, to discriminate what discrimination is...
MASTER: The other thing to keep in mind is that this is also included in Buddha’s concept of the Twelve Dependent Originations1, which is mentioned in your current series of articles in Paramahamsa2. In the latest issue, you’re covering the topic of craving, or trishna, right? (Mr. Hotta: Yes.) That also [indicates the same idea that] everything is conditioned. Conditions, or upadi, [were introduced], or [in other words, everything is] inevitably conditioned—that’s the starting point. Regardless of what it is, as soon as the condition of the possessor is established, a strong attachment for possessions arises and a relationship based on possession is established. Thus, in other words, all psychological mechanisms are based on this. Therefore, the aforementioned suffering, anxiety, and even happiness—if they have conditioned causes as their underpinnings, they are neither absolute nor perfect. They are all still within the realm of the mind, because the conditions are merely some kind of causation that was formed through individual experiences. Even among siblings or close friends, people’s characters differ. The reason why everyone has different preferences and characteristics is, of course, based on samskara, and that samskara itself was formed within the realm of individual experience, which, in philosophy, is expressed as “conditions.” This way of thinking and raja yoga are very similar, or rather, they discover exactly the same things. And of course, this process of discriminating the mechanism or discriminating discrimination itself, which you mentioned just now, will be carried out in meditation.
So, you can say that because this mechanism of causation exists, the relationship of cause and effect arises. That is to say, the ego or ignorance is the primary root cause of this mechanism. Therefore, since there is a major error, which can even be regarded as ignorance, at the origin of this mechanism, this mechanism itself must be dismantled and removed. In other words, unless this is understood correctly, a continuation of the process of trimming branches and leaves will go on without end.
So, you need to thoroughly and relentlessly expose the true nature [of what this mechanism really is] and burn it away. That is to say, eliminate it.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): In meditation, if I notice an individual problem or if I notice that I have some discontent or attachment, then I think it is best to inquire into these [problems] and bring it to the point of determining who possesses them, and if the problems are concrete—then concentration arises naturally. However, when there are no problems, although these times might only be temporary, the concentration and inquiry are weaker or more shallow than when there is some ongoing or intense suffering. Even though this may be true, it is silly to try to go looking for problems in order to solve them, which just increases the amount of thinking. Yet, if I’m just mulling around and doing nothing, I can’t make progress. I think that that is precisely the very moment in which one should ask even more so who the self is, but concentration is hard to come by in these moments. How should we proceed when we lack self-awareness of our anxieties or problems? I feel like there is a contradiction between not thinking too much and intensely thinking of the ultimate question, “Who am I?”
MASTER: While the mind is still enjoying these relative situations, then, just like in nature, there will be a wave, a sort of bio-rhythm. So in that state, it is impossible to constantly maintain a keen power of concentration, nor is it possible to constantly maintain the opposite state. The only thing I can say is that if the renunciation of each and every thing is completed—renunciation meaning both discrimination and the renunciation [that results]—if you have been able to understand this meaning and then discriminate and renounce, or, in other words, if you are truly in a state of absolute peace of mind—“peace of mind” meaning that you no longer have anything that worries you due to your complete renunciation—then you will no longer be confused. However, if at times that bio-rhythm rears its head, then you must unwaveringly and completely discriminate and renounce that, as I have just said. And furthermore, concentrate with intense force upon the realization of the Truth. And, you must eliminate that bio-rhythm and make an effort to create the condition of ekagrata (single-pointed concentration). Because living life itself is unstable.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): So even if we don’t have any pressing issues, we should create the habit of concentrating.
MASTER: You must do that.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): Even when we think that our concentration is not that strong [at a given moment], is it better to use the words, “Who am I?” as a hint to continue further?
MASTER: Yes, you ought to do so. That must be done. In the recent issue of Pranava Sara [in the Paramahamsa newsletter], it is mentioned as an answer to a particular question that there are five states of the mind. I think that it is one of the truly groundbreaking psychological discoveries of the yogi. Up until the first three, the states are all scattered states of the mind. The next two are the states of concentration and one-pointedness, which are the yogi’s states of mind, and they ought not be just temporary or passing. This means that concentration should not just be during the “meditation time” out of the 24 hours of the day, but the practitioner ought to create the situation of 24-hour states of concentration and one-pointedness. In a way, it is relatively easier to create that in bhakti. Since the object of bhakti is constantly there, everything else can be forgotten and the state of concentration is then created. It is the same with jnana yoga and raja yoga: the states of concentration exist as ‘inquiry’ or ‘discrimination.’ These are not the partial, temporal kind of meditation, but rather, when one is in these states, one is entering a constant state of meditation. Thus, one is immersed in a state of full concentration that involves one’s entire body and soul. Yet this will not interfere with the use of the body in one’s normal daily life. One will be able to do this without affecting one's daily life at all.
Mr. Hotta (Sanatana): I commute to my graduate school by train and it takes four hours round-trip. The time during the commute is often spent idly, not meditating or reading a book. It also seems unnatural to search for an object of discrimination. When there are things that I must think about, I think about them regardless of the situation. But, at these times, should I be intentionally thinking about the Self as the subject instead?
MASTER: Two hours is such a long time to waste. If possible, plan your writing concretely during these times. Of course, this can all be expressed for the first time only after meditating on it [to crystalize it]. So you will have to meditate on it, and it is preferable to spend your time on that.
1 Bi-monthly magazine/newsletter in Japanese published by Mahayogi Yoga Mission Kyoto
* * *
In this issue, I would like to write about the way Yoga should be practiced in daily life, which is something that we all do.
For those of you who practice asana and meditation on a daily basis, how do you spend your time when you are not practicing? Since you all lead busy lives, the time available for your sadhana (the discipline of spiritual practice) is a precious time that takes a lot of effort for you to make possible. Many of you may be practicing late at night when everyone else is asleep. After practicing your precious sadhana, and having done so with much concentration, you may find that your mind and body have become quite calm and peaceful, that they have become the quality of sattva (purity). That is ideal. The time you spend on sadhana to purify yourself through asana, which makes the body strong, and meditation, which eliminates anxiety and strengthens the mind, is a pleasant time.
Then what about the time in which you are actively engaged in your daily work? As a practical matter, the time that yogi and yogini who live in modern society spend on sadhana is minimal, while the majority of their time is spent on actions that involve interacting with others. One simply cannot avoid having relationships with others in daily life. And it is not easy to sacrifice one’s own thoughts or actions, as well as large quantities of time, for others. With that comes great pain.
Is your way of interacting with others rooted in Yoga? Are your actions, words and thoughts toward others or yourself rooted in Yoga?
Yama and niyama are the first and second teachings (or limbs) in the eight limbs of raja yoga.
First, there are five tenets about detachment.
Yama: Restraint toward others in deed, word, and thought
• Ahimsa (non-violence)—Do not cause pain to others (which includes all living things), in your deeds, your words, or your thoughts.
• Satya (truthfulness)—Be truthful and do not lie, in your deeds, your words, or your thoughts.
• Asteya (non-stealing)—Do not steal from others, in your deeds, your words, or your thoughts.
• Brahmacharya (celibacy) —Be constantly pure in every situation, in all your deeds, your words, and your thoughts.
• Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)—Do not receive gifts from anyone.
Next, there are five tenets about the learning and training that are necessary for becoming established in the practice.
Niyama: The deepening of the practice within oneself, through deeds, words, and thoughts
• Shaucha (purity, cleanliness)—internal and external purity—external purity without internal purity has no value.
• Santosha (contentment)—to be content with the bare minimum needs.
• Tapas—overcoming various conditions, both internally and externally—for example, overcoming dualistic conditions such as hot and cold, or happy and sad.
• Svadhyaya (study of scriptures)—nurturing the understanding of the Truth.
• Ishvarapranidhana (contemplation and one-pointed focus upon Ishvara: God, or one's Chosen Deity)—pure faith towards the sacred, and the unwavering vow to attain Awakening.
It goes without saying that already being established in these teachings is a basic pre-condition that one needs to have fulfilled before undertaking sadhana such as asana. Upon hearing this, did you think, “Oh no, I can’t even begin!”? These tenets hurt your ears; they cause your mind to suffer, don't they? Honestly, you are probably thinking, “What kind of holy person are you referring to!?” It would be easy to shrug this all off with a nihilistic smirk. But why is it that these teachings of Yoga seem to be the polar opposite of how we naturally behave? Why is it that we have to observe these tenets? We might say that these instincts are a part of human nature, required for surviving in this hard and troublesome life! Indeed, these instincts did become a part of human nature at one point in time. From the time when one’s spirituality was undeveloped, ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles confused the person, and as he continued to receive blow after blow from the world, suffering, struggling, and learning how to survive by being shrewd and relying solely on his own devices, he learned to relate to others in the wrong way. However, Yoga teaches the complete opposite: that we must abandon these behaviors.
Yama and niyama are teachings for the purpose of deepening one’s detachment and for training to gain mastery over one’s actions. Detachment means abandoning desires (or pain-bearing obstacles). It is the practice of controlling the tendencies of the mind that persist in chasing after the ephemeral dreams of the outer world, and this practice is also known as “non-attachment” or “renunciation.” It is quite difficult to deepen one’s training and level of mastery while continuing to have desires that disturb the mind. It is as if no matter how much tapas (heat) one generates as a result of asana and pranayama (breathing methods), the benefits of these practices escape like water poured into a bucket with holes. The spiritual power acquired through practice is the power by which the mind is controlled, and it is that power that will guide people to the Truth. Through this power, all pain-bearing obstacles are discriminated and expelled. Without practice, detachment will not happen, and vice versa. Practice (the learning and mastering of these disciplines) and detachment go hand in hand, and one cannot exist without the other.
Actually, my mind was also pretty resistant.
When I sought advice from the Master, he taught that, “Yama and niyama are not just about ‘don’t do this’ or ‘you must do this.’ They are the Truth itself.” When shining the light of Truth, there is no other subject to be violent towards, or to trick and plunder, or to indulge in attachment with—because there is no duality called ‘self’ and ‘others’ to begin with. The Master has also said that, “At the beginning, even if it is difficult and restrictive to be engaged in action while keeping these tenets in mind in your daily life, you will eventually, most certainly, be able to feel the beneficial effects of doing so.” This is something that must be nurtured while learning and applying the practice of detachment and yama and niyama concretely, so you cannot master it overnight. However, with actual practice, things are sure to change. Even if you cannot perform all ten of them perfectly, it is fine to gradually increase what you can do. I told myself, “Don’t read the fine print. Just pursue the purity of the essence.” As I convinced myself of that, the mind’s resistance gradually weakened. Still, the mind kept mumbling excuses as to why it cannot be done, but the Master’s following words put a stop to that:
"If you would like to receive a treasure, then get rid of the junk in your hand.”
Seek and you shall be given. If you want it, go and get it yourself! That means asking yourself, “How do I want to live? Am I going to stay the way I am, or do I want to know the Real Truth?"
The answer was already there. From then on, even though I had never hurt anyone physically to begin with, I also stopped being violent within my mind, and I held the mind in check and restrained it every time it wanted to curse. I was doggedly determined to be honest, even if that made me stupidly honest. Even if I didn’t steal, I also stopped expecting to receive anything... Asanas were immensely effective in performing these actions, and by pushing the body, desires temporarily got chased far away from the mind. It was also very effective to stop eating meat and change to a more vegetable-based diet. While I was grappling with desires, reading scriptures whenever I had a spare moment gradually helped me to calm the mind down. As the efficiency of this process of renunciation and practice is beginning to be felt, I have begun to be filled with gratitude for the Master. I realized that this was the very Ishvarapranidhana [that is included in the niyama]. I continue to chant to this day, “I do not want to move away from here. Please guide me so that I will never run away. I am a very underdeveloped, unstable existence. But I can no longer live without knowing the Truth. I do not want to revert back to my old ways.” Now I feel that this mentality itself is the proof that detachment is progressing, that the practice is progressing.
When these yama and niyama are finally in accordance with all of one’s deeds (body), words (mouth), and thoughts (will), only then does one become a yogi or yogini. If that consistency is not established, then no matter what austerities one practices, the path to the Truth will be obscured.
Through doing all of this, once one’s relations to others in daily life are firmly and correctly established, then how shall one act, concretely, during daily life?
Most of you who are reading this article are working in order to earn a living, regardless of the amount or the type of work. Whether it’s an office or a school, the situation in front of you right now is the cumulative result of what you have done in the past. Daily life requires you to be continuously involved in these activities. Individuals who have a physical body cannot escape from these actions. That is what is called duty. For some, it is an office job, for some, it may be teaching, and for others it may be doing housework, raising a child, or taking care of aging parents. Within social structures and organizations, there are a set of responsibilities based on the respective roles and abilities of each person regardless of its scale. And the results of the work are always judged. It is natural, in a way, for everyone to want to produce some “Great Result.” However, please recall what was discussed in the second article of this series—selfish deeds create selfish karma (cause and effect of all actions). That is the law of karma. Remember? Karma begets attachment, and attachment begets suffering. Selfless deeds do not come back to bite you. Even if one’s deeds may be esteemed and lead to praise, by performing these deeds for others, one will remain free from this law.
A paradox then arises in which one produces better results at work simply by working lightly, with one's concentration focused on one’s tasks, without worrying about results or what others think or working with heavy considerations and planning, all the while grunting and straining yourself. Concretely speaking, the work will be performed for colleagues, clients, consumers, and society in general, and in fact that all falls within the realm of duty in which one has been placed. My most ideal, selfless workplace is “God.” It is completely irrelevant what type of work it is, and it does not matter how trivial, challenging, grueling, straining, or unreasonable the work is. I dedicate that work to God.
That is the most ideal ‘other,’ for whom you can continuously and simply work, while concentrating to the utmost, without any complaint or dissatisfaction.
In actuality, to work while bringing your daily life into accordance with your deeds, words and thoughts by observing yama and niyama accordingly is the true and ideal form of actual practice in the discipline of Yoga, more so than any other practices in Yoga.
You have all felt this to a great extent already. What is left is to do this every day! Let’s do it and encourage each other. A person who lives in Yoga in daily life is doubtlessly a person who is light, and free, and captivating.
“Who is that amazing person?"
“Oh, you didn’t know? He’s a Yogi!"
1 Previous articles:
What is Yoga? Part 1
| What is Yoga? Part 2
| What is Yoga? Part 3
| What is Yoga? Part 4 | What is Yoga? Part 5
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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