Ms. Hitomi Mori: There is a saying by Vivekananda that unless one is able to believe in oneself, one cannot believe in God, and that it is a prerequisite to believe in oneself before one can believe in God. I didn’t quite understand what was meant by believing in oneself, but is that true?
MASTER: Simply put, if there is a person who cannot believe in himself or herself, yet says that he or she can believe in God, then what if you were to ask that person who it is that believes in God? The answer would be, one’s self. If you are a person that cannot even believe in yourself, then how reliable is your belief in God? By believing in yourself first, then responsibility for your thoughts and words will follow. That is the basis of belief. If such a [reliable] self believes in God, then that substantiates that belief.
Ms. Hitomi Mori: To believe in oneself means to be responsible for one’s actions and words?
MASTER: Yes. To learn Yoga, ultimately including things such as karma (cause and effect of actions) and Satori in Yoga’s system, is to believe in oneself as the starting point. That means that even one’s fate can be changed depending on oneself. By believing in oneself, and at the same time, exerting effort to improve oneself, a positive transformation takes place. So then you can understand that it is important to know the truth of “as you sow, so shall you reap,” which indicates that whether the results are positive or not, the cause is within oneself. That’s why if you want to improve things, you must make an effort, and that means believing in yourself.
Vivekananda, at the end of the nineteenth century, especially tried to awaken Indian society, whose heart had been eaten through by superstition and baseless customs that had been perpetuated for some thousands of years. Blind faith and fanaticism are the same [as these superstitions and baseless customs], but Yoga is in this regard, at its foundation, all about making an effort to calmly see, observe, and improve.
(Ms. Mori thinks for a while, and then repeats the question.)
Ms. Hitomi Mori: Still, I don’t really understand what it means to believe in oneself. Should I just convince myself, even though intellectually I still don’t quite believe what I’m taught, that God is within myself and that is the Truth?
MASTER: As I mentioned before, believing in oneself means taking responsibility for one’s thoughts, words, and deeds. Doesn’t everyone think, “I am myself”? The only people who can say, “I am you,” are either saints or fools. (Everyone laughs.) It is very rare to find someone like that. Normally, people think, “I am me.” That is how they understand the word “I.” Therefore, believing in oneself is as simple as that. Whether that self is the true Self or the mind is another problem entirely. That is to say, no one ever doubts that the first person “I” is “myself.” And that would include, at least, everything that is expressed through oneself, which are thoughts, words, and deeds. So your thoughts, your words and your actions must be responsibly accounted for. That is the most basic and minimum level of believing in oneself.
There is no need to blindly believe that the “I” exists in all of creation. Rather, you must validate it by yourself. Yoga is very pragmatic: it acknowledges that the mind cannot help but be convinced by empirical knowledge that has been proven through one’s own experience. On the other hand, it also acknowledges that things that can be categorized as blind beliefs are not reliable, and instead they can become obstacles. So regardless of what it is, one must verify it. The process thereof can be a process of continually confirming—if there is a particular teaching in Yoga, and if you do not understand that teaching, you persist with that issue until you solve it to the point of understanding it, or you persist to find the answer by comparing your answer with the teachings to see which one is contradictory and which one is incorrect or close to perfection.
Yoga does not force people to blindly believe its teachings. But I can say that it is filled with ample hints and wisdom for the purpose of freeing the mind, so to speak. So through thinking, meditating and checking your own answers against It, eventually you will come to understand that the teachings of Yoga are the Truth. What is needed is for you to verify that for yourself. The person doing that is you. So you cannot do anything unless you at least believe in yourself.
(Shri Mahayogi speaks firmly yet calmly, precisely expounding the teachings as if to untangle her mind. Her eyes are filled with tears, and her lips are tightly pressed into a straight line.)
Mr. Kenji Mori: The meditation on “Who am I”—is it fine to take the approach of simply repeating silently, “Who am I?”
MASTER: No, no, that kind of lukewarm approach is not good. It is much more intense: it is about dissecting yourself thoroughly. As if you had become a surgeon, first you cut open your body, [then check if the body is yourself]. If the body is not the “I,” then continue to search for what lies deeper within the body. Then, naturally, the search reaches the mind, but then the question comes...what is the “I” that this mind thinks of as being one’s self? Various things cling to the mind. They must be surgically extracted one by one. One must become a competent and brutally honest surgeon. These tasks must be performed swiftly and thoroughly, because if the approach for the treatment takes too long and spills over into the next life, one’s present life will be over before the goal is reached. The search for the “I” requires such a truly serious procedure.
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Everyone must first pass through the process of bringing their diet under control. Beginning with the control of the desire to eat, each disciple must practice renunciation until the very end, starting from wherever they are. This satsangha re-emphasized the importance of discrimination and renunciation, as well as the discipline of practicing every day.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): Regarding my dietary habits, I was told to control the amount of food I eat, but I confess that it is hard for me, so I endure and suffer through it. If we compare the process of smooth renunciation and the control of the desires and pain-bearing obstacles within oneself, to one’s diet, how that can be? Is it best to force myself to endure it?
MASTER: Not that way. When one endures while desires are still present, it creates suffering. However, if one discriminates correctly, and in so doing brings it under control, then no suffering is created. And so it is with regard to food, for instance, Buddha taught, “Thou shalt not drink alcohol.” This teaching is so important that he purposefully put it under one of the abstinences. Not only alcohol, but you must discriminate on attachments toward things such as gourmet foods, which are getting trendier these days—why should such attachments arise, what difference does it make whether you have it or not? Food is nothing but the means needed to nourish and maintain the physical body. To supply the needs of the body, eating meat is particularly unnecessary. Rather, one can more than sufficiently maintain one’s life with a diet centered on vegetables.
If you compare a meat-eating diet to a vegetable diet, meats can cause the blood to get thick and can cause many kinds of diseases, but there are fewer worries with vegetarian foods. From this we can deduce that even from a biological point of view, a vegetarian diet is preferable to eating meat. Above all, in order to continue practicing Yoga, it is required that you maintain a light body and mind. From that point of view, too, vegetarian diets are less burdensome, and one can constantly remain nimble and light. In the physiological and the mental aspects, not only is meat unnecessary, it is rather harmful. Also, considering the amount of food that you mentioned, your body will be well maintained by controlling the amount you eat, and your mind and body will feel rather comfortable.
To correctly discern this is discrimination. Ultimately, the attachment to food is created by the mind. The cause, blind habits, results in ignorant results, where one thinks that one must eat this or that. Therefore, if you discriminate on your diet thoroughly, you won’t have to suffer. Rather, you will be able to enjoy eating with ease.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): So I must ask myself what is truly necessary, and find the answer within myself for sure? At times, I get very hungry and suffer.
MASTER: Apparently, the stomach expands or contracts through habit. So if you are chronically overeating, then the stomach may be expanded, and may even be diseased, eventually ending in stomach cancer, perhaps. On the other hand, if you train the stomach to grow accustomed to eating less, then it will change by getting smaller accordingly, and it will be satisfied with smaller amounts. This cannot be accomplished in one or two days, but as you continue to practice Yoga, you will be able to get good results over a period of some months. Earlier, I mentioned that the body is maintained by food, but in actuality, one takes in the prana, a nutrient like the universal energy, contained within food. Since you are studying Chinese medicine, you probably know this already. So we hear that there is an expression in some legends about ancient sages, that they lived on eating thin air. That is the exact explanation of living directly by taking in the invisible prana. Therefore, it is not necessary to think too much about recent [fads] like the nutrition and the vitamins of food. If you eat a well-balanced diet, since nature creates fresh seasonal ingredients [suitable for the nature of the human body], and if you put vegetables at the center of it, it will be more than sufficient for you to live on.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): I will try my best and make an effort. ...May I ask what the problem with alcohol is?
MASTER: When people drink alcohol, all of their minds’ expressions change. They show various expressions because of the alcohol. For some it will be easier to laugh, and for others it will be easier to cry, and so on. But you can say that in sum, they generally lose their equilibrium. That is not advisable.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): Even small amounts are not advisable?
MASTER: No, it is not advisable. Especially since alcohol can cause addiction, and also, when one drinks—probably it happens with everyone—one gets thirstier. So then one must keep drinking to satiate the thirst. And this appears to be similar to tanha, the cause of suffering, that Buddha described. Anyhow, the teachings of Yoga or Buddha are so tranquil that it is almost cruel. You must never let your guard down, so that not even the slightest abnormal sensations will arise.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): So it’s also not correct to drink a lot of water or liquid to keep the stomach filled, to satiate hunger.
MASTER: That can be changed through making a new habit. Perhaps everyone is taking in too much water. There seem to be recommendations such as drinking a few liters of water per day, but there is no need to rely on information like that.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): So is there an appropriate amount of water?
MASTER: As for the amount of water or liquids... I think that perhaps three to four cups are sufficient. The amount needs to be considered depending upon one’s occupation and personal needs, and if one exercises and sweats a lot, then water or liquid needs to be replenished. However, unless you are an athlete or doing physical labor, there is no need to drink so much water, I think. It also depends—it is a matter of habit. If you are always carrying around a water bottle, which is popular nowadays, then you will be drinking often throughout the day. That seems a bit abnormal to me.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): It can be the case that if you drink too much, then the body becomes too cold or even ill.
MASTER: I think that that can happen. Even water needs to be digested. In the Yoga scriptures from the middle ages, it says to fill one third of the stomach with food, and the other third with air. Normally, people just habitually eat until they are full, one hundred percent of their capacity. That is not good. And if you continue to practice Yoga without stopping, these desires will disappear. On the other hand, we often hear that when emotions are agitated, then people escape by overeating. Deceiving themselves by escaping through over-eating to fulfill any kind of unmet frustration with food—that is a vicious cycle. Eating in moderation is extremely important.
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): I have to admit that eating is almost the strongest of all the desires I have.
MASTER: Well, eating is considered to be the greatest instinct, although it is an essential one. So the kind of dietary style you practice is crucial. I’m sure that in spite of the fact that many of you may have had ordinary diets before you began practicing Yoga, as you began to practice Yoga, your diet was probably transformed. So I suggest that you hear from the others about it for your own practice.
(Jayadevi mentioned that through the process of preparing herself by planning the time and amount that she eats for lunch, and avoiding unessential things like coffee breaks before class, she feels that her body has taught her the meaning of a “light body.”)
Mr. Kawazoe (Asangan): I’ll do my best.
Ms. Hitomi Mori: Cetaka told me to restrain myself from eating sweets. Does that mean that sweets are not good either?
MASTER: It’s bad to overeat them, and sweets are not even necessary at all.
Ms. Hitomi Mori: Not even necessary...
(Attendees laugh at the stunned manner in which she repeats Shri Mahayogi’s words.)
MASTER: On rare occasions, it’s fine. Habitually eating them, even a little bit, for example, having dessert every day, is not good. Using them for an occasional celebration is fine.
Ms. Hitomi Mori: I heard that foods have guna. Do we not have to worry about them?
MASTER (immediately): You must be concerned about them. It’s better to refer to them. The MYM’s calendar on dietary life called “Basics of Diet”1 had a chart of foods based on the guna. You should check it again.
Ms. Hitomi Mori: Yes, I understand. I was raised to drink tea while eating. When I stay over at the disciple’s houses in Kyoto, the tea is served at the end. Is that better?
MASTER: In Kyoto, tea is rarely served during the meal because there are broths. Tea has the purpose of purifying the mouth after eating. It may also serve as a digestive. It’s fine to drink tea if there is no broth. ...You are from Shizuoka, is that right? I see now, that it is the region famous for green tea. (Everyone breaks out into laughter.) I suppose people from Shizuoka must really like tea.
1 The chart contains seasonal vegetables. Published in 2006 by MYM Kyoto.
(After satsangha, while Shri Mahayogi is still present in the room, Yohei asks about Shri Mahayogi’s eating habits in his youth.)
MASTER: Of course, I was practicing Yoga, so my digestion was good and I never got sick. I did not eat much meat. I did not drink. When I was around nineteen, I felt that it was meaningless to eat so much, so I suddenly switched to eating very little. And not only was I taking in small amounts, I also tried to take in foods in their most natural form, the seasoning was very light too without using any sweeteners. I continued like that, a yogic lifestyle, for years.
Mr. Yohei Iio: I will start doing that. Don’t you eat bread? Even melon-pan [sweet pastry shaped like a melon that was popular at that time in Japan]? (Bursts out laughing.)
MASTER: Not really. In New York, there are delicious breads, like croissants and ciabattas, different from Japanese breads. In Japan, I rarely eat bread—just depending on the type of breakfast.
(Mr. Yohei mentioned that he likes ohagi, [a traditional sticky rice treat covered in sweet azuki bean paste,] and that he eats them every day, but he declared that he would quit from that day on.)
(Satsangha from one week later—May 1, 2010, The Ashrama, Kyoto)
(Yohei and Mr. Kawazoe say that they have had an opportunity to relearn how to control their diet, through the “Samarasa” (Yogic cooking) classes, and the seminar “Buddha2,” led by Sanatana. Mr. Kawazoe mentioned that when he heard that Buddha only ate once a day in the morning, he realized that there was no point for him even to continue talking about working on controlling his diet and eating less, at which point everyone burst out laughing. Yohei made a decision to completely cut out the intake of sweets, based on Shri Mahayogi’s words at the satsangha a week before. He opted not to partake of the sweets offered after the seminar “Buddha.” Mr. Kawazoe said that he noticed that and stopped his hand from reaching for the sweets too. Mr. Kawazoe visited Tokyo in early April, at which time Cetaka suggested that he eat less, therefore he has made a conscious effort to be careful about it. Shri Mahayogi asks him how he is doing with his eating recently, he says that the first two weeks felt like he was going to die, but that he is now accustomed to it.)
(Even in the Asana class before the satsangha, they had been discussing how they had been working on their eating habits most recently. Yohei, who began controlling his diet immediately by abstaining from eating sweets, spoke about how, after three days of not eating sweets, he felt his body become lighter. He felt that observing Shri Mahayogi’s teaching resulted in immediate, tangible effects, and thus he concluded that the intangible, mental aspects can also be greatly transformed through disciplining oneself to observe the teachings. Shri Mahayogi smiles as he listens.)
Mr. Yohei Iio: I could feel that eating sweets was most likely stimulating my appetite. Now, I feel that my appetite itself is lessening. Is there any connection?
MASTER: Physiologically, when there is more physical exhaustion, the body demands sugars naturally. In other words, if one can always maintain a kind of condition where there is not too much exhaustion, (sternly) then there is no need for sugars. Those who are Yoga practitioners do not engage in activities that make them tired every day to begin with. Regardless of how severely practitioners engage in sadhana, there is no recurring exhaustion associated with it. Instead, it goes in the direction of purification and becoming lighter and more comfortable. So there is no need for sugars.
2 The seminar “Buddha” was held 6 times in Kyoto from March 28th to June 6th in 2010, where Sanatana presented Buddha’s life and the legends of his previous lives using visual materials and explained his teachings with simple words.
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Mr. Takafumi Kunitomo: Yesterday, during the gathering for kirtan, Anandamali suggested that I express the spirit of kirtan through dance, so I danced following Gargi’s lead. Through doing that, the memory arose of when I first met Shri Mahayogi. I was seeking God through dancing. At the same time, I remembered that Shri Mahayogi said, “Play playing as playing.”3 Then I felt deeply that in order to do that, faith is absolutely essential. Would you tell me practical ways to deepen bhakti (love for God)?
MASTER: Yes. The word “faith” is one of the most common words that is regularly used across the various religions that exist, and even beyond religious contexts—but in Yoga, the word is emphasized as being pure faith, just as Shri Ramakrishna used to also say. Then what is that pure faith?
I always mention that what you need to realize is the Truth, the true Self, or the true God, and I suggest that you choose one of those three as the object of meditation. Pure faith is not the kind of faith one may have in the dualistic, confrontational relationship that often exists in conventional religions, rather it is to become one with one of these three objects, which are true Existence—that is pure faith. In other words, from a more ordinary perspective, it is an insane love. THAT only exists through love, and since there is nothing else that exists, it is pure. And depending on the perspective, it may seem like madness. That kind of mad love is where the world, worldly knowledge, and common sense—any type of concept whatsoever disappears, and only the object of love exists, and [the lover] becomes one with THAT. Anything other than that does not exist, not even one iota. Have that kind of faith in Yoga.
(After a long silence) Bhakti is to truly act upon that, plain and simple.
Mr. Takafumi Kunitomo (nodding slightly, and after some pause): So is it ok to discipline myself to spend my time thinking of the guru at all times as much as possible?
MASTER: Yes. That is also one of the ways.
(Mr. Shocho Takahashi confirms whether the sensation of directing the mind towards the Ishta is similar to shambavi-mudra, where the focus is directed towards the inner depths of the mind.)
MASTER (quietly and sternly): That is one way, however, you must heighten your bhakti to an even greater extent in your daily life. For example, whether during kirtan, meditation, or breaks at work, you need to be heightening your bhakti as much as possible.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: Yes.
Mr. Nishimura: Does that mean that it is better to think of God 24-7?
Mr. Nishimura: I often forget. (laughs out of embarrassment)
MASTER (in an energetic tone filled with urgency): If you seriously want to attain Satori, then you won’t be able to do anything else. No other thoughts will arise. You will be consumed by it. Your mind has to be burning with it, to not be able to see anything but that aim, even before you are told what to do. You are not serious about it at all if you are still quibbling over it. Just look at the world. If one falls in love with someone, one becomes crazy only about [that love]. Or look at someone who uses up all of his assets in a business, or someone who gets deeply into debt through just playing around. People lose their lives over these matters.
So, when you want to attain Satori, the complete, perfect state, then how much more effort and strength of will do you need? It’s often likened to falling in love, but love lasts for only three days (laughs). Can you take it to Eternity? Since the partner you want is eternal, in order to match up, you yourself must become eternal. Go beyond death and reincarnation. Continuously think upon this, and discipline yourself.
3 An expression indicating that we should enjoy playing our roles in life just for the sake of playing them, which means to enjoy playing without attachment, simply as having a role to play.
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Ms. Mastuda speaks about the fact that she is under great pressure, both physically and mentally, overwhelmed by her job, daily tasks and child-rearing, and that she feels that her mind is gradually getting sick. She feels as though she can only accept people in similar situations, and that she is starting to not be able to accept all others.
Ms. Matsuda: I am aware that negative parts of myself are coming out. I know that it would be good if I were able to correct myself in as short a time as possible by practicing the breathing methods and yoga asana you teach us. And here, the time I am visiting here now, my mind is much more calm since this space is in a completely different dimension from my normal self. Yet, I know my mind complains that all of you have time to come here but I don’t. I wonder how I should cope with it?
MASTER: That is a very typical, realistic case in this modern world. In actuality, some of the people who are gathered here now had hard and demanding jobs at one point just like you do, where they had to stay up all night for some nights. However, the first and foremost teaching of Yoga is about what we are living for. Frankly, are you living for your job or are you living for yourself? Your “Self” in this case has the deeper meaning of human existence. Yoga shows us that people go through their own experiences, which are different from anybody else's, and that means that they have had experiences throughout many reincarnations, and they have had their tendencies, the kind of job, and all of their lives affected by the inevitable power of karma, [which has been created through those very experiences]. One's job causes suffering when it is too idle or too busy. In a family situation, everyone has a role to play in order to meet an obligation to serve his or her family. These are all unavoidable duties. So, surely doing your job is necessary in order to support the family. However, even though you may not notice it when things are going well, if you get too busy, as you just mentioned now, [your physical and mental response] is like a warning signal. It becomes necessary to reconsider various things from the perspective of their priority. For example, when children are small, they require more care. As they get older, things become a little easier accordingly. [When it comes to your job] there is no requirement about how much work you have to take on, so you can think, “this is sufficient,” after doing just enough work. Whether you have time or not, that is not about comparing with others, but it is something that you create yourself, something that you manage yourself. Even when your job changes, what remains unchanged is you. As you eventually get old and retire from job, you cannot retire from yourself. So then you will realize that your self is the most central, crucial part, indeed. Practice so that you can retain your composure without being fettered by any circumstances whatsoever. By doing so, even when circumstances change, you will remain undaunted. So then that leads us to the saying that has been around since ancient times, “one must polish oneself”—the first priority is to establish one’s self.
Now, how should one proceed concretely? It does not require a great amount of time. Whether it is to attend an occasion like this or read about [the Truth] or to think by yourself about how you can establish yourself, or meditate, even if it is only for half an hour, spending time polishing yourself [through these practices] will never be a waste. If you keep practicing it, the work will also come under control eventually. It doesn’t make any sense to work 24-7, like in the rapidly growing post-war era. That can only result in disease, exhaustion, and mental illness.
Ms. Matsuda (in a small voice): I’m getting close to becoming like that.
MASTER (laughs): That’s why you must create time for yourself, even if it is only a little.
Ms. Matsuda: I think that people have habitual tendencies as to how they live their lives.
MASTER: That is what karma is. (laughs)
Ms. Matsuda: So it’s a habit, how I corner myself?
MASTER: That can change. Roughly speaking, within the world such habits from one’s past experiences compel one to keep constantly moving, unable to stop—that is the path of karma. Another path is the path of Yoga. Releasing and freeing yourself from the various pain and suffering caused by karma is the path of Yoga; so there are two paths. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to do some difficult ascetic practices. (Everyone laughs.) Really, your mind just needs to understand the obvious truth or the laws of how things work.
(Shri Mahayogi advises her that the easiest way to change her situation is to attend satsangha or classes, at least once a week if possible, so that she can receive positivity from relating to her comrades. Whether or not one actually practices Yoga as the Gospel for the people of today with their busy lives, is dependent on each person’s degree of willingness.)
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Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): What happens to prana during shavasana?
MASTER: The prana becomes shavasana’s prana.
Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): You mean that it pervades throughout the body?
MASTER: What is the meaning of shavasana?
Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): I thought that shavasana was for relaxing after each pose, so that the prana and the body are restored to their original, proper condition.
MASTER: Yes, that is so.
Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): When Anandamali visited Matsuyama recently, she corrected the shavasana in very careful detail during the class. Personally, I tend not to like to be corrected in shavasana, so I intentionally did not correct shavasana much, perhaps only one out of three times, if a neck was out of alignment or something. However, when I was observing how she checks it, I thought that even the flow of prana changes with that correction. Is that true?
MASTER: Yes. The flow changes if there is a misalignment.
Jayadevi: Shavasana means the “corpse pose.” I wonder what kind of prana is in a corpse? (Everyone laughs.) Is it as if the prana itself does not exist?
MASTER: Yes, it is like that. So with each asana, very strong focus and tension are forced into being. Shavasana is then provided to have the opposite effect. In a way, the intensified prana works automatically and positively in shavasana, so it is best to keep the body like a corpse.
Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): I see. Thank you very much.
Yogadanda: Going back to shavasana. Siddhasana and padmasana have especially strong effects in making the breath deeper, and therefore they enable one to get close to the state of non-breathing. But in the case of shavasana, as you mentioned, the prana automatically works in a positive way, so does that mean that, in a way, there is no proactive action involved in it?
MASTER (after thinking for a while): I often wonder, how many practitioners out there really have a healthy, robust body and tough mental strength? All the yogi of yore had already been equipped with these prerequisites, then they undertook their practices on top of that; because you can’t even practice if your body is weak or if the mind holds onto various troubles and difficulties. However, since there are so many people who are like that, and also since the benefits of Yoga can be given to anyone, then the real situation is that the practice has to begin with overcoming these weaknesses and shortcomings. Simply put, the condition must first be brought back to zero from negative, then turn to positive after that. But in fact, what is “negative” is now the normal basic starting point for each person, and therefore one can only go in a positive direction. That means that all sadhana, even shavasana, are working positively. There is nothing that is passive for anyone.
MASTER: The entire process in Yoga is singularly pointed towards the state of Satori. In order to heighten that focus, you must pay attention to your daily actions and transform them into yogic actions. Yoga is not something that restricts you. Since Satori is called freedom, or liberation, it is about being liberated from the condition of the tight grip of bondage, both physically and mentally. However, you must not forget that it is accomplished through control, to a certain extent. Freedom and being unrestrained have different meanings altogether. If you think and act based on the minds’ capricious whims, then that will result in the path of karma, and it will solidify and strengthen that bondage. The result is suffering. If you exert control with the aim of eliminating those things, then the errors in the mind will gradually be eliminated, and then Freedom, the original condition of the soul, will emerge.
Jayadevi: Does control for the purpose of the elimination of the mind mean discrimination?
MASTER: Yes. Exactly. Discrimination and renunciation.
Ms. Miyazaki: Discrimination and renunciation...
MASTER: Yes. It means eliminating the pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance from the mind. Discriminating the mind’s thoughts by comparing them against the Truth and getting rid of the erroneous things is called renunciation.
(Satsangha one week later—May 29, 2010, The Ashrama, Kyoto)
Madhuri: In last week’s satsangha, Shri Mahayogi mentioned the issue of how many firm and tough practitioners there actually are—and that left a strong impression on me, but I had a cold at the time... I felt that it is out of the question to think about directing myself toward the ideal unless I gain so much mental toughness that no matter what happens to the body I will be able to keep the mind completely removed from the body. Shri Mahayogi often mentions about the “diamond body,” and I would like to ask about it again.
MASTER: What is required first and foremost for a practitioner is Discrimination. Discrimination means to know the Dharma (universal law) of this world. You may be familiar with this phrase, that everything is impermanent—nothing in the world is permanent; that means, they all change. The world, the mind, and of course, the body, are not eternal.
And “all existence and all phenomena have no Self”—here, existence means this world, the world of phenomena. There is no Atman in the world of phenomena. Atman is the Truth. If you seek Truth, or happiness, or freedom within this world, there is none to begin with. Such is the world. One must discriminate thoroughly, that “everything is impermanent” and “existence and phenomena have no self.” To practice discrimination means that not only does one simply understand the definition of the words, but one must check whether there are any attachments towards incorrect things within the mind or not, and if there are attachments, they must be eliminated at once.
Furthermore, there is the teaching that “All is suffering”—the way you perceive this may be different based on the degree of suffering you’ve experienced, but as you carefully ponder and discriminate on this, you will see that your body, your mind, your loved ones that you think are eternal, eventually disappear, or [your attachment towards them] causes them to change into suffering. No matter what the mind wishes or thinks, the result of all of this is suffering.
To thoroughly discern that such is the state of the world, as well as the state of the mind—that is discrimination. Therefore, you must direct your mind towards Nirvana, the world of Truth, the state of Truth. As you come into contact with the words of Buddha, or Shri Ramakrishna, or other saints, the determination to go towards the Truth will arise within you. Then, what you need to practice is following the correct teachings, keeping the body and mind away from the aforementioned ignorance, and making them correspond to the Truth.
What is meant by firm and tough is that it requires the power of the will, the strength to aim for the Truth, or Satori, and purity—which means focusing singularly on Satori. In order to make that single-pointed concentration unshakable, everyday observation, mindfulness, and the entire sadhana will assist you in deepening that single-pointed concentration, and thereby advance you [toward the goal]. Simply put, they constitute [the will or the strength] to aim only for Satori, or the Truth. Indomitable endurance that is both firm and tough is also necessary, and it will nurture [that unshakable, single-pointed concentration on the Truth].
It’s not a problem to get a cold from time to time. (Everyone laughs.) Know that that is the way the body is.
Dayamati: Regarding the state of nirvana, in some scriptures of Yoga it is described as eternal, continuous bliss. However, from listening to what you just said about the Buddha, it seems that it is simply quiet and peaceful, and also existence as it is... Please advise how I should think about this?
MASTER: It is actually impossible to describe this “Substance.” However, words, at times, are needed to communicate something, or to transmit teachings. Since That was indescribable, Buddha conveyed That through mauna—silence. However, he did use the word Nirvana, and said that one must reach the state of Nirvana.
In Yoga too, it is exactly the same. Yoga describes that after reaching the point of going through steps of samadhi, then nirvikalpa samadhi or nirbija samadhi (seedless samadhi) should be attained. In other places, it is expressed as Sat Chit Ananda. Sat is translated as existence, Chit as consciousness, and Ananda as bliss. Depending on the person’s state and condition, the words that are used may change slightly, but either of them maybe used. However, as I always mention, and even today, pure Truth has neither name nor form. However, the true Existence is That, as an existence. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to express it in words. (Everyone laughs.)
（Sanatana mentions that although everyone has more opportunities to talk about Yoga to others these days, in order to be responsible to the people joining the path in the future, he strongly feels that he has to know the goal himself. He mentions that the impact that the existence in a state of Satori has on others is enormous, and that words are actually useless in guiding people.）
MASTER: Even if you say so, the saying goes that the journey of a hundred miles starts with the first step. One who has walked some steps, or a few dozens of steps, can help ones who have just taken the first step, and see to it that they continue on with the second, third steps and so on. I think that all of you are already doing that. And the advanced senior students, of course, are walking on their paths, and will eventually reach the goal of a hundred miles.
Sanatana: There is a scene in which Ramakrishna’s disciples tell their disciples, “You are truly great. We were only able to become renunciates because of our Master, but you became renunciates even after our Master’s passing—how great you are.”
MASTER: Indeed. His direct disciples were all great, but when they were young, they weren’t any different from any of you now.
(Shri Mahayogi laughs heartily, and then gazes upon everyone with compassion.）
（Yashoda has returned home from New York, and she participated in the satsangha. She is at a loss for words at being able to come back to the Ashrama after a long time. She says that she lost both of her grandmothers in the previous two years, one after another. She mentions that when she was staying at an old Kyoto merchant-style guesthouse the night before, she recalled her grandmother’s old farmhouse, with its earthen floors and ash-covered ceiling. It has long since been rebuilt.）
Yashoda: I felt, “How impermanent this is. Nothing remains. So then, what remains?” Then, in our everyday lives, and every moment we have to focus on, “Who am I?” “What is the Truth?” “What is God?” “What is eternal?” Should we be of the mentality that “no matter how much you love someone or like something, in the end nothing is left”?
(Yashoda speaks as if she is throwing her brimming emotions towards Shri Mahayogi. Shri Mahayogi speaks strongly, as if to further fuel her feelings.）
MASTER: As I mentioned earlier, that is important indeed. You must first feel it like that, and once you feel it, thoroughly and fundamentally internalize it. It is important to push forward all the way. If there is an obstacle, then these are the attachments and the memories in the mind. Even these are impermanent, so completely eliminate every last sliver of it. Most likely, in the end, you will come to the point of, “Who is the protagonist that is thinking this?” It is the ego, so even that has to be eliminated. However, it’s not that one’s self is lost, only one’s false self is lost, only its illusory objects are lost. One then arrives at the opposite end, the true Existence. That must be thoroughly, completely and constantly applied.
It is not about becoming nihilistic, and regardless of the surrounding environment or situation, there is no friction created. That will be resolved by itself, so there is no problem. Others may think you are strange or crazy, but do not be concerned with them. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
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Three gurubhai came from New York: Aniruddha, Nandishwara, and Ryan. All are US citizens, but since they come from the melting pot of New York, they were each born in different places. Ryan was born and raised in the States, Aniruddha immigrated from Jamaica, and Nandi from Hong Kong. The place where they stayed was the Shanti-Kutira, where Takafumi and I live and practice Yoga. I was anxious at first because they were three men and all were coming from different backgrounds, but that anxiety evaporated immediately. During the ten days they stayed with us, they participated in all classes, attended satsangha, went through a very rigorous schedule, which started early in the morning with meditation and work at the Shanti-Kutira, and they interacted with various gurubhai every night. They were pushed beyond the limit of their physical and mental energy in an unfamiliar, foreign land, but they put forth an enormous effort in learning Yoga, all the while rubbing their sleepy eyes. For them, there was something at stake in these ten days. They were earnest, serious “seekers.”
Looking back, there was a consistent theme throughout their stay—“What is discrimination?” From the day after they arrived, to the day they left Kyoto, most of the conversations that took place were based on discrimination. In fact, I myself, have been making a great deal of effort in practicing meditation on discrimination and practicing the application of discrimination in daily life since last year, so I tried to share as much as I could, even though I am still a novice. At times, I told them some harsh things, but because they see me as a disciple in Kyoto, and thus think me to be a more serious practitioner, they took everything with humility even though I am younger and have had around the same length of experience practicing Yoga. My senior disciples, who know me well and often like to pick on me, may be surprised at what I told them, and they may laugh at me, but I told them everything I felt they needed to hear. That is because I felt like I was looking at myself, rather than at others. They had the same exact struggles that I had when I began practicing Yoga, and the struggles I still have to this day.
I am sure that they truly learned many lessons and recognized many things during their stay, so much so that they may not be able to take everything back to New York with them. When writing about their stay, I could not write from an objective point of view, such as “They went to these places, met these people, and were inspired.” Even though the article may be skewed, I have titled it, “Three Gurubhai From New York and My Ten Days With Them,” and I have recorded here various conversations and things that happened between us in these ten days.
“I want to change myself”—Aniruddha came with this intense thought in his heart. On day two of his stay, he mentioned in his interaction with the gurubhai, “I want to live only in Yoga, and I want to do something about these unresolved thoughts.” When I heard about that, I thought, “I was just like that.” Indeed, I’m still a work in progress, but I have actually been feeling that through disciplining myself in the practice of discrimination, my life is now turning solely toward Yoga. So I told Aniruddha, “I had these same unresolved thoughts for a long time, but I have been convinced through my experience that discrimination helps clear up some of these unclear thoughts,” and I shared some things based on what I had learned about discrimination from Shri Mahayogi: “The mind consists of three pillars: thoughts, ego, and intellect. The balance between the three is different depending on each individual. Having unresolved thoughts, so-called indecisiveness, means that there is a tendency for the intellect to be weak while these vague thoughts are strong. I was exactly like that. In order to improve that condition, discrimination is quite effective. Through discrimination, the ability of buddhi, often translated as intellect or decisiveness, is trained and becomes strengthened, and thus it clarifies the Truth, which may now seem vague, from untruth, so that the untruth is renounced. It is similar to cleaning a room, de-cluttering and separating out what is needed and what is not, and getting rid of what is not necessary. Aniruddha, you work as an exterminator, so you must be familiar with the feeling of a room that has been cleared. In the same way, you can use discrimination to clean up your mind.”
Anandamali-san has been observing Aniruddha since he began practicing Yoga six and half years ago. She said, “When I saw Aniruddha arrive in Kyoto, he looked like a different person, filled with a sense of purpose and intent on learning.” It is difficult to explain, but you could feel something emanating from him just from being near him, and he was absorbing so many things from the Japanese gurubhai. Early in his stay, he mentioned, “I clearly see that my practice has been an easy one up until this moment. I now feel that I am at the starting line of Yoga.”
Ryan has been practicing for a year since he began Yoga, and it was hard to tell what was going through his mind for the first few days of his stay. I read his celebratory message to Shri Mahayogi for Jayanti on his behalf last year. In this message, he mentioned his determination, that he has had a spiritual experience before, but when he encountered the book Satori and Shri Mahayogi one year ago, he realized that his experience was incomplete, and that he ascertained that the simple teachings of Shri Mahayogi held the answers to what he had been seeking. He wrote that he would like to continue to practice asana, meditation, and selfless service every day. Yet, as I spoke to him, I saw that he had an expectation for a spiritual experience and was practicing for that. In daily life, he would easily get canned-coffee from street vending machines, and buy sweets at convenience stores—he would eat and drink even if it was right after class. By observing these things I could see that Ryan was dependent on instant foods and results. I could have admonished him to stop immediately, but I first wanted to find out his motivation and what he wanted to accomplish by coming to Japan. The next morning, there was an opportunity to speak, just between me and the three guys. Then I asked about how Ryan met Shri Mahayogi. He spoke about how he did a little practice in Nepal a few years ago and was studying Buddhism. As a result of that karmic connection, he encountered the book Satori at The Three Jewels, a Tibetan Buddhist center where the New York Mission used to hold classes, and a few months after that he met Shri Mahayogi. He also spoke about his upbringing, and about how the strong ideas around religion that had been instilled in him as a youth later led him to rebel against them as an adult. As he spoke, he began shedding tears as if a dam had been breached inside of him. At that moment, he told us his pure intentions with tears in his eyes, “I want to change myself in Kyoto. I want to learn Yoga from Shri Mahayogi and his Japanese disciples.” Aniruddha and Nandi were also moved to tears as they listened. Nandi kept nodding, as if to align himself with those feelings. I may be overstating it, but at that moment I felt the New York sangha seal their bonds together.
After that, I told Ryan that discrimination must be performed not only during meditation, but also during daily life. I told him not to buy canned coffee or sweets from vending machines and convenience stores anymore. When I told him that I quit these things even though I used to get them often in the past, he told me, “I will quit eating sweets.” I also told him that when I read his speech on his behalf, Shri Mahayogi was nodding deeply when I read the part in which he wrote that he would like to practice service more. I also spoke about the importance of practicing selfless service in his immediate surroundings, for example, since Ryan tends to put his head down and frown often, which may give the impression of being grumpy, I suggested that he can serve by smiling when he interacts with others.”
Nandi, the eldest of the three, did the housework and cleaning well, but he was extremely talkative. He was given the teaching of mauna (spiritual silence) from Shri Mahayogi, but as his stay passed its mid-point and neared its end, I questioned him, “What do you consider to be mauna, and how are you actually practicing it?” He answered, “I do not understand it well. How should I actually practice mauna?” I felt strange about this answer, and replied, “Since you have been prescribed this precious teaching, mauna, by Shri Mahayogi, why have you not thought about how to actually practice it? The fact that you are asking me this question now is so strange in and of itself.” I knew that he was passionate about Yoga, and I felt that he had come with a certain readiness to go through whatever it was that would happen in Japan. Knowing that, I continued, sternly, “Frankly speaking, in reality, Nandi, you were asked to practice mauna, but you do not feel the significance of its practice, so you are resisting it. Your urgency for Satori is so little. That is why you are not thinking seriously about mauna, and therefore you are not practicing it. That is because your goal is not clear. Once your goal is clear, you will think concretely about how you can get to the goal. Among the Japanese soccer players, there is a player named Nagatomo, who plays professionally for a soccer league in Italy. He solidifies his goals first, then goes backwards and determines what type of training program he must practice, then he disciplines himself to practice that program. Up until sometime in college, he was an unknown player. My senior gurubhai told me that in Yoga, it is the same: that it is crucial to clarify your goal first, then to think about the process of getting there, and then to discipline yourself to practice—that is the process of discrimination.” From that point on, Nandi began to practice mauna.
I have learned from many gurubhai that discrimination can only be complete when it is actually practiced daily. But even towards the end of their stay, they didn’t quite transform their daily actions. There were many lessons and realizations along the way, but they had not really applied them and put them into practical use at various points during the day, nor did they come to grips with the idea that daily actions need to be attended to with the attitude of moving it into high gear. Both Aniruddha and Ryan, who are very big brothers over 190 centimeters tall, had a slow tempo no matter what they did. You might find it funny, but I wanted to mention the lesson of making toast for breakfast as an example. They did nothing between the moment when they put the sliced bread in the toaster oven until the toasts were done, and instead of thinking ahead they were just waiting. After the toaster oven rang, they began to cut the butter for 4-5 people, put the butter on top, and then put them back into the toaster oven until the butter melted. That means that they didn’t really think through how to get to the goal of “delicious, optimally-prepared toast, freshly out of the oven with butter.” Even though the breakfast menu was the same every morning, up until the day before they left they continued to remain in this state. “Why are they stuck in this state?” I thought. It seemed that the logical thinking of discrimination was only done during meditation, and they had not linked the practice of discrimination during meditation to their daily lives; it was still something separate. This also meant that the awareness of the process and preparation was lacking. Every action that was performed was passive and they did not act until the last minute, when they were under constraints and the time demanded it, so their actions were ruled over by time rather than subjectivity. I felt that if they remained in this state, then when they got back to New York they would be caught up with the hustle and bustle of New York, and that the good lessons they had learned would fade away. So we changed the plan, from spending the last night in Kyoto relaxing at the public bathhouse to cooking dinner and breakfast.
Dinner would be Japanese curry. I instructed them to cook after we wrote out the whole process on paper: ingredients, plates, cooking steps, as well as each person’s role, such as cutting and sautéing. The dinner went well and was cooked on time since Nandi and I helped out, so I left breakfast solely in the hands of Aniruddha and Ryan, “team slow-pace.” They worked swiftly using a well-organized process, no, I should say that they worked extremely hard to provide “the ultimate state”—salad, scrambled eggs, and toast on the plate!!! Unfortunately, the toast and scrambled eggs were cold by the time they served them, so I told them that they should have planned out a well-organized process so that they could have served the food warm, and that even providing food at the optimal moment, is selfless service.
“Finally, the only obligation I have left is to take them to the Kyoto station from where they will go to Tokyo,” I thought. It was at that moment, when I was feeling relieved, that I overheard Nandi’s chatting from somewhere in the house. He may have been talking about Yoga, and perhaps he may have felt a sense of relief after the ten-day stay—but whatever it was it was clearly too much talking. The night before I had mentioned it to him as well, to “keep his words to a minimum,” but then I realized that Nandi needed a more concrete discipline of mauna. I sought advice from Anandamali-san, who was also leaving Kyoto with the three, and we decided to have the last meeting at the Kyoto Station. After we arrived at the station, I mentioned to Nandi, “Do not talk unless it is a question about the Truth. Avoid foods that are the quality of rajas like fish and curry as well.” He looked me straight in the eyes and nodded.
After I sent them off, I felt responsible for all the words I had spoken to them. I had never felt such a sensation in my life. I spoke a lot, and if I’m not mistaken, I felt that they were all things that Shri Mahayogi and the senior disciples had taught me. I truly realized that particularly the learning of the past three years in “Siddha Marga1” (“The path of attaining the Siddha,” an advanced three-year course)—“To clarify the ideal, to think of the path that leads toward it, to practice it in actuality, and become one with the Holy Being,”—had had a profound effect on me. I felt that these ten days were exactly what “Siddha Marga” was for them.
I have never confronted and spoken so openly to anyone like that without having any reservations in my mind. I could only do that because of their humility, and more than anything, the fact that Anandamali-san was selflessly supporting us behind the scenes. I thank you so very much.
And lastly, I would like to shout out to Aniruddha, Ryan and Nandi from the bottom of my heart... Jai !!! Gurubhai !!!!!!!!!
1 The three-year program that was initiated for the concrete growth of each disciple. It was a program made only for serious practitioners who have attended MYM’s classes regularly for some years and were willing to go further. The program was run between April 2013 and March 2016. It was led by Sananda and Sanatana.
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