In anticipation of the “Siddha Marga” program tomorrow there are about thirty-five gurubhai gathered at the Ashrama, having come from all across Tokyo, Matsuyama, Osaka, and Kyoto. Three gurubhai from New York are flanking Anandamali. They are slightly anxious, sitting directly in front of Shri Mahayogi. Mr. Nishimura, and Mr. and Mrs. Imai are also in attendance.
Ryan, from New York, is wearing a T-shirt that says “deshi” (disciple). Shri Mahayogi joyfully comments that it was a “nice choice.” The gurubhai from New York had asked the gurubhai in Kyoto numerous questions about discrimination, and had spent a number of very rich days in Kyoto that bore fruitful results. They planned to head to the Muni Kutira in Tokyo on Monday and then head back home.
Ms. Hirokawa: I have been thinking about my ideals. I have always had the feeling of wanting to be loved, so even though intellectually, in my head, I think that it would be more satisfying “to love,” when I observe my daily life, I automatically act based on this internal feeling of, “I want to be loved.” Because of that I continue to be unfulfilled, discontent and in pain. So my current ideal is to become able to love. In order to do that, I think that one thing that I can do is to stop acting out of this place of wanting “to be loved.” Please teach me why meditation upon Holy or Awakened Beings enables us “to love.”
MASTER: Both “to be loved” and “to love” require others as subjects or objects, in other words, that means that they are dependent on others. “To be loved” is to expect love from others, and “to love” hides an intention to be loved back in return. However, even between lovers, friends, or co-workers, nothing ever goes the way you want, and every time you are disappointed by expectations not being met, you feel like you have been hurt. If you repeat these thought [patterns], this will never be resolved.
However, through deepening Yoga, if one is actualizing one’s Truth using an Awakened or Holy Being as one’s ideal, “to love” and “to be loved” will both arise as a result. This is because the essence of love is Truth. There are various levels or kinds of love out there. If it is true Love, then a true, pure Love that transcends all the other levels arises. So if you really want “to love” humanity and all things, or you wish “to be loved,” then deepening Yoga is the most reliable and quickest way. You can understand that Buddha and Jesus, who were representatives of Awakened or Holy Beings as you may all know, were existences that truly were pure love itself. Proceed in this way.
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(Mr. Nishimura energetically greets Shri Mahayogi, saying, “It has been a long time.” He has read Ashtavakra Gita and says that he felt its words in his heart.)
Mr. Nishimura: It’s just a small passage, but it says, “If the body lasts until the end of time or perishes today—is there gain or loss for you? You who are Pure Awareness.” I remember when I came here some time ago Shri Mahayogi was telling someone something similar to what Ramana Maharishi said, “Be it the mind or the body, just throw it away in a trash can. There is only ‘That’.” I remember these words weighed on my mind. Shri Mahayogi was rebuking that person, saying “That’s all there is. If you really think that you truly understand it, then throw it all away.” (He and Shri Mahayogi laugh.) Indeed, [what you said] is so true. True Existence enters directly, whether it is in the words of Ramana, or in this book, and repeatedly pierces my heart. It is understanding beyond understanding. Not intellectual understanding, but something that weighs on the heart. So then, should I meditate in order to go further and have that deep understanding within the heart rather than within the head? Rather than saying the heart’s understanding, are we actually supposed to aim for the state in which the words and everything else quiet down and the surface of the water becomes tranquil, where there is nothing, and even the name of True Existence itself no longer exists?
Mr. Nishimura: You did not know about the book, Ashtavakra Gita?
MASTER: No. (Turns to Sananda) Do you know?
Sananda: I don’t know it.
Mr. Nishimura: I know that I have learnt that the Bhagavad Gita is sufficient. I came to the point where I have almost stopped reading any books nowadays.
MASTER: Ah, good. (laughs)
Mr. Nishimura: The understanding that comes from books is inevitably still within the head, so it does not go into the heart. The head gets filled and that causes spiritual indigestion, as Yogananda says—that situation is inevitable, but we should practice to eliminate even that, and continue to discriminate more and more, and go back to that which is One—that is, that which is True...
Mr. Nishimura: Ramakrishna said something to the effect that once you truly understand how powerless you are, you will attain salvation while you are alive. What does that mean?
MASTER: The mind is worried about one thing or another. His words, “Once you truly understand how powerless you are,” mean that the mind becomes silent. If that is thoroughly practiced, the activities of the mind will cease, and the Truth awakens as the next step. That is how the words of the Holy or Awakened Ones, even if they utter words that might sound like nothing special, for some people have the power to overthrow the mind and cause immediate salvation.
(Mr. Nishimura says that he was seeking Ma a while ago, but it has shifted much since then, and now he is inquiring into the true Self, and reading Ramana Maharishi’s books. He asks for confirmation if it is fine to do so.)
MASTER: That is not a problem—the answer within them is the same. Be it a sacred scripture or any other kind of thing, what is important is to stop scrutinizing within [the realm of] words. Receive it from the depths of your heart and continue to practice through action without being attached, maintaining silence in the mind.
Mr. Nishimura: Earlier, it was mentioned that, whether it is “being loved” or whether it is being “the one who loves” or “the one who is loved,” all of these are dualistic, and will melt into one, is that right?
MASTER: Or rather, to put it more bluntly, they will disappear. When they disappear, and if you are still alive in this world, at last that Love will truly be Realized for the very first time.
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(Before Satsangha began, Shantimayi was showing the scroll hung in the “tokonoma” [traditional alcove containing an altar] with the Chinese characters “無一物中無尽蔵” to Nandi, who is originally from Hong Kong. He then recorded them in his notebook. As Nandi showed Shri Mahayogi the copy of these Chinese characters from his notebook, the Master proceeded to explain to everyone that the writing is from the scroll on the wall. Anandamali asked Nandi to explain to Ryan and Aniruddha the meaning of these words.)
Nandi: (While gesturing that he is not completely sure about the exact meaning) Everything is within nothing.
(In response to this Zen-like sentence, Ryan and Aniruddha appeared to be perplexed, so everyone burst out laughing.)
MASTER: On the scroll on the wall over there it is written, 無一物中無尽蔵, which is one of the phrases often used in Zen teachings. “無一物 (muichimotsu)” means that there is not even one thing, one does not have a single thing. The “thing” in this case does not have to do with material things but pain-bearing obstacles that may exist within the mind. Since the root cause of pain-bearing obstacles is ignorance, in that sense, “無一物” means there is no ignorance or no pain-bearing obstacles. We [in Japan] sometimes use a common saying, “There is not a single thing in one’s gut,” [which means that one is without any ulterior motives]. In the same way, it is only in the condition of the mind that does not have even the slightest trace of pain-bearing obstacles, as if the mind were empty and transparent, that there indeed exists the “無尽蔵 (mujinzou).” “無尽蔵” means endless storage, which indicates the space that we call the universe or the cosmos. So, the meaning of this phrase is that the entire universe abides in the very condition where the mind is in a state of emptiness, without any pain-bearing obstacles. That is where the entire universe abides, and that means that that is where bliss is. Therefore, Zen teaches, “To keep the mind without a single thing.” This teaching is also exactly the same as the teachings of Yoga.
(To Ryan) I’ve heard that you have studied Buddhism a little bit, but Buddha’s teaching, which is the root of Buddhism, and Yoga, are entirely the same. Karma brings forth the suffering and sadness in life, as well as the desires harbored within one’s own mind, which means that the attachment towards pain-bearing obstacles create karma. So, by eliminating the ignorance and the pain-bearing obstacles, all suffering ends. And furthermore, that is where true Bliss resides. Quite frankly, both Yoga and Buddha’s teachings all come down to this. They are (with emphasis) extremely simple.
Mr. Nishimura: As Ramana Maharishi said, the true nature of the Self is happiness. Does that mean that bliss resides within oneself from the beginning, and that is all there is to it?
MASTER: Yes, but it is also a fact that happiness is not something that can be imagined or understood by the mind, because the type of happiness felt by the mind includes as its shadows unhappiness and sadness. However, the bliss of Truth within the true Self has no shadow whatsoever.
Mr. Nishimura: And there is neither birth nor death, correct?
MASTER: Yes. That is everyone’s essence, the Truth. It’s everyone’s true nature.
(Shri Mahayogi scans the room to look at everyone, and says it quietly in such a way that it seeps into everyone’s heart.)
Mr. Nishimura: Does that mean it is eternal?
MASTER: Yes, it does.
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Keiko: Shri Mahayogi, I understand that the catch is just that although we haven’t recognized that true nature, it is inherent. What I’d like to ask you is about how, since I gave birth to a son, I think I will truly have a lot of duties waiting for me from now on. I think that I understand that I must fulfill my daily duties steadfastly and without attachment until I reach Satori. Will I not be able to enter the path of spiritual disciplines until those duties are completed?
MASTER: No, not at all. It is possible for you to practice spiritual disciplines while you fulfill these duties at the same time.
Keiko: (while crying and speaking in a murmur) Although I have a will to realize that true nature, I keep repeating this cycle, in which as soon as I touch it, I get further away from it. So I feel that I am really far away from it.
MASTER: Press on diligently. That is all you can do. (After a long pause) Everything will all be OK. (Smiles to her)
(After some pause he continues in a very kind manner to Keiko, who has recently given birth.)
MASTER: Is the baby growing healthily?
Keiko: The baby is health itself. (Smiles joyfully.)
Mr. Shocho Takahashi (the father): (From a seat in the back, without missing a beat) The baby actively rolls around at night. (Everyone laughs.)
Ms. Hiraoka: Shri Mahayogi, there was a conversation earlier about True Existence. There was something that made me feel like I touched it while sleeping. When I return from sleep with such an impression, is it a good idea to put that impression in the heart when I meditate?
MASTER: That would be fine. As long as the object of meditation is something good, they are useable for meditation.
(Shri Mahayogi notices that Mr. and Mrs. Hiraoka are both in attendance whereas usually either husband or wife attends the Satsangha alternatively because one of them needs to take care their daughter, Mari.)
MASTER: Oh? Where is Mari? What is she doing?
Ms. Hiraoka: Today, she is at her grandparents’. (Shri Mahayogi: Oh, OK.) She said “I’m fine by myself!”. (Shri Mahayogi: Oh, really!) She said, “I’m happy to be alone since they have TV.” (Everyone bursts out laughing.) (Shri Mahayogi too bursts out laughing.)
MASTER: She must be enjoying her freedom, mustn’t she? (laughing) (To Keiko) Eventually, your son will be like that too.
Ms. Hiraoka: (To Keiko) Don’t worry, it will all be all right.
Ms. Hirokawa: Shri Mahayogi, we would like for you to teach us meditation. Recently I have been trying to meditate on your form. I feel the holiness but I do not feel that I am able to enter within through the form yet. In order to go deeper, what I think that I must do is practice removing all that is not necessary in daily life and think of Shri Mahayogi as much as possible. Is there anything else that I can do?
MASTER: When decision-making is required, or when you have to choose what actions to take, you can think of how I would act or think. This may perhaps provide some hints to you. Proceed like that.
Ms. Hirokawa: As I repeat that, will I eventually be able to meditate?
MASTER: Yes, gradually.
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Mr. Nishimura: Shri Mahayogi, when I am meditating upon, “Who am I?” and getting deeper, it starts to echo in my head like a flowing river going “I...I....” and in this state there is nothing, as if the layers of an onion have been peeled away. Yet, at the same time, as Shri Mahayogi mentioned some time ago, I know that we need to be prepared to, “Die in the next moment,” but when I thought about preparing myself to “die in the next moment” I felt a sense of fear and shuddered for a moment. Even if we imagine death in daily life, when I face real death, fear arises in me. How should I practice dealing with that?
MASTER: To answer to your question, you must practice meditation on “death” and experience “death” itself in meditation, like a simulated experience—in actuality, it is an experience of meditation—and transcend “Death” through meditation. One of the biggest pain-bearing obstacles out of the five categories in the mind is the desire to live. The desire to live is the instinctual thought or the desire to extend the life of the physical body, which is, in other words, a fear of “Death.” That is why the concept of “Death” that is strongly imprinted in the mind’s subconscious memory must be eliminated. The root of all pain-bearing obstacles boils down to ignorance, and one of the four big mistakes within that ignorance is the error of mistaking the ego, a part of the mind, as the true Self. And this is a big theme, or a pillar that is directly linked to, “Who am I?” Unless this ignorance itself is eliminated, the fear of “Death” will not end. By thoroughly discriminating that, and overcoming “Death” itself, the true Self is realized.
Mr. Nishimura: I have an impression about “Death”—but when I ask myself again about “Who dies?” and “Who am I?”—then inevitably the inquiry leads to “Who dies and who lives?” It’s easy to put words to it, to say it is “wholeness without division” or “Oneness” or whatever it is called; however, when I realize That, is that consciousness different from the consciousness that I have right now?
MASTER: Those enumerated lists of words will disappear completely. Then only True Existence abides there. It is nothing other than Atman, that is, the true Self, Brahman, or God.
Right now you said, “Who Dies?” but, Mr. Nishimura, these are still merely intellectual words. If anyone is asked “Who dies?” he will think, “It is I that dies.” “Myself, that is, I am dying.” So then, [the next question is,] “Who is that I?” followed by, “What is dying? The body? The mind? The soul?” And from that point on, you inquire as to the true identity of who that “I” is, or what Truth is. The various concepts attached to that “I”—the fear of “Death” [that arises and is] caused simply by vaguely defining the “I” as something that includes the body and the mind, this too can be one of these, along with other things—[these concepts] need to have been eliminated to begin with. Then, by immersing yourself purely in the consciousness of the I, the true I appears.
Asangan: Shri Mahayogi, when I was sitting in meditation I had a sense as if my spine was nailed into the floor. When that occurred, I only felt the tube of the spine, or something like the line of the spine. At that moment, I didn’t feel anything else, and I felt as if my body had died. Then, I thought that there was something I was fearing. Hearing this teaching now, I get that it is important to discriminate such occurrences, and may I ask you, is this understanding correct?
MASTER: Yes. That is exactly so.
Asangan: At that moment, I thought that I shouldn’t be concerned about such things, and I brought my focus back again. But would it be better to thoroughly discriminate it?
MASTER: Indeed, the fact that the image of the spine arose means that this symbolizes the physical body. Also, if you consider the subtle body, since the chakra also exist within the center of the spine, that too represents the physical body, even though it is subtle, which means that that must be eliminated as well. So both the gross body and the subtle body still represent Death, in other words, they cause [the notion of] the fear of death—both are still dualistic, and the fear of death is attached to them.
Aniruddha: For many years, I have always had dreams in which I’m always very fearful of dying. And it got to the point where once I realized what was happening and I sensed death, so I automatically pulled myself out of the dream and woke up. A few weeks ago, I had a dream where I was in front of a firing squad, about to be killed, with a gun pointing out at me, and I couldn’t move because they would kill me. And in this dream I was no longer afraid of dying anymore. Actually, I almost accepted it, and I simply had you in my mind the whole time. I was speaking to Sananda the other day, and he said that when you accept Death, he said that when you are ready to... you will have the will to renounce the world. So, my question is, could you further explain this to me?
MASTER: I mentioned earlier that the fear of "Death" is one of the pain-bearing obstacles that everyone has in their minds. I also mentioned that this pain-bearing obstacle is based upon ignorance. That is to say, the mind perceives everyone’s “I’s” as a composite of the physical body and the mind, and then goes through various experiences in this world. Therefore, as long as that ignorance and those pain-bearing obstacles reside within the mind, the consciousness, “I,” is not detached from the physical body, and thus the fear of “Death” does not come to end. However, one is taught that the true Self is neither the physical body nor the mind. And if you can discriminate this thoroughly, the fear of death disappears from the mind, and the experiences in the world are performed without attachment. That is what he means by, “Being able to renounce the world.”
The mind is not the master. The ego thinks that the mind is the master, but that is a mistake. The true master is the Pure Consciousness—that which knows and always witnesses the mind. It is at times called Atman, Brahman or God as well. Once that Truth is understood, then one can understand that the mind is a tool for the real Master. You must realize that. Everyone’s true master, is Absolute, Pure Consciousness itself. That is Eternal Existence. Therefore, there is neither birth nor death. The only things that are born and that die are this body and the mind. And these are not the true Self.
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Ryan: Shri Mahayogi, I have a question about something that I have been practicing discrimination on. It’s an object of desire. I am trying to understand why there is something on my mind in the first place, even desires. And what I realized was that that feeling, the value of that object, only exists because I feel that somehow I had that object once and then lost it. And that is the only reason that...because my mind now sees two states: the state of having and not-having. When I was in the state of actually having, there was no awareness of it, so it is only after the loss that I get into the circle of desiring, and such types of things. My first question is, is this the proper way to approach discrimination?
MASTER: From there you must confirm whether the object of desire is “eternal or not, universal or not.” As you do that, you will, as in the case you just mentioned, recognize that your mind is a chain reaction of desires that were created by the mind itself at some point. They are merely conditionalized artifacts that were formed at one point in time. Even if that object did not exist, or even if it was a different object, either way, they are created by specific conditions; that means that they are not the Truth. [To become fully convinced of the fact that] it is a mistake to attach to these things that are not the Truth is discrimination. Once you understand their essence, your attachment to these desires will disappear from the mind. That is what renunciation is.
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Ryan: I feel like I only knew that the object was desirable in the first place after I felt the loss of it, meaning that my mind was not even aware of its value or that it had no value until it was gone. And then the next place this took me was to the story of creation and the “Garden of Eden,” the story of the coming of the senses. I am just wondering if this sort of thinking is where I am supposed to be. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve didn’t really have any desire until they became aware. So my question is whether this is the correct interpretation of when desire started for humans in the beginning? Is it meaningful to investigate where human desire came from?
MASTER: It is meaningful. It is said that the starting point of ignorance was the assimilation of, or the identification of, the Seer with that which is being seen, [seeing these two as the same]. The Seer, is the Pure Consciousness—at the time [when there is only the Seer], there is no desire or suffering. However, as long as the Seer is identified as that which is being seen, which is the mind and the world, desires arise, and this results in suffering. This conundrum includes the utmost depths of the psychology and philosophy of Yoga.
Yohei: I am meditating upon what the substance of ego is. It perplexes me greatly that the ego is originally just the consciousness of division that distinguishes oneself from others, but why then did it falsely perceive itself as the true Self? Why?
MASTER: That turns into circular reasoning. Because you are identifying the “Seer” with “What is Seen”, the logic becomes circular.
Yohei: Yes, that is why my meditation could not go further. How do I proceed in order to know the substance of the ego?
MASTER (with emphasis): There is no ego. There is no ego to begin with. You suffer because you think the ego exists. There is only Atman, Truth (emphasis), nothing else. There is only That.
(After some pause) In the teachings recorded in the oldest Upanishad, it says, “God created nine gates in the human body. Since all of them are facing outward, one must close these gates and make [the mind] face inwards. Then, realize the Truth.” The mind, as I mentioned earlier, goes through various experiences in collaboration with the world, but they are all outward-facing. Then, ignorance enters, makes you think as if the ego is your “I,” and makes you think as if the world is eternal and as if happiness exists somewhere out there. However, if you are only seeking external experiences, that cannot be attained. By pointing the outward-facing gaze inwards, the eyes of Truth are opened for the first time. At the same time, this indicates that you correctly understand the true nature of the mind and the world. At that time, the mind no longer has incorrect desires, and it should become a useful tool for the true Master, the true Self.
Nandiswara: So, does that mean that the thoughts in the mind are also going in an outward direction?
MASTER: Generally, yes. [But] through Yoga, one can point them inward.
There are two pathways you can take to live in this world. One is the path of karma. There is a reason why people are born. It is through karma, the result of past lives. Then, a lifetime is spent reaping the results of the karma sown, and at the same time, new karma is created. That is the truth of so-called, general “life” as we know it. The result of that is suffering and sorrow. Whether you like it or not, death comes to all, and even the vast wealth or pleasures that one has gained are lost in an instant. The other path is the path of Yoga. That is knowing the Truth. That is knowing one’s true Self, and at the same time, correctly understanding the true nature of the mind and the world. You must realize this while the physical body is still alive. Then suffering and sorrow will cease and no longer be a part of one’s life—True Bliss exists there.
(Emphasizing) Existence is truly that blissful. [In Truth] Existence is not about physical existence. Since the physical body eventually disappears, strictly speaking, it is only illustrating the temporal appearance of existence. The mind is the same. One is born, and as one ages, one’s mind changes along with the changing circumstances and environments. (With emphasis) There is not a single moment in which the mind can be firmly established in the state of Existence. [The mind] is constantly wavering and it is filled with anxiety and suffering—that is not the true Self.
The true Self is the Consciousness, or Existence itself, that is deeper within. It is never born and never dies and never changes. It is the Truth that exists absolutely and eternally. That is everyone’s true Self. The true nature of this entire universe is That.
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Nandiswara: Can you teach me how to cultivate the intuition to make better judgments, or how to experience true intuition?
MASTER: It is a given that you practice asana and study the teachings of Yoga. Yama and niyama are especially important teachings and practices, so make sure that there are no contradictions between your deeds, words, and thoughts. By doing that, the mind becomes [the quality of] sattva. From sattva, true intuition is born.
Nandiswara: So there is no easy way. (Shri Mahayogi and others laugh heartily.)
MASTER: That too is training. Regarding making your deeds, words, and thoughts consistent, if you keep training yourself, being sure to bring your initial inspired thoughts, that is, intuition, into harmony with your words and actions, eventually the mind stops producing unnecessary thoughts. Then, as the outcome of that, the necessary intuition arises at the necessary moment. If you practice this diligently, you will be able to proceed quickly.
Nandiswara: So, in that stage do you still have dreams while sleeping?
MASTER: One may dream. However, these dreams are not caused by sanskara, rather they are harmless dreams because they simply come from the impressions accumulated during the day, and therefore these dreams are not a problem.
Nandiswara: At that stage, you no longer have any attachments based on pain-bearing obstacles, right?
MASTER: Right. That is the state that has the quality of sattva.
Nandiswara: Then, what is the reason that you still have dreams at night?
MASTER: The mind is like a type of photography film. So it is natural that the day-to-day scenes of what has been experienced are burned onto the mind’s film. However, if the mind is in the state of sattva, then these do not turn into sanskara or karma.
Ms. Hirokawa: Shri Mahayogi, regarding making our actions, speech and thoughts consistent with each other, and putting thoughts into words and actions as they arise, let’s say I did something [based on what] I thought was the right thought, but once I put it in action, it was wrong. Then should I validate that [experience], and learn from it so that I can correct myself in order to proceed? Is that right?
MASTER: Yes, yes. That is good. There is no need to fear failure.
Satya: Shri Mahayogi mentioned that the “necessary intuition arises at the necessary moment.” For example, in my current situation, if there is a task to do, I would think constantly about what to do. Considering what you said then, eventually, even these processes disappear, don’t they?
MASTER: No, at times these processes might be necessary. So it’s not like magic, where everything is intuited instantly. (Everyone laughs.)
Satya: But still, you’ll at least be faster in reaching the goal...
MASTER: Yes, exactly.
Satya: So I suppose that as the period of thinking gets shorter, the time spent on the act of thinking during the day becomes shorter and shorter.
MASTER: At least you will not be troubled by it.
Satya: Sometimes, it’s my habit to let my mind loose, to let it play around. In these moments, I understand that the need arises to practice mauna (Shri Mahayogi: Yes.) So does that mean that it is correct to think that the condition of inherently abiding in nothingness will gradually increase?
MASTER: Yes, that is so. It is Emptiness. Emptiness in Sanskrit is sukha. It also means ease. Sukha, has been assigned the kanji (the character in Japanese writing with [various] meanings) of 空 (sky, emptiness). It can also mean “ease.” [Remember that] sukha asana, also means the easy sitting position.
Mr. Nishimura: This word “emptiness” reminds me... How is the Heart Sutra based on the Truth, from the perspective of Yoga?
MASTER: Well, that sutra uses the word Emptiness to indicate the Truth. If the word Emptiness is substituted for Atman, that can make sense as well, and in that way, it is based on the same philosophy.
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Takashi: I heard that when Shri Mahayogi was verifying Yoga during his teenage years, he performed it with such concentration and single-mindedness. I would like to follow that example and apply it in my practice, but how do I get closer to the mindset you had when you were verifying it?
MASTER: In the Middle Ages, there lived a saint named Kabir. He was admired by both Hindus and Muslims as someone who had realized the universal Truth. He said, “I am mad, and the entire world is mad too. Nevertheless, my madness is the most decent.” He was mad only for God and the Truth, whereas people in the world are mad for desires.
When we look at the legends of the past, the great saints such as Kabir, or Shri Ramakrishna, too; people said they were crazy. In that sense, I myself also spent most of my teenage years truly in a state of madness for the Truth and the truth of Yoga. The prescription for madness is to see only the Truth with the same intensity that they had, to seek only the Truth—passionately and devotedly study and practice by putting it in action.
Takashi: To seek only the Truth, to passionately and devotedly study and to keep putting this into action—in studying, of course, that includes reading and contemplating the scriptures?
MASTER: Of course, one must also practice meditation very devotedly.
Takashi: Is it correct to understand that the intuition received in meditation comes to be direct learning?
MASTER: Yes. Knowledge, after all, is someone else’s borrowed mishmash of products. It’s a mimicking of someone else’s thinking. However, the words of the Awakened Ones are beyond knowledge (with emphasis). That is why their words are the very thing that you must learn and meditate upon.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: Should concentrating on ishvara be done in the same way as concentrating on the words of the Awakened Ones, positioning it as learning?
MASTER: Rather than learning, it is more about yearning to rush closer.
Mr. Matsumura: About making our deeds, words and thoughts consistent, Shri Mahayogi said to “act based on intuition,” but in order to have correct intuition, as Shri Mahayogi answered in the previous question, by devotedly and diligently practicing kriya yoga, one can attain correct intuition?
Mr. Matsumura: Does that mean that hypothetically, if that intuition is incorrect, then I should accept it as something I deserved, and correct it afterwards?
MASTER: Yes. Success or failure does not matter at all. The only thing that matters is the realization of the Truth.
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(Asangan asks a question about meditation, on behalf of someone who comes to practice with the disciples in Matsuyama City.)
Asangan: This person would like to eliminate envy and jealousy within the mind. Going further, she realized that what she wants is tranquility and love, so she practices meditation trying to sense tranquility and love in Shri Mahayogi. But when meditating upon the form of Shri Mahayogi, the form shatters and disappears, and only a white, transparent orb remains; from that point on she feels that she senses tranquility and love. And yet she is not sure whether it is the correct method or not, so she changes to another way of meditation instead. She would like to know if that way is all right or not.
MASTER: That is fine.
Asangan: The other method of practicing meditation that she uses is to imagine Atman sitting on top of the lotus flower, then concentrating her awareness on the tranquility and love felt there. Would one of them be a comparatively better method for meditation than the other?
MASTER: In terms of their result, they are the same; nevertheless, since Atman does not have a form, it may be hard to concentrate on. So when imagining, “Atman on top of a lotus,” in meditation, since the lotus is concrete but Atman is abstract, in the end, that becomes abstract meditation. Either way, if she seeks tranquility and love, then whichever method produces a tangible feeling is fine.
Asangan: So does that mean that it is best for her not to doubt whether she is doing it correctly or not?
MASTER: She does not need to do that. In order to find a middle-ground solution the tapestry you see hanging on the wall here has a shape that is semi-abstract yet is the concrete form of a person in the light. Something like this might be good.
Asangan: So the orb-like thing without form can be used as a symbol...
MASTER: That is fine. Because the concrete form is the entry point, that is fine.
Asangan: Does it mean that it is important to find a symbol with which one feels love or tranquility tangibly, and then concentrate upon it?
Satya: Shri Mahayogi, so then as long as it is something that I have a good impression about, then it doesn’t matter what it is?
MASTER: That is correct.
Satya: Earlier, you said that Atman is abstract. For example, as Shiyo (Ms. Hiraoka) mentioned earlier, [in the case in which there is] an experience or a sense of touching True Existence—even if it may sound abstract when speaking it to others, it is fine to meditate on that if that sense is concrete within you, isn’t that right?
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Takashi: I feel that there is a difference between the mindset that Shri Mahayogi had during his teenage years, [which is the time that you were intensively verifying things] and your current mindset, [which is perfectly content, and in which there is no need to verify anything]. Is that so?
MASTER: The core state is exactly the same. However, certainly, during my teenage years Yoga had not been introduced to Japan, so it was necessary to verify the truth of the teachings of Yoga. At the same time, I also wanted to know the [state of] Satori of Buddha, and the mindset, or the state of being, of other holy beings, such as Jesus. That was all, that was the only thing that caught my attention.
Takashi: So then even with the passing of time, the core of it is the same.
MASTER: Naturally, it has not changed at all.
Takashi: So, then does that mean that whether I emulate your teenage years, or simply try to go closer to the current Shri Mahayogi, it will lead to the same results, won’t it?
MASTER: Yes, the same.
Takashi: Either of them is fine?
MASTER (immediately): Not only at that level, you don’t need such unnecessary steps, and I’ve provided an extreme shortcut. (Everyone laughs because of the way he says it.)
Takashi: Earlier, you taught us that the words of the Awakened Ones are great, and I understand that to feel their essence in meditation is important. So should we do both the meditation of approaching the essence of the teachings, as well as the meditation of entering through Shri Mahayogi’s form?
MASTER: I think that would be good.
Nandiswara: So, during the time of the teenage years, to explore Yoga did you have in mind that eventually you wanted to guide others? Was this the motivation of why you were doing that? Or was it just purely out of curiosity?
MASTER: I had no intention [of wanting to guide people in the future] at all. (after a pause) And from around that time, Yoga has gradually been introduced to Japan little by little. But what I always felt was that that was not real Yoga. I also felt the same when I saw it in New York for the first time twenty years ago. They were all not real. (laughs)
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Anandi: My question is about my meditation practice. Previously I had been given guidance that bandha traya would become longer during my meditation. And I do feel that it has become longer than before, yet it still breaks off, then starts again, and continues like that on and off. Although I think that the thought or the concentration on Shri Mahayogi is ceaseless and bandha traya is something that arises naturally; I feel that it cannot be intentionally prolonged. Will deepening the yearning for Shri Mahayogi lead to deepening meditation? What shall I do?
MASTER: You must remember that the purpose of meditation is to become one with the object of meditation, and the condition which is triggered at that time is bandha traya, that is, the stopping of the breath; therefore, the stopping of breathing is not the purpose. So, deepen your yearning towards the object.
Anandi: So does that mean that I shouldn’t worry about it much?
MASTER: Don’t be concerned about it.
Anandi: From the condition of bandha traya, I sense that something bursts and disappears. May I ask you what that is about?
MASTER: From an explanation through Yoga, that is the condition that happens when kundalini is activated and rises to a higher area. Or it can arise when that meditation deepens.
Anandi: Am I concerned about that condition too much?
MASTER: You will come to realize that condition, but there is no need to be concerned about it. Rather, continue to deepen your meditation, focusing only on its object.
Anandi: Thank you.
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Haridas: Shri Mahayogi, 40 years ago, you were 27 years old. (Shri Mahayogi: Yes (laughter).) By the time I started coming here, you were around 41, (Shri Mahayogi: Is that so.) and I don’t know how it was before then, but I heard that when Integral Yoga1 was published, you received visitors every day due to its influence, such that you were sitting all the time, so much so that your bottom got a callus. But then, these visitors are not here anymore.
Sananda and I are probably the ones who have been here the longest. And during the time prior to when Sananda and I arrived to you, hardly any so-called disciples had appeared. For the first 13 years, from the time you were 27 until the time when Sananda and I started coming, the situation was that there would be five or six of us sitting in a circle and talking with you in this room, on the second floor of the house. [However] twenty-seven years have passed since that time, and so many people [are here around Shri Mahayogi]. Shri Mahayogi has compared it metaphorically to how “a flute plays but no one dances.” If you look at the way it is in New York now, or even globally, especially in Japan too, there are many people, especially young people who have no idea what they even want to do. Not only do they not face themselves, they don’t even know what they want. They don’t even have any hopes for dualistic or material things. It’s just that...even so, no matter what, Shri Mahayogi is ever and always the same.
The time has become ripe now, Sanatana is in Tokyo, Sananda goes to Matsuyama-city regularly, and so on; everyone is on a mission, everyone is intently active, trying to work hard to disseminate the teachings [of Yoga and Shri Mahayogi to many people]. At this juncture, on the 40th and 20th anniversaries, what attitude or what spirit shall we have in order to disseminate it? I use the word “disseminating” because there’s a saying, “Ask and you shall be given.” But if there is hardly anybody who is truly seeking, if there is no audience, then no matter how much we preach to them [it is of no use]. So I would like to ask you to offer some words for us, the gurubhai, about our attitude and our work toward Yoga in this situation. We, your disciples—how shall we align our intentions and attitudes towards Yoga, while Shri Mahayogi’s will is to spread the real Yoga? And even beyond that, does Shri Mahayogi have any wishes for this day and age? Please forgive me that this may be a very [reckless] question. The more I focus on Shri Mahayogi, the more I get confused. How should we be? How do we reconcile the two—the activity of disseminating Shri Mahayogi’s Yoga in a relative world, versus concentrating our consciousness upon Shri Mahayogi’s “Never Changing, Existence”? What about that?
MASTER: The youth nowadays may have no idea what they must seek; however, once they come to know this Yoga, they will seek it without a doubt. In that sense, it is necessary that not only the younger generation but many people be made aware of this. Furthermore, it will benefit each individual, as well as his or her family and society at large. Then, the more you realize the Truth, the more you will understand that there is no other way but to act upon it. I want each and every one of you to think that you are me [Shri Mahayogi himself], and proceed to act from there.
1 Shri Mahayogi was asked for and offered consultation to the translator who translated “Integral Yoga” (Yoga Sutra of Patanjali with commentary by Swami Sacchidananda) into Japanese. He did not consent to having his services printed on the book, but instead the name and address of the Ashrama was placed in the back of the book.
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Yohei: Shri Mahayogi, sorry to add another question, this will be the last one. I want to make sure that I don’t get caught going around in circles. I understand that the ego doesn’t exist, but... so then, what is the ego? (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: Previously, I said that the body and mind are like tools, right? This world is filled with various things. Many people and animals live in it. If everyone was the same tool, there would be no variety, and it wouldn’t be interesting. Therefore, the ego is a tool just to distinguish oneself from others. That means that egos exist in this world as different tools, their role being to make the world more abundant, interesting, and more enjoyable. Understand it as such.
Yohei: So it exists for the purpose of enjoying itself.
MASTER: You can see that and understand it in the saying, “There was One Atman, but It could not enjoy itself, so It divided itself into two, and all beings and things were born.”
Yohei: So, these two that It is divided into are “self” and “others,” aren’t they?
MASTER: It hasn’t gotten to the point of separating between self and others yet. It is the point where they just simply manifest from the absolute world to the relative world as a principle.
Aniruddha: Shri Mahayogi, I can’t thank you enough for having us. I am quite sure that the three of us on this trip really learned a lot from the gurubhai here, and we really saw a lot that we will have to process. And I guess just from speaking between us, we do know and we can see what a life changing opportunity this really has been. And we just hope that we can take this spirit back with us to the sangha in New York, and really try to help it grow to be like this sangha here. And we gratefully hope that on your next trip to New York, we can really make it a very warm welcome. So, yes, we gratefully look forward to seeing you in New York.
MASTER (grinning): Thank you. Very good, I’m glad. (smiling fully) Well then, I will see you again in New York.
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* * *
What is it that I really want in life? This question is like a ghost that haunts my mind every now and then. I was born into a poor, non-religious family. Unlike most other kids my age, I had very little interest in the world outside of my mind. Fascinated with masters of martial arts, Buddhist monks and Taoists, which were always served up as an inseparable mixture in TV dramas and movies, I always wanted to become one of these characters, and that was pretty much the extent of my childhood dreams. Somehow I encountered some books on Zen and Taoism when I was about 12 years old. At the time I had no idea, but they would end up dictating the course of my life.
As a teen I was quite negative about life and found myself feeling hurt, lonely and afraid all the time. I entered into the rebellious world of extreme escapism. At that time my world was painted all black and grey. But like everyone else, I also desired happiness and satisfaction untainted by misery. And the quest to search for an answer or solution unconsciously and quietly began. Soon after exploring the words of wisdom that came from my geographic heritage1, the idea of renouncing the fleeting insubstantiality of the world as seen by the senses and the mind, and realizing the Self began to resonate within me. For all that I could see, the world at that time was truly, as Lord Buddha had said, suffering. The Truth that eternal happiness and freedom form the highest peak attainable through human birth had burnt a mark deep into my heart and liberation was all that I aspired to.
As I gained more experience in life I also had relatively more freedom to do as I liked. I began to look for perfect freedom by projecting my idea of it onto non-reality. For example, I once had a firm belief that I would realize the Tao from the practice of Internal Martial Arts and Qigong. And, I would be able to express and experience absolute freedom through Modern Dance as a performer. For many years during this phase of my life, I constructed my whole life around these ideas. And I was living my life as a lone seeker to the best of my understanding and capabilities.
During that time, I was attracted to the vast variety of practices under the banner of spirituality. The idea of going to a teacher to learn Enlightenment had never come to my mind, for my ego always wanted to prove that I could do it alone. But the fact is, as I learned later through experience, true religion doesn't begin until the last bit of spiritual vanity has been burnt away. When my desire to seek out that absolute, eternal blissfulness had reached a loftier height, I was no longer able to go beyond the limitations of my capabilities. I felt stuck and trapped within my own skin, and I realized that I had been a slave to the workings of my mind. I began to ask the Lord for the way; I bowed down low........and I found Yoga.
Over the past four years of being on the genuine path of Yoga under the guidance of Shri Mahayogi and the senior disciples, the question, “What is it that I really want?” has come up time and time again. I habitually give the same grand answer of Enlightenment, but never once did I thoroughly break it down into pieces and see what the question was really asking. I think that what I was doing was more of a way of encouraging myself to bravely walk the path rather than truly inquiring into the depth of my faith toward the Truth or God. But something shifted during my recent trip to Kyoto, and I started to recognize it after my feet settled again on New York ground.
Kyoto is the city where our Guru has lived his entire life. This is the place where many of the disciples and students live their lives the way the Guru lives, simply, living their lives as yogi and yogini−it is a life selflessly and seriously lived for each and every moment. When I contrast myself with the members of the sangha there, my shortcomings have no place to hide, rather I have to face them for what they are. Thoroughly and objectively facing oneself is never easy, but real transformation begins there.
Intellectual understanding can only go so far, but seeing and experiencing will bring about real insight. It is most effective to follow the daily actions of the Guru since these little things are tangible for students to grasp, and therefore easier to emulate. The world is One when seen with the eyes of Truth, and the same applies when using one's hands, feet and mouth. Truth is definitely expressed through the words and actions of the one who has realized It, regardless of how small and unimportant the task may seem. A thorough demonstration of this, in a non-ritualistic fashion, woven throughout the fabric of the daily lives of the sangha members, is what I observed throughout the twelve days I spent there.
Yoga practice is indeed life itself. I was fascinated with the way the students and disciples carry out the Guru's teachings so naturally in the common, everyday things they do. I wished to do the same. But after coming back to New York, quite immediately, I started catching myself here and there re-living my old ways again. So, if the process for reaching the state of Yoga is a bare knuckle battle between the way I used to be and the way I want to be......... Well, ok then, let's get it on! After all, Yoga is a path for warriors.
There are two things I need to do to get myself together: practice mauna and deepen my meditation, which were the instructions I received from Shri Mahayogi during satsangha. In order to do so, the senior disciples prescribed some supplementary practices to help me after carefully diagnosing my weaknesses.
The first diagnosis was delivered by Sananda during our first late night talk over coffee at Shanti Kutira. He sharply pointed out that I need to thoroughly discriminate, I need to push myself all the way to the edge and face my naked self. Unlike Aniruddha and Ryan, the two companions of mine from New York, I personally do not like the practice of discrimination. My mind finds it boring. And as a result, my mind easily clings to pain-bearing obstacles. Instead of focusing on seeking Atman, I like to involve myself with objects of desire and life's events. And when these entertainments are not available, I will pro-actively look for them externally or draw them out from my memory bank. Sometimes I even facilitate the power of imagination by creating a fantasy based on them.
Since my first meeting with Shri Mahayogi I have been labeling myself as a bhakta. Discrimination to me is nothing more than a dry mental exercise created by the jnani for the purpose of breaking down their overly complex minds. The way I used to practice discrimination went like this: let's say I am meditating on Ishvara. Whenever I would catch myself thinking of something else, I would ask myself if what I think is the Truth or not, is it based on Truth or not? Will it lead me closer to Truth or not? If the answer is no, I will try to eliminate that and go back to my meditation on God. This is a pretty standard procedure. But since the answer to what my mind is thinking of or what the mind is attaching to is quite intuitive and easy for me to see, it is almost as if I am doing a math assignment and I already know the answer to a math problem. The answer is given on the last page of the textbook. So I automatically give the answer without working out the problem. In other words, I am failing to go through the process of uncovering the formula that will teach me the solution for that particular type of math problem. What happens is that the mind can never be a 100% convinced and certain, because it did not work out the details leading to its complete understanding of the issue itself, and therefore the root of the problem is never resolved. I believe this is one of my problems and I am starting to understand the reason why Sananda stated during our conversation that, “it doesn’t matter which path one takes, some discrimination is needed and is helpful.”
One day during a satsangha, Shantimayi told me that I must thoroughly practice yama and niyama. I took her advice to heart. Discrimination eventually will result naturally in yama and niyama. And upon the completion of discrimination, it will ultimately end in silence, and that is the deepest depth of meditation. This is my understanding of mauna and meditation. But first of all, I need to focus all my attention on the foundation. Without a strong, solid base and the actual execution of the practices, the state of Yoga will forever remain only at the level of words.
First, let me begin with resolving the obstacles I most definitely will encounter. Before I do anything else, I need to catch my thoughts in order for any discriminative process to take place. So, how am I going to do that more effectively? How can I create the conditions that will allow this to happen? The power of concentration is what I need. Now, this is a big problem. Concentration is something I have been struggling with since I started with Yoga practices.
Over the course of this trip, I have learned that there are two keys that will help me to unlock the box of concentration:
The first key is intensely practicing asana and meditation daily without any breaks. And if I precisely follow the method we have been taught, then it will definitely improve my ability to reach ekagrata, single-pointed concentration.
The second key is to avoid things that easily stimulate prana or distract the mind. In my case, this would involve a strict dietary adjustment. Eating and cooking is an issue of strong attachment for me and it will not be so easy to get it under control.
On the last day in Kyoto, Yohei gave me this advice and it was the hardest moment I had to face. I stopped talking all together or having eye contact with anyone for the entire day. There was a fire burning inside me at the time and that’s how much I struggled. Intense friction produces fire and fire cleanses and purifies—tapas is fire. By faithfully following the Guru's orders, Yohei himself has demonstrated the perfect example by not eating a certain type of food for over seven years, and most likely he will keep this seal for his entire life. This puts him in the best position to deliver such advice, for I have nothing more to say but to admire his firmness and determination. He set a perfect example for all of us. As much as my mind doesn’t like it, I will do it because I need this in order to gain control over my restless mind. After all, I am tired of being a slave to my thoughts. The bad habit of “having it one last time before I quit” is the name of my demonic excuse that always leads me to failure. I will have to be very, very careful, especially when I am relaxing and believing things to be under control........
I am doing all of these things for the purpose of creating the conditions needed for mauna, yogic silence. Mauna was one of the first instructions given to me by Shri Mahayogi. But it wasn’t until now that I have begun to understand its deep meaning, and I am sure that what I know is very much on the surface level. But I have the feeling that if I can accomplish mauna, I can accomplish the most difficult challenges in my life. Maybe I am right, maybe I am not, but let's see.
As I go into this practice, I notice the mind hardly stops talking even for a moment. Shri Mahayogi said “ego-consciousness cannot exist on its own, it is always dependent on something.” Perhaps the objects in the mind are most accessible for the ego and this is why the mind is always so noisy. Consciously quieting the mind provides the space needed to see further behind the causes of the thoughts. It is a great tool for learning one’s own mind. What I have learned so far is that most of my thoughts are unnecessary. And when the space between the thoughts is extended, the ease within expands proportionally as a result.
To quiet the activity of the mind that is involved with the objects I desire or those that I despise is difficult indeed, but it is relatively easier to notice when those thoughts arrive. Sometimes I may control them immediately and sometimes I need to go through a process of discrimination, sometimes it doesn't work at all, and sometimes it disappears for a moment and then rears its head, leaving me to listen to its story-telling once more.
It's very tricky to try to catch the mind with the mind. Not getting angry at myself when I fail is another challenge I must overcome. Usually there are only a few types of stories that my mind tells over and over. And again and again my mind listens to those same old stories. I find it pathetic and I so wish that I could just stop it all. But the power of sanskara is very strong!
The three objects of meditation: a divine existence like Buddha or Christ, meditation on the Truth or Atman, inquiry into the Self or, “Who am I?” All three will lead us to the same realization. To me, the dearest of these three objects is the meditation on Ishvara, and my chosen Ideal is Shri Mahayogi. During my stay in Kyoto I was fortunate to meet a large number of experienced seekers. All of them, without exception, gave valuable advice on various topics regarding practical means of practice. The topic on which I received the most advice at all the different meetings was how to improve and deepen my meditation. The key conclusion was that I should, for a period of time, change my chosen ideal to someone easier for the mortal mind to grasp, someone I can relate to more tangibly, perhaps someone like the disciple of an Avatara or an Enlightened Being. At a glance, I did not understand the reason for this, but the same advice came up again and again by so many seniors for whom I have a lot of respect, that I started looking into the matter more seriously.
After having been exposed naked in the wild over the course of these twelve days, I began to be able to see into my own affairs from a slightly different angle. When I try to analyze my practice of meditation in relation to my chosen ideal, I start seeing that it is impossible to actualize the essence, so pure and perfect, from the stage where I am. It is impossible not to wrongly interpret this pureness by seeing it through the filter of the senses and the mind, and the subjective tendencies that I have will definitely change its original color. My egotistical perception is all that I am able to see within myself and unfortunately there is very little I can do about it. On the other hand, meditating on a disciple who has perfected the highest state after struggling through and conquering all the difficulties along the path in order to reach this perfection is ideal. It's simply because I am experiencing what they have been through and if I meditate on these individuals and their struggles I will surely benefit from the influence of their previous efforts.
After taking this advice and giving it some thought I decided to place Vivekananda as my chosen ideal, for he is a man with guts and I have respect for that. The decision of changing my chosen ideal was made at the local bath house where Shri Mahayogi's family used to visit. I kept the decision to myself for a day until it was brought up at another dinner. I remember clearly though, the moment when I made up my mind at the bath house, my chest felt like it had been struck by a hammer.
Soon another piece of advice came. One night at Yoga Vihara, Yogadanda suggested that I concentrate on a specific part of Vivekanada’s life. There are many detailed documents about the life of this great hero whom I admire dearly, so I decided that I would search for more books on him when I got back to the US.
Switching your most beloved to someone else is weird...........! But I slowly engaged my mind differently during meditation. The topic I chose was how Vivekananda loved and served his Guru, Shri Ramakrishna, and his unparalleled compassion for the poor and lowly. But for now I am working on firmly establishing him as the object of my meditation. And since I got back to New York I have extended the duration of my morning meditation.
Kyoto is a place of endless inspiration indeed. So what is it that I want in life? Perhaps I should look beyond that. Beyond what I want is what others need. Ultimately speaking, “others” is God as He manifests Himself as all creatures and things. God needs nothing, but others as individuals oblivious to their own divine nature need Truth. I can't give Truth but I can serve others with smaller things, so I shall begin with that.
We spent the last day with Sanatana and Jayadevi in Tokyo. Sanatana told us that Shri Mahayogi is most happy when we serve others. And I remember Shri Mahayogi also said he will be happy if we realize Atman, the One. So putting these points together in a picture is how I want to visualize and live my life. It's easier said than done, but I want to try to prove it with action.
Having had the opportunity to mingle with so many wonderful brothers and sisters has been the experience of a lifetime. They simply will do anything to help us come closer to the Truth. So selflessly do they share all they know with us, and if it's necessary they will even go so far as to push us over the cliff to help us overcome our unnecessary shame and fear. And without hesitation they took me in as their own family. I finally understand the metaphor of washing potatoes by letting them rub against one another in a tank of whirling water. I want to rub off my dirt, so I need to find more potatoes here, in New York.
I extend my deepest gratitude to the sangha in Kyoto for they have implanted a decade of Yoga practice in me within twelve days! I will repay their kindness and love with my life to serve the Mission and remember to always place others before this little self. Not only in Kyoto, but the population of yogi needs to grow in all corners of the world. I will contribute all I can to assist this great mission. And I would also like to mention Anandamali, for I can’t imagine the amount of coordination and work it must have taken for all this to happen for the benefit of the three of us from NYC. Thank You!
1 Nandiswara is originally from Hong Kong but moved with his family to the USA when he was 11.
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