(Continued from Pranavadipa Vol. 30) Previously, Shri Mahayogi explained in a careful and easy-to-understand way the basics of meditation, the mechanisms of the body and the mind, and the Pure Consciousness, etc. to a small group Satsangha in which most participants were beginners from classes in Osaka. He taught them about knowing the true Master and then using the body and mind as servants and working with them according to their assigned roles.
Madhavi: We are often tossed around by the mind, but eventually the mind will be able to understand its given role, won’t it?
MASTER: Exactly. You could say that you’ll be able to know both the truth about the mind as well as the Truth of the Existence of the “I.” So, why is it that people cannot recognize that the true Self is the Existence called the Soul?
Madhavi: I truly would like to hear about that. (Everyone gives big nods while laughing at the haste of her response.)
MASTER: Yes, that is the crux of the issue. And it is due to karma; that is to say, this indicates that there were causes that have created karma. These causes are called pain-bearing obstacles in Buddhism as well [as in Yoga]. It is said that there are five main types of pain-bearing obstacles, which are desires or attachments toward the incorrect things, and it is they that concretely create karma. The root cause of these pain-bearing obstacles is not knowing the Truth, or even worse, believing the complete opposite.
For example, even though this world is not eternal, people think of the world as if it were eternal. Especially when one is happy, one’s mind thinks that it wants that happiness to last forever. Yet that is impossible. Five minutes later, that happiness changes, or at most, it’s gone after you sleep it off for a night (everyone laughs) and you wake up to a different world in the morning. Nevertheless, the mind genuinely wishes for these things in all earnestness. That is incorrect, since the world—meaning situations and circumstances—are constantly changing; it is totally impossible for them to be eternal or to remain the same forever. That is scientifically proven. Nonetheless, the mind thinks in incorrect ways.
[Another pain-bearing obstacle is that] the mind believes that the things that are not the true Self are the true Self. The mind thinks that the ego within the mind is the Self—that is also incorrect.
In addition to that, the mind seeks perfection, cleanliness, and purity within this world. But there is nothing in the world that is completely pure and undefiled without a single stain, so that is also incorrect.
Furthermore, everyone wishes for happiness. Having money, beauty, wisdom, intelligence, or status and honor—although they are not so easy to acquire and may come in various degrees—one attributes happiness to such things. Nevertheless, wealth, beauty, wisdom and fame—all of them will eventually change and disappear. Let’s suppose that you achieve these things in your youth, but as you find yourself losing them in old age or as your state of mind becomes filled with fear and anxiety over the thought of losing them, and if death is nearing, then happiness will be replaced by the suffering of not being able to take these things with you in death. The world’s happiest can become the world’s unhappiest. That means that one will inevitably realize that whatever one previously thought was the source of happiness, was actually the source from which suffering was created.
These four things I mentioned are the basis out of which the various desires are born. [So then] you become attached to those things you like and try to avoid those things you don’t like. You become attached to the fact that you are living, that is, your life in a physical body of flesh. The flipside of this is having the fear of death, and that can only arise because one thinks that the Self is one’s physical body. These so-called pain-bearing obstacles serve as the root cause, and from there they develop into concrete desires. Whatever it is that each person tries to grasp differs according to each individual’s experience. However, these developed forms [of pain-bearing obstacles that have grown into desires] are sweepingly called karma. Because of [karma], one desires something and becomes attached to it, then inevitably suffers in the end as a result. Therefore, by correctly understanding this mechanism, or the logic behind it, one comes to realize that the mind was attached to trifling things, that is to say, one will realize that the things that the mind attaches to are not worth concerning over, being non-eternal things that are no longer interesting, or one will clearly realize what it is that the mind is attached to and thus be able to let go of these things and no longer be fettered by them. Then the mind will be more at ease. As you follow these fundamental steps, the mind will be liberated. Then, regardless of what situations arise, one will no longer be tossed around by them and one can remain steadfast at all times. Various incidents often tend to happen in this world; even so, what one needs to do is to simply deal with them accordingly—and I think that surely one would rather be able to deal with them calmly, while maintaining one’s composure. What is happening is as if the ignorance within the pain-bearing obstacles is, in a way, covering the Truth. Therefore, by exposing the ignorance first, and practicing to eliminate it as much as possible, the mind is liberated and becomes free, as if it were becoming transparent. Then the conditions arise in which it gets easier for the Truth to emerge. If you can deepen your meditation at these moments, you will experience the existence of your true Self. That is the climax of meditation, which I really want you to feel for yourself. Before that happens, if you concentrate and meditate upon the essence of any given thing—and it doesn’t matter what it is—you will be able to perceive and to understand everything. Anything at all (smiles). In that sense, meditation is fascinating. It can reveal anything. However, in order to do this well, you must have first extinguished [the tendency of] the mind to be easily disturbed and be able to maintain it like that all the time. If the mind is irritated, it can never go well. So, continue to keep it calm at all times. And keep the breath and the body controlled.
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I’ve more or less covered the majority of the most important fundamentals, and it would be fantastic if everyone could understand this perfectly and transform their minds after hearing it only once. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.) But, [that might not be the case considering that] the mind has been reincarnating for a very long time. It is also said that it may have lived through countless lives in the past, and it’s hard to know how long that will continue into the future; however, well... the past and the future don’t matter, because—and you must know this—the fact is that it is a very special occurrence that right now you have finally encountered the opportunity to break the chains of karma. (Everyone nods and looks at Shri Mahayogi with serious expressions.) There is nothing else more auspicious than this. In the entire history of the entire universe, there is nothing more worthy of celebration than this.
That is why I’d like you to realize the Truth and why I would like you to steadfastly walk that path; and so in order to do that it is very important to learn the Truth in the way that you are right now. You cannot learn this at a university. (laughs) Even though there is a course that teaches Indian philosophy, it is merely teaching book-knowledge, which is empty knowledge practically without substance, even in graduate school too. That’s why you need to listen to a living Realized Being’s words directly—and writings, in which these precious words have been recorded and handed down, are called scriptures. [Though] it’s quite difficult to ascertain when they were written and by whom. The Bible is considered to be the world’s bestseller. In the New Testament there are many teachings of Christ, but how many of those words are actually his? There is much speculation and actual debate about this. Some research has been done that suggests it may perhaps be as little as 10%. That means that scriptures that have been based on creative interpretations made up by later generations are many. That’s fine for people who have faith [in them], but for those who want to reach the real Truth—since this cannot be hidden behind the veil of faith—for those who seek to rely on more precise teachings or words, there are more recent words that have been collected from modern Saints and Awakened Beings, which have not eroded over time, relatively speaking, so one can refer to and study from those. You need to study the teaching of the Truth this way.
In addition to that, some sort of training is needed, such as sitting like this for meditation, practicing asana, or singing kirtan—have any of you been to the kirtan program, Bhakti Sangam? That is bhakti yoga, the kind of yoga that is based only on loving God. Practicing discipline or training yourself using the physical body in such ways is a necessity.
And you should also practice meditation on the Truth, God or the true Self. Do these three disciplines daily, as much as you possibly can. That is the path to Realization. You cannot relax and think that practicing once a week is comfortable and fine for you. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.) You eat every single day, you live every single day, so I would like you to take these practices and do them every day. I spoke so much today, but was it difficult? Are you ok? (Everyone smiles bitter-sweetly as if overwhelmed.)
Madhavi: I’m a little surprised that Shri Mahayogi gave us these teachings that covered such a grand scale. (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: (casually) Today, seeing everyone’s attentive faces, [I couldn’t stop until] I felt like had I told you everything (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh). If you don’t understand something, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Visitor: It was shocking for me to find out that the mind is like a servant. I still don’t understand that very well, but it feels like more than half of my struggles seemed to have cleared up. (MASTER: Yes, that must be so.) Hearing you today, with all the things that compelled me to move around, or that I was tossed around by, it now seems as though I was doing the complete opposite of what I was supposed to be doing. Just finding that part out is already extremely beneficial. (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: For your reference, within the long history of Yoga, the type of yoga that has meditation at its core—as you can imagine the form in which Shakyamuni meditated—is called raja yoga. Raja means master. It also means king—it is the Master, the Lord. That is to say, it is the yoga that realizes the true Master or Lord, which is not the mind but the true Self, the true “I.”
Throughout history, Yoga has been called by four main names. The first one is raja yoga, which was just mentioned, and the next one is jnana yoga. The true Self is called Atman, and this jnana [yoga] is the type of yoga by which one arrives at an intuitive Satori, where Atman is the only Truth and the world is like an illusion, and one realizes the Truth through this kind of philosophy and wisdom.
The next one is bhakti yoga, which I have mentioned. Bhakti is to believe in and become One with God, to love and to play with God and become One. God is another name for Truth, but the Truth is formless and therefore not easy to grasp. So, intentionally having a personified form of God and intimately loving this God as your true lover, as your beloved, and rather than placing God somewhere above the clouds you love God as if you are loving and embracing God right in front of you and uniting as One—that is bhakti yoga. There is no need to train in anything else. That is all you need. It is an extremely passionate yoga.
There is another one called karma yoga. Karma can refer to cause and effect, but originally it simply means action. People act based on the various influences that come from their minds, whether they are good actions or evil actions; so as a result the law of karma is in effect here. However, in a literal sense it simply means action. Therefore, when it comes to karma yoga, when one steadfastly performs devoted service and takes selfless actions for others without ego, desires or attachment, through that too you are led to perfection in one of these yoga. In Buddhism, this is called the act of the Bodhisattva, and there are some stories [in the scriptures] in which Bodhisattva even sacrifice their own lives for the salvation of others. Such acts of the Bodhisattva can be considered to be quite a deep form of karma yoga . Either way, everyone in this world lives within many different situations and conditions, that is to say, in a societal or familial context. Even if you lived on a mountain, there would be trees, animals, and a river that flowed there, among the various other things in nature. To do actions devotedly for other life forms besides your own self, to not only do no harm to them but serve them—that is an act of [karma yoga]. If you have a family or if you are a mother, then you perform selfless actions for your children; if you are a wife, practice it toward your husband, or a husband toward his wife or children, or toward parents, or friends—you can perform karma yoga in all your relationships in society.
Ms. Fuko: Do we need to confirm in meditation whether we have been able to serve truly, devotedly, without any ego getting in the way?
MASTER: Yes, if you have doubts. Or ask the Guru.
Ms. Fuko: Whether I’m doing it correctly?
MASTER: Yes. I didn’t mention this in the beginning, but in Yoga, no matter what, it is important to have a guru, the correct teacher, so that you won’t go the wrong way. If you practice alone, since you will very often make judgments based only on your own experiences that you have had up until that point, it is therefore considered essential to have a guru.
It would be good to be able to practice these four yoga that I’ve mentioned as a whole, unless you have one type of yoga that you want to do at the exclusion of everything else, or if you especially prefer one type above anything else, in which case it’s fine to practice just one type. Especially when it comes to removing the ego and the ignorance that are covering the Truth, the teachings of Truth must be applied and compared against them and you must discern which is correct. That is called discrimination. If this too is performed in meditation, then the answer will surely be revealed to you.
Madhavi: So, I’m supposed to compare what my mind says with your teachings, and discern which is correct?
MASTER: Exactly. Then liberate the mind from ego and ignorance, and, at the same time, realize the Truth. That is raja yoga, and also jnana yoga. If you feel that logic is no longer needed, and your love for God exists only for the sake of loving God alone, God being your only beloved, and you then find yourself preferring to mediate because you feel crazy for God, then that is the practice of bhakti yoga. You sing kirtan or chant the name of God verbally and within the mind whenever or wherever you are, or whatever you are doing—when you fall in love with someone, you constantly think of your lover at all times. In this way, think of the God that you are fond of, the God you truly love—that is bhakti yoga. Regarding karma yoga, like I said earlier, it is best to practice truly devoted actions and service as much as possible. And at the very least, do not cause harm to others, to other living beings, or do not act or think violently of others. Be kind to others—please practice this at the bare minimum.
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(During the “Experiencing Meditation” class, there was a session in which the participants attempted to practice meditation through kirtan. They felt that it made it easier for them to enter into meditation. Shri Mahayogi is delighted to hear this report. One of the participants, Ms. Tanaka, said, “It was enjoyable, and I felt a warm, wonderful energy, as if the space itself had become one. There was something that concretely made me feel happy just being there.”)
MASTER: That is what arises when like-minded people with the same goal gather together. It may be invisible to the eye, but prana, ki, is being created. Since you are all young you may not have heard of this, but since long ago in Buddhism there are considered to be three jewels. Have you ever heard of 仏法僧 (Buddha-Dharma-Sangha)? The character 仏 in this context means Buddha, someone who is Enlightened, and in Buddhism that would be Shakyamuni. The character 法 in this context means law, or Dharma in Indian language, and it is a profound word that indicates so many things, including religion, justice, Truth, and the nature of the world. In Buddhism, Truth is called 法 (law, Dharma). Preaching is called 説法 (to talk or explain + the law), right? To explain the law, that means to explain the Truth, to clarify the Truth, which means that the Truth about the world is clarified as well. So the Truth, as well as the truth of the world, is included in that. Since that is the fundamental providence of the universe, it can also be understood as religion. That is 法 (law, Dharma). The last character is 僧 (monk). It is the character for the word monk. In India, it would be sangha, the companions [who share the same aim]. This refers to the comrades of the practitioners who are aiming towards Satori as their goal. An occasion in which we gather, like today, is called Satsangha. Sat means Existence, Reality—also meaning Truth. Simply put, the gathering of Truth is called Satsangha. Kyoto has a professional soccer team named Sangha-something... and they probably used that because Kyoto has many temples, though originally it is one of the Three Jewels.
(The meditation group that Ms. Kokaji and Ms. Kiyo Tachibana have started is named “Meditation Sangha.”)
Ms. Kiyo: It has been great meditating with a group—since meditating together is very different from meditating alone. Even if we are just sharing the same space, I feel it strongly.
MASTER: You may feel weak and unsteady when you practice asana or meditation alone, but during class, or when you practice with others, there is a sense of accomplishment. In that sense, within the sangha, the Dharma just mentioned, or the elements of Buddha-Dharma-Sangha, arise there, and unbeknownst to one another, everyone influences the others positively. That is really quite a big merit. That truly has such great worth.
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(Ms. Kokaji said that she tried to meditate with Indian Gods as the objects, but she was not so familiar with them and could therefore not continue. But she said that as she consulted senior disciples, she began to want to seek out the question, “Who Am I?”.)
Ms. Kokaji: I haven’t even reached the deepening part. I am able to get something like a birds-eye view, and there is a witness looking at the servant, which is the mind. But then, there seems to be another witness behind that. So, it feels as though it repeats, like a mirror facing another mirror, and I haven’t been able to reach the soul yet. So does this mean that because I haven’t removed ego, ignorance, or the servant, I’m going around in circles?
MASTER: That’s right. You just mentioned that you feel that one after another [the witness repeats, and that] there is that substance, that true existence further and further beyond them; however, there is only one true Existence. If you still feel that way, then that indicates that the mind is still moving. In that case, you should try to stop the breath; stop the breath and concentrate. By doing so you’ll be able to distinguish the moving mind and the Consciousness witnessing it. (Everyone is impressed and says “hmmm.”)
Ms. Kokaji: During class, I’m often told to exhale even more, and that I am able to exhale much more than what I am doing. I understand that I probably just need to continue practicing asana daily, but how should I deepen the breath?
MASTER: Well, it is not easy to control the breath by itself. For instance, take a swimmer. Truly, through swimming many, many kilometers every single day, they learn how to breathe in a way that is appropriate for a swimming athlete. Yoga is the same. In order to deepen meditation, one needs to have the preparation of creating a body and respiratory system that make it easy to practice meditation. This is asana practice or pranayama, special breathing methods for which it is necessary to have gone through the stages of asana practice beforehand. There is an order to these things. So, as you continue to practice asana steadfastly, the breath will transform.
Ms. Kokaji: Yes, indeed it is easier to sit in meditation after practicing asana.
MASTER: Isn’t it so? It shows that both body and breath are transforming.
Ms. Kokaji: So, it all boils down to the fact that asana is crucial. And it must be done every day. (laughs)
Yes. Normally, in the tradition of India it is said that just for asana practice alone, the duration of training in the disciplines for those practitioners who not only have inherently healthy and strong bodies, but who also possess ardor towards Satori takes 12 years. (Ms. Kokaji is surprised.) So, then that applies even more in the case of modern humans, as we sometimes wonder if we can create the body of a yogi even after spending one lifetime on practice... But, don’t worry (says it humorously, and everyone laughs out loud). Unlike the asana being taught in the neighborhood cultural center yoga classes that are out there, the asana that you are practicing here are based on my direct experience, therefore the practice can be shortened in a way that is best suited [to each practitioner]. If you want to finish asana in one year, it can be done accordingly. Of course, if one finishes in one year, that means that one proceeds to the next stage. For example, bhakti is deepened to the extreme, or your passion becomes so deep and heightened, even to the extent that there is no time nor need for asana practice. Or, it could be that one is getting much closer to awakening into the true Self, or that one enjoys practicing meditation so much so that one feels that one does not even want to spend that time on asana. And there may be cases when one reaches such a state, and then one naturally ends asana practice one to three years after starting it. However, cases such as these may be truly extreme. Nevertheless, as long as you practice ardently, the next stage will eventually come. Since [in our practice] one is already practicing a little bit of the next stage simultaneously, as these practices deepen, the result is that the time required for [the stage of] asana is shortened. The main point is to realize the Truth (smiling), to realize the true Self, or to realize God—that is the only purpose, the only object.
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“The practice of samarasa is daily practice itself.” These simple and straightforward words that Satya suddenly spoke, unexpectedly lit a spark within me at once.
Up until that moment I had only heard about samarasa in the context of the cooking program and samarasa kitchen. For several years I had known that the gurubai in Japan were gathering for “yogic cooking.” The samarasa cookbook, which was introduced about two years ago, was a reference, but I’m afraid that the closest I got to it was looking at the pictures, which, although beautiful and revealing, left me with more questions than answers as to what this samarasa was all about. During that same time, we translated a small piece of text from the cookbook for Pranavadipa that introduces some of the basics of samarasa as it relates to yogic cooking. At the time it caused me to pause and reflect on my understanding and my ways of thinking about food, but I was not really clear on how to concretely practice. That, or perhaps it is that I wasn’t ready to let go of my own preconceived notions regarding food and dietary style. Either way, I was unable to sustain much of a practice around samarasa and it felt rather unattainable to me. I didn’t know much about it, I had more questions than answers, but didn’t want to ask out of fear of having to let go of some of those ideas about food and dietary practice that I was still clinging onto, as well as shift away from some of the pleasures I had been taking in food and diet, following my own whims. I had been wanting to know more about samarasa—it seemed so practical, not to mention fun—but I did not want to ask Anandamali too much about it. We are busy with many works already. So I assumed that the time was not right, or perhaps this was not a practice I needed to put a lot of focus on right now.
So when I heard Satya speak such bold and direct words, all of my preconceived notions about what I had idealized samarasa to be, or all of the mysteries that I had thought it held, were blown away in an instant! At its heart, this had nothing to do with the details of cooking and eating like I had first thought. Rather, samarasa extended much, much more than that, having more to do with the subtle condition of the mind that drives and comes forth in our moment to moment actions, whatever they may be. Samarasa is in fact a practice that can be practically applied and experienced in every aspect and moment of daily life. Wow! How fascinating!
I imagine that my understanding is still simplistic and on the surface, but I felt that in this way, samarasa is quite simple and quite practicable.
Perhaps I should backtrack a little more to explain why this simple revelation feels so momentous to me.
Around the time that I first met Shri Mahayogi I was in the midst of what could be called “health fanaticism.” For years I had been desperately seeking relief from a health condition I had had since childhood, and at the time I had implemented a number of dietary changes in hopes of finding some relief through optimal health. From time to time I experienced some temporary relief, but at the same time, I became overly concerned and stressed about what to eat and when. I would say that my mind became obsessive, worried and unbalanced as a result of my dietary experiments and I bound myself tightly in this way.
Little by little I have been breaking the bonds of these ideas, and freeing myself of my own self-imposed ideas and dietary restrictions. “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Since I first read this teaching, I have wanted to understand it. Although I could recognize that the only way to understand this would be to truly put it to the test, I think my mind was still tending towards obsessing over restriction and detail even when thinking about samarasa, so I was seeing and understanding the little that I knew of it on these terms, in a very limited way.
Satya’s words however seemed to hit my heart and shake my grip loose on some of those ideas that I was still holding onto, despite my efforts to believe or show outwardly that I was not holding onto them. Words have their greatest impact when the one who speaks them really lives and knows the experience of what they speak to be true. From speaking with Satya and hearing her speak about her daily practice, I truly believe that she experiences the joy of Yoga through the practice of samarasa, through daily practice itself! And I believe that it is for this reason that her words arrived into my heart with such strength.
When Satya said to me, “I suppose you are already practicing this way in daily life,” I didn’t know what else to say but “I am trying.” If I thought about it in terms of cooking or in doing daily tasks I didn’t really feel that I had been keeping a close tab on the state of my mind, at least to the degree in which I was noticing the immediate effect of my mental condition on the outcome of anything that I do. More accurately speaking, I was usually rushing from one thing to the next when cooking and not slowing down long enough to even prepare a balanced meal. So I questioned whether or not I had been practicing in daily life at all.
However, after some thought I realized that, although I had not been practicing in these terms per se, I had been experimenting with a form of this kind of practice with my daily interactions at my work. I have been teaching middle and high school students for the past three years. On a daily basis I deal with the very dynamic and changing minds of many different adolescent youth. At times these interactions have been difficult. But what I have discovered is that the students often mirror me. They are far more responsive and receptive to the thoughts that underlie my words and actions, than the words and actions themselves. In this sense, I quickly see the result of my own mental condition, and I am left to face myself and confront my state of mind again and again as I find myself reacting or responding to the changing tide of students. When things don’t go well, it is easy to place the blame on the other, and this is a common attitude that many teachers in the schools take. However, nothing comes of blaming anyone for anything, rather, in my experience, this only results in frustration and perpetuation of the issue at hand...It is like when a dog chases its own tail but can never catch it. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha teaches “Look not to the faults of others, but what you have done and left undone.” This is one of the ways in which I have been striving to practice in daily life, in my daily interactions in the schools.
Such practice, however, has largely remained in the realm of work interactions, and I find that I have overlooked many other aspects of daily practice. Now, I feel that it is time for me to expand and deepen my own understanding of daily practice. I too want to experience samarasa1. I want to feel and understand this practice for real. And I know that in order to do so, I really need to bring the practice of Yoga into all aspects of my daily life. I need to shift my mind, shift my thinking, my way of doing, and truly give up on old ways. These have worn out their welcome and no longer serve much purpose. Simply by having this spark kindled within me to know, to experience and to understand I am already beginning to feel a difference. And I am truly excited to dive in and to learn more and more about what the practice of Yoga really is!
Samarasa is a yogic term, and another word for samadhi, (the state of complete absorption). It can be translated as “same taste,” which indicates “tasting ultimate bliss.” (sama = equal/same, rasa = taste)
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