(A continuation from Pranavadipa Volume 31)
Visitor: While I was flying in an airplane the other day, there was a rainstorm that caused some turbulence. Unlike on ordinary flights, this time I felt the fear of death as I thought about the plane crashing. I began to think about how I wanted to live from that moment on. But from what I hear you saying now, it seems that it isn’t about getting rich or getting married, but rather it is more important for me to know my soul, right?
MASTER: It is to know your true Self. Mr. A or Ms. A are temporary names. If you get married, your last name may change, so in a way it didn’t really matter what your name was to begin with. Some cause [of karma] led you to be born into a particular family with a particular last name, but this has nothing to do with the absolute “I.” Nevertheless, the “I” thinks, “I am.” It is important to know what that “I” is—the truth of the Self. In other words, it is called the Soul, or the Pure Consciousness. Actually, God is That.
There turns out to be a big difference between how you live your life after you know the truth of this fact, the right and true way of living in this world, and the way you live your life when you don’t know that. You don’t have to be a recluse and abandon the world in order to realize Satori. There’s a reason why each one of you was born into this world, so while you are in it, do your best to attain happiness. However, unless you recognize that the truth of this world is that not even happiness is absolute and eternal, since once things change you may become depressed and filled with despair, that happiness will turn into suffering. But if you have come to recognize the Truth and, at the same time, have come to understand the nature of the world, then, no matter what circumstances may arise in the future, you will be able to handle them.
To give you a simple example, let’s say that you want to marry a handsome, rich man and create a wonderful family. In actuality, however, you may end up marrying a man who doesn’t have money, and who may seem handsome to you but no one else agrees. (Everyone laughs) And you may think that you have the family and children that you wanted, but all kinds of troubles regularly come up, and so you may think that life is hard, that it is suffering and so on. However, if you know the true Self, even though you may be in these situations, you will see the Sacred Existence within your husband or your children in their essence, as the exact same Sacred Existence that is within you; so therefore you’ll be able to deal with these situations in positive ways, thinking that, “Right now, the situation may be bad, but if I put in the effort, tomorrow will be better.” So, you need not be dissatisfied, complain or despair. On the contrary, if you don’t know your true Self, then you may take it out on others, tragically thinking, “Why me? Why do I need to be so entangled? It’s not supposed to be this way.” Regardless of what type of life you end up leading, ultimately you ought to know this Truth.
Ms. Kokaji: So, that means that we must always discern the Truth in every situation, otherwise we inadvertently get swept away by these situations against our will, correct?
MASTER: Yes. That’s why you first need to know the Truth. If you do, then the mind transforms, and when the mind is transformed, the way in which you perceive situations will transform. The fact is that any given situation can change a great deal—it is changing non-stop—yet regardless of the situation, you will be able to remain calm without panicking. Not only that, but you will even be able to motivate the mind to act as a positive servant who strives to make things better, and the body will serve accordingly too.
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Ms. Kiyo: Ever since I took the Specialized Meditation Class I feel like I’m beginning to see my soul. As I began to become more detached from phenomena, although this may be a bit of an exaggeration, I could hear the voice of my soul asking things like, “How should I act?” And I feel as though I am observing it to see whether that voice itself is merely a phenomenon, or if it’s the voice that I’ve been seeking all along. How should I approach this?
MASTER: You are in a good place. That’s all the more reason why you need to learn and familiarize yourself with the Truth. To study the Truth or the sacred scriptures, to train yourself [using the physical body], and to meditate on the Truth or God—the true Self—it is of the utmost importance to practice these three things on a daily basis, as much as possible.
Although general knowledge is something that people inevitably make an effort to memorize, there is no need to memorize the teaching of the Truth because the soul itself knows it already. Nevertheless, when ignorance still exists, such as incorrect understanding, ego, or some petty attachments, then one must use these words to send a warning signal, as a way to see whether they are incorrect or not. Once the teachings of the Truth are firmly accepted into the depths of the mind, the mind will go on to be drastically transformed, such that the [teachings of Truth] come forth from within you when needed, even if one does not have them particularly memorized. Therefore, meditate in order to truly experience a tangible sense of something authentic, your soul, which is your true Self in and of itself.
Ms. Kiyo: (thinking deeply) Experience a tangible sense...
MASTER: Yes. For example, if you try to meditate on the moon, the mind’s arrow (pointing his hand outward) points towards the moon. However, the true Self is internal, so the arrow points inward, towards the depths of the mind. Meditate like that. Truth, the true Self, God, Real Existence—they all exist within here. Of course, they also exist outside, but it’s easier to meditate on this within. As a location (points to his own chest), this so-called ‘heart’, the center of the chest—focus on what is deep at its core. Isn’t it concrete? (smiles) This has been handed down to us based on the experiences of the yogi from the past. Continue to do it that way. Then, you’ll no longer be confused between the struggles of the mind and the voice of the soul, and you’ll be more clear and free.
Ms. Taniguchi: God, Truth, and the true Self are the same...
MASTER: (definitively) The same.
Ms. Taniguchi: Lately, I’ve been coming face-to-face with myself, then hitting a wall and thinking, “What is the point of being alive?” And I have become really depressed in meditation. Ultimately, I understand that this is a complacent and self-conceited way of looking at things, and I feel, as Shri Mahayogi mentioned earlier, that God abides within all, and that there is where I am too (tearfully). But then I’m just going around in circles there because although I understand intellectually when I hear the teachings, I am stuck not knowing how to bring the teachings into reality so that they are clear and obvious, or to go deeper with that. During meditation, at times there are words that suddenly come up, but I lose track as the mind keeps going round and round automatically. What should I do?
MASTER: Any mumbling and grumbling, whatever it may be, is all caused by the mind. Therefore, be silent—silence. Yet, even if you try to forcefully silence the mind, its power may most likely increase, so then as things come up, they must be dealt with by clearing them out. By dealing with the mind in this way, you must train it to calm down. Through training it, eventually the mind will become easier to control, and you will be able to control it.
Ms. Taniguchi: Is that something that is supposed to be done in meditation?
MASTER: Yes. At these times you will be able to get closer to the essence of the Truth, the true Self, or God, or tangibly experience It. Well, it is tedious work, in a way. (laughs) Nevertheless, one has no choice but to continue to do this.
Ms. Taniguchi: In order to silence the mind, when that mumbling or grumbling arises, I need to cut it off by saying that that’s not [the Truth].
Yes. Or conversely, think about God—this is a very positive, proactive approach. The method of discrimination, on the other hand, is a more subtractive approach: “Not this. Not that.”
In any case, you should apply either approach accordingly depending on what comes out from the mind. When necessary, apply discrimination, and simultaneously deepen bhakti more and more—these will synergistically move you forward.
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Ms. Fuko: I think of God as being a collective of everyone who has passed away, such as my father and others who have taken care of me in the past, and in meditation I usually find myself thinking about whether this is correct. Is it ok to use this method?
MASTER: One’s ancestors and so forth are different from God. Since God is another name for the Truth itself, it is the Perfect Existence. The Perfect Existence means that which has never been defiled, that is to say, it has never been tainted by the karma of life’s experiences. In this sense, you could say that your ancestors will eventually become God...
Ms. Fuko: I had thought that God abides within everyone, but...
MASTER: Of course, that is so.
Ms. Fuko: ...so people who have passed away get closer to the existence of God.
MASTER: No, that part is incorrect. You can consider them, too, to still be in the middle of the journey of reincarnation. God is the ultimate perfected form, the goal.
Ms. Fuko: Does everyone return to the origin?
MASTER: Yes. Everyone goes back to the origin. Originally, the truth is that the entire universe, all life, comes from God, or rather, God itself has become all of these forms. However, because of this occurrence, ignorance enters into the mind there, one forgets the original [state of] God, meaning that one has made a mistake, and therefore one continues to reincarnate—this is karma, or the continuation of sanskara. Whether it is your parent, your child, or you yourself for that matter, the journey of the soul can be described in the way I just mentioned. So just because you die, it doesn’t mean you instantly become God or a buddha. According to your karma, you are eventually born again and continue on like this. Therefore, when you meditate on God, please visualize the perfect existence in the form of God.
Ms. Fuko: Why are there so many types of gods?
They exist so that one can choose according to each individual’s characteristics of mind, or one’s tastes. (laughs) At least, in India that’s the way it is. For example, even Shakyamuni is considered to be one of the gods in India, since there in India God is considered to directly incarnate upon this earth. So Shakyamuni, too, is called an incarnation of God—the one who came down to this earth with the essence or the direct substance of God. It seems that such an occurrence happens from time to time throughout history at the start of a new phase, and legend says that before the time of Shakyamuni it was the God Krishna that came down to earth as an incarnation of God. In modern times, in the 19th century, in the place that is now called Kolkata, there was a person named Shri Ramakrishna who appeared there and he is also recognized as an incarnation of God, or, that is to say, people worship him as such. I suggest meditating on such an existence if possible.
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Visitor: (with a serious, troubled expression) As a consequence of thinking that romantic love is attachment, and therefore ignorance, things become much easier by letting go of it. For example, Lord Shakyamuni had a partner but eventually came to be alone. My question is about the “soul-mate”...but from the perspective of Yoga—how is romantic love perceived?
MASTER: I just remembered that a disciple of Lord Shakyamuni asked him a similar question. It was an old couple who must have loved each other. Predicting that they would have to be born again since they didn’t attain the complete state of Enlightenment, they asked Lord Shakyamuni, in the next life, since they would like to help and encourage each other again to attain Enlightenment, what could they do then? Then, Lord Shakyamuni taught that, “Each of you should have faith in the correct teaching and practice diligently.”
Simply put, two people fall in love and get together, whether they are lovers or spouses—this means that in fact they don’t have the same karma. Each individual’s world of the mind is completely different from any other person’s, to the point where it isn’t possible for them to have the same dreams while sleeping either. (Everyone laughs) Karma is different, that’s just how it is. However, if they can join and share the same ideals, values, aspirations, and various other things, and as Shakyamuni taught, be able to have the same faith, then even if their karma is different they can walk in the same direction. Whether one remains together with one’s partner while having different karma, or whether one continues to be together while having a shared ideal—each will bring about different results respectively: eventually ending in trouble, divorce and other such things, or in a harmonious life. Whatever it may be, every result has a cause—such is the nature of this world. In this sense, too, you should try to find a good and suitable person. (laughs)
Visitor: (seemingly relieved) Thank you very much.
MASTER: As for children, children are born with their own karma, so parents cannot control their children in the way they want. (laughing) What parents can do is to demonstrate what is right or show them the truly great way of living—children are always watching the way in which the parents live. No matter how many lectures you give, they won’t work. If the parents aren’t doing what is right, children will point it out, saying, “you were doing this and that.” (laughing)
(Ms. Fuko and Ms. Hiraoka, who have children, are looking at each other with bittersweet smiles.)
Visitor: I think that I’m not good when it comes to communicating with others. From listening to you today I somewhat feel that when communicating with others I should be conscious that there is one Truth and that we are all alive through It. Will you please give me some concrete advice on this?
MASTER: Well, since the external aspects of a human being explicitly appear as his or her habits and characteristics, which are karma, both positive and negative aspects, it’s not easy and it is heavy to deal only with them, right? (Everyone nods) Indeed, it’s very hard. However, if you look only at the Truth that is at the person’s essence, which is Atman, God—this is the essence, and I am the same, and everyone is the same, and the person in front of you is the same—so [remembering this] while trying to have the necessary communication with that person, will make a big difference. Why don’t you try it?
Visitor: (joyfully) Yes, thank you very much.
MASTER: Also, see the essence in your husband and children concretely. There will be times when you have to discipline them, and you cannot avoid teaching them discipline.
Visitor: In order to reach my true Self, I feel like it’s necessary to scrape things off, but I can’t do it so well. For example, when I feel irritated in daily life, although I wish to have more sense like I do when I’m meditating, even if only a little, I continue working while I get swept away and end up just remaining irritated. Is there a way to regain that presence of mind without going through sitting meditation?
MASTER: Well, there are a few. First, do a long exhale and stop the breath for a while, then when you feel constricted, inhale again, and do another long exhale, then stop. If you repeat this about three times, the emotion will subside. It is a reliable method to affect one’s psychology by using the physiological breath. If you can control the mind with only the mind, then think about the God you love, or focus on God. These two are the most powerful methods. Remember them. They will be effective right away. I want everyone to remember that. You can use them in your daily life.
Ms. Tanaka: I am reacting quite a bit to the word karma. Is karma something I created, or is it something that gets passed down from parents and ancestors, something that I have no say in?
MASTER: It was created by you yourself. As the result of doing various karma, or acts, in your past lives, you must reap something in return, or the results must be received. Of course, there are good results too, not only bad ones. And furthermore, the environment in which such situations are easily created has already been designed according to that karma as well. Based upon that, the environment into which you were born due to your own karma has been established first. So, you can say that the reason why you were born to your current parents is due to the karma that you created of your own accord. It isn’t because your parents created this by themselves, but rather you chose to be born there. In addition, your longevity is determined by the past as well. Another thing is the ratio of happiness to unhappiness in your particular life—your so-called life experiences themselves are also already predetermined. Various life experiences are based on these three things fitting in together. In any case, these three things are predetermined.
Ms. Tanaka: For example, it just so happens that I was born in Osaka. Was that my karma too?
Ms. Tanaka: Does that mean that even if I would have liked to have been born somewhere other than Osaka, I will be able to lessen karma, which I increased by myself, just by living naturally in the environment that was given to me now?
MASTER: No, the location of where you are born is determined that way, but it’s more about the environment. You were born to your parents in Osaka because it was the environment that was most suitable for you to experience the results of your past karma. But, in your life experience after you are born and up until your life expires, you do not need to be attached to Osaka. You may end up in a foreign country. And irrespective of this, the third element, the ratio of happiness to unhappiness, has already been set up.
Ms. Tanaka: So, does that mean that even if I feel dissatisfied with the environment into which I was born, it was something that was provided for me as a way to overcome that so that I can come face to face with my true Self?
MASTER: That is so. Practicing Yoga, or the Truth, by knowing the mechanism and substance of karma, and at the same time by realizing the Truth, results in the transcendence of karma. That is all the more reason why having this encounter with Yoga is extremely auspicious, because the Satori of Yoga is so powerful that all karma can be cancelled out and you can completely return to a blank slate, no matter what kind of karma you have left over.
Ms. Tanaka: (laughing joyfully) I feel much lighter now.
MASTER: See!? That’s good. (Everyone nods)
Ms. Fuko: I feel so sorry for others. We have all come to know about these kinds of things now. (Shri Mahayogi laughs.) I wonder what this feeling is?
MASTER: Really, I want others to know it, and I wonder how much more peaceful and happier the world would be if a great number of people, if everyone understood this and acted upon it! Alas, it is truly sad that with some people, no matter how much they hear these teachings, they fall on deaf ears, and some can’t actually practice it—that is, because of karma and ignorance. However, since we have this [auspicious] encounter and I’m sure your relatives and friends, the people around you, are not too covered up by ignorance, so if you spread this goodness a little at a time to as many people as possible, then you yourself will be happy and your friends and family will surely become happy too, in the truest sense.
Ms. Tanaka: I feel that one is finally proactive, in the true sense, when one intends to improve after understanding these things.
MASTER: (delightedly) Right, you should proceed in such way.
Ms. Tanaka: In the past, I would have just remained upset.
MASTER: That’s why Yoga is extremely proactive. It’s so very dynamic, so very proactive—such that no desire can catch up with it. (laughs in a lively way) It takes that kind of boldness. Do it with the determination to realize Satori in this lifetime—such that you can’t wait for the next lifetime! Can you do it?
(Shri Mahayogi incites everyone powerfully. Everyone is moved and is staring at Shri Mahayogi single-pointedly.)
Ms. Fuko: I used to think that getting closer to the Truth was a lonely path, and that it causes you to become less human. But now I realize that’s not the case. Isn’t it more about loving others in a better way, or believing in them in a true sense?
MASTER: (very pleased) It’s the exact opposite—sometimes it’s been said that [to realize the Truth] is to become a real human being. It is said you become a real, authentic human—a true human. (smiles gently) I am glad.
Ms. Fuko: (visibly moved) I am glad... I’m glad.
(This Satsangha lasted longer than three hours. Shri Mahayogi, from the beginning to the end, generously used his words to guide everyone with teachings that were sprinkled with simple metaphors and humor. The participants who encountered Yoga this day received an enormous blessing.)
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One of the saints that I am quite fond of is Turiyananda, a direct disciple of Shri Ramarkrishna. When he was young he read the following verse, which impressed him deeply, and he endeavored to follow it as much as possible throughout his life.
“The first step of Yoga consists of the control of speech, non-acceptance of gifts, non-expectation, non-action (control of activity) and a solitary life.”
In the book Swami Turiyananda: Life and Teachings1, it is written how severely he practiced asceticism. At times, his teachings are austerely expressed. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel the depth of his love deep within them. He was a person of love. This book is filled with so many hidden teachings and so much love, that no matter how many times I read it, I keep receiving new teachings.
The life of Turiyananda was such that he practiced severe asceticism, constantly studied scriptures, and spent long hours in meditation. His only ideal was to attain Nirvana. However, Shri Ramakrishna guided him to seek a higher goal than Nirvana.
“Shri Ramakrishna scolded me again and again, and gave me another ideal. He pointed out that the path of knowledge (jnana yoga) was not my way. He made me a devotee (bhakta) instead.”
After Shri Ramakrishna passed away, Turiyananda accompanied Swami Vivekananda on his second visit to the United States. Vivekananda wanted to show the Americans, an ideal form of sannyasin from India, so he asked Turiyananda to come along.
His stay in the United States lasted two years and nine months, and during that time he spent about one and a half years with his American disciples in Shanti Ashrama. Afterwards, he went back to India. The activities during the last days that he spent in the United States were recorded by an American disciple, Gurudas. I will introduce an excerpt here.
As I entered the cabin, I found him seated on the floor, as usual. He looked serene. Motioning me to be seated opposite of him, he said in a very sweet voice, “Gurudas, I have made this Ashrama for you; live here happily.” After a few moments of thoughtful silence, he added:
“And for those who want to live here, Mother’s children, I leave you in full charge. I have told you everything. I have kept nothing hidden from you. I have told you the most secret thoughts of my mind. You have seen how I have lived here. Now make an effort to do the same.”
“But that is impossible, Swami,” I interposed. Looking at me very tenderly, the Swami said:
“Depend on Mother for everything. Trust in her, and She will guide you. She will not let you go astray. I am sure of that. Remember one thing—never be overbearing or controlling to anyone. Look upon all alike, treat all alike. No favoritism. Hear all, and be just.”
“Swami, I will try. But this is a great responsibility,” I said.
“Why should you feel responsibility?” the Swami questioned.
“Mother alone is responsible. You have devoted your life to Her service. What have you got to fear? Only be sincere, and remember Her always.”
Then he began to chant, “Om Om Om,” his body rocking to and fro with the rhythm of the chant. After a few moments he suddenly stopped, and straightening himself, said with great force:
“Control your passions—anger, jealousy, pride. And never speak ill of others behind their backs. Let everything be open and free. When anything has to be done, always be the first to do it. Others will follow. But unless you do it first, no one will do it. You know how I have done all kinds of physical work only for that reason.”
“But what about the classes, Swami? What shall I teach? I am a student myself.”
“Don’t you know yet, my boy, that it is life that counts? Life creates life. Serve! Serve! Serve! That is the greatest teaching. Be humble! Be the servant of all! Only he who knows how to serve is fit to rule. But you have studied many years; teach what you know. As you give out, so you will receive.”
“Swami,” I ventured, “when you are gone we will be like sheep without a shepherd.”
“But I will be with you in spirit,” he said solemnly. Then the carriage was ready, and the Swami was called away. Placing his hand upon my head, he blessed me.”
“You are Mother’s and Mother is yours,”
were his last words. His eyes were moist, and I turend away to hide my own emotion. Silently he left the room.
When anything has to be done, always be the first to do it. Others will follow. But unless you do it first, no one will do it.
When I began Yoga, what I thought was crucial was how I spent my daily life. Shri Mahayogi said that the results of asana and meditation manifest in daily life.
I suppose that as a result of continuing asana and meditation, one’s daily life becomes more conditioned, on the other hand, I noticed that if the mind is let loose during the day, it doesn’t go so well when you finally sit down to meditate. Then what should we be aware of from day to day as we go through daily life? I suppose that it may differ from person to person, and the method of sadhana can also change individually, but I would like to share my own experience as one example.
Six years have already passed since I began living with gurubai at Seva Kutira. In living together, I feel that there is more opportunity for you to be challenged in daily life. There are things that might be acceptable amongst family members that cause many small frictions when living with strangers. That is because in living together there are many tasks that someone has to take care of—things that one might not have to do if living alone. In times like these, the mind quite often complains, saying, “Why isn’t anyone else noticing this?” or “Why do I have to be the one doing this all the time?” There was a period in which, in spite of my complaining thoughts, I continued in this negative rut for a while, doing tasks with a sour feeling and with resistance, even though I could not bring myself to complain to others. (I didn’t even notice that, from another point of view, others were doing things that I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t doing.)
When I wrote an article in the past issue (Vol. 34) of Paramahamsa magazine and mentioned a boy named “K” 2, I wrote that I wanted to relate to him by seeing God in him. I think that it ought to be the ideal behavior towards everything and towards all beings, not just him. If I truly understand that everything is a manifestation of God, it should be impossible to get upset at others. Even though I have learned that, as soon as something happens, the mind naturally complains in response to it. As Turiyananda said, I also think that it is very important to practice bringing our emotions under control. Anger truly makes one’s own self suffer.
In my daily life, I often recall Turiyananda’s words. I must calm down my mind, and if there is anything that must be done, I have to take it on as my task rather than having someone else do it; and if there is something that someone must do, then I should do that first.
“Whatever you have to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you have to do today, do this minute.”
These too are Turiyananda’s words, and it has been a great lesson for me.
I have a tendency to procrastinate on things I’m not good at, or don’t want to do. However, when I procrastinate, the task I must do is always stuck in the back of my mind, where I cannot forget it, and it quietly keeps bothering me continuously. Ultimately, it’s faster and easier to just finish it right then and there. It seems like this is a small matter, yet as I continued, I noticed that my mind was becoming lighter.
Once Shri Mahayogi said in regards to that:
“Service for others might be a practice that, at the beginning, you have to act upon intentionally. But when you can do this effortlessly and naturally, only then can you say that service for others has completely been established.”
Truly, I wish to be like that. I must say that I still often act while my mind is whimpering, even now, but I want to continue making an effort—with the belief that someday, I will be able to do this naturally.
Swami Turiyananda: Life and Teachings by Swami Ritajananda. Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math Mylapore, Madras in 1963.
2 The article is called “Encounter” (three articles under this title were published beginning in Nov. 2002 in Paramahansa Vol. 34). At that time, once a week, she used to take care of a boy, K, who has autism, walking with him for 15 minutes after school to a special after-school program for first to third grade children with mental or physical conditions who come from families whose parents cannot take their kids there because of work. The mothers in this program developed trust in her and asked her to lead a Yoga (asana and meditation) class at another group gathering for families with children who have mental or physical conditions, which she did once a month on Saturday for 10 years, from 2001 to 2011.
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