This is the final Satsangha to be held during Shri Mahayogi’s visit to New York. A quiet anticipation is filling the serene and carefully set-up space where attendees are gathering. This is the first time Satsangha is being held in this location, the apartment of a disciple who graciously offered up his space for this very special occasion. In the weeks before the Satsangha, the set-up team has excitedly been practicing and preparing the space to make it just right for the Satsangha. The activities of preparation and the dedication towards creating a suitable place for Satsangha to be held, brought NY gurubai closer as they worked together to bring their attention to all of the final and subtle details.
Finally, the guests begin to trickle in. After 10 years of absence, Ramdas unexpectedly arrives at the door. A few attendees have invited friends who will be meeting Shri Mahayogi for the first time. There is also Moksha, quietly waiting in the back with great anticipation—he has made a special trip from Berlin, after a period of three years, just to see Shri Mahayogi and participate in the activities of the Mission with the fellow gurubai in New York. He first met Shri Mahayogi in 2002 but has been living out of the country for the last 14 years. Even though he lives far away, he has devotedly been practicing as one of the main editors of all Mahayogi Yoga Mission publications in English, which have served as his spiritual food while being at a distance.
After all guests have arrived, everyone stands, bows their heads and awaits Shri Mahayogi’s arrival. Shri Mahayogi enters lightly, guided by Bhadra, and takes his seat in the front of the room. In silence, yet filled with emotion, Moksha offers a flower mala on behalf of the sangha. The room is filled with stillness as all witness this sacred moment.
Shortly after, Anandamali speaks and requests that attendees introduce to Shri Mahayogi any friends who are there for the first time. She then invites attendees to begin asking questions. Right away Karuna begins with a question about true Love.
Karuna: You often speak to us about true Love—as something that is reached, something that we have to work on and find. But I’m afraid that when we think about love, our understanding of it is limited. From my understanding, It is universal rather than individual. So, what are the steps towards that true Love?
MASTER: We have all experienced love from a young age. It is joy. However, love in this world is not perfect. That is because love ought to be the joy that comes from making others happy, yet due to ego and ignorance the mind tries to gain joy for itself. Also, when it comes to the feeling of sadness or hate when losing love—if love is perfect then such things cannot possibly happen. So, then what is true Love? It is Joy without any sadness or suffering whatsoever. In order to realize It, one must eliminate one’s ego and ignorance. Then act for the sake of the happiness of others. If others become happy, then that becomes your own happiness. Even if your object of love runs away, as long as that other person is happy, you simply accept it for the good. In this way, to act simply and entirely for others’ happiness is true Love. How wonderful the world would be for everyone if this true Love were to be realized in the world.
Moksha: So, when it comes to the love that we’re experiencing in our current relationships, how can we recognize the imperfections in that love and work against them?
MASTER: All you have to do is simply eliminate your own ego. Originally, our essence is the Truth, and that is also Love. Therefore, eliminating ego and ignorance—this is what becomes the catalyst or the source from which that Love manifests.
Sadhya: I imagine that it is out of love that compassion arises, perhaps. And Shri Mahayogi teaches in The Universal Gospel of Yoga about the universal emotion, which is compassion. I feel that compassion must have many faces, and I am wondering if Shri Mahayogi can teach us about the different faces of compassion.
MASTER: There are various kinds of people living in this world. Among them there are many who are sad or suffering. There are also people who are experiencing hardship and difficulties in the course of different situations. Whatever the case might be, serving those who are weak, those who have become weakened, or those who are suffering or in sorrow is the beginning of compassion. It is often said that the aspects that constitute our being are: the physical aspect, including this physical body, which is maintained through taking in food; then the mind within it, which mainly requires education, or our ideals, which are aspirations; and further inward, is the soul. “Everything in this world is suffering”—these too are the words of all the Holy Beings. To act in order to alleviate sadness and suffering even a little—that is compassion. So, for the people who are in starvation or hunger, or for those who are thrown into such situations [of famine] due to disasters, provide them with food and materials; for those whose minds are degenerated, reform their minds with education and love for enrichment; and more than anything, for those whose souls are crying out, or are seriously in search of the answer to human existence, the fundamental issue, give them spiritual teachings. In this way, compassion is the work of alleviating all these types of hardships in various situations.
Sadhya: Shri Mahayogi speaks about the emotions that we may experience as humans, if that transforms to compassion, that is the universal emotion. But is it possible that sometimes that compassion may look like a different emotion, like the wind passing through, because that is what the situation may need?
MASTER: Yes, there are cases like that. In that case too, as long as the intention is devoid of ego and ignorance and for the benefit of others, then that would be fine.
Thom: Can compassion exist without wisdom, and can wisdom exist without compassion?
MASTER: As I said earlier, the Truth, which is the Essence, is both Wisdom and Compassion, therefore it may individually manifest itself at times.
Thom: Each concept can manifest individually?
Carney: How can we teach ourselves to feel compassion for ourselves?
MASTER: Think of your own mind as “the other.” In fact, that is how it is. (Smiles and laughs. Attendees laugh gently and sponaneously.) If you inquire into, “Who is the true Self?” then you will realize that the mind is not “you” but the “other.” (Laughter from some attendees.)
Bhadra: Just on the topic of the true Self—perhaps this may be a question for the others—but can you explain a little bit about what the true Self is, versus the mind?
MASTER: Everyone experiences three conditions or three states over the course of a day: the time in which you are awake; the time in which you are dreaming; and when you are in deep sleep. The mind is immersed in each one of these respective states. That is to say, the mind is constantly changing. However, there is a Consciousness that knows that mind which is further within. That is the Consciousness that never changes, that always witnesses or knows the mind—That is your true Self. It has been called by many names since ancient times: Soul, Spirit, true Self, Consciousness, God—whatever it is called, it is Existence, as it is the only Reality. (With a powerful tone) Although the mind, the body, and the universe are constantly changing, that Existence was never born and will never die, and it never changes. It is the Truth, which is the Essence within everyone’s heart. It is impossible to name it and it is formless. However, it is certainly Reality since it is Existence. To awaken to this Truth—this is exactly what it means to wake up into your own Self. It is just like when you wake up in the morning, suddenly you become aware of yourself, and immediately you know that whatever you were dreaming, or whatever deep sleep you were in, that world is a completely different world. However, since as soon as you wake up, the mind becomes active again, the true Consciousness is entangled in the activities of the mind and loses sight of it. Therefore, it is required that you still the mind once again and make you yourself, which is the Pure Consciousness, awaken. This world and the mind are ephemeral, just like a dream. But that true Existence is not. It is the only One Reality, without a second. And because it is everyone’s Essence, everyone can experience It. The wisdom and the means [to attain it] have been passed down for five thousand years in this [practice and this teaching of Truth], Yoga. The aim of Yoga definitely is to awaken into the true Existence.
Kamalakshi: You have taught us that when we practice asana, that at a certain point, sometmes we might experience after practicing and going into meditation that the breath will stop and the mind will become still and quiet and there is nothing there. If one experiences that stillness and it feels as if you’re floating, you’ve taught us also that we need to focus on one of the three objects: “Who am I?” “What is God?” “What is Truth?” Once one is in that state, should one force the mind to go that way, or should we just stay in that state and see if it leads to the true Self?
MASTER: In order to realize the Truth, intense concentration and meditation are crucial. Because of that, in order to realize that [condition of intense concentration and meditation], first you practice controlling the body through asana, and through that the breath will come to be controlled as well. Breath—it is actually prana, which is like cosmic energy. Now, it is very difficult to control the mind; but there’s a very close relation between the mind and the breath, or prana—if you can control either one, you can control the other simultaneously. So, between the mind and prana, which one is easier to control? Prana is a bit easier to control than the mind. For this reason, you control the body and the prana through asana, and then make the mind still. The concentration that you practice in that stilled mind gives rise to a very good and strong quality. Yet, as I mentioned in the last Satsangha, even so, the mind may continue to let distracting thoughts spring up from within it. Indeed, it is at that very moment, [that you must] notice that there is a Consciousness that is witnessing them. That is a completely different thing from the mind. So, whatever distracting thoughts the mind brings up, don’t connect to them. Instead, enter deeper and further into that Consciousness that knows this. That is the Pure Consciousness, which is the true Self.
Kamalakshi: (whispering) Thank you very much.
Moksha: What are the steps we can take over the course of a day? I find when I have a lot of input during the day, then my mind has many more unnecessary thoughts.
MASTER: There are tasks and situations at your work or in your daily life that you must perform. Without being attached, simply deal with them as you need to and be done with them. Do not get any further attached to them. What is more important than anything is to realize the Truth, and that’s all there is.
Mohammed: What is the Truth?
MASTER: Truth is Eternal Existence.
Mohammed: It sounds kind of painful.
MASTER: (smiling) Why? (laughing)
Mohammed: If you look at suffering, if you look at dilemma, tragedy, all kinds of darknesses that exist for various people and all kinds of stuff. It sounds like a pretty difficult kind of eternity.
MASTER: No, that is simply the mind getting entangled in the situations of the world and being disturbed by them.
Mohammed: One more thing, if I may. The Self can easily exist in a world that is full of stimulus that affects the mind, yes?
MASTER: Of course.
Mohammed: And it seems there’s a lot of stimulus, and it seems that the nature of the mind is to engage in it because its nature is to try to make sense of it. Shouldn’t the Self therefore then be at peace with the mind, since that is its task?
MASTER: If one’s learning and one’s practice of disciplines are deepened, one’s mind transforms. It will become non-reactive to various stimuli in the world.
Seamus: Yeah, I was going to say that I find that if I keep the stimulus, mostly the stimulus is worthless. It has no, completely no value—such as watching television. And if I keep that stimulus, then my mind is in much better shape, to put it in a very crude way, “conditioned,” to allow the stimulus in. The society conditions us to be attracted to this stimulus, bad or good. And I find this particularly with watching television, it seems very mundane.
MASTER: Yes, exactly.
Karuna: Just to follow up with Mohammed’s point, I was wondering if Shri Mahayogi can help us understand better, how is it that the mind gets fooled into thinking it is the Self so easily?
MASTER: That is one of the biggest workings of ignorance. The mind has an element called ego. It is a working of the mind that separates the Self from that which is the other, in the relative world. And then there are selfish thoughts that enter in, which is ignorance, and then the ego itself pretends that it is the Self. In a scripture called the Yoga Sutra, this is described concisely: The union of the Seer and the seen is ignorance. Therefore, the separation of the Seer and the seen is Liberation. You need to clearly understand that the ego is not the true Self! As I mentioned earlier, the ego is just like a tool that you use in the world. The mind, the body, they are just tools. Or they are servants. The true Master is the true Self.
Karuna: So, in our search for true Love or Compassion, to go back to the role the mind plays, in the beginning you might see another person and you are trying to meet their needs, whether they be physical, spiritual or educational, or intellectual, but if we are trying to eliminate that separation, then we must present to the mind that the other is actually not an “other.” So, is it the right direction to serve others but not to think of them as others—perhaps you’re serving the Truth, or you are serving God, or you’re serving yourself?
MASTER: Yes. Because everyone’s Essence is That.
Karuna: So, when Shri Mahayogi was speaking to Moksha about doing the task and keeping it just to the task then moving on, this is part of eliminating all the possibilities for the mind to take over and want to say, “I gave this” and “I did that”?
MASTER: Yes, there’s no need to drag that on in daily life.
Deeraj: How do I overcome addictions and bad habits?
MASTER: The mind is something that changes. By continuing certain, repeated actions over and over, that then becomes a habit and eventually becomes an addiction. “Action” includes thoughts. Therefore, in order to improve addictions and bad habits, you create good habits.
Deeraj: Thank you. ...That seems a little tough.
MASTER: Not at all. (Laughter from all.) The structure of Yoga includes caring for those who may be suffering in their body or in their minds. Therefore, I think that even if it is a simple practice, if you can familiarize yourself with even a little bit of Yoga, you will surely attain improvement sometime soon.
Deraaj: I’ll do that. Thank you. (Laughter from all.)
Limassol (Prapatti): My mind finds it very difficult to serve people and to kind of direct myself to them, but also not be entangled with them—it just gets very confusing. And then I think that I am separate, but we are one—so it is very confusing and I can’t understand it. So, I find myself being influenced or influencing others when maybe I shouldn’t, but then I still need to serve, help, or support.
MASTER: It would be good to begin serving others from a place where you can do so naturally. And, if you do your best every time, then you don’t have to worry about the results any more.
Ekanta: For somebody that is still a beginner and is struggling to learn the practice of Yoga and understand it, what are the practical steps that Shri Mahayogi recommends us to do every day to slowly turn the mind from the external objects to the true Self?
MASTER: I will speak a little about one of the facets of the teachings of Yoga.
According to that [teaching], this world and all things are manifested through the power called prakriti. Prakriti has the power and the ingredients for creation; that is why it is sometimes called the Goddess, Shakti. This prakriti has three elements: sattva, rajas, and tamas—and they express various characteristics. Sattva is the condition or element of lightness, like a light or like comfort. Rajas is full of anxiety and constantly active. Tamas is the quality that covers and hides things, and it is an element of darkness and heaviness. The mind is working through these three elements. Now, ignorance belongs to tamas. Because of that, the mind is constantly acting through the quality of rajas, in other words, acting whilst full of anxiety. Now, what Yoga teaches is to eliminate these elements of rajas and tamas, and that you must become the condition of sattva. The concrete steps to becoming that are: to learn the teachings of the Truth, as well as the training and practices. Therefore, what’s necessary—to answer your question—is to constantly not forget to aspire towards the ideal—the Truth, and to make it grow solidly as your belief. Eventually it will become pure faith.
At the same time, engage in some kind of ongoing training and practice. That is, with regard to daily life, follow what the yama and niyama teach you. Yama are the precepts that you must not do. For instance, non-violence: you must not injure or kill others—“others” means all living things; to constantly speak honestly with integrity; do not steal; do not have a mind of greed; and a bit of a difference exists between single practitioners and householders, but ideally to refrain from sex. These five items are the main restricted practices. On the other hand, there are niyama, which are things you must practice or promote in your practice. They are: first, to engage in practice and training using your body, and to cultivate the strength to endure duality in various circumstances such as comfort and discomfort, hot and cold, like and dislike. It’s called tapas—tapas means heat—and this heat has the power to burn off ignorance within the mind. Since the world is full of duality, you practice to overcome duality even while seeing duality—you can conquer it. And, [next is] to learn the Truth, which means to study scriptures. What I mean by scripture is the record of the words of the Awakened Beings or Saints, both from ancient times and from now. Therefore, the teachings in the scriptures are a reliable guide on the path. The schools in this world don’t really teach these scriptures (smiling). You must seek It, then you shall find. [Another one is] to have zeal towards God or the Truth. And then [another is] contentment, that is, to be satisfied or to be content with what you have now. And yet [another is] to purify the mind [and maintain that state]. These five are the teachings that you must practice. These yama and niyama are the teachings that you should practice in this society and in daily life. So in this sense, they are practical teachings for daily life. Additionally, there is the practice and training through using your body, which is asana or meditation. If you continue with those, then for sure, your mind will come to the state of sattva. And then, when the mind is completely the quality of sattva, then sattva can reflect the Seer, or the Truth. Because ignorance will have disappeared by then.
Nandiswara: Lately I’ve been trying to play the stotram, [a sacred hymn written for Shri Mahayogi that we’ve been practicing,] on a musical instrument. I spend many hours day and night doing that and I really find great joy in this, so I want to thank you for that. But from time to time, I still catch myself—my mind is somewhat attached to how well I play it, performance-wise, which is very distracting, and I am seeking advice from you on how I can play a pure sound with pure love, without the ego telling me this is good or this is bad and all of those unnecessary things.
MASTER: When you play, practice it while thinking about your ishta, your ideal God or ideal Existence.
Nandiswara: (looking straight at the Master) I will try my best to keep it just on that. (Shri Mahayogi smiles.)
Bhadra: Shri Mahayogi, the answer you just gave to Ekanta about the practical steps, will that help cultivate Right View?
MASTER: It can!
Bhadra: So, Right View doesn’t have to come first.
MASTER: It would be good to practice both [the understanding and solidifying of Right View as well as the practice I mentioned] simultaneously.
Kamalakshi: Even when one performs karma yoga, serving others, and there’s the concern about people not treating you nicely or of who’s not being thankful, all of these concerns—if one holds to Right View and what you presented to us with the Dharma Seals, will one be able to practice karma yoga correctly?
MASTER: It is possible.
Kamalakshi: Keep thinking only of those: Right View and the four Dharma Seals. Yes?
MASTER: Right. And then make your mind understand them clearly and firmly. (Kamalakshi: (automatically) Mhmm.) And, no matter what good actions you do for others, no matter whether people appreciate you or not, or whether they criticize you or not, whatever the case may be you must not react—have no concern.
Kamalakshi: Thank you so much.
Annirudha: My question is about the mind when you are in meditation and the breath. Sometimes I realize that if I begin to look inward, it seems that it becomes like a reflex for the breath to want to stop. So, I would like to understand what the relationship is, when the breath wants to stop itself.
MASTER: That is a very good indication. When the mind is still or is concentrating, the breath also seems to come to a stop.
Annirudha: So, don’t worry about it?
MASTER: (Laughing) You don’t need to worry about it. (Laughing) Continue to try to stop the breath as much as possible. (Some attendees laugh.)
Karuna: All the things that you teach us and the way that we can apply Yoga in our lives are very useful. But I find that for me, the most powerful thing is your Existence. And I really would like to bring to our awareness the difference that it makes to have you among us, because we could be hearing these words or reading these words, but something happens through you that is nothing that we can explain. So, for me, this is the main inspiration and the main source of understanding without understanding. And so, all of the techniques and everything are important, but without Shri Mahayogi I feel like I can’t hold on to anything. First, I want to thank you. And I want to ask, “What is that? What is the importance of what you’re giving us? What are you giving us and why?” Of course, I guess that words cannot explain this.
MASTER: (After some silence) Rather than an explanation, what is best is that you are already feeling it. (Attendees laugh loudly and joyfully.) I just remembered something. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna said thus: There’s nothing I must do, however I act so that people will follow me. Although these are the words of Krishna, perhaps it is an answer to your question.
Bhadra: As you know my upbringing was in Christianity. I want to ask you a question about the yogic interpretation about something that’s in the Bible. When Jesus was crucified, he screamed out to a God that sounds like it was not his true Self, but rather outside of himself: “Father, why have you forsaken me?” My question is: What is the yogic view on that?
MASTER: There are many interpretations that have been made of those words, and from the perspective of Yoga, he appeared to this world as a child of God, as a savior. If his physical body is murdered, that means that, just like with Krishna’s quote earlier, his example will be gone. In this sense, the ability to save many people would be reduced by half at that point. Therefore, I suspect that these words were uttered from his thoughts of concern for the many sufferers.
Mohammed: Do you think that trauma is as profound a teacher as love?
MASTER: No, trauma is the wound of the mind. Therefore, you must heal it as soon as possible. And that is possible. I have said this many times today but you must clearly and firmly comprehend that the mind is something that can change. When there is a person who is facing a decision or resolution, or about to take action on something important yet they are hesitating to do so, I often say: “Think [and act] as if you have already died (emphasizing).” (With a powerful tone) Indeed, [that means that] you bury your old self, and then you must be born again [as a new person]. If you are having some very serious issues within the mind, then it is possible to transform it (emphasizing). So if your mind dwells on severe trauma, then think that you have already died, and then be born again, and be healed. The mind is truly like a magician. Whatever the mind thinks, eventually, without your noticing, this becomes the notion within the mind which you then become bound by. In reality, the mind is [originally] empty. (With a deep voice) Therefore, stop dwelling on worries, and see only the Truth, because That is your true Self. It is time to give up the mind that troubles you.
Mohammed: Can trauma then be the impetus that lends itself to remedy?
MASTER: Certainly, it could be a catalyst to change direction.
Mohammed: So therefore, it’s not necessarily a detriment to the mind?
MASTER: Yet, if you are still anxious or suffering from it, then it is inevitable that it is still having an effect. So that is why you must make a shift in direction. And by changing direction, that means actually [learning], applying (emphasizing) and practicing the various teachings of Yoga that I mentioned today. It is considerably difficult to practice Yoga alone in a town that is busy like this (smiling). In such a condition, gathering for class is really like a fountain of rest. And also, these comrades and their passion will cheer you up.
Sadhya: When it comes to serving others, I feel that I try with words and actions but actually these are still on the surface, and I feel that there’s something much more important, which is very, very subtle. And, for example, sometimes I may feel that even though I may speak or do, it may not have much effect. And I feel that what I need to do is—I have a yearning in my heart to find a way to take on karma as perhaps the thing I may be able to do in silence, without words. So I don’t really know how to do that but I feel that it must come from a pure mind and very, very thorough discrimination. But I’m wondering if it’s possible to begin without being completely there, simply through having this strong yearning.
MASTER: Yes. Actions and words are at the gross level, the thoughts within the mind are at a more subtle level. And Truth is Love and Compassion as well. Therefore, as long as you are doing the best that you can [in that given moment or situation,] then even by being silent, this will definitely be conveyed.
Sadhya: Also, in meditation, simply trying to feel the same existence as everyone—I feel that through that, all karma is not “my karma” or “your karma” or “anyone’s karma,” it’s just karma. So, is this a correct understanding?
MASTER: (Smiling) Yes, that is correct.
Sadhya: Then how do I continue? What is the best way?
MASTER: Get closer to the Truth, and experience It.
Bhadra: There’s a question I’ve been wanting to ask: has Shri Mahayogi ever desired anything?
MASTER: (After some pause) For people to learn and actually practice the correct Yoga, and then to realize It (smiling).
Annirudha: In the last Pranavadipa, I think someone had mentioned that you do not have thoughts. In the article it mentioned that when the mind keeps having thoughts all the time, I guess there is something that it is seeking. Sometimes when in the middle of my work, I realize my mind is somewhere completely opposite, like it is thinking about the future, or it is thinking about the past. My question is, when I realize that my mind is not focused on the task at hand but elsewhere, then is that a sign that I should question why it is chasing after that particular thought and try to understand that?
MASTER: When you’re working, it is better to bring the mind back to your work. And when you are done working, you should discriminate then to find why those thoughts arose.
Annirudha: So, after... (Everyone laughs.)
Limassol (Prapatti): I have a question. So, when Shri Mahayogi said that you desire everybody to learn Yoga correctly, where does that desire come from? Because, as I understand, desire comes from the mind. Is it perhaps just a reflection of the minds of all of us?
MASTER: Perhaps that too may be the case. But, since ancient times Yoga has been surrounded in glory. At the same time, there have always been charlatans or fake [forms of] yoga that have appeared. I sense that in the modern world, too, this seems to have prevailed and become even more widespread. Therefore, it is in order to establish Yoga correctly.
Nandiswara: Shri Mahayogi said that it is his desire to correct the teaching of Yoga, so what should we, as people who completely trust him, do?
MASTER: Awaken as soon as possible, the sooner the better.
Nandiswara: I want to, but it is so hard. (Shri Mahayogi laughs loudly.) (Attendees laugh too.)
MASTER: (laughing joyfully) No, it shouldn’t be.
Mohammed: Are there any other paths that you would recommend, besides Yoga?
MASTER: Within Yoga, there are many pathways which have been prepared: raja yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, and bhakti yoga. Are you familiar with them?
Mohammed: I have heard of them.
MASTER: I see. Raja yoga is the approach that is mainly for making the mind become the quality of sattva, that means eliminating karma, pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance within the mind. In order to do that, one learns the teachings of the Truth and practices by applying discrimination, or checking one’s own [thoughts within the] mind with the teaching of Truth. Through practicing this way, you come to recognize that the thoughts in your mind have been in error. Since various karma has been formed out of those errors, which is called ignorance, if you can eliminate ignorance, then karma will be eliminated too.
Jnana yoga is the approach to intuitively realize, to know: “This world is like an illusion and the truth is that there is only Existence, which is the true Self.” The way to realize That is to simply inquire within, “Who am I?”. Through practicing this, you will come to understand that “‘I’ am neither the body nor the mind.” [The Self is] the Pure Consciousness, and It is the Existence that sees and knows that mind. Then, you will no longer get caught up in anything, and the mind will no longer make noise.
Bhakti yoga is to love God. Another name for the Truth is God. Actually, truth be told, God itself cannot be called “God.” (laughing) It is nameless, however it is an immortal Existence and is true Reality. Well, nevertheless, just like we have this body, we tend to treat God as a personified God. So you offer intense, passionate love towards your beloved God, or it could be toward an Awakened Being—toward that existence of God. It is like an intensely passionate love romance. (laughs) If you’ve experienced such a passionate love romance with someone, certainly you must remember how you were not able to think of anything other than your lover. Through this manner, it is as if you have gone mad for God; this is the approach of being mad for God.
Now, karma yoga is not only to eliminate ego, ignorance and attachment, of course, but beyond that it is also to serve others devotedly. There’s nothing else other than solely and simply acting for the sake of others. This too is one of the paths of Yoga.
Religions throughout the world have various teachings, and in any case, you can find them in a few of these approaches of Yoga that I mentioned. So, in that sense, there is no need to put any name on a religion—because the Truth is universal.
Seamus: I once heard a famous Christian theologian describe God as the virtue that is within each of us. How close is that definition to his definition?
MASTER: This is not a matter of degree or comparison, but God is theTruth within each one of us. However, the expression of that theologian is not mistaken.
Sahaja: Seamus’ invoking of the theologian reminded me about an experience I had with a monk, a Christian monk, if it matters. I traveled a long way to see him but I didn’t even know that he would be there. But I did get to meet him, and we spoke late into the night, and I was discussing Yoga and in particular I was discussing kundalini and the power, and the Joy of it. And after speaking about it, he looked at me for a long time, then he said, “Why don’t you choose a gentler power?” And it just stopped me dead in my tracks—it was such a perfect question, because it is a very frightening power. But I don’t know how to choose something else and I feel stuck. What should I do?
MASTER: This is already more than twenty years ago that I met you for the first time and heard about that experience [of your kundalini rising]—I taught you then that that was a rare experience that you had, and that you should follow the Yoga that I teach from then on. It is not about re-experiencing that frightening power of kundalini again, but it is a quiet path towards actualizing the attainment of the Truth. Kundalini can awaken regardless of what path one goes through. It is just that the way kundalini appears differs according to the main path one practices. So, once again, practice gentler meditation, yet of course, even so, this requires strong concentration. (With a clear tone) And for meditation, it will be good for you to concentrate on the way of jnana yoga: “Who am I?”
Sahaja: When we last spoke, Shri Mahayogi, about the practice, and I apologize if any of this is too personal, you said something related but not the same as what you said right now. I don’t know if you remember but I always remember. And I may have misinterpreted, but you spoke of unifying Shakti with Shiva, and you said first raise her energy and then in a quiet mind introduce her to Shiva. My experience with this is imperfect, I’m sure, but it’s also not gentle. So now I’m a little confused whether to choose gentle or to choose not gentle.
MASTER: (Clearly) The true Self as the Seer, or Knower, that I spoke of in today’s Satsangha—seek That, and forget about kundalini.
Sadhya: I would just like to mention that Shri Mahayogi spoke about the reason why he is here, or his desire, which is “to establish true Yoga.” And in the past in India, Yoga may have been a little hard to find—true Yoga. And I feel today, more and more every day, that Yoga is almost unknown. But I am truly confident that Shri Mahayogi knows Yoga and I would like to say that we are so grateful that you are here to show us the way. Your grace is such a vast, vast blessing to all of us, and we are so lucky to be able to find the true Yoga and the true Master, and I would like to, on behalf of everyone, say thank you very much. And we know that you are about to return to Japan, (Shri Mahayogi laughs) so also on behalf of everyone I would like to say that, please, we hope that you return very soon to continue to show us the way.
MASTER: Yes, yes, yes. (Smiling fully and with a crisp energetic tone) There is a saying: “Seeing is believing.” Each one of you is the true witness and validator of my Truth. Thank you very much.
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In the fall of 2012, Anandamali, in an effort to create opportunities for newer attendees to become involved with the work of the Mission, asked me to work on writing a story with Aniruddha. I did not know at that time, but our concrete participation in the activities of the Mission is essential for each one of us, as it is the way for us to grow as individuals and as a sangha (group of practitioners), consequently cultivating togetherness. Soon after, Nandi and Michela joined this project. The idea was to write a children’s story about the Truth...but not a story just for children, ultimately the idea was to create a book from which adults could also learn about the teaching of the Truth.
This proved to be an incredibly challenging task. Not only was this a learning experience for all of us, as we struggled to organize ourselves and communicate effectively, but inventing a story about the Truth was very difficult. I realized quickly through my own efforts that I really didn’t understand much about the Truth at all, and whatever understanding I did have, or at least thought I had, could only reach up until a certain point in the story before it would stay stuck at a surface level, or I would have absolutely no idea what to do with it or where to go from there. And in the end, I came to suspect that this story writing experience was much less about actually producing a story, and rather more about providing an opportunity for gurubai to work together, to learn how to work together, and to go through a process that really required us to think about what we know and try to understand more deeply—to push us in our own practice.
Eventually though, after going around in many circles, spontaneously Michela had a dream that she then wrote down and shared with Anandamali. This story, although not necessarily the story we were trying to create for a book, was a wonderful story about an old woman who recognized the existence of the Guru and the existence of that Guru within herself. After reading it, Anandamali had the idea that we should make this story into a kamishibai1 production and then perform it for Shri Mahayogi as a welcome when he arrived to New York that fall.
I had never heard of kamishibai storytelling before. It is a traditional form of Japanese storytelling done with a frame and slides within the frame that provide the changing illustrations as the story is told. Under Anandamali’s direction, however, we certainly did not create a typical kamishibai, but rather a completely mixed media kamishibai theater, that included puppets, movement of objects through the frame of the kamishibai and a number of special lighting effects, as the whole production was created from negative space, in complete darkness.
My role was to be the narrator. I was very excited to have a role and felt honored that I would have the opportunity to take part in the actual performance. Narrating seemed simple enough and like something that I could do. I think I was in a play when I was in 3rd grade, but I have never been one to be bold enough to take on acting or any roles in theatrical productions since then, being far too shy.
Of course, I had never taken part in any productions with the Mission before either, in fact this may have been New York’s first production of any kind, and there were many lessons to be learned.
I quickly found that I needed to take responsibility for much more than what I thought. Everything was being created from scratch. There were many materials needed, as well as time for production and rehearsing. And if we really wanted to develop and perform the kamishibai for Shri Mahayogi, everyone needed to be involved and participate fully. By witnessing and experiencing this production firsthand I realized that up until that point I had made a lot of assumptions and largely overlooked how the Mission operated as an organization altogether. I realized that I had a certain expectation about what should be provided and what I could or should contribute. I cannot say that this was a conscious expectation, but rather I only realized it when I found within myself that I was lacking in a certain amount of feeling responsible for what was going on, and saw that I had a little bit of a tendency to think “Oh, someone else will do that...or someone else should take care of that, it’s enough that I am here and practicing for my part.”
What I had overlooked was the fact that the Mahayogi Yoga Mission is actually a very small organization. The attendees of the classes, the disciples and the devotees are few, but they are the ones who support the Mission and are the ones who contribute (in any and all possible means) to bring everything to fruition. So that means if there are 8 people participating in a production, it is those 8 people who need to come together, gather materials and resources and then use those materials as resourcefully and creatively as possible to minimize costs as well as waste. Everything is used and reused. This also means that if I were to show up to a meeting or rehearsal without a pen, without paper, without the needed flashlight, then I am essentially expecting someone else to provide that for me and putting the responsibility, as well as whatever costs are involved, on them instead of taking responsibility for myself. When we began, I admit that I did not have a very good sense of this, but everyone contributes in different ways: some may have old materials at home that can be used or reused, some may be very handy and able to do construction tasks, some may be crafty and able to design and create artistic elements, while others may contribute more financially, being the first one to offer to go to the store for a certain material if the need arises. But even so, each one should always be prepared with the basics and be ready and willing to take on any task that needs to be done to the best of their ability. If we want something to happen, then we need to take responsibility for it and put in our best effort to make it happen.
There was no way I could have predicted the level of attention and detail that would go into every single piece of the production, details and subtleties that I had never even thought of. At times, my mind complained, and wondered why things seemed so complicated, why we needed so much practice, why it mattered if my voice dropped down or went up when I spoke a word.
At that time, I didn’t understand such subtle things and the push to perfect and to hone those subtle parts was something that my mind didn’t want to always accept, because by working on the subtler parts, my mind was inadvertently being brought to have to face itself...which it wanted to resist with all its might.
As we were rehearsing, the feedback I kept receiving was, “I can’t feel the meaning of what you’re saying.”
There was something about the way I was saying the words and the lines... The emphasis would not be in the right place or the way the tone of my voice would range up and down within a sentence or even one word, made everything start to sound the same, and sound void of real feeling. It was very difficult for me to detect these things for myself and even more difficult for me to understand it. My ear strained to hear the differences that were being pointed out to me and as I practiced saying one way and then another, I struggled to differentiate at all.
I kept being told again and again that the meaning was not deep enough, that it wasn’t necessarily that I was saying the words incorrectly, but that the real issue was that there was no feeling behind them, which was making them all sound the same and as if floating on the surface level. Truly I became quite frustrated since no matter how many times I tried, nothing seemed to change. I really had no idea what to do and how to feel the words any more than what I was. The feeling was one of defeat and I didn’t know what to do about it—the day of Shri Mahayogi’s arrival was drawing closer and closer. Would we not be able to perform because of my part? Would everyone be disappointed and not ask me again to take part in something like this? I wanted so badly to do well, but I just couldn’t get it.
We were entering one of our final rehearsals. We were going to hold a 1-hour meditation in a disciple’s apartment in Brooklyn and then rehearse after that. One of my senior sisters called me and asked me to arrive a little bit earlier than the others. I did. When I arrived, it was just the two of us and she pointed out to me that she felt the reason I could not feel the meaning of the words more deeply was because I was protecting myself. She sensed that I was trying to protect an image of myself that I wanted others to have, but that this was false and was only on the surface level. She sensed that for some reason I was afraid to show myself to others, so I hid behind this shell pretending to be something that was clearly other than what was underneath the surface.
This message came like a strong blow that knocked out all of my air. A mix of emotions overcame me...anger, sadness, embarrassment, shame... I didn’t have much to say in response—what could I say? I knew exactly what she was talking about. It had already been being stirred up inside of me but I had managed to avoid looking at it, until this moment when it was as if all of the sudden a mirror was held up in front of me and I had no choice but to look. Even though I did not want to admit it, I had created an exterior version of myself of what I wanted people to think about or see in me. This version of myself did not get upset, did not have anger, did not seek attention or approval from others, nor was selfish...and I had managed to carefully convince even myself of this, so therefore I did not need to face or deal with any such things. I pretended to know already, pretended to be already...know and be the expectation that I thought I should be. But deep down I knew that I was scared to let people see me make mistakes, to see me not know or understand something...to see me... There were many qualities about myself that I did not like, so instead of facing them, dealing with them, or trying to change myself truly—I had no idea how to do any of that—my method was to cover and pretend that I already was some ideal version of myself.
Feeling exposed, as if someone suddenly saw through what I thought I had covered so well, there was nothing to do but be naked. My sister went on to point out that I presented myself in a way that made others want to do things to help me, and in this way I was being manipulative, even though it may seem like I wasn’t. This way of presenting myself made others feel sorry for me and gave me a helpless air. But I was not helpless, and I needed to stand on my own two feet and allow the part of myself that had strength and that could do for myself, to come out. I needed to be honest with myself and with others, I didn’t need to be perfect or afraid of what might be revealed if I let myself come out from under that shell. If I were to do this then I would be able to go deeper and to truly start to feel the meaning of the words. At that moment, it was not possible for the viewer to feel the impact of the words, because I myself could not feel them from the heart. If I wanted to give a performance to Shri Mahayogi that he could enjoy and feel that I spoke words from the heart and not from the surface, then I would need to find a way to break this shell that I had put around myself. My sister also told me in that moment, that she had no doubt that I would find a way, otherwise she would not speak so boldly and frankly about these things to me.
With no words for me to say, the other participants started to arrive. I could not look at anyone, I simply sat with eyes closed, weeping throughout the 1-hour meditation we had before the rehearsal and pleading for guidance from Shri Mahayogi, to show me the way, to show me how I could break out of this. I don’t remember much of the rehearsal that night, I think I just barely held it together until the end. Then...more tears.
Once I arrived home, the first thing I did was to sit myself down and get real with myself. I didn’t want to see things in myself that I didn’t like. And for the most part these things were all the things that I did not like about other people or that I would complain about other people doing. It was not easy to do and certainly not pretty. But I felt that this was the only way. I decided that the next step was for me to say these things to someone else...just as a way to expose myself. I don’t know if this was necessarily a good thing to do at the time, but without knowing what else to do I felt that at least I needed to push myself to reveal, regardless of the consequence. I remember feeling so scared to do this, because ultimately I had fear that I would be judged or be thought less of. I feared not living up to an expectation that I thought others had of me, even though that expectation was entirely created by me and was truly unrealistic as an expectation that anyone else would have of me.
When I think about this now, the way I had lived up until then was completely under the control of these expectations that I would create for myself and then believe that those expectations were actually what other people had of me. So much seemingly simple misunderstanding can create so much unnecessary complexity. Being under the impression that I had to be a certain way, to act a certain way, to speak a certain way, to know certain things, or at least come across as understanding something...my mind did not want to let go of such a habit very easily. If I think about the various situations in life that I have navigated, I always was striving to appear as if I knew, as if I was good at something, or maybe even better than others, that I was in control and well put together... I never wanted to be caught doing the wrong thing, making a mistake or not knowing something. So, again and again, throughout my life I quickly assessed the situation around me, created an ideal expectation of what I should do or the way I should be to take my place in whatever situation I was in and then adhere to that stiffly, unaware of how gravely I might be misinterpreting or misunderstanding because of not being willing to put myself through a messy process. I have wanted the end product always, so I would model myself after my impression of what that was, and carefully craft the surface while leaving what lies just underneath, empty and unrefined.2 —
I can’t remember too much of how the performance of the kamishibai turned out in the end.
However, I do remember calling that senior sister two days after our conversation to thank her for saying what she had said to me. Although my initial reaction involved far too much emotion to see clearly in the moment of the actual conversation, I quickly recognized the great service she had done me by simply being honest and pointing out what she saw. Someone hearing about this may feel that my sister’s communication was harsh or unnecessary, but I feel that it came at exactly the right moment. The band-aid was pulled off of the wound, just when all the bacteria had been pushed up to the surface. A wound needs air to heal.
As brother and sister gurubai, the responsibility we have towards each other is always to do what will be most helpful for one another’s growth along the path towards Truth. At times, this may be difficult to understand, especially if viewed from the nature of regular worldly relationships, such as with friends or family members. Most often friends and family members validate us and try to keep us comfortable in our thinking, but unfortunately, while not mal-intentioned, this may also cause us to continue in the same patterns and habits that we have come to depend on and therefore are not truly helpful.
Shri Mahayogi teaches:
Even though you may be faced with various situations, unless you break out of your shells you will never be able to truly comprehend them. Any attempt to do so cannot result in failure—failure is the mother of success. Without trial and without experience, you can never find the answer.
–The Universal Gospel of Yoga, “Actual Practice”
It is hard for us to break out of our shells, and often times, just like the baby bird, we may need a peck from the outside to help us find the best breaking point and actually be able to make the tiny hole that will eventually get bigger and bigger, until the whole shell breaks away. The Guru, whether it is himself or through the form of another, is always trying to help us break our shells. If we cannot see him we may not recognize his voice from where we are inside of the shell. But we must listen carefully, because if the shell itself distorts his voice and we dismiss it, then we may miss the opportunity to find that tiny hole that will eventually open.
Even though my mind resisted to many things and I had difficulty understanding, I still brought myself, and put forth what effort I could, simply because, above all else I wanted us to be able to give a good performance for Shri Mahayogi, I wanted him to enjoy. Really, what can we offer to Shri Mahayogi?—there is nothing that he wants from us other than our own spiritual growth and Awakening. In the end, I decided that I didn’t care what I had to do, or what I had to face within myself that I didn’t want to face. I could not continue in a rut or keep doing the same thing again and again. I didn’t know what exactly to do or how to do it, but I continued making efforts in whatever way I could think of.
“Without trial and without experience, you can never find the answer.”
–Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
1 a picture-story show (which has a series of colored pictures depicting the content of the tales)
2 Perhaps this is why when I started to notice how fine and refined Shri Mahayogi’s asana is, it came as quite a stark contrast to anything I had experienced. Everything I had experienced and modeled myself after was only skin deep, only surface...
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