Sarani: You have taught us about yama and niyama (abstinences and observances), asana (seated position), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), and that the next step is meditation. I thought that everything other than pratyahara had to be accompanied by proactively taking action, and that pratyahara arose as a result of these sadhana (practices of spiritual discipline), however, the fact that pratyahara is one of the limbs, makes me think that pratyahara has to be practiced more proactively than I had thought. Yet I don’t quite understand how to practice it and how it transitions into the next step of meditation.
MASTER: What you’ve mentioned are the Eight Limbs of Yoga taught in the Yoga Sutra. If you look at it holistically, the way these eight limbs are divided is as follows: first, the actions of human beings, in other words, the control of external actions, such as one’s personal relations with others and towards situations, and the control of one’s own actions, have been defined as yama and niyama; then after that there are the steps which progress as stages towards going deeper within oneself internally—asana, pranayama, pratyahara, then concentration and meditation follow.
These categories start out with the physical body, that is to say—asana especially is practiced with the body being the central aspect—then moving on to controlling the breath, which consequently controls the prana, these are the physiological aspects so to speak; and from there to pratyahara, the withdrawal of the sensory organs. Pratyahara is a practice that plays an important role in the practice of the discipline of controlling the external stimuli and psychological emotions; as there is a [natural] psychological chain reaction that occurs due to the five senses receiving constant stimulation from the outside, which naturally gives rise to internal impulses. Only after accomplishing this control can one truly enter into the steps of concentration toward a more psychological and inward place, and then meditation.
Of course, almost every action taken by a human being is brought about by psychological factors, and these are karma (the causes and effects of actions) or sanskara (the latent psychological impressions that remain); however, since it is required of you to control or to discriminate them and then get rid of them, at the moment in which one is doing that, emotions, or emotional aspects will arise reflexively. These are the things that are deeply affecting the subconscious. That is why it is necessary for you to intentionally withdraw not only the sensory organs but also their cause: the psychological elements. This discipline involves the issue of duality, such as something as simple as hot or cold, or like or dislike—but [in order for you to practice this,] it is necessary for you to have understood the Truth well [as the foundation].
The most important attitude is santosha—to know that one has enough. Needless to say, the other yama, such as ahimsa (non-violence), asteya (non-stealing) and satya (truthfulness), are just as important, however, especially when it comes to one’s way of being, santosha is very important. To practice the discipline of santosha, restriction should be added incrementally. There is a difference of night and day between feeling content living with an excess of material objects or hedonistic circumstances, and feeling content in living one’s life with complete simplicity and thrift in one’s environment. As you pursue the answer all the way to the end, the true attitude or the way of santosha boils down to the practice of setting limits for the purpose of realizing the Truth—that means, for this purpose, I am content with the bare minimum materials and environment. If your practice is based on this attitude, then the practice of pratyahara becomes easier to proceed with.
The control of the senses, in a way, is about conquering dualistic conditions, and conquering dualistic conditions can be accomplished through tapas (austerities) as well, therefore daily, consistent practice is indispensable. As a result of this, a steadfast mindset arises, and that psychological condition will produce a positive effect that penetrates all the way through to the physiological aspects. The main purpose of pratyahara is to create a mind that is not disturbed by various changes in phenomena.
Truly, when pratyahara has come to be stabilized, things will be easy (laughs). In other words, when the mind is not conditioned, it can truly be scattered by all kinds of changes, and then overwhelmed, and in the end the result is that we will lose the Truth or the Self.
Sarani: Please let me confirm: with regard to controlling the senses, does proactive pratyahara include something mental, outside of the five senses, for example, when your mind is agitated in society, at that very moment, you practice looking at the agitated self and controlling that?
MASTER: Yes. In order to do that, discerning the cause of events and situations thoroughly will lead to removal of the root of the cause.
Sarani: Then it’s connected to the next step, meditation, and the previous step, asana. As Shri Mahayogi has taught us, without waiting to perfect one step, we must practice all simultaneously?
MASTER: Yes. Of course, yama and niyama are very important, and it’s not a matter of doing it once and then you are finished. You can say that as your learning of Yoga and mastery through experience deepens, the refinement of yama, niyama, and pratyahara will increase.
(Mr. Shocho Takahashi says that up until now, he thought that pratyahara was practiced while seated. He wanted to check if his understanding was correct.)
MASTER: (With an intense tone) No, it is much more proactive. Yoga is actually dynamic and proactive. So when it comes to pratyahara too, the practice of thorough discrimination is one of the biggest elements of pratyahara. Through that, the sensory organs and the way in which one behaves changes too. Whether it is with relationships in daily life or with changes in various life situations, if you are reactive and agitated, then there was an element within your mind that received this. Therefore, what is meant by proactive practice is to eliminate these elements themselves through discrimination.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: So discriminating thoroughly within one’s daily life—that too is pratyahara.
MASTER: Yes, it is. In this sense, as one becomes single-pointedly and ardently focused on the perfection of Yoga, then one will come to be able to discriminate correctly all other things in mundane life, and consequently these things and matters will be renounced. Because of that, one will no longer have any elements to react to.
Sanatana: So regarding pratyahara, for example, there is a Buddhist word that is translated as viveka in Sanskrit, and it means to be far from or to keep away from the objects of desire, indicating a state of mind that is not attached to anything. Do they mean the same thing?
MASTER: Yes. Even if you take the sensory organs, their root is the mind. So by transforming the mind itself, the sensory organs will follow.
back to top
Shaci: When it comes to not grumbling and not putting our complaints into words, which leads to controlling our thoughts as well, does verbalizing your thoughts inevitably have a bigger effect than just having those thoughts? (Shri Mahayogi nods many times while pondering the question.)
MASTER: Yes, this is so. By verbalizing it, the thought itself takes on form. The result is that it then snowballs and gets bigger and bigger. Indeed, it is said that words contain spirit, and in a positive sense, just like the words of the Bible state, “In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God,” words were supposed to be sacred; however, since complaints are inevitably caused by ignorance, the words that come from ignorance cause the darkness that covers the Truth to increase. The more the word proceeds from thought to verbalization, the more ignorance becomes solidified.
If you look at it from the mechanism of karma, even if it is just a word whose sound disappears instantly, it’s sure to leave a mark within the mind. Then these marks come to be reflected in karma or sanskara, and they increase. All of this is caused by ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles; therefore, if you can eliminate them, there is no problem. In order to eliminate them completely, it is essential to consummate your passion towards Satori and your practice of thoroughgoing discrimination. And furthermore, you must practice to firmly restrain the patterns of your behaviors, actions, words, and of course, your thoughts, as practicing this is the evidence that will demonstrate passion for Satori.
Ranjani: Even if I’m still thinking negative things, if I restrain my thoughts and choose the words I say carefully, then can it be possible for me to transform myself internally, starting from these external words?
MASTER: Yes, it can be.
Ranjani: Even so, rather than controlling them from the outside, it’s more powerful to control them within the mind and then verbalize based on that.
MASTER: Of course. When the mind has transformed towards sattva, then thoughts that arise naturally become sattvic, and your words will follow that.
Ranjani: The things that I verbalize without intention won’t disappear, but rather they will remain, so I must be careful about that.
MASTER: Yes. Everyone must be watchful of this. It is the same for what was taught about the habit of complaining at one’s job, which someone mentioned earlier; when the mind becomes accustomed to these environments, the mind often tends to start complaining naturally due to having been influenced by that. In such a situation, you must control this, even if it has to be by force.
back to top
Yohei (Gopala): In order to practice listening to others properly, I would like to receive guidance on what mindset to keep in mind in my daily life.
MASTER: (considers it for a while) Listening to others? Is that so difficult?
(Yohei (Gopala) explains that he realized that he has a habit of not listening well because there are times when he suddenly gets his own thoughts while someone is speaking. When he was living with Chetaka in Tokyo, it was pointed out to him a few times.)
MASTER: Well, it depends on the situation and what is being spoken about, so it may not be easy to judge this for every single case. One thing I can say, is that everyone has a different colored filter in their mind. If one person is speaking, ten listeners perceive it in ten different ways. There may also be a case in which the speaker accuses others of not listening, in the sense of not understanding—and this is also not correct.
Words are the means to transmit thoughts, as well as symbols of thoughts. It may be difficult to grasp the real intention or the thoughts being symbolized by someone’s words. However, if you carefully try to understand the words and the narrative, then you can sense the invisible but real intention behind them. In this sense, concentration is required. In order to heighten the quality of concentration, you must not be swung around by your own emotions so that you can grasp the intention calmly.
Kinkala: When Shri Mahayogi listens to us, you hardly ever interrupt us, and you always listen to us until the end. But, most people, when listening to others, tend to think about what they want to say, even if they don’t interrupt the other person by saying it. Does Shri Mahayogi not have any thoughts that arise when listening others?
MASTER: (Immediately) I have no thoughts to begin with. Therefore I’ve never felt such a way. (pondering as if he is perplexed) Does everyone have thoughts while others speak? (All laugh.)
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): In the case of Shri Mahayogi, thoughts arise after listening all the way until the end, correct?
MASTER: If necessary. So, if a person is speaking, whether it’s long or short, I’ll answer if there is a question mark at the end; if there isn’t a question mark, then I might remain silent. (laughs)
Jayadevi: At the Satsangha in New York, I was so shocked and amazed to hear the way Shri Mahayogi answered to the question, “Why do you teach?”—“The answer is behind your words.” His words simply exist for the sake of guiding us—he has said, “I am empty.”
MASTER: Really, I am that way. (laughs)
back to top
Sanatana: It is said that Buddha hesitated to give teachings. Does Shri Mahayogi think that Buddha hesitated to give teachings?
MASTER: (Immediately) Yes, I think so. In the same regard, the state of mauna (spiritual silence) naturally arose in me too, and this state of spiritual silence was continuous; of course, no complaint arose in me and it was as if, to an abnormal degree, words were automatically hindered from being formed. I would imagine that Buddha was the same way back then.
Sanatana: Then, it is written in most records that it was because Buddha thought the people in the world most likely would not understand this Truth that he hesitated to teach them—what do you think about that?
MASTER: That is one aspect of this. But at the same time there is another aspect of this, the certainty that this [Truth] is original and inherent to everyone.
Sanatana: Meaning that it was not something that needed to be specifically mentioned.
MASTER: That’s right. There is a legend that illustrates this part. It is said that because Buddha entered silence, Brahma and Indra implored him to teach the Truth in order to save all living beings—so for that Buddha opened his mouth to teach. Of course, this anecdote symbolizes what happened at that time, yet as with symbolism, I suppose that in reality there was a tipping-point that was reached with the seekers who pleaded him to teach.
back to top
(Shaci mentions that she reflected on last week’s Satsangha with participants from the Wednesday class. The content of their talk revolved around the fact that since Shri Mahayogi has no thoughts, he doesn’t have any thoughts arise when he is listening to others; however, people generally think about various things while listening to each other. She expressed that this made her keenly feel the degree to which she was not listening to others; and she also feels that when she gathers her concentration on the words of others, then the necessary words will come out once that person finishes speaking, and at the same time, her own thoughts will be reduced. Shri Mahayogi is listening with a smile, he seems to be recalling the story from last week.)
MASTER: (after nodding with a smile) There is a theory, an excellent passage stating that the mind cannot do two things at the same time. What you have mentioned is exactly that.
Shaci: That means that as long as I’m thinking, then I’m not listening to others. (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: (after some pause) Of course, what the Yoga Sutra indicates with the words, “at the same time,” has to do with an instant that is like a micro-level unit, like one hundredth of a second; however, these moments string together to create the passage of time into a second and then to a minute. Even though [it feels continuous,] it is certain that from one moment to the next, the mind cannot put two thoughts into action at the same time. Thinking of something else while doing something—right there already there is an occurrence of a gap in time, and this is exactly like a trick of the mind and of time. So then if you can concentrate the mind on this very moment, in this instant, and if you can do that continuously, things and situations may possibly change due to this very powerful concentration.
(Shri Mahayogi elucidates the mechanism between the mind and time. The disciples are amazed by his powerful teaching.)
Ms. Wada (Dharmini) also spoke that she too was quite amazed hearing that Shri Mahayogi had no thoughts, because she herself has never not had thoughts. She then asks if the reason why we have thoughts while listening to others is because the ego is adhered to the mind.)
MASTER: The mind naturally has a pillar in the center called ego, of course, and therefore it is certain that thoughts arise from the ego being the subject [of the mind]. Another reason is the habitual nature of the mind itself, and this is a large part of it. Truly, [because of this nature] the mind is not able to stand unless it depends on something, so these habits are the main reason that make the mind unable to be empty or void, even for a moment.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): Regarding the way of training, is it just to concentrate?
MASTER: Surely this is an important training. And another is, as might be expected, done through the practice of discrimination and renunciation, which is an absolutely indispensable practice in order to get rid of the ego itself.
back to top
(Mr. Takahashi mentions that during the Disciples’ Satsangha, which took place while Shri Mahayogi was visiting New York, he learned that kriya yoga is something that is practiced throughout all aspects of our daily lives, rather than doing something at a specific time during the day, yet he is still not clearly convinced. He asks Shri Mahayogi to teach it again.)
MASTER: The literal meaning of kriya yoga is the yoga indicated by the words “actual action” or “actual practice.” Now what is it that you practice or actually do? It is comprised of three pillars: tapas, which is the physical and mental practice of disciplines, the study of scriptures, and meditation on God. In a narrow interpretation of kriya yoga, tapas is the discipline that is focused on asana and pranayama etc., and the study of scriptures and meditation on God are as the words describe. And these practices are allocated within a specific timeframe apart from the time spent on your work and daily life situations. This is the way to “actually practice” in the narrow sense.
However, as your [practice of] Yoga deepens, the time for actual practice of the disciplines expands beyond that specified time, to a more holistic time. That means that during the time spent on your livelihood and at work too, the application of the disciplines of Yoga will inevitably come to be practiced. Consequently, even the parts that relate to your work and livelihood as your karma (cause and effect), these too will transform from a passive karma yoga to a more proactive karma yoga—“passive” here refers to carrying out the obligation to fulfill your work and livelihood, which are caused by your karma, as your duty. As the state of Yoga deepens, these parts will also come to be transformed into proactive karma yoga. That is to say, as the eyes of Yoga, meaning the seeing of Atman in everything or seeing God in everything, come to be cultivated, what you have been performing passively as duty up until that point, will then shift to the practice of proactive karma yoga at work and in your daily living as well.
Then, what you have understood as kriya yoga will shift from a partial kriya yoga, to a more holistic kriya yoga, which simply includes the disciplines of asana or pranayama, but will also include each thought within the mind, each word, each action, and each way of behaving. [What indicates depth in] kriya yoga will itself change, in other words, everything should become the action of Yoga.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: So I shouldn’t narrowly interpret my daily work as karma yoga, but define it as daily kriya yoga, and understand the kriya yoga that I perform after my job to be its narrow meaning, and simply...
MASTER: Regardless, kriya yoga, as mentioned in the beginning, means “actual action” or “actual practice.” It is to practice Yoga through action. As long as we have a physical body, we cannot avoid taking actions. Then, since as long as we are alive whatever we are doing is within kriya, the realm of actually taking action, the conclusion we can make is that everything becomes kriya yoga.
back to top
Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): This summer (during the Disciples’ Satsangha), when we were focusing on learning the subject of “the actual practice of yama and niyama,” my assignment was tapas, so I focused on that. For example, I feel that through tapas, inequalities such as liking and disliking people fade away, in other words, [through tapas] we will eventually be able to see everyone equally. Is this a correct understanding of it?
MASTER: Correct. That is exactly so.
(Ms. Fukoue (Anandi) mentions that when she was learning asana from Shri Mahayogi in New York, as a vague frustration arose within her towards the asana she felt were difficult, she tried to get rid of that frustration. One day she noticed that these feelings stopped arising. She asks about whether that was because her breath changed through asana with the result being that the mind stopped inviting various thoughts, or if it is that she began to see difficult asana and other asana as equal.)
MASTER: These are the same—there is no difference in them. Frankly speaking, from the fact that the duality such as good or bad, strong or weak, comfort or discomfort disappears through asana, and from the fact that the variations or differences between asana became the same, it means that duality is eliminated there as well. Therefore, it is the same.
I suppose that during the summer when there was a talk about tapas, you all must have learned that the transcendence of duality comes as the result of tapas, of course. Since it can be understood that transcending duality is the state in which sense and mind control is automatically attained, this can be almost like a type of mindset that belongs to the state of Satori. It means that the mind has become consistent in unity, or the quality of sattva, like the condition of a clean, smudge-free mirror.
There are words in the Upanishad, like, “Through tapas, know Brahman,” and “Tapas is Brahman.” That is because, through tapas, one transcends duality, that is to say, that [absence of duality] is the realm of Brahman; that’s why tapas is Brahman—that is the meaning.
Shachi: Is there such a thing as tapas without pain?
MASTER: Tapas without pain...as tapas deepens, duality weakens and consequently there is less pain accompanying it.
Shachi: But in the beginning, there is inevitably pain...
MASTER: Everyone starts out from duality, so that pain or heat must feel enormous.
(Sanatana mentions that in the Disciples’ Satsangha, the conversation also went to tapas even after pain is gone. He said that when it comes to that he has the feeling of some kind of fear towards the word “self-sacrifice,” the idea of throwing himself away, and that he has neither been engaged in service nor has he particularly had the feeling of wanting to offer himself up willingly. As his understanding progressed, his readiness towards self-sacrifice has started to grow little by little, yet it still feels as if it’s half baked.)
Sanatana: Ultimately, in Yoga I feel that self-sacrifice is so important, such that whether one is a holy person or not is determined by whether one can sacrifice oneself or not at this moment. So then I ponder about how I might proceed more thoroughly and deepen that—in other words, how can I arrive to the state in which we even forget our own existence in the world. What would you say?
MASTER: You spoke just now about exactly what the core of Yoga is, or a very important part of it. One of the biggest causes of creating duality is the ego-consciousness called ahankara. This distinguishes oneself from others. It’s a big symbol of duality. Therefore when that duality is gone, then “me” and “other” themselves are destroyed. Frankly speaking, by ego being gone, “me” and “other” are gone, and instead, Atman, God, or such a One will start to occupy its rightful place. That is the essential difference between the beginning of Yoga and the result that is at its core.
Literally, “self-sacrifice” is expressed as “to sacrifice oneself,” but actually, within Existence, that is the One Truth, one is offering oneself—when we say “self-sacrifice,” it means to give oneself to others, however, since the distinction between oneself and others is no longer there, then essentially, it becomes such that you are giving to yourself. And in this world, even if the essence is the same one Existence, its surface is varied in billions of ways. There is suffering and sadness, as well as joy and enjoyment. It is true that there are variations, as the phenomena of the world.
However, we can’t just cut them off, saying they’re illusions or dreams. Even if the essence is That, if there is suffering and sadness in front of your eyes, then an action arises right there to try to heal and alleviate it in some way; and that action is simply called “the act of self-sacrifice” but in actuality, there is simply action. And, whether you call it self-sacrifice or tapas, or karma yoga, what you call it does not matter. It is, at the same time, lila (divine play) too, and therefore the essence of self-sacrifice is not asking for anything in return so that you come to see that what is there is simply action; action that does not ask for anything in return is universal and will connect to that which is Eternal.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): So the “action” you have just mentioned...(MASTER: Yes, simply action.) ...that is what Satori is.
MASTER: That is why you can say that in that state, the variously called yoga, which up until then are called raja yoga (royal path), jnana yoga (yoga of Knowledge), bhakti yoga (devotion to God), or karma yoga (selfless action)—all of these yoga become harmonious, become one, and exist there.
Sanatana: So then, even for the willingness to practice, there is an intention involved; but just as such intentions are not there anymore [even in the act of practice], the sense of tapas, or the sense of pain is gone, so what I need to do is simply and naturally continue to be in action instead, as if I have surrendered.
MASTER: Yes, that is exactly the meaning of “Through tapas, know Brahman”; through tapas, even the understanding of tapas itself will change. Certainly, etymologically, or the essential meaning is “heat,” and the aspect of “purification” is strong, however I think that ultimately it leads simply to action—precisely what lila is. If not, you can’t make a statement like, “Tapas is Brahman.” So this makes sense.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): So this means that for the person who is taking action, tapas is no longer tapas, but just action.
MASTER: Right. Yet, the action is not performed for receiving praise—to whom are you making the offering?—for that there is a big difference between offering for the ego or offering for God.
back to top
Yohei (Gopala): I have heard the word “renunciation” many times during the Satsangha today, and I understand it is a word that is often used in scriptures. I would like to receive some teaching on the essence of what renunciation is, or what its spirit is.
MASTER: I see. Renunciation...what is the opposite of it?
Yohei (Gopala): Grasping, attachment.
MASTER: Yes, attachment and possession are the words in opposition to it. And, the things that are caused as the result of karma inevitably have attachment—karma, pain-bearing obstacles, ignorance—and you possess these. Whether one is conscious about possessing them or not, they are possessed. That is why you are required to eliminate them; and of course, since by eliminating them the Truth will be realized, if renunciation is completed, what remains there is the state of non-attachment and non-possessiveness, and that is the original state: It is as it is. In order to realize this sooner, you must practice discrimination and renunciation proactively.
And furthermore, the practice of discrimination is not only within the realm of simply referring to the Truth or ignorance, as explained in the scriptures, but it is also necessary to have the right understanding, while at work, while living, and in all kinds of situations and opportunities in this world. Right understanding leads to taking right actions. In this manner, renunciation...in other words, is [the renunciation of] ignorance—and the opposite of renunciation is attachment, the cause of which is ignorance; so, in short, [what you need to discriminate and renounce] is ignorance. Therefore, renunciation is nothing but the elimination of ignorance. If you accomplish that, then that is the state of Satori. It is the original state: It Is. (smiling) If you thought about it today, that is good, so you should apply it in your practice to begin with—every bit helps.
back to top
Sananda: I understand that Shri Mahayogi had discerned that the essence of this world is Joy, and discriminated upon whether there is any value in this world existing. I can understand that looking at it from the mind’s point of view, the world manifests from ignorance as a starting point, but I still have not been able to be convinced that its essence is Joy.
There is a part of me that thinks that unless awakening into Atman actually comes, or until we arrive at vijnana (perception of seeing everything in the world as the manifestation of God) it’s probably not understandable. Or rather, do I not need to think about it too much?
MASTER: No, you should think about this. (laughs) Atman, that is, Existence, is truly the only Reality, as True Existence. Even the cosmos was born at some point and will disappear eventually. The timeframe of these occurrences may be unfathomable. (With emphasis) Nonetheless, Atman is Eternal Existence! And that is indeed, truly, the only Reality!
The word that indicates this Reality has not truly been found yet. “True Reality,” “Existence,” “Reality”—even if we skillfully try to use various words, we cannot describe it accurately. However, everyone thinks that sensually, for example, this body (taps on his thigh), actually exists, and there is reality in it. Just like that, if you awaken into Atman, (emphasizing) then you’ll see that only That is Reality, and in comparison, everything else is void of reality. In other words, everything else is showing only limited phenomena of existence within a certain timeframe. These are phenomena but not Reality. However, it is simply through sensory or intellectual illusion that people perceive an image as if the same things continue to exist without changing. However, take a diamond—even with such a hard substance as a diamond—it took a very long time to form, and the ingredient is the same element as coal or the lead of a pencil. So perhaps if you bury your pencils in the ground, eventually, they will turn into diamonds. (Everyone laughs.)
Aside from that, there are words that describe Atman: Sat Chit Ananda. Sat means Existence, the only Reality. It also means Truth. Because it exists, it is the Truth. Because it is the Truth, it exists. Therefore Truth and Existence are synonyms. Then, that which knows the consciousness knows this. Because it knows, that is Chit. It is the Pure Consciousness behind the mind that knows all of our minds. And Ananda can be translated as bliss. It too means pure, endless Joy. It is Joy coming from knowing That Existence; That is Truth; That is the Self and everything. That is Ananda. It is completely different from pleasure.
And there is another teaching, which says—long ago, Atman was alone. Because there was only Atman, Atman existed alone before the birth of heaven and earth, before the beginning of the universe. However, Atman could not enjoy it alone, so Atman divided itself into two. Atman was like the form of a man and a woman embracing. From that, men and women were born, and every species of every living being was born, and so the universe began to be something with form. There is a hint here [in this story]—that is, in order for Atman, which is Joy itself, Sat Chit Ananda, to enjoy itself, Atman is manifesting across this universe and all living beings. This is the real state of the world, viewed from the perspective of Truth.
Nevertheless, it is so rare to find people or living beings that live in Joy. Why is there so much suffering and sadness, and so many tragedies in the world? If we seek out the cause, it leads to karma, and the attachment to the desire that created that karma. And you will find that mistaken thoughts rooted in what are called pain-bearing obstacles, that is, ignorance, have developed the world. Therefore, the aspects of the world that have developed as a result of error ought to be filled with Joy again by correcting the error.
Sananda: So should I view it as even though the cause of suffering is ignorance, the true aspect of the world is Joy?
MASTER: (Immediately) Yes, you should. It is lila, truly it is God manifesting across all living beings and playing. So there are only joyous activities for the sake of Joy, and there is no superior or inferior task, nor superiority and inferiority in happiness or unhappiness whatsoever. The only thing there is, is simply, Pure Joy alone.
back to top
(Sanatana begins to speak about how he considers Shri Ramakrishna to be the ultimate when it comes to enthusiastic bhakti, in which the mind is completely occupied with God or the Truth alone, and one is no longer able to perform any other kind of action. He feels that at times, the firm faith at the core of his being comes through to the surface and he is moved by this, or is able to express it, but normally he continues to act very calmly most of the time. He seems to be thinking about which direction he should take, whether to heighten his bhakti more, or to continue to simply perform selfless actions, steadily and without attachment.)
Sanatana: I think that even within the realm of the practice of karma yoga, while believing to think that I act for others, not for myself, because of the fact that I still overlap my own success or failure, or thought of something being good or regretting it, I must be perceiving it as something for myself. Should I direct my bhakti or faith to a more fervently passionate direction, or should I just keep the fire burning underground...
MASTER: It is just like the blazes and sparks that fly out from a fire. As you heighten the heat of bhakti within you, that heat becomes a blaze and appears externally in this world as sparks. I think that is how it is.
If you have read the bible, you may remember this story: one day, Jesus entered a temple, and seeing that there was business going on there, he threw the merchants outside and then began to preach. Perhaps, the temple is a symbol of the building of the temple. Perhaps, the temple had been corrupted during that time to that degree. However, if you read deeper into the symbolism of this incident, in Yoga, the body is referred to as a shrine, a temple. The shrine indicates this physical body and the mind. So I imagine that if there are guilty pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance within the mind, just like with the story of business being done in the temple, then one must throw these things out, eliminate them; then, keep only God, the Truth, inside of it.
This macrocosm is one with the microcosm, they are the same—this is also the perspective of Yoga. Then, I think that you can say that this earth, this planet Earth itself, this world itself, is a temple; within this world, if there are things that only pursue money and pleasure, and make businesses around them, those need to be removed, and instead this world, the shrine of God, needs to be filled with True Blessings that are worthy of God. So then, the way of being for an individual Yoga practitioner must be, not simply about occurrences within a microcosm, but about the way of acting in the macrocosm, the world; and this too is something we can only do while we have a physical body—and of course such actions will continue even after a physical body is gone—nonetheless, there are just so many things that one must accomplish while having a physical body. If your actions and work can be maximized in spurts of bhakti, in the moment, people may say that you are crazy with bhakti, mad for God, nonetheless, truly, I think that that is the real way of being.
* * *
What is santosha? What is ahimsa? How can they become real in my life? These are the questions being posed to the group in the second session of the Study in Practice Program that the NYC sangha has been running since March 2019. Through self-questioning, observation, real-life experimentation and study of the scriptures we are trying to find the purpose or the essence of these precepts and to understand them through our own experience, not just intellectually.
At the beginning of this second session, we were divided into two small groups. Within my small group, as we have worked towards identifying various obstacles to our making progress, the conversation has repeatedly led us back to the question, “What is the mind actually seeking that makes it work against our experiencing the Truth?” And in turn, this question is leading each of us to dig further into the causes of our respective attachments. In my case, thinking about what my mind is trying to attain for itself has gradually revealed the many layers of ideas that support its tendency to seek and cultivate emotional attachment with others or create dependency on others.
The prescription that was given to me by Anandamali and Sadhya, who lead the Study in Practice program by making observations and suggesting practices to address the needs of each individual, was the practice of mauna (spiritual silence)— which made a lot of sense—and in my case is something that takes a great deal of effort and concentration to sustain. I see myself as having always been a chatty and expressive person. In part this stems from the fact that these qualities are the acceptable ideal in my culture and in part it comes from a need I have to prove myself, to be recognized, and even to be seen as superior. And as a result my mind developed a tendency to be impatient, to always look to assert itself, to interrupt others rather than to listen well, and to think only of how to prove a point and get the recognition it wants. Engaging in this constant competition for attention that I had cultivated was hard work! And over time, I gradually ended up developing an image of myself as someone who knows things well and can explain them to others. Trying to hold back and restrain this deeply ingrained talking habit and outgoing personality has definitely been a challenge for me, although it is one that I have accepted as exactly what is necessary. So, I set out with the sincere intention to control my mouth. Interestingly, however, the process of trying to control my mouth has required many other efforts along the way. These are the ones that I am currently working on and the ones that I will describe here.
Taking a step back, in order to describe what led to the practice of mauna, it is necessary to describe the process of defining santosha (contentment) and ahimsa (non-harmfulness) through the Study in Practice group. Originally, we were asked to try to understand the meaning of santosha in the context of our lives. Santosha is one of the five niyama, the disciplines related to actions, words and thoughts towards oneself. Even though we all started from the same definition of santosha from The Universal Gospel of Yoga (contentment: to know the minimum needed to sustain life and to be content with it), I worked on my own definition of santosha as “not giving priority to ‘me’ and ‘my’ wishes, or decreasing the needs that come from ‘me’.” After some weeks of trying to activate santosha in my daily life, I became aware that my mind was constantly seeking something; it was always longing to obtain some satisfaction or appease a desire. But in order to understand what was happening at a deeper level, I naturally started to become a little quieter so that I could see inside my mind and put my finger on the subtle triggers that were controlling my urge to “give priority to ‘me’.” Among the first observations was the fact that if I denied my mind an object of desire; it came up with alternative new objects of desires, or stronger ones. For this reason, I have put more effort into establishing more regular and longer periods of silence (for myself) every day, which has allowed me to conclude that many of my actions were responses to the constant and incessant longings of my mind, primarily related to food (a taste or the sense of fullness), human affection and appreciation (to touch, look at or listen to another person who may appreciate me), or sound (to enjoy music or conversation of others, which seems to put my mind at ease, distract it or dull it from its active state). Another type of mental activity I have observed, which may appear similar to the longing for satisfaction, is the avoiding of the experience of dissatisfaction or discomfort through the same means (talking excessively, eating irregularly and not just for sustaining my body, seeking and provoking pleasing interactions, and so on...). In this state of constantly reaching for or avoiding or masking something, I noticed my mind overexerts itself all day long, both internally and through talking, and probably in my sleep too. Actually, when the mouth became a little quieter, it did not feel good at all to see all that takes place inside.
After the second month of investigating santosha in our daily lives, our group was asked to use ahimsa to look further into santosha. Ahimsa is one of the five yama, or the disciplines related to actions, words and thoughts towards others. It did not take me that long to recognize the fact that the more I do for myself, the less I do for others, or the more harm I might do to others. It seemed like a mathematical equation. The harder part has been realizing, when looking through the lens of Yoga, how many of my habits are harmful to others. “What is harmful to others?” I asked myself. The list was long, but one thing seemed to be common throughout the entire list: leading others away from the Truth or increasing their karma. It sounds like it is extreme and a lot of responsibility to take on, but truly, if I looked at the purpose of life, not just of my life, but of life in general, then I felt I should abstain from doing anything that results in harm to another, in other words, anything that can delay anyone’s liberation from the ignorance of the mind. However, to be able to put ahimsa into practice, I thought that I needed to break it down into achievable steps, so I thought it best to begin by accepting the reality of everyone’s suffering, as well as of my own. This means being aware that ignorance prevails in our minds and that this is a cause of suffering for all human beings, not just me. By pushing myself to see this reality of the mind’s ignorance in others, I thought that I would be able to decrease the harmful thoughts, words and deeds towards them, remembering that the cause of any apparent confusion or mistake is not easily avoidable, particularly for someone who is not consciously walking the path of Yoga. Before trying to activate ahimsa, I tried to develop my own functional definition of it: managing my own thoughts, words and deeds to reflect genuine care for others by remembering their suffering as well as the real Self in myself and in others.
I have to accept that the efforts to activate these two practices are inconsistent still. Even to reach an initial understanding of santosha and ahimsa has taken some experimentation in daily life as well as observing the possible obstacles in my mind, and considering what my thoughts, words and deeds are responding to. To this day, I feel that there is no end to the learning about these practices, and I continue to see many moments and opportunities to adjust my way of living to reflect santosha and ahimsa. Sensing that the depth of these practices continues to go further and further, along with the realization that my efforts did not result in significant transformation, I decided that I needed to put more thorough attention on every moment of my day. The reasoning so far has been that “if I watch my mind only during a few moments of the day, the habit is still going to prevail.” I then imagined putting my life on a scale and seeing the weight of my thoughts, words and deeds in response to Yoga or Truth as much less than the weight of my actions in response to karma. And the question that arose was, “How can I tilt the scale in the other direction?” “Until the scale is tilted,” I thought, “I will continue to be consumed by my karma and exerting a lot of energy to manage my mind’s constant wanting and avoiding.” I am not saying that my sporadic efforts were worthless...rather, they gave me the experience I needed in order to realize what was going on in my mind and test things out. I still feel that every effort is worthwhile. But, I felt ready to try a little more regularly in order to feel a little more effect and begin tilting the scale.
In order to tip this scale more in the direction of the Truth, I am trying several things. The first group of practices relates to looking at the periods of time in between what I was considering “practices,” which are precisely the times in which my mind can lose its focus on the goal of transforming my life into one that is less about “me” and “my wants,” and more about “others” and about the Truth. In my private space, kriya yoga is essential, as is the perseverance to sustain it with consistency—to practice asana, pranayama, and meditation, to keep the fire of tapas burning, and to continue deepening the study of scriptures is unquestionable. Without this as a foundation, I do not think much can happen (at least for me). I also started to feel that I have to carry each of these further and weave them more purposefully throughout my day so my mind is more regularly immersed in thoughts, words and actions that lead me toward my goal, or if possible, that my mind is always immersed in such thoughts, words and deeds. For example, I have added several practices, such as repetition of Om internally with my inhalation and exhalation, reading scriptures wherever I am and taking notes, reflecting on where my mind is and any reactions I may have had during the day, and looking for the causes of my reactions (talking, feeling upset, disappointed, even excited and too active or involved with things of the world to the degree that I may forget to think of the Truth or God). I have added a meditation in the morning to prepare me for the day, and worked more consciously on decreasing vain or idle conversation. And, I made up my mind that any Mission work is a priority and I should do it as quickly and efficiently as possible considering it as my spiritual training and sustenance as well. And another focus that naturally has evolved from these practices is that of caring for meal preparation in a way that food becomes the fuel for spiritual practice by handling it as a precious sustenance and using up everything without wasting. The strategy is to insert as many activities or practices that raise the level of attention or awareness of the Truth or the concepts that make santosha, ahimsa and also mauna meaningful and important for Yoga.
The next practice that I would like to apply in order to fortify the initial practices of santosha and ahimsa is satya. I began to notice that my habit of talking sometimes prevents me from speaking truthfully, and certainly from seeking the Truth. It makes me elaborate or decorate my words with slightly untrue or completely untrue words. It makes me unable to accept things as they are, misrepresent myself or others, and participate in the world guided through my attachments—not to mention sustaining the attachments of others. Certainly, this works against ahimsa as it can deceive or confuse others, and steer them away from the Truth. But at a deeper level, satya can also mean to seek to see the Truth that is within all at all times, and can become a meditation in daily life. For all of these reasons I believe that satya can have a strong impact on the practices that we have been asked to do, so I would like to bring it to my awareness as well.
At this moment, I cannot say how long I will have to continue pushing forth with this kind of effort, or more effort yet, or how the process will evolve. I can say though that from the sheer challenge of keeping focused on these practices and trying to hold back from speaking unnecessarily or speaking what is non-Truth, I trust that the want for recognition and attention, in other words that the mind’s “me,” will start to lose its stranglehold little by little. On a subtler level, I have noticed through this process that Shri Mahayogi’s words and his Being, how he is or what he is, has gradually started to become more real and more dear to me. I sense everything is in him as the perfect and most complete example. Something in me which I cannot explain recognizes more and more the meaning of Shri Mahayogi’s existence and reason for teaching us. It is incredibly moving and humbling to feel this. Perhaps this is also why my heart is opening to others little by little, which is something that is truly necessary for me to go beyond just intellectual and physical practice. And finally, another meaningful result I have noticed from this short period of practicing in this manner is that I am being led to find out how I want to live this life. Now I can joyfully and without hesitation say: “I would like to place the Truth at the center of my life, to be free from the attachments of this mind, so that I can then be able to truly benefit others. I sincerely believe this is the only way that life can fulfill its purpose and the only way to attain true happiness, or Satori.” Even just to be able to say this makes all the efforts feel light and enjoyable.
Thank you to the gurubai who are walking alongside me on this journey! Their effort and sincerity make the process much lighter and sweeter. Their support deepens my understanding and strengthens my will. That makes an immense difference.