Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
New York, June 27, 2016
Testimonials from Actual Practitioners
• Jnana Yoga Part 1 of 2
by Yogadanda, 2016
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Translation of Satsangha
New York, June 27, 2016
Importance of Posture
Mr. Kuroiwa: When I try to meditate, I’m not sure whether I’m meditating correctly. So is there any…feeling by which I can confirm that I am in the right state of meditation?
MASTER: The purpose of meditation is to awaken to the Truth. If this is actualized, of course one has the clear feeling that meditation has succeeded; however Satori, awakening to the Truth, is not that easy. Just like with everything else, one needs training; therefore, with Satori as the purpose, one embarks on [the journey] to seriously learn the Truth and train oneself, which means practice and discipline. We use the word “meditation,” summing it up in just one word, but to be more precise, first there is concentration, then comes [the state of] meditation, and after that there is samadhi. When it comes to concentration, it’s much easier to do when using a concrete object as opposed to an abstract one. Therefore, choose your favorite object, though it must be one that is sacred, and then place this sacred image in front of your own eyes and concentrate on it.
What is very important here is the posture. Normally, in daily life the body is forced to make different movements. In accordance with the business of the environment, the body and the mind are made to bustle around. But in meditation, you need to still the mind and the body. Herein lies another very important element—which is prana, that is to say, the breath. Since ancient times the yogi have discovered that there is a very close relation between the mind and the breath. That [desirable state of stillness in the mind and body] can be facilitated by one’s posture to some degree. Make the spine straight and erect, then place the head and the neck so that they are lined up on top of it. Then the legs should be placed into a [proper] position that will stabilize and support that posture and keep you from losing it. If you concentrate on the aforementioned object while in this position, then both the breath and the mind will become still at once. And then, if you continue to concentrate on the object, before long 10 minutes or 30 minutes will have passed without moving, and one’s concentration will become deeper and deeper. At that time when one comes out of meditation, the mind remembers the condition of the stilled breath and the stilled mind, and therefore one should be able to understand that as meditation. That’s the whole picture.
Mr. Kuroiwa: My situation is at a much more basic level. The word “concentration” is very tricky to me. Some time ago I also heard from you that I could concentrate on the third eye; however, when I try to do that I become tense trying to concentrate. Judging by this feeling, I guess that it is probably not concentration. So I am wondering how we perceive the act of concentrating on an object? If I tend to focus using the intellect, the mind is very much aware that it is attempting to focus on something, so it’s probably not concentration [in terms of meditation]. So would you describe what that condition feels like so that I can recognize the feeling when that concentration on the object is happening, or what the sense is of that state of mind that indicates when real concentration is taking place?
MASTER: (Smiling) Let me tell you one more secret, then. Disciples who come regularly to classes already know and have been practicing this, but when you look at and concentrate on something, try not to blink. You should try to control it and not blink as much as possible, and when it becomes really painful, then close the eyes and rest a little, then again keep looking at the object without blinking—practice repeatedly in this manner. You should be able to find out that this begets concentration.
Mr. Kuroiwa: Are your eyes opened or closed during meditation?
MASTER: In this case, look at an object with your eyes open. That is why I said that this is limited to some sort of sacred object.
Mr. Kuroiwa: I understand. Thank you.
Sadhya: Along those same lines, for example, if we see some of the Tantric paintings, like we looked at when we were making the chakra for Project Sahasrara, the eyes are open. And I notice that sometimes, for example in asana class, I may not feel like I can close my eyes for some time or blink. Or I feel like it’s sometimes easier just to stay with the eyes open rather than to close them. And so when is it that meditation is done with the eyes open? Is it necessary to close them?
MASTER: Both ways are fine. But in the case of concentrating on the center of the chest or between the eyebrows, it’s usually easier to do it with the eyes closed in order to not take in visual stimuli. However, when it comes to looking at those sacred Tantric images that you mentioned, a state in which your eyes remain open might arise. And that is exactly the same state that will arise as a result of the approach that I advised him on just now. What is common to both cases is that there is no blinking. Blinking is one of the ten types of the workings of prana [in the body]. And if one is able to control one of these ten types of prana, then all the others come under control automatically. That is a secret of Yoga—well, actually it is intrinsically not really a secret, but you can say that it’s one of those arcane hidden wisdoms of Yoga. When the prana becomes controlled, the mind becomes controlled as well. And then one’s concentration becomes deeper and deeper, and one enters the realm of meditation. Take the approach that you find easier.
Sadhya: Something else that I’ve noticed along the lines of prana: when I am trying to meditate, or when the concentration is starting to become a little bit deeper, then it almost feels like the prana causes my body to move into a certain position…like having a straighter back, or moving into the right position if it’s not in the right position. And sometimes it makes my body feel very rigid. So is that…could you please speak about why that happens, or what it is? Because it almost feels like it’s…some force rather than me controlling it; it feels like it’s controlling me.
MASTER: As I said earlier, that is a phenomenon that occurs when one of those ten types of prana is coming under control. But what actually happens in that moment is that the prana is transforming into the great prana, called kundalini. Because of that, [at those times] the body feels like it’s becoming stiff or rigid, or it can also occur that one has the feeling of an electric shock almost. But you shouldn’t be worried about that; it’s a proper phenomenon that occurs through the deepening of the Yoga practice. It’s a manifestation that indicates that your meditation is deepening, you should firm up your concentration and [deepen] your mediation more and more.
Sadhya: Thank you, Shri Mahayogi.
Sorana: Master, this is very much a beginner’s question: I have actually never meditated, or I think that I have never managed to reach meditation. When we try to meditate, can we maybe rest against the wall? Sometimes it is very hard to concentrate. I start to feel a little back pain or knee pain and I concentrate on the pain. And then I cannot concentrate any longer, and I have to stop. So is it ok to use props or to rest against something, because I understand that it is important to be sitting with the back straight and the head right.
MASTER: (Tenderly) You can do that. (Shri Mahayogi smiles broadly.)
Aniruddha: Shri Mahayogi, I heard you answer that the posture influences the mind. I understand that the straight back is important for meditation. But in what other ways does the posture influence the mind, for example, how might the mind become negatively influenced?
MASTER: One of the sentences in the Yoga Sutra states that, “Asana must be steady and comfortable.” If it is in any other condition—whether because of the effort it takes to get into and hold the [proper] position, or because of some sense of incongruity due to the slanted posture—a number of disadvantages [for the mind or for the ability to concentrate] will be brought about because of having a poor posture.
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The Deeper State That Flows Out
as the Extension Beyond Thinking
Ryan: Shri Mahayogi, thank you. We talked a lot about concentration, and concentration on an object. In the three types of meditation that we learn how to do—and I understand that with “Who is God?” that this is meditating on the object of a divine being—but how does concentrating on the object relate to the other two meditations: “What is Truth?” and “Who am I?” Because I have never thought about these as being about concentrating on an object.
MASTER: This inquiry, “Who am I?” as is clear from the words themselves, is the means of concentration by which to seek one’s Self. So when you use the first person pronoun “I,” there is usually some sort of attribute attached to it. However, since all these attributes are like illusions, with the results of your own situation, your own environment, or the creation of your own concepts, you will therefore come to understand that these are not the true Self. That is why when you pursue self-inquiry in such a way, then you will come to plow through [a series of realizations that the Self is] neither this nor that, neither this nor that. It is a feeling like the peeling of an onion, you peel off one layer and then another, and eventually there is nothing else left. But at that precise moment, from the center, where it is as if there isn’t a single thing left, one’s true Self will awaken like the light that manifests. It is like the true Self becoming aware of one’s true Self—just like waking up [in the morning].
The [type of] concentration that focuses on the Truth is very similar to this. You have already heard the teachings of the Truth, so you [compare them with your mind and] verify whether or to what extent your mind corresponds with or differs from the Truth; in other words, discriminate between them.
Mr. Kuroiwa: You taught me a couple of years ago to meditate on “Who am I?” So I tried. But for me, thinking, “Who am I?” is really “thinking,” because you are thinking, “Who am I?” I think that was the big question, and that was what his question was. Because “I think”—but that is not concentration. And I think that that was my original question: What exactly is concentration? When you try to understand who you are, it is “thinking.” Is this the right path or am I missing something?
MASTER: At first there is no problem if there is still thinking involved in that. But if you continue practicing this further, it will become concentration.
Mr. Kuroiwa: I understand. Thank you.
Karuna: This question has to do with nama rupa. [At the end of the class the other day,] Kripalu shared some of Shri Mahayogi’s teachings about nama rupa and discrimination, [which he received from the Master in daily life at the Cave]. When I heard about it, and after having the discussion, it was very helpful to try to recognize how the formation of language comes up as an obstacle in seeking something that is beyond language. So I tried to practice going beyond language, beyond ideas or words that wanted to arise so quickly, very fast, like a magnet. I was even driven toward the object, like an ishvara, and for me, instead of trying to discriminate form and all these processes of how ideas are formed, I go directly towards the ideal form, and it is like a way to clear everything up. And I don’t know if that counts as discrimination.
MASTER: Speaking of nama rupa, name and form, this is something that manifests at the very beginning of the universe. Therefore, if one goes through the practice of discrimination, one will inevitably have to face nama rupa in the end. And because of the fact that the mind is obviously the one who knows nama rupa, you can discover that the constitution of the mind and nama rupa happen at the same time. They are in a relationship of mutual dependence. And when there is mutual dependence, it means that it is generally not perfect. This is why in Yoga these things are called phenomena, the world, or maya. On the other hand, ishvara is the intermediate being who lies on the border between God without form and a personified God as its manifestation. And the Yoga Sutra states that ishvara is the original guru, thus it is a very safe and easy way to concentrate on That.
Ekanta: You teach us that the mind is going to die in Realization when we reach samadhi. But until then, I feel that the mind needs to understand that the mind is not the Truth, and also that the mind should understand that it should embark on this journey of finding the Truth. So what is the best way to make the mind understand that it, the mind, is not the Truth.
MASTER: Watch your mind right now. (Ekanta smiles, and the Master laughs lightly in response). You know that your mind just smiled. (Some attendees laugh.) Who knows that? (smiling as Ekanta smiles again) Indeed, this proves that there is someone who is witnessing it. (Ekanta smiles.) The mind is something that is being seen by the true Self, which is the Seer. Until the mind realizes that, it falsely presumes itself to be the protagonist of everything, to be the master. But the mind is not that; even though the mind works in accordance with the surrounding circumstances or the environment, or the various desires, hopes, thoughts, and so many other things it has created, it is still not the protagonist. The ego, which is within the mind, is the root of that error, and so the ego is actually not the true Master. Instead, you must understand it like a tool for Atman, or the true Master—that is what the mind is.
Karuna: Is it ok to understand that mauna is a way to unite with the true Self?
MASTER: Yes, that is correct. The more the mind works the more it asserts itself [as the protagonist], so making the mind quiet [through mauna] is a good approach.
Sorana: Is there a way other than meditation? Is there any other way we can see or perceive the true Self, or have a moment or instant where we can separate ourselves from the mind, but consciously. Is meditation the only way?
MASTER: It has been taught [since ancient times] that Truth has to be heard, to be thought about, and then be meditated upon. If you could realize the Truth only by listening to It, then that would be good—that would be fantastic. (Shri Mahayogi laughs joyously and the attendees laugh.) If you can’t, then you have to think a little bit more about it. (Master laughs joyously.) And as your contemplation about it goes deeper and deeper, then naturally it will eventually become meditation. (Sorana: Okay. Thank you.) What is called meditation is a deeper state that flows out as the extension beyond thinking.
Sorana: So thinking is not bad.
MASTER: Right, if you were thinking about your beloved, then you would become obsessed with thinking about that person, and you’d want to become one with that person, wouldn’t you? It’s very similar. (The Master laughs.)
Sorana: Thank you. I have never thought about it this way. It makes it sound easier. (Everyone bursts into laughter.)
MASTER: (Swiftly without a pause) Surely, it is so. It is very simple! (Everyone bursts into laughter.) [It’s true] because I am saying it so clearly. (Everyone laughs.)
Nandishwara: There are three subjects of meditation. For either meditation on the Truth or meditation on the other two objects, could we understand them as being tools to find the real object or subject?
MASTER: Yes, you could.
Nandishwara: But, it is not necessary to stimulate the mind using these tools, is it?
MASTER: But what is called Truth, which is what you are all seeking, can be summarized as these three. The Truth is certainly beyond name and form—so there is no name nor is there form; however, up until the last stage [of becoming one with It], you must continue to utilize name and form.
Nandishwara: I guess we do not have that much choice, do we?
MASTER: (Laughing) Right, you don’t.
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The Pure Devotion and Faith of Hanuman
Karuna: I feel like we talk about all the practices, but my true, true feeling inside is that even with all these practices, we can’t do very much, and sometimes talking about all these practices hides the need for a teacher, the Guru. And in these past two years, my strongest feeling is that I feel that no matter what I do, without Shri Mahayogi I would not be doing anything. And he is doing so much that I cannot tell, but I know. I don’t know what he is doing but I know he is doing something. So I want to thank Shri Mahayogi because I am beginning to understand that I am Shri Mahayogi and Shri Mahayogi is me. And this brings me an incredible feeling of joy. Incredible. So I am not really sure where Shri Mahayogi comes from, but I am so grateful that he is here. And therefore, I think that Shri Mahayogi equals Yoga.
Nandishwara: A little bit along the lines of what Karuna just said, when I face the obstacles or the difficulties that come up in my practice, sometimes I am so weak and the power of these obstacles is so strong, and I just cannot control this. So, usually under those circumstances, I pray—I pray to the higher power, I pray to Ishwara, I pray to you to help me to just overcome those obstacles. And it works every single time. I don’t doubt the effectiveness of that, but my mind really wants to understand why this works in that way. I am curious to understand why it works.
MASTER: Unless one experiences such an experience, it’s difficult to understand, but it’s very similar to that pure faith of Hanuman. In the story called the Ramayana, it says that through praying to God Rama, in one jump Hanuman crossed from south India to Ceylon. This exemplifies the pure devotion and faith of Hanuman, and the grace of God. This is what you are looking for. (Attendees laugh.)
Nandishwara: Yes, yes, I understand that, but like a movie, but like a metaphor, I won’t really be able to defy the physical law of gravity, (laughter from attendees and Shri Mahayogi) and jump all the way to Japan to see the Guru or something, that does not happen, right?
Prajna: You could if you have the faith and belief in the grace of the Guru.
Sorana: I have a question related to that. Prayer is helpful, it seems to work for some people. How should we pray effectively?
MASTER: (After some pause) Simply to believe in God and love God, that is enough.
Sorana: Thank you.
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Relating With Family; Mauna;
Discrimination and Renunciation
Prajna: Shri Mahayogi, about ten years ago, you may remember, I was struggling greatly with a sudden breakdown in the relationship with my younger sister. At the time you advised me to not think about it at all anymore. And I tried my best to do that at the time, but my mind was so out of control that it was impossible. But over time, and with practice, I was able to really not let this situation disturb me over the past decade. This week, I had a birthday, and she sent me a message for the first time. And while there is a part of me that knows that these kinds of personal issues and disturbances are completely irrelevant, and that probably for my practice, the best thing is just to continue as though nothing happened, there is also a part of me that feels that I have the obligation to acknowledge and to try to do something positive and loving. At the same time, I fear that the underlying issues that caused the problem in the first place have not really changed. And I would really appreciate some words or some advice to help me find me the best path through this situation.
MASTER: The best thing to do is to eliminate the idea of relationships between brothers and sisters from your mind. And, if you receive your birthday message [from her], then I think that, simply as a human being, you can respond to it in a very simple way without any complication.
Prajna: If it were just the matter of the birthday greeting, then I would be able to do that, but she also made an overture to me about mending the relationship and that is where the difficulty lies for me. I am not sure how to proceed.
MASTER: Because she or he is my sister or brother, or because they are my parents or my child—these [binding] familial relationships with one’s blood relatives, are maya. Since it is inevitable that each person [even one’s family members] is born with their own karma, it is therefore best to relate with family members just like anyone else, recognizing and accepting each of them as an independent human being. Therefore, your sister might be hoping to resume the familial relationship of sister with you, just as before, but it would be best if [instead] you could work to establish a new relationship with her as fellow human beings. (Prajna bows in gratitude.)
(After some silence)
Aniruddha: I question myself, in terms of whether I really have faith. Because sometimes I realize that it seems like I become completely forgetful of the Truth. The other night, when I heard Kripalu speaking about nama rupa, it really reminded me of that. I started to really let my mind understand that what I have seen, what I have experienced, everything around me, is only God. And I realized that when I force my mind to realize this, it seems that the attachment tends to want to cease. But you told Kripalu that he has to try to see his mind before he even begins, his attachment. But I am still trying to understand, because sometimes it seems that my mind gets quickly attracted to something, and other times it is completely oblivious, like there is no attachment to anything. But in this exercise, I tell myself that everything I see and feel and hear, all experiences, are Atman. Is this a very effective way to discriminate and teach the mind not to become attached to anything?
MASTER: The mind having that duality of what is sacred and what is of the world is unavoidable. But still, what the Truth teaches is that, “All and everything is Atman” or “Everything is God,” and that is what’s true. See [the world like this] and practice in this way.
Karuna: Related to what Prajna spoke about, is it a good idea to think that everyone is seeking the Truth in their own way?
MASTER: Yes, it is. It is simply that different karma creates differences. The difference is whether one will be able to proceed toward it within one lifetime or whether one will need to spend many thousands of lifetimes. (laughing)
Ekanta: I was thinking about mauna and I didn’t really understand it, and I probably still don’t understand it. But until mauna becomes a natural state for me, I really try to apply what you advised me to do: discriminate and renounce. And I have found that by doing this, by really discriminating, mauna happens naturally. So is it correct to say, that in the beginning mauna is actually active, not something passive?
MASTER: Exactly that. (Shri Mahayogi smiles broadly and everyone smiles.) Mauna does not mean that you forcefully shut your mouth [to avoid speaking] at all. When the thoughts in the mind cease, then naturally there is nothing to form words, then this becomes mauna.
Sadhya: I found that I have a hard time discriminating when or how to speak about the Truth to another person, or about Shri Mahayogi, or things like that. And sometimes I feel that I may think of words, but at the time, they don’t come, or I can’t say them, or I ask if it is even necessary to say them, or do I need to do something only through my actions, or is it also important to say something? Could Shri Mahayogi offer some guidance on that?
MASTER: It’s very difficult, but when your friends are in an unstable condition, such as being in suffering or being in distress or in trouble in some way, then you should communicate with them directly. Or in some cases, you can initiate a philosophical discussion about human life. (smiling) If that person shows some interest, then it can go deeper [and maybe you can introduce or reveal something that is of concern to you or something that touches the Truth]. Or [you can] connect the dots more simply by speaking about the experience of a comfortable physical body and then take that person to the class [to practice asana], or even teach them asana directly. In any case, Yoga has a lot of wonderful gifts to offer all people. And the most wonderful of most wonderful things is each of your existences.
Nandishwara: I don’t quite understand the last sentence. (Shri Mahayogi laughs.) Can you speak more [about that]? (Shri Mahayogi laughs.)
MASTER: That wonderful things will manifest through your face, your body, your actions, your words, every part of you.
Sadhya: I feel like that is Shri Mahayogi. And, for example, when working with children, I find that some are more drawn to me than others. And I always feel very strongly that it’s not me, it is Shri Mahayogi, and that really they are really drawn to Shri Mahayogi. And (laughing with joy, and her words keep pouring out without stopping) some people do not understand, but I feel like it has nothing to do with me, but they think it is me, but it is Shri Mahayogi through me somehow, pulling them in some way, and I do not really know what to do about it, that is why I asked the question about it. I feel you very much in that way.
MASTER: (Very cheerfully) Indeed, it is collaborative work with me. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
Sadhya: That reminds me again and again of how important it is that we deepen our practice, so that that can happen more and more and more. So thank you Shri Mahayogi.
MASTER: (Delightedly to Sadhya) But I truly, truly feel the deepening of your practice, year after year.
Prajna: I have been reading the Yoga Sutra and although I fear that the translation I have is probably not the best quality, one of the things that I would love to hear you comment on is the idea that “as one progresses in the path of Yoga, that as the mind becomes purified, the consciousness actually changes its location”—or, like right now we have the sense that the consciousness is based in the head or somewhere in the physical body, but as we get deeper and as we purify the mind more and more, that consciousness will move from the physical body to a higher body, a spiritual body, on its way to the final destination, which is the live Consciousness, the Absolute, the alpha-omega experience of the total unity with the Absolute—and I would like to understand this a little better. And also, I think I understand the purifying mechanism that causes this to happen, but just any other information or commentary about that would be very much appreciated.
MASTER: “The gross” [in that context] refers to the physical body, and that indicates this world. And “the subtle” refers to the mind, and the five tanmatra. So [in that scripture], it describes the order going from the grossest to the subtlest, in 24 principles.
Originally there is the Purusha, and at the same time there is prakriti, which is the feminine principle, and from there the 24 principles are derived. Once those 24 principles have been unfolded and activated, we start experiencing sufferings, and thereby we embark on the journey to revert back [from the 24 principles] and return to the origin. This just indicates the journey back from the gross material elements to the more subtle ones. Raja yoga has a very psychological content. Not only [does it go into great detail regarding] all the different functions and mechanisms of the mind, of course, but it also [assigns a great deal of potential to] memory, not only immediate memory but memory that goes back several generations. That is why all these invisible phenomena are described as [belonging to] the realm of the subtle.
Ekanta: I drive all day in the city. And a teaching in the Universal Gospel of Yoga is that one of the sufferings is that the mind is trying constantly to satisfy its wishes; however, it’s not able to satisfy its wishes. So when I drive, I see an object, for example, a beautiful woman or a car, and as soon as I see it, my mind wants it, but I understand that I cannot have it, so that causes emotional pain right there. But as soon as I take that attention from that object and focus on the heart, or just on the One who sees it, the pain almost disappears. But again, as soon as I see another object, I go through the same process. So the question is, is it enough to focus on the Seer, or do I have to, in meditation, discriminate and go deeper and renounce. Is it enough just to focus on that, or do I have to discriminate and renounce in meditation?
MASTER: When you are driving in the city, immediately bring your mind back. (Everyone laughs.) And then, when you come back home to this beautiful Cave [where we are now], practice [meditation and] discrimination thoroughly and firmly, and renounce it.
Ekanta: Okay, thank you.
Sadhya: Do you mean by “renouncing what he is seeing”, the impression of what he is seeing during the day?
MASTER: No, there is no need for that. But, if you feel that the mind is attracted to something and becoming attached to it, then you need to [discriminate and then] renounce that.
Prajna: Is this the way to deal with all outside disturbances when they affect the mind? To try to recognize what they are and then to apply meditation as thoroughly as possible?
Ryan: Regarding what Ekanta said—I get to the point where I can discriminate on those things in my mind, or I might just say, eternal or non-eternal, real or not real, and I would then very quickly dismiss them as not being real, but I would never get anywhere beyond that. I intuitively know that it is not eternal, but I can’t get any further than that.
MASTER: The result of desire and attachment is possession—the mind is trying to derive happiness through possessing something. But if you question whether these objects, from which you are trying to derive joy [through possessing], are eternal, complete or real, or not—then this is where discrimination takes place.
Karuna: Can I ask one more question? It’s a timely one. My family is visiting, because my son is graduating from high school, and tomorrow is our last day together. And when he was growing up, Shri Mahayogi always encouraged me to declare independence from him, and there is a part of me that wants to declare independence verbally to him, and also to my family, to free my family from worrying about me, and also to free myself from giving them uncertainty or whatever. Tomorrow is the last day that I will be with them. Is there any advice for this, the next step of independence that I so much need and want from everybody in my family.
MASTER: Remind him that way back when he was little, he learned Yoga and trained himself, and then give him your blessing that he will become a wonderful human being.
Jai Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa Ki, Jai!
Om Tat Sat
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Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
Jnana Yoga Part 1 of 2
by Yogadanda, 2016
Who am I? It is said that to explore this simple line of inquiry and realize one’s true Self is called jnana yoga. I suppose that this inquiry into the question, “Who am I?” is something that everyone is probably already pursuing unconsciously. We project ourselves onto various things in this world, and once we receive a blow, we project ourselves onto something else all over again. “I’m a student.” “I’m a dancer.” “I’m a New Yorker…” I too have projected myself, the “I,” onto various things one after another. That self-image is a reflection of an individual’s ideals, but often our ideals don’t match up with reality. In fact, they never match, because both the ideals that the mind conceives and the actual world are constantly changing. The very ground we stand upon, and the things we are trying to grasp, everything is a part of the all-encompassing instability in which we spend our lives.
As we accumulate more experiences in life, our vague search for the “I” shifts from a search that is taking place at the gross level to one that is increasingly more subtle, from external to internal, and from pursuing something to engaging in deeper inquiry. Perhaps it is at these moments in life that one encounters Yoga. Whatever you thought to be “the Self” crumbles away. As we experience this again and again, perhaps we will eventually arrive at questions such as: “Which one is my true Self?” “Where does ‘I’ exist?” and “Who am I?” Therefore, even before these questions come to the surface of one’s consciousness, it seems everyone has been seeking what this “I” is all along. Of course, there may be some people who are inquiring into the “true Self” from the beginning, without projecting their sense of “I” onto anything else in the world; however, I think that most of us are seeking the true Self without even being aware of it.
“What really is the true Self? Who am I really?—everyone uses the word, ‘I’ and is aware of an ‘I’ that is not the others, yet no one can explain what this ‘I’ is. That is really a strange phenomenon. That is why one must know what the ‘I’ is. You must know your ‘self’.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
When we have conversations with others, we all use the first person “I,” saying, “I think…” or, “I am…” Furthermore, everyone considers the “I” to be the most important, and wishes for the “I” to be happy. In spite of all of this, no one clearly understands the “I.” If one is fortunate enough to find true and authentic Yoga and arrive at the feet of a guru, then, through the teachings of the guru, one will come to know what the “true Self” is. Since most people have always thought without a doubt that the mind is the “I,” when they hear about the real “I,” they are shocked.
“Normally, if we get our ‘selves’ mixed up with the body or the mind, then our ‘selves’ must be in a state that is constantly imperfect and without rest. That kind of self is neither reliable nor believable. Yet, that is not the true Self either. The true Self is the Consciousness that knows, that simply witnesses. That Consciousness is not the mind, but the Consciousness that sees the mind. The mind is constantly changing, but this Consciousness is neither changing, nor can it be disturbed by anything. It never changes, it did not come from anywhere, and it will not go anywhere. It was never born and will never die. Only It has always existed, It exists here and now and will always exist. That exists as Indestructible, Immortal Existence. That is the true Self, Atman.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
When we sit in the presence of a guru who has realized this “true Self,” the mind is affected by this magnificent Existence, and thus its waves quiet down. [It is as if one’s ordinary perception of time disappears,] and while we are within this eternal flow of time, we will come to realize that this “true Self” is the only thing worth seeking in this life. Then the seeker will consciously begin inquiring, “Who am I?” Throughout this process, the mind of the seeker becomes wiser due to the guidance of the guru, and, rather than a “self” that is fragile, unstable and easy to crumble, it will begin to seek a steadfast Existence—“The true Self.”
But be that as it may, even though we may sit down once to meditate and try to inquire into the Self, various thoughts arise in the mind and it doesn’t quiet down at all. Through countless incarnations the mind has come to believe that things that are not “the Self” are “the Self.” The impressions that the mind has received through vast amounts of experiences have been accumulated in the subconscious, producing a flow of thoughts such as, “I want to do that again,” or, “I never want to experience that again,” and the mind is activated by these thoughts one after another. When the condition of the mind is so active, one cannot seek the “true Self.” [Therefore,] it is first necessary for the mind to study [its own nature as compared to that of the Self]. The mind is trying to express the existence of the “Self” upon the external, ephemeral world—we must discern whether or not that is “the true Self,” whether or not Truth resides there. If the mind has an incorrect understanding of this, then ultimately the mind itself will reach its limit and suffer as a result. You must educate your mind using the teachings of the Truth, and if you have erroneous thoughts in the way you view things and situations, then you must correct them. This is called discrimination. Shri Mahayogi taught me to discriminate by applying the four categories of ignorance.
• To see the non-eternal as Eternal
• To see impurity as purity
• To see unhappiness as happiness
• To see the non-self as the Self
When I look back, my practice of discrimination was successful when, without even trying to think about a certain issue, the mind would constantly confront it head-on, in other words, when my mind was seriously facing that issue. It was only then, in this crucial moment of being faced with the question of whether I should accept the previously held beliefs of my own mind or the teaching of the Truth, when I drove myself to the brink of life and death, when I felt as though I wouldn’t be able to live without making a choice between the two in that very moment—that was when the real practice of discrimination took place and True Wisdom transformed my mind completely. However, since it does not really happen often that the mind is cornered in such a way, most of the time I made my practice of discrimination about getting closure on an issue by logically comparing each one against the teachings of Truth and I felt intellectually satisfied with the result. But in fact, it was simply that during those times the issue had not risen to the surface of the mind; it was just lying dormant at the bottom of the mind like a seed. If the issue at hand wasn’t so urgent, if I applied one of the four categories of ignorance to it, then as the mind accepted that they were not the Truth, even if it was only at the intellectual level, the issue would disappear for the time being. Once the mind was tranquil and in a state absent of any immediate issue, then the question of “Who am I?” which relates to the fourth item on the list, would arise. Yet I could feel that it was merely intellectual questioning, and that it was at the gross level of inquiry, simply repeating the words, “Who am I?” It felt like the practice of inquiring into “the Self” had not gotten any further at all by just confronting this “I” that the mind imagines with mere words. When I asked Shri Mahayogi about it, this was his answer:
“In the stage of concentration, it is inevitable that you rely on words, because when the mind is concentrating on something, it immediately manifests as words. That is precisely why that inquiry must be carried out; and by doing that, within that inquiry the gross concept of ‘I’ will gradually come to be replaced with a more abstract and subtle consciousness. It is at that gross level of activity [that you need] to intellectually understand and remove ‘ignorance.’ Ignorance is established by becoming entangled with the subtle sanskara and vasana, therefore you can understand that the root goes deeper. For this reason meditation and inquiry become crucial, and in that process, these gross parts will gradually be removed, and more subtle states will emerge as a result. So then the gross images which were attached to the ‘I’ will change too.”
I have continued to do this kind of practice over and over again, and as rough as it has been, I have continued to organize what was in my mind through discrimination. By doing this, I have recognized that the issues that I had processed only at the intellectual level would come up again after some time, which indicates that they had not been properly resolved. Around that time, I became interested in the words that Shri Mahayogi uses sometimes during satsangha—“added conditions.” This has to do with the objects that the mind depends on, which are established by some condition, and that the key to success in discrimination is to perceive what these conditions are.
One night, a dream startled me awake. One of the objects of my attachment appeared and took form in the dream. I got up, sat in a meditation position, and attempted to discriminate this vision. What was dormant as a seed in the subconscious manifested then and took form on the surface of the mind so that I was able to grasp it. Without rushing, I started to carefully investigate what conditions produced this vision, and what type of condition it was that my mind was dependent upon. This time I had no sense of tension or urgency as if the mind were being pushed to the utmost edge, but rather it felt like an extremely calm analysis. Like a doctor dissecting a body, I gradually searched and found each condition in between the mind and the object—one by one. The moment I recognized what the last condition would be, the object sizzled and burned away. Even though this was taking place in meditation, I could hear the sound of the object sizzling away for real, and that object burned up and was gone in a split second. Since I was not able to be fully confident that the issue was completely gone, I thought, “That’s odd, did it really disappear?” and then I pulled that object out from my memory. Then, right as it appeared before my eyes, it burned up at once, sizzling away with a sound. Through repeating the act of making that object reappear and burning it again and again, I became so distant from that object that I could only think of it as being several hundred kilometers away from me. And after repeating this process, that state in meditation was finally able to expand into the realm that appears as if it were the universal space in which there is nothing—the black hole or the void. It was the state of nothingness, so I had no idea what to concentrate on or how to proceed further from that point.
A few days later at the satsangha, I spoke to Shri Mahayogi about this experience in meditation and asked for advice.
—“The issue you dealt with was the object—the added conditions that the object is established by. So what you need to do then is to bring the subject to a completely unconditional, independent state.”
“So, does that mean that I need to directly enter into asmita?”
—“Yes. As you know, asmita is translated as ‘self-thought’ [in Japanese]. That is the sense of ego-consciousness, or thoughts about oneself. What you explained indicates that there is still a subtle object, a notion that entails thought, the notion of ‘I.’ So discrimination to peel off asmita, which is the most subtle condition that is still joined with the mind, should be practiced as the next procedure.”
“So from now on, should I consider that whenever an issue arises, I should think of it as an opportunity to use it as a clue to dig toward asmita, and then do it?”
—“Right, but instead of taking a passive approach and only taking it into practice after a problem arises, you should proceed more proactively by taking the approach of [continuously] inquiring into ‘Who am I?’”
Indeed, the “I” was still there, even when I was able to proceed to a state of meditation in which there was only nothingness within that space. I then understood that directing my awareness to that subject, which is the “I,” and concentrating upon it—that is the true meaning of inquiring into “Who am I?” In this inquiry, words are not used. Words come forth from the mind, and the more we use words, the more the mind moves. That is probably the reason why I kept going around in circles, asking myself by using the words “Who am I?” But be that as it may, from the beginning stage of the practice it is difficult to concentrate on such subtle states of consciousness as the “I.” Through experiencing all these processes, I came to the realization that Shri Mahayogi was urging me to make my mind ready through discrimination so that I could embark on the real practice of self-inquiry. Now, from this very point begins the esoteric part of jnana yoga.
(…to be continued)
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