Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
New York, July 29, 2016
The Path to Satori is for Anyone,
Whether One Has Family or Not:
Advance the Eight Ashtanga Simultaneously
Testimonials from Actual Practitioners
• Jnana Yoga Part 2 of 2
by Yogadanda, 2016
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Translation of Satsangha
New York, July 29, 2016
(This is the second Satsangha during Shri Mahayogi’s visit to New York in the summer of 2016. The Satsangha is being held at Ekanta’s apartment. His brother and sister-in-law are visiting from Romania and they are among the attendees. Ravi has come for the first time. He encountered The Universal Gospel of Yoga while staying in Venice, Italy, but upon realizing that it was hard to get a copy, he ordered the book directly from the MYM’s website. Then he found out about the opportunity to attend Shri Mahayogi’s Satsangha. He drove down from Massachusetts for this special opportunity. The interpreter is Vishoka, who just returned from Switzerland yesterday and will stay in New York for a few days on his way back to Hawaii. The room, which is beautifully painted in meditative tones of greyish blue-green, is filled with attendees. Everybody is waiting for Shri Mahayogi to enter the room with much anticipation. It is a very quiet but vibrant atmosphere.)
Discriminate Until the Mind Becomes Silent
Ryan: In the last Pranavadipa, there was a discussion with Satya and Sanatana where you went through how to discriminate an attachment step-by-step. It starts with identifying the obstacles, or the attachments, then going to the cause, which is the experience of a positive sensation from the object, some sort of historical, past experience, and then the mind believes that the illusion, the positive sensation, was real happiness. So in my personal experience, the obstacle that I am discriminating against now is that my mind has a strong desire to be right, and to argue when I’m dealing with another person. It’s like my mind wants to get the acknowledgement that I am right. And so that comes up while going through this process of discrimination, and it could be the same in other areas, that my view is right and I want to win the argument. So I can see that I have experienced this as a good feeling, and that is why, even when I am practicing asana, I can see that my mind is involved with these things. At times it has to do with people I don’t even talk to anymore, but because of these past experiences my mind wants that feeling. Intellectually, I can follow these steps, and I know that my mind is still thinking about it, which means I obviously haven’t properly eradicated it. So my question is: is this just a matter of more practice, or am I doing something incorrectly? Is there anything else that I should be doing to uproot that?
(After a long silence)
MASTER: The aim of Yoga, in other words, the aim of human life, is to learn the Truth and realize It. To take whatever the mind says and discern whether it is Truth or not—that is discrimination. If the mind knew the Truth, then it wouldn’t say anything at all. The fact that the mind is muttering something to itself hints at the fact that there is something other than the Truth in there.
In this world, every thing and every event has a cause and an effect. The fact that you were born occurred because there was a cause for you to be born. That cause is the karma from past lives. At the same time, there is also the auspicious karma of knowing the correct [path of] Yoga and being able to practice it and then realize the Truth. And all these things I mentioned are only meant to enable a person to realize the Truth, the true Self or God. And once this fact is known, the mind becomes silent. Until that point, continue to practice discrimination.
Ryan: Is it a matter of me uprooting the specific experiences in my life that have caused me to think this way, or is that not necessary? Or is it just a matter of me knowing that that is just not Reality?
MASTER: Through [the practice of applying] discrimination, you can eliminate the causes of attachment in the mind. At that point the mind becomes free from its bondage. That is the state which is called Liberation.
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The Path to Satori is for Anyone,
Whether One Has Family or Not:
Advance the Eight Ashtanga Simultaneously
Ravi: This is the first time I’m here, so please pardon me if I am asking a question which is… I come from India and my parents never asked me to follow a certain path, be it a religion or something spiritual; they encouraged me to think in all kinds of different ways. And that had its own limitations, I initially thought, because it was a struggle. I still struggle with it quite a bit. I did come across your book, or your message, and I thought that it gave a lot of answers. But it’s still a struggle. For example, there is something about the phase of life of a householder, where one has family around, and in your book you talk about how you need to withdraw, almost like a turtle into a shell, to be able to meditate on the Truth. How does that happen when you have so much going on in your life…surrounding your life? Is there something that can be done to transition from one to the other in a very nice way?
MASTER: In India, since ancient times there has been this tradition of the four ashrama, which is a teaching about how these stages of life should be spent. I wonder if this tradition is still alive nowadays.
Ravi: I think that I am probably referring to one of those, the phase which is the one where you are a grihastha (householder). Of course, the final phase is where you are pretty much done with your responsibilities and you have the ability to kind of withdraw a lot more, but in the grihastha phase you are a lot more attached due to all that is going on around you. I don’t think that anyone thinks about it in India anymore, but it probably exists in that manner for many people.
MASTER: Indeed, it is truly a wonderful culture and tradition that should be revered and honored. Regarding your question, we have to admit that there are cases that cannot fit within the guidelines by which we live our lives. This is something that the well-known Adi Shankaracharya also recognized. He realized the Truth at the age of eight, and then he lived his whole life as a sannyasin. Lord Buddha, even though he had a wife and child, left the palace, and then he attained the great Satori. So this means that the phase can differ according to the person. But in general, it would be good that whilst one is still in the phase of the householder, one learns the Truth and continues to practice the disciplines. And then once the kids have grown up and become adults, one concentrates exclusively on one’s real work, which is to realize the Truth. Whatever the case may be, it is essential to find [and then follow] the right teachings and the right Guru.
Ravi: So as the kids are growing up, but while you have a family, how do you continue to improve your consciousness or your concentration? Is that something that you do almost like ashtanga, which mentions the different stages? So you focus on one step at a time, or do you look at all the ashtanga at the same time?
MASTER: The eight limbs in ashtanga are not stairs [that you move up step by step, one after the other]; rather, you practice to advance them simultaneously until the end is reached. The yama are rules for actions which are directed towards others. The niyama are rules that are directed towards oneself. The asana are meant not only to keep the physical body healthy and comfortable at all times, but it goes much further to create a strong and sturdy physical body that is able to endure the practice of the disciplines in Yoga. Pranayama is, as it literally states, the method by which one controls the prana. Both asana and pranayama are related to the physiological, physical body. And the purpose of both practices is to change [the pattern of] breathing, that is to say, to reduce the number of breaths to the extreme and, thus transform the physical body, which is filled with prana. As the breathing changes, the mind becomes unaffected by external stimuli. Also, one is no longer affected by various impulses that can well up within the mind. And then through this, the fifth step, pratyahara, which entails withdrawing and controlling the sense organs, is able to be performed. As for the sense organs—even without the mind’s intention we hear sounds, and likewise, the mind is always caused to fluctuate by the various external stimuli [it receives] through all of the five senses. So, exactly as a turtle withdraws its arms, legs, head and tail into its shell, the sense organs are drawn in, and through this the senses are shut off [from any external stimuli]. Then, from this point on, begins the real work of Yoga, which starts with concentration, dharana. In that stage one focuses on the Truth, the Self, the true Self or God. As concentration deepens there is a vast realm, dhyana, which means that one is getting to the essence of the object itself. And then the eighth [step] is Samadhi, which is an experience that is as if one becomes one with the object of meditation. And regarding [these eight limbs, or ashtanga], even if you have a family, it’s possible to learn and put these disciplines into practice and to realize them. Actually, among my disciples in Japan and in America, there are many who have families. (smiling) So you can surely do it.
Sadhya: Shri Mahayogi, this question is somewhat related to pratyahara and withdrawing the senses from the external influences, and I feel like I somehow have many internal influences as well, and it’s almost like those internal influences cause me to pay attention to the external stimuli, and is that really what’s happening? Does it start with the internal rather than the external?
MASTER: (Smiling) Exactly. This indicates that receiving some kind of external sensory stimuli from the outside actually has a cause, or the condition of receiving it has already been prepared, within the mind. That’s why you need to have removed all these attachments that may be within the mind.
Sadhya: I feel like what I’ve been noticing is that my mind is constantly trying to recall something, or to think of something, or it feels like I need to do something, and it’s always trying to move, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. In a way, I feel like it has to do with not practicing santosha, or contentment, and that the reason my mind is always trying to bring something to it is that it is not in that stage of contentment.
MASTER: That may be so. (smiling) The teaching of santosha is very powerful. If the mind could be content with whatever situation it is in now, it would no longer want for anything. Even if there is still karma remaining, even that karma will be abandoned as undesirable.
Sadhya: But, that’s in santosha?
MASTER: [That comes] as the result of santosha.
Sadhya: Oh, ok. I feel that perhaps it could be that I am seeking some sort of validation for the ego, so therefore I need to be validated in some way, otherwise if I didn’t need that validation, then there would be no need not to feel content. Is that the case?
MASTER: That does happen. That means that you are starting to see this clearly.
Sadhya: It feels almost like unsteadiness, and I don’t like that unsteadiness. But I remember reading a teaching in which Shri Mahayogi said that Yoga is to find steadiness in the unsteady. Could Shri Mahayogi speak a little bit more about what that means?
MASTER: Before learning Yoga, it appears that the mind is closely linked to this world. When you start learning and practicing Yoga, the attachments toward this world become weaker, while, at the same time, the thirst for the Truth is heightened. However, during that time in which you have not [fully] connected to the Truth, or you still haven’t completely realized the Truth, there is this feeling of hanging, dangling in midair. But even within this stage you can grasp some sort of steadiness from hanging in the air. And then you gradually discover that there is a golden rope that is connected to the Truth. You should understand this. If you do so, you’ll be able to create a state of steadiness using the quality of sattva.
Yasoda: How do we practice santosha in terms of living in a world where there are so many things, and how do we concretely let go of things along the way.
MASTER: When it comes to santosha, the degree is inevitably decided according to each individual’s situation. For one who doesn’t have the duty to support one’s family and is able to be immersed in Yoga while living alone, this person barely needs to have anything. However, if one has a family, one needs several objects in the course of living one’s life. And that’s fine as it is. Within each individual’s circumstances, without desiring luxury, one should practice to be content with living a simple life without extravagance. The problem with this is getting rid of [the concept of] “mine,” the sense of possession.
Charles: I have a question. I’ve been dealing with my own issues with anger. I’ve recently been very, very nice to people and that is being returned with aggression towards me from their side. I tried to help them out and now they are being very negative towards me. Then I tried to meditate often, but sometimes it is really hard to let go and break away from the attachments, and to not seek retribution or anything like that. Is there anything else I should be doing to conquer my own demons?
MASTER: There is no mistake in your actions. If I can recommend something, it is that as the result of your actions, whether you are pleased or you are attacked, you do not receive either one, just disregard them.
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The Meaning of the Cosmic Egg, Brahmanda
Sahaja: (Pointing to the design of the MYM’s T-shirt) What is the meaning of this image?
MASTER: It means Yogi written in Kanji, Chinese characters (smiling joyfully). In the tradition of eastern culture, when calligraphy, or a painting, is done, then whoever draws it puts their seal. That design is the seal used as a signature on those occasions.
Sahaja: They are beautiful.
MASTER: Indeed. [They are the T-shirts that] the disciples in Japan made this year.
Sahaja: When I met, Shri Mahayogi, years ago, one of the things I saw that day that you told me about later was the cosmic egg. What is the meaning of the cosmic egg?
MASTER: Using the word from India, it is called Brahmanda, the egg of Brahman. Before the whole universe was born, there was the primeval water, and there was only this egg of Brahman floating in it. And then, from that egg of Brahman, the entirety of the primeval universe, all things one after another, emerged. If one were to clarify the meaning of such a symbol, the egg of Brahman is a symbol of the Truth, and it represents the true Self and God itself.
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Recognizing an Awakened Being:
All Virtue Shines Forth From Their Existence
Sahaja: Also that day, when I was looking at you, I saw an image of the God of my childhood. It was Jesus of Nazareth. And I continued to remain fond of Jesus. So, the question is: in his time, there were two great prophets alive at the same time. There was Jesus, and there was the man who baptized Jesus, John the Baptist. And they both had disciples. And the disciples fought, they disagreed about who was the greatest prophet. Why do disciples sometimes disagree?
MASTER: This is not limited exclusively to Christianity, but it is found in most religious traditions. If one were to put it bluntly, it is simply that the level of attainment of the disciples, that is to say, Satori, didn’t reach that of their Masters, and that was all. That’s why they would argue and say, “Our mountain is higher,” or “No, our mountain is higher.” However, there aren’t two [different] Truths. If they had realized the Truth, then such an argument could never have arisen. No way. All the various rivers of different names that flow down from various mountains eventually flow into one big ocean; wherein they lose their names and forms.
Ryan: I want to ask a question related to what was just asked. When John the Baptist saw Jesus Christ, he immediately knew without reservation that he was an Awakened Being. Why is it so difficult for people in general to recognize who is truly an Awakened Being? It seems that not too many people in the world are able to do that.
MASTER: In the Gospels there is a passage where Jesus says he was reborn, and also at the same time, that John [the Baptist] was also the reincarnation of Elijah.1 Therefore, John knew in advance that Christ would come. As evidence of this, when he was giving baptism, he was doing so in the river and said, “I’m using water to baptize people, but the person who will come next, will do so with light.”2 What this “light” means is the true wisdom of Satori, its power, the glory of God. Think of the meaning of Guru again. Guru literally means “the light that dispels darkness.” Indeed, Jesus was a true Guru—a Satguru. However, when the Satguru descends to this world, that person is taking exactly the same human appearance as anybody else, and therefore, for ordinary people whose eyes are dim, they cannot see the difference. But if one pays close attention to that person, through their each and every movement, their appearance, each word, each expression, one can see that all virtue shines forth like a light from their existence.
1 Paraphrase Matthew 11:14
2 Matthew 3:11
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Interpreting “God is Love” and
“Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”
Sadhya: Also in the Bible, I believe it frequently says that, “God is love.” I’m not that familiar with the Bible, but I believe that Jesus spoke a lot about love. What is that relationship with that to light? And is that the highest state of Love? Absolute Truth? Because the highest love is Truth, so does it link to the light?
MASTER: The Truth is often compared to light, and also God is often compared to light. In Vedanta, the Truth is called Sat Chit Ananda. Sat means the True Reality, the Eternal Existence. It is without second, there is only That. Chit is the Consciousness that knows It. Ananda, this means bliss. In fact, what is called love refers to this bliss. It is quite unlike the dualistic kind of love that is worldly and has a shadow, it is Purity itself, the Perfect Love. I think that the reason why Jesus taught Love was because the Truth is Love, so he taught, “God is Love.” There is just one thing that is regrettable, and that is that because his physical life was so short, he didn’t have time to raise his disciples.
Sadhya: Is it because we want that? Is this the result of being conscious of the True Reality?
MASTER: Exactly. And at the same time, the essence of this entire universe, all things are nothing but this True Reality. That’s why he is recorded as having said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And “you” in this phrase means the true Self, Truth.
Sadhya: So this Love would be the expression of that understanding, the manifestation of it.
MASTER: Yes, exactly.
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For the Beginner, Practicing Asana is Effective
in Strengthening the Body and Mind
Nandiswara: Shri Mahayogi, I have this very good friend, she is like a sister, and she had a really big problem with substance abuse. She was put into a rehab for more than two years, has been released for the past two or three years now, but her issue keeps coming back in different forms. Now it is food and sugar, I think, she’s always trying to find an instant way to escape. I tried to help her because she is my sister, but when she is confused, when she is in her problems, she asks different people for opinions, and because those opinions are many she cannot decide which opinion to take. I’ve been trying to bring her to you, I’ve been trying to convince her to move down here to practice Yoga with us, but I don’t know what to do, because it is very personal. I know my love towards her is very egocentric at this point still, but it really hurts me to see her like that. So what should I do?
MASTER: [You are a massage therapist, so] the first thing is to begin by offering her a massage, and then gradually you can lead her to practicing Yoga.
In any case, the condition of her physical body and mind need to be made to change into better conditions. That’s why as a first step I said massage. (laughing) And then, to get rid of bad habits, even if it is only a little, it is necessary to adopt good habits. And for that purpose, asana would be effective. Through practicing asana, the physical body will be purified, and also, the habit of taking in things that are not suitable for the physical body should end. By doing so the mind will become a bit softer and she will be able to build her own autonomy. So first try to help her by doing things that are strengthening for her physical body and mind.
You can send her a copy of the Asana Basic, or, The Universal Gospel of Yoga and such, and then it would be good if you could visit her from time to time.
Nandiswara: Ok. She should be meditating on you. Actually, I was successful in asking her to do that. I don’t think she does it regularly but she….
Ryan: What you just suggested to Nandi, is it possible that just asana, without meditation, if you practice regularly, will break the impressions in the mind? Is simply practicing asana alone effective to solve the issues in the mind?
MASTER: For beginners, even if asana alone is practiced, it is effective to solve the issues in the mind.
Ekanta: Shri Mahayogi, I believe in The Universal Gospel of Yoga you say to love God. So, having that Bliss is Love, for those who haven’t reached that state yet, does that mean that our love, for those of us that haven’t reached that state yet, is that love…is it not pure? Is there egoism involved there?
MASTER: Right. It’s the method of loving God even by using the way of love in this world that people know. Even so, love that is directed towards God will be purified in the process.
Ekanta: So could that be the beginning stages of bhakti?
MASTER: Exactly. And, there is nothing stronger than love. (smiling) You know that, right?
Ekanta: You teach us that karma yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga and bhakti yoga, in the end are the same. So for those who probably are not that drawn to the bhakti path, by thoroughly practicing jnana yoga, for example, or karma yoga, that sense of love, of pure love—is that sense of love going to surface automatically, or do we have to actually start using that earthly love, that we know, towards God in order to build up to that point?
MASTER: Whichever of the four paths of Yoga you proceed on by centralizing your practice around, they will all eventually merge as one. There is no doubt about it. However, the lessons of worldly love take too long for one lifetime, and it is unlikely that it will reach completion. (smiling) In any case, the right Guru is necessary. (Attendees laugh.)
Ravi: I know you gave the answer during this conversation… The Guru and also the scriptures, how big a part do they play? Is it possible for someone to meditate, through bhakti, through devotion, through some luck maybe…without reading the scriptures,… Can people attain the same level of Awareness and Consciousness?
MASTER: Without a Guru?
Ravi: Without a Guru, I know that it would be difficult, I can see that because I think that the path is not very clear with me. But yes, even without a Guru, because… Shri Mahayogi mentioned about how Adi Shankarachariya attained Awakening at age eight, and I don’t know if he did it with a Guru, or I don’t know how he did it…through scriptures or something, but… So I’m just inquiring about not having a Guru.
MASTER: There are some rare exceptions like that, however I think that generally it is surely necessary to have a Guru.
But to tell the truth, actually the Guru dwells within everyone already. That is Atman, which is the true Self. That is the true, right Guru. Seek and aspire only for That, and realize only That.
Jai Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa Ki, Jai!!!
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Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
Jnana Yoga Part 2 of 2
by Yogadanda, 2016
Through the guidance of the Master the inquiry into the nature of the “I” progressed from gross objects, such as my environment, situations, and the physical body, to subtler realms, such as the mind, or the foundations that establish the mind and make it what it is. However, in order to enable my mind to concentrate upon these subtler realms, my mindset had to be suitably prepared. Graciously, my Master prepared my daily living environment and conditioned the state of my mind for meditation, helping me in every possible way. I was allowed to live in the house where some of the gurubhai were living, I had enough time for working at my job, working for the Mission and maintaining a well-regulated sadhana, and I worked to deepen my understanding through applying what I learned during satsangha in daily life and by receiving advice from senior disciples or practicing sadhana together at classes. Through practicing meditation in such a situation, I was finally able to succeed in the meditation of discrimination as mentioned in Part 1 of this writing, and at that time, my mind entered into a state of emptiness, or the Void. In that state of emptiness, there were no longer any issues to be discriminated and I didn’t know what to concentrate on—there was nothing left for me to grasp onto. Nonetheless, even though there were no objects to discriminate, as long as that state was described by the word “void,” that state of the mind, the “void,” and the word “void,” along with the knower of them, the “I”, certainly existed. I realized then that seeking out that subtly-felt “I” itself is the climax of jnana yoga.
“Even if you do not have an object, as long as you recognize that consciousness of “I,” the recognizer, the recognition and the recognized object are there at the subtle level. Even these conditions have to be discriminated. Regardless of what it is, as long as something is established through a condition, it is not eternal; therefore, it is not the Truth—that is how it is taught by the Truth. So this is the way in which you should deepen the steps in the process of discrimination.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
Regardless of what one experiences in meditation, regardless of what landscape one experiences in meditation, as long as there are three separations—the recognizer, the act of recognition, and the object being recognized—then it is not the Truth. They must be cut out and discarded. Even when there is bliss, there is a subject who is feeling bliss, the act of feelng bliss, and the object, which is bliss, and all of these must therefore be denied since they are not the Truth. In the practice of jnana yoga, we are taught to persistently practice the act of denial, “Neti (this is not it), neti.” In this practice, the instant that three separations are recognized, they are discarded as “neti.” Then, the subject, the “I” of the recognizer that is left behind, becomes the focus. At the same time, by concentrating on the subjective recognizer, the other two—the act of recognition and the object of recognition—are cut off and discarded. Both the act of cutting off the three separations the moment they were recognized and the act of concentrating on the recognizer itself, felt like they were identical, like they were being practiced simultaneously. This is exactly what “neti” feels like, and, of course, without verbalizing the word “neti,” I pursued and persistently denied [those separations] by using these very sensations.
However, that did not mean that I was able to enter such a subtle realm of meditation all the time, rather it was only on truly rare occasions that I was able to do so. If there had been even the slightest disturbance during the day, it would be etched in my mind as an impression, thus obstructing my meditation. Yet if I asked Shri Mahayogi a question, then he would give me a response that would be subtle and profound, the answers that only an Awakened Being could give. So, because I would be delighted and uplifted by them, I continuted to ask Shri Mahayogi whenever I had any doubts in my mind, even if I didn’t experience anything deep. Whenever I heard Shri Mahayogi’s answers, my mind was inspired, and every time my motivation to see more, to proceed to further realms, expanded and grew stronger.
“As long as the mind intervenes, the ‘recognizer’ continues to perform the act of recognition using the mind. When the object of recognition disappears along with the act of recognition, since the substance of the recognizer itself detaches from the mind, which functions in a relative way, [not as an absolute entity,] and the mind loses its functions altogether, the recognizer transforms into the quality of sattva. Then, [the recognizer, filled with the quality of sattva,] accepts the consciousness of the true Self. From that point on, that sole conscioussness of the true Self stands alone. That is the Absolute Consciousness, and it is the state where nama rupa, the relative phenomena, no longer appear. You will reach It as you dive deeper and deeper into meditation. What is crucial is thoroughness. You must do this in a manner that is utterly thoroughgoing.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
Absolute Consciousness—the state of Truth that cannot be described by words— this was what I was seeking for sure, even if I did not understand it, and this was Shri Mahayogi’s answer to my first question when I first met him. In the bottom of my heart, there surely was the aspiration to that state. I gradually came to understand that, in fact, this sense of aspiration is crucial in the practice of this “at first sight seemingly cool-headed” jnana yoga, and the heat of this yearning is what leads and propels the meditator further. The following words from Shri Mahayogi hit me and decisively confirmed this:
“It’s a simple thing, but it is this enthusiam, or zeal, or rather, this passion—it feels much crazier than just the word ‘faith.’ Even fanaticism is fine as long as the goal is correct. Burning the mind with the heat of this passion, this ardour toward It alone, is the best shortcut. You do not need any ponderous philosophy, nor the process of meditation. That passion alone is more than enough to take you to the goal. Bhakti yoga teaches this simply.
On one hand, jnana yoga, which seems to be very cool-headed at first sight, actually involves this passion to an enourmous extent. That is to say, wanting to realize the Truth—this is an enormous passion. So there is no way to combat that battle using something so dry. You cannot dive into it unless you put your entire body and soul into it. That is obvious, isn’t it? In jnana yoga, it is said that, ‘Only the Truth is Reality—the Truth, Atman alone, is Reality. Everything else is maya, illusion.’ Unless the whole mind is echoing with the vibration of that mantra of the words of Truth, and unless every desire and pain-bearing obstacle is discarded, one cannot reach that depth.
Therefore, you can say that in any religion, or on the path of Yoga, too, whatever the path may be, in order to realize God, or in order to realize Truth, all you need is an enormous amount of passion, passion that borders on insanity.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
When I continued to meditate while in a state in which I had that aspiration to [realize the Truth], though my passion was not quite to the point of madness, an amazing opportunity came about: a performance of “Amrita,” which would be put on by the Mahayogi Yoga Mission, and which we would all devote ourselves to by focusing and putting all of our strength into it. The theme of the play, the Katha Upanishad, is an ancient scripture whose symbolic meaning is difficult to decipher without the presence of a Satguru, so the creation of this as a play was unprecedented, and an attempt that the world had never seen. The protagonist of the Katha Upanishad is a young boy named Nachiketas whose passion to realize the Truth extended to the point of madness. And, what was most unexpected was that I was selected to play the role of Nachiketas. Nachiketas gives up his own life and asks for the teachings of the Truth from the god of death, Yama. By trying to make my body and mind become that of Nachiketas himself, trying to have my thoughts, words, and deeds be as one and have them be one with his, I repeated the lines of Nachiketas again and again, and I rehearsed constantly. By doing this, I was gradually able to bring myself closer to Nachiketa’s passion. Nachiketas has doubts about his father’s sacrificial rites, and so he asks his father to throw him into that flame, just like the sacrificial cows and horses. After that, he ventures into the realm beyond the death of the physical body and asks Yama, the god of death, to teach him the Truth. In the end, he sits down to meditate. The issue in question, then, is the death of the mind, which is beyond the death of the body. What remains after the mind dies? It is the extinction of the mind—in other words, through complete denial, or neti, the Truth is realized. With desperate determination and courage, Nachiketas unflinchingly dives into death itself and tries to determine what is beyond it. That meditation, to me, was precisely the meditation on death. But, at the same time, by eliminating the mind and realizing its witness or recognizer, the true Self, it was jnana yoga as well.
Actually, a few years before that, a glimpse of Buddha’s mindset when he was just about to go sit under the Bodhi tree [for his final meditation] suddenly struck me, and I was brought to tears and could not stop crying. Even practicing severe asceticism, to an extent to which no one ever had in the past, nor would ever do in the future, still did not lead to the realization of the Truth. No other wish was there other than to realize the Truth. No matter if these bones get crushed or this flesh is torn, or even if death should come, there is only the resolve to not stand up from meditation until the realization of the Truth has been attained. It was with this determination that he sat for that meditation. That mood, that cry within his heart from the depths of his soul, suddenly came and filled my own heart. When I told Shri Mahayogi about this, he said that it was the beginning of the meditation on death. Inside of me I felt that the mood of Nachiketas’s last meditation and Buddha’s meditation under the Bodhi tree overlapped.
I then asked Shri Mahayogi about this meditation on death all over again.
—“Toward death—despite having experienced death many times through reincarnation, people are unable to recall the experience. However, in this lifetime, through various other deaths, one understands intellectually at most, that the body stops moving or that one ends one’s life. So, if one pursues the question further into what it is exactly that dies, then from the perspective of Yoga, since the prana stops moving in the physical body, the body stops and does not revive ever again. Then what is left is the mind. Now, does the mind die or not? Death is merely one form of the various dreams that the mind possesses. If one confronts death in such a way, the essence of the body and mind, and, at the same time, the essence of death itself, can at times be reached. Of course, once you have grasped death itself, you have reached the immortal existence, which is beyond death.”
“So was the meditation that Buddha practiced under the Bodhi tree the meditation on death?”
—“Yes. Ultimately, it boils down to that. And of course, because he transcended death, he awakened into Nirvana, the Satori of Immortality. Thus, death is like a great obstructing wall that seals off the Truth. Death is the same as the mind, as I said before. It’s like a big obstructing wall that has been built up within the innermost depths of the mind.”
While rehearsing for the play as Nachiketas, when I sat down for the final meditation, this passion of Nachiketas, the passion of Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree, and the meditation on death to confront it head-on, attempting to break through the mind, and jnana yoga, which denies the mind itself through neti—with these various elements united into one, concentration alone existed and there was no longer any particular meditation or any particular yoga at that point.
And then the day of the actual performance arrived. Of course, I performed with an attempt to realize the Truth for real during that meditation scene. Did I realize the Truth? The answer is no. But, even if I had died there, if my life had ended right there, I would have had no regrets; since I had already met the Satguru and I was already in his hands—at least I was ready.
After the performance of “Amrita,” the mood of that meditation continued for some time. The mind and body had been imprinted with such a flow of prana. Afterwards, although I have already forgotten how it came about, I had the opportunity to go back to my parents’ home in the Kyushu region for about ten days. I cannot imagine doing that nowadays as I would have too many things to do, but at that time I didn’t have anything in particular that I had to do, so whenever I had the time I would sit in meditation. I think that, in one way or another, I was meditating most of the time, except for when I had to eat. That was the meditation on death, and [at the same time], jnana yoga meditation—it was the meditation in which they all merged into one. I had no noteworthy experiences during that stay, but at the same time, neither did I have any concerns about not getting any results. I simply kept on sitting for meditation.
“Normally, concentration is done through manas, the part of the mind that performs the function of thinking. There are also other functions in the mind, such as ahankara, ego-consciousness, and buddhi, the power of judgement, or discernment, and memory and so on, but manas handles most of the mind’s thinking. Concentration is done through manas as well. During the beginning stage, when you start to practice concentrating, manas, the initial thought, along with the power of that thought, may still be used, and that may be intentional: ‘I’m going to concentrate now.’ But when the aspiration [to know the Truth] becomes heightened, and in the state in which there is no longer an intention and everything else is renounced too, a state arises in which all that is left is just the concentration towards the object. That is the meditation that was done by Buddha under the Bodhi tree, as well as the teaching given when jnana yoga or vichara (inquiry) is taught like this… So, from one perspective, it seems crazy—because there is nothing else left, and naturally, there is nothing that exists other than That alone. (Master laughs.) In bhakti, however, only God remains there as the object, and there is nothing else.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
When I returned to Kyoto, I resumed my usual daily routine. I don’t think I can say that I was in that crazy state, but what I can say for certain is that the tension I felt when thinking—“I’m going to concentrate now!”—was released, and then this happened: one night, when I was working the night shift as an in-home caretaker, and after putting the patient to bed, just like any other night, I sat down on top of the futon to meditate. After a while, my concentration was interrupted, so I laid down and tried to sleep. At that very moment, suddenly, an intuition came, “I’m going to die now!” In the next moment, my body felt as if an electric shock went through it; it became completely rigid. The body died. Then, to a place somewhere completely separate and apart from the body, only the consciousness floated up. I am Consciousness. At that very moment I heard the voice of the patient calling out to me, “Mr. Kunitomo (Yogadanda),” so I was brought back from that meditation. When I came out of it, I could still express with words that it was formless, but it was Consciousness. Therefore, it was not the final state of jnana yoga, the Absolute Consciousness. But, I think that at least I could tangibly feel in that moment that this “I” was not this body but Consciousness. And, when there was only Consciousness left in that meditation, I certainly felt the gaze of Shri Mahayogi watching over me. What does this all actually mean? What I can say is that, first of all, there is no way that I would think of myself as having the inherent qualities needed to walk on such a difficult path as jnana yoga; therefore, all of these things happened through the guidance and grace of Shri Mahayogi. Another insight I had is that it’s much easier to use the existence of Shri Mahayogi as a hint of the formless existence manifesting as form, rather than inquiring into and denying everything until that one last thing is left over. After this experience, strangely enough, I could no longer practice the concentration of jnana yoga, and I began a different approach to proceed further in Yoga. Regardless, it does not happen often but when my meditation goes well, I feel like my existence is going to last forever, and I sometimes feel that the same consciousness that abides within me abides in the animals, plants, and inanimate objects surrounding me, so I think that the definition of self that I used to feel is expanding. In that sense, my inquiry into the “Self” continues. Even from this point on, I will never get away from my Self.
“While one has lost sight of the true Self, the mind, which is the ego, declares that it is the self. However, that self is constantly unsettled, and it is always glossing over [something], because it is always trying to run away from something and trying to hide itself. Even so, you cannot run away from yourself. Why? Because you are the first person. Furthermore, what you think is your self, gradually shifts until the true Self is found. Even if you have not awoken to Atman, the true Self, the first person ‘I’ is one of the direct pathways to It. So do not run away, do not evade or deceive, do not hide, and persistently pursue that changing self until you reach the indubitable Self.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa