Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Practice Discrimination Thoroughly
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners
• Bhakti Yoga (Part 1 of 2) by Yogananda
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Practice Discrimination Thoroughly
Translation of Satsangha
February 12, 2011
The Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
According to the lunar calendar, it is now past the first day of spring. The temperature has dropped again and cold rain is falling outside. Vibrant freesia and carnations herald spring’s arrival, one step ahead, welcoming the disciples to the Ashrama.
On this day, the questions begin with discrimination about our thoughts and actions in daily life. Towards the middle of Satsangha, Shaci says that, on one hand, she feels that she has been freed from her own thoughts from the past, yet on the other hand, their seeds, which are the sanskara (latent psychological impressions) still lay dormant deep within her mind.
Shaci: I understand that we must enter into meditation far enough to completely erase them in order to truly eliminate these seeds, or sanskara. Should I consider it to be the case that if we continue to make constant effort for them to not arise, then the sanskara will gradually get smaller?
MASTER: Thoughts can be likened to seeds. They are seeds buried in the field, which is the mind. The seeds eventually sprout and produce fruit, or results. So, what caused these seeds to be created? Attachment towards a particular desire became sealed into the form of a seed. Now where did the desire come from?—It came from the pain-bearing obstacles, and fundamentally these are created out of ignorance, the illusions that are based on misunderstandings.
Yoga is not a method to pick up each seed one at a time—of course, the grosser, more noticeable seeds can be removed, yet it’s impossible to dig all of them up. However, it is possible to eliminate pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance through discrimination. As pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance weaken, or almost disappear, even if seeds still remain as memory, these seeds will not sprout into results any longer. That is called vipaka, a differently ripened fruit. That means, as mentioned at the beginning, the seeds usually lead to a specific result, but [as pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance weaken, or almost disappear] these seeds bring about different results. In this way, if ignorance is no longer there, then even if seeds still existed, they would be eliminated by being burned up, or they would manifest in a different way. Therefore, what it boils down to is that the thing you need to do is eliminate the cause itself—the pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance—which are the biggest cause.
Shaci: So that means that focusing on one of the three objects, which are the Truth itself, is the most important thing to do.
MASTER: Yes, exactly that.
(Mr. Harada, who is attending the Satsangha after some period of absence, has been continuously asking questions related to the inquiry into the true Self, Vedanta and Yoga. He then changed the topic and said, “I am interested in Shri Mahayogi himself and would like to ask some questions.”)
Mr. Harada: Shri Mahayogi often says “live in the now.” What kind of attitude does Shri Mahayogi have every day while living? When it comes to “living in the now,” it’s difficult to do so. Since we’re human, we tend to look back to the past often, and there are times we think about the future even if we’re not attached. Someone mentioned that you said that you are often just mindlessly doing nothing. (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: (laughs heartily) That’s right. I don’t have any attitudes or anything else in particular. Really, I am mindlessly doing nothing (laughing). At times, various people come visit, and I answer their various questions, and time passes in such a way. But other times, really, I am often mindlessly doing nothing.
Mr. Harada: Do you ever ponder about troubles or concerns?
Mr. Harada: So then you simply go from task to task in rapid sequence, chop-chop, intuitively?
Haridas: Generally, we are all conditioned to think it’s not a good thing to sit around mindlessly doing nothing. So it would be helpful for us if you can use another expression. (Everyone laughs.)
Shantimayi: Shri Mahayogi often says, “[I’m] empty.”
MASTER: Yes, empty. Is it better to say I’m being empty? (Everyone laughs.)
(Shaci mentions how surprised she is whenever she works with Shri Mahayogi, because he will work extremely rapidly without stopping until he is done.)
Shaci: Once we can do things in such a way, then I suppose we get more time to be empty. Is that so?
MASTER: Well, actually, I don’t even understand the idea of “having thoughts,” or of “having thoughts come up one after another.” What are you all thinking about?
(Against these buoyant words of Shri Mahayogi, no one knows how to answer, and everyone smiles uncomfortably.)
Kinkala: Because we’re not focused, various other thoughts arise.
MASTER: No no, that’s not it. (Everyone laughs.) If thoughts arise, there are causes for them to arise, so there must be some seeds within the mind. Worrying about this and that.
Either way, (emphasis) you must discriminate thoroughly! If it is practiced thoroughly, as a result, renunciation occurs. As I just said earlier, it will burn up the sanskara and vasana (tendencies or characteristics) that may still remain. Then, unnecessary thoughts will no longer arise. So firmly bear the words of Truth into sanskara. Once these words are firmly acquired and embodied, you do not need to constantly think of the words of Truth. It’s often said that the sun does not assert to itself that it’s the sun. God does not assert that it’s God. Atman does not assert that it’s Atman.
(Even after gentle laughter, Shri Mahayogi called everyone to practice discrimination thoroughly. Everyone sits up straight after hearing the powerful teaching, and they all look upon the Master.)
(Sanatana mentioned that around the time he began studying Yoga, he was a university student and he had a lot of spare time, so there was plenty of time for him to practice various disciplines, however, in his thirties, the work of the Mission along with his own work increased, and consequently his time has come to be centered more around karma yoga, the yoga of action. So, on one hand, he feels unsure about whether he can reach completion as he continues, and on the other hand, he feels that the purpose of Yoga is to eliminate ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles, therefore it is unnecessary to keep dwelling on the “should’s” about his own actions.)
Sanatana: I suppose that even boldly forgetting about concerns for what I must do, or concerns over my progress is actually a result, in other words, a consequence of continuous practice towards completion. I think I have been doing all that I can do, but how should I proceed now?
MASTER: It’s exactly like the story of a splinter. It hurts when it’s stuck—you suffer. You want to take it out as soon as possible, so you bring another splinter and take out the first splinter with it. Once it’s out, both splinters are unnecessary and thus discarded. At the beginning, while the first splinter was stuck, that splinter bothered you so much, and it was all suffering, however as soon as the other splinter is applied, which is the teaching of the Truth, that leaves a deep impression on your mind. But once the splinter that brought the pain of ignorance is removed, both splinters, even the splinter of Truth, are no longer needed. That is emptiness, a state of not having anything. So the learning and practicing of disciplines are needed until that splinter is removed, but once it’s out, you no longer need to keep either of them. Such is the way it changes.
Nevertheless, as long as the physical body still exists in the world, you must perform actions. Indeed, you still need to be in action in order to make a living and to survive, but since at the same time you also realize that Atman, which is the Truth, dwells in everything, actions for your own self, or selfish actions, are no longer there, or you are no longer able to perform selfish actions; and conversely, your actions will become altruistic actions, objectively speaking—in a way, [what you are really doing] is simply performing one action within One, yet these can be expressed as altruistic actions within a diverse world. That is the highest level of karma yoga, and bhakti yoga (devotion to God), and it is the way advaita vedantin live. Advaita Vedanta (Non-Dualism) does not mean you simply stay still; as long as there is a physical body, whether sitting or walking or whatever the actions they are performing, advaita vedantin must be dwelling within Advaita. That is the way of being for an advaita vedantin, a Yogi. So remain silent, relinquish thoughts, and as simple as it is, just keep performing actions of Truth.
Yohei (Gopala): It’s been one year since I graduated from graduate school. Since then, I entered the path of Yoga, have been learning under Shri Mahayogi, and my dedication towards Yoga has heightened. But last week when Shri Mahayogi said that asana (the practice of physical postures) and meditation are only means, and that we must not lose sight of the goal, it startled me, as I realized that my attention has been focused more on the means and I have lost sight of the goal. I want to heighten my dedication to Satori more and more, but what is necessary for that?
MASTER: (answering immediately with a stern tone) Thoroughly practice the meditation I have been teaching you.
The words of Buddha that Vivekananda has also paraphrased: “It is better to live one day in Truth than to live in ignorance for a hundred years.” Whether you say it’s a hundred years or one lifetime, it is an accumulation of one day at a time. The time that you are given to consciously act is each single day, and more concretely, each moment, from moment to moment. Therefore, the only thing to do is to practice the disciplines seriously with thoroughness.
Mr. Harada: I am very interested in finding out how Shri Mahayogi, during his teenage years, concretely brought up a theme or an issue and discriminated it in meditation. For example, did Shri Mahayogi discern the issue about whether meat is worthy of consumption or not…?
MASTER: At that time, although the topic was not limited to food, food is easy to use as an example. Food is necessary to support and maintain the physical body. But then, the real question is, what is the meaning of supporting the physical body, that is, staying alive? As just mentioned, what is the point of maintaining a physical body for a hundred years? From food to various other things such as one’s job and pleasures too, everything boils down to meaninglessness. At the same time, the Eternal Existence, that Existence which I had already realized before then, which is nameless, formless, yet It alone is what Exists, that is the only thing that was meaningful, and I could not accept anything that was even slightly without meaning. For example, take the words that we are using to speak. These words disappear as soon as I sound them out, yet even for that instant, the sound leaves a trace in the world. It may not have a form, but it still remains as a subtle trace. I was relentless even with these. Words too were not an exception. So then, naturally, thoughts stopped arising anymore. And naturally this led to the state of mauna (silence). In this way, it felt as if I went deeply into the fundamental points, such as the meaning of life, the meaning of Existence, and then [through that] all issues were resolved.
Sarani: Earlier, you mentioned that whether yogi are sitting or standing, all of their very existence is for the sake of others. If such great grace is to be granted to the world, why did Shri Mahayogi not leave even a trace of his footprint back then?
MASTER: Well, although that was naturally how I became, when I later read the Yoga Sutra, I found that there is a mention of saucha, or purity, in a passage about yama and niyama (abstinence and observances). There it is written something like if one is true to the principle of purity, one is no longer able to touch others’ physical bodies. Looking back, this Satori is Brahman—the strongest meaning of Brahman is purity—pure and immaculate. Since that is Brahman, and that is Atman, perhaps it is because the realization of It made me feel this way; I had been sensing the physical body and words of this world are all impure. I think that is how my way of being came to not leave any trace…
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Translation of Satsangha
March 5, 2011
The Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Mr. Mori (Kenji): I don’t understand how to practice discrimination well. For example, I like sweets. When I feel like eating sweets, I rationalize that it’s not necessary for survival, and each time I then tell myself that therefore they are not necessary. Is that the correct way to do it?
MASTER: Yes. On the other hand, you must directly intuit that there is a habitual tendency to like sweets that has been created within the mind, therefore you must eliminate that tendency, and then actually discipline yourself to put it into action. By using this means, discrimination will succeed.
Mr. Mori (Kenji): When I practice, and as I get used to it, it seems like I’m just depriving myself and enduring it.
MASTER: From the perspective of the habitual mind, the mind takes it as deprivation. However, discrimination is not within that kind of realm. Whether sweets are something that you absolutely need—this is not necessarily so. In this way, through bringing correct knowledge [to the issue], right discrimination is established, rather than just having to endure the deprivation.
Mr. Mori (Kenji): I’m trying to discriminate on the emotion of anger, and I can analyze a reason why I’m angry, but I don’t understand the root cause of why this anger is arising. I think that I’m just discriminating at the surface level, and I would like to go deeper and nip the seed of anger in the bud.
MASTER: Anger is a reaction of agitation to various external influences, such as when your mind feels hurt or dishonored. It is nothing but the ego reacting with violence towards violence coming from the outside. That’s how the mind takes it. Therefore unless you transform the mind itself, such emotions, whether it’s anger or some other emotion, will not disappear.
You have to constantly co-exist with various people in the world, so in other words, you live constantly clashing with each other’s karma. It’s pathetic that the mind gets swayed by others’ evaluations, and you must at least protect yourself from being affected by these things. For this, the mind has to learn and acquire the attitude of remaining disinterested or detached. At times, not only being hurt, but being praised too: both [perceptions, and therefore their subsequent reactions,] are unnecessary to the mind. It’s ludicrous to get agitated every time your self-worth goes up or down according to others’ opinions. [If your mind is swayed by others,] your self-worth then becomes a result of others’ evaluations so to speak, so there is no subjectivity at all. That is even more pathetic.
So you must make yourself firmly independent. To be independent means to build your foundation upon the indubitable Truth, rather than emotions. To study the words of Truth, to keep telling your mind to follow it, and then to eliminate anything that contradicts the Truth within yourself—that is discrimination.
Mr. Mori (Kenji): So, the practice of discrimination is about discerning, based on the Truth, the various thoughts that arise during my daily life as I encounter various people. Or during meditation…
MASTER: Rather than applying the practice of discrimination after things have already happened, it’s best to practice it beforehand—as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So you should proactively practice it as prevention as well. That is what it means for you to be learning and practicing Yoga.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): The mind is attached to various things, and even though I try to meditate in hopes of renouncing these attachments, I can see up until the point where I am attached on the surface, yet I can’t quite go any further. A while back, a senior disciple told me that there is an instant in which we can see the structure of attachment emerging, and by confronting the teaching of the Truth against that structure, attachment disappears. From what you just mentioned, I wonder, let’s say that I am attached to sweets, is it okay to practice either the discipline of recognizing that the sweets are unnecessary and are not the Truth, or the discipline of finding this underlying structure, which is its foundation, in order to discriminate?
MASTER: They can be grasped simultaneously.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): Where I am, although I understand that I am attached to something, I still don’t know why I’m attached to it. Is it alright to take the way of practicing to educate the mind that it’s not the Truth?
MASTER: You must definitely bring the teaching of Truth to it. Otherwise, even if you are just looking at a facet of the mind, you won’t be able to discern whether it’s correct or not. So the point is, what does the teaching of Truth say about it? It may say that you don’t really need sweets to survive anyhow (laughing).
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): Things that I’m attached to….
MASTER: In other words, you say sweets, but sweets are food. So then why do we eat? Why is it necessary? To keep the physical body alive. Now if you ask, in order to survive, are sweets necessary things that are indispensable? It doesn’t matter. If there is an obsession with sweets, then you can see that you are attached to it.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): Even though I want to renounce attachments through meditation and I understand intellectually that these are not the Truth, I’m stuck at not being able to let go, and I feel that I need to go further in order to do that.
MASTER: (immediately) You have to go further (laughing) for sure. And of course, fundamentally, it will boil down to “Who am I?” as its essence. Indeed, food is necessary in order to survive. However, it is only needed for the aspect of the physical body—and that will eventually be gone—it will die. Then, “Am I the body?”; “Who am I?”—discriminate in such a way. So even if you start with something as trifling as sweets, you will arrive at Atman. That is the process of discrimination, the teaching of Truth. Ultimately, it all boils down to “Who am I?” [Inquiries about] life and death, are all derivatives after that.
Ancient yogi were all naked, practicing while drinking water from the river and keeping themselves alive by eating tree nuts off the ground, and they eventually attained Satori. That was the standard pattern (laughing), a typical format. So, Buddha did that, and all yogi did that too. It may be an ancient anecdote. However, in India, there are practitioners who are still following in their footsteps, practicing in the same style. It’s not that everyone has to follow the same procedure, and standards will arise according to what is suited to the respective environment. It may be based on the needs of the era. However, there are not differences in the states of the attached and non-attached minds [from those days to now.] So seek what it means to live, and who is living when it comes to that living, and seek the Truth as that existence, at the root or core of discrimination.
Indeed, there are no differences in suffering in ancient and modern times. It also doesn’t matter whether you are in the East or the West.
(Shri Mahayogi quietly ends his talk.)
(Mr. Imai mentions that four years ago, he asked Shri Mahayogi about what he should work on for his lack of thoughtfulness and attentiveness. Shri Mahayogi taught, “The purpose of Yoga is to completely abolish the sense of ‘discrimination [between the self and anything else],’ to proactively perform what is good for others, and to not be caught up with the results.” He said that [through his practice] nowadays, he feels a transformation in how he interacts with his children too, but he says that he still feels like he lacks thoughtfulness.)
Mr. Imai: You have taught us that by seeing the Atman within each person, it will be possible [to act with thoughtfulness], however, I feel that my understanding is only on the surface. Please give me words of advice in order to move forward one more step.
MASTER: One of the teachings of Truth is that the mind changes, just like the world. And within these changes, each respective person has individuality or ego. And because these are asserted, collisions happen, which result in suffering as well. However, the ego is not the true master, the true essence is Atman, the Pure Existence and Consciousness that is deeper within. Confirm that within yourself, and at the same time see the same structure in everyone, whether it’s your wife, other people, or your children. On the exterior there is this physical body, and within the physical body there is the mind, and various worlds exist within the mind, and all have ego, similarly. However, these are not the real master. The true master is deeper within, what is called Atman, the Pure Existence. It does not have individuality. If there is any distinction there, then it will become the same as the mind. The mind has failures, and it is imperfect. They can’t possibly be the same thing.
Atman is perfect, and it is the Existence of purity itself. Since that is the essence of everything, you should not be fooled by the mind, which is the surface, or the phenomena created by that mind. In light of that, practice good deeds. That is how you should practice concretely in actuality. By putting such practice into action, you will acquire it within you, and you will master it. The nearest place to discipline yourself with action is with your family. Also, your occupation and your community are your grounds for working on this. In order to deepen these, the discipline to practice meditation is a must.
(Mr. Imai listens to Shri Mahayogi’s words with utmost seriousness, leaning forward. He earnestly receives his words, and folds his palms together, saying “Thank you very much.”)
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): Are Atman and ignorance completely unrelated?
MASTER: (sternly) Completely unrelated.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): I am affected often by others’ ignorance. How should I handle this?
MASTER: What is affected is the mind; Atman is never affected. Because Atman and ignorance are unrelated, they do not come into contact with one another. If you point your mind towards Atman constantly, then the mind will no longer get agitated.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): Regardless of what happens?
MASTER: Yes. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, you must have thoroughly practiced discrimination beforehand in order for that to happen. The degree of your reaction is the reflection of your degree of practice.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): When re-reading past issues of Paramahamsa, there was something written about the mind’s thoughts affecting various phenomena. How does the mind affect things?
MASTER: Thoughts are the causes. They are like seeds. So the seeds will eventually sprout and produce fruits, that is to say, receive the results. So your mind’s thoughts will return back to you. You shall reap what you sow.
Ms. Mori (Hitomi): So then it’s best not to have negative thoughts as much as possible.
MASTER: (suddenly in a very harsh tone) “As much as possible”—such a level is not sufficient. That’s not the level of conversation you are supposed to speak here. How long have you been studying Yoga? You must be concretely thorough in disciplining yourself and following the teachings of Yoga. You have to dye your mind in It. Even if you don’t understand, you have to make an effort to understand. Because that is the only Truth. How can you allow yourself to be complacent with lies and tricks for such a long time? You have to make yourself be fed up with it—that is unreliable.
That Truth is within yourself. Even if it is words that you read in the scriptures, (emphasizing) that same thing is within you! Satori is about confirming and validating it! The least you can do is, when you are taught that something is wrong and is ignorance, then discriminate that immediately and never associate yourself with those things! No matter what others say, you must have your own beliefs, or better yet, pure faith! Why? Because That sacred Existence exists! Throw away such things as the physical body and the mind to the trash. They don’t matter. But whether you call it the Soul, or whatever, call it Atman, God—Existence—only That exists within you.
If you don’t understand, then continue to seek and meditate until you understand it.
(Shri Mahayogi switched his tone from stern to quiet, and ended his talk with a smile. An enormous prana, a powerful energy as if to break apart the darkness of ignorance, pulsed and coursed throughout everyone’s entire body. At 9:30 pm, Satsangha ended, but even after everyone paid homage to the Master, Ms. Mori (Hitomi) kept shedding tears as if to wash her heart, folding her hands with her head bowed down. Shri Mahayogi poured out a compassionate gaze, as if to embrace everything.)
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Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
Bhakti Yoga (Part 1 of 2)
For what purpose are we born? For what purpose does this world exist, and why do we have experiences in this world? I think that regardless of the form, everyone goes through life in order to become happy, and further, to taste that happiness even for a brief moment. However, it is only when we realize that we cannot expect perpetual happiness from this world, since the world is in constant flux, that we begin to seek the bliss that exists outside the realm of the mind. Then, we try to reach that Bliss that is beyond the mind, ultimately by stilling [the activities of] the mind through the work of removing the ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles that make the mind direct itself toward the world. So, then do this mind or this world exist only for the purpose of disappearing in the end? Were we born to just eliminate ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles, so that karma will cease to exist?
The bhakta say that this mind, and even the world, are all manifestations of God. Everything that exists in front of our eyes shines forth with the brilliance of God and is blessed. That we were born to taste the Joy of God, and to enjoy It.
Which is it? “This world is maya, and only Atman exists,” or “That Atman, which is God, manifests as this world”? Unless you’ve gone beyond the mind and realized Atman or God, both of these are merely words, no more than the intellectual, literal understanding of the mind. Nevertheless, our minds are made to think, feel and remember. Our mouths are made to talk, our hands to grasp, and our legs to walk. Because our minds and bodies are made to function in such ways, it’s only natural for them to perform the tasks they were intended to do.
“Bhakti yoga has a more affirmative process, compared to the process of denial in jnana or raja yoga. Raja yoga is centered around the way of attempting to control the five senses and the mind, and stopping [the activities of] the sensory organs, like is done in pratyahara, however, bhakti yoga does not take these approaches at all. It utilizes all emotions and the five senses. However, these are all directed towards one’s Ishta, one’s beloved form of God. So, in a way it is controlled in that sense. But [the difference is] that the savoring of the five senses, the surge of emotion, all of these things are affirmed, and directed towards the beloved Ishta, the ideal Existence. In this sense, it is easier than controlling and eliminating the five senses and the mind.”
—Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
The bhakta’s mind is always thinking solely of God, their lips either recite the name of God or praise God’s glory, and their hands and feet are working for the sake of God. We know that when people fall in love, how much their minds become occupied only with thoughts of the beloved, and how all else is forgotten. To a bhakta, their beloved partner is God. Then, anything else other than God is forgotten—ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles disappear at a furious speed. Rather than picking out the seeds of pain-bearing obstacles from the field, or the mind, one at a time, it is as if the fire of bhakti burns up everything right from the root. The bhakta knows no fear. To them, there is no difference in the notion of holiness and worldliness, and they act freely. They also do not choose actions that end up in suffering, often due to ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles. They enjoy life fully, in joy and happiness—using the entire mind to savor God, at times laughing and at other times, crying. What kind of sublime emotion does the bhakta experience? What do they see and how extensively do they feel? The formless God Itself, which has developed this world and manifested as everything, has taken the form of man and manifested in front of the bhakta. Since the bhakta falls in love with God that has taken the form of man, it is as if one is in love with the entire universe. The mind simply cannot fathom it with its imagination. An infinite Existence manifests in the limited form of a physical human body. That same existence manifests throughout the entire universe—living beings, inanimate objects, matter, the mind, absolutely everything. From the mind’s perspective, these may be contradictions, but to a bhakta, it’s a matter of fact. To most people, statues of God may be merely idols. Holy beings may just look like good people. However, a bhakta sees the Infinite Existence beyond their form.
“I want to become a bhakta!”—the more I observe the ways of the senior brother and sister disciples around me, or the more I hear or read anecdotes of the bhakta from the past, I have begun to think this way. How much faster and smoother the progress on the path of Yoga [can be] if one starts out as a bhakta! Indeed. However, most people cannot progress solely through bhakti yoga, and therefore they proceed by also incorporating raja yoga, discriminating on ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles. And since most are not able to find their Ishta, the ideal deity, from the beginning and pour passionate thoughts towards it, there needs to be a preparatory stage for bhakti. It is like the period of time, when a young girl gets infatuated with the concept of infatuation itself, and that is what is needed. I had no idea how to even begin to proceed with bhakti, so I asked Shri Mahayogi:
“I’m not very good at expressing my emotions authentically so what should I do to heighten my thoughts of bhakti?”
As a natural emotion, you have liked [someone], right? To like, or to love, heighten those feelings. In bhakti, these become absolute admiration, and that love becomes purified more and more. Concurrently, the further you progress, the more your mind is purified. At that point, it transforms into love itself, which has a completely different nature from the general emotion that is created by the usual mind. Anyhow, this is about liking it. To start liking it. Well (laughing), it’s not logical, nor does it take into account anything in return, nor any expectation, yet the thinking behind it, which is as if you are dissolving yourself into the object of bhakti, will be there propelling it. Even if [it is not about one’s Ishta, but rather] the yearning for Truth, or even if you are an atheist, if you thoroughly admire that Truth alone, then the mechanism is the same. [When that happens,] yearning only for the [Truth] is heightened, and there will be the same passion as that which is in the love of bhakti. Unless you have yearning towards it, you cannot reach the Truth, God, or the perfection of Yoga. Bhakti provides this in the most genuine, easily understood form.
I had no doubts in particular that my Ishta was Shri Mahayogi from the beginning. It must have been because he is someone whose existence is near to us, and yet he has realized the ultimate Satori, and I felt drawn towards his words and actions. So when I heard the above teaching from Shri Mahhayogi, I thought, “Oh, I just need to find things I like about him and expand upon them!”—and I became tactical about this. Around that time, there was an opportunity in which a senior disciple who I was living with showed me his secret treasure, an album containing photos of Shri Mahhayogi, including invaluable photos of Shri Mahayogi from the time before I started to attend the Satsangha at the Ashrama. At the time, the Mission was not selling any photos of Shri Mahayogi, so I begged him to share some photos with me where, to me, honestly I thought Shri Mahayogi looked cool. Then, not only did I put these photos on the altar, but I also carried them around in my daily life, and I intentionally practiced gazing upon them when I had some down time at work or during any idle moment. Of course, I chose a time and a place to do this, because it would surely look strange to unknowing bystanders if they saw me doing this, and it could potentially cause trouble for Shri Mahayogi. For those of us who do not have any natural inclination for bhakti at the beginning, we must use any means necessary to get the first feel for it.
Through continuing to practice devotedly, even though these were things that others may have questioned, “Do such methods even qualify as Yoga?” I began to get a new sensation, little by little. As I gazed at the photos, if I dwelled on the thought of “liking,” then it felt like that emotion began to expand from the depth of my heart, that is to say, that emotion became larger, just like falling in love, and I began to be overwhelmed by it. Then, it felt like [I] began to melt into the essence, deeper beyond Shri Mahayogi’s form, and I began to feel Shri Mahayogi inside the photo so vibrantly and lively as if he were really there. Powerful inspiration overflowed from his eyes, and I felt like I was receiving darshan. The emotion of “Like” elevated and sublimated into “Love” or “bhakti,” and my entire body was enveloped in that vibration. Tiredness of the body disappeared instantly, and it was as if the worries of the mind were washed away with bhakti. It felt like discrimination, in the sense of raja yoga was done promptly, and various answers to issues came naturally. Then [by doing this,] it became a habit of mine to take a look at Shri Mahayogi’s photo whenever there was any spare moment, and from there decide what actions I should take next.
A little girl infatuated with infatuation, had sprouted a little bit of love—it was still a very premature bhakti, but I made an effort to always think of Shri Mahayogi so that the emerging beacon of tiny light would not go out. I was struggling to continue, repeatedly and desperately practicing discrimination in order to not touch the worldly soil, but by shifting my thought towards God, I had a sensation of floating up towards the sky, and I began to be less fettered by various things naturally. In bhakti, taking the approach of natural and affirming emotions like “Liking” and “Love” makes it easier for practitioners to proceed on the path. Actually, in bhakti, there is one more major element that makes the path faster. It is hard to become aware of it, but it is the direct grace from the Istha. Shri Krishna too declared this in the Bhagavad Gita as follows:
“Those who dedicate all their actions to Me, regarding Me as the Supreme Goal, and who always worship Me, meditating on Me with single-minded concentration—to them, whose minds are thus absorbed in Me, verily do I become before long the Saviour from the death-fraught ocean of the world.”
One day, in a Satsangha, there were enthusiastic discussions about karma yoga. I asked Shri Mahayogi about the superior type of karma yoga, where actions are performed after attaining Satori.
“Ramakrishna and Vivekananda both experienced nirvikalpa samadhi. Are these experiences necessary in order for a superior form of karma yoga to occur?
Shri Mahayogi looked towards the disciples in the room with a deeply compassionate gaze.
“With guidance from an authentic Guru, even if one has not attained these states, it is possible [to perform the superior form of karma yoga]. You can see proof of it if you look at the disciples of Shri Ramakrishna.”
These words, and the overwhelming vibration exuding from Shri Mahayogi when he said them, was beyond a mere impression—they completely swallowed me up as time stood still.
The next morning, I was standing on a train platform while commuting to work. It was literally cold, but from the moment I heard Shri Mahayogi’s words the night before, I kept feeling the burning of lively embers deep within my chest, so I was numb to the sensation of feeling that the body is cold. I did not even have an intention to keep thinking about or focusing on Shri Mahayogi. Then, the moment I got on the train, there was an entirely different scene from what I was used to expanding before me. Usually, I am able to make judgements, such as “this person is a man or that person is a woman” or “this person must be such a type of a person,” but at that moment, the function of making judgement within my mind was not working at all. I just saw One Existence, manifesting in different forms. It was a really strange sensation, and it felt like I was watching a movie, yet it felt more natural to me even though the scenery was out of the ordinary.
I reported this to Shri Mahayogi in the next Satsangha.
“Various stimuli enter the mind through the five senses by force, whether it wants them or not. Regardless of where you are, the mind is inevitably stimulated by various stimuli. However, as the mind stops getting entangled by these various phenomena, and moves more inward, then it eventually reaches the Truth that is within all phenomena and all things. Of course, first, as the mind is coming under control, one connects to that which is the One within. Then, whether you are on the train, wherever you are, whether you’re surrounded by people or things, you are no longer fettered by external appearances. Precisely because your sensory organs and the mind are in the state of stillness. Furthermore, you will intuitively grasp that the Truth deep within oneself pervades the entire universe. That means that you will be able to see It within all people and things. I think that was what you have experienced.”
Disciple: Some time ago, Shri Mahayogi mentioned that, “The guna of the mind cannot be controlled by the mind itself.” Do such experiences happen because Yoga started to alleviate the pain-bearing obstacles and sanskara, and the quality of sattva is becoming more predominant?”
“Yes. The main point is that the mind can only go so far [in controlling itself], and yet because the mind is being affected by the Truth itself, tamas and rajas are brought under control. Then, only sattva remains, and the aforementioned state of mind arises. The explanation in the Yoga Sutra says, “It is accomplished through Samadhi.” And, “By the grace of Ishvara.” Ishvara means God or guru. It is nothing but the Truth.”
In my case, it really had nothing to do with the result of exerting my own effort, but it was unmistakably Ishvara, the grace of the Guru. That is how I was able to progress in bhakti, by directly receiving the grace of Shri Mahayogi, my Ishta and my Guru. My bhakti continued to heighten, and I also feel that Shri Mahayogi responded to the heightening of my bhakti with grace. Just around that time, I was given an opportunity to accompany Shri Mahayogi on his visit to Ehime and Fukuoka prefectures. Whenever we are close to Shri Mahayogi, everything we see and hear is filled with inspiration, and regardless of what you are doing or where you are, Truth shines forth. During the day, I was able to see his Buddha-like form, and at night, I was able to hear his profound talks about Yoga in the elegant atmosphere of a hotel lounge. When I returned home from the five nights and six days with Shri Mahayogi, being filled with laughter and, at times, tears, I felt that my mind and body were filled to the max with the Existence of Shri Mahayogi. And I completely believed that my bhakti would just continue to climax. But there was a pitfall! Unbeknownst to me, I began to have thoughts like, “Shri Mahayogi would surely respond to my feelings of bhakti”; “I have such passionate bhakti that I deserve the [response of Shri Mahayogi]”; “I can offer myself”; “I am capable”; and “I am an excelled yogi.” And then eventually, the focus came to be on me rather than the object of devotion. I didn’t realize that I had become arrogant. And just like Krishna disappeared from the gopi, this led Shri Mahayogi to also disappear from my eyes. (to be continued…)
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