Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
• What is Yoga? Part 5: Actually Practicing Meditation
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Translation of Satsangha,
February 18, 2012
The Ashrama, Kyoto
Kyoto is coated with white powder this morning from last night’s snow. The morning sunlight reflecting off the pristine white surface is quite stunning. Even in this cold weather, camellia and alstroemeria flowers are vibrantly blooming.
The heat of the enthusiasm can be felt from many participants at satsangha, and some are attending from Ehime prefecture and Tokyo.
At exactly 7 p.m., Shri Mahayogi slowly comes up the stairs to the second floor where satsangha is always held.
First, Ms. Wada reports on visiting Ms. Mitsui in Hokkaido. Ms. Mitsui is deepening her faith and is doing well. She mentions that they meditated together.
Shri Mahayogi joyfully listens to the news.
The Mind’s Chatter vs. Spiritual Silence
Ms. Morioka: When I read books about Yoga, they often mention the words, “be silent,” or the word, “silence.” Please teach us what that “silence” means, what state of being qualifies as “silence” and why it is necessary.
MASTER: In contrast to that, what do you think “garrulous” or “chatty” means? What purpose and meaning does “chatting” have?
Ms. Morioka (looking upwards, contemplating and mumbling to herself): Garrulous… What does it mean…? My understanding of its meaning is that it’s when a person has a hard time stopping words from coming out and is continuously talking.
(From then on, Shri Mahayogi continues with a series of questions for her.)
MASTER: What is that for?
Ms. Morioka: What is that for…
MASTER: Where do you think the words originate?
Ms. Morioka: They come from one’s own mind.
MASTER: Yes, indeed.
Ms. Morioka: Is it because the mind wants to chitchat?
MASTER: What is the purpose of that? (laughing) Why does the mind want to talk?
Ms. Morioka: It is because the mind wants to get satisfaction by talking and… I don’t think the mind thinks much when we talk (laughing).
MASTER: Generally, that is so.
Ms. Morioka: The purpose is to communicate one’s thoughts to others, isn’t it?
MASTER: Well, that can be one of the reasons. What kinds of thoughts?
Ms. Morioka (after some contemplation): For example, it could be something I want them to do for me. And, I might want others to know more about me. It comes from the mind that thinks these things, is that correct?
MASTER: What is that for? What do you want others to know?
Ms. Morioka: What do I want others to know… Hmm… that might amount to the way I want to be perceived?
MASTER: How do you want to be perceived by others?
Ms. Morioka: How do I want to be perceived by others… Well, I’m not sure, but at least I would like to be perceived positively (laughing). How do I put this… I want to be perceived by others the way I think I am.
MASTER: What if things don’t go the way you expect them to?
Ms. Morioka: If that were the case, I would contemplate how I should go about revising my expectations or remedying the situation.
MASTER: Well then, do others determine the definition of who you are, whether you are this way or that way? Are you saying that it is fine for others to decide that? You will just follow their definition?
Ms. Morioka: Do I mind if others decide who I am…? Hmm… oftentimes I have no control over that, right?
MASTER: Right (laughing).
Ms. Morioka: I think that in certain respects there is nothing I can do about what others conclude about me.
MASTER: So, then your initial thoughts on how you want to be perceived by others can change according to other people’s assessment of you?
Ms. Morioka: No, they can’t. They don’t change, but it depends on whether I am concerned about them or not… Hmm… I am sorry, I lost track of what I wanted to say… (Everybody laughs.)
MASTER: Even in this brief exchange, the definition of who you are comes into question. If you wish yourself or your character to be understood by others, and if these things are affected by others’ assessments of you, then “you” are lost somewhere, and it becomes merely a social protocol. So conversation and chitchat should not exist for these reasons.
Ms. Morioka: Then what is it for?
MASTER: You mean, conversation?
Ms. Morioka: Yes, conversation.
MASTER: Conversation arises from a need for its own action, and it is used according to the situation. It has nothing to do with letting others know who you are.
Ms. Morioka: Oh… yes, that is true. “Conversation” and “being garrulous” are different from my perspective. I have an impression of “garrulousness” as talking about oneself a great deal.
MASTER: “Garrulousness” simply means being chatty, right? Although the content of the chitchat may include a variety of topics, in short, the root cause of the words is in the mind. As the thoughts arise in the mind, they then turn into words and come out. Most words are generated towards others, right? This means that they are merely giving vent to the mind’s thoughts and emotions. Through these words, the mind changes; it either influences others or is influenced by others. However, the Self never changes.
Ms. Morioka: The mind changes depending on the words, but the Self does not.
MASTER: The Self does not. That is why, to the true Self, the mind’s thoughts and words are unnecessary; therefore, it leads to silence.
Ms. Morioka: So not only expressing something through words, but even thinking within the mind is unnecessary, too, isn’t it?
MASTER: Exactly. The act of thinking with the mind itself does not occur [in that state].
Ms. Morioka: Even thinking itself is not necessary?
MASTER: Right, it is not necessary. To be more precise, the thoughts of the mind most of the time arise as a result of some kind of pain-bearing obstacle. Being caused by pain-bearing obstacles means that the thoughts have ignorance and non-truth as their basis, and that ignorance enters into the mind’s thoughts and results in words. Therefore, if the thoughts based on pain-bearing obstacles come to be eliminated, or if the mind comes to be pure, then the mind will naturally stop thinking various thoughts, and as a result, the words will disappear, all of which then results in silence.
Ms. Morioka: So “silence” is not indicative of a certain state of being?
MASTER: It refers to the state of being, as well as its essence.
Ms. Morioka: [So it is] not a condition, but a state?
Ms. Morioka: I understand.
MASTER: The word “Saint” or “Awakened Being” by another name is called “muni,” as in Shakyamuni Buddha, right? “Muni” refers to a “holy being” in the words of India, but the original meaning is closely related to mauna, silence, and it is said that they derive from the same etymological root. That is why since ancient times, a “person of silence,” that is, a holy being, has been called a muni.
Ms. Morioka: The saint’s mind does not speak…
MASTER: Right. One becomes a saint because there is no longer anything based on pain-bearing obstacles left, or to put it in other words, there are no longer various thoughts in the mind. That being said, if words come out of that holy being, they are not for his or her own benefit, but these words are for the benefit of others—they can be a blessing or a teaching. Having understood that words are born from the thoughts in the mind, and that the thoughts of the mind are born from pain-bearing obstacles, then a practitioner may intentionally practice the discipline of “silence” in order to bring about a state of real silence as soon as possible, [doing so until it occurs spontaneously.] In other words, words are used too much in daily life. Since this is taken for granted, the mind’s thoughts do not easily come to an end. Not only that, the cause in the mind that is based on pain-bearing obstacles does not disappear, no matter how much time passes. That is why the discipline of silence exists, in order to control the mind and put the brakes on it, even if it is only a little at a time.
Ms. Morioka: The state where words based on pain-bearing obstacles disappear is different from a mindless, vacant state of mind, right?
MASTER: Yes, they are different.
Ms. Morioka: Their differences are… oh, yes. Right. That may be different, sorry (laughs). I didn’t quite understand. Sometimes, a necessary thought comes up based on a situation that is not pain-bearing-obstacle-based, and I don’t think that is silence. But such states do exist, right?
MASTER: Do you mean [that some things require] the use of words?
Ms. Morioka: Yes.
MASTER: Of course that is so. In life, while living in society, there are so many situations where it is rather inconvenient to be silent like a cow, and you are required to talk in many cases. However, these words do not always have as their cause a pain-bearing obstacle. Just remember, when the word “silence” comes up in yogic teachings, what I spoke about just now is what is being taught.
Ms. Morioka: Yes, I understand. Thank you very much.
* * *
Practice Discrimination Until You Experience the Essence:
The View of Equality
Dayamati: I would like to ask you about the teaching of Buddha: Equality. Today happens to be Shri Ramakrishna’s birthday, and I remembered how, having grown up in a very rigid caste system, he used his own hair to clean the pariahs’ [dwellings] in order to get rid of the prejudices that he had harbored toward them. I am wondering if there is something I can practice to get rid of the prejudices within myself, and thereby lead me to that view of equality. However, I did not grow up in the same societal circumstances as Shri Ramakrishna, so I think that it’s probably pointless for me to follow his exact actions… but I would like Shri Mahayogi to point out the practical actions that I need to practice in order to enable myself to conceptualize the view of equality; and also, I would like you to teach me about this view of equality.
MASTER: During Buddha’s time, what is now called the caste system was present, but more precisely speaking, it was originally a method of categorization. Although initially it was [a system of] categorization that arose from there being various occupations, this categorization was eventually replaced by prejudices: Brahmin became the most sacred, followed by Kshatriya, the warrior clans, royals and rulers of society, then the commoners, and further below them a group emerged that was looked down upon even among the commoners. So it was said to be the age during which that prejudice arose and began to be more formalized. It was believed that especially the Brahmin could grant good fortune in future lives or heaven—the happiness of good fortune after death—by performing religious rituals that would determine [their fate]. Therefore, through them, people sought salvation. During those times, the yogi and Buddha appeared and taught that happiness and good fortune in future lives could not be gained through the Brahmin’s powers [or rituals], but that the fortune of one’s life is solely dependent on the seeds that people themselves have sown, that is, karma, which results in one’s own life turning out good or bad. At the same time, they directly protested against the view of prejudice that pervaded the society, and they preached that every person is equal, and not only that, but insects, animals, and all of creation are equal—they are existences that have the same, equally valuable life. That’s why it is said that one of the unique influences or characteristics of Buddha was that he advocated the view of equality and preached against the caste system and its prejudices. Prejudice, that is, the view of non-equality that people had had until that point, had originated from the perceptions of the outer appearances of one’s occupation, and then people’s minds created a sense of superiority out of that and, simultaneously, formed prejudices. Since they were created by the mind, by getting rid of these prejudiced notions and by waking up to the Truth and True Reality, one can realize that everyone, in their essence, is the same valuable existence regardless of the outer appearance of their occupations. Well, in Yoga, it is called the Purusha or Atman. And even though Buddha regarded it as inexpressible and used neither words that confirmed nor denied this, we can deduce that he was implying that the precious existence is there. Therefore, every being is equal—this teaching did not come about as a result of some shallow, intellectual speculation, but rather it is based on discerning the Truth and realizing It.
Dayamati: About 20 years ago I began to come here, and since then Shri Mahayogi has taught us, “We are all the same.” At that time, I couldn’t understand that at all, so I asked a funny question, something like, “Shri Mahayogi, I cannot believe that the corner of that desk is the same as myself.” (Everybody laughs.) Then Shri Mahayogi made a serious face and said, “It is the same.” (Everybody laughs loudly.) I just remembered this, but it’s not a laughing matter that the Truth is that not only living beings, but even material things, are all equal. There is nothing funny about it, is there?
MASTER: That is why you can look at the view of equality [as taught] by Buddha as a teaching that expresses the Truth more concretely and tangibly.
Dayamati: How do we actually practice this?
MASTER: Contemplate these teachings. Doing so will turn into discriminative meditation. But if your mind still cannot convince itself sufficiently, and you continue to think your view is right, then you must validate it by applying it to all conditions to confirm that your idea is right.
Dayamati: So the hypothesis must be valid in all conditions and situations.
MASTER: Yes, exactly. So whatever the case may be, discrimination through concentration and meditation must be applied until an unconditionally perfect answer results. Then, most assuredly, only the correct answer will remain.
Dayamati: I understand. Thank you very much.
MASTER: Since the words of Truth, whether they come from Buddha or the yogi, are an enormous hint, that is to say, they are great teachings; concentrating upon them will quicken [the process] of discrimination and heighten [its quality]. This means that meditation is different from merely performing intellectual tasks. Intellectual tasks are thought up within the boundaries of things such as knowledge, notions, and ideas acquired from one’s own past, so they are powerless over something that is unlimited and unconditional. Meditation means going beyond one’s idea, expanding it limitlessly and unconditionally and closing in on the essence itself, or being at one with it―it is to know the essence.
Sananda: By “going beyond experience,” do you mean something that can be experienced in meditation?
Sananda: How about “applying all conditions” [in meditation]?
MASTER: Yes. That too.
Sananda: So that can be experienced with the same powerful sense with which we experience life in the actual, real society or in daily life?
MASTER: No, rather it is much more than that.
Sananda: It is much more.
MASTER: Yes. The experience within this society is, so to speak, a mere façade of various exchanges and the knowledge thereof. In contrast to that, meditation embraces all kinds of conditions such as time and space, so one will inquire into the essence at the level of the unlimited, which no longer has boundaries or limits.
Sananda: So, when discriminating, at the beginning one enters from one’s own experience, such as the cause of attachment and suffering, but then, it expands and continues to expand, correct?
Sananda: This means that it includes the area that surpasses one’s own previous experiences, correct?
Dayamati: What the mind can work on is to concentrate on concentration. And even if some pleasant effect comes, even though it may be so slight that it can’t even be expressed in words, it should be questioned and renounced… So, practicing this is actually an extremely simple task… it seems strange to say “simple task” but…
MASTER: It is simple. It’s not that difficult, at least as far as the directionality of it.
Shaci: It means that words are used initially, but as concentration deepens, we are already going toward the silence that was mentioned earlier—leading to the state about which Shri Mahayogi spoke some time ago that, “When concentrating, the object of your concentration drastically and totally narrows down, and then from there, it expands.” That means that it’s heading in that direction. Is that correct?
MASTER: Yes, exactly.
Dayamati: Among the Four Immeasurables taught by Buddha, immeasurable love was relatively easy for me to imagine. Once, as I was concentrating in the way that was just mentioned, the kind of state Shri Mahayogi referred to before, “Empty yet filled,” naturally arose. Should I remain in it and simply savor it?
MASTER: Yes. Then take what you have savored in meditation into your dealings in the real world, and practice seeing and sensing it from them in the same way.
Dayamati: What? (laughing)
MASTER: It means that you must practice and actualize it, not only within—inside of the chest, but outside of the chest, that is, within this world or in various social interactions.
Dayamati: Is it something that would become passively and naturally sensed since it is omnipresent, or is it something that one must proactively practice sensing or feeling? Which one is it?
MASTER: There are times when training is necessary, like with other practices.
MASTER: In the beginning [it is needed.] Because even if you are satisfied internally, it would be a contradiction if the situations in front of you made you do or think the opposite. So, in order to prevent yourself from turning it into a contradiction, you need to practice making it real through action.
Dayamati: That is why action is necessary there; it is not about just an action for nurturing one’s own view of equality.
MASTER (laughing): You will immediately be tested [on that view of equality as soon as external action is taken].
Dayamati: I see. Yes.
Ms. Morioka: I did not understand what you mentioned earlier about going beyond ideas. Does it mean that we need to validate or discern our ideas or notions not by focusing on our own thoughts themselves, but by comparing them against the words of Truth or teachings we have been learning from you?
MASTER: At first, think. And as you concentrate upon them, eventually that becomes meditation.
Ms. Morioka: But still, thinking is inevitably done by my own mind. Is that just the way it is?
MASTER: As I said now, you can’t just think narrowly within your mind. Add various conditions to it. If not, it does not work because the mind has a tendency to only choose and feel satisfied with things that are convenient for it. Those are the so-called “notions or ideas”.
Ms. Morioka: I see.
Madhuri: By “adding various conditions,” do you mean making time and space conditional? It means that I’m supposed to think about ways to do so on my own, like what happens if it is in a different time and location, in other words, should I concretely hypothesize various situations?
MASTER: To simplify it, let’s use the phrase “Everything is equal,” and suppose that these are words of Truth. Truth is unchangeable, right? Whichever era it is, and whatever location it is―not only in India, but wherever it is―it must be the same. And also, because it carries with it such preciousness, it is Truth. Just like that, this is the way in which you need to confirm whether what you think about the words of Truth agrees with such conditions or not.
* * *
True Compassion and Equality Come From
the Absence of “Me”—Atman
Ms. Hiraoka: When I was reading the Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna, I saw an explanation of the difference between attachment and compassion, comparing them by saying that compassion is directed toward everyone equally, whereas attachment is mainly directed towards family and carries a strong tendency to be rooted in the sense of “mine”. I [also] read that when a mother who was fatally ill came and said to Shri Mahayogi that her child was the only attachment that she had, the Master taught her by saying that True Love is non-attached. I think about these words quite often when I take care of my child and I wonder whether I am taking care of her without attachment. I think that subconsciously my attachment is strong. When I experienced giving birth, throughout the labor I kept concentrating on Shri Mahayogi. I felt a strong sense that it was not me who gave birth, but rather some great [force] that brought the child down using ki or prana. My feeling is that from the moment I had the thought, “I gave birth to this child,” a deep attachment arose. So, I would like to hear from you, from the perspective of the Truth, what it means to give birth to a child.
MASTER: There aren’t many mentions of it. Of course, there were many female saints, and there were probably saints who gave birth and had children; however, it is not mentioned at all. Considering it from the perspective of the mother, it is a great feat to accomplish for sure, nurturing the child in the womb for ten months and then giving birth. Nevertheless, we were all born that way. When considering the perspective of the newborn baby, this is the same path that we have all taken, so there is nothing more to it than that. Perhaps that’s why it was not mentioned [in the sacred scriptures.] Simply, the issue is related to the attachment that arises towards the child or towards the parent—it is the issue of the mind.
Ms. Hiraoka: From a karma yoga perspective, we should practice not believing that “I am the doer,” and instead, believe that “It is not me but God who is the doer, putting me in action.” And so, even childbirth can be seen in this way, right?
MASTER: Yes, you can look at it that way.
Ms. Hiraoka: I feel that although I intellectually understand the difference between compassion and attachment, as I dive deeper, I see the sense of “mine” strongly. How do I destroy it from the root?
MASTER: Instead you must destroy the “me.” Because “me” exists, the concept of “mine” arises.
Ms. Hiraoka: So from the root itself?
MASTER: Yes, exactly. “Compassion” arises from a state in which “me” does not exist. It arises from the absence of “me,” that is to say, the True Self, Atman, or Brahman. It is also the case with equality and love, essentially. It is inevitable that everyone thinks, “I am me.” However, one must inquire into whether this is the true “I.” In so doing you will realize that what you thought was yourself was nothing more than a really tiny ego, and that it is actually not the “I.” The true “I” does not especially assert “me, me!” (laughs) nor does it say anything. On the contrary, only then does real compassion or equality arise for the first time.
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True Self and the Existence of a Physical Body
Dayamati: Does the feeling or thought that comes from the True Self, who is without any selfishness, arise naturally as the selfish mind is eliminated?
MASTER: Yes. Since the True Self is singular and never has a second, regardless of the variety of complex shapes, forms, and names that exist in the world, that essence is one without a second.
Sarani: I feel that the false awareness of “me” depends largely on the physical body. There is something that I still haven’t quite understood for some time. Last summer, while Shri Mahayogi was in the U.S., we learned the quintessence of asana from the senior disciples in the program “Acquiring the Secret of Yoga Asana”. Sananda once mentioned that in one of the satsangha, when a disciple asked Shri Mahayogi, “How should I go about hastening the spiritual progress of this body through asana and sadhana?” Shri Mahayogi answered, “What do you all think about your body, in other words, the heart that beats, beat by beat?” I thought about this a while, and then realized that I didn’t have enough reverence towards the gift of this body that has been given to me. Due to thinking that I am the body, I thought that I am in control of it by myself, that I am able to do something about it, and I would think about making it look good. But I realized that this is actually the arrogance of the ego. I know I must ponder this by myself, but how do we recognize the relationship or misunderstanding between thinking that we are the body and that the body is a part of the universe and given to us as a gift?
MASTER: The keyword is there, meaning that what is important is what distinguishes existence as existence. If “I” is identified with the physical body, then one thinks that the physical existence is the existing self. However, as the Truth teaches, Atman is shapeless, it is neither limited by time nor space, and it is Eternal Existence. It is the only thing that can be called Existence. Compared to That, the mind and body are merely manifestations of the phenomena of the limited existence. Therefore, if you return to the true Existence without mistakenly identifying yourself as separate from the true Self, you are no longer affected or disturbed by the limited existence. And you realize that even if the body is a phenomenon of the limited existence, it has its own significance. Nevertheless, it is incomparable to the existence of Atman. In that sense, you must renounce the body and the mind—the limited existences—because as long as the mind is attached to them, existence, as an idea, arises. That is to say, the important thing is to eliminate that notion itself. By doing so, the mind itself will be set free.
Sarani: So, if we get rid of these ideas, then even though the body is not the true Existence, we will come to be able to see the preciousness of this body that is a phenomenon right now?
MASTER: Yes. It will then be about accepting it as it is without being attached to it.
* * *
Elimination of the Mind’s World and Awakening to the True Self
Haridas: Earlier, you mentioned that the relative world will disappear [upon Awakening], but it can be very hard to understand what would disappear. Back when my lungs were punctured, my friend’s wife died at that time so I had the pain of my lung and the pain of her death. So, it was both physical and mental. What I realized then was that God does dwell even in a grain of rice. When I felt that, every mental suffering disappeared like mist or wind. It was like I was simply looking out at a scene from a train window, and that included myself… that is how I felt, and then everything became nothing at all. However, the physical pain still remained. (Everybody laughs.) But no other thoughts arose. Until then, many other thoughts and emotions had developed, but instead, only the sensation of pain remained, and everything else disappeared. To make a long story short, that’s what it’s all about, right?
MASTER: Right. As your story demonstrates, the mind constantly shows you a dream-like world. It is fitting to call Enlightened beings “Awakened,” because when the true Awakening occurs, the dream world created by the mind becomes extinct.
Haridas: So it is that kind of “extinction,” right?
MASTER: Yes, yes. Its origin is the Existence. That is why this world and the mind do not exist in the strictest sense—they are phenomena.
Madhavi: At a satsangha a few weeks ago, Shri Mahayogi mentioned his experience of death that happened while he was in elementary school, and he also mentioned at other times that Satori, or the awakening into Atman, happened suddenly. Did these two realizations occur at the same time, or at different times?
MASTER: They were at the same time, or rather, within the same flow.
Madhavi: In a singular succession within the flow?
Madhavi: So both are the same, correct?
MASTER: Yes. It could be said that one was the end of the mind, and the other one was the Awakening to the Truth, [which was a result of the first occurrence of the extinction of the mind.]
Madhavi: And was that also bliss?
MASTER: Bliss was not really felt in that experience, but there was no relativity whatsoever—simply, Existence.
Jayadevi: Regardless of what it is, a thing exists because I think it exists, doesn’t it?
MASTER: Yes (smiling). Exactly.
Jayadevi: So then, when a thought arises, it is the expression of all the hopes and desires we have for something to exist by any means.
MASTER: It can be said that way (smiling). Indeed. Yes, if you understand that the true meaning of “inherently Exists” is the formless Atman, you don’t exert effort creating forms in vain and wasting meaningless effort on turning Atman into shapes (laughs). Indeed, that may be maya’s trick (laughs).
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Dayamati: I am most interested in the search for the awareness of the Self. Some time ago, I had a period of silence in which only the sense of I-ness remained. Even then, I felt that the selfish mind had not been eliminated because the sense of I-ness remained, yet it was different from what I felt recently, which was like being fulfilled yet empty, although there was awareness but not “thinking.” I was intentionally bringing myself back to the state of remaining within this sense of I-ness after performing some sorts of tasks, like grocery shopping, and then as I was going back, suddenly an overwhelming sense of solitude arose as I was trying to return to the self, almost to the point of collapse. Nowadays, I don’t feel these things anymore. Was that a state based on my own imagination?
Dayamati: Looking back, I wonder sometimes if there was some kind of remedy for this, when such situations occur.
MASTER: The best remedy is surely bhakti.
Dayamati: Bhakti. It felt as if I did not want to use anything other than “self,” and did not want to depend on anything.
MASTER: You cannot deny God since God is another name for the Truth. However, the actual God has neither shape nor form, but if a personified deity is easier to grasp, then grasp it.
Dayamati: So I should have thought of Shiva.
MASTER (smiling): Yes.
Dayamati: But the scriptures talk about making one’s individual awareness independent. But as soon as the mind says it thinks something, then that means that it is no longer independent. Well, when that became unbearable, I suppose I shouldn’t have strained so much… (Everybody laughs because of the way she said it.)
Haridas: Without bhakti, it is impossible for the mind to withstand it after all, isn’t it? That is how the mind is.
MASTER: The mind probably cannot take it. It’s often very difficult.
Haridas: Surely it is so, because the mind tries to depend on something.
Sananda: Shri Mahayogi, still, is it possible to apply bhakti when one is deepening such a state, or, for example, going deeper by applying Atma-vichara (the inquiry into the True Self), and when one’s individual self is shaken up?
MASTER: Yes, it is possible.
Sananda: What form of bhakti would that be?
MASTER: For example, thinking of Ramana Maharshi as a holy being who has attained Atma-vichara would be a type of bhakti as well.
Sananda: So then, even at the time when nama-rupa (name and shape) is truly about to disappear, even then we should still concentrate by bringing to mind the existence of Beings such as Shri Mahayogi and Ramana Maharshi themselves as the object?
MASTER: That is the safe path.
MASTER: Because these Awakened Beings are beyond nama-rupa. Even if you are imagining nama-rupa, that is, their shapes and names, their essence is beyond the essence of nama-rupa.
Sananda: Basically, for example, samadhi can happen during Atma-vichara as well, I think. Is that right?
MASTER: Yes, it happens.
Sananda: So even during these moments, if one concentrates upon an Awakened Being such as they are, then one unites with the Awakened Being in samadhi, correct?
MASTER: Indeed. It happens.
Sananda: Is it totally the same thing?
MASTER: Yes, it’s the same.
Ms. Hiraoka: Does solitude exist for a bhakta?
MASTER: Solitude will not exist [for a bhakta]. However, if I were to go ahead and speak about this from another angle, the bhakta will be isolated from the world as they walk with God, so there is a sense of solitude from the world, or there is solitude in the sense of separation from those things that are based on pain-bearing obstacles. So, solitude is there all the same. However, it has nothing to do whatsoever with what we commonly refer to as solitude, which indicates the feeling of loneliness.
Ms. Hiraoka: Is it more noble?
MASTER: Well, yes. Because it’s an independent existence, that sense of independence is strong.
Dayamati: In this case, what do you mean by the “world”?
MASTER: The general way of using the word “world.”
Disciple: Anything external to myself?
* * *
The Biography of Shri Mahayogi:
His Asana Practice
Takafumi: You have taught us that in Yoga, tapas is extremely important. You have also taught us that tapas, not only in asana but in daily life as well, can burn away samskara [or other obstacles] and bring forth spiritual silence. You have also taught that the tapas from asana transforms into tejas or ojas. So then, I was wondering if Shri Mahayogi ever had some sort of tapas; because there was no samskara or karma to burn away, I am not certain if tapas could be generated or not. Was there any heat?
MASTER: I had never read the scriptures back then, and asana too was practiced, [not taught by someone, but] only through making this body experience it. (Laughing) Without knowing any of the complicated yogic scriptures that you all often see, I was simply practicing. And, I never analyzed my experience, nor did I ever think about trying to understand it. It’s just that as people began to visit me, then I did put the meaning of my experience into words, but I myself was never concerned about it.
Haridas: You practiced it because you wanted to?
MASTER: Yes, yes. I usually answer that it was because I had nothing else to do (laughs). I was idle. I had no other interests (laughing).
Sananda: I spoke about that at the Yoga workshop in Osaka, how Shri Mahayogi, being idle and having nothing else to do, would do extremely intense asana for two hours. Doing asana because of being idle (laughing)…
MASTER: I had nothing else to do.
Sananda: So, does that mean that one doesn’t especially need to know the scriptures?
MASTER: Well, it is said that the necessity of scriptures is for eliminating ignorance. Fortunately, I did not have any ignorance (everybody laughs), so scriptures probably weren’t necessary. But, if one is born with ignorance, a large or small amount, then scriptures are necessary to that extent. (Everybody laughs.)
Haridas: Ramakrishna did not have any formal education.
MASTER: That’s right.
Haridas: Right. Even so, he would lecture the most renowned university professors.
MASTER: Ramana Maharshi was also said not to have done too much scriptural study.
Haridas: In the case of Ramakrishna, he says that Ma taught him everything. Ultimately, that’s the way it is.
Sananda: Ramana Maharshi meditated for years. And afterwards, people started coming to him, and there’s an anecdote that he went to borrow scriptures from another holy man. (Everybody laughs loudly.) I thought, how hard it must have been [to live as an Enlightened Being]. (Everybody laughs.)
Madhuri: Then, Shri Mahayogi, were there great differences in the motives when you were meditating on Buddha in the later teenage years and actualizing kundalini yoga versus the time when you were practicing asana due to having idle time in junior high school?
MASTER: Actually, the one thing that remained the same, even when practicing asana, was that I contemplated on what “perfect success” or “the perfect being” means in this world. Conclusively—the answer came forth right away—I could not find the answer in anything other than Buddha. No other heroes or historical figures caught my attention in the least. Because, without exception, Buddha was the most perfectly well-rounded existence, and, to me, that equated with Yoga. So those were my thoughts.
Madhuri: That was in junior high.
Madhuri: So that is why there was nothing else you wanted to do, and there was nothing that you couldn’t do well?
MASTER: Umm, that could be right. Well, if I had had karma, even if I had been thinking about those things, the power of karma would have made me attach to something or do something. But there was none, so that was all I needed to get by.
Today is the birthday of the Great Awakened Being, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. At the end, we sing “Khandana Bhava Bhandana,” a song dedicated by Vivekananda to his beloved Master. As everyone sings, Shri Mahayogi looks slowly at each person’s expression, and when we finish, he offers us a smile.
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Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
What is Yoga?1 Part 5: Actually Practicing Meditation
Translation from article by Norio Shimada2
Kyoto, Japan March 2015
Meditation—it is a method of making the mind, which is normally actively moving and scattering in various external directions, redirect itself inward and dive into the depths beyond the mind by concentrating its power on a single point. It is not an exaggeration to say that the mind, the body, and the breath, which have been cultivated through asana practice (a method that involves the practice of physical postures) exist solely to create a foundation for meditation. Meditation is that crucial, and it is the central practice in Yoga.
Actually, meditation has various levels depending on its depth, and those levels are concentration, meditation, and samadhi. Most of the time, these stages are generally referred to all together as meditation. At first, the practice begins with concentration. Concentration is the act of continuously and steadfastly focusing the mind on a particular object. [As a result of training,] the state in which the mind and the object [of concentration] become inseparable arises, as if the mind were nailed to the object. Once that concentration becomes steady and reliable, one automatically enters into the state of meditation. In this state, concentration is maintained effortlessly; the cognition of the mind is poured into the object of meditation.
Our Master often illustrates the state of meditation by using the example of oil. He teaches that the state of meditation is just like oil being poured from one vessel into another, smoothly and without interruption. The state in which the oil is completely poured into the other vessel is samadhi. It is said that the mind becomes completely at one with the object and [in this state] one will know the essence of that object. The mind no longer moves; instead of scattering, one becomes unified with the object of concentration… You become the object itself… Isn’t that amazing?! It seems that through this “knowing” of the essence of the object, whatever the Saint or Enlightened Being upon whom you were meditating saw, felt, or thought, is experienced as if you were experiencing those phenomena as your own. What if the object is God… and the constantly restless, scurrying, superficial mind calms down to the point where not a single wave exists, and we feel the Essence, that which is said to be Bliss… So, how should we meditate? What is important is the posture. By sitting with a straight spine, energy consumption is kept to a minimum, and spare prana or ki is no longer wasted. [When you are in this position,] the breath calms down and the mind can singularly focus on meditation, without being bothered by physical limitations. If one continues to practice asana, one will be able to acquire this correct posture. Next, we practice to train our concentration by gathering the mind and focusing within the depths of the chest, or on the point between the eyebrows. Once that becomes familiar, then one chooses one of the correct objects and proceeds in the practice of meditation.
Our Master says that the objects of meditation can be classified into three main categories. The first is the method of exhaustively inquiring and probing within the mind, “Who am I?” This was covered in “What is Yoga Part 3.” Am I the physical body? Am I the subject that the mind identifies with while living in this body of flesh? I am not this, not this, not this, not this… and so you continue the inquiry. What is left in the end after the effort of tearfully peeling back the layers of an onion? That is the very end of the realm that can be reached by the intellect.
If you continue to peel back what is believed to be the “I,” eventually, nothing will remain. This means that [the false I] makes us believe that the body and our cognition is “I,” but the “True I” is not those things. The task [of this method of meditation] involves diving deeper and deeper into the bottom of the mind, believing that the real “I” is that which alone is called the true Self or Atman.
The second object of meditation is the “Truth.” Having neither beginning nor end, It Exists Alone, It is never-changing, It is Eternal and never-ending. As you meditate upon the Truth itself, the non-truth should become self-evident. Whatever does not correspond to the above description, is all non-truth. So then, who or what is it that you are chasing after, that you are being bothered and baffled by, and that you are attached to? When did this bondage begin? Is there an alternative? How much longer will this suffering continue?
This is the meditation through which you examine your thoughts and actions and determine whether they are in accordance with the Truth, or whether they are contradictory to the Truth. As you eliminate the emotions associated with right and wrong and continue to probe and to analyze, “What is the cause of this?” “What is further beyond, or the root of that cause?” and ultimately discriminate between the Truth and non-truth, then you should be able to let go of various obsessions and attachments and renounce them.
The third object [of meditation] is “God” or “Divine Beings.” There may be many who are reluctant or resistant to the word “God” at first. So, let’s suppose that a great power or existence that is beyond this world, whatever it may be, can cumulatively be defined simply as “God.” All the material and living beings evolving in this world are in the repetition of the great cycle of birth, destruction, and re-generation. The power underlying this creation, the power that creates it and activates it, we call “God.” The objects of meditation can be the gods of various existing religions as well.
The object of the other method of meditation is the “Divine Being.” That is to say, the object of meditation can be incarnations of God who have human forms or a human-like personality, apostles of God, messiahs, saints, and Awakened Ones. They manifest themselves as symbols of the individual [Truth] in the comprehensible and familiar form that people can see, touch and hear. What they originally symbolized is the Absolute and Eternal Existence that is the Essence and the Only One without a second. The way in which the word “God” cannot be perceived or expanded upon is similar to the inability to understand the concept of “x” in mathematics. Understanding this limitation, one instead concentrates and meditates upon the chosen sacred object.
Throughout the ages, various types of gods and rituals were born across cultures, depending on each respective climate, yet the basics are the same. To fear, revere, and to want to seek to approach this great power is an instinct that is at the core of every human being. In the essence of all living human beings, the awe and the aspiration toward It always and inevitably exist.
“God” does indeed embody the Truth. If you find your preferred or favorite “God-like Existence,” dedicate all of your soul to loving It. “How can I love something I don’t even like?” Well, I had that concern as well. At first, you can even pretend, I think. Even if it feels silly while you are attempting it, I don’t think it would be blasphemous. As you get used to it, not limiting it only to Yoga, but by reading various religious scriptures and stories about saints and Awakened Ones, seeing holy icons or statues or religious paintings, and hearing or singing songs of praise, the pretense should gradually turn into trust, and eventually your good intentions will turn into love, and that love into faith. It may occur little by little, but it should seep into you naturally at the internal level.
The state of mind in which you can chant the name of a tangible, personified symbol that can be seen, touched or heard, with single-pointed focus is the state in which all of your energy is dedicated toward the Truth or God, and, at the same time, it is a state of genuine and complete emptiness in which that can be received. Chanting the name of God again and again, praying, and loving God—even if your internal practice is imperfect in beginning—will, through repetition, lead one closer and closer to the source of God that is manifested by that symbol.
These practices accelerate your purification and can eventually facilitate a transformation of the body and mind that you can actually experience. That experience is an extremely intense, exquisite experience of ecstasy. Once that is experienced, ultimately, you will no longer wish for anything else but that. Interests in other things will fade. They will no longer captivate you. At this point, I will stop to strongly recommend that each one of you practice and see for yourself. There is no need to blindly believe this at all. The state in which only those things that are in accordance with the Truth remain as a result of thorough and careful discrimination, piece by piece, [of Truth from non-truth] is the state in which the required level of renunciation is being established. What is more, in that blank space, there is no longer any spare room into which impurities or imperfections can enter.
If you are allergic to the words “God” or “religion,” then you should first apply discrimination on this important point and grasp it firmly, then move on to the practice. It will be thoroughly awe-inspiring!
As you may have already noticed, these three objects lead to the same place. True Self, Truth, God—the words may be different, but they indicate the same.
Once you have chosen an object out of the three, then you will be meditating on it; however, no matter how much you calm the breath and the mind through asana, meditation does not go very well right at the beginning. The senses and the mind are pulled toward various objects and derailed from concentration. But impatience and haste are forbidden. It will take time, and there may be resistance, too. Nevertheless, as you continue to repeatedly practice meditation uninterruptedly, five minutes of concentration will turn into ten, and, eventually, thirty minutes will turn into an hour of being in the state of concentration. After that stage, even though up until that point five minutes had felt like an hour, one hour will then feel like five minutes. That is how meditation will deepen progressively in stages. What is important is to continue to seek from your heart to find the answer every day, and to sit daily.
People talk about various experiences in meditation. We often hear mystical and mesmerizing experiences such as seeing bright lights and hearing joyous sounds. Surely, when we read the biographies of saints who experienced samadhi, they described similar experiences, and it is written that the Truth gained from them was “Sat Chit Ananda,” “Eternal Existence, Absolute Consciousness, and Pure Joy.” One thing that we must bear in mind in the practice of meditation is that there are cases in which practicing meditation while remembering these things or being conscious of them will work well, however at other times they will have a detrimental effect.
Our master says that in meditation we should not be caught up in mystical or blissful experiences. Since these experiences are occurrences that are part of the process of realizing the Truth, we cannot let our minds get distracted and get stuck by being attached to them. If you compare it to the experience of the realization of the Truth, these are merely opening acts [on the way to It]. How fascinating it truly is to be a yogi!
When you are intending to stop the mind, then the mind is thinking, in other words, it is moving. That is such a dilemma. Nevertheless, that is exactly where the difficulty and fascination of meditation lie, I think.
Stopping the activities of the mind by using the mind, and ultimately becoming one with the object that is beyond the body and the mind—the impression gained from that experience is said to be different from either emotional feelings or intellectual understanding. I suppose that probably the most important thing is to have the unwavering passion needed to get there.
At this point, I myself can only imagine what the experience of “meditating to know the essence of the object and becoming one with the object” entails. However, as it has been so with all the other methods of yoga, through actual practice and by continuing to seriously seek it, I believe that the insight will come. That is why I sit again, for yet another day.
1 Previous articles: What is Yoga? Part 1 | What is Yoga? Part 2 | What is Yoga? Part 3.
2 Mr. Shimada is a devoted disciple of Shri Mahayogi in Japan who has practiced with MYM since 2010. He is a single father to a teenage son and works a full-time job.
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