Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Translation of Satsangha
January 26, 2002
The Ashrama, Kyoto
The Importance of Controlling Prana—
The Transformation Into the Stilled Body of a Yogi
Sanatana and Ms. Endo (later named Mirabai) will start up a class for people suffering from depression or other conditions that render them unable to leave their homes. They report that they were able to secure a classroom location near the Kyoto station, where they will begin holding classes shortly after the long holiday week in May. Shri Mahayogi advises them to clarify their intentions for offering the class and the direction it will take, as well as who the target participants will be.
Yogadanda: I’ve heard that no one has ever seen you yawn. I’ve lately been feeling that it is better to suppress a yawn. At yesterday’s meditation session, I hadn’t had enough sleep, so I couldn’t concentrate at all. I am still not able to meditate unless I am well-prepared. So I thought it would be better if I tried as much as possible not to yawn.
MASTER: That’s true in a way, but yawning is a physiological function, so even if you don’t want to, you’ll yawn, or burp, or blink.
Yogadanda: Are these basically actions caused by the prana trying to regain its balance [in the system]?
MASTER: Yes. You know the five main functions of prana within the body, right? Prana for respiration, samana for digestion, apana for elimination, vyana, which balances the circulation throughout the body, and udana, which works from the nose up. Udana acts as the function that raises the ki when the physical body dies, pulling it out of the body, or pulling the soul out of the body; and during times when one is in deep meditation, the prana is raised up and enters the sacred Cave of the Brahman, called Brahmandra, at the crown of the head. These are the five main functionalities, and there are five more that perform lesser functions. One of them is yawning. One of the overall purposes of Yoga is to control the prana and make all of these functions come to a standstill. Therefore, in order for the five main functions of prana to unite and be raised up to Brahmandra, these five smaller functions must have already been brought under control beforehand.
Yogadanda: So, then it is better to control yawning.
MASTER: Yes, but it isn’t easy to control it in isolation. Take blinking, for example—it is, of course, a necessary function. Keeping the eyeballs from drying up by closing the eyelids to keep them moist is an absolutely necessary function for this physiological body. However, in deep realms of meditation, blinking at times stops. Performing that within one’s sadhana is called Shambhavi Mudra. Its purpose is to [gradually] make the mind still by controlling the prana through the act of intentionally not blinking. Similarly, it is best to try to suppress yawning. But, physiologically, it may be unavoidable, because it is a type of deep breathing that occurs when you are sleepy, or when your body is in a state in which it requires more oxygen. So, by deepening your day-to-day sadhana, you transform your physiology, that is to say, once your body becomes the body of a yogi, then those reactions no longer arise. Having the body of a yogi is not about being able to do difficult asana or becoming flexible. That has nothing to do with it at all. There are plenty of healthy or very flexible people who know nothing about Yoga. Are they yogi? They cannot be said to be yogi. The yogi’s body has a different quality from these [merely flexible or healthy] bodies. The transformation of one’s body into the body of a yogi cannot be achieved but through the actual practice of Yoga. Your body being transformed into the body of a yogi means that your body is reborn into one in which the aforementioned ten functions of prana are controlled and halted. Generally speaking, it’s a condition that is always comfortable, healthy, flexible, and vital. The ancient scriptures call it, or it has been translated as, the “Diamond Body,” which indicates that it is unbreakable or indestructible, just as a diamond is the hardest of all substances.
Yogadanda: I’ll do my best. (Shri Mahayogi laughs.)
MASTER: Actually, at a superficial level, if you do it for one year, your body will become flexible and you’ll learn all the asana by heart, and it will feel as though you have really become accomplished at Yoga, but in terms of quality, that is just the beginning.
Yogadanda: So, then the shortest path is to deepen one’s meditation.
MASTER: Meditation is the quickest shortcut.
Ms. P: Controlling yawning, or controlling the mind—both are done through meditation, but even then meditation cannot be done if the body is not trained enough to sit. In that case, is it best to start from asana?
MASTER: Yes, that is exactly right. Asana has the important role of creating the foundation for that. By foundation I mean that this body’s purpose is normally that of moving. The legs are for walking, the hands are for performing tasks. The five senses are for gathering various types of information that arise from being in contact with the outside world. For that purpose, the mind is constantly focused towards external things, and it is completely filled with information from the material world.
Meditation is about finding the Truth, which is never changeable or breakable, or Reality, the Immortal Existence itself, even in this material world. That is our Essence itself. However, strangely enough, the self does not know the self in the mind. That is why one must find what is Real. The primary method used for that purpose is meditation.
Going back to what I mentioned at the beginning, keeping the body, whose nature is to move about, still and unmoving is like going against nature; however, through training, one becomes able to keep the body still. Asana consists of many positions, so the forms of asana are various and they each involve [their respective] motions. But what you do within each form is to still [the body and mind]. So do not perform asana as if you were doing exercise. The [asana] form is about being still in a specific position—in a way it is like squeezing into a mold. There are several poses. They are related to the several chakra within the body, and their purpose is to control the prana, which moves the body. That is why controlling the body through practicing asana is done first. Then, the body gradually, and obediently, becomes still when you want it to be still. At the same time, the breath becomes calm and the mind becomes composed—these are the results.
Ms. P: So that makes [meditation] easier.
MASTER: Yes, that is so; because meditation is for the purpose of finding the Truth, and as I said now, you must prepare yourself for that by studying that Truth. Then think about it, and then, truly feel it in the realm of meditation.
Ms. P: Yes.
* * *
The Attitude of Practitioners:
The True Meaning of This Life—Become That
Chetaka: I think that the mind is attached to living certain kinds of lifestyles, or the sense of fulfillment, or the feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing something in the world. Please teach us the mechanism by which we project ourselves into these things, in terms of the structure of the mind from the perspective of yogic psychology.
MASTER: In one word, it is called maya. In the ancient Upanishad, there is a passage about how, long ago, God opened nine outward-facing holes in the human body, but only a wise man would look inward. As I mentioned earlier, the nine gates symbolize the organs that come into contact with the outside, such as the eyes, the nose, the mouth, and the excretory organs. They are sensory organs and activity organs. Therefore, as long as one looks only at nature and at matter—by nature I mean the environment made up of matter—and thinks that by acquiring such things, one will become happy, then that mistake is the root [of it all].
The accumulation of instances in which this goes unnoticed makes it even more unnoticeable due to the samskara and karma caused by the accumulation of those [attachments]. Simply put, avidya, the error of ignorance, is at the root of all this, and that error is perpetuated.
Chetaka: So everyone is caught up in this vicious cycle. Is the only way to snap them out of it and shift [their perspective and their habits] to tell them the “purpose of life,” which Shri Mahayogi is always mentioning?
MASTER (silent for a moment, as if searching for the right words): If you look at the actual examples of the Awakened Ones, the holy beings from the past who influenced the masses of people caught up like that—Buddha or Ramakrishna, for example—these beings were, first and foremost, clearly recognized as That Immaculate Existence. Then, whatever words or deeds emanated from their Existence were all in alignment with the Truth, and they influenced people beyond time and space. Therefore, the most urgent matter is for one to become That completely. From just that simple act alone, all one’s words and deeds will follow automatically. Then further, it is through these outward influences that many people’s realizations and awakenings occur. So, valuing one’s life has nothing to do with longevity. As in the case of Vivekananda, it may be short. The length of time does not matter. How you fulfill, or in other words, how you realize that Truth during your lifetime—that is the true meaning of this life. Therefore, if all of you seriously practice, and if you can realize your Self, attain Satori, and become That, then good things will be left behind in the world as a matter of course. [Achieving that result] by any other means, quite frankly, will be impossible; it is not a matter of degree.
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The Attitude of Practitioners:
Stability Within Instability
Chetaka: I feel like there are so many people who really berate and hurt themselves by thinking they are “not good enough, or are unworthy” after they begin to see their shortcomings and start seeing the pain-bearing obstacles and ego that have become more pronounced due to their practice of Yoga, or when they see that even after practicing asana in class, the effects they experience within are not much. From what I have seen, it seems to be a habit of the mind that is commonly held by many people.
MASTER: Yes. I hear such words relatively often. I feel that there are quite a lot of people who don’t like themselves, or even hate themselves. It seems that this temperament is coming from a deeper place, rather than simply coming from superficial things such as one’s sense of good and bad, or like and dislike. In other words, I suspect that [it is] a response to the loss of the true Self, [in other words,] that anxiety from losing one’s true Self manifests in this negative self-talk.
Chetaka: So the issue is more fundamental.
MASTER: Yes. It gives the impression that the issue is rooted deep within the essence.
Simply working on one’s temperament or actions caused by karma will not alone solve this problem, because that just replaces one problem with another. In this respect, there are so many objects of interest in the modern world that the mind can easily be redirected or it can be colored in different hues, but the issue has not been resolved yet. Well, I don’t think there is any escape route that is based on superficial behavioral patterns. I don’t think it can be resolved unless the more fundamental Dharma, the wisdom of Yoga or Buddha, is referenced, including their philosophy and subconscious psychology. And further, actual practice is a must—this goes without saying.
Chetaka: Wow, one big mystery was just resolved inside of me. That really confirms the reason why this persistent sense of inadequacy and dissatisfaction within me completely disappeared after practicing Yoga; it’s because I got my real purpose.
MASTER: Purpose—that is, the Truth, that which is called Real Existence.
Chetaka: I wrote about it back then, about being chased around constantly by this unfathomable sense of inadequacy. But then, it disappeared after I continued to practice Yoga.
MASTER: That is precisely because Yoga is the realization of That, and the path to That.
Chetaka: “I’m doing well,” “I am able,” “I can do this and that, etc…,” as concrete examples of thoughts… “Today, I did really well because I did two hours of asana and two hours of meditation.” Or “I am not doing things the way I would like to,” “I didn’t do it properly.” Whatever it is, the mind wants to say this and that. So, instead of letting the mind cling to them, whether it be praising or blaming myself, it is probably best to completely renounce both ways, to stay constantly neutral, to stay in a certain condition without being stuck to anything.
MASTER: Yes. That is why you shouldn’t rely on relative values and standards anymore (laughs). Since they are different from one person to another, and since even within yourself they will be different according to the time and the situation, there is nothing more foolish than depending on such dubious standards. This is a very rational way of thinking. [By thinking in this way,] you may become more and more unstable. However, if you become completely unstable, a stability within that instability will arise. If you have not been practicing Yoga then this may become nihilism, but if you have been practicing Yoga, you will eventually be able to reach a point at which you will settle in to it [by beginning to realize certain aspects of the Truth].
Chetaka: Within that instability, as it becomes more and more unstable, one becomes settled into that… In a way, is that in the realm of things that one must experience in order to understand?
MASTER: Indeed. It could be the case that this is a matter of manifesting the reflection of the True Existence itself, through the process of purification in Yoga or darshan. And that is the very evidence that everyone’s Truth is That.
Sanatana: As I was listening to that now, I thought about the words of Buddha, “Do not reproach yourself.” He said that what must be done by a practitioner is to “not regret anything, nor do things that you would later regret.” These words resonated within me, so much so that I can still recall them.
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Translation of Satsangha
February 17, 2002
The Ashrama, Kyoto
The Attitude of Practitioners:
Loneliness as Suffering and Loneliness in the State of Truth
“If you see the world through the mind,
the world is various.
Yet if you see the world through the True Eye,
the world is One.”1
— Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
Chetaka: The other day I read a magazine that I hadn’t read in a long time. There was an article about the prodigal son of an actress who was arrested for drug charges. To me, I could only see loneliness in him. He is so lonely that he will hug whoever comes up to him, and he drinks himself senseless… It made me think that loneliness motivates much of what we do, for example, friendship, hobbies and so on. When I look back at the time when I started practicing Yoga, I dreamed that I was going to move to Kyoto to pursue it further. When I was saying goodbye to the place where I lived, my friends, etc., I became afraid of being alone, there was an impression of fear… After all, I too was grabbing onto things out of loneliness. I think everyone has this, and it causes quite a lot of suffering. What is the formula that causes this loneliness to be created, and where does it come from?
MASTER: This comes from a fundamental place, as the characteristic of the mind itself. The root of the mind is ego-consciousness. Ego-consciousness is like an outline that delineates oneself from others. The mind cannot be independent—as I always say, the mind’s characteristic is that it is never satisfied until it becomes dependent on something. However, it never lasts, and the mind will continue to switch the object of its dependency from one thing to another. The cause of that dependency has to be coming from desires or pleasures—because pleasures are sought after as the object of desire. However, these desires or pleasures cannot be Reality. If they were Reality, they would have to be eternal and perfect, but they are not. Even changing the object will not solve anything. When one is seeking after these pleasures or desires, as soon as the desired pleasures are obtained, and even when one may be in a manic state, as in manic depression, when one is feeling excited and elated, depression sets in immediately afterwards, and that may heighten the sensation and the taste of loneliness. Well, it all results in suffering. Therefore, the cause of loneliness lies in that dependency, and its fundamental cause is the ignorance that causes one to seek after things that are not Reality.
Chetaka: This is because of the similarity of the ego structures that everyone has…
MASTER: Yes, that is correct. Everyone has it, and everyone may have experienced it.
Chetaka: Even if you are absorbed in chasing frantically after a desire, the moment you catch it, it will inevitably change or disappear… It feels like that sense of inadequacy leads in the direction of loneliness.
MASTER: I think so.
Chetaka: Then, a person who follows more desires inevitably has more loneliness.
MASTER: Yes, it must be severe. In an attempt to alleviate that, bigger stimuli or desires are sought. Then, these things expand continuously as karma.
Chetaka: Rather than trying all kinds of ways to satisfy these desires, there is no other way but to become independent.
MASTER: There is no other way.
Chetaka: That’s really tough, extremely tough. I want to help heal it somehow, even if temporarily.
MASTER: There was a time when I myself felt that the word “loneliness” was very close to me. It must have been in high school. These three years were “lonely,” whether from my own perspective or from the perspective of others. (laughs) It was like “the embodiment of loneliness.” However, it wasn’t the kind of loneliness that Chetaka mentioned. I was already in [the state of] Yoga, so I had no expectations at all about the world. The worldly things were completely lacking, such as friends and playing. It was like “The loneliness of existing.” Perhaps, it is not a common form of loneliness. During that time, I was asked, “What is loneliness?”
Someone asked you…
MASTER: Yes, someone asked. At that time, my answer was, “Strength.” (laughs) I said, “Loneliness is about being strong.” Therefore, it is the exact opposite of the type of loneliness based on weakness that Chetaka mentioned. In chapter four of the Yoga Sutra, it is called kevala, which is translated as Isolated Existence. It was perhaps a similar state back then.
One’s expectations always get betrayed in this world as the norm, so as a reaction to that, loneliness, in its general sense, the weak loneliness, will come in the form of suffering. Therefore, as long as one wants to depend on something or seeks something, then it can be assumed that loneliness is behind all of that.
You must seek only the Truth. It is different from seeking or expecting some physical matter. Truth is something that exists, as something that is obvious, and it is something that is there as a given.
(Shri Mahayogi emphasized the last words as if he was urging everyone to awaken.)
Chetaka: Now I remember a while back Shri Mahayogi said, “I do not have any negative image of loneliness, I feel only tranquility.” Now I get it, it must have come from that strength…
MASTER: Yes. The word “loneliness” has that nuance for me. Even during that high school life, towards the end, there were many people around me. (laughs) But it wasn’t like we played together. I appeared to be mystical, so lots of them were curious about me, but mostly a bunch of guys. (laughs)
Chetaka: It wouldn’t have worked if it was just based on cynicism.
MASTER: Right. Truly, from listening to Sanatana (he is starting a class for people who are suffering from mental illness) and Chetaka’s story, since everyone has a mind that is sick, if anyone shows up at the hospital, they will all end up getting diagnosed with some sort of mental illness.
Chetaka: I think so. Some say that this situation in Japan is a tragedy, but lately, I don’t think so at all. Because we have a situation like this, there are many people who are truly suffering and many who are seeking, they just do not know what they are seeking, just like I didn’t, but everyone is seeking.
MASTER: That is so. On the other hand, there are people who have found something and are living to the fullest, even though they may be few in number.
We encounter sufferers who are seeking like that, not only in class, but I’m sure we’ve encountered many of these people on the street too. However, it’s hard to remember this kind of loneliness or irritation or inadequacy that I felt, unless I intentionally try to feel it again. It’s just that I understand that my mind is structured in the same way as theirs, so, as Sanatana said, I want to keep feeling people’s suffering, whether it is their suffering (Shri Mahayogi says, “Yes”), or even joy. Because I don’t think I can do anything unless empathy is there. Lately, I think a lot about when I started doing Yoga, and I do remember that sense of loneliness; it was almost unbearable. I was so attached to people.
MASTER: It is very simple—Truth is simple—but this simplicity is not taught anywhere by anyone. You cannot learn it from school, nor from society or the world, you have never seen it or heard it. However, if even a sliver of that Truth can be heard or seen, how many people could be saved, I have thought. Of course, that cannot be done only by saying it. “The bees come when the lotus flower finally blooms.” It is not real unless it is as in that saying．I wish that every class would be like that fragrant lotus.
(Shri Mahayogi quietly ends this topic.)
(Jesus Christ said, “The son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”2 Where is the place of true repose?
In order to share the universal teaching of Yoga, which is the Truth, we must become a sliver of that Truth, and live to the fullest as ones that have come into contact with Shri Mahayogi’s Existence, and to follow his living example of “Loneliness as Strength”.)
1 The Universal Gospel of Yoga—“The True Eye”
2 Matthew 8:20
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Practice in Daily Life:
Practice in Your Communication With Others
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): You mentioned loneliness earlier and I was thinking about it. When I interpret it from an emotional perspective, I remember thinking that, for example, when I was really down, there was no one else who felt the same way I did, because what I was feeling was based on my own experiences up until that point. In that sense, I felt like I was really alone because no one can truly understand anyone else; therefore, seeking that kind of understanding is futile. What I understood just now though is that it means that I was expressing things from the level of my own emotions or experiences; therefore, there were limits there, I think. When I try to think about what a particular person might be saying, or what that person might be wishing to do, the emotions that cause me to think in that way are involved, however you’ve mentioned that concentrating on knowing about these things has nothing to do with intellect or emotions. So, then I do not understand clearly what it means to concentrate on a particular person. Perhaps I don’t understand what concentration is, but, is it like a sense of being absorbed into that person?
(Shri Mahayogi tilts his head, as if he is more puzzled by what he hears the more he listens to her. He looks at Ms. Endo and sits in silence.)
MASTER: Are you referring to situations in which you are communicating with others?
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Yes. Dealing with people…yes.
MASTER: I’m sure there are various kinds of situations. For example, if it is a work situation, then it has to do with what the content of the conversation is and what needs to be done. And you need to understand those things objectively. So you are required to understand them and then to determine what you should do about them. In those situations, personal emotions are not necessary, of course. The focus must be on accurately understanding the content of the conversation. If it is with a friend or a private conversation or communication, then you need to try to feel the cause of where the words are coming from…words are only superficial. I think that is all there is to it. Are there any cases more complicated than that?
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): So…it’s like going beyond emotions.
MASTER: It means viewing it objectively. Therefore, it is about correctly understanding the conversation by remaining calm, by eliminating emotions.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): To understand is also to make a discernment, is it not?
MASTER: Yes. To understand and to discern. But you must understand first.
(Shri Mahayogi smiles at Ms. Endo, who seems perplexed.)
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): When I am talking with someone, I still think, “What does this person want to say?” (laughs) I get distracted, and swayed back and forth most of the time. Shri Mahayogi has told us before about seeing God in others, hmm…but I have no idea what that is.
MASTER (waiting silently as if to wait for Ms. Endo to continue): Yes, that is certainly correct on a fundamental [level].
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Even if I don’t understand it, can I gradually feel it somehow by deliberately bringing myself to think and to see more in that direction?
MASTER (after some silence): Well…the fact that everyone and everything is a sacred existence is something far beyond matters of simply sensing or understanding; That alone is the Truth. Yet, every person’s mind has forgotten the Truth and gotten caught up in other things, worldly matters; so most conversations revolve around everyone being tossed about in these incidents. Therefore, from a broader perspective, the foundation is to stay composed and continue to see only the Essence. On the other hand, from a more modest, smaller perspective; that means trying to understand the conversation and what the person’s mind is expressing.
In addition, when it comes to yourself… do not ever think about looking good in front of others, or being understood by others. Don’t expect such things… do you understand? (Ms. Endo says, “Yes” in a faint voice.) If your faith becomes larger within your mind, then peace of mind will also arise due to that alone. Then you will no longer be bothered by the anxiety surrounding various results. And from a broader perspective, as I mentioned earlier, you should see only the Truth, and at the same time you can pay attention even to trivial things.
(Shri Mahayogi calmly answered Ms. Endo’s question as he gazed upon her, often pausing in silence. He smiled at Ms. Endo who was thinking deeply about his answers.)
* * *
The Attitude of Practitioners:
Dependency and Renunciation in Faith
Ms. Nakamura (Sarani): Shri Mahayogi, ever since the conversation about dependency and loneliness, I have been thinking this: when we depend on something and expect something, then the ego emerges and, as a reaction, loneliness arises. I always think of how much lighter I would be, how fortunate and worry-free I would be if I could just surrender everything, leave all the worries up to Shri Mahayogi and the Truth itself. But, at the same time, I sometimes think that as long as there is ego, my faith is still another form of dependency. Shri Mahayogi exists here now, and I’m merely depending on him. When the ego pops up again and again, I see for myself that I have not yet surrendered; that it is not faith that I have but mere dependency. Am I saying something strange?
MASTER: No, no, you are speaking about the subtle difference between dependency and surrender in terms of faith, but what you are saying is not mistaken.
Ms. Nakamura (Sarani): As long as the ego arises, it is still not true faith. Yet I don’t particularly have a goal to have true faith. I am aware that I still have the ego, and if that can be surrendered unbeknownst to me, then at that point, I can truly surrender everything and truly be free; so I’m not particularly aiming at the place of true faith consciously …I am sorry, I am confused [about what I am saying] (Shri Mahayogi laughs). So there is a battle, it is strange to say battle, but even though every day I sit and pray in front of the altar, I am battling within myself about whether this is that [kind of] dependency or not…
MASTER: No, that is inevitable, it’s fine on the path of faith. No one ever knows pure faith with perfect surrender from the beginning. This is a process on the way to pure faith. So don’t bring any sense of guilt or negative emotion to this much. That faith should become purer as you direct it towards one thing. (Ms. Nakamura says, “Yes” faintly.) Don’t worry. Not only in bhakti, but in raja yoga and even in jnana yoga, everybody can’t help but move forward while still carrying their ego. As they reach the goal, they arrive at a pure state. Even raja yoga and jnana yoga are, so to speak, [the path of] faith towards Satori, so even if there is no personified deity in them, it is the same in terms of faith.
But all of you are already walking on that path, so don’t even worry about this or that. If you are walking one step at a time simply and surely, only seeing That, then one day, you will realize that you have already accomplished it.
(It was a soft and gently resounding answer.)
(Then, Shri Mahayogi turns towards Ms. Endo, who is looking down, reassures her by repeatedly saying, “Don’t worry,” and smiles.)
It’s important to habituate the mind not to worry so much. Otherwise, all the worries can make such a little heart (smiles) suffer and be crushed. Make an effort to stop worrying. (Shri Mahayogi’s smile brings Ms. Endo to smile) …There is only one thing to keep in mind, the Truth. That is the only thing you need to keep looking at, because the other names for Truth are True Existence, Freedom…Absolute, and Unbreakable.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): If I seek That, and if I don’t get there, will I feel lonely?
(Shri Mahayogi laughs joyfully.)
MASTER: But that anxiety you just expressed (laughs), exerting unnecessary worry—that itself implies that you want to be free. Aren’t you saying that you don’t want to be alone, and that you want to be set free? Whatever you say, however you struggle, you must be looking for That. Because, That is nature. You are already That.
(As satsangha ends and everyone begins to leave, Medha asks Shri Mahayogi a question.)
Medha: I’ve always wanted to live in solitude in the sense of fortitude, and I have struggled because of my own ideas about things. Now, is it correct to think that solitude as fortitude cannot be attained just by trying, rather that it is born out of conviction?3
MASTER: Yes (nodding forcefully.)
3 See Pranavadipa 12: “Meditation in Daily Life: How Buddha Would Have Acted Moment-to-Moment—Think Constantly and Act Accordingly” from the satsangha on July 7, 2001, seven months prior.
* * *
Translation of Satsangha
February 23, 2002
The Ashrama, Kyoto
Practice in Daily Life:
Meaning of Taking Responsibility
Ms. Endo (Mirabai) (laughing with an embarrassed smile): Right now, I’m reading Jnana Yoga4 (laughs)…and I would like to ask about one thing I don’t understand. There was a line, “Do not blame your mistakes on others,” and “stand on your own two feet.” “Take complete responsibility.” In my daily life I often hear these words, taking or not taking responsibility, but what does it mean to take responsibility?
MASTER: Yes, that is to receive the results of your actions.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): To accept them?
MASTER: …Well, it requires the kind of understanding that constitutes acceptance.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Is it something to be done within? Rather than, for example, quitting your job to take responsibility, which is expressed externally, is it something done internally within oneself?
MASTER: Essentially, it needs to be done within oneself. Even if it has been handled on the surface, as long as it is not understood and accepted internally, it is meaningless.
(Hearing Shri Mahayogi’s response, Ms. Endo becomes silent and ponders it as if pondering and reflecting on herself through Shri Mahayogi’s answer. Shri Mahayogi looks at her for a while, then he speaks to Ms. Tokuoka (later named Murari) to welcome her for her first satsangha. Afterwards, conversations about the class begin.)
By Swami Vivekananda. Shri Mahayogi suggests his disciples and students to study the teachings and life of Swami Vivekananda.
* * *
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
The Search for True Life—The Meaning of Life
Part 2: The True Meaning of “For Your ‘Self’”
Translation of the article by Sanatana
May 1999 Kyoto, Japan
“It has nothing to do with what you want to do. It has to do with what the Truth is!” Shri Mahayogi said in a stern tone. I had been told to search for my ideal, and I was trying to think about what I really wanted to do, and what my own personal ideal conditions were. But regardless, I could not find that strong sense of conviction about what I really wanted, or what I was seeking. What was my ideal really? After not being able to find the answer for some time, I confessed to Shri Mahayogi, “I do not know what it is that I want to do with my life.” Upon hearing this, Shri Mahayogi immediately dismissed it with those words above and then continued, “This ideal has nothing to do with what you wish to do and so forth. Truth—that alone is the very ideal, because it relates directly to our own Existence.”
In Part One1 I offered my thoughts on what the causes are of our inability to know what it is that we want to do and on how we can resolve this, or our inability to understand what our “self” is. If we are unable to figure out “what it is that we want to do” before we move on to thinking about what it is that we need to do, we cannot even begin to seek the answers. Not only that, but even if we are able to find out what it is that we desire, for example, “I want to be rich,” or “I want to be somebody who is envied by others,” does this mean that we have grasped who our “self” really is? After all, even those desires are brought about only by those things which are non-self, or “others.” As I wrote in Part One, despite following our tendency to think that we have “our own style” or “our own way of doing things,” we go further and further away from the self; we become a lifeless shell. But the self that we really want to know and to comprehend cannot possibly be anything of the sort. As we think further along these lines, we come to discover that there are also “others” or “strangers” that are not the self lurking within us, and what is more, we come to understand that there is something that can be called our true self, which is much purer. In Part Two, I would like to investigate the question of what or who this purer, true self is, and then present my thoughts regarding what the concepts “for your ‘self’” or for the “self” truly mean.
Two “Selves”—1: The Ego
Buddha and the Yogi, who are said to have realized the Truth, divided “the self” into two parts: “the ego”—the cause of suffering—and the eternal and immortal true Self.”
The ego is that consciousness which believes the self to be an individual body and mind. In this realm, the ego determines that only the physical body, in which we sense pain or itching, etc., is “the self,” and only the mind, in which we sense happiness or sadness, etc., is “the self”; and that any body or mind that the ego cannot perceive first hand [from within] is the non-self—these things we consider to be “others.” Thus it follows that whatever senses, abilities, and possessions the body possesses, along with whatever thoughts the mind holds, are considered to be “mine.” The self that we normally believe ourselves to be is actually nothing more than the ego. We think to ourselves that, “The ego cannot possibly disappear. The satisfaction of this separate, individual self will certainly be to our benefit.”
However, Buddha and the Yogi questioned this. No matter how many riches one may possess, they do not last forever. At the time of death, one will unwillingly be torn away from these possessions just like domesticated animals being lead away to the slaughter house. No one can continue to hold onto these things—this body or this mind, the various memories, trophies and accolades, power and pride, physical beauty and health… They are all things that will one day pass or have already passed. Nevertheless, we cling to them. The tighter our hands clench them and refuse to let go, the more difficult it becomes to open the hand. Being open-handed does not require any effort, but our unwillingness to part with these things prevents us from opening it up. The worry that comes up when things aren’t going well, the anxiety surrounding future failure, or being unfair or playing dirty with others for the sake of our own selfish gain—all of these things that are generally considered to be suffering must spring from attachment, this clinging to “me” and “mine.” The Awakened Ones saw through all of this. They recognized that eliminating the ego and the sense of possession that arises from it, is the path to that tranquility which can never be disturbed. However, eliminating the ego in this manner is different from being suicidal. Those who want to commit suicide have a very strong attachment to life. “My life is not going the way I want it to, no matter how much I desire to have a better life…so it would be better for me to die.” They who opt for death do so because they are so attached to their ideas about life.
Life’s sufferings and the fear of dying—they are all caused by our attachment to ego. The causes of fear and suffering are not to be found in external factors or situations, rather the cause is the attachment to “me” and “mine,” and ego-consciousness, which is the very root of attachment.
Two “Selves”—2: True Self
Buddha then further pursued and sought to understand the self in this way: “This body is not me, not the self, because if it were the self, we could decide to be healthy and not become sick, and we would be able to make it so. But in reality it is not this way.” He concluded that the body, the senses, the mind, the accumulated personality consisting of our habits and experiences, even the consciousness of “I,” are not the true self. They are beyond our control. That which is uncontrollable and changeable is not “the self.” We say that we were the same “I” ten years ago, and we will be the same “I” ten years later, too. But our thoughts, the way we feel about things, our bodies—these things can never be the same even for a moment. So, then what is the unchangeable “self” that remains constant in spite of it all? With this question, Buddha and the Yogi started on a journey of deep internal inquiry. And then they not only practiced the negation of that which is “non-self,” denying the body and mind and the ego-consciousness which believes them to be the “self,” but they also found the positive or proactive realization of Truth or the true Self. The true Self was not something isolated that could be distinguished. It is the state of “Oneness.” It is the state in which neither subject nor object exists, neither “I” nor “you”; where there is true com-passion, as in a “united feeling.” It is simply one “Self,” which is the sum total of everything that seems, from the relative perspective, to be divided into “I,” “you,” and “the world.” Buddha preached equality. This does not only mean that all things are equal as individuals, but further it is the equality of sameness, meaning that everything is one-Self. That is why everything is dear, and one cannot help but deal with others through compassion and gratitude. By going beyond and erasing the individual ego-consciousness, they uncovered the indestructible true Self. The Truth of the true Self is not only limited to Buddha and the Yogi themselves. Everything is That, and there is not a single thing that is not That. That, the true Self, is all-pervasive—even within us. That is beyond time; It is Eternal. That is the Truth that exists here and now. We simply need to realize It. All we need to do is to be free from the ignorance that makes us believe that the inconsequential ego is the self and to awaken into our original Self. The clouds that temporarily shield the sun have no substance. They come and go. Even when clouds do shield the light of the sun, the sun shines on regardless. The true Self Exists. All that we have to do is simply remove the veil of ignorance that appears to be covering It.
What We Must Really Do for the “Self”
Buddha, or the Yogi, treated the mind and the ego with utmost objectivity. They practiced the discipline of breaking away from their dependence on the ego and abiding in the true Self continuously, and then they realized It. After their awakening into the Self, or Satori, they relentlessly and single-mindedly worked to release others from suffering and to bestow tranquility upon them. To be released from suffering and to attain this tranquility means to eliminate ego-consciousness and to awaken into the true Self. To learn, understand, and realize It is what we must really do for ourselves. “It has nothing to do with what you want to do. It has to do with what the Truth is!”—this is the catalyst to our Awakening. When we want to do something, it is difficult to judge whether it arises from the ego or the true Self. At times, the words “compassion” and “sympathy” are used to look down upon others. Ego cannot judge ego. That is exactly why, even for a wise person who self-inquires into the true Self without depending on non-self matters, a Guru (Master in spirituality) is an absolute necessity. Ego-consciousness still remains in the practitioners. The only thing that can pulverize it is the Truth itself, only the Awakened Ones who have realized the Truth. You may say, “I want to realize the Truth all on my own.” Does this thought arise from the ego or from the Truth? You must discriminate this “I” and “my.”
Whatever “desires” arise out of ego do not lead people to tranquility. That is the type of “ignorance where one mistakes suffering for pleasure.” The words of Shri Mahayogi I mentioned in Part 1, “You should not do what you want to do. Then you will be able to do what it is that you want to do,”2 must have been said in order to lead people to this tranquility. Through controlling the “desiring” ego, the Truth that was covered up by that ego, emerges. If we can actually experience and feel that It is really the true Self, then we will gradually be able to do what we truly want to do. We will be firmly convinced that what we were actually seeking was the eradication of suffering and the awakening into the true Self, and then, these three things—“what one wants to do,” “what ought to be done,” and the Truth—become aligned with one another. That is the greatest joy. It is nothing like being swept around like a tumbleweed, desiring whatever one wants to do. Rather, it is to have a solid foundation, and abide in the Emptiness, or the Void, which is without any trace of dependence—that is, the Truth—while not becoming fixated on any ideology.
Conduct for the Realization of the True Self
By inquiring into the true Self, Buddha and the Yogi realized that It is not the individual ego, but rather the one and only Eternal and Universal Being. And they carried out actions for the sake of the true Self, and taught and guided people to practice and do likewise. The actions they taught were: perform tasks simply and diligently without attachments or disturbances, selflessly serve others, love only the true Self—the One without a second, and relate to everyone and everything with compassion by seeing everything as a manifestation of that One. It is here that love and ethics were born. Love exists beyond personal emotions. Wanting to love, not wanting to love—this pickiness comes from the ego; therefore, it is not real Love. Love arises only because of the Truth that we are One. And morality and ethics also come from that Truth. They constitute those actions which are done for the sake of loving “the self” itself. If one loves the true Self, one will attempt to remove the ego that obstructs it, and try to love others who are the manifestations of the true Self. To suppress the desires that come from the ego and to treat others as a priority becomes an act done for the sake of “the self,” an act for others and an act for the true Self, and above all, the Truth. If we understand this clearly, we will be able to act morally; compassion and love will come from a place of willingness.
“Who is the real self?” “What does ‘for your “self”’ mean?” In the end, these inquiries arrive not at “what one wants to do” but “what is the Truth,” and not at “for the self” but “for others.” In this way, the more we study and practice “for the self” the more it ultimately shifts to “for others.” So, how can we perform tasks simply without the attachment or the selfishness of “for my own self.” And, what should we do to not only avoid getting caught up by things and situations, but also to serve others proactively? In Part 3, I would like to present my thoughts on what “for others” really means.
1 “The Search for True Life—The Meaning of Life Part 1 of 4” is posted on Mahayogi Yoga Mission Website, Teachings, under Recommended Readings.
2 Vol. 8 “You should not do what you want to do. Then you will be able to do what it is that you want to do” Satsangha in Kyoto November 28,1998