Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
• Do Not Stop Until Samskara Has Completely Vanished
• The Five Conditions of the Mind
• Attitude of Practitioners:
The Importance of Conviction
• The Light of Sattva
Attitude Before Practicing Meditation
• Meditation on Who Am I?
Verifying the True Existence Thoroughly
• Attitude of Practitioners:
The Actual Practice of Hearing, Reflecting and Meditating
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
• The Search for True Life—The Meaning of Life
Part 3: For Others
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Translation of Satsangha
December 7, 2002
The Ashrama, Kyoto
Do Not Stop Until Samskara Has Completely Vanished
(A high school friend of Shachi, who lives at Seva Kutira with Chetaka, asked for help when she was experiencing a state in which her heart was deeply wounded by domestic violence. She began to recover little by little as she visited Kyoto to practice asana. However, after she got a job, she became so absorbed with it that she seemed to have stopped practicing asana altogether.)
Chetaka: She has been experiencing unimaginable fear because of her experience of domestic violence over the past six years, and the subconscious samskara that were created in such a fearful state probably remain deep within her. In her case, it seemed that she had something like a gravitational pull that made her fall into darkness. Even when she came to the class, she would go into a convulsion-like panic. Nowadays, her trajectory seems to be reversed, and she appears to be quite well at first sight, but I’m still a little bit worried about whether or not these things have disappeared and whether or not she will be able to reach a state where these things won’t come back again. I am concerned that lately she might have gotten into a state of panic again.
MASTER: Well…probably at this moment she is in a state in which these impressions are being covered up by focusing her attention on her work. You just said darkness, and indeed, that samskara can be compared to darkness. So, in order to eliminate it, one has to shed light on it. That task can only be accomplished through Yoga. This means that in order to clear the tamas (darkness), the light of sattva (lightness and purity) must be brought to it. I suspect that applying rajas (activity) will only allow the darkness to continue to abide without change.
Right now, she seems to be fine because she is in the midst of being occupied with her job, yet it can be dangerous timing if she starts to feel too comfortable. So, as a preventive measure, asana has to be practiced well. She can’t just wait until she falls down to start practicing asana again. That will never end; it’s like chasing one’s own tail. Well, it would be better if you could drag her to class. (smiles) She put all this effort into practicing asana and she’s starting to get into first gear after attempting to get started, so it would be a pity to waste that.
Chetaka: When I first came to the Ashrama, I was truly in darkness; rather, I used to say that it feels like “being in a dark cage with a mysterious beast.” Nowadays, I can’t even remember the faintest shadow of that feeling, as if the memories and impressions aren’t even there anymore. I feel that they were finished off by Yoga. But unless [I practice Yoga], even though I might have forgotten about them, if I were to hit a wall, they may rear their heads again in a different form and I could get sucked back into the same black hole, even if the reasons have changed.
MASTER: That possibility is…well…samskara can be understood as being something like that.
Chetaka: Forgetting is pretty tricky because we can delude ourselves into thinking that oblivion equals healing, or that we have conquered these things.
MASTER: Right. Even if it’s not to that extreme, it’s actually not that different from one’s day-to-day life, cycling back and forth between the realms of pleasure and pain. Those [samskara] of great intensity, the ones with greater levels of extremes, have even that much stronger of a power, and leave markedly stronger impressions; in that sense, the problem could become even more serious.
Shachi: In the beginning, when we started to practice Yoga and as we heard about the Truth, our will to live by the Truth became very much heightened. At that time, I practiced the discipline of denying myself things I desired to do, by saying, “Let me not do this,” in order to proceed forward. I am gradually starting to understand Shri Mahayogi’s teaching about the middle path—I suppose that is because only by going to the extremes, can one see the middle—but I’m not sure if I’m properly practicing the middle path right now, or rather if I am being too relaxed about it.
So far I have sternly denied myself the opportunity to do what I desired to do, but I’m starting to waver, thinking that it may not be necessary to deny myself these things, because even that intention toward denial can be attachment too. When I think about renouncing a particular discipline after practicing it for a good while, thinking that it might have been unnecessary to practice it, even though I have trained myself to make that discipline into a new habit in order to obliterate one samskara, I then recognize that the old habit returns, or I can tell that I am heading toward that state. What is the basis on which to determine the way to proceed, or in other words, should we continue to march forward without loosening the reigns when we think we are letting them get looser?
MASTER: Of course. The Yoga Sutra defines the completion or the perfection of Yoga as the destruction or restraint of the activities of the mind. The subsequent verses state that these activities of the mind are the five activities or functions; and then next it states that these five functions are divided into those that are rooted in pain-bearing obstacles and those that are not.
Samskara can be understood as the mind’s memories, as its characteristics and its tendencies, which have been created as a result of the pain-bearing activities of the mind. Those that are pain-bearing [are caused by the fact] that, fundamentally, the mind, that is, the ego, as the subject or the master attaches to the ego’s desires, and thus accumulates various samskara. On the other hand, the non-pain-bearing activities [arise from true knowledge, through which] one has to clearly understand, by [the practice of] Yoga, that the ego is not the real master, and that all the desires and pain-bearing obstacles arising out of the ego are the mistakenly idealized fruits [of desire]. Therefore, it is necessary to eliminate the underlying subject that created these samskara by eliminating the ego that was falsely identified as the subject, and, at the same time, to do so by mastering it through experiencing the truth of ignorance. That is the task of Yoga. So even with asana, learning Yoga and practicing meditation is, in other words, all about weakening the ego and letting go of false desires and attachments. That can of course include the things that come up to the surface of the mind, as well as the things that are latent, lying dormant as samskara. You can say that this process is the entire process of Yoga.
Especially “learning the Truth” and “meditating” have extremely strong purifying effects. Of course, attaching to these methods also becomes samskara, so you must be careful about that as well. By applying Yoga to eliminate the samskara that were there before Yoga, and after you obliterate these samskara, then both will surely no longer be of use to you. However, due to the fact that until you get to the ultimate goal, you will not be able to reach that final result, if you stop the process before completion, the samskara that may still be there will then sprout again. Therefore, you must continue with this task until nothing is left unresolved.
Shachi: It is true. Samskara is so persistent.
MASTER: It is definitely persistent. (laughs)
Chetaka: That means that as long as there is a force that pulls us into tamas when we let up on the reins in order to get back on the middle path, is it better not to let up on the reins…
MASTER: Letting up on the reins or not—is quite a subjective issue. If you can direct your mind solely toward Yoga, or it need not be said to be Yoga, but if you can direct your mind solely towards the realization of Truth, while further applying the various beneficial methods for the actual realization of It—this isn’t about tensing or loosening at all—you can proceed to feel out the middle path.
Shachi: This means simply continuing to focus solely on That, right?
Shachi: Let’s say there is a certain thing. Should I get it, or not get it? Is it better not to have it? I feel that I am often concerned about trifling matters. In going towards the Truth, it does not matter whether I have it or not, yet still I was wondering just recently whether I should have something or not.
MASTER: Well, in this regard, you can make a judgment based on whether it is the ego who wants to possess this or not—whether it is fundamentally pain-bearing or non-pain-bearing. Everything that was just mentioned—be it learning or meditating—these are means [to an end]; means in the sense that they are tools. So even these things, if you look at who needs them and for what purpose, if the answer is the ego, then it becomes a pain-bearing attachment, and if it isn’t for the ego but for the benefit of others, then it may become a choice rather than an attachment.
(Chetaka asks Shachi to clarify what she is talking about. It seems that she is trying to decide whether to become a business partner with her friend or not.)
MASTER: Truly, there really is nothing that is necessary.
Shachi: But when I have an opportunity to go on an outing with Shri Mahayogi, I would like to look nice.
MASTER (laughing): You only need the bare minimum of things in order to realize the Truth. Know that you are already content—the practice of contentment is crucial.
* * *
The Five Conditions of the Mind
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Shri Mahayogi, earlier you mentioned that rajas cannot be used to light up the darkness, that you must apply the light of sattva. What is the difference?
MASTER: Well, simply put, only light can illuminate darkness. The wind, rajas—rajas is likened to the wind—has the quality of vigorous activity. It does not have the quality of luminosity. You see, the wind cannot blow away the darkness. That is the metaphor.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): What is tamas compared to?
MASTER: It is compared to darkness. It is said to have the quality of darkness; it is dull, heavy and obscures things or covers them up.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Depending on the day, I experience fluctuations in my emotions, for example, if I am concentrating on something time passes very quickly and it’s easy. But, I am beginning to understand little by little that even at those times my mind is, after all, just bubbling up, or in other words, I am merely concentrating on something, and that I spend time frivolously pretending to myself, as you mentioned earlier.
Today, I read in The Universal Gospel of Yoga the part about the mind experiencing five conditions: the scattered condition, dazed condition, temporarily gathered condition…if I remember correctly…
MASTER: The state that is unable to remain on one point.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): The first three are unstable conditions in which the thoughts stray, and the rest are concentrated states and restrained states, which are attained through the practice of Yoga. I don’t understand well the difference between the first and the third.
MASTER: The first is the condition in which your mind is scattered, the various thoughts in the mind arise constantly, coming and going over many things. This condition is very common.
The third is when you are concentrating on something. It can be anything, for example, listening to music you like or looking at paintings you like, or being absorbed in some thoughts—although they may be temporary, you experience these concentrated conditions. However, they do not last long. This condition disappears as soon as another stimulus disturbs it, and it goes right back to the first condition. So even the third condition is in the realm of what everyone experiences regularly. It is like getting absorbed in something, but it doesn’t last anyway.
One-pointed concentration—when the mind is single-mindedly focused on a specific object, in which it “has penetrated into a deeper realm,” and when “that [state] sustains itself”—these are the fourth and fifth states. These states do not revert back to the first condition by external stimuli. That differentiates them from the third condition, and these two states especially are restrained states, so they are distinctly different from the first three unstable conditions.
So, after reading that, how are you analyzing yourself? (laughs)
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): (laughs) When I read about the unstable conditions, I thought, I see, that makes sense. I thought that I continuously fluctuate between these three states in my daily life. When I practice asana and then sit for meditation, surely I become at ease. Concentration puts me at ease, but it varies according to the object [of concentration], so I was wondering how my mind works in these cases.
MASTER: Indeed, as I said earlier, the first three conditions are the normal realms. You see, when you begin to practice Yoga, the third realm, in this case, concentration in Yoga—it could be Yoga as a whole, or even if it is only asana practice, [which is also included]—the concentration of “doing Yoga,” even for only two hours, arises. It is not the deep fourth state yet, but it is like a sort of training to cultivate one’s ability to remain in the third state as long as possible. By doing that you will be able to enter into the fourth, the genuine psychological state of Yoga. Concretely speaking, by meditating with great earnestness and so forth, one will enter into the fourth state.
* * *
Attitude of Practitioner:
The Importance of Conviction
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Well, it feels as if there is a tendency to always want to hold onto something, of some shape or form or things, or rather…I want to seek out meaning, something I can relate to—I sense strongly what is happening in the mind. Recently, I see more clearly that regardless of what the condition is, I desperately try to grasp onto it, and if I don’t have it, I get anxious. I have a hunch that it is not really the way things are, yet I have no idea (trailing off into a faint voice) what it means to be tranquil while having nothing to hold on to.
MASTER: Right, that is why various “sacred” things are there for you to be able to possess, you do not need to hesitate to possess them, but it has to be the sacred things. Do you understand?
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): I see, I was thinking I had to cut everything off.
MASTER: The act of possession itself may be considered to be pain-bearing, but the sacred being can be seen as the manifestation of the non-pain-bearing quality. For example, take the scriptures, they are not pain-bearing in and of themselves. However, a reader’s subjectivity will make them pain-bearing or non-pain-bearing, i.e., interpreting them in whatever way one wants, or only taking what is convenient from them. If such a mistake is made, then it becomes an act that is rooted in the subjectivity of ego and ignorance. So, even those same scriptures can become a pain-bearing implement. However, instead of doing it like that, if you take in that scripture, or those tools of bhakti, as a symbol of God or something that reminds you of the Truth, then, since the Truth itself represents something that is ego-less, even if the mind still retains some ego, [these tools] will serve towards eliminating the ego. That is why it is crucial to keep using them without hesitation as sacred tools towards the completion of Yoga.
(After a long silence, Shri Mahayogi smiles. Chetaka says that lately Ms. Endo has been coming to class with a gentle, kind countenance, different from how she was before.)
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): A while back I asked Shri Mahayogi about how to proceed with meditation. His answer was, “Discrimination and bhakti.” It’s still a work in progress, but when I sit, I think of Buddha. If I think of him when I feel like, “I can’t do this anymore,” I feel that it seems to be the only path out, or it seems that right there, that is my salvation, my only salvation. Then, I can always come back and feel that I am given the opportunity to think again, “Ah, I want to try it one more time,” and there is an enormous sense of trust there. But then I thought, how about Buddha himself when he renounced the worldly life? If there hadn’t been anyone who had walked the same path or clarified the way before him, everything would have been closed off. Then I imagine that when he decided to break down [the ego], he did not think that his challenge was in vain, nor did he write it off as impossible to conquer, but instead, he had the conviction to charge through with it ever further—such formidable strength… Whenever I am discouraged, he always helps me in that way, but then I wonder whether he applied bhakti when he was discouraged?
MASTER: Yes. (after a brief pause) Siddhartha, he was called back then. It was right before he began to be called Buddha. Later on when Siddhartha became a buddha and preached to the people, he said “I have discovered an ancient path. I simply followed it.”
I suspect that these words were most likely the actual words he spoke. When the disciples of later generations compiled his scriptures—of course by that time Buddha had already been deified, and it was said that he had attained the state of Satori, which was thought to be remarkably superior [to all else] and undiscovered by any other path, so all of his disciples of later years must have believed this to be true—nevertheless [it is recorded that] Buddha found an ancient path and followed it, which means that there were awakened beings just like Buddha who had come before him; and since his disciples held Buddha in such high esteem, even to the point of deifying him, when they were compiling his teachings they probably would never have included these words claiming that Buddha had followed a path that had already existed in the past. The very fact that these words have been handed down in spite of this may offer incontrovertible evidence that Buddha actually spoke them.
Now then, what is the ancient path? Clearly, it is the path to Satori—to realize Existence, the Truth, and the path that leads to It—that is, “right learning and actual discipline in the practice”.
Certainly, as some scriptures have recorded, the conditions at that time were extremely diverse, and various philosophies and methods were scattered about. In particular there was the practice of austerities, which was a method that involved the practice of hurting one’s own body, and also the ritual sacrifice of animals—these were the two main practices. Buddha observed them both, and what’s more, he practiced austerities himself and made it clear that that was not the right path to Satori. And furthermore, he investigated the question, “What truly is necessary?” At the time, there was another stream, Yoga—meaning, meditation. Back then, Yoga was not yet widely practiced, but without a doubt Yoga practitioners existed already. So, Siddhartha devoted himself solely to that path, meditation. And by thoroughly and exhaustively practicing it, he attained Satori. I’m sure there were struggles, but he did not use bhakti—or bhakti yoga as we know it to be nowadays, as exemplified by Ramakrishna. It took a while longer for bhakti to be known. The Yoga of that time was mainly raja yoga. Raja yoga—that means, meditation. Therefore, he must have practiced this thoroughly and exhaustively. Of course, his conviction to “find the Truth, the True Existence, and realize It,” must have been exceptionally strong, along with his conviction that the answer does indeed exist.
…I think it was really simple, that’s just how it was.
(Shri Mahayogi falls into silence as if in deep contemplation.)
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Would conviction be the same as intuition?
MASTER: You could say so.
That is why people who came after Buddha are so fortunate, because Buddha already appeared and illuminated the path, and what’s more, his existence itself is a blessing bestowed on us all. Therefore, you can have Buddha on your side, and you can proceed [on the path] by directing your bhakti towards him. Not only Buddha, but Ramakrishna too, and many such True Existences can help you.
Chetaka: Shri Mahayogi, this is regarding meditation, which you mentioned earlier. These days, I have been in a state of constantly looking within myself during my day-to-day life, finding one or two, or even more issues that need to be resolved within myself, and I have been vigilantly reflecting upon them. Clearly, within my mind there is a mistake, or how should I describe it…a core issue of some sort. So I admonish myself in meditation that this core must be crushed and eliminated, that I must struggle against it with the conviction [that I will prevail,] just as you mentioned now.
At the satsangha last week, as I was sitting there…something happened. At that moment, I thought, “Ah, Shri Mahayogi did something to me just now.” You have told us that the disciples’ karma and samskara are lessened more and more during the time one spends with the guru. But, this time, it concretely felt that something inside of me disappeared, it clearly disappeared and I became lighter, and that state has continued on ever since. It is probably not that Shri Mahayogi is doing something concretely, intentionally, but rather that things like that are occurring for sure when one is around one’s guru…
MASTER: Exactly so.
Chetaka: I understand that you may have taken many large loads off of the baggage I had, although I am unaware of it while it is taking place. But in last week’s case, was it that you helped me to solve it when I was so earnestly determined to address that issue within myself?
MASTER: Yes. (answers immediately and flatly)
Chetaka: It was the first time I’ve ever felt that quite so concretely… So, that means that if one meditates under the [guidance of the] guru, the wind blows especially in one’s favor.
MASTER: That’s exactly so.
Since ancient times, it’s been said that a disciple must be sincere and serious; and a guru must be qualified. There is no license to become a qualified guru, but as Ramakrishna said, it is as if the Truth gives the seal of approval to a guru, so a guru isn’t simply a mere teacher.
Chetaka: The mind, basically, the ego, is always trying to protect one’s self, or tends to go in a cowardly direction. But I think that conviction is the only power that can give someone the strength they need.
MASTER: Yes. Indeed, the mind is a relative thing, and it can only grasp what is within its own realm. However, as that initial conviction expands, it will eventually pierce the mind itself and, in the end, destroy it. One’s conviction becomes the power by which to propel [this process].
(Each disciple is quietly pondering Shri Mahayogi’s words, perhaps confronting themselves to determine how serious they are.)
(In a relaxed mood, Shri Mahayogi asks Ms. Tokuoka (later named Murali,) who has lately been working very hard and making strong efforts, “How has your meditation been lately?”)
Ms. Tokuoka (Murali): There are times when it seems to go well, and other times I get the opposite feeling. The feeling that, “This is not acceptable,” grows strong and I can no longer concentrate.
MASTER: Hmm, as Shachi mentioned earlier, if you go too hard, it won’t work, so it is better for you to accustom yourself to it gradually. Well, that means it has to become a daily habit. Even if only for a short period of time, it is important to make a habit out of it.
On the other hand, it is also important to cultivate that conviction. What do you really want? Burn that very well into your mind.
Ms. Tokuoka (Murali): If I think of that, will I be able to progress further?
MASTER: Yes, you will be able to.
Ms. Tokuoka (Murali): …and I can get stronger…?
MASTER: Yes. (smiles gently)
* * *
The Light of Sattva
Ambika: Earlier, Shri Mahayogi mentioned that [the darkness] of rajas cannot do anything [to illuminate], that is to say, the wind, or activity, cannot do anything [to illuminate that darkness], it is purified or illumined [only] by sattva. Does that mean that being fed sattva right now, and being allowed to touch it through the opportunity you are providing us, the direction that we must take is to become an existence that is of the quality of sattva while still remaining in the form of a human being?
MASTER: Yes. Exactly. The mind that has karma mixed in, as is the case with most people’s minds in general, has sattva, rajas, and tamas intensely interacting. The confused states of being restless, anxious and constantly worrying—these conditions of the mind can be described using the [three] guna as a metaphor. Then, because tamas and rajas cover the Truth with their characteristics of darkness, they further darken and weigh heavily upon the Truth. That which removes the darkness is the light of sattva, but usually that light is hard to reach in life experiences in general. Only the powerful, glorious light of Yoga can still the restless mind and clear away the darkness. The practice of Yoga can be described as the process of restraining rajas and weakening tamas. According to the Yoga Sutra, which gives a description of the guna, the state of completion in Yoga is when the mind is shining forth with the quality of sattva. That is when rajas and tamas have completely subsided, and there remains only sattva. At that time, the Purusha, which is the Truth, the true Essence, and the mind of sattva are a match, [and this is the state] that is described as Awakening. Therefore, as you have mentioned, [the aim] is to become the quality of sattva.
The symbol of sattva is light, so nothing can obstruct it—it permeates everything. Regardless of where that Being [who has awakened and thereby become the quality of sattva] is, the surroundings are inevitably affected.
Chetaka: I love Ramakrishna’s analogy of the lamp.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): What kind of story is that?
Chetaka: “When you bring a lamp into a dark room, the room doesn’t gradually become bright, it becomes bright instantaneously.”
I was in such darkness, I thought that as soon as Ramakrishna arrives, everything would be instantly bright. I really like that.
* * *
Attitude Before Practicing Meditation
(The topic shifts to the new meditation group in Osaka.)
Ambika: Is there anything we can do to align our thoughts for the meditation group? For example, for a class, there are material preparations like making the room darker and burning incense. Is there anything that we can do, such as chanting a mantra or taking turns reading a scripture in a circle?
MASTER: Meditation always has to have an object. It may be different from person to person, yet it must be sacred, or a symbol of the Truth, or rather, an actual form. Do prepare the material space, such as the lighting and incense, as a matter of course. And before sitting down to concentrate and meditate, first off each of you should have an attitude of calling out to, greeting, or more formally, having a feeling of worship, toward the True Being—in each person’s favorite object. Then, dedicate a prayer for you yourself to be more at one with It.
One more thing is to pray for all beings and things, “all sentient beings” as is often said, to have happiness brought upon them, or for them to be happy.
In the end, I suppose that someone will signal the ending. It will be fine for everyone to come back from meditation individually, but it’s good to chant Om three times.
Ms. Hagiwara: Should that be the same when we meditate at home every day?
MASTER:If it is possible. That would be ideal.
* * *
Translation of Satsangha
January 11, 2003
The Ashrama, Kyoto
Meditation on Who Am I?
Ms. Nakajima: Shri Mahayogi, when it comes to meditation, I am so bad at it, I can’t do it even if I sit for a while. I’ve read that it’s good to ask, “Who am I?” and you’ve also spoken about that, so I have thought about starting that, and I always start with, “Who am I” and get to the place where I manage to convince myself somehow that “I am neither the mind nor the body.” But then, when I get to the point where I have to face myself, “Who am I really?” I can’t go any further. I find myself wandering around the surface of, “Who is this really?” without being able to find any hint by which to move further; so as a result I always end up with, “I don’t know,” and give up. It may be a strange way to put it, but is there a way of thinking that can take it to the next level? How should I proceed?
MASTER: Who is asking, “Who am I?” (laughs) That is to say, it is the mind who is saying that, isn’t it? Isn’t it the mind that is also listening to it? This shows that it will only remain at the level of going round and round in the mind. Instead, that “I,” the substance of what the first-person pronoun “I” is pointing out—“What is that?” “Who is that?” You must feel it much more directly. This is pointing to nothing other than your self. So, rather than describing it, continue to inquire more deeply within. By doing that, you will be able to get closer to the essence indicated by the pronoun “I.”
Ms. Nakajima: So [the problem is that] I am thinking about it?
MASTER: Yes. Saying, “I’m not the body” or “not the mind” can be done away with as soon as the mind understands it. No matter if you say even further that, “I am Atman” or “I am Brahman” or “I am God,” they are mere statements coming from the mind. That’s not it. It cannot be described further with words, rather, try to return to the source of what that pronoun “I” is directly pointing toward.
* * *
Verifying the True Existence Throughly
Yogadanda: My question is also about discrimination. I too have more than likely been understanding it with my head, and have been meditating intellectually, and then switched to concentrating on Shri Mahayogi, thinking that, “The problem was solved,” and that, “There is no need to investigate further into these things.” Because of the fact that the same thoughts spring up again regardless, I understand that the level of discrimination is still not quite deep enough. Should I continue to discriminate deeper, or should I stop that and switch to the meditation of bhakti, to concentrating on God?
MASTER: Both are necessary.
Yogadanda: So, then how do I deepen that? How do I discriminate in a much deeper realm?
MASTER: Whether discrimination has been done properly or not will be determined by how much of that memory is revived afterwards. If discrimination is done completely, then the renunciation of a certain thing, that is, elimination of it from the mind, is realized. If that happens, these things will no longer be revived, nor trouble you any longer.
Yogadanda: That means that samskara no longer emerges.
MASTER: There is no more emerging. If they arise again, that shows that the samskara still remains, so you need to practice discrimination again, (emphasis) thoroughly and completely!
Yogadanda: For some reason, I have a tendency to want to study up on things to the smallest detail. But instead, in order to go deeper, are there any points of focus or clues?
MASTER: To go deeper? Discrimination is not mere relative knowledge. It definitely has to be done using the Truth as the standard. It is about discerning whether [the thoughts in the mind are] correct or not based on the Truth. Therefore, you mustn’t think that discrimination is merely intellectual understanding. Rather, it is also [a means of] verifying the True Existence thoroughly.
(Shri Mahaoyogi remains silent for a while, then begins to talk as if speaking directly to each person.)
MASTER: Everything that is born, is born with a mind. The mind contains samskara within its memory. That samskara hides the Atman of bliss. The mind does not know what Existence is. Worse, it mistakenly sees those things that can be enjoyed by the five senses in this material world, as the Truth. So, discrimination means thoroughly confronting whether these things are Real regardless of what the mind wants. Truth is not dependent on anything, it exists independently, in and of itself—alone and independent. It is unfettered by anything, and is absolutely free. Without any impurities whatsoever, it is pure and complete. If you throw these conditions into the inquiry and confront them, the answer will come immediately. Once you realize that all those things the mind wished for were so ephemeral and imperfect, you will no longer be fettered by them. The mind can weaken the magnetism of attachment. And through that, renunciation occurs naturally. Constantly, you need to keep learning the Truth, and keep strongly and intensely desiring to reach Satori. If you think, “That is too vague,” then have faith in an Awakened One who has realized That—the ones who, just like us, have a body, and walked upon this earth, and are walking upon this earth—that being who is the manifestation of the Truth.
* * *
Attitude of Practitioners:
The Actual Practice of Hearing, Reflecting and Meditating
(Ms. Endo is gazing at Shri Mahayogi, smiling like never before. She has been happily listening to the back and forth between Shri Mahayogi and the gurubhai so far, and unlike other times, she begins to ask questions voluntarily. She has a notebook where all of her questions are written down.)
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Shri Mahayogi, while sitting [in meditation] after practicing asana in Tuesday’s class, I was thinking that, “The mind is this and that,” referring to that which is inside of me, but there in that moment it occurred to me that, “[The mind] is merely the memories of my own experiences.” Actually, I was thinking of frivolous things, completely unrelated things, so I was taken aback, and I realized that, “The mind is nothing but the impressions I have of these memories.” Then I thought, “it may be possible that what I had always believed it to be, could actually be wrong”… So then, when I went back home, I read The Universal Gospel of Yoga again, looking for what it says about the mind… Then, it said, “Imperfect reasoning in response to personal experiences” etc., so I was very happy to have ascertained that. Then I drew out a pyramid, trying to analyze what I understand, and what I don’t, then I pondered those things. (smiling) I have a few questions about what I wrote down. May I ask them?
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): So I drew the pyramid, with suffering all the way at the top, then desires, then samskara as the cause of that, then the pain-bearing obstacles, then ignorance at the very base. Is that correct?
MASTER: Yes, that is fine. That is correct.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): But I am not clear on, or I did not quite understand, what samskara is. There is that suffering that I drew on the top of the pyramid; and there are the eight [categories of] suffering, and it is said that one of them is that my “own mind and body are not pure.” (Shri Mahayogi says, “Yes.”) Does that mean that this fact itself is a cause of suffering? That the samskara on this pyramid is suffering itself?
MASTER: Right. Basically, ignorance is a mistake of the mind, which is relying and depending upon something that is not the Truth due to its lack of knowledge of the Truth. This would include the misunderstanding of and the attachment towards your own body, your mind and your thoughts, as well as this world of forms. Since these things will never provide eternal happiness, they came to be counted among the eight sufferings.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): That ignorance you mentioned first, thinking that one’s body and mind are the Self itself, is the greatest, foremost suffering…
MASTER: Indeed, that cause leads to its result: suffering. All things and all material phenomena must establish a cause-and-effect relationship. So, in the case to which you are referring, suffering results for the reason you mentioned.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): I suppose that desires and pain-bearing obstacles are different. Does this mean that the cause of desire lies in the pain-bearing obstacles?
MASTER: They are nearly synonymous. The word “pain-bearing obstacle” comes from an ancient Buddhist term, and “desire” comes from a relatively more contemporary group of words. Yet, the meaning is more or less the same. However, “pain-bearing obstacle” has a more philosophical, religious context added to it, and if you break down its two kanji
(Japanese writing of pictographic characters), the first one means “to cause confusion or trouble,” and the other one means “to cause worry.” So it means something that causes trouble, confusion and worry.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Meaning that it causes trouble and confusion to arise in one’s mind?
MASTER: Yes, that is so. That is why even if your mind thinks, “This is joy,” in the beginning, it will eventually bring troubles and worries, that is, it is inviting suffering as its result—so it is considered to be a pain-bearing obstacle.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): I still don’t quite understand this area that well either: the difference between the mind, ego, and heart. What I sensed a little bit at the class on Tuesday was that, “the mind is a cluster made of memories,” and that, “the mind only consists of what I think about these memories.” But then, as you have often spoken about “eliminating the ego,” I always thought, “eliminating the ego means eliminating the mind,” but is the ego just one part of the mind?
MASTER: Yes. It may require a very subtle understanding, but holistically and comprehensively speaking, it is often referred to as “the mind.” And when we describe what it consists of, “ego-consciousness,” “intellect,” and “thoughts” are recognized as the main functions that constitute the mind. Besides that, there is memory. This one cluster, mixed with all of these things, is what we call the mind. The mind has a variety of functions, and there are pain-bearing and non-pain-bearing functions in the mind. They are divided into pain-bearing obstacles based on ignorance, and non-pain-bearing obstacles, in which there is no ignorance. Then, there are other terms, such as “heart” in English. All of these are extremely subtle.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): We are often instructed to “focus on the heart” when concentrating, and that it is neither the mind nor the ego but simply just the [organ of the] heart.
MASTER: Well, when you look up the word “heart” in the dictionary (laughs), definitions can be found such as the organ, the mind, and the center. I think that while the heart is a physiological organ, it can also be the center of the life of the mind and the body, and what approximates the inner-core of the mind is probably referred to as the heart. So it is like a nucleus or core, a central element that is not affected by various memories and such.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): So [the heart] is not a place, but it is more about the meaning.
MASTER: It includes the location as well. The heart has its meaning as the heart organ, so it means both. Although in meditation, it may be more of an abstract location—the mind.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Earlier, there was a question about discrimination and renunciation. [In The Universal Gospel of Yoga] it’s written that, “You must learn, reflect, meditate, discriminate, then renounce.” I have been thinking that discrimination and renunciation occur as a result of meditation, because of that I never thought about intentionally discriminating or renouncing. Instead, I have been practicing by just intending to make that concentration last as long as possible, which is the state before I can reach meditation. But actually, I found the part in The Universal Gospel of Yoga where it says that this is not the end, and Shri Mahayogi says that, “All that is left is to actually practice this.” Although what “actual practice” meant to me before was concentration up to the point of entering meditation, then I realized that there was more, that from that point on we have to “actually practice and actually experience.” (Shri Mahayogi laughs.) Does this actual practice continue, for example, even after renunciation has already occurred as a result? Do we need to continue instilling this into ourselves?
MASTER: I don’t quite remember in what context these words were spoken (smiles), but I probably meant to say, that all of these practices—meditation, discrimination, renunciation—are all “actual practice” itself, so rather than talking about these things or listening [to what I say] about them in a satsangha like this, one must actually practice them. You probably can understand it when you are listening to it. Even if you can understand it to a certain extent, logically, from a theoretical point of view, that has nothing to do with the experience of actual discrimination or renunciation. So, I suspect that I used the word “actually practicing” in the sense that one must actually apply them and put them into practice.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): I will have to clarify them within myself. (Everyone laughs.) Shri Mahayogi often says to, “concentrate deeper within,” or he says that, “there is a fourth consciousness that witnesses everything.” Even though these words are in Japanese, these words did not sink in at all. I had no clue what they meant. Even semantically, I could not understand them at all. (Shri Mahayogi seems to be very happy hearing her.) But I finally get it a little more, what these words, “deeper within,” which were indeed spoken in my mother tongue, Japanese, actually indicate—“[concentrate] deeper within, beyond where there is still a mind.” I still experience waves that are uneven depending on the day, so it is difficult [to concentrate deeper within.]
During the day today, I decided to sit a little, so I started around noon. I couldn’t concentrate at all, but I had some time, so I decided to keep siting a little more. As always, I kept thinking round and round in circles, then, I suddenly noticed something shifted and became brighter. I was sitting by the window, so I thought that the weather got better, but my room has such a great view that the only thing I can see when I open the only window, is a wall. (laughs) So no light should be able to come in. I thought, “Is the light shining in my room? It shouldn’t be… How strange.” So I opened my eyes, and it was poorly lit. Thinking that it was strange and wondering why it was happening, I looked at the clock and two hours had passed. I became so happy about that. It wasn’t like “I have returned from meditation with something tangible,” at all. Suddenly, when I came to, and realized that two hours had passed, it was like, “What?! What happened?” I was so delighted. (laughs) It was my very first time, so it surprised me. Shri Mahayogi often says, “When you are not thinking anything,” or, “when you are not aware of it [meditation comes]”—it is so true.
MASTER: Yes. That is actual practice. (laughs)
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): In yesterday’s class, I couldn’t concentrate at all, and by the time I went home, I was so upset and frustrated with myself to the extent that I felt like taking it out on something. Usually when I sit, I think of Buddha, but at that time, [I was so mad that] I didn’t even want to think about Buddha (laughs). Then I thought, I also like Vivekananda very much, so today, let me think of Vivekananda [during my evening meditation]. Depending on the preference of the day, is it fine to change the object of meditation? For instance, I can think of Buddha, and when I can’t, I can think of Vivekananda?
MASTER: Yes, that is fine. They…they are the same.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): Well, depending on the object, should we change our attitude? I still don’t understand how I should think about Buddha. Shri Mahayogi mentioned applying bhakti towards Buddha, but how should I think of him?
MASTER: That, you must decide for yourself.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): So I can just do what is most natural, or in other words, what makes sense for me?
MASTER: That’s fine. As I said now, they are the same, but what sees the differences between them is our minds. That is why it is required to have an ideal deity according to each mind. At times, Buddha, at times Vivekananda, at times, Ramakrishna. But, they are all the same. Well, [choosing according to one’s daily mood] is fine, nonetheless.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): So it is fine that the object changes every day?
MASTER: It doesn’t mean that the more ideal images you have the faster or the better it will be. Rather, it’s the opposite. The fewer, the better. Still, what I’m saying is that at times, a different image can be helpful.
Ms. Endo (Mirabai): It doesn’t mean that the more ideal images you have the faster or the better it will be. Rather, it’s the opposite. The fewer, the better. Still, what I’m saying is that at times, a different image can be helpful.
MASTER: That’s right. (laughs)
(The mind keeps creating new waves by using all kinds of ways to trick us. However, through the actual practice of Yoga, the mind clearly begins to change. Continuing the actual practice, unfazed and uninterrupted, regardless of whether a large or small wave comes, is the only “Path to Completion.”)
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Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
The Search for True Life—The Meaning of Life
Part 3: For Others
Translation of the article by Sanatana
November 1999 Kyoto, Japan
In pursuit of a life lived for our own selves, we inevitably end up forgetting about ourselves and living for others. It seems that the top-flight artists and athletes live this way. Initially, they may be proud of their individual talents. Nevertheless, no matter how they themselves may excel relative to their peers, no matter how certain of victory they may be, or how they keep racing ahead with all the others lagging far behind, they never stop forging on. They charge forward, striving to go beyond the limit of “self,” seeking to conceive even more masterful works or achieve even more impressive, record-breaking results. In this state of mind, the vanity or self-conceit that might have been there before no longer exists. As they take pride in their talents and pursue them further and further toward the point of mastery, they push themselves ever further ahead toward “something greater,” something that is beyond their work or their records, transcending their talents in such a way as to even forget to be proud of themselves. They themselves can hardly know why they pursue their goals so relentlessly, to the utmost extent. [When asked why he climbed], a mountaineer once said, “Because the mountain is there.” Those who have gone beyond the internal battle against their own “selves” express this in terms that almost seem religious. The state of “non-self” or selflessness, God’s Existence, love and gratitude toward all beings and all things—to them, these are no mere matters of dogma or doctrine. Far removed from any dogmatic faith, they confirm it for themselves [beyond all doubt] through their own experience. And once they have confirmed it through experience, they can no longer question its credibility. Oftentimes, when such luminaries reach their later years, they enter into religious life, or dedicate themselves to serving others. In the course of pursuing things for ourselves, we will one day arrive at the answer that “for others” is the very goal that we sought all along.
We ourselves may not have such special talents as these accomplished men and women do, but Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ, two heroes who triumphed in the battle against pain-bearing obstacles or the “devil,” in other words, ego-consciousness, proclaimed that, “I am not special. What I have realized is the Truth that is equally true for everyone.” They insisted that, “This realization is possible for each and every one of us.” Pursuing perfection “for myself” results in the transcendance of the ego-self; and further, devoting ourselves to others results in the transcendance of the very idea of “for the self.” What does living “for others” truly mean? In this article, I would like to present my thoughts on this.
The path of realizing the eternal, universal Truth through the practice of selfless action is called karma yoga in India. What is important in this practice is to act simply, at every moment, without being affected by any disturbances and without being attached to the results of any of our actions. Our actions are usually motivated by the desire to bring about a certain result. We work with the expectation that we can gain a certain reward out of our work, so we put in a certain amount of effort corresponding to the reward we seek. However, as I mentioned in the second article of this series, it is our expectations and our desire for results that lead to disappointment. If we never want to be disappointed again, then we should never expect any results. This means that we should simply concentrate on the task at hand in each moment, at that particular time and place, in a simple way and without any disturbance, without having any expectations. And not only that, but we must not perform these tasks carelessly. The scriptures say, “To work alone you have the right, but never to the fruits thereof.” The idea that, “since I do not receive any result for my actions, it’s fine to be negligent,” is the other side of the same attachment to the results of our actions. The principle of karma yoga is to “perform tasks to the best of your ability, without being entangled in the emotional yearning for their results.” There is no good or bad, there is no can or cannnot; however, concentrating on the moment, on what lies before you in that particular time and place, and doing your absolute best—simply, that is the applied discipline of the path of selfless action, karma yoga.
The First Step
The initial stage of karma yoga—engaging in our tasks simply, without any disturbance, and without any involvement in the results or any of our own thoughts—revolves around “not becoming [psychologically] involved” in karma. The word karma has various meanings, such as actions, results, and the effects of one’s previous actions. While acting on and fulfilling our karma (duties) without any attachment to the results, and at the same time, not being involved in and going beyond karma (the bondage of the results of one’s actions): this is the aforementioned karma yoga.
In order to not get involved with our karma, in the beginning it is necessary to cut off our connections to the external world, and thereby train ourselves not to be affected by others. India’s great saint, Shri Ramakrishna, explained it using a deft metaphor: “When a fig-tree is young, it must be protected by a hedge so as not to be eaten by cattle; but when the trunk has grown thick, it stands strong, so much so that you can even tie an elephant to it.” The initial protection you create for yourself, however, is not at all about running away. It is dangerous to suddenly dive into the ocean when you don’t even know how to swim. To have a small child run a marathon is not training, but reckless conduct. In the same way, you can say that being exposed to information beyond what you can deal with, can be dangerous. When our notion of the self is still vague and unclear, we cannot stand firm if something massive is tied around us. It is wiser to reject at once that which is not the self, the “strangers” lurking within and without, and to disconnect from the world at once, so that even if we do come into contact with it, we can become better able to perform our tasks simply and without disturbance, without having any expectations as to the results. Only then will it be possible to tie a huge elephant around that tree.
Later on, once the self is more or less established, we will gradually begin to intentionally take on greater burdens. Though it cannot be crushed by something too heavy, we should gradually apply pressure to the ego-consciousness. By doing this, the mind is gradually being trained and becoming more refined, and [the state of] non-attachment becomes steady. Shri Mahayogi explained this with an interesting metaphor: “Karma yoga, in which the discipline is to practice selfless action, is like a body blow; it is an unassuming move, but it will surely be effective.” Although it is hard for us to recognize the growth that takes place in our own minds, as long as we continue to discipline ourselves to act selflessly, we can say that we are steadily advancing. Even if it is little by little, take it as your practice—doing whatever it is that you do not want to do, or doing whatever is for the good of others—this will enable the preconceived notions about your likes and dislikes to be shaken loose. Through practicing this discipline, a formidable mind that is not bound by anything will arise and come to be firmly established within you.
Karma Yoga—Acting for Others
The karma yoga centered on the discipline of selfless action which was presented earlier in Part 3 of this series, was observed up until this point to be at the level of conducting actions for the benefit of our own selves, rather than for that of others. You could say that it is a means of preventing ourselves from getting tangled up in ego-consciousness and remaining focused within the true Self. The demonstration of the egoless life can influence others in a positive way through its qualities of integrity and purity, and thereby make for a better, more wonderful world. In this sense, selfless actions can also benefit others in addition to ourselves. No matter how much money we may “charitably” throw around, no matter what nice things we may say, actions done without the heart are vanity. Only constant action, done simply and without disturbance, demonstrated by living a life in which there is accordance of body (action), mouth (speech) and mind (thought), will truly move and inspire people.
However, when thinking more proactively about actions done “for others,” the above situation [in which actions are done “for oneself”] does not seem to suffice. In order to proactively serve and lend support to those who are suffering, we must practice acting selflessly, not for the aim of eliminating our own ego-consciousness, but for the sake of others’ happiness. Because actions that are purely “for others,” which do not have the selfish motive of eliminating one’s ego-consciousness, are truly actions for others—they are actions that do not take advantage of others for one’s own sake.
In order to do that, we must renounce all of our desires, even the desire for the Realization of Truth. In the early stages, we start to practice the disciplines in order to attain Satori or seek Freedom, but in the end we become detached from the desire for Satori. Ramana Maharshi, a saint who was known for observing silence, said, “When the logs are burning, you pick up a log and use it to poke the other logs to make them burn better. However, even that branch must be completely burnt in the end.” By intensely attaching to one grand attachment—to selflessly serve others while remaining unattached—all other attachments get burnt away, and even that “attachment to non-attachment” will itself be burnt away in the end.
Similarly, through intensely immersing ourselves in actions done “for others,” even the awareness that we are doing something “for others” will also fade away and be forgotten. As long as there is any awareness that “I am doing this for you,” then we cannot be rid of the sense that,“I am the one who is doing it.” There is an interrelation. As long as that ego-consciousness of “I am the doer,” or the expectation of reciprocation, still underlies the action, such as “I am doing so much for you, what’s in it for me?” we cannot act solely for others. When we are acting naturally and spontaneously, we are not strongly aware of the subject, “I.” If our intention to “serve [others]” is too intense, it can become an obstacle to service, and the act itself will lose its neutrality or spontaneity. In order to act purely for the sake of others, the three factors “I,” “serve,” and “for you” should ideally disappear. In the beginning, we may set out thinking that, “I want to be useful to others.” But by working towards devoting ourselves to purer, deeper inquiry and greater striving, even the sense of doing something “for others” will eventually disappear too. Spontaneous, natural action, that is, actions performed without a sense that, “I am serving [others],” [action] in which the hands and legs are working spontaneously, then becomes action that is done solely for the benefit of others. Forgetting to heal one’s own suffering, forgetting about achieving Satori, and even forgetting the notion of “for others,” forgetting each and every purpose and expectation for results, yet performing sublime, proactive action to the point of courageousness—that is the ideal of karma yoga.
What We Must Actually Do
Without having any concerns about the outcome of their actions, those who made desperate efforts to heal whoever was there suffering right before their eyes, are souls who have inspired many hearts. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa were such people. These are not merely fictious ideals, but only through real action can this become meaningful. Their lives are the proof that it can be done in this modern day. Gandhi and Mother Theresa both said, “I am not a saint.” They simply could not neglect the disastrous situation they saw with their own eyes, and that was all. Mother Theresa said that if she had known that her activity would develop into such a big movement, she would not have been able to begin at all. “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Her activity began by embracing whoever that one person was right there in front of her, and looking after whatever had to be done to ease that person’s suffering.Whatever you believe or do not believe is of no concern here. It is simply that someone is suffering right in front of your eyes; therefore, you act for the real benefit of this person, considering each respective person and case at each time and at each place, abandoning your preconceived notions and past experiences. It is for these very reasons that the maintenance of our own bodies, as well as the deepening of the state of Satori, is practiced. The training and disciplines of Yoga are not practiced for the purpose of maintaining our own health, nor is service practiced for the aim of attaining Satori. The body is well-maintained so that it may be put to use in the service of others, and the realization of the true Self is attained so that we may better live for the sake of others.
What it Means to Truly Live
To live for others is where the meaning of your own existence abides. There is no meaning in living just for ourselves. That can easily become mere indulgence in sensory satisfaction or complacency. Being “meaningful” means “existing for others” from the logical perspective as well. Things are only meaningful due to their usefulness. If it is not useful for anything, then it becomes an object with a “meaningless” existence. Why was I born? And why do I continue to live? No answers can be found as long as we keep thinking from the perspective of looking only within our own self-interest. This will only keep us circling around, asking our “selves” these questions with no end in sight. The answer to the “why” lies in “for what do we exist.” What do we live for? It seems that one of the answers lies in “living for others.” The actualization of this ideal requires such thorough dedication that we even forget that we are doing it “for others.” Once we arrive at that point, “for what” should we say we are really living? “For nothing—I live for the sake of the Truth; because of the Truth, I live,”—we might answer that question thusly if we have to respond using words. In Part 4, I would like to present my thoughts on the compassionate Love that arises out of the the unintentional and natural way of living, or the life of emptiness, or “the void.” I would also like to present how we can practice “living for Truth” even as practitioners who have not realized Satori yet.