Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Translation of Satsangha
April 26, 2010
The Ashrama, Kyoto
The Daily Practice and Attitude of Practitioners: The Necessity of Confronting Oneself
Mr. Matsunaga joyfully reports that he has finally found a temp job after being unable to look for a job for a long time and struggling to become independent from his family. Shri Mahayogi smiles and tells him, “Do continue.” Mr. Matsunaga says that when he is doing repetitive, menial tasks, his state can be that of sattva, but when he is being pressured at work, his state becomes that of rajas, which then turns into tamas when he gets home. He asks if this is something that is inevitable.
MASTER: No, it is especially for those times that you must train yourself to keep a close watch over the mind and bring it under control. Especially when you are feeling sattva, rajas, or tamas, then it is imperative that you bring them under control and constantly turn them into sattva—that is the true control of the mind in Yoga. It is always a serious battle. (smiling)
Mr. Matsunaga: Lately, I have not been able to concentrate, even when I sit down for meditation, and I feel that it may be due to my not having decided completely about my job situation. Do uncertainties cause one to be unstable?
MASTER: That may be the case, but if you do not have serious issues at work, then it is not a life-or-death situation, so it’s not a big problem at all. Rather, what matters is that you concentrate on deepening Yoga. So no excuses or slick reasons [for giving up] are allowed whatsoever.
Mr. Matsunaga: So is it correct to tackle everything in my life as the practice of Yoga?
MASTER: You must ask yourself first, what is most important. Will you find happiness in worldly work, family, or various pleasures in life? Or will you find it in the Truth, which, more than anything else, is your true Self, and realize It—that is truly your [most immediate] issue, so a sense of readiness to seriously confront this issue is required first. Yoga is exactly this task, to realize That. So once your resolve is hardened, you will understand what is right according to the teachings of Yoga, you will then control the mind and come to act accordingly. Through that, work and life will be taken care of naturally.
* * *
Meditation: Knowing the Essence Through Discriminative Knowledge
Satya: It is said that as a result of meditation the essence of an object is known, but what is the essence of the object then? Isn’t that always Atman?
MASTER: It is not necessarily always Atman; since the objects of meditation can be various, that essence will be reached through various paths too. In short, people’s minds all have a different coloring, [like in the Japanese idiom “ten people, ten colors,”] each person perceives various things with his or her own respective subjectivity. The ways of understanding, or the impressions towards various things and situations, are most likely different for each person. Since these understandings do occur completely based on what is on the surface of those things and situations and the reactions of each individual mind to them, they are not universal. If you can remove subjectivity a little more and grasp those things and situations more objectively, then you will gradually come to see the deeper part, the factors upon which those things and situations are founded. The things and situations merely show themselves as if they were consistent phenomena, entangled by time, space, and what is called causality—something like action [and reaction] in physics.
The conditions I just mentioned then expand gradually, for example, sometimes you will be able to sense quite objectively what kinds of characteristics or factors these things and situations have taken on in the past, and what they will become in the future. Also, the conditions that were subjectively ideated by the mind may change. If you deepen the concentration on one object, while pondering whether the mind in the past thought the same way as it does now and how the mind in the future might think of it, you will then notice that you see only a very narrow, singular-faceted aspect of that phenomenon. And if deeper insights thus arise in meditation, the attachments which the mind has towards that object, or the one-sided beliefs that the mind is being caught up by, that subjectivity which includes pre-conceived ideas, then the mind will no longer be attached to them—the mind will transform in that manner. This leads to knowing the essence of the object.
Satya: Very interesting.
MASTER: Very interesting, indeed. The world is really about being engaged in superficial things and the mind is tossed about in utter confusion. And once your own mind comes to understand that, then the mind will realize that it doesn’t have to be fettered by those things anymore, and its perspective will expand such that the mind itself will become easy and free. That is the really fascinating, dynamic part of meditation. Then, as you get closer to the essence, just as Yoga philosophy teaches, you will come to find the twenty-four principles that underlie all things, and that the origin of everything will be restored to prakriti.
Satya (impressed): It goes that far…
MASTER: Indeed, once you can reach that point, then there is only Purusha, Atman, which is the only thing beyond prakriti.
Satya: The Yoga Sutra mentions concentrating on places like the navel, but why is that done? (Shri Mahayogi and Satya laugh.)
MASTER: That is related to the history of the development of Yoga, and it is also an artifact that shows the evidence of yogi making various discoveries. The Yoga Sutra is considered, at the least, to have been compiled sometime around the time of Christ to the 5th century, at the latest. However, the oldest part should have already existed before the time of Christ, at the time of the Buddha. Regardless of whether these were recorded in the form of sutra or not, it is an indisputable fact that yogi existed at that time. What they realized through empirically experiencing them for themselves were the various siddhi, listed in the third chapter, I think.
There is a sutra that mentions that concentrating upon the navel leads to understanding and controlling all the systems within the body. The navel is located at the center of the body, and it is a very important, central part that connects the body to the mother’s womb when the baby is born. That is why it can be said that when the embryo is structured into the form of a body, the origin of life is at the navel. Even when we become adults with these large bodies, the navel as the center never changes. That is why it is said that concentrating on the navel leads to understanding all the tissues and all the systems within the body, as well as the power to control and rule over them.
Satya: Is that a part of knowing the essence?
MASTER: That is correct. In addition, the chakra located in the navel area is named manipura chakra, and it literally means ‘the city that shines brightly like jewels.’ Mani means jewel and pura means city or town. Jewels symbolize brilliance, so the meaning is that it has the power to shine light across all the corners of the body and thus comprehend it.
Satya: The process of knowing the essence is very fascinating to me. Is there some sort of a trick for concentrating?
Yes, there is. It is what I mentioned earlier—it is by undoing or eliminating the knot of the mind’s ideations which come from various conditions, to put it in other words.
Satya: Then, I understand that the conditions will be eliminated, but it also means that as the conditions gradually unravel and come to be eliminated in their entirety, we will finally grasp the trick by which to find the essence, isn’t that so?
MASTER: It will be like that. Throughout that process, you are fixing [the mind] on one object—concentrating upon it. So, as the conditions are gradually removed, or as the mind’s perspective is thereby expanded, then you enter more deeply into the essence of the object of concentration.
Satya: Now I understand that this is the mechanism behind siddhi. I thought it was something magical, but instead, being able to understand all these things by concentrating on the navel is also a part of siddhi.
MASTER: Yes. It truly seems that since ancient times, people have been frightened of yogi due to the extent of their unusual abilities, which are beyond those of normal human beings, like magicians or demons, and at the same time, they were revered. However, it is through their power of concentration, which I just mentioned, that [the yogi] gained powers and wisdom unseen in normal people. From the perspective of Yoga, these things are neither abnormal nor mysterious. The thirty or so siddhi listed [in the Yoga Sutra] really include everything from physical phenomena to the wisdom called viveka, which is the intuitive wisdom of the Truth; and the latter is more important than the siddhi. The teachings of the third chapter emphasize the importance of practicing concentration in order to bring out the intuitive wisdom of the Truth, or to nurture and then bring it out.
Satya: Where does intuitive wisdom come from?
MASTER: Intuitive wisdom, as the word indicates, is intuition; so it is very similar to a sensation—the knowledge based on sensations. It is something akin to the ability to intuitively sense things such as bright or dark, hot or cold, etc., and intuitive wisdom is the power to grasp, sense, and immediately understand the essence of things, which is hidden underneath, just like the aforementioned sensations.
Satya: Sensory knowledge is based on experiences, but is the base of intuitive knowledge different from that?
MASTER: Sensory knowledge is the knowledge that one perceives through the five sensory organs at any given moment in time, even if it is invisible. However, intuitive knowledge is the knowledge that can perceive things without being processed through the sensory organs.
Satya: Wow, it allows for such subtle perceptions. Thank you very much. Yogi are so cool! (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: Yes. They are cool (laughs). In India, they garnered the utmost respect and were objects of admiration. And the thing is, what is also wonderful are the teachings, which are not only limited to very special people, but are available to anyone as long as they are serious seekers who are pursuing it for real.
Yohei: If there is a sense of attaching that still remains, even though we are removing the conditions, then does that mean that something is lacking in our approach toward this?
MASTER: That is correct. In other words, the mind has already formed various conditions through its experiences, and that is the habit of the mind. It is thus that the mind becomes more stubborn, narrower and bound-up, and as a result, it ends up suffering and struggling.
Sananda: If we have likes or preferences, then those turn into conditions, so we create the world that we like; if we cannot create it, then we suffer. Vasana are preferences that have been formed over a long span of time, rather than specific causes, so if we are to remove these conditions from our established preferences, then isn’t it difficult to remove them without really going all the way to the fundamental cause, such as ego and ignorance?
MASTER: Exactly. It is important that one comes to realize that. What is the cause that makes these conditions become entrenched? You can find that there is a snowballing of these conditions caused by the factors of the pain-bearing obstacles that arise, such as the aforementioned habits, for example, likes and dislikes, or simply, raga and dvesha. Since pain-bearing obstacles are based on ignorance, it boils down to the fact that it is the ignorance itself that has to be truly eliminated.
However, the most important thing that is taught first in Yoga is that the mind is not your self. This declaration is probably quite shocking to everyone, as well as radical and refreshing. Up to that point, everyone thinks the body and the mind is “myself”; nevertheless, Yoga clearly states that this is not the case. Rather [than the body and mind being the Self], they are something to be witnessed, and there in the depths lies the Pure Consciousness that sees them, and That itself is the true Self. That must come across as extremely shocking. However, that is not limited to Yoga. Buddha, of course, and Jesus, too, all sacred beings throughout history, they all realized that and taught the same.
Ms. Suga: If someone asks, “Where is the mind?” how should I answer that question?
MASTER: Location? The accurate answer is that the mind does not have a specific location.
Yohei (pointing towards chest): It feels like it’s here. (Everyone laughs.)
Jayadevi: The reason why I think it’s here is because it’s my mind?
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: But still, in meditation, doesn’t the mind have to stay focused on one place?
MASTER: Yes. Yet, as we mentioned earlier, in this world, in which one is bound and limited in this body, the mind often resides in the chest.
Mr. Matsunaga: So the mind itself is not necessarily limited to just the body, is that it?
MASTER: Originally, it’s not limited to the body.
Mr. Matsunaga: So does that mean that it exists beyond spatial matter, and it is not confined to a specific sheath?
MASTER: Right. It seems that recent science has discovered cells with DNA and found all the information contained within them. It seems that ‘all the information’ means that even characteristics, actions, and various other things belonging to each respective person, are stored there, like karma. Then, probably, the mind can be said to be within one’s DNA. Then, where is that DNA? It’s not just limited to here (pointing to chest), but, here and here (pointing to knees and arm), everywhere. And probably, a part of DNA that is within the body and a part of DNA that is within the space here can be the same too. The same thing can also exist in someone else’s body. In this case, you can infer that the mind is not limited to a specific physical body, but exists everywhere, according to the theory of DNA as well. …Mr. Tsuru likes this kind of topic. (Everyone laughs.)
In the previous Satsangha, the conversation became active around Mr. Tsuru’s quantum mechanics. Shri Mahayogi explained that every aspect of the latest scientific discoveries can be found within the ancient Vedas and Yoga.
* * *
Daily Practice and Attitude of Practitioners: Confronting the Self
Sarani: When it comes to intuition—how much can we rely on it?
MASTER: I think intuition can be relied upon 100%. Also, I think that your intuition will continue to improve towards the correct and deeper direction.
Sarani: Just as the Truth is within everyone, does this also apply to everyone?
MASTER: Yes, it applies to everyone. Of course, only if you go through a great deal of education and through the discipline of practice; intuition cannot be cultivated through osmosis. If it is lacking, then you remain in a state of being untrained, as when you were born.
Sanatana: I think that the result of the training of discrimination ultimately comes with the intuitive True Wisdom. At first, after meditating on one issue, spending about one month continuously doing so, one might finally come to reach a conclusion. Once one gets accustomed to this, then after that one’s concentration gets strengthened and the result comes within about one week. And then, as one gets more used to it, then the time it takes will get shorter, from one day, one hour, or even just thirty minutes to reach the conclusion in meditation. I strive to discriminate something instantly, but I have not reached zero seconds yet.
When I observe Shri Mahayogi, it seems like negative seconds. (Shri Mahayogi laughs.) It even seems that you are not intentionally discriminating, you are doing it as a natural reaction. When I would ask something like, “Shri Mahayogi, may I ask the reason behind what you were doing when you did this or that a while back?” sometimes, the answer would be, “Oh really, I did that?” So I feel that even before you are aware that you intend to do something, True Wisdom, as the result of discrimination, manifests itself, and that your actions are in the condition in which they are already completely in alignment with the Truth. So I want to aim for beyond zero seconds of discrimination—minus seconds of discrimination, but will I be able to acquire it through continuously practicing, without any unguarded moment, while at the same time refining the quality of the answer that I can get right now, in one day or one hour of meditation—in other words, if I continue to progress as I have been doing up until now?
MASTER: Yes. That is also one of the factors. At the same time, it could be that you are penetrating or progressing further towards the core of the essence. So the concentration deepens towards the object of that matter more and more, and then arrives at the essence, its origin—that seems to be something that is micro, but it is in fact, macro. Knowing the essence of the most minute thing is equivalent to knowing [the essence of] the entire universe. Then, regardless of what the object is, you will come to understand everything all at once, just like intuitive wisdom, without the effort or time that it takes for concentration, it works just like intuitive wisdom, that is to say, everything will be revealed to you. That is how it works. I suppose that is what you, Sanatana, are trying to aim for.
Sanatana: For example, in those cases during our various classes and other situations, when people ask me, “What should I do?” and for those instances when the person’s ‘understanding is on the surface,’ as mine is too, and the ‘actual causes and effects’ are different, I probably bring out the essence of the problem intuitively, or the pure and essential part comes out from the positivity of that person. Then, I put effort into eliminating the bad and enhancing the good. It used to take forever to grasp all of that, but nowadays, as long as I spend time with it, I can grasp it. Yet I still have not reached the state where I immediately arrive at the right conclusion. Each problem itself is individual, but when you say micro vs. macro, what does that mean concretely speaking? Take Atman for example. Since universality is there from the beginning, I understand that if one Atman is known, then every Atman is known.
MASTER: Let’s say that a mind is obsessed with a particular object. If there are ten people, the objects of their obsessions might be ten different objects. If you look at the reason for the obsession, you can find that it is a mental factor: attachment. That means that even if there are ten different objects with ten different people, the causes are the same—there is one. If you look further into what is unseen, to the cause of the cause—to how these obsessions, likes, and attachments turned into the cause—then you will see that the cause is in the past experiences of each individual, and because they had contact with these objects and had positive sensations, attachments toward them were formed. Then, if you look more deeply into that cause, why did people get attracted to these things to begin with? It must be because the mind was satisfied and happy due to being in contact with these objects. Then you can see that this is what’s common to all ten people, and you can find the same driving force within them. Then where did that driving force come from? That would be, ultimately, from things that constitute ignorance: the delusion that it creates happiness at that moment, even though, as a result of the flow of time one may eventually forget it, or it may create pain. Thus, that mistake, in other words, the illusion, is to see happiness in something that eventually ends in suffering, or to admire something that is not Truth as the Truth, and that [mistake] must be caused by those thoughts which are based on ignorance. And you can find that it is a universal, singular cause. Therefore, even if ten objects ultimately differ, as you find the cause behind them, you can find that common, universal power which is called the power of ignorance. Once that can be found, then the answer of what to do in order to eliminate it is there hidden behind it. You will be able to understand these things instantly.
Sanatana: The answers are the laws of karma, samskara, and furthermore, ignorance and the pain-bearing obstacles. If we are to include the method by which to eliminate them, that would be the Four Noble Truths. However, even though these laws exist universally regardless of individual cases, the way to apply them, the way to retroactively investigate them and connect the dots, still takes time, doesn’t it?
MASTER: It is a matter of whether you get accustomed to them, in other words, whether you train yourself. What is important is to keep your own mind the quality of sattva at all times, like a mirror. By keeping the mind purified, it will reflect all these issues clearly. As [the practice of] Yoga deepens, so does the purification of the mind, therefore inevitably, the ability to do so will be strengthened. That too can be deepened with training.
Sanatana: So, even before thinking logically, being able to feel something is wrong?
MASTER: Yes. If you speak about the mechanism behind it, it gets philosophical, like what you’ve mentioned just now about the Four Noble Truths. However, instead of that, it is more important to grasp them intuitively and solve the issues that way. What is important is that it is not about [intellectually] understanding philosophy, and that’s why it’s very empirical and practical. So, what each and every one of you must do boils down to deepening Yoga, and that seriousness, or passion, will create that kind of [intuitive] mind.
Satya: In actuality, is it possible that things may not necessarily proceed the way you just mentioned, “Why is it this way? What if it was another way?”
MASTER: It is possible—even if one does not go through that type of process, for one to intuitively grasp it. It will eventually be that way.
Satya: So in order to reach the intuitive state mentioned by Sanatana, what we need to go through is to constantly go step by step through the process that Shri Mahayogi mentioned?
MASTER: That is preferable. It is very basic, therefore you will be able to make steady progress. If you just think it takes only concentration for intuition to naturally come about and therefore don’t practice [anything], then it will not be steady or improve. In this sense, you can find that the content of concentration and meditation, in reality, can be more powerful than asana.
Probably it’s because I’m not the quality of sattva normally, so at times, it feels like it takes so much energy to concentrate in meditation. But when I am very exhausted from work, I feel like I do not have enough power needed to concentrate in meditation. Should I still meditate at those moments?
MASTER: No, it is better not to meditate right afterwards if you are in that state. Calm down a little bit, and do some housework to loosen your mind and body, and then sing some kirtan (laughing), then concentrate.
Satya: It means that as we practice, these ups and downs will eventually be reduced?
MASTER: Yes, they will be reduced for sure.
* * *
Daily Practice: The Original Discipline of Mauna
to Eliminate the Chatter Within the Mind
Yohei: Shri Mahayogi has taught us that we must actually practice mauna in order to maintain the state of mind in which we are abiding in the witness. When he said that, I was stunned, and then that was that. I didn’t do anything about it afterwards. (Everyone laughs.) Please teach me what mauna is and how to actually practice mauna. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
MASTER: True mauna is not only about verbal silence, but it means to eliminate any chatter within the mind. That means that the mind can stay silent. That is to say, when the mind thinks something, it is immediately expressed by words—which, as you know, are namarupa—name and form inevitably arise. To eliminate namarupa, (emphasizes) thorough discrimination and faith are absolutely necessary. As those deepen, mauna becomes perfected. You may not be able to perform perfect mauna at first; however, as I mentioned just now, you will gradually be able to control it.
Yohei: I have a lot of chatter in my mind. (Everyone laughs.)
MASTER: I have recently heard about things like Twitter and whatnot (everyone laughs), which intentionally scatter chatter across the world—such an anti-yogic tool is getting so popular! That is really pathetic. I think people will get even worse if they do things like that. I also say that it is better not to keep a journal, because even one second is already in the past—non-existent—actually what is more important is the future, and the future is based on the now, so the very moment of now is the most important. So there is nothing more foolish than thinking back and recording the past in order to live in the now. So, I suppose that Twitter can be categorized as a diary. One more thing to add about it: who sees the posts you put out on Twitter? You look at it yourself? Or others see it? (Everyone Answers: “Others”.) Then it is even less yogic. Rather, you can say that it is anti-yogic.
(There is an additional question, “Are blogs OK?” And Shri Mahayogi answers that, depending on the messaging, Twitter and blogs can be yogic—it all depends on the content.)
Yohei: I’m glad I’m not on Twitter. I will just quit my mind’s Twitter. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
MASTER: First and foremost, no matter what, concentrate on Yoga—actually disciplining one-pointed concentration all the time is more important than anything else.
Yohei: We must bring our dedication solely to training and controlling the mind as you mentioned earlier.
MASTER: Exactly, as the results come, you will arrive at the famous sutra, “Yoga is the restraint of the activity of the mind.”
Shachi: So it is like continuing to discriminate diligently until the chatter stops arising, and then filling the extra space that is emptied out in the mind with faith, isn’t that right?
MASTER: Right, you can chatter the name of God instead.
Yohei: What is the root cause of chatter?
MASTER: Habit. And the unconscious distracting thoughts and clutter in the mind that created that habit.
Mr. Takahashi: In the Yoga Sutra, it says that in order to restrain the activity of the mind, the practice of training and non-attachment are required. If that training is about making an effort to keep the mind fixed on one point, and if one continues that steadfastly, then that habit will eventually disappear, right?
MASTER: Right. It means to create a new and correct habit. It is like taking a splinter out with another splinter.
Satya: My understanding was that, regardless of what we are doing, we should be applying the training of devotedly returning the mind back into alignment with the Truth, and that was all. Is doing that what is meant by “Living in Yoga”?
MASTER: Yes. In the aforementioned Yoga Sutra, the practice of training means repeatedly applying the teachings again and again, and renunciation means to completely eliminate all ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles within the mind. That is why it is like two wheels of a car—such that as the training progresses, so too does non-attachment; and if non-attachment progresses, then training progresses. That is how it works. The sole driving force there, which is propelling the practitioner in that direction, is nothing but [the earnest aspiration to seek] the Existence of the Self. True Reality, your own Existence—what is it? The mind and the body are subject to various changes in this world, such as suffering and getting hurt. And at the end of the line, death brings hopelessness. Do you accept that as the Self, or do you find out and realize what the true Self, or the Existence of the Self is? You are confronted with this most urgent issue above all else, so you can deepen [the practice of training and non-attachment] further.
Satya: So I must heighten my yearning towards the Great.
MASTER: Right. You can practice small, isolated acts of discrimination, but at the root of it all, as I just mentioned, there exists the search for and the realization of the Eternal Existence, or the true Self.
* * *
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
Raja Yoga (The First Part)
Translation of the article by Yohei Iio
May 2016 Kyoto, Japan
“Yoga is the restraint of the activity of the mind. Then the seer remains in its own natural state.”
Raja yoga, the ‘royal path’ of yoga, considers this state to be the highest ideal, and clearly shows the path to get there. There are eight steps (eight limbs or ‘ashtanga’) to this path.
1. Yama (Abstinence)
• Ahimsa (non-violence)
• Satya (truthfulness)
• Asteya (non-stealing)
• Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
• Brahmacharya (abstinence)
2. Niyama (Observances)
• Shaucha (purity)
• Santosha (contentment with the bare minimum needs)
• Tapas (austerities)
• Svadhyaya (study of sacred scriptures)
• Ishvarapranidhana (pure devotion to a personal, ideal God)
3. Asana (Sitting position)
4. Pranayama (Control of prana)
5. Pratyahara (Control and withdrawal of the senses)
6. Dharana (Concentration)
7. Dhyana (Meditation)
8. Samadhi (Super-conscious state)
Six years have passed since I began to practice Yoga. I never considered myself a raja yogi, but looking at these six years, I think that my path centered around raja yoga, such as asana, the study of scriptures, and devotion towards my ideal God. Looking into my own mind, I noticed that out of all the limbs of raja yoga, the intention towards observing ‘satya,’ played an unexpectedly strong role. Satya has been translated as “honesty, or integrity,” and since it is a part of yama, (abstinence; what one must not do) the first steps of raja yoga, it is also translated as, “Do not lie.” Not telling a lie seems like nothing special that anyone can observe, so we may tend to think,“doing that is obviously pretty standard.” However, around the time when I began to practice Yoga, Shri Mahayogi strictly warned me, “Do not ever think that you have mastered and become established in any of the yama. As soon as that thought arises, your advancement in the practice of the discipline stops.” I myself do not think I can say that I understand it perfectly, but as I continued to practice Yoga, I felt that satya, the most basic of the yama, is intimately related to the pinnacle of Yoga, ‘staying in the awareness of the witness,’ and I have come to feel that, in fact, they are the same state. To put it bluntly, I have come to feel that, “Not lying runs very deep.”
That feeling is what compelled me to write this article on the pinnacle of raja yoga based on the teaching of satya.
Soon after I began to practice Yoga, I read Pranava Sara1 and Raja Yoga2, so I knew about the teaching of satya; however, it was only after another six months had passed, during the time when I was allowed to live with Shri Mahayogi in New York, that I really understood it. Due to my lack of stamina, Shri Mahayogi ordered me to run and do push-ups every day. Towards the last half of our stay in New York, I was exhausted both in mind and body, driven into a corner. From the perspective of Yoga, since fatigue is created by the mind, and therefore, strictly speaking, I should say that,‘my mind thought I was tired.’ I had reached my limit (or I should say that I made myself believe that I had reached what I believed to be my limit). After running, I sat by the Hudson River in Battery Park and meditated upon whether I should speak about this state of exhaustion to Shri Mahayogi or not. As a result, the answer I was led to was, “If I don’t tell Shri Mahayogi honestly, it will be against satya.” So when I went back to the Cave, I told Shri Mahayogi and Anandamali the following: “Honestly speaking, I am exhausted. Please give me time to rest. I decided to confess this because otherwise it would be against satya if I did not tell you.” Anandamali-san answered immediately, “Satya means to be honest towards the teaching of Truth.” Her words were like a single blow, like I had been counter-punched. Indeed, what is honest to the mind are the pain-bearing obstacles. It was that incident that made it painfully clear for the first time “how deep this not lying goes.”
Then I understood that if one is to be a yogi, then one must be honest and maintain one’s integrity to the teachings of the Truth. However, when it comes to the practice of discipline, it is easier said than done. The first checkpoint on the path of Yoga, which you may say is the gateway to success3, is asana, the third step in the eight limbs of raja yoga. Asana is related to tapas, which is translated as ‘heat’ or ‘austerities,’ the second step in niyama, and it is very painful and difficult beyond reason. Though there is a teaching that ‘asana must be practiced daily,’ it is very difficult to truly carry out this discipline. At first, I was doing asana five days a week. Then I made it six. And then I improved a little more to almost every day except for one or two days per month when I would have to coax myself to practice, but without a doubt that was against satya. The day I finally resolved to ‘devote myself to practicing asana daily’ was about one and a half years after starting Yoga, right after I participated in the “Secrets of Yoga” program4. The mind seeks for comfort, so at that time, in order to create the condition in which the mind was not able to make excuses or escape hardships, it was absolutely necessary for me to have serious determination. What primarily enabled me to go through this was the fact that I was so inspired by the passion toward Yoga that I felt from the senior disciples who were instructing this series of programs. But, I also had a very strong urge to “not go against satya.”
Surely, asana practice is painful and hard, but if practiced daily, truly there are so many positive changes that come. After asana practice the body and mind became lively and not easily fatigued, and I felt that they became purified, as if they had been washed. At times I felt that a veil of grace would envelop me. In addition, because of the fact that by practicing asana every day excessive social and work obligations disappear, environmentally and psychologically, one is no longer confused by unnecessary matters, and work becomes easier. To go along with that, wasting money on food, drinks, and clothing stops, and one is satisfied with the bare minimum needs. More than anything, one is able gain more trust in oneself and become more self-confident. It’s really beneficial all around.
However, several years after I started Yoga, I felt that my practice had hit a wall. I kept practicing asana without exception, and not only that, the yearning for my ishvara, “Vivekananda,” became greater and greater and I kept meditating on him. But I was no longer able to concentrate on asana or my meditation on Vivekananda.
One of the reasons was because life became easier due to the effects of Yoga, and unbeknownst to me, I had become complacent with the half-results I had experienced.
Yet, there was actually a much deeper issue rooted within me.
It was around this time of being in limbo, that I read a passage from Vivekananda—a Biography and had an insight from Vivekananda’s ‘attitude’ during his wanderings across India. You may know this story, but here is an episode from his journey.
When Vivekananda was staying with a Maharaja in Khetri, there was a magnificent feast. At that time, he stayed alone in his room, feeling that a sannyasin should not participate in such a feast. Then, from afar, a singing voice drifted to his ears,
“Look not, O Lord, upon my sins! Is not same-sightedness Thy name?”
Vivekananda was deeply moved. This girl, who was considered impure and untouchable by society, had taught him a great lesson. Brahman, the existence that is eternally pure, eternally free, eternally realized, is the essence of all and everything. In front of God, there is no distinction between good or bad, no purity or impurity. Sannyasin must see everything from the point of view of Brahman. Afterwards, he went to the feast and sat down next to the girl, tearfully telling her,
“Mother, I am guilty. I was about to show you disrespect by refusing to come to this room. But your song awakened my consciousness.”
I have read this episode many times before. And I understood it as a story that demonstrated Vivekananda’s humility, in which he would simply accept whatever the Truth was even if the words came from a dancer of lowly caste. But, what I felt that was new was that his humility came from the ‘pride’ of being a ‘sannyasin,’ in which he strongly stood firm. Normally, pride makes one’s self-worth or ego bigger, and it seems to be the opposite of humility; however, with Vivekananda, his was the sannyasin’s pride, which is humility itself, in other words, ‘Truthfulness’ itself.
When he was wandering across India, he was brimming with the pride of being a sannyasin. In Bangalore, Mysore kingdom, he says, “What! Do you think an honest sannyasin is afraid of speaking the truth, even though it may cost him his very life? Suppose your own son asks me about my opinion of yourself; do you think I shall attribute to you all sorts of virtues which I am quite sure you do not possess? I can never tell a lie.” In Jaipur, when he upset his Hindu friends by receiving a warm welcome from an Islamic government official, he boldly answered, “As a sannyasin who belongs to the order of monks led by the supreme Paramahansa, I am beyond all caste regulations.”
Indeed, Vivekananda was always bold, [having the attitude of,] “I am a sannyasin!”
I thought this attitude of Vivekananda was truly cool and I admired it. But it took time for me to boil it down to ‘see it as myself’:
“But actually, what about me?”
Even though I have not become a renunciate, am I able to declare, “I am a yogi!” like him, ‘truthfully’ from the bottom of my heart? I found myself quite unable to declare that.
So then why?
It was because I still had regrets and attachments towards ‘bhoga’ (pleasures), the opposite of ‘Yoga’.
What am I escaping from? What must I truly confront? I had an inkling of a feeling that my current practice would not get rid of ‘that.’ No, “I clearly knew and saw” it.
If I cannot declare that, “I am a yogi!” then it’s better for me to quit Yoga.
I felt that I must make this clear within myself.
That was the moment when ‘discrimination’ [within myself] began.
(To be continued…)
1 A gospel containing the teachings of Shri Mahayogi, originally an abridged version of the journal where Anandamali recorded the details of what she witnessed during Shri Mahayogi’s first visits to New York.
2 By Swami Vivekananda
3 In Japanese, it is written as Climbing Dragon Gate, and the literal meaning of the original word is ‘gateway climb to become a dragon’ – based on a legend of the rapids in Yangtze River in China, where if a carp managed to swim upstream, against the rapid current, and go past it, it would turn into a dragon.
4 Conducted by senior disciples for studying asana practice while Shri Mahayogi was in NY during the summer 2011.