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Vol. 67

Teachings of Shri Mahayogi

Satsangha, New York, December 21, 2019

Meaning of “There is only One”

Memory, Sanskara and the Practice of Discrimination

The Training of Bringing Positive Change Proactively to the Mind is Sadhana

The Meaning of Shinken [in Japanese]: Seriousness

The Point of Focus in Meditation

The True Self

 

Testimonies from Actual Practitioners

Living on the Words of Mother—Part 1
by Yukti (Yuri Shibasaki)
Sept. 2012 – Mar. 2013, Fukushima, Japan

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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi

Translation of Satsangha
Saturday December 21, 2019, 3 p.m. The Still Mind Zendo, NY

“Please come again soon, in December!” Graciously granting this request made at the end of his visit during the summer of 2019, Shri Mahayogi has just arrived back to New York, precisely in December of the same year. This is the first-time Shri Mahayogi has returned to New York after a mere three months of being in Japan, and it is as if the moment has come for the disciples to be tested to see how their practice has proceeded and how their understanding has deepened.

Today disciples, practitioners, and few first-timers have gathered for the Satsangha. After Shri Mahayogi enters the room, attendees remain in silence for a short while, then the questions begin right away.

Meaning of “There is only One”

Yajna: You speak many times about your experience of being interconnected with all things. If I recall properly, for example, you’ve talked about flowers and said how when you see flowers you don’t see them as being separate, but at the same time, do you experience yourself as a separate entity that is also interconnected with all other entities, or is there no separate entity?

MASTER: Actually, it’s not about being interconnected, it is being the same One. When you say being connected, multiple relationships are happening. But it’s not like that in actuality, what exists is only one Existence.

Yajna: Okay, I understand. Thank you.

Nandiswara: Just to follow up on Yajna’s question, within that who is receiving this one Reality?

MASTER: In that state, there is nothing [acting] as a receiver nor an existence to have [a receiver] receive. Simply there is only One.

Nandiswara: So, Shri Mahayogi, you are always in that state?

MASTER: Indeed, always, and at the same time I also move within the relative condition, how it is now.

Memory, Sanskara and the Practice of Discrimination

Sadhya: Shri Mahayogi, I have a question about impressions that are left in the mind. Throughout our day-to-day life, as we see faces and speak with people, have interactions, all of this information is being taken into the mind. So, I find, for example, when I am home at night, all of these various impressions may arise in the mind, and sometimes it is so bothersome. Because I think, “I already left work, so why does that face or that piece of homework or whatever it is need to come to my mind.” And I don’t necessarily feel anything about those images that come to my mind, meaning they are not bothering me as if I were concerned about something that happened. It’s just coming from having seen it, I feel. So, my question really is, even if the image comes up like that, does that indicate that there is sanskara there? And if so, does that mean that once sanskara is removed, even memory and anything that is arising in the mind is removed? How does it work? 

MASTER: Memory is one part of the elements, or one of the workings that compose the mind. And sanskara is like a warehouse that has an even bigger reserve of memory. Then, each respective sanskara that has been recorded according to whatever the workings of the mind are that are influenced by karma will be recorded as a seed for future [karma]. And when the time is ripe [for a particular seed], that sanskara sprouts as a concrete karma. Now, memory plays a role in that too, although when you refer to just a memory, it simply means the residual impression that is taken in and the workings of the “drawer” [that it is contained in]. Therefore, what is necessary when you work to purify the mind is to not make karma, in other words, to eliminate bad thoughts that create karma, and conversely, to create a kind of sanskara that eliminates other sanskara. Indeed, these are the meditations of Yoga, especially those of discrimination and bhakti. Surely it’s unpleasant to be bothered by trivial memories in daily life. Therefore, think of the constant, changeless Existence, God or the Truth.

Sadhya: Does that mean that these images that just come back from memory will …when they come up, what should I do? 

MASTER: There is no other way to deal with that either but to train yourself again and again by trying to forget them and thinking about God instead, for instance.

Sadhya: So, when they come up, then I can tell myself “Okay, forget that” and again direct toward something else, and then they come up again, then I say “No” and again go to something else.

MASTER: Right. And conversely, through thinking upon the changeless Existence such as God or the Truth, then the frequency of that happening should decrease.

Sadhya: Oh, thank you, Shri Mahayogi.

MASTER: When I was in junior high school, there was a time that I felt like these types of impressions were bothersome as well. (Laughter from all.) Before one starts the disciplines of spiritual practice like this, people normally meditate to improve the strength and power of memory (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh); however, for me, the condition of everything being recorded as memory was so annoying that as soon as I noticed this fact I decided not to let this happen, and ever since then I was no longer troubled by that.

Sadhya: How do you stop recording it?

MASTER: Normally, your mind wants to record things that are important or dear to you, and does not want to record things that are not important, yet memory works as if it is an automatic video camera and records everything of what you see and hear. So then in that case, what you do is take the battery out of the video camera. (laughing) (Everyone laughs.)

Sadhya: What is the battery in this case (laughing)?

MASTER: Right, that is the dynamic of the workings of the mind; and that is what I was able to actually stop in the moment. Anyway, the means that I said a short while ago should definitely work—practice and train yourself to do that.

Sadhya: Thank you, Shri Mahayogi. (Shri Mahayogi is smiling)

Karuna: Following what Sadhya just said, does that mean stopping the mind from craving to get involved with that memory…

MASTER: Yes.

Karuna: …or in a way, to connect to my own desire that may react to them?

MASTER: Yes. (smiling)

Karuna: So, then the preparation for that comes through continuous practice.

MASTER: Yes, that means discrimination. Discrimination—that is to say, to practice not to have attachments in the mind, and to become un-attached.

Karuna: So, during the last visit, Shri Mahayogi recommended or asked me upfront, about anything that I pursue or think about or follow, “What is it worth?” And I took it as a tool for discrimination. But I tried, and it continues to be in my mind, and I get stuck; when I asked myself “Okay, what is it worth?” and I realized something was not worth it in my path, I don’t know what to do with that which is not worth anything. I have a big accumulation of things that are not worth anything, (laughing) and I have not been able to throw them out.

MASTER: You must confirm the truth of the object of your discrimination: whether it has an absolute worth, whether it is perfect, whether it is eternal? If not, then it’s worthless. Then you must discern the truth of that object, to truly know its essence—that is discrimination.

Karuna: “To discern the essence of that object” means to clearly understand the worthlessness of it.

MASTER: Yes.

Karuna: And is that something that needs to be repeated a lot, because it seems that if I do it once, my mind may say, “Alright, it’s worthless,” but it’s not gone. 

MASTER: If you can’t do it in one shot, then you have no choice but to keep repeating it. (smiling)

Karuna: Okay. (laughing)

MASTER: Be that as it may, life is short (Karuna and a few others laugh.) You really need to hurry up and be done with this quickly.

Karuna: Maybe my discrimination has to be sharper.

MASTER: Yes.

Aniruddha: Sadhya was speaking earlier about memories and sanskara; is there a distinction between them? …You mentioned that one is like a storehouse and the other one is more like a filing cabinet, but is there a way to tell one versus the other as to what each one is? And also, in the end, does it even matter? 

MASTER: It doesn’t matter if you can’t distinguish between them.

Aniruddha: But, I guess in the end, whether these impressions keep occurring, the point is to just discriminate against them.

MASTER: Sanskara, as I mentioned earlier, are something that connect directly to karma. Therefore, if you find out there are sanskara with negative karma in your mind, then you must practice to remove them. Regarding other ones, there is no need to be concerned about them so much; rather, if you have been meditating and practicing sadhana consistently, then these deeds should have accumulated as positive sanskara. Positive sanskara work to eventually remove the negative sanskara.

Aniruddha: Okay.

Elena: Shri Mahayogi, relating to this, Shri Mahayogi mentioned that bad sanskara can be removed by meditation or bhakti. Personally, I have a lot of difficulty with meditation, so, after I do sadhana practice and sit in meditation, I find it very hard to sit for a long time. What can I do to make it easier or to make some progress in meditation?

MASTER: If you sit in front of the altar, placing a sacred symbol in front of you, then if you gaze at it intently, entering into meditation should become easier.

Elena: Thank you.

Karuna: I just want to know, what is the main difference between discriminating in daily life and discriminating during meditation.

MASTER: There is no difference. Because the task of discrimination is to remove unnecessary sanskara or ignorance that might be within your mind.

Karuna: I guess I thought that if you discriminate during meditation, then that leads into a deeper meditation, whereas during daily life, it continues to be discrimination, like mental activity. (rephrasing) So, I thought the difference would be that during daily life, it’s a thinking process, whereas during sitting meditation, this will transform into meditation and will be the way into discrimination itself. I thought there was a difference maybe.  

MASTER: (interrupting Karuna) What you are saying about during the day—that is nothing more than simply the level of thinking. (Karuna: Yes.) That is not discrimination. (Karuna: Uh-huh.) That is the primary stage of discrimination. Discrimination is, as I have already been telling you for so many years, about checking and confirming whether the thoughts of your mind and the teachings that the Truth teaches contradict each other or are consistent with each other. (after some pause) For example, let’s say you are attached to something. Now, the Truth says, “Who is having that thought?” The mind replies, “It’s me.” The Truth says, “Who is that ‘I’?” The mind replies, “It’s the mind.” The Truth says, “That’s not the ‘I.’” (silence for some time) There it is exposed that whatever the thoughts that the mind is going through as a protagonist, they are all false. Consequently, not only the objects that you are attached to, but also the act itself of attaching and the protagonist—the mind’s “I”—who can attach [to those objects], are renounced as completely worthless because they are all false. That is discrimination.  

(Silence ensues and prevails.)

Ekanta: Shri Mahayogi, going back a little bit to this different mind, so, first there are images that come to the mind, and then it looks like there is this stronger mind which feels, “I want,” or, “I don’t want”; so there are kind of two parts of the mind: one part is the images and one is something that comes from that place of really wanting something or not wanting something, and this is very, very strong. Then, in the process of discrimination, there is somebody there that is observing this strong mind reacting. So, a little bit of what Shri Mahayogi mentioned to Karuna, there is also something that is aware of this mind, so, in the process of discrimination, that awareness is kind of like looking into this mind, whether this is real, and then it turns around into the Self—is that actually the process? Because, I feel like in the process of discrimination, if I use the part of the mind that is only the memory part, and if I don’t use this strong drive of, “I want,” or, “I don’t want,” then it’s just a thinking process, but if I use this part of the mind in which I really feel a strong force, if I use this strong wanting or not wanting, to actually feel really, like from the object of attachment back to the consciousness, then I feel like there are some results, meaning that the mind comes down. So is this the part of the mind that I need to use—this wanting, this force?   

MASTER: That is fine. Exactly, because whatever it may be, the mind is having further and new reactions toward various sanskara, whatever they might be.

Ekanta: So, next time, if it encounters the same thing, it has to react differently, that means that the process of discrimination was done correctly?

MASTER: When the impression no longer appears [in your mind] and you are no longer affected by it is when the discrimination is complete. If the discrimination is done thoroughly, since there is no longer a need to attach to that object anymore, then [that impression] is automatically removed—that is renunciation. If it comes up again, then it indicates that discrimination was not done thoroughly.

Karuna: Again, following on this topic, what can be the tool for discrimination that leads you to understand or to sense the Truth, or be able to use it as a comparison? Can the tool be pure Love for the Guru? Can that represent the Truth?

MASTER: No, even if the love for the Guru is always there, you can’t relax the power of discrimination. Until the end, discrimination must be performed calmly but also sharply.

Karuna: I guess, just like Ekanta, I am trying to figure it out where the certainty comes from—he called it a “force” before, I would call it “certainty,” or say, “This is certainly Truth,” versus, “This is not the Truth.”

Yasoda (to Karuna): Where does this “certainty” come from, is that your question?

Karuna: Right, it might be different for different people, I don’t know, but I feel like it has to be certain. 

MASTER: [That comes from] learning the scriptures and the words of Enlightened Beings.

The Training of Bringing Positive Change
Proactively to the Mind is Sadhana

Prapatti: Shri Mahayogi, sometimes when I am speaking to people, and I sense that maybe they are not necessarily coming from the place of Truth, for example; I feel like I wish I could say that or do something about it, which creates frustration. But we also learn from the teachings of Truth that we are all in each other’s mind in a way, so perhaps they are a reflection of my mind, too. So, in that moment, what’s the best thing to do when communicating with people?

MASTER: Well, rather simply, you yourself should speak and respond based on the Truth. And if the other person still continues to come from the place of ignorance, and if not necessary, then you can ignore it or create the situation where you no longer have to listen to that person.

Prapatti: Thank you.

Kamalakshi: Thank you very much Shri Mahayogi. The last time I spoke with you about this worrying agitated mind, you said, “Forget about all that”—and it works. (While laughing she makes big gestures animating that these worries are like something out of a movie scene.) And any time it goes there, I do that. (laughing joyfully) So, it’s quieter. (Shri Mahayogi is smiling) You really know us, each one of us. And it’s so interesting. (laughing)

My question is, when I offered the mala, I became very emotional, and I don’t know what that was. I still can’t figure it out. But, whatever that was, I would like to see—is it possible for me to use that [emotion] in meditation? Is it possible for me to use that in my life to serve others?

MASTER: Of course, [it is good to] do so.

Kamalakshi: But how to find it? I don’t… I find it with you.

MASTER: Constantly remind yourself or recall it.

Aniruddha: Shri Mahayogi, in your last visit, I asked you about the fear I have in my mind. A lot of the actions I do tend to be generated through fear. And you mentioned to me that I should try to see God in others, not to see others. But the reason I bring it up is because, as we are continuing with Study in Practice, as we begin to know each other more, and the various issues we are going through, I realize that suddenly all these issues that we have, they translate, they transfer into different aspects of our lives in different places. Not only in our thoughts and actions, it is about everything. So, as I began to look further, I began to see that I also have a lot of self-doubt or second guessing myself, in that I’ll have an intuition or thought of doing something, but then I’ll come back and do the opposite. My question is, is this second guessing that I’m doing, is this another part of a manifestation of fear?     

MASTER: Perhaps it might be so, yet even if it is the case, the bad habits of the mind have to be changed and reformed. Just as the world is constantly changing, your mind must be also constantly changing. Therefore, you need to bring positive change proactively to the mind. That is training—sadhana.

(Emilie who has been coming to the class regularly since her first attendance this summer asked a question for the first time.)

Emilie: How do I get out of being fearful in headstand? (Many laugh.) (Shri Mahayogi laughs.)

MASTER: This too is training, training. (laughing)

Emilie: Okay, okay. (Emilie and everyone laugh.)

MASTER: There will be class tomorrow again. (laughing)

Emilie: Yeah, homework! (laughing)

The Meaning of Shinken [in Japanese]: Seriousness

Nandiswara: Oftentimes I’ve heard senior disciples talk about shinken, [in Japanese it is written as] “real sword,” [or “seriousness” in English]; the way I interpret it is as a certain mental attitude, the state that is needed to go into the real battle against many kinds of things, for example, like the obstacles that we might be experiencing in spiritual practice. And when I try to examine myself, I am realizing that is what I am lacking. And I would love you to teach me, if you can, what is this mental attitude of shinken. How can we acquire this real seriousness to…?

MASTER: By staking your life on it. (after some pause) The only thing that is equivalent to seriousness is your Life. What is equivalent to shinken, or seriousness, is nothing other than your very own Life, and that alone.

Nandiswara: Can you explain a little bit further?

MASTER: (After some pause) Because everyone is sparing their own Life, the consequence is a half-baked or imperfect end result. However, if you have set your heart on Satori, then the thoughts and deeds of staking your life on it until your ultimate limit, as far as you really can, or truly giving up your life is what is required to attain the aim. That is the meaning of shinken, seriousness.

Nandiswara: So, you mean like “truly,” not just “act” like I’m going to stake my life on it.

MASTER: Right.

You all may have read the book written by the famous Paramahansa Yogananda called The Autobiography of a Yogi. There is a part in the book where a seeker happens to meet Babaji and a group of his disciples, and that seeker implored Babaji to accept him as a disciple. But Babaji did not respond immediately to this visitor who showed up suddenly. The seeker kept begging and begging, and then on top of all that Babaji ordered the seeker: “If you insist, then jump [from this mountain]!”1 Without a second thought, the man hurled himself over the cliff, and then died. Babaji picked up the corpse, and brought him back to life again for his sincere demonstration of seriousness through word and deed. This is precisely one of the stories that concretely confirms what “staking your life” means.

(Silence ensues and prevails.)    

Woman A: Following up on the question about seriousness, and giving your life to seriousness, what do you actually mean, are we to assume that what you mean is actually giving up your human life?

MASTER: What I mentioned earlier is in the literal sense, it’s not symbolic but concrete talk. (silence ensues) Isn’t it so? Haven’t all of you too experienced staking your life on romantic love? (some attendees burst into laughter) (Laughing and smiling) So many times that you end up in failure, even so you stake your life on it again, and I wonder how many lives you have? (many laugh, and Shri Mahayogi laughs too) Bring all of those lives, a million lives together and then stake that on [Satori].

Woman A: Sorry, what do you mean by “all of those lives,” do you mean all of your life [that’s been] about love?

MASTER: That amount of energy.

Yajna: Shri Mahayogi, what you just said reminds me of a line from a poem by Kabir, the mystical poet. He says that this is what love of God is like, [suppose] they cut off your head, it doesn’t matter.  

Sadhya: Shri Mahayogi, recently there was a moment where I was experiencing a lot of pain, physical pain. And the thought came to my mind, “Maybe I will die,” and then I thought, “maybe that will be okay.” But then I thought, “Well, Shri Mahayogi said that, ‘If we die we should die in God.’” So, in that moment I thought, “I don’t know if I can bring my mind always to God with this pain.” (laughing) So, then I better endure and learn how I can make sure I can do that (laughing). How does one do that, given we may die any moment and in any condition—we don’t know. So, in that condition, where there may be strong pain or whatever, how do we make sure we can bring the mind to God?

MASTER: (After some pause) Constantly, constantly think of God, imagine God, and plant It so that God will not be away from your heart. It is simply that.

Sadhya: So even when one is experiencing a lot of pain, of any kind, is it possible while training to keep the mind on God to come to not feel pain at all? 

MASTER: Yes, that could happen. There’s a story2 I mentioned a while back, which was also put it in a small book (The Universal Gospel of Yoga)—you must remember the story about the serious seeker. [In that story,] in the end, that seeker, given that the Holy Man was holding his head under the river, struggled desperately. And in the very moment when he couldn’t live any longer, the Holy Man let him go, so that the seeker was able to breathe again. The Holy Man then asks, “What did you want?” The seeker answers, “I wanted to breathe.” [Actually,] breath is always invisible! You are breathing now too, yet there is no one who has seen that breath. When you are in need of breath so much so that you suffer, only at the very end of it can you finally recognize the breath for the first time. What I want to say is, with God it is the same. Within each one of these breaths, in the space, and in all things, God exists. (so earnestly) Yet, no one can see It, no one can feel It. When you are in such great suffering, and then when in your desperate struggle, your suffering is nearly at the level of your life having a great risk of being lost, that is when God appears.

Sadhya: Then, that’s a good opportunity (laughing hard). (Shri Mahayogi laughs.)

MASTER: (Smiling) Right. (Sadhya keeps laughing.)

Ekanta: Shri Mahayogi, in a way, we have to win against this, because this pain can come in different ways, right? In a way, when we see this pain coming into our lives, we quickly tend to go to our old habits to overcome this pain or to run away from this pain. So, should we be staying with this pain?

MASTER: Normally, suffering should be alleviated or removed. In the case in which it can’t go away easily even after applying many measures, then there will be a time when you have to accept that pain.

Ekanta: I was more talking about like mental or emotional struggles.

MASTER: Of course, that applies.

 (silence for a while)

[1] “If you refuse me, I will jump from this mountain. Life has no further value if I cannot win your guidance to the Divine,” said the seeker. “Jump then,” Babaji said unemotionally. “I cannot accept you in your present state of development.” From Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda.

[2] The True Seeker: Stake Your Life on Self-Realization

The Point of Focus in Meditation

Kamalakshi: What is the difference between concentrating on the forehead, between the eyebrows, and within the heart?

MASTER: With regard to the aspect of ease of concentration, both points are equally easy to concentrate upon. What I can say is that, [the center of] the chest is more directly connected to the heart. Therefore, when you concentrate in the practice of bhakti, or concentrate on Atman, then the chest is better. Well, this advice is based on the experiences of yogi in the past, and there are cases in which some people may find that it’s easier to concentrate on the point between the eyebrows, and that is fine.

Kamalakshi: It doesn’t change anything in ability or where the meditation will go?

MASTER: Right.

The True Self

Karuna: For the benefit of people who are here for the first time, if Shri Mahayogi could, in very brief words, explain a little bit about what the true “I” is.

MASTER: Normally, through the means of the mind, you may believe the ego within your mind to be your “I.” However, right at this moment, you know that your mind is known, that what your mind is thinking or feeling is known, don’t you? There is something within you that is witnessing the mind. It indicates that there must be a consciousness that knows your mind is thinking, is feeling something and is moving. (pause for some time)

Be still for a little while, and watch your mind. (Silence ensues for some time while attendees are trying to observe their own minds.) Right, you see that there is a consciousness that is seeing your mind. That is the Pure Consciousness. It’s simply witnessing and knowing, yet it doesn’t say anything. That is the changeless Pure Consciousness itself, and is precisely your own true Self. Your true Consciousness, your true Self doesn’t even say or insist on “me” (smiling). So then, in the truest sense, it might indeed be a contradiction to say or use “the true Self” for It; yet the word “true Self” is given to be used as a clue for [realizing It], because you can find It within your own self. This Pure Consciousness exists changelessly and eternally, regardless of the birth or death of the physical body, and no matter how the mind constantly changes and will even be gone. This Existence is (with extra tenderness and a heartfelt voice) the only (emphasizing) true Reality. It is that which has been called, in other words, “God” since ancient times. The whole of everything, of this entire universe is That. To realize and actualize this Truth is the utmost important thing for one’s own self—for you yourself; because the ego of the mind is fake and the happiness or pleasure that the mind creates, these are all like an unreal dream. Yet [the Truth that you must realize simply is]; the Existence that is eternally changeless and everlasting—that is you your Self.

 

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Testimonies from a Practitioner

The following Testimony is a translation of the articles written by Yukti, a disciple of Shri Mahayogi in Japan, which were published in Paramahamsa (Mahayogi Mission’s bi-monthly magazine in Japanese) between Sept. 2012 and Jan. 2014. This is the first of three parts. Her writings will continue in Pranavadipa Vol. 68 and Vol. 69. Please refer to “Searching for God’s Love” in the Recommended Reading, Teachings, Mahayogi Yoga Mission website. http://www.mahayogiyogamission.org/teaching/gods_love1.html

Living on the Words of Mother

Part 1

by Yukti (Yuri Shibasaki)
Sept. 2012 – Mar. 2013, Fukushima, Japan

I. “Be Holy” —Mother Teresa                                                       

On March 11, 2011, I was working as a nurse and left Japan to volunteer at Mother Teresa’s facility in Kolkota, India, in search of an answer to a question I had been continuing to pursue while attending to patients. I found the answer in the words of Mother.1 It was for me myself, who is attending to the dying, watching over a person’s final hours, to become holy. However, just getting that answer was not enough, because the answer must be realized and lived.

Two months after I returned to Japan, I went to Ishinomaki (one of the cities devastated by the earthquake and tsunami) to participate in disaster relief. Everything was out of the ordinary. As our activities went on, all the while making groping efforts through a series of trial and error, we encountered many problems. In those moments, what came to my mind were the words of Mother Teresa and the poverty of her sisterhood.

Actually, after I had gone back to Kyoto from India, I began to get involved in activities related to Mother, and it led me to know her more deeply. I came to find out that there was intense struggle and spiritual darkness within her, which is something that is unimaginable from her joyful appearance. Even so, Mother Teresa transformed all these pains into love towards God and persisted in being holy. As I began to know her more, I began to think of her words more deeply, meditate on them and I began to act on them. What I have come to understand from that is that if we meditate upon the words of holy beings, and seriously continue to apply them in practice through our actions, then we will surely come to see the Truth ahead.

From now on, I would like to write about what I have practiced and what I will be practicing. First I would like to revisit my previous article about my experiences in India, “Message from the Mother,” and share with you the things that I felt more deeply.

“How can the dying best be served?”

The person from whom I sought the answer to this question was not some eminent theorist or researcher within the nursing profession, but a single nun who dedicated her entire life to God. It was Mother Teresa—she who, no matter how many tens of thousands of people in abject poverty she saved, said, “I’m doing it for Christ alone,” and no matter how much she had received people’s applause, simply stated, “I am a little pencil in God’s hands.” In her words, there was always God and Jesus Christ. I believed that she would surely respond to my yearning, my thirst, despite the fact that she had already passed away.

Through my daily work of nursing, I knew how beautiful the last moment of those who were dying was, because every time I was near someone dying, I always felt something sacred. Even the greatest medical technology is powerless in the face of death. Once during a night shift, when the condition of a patient in the terminal phase worsened and as I was hurriedly carrying the emergency cart to that patient’s room, I saw an intense light shoot out of the patient’s room and permeate throughout the entire hospital, the whole region, and even all the earth. I felt that I was in a very blessed, sacred space. And in that moment, I recognized that the moment of dying too is just as blessed as the moment of birth, for everyone. That was such an incredible, sacred moment that I wanted to know the way for those who are attending to the dying process to accompany people’s final moments. Nonetheless, the business of daily work did not give me enough time to care for and attend to the bedside of a dying patient. I began to feel a dilemma over my ever-heightening pursuit of the way to attend to the final moments of a dying person and the busy work that I have no control over, and I began to dislike having to attend to the dying. Strangely, around that time, for about one year after that, I did not have a situation in which I had to care for a dying patient who was in their final moments. It is said that a dying person chooses who will be at their bedside. I stopped being chosen as an appropriate person to be at the deathbed.

It was while I was in this situation that I decided to go to Kolkata to seek out an answer. But actually it was only after returning to Japan from volunteering that I found the answer. It was in the message of the Mother to her volunteers, which was written in a little booklet that I received from the Mother House (headquarters for Missionaries of Charity). “Be holy.” Mother taught me that the highest way to attend someone’s process of dying is to be holy. 

The mission of Mother Teresa was neither to heal the bodies of the poor nor to eradicate poverty, it was to take each and every person’s soul to God. Only a holy person can bring the person in front of her or him to God, “I ask, make a saint of me”—I learned that that was how she herself too had prayed. When I found out about this, I then realized that the inquiry I had been pursuing did not come from a sense of my duty as a nurse, but came from an eager desire in the depth of my heart, desperately yearning to save souls.  

With regard to “being holy,” Mother Teresa wrote in a letter to the sisters, that it is about clinging to perfect poverty—Poverty of the Cross—nothing but God. And that, so as not to have riches enter your heart, you would have nothing of the outside but you will keep up yourselves with the labour of your hands. It is about self-denial and abnegation and being His pure victim, obeying and doing God’s Holy Will. The way of living of the sisters that I saw, was very poor and strict under their aim to become holy. I witnessed this kind of livelihood in front of me during my three week stay. My own daily life in Japan was very far from what I saw. Japan, my home country, is probably the most convenient country, where you can get anything you want. My mind began to ache in Kolkata, as soon as I lost what I had in Japan.

The sweltering heat, the pollution that makes you wheeze if you breathe it straight, mountains of garbage everywhere, the kids swarming upon them, the cars honking non-stop from early in the morning, the crowds… The facility for children with severe disabilities where we volunteered was a relatively new place; however, during meal times, the kitchen floor became littered and mixed with so many things like kids’ excrements, dropped foods, and water, and we walked barefoot upon them. There were no distinctions between clean and dirty rags used for cleaning; the same tube to suction out phlegm kept being reused. I continued to work somehow, but one day when I felt a little out of sorts, my aversion towards dirtiness overwhelmed me, and mentally, I became unable to work anymore.

The sisters were always joyful and energetic. They called out each child’s name and gently touched them. Their belongings were bare minimum, such as a sari, sandals, a bucket and rosaries. Every day, their life consisted of prayers and work. There was no place to escape in this severe environment. In the sanctuary where many people gathered for mass, only the fan above the sisters was not on, no matter how hot it got. This is their entire lives. Whereas, in my case, because it was only for three weeks, I was able to endure it; I could only work because I knew it was eventually going to be a memory.

Mother Teresa always said, “If you want to serve the poor, first you must live the same life that the poor live.” The sisters of the Missionaries of Charity do not use any conveniences like washing machines and fans. It is not because of a lack of funds, but on purpose. The poor do not possess these conveniences—that is the reason.

I also met a Japanese sister, Sister Christi. She had lived in Kolkata for 18 years. She had a slight build, yet surely she had been working under Mother Teresa. I came to know that a woman who grew up in the same country, Japan, is so joyful even in this harsh environment, surrendering everything to God. Not only that, they don’t even have a living Guru (teacher) anymore. Whereas, it’s been 15 years since I encountered Yoga—I thought to myself: what have I even been doing all these years?

When I returned to Japan and received the message from Mother, “Be holy,” I recalled the time I first encountered Yoga 15 years ago. At the time, I was very sick and I didn’t expect to be living 15 years later. As I think about why I encountered Yoga and was allowed to live, I wanted to answer, “Yes” to Mother’s message, no matter how far away I am from being holy at this moment. Because, there is only this reason that I am allowed to live, even now too: to be holy. 

I don’t know why, but for some reason, after I returned to Japan, I could not think about Yoga anymore. The only thing that was in my mind was Mother Teresa and the time I stayed in Kolkata. And also the words from Sister Christi remained in my heart constantly.

 “Right now, Kolkata is in Japan.”

The day I left for Kolkata, was the very day when the unprecedented disaster, the East Japan Earthquake happened. And this was what Sister Christi said to the Japanese volunteers when receiving the news of the disaster. From the moment I heard these words, I had determined to go to the disaster area after going back to Japan. And as I had decided, two months after I returned to my country, I quit my job at the hospital, and on June 6th, I went to Ishinomaki, one of the hardest-hit areas.

 

II. “Something Beautiful for God” —Mother Teresa

March 11, 2011, 2:46 pm: the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. Magnitude 9.0. It was the fourth largest earthquake in recorded history. Approximately 18,000 people were either dead or missing as of August 2012. It was the moment when Kolkata came to Japan.

 “Right now, Kolkata is in Japan,”—as if guided by the words of the sister I’d heard in the Mother House, I came to Ishinomaki. Three months after the disaster, there were mountains of debris everywhere, remnants of destroyed houses that were un-touched, clocks that had stopped at 2:46. Sludge had dried up into the dust that wafted visibly in the air, emitting a strange miasma that stung the nose. The ground was loose, roads were flooded. The cars of the self-defense force that passed, coming and going, reminded me of a battlefield somewhere. “There is no God,” some people even said.

I belonged to a volunteer nursing organization and worked out of a temporary evacuation shelter that was originally an elementary school. While collaborating with other governmental and volunteer organizations, four other colleagues and I took on various tasks such as cleaning the portable vault toilets, checking victims’ health, providing instruction on preventive measures for infectious diseases, and exterminating the giant, 2 cm long flies that suddenly swarmed us.

My body ached every morning from sleeping at night in a sleeping bag on top of a thin carpet laid on the concrete floor in a tiny sliver of space. There were nights we spent in a state of unease due to the aftershocks that kept coming quite often. Our meals consisted of ready-made, packaged pastries, instant-cupped-ramen noodles, and leftovers from lunchboxes distributed to the victims. We could not do laundry much, so we went to the shelter wearing the same clothing. For bathing, we carpooled to a hot spring 30 minutes away. It was inconvenient, but the life I spent with these good-hearted colleagues was truly enjoyable.

The victims lived calmly. Although one might have been so glad to have survived, that only lasted for a few moments, for the real challenges of the survivors began at that moment and continued on. The terror from the trauma of experiencing the disaster had not yet been healed, and there was nothing that could fill the hole of having lost their families, their jobs, their homeland—so much all at once.

We could only support them in protecting themselves by making their life at the shelter safe and restful. However, our work needed to be performed in this condition of everything having been lost at once, and in this non-functioning, extraordinary circumstance—almost none of it went the way we wanted. Nothing seems to progress no matter how much I work, I don’t really know if I am actually able to be of any help or not, I have no clue as to how far I should go. As the day of return was drawing nearer, the feeling of pressure increased; many emotions flooded my mind. There were staff members who suddenly retreated into their shells, and there were also some who created trouble with victims from some intense, one-sided prejudices. “How should we even do our tasks at all?” Every time I thought about this question, I recalled the words of Mother Teresa.

 “Something beautiful for God.”

These were favorite words of Mother and the sisters. When I recall them, the place beyond these words, to which I always arrive, is, in the end, the form of Jesus Christ on the cross, bleeding. Mother and the sisters work seeing Christ within the poor and within those who are suffering from illness. “We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve them because they are Jesus.” From these words of Mother, we can see that that when she touched the poor person in front of her, she was convinced that she was touching Christ.

Mother Teresa was born in former Yugoslavia (now Macedonia), in a devout Catholic family. By the time she was twelve, she already wanted to devote her entire life to God, and when she grew up, she became a nun with the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland. Then she was sent to India, the place where she had always wanted to go. However, eventually she voluntarily gave up the happy life she had at the abbey and dove into the slums of Kolkata with only five rupees in her hand, in order to serve Christ among the poorest of the poor. The reason why Mother began to work this way was because of a “call within a call” from God.

“In 1946, I was going to Darjeeling to make my retreat. It was in that train I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor. I knew that it was His will, and that I had to follow Him. There was no doubt that it was going to be His work.” She later explained that it was not some words or voices she heard. Ultimately, what Mother experienced at that very moment has remained shrouded in mystery, yet it is said that she had a very close encounter with Christ.

The work that Mother began has been inherited by the sisters even after she has left the world; even today, the sisters go into town, and search for Christ who is suffering from poverty and illness. Christ appears in various forms—the homeless, the dying, street children, lepers, AIDS patients. They give them the necessary treatments one by one, taking them to the appropriate facilities.

Mother says that work is not for the sake of work, but rather, it is a means of expressing one’s love towards God. For doing the most beautiful thing for God and for the benefit of others, the sisters strive to offer the best of what they have. A smile, kind words, using their own time for others, gladly accepting any difficulties… There is no need to despair, even if things didn’t go well or if, in the end, these actions were not useful to others. But how might I truly serve the God that cannot be seen? Just like Mother did, am I able to declare that the person in front of my eyes is the manifestation of God?

Mother says in an interview, “Faith is a gift of God. Without it, there would be no life. And for our work to be fruitful, and to be all for God and to be beautiful, it has to be built on that faith. Faith in Christ who has said, I was hungry, I was naked, I was sick and I was homeless and you did it to me. On this, His words, all our work is based and built on.”

In order to work for God, the mind must be completely occupied by God, to the point where if you lose faith towards the existence of God or the words of God, then you can no longer live or continue daily life. Every time when I got into an impasse at work and recalled Mother’s words, I felt that I was confronted with the fact that I am facing suffering due to my lack of faith and desiring something other than God in return.

One time, while struggling with the fact that the needed supplies for each victim were not provided to them due to various regulations, we decided ourselves to buy the things that the victims we personally had friendships with were lacking, and deliver them directly. We delivered a bicycle to a married couple who was going to move to temporary housing very soon, and clothing of the correct size for a boy whose young mother came searching desperately every morning for clothes that would fit her son in the donated relief clothing. And also, since the shelter did not give us permission to give out the donated futons, most of the victims had been sleeping without having futon mattresses or pillows, so we secretly carried the donated futons inside the shelter through the back door and covered them with sheets we had bought, then handed them out to a few victims. It was so nice to see that they were so happy and grateful.

However, despite seeing their smiles or hearing their words of gratitude, what we felt was not joy, but a sense of guilt. A nurse, Ms. S, who lives in Canada but is originally from Kyoto, confided in me what she had been feeling with an apprehensive expression, “You know, I feel really guilty to do this just for very few people. I don’t know… Is this really a good thing to do?” There were so many people who needed help that we struggled with helping only a few. I had the same feeling as Ms. S. I had no words for her. But then in that moment, I recalled Mother’s words from an interview. A man had conveyed some criticism to her about the way she worked in order to get a reaction from her, saying, “There is Mother Teresa—she saves and helps so many, but this is merely a fleabite; [this is nothing; there must be some other way of doing it].” She responded: [“I do not agree with the big way of doing things]. To us what matters is the individual. To get to love the person, we must come into close contact with him. If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers. And we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person-to-person; every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the only one person in the world for me at that moment.”

I shared with Ms. S what occurred to me after thinking of Mother’s words. “Mother Teresa worked only for the person in front of her [at the moment] as a manifestation of God. There are so many unthinkable numbers of victims here. It is impossible to work for them all. So, let’s work for the people in front of us who we auspiciously have a serendipitous connection with. Just like Mother did, let’s take care of each individual, person-to-person.” Then Ms. S nodded and smiled, and her energy was revived. We made every effort to love the person in front of our eyes with all our might. Ms. S proactively went out into the region and delivered vegetables she had bought from the fundraising she did in Canada. And sometime later, another person asked me for advice regarding the same concern, and I told her the same. Then she said, “Those were exactly the words that I wanted to hear.”

It’s been 15 years since Mother Teresa left the world. I learned that the existence of a holy person can show us the path of the way we should live, in a way that transcends time and space. And more than anything else, I felt that God was pleased with our exertion to follow the example of the way of life of Mother.

Nonetheless, at that time, my understanding of the meaning of “Serving God,” the words of Mother, was only limited to the surface. After that, through the way she lived, she revealed to me little by little the true meaning of those words. And I came to understand that in order to serve God, what is necessary is the determination to actually expose one’s own self to great suffering, to endure through any deficiency, and to accept any sacrifice with a smile. At times, I felt that knowing this more and more was even scary.

After I completed the two weeks of activities in the disaster area, I went to Hokkaido (the second largest island of Japan, and the largest and northernmost prefecture), as planned from the beginning. I did not have a particular destination in mind, so I decided to go to Biei, a town recommended by a victim in one of the shelters I served. Biei, is known as a very beautiful, hilly town. And coincidentally, there I met a woman who evacuated from within the 45 km (28 mile) radius of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima.

 

III. “Love Until it Hurts” —Mother Teresa

In March 2011, the Tohoku Earthquake, with its epicenter in the Pacific, triggered three nuclear reactors in Fukushima to have a series of meltdowns and hydrogen gas explosions, releasing large amounts of radioactive material into the air.

I completed my disaster relief activities in Ishinomaki and towards the end of June, I arrived to the town of Biei in Hokkaido prefecture. One day I was enjoying cycling around to my heart’s content, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, when a sudden heavy shower hit, so I took shelter in a nearby supermarket. Coincidentally, I happened to meet a woman there who started speaking to me, and naturally we began to have a conversation. She said that due to the meltdowns, she had evacuated from her home within the 45 km (28 mile) radius of the Fukushima nuclear reactors—she first went to Tokyo, then came to her native Biei. Then she began to share with me the suffering she was going through. “There are still many people who remain in Fukushima. I came here, abandoning these people. And I am terribly sorry for that. When I was in Fukushima, people said that everything was fine—radiation is invisible. When I went to Tokyo, people said that Fukushima is dangerous. When I came here, then people are saying other, different things. What in the world really is the truth? The old people who decided to remain there told me, ‘We’re old, we’ve had a good life, whatever will be will be, so you must not worry about us. We’ll remain here. But you’re young, you should escape.’ I am so sorry, I feel horrible thinking about them.”

She was facing the wall so that nobody could see her crying. None of us know the right answer. I couldn’t find anything helpful to say, and could only say one or two words to her. I felt like the encounter with her woke me up from a dream. I felt that someone was using her as a messenger to call me, who was about to make my activities in Ishinomaki into a distant good memory, back to Ishinomaki.

With painful reluctance and hesitation, I went back to Kyoto. I felt that I had to continue to support the disaster areas in whatever way I could, I fundraised with the gurubai (brother and sister disciples) and sent various supplies and vegetables to the victims I had come to know there. But then, as more days went by after the earthquake, there came to be sufficient supplies, and the tides were changing, as if to say that the next stage of help needed was the support that would enable the victims to become independent, rather than continuing to depend on donated supplies.

One night, seven months after the earthquake, while I was meditating, the words of the Mother came into my mind. She wishes that in order to love people, we dedicate our hearts to love, give our hands and time to serve, rather than money and things. And when I was looking at a photograph of Mother that was given to me by Father K, whom I had met at the Mother House but was originally from Japan, I had an urge to take Mother to the disaster areas no matter what. Then a strong desire welled up in my mind that I would like the victims and also my fellow colleagues who had been staying there long-term and facing many difficulties, to see a holy person. The face of that woman I met in Biei came to my mind too. Actually, Mother Teresa came to Japan three times, and by her own wish, she visited the poverty-stricken districts in Sanya, Tokyo and Kamagasaki in Osaka. I thought that if Mother had been alive, she would have wished to go to the disaster areas more than anything else and definitely would have visited there. I couldn’t stop thinking about this desire of having Mother do Mother’s work no matter what. I kept thinking of how the victims could encounter her. Then an idea flashed into my mind: holding a photo exhibit of Mother in the disaster areas.

Several months then passed, and about one year since the earthquake, unexpectedly through a connection of a friend, I was able to borrow photos of Mother taken by a famous photographer who first introduced Mother Teresa to Japan and organize a photo exhibit. The first location of the exhibit was in Kyoto, then two months later, in Ishinomaki.

In order to be able to introduce Mother Teresa to the people who would come to see the exhibit, and in order to know from her upbringing to her internal state as much as possible, I began to read many books about her. There is no book written by herself, but there are many books published of her words that were recorded by someone else.

“Love until it hurts.”

These are the most impressive words of Mother among all. When she talks about love, she always used the words pain, suffering, and sacrifice, along with it. How is love related to pain?

When I stayed in Kolkata, there were sermons in Japanese on Sunday evenings, and the Japanese Sister Christi spoke about how Mother often spoke about love in just about every sermon.

I heard that there was a period in Kolkata in which they were greatly troubled by a sugar shortage, and naturally, sugars for the children at Mother’s facility too had run out. A Hindu boy heard about it and told his parents, “I will not eat sugar for three days. Instead, give my sugar to Mother Teresa.” And, with his parents, he brought a visibly tiny amount of sugar to the home of Mother. That child was so little that he could scarcely even pronounce Mother’s name. Mother said about this child: “This little child loved, with a great love. Because he loved until it hurt,” and that she was so pleased.

Mother says that it’s not how much we give, but how much love is put in the giving. But then, how do we know how much love is put into the doing? Is it about how much one feels pain within oneself? If that is the case, then is it not love if there is no pain? And, what is great love?

I thought that pain might be the key to knowing love. So, I thought that I should try to feel some kind of pain for Mother and to actually feel what arises in that moment during the work for this photo exhibit. Then I decided to take on tasks that I felt were cumbersome and do them very carefully and thoroughly, so I decided to distribute the flyers that a gurubai who collaborated on this exhibit made by working very hard by myself. There is no one who can convey one’s own feelings besides oneself. So, after finishing my job, I sent hand-written letters to friends and included the flyer, I walked around to scout for stores, checking where and what kinds, and when I saw a suitable store, as I showed the flyer to the store clerk I explained that I am actually organizing a photo exhibit and my motivation behind it, and requested to place the flyers in their store.

As I kept walking around in this way, looking for and visiting stores, it became late in the night and my feet hurt. In that moment, I recalled the words of Mother that she wrote in her journal when she first began her activities in the slums: “Today I learned a good lesson—the poverty of the poor must often be so hard for them. When I went round, looking for a home—I walked and walked till my legs and my arms ached—I thought how they must ache in the body and soul looking for home—food—help.” She also said that each one of those who suffer is Jesus in disguise, that the physical poverty of oneself ensures empathy in giving of oneself to the suffering poor and establishes a stronger bond with Christ’s redemptive agony. I thought—the pain I feel in my feet may be a part of the pain felt by Christ and Mother, I may be able to work for the sake of Christ and Mother, to take on just a tiny bit of their pain. No matter how I think about it, clearly there is no way for this amount of pain to be enough to enable me to feel the pain of Christ or Mother, yet strangely, there arose an indescribable joy welling up from within, and I felt that my pain was dissipating. “If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” When the pain transformed into joy, I felt like I was able to experience and therefore realize a little bit of the meaning of these words of Mother.

With the support of friends and acquaintances, the exhibition in Kyoto was attended by many, and ended without any problems. I felt that I was able to touch the breath of Mother and the sisters through the photos. Every day I was able to share about Mother with someone, and I really had a good time. Yet, I was feeling that something was missing in me. And it led me to think: I put a little struggle into an effort, exhibited photos, praised Mother with the visitors, and all became joyful—but is that all there is to it?; am I really pleasing God with this? I had the Ishinomaki exhibit coming up in two months. I was feeling a necessity to make more of an internal preparation over the next two months.

One night after the Satsangha, I asked Shri Mahayogi about something I’d kept thinking about since the preparation for the exhibit began: “How are pain and love related as referred to by the words of Mother, ‘Love until It Hurts’?” Shri Mahayogi seriously listened to me as he always does, and then answered, “That relates to the purity of love.” Then he explained it using an example of an actual trial that occurred in Kolkata before.

A man had a lover. The wife of the man sued the lover. As the result of the trial, the lover won the case. In this trial, “love” was placed as the standard, and they showed the difference between marital love and extramarital love. The marital relationship is accepted by society, but love in this case can often be neglected. However, the love in the extramarital affair dies out if love is lacking—in other words, only love is what’s keeping the relationship alive. The man and his lover had to meet secretly, and they made many sacrifices in order to love one another. So it was acknowledged in the trial that their love was more pure than the marital love. “This may be unique to India’s culture,” Shri Mahayogi said, and then added the background of the legend of the intense, pure love between the avatar, Krishna, and his lover, Radha, to the extent that she would even give up her life. Then, Shri Mahayogi described Mother’s love as “prema”—the Supreme Love.

The more one hurts, the more love becomes pure. I kept pondering over it all the time since then. The day after Satsangha, when I was walking, I suddenly paused in front of a park. I realized what this lacking was in me that I had felt after the exhibit. It was pain—I need to live among more and more pain and suffering in order to devote myself only to making love more pure. But still, I understood that it does not simply mean that I perform intense physical austerities, nor single-mindedly pursue poverty, but it was that I could not quite understand how I could concretely put myself, my body, into pain in my daily life. In that moment, the photo of the smiling Mother that I used to see all the time in the exhibit came to my mind. I thought over how much pain she felt behind her brimming joy, and what precisely that pain meant to her. Then a yearning to know much more deeply the pain and suffering that she experienced and an urge that I myself had to follow and actually live the example of the way she lived, so much that I could feel her pain, welled up within me. The photo exhibit was actually a precious opportunity granted by God for me to know her more. When I recognized this, I felt a Great Power at work behind me, and the tears kept overflowing.

After that, I kept searching for hints to know the internal part of her more and more deeply, but I could not find anything for some time. Through organizing the exhibition, I met people who had met Mother, or who had known Mother in person for a long time, yet in fact even though there were many anecdotes about Mother, no one could teach me about her deep internal part. No matter in what book stores I went searching for this, I kept seeing the same books. When I was at my wits’ end, an acquaintance handed me a memo copied from a newspaper article. It was an announcement that Father K would be giving a lecture at a university in Kyoto. The title was, “Love until it hurts—Learning from the ‘Spiritual Darkness’ of Mother Teresa.” After I attended this lecture, I began to know how much conflict in her and struggle she had when she made the determination to work in the slums, and that the suffering and the pain given to her was actually precisely the source of her motivation in its truest sense.                                   

(To be continued…)

[1] See “Searching for God’s Love” in the Recommended Reading, Teachings, Mahayogi Yoga Mission website. http://www.mahayogiyogamission.org/teaching/gods_love1.html

 

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