Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Guidance from the Master and Meditation
Satsangha, Kyoto, 2014
• The Truth has to be Heard, Thought About and Meditated Upon
• The Discipline of Spiritual Practice: the Mastering of Sanskara
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners
• Yoga in Daily Life (Family Life)
May 2012, Kyoto, Japan
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Translation of Satsangha
Guidance from the Master and Meditation
Saturday, July 5, 2014, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Believe in One’s Self
Yohei (Gopala): Buddha taught [his disciples] in the last years of his life by saying, “Rely on your Self, rely on the Dharma”; Shri Mahayogi has taught us that the Self is Atman. Vivekananda often said, “One cannot believe in God unless one believes in oneself.” I feel this teaching conveys that if one boldly believes in oneself and sees only God, even if one has an ego, then one will eventually reach God. I feel like Vivekananda is the only holy being who said, “believe in oneself.” What would Shri Mahayogi say about this?
MASTER: Exactly what he said. That self is literally indicating Atman, one’s Self, but the issue here is what is truly indicated by self. If one has not realized Atman yet, then perhaps it vaguely indicates a self that includes the mind and the body. Nevertheless, there is no need to believe superstitions or to simply have religious faith—such as dogma, or blind faith; rather, believe in oneself, carefully discerning these religious faiths as well as other things and come to know the essence. That indicates that at the same time it is a double-edged sword, so you must also confront what your own self truly is. If you indicate “self” to be something vague including the mind as mentioned just now, then you should discern whether or not that is true, and proceed to seek further for the true Self, the essence of the self. Yet, even to do that, since proceeding means you yourself have to move forward by your own self, it is not sufficient just being tinted by influences from other sources rather than your own confirmation; therefore you must step with your own feet, use your own hands and mind, to go forth—that is how it comes down to the true meaning of making your own effort while believing in your self, relying on your self. Therefore, you must not translate the “self” [in this phrase] just as Atman, meaning the Truth, and then take the phrase simply and only to mean believing in Atman.
Yohei (Gopala): Does this include the “self” mentioned by Vivekananda too?
MASTER: Well, [the point is,] regardless of who says it, one must (with emphasis), by oneself, prove what that self is—Atman.
The Truth has to be Heard, Thought About and Meditated Upon
Mirabai: When I embarked on Yoga, I heard about the teaching and my understanding began from an intellectual level, but I felt that as I kept attending any program or any opportunity to be with Shri Mahayogi, the words of Truth were planted within me little by little. I do feel that, even though it may not yet be perfectly so, the Truth that Shri Mahayogi always mentions truly exists; and I think that I also sensorially experience within me the eternity of God, a little bit. How should I practice discrimination [at this point]—is it proper to proceed by using these things [that I sense] within me as standards to discern, or is it better to bring it back to the origin of the teaching of Truth again and discern from there?
MASTER: Occasions such as Satsangha, even now, not only provide a place for questions and answers, but something beyond is being produced right here. For you all, effortless meditation is being fostered.
For example, if you try to meditate at home alone, you may really make an effort to concentrate, [and then you may think,] “Perhaps I was able to sit for fifteen minutes,” “maybe thirty minutes,” (laughs) or you may think, “Oh well, it didn’t go well again today”—it’s not that easy [as you may have hoped it to be]. However, here [during the Satsangha], meditation is automatically formed and realized. What I say may have been the same for many years indeed, however, even so, the Truth has to first be heard, then be thought about, then be meditated upon; and through going through these steps, whether it is the practice of discrimination or of bhakti (loving devotion to God) or whatever it may be, your progress and completion of Yoga are promised. During these Satsangha, these vital steps of being heard, being thought about, and being meditated upon, are happening. Therefore, as Mirabai just mentioned now, as you come here for many years, it is cultivated naturally, and discrimination [between the Truth and] your mind is being practiced within you. Therefore, if your state of mind is [how you have expressed it to be,] the deepening of Yoga has progressed to the point of becoming formed, so there is no need to go back to the beginning anymore. Continue to proceed further.
Anandi: By proceeding further—does that mean precisely that having the yearning to seek the Truth is of utmost importance in discrimination?
MASTER: Of course, that is so. Simply, I must always be telling you clearly what the Truth is and what it is not; I am sure that over the timeframe of many years, the meditation of all of you must have proceeded with a speed and content that is incomprehensible by your own minds.
Mirabai: Ultimately, we have only kept being graced with this again and again.
MASTER: Well, that Truth exists alone to begin with. You all initially come here [to see me and to attend the Satsangha,] carrying lots of unnecessary baggage on your backs, but then really, you realize that these were totally unnecessary, and that these didn’t exist to begin with—then perhaps these things have been gradually disappearing.
Yohei (Gopala): After this year began, I’ve begun to want to stay in the consciousness of the Seer, and when I asked Shri Mahayogi how I should practice in order to attain this, Shri Mahayogi taught me to practice mauna (spiritual silence), for I have to eliminate the mutterings of the mind. As I try to work on eliminating them, I have come to think that unless I thoroughly make my own mind learn the logic behind “nothing is permanent” [from the teaching of Buddha], I will not be able to remain in the consciousness of the Seer. Would Shri Mahayogi please teach this to us again?
MASTER: (immediately) What is the meaning of [the Buddha’s teaching of] “nothing is permanent”?
Yohei (Gopala): (perplexed for a moment) The world, including the mind, is ever changing and does not have substance. It is not true existence.
MASTER: That’s fine. (Everyone laughs.) What’s left to do is to make the mind understand it amply and completely.
Yohei (Gopala): How would I practice that?
MASTER: These words of Truth—rather than just understanding them literally, how does Yohei’s mind grasp them? Are you still doubtful about them?
Yohei (Gopala): Gradually, I have come to acknowledge them more and more, but the mind still won’t shut up.
MASTER: But even if you don’t look at a timeframe like hundreds and thousands of years, isn’t everything changing daily, moment by moment?—the world too, as well as the mind; aren’t these things that you can verify through your sensory organs? Even with current knowledge too, for example, if you think about the Earth, there is land and sea like you see on a globe—but then what did they look like a million years ago? The scientific perspective shows us that there was no Indian continent or Japanese archipelago; the land and sea were different shapes. From there the continents drifted and became the shapes we know now—that theory based on specific scientific evidence has spread, and we’ve more or less become convinced of it. Then how was it even further back, billions and trillions of years ago? Perhaps, there were times when Earth was just a ball of fire burning without any land or ocean. Even further back, perhaps planet Earth was not born yet…right? Conversely, when you associate it with the future, the current shapes may be changed. Even the great earthquake in North East [Japan] a few years ago too was said to have moved the tectonic plates and shifted the shape of the land. So it is that everything is evidently changing moment by moment.
However, the five senses of human beings are so myopic that humans cannot see beyond what is right in front of them. However, just as I mentioned now, if you make vivid the wings of your imagination, you can imagine billions of years back and billions of years into the future, while backing it up with some phenomena. The mind is the same, right? How about Yohei’s own mind, between right now and before you came here? They are different, aren’t they? It must also be different from the times when you lived in your hometown before you moved to Kyoto. You see, you have to apply the teachings of this “nothing is permanent” realistically to the things closest to you in your daily life; for it is not just mere intellectual knowledge.
Such a state of the world of phenomena itself is called maya. Maya is a sort of word that is used [often] to refer to this world and the mind, however, actually, it refers to the workings of the creation of the goddess, Prakriti (nature and its fundamental cause)—the workings of creation, their activities, all of these. On the other hand, and at the same time, the mind cannot comprehend this mystical aspect, as if it were hidden behind a veil; therefore, maya also means and is often referred to as things that are confusing and deceiving. These are two aspects that are referred to. However, if one can take off its mechanism or its veil, then one can see things correctly as they are. If you do so, you will conclude that “nothing is permanent”—[in this way,] through examining the material substance of different phenomena, discrimination will be practiced more completely. Then the mind will be beaten completely, no longer able to quibble, and no muttering can arise.
Yohei (Gopala): So, when the mind is seeing the veil, it means that the mind is seeing through myopia, but when I am listening to Shri Mahayogi, I feel like the veil is falling away quietly.
MASTER: Scales coming off your eyes? (casually) I told you earlier. (Everyone bursts into laughter.) That’s why it comes to “being heard”…
Yohei (Gopala): I feel very sorry. Everything has been done for me…
MASTER: Studying scriptures is a part of the “[the teachings] being heard,” however, while you are reading scriptures, since your mind is what reads it, you can only comprehend it within the range of your mind’s understanding. However, Satsangha is nothing like that.
Mirabai: If one cannot participate in a Satsangha, then how should one understand the path of Yoga correctly and deepen it?
MASTER: It entirely comes down to [the level of] eagerness—eagerness and seriousness. Even so, scriptures, or words, in which there is a need for them to be heard, are necessary. Since you keep pondering haphazardly by your own self, you will not be able to go beyond your own mind—therefore it is meaningless to do that. That is precisely why it is said that a Guru (Master) is a necessity. Having it pointed out, or receiving stimulation from the outside, is a must.
Mirabai: So it is difficult with only the right scriptures and eagerness.
MASTER: It will take time, many lifetimes.
Mr. Shimada (Chaitanya): Then, the decree of Shri Mahayogi to the people who are here [at the feet of] Shri Mahayogi, is solely that we have to realize Satori during this lifetime?
MASTER: (powerfully) Yes, exactly.
Mr. Shimada (Chaitanya): If we can do that, then it means that meeting Shri Mahayogi serendipitously can also be considered to be perfected.
MASTER: Right. If you look at it from the future, as a conclusion, it will happen as it must happen. Like Buddha said, one must make an effort oneself, therefore, [what I am saying is to] make an effort and devote yourself to practice.
Yohei (Gopala): Just now, Shri Mahayogi discriminated “nothing is permanent” for me (bursting laughter from all), so starting tomorrow, I’ll probably feel that everything is impermanent as I see various things. Then I should continue to discriminate them myself, do I understand correctly?
MASTER: If you can do this fundamentally, [then it is sufficient]; how the scenes on the streets change or such minor details one by one, it never ends. (laughter from all)
Jayadevi: The reason why we need to know “nothing is permanent” is so that the mind that is suffering from impermanence comes to an end; so, the purpose is not just to know it, am I right?
MASTER: As long as you are in the state of not understanding “nothing is permanent,” you are conversely seeing that everything is permanent. Permanent, meaning eternal. That means that one believes the world is eternal or oneself is eternal—that itself is an error, which is one of the ignorances—to see the non-eternal as Eternal, this is one of the four ignorances [or The Four Dharma Seals in Buddhism]. Yet the fact of the matter is that until one hears this teaching of Truth, the mind is caught up in these things; seeing permanence in impermanence, purity in impurity, the self in the non-self, and pleasure in pain.
Today’s teachings from Shri Mahayogi leave strong impressions in the minds of the disciples. By sitting at the feet of the Guru, we are effortlessly uplifted to a state of meditation, breaking the shells of our minds. Many have had to reconsider how much guidance and grace is being bestowed by the Guru, and the sacredness of Satsangha.
Truth and Ignorance
Saturday November 29, 2014, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
It’s been six days since Jayanti. The reverberation from the celebration still resonates in the Ashrama, and the Casa Blanca lilies are still blooming boldly.
Lynn and her friend Mr. A have scheduled their visit from Taiwan to coincide with Jayanti. Mr. A speaks Japanese and this is his first time meeting Shri Mahayogi. They have been staying at Shanti Kutira (a house where Gopala and Ramdas live) and enthusiastically attending classes every day.
Lynn (Prasadini): I think that we all have tendencies towards likes and dislikes, and I myself have had these tendencies for a very long time. May I ask, how do we overcome them?
MASTER: You need to know and understand the causes of these tendencies correctly, and then you need to discern whether the basis for these causes is the Truth or not. Indeed, each individual mind is different—if there are ten people, there are ten different minds or ten different colors [of tendencies]. Even between siblings or parents and children, they are different. Now, why are they different? The causes cannot be found and resolved just from the environment you were born into in this lifetime. You need to seek the cause in past lives. Your current life is a continuation of all your past lives. Therefore, it can be understood that the tendencies of this lifetime have been passed down from past lifetimes.
Tendencies—if you look at them from another point of view, they can be viewed as the mind being attached to something: “I like this,” “I don’t like that.” Then, why do you like this one, and why do you dislike that one? The answer is that these are the results from your past lives: positive or desirable impressions experienced in past lives are likes, and negative or undesirable impressions turn into dislikes. Then, do these likes and dislikes have any actual substance? This is exactly where the wisdom of Yoga, or rather, the wisdom of discrimination, which is Yoga itself, are needed. The causes of various impressions, or the attachments to likes and dislikes, after all, arise from attaching to them in relation to this world. Of course, the object of attachment that is based on desirability arises because you dream of happiness through attaining it. Conversely, in the object of attachment based on undesirability, you see unhappiness. However, the world, the mind, and situations are constantly changing. Therefore, even if one seeks to realize happiness and attaches to a particular thing, that may turn into unhappiness eventually in these changes. If you seek the cause of that attachment, you can find the fact that you do not know the Truth. Anything created from any kind of dependency—this is all imperfect, and will eventually break. Whatever you think is desirable, has an object of liking. Whatever is unpleasant also has an object of dislike. As long as these relationships continue, the mind is constantly in a state of unrest, and eventually this boils down to pain and sorrow.
Ignorance is the root cause of all of that; and the content of that ignorance is that you see the Self in what is not your Self. Although everyone believes that that which includes the mind and the body, especially this egoistic mind, is the Self, this is not the true Self. The mind is like a tool for the true Self. The real Self is the Pure Consciousness that witnesses the mind. The mind is something that is seen, that is known. Even right now, if you look at your mind at this very moment, you can see what it’s thinking, and what it’s feeling. That Consciousness that witnesses or knows does not say anything. Yet it is firmly aware, being conscious, witnessing and knowing; that is the Consciousness that never changes, it absolutely never changes—not during childhood, nor the present, nor even after you grow old… If I speak further, it was never born and will never die. That Immortal, Eternal Existence exists within the depth of everyone’s mind as the main substance, the essence. That is the biggest difference between the Truth and ignorance. The mind asserts itself as if it were the protagonist; however, that is a mistake. From that mistake, while one is living in this world, one makes mistakes believing that this world is eternal and that happiness is created within this world’s experiences. Therefore, even if one achieves success in the world and gains happiness, it eventually disappears and breaks. That is just the nature of how the world is.
What you must know is your true Self, and what you must do is see this world correctly. The world is constantly changing. Positive things happen, and negative things happen also. Therefore, practice not to be swayed by either, do not attach to them; and [know] that to realize that true Self is the most precious thing you can do. That is why since ancient times, it has been taught to realize That.
You mentioned now, at the beginning, that you have various likes and dislikes, however, if you continuously discriminate like this, both likes and dislikes will leave the mind as you see that both are inconsequential. If this happens, the mind becomes more free.
Working as a Yogi
Mr. A: I would like to ask about occupations. From Shri Mahayogi’s perspective, are there any differences between occupations such as mine, where I’m running a restaurant business, versus occupations like that of Takashi-kun (Ramdas) and Yohei-kun (Gopala), who are involved in social work, or Sanatana’s work, where he teaches Yoga?
MASTER: Occupations in the world may have some differences, yet these are not significant. As long as they’re not crimes or evil work. (laughs) General occupations, however—regardless of what the occupation is, it can be said that it is performed to make a living for oneself, or for one’s own family or community.
There is another category of occupation, and that is referred to as spiritual work. It is the work of not seeking selfish gain, but rather to serve for the benefit of others or the world. The work of Yogi and true monks ought to be based on that. Nowadays, monks have degraded and they often work only for themselves.
If you put a healthy society as an ideal, then prospering in your own occupation is a good thing to do. Yet, you should never seek only your own selfish benefit. If you are relatively successful, then returning the profit to society, or investing in spiritual work is more ideal.
It is said that long ago, Buddha answered to the question of what was the best way to live—he taught that leaving home to become a monk and putting the utmost effort on Satori was the most correct way to live. Yet, not everyone could do that. There were cases that, because of karma (law of cause and effect of actions), one could not do that. Then, one named Shri Krishna taught that since people are inevitably born with karma, so they must also work and make a living, and so does the work and the living that people perform have karma; therefore, he taught to just simply perform this as one’s duty, without attachment. He taught that even while living in society, if one learns the Truth and devotes oneself to practicing spiritual disciplines, then one will also eventually reach Satori. Yoga centers upon these issues of the mind and realizing the Truth. Within this system of learning and spiritual practice, there are various methods such as asana and meditation as main practices. Nevertheless, unless you learn the Truth, you will not reach Satori just by moving the body. That is precisely why it’s been said from ancient times that you must find a Guru if you are to aim for Satori. Many such legends exist in the long history of China and similar legends exist in Japan as well.
When it comes to your current occupation, it will be good if you continue to study and learn the Truth, and approach it with more altruism.
(Shri Mahayogi glances at Mr. A taking notes, and casually asks, “Writing in kanji [Chinese characters modified in Japanese]?” Afterwards, the topic shifts to Yukti, who can speak Mandarin.)
MASTER: She was working as a nurse in Kyoto, but after the earthquake and nuclear meltdown causing disastrous situations in the Tohoku region, she made a determination to go work there herself. Therefore, her work is ordinary, as a nurse, however, the way she lives is the way of a yogini.
Many people gathered here during Jayanti (Celebration of the Sacred Birth of the Master) the other day. Everyone has occupations, however, after starting to learn Yoga, they no longer work for selfish gain, they put spiritual completion as the main purpose and aim of their lives, and their jobs are done for the sake of maintaining a livelihood for that purpose; the condition of their minds has completely transformed, even though they have the same jobs.
The Discipline of Spiritual Practice: the Mastering of Sanskara
Lynn (Prasadini): Shri Mahayogi, please teach us what mauna is. Even if there is silence externally, the mind continues to chatter. In that case, how do we create internal mauna?
MASTER: The mind cannot stay quiet for a single moment, constantly responding to stimuli from outside, or being stirred up by the internal thoughts coming from memory. Such behavior has become a habit. That is because there is a cause within the mind for reacting to some stimulus or for being attached to some memory. Therefore, if you can thoroughly and firmly discriminate that neither the objects of these attachments nor the relationships between them are the Truth, then you will come to not be shaken or swayed by the external stimuli or internal memory. Therefore, what is of utmost importance is to educate the mind with the teachings of the Truth; because if you do so, the mind will correct its own mistakes, and will come to lose interest in trifles, non-Truths. Once that is perfectly established, then internal mauna will automatically arise. The external, verbal mauna is, so to speak, just like an incremental training for it.
Now, that was the way of applying discrimination. Another way is through bhakti. Discrimination is, so to say, to completely control the mind through the practice of raja yoga. On the other hand, bhakti is its opposite, you fill the mind with God, one hundred percent.
Lynn (Prasadini): (with tears in her eyes) For me, the latter is easier. (laughs)
MASTER: Yes, whether it’s zero percent or one hundred percent, pain-bearing obstacles, which are the attachments, ought to disappear. (smiling) Bhakti is easy. Keep practicing with that.
Lynn (Prasadini): (with a big smile) Yes.
Mr. Shimada (Chaitanya): Can we mix the percentages, like 80/20? (laughter from all) Like a part that I lift with discrimination, and a part that I heighten with bhakti?
MASTER: That’s fine. It’s A-Okay. (laughs)
Takashi (Ramdas): Is it possible to erase sanskara (psychological subconscious latent impressions) even with bhakti?
MASTER: Yes, it is possible; if it is done thoroughly it is definitely possible. Because bhakti means to think about God, to offer love to God, to become One with God—since God has no sanskara.
Sanskara is written in kanji as a word that indicates “[spiritual or religious] practice,” “action,” “conduct,” “behavior,” or “to go.” For the word “practice” or “discipline” [in English], we use the combination of two kanji characters [in the context of spiritual practice, one of them is the one that I mentioned, and the second one is the character that means “complete,” “acquire,” or “master”]—that means “to complete discipline and practice” or “the mastering of discipline and practice.” That is to say, you are “graduating” from “sanskara.” (Mr. A inadvertently lets out a grunt of agreement as he understands the meaning of the words in kanji characters.) Through kanji it is easier to understand. You see, the first character of “[spiritual or religious] discipline of practice” is “to complete” or “to acquire” or “to master.” That is why it is “to graduate.” The common kanji character we use for “graduation” is the combination of two kanji characters meaning “end” or “close” + “karma.” Often times, that same character is used in the phrase “with deep karma” [to describe something that has a meaning of “sinful”]. The combination of characters is different, [even though the second character is pronounced in the same way [in Japanese]. The kanji character for “karma” indicates a single task, therefore, we use the kanji character of “graduation” in the context of worldly jobs, or completing a single level of schooling, or retiring from work [rather than the second character which is used for spiritual discipline even though they are pronounced the same way]. We select the words according to what it signifies.
Yohei (Gopala): Does the meaning of “[spiritual or religious] discipline of practice” include recognizing that it’s a mistake to believe that sanskara, or memory is my self?
MASTER: Yes, that is included. By going through habitual erroneous actions due to ignorance or by taking in erroneous impressions, the mind has made the attachments bigger. Spiritual discipline of practice is the task of revamping the incorrect sanskara or memories through telling the mind the correct wisdom, or teachings of the Truth.
Yohei (Gopala): Lately, there is a stronger awareness that memories are not my self. For a long time, somehow my attention went toward sanskara all the time, but I saw that there is an ego-consciousness that thinks that the mind is my Self, deeper within, and I thought that as long as that ego-consciousness is not exterminated, I will never awaken to Atman. Please teach me how I should practice so that it will lead to the elimination of ego including in daily life, how I should discipline myself in practice.
MASTER: It all comes down to selfless service. To act and think for others.
Yohei (Gopala): I have faith in Yoga and I want to live in it, yet it is still not continuous and I have moments of interruption at times; and during daily life too, there are waves. How should I practice in order to direct my mind continuously and only towards God or the Truth?
MASTER: When you notice that, it means that you have found something just like lint arising in the mind, therefore you must correct it each time. And, by thoroughly discriminating it, attachments to wrong things will go away. Consequently, the part of the mind that becomes freed up will become stuck solely on bhakti—Truth, or God—as its result, ego will be eliminated.
Yohei (Gopala): Rather than trying to eliminate ego, as the result of going towards Truth or God, ego is eliminated.
MASTER: Right. If you pay attention to the ego, it gets bigger and bigger… (laughter from all) That’s why it’s best to ignore it.
Yohei (Gopala): When others are happy in everyday situations and places that are unrelated to Yoga, such as at work where someone may become happy [from the work I do], is that considered lila as well?
MASTER: It can be. From a general mind’s perspective, the world is swirling with karma, and there are both good and bad mixed together in chaos, yet from the Truth, which means from the eyes of God, God Itself is manifesting throughout everything, therefore, no matter what drama develops, it can be viewed that it is all the divine play of God, that is, lila.
Shantimayi: Is it the same as the last words of Buddha, “The world is beautiful”?
MASTER: Perhaps, they have that feel to them.
Shantimayi: During the time of discipline and practice, he only says that everything is suffering.
MASTER: If viewing from the mind’s perspective, it is exactly that; first of all the teachings of Buddha can be likened to that of a doctor. The suffering can be likened to sickness. Because that sickness always has causes, the causes need to be found. Then, you will find causes such as karma, sanskara, and ignorance. On the other hand, since being healthy and normal is the original condition, in order to recover, you are given a prescription, which can be likened to the teachings, that say learn this or practice this discipline. In this sense, Buddha was at times described as the greatest doctor.
Therefore, everyone is a doctor in training. (laughter from all)
(Shri Mahayogi gazes around at each and every disciple.)
Takashi (Ramdas): Does that mean that by understanding the system of Yoga, one’s own path becomes firm, and the way of being—what to say, how to act—will all be correctly established?
MASTER: More than anything else, by deepening your discipline of spiritual practice, and then by realizing the Truth, that can be accomplished. The Truth is not “something,” the literal word; it is the only Reality. There is only that—ancient times, present, as well as future, that which has never changed. That is the Truth of everyone.
(Naturally, silence befalls all as if Shri Mahayogi’s words saturate everyone’s minds. Satsangha ends in a silence filled with blessings.)
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Testimonies from a Practitioner
Yoga in Daily Life (Family Life)
May 2012, Kyoto, Japan
This article is based on the original article that came out in 1996, in Yoga Dipika Vol. 6. It was written seven years after I began studying Yoga under Shri Mahayogi. I wrote this during my busiest period of work and family life. As I read it again, I feel that the way of being in daily life is the most important, and that it is the most basic of the basic, fundamental things in practicing Yoga. In the absence of the Master [due to his visit to New York], the disciples in Japan are gathering together under the topic of “The Secret of Yoga—Practice of Yama and Niyama.” I wanted this article to be a hint for that and I am contributing it again in Paramahamsa.
It seems that the way of practice in the ancient style of Yoga was for seekers to leave their homes, to wander about through forests and caves throughout the country to find their Guru. And, if a seeker was fortunate enough to find their Guru, then the seeker devoted everything to the Guru, observed the teachings of the Guru, and disciplined themselves in the practice of these teachings. I learned that these renunciates were called sannyasin, and at times they continued to wander without remaining in one place. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s disciples, too, such as Vivekananda, Brahmananda, and Turiyananda, spent extremely severe times enduring the wandering life of ascetic practice after the death of their Master. And also, various biographical documents about other various Yogi (Ones that perfected Yoga) record how intense the way they practiced was as well. It was the same with Buddha and Jesus.
However, in this modern era in Japan and elsewhere, it is extremely difficult to become a sannyasin and concentrate solely on disciplining oneself in the practice of Yoga. There is no societal understanding towards Yoga; and although there might be some places that still continue to have an understanding and respect towards renunciates, with the wave of modernization, it has turned more and more into a shell of formality. That is to say, in fact I’ve also heard it is becoming more difficult in India as well; basically, securing housing, food, and clothing make it practically difficult to live as a renunciate in [Japan and elsewhere in the modern world].
A general pattern for people in Japan, [and in many other places,] is to live in society with a job and family. Yoga became widely known across the world beginning with Vivekananda’s missionary work. This means that Yoga came to be not just for the sannyasin, but it became known across the general population. Now, in the event that we, ordinary people (householders), are to practice Yoga, will we not be able to accomplish the realization of Yoga unless we leave our family to become a sannyasin? If that were the case, then most people would have to give up on Yoga. Is Satori only available to the sannyasin? The fact of the matter is that Satori cannot be affected by circumstances—It ought to exist independently. What is affected by circumstances is the human mind, and that is why one leaves the world that is filled with disturbances to the mind, to become a renunciate. In the aspect of one’s actions, the difference between a sannyasin and a householder when practicing Yoga is that the former allots all of their time and actions for Yoga, whereas the latter, being occupied most of the time with society and family, allocates less time for disciplining themselves in the practices of Yoga. Although the ancient Yoga, as is represented in hatha yoga, has elements that are powerfully and greatly secretive, its application required seekers to exert themselves—however, since the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita about karma yoga (yoga of action) and bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion to God), which are practicable in daily life and suitable for relatively general populations, eventually came to be introduced, we ordinary people can also dedicate the entirety of the time during our daily lives to Yoga, to disciplining ourselves in the practice of Yoga. As Shri Mahayogi teaches, “The true sannyasin is someone who has detached from all attachments”; even if a person is a householder with various external relationships, if this person is unattached internally, within the mind, then the person can be a sannyasin.
Of course, it is said to be difficult to discipline oneself in the practice of Yoga and realize Satori, living in the middle of a world that is filled with sensory stimuli; nevertheless, it has to be realized. Yoga has the depth and the breadth to be able to accommodate every kind of temperament and every kind of environment.
Yet, there are a few points to pay attention to and to keep in mind when one practices Yoga in the household. I think that the points which one needs to be careful about might be different depending on the person, but the person’s specific issues are addressed by the Guru. So here, I would like to share with you what I felt were the important points to be aware of or the points that one needs to be careful of as one practices the disciplines of Yoga within a family and social life, all of which I have felt during my experiences of applying the discipline of the practice of Yoga for a short time up until now.
I think that, with regard to the age for embarking on Yoga, the sooner the better in general. Especially when it comes to the training in which the physical body must be used, such as in asana (method of postures) and pranayama (method of breathing) in ashtanga yoga (eight limbs of Yoga), it is better to be younger. However, this is a generalization, and it does not necessarily apply in all cases. It is said that in order to realize Satori in this world, some time—time to clean the mind—is inevitably necessary; yet, there are cases in which one realizes God in an instant due to various impactful shocks and experiences. These depend on a person’s karma (law of cause and effect) and serendipitous connections, so it might be inevitable and not possible to be helped in some aspects. You cannot force someone to practice Yoga. It is practiced by our own accord due to our internal yearning, on our own volition. Even a Guru cannot do anything if a person has no willingness to practice. A Guru shows the path and removes obstacles, even so, if we do not walk on the path, there is nothing a Guru can do. Therefore, if one encounters a Guru auspiciously, then I advise that you proceed without losing a single moment.
Whether one is a sannyasin or a householder, the same thing can be said—what is of utmost importance in practicing the disciplines of Yoga is the passion towards the goal—that is, Satori (the Realization of God, of the true Self or Liberation). This becomes the driving force to proceed. It is said that Samadhi comes very promptly to those who apply the practice of Yoga seriously, diligently, with eagerness, without slacking. Eagerness towards Satori brings about the encounter with the Guru. Yet, the substance of this Satori can neither be expressed with words, nor even be imagined with the mind. So, then how might we have passion towards such an ambiguous goal?
One way—cherish the “beginner’s mind,” the initial, pure feeling felt in the beginning. Aspiration towards Satori, the sense of happiness from sensing God, or the tranquility that one feels in the presence of the Guru—cherish these moments, recall them at all times, and strengthen these feelings. And, it is very important to understand correctly about Satori—what it is and what you need to do to attain It—even if it is within the realm of the intellect at first, and then think about It always and deepen understanding of It. We must declare the aim of life to the mind, clearly. Also, the mind is not something that is fixed; at times Yoga feels extremely close, and at other times, the storm of the senses will be utterly uncontrollable. It is necessary to understand this nature of the mind. The mind is just like that. There is no need to feel discouraged just because we cannot control the mind and focus it on Yoga. Instead, think—there will be an opposite wave coming next. What really gives one a great advance is experiencing a painful blow. As Yoga progresses, these waves will become smaller.
Another crucial, defining aspect is to come into contact with someone who has realized Satori—an Awakened Being, that is, a Yogi (one who has perfected Yoga), a Satguru (True Master). We must interact with them as much as possible. They are Satori itself. Our goal has come into existence with form. Interacting with them makes us sense that our goal is real to us. It is said that Satori is not something to be gained, but it is our true Nature. As the waves of the mind stop and the mind becomes still and pure, then “That” which has been hidden until then in the waves of the mind, emerges—that is called Satori. “That” is the true Self, God, and our true Nature. Interaction with a Yogi is a place where our minds receive the influence of the great stillness of a Yogi’s mind. By being near to them, our minds are controlled and go straight towards the goal. Therefore, we should try to interact with them as much as possible and correct the course of the mind. Interaction with them brings about the purification of the mind, and the passion towards Satori proportionately heightens as the purification of the mind heightens.
However, unfortunately, there aren’t many Holy Beings—Yogi—like this. I had the fortune of meeting a Yogi. Since then, the interactions with my Master, Shri Mahayogi, have definitely had positive effects on my mind. If we are in an environment where we can meet with Shri Mahayogi, we should actively ask for his teachings. So then, on the contrary, if the case is that our circumstances do not allow us to have interactions with him, what should we do? For example, in cases where we live far away, or we are for some reason not able to make the time to see him, then we must constantly keep the teachings and the impressions we’ve gotten from the time we have spent with the Master in our minds, and we must not forget these. And we should create time to meet with the Master as much as possible. In actuality, if Shri Mahayogi is always in our mind, then perhaps, there is no need for this body to be in the presence of the Master. As in the last teaching of Buddha, “Being close in my presence does not make one a disciple of mine; but following my teachings, no matter how far away, makes one a disciple of mine.”
In addition, reading scriptures or books that record the teachings of the Holy Beings will help us recall our goal. We should read the collections of Vivekananda’s lectures, Yogananda’s autobiography and scriptures, such as the Yoga Sutra, constantly. And, we should think deeply about their content. These books are not for the aim of expanding intellectual knowledge, but for the aim of actually applying the practice of Yoga through their teachings. Coming into contact with these sacred books wakes up a sacred vibration within the mind. What I think is actually very important in a life filled with stimulus is to keep the five senses immersed in sacred things, ceaselessly. Do not let the senses touch things that disturb the mind (if one’s own mind strengthens enough, then this does not apply). At the same time, our “deeds-words-thoughts” must always be in alignment with Yoga. That is to say, these must be unselfish and pure. Unless we strictly discipline the mind and the senses, they will immediately try to find any opening and forget Yoga.
We must make sure our eyes are on the goal continuously. The means must not become the goal. The goal has to be always, constantly real—we have to be conscious of how real the goal is, as if it were a piece of fruit in our hands. We should keep recalling it constantly. In every scene of our daily lives, we should tell our minds—“What Satori is! What I should do to realize it!”, “Where my beloved God is!” That is of utmost importance. At the end of this uninterrupted concentration lies Samadhi—Satori.
I feel that all other things in daily life proceed on their own. Occupations within society are constant and endless. I think that the work continues to progress forward, separate from our thoughts or intentions. Therefore, we should empty our mind completely of our daily work at the end of the day, just as we throw away a newspaper every day. In truth, we should work in every moment in such a way. This is not limited to our job, but it would be the same with all our actions. When we work, we should simply focus on the task at hand; this concentration is on the action itself, and the attachment to the results of work are a different thing. If we are attached to the results of work, then even after the work is over, we will still be so concerned, we won’t be able to stop thinking about it. We should forget about work completely when our work is finished. Being unattached indicates that one can concentrate on necessary things with the necessary amount of concentration at the necessary time. When I am observing the way Shri Mahayogi works, I can see that no matter how trivial the work is, he is greatly concentrating on it with intensity. Truly, acting with our utmost strength, every single moment, must be important. As Jesus and Babaji said, “Man does not exist for the sake of work, but work exists for the sake of man.”
As one continues to apply the practice of Yoga, work will no longer affect the mind. Various incidents, uncomfortable things, pleasant things, are not of concern at all. As the mind becomes concentrated on Yoga, the various incidents during the day pass by simply without attachment, like a dream, and only the object of concentration in Yoga will occupy our minds—just like when we fall in love, our lover is constantly on our minds, even during work.
It is very good to have a Yoga-related job; that is because our mind can then be with Yoga at all times. Most of the occupations we have in society are businesses—based on “give-and-take.” But, for example, the work for Mahayogi Yoga Mission (MYM) is solely “give.” We do not expect any compensation for the results. We learn the secret of work through engaging in MYM’s work. Then, I think that we can develop that secret in other places, and all will transform into karma yoga, as ideal, good actions for others. It is quite fortunate for us to be given a place for such an ideal opportunity for work. We may not be able to receive anything material through it, but we will acquire irreplaceable tranquility of the spirit.
Now, how do we create time for meditation, asana or pranayama? In fact, most people in the modern world spend their daily lives busily, with hardly any time to relax. Long gone are the simple lifestyles where you woke up with the rising of the sun, ended your work at sunset, and spent the remainder of the evening quietly until bedtime. After a hard day at work, we are then exposed to a world of stimulus, there is no time for the spirit to rest.
To practice Yoga in action, this lifestyle has to change. One does not hesitate to make any effort or spend all of one’s time to meet a lover. Similarly, when one becomes engrossed in Yoga, one creates time to study and learn no matter what it takes. The center of life becomes Yoga. Everything begins to orbit around Yoga as the core. All the things that are obstacles to applying the discipline of practice in Yoga will be gotten rid of. In order to practice asana or pranayama, one or two hours are needed; you can create it if you put your mind to it. When we are mad about something, we don’t spare any sleep, do we? If we are too tired to practice at night, we can just wake up earlier and practice in the morning, can’t we? We just simply adjust our entire day in order to practice it. We have to think deeply on what the aim of our own lives is and what we must do to realize it, then we have to tell the mind, and we must make the mind put it into action. There may be times when it doesn’t go well, but it is not necessary to give up. Eventually, it will definitely go well. Eventually, everything around us will make us actualize it. Time is something that we must intentionally create.
Also, there is the case of meditation that is practiced in sitting-form, by setting up a specific time, but it can be practiced in any situation. Even a slight chance to be alone, even the time when we go to the bathroom, can be allocated to meditation. Whenever we have spare time, we can keep the mind involved in Yoga. We can think about Holy Beings, God, the theme can be anything. Through discriminating on anything related to Yoga that we give attention to, or are interested in, or even if it’s not directly connected to Yoga but we give attention to it—all of this will lead to concentration, and will further lead to meditation.
“Verily, a wife is not dear, that you may love the wife; but that you may love the Self, therefore a wife is dear.” This is a teaching from the Upanishad—that the essence of everything is Atman (the true Self), and only Atman is the shining, attractive Reality. Various objects that we are attracted to vary depending on each person, but it is because of the Atman within these objects that we’re actually attracted to them.
Family is a relationship connected by a strong cause. We can cultivate love towards the true Love, that is, Atman (God), through the love towards family. One’s beloved spouse, beloved children, beloved parents—in general, it is natural that you love them, yet in reality, under this word of “love,” the actual meaning could have been replaced with an egotistical possessiveness. Is it really true “love” if we are just using the word “love” to coerce others’ “love” for ourselves? As Jesus said, “Love” is unconditional love, and it should not be a give-and-take relationship, such as loving someone just because they follow what we want them to do. From this, “Love” is no longer about loving or not-loving someone depending on who that person is. Unconditional “Love” means love towards everyone, and it is not something that is selective. Perhaps, its object goes beyond humans, and expands out to everything in existence. I think and believe that one of the places where we can cultivate such infinite “love” is in family. Even if initially love is limited to “my” family, as we continue applying the practices of Yoga in action, and consequently, as we become able to sense the essence of the individuals’ souls—wife and son [or spouse and children]—then that love expands to infinite “Love.” In bhakti yoga, we practice loving God as a lover, a child or a parent, whereas, in the love toward one’s family, there is a natural emotion of a human being, therefore through having this love as our lead, we can experience true Love of God. Your wife is the Goddess herself. Your child is Krishna. Your parents are dignified God. They are your nearest manifestation of God.
Regarding the issue of sex, I think that we must approach this matter with great care. Ramakrishna Paramahansa taught that the strongest desires among all desires towards the world were two: desire for pleasure, or lust, and greed for money. It is obvious that pleasure is temporary, and we cannot gain lasting tranquility of the soul from it. Pleasure begets attachment, and consequently we then experience the urge to seek more pleasure; it is an endless cogwheel. Attachment towards pleasure is a disturbance for the mind, it is in opposition to the tranquility sought as the goal of Yoga. There is no Yoga where there is lust, and where there is Yoga, there is no lust. What is also of vital importance to emphasize here is that we must make our minds clearly recognize our own aim of life. Our aim is the tranquility of the soul, and this can never be gained through pleasure; we must proceed by renouncing pleasure. Attachment to pleasure lowers the mind’s ability to accurately judge, and makes the aim of Yoga meaningless and far from actuality. This is not just limited to sex, but desire towards various things such as alcohol, foods, and material possessions—all are attachment towards pleasure.
Also, with regard to the aspect of controlling prana, for men (and I assume that something similar can be said for women), the retention of semen is quite significant; when it is ejaculated, we cannot gain the concentration [needed] in order to be capable of practicing meditation. Semen is life, and it is a crystallization of prana. The scriptures mention that those who restrain semen, restrain prana, and then attain immortality. Nevertheless, sexual desires should not be suppressed. Suppression brings instability to the mind and can result in attaching to it repeatedly. Toward the issue of sexual desire and lust, first the mind has to be purified, and as mentioned many times earlier, we have to have our minds prepared by filling them with noble thoughts. Through this, sexual desire will become inactive and will turn into the power (prana) [necessary] for progressing in Yoga. Shakti, which is the primordial energy that moves this universe is also translated as sexual energy. The primordial energy that moves this microcosm of the body and the mind is Shakti; and it is understood that sexual desire is the manifestation of the power of creation, of maintaining and making fertility in this life—it is a power that is not easily handled. Along with this, as you progress on the path of Yoga, gradually, this power will be used towards a better direction.
Sex should be practiced moderately, thinking of your partner, and it is practiced in order to deepen love for one another and to create children. Importantly, the mutual love towards one another should not be formed by a physical relationship, but should be formed by communication between hearts, and further, the interaction of the two souls, which is a sacred, pure, powerful relationship. The union of the divinity of the two is the ultimate union—it is exactly the union of God Shiva and Goddess Shakti. That is where Infinite Joy lies.
Monetary desire is also one of the strongest desires of human beings. In general, having enrichment in dwelling, food and clothing can be considered to be a symbol of happiness—money is required in order to actualize such things. So then how much money do we need to feel satisfied by that? One million? Ten million? One hundred million? The things that we can buy with money are nothing great. Yet humans are extremely afraid of losing money.
There is a teaching, “The same power that sends a person to this world, provides what the person needs in order to live in this world,” which I find is a very logical teaching. Whether we know it or not, some power is sustaining this body and mind to be alive this very moment as well. No matter what we think or do, our hearts keep moving without forgetting a beat and provide blood throughout the body. What on earth is this power? Like the heart, what on earth is the power that maintains the lives of invisible tiny creatures, plants, and animals, that generates wind [and weather], creates seasons, makes the stars shine, and operates the cosmos? The one who lives in faith towards this unimaginable, overwhelming power, or Shakti, is a Yogi who leaves what is needed when it is needed and in the amount it is needed; and it is one who doesn’t desire much and lives having an ideal as being without a single possession. There is a [Buddhist] saying, “Without a single thing, Limitless.” A Yogi does not have a single possession; the mind has no attachments and it is empty. That is the reason why it is said that limitless energy is given to a Yogi, and he or she can accomplish amazing feats that are beyond human understanding.
We are in an age in which we can obtain any attractive thing or information while we stay home, nonetheless, what is most precious is already within our hearts, changelessly, whether it is in this current time or long ago. Having Satori as our goal, money should be used to realize that Satori. We cannot still our mind by money, yet by using money correctly, the desires of the mind can be calmed. Once the mind has been prepared [into a state of calmness], our food, clothing and housing are also prepared, and we can truly live with a modest amount of money indeed.
Nevertheless, what is essential for us is the existence of the Guru, regardless. Without the Guru, we cannot proceed a single step. The Guru is the sole living proof of Satori, God, the true Self, true Love, and the powerful Light that comes from That; and the Guru is the Immortal Existence that guides the disciples with immeasurable Love. We should attend to the Guru with utmost respect and deep adoration, and enjoy this world of samsara (reincarnation) as the lila (divine play) of God along with our Guru. Ceaseless, Infinite Joy is the Guru—Absolute Knowledge is the Guru—and Immortal Existence is the Guru. Only through the Guru can we see God with our own eyes. The Guru is truly the Absolute Brahman. We are allowed to see Brahman through seeing Him. Fortunate are those who can constantly think of the Guru, see the Guru, hear the Guru and touch the Guru. Because that means such a person is at the goal already.
The Guru is the window that is open in this world of darkness; and through this window we can enter the kingdom of true Freedom. Various Holy Beings preach the necessity of a Guru. Why?! All knowledge of Yoga, the knowledge of Vedanta, they can all lead to Satori solely through the Light of the Guru. Intellectual knowledge becomes wisdom, becomes power, and becomes blood, which then begins to flow vigorously towards the goal. That is why, we should direct our minds to the Guru ceaselessly. If meditation allows union with the object of meditation, then at the end of meditation on a Yogi, one will be in union with that Yogi, that is to say, we will become a Yogi (Awakened One).
Now, I wrote on and on about what I think about Yoga in the context of daily life, however, the truly crucial thing is to practice Yoga, by throwing our bodies, hearts and souls entirely into it. We should constantly examine our own selves to see if we are practicing Yoga with our bodies, hearts and souls. If that is not the case yet, then make an effort to make it so. Yet, a watched pot never boils. Impatience makes the mind unstable and distances our mind from Yoga. We must have the readiness of determination to embark on a long journey without ever returning.
The aim of our life is Satori. It is the “Satori” that Buddha aimed for, it is the “Kingdom of Heaven” that Jesus preached, it is the “Liberation” that Hindus refer to, and it is the “True Freedom” that Shri Mahayogi speaks about. In a way, it is nothing like just having a purpose for life, but it is an intense yearning from the depth of the soul. We may have many things we would like to do or attain or are interested in in this life, even so, this yearning of the soul is much stronger, and will eventually dismiss each and everything but That.
First and foremost, seek Satori! Nothing else really matters.
I met Shri Mahayogi on this journey. I feel that exquisite, sacred fragrance of Shri Mahayogi. I determine to learn the teaching of the Master sincerely, and keep disciplining myself in practicing Yoga in action with my entire body, heart and soul—no matter how long the journey might become. But, I yearn that at the end of the journey, I will thirst for becoming One with Brahman, the Immortal One most definitely!
May the blessings of Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa be bestowed upon you!
Om Tat Sat Om! —God is True Existence!