Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Satsangha, Kyoto, 2015
To Become One with God
• The “Dark Night of the Soul” in Mother Teresa’s Mind
and Lila (Divine Play)
• The Existence of Saints Affects the Entire Universe
• The Difference Between the Agony of Bhakti and that of Ego
• Meditation on God and Selfless Action
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners
• Karma Yoga 1: Prologue
• Karma Yoga 2: Inspired Work—Part 1 of 2
July-September 2008, Kyoto, Japan
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Translation of Satsangha
To Become One with God
October 23, 2015, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Ms. Mitsui from Hokkaido prefecture [the northernmost prefecture in Japan], whose last visit was about a year ago, and Yukti from Fukushima are visiting the Ashrama. The gurubai are all happy to reunite with them after a long time.
Shri Mahayogi smiles at these two sitting in front of him, and cordially asks them, “How are you?” He also asks Yukti about the situation in Fukushima and she answers that there is progress being made in preparing the evacuees to return to their homes, and the conditions are gradually changing.
The “Dark Night of the Soul” in Mother Teresa’s Mind
and Lila (Divine Play)
Yukti pulls out a note upon which her several questions are written and begins to speak. With the recent publication of a book about Mother Teresa translated into Japanese, Yukti has begun to inquire into the spiritual darkness, or “dark night”1 that Mother experienced. She shares that Mother Teresa wrote in a letter that she used to have a sense that God existed in her heart, and that she was loved by God, but when the darkness came, she felt God’s absence, and there was only emptiness and coldness. Someone told Yukti that it was because she got too close to God that she was not able to see God.
Yukti: I thought it was something that was given to her, but what made sense to me ultimately was [the concept of] lila. I used to think that lila was where God and bhakta (those who are devoted to God) are filled with Joy, and that they are so completely filled with Joy that there cannot be any elements of uncertainty or anxiety, on either side. However, when I found out about her darkness, perhaps God might be filled with Joy, but she was filled with anguish for fifty years…so I felt that it was different from what I’d thought of as lila up until that point. What should a bhakta become so that God is able to enjoy lila more?
MASTER: Before that, were there any things that were mentioned in the book about what those recorded words of Mother Teresa, the “dark night of the soul,” symbolize?
Yukti: In the letter, she says that she has lost faith, love, joy and emotions. It was simply emptiness, cold like ice, finding herself sensing that she is not needed; and she wondered what kind of joy God derives from her darkness.
MASTER: I don’t know about that part of Mother Teresa at all, and I didn’t know about the word “spiritual darkness” or “dark night,” but what I felt now intuitively is that it is a sliver of ego.
It seems to me that at the fundamental level, there probably exists a difference between spiritual traditions in India and in the West… That is to say, in India, there is a part in which the intimate relationship with God, such as in bhakti or lila, has been cultivated for over two thousand years of history and tradition. However, in the Christianity of the West, there was no such thing at all; and on the other hand, a Western education—well, to put it bluntly, it feels to me that as a result of the tradition of individuality being deeply rooted for two thousand years, there is a relationship with God in one’s individual emotions, or some very dualistic blueprint. [Whereas] in India, at the point in which dualism transcends into non-dualism, true lila is finally born. Of course, India also starts out with dualism, however, the original joy, as [expressed by] lila, is that God Itself, as monism, becomes the incarnation of God, and at the same time, becomes a friend, a lover—everything is playing various roles on earth—in a drama—as a role that is a part of God. Indeed, we can see that within this, various human dramas with their ups and downs manifest, and these can be components that make the drama interesting and add color to it too, yet essentially, truly One God Itself is playing in the exact sense of the word lila—such a sensation of Joy, this aspect is very strong in lila.
Therefore, with regard to Mother Teresa’s struggle—I deduce that at that point, probably her attachments or bondage to the world and various things in this world, which is maya (illusion), were gone, yet only the ego was still left over, and because that ego desired God so much, yearned to interact, or in other words, desired to have intense intimacy with God, perhaps that was how she came to express this as darkness.
Yukti: So it was some kind of maya?
MASTER: Yes. Ultimately, the very last remaining veil—it seems such a conflict was there within her.
Yukti: Shri Mahayogi often mentions that in order to remove the thorn called ignorance, we need to use the right thorn called wisdom, however, once ignorance is removed in the end, then both thorns have to be discarded. Right now, we too keep applying right wisdom more and more, and we are removing ignorance, and I think that Mother Teresa too must have removed ignorance more and more by seeking God; but if both thorns are no longer necessary, then that means that there will be a time when the right thorn will also be pulled out. (MASTER: That’s right.) Is the method applied to remove this wisdom different from that of removing ignorance?
MASTER: It ought to be removed much faster than when ignorance is removed. In other words, the purpose of using true wisdom is only for the purpose of removing ignorance, so once that is removed, true wisdom itself is no longer needed either, so to speak. Then it would naturally and automatically slip off—and that is how it should be. However, if you become attached to this true wisdom too—for example, if you think you have superior wisdom or ability—various siddhi (supernatural powers) are actually under this category—then maya-like things can possibly arise right there. Nonetheless, a prudent practitioner can remove these swiftly, too.
Looking at this from a psychological perspective, in the scripture Yoga Sutra, there are many types of samadhi explained. It explains that through samadhi, siddhi can arise and also true wisdom can arise; and there are many successive levels. This means you can say that in order to remove the ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles that may still remain as sanskara (latent subconscious impressions) deep within the mind, various siddhi and wisdom are born in order right then, and they serve to remove ignorance. On the other hand, since true wisdom itself has non-attachment as its essence, naturally, there should not arise any attachment toward it—even so, until reaching the end, you are still using that true wisdom to eliminate ignorance—and true wisdom will be what’s left behind. Therefore, until right before one reaches the ultimate state, the Satori of true Existence, that true wisdom is a necessary thing; and further, at the very subtle, ultimate level, in which neither true wisdom nor anything else is needed any longer, a process where true wisdom automatically disappears will arise.
Mother Teresa is most likely articulating the experience of such deep realms.
Yukti: From the fact that that state of hers continued for fifty years, I thought that it was probably very difficult to remove true wisdom.
MASTER: Meanwhile, you mentioned the words explained by someone that it was because she went too close to God—“went too close” has implications of still getting closer. You have to become One. Once you become One, then there is neither light nor darkness anymore.
Yukti: Is that state the true lila?
MASTER: Yes. Therefore it means that as long as you’re still getting closer, there is still a duality of light and dark. That is what I think.
Yukti: I hear that Christian Saints often experience this darkness.
MASTER: Yes, such ways of expression are fairly numerous.
Yukti: That last veil is quite difficult…
MASTER: Yes, it seems there is no denying that. Perhaps almost the whole content in Christianity as a religion is that way. However, you can say that India stands out in this regard.
Yukti: I understand. I brought about seven questions, but everything was resolved with this answer, so I’ll stop now. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
(Yukti smiles with what seems to be a sense of satisfaction, and the Ashrama is filled with a tranquil atmosphere.)
 Mother Teresa dedicated her life to works of devoted service, seeing Jesus Christ in those suffering from poverty and disease; however, after her passing it became clear from the remaining letters she had written that soon after she began her activities in a slum in India, she was in a state called the “Dark Night of the Soul,” where she could not feel the existence of God or God’s love for a very long time. These are some words left in one of Mother’s letters: “There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less form the time I started ‘the work.’” “In my soul, I feel just that terrible pain of loss—of God not wanting me—of God not being God—of God not really existing.”
The Existence of Saints Affects the Entire Universe
(Ms. Mitsui, who must have been eagerly awaiting this day, starts to speak, filled with emotion.)
Ms. Mitsui: I’ve always thought that Satori begins internally within a person, and concludes internally within that person; however, when I read in Paramahamsa (Mahayogi Mission’s bimonthly publication in Japanese for members) that Shri Mahayogi said, “The ultimate way to demonstrate filial piety to one’s parents ought to be to realize Satori. Not only for parents, but the ultimate gift for others ought to be to realize Satori. Therefore, I believe that the same thing can be said of spouses and children,”1 I felt that to realize Satori is an immeasurably profound matter. Please teach us what kind of concrete impact it has on family members and surrounding people intangibly when an individual person realizes Satori.
MASTER: Since ancient times, as the saying goes, if a monk is born into a family, then that family is purified for three generations both in the past and in the future. If this is so in the case of a monk, if someone in the family reaches Satori, the supreme Truth, then the benefit from that is unfathomable. It will truly be a blessing not only for the families, but for the society, and everything in the entire universe will be truly blessed.
The why of this may be difficult to explain with today’s scientific words; but for instance, let’s say, from the perspective of physics, in order to exert a force of destruction and re-creation like Shiva (God of male principle), if it is the most primitive, gross method, it would be to use, for example, the strength of your arms, what is called the power of muscle, which can be done exerting such physical force. If it is the case of heightening the power a little more, then for example, it can be displayed by using the power of gunpowder or various combinations of chemicals. And if we further seek the source of that energy into a more subtle area, it can go to nuclear power or things that are physically extremely subtle, which cannot be perceived easily with the five senses. In short, you can say that the more subtle it is—in other words, the more internal, the more subtle the components of the materials are consisted of—the more power it has. If you look at the activities and thoughts of a human being, the external parts such as hands, legs, and muscles are gross, and the words are more subtle than that; and the origin of the words—the mind’s thoughts—are even further, more subtle. From this, you can consider that the thoughts of the mind, even if not verbalized or even if physical action is not there, their power is massive. In contrast to muscle, which causes temporary phenomena, the mind’s thoughts, which are the subtle power, can have a more expansive impact, transcending time and space. Looking at it from that view, it is indeed true that great and evil actions, or many things done by human beings that are full of pain-bearing obstacles and karma as it were, can affect society massively, however, you can take that the existence of the ones who have purified the mind, Saints in other words, whatever their actions may be, if the purity of their existence is high, then it can be perceived that their impact, needless to say, goes beyond time and space.
Therefore, because Satori is the most complete, full Existence, and it is truly one and the same with the origin from which the entire universe is born, I believe that it can be said that it provides a positive effect to the entire universe, so to speak.
Ms. Mitsui: There may be many differences between someone who realized God and someone who has not, but what is the biggest difference?
MASTER: The ones who have realized God only see the One there. The ones who have not realized God see many in this world. This difference is immense.
(Ms. Mitsui gazes single-pointedly at Shri Mahayogi and nods many times. In silence, darshan (the sacred gaze) continues.)
MASTER: Truly, only That exists. Only God exists.
Ms. Mitsui: Lately, at times I feel like I want to rely on God instead of people from now on. Is that the right way to think?
MASTER: (smiling) That is right. That is best, the best thing of all.
Ms. Mitsui: In the human world, the phrase “depend on others” is considered not to be such a positive thing. But is it a good thing to depend on God?
MASTER: The meaning of “depend” is not only what you have just mentioned, [the negative connotation of the meaning] as being spoiled and leaning on somebody or something, but the meaning is also to make God your only refuge; that is why I said it is right. If you do that, you will always be intimate with God, as your friend, as your lover, as yourself, as others, and as everything—as the result of this, only that which is One remains. Do that.
 “Ever since childhood, perhaps I might not really have been the child that my parents expected me to be, however, at one point, suddenly a thought arose in me—what is the ultimate way of filial piety?—and I thought about it. Perhaps, following everything your parents say might be one way. Not causing trouble in the world or becoming successful, might be another way. However, I didn’t take notice of any of these, but the ultimate way to demonstrate filial piety must be to realize Satori—I had no doubt about it. Because of that, no matter how much my parents lectured me, or how I wasn’t the way they expected me to be, it didn’t bother me. Not only for parents, but the ultimate gift for others must be to realize Satori—this is my belief. Therefore, I believe that you can say the same for your spouses or your children.” Words of Shri Mahayogi from Pranavadipa Vol. 70, Testimony by Mitsui.
The Difference Between the Agony of Bhakti and that of Ego
Lu (Priya): Mira Bai, from the 15th century, loved Krishna, and she was in joy or she was in distress because of it. Was the reason for her to become distressed, despite the fact that she loved God so much, because the ego still remained?
MASTER: (to all attendees) Does anyone know about this story? (urging the disciples to answer)
Sananda: I feel like certainly it might be said to be ego, but also I feel like the love of separation [or love that is heightened due to separation] is itself lila, and that appearance seems to be different from the activity of ego in the case of Mother Teresa that was mentioned earlier.
MASTER: In lila, the agony and distress from not being able to see or feel Krishna also serves the role of heightening one’s feeling towards Krishna, making one closer to Krishna. That is why there is no sense of despair symbolized by “the darkness” mentioned in Mother’s words. It feels to me that the darkness that Mother referred to seems to be truly a terrifying, pitch-black dark, in which nothing can be seen, where there is no clue at all, such despair and hopelessness—such a pinnacle of darkness.
However, in the case of Mira Bai, it is nothing like that; she is distressed, yet why? It’s because she can’t meet with Krishna. She says she is in distress, she is in agony, however, she only sees Krishna and nothing else. It seems that her distress and agony are her pain and sadness that are brought about only by frustration—the inability to reach, to touch or speak with Krishna even though she sees him—the agony, the sadness and distress, arising from that frustration. That is why it seems to be something different.
Lu (Priya): Is that a good type of [positive] distress?
MASTER: It seems that it serves like a script that helps deepen bhakti as lila. That’s what it seems like.
Mirabai: Why do such differences arise?
MASTER: Earlier, I mentioned that it is like the differences within religious traditions…. (after a while) In short, because Mother still had a remnant of ego, she was plunged into the darkness… That is the nature of ego itself. Ego is a part of the mind; the nature of the mind is such that it’s always depending on something and it itself can be activated only by taking in something; therefore, if the mind or ego itself is being isolated, and in other words, if the ego has nothing to come into contact with, then for the ego it truly is darkness itself. That is probably the difference that can be observed. However, in the case of Mira Bai, although she might have been in similar agony and distress, it was not pitch dark, not the despair of darkness, and there was always a ray of Light, Krishna, coming streaming in, or connecting to him—something like that.
Mirabai: Is that by the grace of God? Or is it caused by a difference in the karma that each person is born with respectively?
MASTER: Of course, that is grace, and also if you consider the aforementioned religious traditions, which include education etc., as karma, then you can view it as being karma in India and karma in the West, respectively, as well.
Sananda: Does the role of the Guru (Master), which is Light itself, play an extremely huge part in this too?
MASTER: Of course it does. Because it is said to be grace, surely, there is an existence of the Guru, and the work thereof.
Sananda: In grace, I think there may be various differences such as whether God itself guides the seeker as light, or guides the seekers by manifesting as a Guru with a physical body. For example, in the case of Ramakrishna, after he saw the Goddess Kali, a tantra yogini assured him about the state he was in at the time that he was not deviating from the traditional form, and guided him. Perhaps there can be a difference in religious background, but can it also be said that the role of Mother’s guide after she saw God had contributed a significant effect?
MASTER: No, in the case of Ramakrishna, a tantra yogini named Brahmani appeared, yet she only played a supplemental role; and it can be considered that his direct Guru was Kali Ma herself. And in the case of Mira Bai mentioned now too, similarly, Krishna himself had the role of the Guru. In the case of Mother, it was Jesus Christ.
Haridas: Was Mother in the end released from darkness, becoming One?
MASTER: (looking at Yukti) I think so.
Yukti: I think so too. (Shri Mahayogi nods back.)
Haridas: If Mother had a wish to want bliss or to be given something from God, then it would have been darkness if she could not get that; but in the case of Mira Bai, I think that she probably did not have any thoughts like that at all. That is why…
MASTER: (as if to interrupt Haridas) No, in the case of Mother too, she probably did not ask for something—well, the word “ask” doesn’t quite sound right—but she probably did not wish only for such things as bliss or joy. I do not know much about her, but at the beginning she received a message, like a revelation, something like that, to see Jesus himself in those who are suffering and serve them. I don’t think there is even space for her own joy in that. In this sense, from the beginning she lived a life of devoted service, and truly lived out the life of following Jesus for fifty to sixty years. Even then, the fact that she was overcome by such [dark] waves suggests that perhaps she still had something unresolved within her.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: I once saw a video about Mother, and her words left an impression on me: when a man who was dying on the street asked her, “Why are you helping someone like me?” she answered, “Because I love you.” But then, how was she able to conduct such devoted actions and love people, while being in such empty desolation or darkness that is contrary?
MASTER: There is no other way to put it but to say that she already had established such a sacred state of mind. Even so, a single sliver of something created darkness within her.
Nonetheless, we can only say this in hindsight, but I think that it can be said that because of that, she was able to do the great works that she did. The unresolved part within her was not a negative issue at all, but rather, it transformed into her own devoted actions, in other words, it became her motivation. Either way, it is not an easy feat. Truly, she lived up to her sainthood.
(After showing deep respect towards Mother Teresa, Shri Mahayogi gazes towards Yukti. Yukti has been approaching the way Mother lived and she has been taking it on as her own ideal path. Tears trickle down Yukti’s cheeks.)
Meditation and Prayer
Ms. Mitsui: I see that Christians, in the case of Mother Teresa too, practice praying to God in daily life truly with deep faith. The Saints in India convey the importance of meditation. Is there a difference between the action of praying to God and that of meditation?
MASTER: There is a little difference. When it comes to prayer, there is always a picture of a prayer, one who is praying and one to whom prayers are dedicated, that is, God. When it comes to meditation, in the beginning, similarly you see there are two compositions, a meditator, and the object of meditation, God; however, as meditation deepens, these two become one. Prayer is a continuation of these two relationships, and there is no end. That is the part that is different from meditation. I’ve heard that there is silent prayer in Christianity, of course, too, which seems to be a progression from prayer to something meditation-like. Yet, well, Vivekananda too mentioned something about it,1 I’m not sure how many Christians pursue it that far; and when it comes to that matter, that might also be the case for Hindus or Buddhists too.
 “If you want to live, go back to Christ. You are not Christians. Go back to Christ. Go back to him who had nowhere to lay his head. Better be ready to live in rags with Christ than to live in palaces without him.” From Hindus and Christians (A lecture delivered by Swami Vivekananda in Detroit on February 21, 1894, and reported in the Detroit Free Press.)
The Thirst for Reality
Haridas: (with heightened emotion) I often think and can’t help but wonder why, even though I hit my head again and again, I still want to seek God, to become One. Even if I don’t seek It, there are so many enjoyments out there, and I can always take the easier choice. Why don’t I choose that?—I always wonder. I don’t really know what makes me choose to seek It.
MASTER: Either way, True Existence, which is Reality—Reality in English also means “actual,” and philosophically speaking, it can be referred to as Eternal Existence, or something which is certain, clearly vivid—in short, this Reality, that which is certain, that which is itself this vivid “existing,” precisely means Existence, and you must be seeking That. However, whereas the experiences in this world may provide you a sense of reality temporarily, that disappears like a dream in less than three seconds. You may think that you gained joy or pleasure, yet one after another, they disappear. That means that there is no reality in them. Yet, you run further around the world with bloodshot eyes seeking reality, and more reality, it is just a repetition after all, and what remains is only suffering and despair. Even then, humans seek reality. Then, it is a matter of whether you seek something that is right, or you seek such erroneous things. If you seek the right thing, then you will come to realize, truly, Sat Chit Ananda (Existence, Consciousness, Bliss), which is the essence of the Self, Reality itself, and that is exactly the same as the Reality that is called God—and all is That. Until you realize that, you will inevitably have to grope your way to Reality within maya. However, if you seriously and earnestly seek that Reality, then I think that at least you can refuse the facade of this world that is a fake reality, and you will come to be established in the direction that seeks only what is Real. Then, surely, you must awaken to Reality, which is True Existence.
Haridas: Sometimes, oppositely, I even think thoughts or take actions intentionally to get far away from God. Even so, I sense extreme magnetism from that Existence; I sense the magnetic power that I cannot get away from it even if I try to move away by my own will. Where does that come from?
MASTER: There is nothing that can be said but that it is because you yourself are nothing other than That. It comes from somewhere even deeper than the mind.
(Haridas seems to get clarity that it was just the mind sensing itself being pulled in a relative sense.)
Haridas: It is very tricky.
MASTER: Right. That is called maya. The word maya, on the other hand can mean the workings that cover the Truth, this world, and at times, delusion; there are many meanings in the word maya. However, in the realization of Truth, even this maya can be viewed as the world itself, as the manifestation of God. Well, what you take it to mean is also dependent on the mind, which is relative.
Meditation on God and Selfless Action
Ms. Mitsui: In order to reach the pure Joy that exists in the depths of the mind, is there another way other than meditation?
MASTER: No, no, there are other ways such as bhakti, which is to think of only God and practice to always be one with God, well, to become crazy for God, to become dyed in God, to spend your mind on things that are always being one with God—it has a bit of a meditative part also—these thoughts toward God; and, as karma yoga, to be thorough in devoted service to others, truly becoming selfless, through this training and dedication, too, the part that you practice in meditation can also be practiced through executing it in action. In a broader sense, that part or state of deepening [the devotion to God] within the mind, getting closer to Truth or God, and becoming one with It can be understood to be the meaning of meditation, and in a narrower sense, it can indicate discrimination in the sense of raja yoga.
Yukti: When there was an issue that could not be overcome due to not being able to thoroughly discriminate in meditation, as I continued to meditate on the mind of a Saint that I admire, I came to understand that even though he had severe difficulties, when he overcame them, great resolve and determination were born; and that as I come to meditate on that very moment, there are times that I am given the courage, and am able to overcome obstacles as if being pulled. Whether to meditate on such a mind [of a Saint that I admire to overcome obstacles], or on the universal Truth that exists in the furthest depths of the Saint, that which exists in myself—may I ask, which is better to meditate upon?
MASTER: When you apply discrimination, the former way will bring about a more concrete power.
Yukti: So, it has to be under that condition during discrimination?
MASTER: Especially so.
Yukti: I understand. I will continue. Thank you very much.
Ms. Mitsui: All this time I thought bhakti was to master the meditation of thinking on God, but does this mean that that’s not all it is?
MASTER: Of course, that is at the core of the practice. In order to know God, one is required to become one with God. If you arrive at that, then everything about God will be revealed, in other words, it’s not like gaining knowledge or a technique, but rather, you will come to sense the existence of God itself as a mystery, so to speak. It is not limited to the realm of this tiny heart within the chest, but truly, it is as if your heart leaps out and expands to the entire universe; it may be an exaggeration to say the whole picture of God, but you will come to experience all and everything about God.
However it is, think of God, get to the bottom of God, and become One.
Ms. Mitsui: I have been trying to do this all the time in meditation, but is the way I am doing it alright?
MASTER: Yes, that is alright. Eventually, within that meditation, within the interior, and also the exterior, you will come to see That.
(Ms. Mitsui voices amazement, and with an expression as if her eyes have been opened newly, states her gratitude.)
Ms. Noguchi: I read in the articles of Bhakti Sutra in Paramahamsa that bhakti is not just thoughts or emotions, but actions. Until I read that, I considered thoughts and emotions to be more important, but I thought that if the act of giving oneself up for the sake of others is bhakti yoga, then that is also karma yoga, and then I thought Mother too was a bhakta.
[Hearing the conversation,] it means that becoming one with God in meditation is very important, too, therefore to be in action and to meditate to become one—we must practice both, is this correct?
MASTER: (smiling) Yes, that is right. Inevitably, the world has both the interior aspects of the mind and the exterior aspects of the world, you can neither just live internally, nor can you just live externally. Both are one, therefore practice so that you will not make a distinction between the internal and external anymore.
(Passionate questions and answers have continued, and the time has passed very quickly. Only having this short yet precious moment as energy for practice, the disciples who live far away will persevere in their efforts alone, quietly at each individual’s respective location. The gaze from the Guru given generously through Love, and his Living Words, make our hearts prosperous, and continue to drive us.)
* * *
Testimonies from a Practitioner
Karma Yoga 1: Prologue
July 2008, Kyoto, Japan
My first encounter with Yoga was after experiencing a big shock, and around that time, I started to think that I needed to look at myself more seriously. It may have been the most intense pain I had experienced up to that point in my life. Until then, no matter what type of blow came, time resolved it, or new joys came around in between the various pains, so the distress and the pains disappeared before I knew it. Nevertheless, in actuality, the suffering was not completely gone; it was nothing more than merely putting a temporary lid on the seed of suffering. I thought to myself that unless I eliminate the root cause of suffering completely, I will surely encounter the same agony in other forms one day—and so I could no longer fool myself.
When I first met Shri Mahayogi, I was taught that through Yoga, I would be able to remove the cause of suffering and fundamentally resolve these issues.
Yoga is to realize the true Self. In order to reach it, there are many paths in Yoga that are in accordance with each person, but they can be roughly categorized into four main paths. Karma yoga is one of them. Karma means “action,” and it is not only about moving the physical body, but also the mind’s thoughts are included in this action. We don’t have even a single moment when we’re not in action. Even during deep sleep, it is said that the mind is performing the action of “nothingness.” Looking at it that way, it can be concluded that as long as a person is alive, he or she is continuing to practice karma yoga. Even so, just being in action does not mean you are doing Yoga. Then, what is karma yoga?
Let us think about this action itself. Before I began to learn Yoga, I only wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I only wanted to do things that would bring joy to my mind—I had pursued everything in this manner: How do I acquire joy? What would be fun for me to do? What foods would satisfy me? Whom should I spend time with in order to become happy? Nevertheless, no matter what I did, no matter how much I pursued them, I could never get real satisfaction.
What karma yoga teaches is not about “what to do” but “how to work.” And these works are not the works that seek results such as joy or satisfaction. Success or failure are nothing but results of action. Rather than these things, karma yoga teaches what one must do in this moment.
In the book, Karma Yoga, a collection of lectures from Swami Vivekananda, there is the word “unselfish.” I read it about half a year after embarking on the path of Yoga, so my understanding was very shallow; I may not have been able to grasp the original meaning taught in the book. However, this word left a strong impression on me. So then I thought about validating how much I was acting only for my own interests. Surprisingly, I saw that everywhere I looked, there was nothing in my life that was unselfish. It shocked me greatly.
However, Vivekananda left encouraging words for us.
“…we have to begin from the beginning, to take up the works as they come to us and slowly make ourselves more unselfish every day. We must do the work and find out the motive power that prompts us; and, almost without exception, in the first years, we shall find that our motives are always selfish; but gradually this selfishness will melt by persistence, till at last will come the time when we shall be able to do really unselfish work. We may all hope that some day or other, as we struggle through the paths of life, there will come a time when we shall become perfectly unselfish; and the moment we attain to that, all our powers will be concentrated, and the knowledge which is ours will be manifest.”
It’s been twelve years since I met Shri Mahayogi and began to attend Satsangha at the Ashrama. Through these years, my recognition of karma yoga has been renewed more and more. During the early period, the teachings of Yoga—the Truth—seemed to be so noble and far away, and I felt the “sacred” and the “worldly” within me, especially the latter—and the “worldly” part felt so big inside me, and at times I wasn’t sure if I was qualified to be among the seekers of Truth learning there under Shri Mahayogi. Actually, I came to find out later on that even thinking in such a way is the fault of ignorance; yet either way, even though I didn’t understand Yoga at all, I continued learning, only relying upon the conviction that in Shri Mahayogi, [and therefore in his teachings,] there must be something authentic without any doubt. And then, I arrived at a defining moment. Right now, I am in the midst of struggling to act on true karma yoga.
Karma yoga—it is to act; it is to act with your heart and soul, entirely accepting everything to simply make that moment better. In it, there is nothing about “for me” or “for someone.”
And, I also realized that in order to truly do karma yoga, intense bhakti (devotion to God) is required. I realized that only pure love for God allows one to overcome everything, and at the same time, one cannot help but act because of love. Seeing only the Great One behind all things—this is everything we have to do, for only this cultivates pure Love, and leads us to perform true karma yoga.
It is very simple to say it in words. However, until arriving there, I had to go through many experiences. If I think back, there were immature thoughts and immature actions, which are too immature to list here. Actually, the one who has been leading me to renew these immature actions, one by one, and to make them closer to the real thing is Shri Mahayogi.
Shri Mahayogi is always looking upon us with deep compassionate eyes. His inner guidance, his grace, is so sublime that it is even unimaginable. Oftentimes when I sit in the presence of Shri Mahayogi, no matter what troubles I have, they disappear before I know it, and I also have had experiences where a trouble was clearly removed in a particular moment, even while I was aware of what happened at that very moment. His guidance is happening in a realm that is not perceivable by us.
However, regardless of how many internal transformations you are given, if we are unable to act on them, then it doesn’t amount to anything.
“Karma yoga is an accumulation of small actions. It is important to act one by one, even if you have to sacrifice yourself for others.”
Shri Mahayogi has been showing us, in the way that is easiest for us, how to act practically. Anytime, no matter what it might be, Shri Mahayogi works more than anyone else. And, I feel that there are no words he speaks, no actions he performs, wasteful or useful whatsoever; they are all completely for the sake of the other. There is not a hint of rationale.
Now, I would like to share little by little how I’ve acted, following the example of Shri Mahayogi, what I actually felt and how I came to understand this while putting it into action.
In part, I will share the things I’ve realized through getting involved in the actual activities of Mahayogi Yoga Mission; and in another part, what I’ve sensed from Shri Mahayogi’s actions towards others with Love.
A few months after I began to attend Satsangha at the Ashrama, Chetaka, who also began to attend with us, expressed the desire to have and make a book of asana (the physical postures). I was working at a design company at the time, so I became in charge of the layout. The suggestion came from the view that asana is difficult to remember quickly when we first begin, and also, even if we wanted to tell our friends, it is not easy to explain in words, so therefore we should make a book of easy-to-understand explanations, using plenty of photos. When we consulted Shri Mahayogi, he directed us to the traditional form of scriptures in India. So the idea would be to have a horizontal form, and when you open it, you can see the asana photos are arranged in such a way that we can see the sequence of actions at a glance.
Although Yoga Asanas has sold out and it is no longer available, some of you might remember the beautiful cover. The front cover was a silhouette of the golden sun, and the back cover, the silver moon. Asana is among the eight limbs of raja yoga, and it is called hatha yoga. “Ha” is the Sun and “tha” is the moon. The small writings on the cover, “YOGA ASANAS” and “MAHAYOGI YOGA MISSION” symbolize Mount Meru1 (the spine). Of course, it was designed by Shri Mahayogi.
Shri Mahayogi says that design is also philosophy. Shri Mahayogi’s designs always consider everything ahead of time, and manifest what is most necessary in that moment. Not only do they not have any ambiguity, but they are also not cookie-cutter ideas—they’re free. What I just mentioned took many years of seeing, working with and learning from Shri Mahayogi for me to understand; back then, I had no idea that Shri Mahayogi was an authentic designer yet.
And this was at the time when I still had so many little pieces of pride filling me up inside.
This is how, thankfully, I came to be involved in the work of the Mission from that point on. In that, there have been many teachings.
In the next issue, I will share how I walked forward one step at a time, aiming towards True Action.
1 The pillar of the macrocosm (universe) is Mount Meru, and in the microcosm (human body), a spine corresponds to it. In the middle of the mountain, the Sun and the Moon are orbiting. —The Cosmic View of India
Karma Yoga 2:
Inspired Work—Part 1 of 2
September 2008, Kyoto, Japan
In the spring of the second year after I began to practice Yoga, I had the opportunity to go to the United States with Shri Mahayogi. I spent three precious months at the Cave in New York, and there for the first time in my life, I learned about the relationship between “master and disciple.” These beautiful and sacred days were too grand for me to take in and my mind continued to have many struggles without any change; however, I began to admire the goal of Yoga that was pointed out by Shri Mahayogi, and I began to strongly wish to practice to attain the goal of Yoga.
When we returned to Kyoto, the gurubai (brother and sister disciples) enhanced the fire among themselves, and we constantly gathered and talked up a storm about Yoga. What should we do to deepen our practice? What did Shri Mahayogi mean by the words he spoke? How and what particular words in the scriptures moved us, etc.—we used to spend time incessantly talking and discussing until dawn, without running out of topics or energy. Within that, the activities of the mission expanded. We want to tell more and more people about this fabulous Yoga—this passion drove us into action.
To start up some kind of action, making up one’s mind completely and having the resolve to commit to it, is crucial—Shri Mahayogi says that.
There is an anecdote about Shri Mahayogi from long before Mahayogi Yoga Ashrama was established. [When considering how to make a living,] Shri Mahayogi realized himself that he was gifted in design, so he worked as a live-in apprentice in a design studio. But about six months later, the company where Shri Mahayogi’s father worked for [many years] went bankrupt and therefore his family was put into a very dire situation. At the time, Shri Mahayogi’s family lived with his extended family—his parents, Shantimayi (his sister), his grandparents, and aunt. And he had no choice but to support by working to help the carpet and interior fabric business that his father began. About that, Shri Mahayogi recounted, “Although business was a realm where I had no interest, the situation was so urgent that I did it, making a resolution to commit to it. I was able to sacrifice myself willingly due to one of the results of Yoga that I had practiced until then.”
In order to make a resolution to commit, it is crucial for us to clearly identify why we are here now, and what we’re doing. If we perform tasks aimlessly, then the mind begins to say whatever it wants, and it will try to go in the most comfortable direction. However, the destination of that direction is not necessarily the Truth.
“What is karma yoga? The knowledge of the secret of work. We see that the whole universe is working. For what? For salvation, for liberty. From the atom to the highest being, working for one end: liberty of the mind, of the body, of the spirit. All things are always trying to get freedom, to fly away from bondage.”
We are constantly working, using our bodies and minds. Before starting to practice Yoga, I too strongly wished to be free, however, I never felt true freedom.
Four years after I started working in a company, I began to feel discontentment towards being bound by my job. Then I began to consider living abroad, just like I was dreaming about it when I was a student. Looking back, it seems that my way of living was vague, based only on emotional whims. I just want to be free—I began to prepare by only thinking about that. When all the preparations were done, and when I quit my job and got my ticket, did I feel free then? No, it was completely the opposite, actually I was bound by the pressure that I had no choice other than to go.
What I found out after starting to practice Yoga was that freedom is not about acquiring things you want, but renouncing things that you had grasped. At first, it takes courage to let go of things that you are holding onto, and it is painful. But once that pain is overcome, and we no longer possess anything, we will come to sense original freedom for the first time and come to know a self that has become lighter.
Then, what must be renounced? Why do we feel bondage?
“Normally, the attachments of our minds are caused by “me” and “mine.” This is the biggest attachment. On the other hand, there is the teaching of putting the practice of karma yoga in action. When the training is not sufficient, one must carry out one’s duties, which are one’s karma (power of cause and effect). However, as the training of this discipline progresses, one will come to realize that “me” and “mine” are a mistake. At the same time, one will begin to have a feeling of sympathy for others’ suffering and sadness, and that will arise to a great extent. This is the beginning of the superior karma yoga.
To proactively eliminate one’s ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles, and simultaneously serve others devotedly, is just as difficult as a yogi practicing meditation at all times. For example, raja yogi condition themselves through various tenets, and through practicing asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath control), and meditation, they realize the Truth; in a way, these are tasks of making the mind transparent.
Karma yogi, on the other hand, do not use a method of meditation, but attain the same result through practically serving others in the world. There is a natural surge of compassion—the flow of karma yoga.”
We call the activities to disseminate true Yoga, such as creation and sales of Mahayogi Yoga Mission’s publications, facilitating asana and meditation classes and events, even activities including individual actions or projects, the work of the Mission. These activities are positioned as karma yoga, and there is no action that is for self-gain. But until we become completely selfless, by doing actions for others even though we are immature, we too are helped, and are able to get rid of ego and pain-bearing obstacles.
I am not an exception, I have been decluttering my mind through numerous works of the Mission. It has been the highest gift for someone like me, who wished to live by the Master’s teachings, and who wished to deepen Yoga. Shri Mahayogi says that asana and meditation are a crucial practice and training for understanding the Truth, however the results of them manifest in our daily lives.
In my case, it all began in 1997, with the publication of Yoga Asanas. Actually, a little before that, the bi-monthly newsletter Paramahamsa was published with the work of Sananda and Sanatana. After publishing Yoga Asanas, we thought that it would be a good thing to begin asana and meditation classes led by disciples, [thinking that we need to take part in what we might be able to do to serve the Guru and the mission of the Guru,] so we went to Shri Mahayogi to ask him if we could begin asana and meditation classes outside of the Ashrama. Shri Mahayogi said, “Try,” and encouraged us to go for it. The experiences of doing the classes were all learning, and none of us had the thought that we ourselves were teaching. We simply loved Shri Mahayogi so much and the only thought we had was that we wanted to bring more people under the guidance of Shri Mahayogi.
Towards the end of that year, a calendar with the drawing of the twelve modern saints and their quotes was completed. The idea came up very simply: “Let’s create a calendar where we can look at it with the words of our favorite saints every day.” As we spoke about it and asked Shri Mahayogi’s advice, our vague thoughts took on a more concrete form. Dayamati, who is familiar with traditional Japanese paintings, was appointed to draw the portraits in sumi-e (black ink wash drawing). Each one of us thought about the words of these Saints; and what we chose were each individual’s favorites, or the ones that each individual thought were the coolest, or the ones that each individual thought made the strongest impressions. However, what Shri Mahayogi selected had different standards. He selected the words that best expressed the essence and teachings (namely, the mission) of each Saint. He must have considered so much for these selections. And the resulting calendar was beyond our imagination, with a fantastic quality that made us think it would leave a mark and go down in history.1
Next year, we again decided to create a somewhat similar calendar. But this time, we decided to compose the calendar with two months printed to a page, for a total of six pages, and we strictly narrowed down the Saints to those who were in the state of complete Enlightenment, including those from ancient times. This is how the Mission’s calendar has been published every year.
Everything was simple when it began; the momentum of passion pushed us out into the world. However, certainly, I did not realize until much later how difficult it is to concentrate on each single task one at a time, to complete them carefully and meticulously, and to continue what we started.
(to be continued…)
 The profile of vivid portraits of the Saints and their teachings are introduced in the calendar. Also, the days of their births and deaths are marked on the days in the calendar.