Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Raja Yoga: The Control of the Physical Body, the Breath and the Mind
Satsangha, Kyoto, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners
• The Changes that Daily Asana Can Make to the Body and Mind
by Ren Shimamoto
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Translation of Satsangha
The Origin of the Word Yoga and the Actual Practice of Raja Yoga
Saturday, January 22, 2000, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Shri Mahayogi asks a new participant, Mariko, about her experience with Yoga, and tells her that she can ask anything or interview anyone. Ms. Mariko asks Shri Mahayogi what kind of Yoga is practiced here, and he explains about Satsangha and the content of the classes.
MASTER: The meaning of the word Yoga, etymologically speaking, is “to yoke.” Then, the meaning “to unite” derived from that, and as its content came to gradually settle, Yoga came to be the word that expresses Satori itself. And it is the word that also includes the approach, which is the process of realizing It.
As you know, since very ancient times, Yoga has been studied and practiced. Within that, there are practices referred to as raja yoga that have classical content to this day; raja yoga is the approach of imposing upon one’s own self some disciplines, and then through practicing asana, regulating the breath, and through the practice of meditation, then attaining Satori.
It’s been about a hundred years since Yoga, [the same] that was practiced [in a secluded way] in the mountains of India, became known throughout the world; particularly in the last fifty years it has become widely known. Especially its beneficial effects for the physical body, health and mental stability have gained much popularity, and its means, asana, has come to be as if it is synonymous with Yoga. Of course, it’s a given that as one practices asana, positive changes in the physical body will manifest, and a tranquil state of mind will be brought about. However, these are merely preparations. These conditions become the foundation for realizing the Truth.
Ms. Nakamura (Sarani): I see that the sun and the moon are used as symbols for the Mission here. I have been thinking about my relationship to the sun and the moon from long ago, and in [a traditional Indian] dance [that I used to practice], the sun has to be on the right and the moon has to be on the left, so when I made a mistake I was often scolded for it. I would like to receive some teaching about it from Shri Mahayogi, through his own words.
MASTER: Since long ago, when humans stood on this earth and looked up at the cosmos, the greatest things that appeared to them must have been the sun and the moon at night. Since then, the sun and the moon have symbolized the expression of the cosmos.
According to a certain way of thinking in Yoga, this macrocosm exists within this microcosm (pointing to his body). Within the body, there is sushumna, just like Mount Meru that supports the cosmos. Around it, the sun orbits, and in the sky, the moon floats. The moon drops amrita, the nectar of immortality, every night, but because the sun drinks it, human life runs out.
There are two schemes here: one shows a chakra in the brain as the place where amrita is dripped from, and around the navel the sun is floating; and another view shows that the path of Satori called sushumna runs in the center, with [the path of] the sun running through on the right, [and the path of] the moon running through on the left.
In the physiology of the body, the daily activity of prana is to circulate around the left and right paths. Symbolically, this circulation indicates time. In Yoga, there is the aim that by stopping the prana from going through the right and left paths of the sun and the moon, one makes the prana flow only through sushumna.
The series of asana, pranayama and meditation is, from a subtle view, in relation to the physiology of the body, all doing what was just mentioned now. In this way, the right side being the sun and the left side being the moon is a concept that has been passed down from very ancient times. According to Yoga, the sun and the moon symbolize this universe, that is, nature itself, therefore, transcending that is contained within Yoga.
There was a time when the inclination toward explaining the teachings using very symbolic language was popular in the world of Yoga, and that is what is called tantra. The central teaching of it is called hatha yoga. The original meaning of hatha was “forceful” or “intense.” Later on, “ha” was interpreted as the sun, and “tha” was interpreted as the moon. That is because it is closely related to the [paths] at the right and left sides [of the sushumna] that I mentioned, which are called ida and pingala, the prana body.
Another point, is a mythical meaning that might be of interest to you. In India, as you know, there are many gods. If you categorize them generally, there are ones that have the sun as their root and those that have the moon as their root. This too is reflective of the ancient cosmology of the people in India.
By the way, there is a god that everyone knows, Vishnu. He is currently considered to indicate a universal expansion, like water, but originally, he symbolized the universal light of the sun. Krishna and Buddha are well-known as incarnations of Vishnu. It was said that both Krishna and Buddha were part of the sun tribe, having the sun as their ancestor.
On the other hand, probably you may associate the moon with Shiva. The crescent moon on the forehead of Shiva is a symbol of the cow called Nandi. Cows were one of the most important family members for agricultural people. They plowed the fields and provided milk. Agriculture is affected by the seasons and the weather. Considering that the seasons and the weather come from the sky, the people felt awe towards them and decided to worship them. The ancient name of Shiva was Rudra, which is a deification of rainstorms, storms, thunder and such.
Therefore, by worshipping Shiva, they wished for prosperity on earth. This lineage belongs more to the moon tribe [than to that of the sun].
In the [traditional] dance of India, while having the ultimate goal as Yoga, it is considered to be part of bhakti yoga, expressing a very wide variety of ancient myths and legends. Do you know bhakti yoga?
Ms. Nakamura (Sarani): I studied it somewhat.
MASTER: Does Ms. Mariko know?
Ms. Mariko: Uh, no…
MASTER: Well then, raja yoga was mentioned earlier. Bhakti yoga is devotion and love towards God; its content is to become united with God.
Saturday, February 17, 2001, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Yogadanda: Ramakrishna said that during his era, there was no time [for people] to practice raja yoga; however, Shri Mahayogi began with the asana of raja yoga—is that because you felt some kind of context for it in this era or some necessity for it?
MASTER: Things have changed since the era of Ramakrishna. Surely there is also a fundamentally different situation, especially between the Bengali region where the traditional world of Yoga is, versus the countries outside of India in the 20th century, where Yoga was unknown. And, there is the context of the era after the 20th century, especially the latter half of the century, post World War II, when it became possible for countries outside of India to learn and practice Yoga; it was this era that, while there was a growing trend toward the characteristic of leaning towards measuring everything with a modern, scientific intellect rather than understanding Yoga only through pure faith, like Ramakrishna, at the same time, the sight of God in faith and in religion as many countries’ tradition was gone or had been lost from sight. In Yoga, too, there was a trend to seek benefits in the relatively physical levels of asana. Well, that is surely one part of Yoga, yet, unless one applies it correctly, it turns into mere exercise.
That is why I wanted many people to know about Yoga, and hoped that as many people as possible would deepen within true Yoga, so my thinking is to widen the entrance, meaning, I am hoping for you all to deepen Yoga, even if it is by introducing asana, which is what you are interested in.
Ramakrishna said that in this current era of Kali Yuga, raja yoga is not suitable, however I think that that is not necessarily the case. I think that indeed, for him, since there was just no time for people to spend that much time, and it was the era that bodies were weak, he concluded that bhakti yoga, which was a much easier, quicker way, would be good due to it being accepted by the masses. He too could have taught raja yoga, yet for that he had no such time either.
With regard to raja yoga, there is an ancient scripture called the Yoga Sutra that is at its foundation. It seems to be that very difficult steps of meditation and content are written there, and it is impossible to practice all of them in this modern world. However, by modifying the ways, that makes it become practicable. Obviously, the teachings in that Sutra were compiled from systems that were already completed in the era B.C., therefore, the conditions were very different from now. Even so, the fervor toward Satori, or the admiration for the Truth, is still the same, whether in ancient times or now. Therefore, as long as you can cultivate these, then you can progress in raja yoga.
Regardless of what branch of Yoga it is, the core and most important thing has to do with the mind. It’s not at all about the physical body or anything else—it is about the mind; it is so in bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, or raja yoga. As a matter of course, raja yoga is about the mind. Therefore [it is important] to make the mind pure, to be pure—that is because by filling the mind up completely with enthusiasm towards Satori, or the Truth, the impurities disappear; and by having that passionate fervor, then right there and then, the result is the state of the pure mind. With that, discrimination is easier, and the respective sanyama (complete restraint), mentioned in the third part of the Yoga Sutra, is not needed.
Kouzuki (Kripal): What is sanyama?
MASTER: Sanyama refers to having the following three contents—starting out where one concentrates on something, then that becomes the state of meditation, then there is the experience of a state called samadhi, where it is as if one unites with it—therefore, the word sanyama indicates meditation and the goal of the destination, samadhi, which is to become united with the object, and penetrate, or intuit the essence of that object.
Therefore, practice discernment, and then the rest is, toward the mind—even if you still have karma or sanskara, if you remove the cause that creates them, then everything breaks down. The power that creates them is the ego-consciousness, called ahankara, and the erroneous thinking toward Truth, such as thinking that the world is eternal when it’s not, or attaching to things that are neither absolute nor the Truth.
To think intensely towards the Truth and about realizing the Truth, is fervor, therefore directly concentrate on this Truth. Or, just like Ramakrishna, yearn for God, and occupy the mind solely with God so that you will unite with God. Another is to inquire, who one’s own self is; by using the words, “Who am I?” you inquire into your own true Self. These three are the main objects of meditation. Besides these, even if they’re mentioned by the dozens in the Yoga Sutra, all are just like exercises, well, it is true that they are important for heightening concentration and purifying the mind. However, even if you don’t do them, if you just concentrate on the most important thing mentioned now, and seek only that, then you can complete raja yoga as well.
Kouzuki (Kripal): So I should be consciously aware of that 24/7, no matter what I’m doing?
MASTER: Just like a sickness, you must seek it until you cannot think about anything else but that.
Kouzuki (Kripal): In meditation, concentration continues for some time, but it disappears gradually; should I exert myself right there and continue to remember it again and again?
MASTER: Right. Truly, it is about whether you seek the Truth, or seek the world, which is understood not to be the Truth. As the power of the attachment towards things of the world weakens by the discriminative knowledge that discerns the things of the world as not the Truth, and at the same time, your desire to seek the Truth is heightened, then the mind will move towards the Truth. While you were not able to notice the Truth, you must have been entirely attached to the world, yet probably that has been shaken up little by little, as you wonder if it is okay to continue to live in this way. Also, if you experience the world even a little bit, you begin to understand many things, and you start to suspect that things seem to be like in the old [Buddhist] words, “Everything is impermanent,” or, “Everything is without substance,” and that they are ephemeral, not the Truth. Of course, conflict and swinging back might happen, because the habits of the inertia of the mind until then will continue to work, and that might drag on in an ease of familiarity with the world. Yet, if the mind goes towards what is certain, what is absolute, what is eternal, what is the Truth, little by little, then you will no longer be affected by these things.
Therefore, since in the case of asana, too, this body itself has had experiences of practicing it that are incomparably difficult from what anyone else did in the world at the time, and were extreme and intense, that is why I can tell you all that you don’t have to do it like me. You don’t need to. People who are flexible, or people whose minds still seek a little bit more of asana, I can tell them to do this and that, in order for them to digest it. However, if the comfortable, healthy, strong body is created quickly, since that is the purpose of asana, then you should proceed quickly to meditation. The chief purpose of asana is to create a healthy and strong body. By strong body, it means to complete the creation of a body that is no longer affected by illness or injuries, or various external troubles. Furthermore, to ideally tune prana, the rhythm of the breath, to an ideal state; that is the result provided. Therefore, this is different from asana that is taught in these community centers. If you can complete the basics somewhat, then I would like you to quickly proceed to deepening towards meditation. You can practice meditation, of course, even while you’re in the middle of practicing asana, or when you have just begun Yoga. Gradually, it will deepen proportionately with the level of fervor.
Saturday, October 8, 2011, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Haridas: In daily life, I’m living while being smeared with impure things to the point that I am filled with them. Is it not possible to be pure in such situations? If I become pure, then will I no longer attract these impure things or be able to live there among them? When I am with Shri Mahayogi, I sense an incredibly polished, extreme purity, without a single flaw, and at the same time, I also sense something completely opposite. Opposite—that may not be the right word and may be misinterpreted, but I mean something dynamic and unshakable no matter where Shri Mahayogi is. I think that when living a normal daily life, as I begin to discern various impure things and as I begin to stop attracting them, I might struggle to remain in normal life. Please teach us how we should maintain our attitude [in daily life].
MASTER: There is no contradiction and no problem. That is because, if, as you just said, you master purity, to use a simple analogy, it is like being in a sterile room…then everything is lifeless. That is not what it is, rather, once the mind transcends the relative purity and impurity of this world, then it won’t matter whether the world is pure or impure. There is a saying, “to see gold and a lump of mud the same way,” there, the mind comes to not be affected by anything, therefore it is no problem at all.
Haridas: (seemingly convinced) I see. As one practices Yoga for a long time, then we come to understand that Yoga is extremely simple, and that it is wholly doing the opposite of what is considered common sense in the world. That is nothing other than reversing the flow.
MASTER: (happily) That’s right.
Haridas: Is my understanding correct that a Yoga practitioner does not seek the external world as it is evolved by prakriti, but goes inward, and so becomes completely the opposite of the world?
MASTER: (nodding widely) Exactly. That is why going against the flow is called nivritti. Vritti is that vritti from the “chitta vritti” [of the Yoga Sutra, “yogas chitta vritti nirodha,”] and it is the direction of activity and evolution, and the reverse, [indicated by adding] “nir,” which is going against the flow, that is the other name for Yoga practitioners.
Haridas: (as if impressed) So we’re the Nivritti. Let’s call ourselves Nivritti from now on. (Everyone laughs at this idea.)
MASTER: (laughing) It seems that it’s been called that since ancient times.
Haridas: It can be said that discrimination in Yoga is a very simple thing when pursued to the end, is that correct to say?
MASTER: That’s right. That is why the longing for purity that everyone has deep within the mind, or for eternity or Truth, these are all an expression of a sliver of Truth after all, which definitely every mind must have within itself. Due to mistakenly seeing the external world through vritti, error arises as karma, yet by returning back to it…
Haridas: That means that, going in the direction of nivritti means going in the direction of not creating karma? Being a Yoga practitioner means that one inevitably becomes that.
MASTER: Yes. Therefore it all boils down to whether one can truly seek the intuition that everyone must have felt one time or another. Normally, it’s often hidden by karma or is lost, but through the teachings of Yoga, it can awaken once again, and that allows one to actually move forward. (Shri Mahayogi finishes speaking emphatically, as if to encourage everyone.)
Withdrawal from the Way of Existence in this World,
Transcend Beyond the Mind,
and Reach the Truth in the Depths of the Mind
Saturday, October 8, 2005, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Yogadanda: We are taking an asana to the limit and from there focusing on the breath afterwards—does that mean that through the deepening of the breath, the nadi are purified?
MASTER: Yes, it does. And, it is for the purpose of transforming autonomic activity, the breath, in a yogic way.
Yogadanda: During asana, we practice rechaka kumbhaka, which is to stop the breath after exhaling everything, and in pranayama, we would rather practice puraka kumhbhaka, stopping after inhaling. Is there a difference in the purification of nadi between puraka and rechaka?
MASTER: There is no difference. There are complementary beneficial effects from both. During asana, you do not stop the breath intentionally. When one becomes accustomed to the practice of asana, when the breath is exhaled, a state arises where the breath stops, a state of non-breathing, and this state naturally proceeds to be a bit longer. It is a natural state; you’re not intentionally maneuvering an operation of kumbhaka. It is a kumbhaka that is naturally occurring.
Yogadanda: In a deep state of meditation, only the sushumna nadi in the middle comes to be working, and other nadi are not working. So can it be said that the roles of the nadi, besides sushumna, until then relate to general physiological functions?
MASTER: Yes. Just as if they are spreading all over, just like capillaries, the pathways of prana called nadi, too, can be understood to be spreading all across the body. Therefore, nadi do internal work for maintaining the body in this world, and they do the work in activities that are absolutely indispensable in relation to the mind.
Yogadanda: So nadi do the essential activities for the mind.
MASTER: That is the power of prana.
Yogadanda: In sum, if the nadi are not purified, then it is difficult to unify everything into sushumna nadi.
MASTER: The patterns of activities in the world are inevitably complex and multi-faceted. Various movements of the mind, emotions, and the activities of the body, they are all complex. In order for these to be acting smoothly without trouble, prana is working for them.
However, in Yoga, to go towards it, we do work and practice that is like going against the experience in the world, so to speak. Yoga demands that we train to keep still this body that is normally dissatisfied unless it’s moving, just like it is with animals, and withdraw from both the body and the working of the breathing that changes according to various changes of the seasons and of the world, or the state of the mind.
It is also a transition from complexity to a state of simplicity. That is the withdrawal from the various patterns of existence in relation to the world; then, the path to the Truth, which is not of this world, opens up right then and there. That which is singular is nothing other than that which is eternally changeless, what we call the Truth or God.
In this world, everyone is seeking something. Everyone must be advocating for seeking something that is certain, something that is unbreakable, that which is Existence. Yet, the experiences of this world grasped by the mind, no matter what pleasure, what knowledge or what happiness they might be, they all disappear in an instant. Even if one can bask in a momentary sense of existence, since it is not real, it disappears like a dream. That is the fate of this world; that is the fate of the mind. After all, due to what can be possessed or controlled by the mind only being able to be within the confines of the mind, one will come to recognize that there was nothing real there to begin with. Then, through Yoga, people still the mind, unify it, and transcend it, and then reach the Truth beyond the depths of the mind. The mind does not know that there is True Existence, Truth, deep beyond it. (laughs)
Therefore, every yoga is provided to you in order to transcend or break through the mind, and meditation and bhakti, too, simply exist in order for one to attain the experience of the Truth, of Satori. It is nothing other than That. That exists within this body, and That is the Existence that is within everyone’s body, within all and everything in the universe.
Long ago, the ancient wise beings realized the Truth. If that itself was there then, it is certainly here now. If it is here, it can also be anywhere. There is only That, there is nothing else.
This body and mind constantly change and will eventually disappear. However, the Existence, that is the Truth, will never be destroyed and will never disappear. It is the Pure Consciousness, which is like light, and It is always witnessing the mind.
Saturday, October 2, 2004, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Ms. Ueda (Ms. Yamazaki): Today, I was taught asana, and since it was different from the Yoga that I’m practicing currently, I asked about meditation, too, and I found that the way I have been practicing meditation is also slightly different from the way of practicing it here. Recently, when I meditate, the body moves very often or I yawn, and this condition in meditation is continuous—I have not been able to step away from it, and it keeps happening again and again. Since I am going around in the same circle, I feel like I have not made any progress. I wonder, how should I meditate from now on?
MASTER: What is the content of your practice of Yoga?
Ms. Ueda (Ms. Yamazaki): What I’m being taught now does not have much pause, and asana is practiced in a continuous flow. At the place where I am learning it, meditation is not the main focus, so I’m learning meditation from another teacher. Because of that, right now, I consider Yoga to be Yoga, and meditation to be meditation, and practice them separately.
MASTER: How do you practice meditation?
Ms. Ueda (Ms. Yamazaki): In meditation, when thoughts come up in myself, I cut off the thoughts that arise. If I am sitting and notice that I’m thinking something, then I stop thinking; then I observe an empty space. But then I may start thinking again. If I notice it, I stop thinking again. By practicing this way, the time between the thoughts arising will get longer. That is how I’m taught these days.
MASTER: It is so unfortunate that Yoga is being very misunderstood. That is, Yoga has continued since two to three thousand years ago, whilst having the same goal and content of its teachings. In this modern era now, there is a tendency in which things of superficial knowledge or learning are being called Yoga, and these have become a trend. What you’re doing now is simply exercise. What you are calling meditation, too, is merely at the level of relaxation.
What is Yoga? Yoga is to realize the Truth. Truth is something that is truly already within everyone, however, there are things that obstruct it. These things are karma, pain-bearing obstacles, and the weaknesses of the physical body. Therefore, to make the body healthy and strong is the most important foundation. Here, asana, which are the various poses of Yoga, contribute greatly. Of course, these are not mere exercises, (touching his own body) although we move this physical body in asana, actually, the purpose of asana is to work on the subtle body further within that is called the body of ki or prana, and the chakra [that are within that]. Mere exercise cannot serve this purpose. Therefore, Yoga has something that is entirely different from other sports or exercises.
What you have experienced today is the real Yoga. So, through practicing this way, make the body transform, and then the respiratory system will transform; this invariably involves prana and will result in transforming the subtle body; and then you will control the mind—that is how it is arranged. This control of the mind is commonly called meditation. There is various content for meditation, however, since its purpose is to realize the Truth, you concentrate on the Truth. Without concentration, a state of meditation cannot be possible.
Therefore, learning the Truth is the first step, then thinking deeply upon it, then further, meditating—as concentration deepens, one enters the realm of meditation. Without concentration, meditation is impossible. In order to concentrate, unless one truly has the yearning to seek from the bottom of one’s heart, unless one has such a strong intention, concentration doesn’t go well either—because this is not simply an intellectual exercise.
What should one concentrate upon? Learn the Truth, and concentrate on It. What will you discover by doing that? You will find the karma and pain-bearing obstacles in your own mind that prevent you from realizing the Truth, and then these will be removed. That is one of the realms of meditation.
Saturday, January 20, 2001, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Yogadanda: Regarding hatha yoga—originally, raja yoga had asana to begin with, but why did hatha yoga, in which the part of asana was taken out, become popular?
MASTER: Well, that part is very interesting. It seemed that one of the discoveries of Yoga, apparently, was that by controlling prana, it led to the control of the mind. Because of that, the control of prana became very expanded, and pranayama, one of the eight limbs in the Yoga Sutra from that ancient, classical raja yoga, came to be developed. It’s difficult to tell only from the Yoga Sutra how much content asana had during that era of raja yoga. Insofar as reading it, asana is to sit steady and comfortably—that is the meaning of asana [mentioned there]; there is no instruction about other forms. However, in other ancient scriptures, such as the Upanishad, you can find that there is already some existence here and there of predecessors to asana, later mentioned in hatha yoga. You can find kundalini and other such things mentioned there as well. However, in the Yoga Sutra, there is not much in the way of developed forms, and the central focus is exclusively meditation. With regard to the aspect of the control of prana, it seems that there were very big developments later on; it became known through experience that in order to control prana, it is good to control the body very much through asana beforehand, then, asana and pranayama came to start occupying much larger territories. Then, it seems that from the time after the end of the 10th Century to the 13th Century, this was worked out as hatha yoga. Therefore, if you look at the entire history of Yoga, hatha yoga is still a relatively very new content. Yet, you can find the control of prana, which has been passed on since ancient times, as its basis.
Yogadanda: So that is why ancient scriptures like the Upanishad also have control of prana as the purpose?
MASTER: They weren’t yet as clear about it as in the later scriptures, but you can find the phrases seemingly related to kundalini yoga and hatha yoga that arise later on, for example, “the 101 channels coming out of the heart,” which will later be referred to as nadi, and that “there is only one channel that leads to Satori”—these are quite symbolic expressions. Another thing you can also infer is that various experiments had been popular since very ancient times, a little before Buddha appeared, and those included various means of ascetism, which was mainstream at that point, most of what could be thought up was all experimented on under the label of the practice of disciplines. I think only the refined and fulfilling ones have remained from among them. Therefore, the scripture of hatha yoga too says at the beginning that hatha yoga is a great stairway which leads to raja yoga—that is how the first sutra in Part One starts out, then it goes into asana and pranayama subsequently. Therefore, I think that the scripture itself refers to the control of prana as important, yet hatha yoga is a preparatory stage for the ultimate goal, Satori. That is stated clearly within it. Of course, the raja yoga referred to by hatha yoga, is the state of prana being controlled, and even though there is not much mention of sanskara or vasana, it will result in the control of the mind through the control of prana. Well, it’s really strange to say this yoga or that yoga; if you return to the original Yoga, to the origin that the word Yoga shows, then temporarily Yoga meant to control all sensory organs and to control the mind, and it is the word that indicated the condition, or the state of Satori reached by doing so. Afterwards, the means to attain It all came to be called yoga, and since then, there is a tendency to think of some means as Yoga, however, that is not the case actually—it is the state reached by these means that is the original meaning of the word Yoga. The word “yoga” is used in Buddhism as well, because it is a common noun.
Sanatana: There is a sect [of Buddhism] called the Yoga Sect.
MASTER: That’s right. When is that from?
Sanatana: It was around the 4th or 5th Century AD, when famous people from it appeared. Maitreya is considered to be the founder, based on a legend.
MASTER: Maitreya? Really?
Sanatana: There was a person named Maitreya, who taught a person named Asanga, who was lucky to have heard his teachings; then Asanga told his younger brother, and he wrote the scripture—according to the legend.
MASTER: Hmmm, I see.
Yogadanda: Vivekananda said that there can be as many sects as human beings, but when I observe Shri Mahayogi, he guides everyone according to each individual, so is that how it has been transmitted since then?
MASTER: Yes, that must be unmistakable. Therefore, in this meaning, the flow of Yoga may not have spread very widely, in a way; however, you can assume that Yoga was transmitted with certainty. It might only have been about a century since it became widely known and practicable; probably only since Vivekananda went into the world. Even in India, there were seldom few who practiced Yoga until then. Nonetheless, even though the means differed subtly, just like various rivers flow into one big ocean, the final destination is the one Truth.
Saturday, April 3, 2004, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Ms. Watanabe: Since it was mentioned earlier today, I have been stuck on the words, “restraint of the mind.” To thoroughly investigate the mind and think it through, may I replace the word “mind” with “words”?
Ms. Watanabe: Regarding “restraint of the mind”—when I look at my mind, I think of it in dualistic terms, good mind, bad mind; I suppose that restraint does not mean not thinking. …I don’t understand the route of how to think so that I can get to the restraint.
MASTER: In the Yoga Sutra, it says, “The restraint of the activities of the mind is Yoga.” That is to say, the word “Yoga” here indicates Satori, the state of Truth. The word “Yoga” originally meant that. Nowadays, the preparation for that, such as asana and meditation, and all the other practices in general are called Yoga, however, the original meaning of it is being in the perfected state of Satori. Therefore, the restraint of the mind, in other words, means Satori. Until reaching It, the mind and words are both active. Within that, there is good and bad, all and everything of dualism. So then, one must transcend dualism and realize the Truth.
Watanabe: “Restraint of the mind” means Satori.
MASTER: Yes. What is expressed in these words may be perceived as shocking from the perspective of a dualistic mind, because the existence of the mind itself is denied. However, that is an incorrect view. Rather, as just mentioned, the mind has both good and bad, it always contains dualism; compared to that, the Truth is monism, there is no duality; therefore, the mind, which is a product of dualism, must end its activities, otherwise the mind will continue to move here and there (smiling) continuously, endlessly swinging in duality, and it will never be settled in the Truth.
Saturday, April 17, 2004, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Ms. Mishima: (After some silence, raising her hand modestly) I have a question.
MASTER: Yes, go ahead. (smiling)
Ms. Mishima: This may be a very basic question, but earlier when there was a mention about becoming a “good tool [for the Master],” where does the order, or where does God’s will come from? Does it come from the depths of my own heart, or does it come externally, borrowing other people’s mouths, for example?
MASTER: It can be both, it depends.
Ms. Mishima: Is it something that can be known naturally?
MASTER: Yes. …After all, as long as the mind thinks the mind is the master, there is the protagonist “I” that appears. But once the mind understands its position as a tool, then the master is Atman or God, omnipresent in the depths beyond the mind. Therefore, the order can come from within, or it can come through other people’s mouths, or through an incident. And, it is necessary for the mind to receive and accept it as the “order of the Master.” If the mind takes itself as “the master” of the protagonist, then a battle will ensue right then and there.
The foundation of the teaching in the classic scripture, the Yoga Sutra, which is generally called raja yoga, is to establish the master, the real Master; and at the same time, to restrain the false lord, that is, the ego and the mind. That is the most central teaching of this classic [scripture,] the Yoga Sutra.
And, the false—for which the Yoga Sutra uses the expression “the conjunction of the Seer and the Seen,” is but another way to say, the master and the subject. The conjunction of “the Seer” and “the Seen,” considering them to be one and the same, or identifying the Seen as the Seer is the biggest cause of ignorance.
Therefore, to distinguish and understand [the difference] between the duty of the Master and that of the servant (laughing) firmly—that is something that the mind must understand unilaterally—in other words, for the mind to truly understand that the mind itself is a subject, or a tool, is called the “accomplishment of Yoga.” In that way, it is to realize the Master—therefore, that is perhaps why it is called raja1 yoga.
 Raja means king or royal leader in Sanskrit.
Saturday, December 18, 2004, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Ms. Umeda (Madhri): What was it like for Shri Mahayogi to read the Yoga Sutra? …Was it like identifying everything you’ve experienced, like, “Oh, I’ve done that”?
MASTER: The first time I saw it was when I first went to India…probably right afterwards; yet before going to India, I’d always wanted to read the scripture.
Ms. Umeda (Madhri): You wanted to read it (laughing).
MASTER: I wanted to read it (laughing)…because I’d never read anything [about Yoga] before…yet, I thought that there must be some kind of a traditional, authoritative scripture about Yoga, and I knew only the name, Yoga Sutra. Therefore, I was deepening my interest in it, yet it was not obtainable here [in Japan at the time]; finally, it was probably when I was 23, I read it and I found the content to be wholly agreeable, one by one and in detail, and to get straight to the point, I discovered that I’d mostly finished all of them. I found that the conclusions I’d unintentionally arrived at through meditation, or through the discernment [of Truth] in the various inquiries that I’d created, corresponded exactly to the content which is expounded in the Yoga Sutra, one verse after the other.
There are many scriptures and they contain different content. As you know, there are countless scriptures such as the ancient ones that compile the teachings of Buddha, and of course, I have not read them all, yet I think even to this day that the content of the Yoga Sutra is exceptional. One of the reasons is that it is very psychological. Rather than just simply commenting on philosophical thoughts, its detailed analysis and explanation of the mind in terms of psychology is outstanding.
No matter what philosophical thought it might be, if it is something that is delivered by one individual, it inevitably manifests through the filter of that person’s subjectivity. Now, what exactly changes with a philosophical thought if that condition of subjectivity is removed? By leaving the confines of the relationship between “the Seer” and “the Seen,” the subject and the object, and various conditions woven in by different factors, on what basis will it stand? …The conclusion will be reached that nothing other than the Truth can give an unconditional nod of approval to it. Everything else, in no small measure, is all prejudiced, due to being conditioned by conditions, that is, all else is imperfect. Well, since I did such discernment continuously in my teenage years, the view provided by the Yoga Sutra was very satisfactory. It was much, much later when I read the Bhagavad Gita (laughing). Since at the time in Japan, these [Yoga-related scriptures] were not yet translated much, and it was a time when it was truly difficult to even get your hands on them.
The great Swami Vivekananda says there are three scriptures that are important out of the countless number of scriptures that there are. One is the Upanishad. That is the most ancient of scriptures, filled with [what is the most vital] essence that you all were introduced to in the short theatrical piece recently. And, there is the Bhagavad Gita, which is like a summary of the ancient Upanishad, compiled and infused with a new spirit. And there is Brahma Sutra, which is considered to be the systematic and summarized form of the Upanishad. He said that these three are very important.
Ms. Umeda (Madhri): Is the Brahma Sutra different from the Yoga Sutra?
MASTER: That is considered to be the scripture that is followed by the Vedanta sect, one of the six philosophies [of India], and it seems that this is a compilation of concepts of Truth, such as, “Brahman and Atman are one and the Same,” which is in the ancient Upanishad, along with other concepts. This scripture has not been introduced to Japan yet so you might not see it much; it is still an object of academic research, so it is quite difficult to see it as a general publication.
Saturday, November 26, 2006, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Ms. Sakai: Please grant me the teaching on the connection between asana and meditation.
MASTER: The purpose of Yoga is to become free. However, normally, [life is] full of non-freedom, or bondage. Even though everyone seeks freedom and happiness, there is no guarantee that everything goes well. In fact, if anything, there may be more suffering and sadness than freedom and happiness. The struggle to find a solution for this issue is the origin of Yoga. As a result, it was discovered that what brings about non-freedom is nothing other than one’s own mind, that the cause of bondage is within one’s own mind. One wishes for this and that, yet nothing goes the way one wants it to; then the mind suffers. Also, the world is impermanent, that means, it is not eternal. Everything born will eventually die. It doesn’t necessarily go in the order of aging. There are powers of nature that mankind cannot do anything about; how might we cope with these issues? If we can close our ears and eyes, and avert our minds from various difficult issues, then perhaps we will avoid disasters. But that is impossible. Yet perhaps, when one is in deep sleep, there may be happy times. However, a few hours later, the sun rises and one wakes up. Then, one comes to face with difficulties again.
To get to the point quickly, the cause of it is karma. And, you can also find the further cause of what creates karma. Even though this world is not eternal, the mind wants to see the eternal in this world. Even if one wants to be happy, it results in suffering. More than anything else, there is an error in the essence of what everyone calls themselves, “I,” the first person. This continuously produces one error after another, and with all these errors, one ends up binding oneself.
Because of that, in Yoga, controlling the mind, especially, is the first mission. However, grasping the mind is difficult, just like caching the wind. If that is so, what about water? In order to catch water, you need a container; it’s easier than catching wind, if you have a container. Among the same H2O, ice can be grasped easily. Asana is compared to that ice. And, through asana, the path of prana that is within this physical body—translated as ki or chi—is conditioned. That is exactly equal to the container. Prana is water. By conditioning the body, the container is conditioned, and the breath changes. Since the breath and mind are closely related, by transforming the breath, the mind comes to be controlled. This sequence of steps is called the practice of disciplines, but meditation is practiced mainly to directly control this mind.
Therefore, there is a need to have learned the Truth, the teachings of Yoga, very well before meditating. It is too loose to concentrate on anything haphazardly. Modern humans may excel at learning information or technology in this world, however, they have slacked off quite a lot in learning what is most important, the mind or one’s own self, because it’s neither taught in schools nor in society. Yet, human beings, whether ancient or modern, and even in the future, don’t change that much. The Truth and the learning to reach It are already given to you. That is Yoga; within that is where asana and meditation are positioned.
Ms. Sakai: Thank you very much.
Saturday, January 22, 2000, Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto
Sachi: Participants from class often ask this question, why must asana be practiced every day, and why is it more effective to practice meditation and asana at night? Please speak about this once again.
MASTER: Everything that exists in this world, including the physical body and the mind, are all going towards aging. On the other hand, various experiences create conditions. These can work in a better direction or a worse one. Yoga asana is something that will prevent aging, and leads in a positive direction. Furthermore, it can also enhance our own latent healing power. Therefore, asana must be practiced every day.
The other question about [the time of] meditation: in meditation, first you concentrate, and then try to enter the world of tranquility of meditation. For this condition, first, it is ideal that the mind becomes still. At the same time, it is easier if the environment is quieter. Daytime is when the city is active and the surroundings can be quite noisy, conversely, at night, there is a condition of comparative quietness that arises after all activities during the day have ceased. That is the reason why meditation at night is easier to practice. Of course, for some people, early morning might be better, before people begin to be active.
Sachi: At dawn?
MASTER: Yes. Simply put, because the mind also needs to be quiet, it is easier when the surroundings are quiet.
Sanatana: I think it is sufficient to practice asana, pranayama and meditation once a day, however, is there a problem if one practices twice or thrice, or for many long hours at a time? Or perhaps, is it okay to practice that way, even if actually there is no effect, for example?
MASTER: There is no need to practice that way. The important thing is Satori. What is obstructing Satori are the many thoughts and impressions in the mind. Therefore, the concentration towards that must be done 24/7. If one seriously and earnestly seeks the Truth, then meditation will come to take place not only during sitting, but 24/7. Really, even activities such as cooking or cleaning, which are the small details of daily life, will become something important that one must mind with utmost importance. Every moment, every action will be practiced for the sake of purification. As a result of that, the intention-less action that does not require any intention or effort, will arise. At that time, the mind is purified, and the thoughts and actions will manifest in loving others and serving others.
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The Changes that Daily Asana Can Make to the Body and Mind
by Ren Shimamoto
It happened the winter before last, in the year of 2020; about a year had passed since I attended Satsangha for the first time, in the previous summer. During the time in between, I was blessed with opportunities to take Asana classes, Meditation classes, and to stay at the Cave in New York during Shri Mahayogi’s visit, and I was drawn more and more into the world of Yoga. I suppose I probably felt like I had grown up because I was gaining some knowledge of Yoga, or perhaps I wanted to receive praise, sharing the teachings of Yoga with someone; there were events that brought those erroneous ideas of mine to the surface. My mother, who likes to go out, went on a temple tour with a friend and showed me a pamphlet about the temple as a souvenir. She said to me, “I learned that the Buddha statue in this temple was made in the Nara period (710-794) and was so precious…and, we found a nice set-menu restaurant near the temple and had lunch with my friend on the way home.” For her, she was happy sharing with me, talking about her fun day; however, I responded reflexively to her, “Mom, you often go to temples, but you are always talking only about superficial things like the shape of the Buddha images and the buildings, and yet you have no interest in Buddha’s teachings, the most important part, at all. I don’t think you will find true happiness in the external world even if you keep going out like that.” My mother was offended by these words, and an argument ensued, followed by a fierce fight. The last words my mother said to me were, “I am living my life according to my own principles, so please don’t deny me of that. I never want to see you again.” This incident made me realize that I had no fundamental understanding of Yoga, which I thought I was working very hard on, and not only that, on the contrary, the reality hit me that I had become more harmful than before. And besides that, there are many other [similar] incidents that came to mind, so I felt the need to introspect, and decided to spend the end-of-year and New Year holidays alone at a mountain lodge my grandparents had built in Tsugaike Kogen, Nagano Prefecture. My wife must have had an idea of what I was going through, and she readily agreed that it would be better for me to do that.
Life in the lodge was not as sacred as I had expected. I had read Autobiography of a Yogi, and I admired the saints who practiced in a cave, so I had intended to live a life of solely practicing asana, meditation, and reading scriptures; but, I could only devote up to five hours to that, and in the end, not knowing what to do with my time, I was miserable, spending too much time on my cell phone, craving sweets, etc. Being alone made it clear that I was a “pseudo-Yoga practitioner” full of pain-bearing obstacles. I also realized various innate bad qualities that by nature I had not been able to correct. I felt so sorry to my mother for behaving so arrogantly. But one snowy day, after practicing asana next to the stove in the cabin, even these feelings disappeared, and I felt a sense of tranquility. I felt as if there was a great being beyond the great nature sprawling outside the window. It was certain that such a blessing of Yoga was available to me. It made me feel that if I did not change internally, there would be no meaning and I would keep prodding around what I could do to make things right again.
New Year’s Pledge for 2021: Asana Every Day
At the beginning of the new year, I had the opportunity to give a video letter to Shri Mahayogi with the members of the Asana and Meditation class. I told him that I would do asana and meditation every day and that I would practice what I learned through it in my daily life. At first, it was pretty difficult for me just to continue practicing asana every day, however, after about three months, the difficulty gradually disappeared, and I could get into the practice quickly.
By practicing asana every day, I first noticed a change in my physical body, which I had thought that my body would no longer gain flexibility, but it was not true, and slowly but surely, flexibility was gained. The stretching of the body and the change in breathing seemed to be synchronized, and my breathing became progressively longer. As for paschimottanaasana (forward bending position), my face came to rest on my knees, and I was able to do padmasana, which I could not do at all in the beginning. My balance also improved and I can now stay in shirshasana (headstand position) for a longer time.
Next, the changes in body and breathing affected meditation as well. Due to the improvement of my body, pain was lessened in my legs and hips when sitting and it became easier to maintain my posture. Subsequently, restlessness when meditating was lessened and that resulted in lengthening the time that I could concentrate. Though only occasional, I would experience an unparalleled sense of happiness, like being at peace and being content; it felt to me as if my heart had found a place to return to. A senior gurubai once told me that “Asana lays the foundation for meditation,” and I believe this is true.
The most significant change for me was that I began to live my life in a way of Yoga, or perhaps I should say, I began to live my life looking inward. Now that observing the mind has become a habit, even if I feel upset in my daily life, I now view it objectively as a phenomenon of the mind, and focus on the state of mind and the cause of the upset. Before, because mainly I used to think that there was a cause coming from something outside of me, I used to try to change it somehow or avoid it, but now I observe more and more what is happening inside of me. Now, even when I am still upset, I make myself go into an empty room and practice asana or read scriptures to calm my mind. Through these experiences, I have naturally come to acknowledge the value in the practice of Yoga much more, and its place in my life has changed.
The Practice of Yoga in the Workplace: The Importance of Yama and Niyama
In my case, I practice asana and meditation in the morning before going to work; however, when I arrive at work and start working, many things happen, and the calmness of my mind goes away; and not only that, I sometimes clash with others, get frustrated, and become depressed by the end. Now, when we wish for our tranquility of mind, at the same time, we also want the people around us to be tranquil, we see the yama (observance) and niyama (abstinence) as guidelines for achieving this. Of these, I am particularly bearing in mind ahimsa (non-violence). I am teaching research to graduate students and doing research myself, and in my duties, some situations arise that call for my attention. For example, if a student performs an experiment differently from what I taught, I need to tell them that it is wrong. Once or twice is fine, but if it would happen several times or would be something that damages me, I couldn’t control my irritation and I would say words that mentally harm the other person: “I think I told you before, too,” or, “If you can’t do this, I think it’s bad.” Even though this was clearly against ahimsa, it was a very difficult thing to stop. However, after I started observing my mind, I noticed that when I spoke words that had arisen from feelings of anger, a fire would start in my mind. Then, a burning sensation in the chest would occur, and shaking, and my breathing would be disturbed. In The Universal Gospel of Yoga, it is written that “The three poisons—greed, anger, and ignorance—create hell”; I recognized myself to be precisely in that hellish place. Since I learned the hard way, I became aware of this in my bones, and such behavior has naturally decreased. I now try to support them with concrete actions and give them positive advice as much as possible, rather than verbal warnings. It is a strange thing, and when I could honestly and simply do such activities without thinking, my heart seemed to feel joy. The other thing I try to keep in mind in my relationship with students is to remember that I am also allowed to learn through the experience of teaching; from a perspective of Yoga, I am receiving precious training opportunities. My path to walk is the path of Yoga, and my destination is the realization of the Truth. I have not realized anything in Yoga, and I am just beginning to learn. Thinking about such things reminds me that at the Cave in New York, even though I knew nothing, Shri Mahayogi taught me many things carefully without any complaint. I realized that he lived in ahimsa entirely, and not only that, but everything about yama and niyama was perfectly performed in real life. Even so, there was no sense of being in a straightjacket, and he was always smiling and full of Love. Just remembering the way of His being makes me feel happy, like I am enveloped in his kindness. I honestly and earnestly hope to be able to serve others with compassion, the way Shri Mahayogi does for us.
I heard that asana is something to be continued daily for more than ten years. I have just started, but I would like to continue my daily practice aiming for ten years. I don’t know what I will gain as a result, yet at the moment, I think that to be able to practice asana and meditation every day like this and feel the tranquility of the mind is itself an irreplaceable joy. I am also happy that there are other gurubai who walk on the same path and I am very encouraged by them. I am truly grateful to have found Yoga, to have met Shri Mahayogi, and to have gotten to know all the gurubai.