Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): When it comes to meditation, I’m not quite there, and yet I yearn to grow as quickly as possible. I love the scene from Autobiography of a Yogi where Paramahamsa Yogananda meets Shri Yukteswar, and I love the word gurudeva—I love how the feeling of that word is almost like shouting it to the Guru, and in my meditation I keep crying as I repeat it to myself, like a spell. Please guide me as to whether this is ok or...
MASTER: As Shri Ramakrishna taught, when you are able to shed tears when thinking of God, only then is true faith born. Gurudeva refers to a God-like Master. Therefore, in the case that you are naturally shedding tears thinking about that word, or whispering the word—that is exactly what Ramakrishna meant. So that is fine as it is.
Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): Thank you very much. At those times, I think about this: because I can be very forgetful, if I ever (crying) forget Shri Mahayogi, may I be killed in that very moment. Is it acceptable to think that way?
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Ms. Wada (Dharmini): In The Life of Shri Ramakrishna, we can see that Shri Ramakrishna expresses his affections towards Vivekananda madly, without any reserve or concern; missing Vivekananda when he had not returned in some time, he would wail and pine for him, or he would tell other visitors to beseech Vivekananda to come back. In contrast, when I think of myself, I’ve never had any thoughts like that before. I’ve never fallen madly in love, and I envy that he can express that. Is it possible for anyone to be able to have such intense affection, regardless of character, but just as love grows deeper and deeper?
MASTER: You’ve never experienced it?
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): Not really. I’m rather cool, (everyone laughs) so I’ve never experienced it. And so I envy those who can, and I’ve thought that perhaps I don’t have enough love within myself.
MASTER: At a glance, that state is similar to that in which one is madly in love. On the surface, it looks the same. So in this sense, I think that the number who have experienced this is more than just a few. Of course, with Shri Ramakrishna it wasn’t at the mere level of romantic love, but he acted upon a love that was much greater, that is, God’s love itself. So in that sense, God is constantly working in such ways [as Shri Ramakrishna did in this anecdote].
Other disciples described the two of them later like this: Shri Ramakrishna was indubitably an avatara of God himself; while Swami Vivekananda was the embodiment of the highest ideal of a human being. These words were said about them after their forms were already gone from this world. This anecdote [you mentioned] happened around the time when Vivekananda was still in the period of learning and practicing as one ought to do as a human being in the process of embodying the Truth to the utmost level.
Human beings, or that is to say, the mind, is often not aware that God is there, even though God is always there. Even then, God knows everything, and through working on that love fully, God cries and shouts, and that’s how God has been pulling the soul towards Him. That anecdote left us with a beautiful story about God and man, or Guru and disciple.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): So I can be like that (crying), can’t I? (laughs)
(Ms. Mai mentions that although she used to think that love was something very comfortable, filled with kindness, full of compassion, accepting of everything, and without any accompanying pains, she now feels that the more she feels someone is dear, the more she experiences an accompanying pain that feels like it’s gouging out her innards. And that through practicing with Madhura (her music band) she began to experience that it is only after she begins to accept that pain as well, that she can experience love. She said that the past year was the year of struggling to transform the scorching heat and pain within herself into love; that for thirty years she has been a singer, but she finally encountered the music she has been aspiring towards; and in having it constantly pointed out by Masa (her husband and member of the band) that her bhakti isn’t enough, and by enduring that, she has strengthened herself.)
MASTER: That sounds like tapas. (Everyone laughs.) But good for you. Because that sensation you mentioned shows that you are getting closer to God’s love. The kind of love that is soft and encompassing is also vulnerable and weak; when you get hurt a little, it is so fragile and easily damaged—this is a common experience which you may all know already. In a way, the mind doesn’t really know love or romance. We often say, “fall in love with love.” When children don’t know what true romance is, they fall in love with romance, or they fall in love with love. This is still an immature form of love. Whereas true love is not only tender, it is an inexpressible taste that can only be experienced through encompassing and accepting everything, which can then lead to something more like God’s love. And then it goes just like the story of Radha and Krishna teaches. Radha suffers very much, and then she grows weak, becomes mad, falls into a coma, and then arrives at a condition like that of death. Then beyond that, only love remains—and although this may seem simply allegorical, it is another way of describing the psychological process of another type of yoga, namely raja yoga—and you can grasp that they arrive at the same state of mind. In raja yoga, too, as one seeks Absolute Independence, which is Freedom and Independence, the mind constantly struggles with various things along the way, but then it eventually arrives at its own death. One comes to realize that true Freedom lies beyond that.
So, just as there is no end to God, there is no end to Love. God is eternal, and so if you compare that eternity to a live performance, it is day-to-day, moment-to-moment, and therefore its taste will never by the same. However, people follow the course of deepening their love respectively, according to their own pace. It would be ideal if you could deepen bhakti as madhura from now on.
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Sananda: There are two questions I have. One is with regard to a teaching that Shri Mahayogi often mentions: that all complex things are for that which is singular, for the other. There is a teaching in the Upanishad, “From a blade of grass to Brahman, all is for Atman.” I feel like I am not grasping the meaning of it correctly. And I would like to ask you to guide me to its true intent, or the correct meaning of this.
MASTER: The original source of this passage is from Sankhya. In India, undoubtedly it is one of the most famous sayings. In the Sankhya way of expressing things, “complex” points to all things.
There is something called prakriti, and from that there are 24 principles that develop. The result is matter and mind. Matter indicates all things, including nature. Do all of these things, which are complex matters, exist for themselves? No, they don’t. The five organs of activity, the five sense organs—it is through them, as well as through the physical body, that all information is delivered to the mind.
So, does everything exist for the mind? The mind too is a complex matter. Since it consists of various things such as ahankara, buddhi, manas, and memory too, it is complex. Therefore these things do not exist for the mind either; the activities of the mind, the thoughts and desires of the mind, none of them exist for the mind itself. If you act thinking that these things are for the sake of the mind, then this will become karma and it will slap you right back after a while. From this, it can be concluded that it is mistaken [to think that all things exist for the mind].
So, for what purpose then do all things that are made up of these 24 complexes, including the mind, exist? They exist in order to eliminate mistakes and then realize the true Master, the Purusha. The Purusha is the singular. It’s not made by combining one thing with another, it was never born and will never die. It is Consciousness, which already exists and has always existed to begin with, and therefore it can be considered to be absolutely singular.
Thus, from all blades of grass to Brahman, all is for Atman. That is what is said.
Sananda: So does that mean that all things cannot find the reason for their own existence, or from another perspective, that all things exist to embody the form of the Purusha or God, or to praise God in this world? Is that the right way to interpret it?
MASTER: Yes, that is correct.
Sananda: So all things—their reason for existing or their value of existence, although I hesitate to use the word “value”—is simply for expressing the glory of the Lord, to let it shine, to express its brilliance. Is that the right understanding that we should have?
MASTER: Yes, exactly.
Sananda: There are times that I concretely wonder, from the perspective of the teaching about ignorance—“all is suffering”—is there really even any value or meaning in this life and existence? Then from the case of looking at it positively, I think that I can perceive everything there is as the manifestation of the Lord, and that everything exists to express the glory of the Lord. Is that the correct understanding of the teaching from the Upanishad earlier?
MASTER: That’s exactly how it is, so that’s fine. That is because what you mentioned has two perspectives from which to view the same thing. One perspective is from the Truth, and the other is from ignorance. Because ignorance is like an illusion that has been brought about by a mistake, the latter perspective isn’t valid. So, then the perspective coming from the Truth rather, is the correct one.
Sananda: Not only humans, but all things, such as insects, plants, trees, and flowers, they all, in their individual existence, exist in order to praise God—should it be understood this way?
Sananda: Regardless of what type of existence?
Sananda: Regardless of what type of a human being?
Sananda: Should we understand that human beings are the form most able to express God itself, in terms of Satori?
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Sananda: I think that Shri Mahayogi has many different aspects, or “faces.”
MASTER: I’m not sure about that myself (laughter from all).
Sananda: For example, if we disciples are talking, someone may say something like, “Today, Shri Mahayogi was in ‘darshan-mode’” (everyone laughs), or “Today, he was in ‘stern Guru-mode’” (everyone laughs). Anyhow (everyone laughs), when I read the biography of Shri Ramakrishna and so on, I feel like these are the spontaneous and natural attitudes, or many faces, of an Awakened One. And, at the same time, the Awakened Ones also show various faces in order to guide the disciples according to the situation at hand, which can include showing a social, fun face (everyone laughs).
What I’d like to ask, even after having said that, is that [no matter what or when the situation,] the right relationship between the Guru and the disciple must be present, and we must be aware of and respect that always, and these are the very basic things, such as the frame of mind or the manners that the disciples must have toward their Guru. At this opportunity of the first Satsangha of the new year, I would like to ask for Shri Mahayogi’s direct guidance again on the relationship between Guru and disciple.
I would like to ask because Shri Mahayogi is so familiar and close and graciously you receive us in such a friendly manner, and so I wonder whether we might be being inadvertently rude to you, and I suspect that we take your generosity for granted. I suppose that some parts may be flexible, but would you please teach us the basics.
MASTER: Indeed, since this tradition has been cultivated over the course of millennia in India, there are many customs. However, it’s not about being bound by rituals, if I seem to have various facets as Sananda just mentioned, it is because it can be acceptable to act accordingly and to react flexibly to the various situations at hand, and there is no need to be overtly formal. If things become too formal, even I will be suffocated (everyone laughs), so you should just be natural.
Yet, the necessary frame of mind, or the basic level, is as the teachings in the Gita mention, “Serve and obey the Wise by prostrating, by service, and by questioning. Then the sage will reveal the Truth.” From this you can see an attitude of humility and appropriate manners, and it indicates that you should observe that.
A while back, an Indian bansuri flute player named Sachdev spent the night here. We were sitting on the floor talking about Yoga and various documents were placed around on the floor. A few American disciples of his, hearing that Sachdev was here, followed him here and joined us. Then, when Sachdev saw that these Americans carelessly pointed their feet or were about to step over these documents with photos of Holy Beings, he immediately admonished them. Even if they are only photos, you must not point your feet towards the likeness of Holy Beings. Even in our world [here in Japan], we say that while we sleep we cannot point our feet towards people to whom we owe gratitude. You can see that the same concept can be seen in that. The point is that it is important to show respect through your actions.
When it comes to service, I don’t think a guru would ever order you around to do this or that. Rather, you can say that through service to others, service to the guru or to God is being done. When it comes to service, there are many ways to do it. In short, devote yourself as best you can to make others happy. If you understand these basics, then there is nothing in particular that you need to be concerned about.
Sananda: I think that in terms of having the manners to not point the feet towards that which is sacred can be based on the situation. I see that Shri Mahayogi rarely changes the position of the legs when sitting in siddhasana, whereas with us weaklings (smirks), there are times when we need to straighten our legs out or change positions. But in order to be more like Shri Mahayogi, and as a practitioner of Yoga, is it important to aspire to sit in siddhasana, the most representative position of a yogi, as much as possible?
MASTER: Yes, it is important. Of course, if it is difficult to sit in one position for a long time, it is fine to re-cross the legs. However, you must not point the toes or soles of the feet [towards sacred beings or objects]. That is the bare minimum form of manners that should be observed. In the Buddhist scriptures, when one greets the Awakened Ones in person, there is a manner in which one keeps the right shoulder bare and turns towards the right. This manner of opening the right shoulder symbolizes that you are unarmed, and that you do not have any hostility, defensiveness, or other things of that nature. And this manner also indicates the will to surrender and to devote oneself. Although it is a very ancient story, perhaps Sananda may know more, and be more knowledgeable about it (laughing).
Sananda: No, no, I am mannerless, so I do not know much about it.
MASTER: I’ve never become a disciple of anyone, so I don’t know. (Everyone laughs.) If Sananda or Sanatana notices something, please teach us.
Sananda: For example, what do you think about touching Holy Beings—I suppose it probably depends on the situation?
MASTER: Well, the biggest issue is being asked for a handshake (everyone laughs) or a hug (everyone laughs). Perhaps the customs are different [outside of Japan] but it is somewhat strange. (Everyone laughs.) I prefer to decline these [western-style greetings].
Sananda: The last item, which is about questioning [as a way to serve the Wise]—what is the proper way to understand this?
MASTER: Well, the person who doesn’t have questions is either an Awakened One or an idiot. (smiles) At least, for those considered to be seekers, one ought to have a mountain of questions. That is only natural. So you must simply ask these questions straightforwardly, and clear them up one by one. And then, once all the questions are gone, you become Awakened.
Ms. Takagi (Ranjani): Doesn’t it depend on what kinds of questions they are?
MASTER: (lightly) No, it doesn’t. Regardless of what the questions may be, there are many openings awaiting you, so they will lead you to That.
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Prem: Is the path of renunciation in jnana yoga really the same as the path of love and surrender? Generally, in the world they’re seen as separate. In the initial step of bhakti, all love is directed towards Shri Mahayogi, towards the Ishta. However, after continuing in this way for a long time, this can turn into a great transformation in which everything becomes Shri Mahayogi. I would like to practice loving correctly, so please guide me again on what I must truly do, what I must love, what I must renounce, and to what I must surrender, so that I can practice correctly. To offer my life to Shri Mahayogi, to offer everything, because everything is a gift from Shri Mahayogi, I offer that too. I understand the concept of offering everything, but what should I do in order to give everything completely?
MASTER: The renunciation in jnana yoga and love and devoted service in bhakti yoga are completely equal. What is renounced is (emphasizing) anything that is not Atman, God or the Guru. If this Realization arises, then you will be able to see Atman or God in everything.
In this world, there are various creatures that are moving around. If you look on the surface, they all have different shapes and names. Karma, too, is different for each one of them. Yet they are all continuously changing, just like the waves in the ocean. Nevertheless, if the surface of the water, which is rippling, is also a part of the one ocean, then the essence of all things is one single reality called God. So, in this world where you come into contact with all of these things called “others,” do not look at the surface, but practice only seeing their essence, Atman or God. And the rest involves practicing in order to act in the service of others who are in need by doing whatever is needed, simply to make things better. You mustn’t receive the results thereof, however. Especially serve those who are suffering or sad. There are various ways to serve—it can be physical or material, or it can be mental. More important than anything else is spiritual support. If you see Atman in others, then it’s possible to do this. And this eventually becomes complete devotion. And that is referred to as God’s Love in bhakti as well. It’s Prema. (smiles)
Prem: When I read scriptures about the love of a bhakta, there are descriptions about the pain of separation [from God] that the bhakta experiences. At times, I feel it.
MASTER: That teaching is very symbolic. In the standard scene from a love story, too, when one is unable to meet the beloved, anguish or pain arises, and the deeper the degree of suffering, the more the suffering increases, even to the extent of becoming torturous to the mind and body. The lover cannot think of anything but the beloved, and everything else comes to be completely forgotten—that is the condition of such a mind. Then the lover is overtaken by a sense of deep despair in thinking that if the beloved were to never again return to the lover’s bosom, it would amount to the death of the lover herself. When it heightens to such a degree in one’s state of mind, when thoughts of the other alone occupy the mind, the result is that even the karma one has had up until that point is burnt away. If this other is God, the Eternal Lover, then that indicates that bhakti has become ripe.
So here you can see elements of both the renunciation and devotion that Prem mentioned earlier. What is to be renounced, is anything that is other than God. You see, ego, karma, ignorance, everything disappears. Then, what remains there is only the Truth, which is God. That is the hidden teaching of the love story between Krishna and Radha.
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Ms. Wada (Dharmini): The pain and agony that brings Radha to the point of sickness—is that like a sense of loss?
MASTER: Loss of what?
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): Like trying to get back something you lost?
MASTER: That is still only the entry point. That is still not quite madness yet. By “madness” it is meant that it is the state where there is only that.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): (in a serious tone) What should I do...I wish to be like that.
MASTER: Well, but the thing is, the mind originally has a tendency to be just like that, among other things. In being possessed by something, or when the mind is engrossed in something, it will run amok with it.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): So, then it is like there is no reason needed for the mind to be engrossed.
MASTER: Yes, typically it’s money, the opposite sex, power, or health (laughs)—and the countless things that people are chasing are just like that. In that sense, bhakti is also about becoming obsessive about one thing. Jnana yogi also become fixated on one thing, Atman alone. Raja yogi are the same, and so are karma yogi.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): So the earlier expression of “being possessed” is like that?
MASTER: Yes, you can put it that way since the mind becomes occupied by it. But the difference is whether you become possessed by the object of Reality, or the Truth, which is true Existence, or by something ephemeral.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): But I think that we cannot “come to be possessed” by ourselves, right? Something has to possess us before we can do that. What I mean is that it begins not by yourself but by “being possessed.” Is such a thing necessary?
MASTER: (laughing) Well, you must be the one who possesses first. (Everyone laughs.)
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): Then what you described can happen?
MASTER: That’s right. (Everyone laughs.)
Ms. Takagi (Ranjani): (hinting at Shri Mahayogi) If I go crazy, then will you become crazy for me?
MASTER: Yes, yes. That’s right. (Everyone laughs.)
Ms. Takagi (Ranjani): Shri Mahayogi mentioned earlier that the mind has a tendency to already be that way. So regardless of what tendency the mind has, can we say that everyone will surely go crazy?
MASTER: Everyone is already being crazy. Being crazy in following their tendencies—which is because of karma, so to speak. Isn’t it so? That is why people become possessed by material things in the world. However, in Yoga, you possess and become possessed by that which is Truth, not by that which is karma—(with emphasis) the result then is different.
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Yogadanda: I think that basically we practice asana initially by going to our own limits in each pose, and then breathing once more in that position, and in the practice of both asana and pranayama we take control and practice strictly. Shri Mahayogi has told us that in hatha yoga, there is an element of bhakti yoga at its base, and that there is a philosophy of tantra, in which everything is seen as God and savored, that lies at its base. How do the two relate? For example, I also heard from Shri Mahayogi some time ago that in [the philosophy of] hatha yoga, within this microcosm there lies the moon and the sun, the entire macrocosm as it is; and that within the joints, there are spiritual spots that Shri Mahayogi has actually checked and verified. So is there something like a transition, in which asana shifts into some sort of tantric meditation? May I ask how should we understand that?
MASTER: [At that point,] that field is no longer considered asana, but is instead referred to as mudra. Regarding mudra, they are not so constraining or acrobatic in form as asana. Rather, their content is a combination of stopping the breath, kumbhaka, and psychological concentration. The tantric cosmology and philosophy that are the basis of hatha yoga, are validated in mudra.
For example, there is a mudra called shambhavi mudra that is introduced as being superior to any other mudra. I suppose that you all practice it. Sit in siddhasana or padmasana, and gaze forward. [In this position,] if you concentrate on the object in front of the eyes, then it is simply trataka, which has a physiological effect, such as getting rid of eye fatigue or improving one’s eyesight. [But in shambhavi mudra,] you concentrate the mind in the center of the chest while gazing forward without blinking. By differing the location in which you bring your mind to concentrate, along with the difference in intention, it creates a different psychological effect than trataka. It is said that through shambhavi mudra, the yogi can realize the truth of Shambhavi.
What is the truth of Shambhavi? Shambhava is the masculine noun. The feminine noun is Shambhavi. Shambhava means Shiva—Lord Shiva. So then Shambhavi means “the consort of Shiva.” It is none other than Shakti, the Holy Mother of the entire universe. It is said that [through shambhavi mudra] you can know the whole of her truth, in other words, her secret. To be able to realize the reality of Shambhavi means to be able to know Shiva himself.
Well, you can say that in such ways tantric thinking is rather symbolic; nevertheless, its content, or what is realized through meditation, is that state of reality itself, the Truth.
Yogadanda: It seems that this is very different from the flavor of bhakti, as was mentioned earlier in the story about Krishna and Radha. To take not blinking in shambhavi mudra as an example, there is a ritual that is incorporated into it. (MASTER: Right.) Is the flavor of bhakti among the Shaiva (Shiva sect) different?
MASTER: I suppose that all of you may have experienced and know about this: prana can be mainly divided into five activities, and further, prana constantly acts through these, along with another five [minor] activities [such as blinking, yawning, and so on]. But with shambhavi mudra, by controlling the workings of prana, [in this case] blinking, which is one of the minor workings of prana, all prana comes to a stop. Through controlling that, all other prana goes into a state of standstill. Without exception. That is the state of kumbhaka, the stopping of the breath. When that happens, the mind stops along with it. Then, the mind that is concentrating upon Shambhavi, becomes acutely deep, and proceeds straight to the actual state. That is the method of controlling the mind through controlling prana, which is described in hatha yoga.
In the Yoga Sutra, the fourth breath, or the stillness of breath, is attempted naturally through the practice of pranayama, which is the step after the practice of asana, yet it is actually very difficult. However, shambhavi mudra, compared to [what is written in] the Yoga Sutra, can create this condition very easily. That’s why everyone here has been introduced to this practice. And that is why it is also expressed in a scripture that the Veda or other scriptures are like harlots, while shambhavi mudra alone must be taken care of and kept secret, like a lady.
Sananda: While pranayama leads one to the condition of stopping the prana through its rhythmical practice or kumbhaka [included in the practice of pranayama], mudra, rather, is the practice that creates a condition in which it is easier for the prana to stop. And it is a practice that by doing it in asana, or similar to the case of khechari mudra, through specific methods or specific conditions, the power of concentration is brought about...
MASTER: The understanding of mudra in hatha yoga is that it is the practice that leads immediately to samadhi. So whether it is in khechari mudra or shambhavi mudra, when the conditions are well tuned, it immediately brings about samadhi, or a deep state of meditation—one enters into such a state.
Masa (Haridas): I think that in the case of shambhavi mudra, bandha traya occurs naturally, and that rather than the control of prana, there seems to be an internal rising of kundalini. As the breath stops, simultaneously there arises a sense of fear because of the lack of breath. As you have mentioned now, the difference between trataka and shambhavi mudra, is that in trataka, you are simply not blinking, whereas in shambhavi mudra you are gathering and concentrating the mind in the chest, while [simultaneously] not blinking. But the key is that you cannot get to that state until bhakti has deepened sufficiently. That is why the element of bhakti is necessary in mudra, and unless your bhakti is heightened at that moment, you cannot enter into it—is this what it means?
MASTER: Most definitely. Only physically gathering the mind in the chest as a point of concentration is meaningless. Without having bhakti towards Shambhavi, the Goddess who dwells there, it is ineffective.
Masa (Haridas): Is that where hatha yoga, or rather, raja yoga and bhakti yoga coincide?
MASTER: Yes, exactly.
Prem: Can shambhavi mudra occur naturally (by its own volition)?
MASTER: As you become more accustomed, it will occur very often. Then, the mind will be entirely occupied by your Ishta, and no matter what you see, you will see your Ishta.
(Looking towards Ms. Mori) Ishta means an ideal god. An ideal deity. It can be different between individuals. It can be Krishna, Shiva, Buddha, or Ramakrishna, even. It should be your personal ideal of God.
(Mr. Takahashi has not been taught shambhavi mudra, but he is practicing nadi shuddhi regularly.)
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: Is it correct to practice in this order: nadi shuddhi, shambhavi mudra, then meditation?
MASTER: Yes. Shambhavi mudra can lead one immediately to a deep meditative state, so it’s best to go right into meditation afterwards.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: Have I been practicing trataka rather than shambhavi mudra?
MASTER: Trataka is solely a physiological manner. So you are focusing firmly on an object in front of you. In this way, the mind is looking at the object, so to speak. In the case of shambhavi mudra, even if there is an object in front of the gaze, and even though the eyes are gazing upon that object, you are not looking at it. The mind is gathered on the chest and is concentrating upon the Goddess Shambhavi.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: I understand. In daily life, I do concentrate on my job, but usually, whether I’m looking at or seeing the surroundings or not, I am very often focusing at the center of the heart. Am I practicing correctly?
MASTER: Well, then think of and concentrate on Atman or your Ishta within the mind.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: I always bear in mind that I should engage in karma yoga with a feeling of bhakti. Am I practicing correctly in taking this approach?
MASTER: Yes, that is fine. And just like you acknowledge Atman or God within the center of your chest, act through acknowledging the same in the centers of others’ chests.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: How much time does shambhavi mudra require?
MASTER: As long as you can hold until the next blink.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: So, when you close your eyes, that is considered to be one round.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: Then, as you close your eyes, your awareness is again…
MASTER: When you close your eyes then the breath returns. As long as you can refrain from blinking, the breath stops.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: As soon as you blink, your consciousness is released from the state of concentration?
MASTER: Yes, the concentration is released.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: How many rounds should we practice?
MASTER: (thinking for a while) About four times.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: In bandha traya, when the three bandhas occur, does that mean that a very thorough bandha is occurring externally?
MASTER: Yes, it does.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: In shambhavi mudra, do we practice it with the three bandha, or does it occur naturally as we concentrate without blinking?
MASTER: It occurs as a result.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: So, then do you wait for it to occur as a result?
MASTER: It’s not really waiting, in that state it occurs naturally. You all may perhaps have seen a drawing of a sitting yogi with the chakra drawn within him. Seven chakra are drawn with three lines running through them. The single channel in the center is sushumna, the right side is the path of the sun called pingala, and the left side is the path of the moon called ida. It is considered that the path of the sun and the moon flow like so on both sides. Usual physiological functions do not go through the central channel; and prana only goes through the right and the left, the pathways of the sun and the moon. Just as nature cycles between the sun and the moon, within this body, too, there are cycles between the paths of the sun and the moon. There are three paths, like so, with the sun and moon going through them. Now, when shambhavi mudra is perfected, the workings of the respiratory function stop temporarily, which means that this flow [of prana within these two pathways] stops. As this condition gets deeper, prana will then rise up the central channel. This is the phenomenon that is often expressed as the “rise of kundalini.” This is when bandha traya occurs—the binding of the throat, anus, and abdomen.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: So, then we’re not supposed to consciously do bandha traya, is that so?
MASTER: Right, you should not. In shambhavi mudra you mustn’t do that. The condition of restraining the activity of the mind, that is, entering into samadhi from the deep realm of meditation, the condition of the suspension of the breath, or kumbhaka, and also the condition in which the physical body stops working—(emphasizing) any one of these [three conditions] will trigger the other two conditions simultaneously.
MASTER: If one continues to sit for years, like the legendary Bodhi Dharma, so much that one’s legs and arms atrophy, then naturally the breath stops, and so does the mind. That is why in the scriptures, it also says that if one practices sitting in siddhasana for twelve years, then samadhi comes; or through the control of prana, the body stops and the mind also stills. Shambhavi mudra is an example of that. If the mind, through meditation, comes to a standstill, or enters into samadhi, then inevitably the breath and body also stop. Many of you have probably read in the legends of Shri Ramakrishna, that there are many scenes in which, because his bhakti heightens, the breath stops and kundalini rises.
Masa (Haridas): I think that the rising of kundalini is unimaginable, and because it’s far beyond the stilled, restrained activities of the mind, it is accompanied by great fear.
MASTER: Well, after all, the practitioners who succeed in that are already crazy (laughing). For them there is only that left. In such a state of mind, there is no longer concern for birth or for death, no fear about it, or anything whatsoever. It is such a degree that there is no other way to explain but insane. That is why they can jump right in. For this, bhakti is the fastest shortcut. Otherwise, it is essential to go through the task of working to thoroughly and firmly control and purify the mind through discrimination and putting the practice into action so that you can see the Truth alone, in order to become mad.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): In The Life of Shri Ramakrishna, there is an anecdote of Shri Ramakrishna encountering an insane practitioner, wearing tattered rags who was avoided even by beggars. It is written that he feared this, thinking that if you become insane, you can go to that extent. Is the way one goes crazy dependent on one’s past life?
MASTER: It depends on karma or one’s mission.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): I wonder if the way that person was in the book was because of his mission.
MASTER: Rather, perhaps in his case, it was his karma. (Everyone laughs.) In the case of Shri Ramakrishna, it was his mission. Indeed, as it says in the Bhagavad Gita, after awakening, neither gold nor dirt have meaning any longer; you can say that neither good clothing nor rags mean anything.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): That’s why sometimes I get scared—what if I actually become insane? For example, let’s say one of us here actually does end up going insane. (Everyone laughs.) Will God have mercy on this person and provide followers to take care of the insane person? (Everyone laughs.)
(Some voice, “Are you saying that in regards to you becoming insane? Why do you need to worry about it now?”)
MASTER: That’s a delusion (laughing). As long as you say things like that, you’ll never be able to go crazy [for God] (laughing).
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* * *
Shri Mahayogi, whom I love, love, love, love!
As I see your sacred form with my own eyes like this here now, and as I hear the sweet voice that I pine for with my very own ears, what an auspicious life it is that has been bestowed upon me! Shri Mahayogi, thank you so very much for manifesting on this earth!
Shri Mahayogi, I have lived my life always wanting to find out the truth of this world.
After having encountered the Mission, when I met Shri Mahayogi for the third time, because I had been struggling with not having made much progress in meditation, I asked you, “What kind of meditation should I do?” At that time, Shri Mahayogi answered that, “Perhaps, bhakti meditation will suit you.”
I did not really understand bhakti at the time, and even with much trial and error, it didn’t quite go very well.
Because I am living in Tokyo, I could not often visit Kyoto, Shri Mahayogi’s residence, and therefore could not see Shri Mahayogi much, I felt that even though my yearning to seek for the Truth had been getting stronger and stronger I was not making the progress in the study of Yoga that I had hoped for, and this truly uneasy, difficult condition of groping for the way continued.
But then when Muni-Soan (meaning “a cottage of hermits”)1 was moved to Tokyo, this situation changed completely and I transformed so much so that I was even surprised at myself.
For me, who could not go to Kyoto often, Muni-Soan immediately became the anchor of my heart. Whenever I went to Muni-Soan, I could talk about Shri Mahayogi and about Yoga as much as I wanted without holding back. Even now, I cannot express with words how much happiness and joy I feel from learning Yoga with Sanatana-san, Jayadevi-san, and the other gurubhai in Tokyo.
Then, when I began singing kirtan in the Bhakti Sangam program, bhakti rapidly began to pour out of me, flooding me to the point where I became afraid because I couldn’t stop it.
At first, I was just enjoying singing, repeating after Jayadevi-san who leads this program in Tokyo. But gradually, the name of God began to resonate within me, and indescribably, I began to feel the name of God itself very vividly, and then before long, I had gotten to the place where I sensed something like God itself from the name of God.
Up until then, I used to feel that there was a very heavy lid on top of my heart. But then the lid began to rattle because of the overflowing joy, and one day, at last, the heavy lid lifted and an enormous, tremendous joy began to gush from my heart.
Now there are even times, when I’m not singing kirtan, when I very often feel like my heart will burst from my yearning for God.
This is exactly the same yearning I feel towards Shri Mahayogi. Within myself, Krishna, Shiva, Rama, and the Goddess, all melt into one.
One day, I noticed that Shri Mahayogi was always in the center of my heart.
Even when I’m not thinking about Shri Mahayogi, even when I have forgotten him, Shri Mahayogi is there always. Nothing like this ever happened before, even when I fell in love with someone in the past. And neither have I ever experienced tears coming out when I thought of someone.
Surely Shri Mahayogi knew about this.
The Master who teaches the Truth, the fellowship with whom to study Yoga—Shri Mahayogi has bestowed upon me everything that my heart has always sought.
These days, when I see various people suffering or lamenting, I want to shout out to them, “The real you is nothing like that!” I want to tell them, “You, me, and everyone are the existence of bliss itself, not anxiety and not suffering—every single being is the same precious existence as God itself.” I want to prove the Truth of Shri Mahayogi!
I want to live in Truth, to know Shri Mahayogi’s love, and to let others know that every single being is the same precious existence. Other than that, there is no longer any reason for me to live.
I have made a vow to myself to realize the name Shri Mahayogi has given to me—Sharmini, meaning “Blissful One,” a name filled with supreme blessings—as my life’s work.
My beloved Shri Mahayogi, no matter what and no matter when, please always be with me.
1 In Sanskrit, “muni” refers to a saint, sage, monk, or hermit, especially one who has taken the vow of silence (mauna). The Buddha was also known as “Shakya-Muni” (the saint of the Shakya family). In Japanese, “soan” refers to a thatched house, cottage, or hermitage. The name “Muni-Soan” was given by Shri Mahayogi to the house where Sanatana and Jayadevi lived in Kyoto, as well as to the new house in Tokyo where they have moved to expand the work of Mahayogi Mission. Muni-Soan has functioned as the center of Mahayogi Mission activities in Tokyo.
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To You, My Most Beloved Master,
– It is You. ...
Then the door opens,
she lets him in and they embrace.
What is there other than You? How can I claim anything as my own? And how can I claim any action as something that I have done? Who is the true doer?
During a moment of quiet, Shri Mahayogi bestowed upon me a great blessing, a momentary experience of “You” and it became clear that it is impossible for “I” to even exist without “You.” “I” does not exist on its own, nor does it or can it exist for itself. I felt that whatever semblance of existence that I had believed myself to be, was truly only possible because of “You.” Within this “I” are all forms and no forms, and whether form or no form, it is only “You.” I felt concretely that at each moment the entirety of the universe is sacrificing something so that this “I” can live, from the smallest microorganism, to the vegetable on my plate, to the unknown person on the street.
From this moment every existence became precious in a way I had not recognized before... I am very humbled and inspired by each and every organism that is constantly giving up its life to sustain the life of another. Can I give up myself in the same way? Can I too, become one who gives for another instead of constantly requiring to be given to?
I have often thought that I needed to accomplish something in the world. To change something, to be something, to do something of significance. But for some reason, no matter how I tried, I never felt as if I really accomplished enough, nor changed enough, nor did anything of significance enough. Wanting to think that I am the one that “does” and to receive the recognition that comes with it has left my wheels spinning in the desert sand, and my actions merely playing at the surface. Who is the real doer?
By the grace of Shri Mahayogi I am beginning to see now that any action, whatever it may be can only be possible because of the sacrifice of others coming together to create the condition for the action itself. And if I want to walk the path of Yoga, if I want to devote my everything to God, if I want to emblazon the existence of Shri Mahayogi and the Truth he teaches into my very being, then rather than think that there is something that I need “to do” or “to accomplish,” I need to set aside all efforts that I am so used to making to get something for myself, whether some tangible comfort, or some feeling of “I did something” and simply act upon one thought alone: “thy will be done.” With boldness, may this be my guiding light, with unflinching faith that no matter where my steps lead—“thy will be done”—no matter what is required of me, may I have the strength and faith to follow at once—“thy will be done.”
What is there that is truly worth living for? If it were not for Yoga, I really do not know how I could survive living in the world. If I had not met Shri Mahayogi, I cannot imagine what I could possibly be living for. This is what I feel in my heart. But the truth is that most often I have kept this to myself, safely guarding it. I see myself play along with the world and what is required of me, as I fulfill various expectations or do things that I think I am required to do. I often set to the side what is in my heart, I leave it in a “safe” place out of convenience or perhaps out of fear for how others might take it or that I may not represent Shri Mahayogi well. But in doing so, in not boldly acting upon my true feeling and what I know is true, I am doing a great disservice to all, because I am not sharing freely the most important and urgent information. For this I am truly sorry Shri Mahayogi.
There must be others who, like me, yearn for something. There must be others who, like me before I met Shri Mahayogi, did not know where to look, or that something real could exist.
As the Mission of Shri Mahayogi becomes more urgent within my heart, a determination has been kindling within me to not take any existence for granted. Even though the mind may at times still strive to do so, I can no longer claim any action as my own. It is time for me to shed any hesitation, to shed any ounce of holding back. I am beginning to realize more and more that as my urgency to carry out the great Mission of Shri Mahayogi builds, so does my responsibility to bring my everything to “You,” no matter where I am, what I am doing, who I am with, or how I may need to deviate from the flow of societal norms.
Shri Mahayogi, through a multitude of forms, your grace is the only thing that sustains me. You are everything. You are constantly giving. I live for each class, for each page of Pranavadipa, for each publication, for each interaction with sangha, for each moment of work with the Mission. May I have the humility, the strength and the burning fire of passion to lose myself in You, to become ever-more bold...and...may Thy will be done!!
My most beloved Shri Mahayogi, the One who reigns over all realms, all forms and the formless—the great Shiva himself, I bow down to you on this most holy day, Jayanti.
Jai Satguru Shri Mahayogi Parmahansa-ki,
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