Satsang with a Paramahams

From satsang by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Ganga Darshan, Munger, 1987-89

Can you speak to us about faith in God and love of Guru?

When we study Yoga we find that one of the niyamas or disciplines which we follow is known as Ishwar pranidhan. Ishwar pranidhan or faith in God is one basic rule of Yoga.

The Vedantic idea of God is that we are a part of that divinity but we are surrounded by illusion which is known as Maya. The two concepts of Brahman and Maya belong to the philosophy of Vedanta. Because of the veil of Maya, our contact with our inner nature is lost, so we become human. When that veil is removed, we become divine. That is the only difference between being human and being divine - the removal of the veil. So when it comes down to the basic philosophy of Vedanta, faith in God simply means having faith in one's own self - because we are a reflection of "That" (Supreme Being).

When we look at a mirror we see the reflection, but can we identify with the reflection? No. We identify with this body but we cannot identify with the reflected body. If I move my right hand, in the reflection my left hand is moving. At that time, can we project our mind into the reflection and observe our body from the eyes of the reflected body? No, Vedanta however, says that you should be able to do that, and when you are able to observe the physical body with the eyes of the reflected body, then that is the state of divinity, the attainment of Brahmahood.

In Samkhya philosophy they talk of Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (manifest energy). We live and act in the realm of manifest energy. The world as we see and experience it, is a form of manifest energy. Now, in order to experience consciousness or God we have to go back to the realm of unmanifest energy, from limited to limitless awareness.

It is Samkhya from which the concept of chakras and kundalini comes. When we talk of raising: the kundalini from mooladhara to sahasrara and going through the different chakras, we are actually referring to the reversal of energy from manifest to unmanifest. In the process of evolution energy has manifested from sahasrara to mooladhara. It has gone through many transformations from pure raw energy to mind, from mind to the five elements, and the reverse. In the process of reversal, we go hack through the different elements to mind, back into consciousness, the unmanifest experience of energy. So, raising the kundalini is actually reversing the evolutionary process of energy.

In Tantra there is the concept of chakras and kundalini, but there is another idea; that we are what we are, good or bad, whether we identify with the body or dis-identify with the body, as in the case of an avadhoot. Tantra says that whatever the state of life we are experiencing at present, that is the reality, whether we are kings or beggars; whether we lead a very happy, satisfying life, or a very unpleasant, dissatisfying life, the experience which we undergo every moment of the day, every moment of life, is a real experience.

The main idea in Tantra is having faith in the Self which, according to Tantra, is equivalent to having faith in God, because neither Tantra nor Vedanta views God as something different from the person. Therefore, if we leave aside the idea of a God sitting somewhere up in heaven while we are down here, then faith in God simply means having faith in ourselves, in what we do and express and achieve to the best of our ability - slowly and slowly developing the creative aspect of our personality.

There is a certain type of person who finds it very easy to achieve this faith. This is the bhakti type - devotional and emotional. By utilising the emotions (emotion is very raw energy) we can go into the centre of our being. When the bhakti type or person identifies with the ishta devata (the form of God in which they believe), whether it is Rama., Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Kali, or the Guru, immediately a total identification takes place. That identification with God, the experience inside, develops the aspect of surrendering to the will of God. When we are able to fully surrender our will, then we are able to surrender our desires, and simply follow that inner voice. Then faith in God is complete.

Please elaborate on the concept of Guru Tattwa and how a disciple can remain devoted to his one true Guru, when the Guru's energy may be expressed, through several persons within a given lineage or tradition of Gurus, during the course of a disciple's evolution. Are different Gurus necessary at different times to awaken the different chakras? Can this also include Gurus from other lineages?

I am just trying to think how one disciple could survive with ten Gurus? One Guru for intellectual satisfaction, one Guru for mooladhara, one Guru for swadhisthana? It would be a terrible mess! But the question is very relevant. The Guru Tattwa, the element of Guru is something we should try to understand very clearly. Guru is not a person, but someone who has awakened that type of energy within him.

The word 'Guru' literally means 'dispeller of darkness'.

In our life, we have many gurus. Even our first primary school teacher was a guru, because he removed some doubts and implanted the first seeds of knowledge in our mind. Our parents are also our gurus because they have also dispelled many of our doubts. They have created a background for our growth and development. Externally one can definitely have many gurus, called by different names like father, mother, professor, brother, sister, etc.

However, when it comes to the spiritual Guru,, then that is one, just as your physics teacher is one and your maths teacher is one at college or university. There might be ten maths teachers there, but you go to the class of one maths teacher who makes sure that you go through the course systematically. In the same way, for our development of mind, body and spirit, and the evolution of our consciousness, one Guru is necessary, who can understand our personality, our belief, where we stand at present, where we intend to go, and what direction we should take in order to reach our goal.

The Guru has to decide whether to start teaching you the basic pawanmuktasana or meditation. It is up to the Guru. Once you put yourself under him, it becomes your obligation to obey him until you are able to pass your exams and get your Ph.D. Then you can become Guru in your own right. Who is to stop you?

However, this point should be made clear: Guru is one, and can guide the individual only according to his or her state of evolution, and if by chance he happens to depart suddenly, for some unknown destination, then it is his obligation to leave his energy to the next in line, who continues the tradition of guiding.

The concept of Guru Tattwa is like raw electricity being channelled through different wires, transformers and circuits, and lighting up small, zero watt bulbs and big, one thousand watt bulbs. This energy is shared by the Guru with everybody, not just with one person; it can be you or me or somebody out in the street. It is here that the true disciple is able to show his true colours; whether he becomes a zero or a thousand watt bulb. If you can become the one thousand watt bulb, so much the better; there will be more light!

In the process of evolution, not only of individuals but of the whole cosmos, there is a very deep harmony underlying each and every object whether a stone, a pebble or a planet in a particular system. Without harmony there would be total disturbance. In order to give the experience of that harmony, the harmony of the spirit behind matter and the universe, the Guru comes or manifests.

Vedanta says, 'The universe is false'. Another philosophy will say, 'The universe is real but we have to understand the spirit behind it'. Samkhya says, 'We are all real people, but if we are to understand the spirit, we will have to look within'. So, we must accept the world, accept all the good and the bad, but improve ourselves in order to be able to improve others. Vedanta states, 'Everything is false, do not worry about it. Simply meditate on the true thing, the spirit, I am That'. Buddhism says, 'Pain and pleasure in life are transitory; try to go beyond these and achieve Nirvana'.

So, each philosophy will say the same thing differently, some negating and others accepting, but eventually coming to the same conclusion.

By reading one philosophy, or one system nothing much can be gained. Everybody in the world is a follower of one philosophy or the other, whether it is Chinese, Indian, African, European or American, but how far has their level of consciousness actually developed? What type of substantial change has any religion or philosophy been able to bring about within the human personality? We still have our own frustrations, depressions, anxieties, complexes, inhibitions and tears. It is taking us beyond the experiences of the gross self and leading us to the experiences of the subtle self which is the work of the Guru Tattwa.

There is a saying in Hindi: 'There is water inside the pot and there is water around the pot'. Just imagine one pot inside the ocean. There is water inside and there is water outside. After the breaking of the pot, the water simply merges and there is no difference. We are all clay pots inside the ocean, containing water within us and around us. Who can tell us how to break this pot? Our Guru does that; he brings a hammer and smashes it, so we can merge with the ocean.

What is Guru Bhakti?

Guru, bhakti is a psychic process. Love or any type of feeling for a Guru is a psychic process. We accept a Guru as somebody who can enlighten us, who can assist us in our spiritual growth. We trust the Guru; we have faith in him, we can accept any kind of help, assistance and guidance from him, and we are willing to follow his advice, without using the complexity of our intellect. In 'prem', devotion or bhakti, the intellect is by-passed. In bhakti there is no intellect, and if we have that feeling for a Guru, whether dead or alive, then automatically a transformation takes place. We are shaping our mind according to the personality of the Guru.

This identification of our energy with the energy of the Guru, identification of the Self with that of the Guru, is probably the ultimate ambition of every true disciple - to become One, to feel the same, to act the same, to believe the same, to be the same as the Guru in total oneness.

In identification there is no duality. There is the experience of unity only. In bhakti there is no duality, In love there is only a one-track mind. There is no other idea in the mind. So, absence of duality and having the feeling of oneness with the Guru is Guru bhakti.

If, out of absolute trust, you allow your Guru to make major decisions regarding your actions, is there not a danger that you will lose your own ability to listen to, and receive instruction intuitively from the Supreme Being? Is it wrong to pass from teacher to teacher because as time passes, you develop and your needs change?

It is not wrong to have many teachers, if you have the mind to handle the teaching of all of them and not create a conflict within yourself. Our receptive ability, our views and inner personality change constantly. True Gurus can pick up what we are experiencing at present, so their teaching or transmission is according to what we can absorb. There also has to be an awareness on behalf of the student, that he is here to learn and not to compare. The idea of comparing the teaching of this one with that one, and picking the best, does not really work. There will he a lot of confusion. Ultimately it will not lead anywhere.

Swamiji used to tell a story that once happened to him. While he was living at home, before he took sannyas, he used to wear white trousers. The family had ordered a nice pair to be made for him. When they came from the tailor shop they were slightly long, but Swamiji really wanted to put them on. So he went to his mother and said, 'They are too long, but I do not want to take them back to the tailor. Can you just reduce the length by a couple of inches? Just roll them up and do a quick stitching'. His mother said, 'I am very busy right now'. So, Swamiji went to his grandmother and said, 'Can you do this work for me?'. She said, 'No, right now I am doing my japa'. So Swamiji went to his sister, 'Can you do this for me? Shorten it by a couples of inches?' She said, 'Not right now, because I am very busy studying for exams'.

Ultimately Swamiji gave up, put his trousers down and went out to the fields. His mother came walking into the room, saw the trousers and looked at her watch. She had finished everything, no further duties to do. She picked up the trousers - two inches and stitch! Then she left them there for the prized son to put them on. His grandmother hobbled in, 'What happened to my grandson's…...?' She picked up the trousers - two inches and stitch! After one hour his sister came in - two more inches! When Swamiji came back he thought nothing had been done, so 'Let me do it myself', he thought. When he tried them on they came up to his knees. He thought, 'but they were only two inches longer!'. That can happen with having too many Gurus, if one is not too careful.

The first question about trusting absolutely in your Guru is self-contradictory. If you trust absolutely in your Guru then there are not two people. The energy, the personality of Guru is manifesting within you. If that energy and that personality is being manifested and experienced, then it means that there is fusion of minds, fusion of spirits So, where does the idea that you are losing your own ability to listen intuitively come from? In the state of fusion you are spontaneously Listening to the inner voice, the inner sound which is guiding you.

We have to remember one thing; Guru is not an external person. He is simply a guide. He might say, "Do this sadhana", or "Sweep there" or "Go and teach this in public" or "Go and lecture there". He is simply stimulating certain areas of your personality to express themselves. If your Guru says, "Go there and give a lecture", and you think, "I have never lectured in my life. What should I do? I will get nervous. This will happen. That will happen", you have projected more than you have received from the Guru. If you follow the instructions of the Guru, no matter how simple they may be, or how ridiculous they may seem at the time, you will come to know that he is simply trying to awaken certain areas of your intuitive ability and personality.

Once, a certain swami came back from a tour; the first he had made after taking sannyas. He said; "There was this medical conference. I had not the faintest idea what I was going to speak about. So I went to Swamiji for advice". Swamiji said, "Ah, forget everything. Just go and roar like a tiger!" The swami said, "Okay, I will be a tiger". That was the best lecture he had ever given! He did not think, be did not prepare, he did not plan - "I am going to speak about this and about that". Everything just came up spontaneously.

So, we should never think that the Guru is trying to direct or ruin our lives; that is our chauvinist nature expressing itself. He is simply trying to awaken certain areas of our mind and personality. If we cannot accept this, then we have not fully accepted him. If we had truly accepted him in absolute trust there would be no questioning from our side about any decisions he may make regarding any of our actions, for our life is entirely in the Guru's hand!

What is unconditional love?

Whatever the definition of love, here we are defining the term 'unconditioned', which is best defined in the Bhagavad Gita. Conditioning is something with which we have lived since the time of our birth. We continue to live in one set way of thinking, behaving, acting, feeling, observing, analysing and criticising. It is a conditioning of the personality, an expectation, a desire, a wish that we want to be like this or that. We want to project this, we want to achieve that.

This conditioned state represents the 'I-ness', me, the identity. If there is no identity, there is no condition whatsoever. So the main concept of Gita, whether it talks of Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Depression yoga, Samadhi yoga or Karma Sannyasa yoga is - "Be free from the conditioning of life.- Do not expect anything from anybody and do not expect anything from yourself. Just be what you are." If you can just be what you are, establish yourself in the identity of the spirit, and dissolve this identity of 'I', then automatically every experience and every action becomes unconditional.

In the same scripture of Gita, it is said, in regards to action, "Perform an action, but do not be attached to the fruits of the action. Have no expectation, but try to do everything with utmost perfection, no matter how simple the job may be". In relation to meditation also. Gita says "Give up the desire, give up the aim, Give up the will to meditate." It should not be 'I am meditating'. The concept of 'I' is not there, but simply the awareness of the meditative stage in which we are one, internally and externally with the higher consciousness.

In regards to Bhakti yoga, it is also said that when you feel attracted towards somebody, when you feel attached to somebody, when you wish to love somebody, it has to be a pure thing. The concept of duality has to be given up and the concept of unity achieved.

If you love me and I love you, there is the idea of me and you, but if I see myself in you and if I feel you in me, then whom do I love? Do I love myself? Do I give myself a pat on the back every time I create a very solid psychic rapport with you which enables me to experience you within me and me within you? That is the concept of unconditioned life. You can of course include love in it, you can include action in it. You can include anything and everything in it.

One of the most important trainings for those people who are involved with Yoga sincerity is that, rather than living on a high cloud all the time, in order to understand someone, in order to create a rapport with that person, just put yourselves in his shoes. Become that person for five seconds. Identify totally with that person for five seconds and you will know who the other person is, what his personality is like, how he thinks, how he behaves, how he or she acts. This fusion has to take place spontaneously, instantaneously for five seconds, and then you can understand all different personality types very easily.

Gurus seem to have this type of ability. As soon as a person walks into the room in their presence, this is exactly the type of thing a Guru does. He transfers his consciousness to the other person just for a split second and knows all about him or her. Then they can easily relate to you and you feel, "Ah, this person knows so much about me!" That is an unconditioned lifestyle.

What is the role of faith in the practice of a yogic lifestyle?

In the yogic texts faith has been described as shraddha, bhakti and Ishwar pranidhan. These are the 3 ideas which make up faith.

'Shraddha' means 'humility and simplicity'. Be humble. Be simple. 'Bhakti' is having an understanding of some higher force which is beyond this particular dimension. That higher force controls everything. It is the motivating force behind Nature and existence. 'Ishwar pranidhana' means surrendering yourself to the energy that is within, which is immortal 'Ishwar' means 'immortal'. The reverse of ishwara is 'nashwar', 'not immortal'. So you surrender yourself to the immortal force which does not die.

This is the yogic concept of faith - humility, simplicity, awareness of higher realities, and surrendering oneself to the supreme energy. It is the final culmination of faith, but we experience faith on different levels. If you consider asana and pranayama to be the highest form of yogic lifestyle you do not need this kind of faith. Just stick to asana and pranayama. However, if you are involved in Yoga for something deeper and more fulfilling and enriching, then faith is needed.

At this stage faith brings in the relationship that the student has with the teacher, the disciple with the Guru. Faith in the Guru becomes the first step. No matter what happens, if the link is there, the determination is there. You know the story of Milarepa. His Guru, Marpa was one of the most brilliant saints of Tibet. His behaviour was horrible with Milarepa. He abused him left, right and centre; beat him left, right and centre. He starved him, punished him, hit him, made him work like a slave, but Milarepa had faith in him and it was this faith which eventually transformed him into a saint.

Finally his Guru pushed him off the mountain. Milarepa did not think that he was going to die. He just thought of his Guru, and before he was splattered in the valley thousands of metres below; an invisible hand came and, raising him, put him in front of his Guru. He had become a realised soul. Milarepa did not receive formal meditation, initiation or mantra diksha from Marpa. So faith in Guru is the first tiling in the life of the disciple. Then comes faith in the self. I know my limitations. I know what I can hope to achieve. I know what I can try to achieve. Just trying to bring out the best that is within us is having faith in ourselves. One should not be down and depressed, and the sentence, "No, I can't do it!", does not exist when you have faith in yourself. 'I will try to achieve it.' 'I will do it,' the whole mentality changes here. Whether I succeed or fail is a different story altogether, but the conviction is there, that I can do it. I have faith in myself and faith in God, the energy which directs and governs every activity of creation and nature.

So faith in the three concepts of bhakti, shraddha and Ishwar pranidhan has an important place in the yogic lifestyle and also in the life of every spiritual aspirant.

How important is devotion to Guru for the practices of Kriya yoga and can this devotion protect one from kundalini disturbances?

When we are dealing with yoga practices, specifically Kundalini yoga, it is not the devotion which counts. More important than devotion is a system, a method, a technique which can help us out of a disturbing situation created by kundalini awakening. Awakening of kundalini takes place, first of all in the pranamaya kosha, the sheath of pranic energy. This pranic force can only be channelled through intense mental power and the practices of pratyahara and dharana. So faith here does not really play any role. Faith is an emotional aspect but this is more a pranic aspect.

The awakening of kundalini takes place on five levels of personality. One level is annamaya kosha, the physical body where we experience various kinds of sensations, trembling, heat, lightness, heaviness, sudden heat travelling in one particular region of the spine, or feeling of tremendous cold in any specific part of the body.

The effect of kundalini on the manomaya kosha, the body of mind, is different. Sudden states of euphoria and very sudden depression occur. It is quite possible to experience it. Some people may even say that something has gone wrong in the mind, but this is not the case. It is difficult to decide what mental experiences are taking place, what is related to the process of kundalini awakening, because we undergo various altered states of consciousness every hour of the day. However, the state introduced in the mind at the time of kundalini awakening has much greater intensity, much greater force than the normal mental experiences.

There was a lady here at Ganga Darshan. She had this tremendous experience. She would be Fast asleep and her whole body would start to jump. At the time of sleep her body used to go into spasm. She was oversensitive and felt very much more than a normal person would, and it affected her mentally and emotionally. Suddenly at night she would just cry out in her sleep, 'I am dying; save me!'. With proper guidance she was able to overcome that stage and just remain an objective witness to things that happen, but intense fear of the unknown unsettled her very much.

So when the awakening of kundalini takes place, even at the lower level of mooladhara or swadhisthana, the mind-stuff which is within us, is bound to manifest consciously, and here faith is not going to work. More than faith, a technique which is going to help you to get out of this stage will be necessary.

At the stage of anandamaya kosha where there comes the experience of sublimation, and oneness, the guidance of Guru becomes necessary, and it is here that faith in Guru comes in. No matter what happens, if the Guru says do something, you should do it. In order to break the patterns of mind which you are experiencing at that moment, there should be strength of will to do it. So faith in Guru is probably the most important thing here, but you should have a system, a series of techniques which can help you out of a condition.

Swami Muktananda, sometimes beat his disciples, even in public. He was quite severe with his students. Do you think this is necessary?

There can be many answers to this question. One answer is that the Guru is the best judge of the abilities and capacities of a disciple. In the process of training, if he feels that beating is necessary, then it is his choice. Of course, beating is not really encouraged in society today, and you are probably more aware of it in a western society than we are in an eastern society. However, this is a form of training or sadhana which some Gurus utilise to create a type of understanding and awareness in a disciple, I am sure that Swami Muktananda had no other motive.

There is a story. Once there was a gathering of saints in India sometime in the eighteenth century and there was one saint who was known as Ramdas, one of the great poet-saints of India. He used to communicate with Krishna every day, at any time. He could just see him face-to-face, talk to him, play and joke with him, and communicate with him on every level. During this meeting the saints who had gathered there decided to see who was the moat balanced. So they decided to call an outsider with a stick and said, 'Hit everyone!' The outsider started to hit all the people present. Of course some felt pain but remained quiet.

When Ramdas was being hit, he became furious, snatched the stick away, and hit the outsider back. As soon as he hit the outsider there was a wireless message from God, 'You may communicate with me; you may have a relationship with me, but you are still raw, because you have allowed the ego to manifest.' As soon as this wireless message came, the poet-saint Ramdas started to cry and cry and cry. He realised his mistake.

So even saints undergo such kinds of trials. I am sure that if people can accept the beating from a saint as a blessing in disguise, then that particular event can totally transform their lives, because it is a relationship, a form of communication between the Guru and the disciple.

Could you outline various methods of contacting the Guru when the aspirant lives many miles away, or may he has never had personal contact with him?

You can utilise the services of the postal and telephone departments, telecommunications, and if your inner antenna is powerful, then you can utilise the service of your intuitive power and nature.

Traditionally it is said that communication with the Guru takes place on many levels. One is verbal, direct communication. Another form is the written form - follow the teachings as per the book. Follow the guidelines, ideas, systems, and practices which are mentioned in the Guru's books. However, eventually direct guidance is required, because books can only take you so far, since books are general. They are not made for the individual personality.

Another form of communication is if you have the feeling of oneness; then the Guru can give instructions in meditation. In dreams also instructions are received, but then we all start to wander whether it was our own fantasy or whether we really received the guidance. So that is a very unsure way, for even if it is true we will consider it false, a play of the mind. And in many cases, even if it is false we will take it as being true and do the wrong thing. This is probably what many people do. They receive guidance in dreams and always end up doing the wrong thing. In dhyana, meditation, it is possible to receive guidance, but in the present-day era it is better to write letters.

Swamiji Says that a "bad" Guru deepens the consciousness of the disciple. Can you please clarify this concept?

On the one hand you are saying 'Guru', and on the other you are saying 'bad'. It seems like a conflict between mind and spirit; mind representing 'good' and 'bad', and spirit representing Guru, the force which leads us to enlightenment. How can a force which leads us towards enlightenment or perfection be termed by the mind as 'bad' or 'good'?

Swamiji might have used the term 'bad Guru' in a specific context, in order for us to understand some spiritual point. He also says, that if a disciple is sincere, then no Guru, no matter how 'bad' or 'good' he may be, can manipulate him. The Guru can seem bad from the understanding or viewpoint of the disciple, but if the disciple is truthful and sincere, then the Guru can never be bad.

Guru is Guru. The mere fact that we have accepted somebody as our Guru represents our commitment towards him or her, and our conviction that they can help us evolve and reach the point of realisation. The commitment to Guru and our conviction is on the level of spirit. If I say, 'I am convinced', but then, when I see certain external things happening, I say, 'Oh, he is really bad after all!', is that my spirit or my mind talking? If it is my mind talking, then it is because of certain concepts and ideas that I have developed, that a Guru has to be like this or like that.

I will tell you one real example. Once I had a student in the United Slates, who was a very nice elderly lady. She had gone to many, many places and finally she had come to our ashram and was really enjoying it; having lots of good experiences. She used to ask other swamis and other people, 'Can I make him my Guru?'. They said, 'Well, that is up to you. How can we say?'.

One day, some people invited me to go to 'Big Mac's', you know, 'McDonald's'. So, off we all went in three cars, the whole class, and there we started having our food. This lady also came, but from that day onwards, she never returned to the ashram. I did not know why, so I asked the others, 'Why have I not seen her in the classes for the past two or three weeks? Is she sick?', They said, 'She cannot accept you as her Guru'.

I was totally taken aback. I said, 'What do you mean? I never said to her that I was her Guru, or anything like that!'. Then I realised the whole story. She had been asking other people whether I could be her Guru, and before I could say anything to her or she to me, I went to 'Big Mac's'; and that immediately changed all her ideas.

'How can a Guru go to a restaurant?', was what she had thought! 'Well', I replied, 'If that is what she thinks, then she is in for a lot of surprises!' So, where was the fault in this way of thinking? In the spirit or in the mind? If your Guru is represented by your mind, then you can do any action to eradicate that 'badness', to remove it from the Guru. You can fight with him, hit him, divorce him, but if the feeling is of the spirit, then Guru is an enlightened being, no matter how he behaves externally.