Search the Archives







Browse the Archives

March 1992

High On Waves

Satsang With Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati



Satsang With Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Ganga Darshan and Australian ashrams 1989

What is the meaning of Shanti Path, and why is it repeated at the end of class?

Shanti Path has two meanings. One is as a mantra for peace and prosperity, which is traditionally said at the end of every yogic or spiritual session to infuse the body and mind with positive feelings and vibrations. This is the main purpose of the Shanti Path. It also helps to remind the psychic personality, the personality which is influenced by vibrations, of a spiritual aim.

The yogis have always envisioned the human being as a spiritual being too. This is not just a concept; they say the spiritual being is experienced in the form of a body, and the mental being is experienced in the form of a body, in the same way as the physical being is experienced and perceived as the body. Whether you are Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Australian, no matter who you may be, the body is the same. Two arms, two legs, one head, two eyes; it is like a stamp of God which has been put all over the place. The height might be different, the colour might be different, there may be certain variations here and there, such as a bit more on the waist side, a bit more on the shoulder side.

In the same way the mind is also seen as having a body, and the eccentricities of the mind, the fatness or thinness, the tallness or the short stature of the mind is the individual personality. But mind also definitely has a shape unperceivable to us at present. In the same way, the atma, the spiritual body, also has a shape unknown to us at present. Just as we deal with intellect in the gross plane, the manifest plane, the spiritual body or atma interacts in terms of vibration, in the form of vibration. It understands vibration. In order to communicate externally, we use Hindi or English or any other language, but internally, in order to communicate, there is the language of vibrations, which is universal. Many people have felt it, too. In day-to-day life we may get a nice feeling from somebody, or a horrible feeling from another person, without speaking, just through the interaction of vibrations.

Mantras tend to influence and awaken the psychic vibratory field. Whether you understand them rationally, logically, or not is irrelevant. By chanting and repeating a mantra, some form of internal change is brought about which may not be experienced on the outer level immediately.

Each mantra awakens a particular centre. Apart from the chakras there are many psychic centres around the chakras which we understand in the form of chakra patterns. Each mantra can and does stimulate one of the minor centres and a combination of various sounds can influence, alter and induce a change in the total performance of the chakras.

So when we do the shanti mantras at the end of any yogic or spiritual session, a few things happen. After a session of yoga, after some discussion, satsang or kirtan, there is some change in the atmosphere around the body, within the body, around the mind, in the structure of the emotions and in the structure of spirit. At that moment, when we create a vibration it affects the spiritual body directly. One example can be given to roughly explain this state. If you are totally involved in some kind of activity and another person comes and asks you something totally different, you have to think for a few seconds. You have to divert the attention, divert the mind from one topic and start thinking of the next. For a few seconds you have to break the previous mould and start thinking along the other line. So when we do our meditation or asanas or pranayama or kriyas or satsang, kirtan, the mind is distracted from its natural pattern of behaviour and is attentive towards another pattern of behaviour and action. At that moment the mantra comes in, creates certain ripples, and then it dies down. Another session of yoga, again that same state, the mantra comes in, creates another sensation, and again it dies down. It's like sweeping a very dirty carpet. At first you don't get much dirt but as you keep on going over the same place again and again, even the most subtle dust right at the bottom is pulled up. So the Shanti Path is just a method of hitting the vibratory aspect of our personality again and again, over and over again. Eventually the vibrations or the sounds awaken those psychic centres which correspond with that vibration.

Of course, the translation of the mantra itself is quite nice if people can follow it and understand it: Lead me from unreal to real-Lead me from darkness to light. Lead me from death to immortality. May there be happiness, peace, well-being and contentment everywhere. You don't only say it externally, but you also feel it internally, and that is the purpose of Shanti Path.

What is the meaning of karma sannyas?

Before we can understand karma sannyas, it is necessary that we understand sannyas; then we will come back to karma. In sannyas, we find two concepts. One concept is viveka, understanding or discrimination; and the other concept is vairagya, non-attachment (not detachment). These are the two principle ideas behind the tradition of sannyas.

Of course, traditionally sannyas has been looked on as something which is meant only for those people who are psychically or spiritually inclined, who have hardly any obligations to the world. They can dedicate themselves fully to spiritual sadhana for personal growth, and at the same time to seva, service; to swadhyaya, self-study; with full samarpan, surrender. You see, every idea related to sannyas begins with 's' in English and in Sanskrit also; study, selfless action and surrender, but the main concepts are viveka and vairagya, understanding and non-attachment.

In the tradition of Yoga, understanding is classified into many different groups, such as pratyaksha direct evidence, and anuman, inference. There are many forms of understanding; we can think, we can imagine, we can see. We can try to understand one thing from many different angles and from many different levels, but to know which understanding and which action corresponds to this present situation and which is not harmful or detrimental to anybody's peace or health, this is viveka.

This is one of the toughest sadhanas that a Sannyasi can have because it requires total observation of one's personal limitations and hang ups and it also requires total understanding of the immediate situation one is experiencing right now. It also requires a total understanding of the people who are involved in this present situation and who are having a relationship with you as an individual. It is finding a middle path and not going to the extremes of destruction or of creation, where you build up high hopes and suddenly they are dashed to the ground; where you become so insecure that everything becomes dark and you can't seem to rise above this darkness. Just finding this middle path is viveka.

Then comes vairagya, to have all things but not to be attached to them. There is detachment, and there is non-attachment. Detachment is an advanced version of non-attachment. You can have everything and simply feel yourself as not having it. You can have everything and not consider it as something which is yours. There is no emotional link, no idea of mine-ness. To think that this is mine and nobody else can have it, this is attachment. When the idea of mine-ness, belonging or longing towards an object is not there, although you have it, whatever it may be, then this is vairagya.

Detachment is total cut-off. No, it is not for me! In detachment we are creating a rift between our desires and the other aspect, the objectivity, of the mind. But in non-attachment there is no rift. There is a desire, but at the same time there is an objective awareness of the desire. This applies to every life situation and it should apply in the life of a swami, and in the life of a karma Sannyasi. These two principles should apply in every situation and condition of life.

Then karma comes in; no-one in the world is free from karma, whether as a renunciate or as a social person. If you become a total renunciate what do you renounce? We may renounce external security, we may renounce food and just have simple greens and raw meals. To call ourselves renunciate is incorrect. We may renounce our car, our home, our family, but that is also incorrect.

Renunciation does not take place at all. Have we renounced our body, have we renounced the needs of our body? No! We still eat when we are hungry, we drink when we are thirsty, we go to the dunny when we have to go. So where is this renunciation ? We have not renounced the mind. We do what we want to do, we look for something pleasant in life, we are following the mind. So what have we renounced? The craving? No. The craving is still there but in a different form. Nobody in this world is free of karma. Even if God comes to this planet He will be confined to the karmas of life, the karmas of the body, the karmas of the mind, the karmas of the spirit.

However, it is possible to find a balance in the karmas so that they do not shake us when they become intense, when they become powerful, when they become a very overpowering force. Therefore, in the book "Karma Sannyasa", Swamiji has very clearly spelled out that there is no need to renounce anything, there is no need to leave anything. You still remain what you are externally but there is a slight change. You gain an internal identity.

Just as the external body is known as John or Smith or Webster, in the same way the internal body is identified by a name which is Swami such-and-such Saraswati. Just as we fulfil the karmas of the external body by following a system, a routine, a discipline in external life, so we try to fulfil the karmas of the internal body by following a particular sadhana. We fulfil the karmas of the external body and the environment around the external life by creating certain desires, and the motivation and drive to achieve them. If I want to go from this place to that place every day I need some kind of transport, so a desire comes to have a car. Then I start saving to buy a car. Of course problems do come in between. It may take a long time to earn the money, while some people just get it. But there is a desire, there is a motivation, there is action, and we get it. In the same way, for the internal well-being there is a drive, a motivation, and an action. And this action, this drive or motivation for the internal life is the concept of viveka and vairagya, right understanding and non-attachment.

The ideas of 'Swami' and 'Saraswati' are truly fantastic ideas. Nowhere in the world can you get a diploma before doing a thesis, except in sannyas. Here you get the diploma first, a Ph.D. certificate, and you have to do the thesis afterwards. Swami means 'master of the self'. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the people do not achieve this; they are usually satisfied with the diploma. But 0.1% do try. You know, this is the ratio; 0.1% do try through resolution to become master of the self.

Saraswati is also one of the highest traditions, because Saraswati is the goddess of learning and wisdom. It is like a family tree, but those people who become narrow-minded are not fit to call themselves a part of the Saraswati order, because the main idea behind the Saraswati order is broad vision, a broad outlook, to know everything, learn everything and accept everything. But the mind is one, the spirit is one, the goal is one and the direction is one.

This is the concept of Karma sannyas in brief, and you may like to read the book "Karma Sannyasa" by Swamiji for more clarification.

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

It depends - what is the definition of faith? Is faith only in God; is faith only in something we do here that links us with something up there? Or is faith having faith in ourselves? Which of these is correct?

In the yogic texts, faith has been described as shraddha, bhakti and Ishwar pranidhana. These are the three ideas which make up faith. Shraddha means two things, humility and simplicity. Bhakti means to have an understanding of some higher force which is beyond this particular dimension and which controls everything, a motivating force behind Nature and existence. That is bhakti. 'Ishwar pranidhana' means to surrender yourself to the energy that is within and 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 concept of faith in Yoga; humbleness, simplicity, awareness of higher realities and surrendering oneself to the supreme energy.

This is the apparent definition of faith, but in our yogic lifestyle we experience faith on many different levels. If you are involved, but you consider a yogic lifestyle lo be only asana and pranayama, then you do not need this kind of faith. You just do your asana, just do your pranayama, and then get out. However if you are involved in Yoga for something deeper, more fulfilling and more satisfying, then faith is needed. This faith begins in the relationship that the student has with the teacher, and the disciple has with the guru. Faith in guru becomes the first step, for no matter what happens, if the link is there then the determination is there also.

You know the story of Milarepa; his guru Marpa was a horrible person. He was one of the most brilliant saints of Tibet in those days but his personal behaviour with Milarepa was horrible. He abused him right, left and centre; beat him right, left and centre. Every type of atrocity one can think of, he did to Milarepa. He starved him, punished him, beat him and made him work like a slave, but Milarepa had faith in him, and it was this faith that transformed Milarepa into a saint. When his guru pushed him down from 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 under him, an invisible hand came and raised him and put him in front of the guru. Then the guru said, "This is it, you are now realised". This is the sadhana, this is the training that Milarepa received. Milarepa did not receive formal meditation initiation or mantra diksha or this or that, no!

So faith in guru comes first in the life of a disciple. Then comes faith in the self, in me. I know my limitations, I know what I can try to achieve. Just trying to bring out the best that is within us, is having faith in ourselves. It is not feeling down and depressed and saying, "No I can't do it." The sentence 'I cannot do it' does not exist when you have faith in yourself. The whole mentality, the way of thinking, the way of action changes to 'I will try to achieve it, I will do it!' Whether you succeed or fail is a different story altogether, but the conviction is there that 'I can do it'. 'I have faith in myself.'

Thirdly there is faith in God, the energy which directs and governs every activity of creation and of Nature. So faith, as exemplified in the three concepts of bhakti, shraddha and ishwara pranidhana, have an important place in the yogic lifestyle, and also In the life of any spiritual aspirant.

Is it necessary to wear geru clothing while staying in the ashram?

No, it is not necessary; it is up to you. Of course, when you put on a uniform there automatically comes a sense of discipline and responsibility. You may be a police officer, but in ordinary clothes you do not behave like one. Then, when you put on the uniform your whole attitude suddenly changes. The idea comes that 'I am representing Law'. In the same way, you might be a swami regardless of whether you wear the clothes or not. But in an ashram there are 50 or 100 people, all wearing geru. So by wearing it also, you absorb their vitality, their determination and their sense of discipline, because you become a part of them. There is a fusion of external personality, an identification which takes place whenever you put on any kind of uniform. But of course it is not a must; you are free to choose.

In the practices of kriya yoga, can devotion protect one from kundalini disturbances?

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

The awakening of kundalini takes place on all five levels of the personality. In the annamaya kosha, the physical body, we experience various kinds of sensations such as trembling, heat, lightness, heaviness, sudden heat travelling within the spine, or feelings of tremendous cold in particular parts of the body. This is the manifestation of kundalini on annamaya kosha.

The effect of Kundalini on the manomaya kosha, the body of mind, is different. There may by sudden states of euphoria and very sudden depressions. Some people may even say that something has gone wrong 'up there' but this is not the case. It is very difficult to decide what mental experiences are taking place, and how they are related to kundalini awakening, because we undergo various states of altered consciousness every moment of the day, 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 normal experiences have.

We had a lady staying in the ashram. She had these tremendous experiences. She would be fast asleep and suddenly her whole body would jump. During sleep, her body would go into natural, spontaneous spasm. She was also acutely sensitive, and felt very much more than a normal person would, and it affected her mentally and emotionally. Suddenly at night, she would cry out in her sleep, ''I am dying; save me!" and things like that, but after proper guidance, she is now able to overcome that state and just remain an objective witness to the things that are happening to her. However, she did experience this intense fear of the unknown, which unsettled her very much.

When the awakening of kundalini takes place, you are 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 help. A technique which can help you get out of this stage will be much more effective. Pranamaya kosha is totally changed. There is total change in the structure of energy and the chakras in the body.

Vijyanamaya kosha is the process of understanding; it is the body of intellect. This also undergoes a tremendous change, and we begin to perceive the world differently, in a different colour.

Anandamaya kosha is the experience of sublimation, unity and oneness. When kundalini awakening takes place in anandamaya kosha, you need the guidance of the guru, and it is here that faith comes in. No matter what happens at this stage, if the teacher says to do something, you should do it, in order to break the pattern of the mind which you are experiencing at that moment. Then there should be strength, and there should be the will to do it. So faith in guru is probably the most important thing here - and a system, a series of techniques which can help you out of the condition.

When the mind is restless what yoga practices are recommended?

For immediate relief from the restless mind, the practices of pranayama are very beneficial and they are advised. It is not necessary, if your mind becomes disturbed at the market, to sit down right there and start closing your nose. Practise psychic pranayama, mental imagination, observing the breath, awareness of the breath flowing in through one nostril and out through the other. You do not even have to close your eyes. For the practice of brahmari pranayama, you don't have to plug the ears, but you just start humming as if you are humming a tune - mmmmmmm. This will help very much to instantaneously break the state of restlessness and anxiety. And if the condition persists, then of course back home you can do other practices of yoga-nidra, antar mouna and mantra meditation to untie yourself. All the practices of dharana and pratyahara will assist you in this process.

When teaching yoga, how important is it to know the Sanskrit names of the postures?

When you practise for yourself, it is not necessary to remember the Sanskrit names, but it is good to have an understanding of them. Take, for example, the cobra posture. In Sanskrit this is bhujangasana and we translate it as 'cobra'. But the Sanskrit name is a combination of the mantras bhu, jan, gata and each syllable, each word affects our chakras in its own way.

In the past, the Sanskrit names did play a very important role in the ancient system of Yoga. The yogis were able to perceive the problem in the patient and relate that problem to a particular chakra. For example, indigestion relates to manipura chakra; that is what our common sense says right now. The yogi would have felt that a particular chakra was being affected by an illness, a disease, a condition of body or mind. Then, by prescribing bhujangasana the yogi would have instantaneously given the idea to the patient, and to the teachers also, that this particular posture dealt with the awakening and rebalancing of certain minor and major psychic centres. So Sanskrit names did play an important role in ancient therapy.

Of course, with the advent of science, we have been able to refine the system of observation and treatment of illness, but the Sanskrit names have been retained, and we try to maintain them as much as possible. So it is good to have an understanding of the names and what they mean.

I am not talking about translating chakra as 'the wheel' or dhanur as 'the bow', no; not translation like this, but I am talking in relation to the chakras. This process is very simple. All you need is a dictionary of the chakras which shows which mantras belong to which chakras. In any book about kundalini you can find the bija mantras around the petals of the chakras. So you just say 'bhu' Jan 'ga'; 'bhu' is anahata, Jan is manipura, 'ga' is vishuddhi. Then you know naturally and spontaneously that this particular posture affects these particular chakras. Therefore we use Sanskrit names even though it is a dead language.

There was a student here, an Indian living in Europe. He had come to the ashram and we asked him "What do you do in Europe?" He said, "I am learning Latin." I said. "Oh yes, what for?" What other languages do you know? Do you know French, German, Italian, Spanish, English?" He said, 'No, no, no, no. I am just learning Latin." I said, ''Yes, but Latin is a dead language nobody speaks it any more". He said, "Oh, I am learning to be an undertaker. I am learning Latin so that I can communicate with the dead!"

Why do people get colds when they come to the ashram, and others get sick? How can we overcome this?

Don't try to overcome this. This type of physical purification is quite natural in an ashram, apart from the climate, the food and the water. Many Indians too who live in Munger, find their noses running or something running in their body when they come to Ganga Darshan. Somebody asked this question to Swamiji and he said the same thing, that we live in a society where there is always some kind of tension. The tension may be very subtle, but it is there, and when we find ourselves in a different environment than we are used to, then somehow, something happens in the personality. The process of purification begins, even if it is momentary. It may happen just for ten minutes, for one day, three days, or ten days. It is all right. One should go through that process because it is not physical sickness. It is the adjustment of the mind from one environment to another environment. This adjustment creates a reaction in the body and of course we know what kind of reaction we might have in the mind. So it is good, and we encourage it.

In Swami Muktananda's book, "Play of Consciousness", he talks about a 'blue pearl'. How does the blue pearl relate to Tantra and Yoga as you or Swamiji understand it?

There are three states of consciousness. We are not talking now of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. These three states of consciousness in Yoga are known as the sthula sharira, sukskma sharira and karana sharira, which translated into English mean 'the gross body', 'the subtle body', and 'the causal body'. The idea of consciousness is represented in Tantra in the form of the shivalinga. There are three types of shivalingam one is black; one is smoky or hazy; the third is luminous or transparent.

The first two chakras, mooladhara and swadhisthana, are represented in the form of the black shivalingam. Three chakras- manipura, anahata and vishuddhi are represented by a hazy linga known as the dhumra linga. The two major chakras up top, ajna and sahasrara, are represented by the jyotir linga.

The black linga represents the dense form of energy- matter, earth and water, the final states of creation, the aspects of Brahma, the Creator. The hazy linga, dhumra linga, represents the subtle elements of fire, air, ether. The concepts of preserving, maintaining and continuing are represented here- the aspect of Vishnu the Maintainer. If you are familiar with the concept of the Hindu trinity, then this will be easy for you to understand.

The experiences of ajna and sahasrara, the last two chakras, belong to the dimension of the spirit or atma- the subtle mind and the supreme consciousness. They are always represented by the quality of Shiva, the quality which is pure experienced knowledge.

So these are the three main states of consciousness according to the philosophies of Tantra and Samkhya. Samkhya talks of the awakening of the different areas of consciousness and it talks of the qualities of consciousness in relation to the chakras. Tantra also talks about the same thing. In terms of the process of the awakening of consciousness, or the purification of consciousness, whatever term we may want to use, the yogis have always viewed consciousness in the form of a linear experience, like a stick. Consciousness, awareness, is at one end of the stick, and unconsciousness at the other end. On one end we have the full faculty of the senses, on the other end we have the total cessation of the external senses. As we move from one end of the stick to the other the effect of the sensory perception and the sensory experiences becomes less and less until there is no external awareness at all, but when we reach the state of the so-called unconscious, other senses are experienced.

The best way to explain this process is by saying that on earth we walk upright, but if we leave the ground and jump into the water, do we walk on the water? No! In order to survive in this other element, we use the same body, but the movements become different. We start moving the hands also; we start kicking the feet and the legs, and we begin to swim. The body is the same but the activity has changed. Just as this physical activity changes when we shift from one element to another, so the experiences of the senses also undergo a change when we shift from consciousness to unconsciousness. But of course, since unconsciousness also represents total dissolution of the intellect, we have no rational memory of what is taking place at this end.

Tantra says that as we go deeper into ourselves, we become aware of the three states of consciousness symbolised by the linga. Finally, when we become aware of the jyotira linga, it may be experienced in the form of a luminous body, a transparent body, an invisible body, or a colourless body.

Now these people who have a particular trend of mental and psychic activity will experience this jyotira linga differently. Swami Muktananda experienced it in the form of a blue pearl, but the experience was of the jyotir linga. Other yogis may experience it differently, in the form of just pure light. Swami Muktananda is the only person who has so far experienced it in the form of a blue pearl. All the traditional texts say there is nothing but the experience of light, colourless light Samkhya says it; Yoga says it; Tantra says it; even Vedanta says the same thing. So it depends on the trend of our consciousness, the flow, the motivation, the force behind the consciousness, which can either make us experience this same jyotir linga in one form or another, but the experience of light is the most common experience. Another experience is of nothingness, whiteness, shoonyata. Buddha experienced this whiteness or shoonyata, and he gave it the name nirvana - where there is nothing. There is no attachment and there is no detachment; there is no happiness and there is no joy. So nirvana, or the experience of jyotir, or the experience of a 'blue pearl', or the experience of samadhi, in fact represent the same state of consciousness in which we experience our spirit.

What is unconditional love?

Whatever the definition of love, here we are defining 'unconditioned, and this term is best defined in the "Bhagavad Gita''. Conditioning is something with which we have lived since the time of our birth, and we will ' continue to live with one set way of thinking, behaving, acting, feeling, observing, analysing and criticising. It is a condition of the personality - the expectation, desire, or wish to be like this, or to be like that. We want to project this, we want to achieve that, and this conditioned state represents the 'I-ness' - me, the identity. If there is no identity, there is no condition whatsoever.

So this is the concept of the Gita. Whether it talks of Karma yoga, or Bhakti yoga; whether it talks of Depression yoga, Samadhi yoga or Karma Sannyasa yoga, whatever it may discuss, the ultimate thrust of the Gita is, 'Be free from the conditioning of life.' Don't have any expectations of what you are, and if you can just be what you are, and if you can establish yourself in the identity of the spirit and dissolve this identity of 'I', then automatically every experience and every action becomes unconditional.

Therefore, in the same scripture of the Gita it is said in regard 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, in the Gita it is said, 'Give up the desire, give up the aim, give up the will to meditate.' It should not be 'I' am meditating. This concept is not there. There is simply awareness of the meditative stage in which we are internally and externally with the higher consciousness.

With regard to bhakti, it is also said that when you feel attracted towards somebody, when you feel attached to somebody, when you wish to love somebody, that has to be a pure thing. It is the concept of duality which has to be given up and the concept of unity that has to be achieved. If 'you' love 'me' or 'I' love 'you', there is this idea of 'me' and 'you', but