In Kali Yuga it is said that just chanting the name is enough. Is it then not necessary to do yoga?

Many saints over the last five hundred years or so have been saying, “Only the name of Hari must be chanted. In Kali Yuga there is no other way of by passing the mischief and cruelties of the mind and vasana.” They have no doubt about it. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Mirabai have always been speaking about it. But there is one point to notice – we have very little time. We are busy from early morning until sometimes late at night and we cannot sing kirtan. Of course, in India it is easy but in Frankfurt or Geneva, if you sing kirtan the man next door will just inform the police and city corporation. Then they will come and say, “Hey, stop all this commotion, this nonsense!” In fact, in America, when the Hare Krishna boys were singing in their community, case after case was filed against them in the Federal Courts. Of course, finally they won the cases because the judges seemed to have a little better common sense then the common public. They got the cases back and everything was all right with them. When they were doing Rathyatra and Prabhatpheri, procession of the chariot and early morning walks, on the roads of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, there were serious objections by a certain cross­ section of people. They wanted laws against this as being a public nuisance. The cases were finally turned down by the central court which said, ’The nuisance is when you break their beautiful idols on the road, but beautiful boys and girls in flowing dress singing a name that does not have any acid connotation, which is full of purity, is that nuisance?’

However, we do very little kirtan, one hour once a week or once a month. If there were chances for kirtan, that would be all right, but there are none. So we have to have some sort of practice by which we can also evolve. That is one point. It is not only the point of self-realization or Bhagavan darshan. There are many other problems with which we are confronted in our day-to-day life, such as problems of health and psychological problems. For these it is important and necessary that yoga should be practised even if you have an inclination to do kirtan.

Can I smoke?

Lord Shiva also smokes, but he smokes ganja. The most important thing you have to remember is that the different addictions, like smoking, alcohol and other vices belong to the rajasic state, rajoguna, and cause a sort of attachment to the body and senses.

Once a devotee approached Paramahamsa Ramakrishna wanting to know why a paramahamsa smoked a hookah, because Ramakrishna was a yogi of the highest order. He was a great bhakta, so much so that if money was kept under his bed he would get a burn on his skin. He was that sensitive! Once devotees put a few coins under his bed and when he got up he had burns on his body. When Totapuri and Paramahamsa discussed with each other about the superiority of bhakti or Vedanta, that is of saguna or nirguna, and Totapuri was talking about Brahma, the adwaita avastha or non-dual state, nothing happened to Ramakrishna; but when he started talking about Kali he fell into a trance immediately. That was the superior state at which he had arrived. He was always insisting on saguna swaroopa, the form of the Lord.

Totapuri asked him why he smoked a hookah. Ramakrishna replied, “In order to live one needs the link of vasana. To fly a kite, you must have a thread and if the thread is cut the kite goes off, you lose it. However, as long as there is vasana, desire to live, and attachment to your latent samskara of past or present, then you exist. If there is no vasana you will not exist, you will get jivatma; you will fly away from the body. Existence depends upon our vasana with the objects. We have attachments for many things, lokeshana, vasana for name, fame and power, vitteshana, desire for prosperity, wealth, putreshana, desire for progeny, stri and purusha vasana. These are all vasana, desires. Vasana causes us to cling to this existence, but once they are removed one by one you cannot exist.”

Nature has made certain conditions and that is important for all of you. The vasanas must be maintained in tamasic and rajasic states. In tamasic and rajasic states, if you practise to deplete your vasana, it will hamper your spiritual evolution. For the evolution of the soul from the tamasic and rajasic states to the higher sattwic state, the presence of vasana is necessary. In somebody it may be alcohol, in others it could be desire for wealth, name and fame; in others, a different vasana and in you, it is smoking. So you should not think about whether you should smoke or not smoke.

If you are smoking, go ahead with it and if you don’t want to smoke please don’t do it. If you are not smoking and you want to smoke, do it. Or if you are smoking and you don’t want to smoke, then whatever you spend on smoking give to me! But one thing is important: don’t keep on thinking, ‘Should I smoke or should I not smoke?’ That creates a psychological problem which will affect your personality, because it is a feeling of making a mistake. You think whether you should do this or not only when you are not sure about it. If you were sure it was not a mistake, why would you think about it? You have a doubt whether it is good or bad, so you think ‘may I or may I not?’ If you are sure it is good, you will not ask a question. I know many people who drink and they think, ‘Should I or should not?’ If a cup of amrit, nectar, was given to you, would you say, ‘‘Should I or should I not?’’ However, if a cup of poison was given to you then you will think, ’Should I or should I not’, because you are not sure about it.

When you are sure about the purity of the chemical reaction you don’t have two thoughts about it. When you have two thoughts about some action, it means you are not sure about its purity. The simplest opinion that can be given is, when the body is pure (now I am coming to the hatha yoga point) without toxins, without vikara, distortions, and no constipation, assimilation is going on and the mind is able to dispose of tensions, then you do not need these things to help you. Many people are in the habit of drinking and smoking and if that can be replaced by doing japa with a mala then it is a very good addiction and a very good habit.

How should we end our meditation?

When you are meditating on a form, symbol or devata, after your meditation is over, you should keep on sitting for some time, chant a few slokas, prayers, vakya, statements from the Upanishads for instance, the Shanti Path. Then you should open your eyes and come out of meditation. Immediately after you come out you should not take to any activity or tense job for about one hour or so, but it also depends on the quality of meditation you have.

I want to tell you about a reference in swara yoga. When ida is functioning you should do mental work, when pingala is functioning you should do physical work and when sushumna is functioning you should do only spiritual work.

In swara yoga there is a lot of caution about sushumna in particular. Sushumna is the divine nadi. When it awakens you can meditate very easily but the awakening of sushumna also has another tendency. It is said in swara yoga that either one attains samadhi or is liable to think of crimes. So when sushumna awakens for a long time, it is better to withdraw from work for some time.

In arohan I go from mooladhara to ajna chakra up the front passage and in awarohan down the spine. Should it not be up through the spinal column to raise up the kundalini?

We talk about the six chakras – mooladhara, swadhisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddhi and ajna. They are located within the frame of your spine and you cannot handle them directly. There are contact centres which are in the front of the body. Except for mooladhara, bindu and sahasrara, every chakra has a contact centre through which you can connect with it. Swadhisthana has one in the lower abdominal viscera, manipura in the navel, anahata in the sternum, vishuddhi in the throat and ajna in the eyebrow centre. In order to handle the chakra on the back of the body in the spine, it is necessary to have contact with the centres in the front. When you can awaken or touch them then you can handle the chakra easily through your consciousness. Therefore, in kriya yoga arohan is done in the frontal passage through the contact centres and awarohan is done through the spine and it is perfectly all right.

So far as awakening is concerned, it only takes place if you are able to touch the particular chakra with your concentrated mind. Whether you touch mooladhara first or swadhisthana, manipura or anahata is not important. As each chakra is awakened, the awakening of kundalini begins. Another important factor you have to remember is that it is not always necessarily true that kundalini is in mooladhara itself. In your previous lives you may have practised yoga and you may be a yogabrashta, one who did not complete his yoga practices in the past life, and you may have awakened your consciousness already. Kundalini might already have left mooladhara, it might be somewhere in manipura or at anahata but as you forget everything in the next life, you might even have forgotten that. Or your parents might be yogis, and since you took birth from your mother who herself was a yogi, your kundalini might already be awakened. It might have already left mooladhara and may be further up.

Through the practices of sadhana like hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, satsang, meditation, there comes a time when we are able to locate the present status of kundalini and then arohan hits accurately. We do teach: mooladhara, swadisthana, manipura . . . because you have to practise something, but once you have come to the point of realization and have already revised the present location of kundalini in your life, then you can go ahead from that particular chakra. It may be manipura, ajna, vishuddhi, anahata or any point.

Can one realize by practising pranayama alone?

Pranayama is a means and not an end. It is a step, not a final destination. Although I talk a lot about its glory, please remember that you are not going to realize through pranayama alone. After pranayama there is pratyahara, then dharana, then dhyana and finally samadhi. When you practise pranayama I suggest you start by doing fifteen minutes at any time, no restriction. Just sit down quietly fixing your gaze at nasikagra and witness the flow of your breath. Do not breathe yourself; let the natural flow take place.

It happens the whole day and night. Right from the time of birth, you are always breathing and you don’t know it. You should try to see that sahaja, spontaneous, prana. Just see, watch, nothing more. When the breath goes in and out, just see how it goes. Sometimes it is very shallow; sometimes it is deep; sometimes it is all right, sometimes it is equal in and out; sometimes inhalation is longer and sometimes exhalation is longer. It does not matter. It need not be the same. That is the first step.

Then after a week or ten days or a month, when you have been able to follow the breath very carefully, try to discover the sound of the breath. What is this sound? Rishis say that when you are breathing out it is Ham and when you are breathing in it is So. So, it is So Ham. You can have any circuit: in So; out, Ham; So Ham, So Ham, or out, Ham; in So Ham, out Ham So. There is no difference, only the circuit of awareness is changed; either you start with So Ham or Ham So. Whether you start by practising So Ham or Ham So, it will always change. This process is called ultanaam, reverse name.

There is a story about Valmiki when he was a rogue. The saptarishis cheated him by giving him ultanaam. Some people say it was ‘mara, mara, mara’ (kill) which, when said quickly, becomes Rama, Rama, Rama. It could have been, I don’t know. I think it was So Ham because you go on hearing So Ham So Ham, then after ten minutes it becomes Ham So, Ham So. Then you start Ham So Ham So and after five or ten minutes suddenly the whole thing changes and you begin to hear So Ham, So Ham, So Ham.

Ultanaam means to reverse the process of awareness and when you have perfected that you will have an experience of light in the spine as if there is some sort of effulgence there. You can also have the experience of shabda, nada, sound, practically everywhere in the body, only for a short time, not the whole day otherwise you couldn’t work in the office. For a short time during your sadhana, you can feel that somebody is blowing a conch in the body.

After this practice take to nadi shodhana. Nadi shodhana pranayama is where you first inhale through the left nostril, stop the breath for a while, exhale through the right nostril and then inhale through the right only, stop and exhale through the left. You must know how to do this correctly with the help of a teacher. He will teach you the ratio, how long to hold, to breathe out and in. He will also teach you which bandhas you have to practise when you are holding the breath. Pranayama without bandha is like sabjee without namak and mirchi, vegetables without salt and chilli, or rasam without tamarind – it has nothing. Bandhas, mudras and kumbhaka must be practised along with pranayama.

The three bandhas are moola bandha, jalandhara bandha, and uddiyana bandha. Jalandhara has to do with the throat and chin, uddiyana with the abdomen and moola bandha with the shukra nadi. These three bandhas have to be practised when kumbhaka is done, but kumbhaka has to be learned from a teacher.

This pranayama will enable you to withdraw your senses. The senses have to be withdrawn. As it is said in the Kathopanishad: the senses, indriyas, are like horses. If these horses are not trained, they will have an accident. These senses run after the sense objects, but after pranayama they will not chase the sense objects during your sadhana. When the senses are withdrawn you should concentrate on anything you like, but you should keep it the same. It can be your ishtha devata, a star, a flower, the sun, moon, a chakra; it could be thousands of things. You have to decide on one for yourself. That is called dharana and when you practise dharana on that object, dhyana automatically takes place and samadhi automatically follows.

Does energy transfer take place between people and is it always necessary, according to the law of karma, that the healer should get the negative karma of the person healed?

There is a system of photographing the aura of an individual with a special camera indicating the emotions, the energy field. They usually choose the thumb. They take coins, leaves, paper and many things and try to photograph the energy around it, like a mandala. This Kirlian photography is very successful and a lot of work is being done on it. At a big convention, people showed slides. A photograph was taken of the thumb of a man and woman. They were asked to shake hands. Again the photographs of the thumbs were taken. The man’s aura had decreased while the woman’s had increased. Energy transfer does take place. If healers know their art well, there is no need for them to take the sickness of the patient. If these pranic healers practise a lot of pranayama, then nothing can happen to them. Otherwise many times they lose.

30 January 1982, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu