What is the effect of various mudras?

Mudras have an effect on the emotional pattern of the sadhaka. Some mudras help you to regulate the energy flow in the body like chin and jnana mudras. Some mudras can help you to focus the energy on one point like shambhavi mudra. Mudras like vipareeta karani mudra put secretion into the reverse gear. In vipareeta karani mudra, the nectarine flow oozing from bindu chakra is reversed to the higher centres of the body. So vipareeta karani, chin mudra, shambhavi mudra and jnana mudra are connected with your emotional patterns and energy patterns in the body.

Is it possible to experience the sense of smell during the dream state and how can we become conscious of our dreams?

The state of dream is a state of mind. When the mind is functioning totally isolated from sense objects, then it has enough material within itself. The Mandukya Upanishad says that in dreams you experience what you have already experienced. So you can experience smell, you can see forms, but sometimes when you develop a special awareness called the drashta, witness, you can even witness or understand that you are dreaming that smell.

First practice: To become conscious in a dream, you must develop the practice while you are practising yoga and experiencing some of the visions. When you are awfully tired and want to go to sleep, it is at that time that you must sit in padmasana, concentrate on bhrumadhya or anahata chakra, develop visions and follow them. If you blink, if you miss the awareness of vision, you should open your eyes, and after some time start it over again. This is one practice.

Second practice: In yoga nidra you must pick about one or two dozen symbols for yourself. You must visualize these symbols in yoga nidra in deep relaxation and you should not blink.

Third practice: When you practise yoga nidra, you must try your level best not to sleep. In fact, in yoga nidra you should not sleep. You must try to remain aware all throughout. In the course of time, yoga nidra will develop the vision.

Fourth practice: Antar mouna can be practised after pranayama. You can practise ujjayi, moorcha, surya bheda, or even bhastrika pranayama. Ten or fifteen minutes of pranayama, either in shavasana, or in sukhasana, padmasana or siddhasana. You release your awareness or your mind. Let it free; let it think what it wants. Do not impose any restriction on the flow of the mind. In the beginning you may have to help your mind a little bit by introducing the items of thinking, but later you will find that you are not the thinker, you are the seer and the mind is thinking, but not in the form of thought. The mind develops the capacity of vision like a film or pictures you see on the screen. You can see objects, hear sounds, remember things, but then the mind does not do it. When you have developed this quality of awareness, the same will help you to remain aware of the experiences in the dreams.

How to plan for death?

It is a very good question. The best way to prepare for death is to be sick, then there is no problem. First of all, death is the end of a chapter; it is not the end of the book. Death is not the destruction of the continuity of consciousness; it is just a transfer from an old flat to a new flat. Maybe a bigger one, or may be a smaller one, according to your karma, according to the money that you can pay for the flat. The Bhagavad Gita says it in a different way (2:22):

Vaasaasi jeernani yatha vihaya

Navaani grihnaati naroparani;

Tatha shareerani vihaya jeerna -

Nyanyaani sanyaati navaani dehi.

Just as you throw away old garments and put on new ones; in the same way the soul gets rid of this old garment and puts on a new one.

If all the old people were to survive for five hundred years, they would not enjoy because enjoyment belongs to the young age, not the old age. It is necessary that old people die. When you do not find any pleasure in this life, you must die. There is no fun in living this life without any pleasure. So, you have to plan for death. First of all, you must approach your guru, if you have one; if not, approach any sadhu or swami, tell him to give you sannyasa, and then follow all the rules laid down for a sannyasin.

When Adi Shankara was crossing the river, he was in the grip of a crocodile. His mother cried from the shore. He said only one thing, ‘Permit me to take sannyasa and I will get a new lease on life.’ The mother, of course, would not permit him to take sannyasa in any other circumstance, but this was the time she wanted to have him, even as a sannyasin. She said, ‘All right, take sannyasa. I give you permission.’ He was a brilliant personality, incomparable in the history of the world, a man with erudition, a man with vision, dynamism, purity, a man with so much knowledge.

Therefore, the shashtra says, the moment you take sannyasa, you are dead. Even according to the Hindu legal tradition, sannyasa is considered to be a civil death. Do you know what is civil death? You have no right over the property you inherit. You cannot say, ‘This property is mine.’ You have taken sannyasa, you are dead so don’t talk about it. On the day when sannyasa is taken, there are certain rituals that are performed and those rituals are only performed for a person who is dead and who is burned on the ghat. The whole homa, shraaddha is offered to him; pinda daan is offered to him as an homage as if a man is dead and you are putting him on the chita, funeral pyre, and reading the mantra.

Sannyasa has to be a systematic death because the old karmas are burned. Swami Vivekananda said, ‘As the leaves fall from the trees, in the same way the karma must be emancipated and must fall down from the tree. Day by day, the leaves fall and one day the tree becomes free from all leaves.’ This should happen to the individual. Systematically there must be erosion of karma, samskara, so that one day you are free from it. He says, ‘Sannyasin, chant Om Tat Sat, Om. Be bold. Death cannot make any difference in your psychic structure. It is not a challenge which you have to meet. You are a challenge to death.’

The definition of death has to change. It is no loss to anybody. No matter who dies in your family, it is no loss to anybody. It is the karma of nature. Prakriti has a rule and if you think that your near and dear ones should not die or that you should not die, what are you talking about? Just think of a world, a family, where everybody loves each other and nobody dies. You will stop loving each other. How long can you love? Five years, seven years, ten years? I don’t think that people who live together love each other. You live together but you don’t love each other. How can you love somebody for so many years? It is so difficult. We get fed up with the same rasgulla every day for lunch. I don’t want rasgulla every day, some days gulabjamun, some days pedha. We live together and we are attached to each other and therefore we fail to realize the vision of reality.

Death is a must as is birth. If you want to plan for death, my only suggestion would be to prepare yourself for sannyasa. One day you will approach the guru on Sivaratri or Guru Poornima day. He will call a barber to shave your head and chutia, sacred tuft of hair, and in that way he will take away Hinduism. He will remove the sacred thread and your name, he will chant the shraaddha mantra or tarpan that is chanted at the burial ground. Then he will give you a new name and a new structure of life. In the same body, a new atman will be transplanted. Death and birth will take place together and you do not have to worry.

23 January 1982, Bangalore, Karnataka