Do we have a choice regarding our destiny?

We have a choice, but choice alone is not enough. There is also prarabdha, destiny. A mango is to be born as a mango. It will not become anything else. Paddy will not become wheat, but you have the choice to improve the quality of the paddy by studying the secrets of the natural processes. You can have hybrid. You can do some crossing of this quality and another and produce a third one. That is possible. Choice alone is not enough. Along with the choice you must have the power to enforce your choice. In that case destiny is not totally applicable. People who are infirm by will and imprisoned by their own desires and passions have to accept destiny.

The positive role of vasanas

In the last fifty years, I have seen in different cultures that those people who have exhausted or rather over-used their vasana, desires, have developed a spiritual awareness and those who have not had the opportunity to fulfil their vasana are approaching their vasana now. They are very mad after it. I have also come to see that those people who do not suppress their vasana but who fulfil them, in the course of time develop very keen intellect and intuition. In fact, artists, poets and musicians are very talented, gifted people, but if you see their vasana you will be surprised at them – they are just like animals. After a certain level of fulfilment of vasana, you get a very clear intellect and a very clear insight into things.

If there is no vasana, man will not work. He will not become active. Only a sattwic person has attained a mind where there are less or no vasanas. When one is rajasic or tamasic in evolution one must have vasanas. If a man is lazy and if he does not have desire he will become more lazy. If he has desire he is goaded to work. Vasanas compel him to become active. In the tamasic state, vasanas should be stimulated. In the rajasic state they should be balanced. In the sattwic state they should be gradually eliminated. This is my opinion. How are you going to know if you are sattwic, rajasic or tamasic? It is very difficult to know. Everybody thinks they are sattwic.

There are certain indications by which you can judge whether you belong to a certain category. If you have greed you are rajasic; you cannot say you are sattwic. When you are always involved in some sort of activities or when the mind is restless, never at peace, then these are a few indications by which you can know that you are a rajasic type, rajas is your temperament. How to know that you are tamasic, procrastination, saying that you will do it tomorrow or the day after, laziness and sleep indicate that you are tamasic. When you are aware of dhyana and have inner peace, that is an indication of sattwa.

Utilizing vasanas

When a person is lazy or procrastinating, he should be injected with vasana. Without vasana he is not going to evolve at all. Evolution is from tamas to rajas, not directly to sattwa. First a tamasic man must change into a rajasic man. The rajasic man should then be changed into a harmonized sattwic man. After that you become trigunatita, beyond the three gunas. You cannot transcend the vasanas all of a sudden. Everybody is a mixture, sometimes predominantly rajasic, sometimes a little tamasic, a little sattwic. Very few people are predominantly sattwic.

According to the predominant quality of a person, we should give him the sadhana and the dharma in such a way that either the vasanas are curtailed or fulfilled or stimulated. Vasanas are not out of place. Desires and passions are necessary for man’s evolution. If you have a thorn, you take another thorn to take it out and then throw away both. The latent vasanas in the tamasic state should be extricated by vasana. Too much involvement in vasana develops vairagya, distaste; if you suppress the vasanas it maintains the taste for it, you have a liking, raga, for it. You may not fulfil it in your daily life but you can dream. You may not even dream, you will fantasize. This is called fulfilment.

That is the Hindu dharma, the Sanatana dharma too is like that. Life should be planned in such a way that there is a time when you should fulfil one type of vasana, another time for another type of vasana and another time for a third type of vasana. Children playing games is vasana. The activities after marital life, family, children, is vasana. People opening an ashram or hospital, going to Gangotri or sitting in meditation is also vasana, latent desire.

From vasana springs iccha or desire, lobha or greed, krodha or anger, kama or passion, and moksha or liberation, and mumukshutvam, the desire for liberation and jijnasa, the desire to know, are vasanas, but they are positive sattwic desires and necessary for evolution.

In my opinion vasanas should not be suppressed. Never make that mistake, because sometimes while you are trying to suppress your vasanas, you are almost giving a death blow to your personality. What to do about that is also a problem because all vasanas cannot be satisfied, they are insatiable. There is no end to the gratification of vasanas. Even if you are given the life span of the whole earth to enjoy vasanas, there is no end to them. After some time, vasanas should be sublimated first those of body, family and career.

There are two ways of sublimating vasanas: to do karma yoga and to attain samadhi. These are two methods for sublimating vasanas: in samadhi, the vasanas are burnt completely, in karma yoga the vasanas become dissipated and weak. Then there is a third way which is very difficult: Leave everything to God and let Him do what He likes.

Can happiness and unhappiness in the family be overcome by good acts?

According to Hindu philosophy, paap and punya, sin and virtue, are relative not absolute. It is relative to society, families, tribes, countries and traditions. Many people eat meat and others do not. Once upon a time they did not eat and then for some time they did. How can you know whether it is paap or punya? If you ate meat are you going to be born as a goat or will somebody kill you? No. There is only one thing which has been said which is the Hindu doctrine of karma.

It is your vasana or desire which is responsible for your reincarnation and your relationship with people that will bring you to some sort of interaction with them in the next life. Supposing a person loved someone, say a sister, and the attachment is too much. Supposing one of them died, they are going to meet again to fulfil that vasana, but not necessarily as brother and sister, it can be as mother and daughter, husband and wife. It is not a concept of paap and punya, it is the concept of fulfilment of desire.

Suppose a person was my enemy and was giving me maximum problems, I did not like him but I could do nothing to him. In the next life we will meet again, not necessarily as enemy or friend. He may be my son or I may become his son and squander all his money so that he may die from a heart attack. I may be born as his wife or brother. It is a question of desires and fulfilling the actions and reactions, fulfilling relations in one life and the next. Supposing I am a disciple, I have a guru and we love each other. We have devotion for each other. Suppose he died. He liked me too much, maybe in the next life he may become my son or my wife just to express that love which was not fulfilled in this life.

We are born in order to work out karmas. In the course of time, we work out the karma and develop vairagya – then we get out of it. The concept of paap and punya is mostly related to society. There are some people who have to be guided by the concept of paap and punya. What was considered bad fifty years ago is considered good today. One hundred years ago, purdah was considered good, wasn’t it? Today that is considered bad. Many things change from time to time. They are social traditions which vary according to culture.

In the Manusmriti it is called dharma and adharma. There are ten lakshanas, characteristics and indications, of dharma in different scriptures – dashakam dharma lakshanam – if you have patience, it shows you are virtuous. If you do not get angry it shows you are calm and quiet, it is an indication of your virtuousness. Kshama, forgiveness, asteyam, honesty, shaucham, purity, indriya nigraha, to control the senses from going wrong, these are indications of being virtuous. Dharma does not mean virtuous as understood in English; it means keeping with nature. You are fulfilling the higher qualities of nature. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of devi sampat asuri sampat, divine quality and demonical quality. The concept of paap and punya came into Hindu philosophy much later with the advent of the Jain and Buddhist philosophy, and with Islam, it is not part of the original vedic philosophy.

Should we take our medicines for diabetes if we practise asanas?

In the beginning one should take one’s medication because the effect of asana will take time. The day you start practising asanas nothing will happen. It will take quite some time until your system is used to yoga. When you take medicine and practise yoga, after 15 to 20 days you will find the sugar level falls a little below normal. That is a clear indication.

Pranayama is very good, but has to be practised very slowly after a certain age. The effect of pranayama is on the nervous system, and diabetes is basically a disease of the nervous system and is aggravated by digestive disorders. If the nervous system becomes better, stronger and functions well, diabetes will be all right because the pancreatic glands responsible for insulin are controlled by the nervous system. If there is any irregularity in the nervous system, the pancreas does not give any insulin. Asana, pranayama, relaxation and meditation help the nervous system. Meditation means one-pointed mind. Try to concentrate on anything – a mantra, form, sound, your own body, for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night. Eat only twice a day, not three times or four times.

Having only one idea in the brain all the time is not good, it causes stress. Supposing you are a householder. You have to get your daughter married. From the time she comes of age you have that idea. The whole day, that idea is stressing and stressing. So you should try to break the idea. The life of a householder is good because you have to attend to so many things, not just one thing, but sometimes one idea catches hold of you and it is always in the mind and you worry too much about it. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is said that when you have to discharge your obligations, discharge them without asakti, attachment, which is a type of neurosis. There are three qualities: karma, asakti and anasakti, non-attachment. When you are doing karma you should not be involved in it.

You are in your family or in your profession, you must involve yourself in it. You expect certain results. There should not be asakti with the results or fruits of karma. Karma itself does not cause any problem. You work in a shop or factory. When you involve yourself with the results, they cause worries, anxiety, uncertainty, doubts, fears, and a lot of problems in the nervous system. When you start troubling the nervous system any disease can come Things start from there.

We have to bring up children and educate them. These are social duties and obligations which are the price we pay for our desires. If we did not have desires, we should not have married. You had a desire and you married; because you married you have children; because you have children you worry. So you have to pay the price for the desires. This is the central teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Karmas themselves do not bind. Karmas do not cause diabetes, blood pressure, heart attack, karmas do not do it. Karma phalaasha – expectation of fruit or results does.

All the karmas you do bear two types of result: either ishtam or according to your desire, or anishtam, against your desire. But whenever you are doing a karma, you are always worried about anishtam. Whatever you do as karma – you have a child, you get married, you get him educated, you send him to England, the daughter is to be married – you are always aware of anishtam never of ishtam. That has an indirect effect on the body, brain and nervous system. Most of the diseases that we are suffering from are due to the absence of right philosophy.

6 February 1982, Neyvelli House, Tamil Nadu