It is not easy to differentiate between psychic and spiritual experiences. It all depends upon the level of your consciousness. We have five levels of consciousness and each one of us belongs to one realm. In Vedanta we call these realms of consciousness, pancha kosha, five koshas:

  1. Annamaya kosha, consciousness about the body
  2. Pranamaya kosha, consciousness about your life
  3. Manomaya kosha, consciousness about your mind
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha, consciousness about your feelings
  5. Anandamaya kosha, consciousness of your Self

These are the five levels of individual consciousness. Now your consciousness may be in pranamaya kosha, you might be identifying with life, or you might be identifying just with the body like many hedonists and epicureans do. Or you may be identifying with your mind. Most modern people, particularly European people, always identify with emotions or feelings, manomaya kosha. Or you may be identifying yourself with vijnanamaya kosha, identifying with the realm of the psychic world.

If you are evolved up to the psychic world, all your experiences will be psychic based experiences. If you have gone beyond these five koshas, in the course of time, all your experiences, whatever they are, will be known as spiritual experiences.

There are five continents. Each continent has its own temperature. One is very hot, one is very cold, one is very stormy, one is very marshy. Whichever country you go to you will experience accordingly. If you go to a marshy country, you will experience marsh. If you go to a hot country, you will experience heat. In the same way, whichever level of consciousness you have evolved to through various incarnations – today you are at that particular stage, and you will have that experience. If you have developed a spiritual level of consciousness, any experience you have will be a spiritual experience. In that case even the external life that you are having will also become a path of spiritual experience.

That is why those who have succeeded in yoga, the maha yogis, for them meditation is not the only spiritual experience. When they talk to people, move and eat, they have a spiritual experience. They have said, “When I see a flower, a star, the moon, children, sinners, saints, prostitutes, sattwic men, or criminals, I see the same thing in them.” The maha yogi has gone into the spiritual realm. When you go into the spiritual realm, every experience is a spiritual experience. Even pain, enjoyment, injustice, insult and abuses are spiritual experiences. Everything is a spiritual experience. That is what all saints have said.

What is the difference between your kriya yoga and Yogananda’s kriya yoga?

When Swami Yogananda was teaching kriya yoga in America, Americans were quite new to it. They did not have much exposure. So naturally many of them could not practise ujjayi and siddhasana or padmasana and so they had to sit as they could. When they could not practise ujjayi, Paramahamsa Yogananda asked them to apply a little bit of olive oil to keep the tongue a bit greasy. Applying olive oil is not a part of kriya yoga, but he had to do it, because they could not practise ujjayi and khechari. As they could not practise khechari, the throat could not remain irrigated and would become dry. When the throat, the epiglottis becomes dry, you get a dry cough. In the same way, he simplified many practices for them. Now whether in America, Asia or any other country, people are quite exposed to hatha yoga practices. For kriya yoga hatha yoga is very important. Naturally we have to teach the practices of kriya yoga as they have been taught in the books.

Who can take karma sannyasa?

You live according to the ichchha, the desires, which you have in your mind. You want to have children, servants, motor cars, scooters. You want to have a job, you have that. These are called kamana: putrasya kamana, the desire for offspring, vittrasya kamana, the desire for property, money, bank-balance, and dara kamana, the desire for a wife or husband, to have sexual intercourse, love or emotions. These are the three kamanas. Common people have three desires. Some people are special and have a fourth one. Desire for name, fame and power like politicians, Napoleon and Alexander. Most people do not have that, they. are struck by three kinds of desire.

There comes a time when you have to realize there is no use chasing desires any more. Enough of it. Let me bring down the speed of maya, moha and kamana, attachments, infatuations and passion. You have realized in the first twenty-five years that sensual desires can never be quenched. You can never fulfil and satisfy your desires. It is like pouring on petrol to extinguish the fire. Similarly, in order to satisfy yourself, you are indulging in sensual experiences, and they increase.

When you realize this, then you want to know what you are going to do. Are you going to give up the whole show? Or are you going to retain the whole show but with a different outlook, a different drishti, philosophy and perception? The act is the same. You go to the office, do your business, have money, purchase what you want, have children, give them education and get them married. Everything goes on as usual, but the philosophy changes. You are getting out of the slavery of desires. You are now only confining yourself to dharma, duty.

Ichchha and kamana, desire and passions, sometimes come in the form of duties. They say, “I am the duty, please do it.” Most of us attend to these passions and desires as if they were our duties and obligations, but this is not true, which you realize at a certain age. Some people realize it at the age of thirty, forty or fifty. Some people do not realize it even at the end, and on the deathbed still ask for things. This type of people never gets it. Karma sannyasa is not for them. They have to wait; they have failed in this life.

Karma sannyasa is for those people who want to remain ideal householders, discharge the social, family, religious or spiritual commitments, and at the same time see the maya which they have created while putting the blame on God. When you stop giving feeble excuses you realize that you want to give a little time to anasakta yoga, non-attachment.

Karma sannyasa is to be taken. when you want to lead this life in the spirit of a karma yogi, not in the spirit of a sansari or yogimaya, worldly person, but in the spirit of a karma yogi like Sri Krishna, Rama, Gandhi, Vivekananda and many others who are karma yogis without any impulse of desire. Karma sannyasa will help you in your spiritual evolution, your lifestyle, the frame of your life and mind. For if the philosophy of your life is not right, your sadhana only reaches up to a certain point, and you have to come back again. You cannot go further.