Swami Satyananda Saraswati

In modern psychology, there is a word ‘schizophrenia’ – and all of us are schizophrenics, for that element is within us. In modern psychology, schizophrenia is not considered to be a very positive symptom, but schizophrenia and madness are two different things. When schizophrenia is properly guided and worked out, it is a very positive virtue and force. It is a very positive faculty. It is only in those moments of schizophrenia that ego and super-ego can be split. When they are split, then you can see things.

When the ego and super-ego are split, you can see things. You can see things like a shadow, a train of pictures, black and white, or sometimes like a dream in technicolour. It is at that time, when your whole consciousness is entering into a whole situation, a whole event, that if you see that it is snowing, you will feel cold and experience snow. In visualization if we are somehow not able to deprive the mind of sensorial impulses, if pratyahara is not complete, dharana will not be correct, real or perfect. Dharana means that what you are talking about, you are able to see.

Dharana, the psychic dimension

The second point is that when we are aware of external sounds and people it is called the waking state. According to science and philosophy, we are living in time now. Our whole consciousness, our whole body, and mind is bound by time. We are living within time, but at night when you go to bed, you are slipping from time and slipping into space. When you slip into space, the time span or time category is left behind. When the time category is left behind, the concept of time changes. Eight hours you sleep, but you do not know it, because you have transcended the time zone. Now you are in space. When you step out of time and enter into space, you have experiences. The deeper you go into space, the greater will be the experiences – and the lesser the time, the better the experiences. Time has to be transcended. I am only talking about experiences. I am not talking about brahmajnana which is yet another transcendence. When you step out of time and enter into space, you have visions. You have good dharana, concentration, and you can see things very clearly.

Sometimes, you identify with those experiences so much that duality is completely lost for the time being. In western psychology, about 50 to 100 years ago, they thought that schizophrenics were all mad people and they put them in mental hospitals. Later things changed. The schizophrenic- psycho-phenomenon came into consideration. They established the psychic societies of New York and London, and began to see the difference between a mad man’s experience and the psychic or schizophrenic experience.

This psychic is a schizophrenic within a framework. I am a schizophrenic, but my schizophrenic behaviour is only limited to my spiritual experiences. In external life, I am not schizophrenic. When dealing with my children, my wife, my property, my bank, my business, I am not schizophrenic; I am an integrated person. When it comes to the point of meditation, I split myself. That is the point.

When you are out, externalized, you have to live in integration because you have to live in time and adjust to the time factor. If you do not adjust to time, you are mad. Such a schizophrenic is called a mad person because he does not know how to look after his children, wife, money, bank, or business. He does not know whom to marry or how to marry. He is called a mad person and a schizophrenic as well.

Separating mind and senses

When we are practising pratyahara, the most important thing to do is to isolate our brain, mind or chitta. That isolation has to be complete. Now, when we isolate in meditation, it is half isolation. When most of us meditate it is partial deprivation, partial isolation. Total isolation takes place by shutting all the indriyas, senses, the impulses of the nervous system and by bringing down the metabolic rate of the body.

If a person lives for one month in complete isolation his metabolism will slow down. In order to bring the metabolism down you also have to be careful about your food. In your low metabolic rate, food produces toxins in the body. That is why many are sick. They meditate for six hours and take puri and halwa. After taking rich food, they are not able to digest it properly. Going to the toilet does not mean that you have digested your food properly.

Digestion depends on a balance between the threefold systems in the body: metabolic, catabolic and anabolic. There has to be a balance between these three.

In isolation, these three systems are brought down. Very little metabolic functions take place in the body, so toxins are created. You must know what you should eat.

When this isolation takes place, dharana begins. Actually Tattwa Shuddhi is a very preliminary practice. It is an effective practice and has got a very important role to play in spiritual practices, because it purifies the elements. Since it is a preliminary practice, the aspirant is not expected to be able see the Papa Purusha. All the things that you are asked to see, you are just to feel it. Eventually, visualization may come or may not, it does not matter.

I am making it very clear that the particular state of mind when the mind is split into two, is alone responsible for all kind of experiences. Therefore, during the practice of yoga, all yogis, are mad people, they go crazy. Added to which, in India, people do conduct experiments with isolation chambers, it is called bhu samadhi. Yogis are put under the ground in a cement tank which is blocked and insulated from the top. No oxygen or maybe a minimum of oxygen is allowed. One side is kept as earth: the mud is allowed to remain, it is not cemented. Three sides are cement and there is a little bit of oxygen, just to survive. Yogis remain in there for ten, fifteen, twenty days. During the period of Maharana Ranjit Singh, in Punjab, one yogi called Hari Singh remained inside the chamber for forty days. It is historically documented and many British people saw it at that time.

In this isolation chamber, yogis concentrate only on bhrumadhya, the eyebrow centre, where they see only a light. It is much bigger than a star. It is a good light, shining, bright but not unbearable. That light has to remain steady. The yogis concentrate on that light and pranayama. It is not important what the preparatory practices are. They finally come to the light.

It is only those people who are able to develop that light clearly without any difficulty, within a few seconds of getting into the isolation chamber, who experience bhu samadhi, inside, underneath the ground. The yogis keep on looking at the light, and as a result of this total concentration the entire life force begins to move towards one direction. When they concentrate on the light which they perceive, all the forces of the body move towards one particular point. As a result, the heart stops, the activity of the brain stops, the whole body is dead.

Earlier people thought that it was part of a game. During the last twenty to thirty years many people have been exposed to sophisticated scientific observation. Then they have found it is true. It is possible that a man can be dead and become alive again. This is the technique of pratyahara.

What we practise in pratyahara is a very simple, ordinary technique. There are many methods of isolating the mind from the senses. It is said in the Upanishads and books on yoga that the senses carry messages, excite and stimulate the brain again and again, like when the telephone is ringing it will disturb us. These senses must be withdrawn first.

In western countries people have bought some bhu samadhi tanks, they call them sensory deprivation tanks. Scientists put the people inside and use electrodes. Some people go into isolation chambers and come out very unhappy because they do not see anything there. Then there are people who have fantastic experiences. They have experiences pertaining to their rebirthing, their childhood and other psychic experiences or schizophrenic experiences. Many books have been written on it.

The only difference is the quality of the aspirant. In India, the people who practise bhu samadhi are outstanding people with a lot of physical and mental preparation. In the experiments done in western countries, the people have no physical, mental, emotional or social discipline. They do not have any discipline in life. They take off their coat and pants and get in the tank. Sometimes they have very frightening experiences, not super-experiences. When a yogi has disciplined himself in other stages of normal life, then when he has experiences, they are not frightening, they are very calm. Of course desperate fright can come sometimes, but they are not constantly disastrous, disturbing, violent or horrible experiences. The yogi does not have horror experiences, or maybe just sometimes for a short time.

Therefore, pratyahara has to be completed. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras it is made clear that there are five ways: 1. birth, 2. mantra, 3. penance, 4. herbs and 5. practices of concentration. In olden days, Hindus, Parsis, South Americans and Africans took certain beverages. Indians used to take soma. Parsis also used to take soma. In Brazil, they too had a creeper, in Africa they had their own plant and Red Indians used to prepare many kinds of drinks mixed with herbs and each one’s blood and go into trance.