Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Swamiji, would you tell us a little about some of the enlightened people you have met?

Only Shakespeare can understand Shakespeare. Only an enlightened person can realize an enlightened person. For me it was more an impression and it was all instinctive. From early childhood the people whom I met, like Anandamayi Ma, how was I to assess whether she was realized or not? Because my father, mother or people said it, I accepted it, but I accepted instinctively that she was.

Then I met another lady who was a tantric yogini and she was with us for about six months. I do not even know whether she was enlightened or not, but she was able to handle, and knew about some of the mysterious things of life. She was illiterate. She could not even do her signature, but she had a good command over the intricate matters of the time and space continuum. She used to teach me these things.

Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Ram Das and, much before, Anandamayi Ma, are the people whom I can count as enlightened people. There are many other great people who have good names, I call them great men, eminent people, good preachers or good teachers, but enlightenment is something else.

Ramana Maharshi did not speak to anyone. People just came and sat down. He used to lie down looking up. No talks. People used to come in, prostrate and sit down and do their own mantra and meditation or think of their worries or their questions. Ramana Maharshi did not speak English or Hindi, only Tamil, which is a very difficult language.

Anandamayi Ma also did not speak very much. She only used to say a few words here and there and her disciples used to interpret that. Sri Aurobindo did not meet anyone, so there was no question of talking. He used to give darshan only once a year. He used to give public audience. He came to the balcony and people came to see him. He closed himself away throughout the years and did not meet people.

Swami Sivananda also did not speak very much. He did not indulge in intellectual discussions. He used to say, ‘I don’t know. I only know God’s name, that’s all.’

Do you converse with your disciples without speaking to them?

In the ashram there are swamis who have not seen me for three months. They have not even seen my face whether I am ill or well. The swami who is in the kitchen has not seen me for four or six months. I hardly meet half a dozen people. After all, it is much more important to be able to be in touch with guru on a different wavelength.

This wavelength is intellectual. It is tuned and regulated to suit your mind and thinking. That is a different wavelength and for that a different wavelength has to be created. For that you need to have practice because sometimes you think that you are conversing with guru, but you are undergoing a state of hallucination. For a long time, it happens. You have to pass through that hallucination period when you are under the false notion that you are asking and your guru is replying; actually you are replying. It takes some time to pass through this hallucination and then the actual contact begins. If you start trying to contact me right from today, it won’t happen. You will be talking to yourself, and we know it.

After some time, it does happen by itself – but it does not happen so frequently.

My contact with my guru in the last twenty years must have been three times and I do not know how to get in touch with him. I do not know the way. It happens by itself. I do not know the way, whether I should meditate or sing kirtan, fast or purify myself. I do not know the way; it happens by itself, what we call ‘inner awakening’. Likewise, it will happen to you too. But it does take time.

Swamiji does it ever happen that somebody comes to you and you feel that you are not their guru?

No, I never feel it. They have come to me and I should not tell them that I am not their guru, because this is not a positive approach to life. They have come to me for asana, pranayama, kriya yoga or anything else. I can talk to them and give them some sort of guidance. With that they may practise, and after practising, if they get some positive result, it is okay. If they don’t get any result for some time and still they are keen to go ahead, their instinct, their intuition will help them.

I always start my connection or relationship with people with a different approach altogether. There is no use my telling them, ‘I am not your guru’, because most human beings are already suffering from intellectual confusion. I do not want that. If you want sannyasa, I will give you. I do not consider you inept, nor do I consider myself incapable. I am authorized to give you sannyasa and you are the deserving candidate for sannyasa.

Only sometimes when I see some danger to the person or even to me, I tell them, ‘No, not now. If I give you sannyasa all kinds of things can happen’, then I do not give it.

I have found, long ago the more I keep myself aloof from people the better it is for them. If you come to me, you will ask me a question. If you do not come to me you will not ask me, but the question will haunt your mind and you will get a reply, first from yourself and then from me. You are not able to see me, so you will use another wavelength.

The mind will automatically soar from this realm to another realm and if that level of mind is attained, naturally you can tune yourself. When you ask a question and I give you a reply, it is not too easy; it is too difficult because speech is so limited. How much can you explain to people? There are limitations in expression.

If you want to taste chocolate, take it and taste it. Now I have to eat it, taste it and explain to you what brown means, and what kind of sweetness there is, different from other tastes. It is so difficult to explain something through speech. Of course, if you have had the experience of chocolate then I do not have to explain to you at all because you know it. Writing and explaining is very difficult and it is becoming more difficult. I find that in the last few years, there is inadequacy of expression, not only in English but also in Hindi. I speak Hindi but I find difficulty and am not able to express adequately.

That is why Ramana Maharshi did not speak. If someone asked him, he would say in Tamil, “Just think, ‘Who am I?’” That was his standard reply to all questions, if at all anybody asked him. Otherwise people were cautioned not to ask him anything. If any shameless or aggressive man went there and said, ‘Guruji, please give me some answer or guidance,’ he said, “Think, ‘Who am I?’” That’s all, and in Tamil.

What is the difference between an ashram where swamis live and a community, where all kinds of people live together?

The purpose of a community and the purpose of an ashram are quite different. The purpose of an ashram is to create an atmosphere or a zone of spiritual influence. Therefore, the people who live in the ashram and the people who run the ashram should be able to contribute to that spiritual magnetic or positive influence. If you include the whole community, then you have to relax certain rules. The quality cannot be as is expected because these people who take to sannyasa have a different state of consciousness.

All the swamis who stay here live a very detached life.

They are not at all concerned with this institution. They are not at all concerned even with the work they do, but they do the work perfectly. There is no discrepancy. I do not see even one person making any discrepancy, whether it is accounting, translating, editing, management, kitchen or marketing. They do it perfectly, as though they were totally involved in it, as if they were the doers, but they are not at all involved.

This life of detachment is called the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, anasakti. It creates a sort of magnetic field and the people who come here can experience a little bit of that magnetic field. However, if I included the community, it may have respect for spiritual life and for ashrams, but after some time the mind or the flesh is weak, and they do not know how to manage it.

The internal management of the ashram is by swamis, but the actual management is done by outsiders. This ashram is managed, governed, by outsiders. They are the policy-makers; they are the legal people, the board of directors who do not stay here. They come here for a few hours, once every three or four months. They are responsible to the government for accounting, property, for anything.

The swamis are not at all responsible to the government. They are involved but their involvement with the institution is not by living as managers. The governing body members come here, attend yoga classes and send their family and friends, because most of the governing body members of this institution are as old as the institution itself. Most of the governing body members have been involved right from the inception of the institution from 1963 to 1985. For twenty-two years they have been on the board. So naturally they know about the institution.

In India, we expect spiritual health from ashrams, either in the form of therapy, peace of mind or right understanding. If my son has gone wrong, I believe if he goes to the ashram for a few months, he will get better. If husband and wife are not doing well, they go to their guruji and something better happens. At least for a few years, they live a better life. If some sort of discrepancies creep up in one’s life, family life or community life, these ashrams are able to look after that. That has been the role of the ashrams. Involvement with commerce and religion is not looked upon here with respect; ashrams cannot do those things. Most ashrams sell their books and some ayurvedic medicines, but they do not involve themselves or indulge in big commercial gain like factories. All the swamis you see here get up in the morning, start the kitchen and do the work, but they are not at all concerned. They are only concerned that the work has to be done in a good way, they are responsible but with least attachment.

This ashram is not exactly an ashram, because there are better facilities. You have to see other ashrams! You are just provided with a small mat to sleep on the floor, no mosquito net. In Rishikesh ashram I was the manager for some time for the guests. When anybody came, I just gave them a key of the door and told them where the room was, but there was nothing in the room. There was just the room. In those days there was no electricity so there was no light, there was no bed, nothing. Just the room!

Can you imagine? For twelve years I lived that way, and nobody even thought, neither the residents who lived in the ashram, nor the visitors, that they were expected to be provided with even the minimum possible amenities. No, they were so happy to get a room there because people do not actually expect any kind of luxury in the ashram. Most people feel that when you undergo some sort of suffering, you are purifying your karma. So when you go to the ashram and get a little pain, diarrhoea, dysentery or fever, it is purging of the karma.

27 November 1985, Munger