Dhyana Yoga

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The place I come from is called Munger, situated on the banks of the Ganga. It is the same place which was once the seat of Karna, the great warrior, the most generous personality and great yogi, the eldest son of Kunti and eldest brother of the Pandavas. In Munger, more than 5,000 years ago, Karna ruled the province known as Anga. I have my ashram where he had his palace.

Karna was called daanaveer, known for his valour and generosity, but there is another aspect of his life which is not known to most people – he was a yogi, a mahayogi and maha tantric. The ishta devi of Karna is called Chandi and her temple is still in Munger. It is not a vedic temple but a tantric shaktipeeth, one of the sixty­four shaktipeeths.

In vedic shrines, animals are not sacrificed or offered to the deity. In a tantric peeth or tantric centre, animals are sacrificed or offered. This is the difference. Every day at midnight, he used to offer his body to Ma Chandi and at the end he was given gold according the weight of his body. The next morning, he used to distribute that gold to the needy people in his kingdom. Anyone who came to Karna for bhiksha, alms, never left disappointed. This is the story of Karna whose seat I occupy.

Today, the situation is changed. Wealth has nothing to do with man’s life. To live in the world, you need wealth and money, but it is not everything. If it was everything in life, then the people of America and Europe, who are very rich, would not be unhappy. Happiness, peace, shanti, have nothing to do with wealth. Shanti cannot be had from the material things of life. There are very rich people in the world, but they are not happy. Happiness and shanti come from inside. The source of shanti is within everybody, shanti cannot be had from outside.

If you want to experience shanti, you will have to go inside yourself.

It is said in the Upanishads: ‘You know how to see outside, but you do not know how to look into yourself’. To look into yourself is the most important aspect of human life. If you can look into yourself, you are a fortunate man. What is the way? I am here to tell you that. I am going to give you one point for the whole of your life. You have come here for inspiration and guidance, and I am giving it now. I cannot give you gold. It is said in the Sannyasa Suktam (first sloka):

Na karmana na prajaya danena

Tyagenaike amritatwamanashuhu.

Not by work, nor by progeny, nor by wealth,

But by renunciation alone have some attained immortality.

How to attain amritatwa? How to attain immortality? How to realize your own atma?

Yajnavalkya had two wives, Maitreyi and Katyayani. Yajnavalkya was the guru of Maharaja Janaka of Mithila. One day Yajnavalkya thought, ‘I must retire from my grihastha ashrama.’ He said to his wives, “I am going away. I am renouncing the ashrama and, I divide this property, these cows and jewellery between you.” Katyayani quietly accepted what Yajnavalkya said.

Maitreyi was an enlightened girl. She asked, “Sir, will these give me immortality?” Yajnavalkya said, “No.” Then Maitreyi replied, “If these things you want to give us cannot give immortality, what shall I do with them?” Yajnavalkya told Maitreyi, “Immortality cannot be had by the things that are mortal, perishable and temporary.” Maitreyi asked, “Tell me, how to attain immortality? How to become amritapatra?” Yagyavalkya said, “Not by karma, progeny or wealth, but by transcending all these you can attain immortality.”

Therefore, it is not my duty or intention to tell you how to make gold and wealth. Thousands of people the world over are still unhappy, even though they have a lot of money. I have come to tell you how to attain shanti. There is only one way – look within yourself. When you look outside, you see nothing but the fleeting shadows. When you look within yourself, you see total bliss, oneness and peace – mahashanti, paramshanti, great and ultimate peace.

It is not easy to look within oneself. Close your eyes and see. What do you see? You see vikshepa, distractions, past memories, worries and anxieties. If you go further, you see dreams. If you go further still, you sleep. You cannot see anything beyond distractions, dream and sleep. We are losing each precious day. I think we must have lost not only a few precious days; we must have lost a few precious lives. This is not your first and last incarnation. This is not my first and last incarnation. Krishna said it clearly, “Arjuna, many incarnations have gone by, mine, also yours. I know and you do not. For us, this seems to be the final stage of life and therefore we do not worry. But when we become aware and when we become serious, then we are in search of a way, and that way is known as yoga.”

The Kathopanishad says that there are two paths: shreyas, the great, and preyas, the pleasant. One is the path of yoga and the other of bhoga. When you try to look into yourself, that is the path of yoga.

Therefore, everyone must meditate once, if possible, twice a day. I am not telling you to eat twice a day or sleep, bathe or take coffee twice a day. Meditate twice a day. Please do not say that you have no time. I think everybody has time, if he wants, for meditation. If you realize that meditation is jivanamrit, jivansudha, the elixir and the milk of life, you will never miss it. By the practice of meditation, you will not only realize your own self, you will get peace of mind, good health, a nice mind because kama, krodha, lobha, moha, matsarya, raga, dwesha, abhinivesha, irshya, dvaita – desire, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy, attraction, repulsion, fear, envy, duality – these rakshasas that you have in your pocket will go away. Adi Shankara said:

Kamaha krodhascha lobhascha dehe tishttanti taskaraha,

Jnana ratnopaharaya tasmat jagrata jagrata.

In this body, or within this man, three thieves are hidden to take away the ratna of jnana, jewel of wisdom. Who are these three thieves? Kama, sensual desires, krodha, anger, lobha, greed. You know them, they are your friends.

The path of dhyana yoga is the path that was taught in the Vedas, Upanishads, Yoga Sutras, and in all the shashtras. I have been teaching dhyana yoga for many years and I have found if householders try to devote some time every day, in the course of time, they can get jnanasudha, jivanamrit, the elixir of life.

Just closing the eyes is not dhyana yoga. You must have yukti, a technique. If you want to climb up to the terrace, you must have a ladder. That is called yukti. In the same way, in order to be able to meditate, you must have yukti. The first yukti is asana sthairyam, a steady posture, such as padmasana, siddhasana. Second, there should be balance in prana. Ida flows on the left side, pingala on the right. Ida is mind and pingala is prana. When your pranas are disturbed, your mind is disturbed. When your mind is disturbed, it disturbs prana. When you make your prana balanced, the mind is also balanced. For that purpose, you must practise pranayama for five to ten minutes. Learn from a teacher, not from books.

Many people have wrong ideas about pranayama. They think if they do pranayama they may go crazy. This is not true. Nobody says if you smoke cigarettes or go to the pictures, you go crazy. This is called vinashakale vipareeta buddhi, when someone is at the brink of disaster, intelligence turns upside-down or the mind is unable to think in the right way.

The Indian community as a whole are followers of Sanatana dharma, whether Hindu, Vaishnaiva, Shaiva or Muslim, everyone has some sort of discipline and sobriety in life, yet people think that pranayama can cause some harm. There are many other things which can cause disaster to your mind and body. Ten minutes of pranayama, learned properly with a teacher, to be practised in the cool hours of the early morning while sitting in one of the asanas will help you.

After practising pranayama, you should practise your mantra. Everybody must have a mantra and a guru. Books can inspire you, they cannot guide you though they can misguide you. Shastras must be respected, no doubt. It is not written anywhere in the Vedas and Upanishads either that shastras alone can give you brahmajnana, cosmic wisdom, or instructions on dhyana yoga. It is also written that you should go to a guru. The Upanishads say you should approach a brahmastotriya or brahmanishtha guru, a guru who is absorbed in contemplation of the Supreme Spirit; with total adoration and reverence and you must obtain a mantra from him. You must practise the mantra every day after pranayama, either with the breath or a rudraksha, tulsi mala, chandan or sphatik mala, or in the chakras. After practising your mantra for the number of times your guru has fixed for you, you must concentrate on one point, at the eyebrow centre, bhrumadhya, or in the heart centre, anahata.

There are dhyana kendras or peethas, centres of dhyana, and there are dhyana laksha, aim or focus of dhyana. Sthula laksha, is the gross form or image of Shiva, Rama, Krishna. Madhyama laksha is the medium level of focus, like bindu, a point, a chakra, jyoti, a flame, surya and chandra, the sun and moon, a mantra, shabda or nada, a word or sound. Sukshma laksha, the subtle goal, are the truths of the Mahavakyas like Aham Brahmasmi, Tat Twam Asi, which should be meditated upon. According to your capacity, you will have to choose a laksha for yourself. It is very difficult to meditate on sukshma laksha. It is very easy to meditate on sthula laksha.

When you visualize Sri Rama, for example, or on the Shivalingam, you close your eyes and have an idea of the Shivalingam. Continue with your meditation and you can see the shadow of the Shivalingam. Continue your meditation and you can see the form of the Shivalingam. Continue and a time will come when the Shivalingam will become clear. Then a time will come when there will be only the Shivalingam, not you. Dehabhimana, body awareness, and indriyabhimana, sense awareness, is just obliterated, finished. There is only the Shivalingam or only Rama, not you, for one moment there is no meditator. If you have a glimpse of that, the purpose of your human life has been fulfilled. Once you have this momentary glimpse of the Shivalingam, the purpose of your incarnation as a human being has been fulfilled.

Parvati asked Shiva, “Tell me, how to control and concentrate the mind?” Shiva replies, “There are more than 125,000 paths. Therefore, you will have to find a way for yourself.” It is necessary that you find a guru who can give you a mantra, show you a way and give you a path. According to the path, you should go ahead day by day. When you meditate, the mind changes. As a result of that, the difficulties in life can also be faced properly and removed. This is the path of yoga. I have come from the ancient kingdom of Karna to give you this path.

In 1956, when I came to Munger as a parivrajaka, a wandering mendicant, I stayed in Munger just for a few days near Ganga. I did not know what was happening to me. I started having visions, revelations, commands, calls, perceiving shabda, nada, roopa – all atindriya, beyond the realm of the senses. I did nothing on my own or by myself. Munger is still vibrant with the great practices of yoga by Karna. I am very happy to be here and to meet all of you. Different in faces, different in names, different in body, but in reality we are beads on the same thread, as Sri Krishna said (7:7):

Mayi sarvamidam protam sootre maniganaa iva.

All this is strung on Me like pearls on a string.

That which is in you is in me. That which is in me is in you and is in everybody also. Physically we are different, by name we are different, but spiritually we are not different. The Ashtavakya Gita says there is a stage in which you arrive at brahmajnana, when you can see yourself penetrating through each and everybody and where you do not see dvaita, duality, where you do not see, difference, where there is abedhabuddhi, the buddhi that does not see differences.

26 January 1982, Sivananda Jnanalaya, Mysore