The Inner Flight

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I have been thinking about meditation and everybody has been thinking about it, but how are we to do it? We are sure that meditation is power and we are convinced that through meditation we will be able to realize the highest, but how do we begin, and where is the way?

When you go by car to a distant land, you have the road, you have mileposts, you have a map, you have fuel in the car, the vehicle is fit for the journey, and you also have an expert and tireless driver. Just as we set out on an external journey, in the same way we want to set out on the internal journey. But the inner space is infinite, and we don't know who the driver is.

The inward flight of consciousness - we have to know in detail about the inward flight of consciousness. When the consciousness goes into inner space, what things does it come across? Is there a total void - shoonyata? Does the consciousness pass through this void, does it pass through light, does it pass through visions? Is consciousness aware of itself? Does it maintain its identity of name and form? These are some of the important things which are intimately concerned with our inward travel, with our spiritual journey to the soul.

The first thing to remember is that we begin from where we are, and we begin on our own initiative. No one else can come to my doorstep and start the journey for me. So, if I belong to tamo guna, I start the journey from the tamasic state - the state of laziness, the state of lethargy, the state of procrastination, the state of sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. If I am a rajasic temperament - dynamic and active qualities of greed, jealousy, passion, acquisition, accomplishment, enjoyment, luxury, have this and have that, and that's nice and this is nice. If I am sattvic by temperament, I start the journey from my doorstep with knowledge, peace of mind, detachment and non-involvement with the empirical, transitory, insignificant matters of life; I keep myself aloof.

These are the three doorsteps of man, and according to his temperament, each person must pick up a spiritual practice for himself. There is no use saying that everyone should practice pranayama and awaken kundalini, or that everyone should practice meditation, or that this meditation is good and fantastic for the whole universe. Oh no, it is useless, it is false! There have been teachers all over the globe emphasizing one system of meditation for all. It is wrong! There cannot be just one system of meditation. You cannot reach India by taking a road to Melbourne. If you want to go to India, you have to follow a different route, and going to Tahiti involves another route again - likewise in spiritual life.

Everyone has his own way according to karma, but first of all you have to find out where you are. Are you sattvic, are you rajasic, or are you tamasic? According to your temperament, and according to the evolution, which you have undergone through millions and millions of years to this day, you have to pick up a sadhana, or the spiritual practice for you.

Now, having realized your own temperament, the next point is the vehicle. The body is the vehicle - the whole body - and prana is the fuel. If you don't have prana shakti, pranic energy, you won't be able to go high into meditation. At a certain point in meditation you will drop back, you will be stranded on the highway - you understand. Therefore, in order to accumulate and conserve more prana and prana shakti, you must have certain mental disciplines to conserve mental energy. The more you think, the more you expend your prana shakti. Thinking, worrying, anxiety: all these need fuel, and prana is the fuel. Without prana shakti you cannot think, you cannot imagine, you cannot move, you cannot speak, you cannot understand. Therefore every person who wants to go in and realize the greater and deeper states of meditation must find for himself a way to amplify, conserve and preserve the prana for this inward flight. And this prana is not the breath, the ordinary breath that goes through the nostrils - that is, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc. Prana is not oxygen; it is something similar to bio-plasma. It is energy; it is shakti. Now scientists are able to see pranic radiation.

This prana can be accumulated and awakened by some of the practices of kriya yoga and kundalini yoga in the system of tantra, which come within the scheme of meditation.

I don't know if you have really understood tantra. If you don't know tantra, let me introduce it to you, and if you have misunderstood tantra, then let me correct your misunderstanding. The various tantric systems are ways by which you can awaken the dormant pranic force that is inherent in you. And this prana is responsible for awakening kundalini. This prana is responsible for maintaining unfluctuating awareness of one symbol during meditation. Prana alone is responsible for maintaining this steadiness of mind. If in meditation your mind is wavering, if your consciousness is fluctuating, if you are not able to rest your mind on one point, it is due to a shortage of prana. Nervous breakdown, nervous depression, vacillation of mind, sluggishness, lethargy, indolence, all these are caused by a low voltage of prana. And in order to increase this pranic voltage, there are many ways suggested by tantra, yoga and other sciences.

First of all the prana shakti, vital energy, which is the fuel for higher steps in meditation, should be accumulated and preserved; it should be in excess. In India I travel by my own car, and sometimes in the middle of the night I can't find petrol stations. So I keep extra petrol in two or three drums and my journey goes on unobstructed. In the same way all of you must have these extra drums of petrol within so that when your consciousness is soaring higher and higher, you can maintain it. Otherwise, when the mind starts wavering and the visions start floating, suddenly you will drop and come back to the lower, gross existence.

We have talked about the fuel, now let's talk about the driver. The mind is the driver. He can drive you straight if he's not drunk, and he can drive you right off the road if he's been on the bottle. This mind is the power, this mind is the instrument. Therefore in yoga the first step is to train the mind, which has to be disciplined, just as the body has to be disciplined. A good driver has discipline; the secretary of a department, the head of a military force, a major or a brigadier has discipline. Without discipline, things cannot move.

The discipline of the mind begins with mantra. Just as a soldier is brought to the parade ground and drilled, 'left, right, about turn, right turn', likewise the mind too has to be disciplined with mantra. Therefore every spiritual seeker must obtain one mantra. What exactly mantra is, I will not tell you at this moment; perhaps I will tell you later. But mantra is powerful. It is a strong force that cures maladies of the mind. It completely overhauls the entire structure of the mind. Those who want to go high, who want to go deep must have a mantra.

I find that many people keep on changing the mantra, but when they come to me for yet another one, I say, 'No! One mantra forever!' the mantra is not your wife whom you can divorce at any time. The mantra is a part of your consciousness, a part of your subconscious; mantra is a part of your soul, a part of your mind, a part of your spirit. How can you renounce a mantra and accept another? Analysing it psychologically also, one mantra, which becomes a part of your consciousness will always conflict with another mantra in deeper states of meditation. Therefore, once you have a mantra, whether it is Aum, Sham, Sri or Klim; from me, from her or from any guru - it is all the same - it is good, and this mantra should be managed well by you. Never try to get a better mantra. Though you might get a better husband, mantras are all the same. To be very frank, when people come to me for a mantra in the West, my first question is always, 'Have you ever had a mantra before?' 'Yes.' 'What is that?' I ask. They say Aum or Klim. 'Where from?' 'from some other sect.' I say, 'Okay, your mantra is the same, but now let it be from me'. I don't want to change anyone's mantra, whether it is Allah or Buddha or Jesus or Dam or Ram or Govinda or Klim or Rim or Aim or Srim. I think anything can lead you provided you have faith in it. If you want to change your mantra, you are going to change the new one also, because you have the habit of doing that. So stick to one mantra.

Now what do you do with this mantra? There is a method called japa, in which you repeat the mantra with the mind and the breath. What for and why? The rotation, the repetition of the mantra with the breath minimizes the mental wavelength, it tranquillizes the mind. It explodes, and creates explosions in the subconscious, and brings the dormant and suppressed karmas to the surface. Most of you must be having this difficulty; the whole day when you are at your job in the office or the shop, your mind is okay. But the moment you take up the mala, you find all sorts of ghosts and things hovering over your mind. Am I right? So you are discouraged very much; but this is something which is necessary, which must happen. You have to explode the karmas; the impurities must come out so that you can be free of them. The dormant and suppressed emotions and desires, the karmas and inhibitions buried deep in your subconscious mind, which you are escaping, running away and hiding from during the daytime, must come out at the point of concentration, at the point of repetition of the mantra.

When you are practicing your mantra by any method, if an explosion takes place, and the mind starts fluctuating and vacillating, don't suppress the thoughts, but try to see them. On the one hand your mantra goes on, either with the mala, with the breath, in the spinal cord, or as your guru has taught you; on the other hand, you must be aware of the mental forces, of the processes of thinking and awareness. You remember your friend, your house, your agonies, pains; past, present and future problems, tragedies and comedies. Keep on watching them with an attitude of uninvolvement. You should never try to reject a thought process. Every thought that is suppressed comes back again even stronger, especially if it is most horrible, obscene and sinful. Every thought is power, every thought is like a bomb. The more you suppress it, the more it comes out. And the later it comes out, the more terrible it is.

We have found a method, and the method is to let the thought process flow and let the japa process continue simultaneously. Is this clear? The twin processes have to continue at the same time. Sometimes the awareness of thinking becomes keen, other times awareness of mantra becomes keen. Sometimes you are very engrossed in your thinking, and then you regain awareness of your mantra, Aum, Aum, Aum… There is an alternate awareness of wavering and concentration, fluctuation and unification; this must happen. The thoughts other than your mantra must cease spontaneously and never by force. Secondly, you should never wish to be completely free of thoughts in meditation, and to be aware only of the japa or the mantra. You should never wish for this; it is impractical thinking, and can never happen. Along with the mantra, along with your spiritual practice or meditation, thoughts will come; fluctuations must take place; memories must return; your memories must wander here and there. That's natural and, if it doesn't happen, you can be sure that you have a mental block somewhere, and you must cure it. I repeat, a mental blockage has built up, and you must get rid of it. So, side by side with the mantra, you must practice antar mouna, the art of witnessing the thought process.

Later on you must increase the potentiality of the explosions. How do you do it? You practice your mantra with deep ujjayi breathing in the spinal cord, as if the breath is passing through the spinal cord from the top to the bottom and from bottom to top. The more your awareness passes through the spinal column, the explosions become deeper. And these explosions do not take the form of thoughts, but are in the form of visions, which are nothing but symbolized thought consciousness. Do not mistake these visions to be something supreme or divine, or even super psychic. The light you see, the forms you experience in the deepest states of pranayama, are nothing but the subconscious mind being expressed in symbolic fashion. That's what you are, and that's what must be exhausted. When the mind is tranquillized and the waverings are brought to a minimum, when you have been able to unify some of the tendencies of your mind, then these visions float across.

Here we come to a point called the symbol or form. There are three types: gross, medium, subtle. You have to fix some symbol for yourself. Some use inverted triangles, others a flame; some have a tiny little shining star, others concentrate on the heart, the lotus - blue lotus, red lotus, yellow lotus; some on the cross, some on Christ, some on Shiva, some on their own guru, and so on. When the mantra has been able to create a state of visions, and all your thoughts are coming out in symbolic form, you must immediately awaken your symbol and with your eyes closed you must try to visualize it. For example, suppose it is the flame of fire; even as you see the flame of fire outside, in the same manner, with your eyes closed, you should be able to see the flame of fire within. And this experience of the flame of fire should be abiding; it should continue; it should be stabilized. Now some people would like to have this experience in a particular zone of the heart while others would prefer to have it here, in bhrumadhya. It depends on you.

When you try to be aware of your symbol, visions float across the mind. What are you going to do with them? It is very difficult; the more you are aware of your symbol, the more the visions fly across, the more you have beautiful dreams - you know - like the beautiful visions of people who have taken LSD or ganja. Once maybe twenty or twenty-two years ago I was in Gangotri, the place where the river Ganga originates, in the Himalayas. I was living there for a period of nine months, all alone with another sadhu, swami. It was snowing and snowing, and I used to stay in the room all day and all night, keeping the fire going. I drank tea the whole day, and I had a chillum for ganja. You understand - ganja, hashish, which you smoke through cigarettes, and we take through the little mud pot and hara hara mahadev. So for nine months I was taking it, day in and day out, as long as I was awake, and after that I would sit. I used to have prolonged visions, of big tunnels and small tunnels; I would see camels going through those small tunnels, and I don't know how they did it. Once I had a wonderful vision; it was fantastic, you'll like it. Please understand that I am talking about a vision, something like a dream - not reality. It was in the morning and my eyes were closed; I saw I was walking towards the river with a pot, like a tea pot or a neti lota made out of copper. On the way I found that an elephant was chasing me. Eventually he got close to me, because he could take such big steps. Having no recourse to anything else, I had a bright idea - I got into the pot to hide. The elephant approached, looking here and there for where this swami had gone. Then he looked into the pot and found that I was there. He became very angry, and then he also got into the pot. I was terribly frightened, so much so that I got out through the nozzle. The elephant knew how I had gone, and he also got through the nozzle. What happened then, but his tail got caught in the nozzle, and wouldn't come out. I ran like anything and, having no other escape, I climbed up a small tree, about five feet high. The elephant had meanwhile got his tail unstuck and was soon underneath the tree.

Now, so far you may have accepted my story, but beyond this point it is going to be a little difficult to follow. The elephant started climbing the tree. I was incredibly afraid. Out of terrible fear, I started to urinate. The elephant was happy and started to climb up the urine as if it were a rope. Again out of horrible fear I got another shock; my urine stopped and the elephant fell down because his rope broke. That was a vision, but it was so real that I remember it to this very day, even as I was telling it to you, I could actually feel myself entering the pot.

Now this kind of thing happens. These experiences come up, whether induced by meditation, or by using some kind of herb or medicine. These symbolic manifestations of pranic energy in the mind are known in the yoga shastras, the philosophy of yoga, as vikalpas. They are the greatest barriers to spiritual awareness. With a strong and clear mind and with tactics, you can fix up your thoughts, the wave patterns of the mind. But I can assure you it is very difficult to fix these vikalpas. What I have told you about is just one of my experiences. I have had fantastic visions. During these visions I forgot all about myself, all about my mantra, and all about the symbol on which I was supposed to focus my mind. Sometimes these visions would continue for hours together. During those nine months at Gangotri, I tried my level best the whole time to fix my mind on the symbol, and every time I succeeded, I found that I was going so far away. I would often see beautiful rishis and mounis with beards over the snow-capped mountains, and the gods and goddesses of Hindu mythology. I knew that they were a part of myself, but I couldn't help it, I had to see them. I would never say that they were hallucinations or imagination. I consider them to be the most powerful expressions of the deeper states of my mind, because fantasy is the mind, and is dormant in every being.

Every man has been suppressing his fantasies. We have fastened our brains with a big master lock to which the key is lost. We never allow these suppressed fantasies to function, because we have been taught that fantasies are bad - no, no, no, a hundred times no, no fantasies. And I say, yes, fantasies are good. You must use them. Right from the beginning, you must utilize the faculty of fantasizing. Later on this will help you to overcome the vikalpas, the psychic explosions, the psychic barriers.

So meditation, the inward journey I have been telling you about, carries you along so many paths and through so many experiences, when your prana shakti is very high and you know the way, or when you have a guide if you don't know the way. The outside guide is the guru, but who is the inner guide? If I am your guru, I can guide you as long as you are awake. But when the sun does not shine; when the mind, the senses and the outer consciousness are withdrawn; and the awareness of time, space and object is no more, who is going to be your guide? Who will lead you on? This inner guide is the symbol, and at that moment every yoga aspirant, every student of meditation must have a symbol for himself, and this symbol has to be fixed. It can by anything. It can be myself, it can be yourself, it could be your heart or a blue lotus, the cross, Christ or the shiva lingam. It could be anything or everything, but it should be one. You must not change it as you change your wife or husband every year. You can't change it as you change your house every year. It is not part of a contract between yourself and your spiritual life; it has to be permanent. Until you realize it as a reality, this symbol is your inner guru - remember it. Your outer guru may be myself, himself, herself or someone else; I don't care, it is all the same. But your inner guru is the shining light of your symbol at a time when you are completely and totally dead to the outer life, when you are no more, when name and form are gone, when time and space have been transcended. At that time the light is needed. This is why sages have always emphasized the need for a symbol.

God is formless; we know this. The almighty has no form and no name, but you still need a guide who will continue to direct you during the period that you have no helper from outside. So during the inward journey there comes a moment when you are either completely lost in shoonyata, the void, because you have no guide light; or you emerge, come up, and follow that light, Aum, Aum. Visions appear, float across and return again. Aum, Aum, Aum. In every state of awareness, in every realm of your personality, in every dimension of your consciousness, no matter how high you are, no matter how far away you are, the Aum has to be in front of you, shinning, the red Aum, or the blue Aum, or the tricolour Aum. I hope this is very clear, for this is the secret. There are two possible destinies for the spiritual aspirant. All students of meditation, who have been and who shall be treading the path must remember that you have two possible destinies: one is the path of light, and other is the path of void. The path of void is shoonyata, complete and total annihilation of consciousness. The path of light is where there is someone, something, some experience, maybe a person, maybe a light, maybe music. These are the two paths; you must be certain for yourself about one of the two.

I have spoken about two things - about the mantra, and about the symbol. The whole edifice of meditation, the whole structure of dhyana yoga is built on these twin pillars, and they have to be very strong pillars. Mantra - one - remember, and symbol - one. They don't fluctuate or change. Even if you have not succeeded so far, you will succeed ultimately. Never feel that your mantra is not powerful, and then try for a better one, as you would go for a better job. You must leave this business of flirting with mantra, flirting with devata, and flirting with the spiritual life; enough of it now! Don't be hurt if I speak the truth.

Coming to the conclusion therefore, the guru comes first, your yoga practices come next, then the mantra, and that is followed by the awareness - constant, unfluctuating and unbroken awareness of the symbol. What happens then, when the awareness of this symbol becomes constant?

To illustrate this, let us take, for example, the blue lotus as a symbol. When the awareness of the lotus remains constant, unfluctuating and abiding, there is a moment when there is just the blue lotus. You see it as clearly and as distinctly as possible. And at that point meditation begins. Although you may say now that you are practising meditation, you are not actually practising meditation, you are practising for meditation.

Meditation begins when the practice stops, when awareness of the outward life is lost, when you are completely one with yourself. That is a state of experience, true experience, in which you can meet with your god, your guru and many great spiritual souls within you.

Guru and disciple are the two great powers, the two great poles. But the relationship between them is very difficult to understand or to define. Society has not actually been able to define the relationship between guru and disciple. The guru is not god, and the disciple is not the devotee. Guru and disciple are two who are completely in love with each other on a higher plane. Their relationship is total. The relationship between husband and wife is not total; it is one aspect of the totality. The relationship between father and son, mother and daughter or brother and sister is not total, it is one aspect: paternal, maternal, fraternal and so on. It is not complete. But in the guru, it is complete. He is everything to me and I am everything to him, not only on the worldly plane, but also on the spiritual plane. On the worldly plane, the earthly plane or the physical plane, he is the fulfilment of my life.

The moment we transcend the physical plane, I also become his medium, I become an efficient conductor. I am the conductor of his mental and spiritual energy. A guru has many disciples, but a guru without such a disciple as I am talking about is like a powerhouse without a transmission line. What is it good for? It has plenty of energy, plenty of power, plenty of electricity, yet the city is in darkness because there is no connection with a transmission line. Therefore every disciple has to become a competent medium for transmitting the power, the stronger the disciple, the greater will be the current. Sometimes it happens that the potent energy of the guru flows through a weak disciple and the fuse burns out. And sometimes if the fuse is not there, the wire burns out- there is fire. So many disciples are fused, are destroyed that way. I have had many such. The energy is so great; the spiritual energy is so powerful, that there is no other way but for the disciple to just surrender himself, and then he becomes a transmission line. This goes for every disciple. If you cannot be a main transmission line or a substation, at least you can be one pole by which a small line can be supplied to a house or a community.

Discipleship is not a joke, and at the same time guruship is not a joy. It is very painful to be a guru, and it is very hard to be a disciple. You have to accept. The guru has to accept the disciple in totality, and the disciple has to accept the guru in totality. But we are not used to accepting; a wife is not able to accept her husband in totality, nor husband the wife. Though each one of us has completely dedicated himself - body, mind and soul - still there is not total acceptance. Why? So it is with everyone. We are used to this state of non-acceptance, and that is our attitude to our guru also. And it's so painful; it's so painful that you have dedicated yourself to a person, and yet have not accepted him. It is a contradiction; it is a paradox. It is nothing but one's stupidity to have dedicated oneself to someone but not to have accepted that person.

Therefore in both your daily life and your spiritual life, I would not say that the relationship between guru and disciple should be holy and sanctified. Rather it must be totally logical; it must be absolutely scientific; it must be in tune with the purpose with which you have made someone your guru, or your disciple. I make disciples, and I just want to give them the energy, that's all. If they are unable to fulfil their task, I remove the pole and fix another one. Right from the beginning of creation to this day, since man has been pondering the spiritual mysteries, he has not been able to understand this deepest, this noblest, this highest, closest, this unique, unified and united relationship between guru and disciple. On one level the guru and disciple are two, on another level they are totally one. At the point where you are totally devoted in meditation, you and guru are one. But when you have a task to fulfil, you are separate from the guru, and you carry his line, you carry the stream of his energy, the current of his power. So, everybody here belonging to me, or to any other guru, must remember very well that you have to be a disciple. You have to be a strong disciple; you have to be a powerful disciple. And it is no use talking a lot about your guru, or praising him a lot. It is no use pasting notices on the wall about your guru. Live it, in peace and unity.

This session is dedicated to the disciples of other gurus, and to the disciples of this disciple. To those who are treading the path who want to go in; who want to go far, very far away, beyond where the light and the darkness can penetrate, where sound cannot be heard and touches cannot be experienced. We call it the transcendental; to those who want to have that experience, this speech has been dedicated.

I sincerely pray that all of you will reach the highest purpose in life, meditation, dhyana. Man is not born for the life he is leading. The purpose of life is to enter into the state of meditation.