According to vedic dharma each person is a composite of four main qualities: dynamism, emotions, mysticism and rationalism. Some people are predominantly dynamic; others are more emotional, mystical or rational; every personality is an integration of these four essential temperaments.
Thus for the evolution of our personality we have to integrate the four corresponding categories of yoga sadhana into our lives. Sadhana is spiritual discipline or practice. Just as you train an animal, the personality must also be trained in order to be useful in this life. Thus for the balanced development of our personality, we must practice an integral yoga sadhana. By emphasising one aspect of sadhana, our development will be lopsided. If we eat protein and nothing else, what will happen? Just as we carefully provide a balanced diet for the physical body, so we must supply a balance of nutrition to the spiritual body also. Thus in the Gita, Yoga Vashishtha, Srimad Bhagavata, and other scriptures, an integration of the four systems of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga is recommended. All those who overemphasise any one aspect of yoga should remember that this results in one-sided development.
Through the practice of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga, we can train the whole personality. This is what I want to tell everyone, everywhere. It is easy to attain temporary tranquillity through certain practices, but to train the mind is very difficult. To transform the entire consciousness into a creative instrument is not easy.
About five years ago a small research was conducted to find out the influence of kirtan on the brain. When we do kirtan for half an hour to one hour, we feel nice and relaxed. Why? What change takes place in the structure of the personality and in the hormonal make-up of the brain? It was found that during repetitious singing of kirtan, the brain registers the sound waves (nada) which influence all the other wave patterns of the brain. These waves awaken alpha rhythms which immediately induce tranquillity Thus by singing kirtan we get peace of mind. This is well and good, but maintaining that state of mind throughout our daily life is not so easy. The peace which we gain by practicing this technique does not remain with us through the complicated and confusing patterns of our daily life. Therefore side by side with yoga sadhana which gives us peace of mind, we must also remember the necessity of transforming the very structure of the mind. But how?
When we drive our car into the petrol station to fill up the tank, we find that petrol is of different categories : ninety-eight octane, ninety-six, eighty-six and so on. But when this petrol was extracted from the depths of the earth, what was it like then? Crude oil is so dirty, but after refinement it becomes a remarkable agent of energy. When mixed with lead and other things it can even provide the power to fly an aeroplane. Similarly the mind, or chitta, which we have inherited from our previous incarnations still remains in its crude or raw state. In the mental body we have so many things which ought to be removed. When we become terribly angry or very tense, when we worry too much and pass sleepless nights due to family, business, social or political problems, then we feel the necessity of purifying the mind. We must free it from all these vrittis, those habits which we have formed in our personality from the present and previous incarnations.
We believe that the jiva (ego) has undergone a process of self-incarnation in 8,400,000 yonis (wombs). According to science, evolution has passed through a fantastic panorama of existence, but despite these millions of incarnations which our jiva has undergone, we still carry a very crude mind with us. This mind is composed of the three gunas (qualities) : sattva, rajas and tamas. These are the essential manifestations of prakriti (nature). These three gunas are also used in a social or moral context because they indicate the personality of a person. Nature manifests as energy; in nature there are static (tamasic), kinetic (rajasic) and balanced (sattvic) energies.
If we want to make the mind infinite, we must cut and polish it just as we would a diamond. When I was in Antwerp, I visited diamond cutters and saw how different the diamond looks before cutting and after cutting, and also what a difference there is in price.
They say that tamas makes a man lethargic, rajas makes a man violent and sattva makes him balanced. Therefore tamas and rajas have to be overcome by sattva and this is accomplished through the process of dhyana yoga. Dhyana has been translated as meditation but actually it means awareness. Thus dhyana can be attained through raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, laya yoga, mantra yoga, and many other yogic processes.
The mind is not thought or emotion. Thought and emotion are patterns of mind. Happiness is a state of mind and so is depression. Mind is consciousness, awareness. Mind is a storehouse of energy, shakti. Pure mind is pure shakti.
The mind can be purified and corrected through the practice of dhyana yoga by following the methods most suited to our personality. Those who are very strong can take up the path of kundalini and kriya yoga. For others who are not so strong and who haven't yet developed much understanding of yoga, there are other ways like mantra or japa yoga.
Mind is much more than thought or feeling. Mind is like an iceberg; only a small portion is visible, the remainder lies submerged under the ocean. According to modern psychology the mind exists in three spheres: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. In Vedanta we call them: sthula sharira, sukshma sharira and karana sharira.
The unconscious mind is very powerful. The word 'unconscious' should not be misunderstood. The unconscious mind is like a storehouse. All disease, success and tragedy in life originate in the unconscious mind. The experiences that you have had in life, the important as well as the unimportant, are all registered there. It is something like a hidden camera in the streets. Everything that passes within its range is immediately photographed. In the same way, whatever experience you have is immediately transferred back to the unconscious through the indriyas (senses) and the mind. There they are stored in bija (seed) form. This process starts right from the time when the child is in the womb of the mother. From the fourth month of pregnancy, children have certain experiences which are embedded deep in the unconscious mind.
Through the practices of kundalini, kriya and laya yoga the unconscious mind can be exploded. What happens when we explode the unconscious mind? Here is an example of how an ordinary, insignificant experience can cause great damage to one's mind. In our ashram there is an intelligent engineer who could not manage to complete his education or hold a job. Every morning from six till nine he would go into a fit of depression. He became so restless that sometimes he felt he was going to die. In these fits of depression, he could not sit quietly, walk or talk. He left his career as a bright mechanical engineer in one of the biggest firms in UK and wandered around Africa. Finally he came to India and found his way to our ashram. One morning he was on the roof terrace and on the street below he saw a pig eating human filth. This is quite a common scene for those of us who have lived in Indian villages, but for this young boy it was something new. The moment he saw it, he suddenly remembered one incident of his childhood. When he was eight years old he used to go fishing. One morning when he was preparing his tackle, he opened the small tin in which he kept little maggots for bait. He had forgotten to empty it the last time he had gone fishing, and when he lifted the lid hundreds of flies swarmed in his face. The moment he saw the pig eating human filth, his unconscious exploded and this deep childhood memory came out. Since that day the young man has never had another fit; he has been with me for five years now and he is perfectly all right.
Every action, every thought, every place is an experience. A satsang, a lecture on the Gita is an experience. Even an ordinary experience can become very consequential in later life. There are so many types of karma. Charity is one karma and plundering someone's property is another. Even if you don't do these things, still you are making karma. In the Gita it is said that there is not one moment of life in which a man is free of karma. Only in samadhi can you completely do away with karma, otherwise not. Modern psychology and yoga agree that even during deep sleep when you are not aware of time and space, name and form, your mind is still working. Remember the unconscious mind is the storehouse of all past experiences or karmas not only in this life, but in our previous lives as well.
The unconscious body is called hiranyagarbha, the golden egg. By the practice of mantra sadhana we can penetrate it deeply and eliminate all kinds of karmas, one by one. That is why they say that by the practice of mantra one becomes free from the entanglements of karma.
Every action is born of a deep karma. Every thought, movement, success, failure is a re-enactment of one of our previous experiences. Here is another example, a clinical case concerning a husband and wife who loved each other very much. They were very happy together at home, but whenever they went out to dinner, for a walk, on a picnic, etc. they always fought. Why? The story goes back. When the husband was a child of four, he walked into the bathroom when his mother was taking a bath. She quickly covered her body with a dirty house dress, pushed him out and locked the door. Now whenever the husband is at home his wife is engaged in housework, cooking, washing, gardening. She wears an old house dress and he loves her. He is still working out the problem of the old dress which his mother covered herself with in the bathroom. Whenever his wife doesn't have her old house dress on he doesn't like her! Such simple childhood experiences can cause so many problems. Many good people suffer unnecessarily because they are unaware of their karmas and how they fructify.
There are two ways of practicing mantra yoga: one is the repetition of a bija mantra like aum, hrim, shrim, klim; the other is using the name of one's guru or favourite deity. Nowadays we have lost touch with the original mantra yoga system. If we feel devotion for Shiva then we practice Om Namah Shivaya. If we feel more inclined towards Rama we repeat Sri Ram Jai Ram. When we feel attracted to Krishna we say Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. But according to mantra shastra the mantra must be very carefully selected to suit each individual personality. The bija mantras are very powerful. They can allay the strong influence of karmas. The practice of mantra should always be done with a mala. Even in meditation when mantra is synchronised with breath, a mala is still used.
When practicing mantra a lot of things come up in the mind which would not come up otherwise. When past incidents arise, what do we do? The usual response is to suppress these thoughts because we are more interested in our mantra. So when we are practicing japa and a thought comes, we push it out; another one comes and we push it out. But this is incorrect. We do not want to avoid karma but to eliminate it. Therefore it is necessary to observe each thought and let it pass of its own accord.
Thus japa yoga must be followed or accompanied by antar mouna, the process of witnessing our thoughts. When we are practicing mantra and a thought comes into our mind, we must stop for a moment and see the thought, whatever it is. Then continue the mantra until another thought comes. During the practice of japa and antar mouna over a period of months, the significant and insignificant memories of the past flash into our mind. These memories should be seen very clearly if we want to purify our mind. Every experience which we have during mantra practice or meditation has an important bearing on our life.
I know of many people who have changed completely through the practice of japa and antar mouna, and they were amazed as to how it happened. One French gentleman had a hernia and hydrocele. He left his job and went to his sister in the country. He told her that he was completely broken and could no longer work. There was no point in prolonging his life, he said, as he felt only pain everywhere. His sister, a staunch devotee of yoga, told him to put some cream on his eyebrow centre and concentrate on that point. One day while the French gentleman was practicing this, a terrific sound exploded somewhere in his brain. Surprisingly his hernia was cured and his problem of hydrocele was completely resolved - for him it was a miracle. When I met him I asked what had happened when he was concentrating on his bhrumadhya (eyebrow centre). He said that when he was a schoolboy he went to the fish shop and while eating, a fish bone got stuck in his teeth which later had to be removed by the dentist. When he was practicing concentration on his bhrumadhya, he saw a fish coming out of his mouth. After that, he too became a great devotee of yoga.
Therefore, when practicing mantra, do not discard or repress the experiences which arise. You may think that while practicing mantra, worldly thoughts should not enter your mind, and if they do then it is your duty to remove them in respect for the mantra, but this is incorrect. According to yoga and psychology, we must observe, analyse and respect whatever thoughts or experiences come into our mind while practicing japa.
You will find that if the mantra is correct it will work immediately. If it is not the right one for you it will still work, but slowly. To be powerful the mantra has to correlate with all of our qualities and tendencies. Tantra and mantra shastras say that all mantras with the exception of aum are classified into twelve main groups with five subdivisions. Only aum can be repeated by anyone at any time, without restriction. The mantras which are used to explode the unconscious mind are very important. People with devotion for the Devi, particularly Durga or Kali, have fantastic experiences while practicing her mantra. Many of my disciples had terrifying dreams all night after receiving her mantra. This is because the mantra is so powerful that it immediately starts exploding the karmas from the unconscious mind. Just as a strong purgative makes you go to the toilet every five minutes, so repetition of a powerful mantra purges karma very quickly.
The science of yoga aims at perfecting human life. Every ordinary person has extraordinary potential, but to develop this a strong and well-trained mind is necessary. Through the practices of yoga we can gain complete mastery over the body and mind. The west gave technology to the world and made life very comfortable, easy and quick. India can give yoga and spirituality and the whole world is crying for it. People in the west are fed up and frightened of technology. They want a science to allay their fears and give them peace.
Only the system of yoga which is still alive today in India can adequately fulfil this need. Therefore all Indians wherever they are must correctly represent this science. Yoga is knowledge - not miracles, witchcraft or superstition. Yoga is a science which can be studied, practiced, experienced, understood and explained by any educated and well-read person. Yoga can improve relations and create international goodwill. It is important to be able to give something to others which they can cherish deep and dearly in their hearts.
I give free discussions on yoga everywhere I go because I am fully convinced of its effectiveness. My experience and experiments in life with thousands and thousands of people, east and west, are my proof. Now it is the duty of those who know that yoga produces an integrated personality to acquaint themselves with all aspects of yoga. It is no use saying that bhakti yoga alone is enough. If it were, why are religious people lying ill in hospitals and taking so many pills? Why are they unable to sleep in their cosy soft beds? Religion is bhakti yoga. We need an integrated approach to life. Just adding salt to the vegetables does not make a tasty dish. We must combine many spices. Life is too complex for one aspect of yoga to suffice. With a comprehensive approach, life becomes rich.
Thus wherever you are and whenever the opportunity avails itself, you must learn hatha yoga first, a little for yourself and some for others, then pranayama and the arts of relaxation and concentration.
Krinwantu Viswam Aryam is an old vedic mantra which sadhus used to repeat. It means: "Let the whole world become noble and enlightened". When Buddha's disciples went all over the world with his message, their parting instructions were:
"Oh, monk, out of compassion keep moving for the welfare of humanity, for the good of the many."
That was the command. For me and for you these instructions still stand. Krinwantu Viswam Aryam.