What is the importance of mouna in spiritual development?
The practice of mouna, silence, reduces hypertension in the brain and leads to successful meditation. It conserves energy which can be channelized into higher spiritual experience. By practicing mouna the inner temperature of the body can be lowered and physical quietness achieved. This makes it possible to maintain a state of equilibrium in meditation, free of disturbance and distraction. During meditation the alpha waves become intense. If the practitioner observes mouna, his inner awareness becomes dynamic and constant, bringing him nearer to spiritual vision. The practice of silence induces a state of self-introspection and contemplation. Long periods of silence for weeks together in a monastery, ashram, cave or mountain retreat in conjunction with spiritual practices can develop intuitive awareness. People suffering from nervous disorders, high blood pressure and heart trouble should make it a point to observe silence, if not for weeks together, then at least for one week or even one day per week.
What is matter to a yogi - is it everything which exists, manifest and unmanifest?
According to Patanjali, the exponent of yoga, matter is the manifestation of primal nature, energy or power. As long as a yogi is living on the material plane, he sees matter. But when he transcends mind he transcends matter also. Matter exists only as long as the mind does. When the mind is annihilated, there is no matter. Mind is matter, shakti, energy. By the practice of meditation, this crude matter is refined stage by stage. Within the folds of this mind there are traces of awareness and experiences. We see, understand and experience according to our past memories, whether pleasant or unpleasant. The yogi separates experiences from matter, karmas, samskaras or impressions from mind. There comes a moment in the life of a yogi when all that the mind has accumulated and cherished is eliminated in totality. This is how the mind transcends itself and is converted back into energy. Then the mind is just 'mind'. Thus matter only exists on the mental plane; as soon as the barriers of the mind are transcended, matter no longer exists. Even the mind which is totally transmuted and transformed.
What is the purpose of existence - why is man born into this material life of the senses?
The purpose of life is to evolve. Man is part of a fantastic, infinite evolution. He is not absolute; he stands somewhere within it. After millions of years of existence, this creation, life itself, has evolved to the point where it manifested in the form of man. The life force within man, animals, vegetables and minerals, in all sentient and insentient creation is one evolving existence which always was right from the beginning of this universe, from the beginning of this planet Earth. The purpose of evolution, however, is certainly not known to me. Logically, intuitively and metaphysically, no philosophy has ever convinced me of its purpose to tin's day. Although I have studied modern and ancient philosophies of all ages and races. I cannot tell you why life was born, why it evolves, to what extent it will evolve, and the purpose of this meaningless evolution which is going to come to an end. If you want me to give a reply according to Hindu philosophy, the Bible or other religions I can, but my reply to the purpose of evolution is: I do not know.
Is life in this world real or unreal?
For a practical yogi the world, life and its events are a concrete reality. He does not regard life as unreal, transitory, an illusion or a great dream. Because life is very real, yogis of old sought for a solution to its problems and limitations. Thus they discovered the system of the yamas and niyamas (truth, non-violence, celibacy etc.), asanas and pranayamas, concentration and meditation. According to yogic philosophy the world exists in all three periods of time. The past has its bearing ever the present and much of the future depends on the present. This earth, society, culture, customs, taboos, inhibitions and complexes are all real. We have to understand this world.
How can integral celibacy be maintained?
Celibacy is against the general laws of nature; it is for a few, not for all. If you are among the few, leave your hearth and home, bequeath your rights and property, and stay with me as a disciple. Then I will teach you the art of celibacy. If you cannot do this, then aim towards self control and a regulated married life. Healthy sexual interaction and total freedom from sexual fantasies is my definition of celibacy for the common man. This releases stored up endocrine secretions and leads to a healthy body and a balanced mind.
If God, truth, the path and the goal are one, why do the masters and guides differ in their conceptions and sometimes even contradict one another?
The self-realized masters did not speak differently about the truth. They were unanimous about their pronouncements. But what they spoke was transmitted by their disciples who still had limitations and prejudices. Thus the differences came about and so they will continue. The truth, the path and the goal are one; nobody has said otherwise. But their followers have their own philosophies which do differ and will continue to differ. It cannot be helped.
What is the reason for spiritual names?
You have a body, so you should also have a name according to your astrology, your priest, your birth date, or your parents liking. The name indicates the physical man. But what will you call another man born within this man? When the child of spiritual awareness is born within you, are you not going to give him a name? A spiritual name is given to the man who is waking up according to deeper and prominent aspects of his personality. This can be seen by the intuition of a highly evolved being.
How can disciples who are not living in an ashram serve their guru?
The purpose of service is self-purification. Householders can serve the guru by serving their fellow men with an attitude of detachment and by following the rules of initiation which the guru has laid down for them, in India, according to tradition, the guru gives spiritual instructions; he is entirely dedicated to spiritual life and is not committed to earning his livelihood. The guru devotes his life to contemplation and realization of the greater truth, to deep meditation and cultivation of divine power. He is surrounded by his monastic disciples, and householder disciples support his entire establishment. Either monthly or annually they contribute something towards its maintenance. On the birthday of their guru, householder disciples conduct a poor feeding, for which they prepare a sumptuous meal and then invite all the leprous, blind, orphaned and helpless people of their locality to partake of the feast. Householder disciples also serve the guru by transmitting his message to their nearest family members, friends and associates.
How can art be utilized for obtaining universal consciousness?
Art, itself, is a way to realize or observe the universality of consciousness. But an artist, a person who is dedicated to art, should develop his consciousness homogeneously so that he can give universal expression to his art.
Please describe the seven states of consciousness, especially Paramahamsa.
The seven states of consciousness are the gradual evolutionary points one experiences in deep meditation. If you really wish to understand them, then study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the commentaries which describe them in detail. The state of Paramahamsa is where one is able to differentiate or discriminate between real and unreal, mortal and immortal, true and untrue. There also comes a stage in evolution where one who has reached Paramahamsa is no longer able to differentiate between these two because he has transcended even that state of limitation.
Now that our time together is drawing to a close, I want to assure you that all your questions can be answered by you, yourself. The master is within you. Sit down as a disciple underneath the tree of wisdom which is within you and close your eyes. Put all your questions in the file and lock them in the cupboard for the time being. Develop your consciousness, widen your horizons and awaken your intuition. Just as we are giving replies to your questions, you will find that the replies to your questions are within you or maybe you won't have any more questions.