Spiritual Discovery

Swami Satyananda Saraswati's opening speech at the World Yoga Convention, Satyananda Ashram, Australia, Oct. 1978

The outer life, the life that is transitory, empirical, subject to time and space and objectivity, is well known to us. Therefore it is not necessary to have a guru to teach you about it. Everyone knows how to experience this outer life through the senses and the mind. Experience of this physical body, sensual pleasure and pain, emotion and passion, love and hatred, everyone knows. But there is another experience, a spiritual experience, which mankind in general has not experienced so far, except for a few fortunate souls in the past. This has to be experienced through life and beyond life. No matter what you do, how you live, or where you live, this experience can come to everybody. This is a total experience, the closest experience, and the whole structure of yoga is woven around it. If you ask me 'What is yoga?' I would reply, 'To be able to unite your present consciousness with that experience, that is yoga'. Every practice of yoga leads to that experience, even as it was said in the past that all roads lead to Rome. All the forms of yoga whether hatha yoga, raja yoga, kundalini yoga, mantra yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga etc. ultimately develop and refine the consciousness, and make this lower consciousness capable of apprehending that spiritual awareness.

For thousands of years mankind has been thinking about this. A few great people, the rishis, saints, sons of God, had that experience. They became one with the supreme beatitude. Our forefathers saw them and also tried to have the same experience, but some how or other the climate was not suitable or the environment was not congenial. In our century, in our time, the whole climate is changing, and even those who do not want that experience will have it. Even those who are sceptical wish to have that experience and want to discuss it. Humanity cannot escape now. It was said in the Gita, in the Vedas, in the Bible, that the ultimate destiny of man must come to this. The experience of supreme beatitude is our destiny, it is the destiny of the whole of living kind. In our times there is an uprising of spiritual consciousness, of spiritual seeking, of spiritual discovery.

You seek pleasure, don't you? Yes you do. Why do you seek pleasure? Why do you seek love? What for? Man has been searching for something of which he knows nothing. His searches lead him through the dimensions of pleasure, love, pain and frustration, tragedy and comedy. But now all of these erroneous ways of seeking must come to an end. We know the road, the way, the method, and it is too foolish to go on searching for the experience in a blindfolded way. We have been searching just like a blind man trying to find a piece of chocolate. We haven't really been seekers of pleasure, love, passion and commotion. It is because we are blind that we have been following these paths, that's the problem, and we are not able to get out of the pleasant sensual experience.

I remember a parable. There was a blind man and he was wandering around inside a fort. He wanted to get out of the fort, which had four gates. He asked a wise man how he could get out. The wise man said, 'Hold the wall of the fort and keep on moving. The moment there is a gate, you will know and be able to get out'. The blind man held the wall of the fort with his hand and kept on moving. Unfortunately, when he came to a gate he began scratching himself. He went on further, again holding the wall, and when the second gate came, he scratched himself again. In this way he missed the gates, but they were there. I think that we are like that. Many times in life we have passed by the gate, but we started scratching and missed it.

If we are to find the gate, we have to know and realise that the most important thing in yoga is dhyana. Meditation is the answer, the way. When, through meditation, you are able to transcend the idea of the body - when you are able to forget the notion of the name and form - when you are able to rise above the memories of the past, and when you are able to have even a blurred vision of something which is a non-physical experience, then you are on the path. Those who are able to see the light, to experience the space or the sound within, are on the path.

We live in the body, we are aware of the body, but we are not able to transcend it. We have to discover a conscious practice by which we gradually transcend the experience of duality, of name and form, until we are able to jump over the ego principle. This jumping over the ego principle is samadhi, not an easy affair, surely, but it is something which we have to accomplish. I believe that this is the purpose of human existence, otherwise it has no logical justification. If we are born as human beings because of what we have been doing up until now, then there is no fun in it, there is no logic in it. We have just been living a superior kind of animal life. We are civilised animals, doing the same things in a different way. If animals eat grass, we cook it and eat it. If they procreate, we procreate in a maternity home. That's not bad - I'm not criticising it - I'm only trying to create a comparison between ourselves and animal life.

Animal life belongs to the dimension of instinct. In the process of evolution there are three distinct dimensions- instinct, intellect, and intuition. Instinct belongs to the animal kingdom. When I say that we have been exhibiting instinct all our lives it does not mean that we have a tail and two horns. Instinct is the quality which we have inherited from the un-evolved, tamasic, animal kingdom, in which there is no spiritual response. The moment you have spiritual response, spiritual hunger, you are out of the area of instinct. Instinctive behaviour will continue with us for a very long time, because we have a body. We don't have to throw it away. I am not criticising the instinctive life. But, along with the instincts that sustain the body, the human being has to develop intuition, the higher strata of the mind, so that he is able to comprehend his own completeness and perfection, his real identity. We have, in fact, forgotten our identity.

If you ask me who I am, I will cite my name, my tribe, my clan, my nationality - but am I that? Who am I? Have you ever posed this question to yourself? Who am I? Am I this body, with a certain name and social status? If I am only that, then the whole spiritual philosophy is bunkum. If I am what I can comprehend at this moment, and nothing beyond that, if this is my identity, my description, my definition - this physical body, this name, this Hindu, Muslim, Christian, this man, this woman - then don't talk of spiritual life.

Spiritual life begins when I start to doubt my definition of myself. It starts when I pose this question again, 'Who am I? Am I the body? Am I the mind? Am I the senses? Am I the experience of pain and pleasure? Am I time? Am I space?' Finally you have to come to the answer, 'No. I am not this. I am a seer of this. I am not the body, but a seer, a witness of the body. I am not the mind, but I see the mind. I am not the pain and pleasure, I see them. I am not this, I am a seer of all this. I am not a flower, but a seer of the flower.' So I become a seer, a witness. When I close my eyes I see what I see as a seer. With my eyes open whatever I see around me, I see, but I am not part of it.

One has to separate oneself from all those elements that are subject to time and space, objectivity and duality. It is for this purpose that everyone has to experience the depth of meditation. The little experience you have in meditation is transitory; it's not abiding. The experience has to go through a series of changes. Every day, every week, it can be different. All of the experiences which you go through when you are practicing meditation are not the ultimate experience. There are a series of experiences in a sequence which will ultimately lead to the self or the spiritual experience, the experience of non-duality, of oneness. In between the experience which we have achieved up to this moment, and that experience which I am talking about, there are thousands and thousands of experiences which a spiritual aspirant necessarily has to go through. For this purpose the ways and paths have been laid down, and they are known as meditation. Our spiritual efforts should be dedicated to this purpose. I have always been telling you that everything in life is all right, but that is not final. You must have something more. In order to have it, let us accept meditation as a way for us, and through the practice of meditation develop the powers of consciousness.

What is this consciousness which has to evolve - from where and to where? When the eves are closed the mind is open, and when the mind is closed the senses are experiencing. And when experience is also closed, what remains is the self. There is a dialogue in one of the Upanishads where a sage is asked by his disciple, 'Oh guru, how do we see?' The sage replied, 'With the light of the sun'. The disciple asked again, 'How does one see when the sun sets?' The sage said, 'With the light of the moon'. The disciple asked him again, 'Then how does one see when the moon has also set?' He said, "With the light of the twinkling stars". The disciple said, 'Guru, when the stars are no more, and the moon has set, and the sun has set, how does one see?' He said, 'By his own Self. When the eyes are closed, still you can see. When the mind is closed, still you can see, and when the visions are closed, still you can see. When everything is blocked, and everything is closed and has stopped functioning, still you can see - and what you see is the Truth.