Questions answered by Swami Amritananda Saraswati during the World Yoga Convention held at Satyananda Ashram, Mangrove Mountain, Australia in October, 1978

Why do you use spiritual names?

They are meaningful Sanskrit words which pertain to our faculties. Sanskrit is the mother of many languages. Latin, English, and Hindi may not appear to be similar, but always the root is Sanskrit.

Please tell us what to do when we lose sight of any goal, and don't know where we are going, or even why.

This is a wonderful question. We know that we are facing pain and pleasure. We know that we are incapable of facing them properly. We find it difficult to face them. We want to escape from problems; we want to escape the pain and agony. We try to find the means of producing tranquillity. We try to find truth or bliss. We search everywhere, but it is within us. The practice of yoga will help us to find it.

Could you explain the relationship between Christianity and yoga?

Yoga has no history. We do not know when it began. We only know that it has existed for many thousands of years. It is said that Lord Shiva taught yoga to his wife and his followers, and since then it has spread from one to another. Along the way there came many gurus, many groups, many sects, many disciples, many religions, and one of them was Christianity. It is recorded that Jesus Christ went to India and learned yoga at the well known tantric university of Nalanda. Then he went back to Israel and began teaching. He probably taught a little differently from what he learned, and since then his disciples have added their own ideas. In this way Christianity grew, and if you make a thorough study of the Bible you will surely conclude that it is completely based on yoga.

What is the value of astrology, tarot cards, medium ship, or numerology?

These are good vidyas, good knowledge, if one wants to enrich oneself with many kinds of knowledge. But, for the practitioner of yoga who is seeking peace and higher awakening, it is better not to go into these vidyas, which are not directly related to yoga. They do not help us, nor do they harm us.

What is the difference between the relationship of guru and swami, and guru and householder?

The relationship between guru and disciple is always the same, whether swami or householder. It is difficult to explain, because it is not something material that I can describe to you, like a flower which is round or long, white or red. The relationship between guru and disciple is not physical, emotional, or mental. It is apart from these and above these. It is only atman, the soul - guru's soul and disciple's soul. It does not matter what the guru looks like, whether he is intelligent or foolish, good, emotional, lovable, or rude. You have made him your guru because you have felt - your soul has felt- that he is your guru.

What is the difference between an acharya and a swami?

Swami means master, commander of the self, of the body, mind and emotions. A swami is one who can lead his soul towards the path of truth. Acharya means teacher, anybody's teacher. There are very many teachers, and all can be called acharya.

What are samskaras?

Samskaras are the seed of our past actions. Right now you are looking at me, listening to me and I am talking to you. This is making a samskara in you. It is very subtle. You will not know or understand what is happening, because you think that you are only listening to me, or looking at me, or that I am talking to you. But that is not the end of it. There is something like a microfilm within you, and samskaras are the impressions of whatever you hear or see. The microfilm is affected by every action, sound, and movement. Everything is being recorded within, and only the recorder knows what is being recorded. We do not know - we are not aware of most of it, but the recorder knows everything. When the recording is played back, and we are faced with the samskaras, we often say, 'Oh, I never committed these things'. But the recorder does not lie. These samskaras come up at the time of meditation, or any other practice.

How can one utilize the sleeping hours for spiritual development?

You don't have to be so commercial. Spare your sleep. Don't worry about it. Sleep normally five to six hours, and only use the waking hours for spiritual work. When you can fully utilize the hours that you are awake in working and knowing that you exist, then I will tell you how to utilize the hours of sleep.

Could you please distinguish between psychic and spiritual awareness?

Psychic awareness is a faculty which grows with practice, and which also fades with misuse. Spiritual awareness is permanent, and effulgent. Psychic powers such as the ability to materialize something like a flower, a biscuit, or a watch, may be strong at the beginning, but they do not last. Spiritual powers are permanent, and the more you use them the stronger they become. The awakening comes slowly and mildly. Spiritual people do not play with magic, because the psychic powers should be used for the further awakening of spirituality. If they are used appropriately they become a spiritual faculty. If you use them as magic, then they become psychic powers, which are made known to others when they should be secret.

What does it really mean to be aware and to experience?

To be aware means to know. To experience means to feel. Feel whether you are experiencing pain or pleasure, anxiety or patience, be aware, know that you have pain or pleasure, or anxiety, greed, lust, or hatred.

What is truth?

That is what we are trying to find out. The truth, it is said, is that peaceful and blissful, everlasting experience which remains forever and ever. That is called truth, but nobody who has experienced it has ever said or written what truth is exactly.

If I'm not the body, not the mind, not the emotions, what am I?

You are that, or else you are nothing. You are atma, subtle atma. You are the particle of the universe which is not seen by any man-made microscope. There is only one microscope which will enable us to see, and it is permanently fixed within us. You have to clean that to see the truth.