Summary of a Meeting

Between Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Professor H.C. Ganguli, Head of the Department of Psychology, University of Delhi.

H.C.G.: Sir, I have come to the ashram with two objectives. First to learn the practices of antar mouna and yoga nidra. Second, to study the changes in consciousness that go on in long practising meditators. On this last point, I seek your advice and guidance.

Swamiji: Changes are constantly taking place in consciousness. These changes are of several types. What particular changes have you in mind?

H.C.G.: I have read of the term 'transformation of consciousness.' For example, in the writings of Sri Aurobindo. In meditations of the type of TM, changes are rarely profound. Can you tell me what is meant by transformation of consciousness?

Swamiji: As I told you, changes are many; similarly, types of consciousness are many also. For example, the Gita speaks of tamasic, rajasic and sattvic types. It also speaks of the sthita-prajna personality. Then, the sastras speak of bhumikas. There are seven bhumis, one above the other. Similarly, among the saints and sadhus, there are different graduations, like the hamsas and above them the paramahamsas.

H.C.G.: About the different types of consciousness you have spoken, are these qualitatively different or merely different in quantity along certain dimensions?

Swamiji: These are different in quality. But as you say, a change in quality can be brought about by a change in quantity and this is what happens.

H.C.G.: Do you feel that the basic design of human consciousness is the same in all?

Swamiji: I do not think so. There are individuals with different qualities of consciousness. And these persons, who are somewhat out of the ordinary, are responsible for jumps in civilisation.

H.C.G.: Could you name some of them?

Swamiji: In modern times, I would place Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi in this category. Rabindranath Tagore, Adi Shankaracharya also fall in this category. But let me tell you one thing. These persons are examples of the development of lower consciousness. Higher consciousness is different again.

H.C.G.: I feel somewhat confused. In the modern sciences dealing with life, like medicine, neurology, psychology, etc. we talk of only one consciousness. Can you clarify somewhat this distinction between higher and lower consciousness?

Swamiji: By lower consciousness, I mean what Indian philosophers call 'chitta'. The meditation techniques and other devices are essentially meant to develop chitta or lower consciousness. Higher consciousness is altogether different.

H.C.G.: Can you tell me about some persons endowed with higher consciousness?

Swamiji: Krishna was of course one. Rama was another. Then Buddha and Christ, they certainly lived in the world of higher consciousness.

H.C.G.: Can this higher consciousness be developed? Is it what is meant by transformation of consciousness?

Swamiji: Why not? It certainly can be developed. And it is developed when there is awakening of the kundalini. As you say, the word kundalini finds no mention in the Gita or the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. But the Gita does refer to the sleeping power in man and how the awakening of this power increases human potentialities. So does Patanjali. The particular word kundalini may not have been used. But there has all along been a reference to the sleeping power in man.

H.C.G.: Patanjali speaks of different stages of samadhi. The last phase is what is called the dharma megha samadhi. Would you call that the attainment of higher consciousness?

Swamiji: No. Because samadhi means merging. The lower self is merged or ended.

H.C.G.: What then would be the appropriate word for higher consciousness?

Swamiji: Well, if you want a word, I would say, the atman. The chitta is the lower self capable of being developed through meditation, mantra, etc. But atman, the higher self is beyond development. It is always there. The purpose of developing the lower self is to lead it to the atman and let it be dissipated at that stage.

H.C.G.: What are the techniques that lead to this end?

Swamiji: All the techniques that lead to the arousal of kundalini power. What I call kriya yoga.

H.C.G.: But are the kundalini techniques not basically tantric in nature?

Swamiji: Yes. So what. The tantra practices are powerful. I know that some of the practitioners are not very good people. But then they have power. And power is what matters.

H.C.G.: Yes. In the Gita, Sri Krishna has said that wherever there is a centre of power, know that that power comes from me.

Swamiji: Yes. That is right.

H.C.G.: What about some of the supernatural powers that come with tantra sadhana?

Swamiji: Oh yes, there is no doubt about it. Studies have been done in other countries which have proved the existence of such forces. I myself, for example can subdue or silence someone's mind, if it will help him.

H.C.G.: Do you feel that these powers and how these can be developed should be studied?

Swamiji: Yes, certainly so. I think the doctors etc. have already started studies on these.

H.C.G.: That is right. The studies have been going on over the last 15 years. Unfortunately most of the studies have been made with only one school of meditation which, because of irregular practice and large scale dropouts, do not usually bring about profound changes in consciousness. We should perhaps turn to those practising classical meditation for a proper understanding of this phenomenon.

Swamiji: Yes, I agree. Actually you should study some of the tantric sadhakas. It does not matter if they are 'good' or 'moral' in a conventional sense. The fact is that they have acquired power. And power is what matters ultimately. Without it, one can do no good either to oneself or to others.