The Ancient Tradition of Rishis in Relation to Modern Man

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Sivanandashram, Paris, 19.2.83

If the doors of paradise were open only for the holy people, then I think it would be God's greatest disappointment. He would have to wait and wait. There would be very few entries into paradise because man's evolution is incomplete, and he is suffering from infirmity of willpower. He is not perfect. If the doors of hell were open for every sinner, there would surely be a population problem there. This is not a joke. This is a very serious matter which has always been in my mind. I have never believed in sin and I do not think that man is a sinner. We meet obstacles, we falter and we fall, that is all. Every time we fall, we make a fresh attempt to evolve.

It is very important for everybody to know that spiritual light is for everyone, and it is also important for everybody to understand that samadhi and spiritual evolution can be had by all. This is the purpose for which we are born. I cannot see any other reason for my incarnation. I cannot believe that I have come in this physical body with any other purpose.

Often we become self-complacent and we do not want to improve the quality of our existence. In fact many times, when we follow a religious path, we become very careless. A Hindu, when he follows Hindu rituals, becomes complacent. The same thing applies to everybody. We think that with the acceptance of a religion, the objective is attained. Membership to a religious institution is not the ultimate purpose of man's life. We have to understand the whole affair in context with our day-to-day life. Why are we born? Why do we grow up? Why do we marry? Why do we procreate and so on?

Walking the middle way

In India there was a very ancient tradition which was followed by the saints and sages who lived with their wives and families, deep in the forests and jungles, practising sadhana and meditation. This system was known as the tradition of rishis. The tradition of rishis is meant to give a reorientation to the lifestyle of every householder, because many times householders forget the purpose of life. It is not wrong to enjoy life, to have desires and to fulfil them. It is not wrong to display passions. But when we forget the purpose and the destination of life, then everything that we are doing has no meaning. It was for this reason that the tradition of rishis was organised thousands of years ago. The tradition of rishis is the tradition of tantric sannyasa.

Now the concept of sannyasa needs redefinition. For most people, a sannyasin is equated with a monk or a nun but this is not correct, as this type of sannyasa does not in any way help the evolution of society. Sannyasa is not, and should not, be considered as an exclusive way of life. A sannyasin, living in seclusion, hating life, detesting everything, is more or less living the life of an idiot. There is no dynamism in his personality, no philosophy or system for balancing the passions. There is no flexibility to adjust to the frivolities of life. How can we say that such a life is complete?

There are then two extreme ways of life: one is the life of a careless householder; another is the life of a monk or sannyasin. One is a rightist and the other is a leftist; there is no middle path. That is why most of the householders today are living a life of guilt and repentance. They are not proud of their own existence, while the sannyasins have become too proud. On one side you have the arrogance of the sannyasin, and on the other, the guilt and repentance of the householder.

This is not how one can develop spiritual awareness. Therefore, what man requires is another concept of sannyasa, not according to the orthodox style, but according to the tantric style.

Tantric concept of sannyasa

In tantra, Shiva and Shakti live together. Shiva represents chitta or consciousness and Shakti represents prana or energy. In this physical body, you have ida and pingala, chitta and prana. You cannot survive with only one aspect. There has to be an integration and correlation of two forces in one body. It is exactly the same in ordinary life, men and women represent these two poles of energy. The quality of energy which men and women embody is different. They may look alike. They may belong to one family and their physical structure may be more or less the same, but the quality of energy is not the same. Whereas ida and pingala function together in the body, in family life, husband and wife, Shiva and Shakti, live together.

This is the concept of tantric sannyasa. So there is no question about whether a man can live with a woman and still be a sannyasin. I do not think that by renouncing a man or a woman, you can become a true sannyasin. Deep in the mind the need is there, and it cannot be rooted out. Therefore the tantric concept of sannyasa has to be understood by each and every person. Those who are serious about awakening their higher spirit should relate their station as a householder in life with this. It is important not only for enlightenment of the individual, but also for an enlightened world. How are you going to raise the standard of your children unless you have a high standard yourself? You have lived the life of careless householders throughout, and you want your children to be careful. It is not possible.

Through your philosophy, you can influence the genes. If you are a careless householder, you have a certain quality of genes, and you can only produce that type of child. Unless you are a deep thinker, the idea of sannyasa will not dawn in your mind. The moment the idea of sannyasa dawns, the genes begin to change, and these genes are responsible for the quality of the child. If there was a race of tantric sannyasins, the level of consciousness of the entire population would rise, and that is quite important in my opinion.

In ancient India there were many such sannyasins, who were married and had children. They were the guides of society and very highly enlightened people. They had great mental and spiritual powers, and contributed a lot towards making life harmonious. Therefore, it is necessary for the people of today to think along these lines.

I thought about it quite a few years ago and then I stalled this international yoga movement. In the beginning, society's orthodox section was very critical. They thought that, by initiating householders, who 'sin' every night, I was polluting sannyasa. I told them that by giving sannyasa to householders, I was not polluting sannyasa, but purifying the life of the householder.

The idea of sannyasa dawns only in the mind of a very enlightened person. When you have become aware that the objective of your life is inner enlightenment, then there is only one way. You should immediately transform the meaning of your existence. Now, throughout the world, there are thousands and thousands of householders living the life of a modern rishi, along with their wives and children. In everyday life they mingle with streams of people, and at the same time they waft all around them the fragrance of spiritual ideals, to remind themselves and to remind others also of the true purpose of life.

Being in the world but not of the world

Now the most important thing for a sannyasin who lives in the world is meditation. He will have to raise his consciousness from a gross level to a higher level. In most cases our consciousness is very gross. For example, when you enjoy chocolate, the experience is gross. Whenever you get a pain in the body, the experience is gross. In this way our pleasures and our pains are experienced through gross centres. Our senses are so extroverted that the mind is not able to experience things directly without an object.

If you want to enjoy a flower, you must see it first. If you want to enjoy music, you must hear it first. If you want to enjoy a beautiful fragrance, you must smell it first. If you want to experience tenderness, you must touch the body. Can you experience these things inside without the intervention of the senses? Can you hear music with the ears closed? Can you see the glory of nature: flowers and trees, oceans, rivers and lakes, mountains and plains, sun, moon and stars, without eyes? Can you experience any pleasure, any pain, any sensation, without the middle man? You know who the middle man is? The senses: karmendriyas and gyanendriyas, the five senses of action and the five senses of knowledge. Without them you cannot experience life. This is an ordinary limitation. But a person who is able to raise his consciousness above the senses can experience everything directly. Therefore, meditation is the life and breath of the modern sannyasin.

Meditation or dhyana yoga is a state in which you experience your mind directly and this mind is so important for everybody. For most, mind is a mystery; it is a demon. Many people have compared the mind with a monkey, but I don't think the mind is a monkey. The mind is the reservoir of great power, and we know only a little bit of this mind. When you are angry, when you are unhappy; when you are sorry, then you become aware of your mind. You think, 'Oh, my mind is very unhappy today,' or 'My mind is depressed.' But that is not the mind. You have to realise the totality of mind in the practice of meditation. In order to realise the mind, you will have to decrease the frequency, the speed of fluctuation, and this is not easy, but it is possible. If you can completely remove thoughts and ideas, you can see the mind. If you can completely control the element of unconsciousness, then you can see the mind.

Therefore, to realise the reservoir of the mind, you will have to eliminate three things, and these must be eliminated step by step. The first thing which you will have to eliminate is thought, or fluctuation, the second thing is inner visions, and the third thing is sleep or hypnosis. Then inner awareness is made complete and thorough. As you go on succeeding in meditation, awareness does not diminish, and when you have completely succeeded in meditation, there is total awareness, without thought, without vision, and without hypnosis. Therefore the system which you have to employ for meditation has to be perfect.

Psychedelics, dhyana and brain waves

In the last few years, many boys and girls have taken to using psychedelic drugs. Somehow, there is a misunderstanding in their minds; they think that to see something inside is meditation. They read from the Bible and from other books, that a saint saw this, that and the other, and they think that the experience which is produced with these psychedelic drugs is of the same quality.

In actual fact, such experiences should also be eliminated. A psychedelic experience is the product of a chemical interaction in the body. It is not caused by eliminating a thought; it is not caused by changing the frequencies of the mind. Whatever psychedelic drugs one may take, or whatever experiences he may have there from, these are not at all related with dhyana yoga.

In the olden days, a special herbal drink was used in India. It was not champagne, of course; it was known as 'soma'. People who took that drink used to feel very 'high' and they would have all sorts of experiences. They used to see gods and goddesses in heaven and on earth. But the wise men banned it finally, because they thought that, although it could change the behaviour of the mind, it could not transform it.

In the practice of dhyana yoga, first of all you have to decrease the frequency of the mind waves, which are responsible for the brain waves. In order to decrease the frequency of the mind waves, you have to first withdraw the senses. When the brain is isolated and the senses cannot feed it with the necessary sensorial impulses, then the frequencies decrease.

Mantra - a cornerstone of tantra

Isolation of the brain and mind can be brought about in many ways. One of the most important methods is mantra. There are different ways of practising for different types of people. The sound of the mantra has a deep impact on the behaviour of the brain and mind. The brain waves react to this sound stimuli. For example, if you practise mantra at a medium speed, the brain waves adjust themselves accordingly, and if you go on decreasing the speed of the mantra, the brain waves gradually begin to subside.

Now decreasing the frequencies of the mind is a process which should not be done all at once. It should take time, because, when the mind undergoes a change in the rate of frequencies, many corresponding changes take place in the body. There is a change in the body temperature, in the oxygen consumption, in the galvanic skin resistance, in the quality and quantity of hydrochloric acid and enzyme secretions. Also, many of the changes take place in the physical body suddenly. Therefore, in order to give the body time to adapt, you must allow ample time for the process of decreasing the frequencies of the mind.

If, for example, your mantra is 'Om Namaha Shivaya' you should practise it in a particular rhythm. You can fix the mantra at the eyebrow centre or at the heart, and then you must fix the timing. Now this speed of repeating the mantra which you have set should remain the same throughout. But there will be a little modification from time to time. For example, in the first step you say, 'Om-Na-ma-ha Sh-iv-aya' and in the second step, after one month, 'O-m Na-ma-ha Sh-iv-a-ya' (slower). The mantras and the timing may also be set the same throughout, but then the sound gradually covers many more mantras at one time. Or maybe, after one year, or one and a half years, you can say 'Ommm-Naaa-maaa-haaa-Shh-ivaa-ayaa' (very slowly).

Now, sound has many frequencies. At one frequency you can hear many sounds and at another frequency you cannot hear so clearly. At one frequency you can only feel the sound you cannot hear it, and when a sound is produced at the highest possible frequency, it is called thought. When a thought is brought down to low frequency, it is called sound. Therefore, in the practice of mantra, you produce a sound at such a frequency that you can think it in the mind.

According to the science of mantra, a sound has four frequencies. The first frequency is audible, the second is felt, the third becomes a thought wave, and when the fourth frequency is produced, the thinker is no more. That is the aim of mantra meditation. In the books on mantra yoga, these four frequencies have names. The first one is called 'vaikhari', the second is 'madhyama', the third is 'pashyanti', and the fourth is 'para'. These are the technical names for the four frequencies of mantra. Not only 'Om Namaha Shivaya', but any mantra, can be adjusted to a particular rhythm on the mental plane.

The tantric forms of yantra and mandala

Now the practice of mantra will completely remove the intermediary of the senses between you and the mind. Then you must have something to fix your mind upon. This should be a definite object or form. You can concentrate your mind on an idea or on a vibration but it is better to use a fixed form. When you are trying to focus your mind on a particular form, you must see that nothing else but that particular object is in your mind. If other thoughts or visions come, you must remove them. If you are concentrating on a blue lotus, you must reject every other experience except that blue lotus. You should not let your mind drift from your symbol to something else, to something else and to something else.

Often people experience different things in meditation and they become very happy, 'I saw this, I saw that.' However, this is not an achievement; it indicates that the mind has drifted; it has gone out of alignment. During meditation it is very difficult to stick to one form, I know, but if you can make your attention constant, your mind steady, without any waves, then the awareness will remain consistently on the blue lotus, the blue lotus, and the blue lotus.

From tantric sannyasa to total awareness

Awareness is like the flow of electrons or the flow of water; it breaks every now and then. So there is the awareness of blue lotus and then a break of awareness, awareness of blue lotus and the break again. In yoga these breaks of consciousness are known as 'vikshepa' or 'vikalpa'. They should be avoided. When you are concentrating on a form and your consciousness becomes constant and consistent without a break, that is called dhyana. When the awareness of the form is beginning-less, endless, and does not break at any point, then it is called dhyana. Dhyana, therefore, means constant, total awareness.

In Sanskrit 'rishi' means a 'seer', one who can see. A rishi is not a holy man, a clergyman, a priest or a monk. How is he a seer? He can see without eyes; he can hear without ears; he can walk without feet. Such a person is called seer or rishi. Therefore, a tantric sannyasin should practise meditation and aspire to become a rishi.

The spiritual metamorphosis of sex

Now, regarding tantric sannyasa, there is one more question which must be clarified: 'How to adjust your sexual behaviour?' Many people have answered this question according to their own idea and image. Is the sexual relationship with your wife or husband spiritual or anti-spiritual? According to the tantric heritage, it is spiritual. This means that you can progress spiritually while you improve upon your sexual interaction with your partner. In tantra it is said that there are three purposes for sexual interaction, and these have been clearly stated .The first is progeny, the second is pleasure and the third is spiritual transformation.

A sensualist interacts for pleasure, and an ordinary man for progeny, but a tantric sannyasin interacts for the purpose of samadhi. This is because the sexual act is intrinsically connected with the awakening of the evolutionary power in man and has very much to do with the awakening of the higher centres responsible for the deeper and more profound experiences. This is an important science and you have to know more about it so that you can apply it in your daily life.

There are certain yoga postures and hatha yoga kriyas through which you can redirect your energy, and if you can handle that experience through the help of a proper teacher, then your life as a householder, the interaction with your partner, will become a spiritual ritual. I am not a promoter of sexual sciences, but I do not want to close my eyes to the reality, and I do not want you to close your eyes. There is a reality to which you are exposed. If that reality is going to send you to hell, then that will be a great tragedy.

Sexual and spiritual communication are not different. Sexual life is not anti-spiritual. If properly conducted by the wise and disciplined, it can be a spiritual springboard to higher realms. You can transcend sex by living into it, by living through it.

Nature has created a system in man's life, and you must respect it, you must accept it. But that does not prohibit you from becoming a sannyasin with respect for yourself, with faith in what you are doing for your spiritual progress, and with hopes eternal. If both you and your partner sit together in meditation, you can create an energy which will help each other to evolve. Imagine what kind of children you will have. I am proud that my parents were able to live like that. After completing your obligations, having profound spiritual experiences, then you can enter into full sannyasa.

India is the land of the rishis. For thousands of years we have evolved through this heritage. But every nation makes mistakes, and when this rishi heritage became weak, our people became weak also. Now we are not trying to increase the number of sannyasins, but we are trying to improve the quality of mankind.