Mantra and Karma Sannyas

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Satyam School of Yoga, St. Albans, N.S.W. Australia 22.5.1988

Some people have taken mantra and some karma sannyas initiation, so I will give a few guidelines in mantra sadhana and karma sannyas sadhana.

We have heard and read a lot about mantra, and I think everybody has an idea of what mantra is. Mantra deals with the body, this composition of energy, and the energy field of the body has a vibratory aspect to it. Where there is energy, there is movement, there is some type of vibration, and vibration definitely gives rise to some type of sound. What type of sound we do not know. There are sounds which are beyond and beneath the normal range of the ears. The act of moving an arm creates friction in the air and a sound is being created for a moment. You do not experience the sound as such, but sound does exist as a form of vibration, a form of movement, a pulsation of energy. These vibrations are not confined to the physical body or to the pranic body, they are also in the realm of mind, emotion and intellect.

Yoga is very clear. It says that even when we think, waves are being generated inside the mind which produce definite vibrations and definite sounds. When we become introvert, directing our faculties of mind and perception inside, then the sound is experienced and it is known as nada, the sound of the personality, the sound of being, the sound of the self. This nada is the most subtle sound that we can experience in this dimension. It is not a sound that breaks, it is a continuous sound, and this concept has been defined in kundalini yoga.

When we look at the image of a chakra, we find that every chakra has a beeja mantra and then many other mantras attached to it. Beeja mantra is the sound which controls the chakra, but the other mantras around the periphery are vibrations which awaken or stimulate a particular state of experience of the chakra. Yoga says that the sounds are aksharas, which literally means 'sounds which do not die'. From the birth of humanity until now we have been using sounds to express these sounds ourselves. We have been utilising externally. We have experienced the quality, the power, the effect of sound externally. In yoga we experience the quality, the effect and the energy of sound internally and the process of that internal experience is known as the mantra experience. This is mantra sadhana.

When we think, what actually happens is we hear the sound inside. Of course it is not that we simply plug our ears and begin to hear the sounds within the body, within the physical or pranic structure. It is a process of becoming more sensitive on the mental or psychic plane and finding the balance between the external and the internal consciousness. When we are eternalised we do not hear the internal vibrations and sounds. When we are internalised in deep meditation we do not experience the external vibrations or sounds. A special branch of yoga has been created which is called nada yoga. It seeks to provide experience of the vibrations of body, mind, thought waves, the desires, emotions and expressions simultaneously; all in one concise shape.

As you become more balanced, as you become more cantered through the process of dhyana (meditation), through the practise of asanas harmonising the body, pranayama creating some sort of organisation in your pranic structure, pratyahara and dharana giving balance to your mental and emotional expressions, then the awareness of nada as the vibration which is behind every action and reaction and movement commences. As long as we live in this world there is movement. When we are just sitting quietly, peacefully, the body does not move, yet the thoughts are creating waves, emotions are creating waves- there is movement.

We are surrounded by an ocean of movement which is taking place in different dimensions simultaneously. When we begin to chant or to repeat a mantra we begin the process of pratyahara which is the gradual withdrawal of the sensory perceptions, and then focus on one particular point. After the process of withdrawal is complete then focussing is total and there is no distraction or dissipation of any type- That is known as dharana. Then mantra gives the ability to achieve the state of dharana, un-fluctuating mind. It can then take you deeper into the experience of the un-fluctuating mind, which later transforms itself into the practice of dhyana.

The definition of mantra is therefore, 'the force which liberates the mind'. So when we do mantra sadhana a special awareness has to be evolved in the mind and also in the body. It is not just a process of holding the mala and starting to repeat the mantra. Of course, that is acceptable, and we do say that you can repeat the mantra anywhere at anytime- while walking, while sitting, while doing anything in life, one can be aware of the mantra. One can be aware of the mantra expressing itself in every dimension of the personality at any time. However, there is a definite scientific process involved in mantra sadhana which is awareness, not only of the mantra which we are repeating inside our head, but of the effect that it is producing in our whole structure. The mind, the awareness, the consciousness has to become one. It has to merge with the repetition of the mantra. It is not that the mind is wandering here and there and the mantra practice is going on separately. Total identification has to take place with the repetition, with the experience and with the awareness of the mantra.

Swamiji has talked about the process of dhyana. He says there are three things which happen simultaneously at the time of meditation. First is awareness of myself as the practitioner. Second is awareness of the process - that I am practising this particular sadhana. Third is the state of dhyana, the goal that is set in front of us. When all three become one, when the meditative experience is felt inside and we lose body consciousness and mental awareness, and there is nothing but the state of experience - this is called dhyana.

With mantra this same principle applies. The only difference is that we are constantly aware of the vibration, the chanting and the effect. We become one with all this. We become the mantra, we become the living mantra. The mantra becomes a living experience and this is known as liberation of mind. When the concept of duality does not exist and there is only one thing, it is known as liberation of the mind.

Those people who have taken mantra initiation should remember that they should find at least ten minutes in every twenty-four hours where they can be alone, forget everything, and just do mantra sadhana. Initially you will have to become aware of the body, the posture, how you are sitting, whether you are comfortable or not. Initially you will have to become aware of the breath flowing up and down. Afterwards there is awareness of the symbol which has been given with the mantra. Awareness of the symbol is the final state of pratyahara. When we first try to see it, it is a process of pure imagination; we do not see our symbol clearly. When we hold a flower before our open eyes we see colour, we experience the form, the smell, everything, but the experience with closed eyes is different. However, when the mental experience becomes very strong and as powerful as the visual experience, then that is known as the termination point of the state of pratyahara. All the mental energies have been brought together, focused, and the understanding, the awareness, the experience has taken place.

So, after becoming aware of the breath and alter making an effort to visualise, to experience the symbol inside, then start with the repetition of the mantra inside in harmony with the process of inhalation and exhalation. The mantra and the breath are not two different things, they become one. It does not matter whether you breathe in slowly and deeply or if your breath is short and shallow. The mantra has to merge totally with the breath, that is all. This is the first effort of the mantra sadhak. You do this practice for ten minutes every day and when it is finished again eternalise yourself. There is no change in the lifestyle, no change in the thinking pattern. We are not trying to create any change, we are just trying to develop an experience of the mantra. When that experience is awakened it develops by itself and then the changes take place automatically, spontaneously.

Now regarding karma sannyasa. It is an attitude towards life. Those of you who have been initiated have been told very clearly that you have been initiated on behalf of Swami Satyananda and you have to keep his ideals and his mission in mind, which is yoga not as a form of spiritual sadhana, but yoga as a part of our day to day existence. The whole of life then becomes an experience of yoga. There is no separation. It isn't just 'every morning I get up and practise asana, pranayama, kriya, meditation'. These are yoga practices, they are not yoga. Yoga means the experience of unity, the experience of harmony and balance in all the strata of our personality. When you become aware of this process throughout the material, the mental, the emotional, the intellectual and the intimate experiences, closer than husband or wife, this is yoga.

Now, what do we expect to get out of yoga? By having this other awareness of matter, energy and consciousness; by understanding the process of body, prana, mind, ego and the super-consciousness, our dharma undergoes a total transformation. We cannot necessarily say that they become more spiritual, but we can say that they become more balanced. Only to have spiritual development is a lopsided development of human nature. Only to have development of the material aspect is also lopsided, unbalanced. Therefore, as sannyasi or karma sannyasi, we are definitely not concerned with either our spiritual state of mind nor our gross state of mind alone, but we are more concerned with trying to bring about a balance in the experience of matter and spirituality.

You have heard of karma yoga; in the life of a spiritual aspirant, if one practises true yoga at all, then it is karma yoga. When I say karma yoga, I do not mean going out to the field and working there until blood and sweat become one; that is only one aspect of it. The true spirit of karma yoga means that every action in life, whether physical, social or intellectual -the thoughts, the analytical and critical processes of the mind, or emotional feelings of anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, hatred, greed, or spiritual experiences of being in harmony, in tune with the self - everything is analysed together. They are observed, they are experienced and they are transcended. That is the spirit of karma yoga- total involvement in the fulfilment of our commitments, obligations, duties, the dharma.

Many people think that dharma means a system, a religion, a philosophy, but it does not mean that at all. There are two types of dharma. One is Sanatana dharma, the eternal duty, the commitments, responsibilities which never change according to the laws of nature and the laws of the divine. The other is the dharma which is relevant to the present time. It might change after a month, after a few years- the ideas, the commitments, the duties, all these things might change after a few centuries. However, the whole thrust here has been aimed at understanding one's obligations and commitments. We are to improve them, to experience, not neglect them or avoid them. So being established in the dharma is the objective of karma sannyasa.

Karma sannyasa is, of course, more difficult than the process of sannyasa because in full sannyasa there is total dedication to the guru and he manages all your affairs. In karma sannyasa you maintain your spiritual identity and your external identity, and by maintaining both of these identities together you progress further in life. When both the identities, the internal and external, move side by side, we find a centre inside. We then experience the centre of our being.

You know there are two processes. One process is known as the process of becoming; we become, there is effort. Another is the process of being what we are. Full sannyasa is the process of becoming; we become. We become the instrument of the guru and he uses us in the way he thinks fit. Karma sannyasa is the process of being. You are where you are; there is no change. Only one thing is necessary, and that is to have a spiritual awareness. And what is that spiritual awareness?

We can say that the identity of Swami' is the first spiritual awareness; the identity of 'Saraswati' is the second; the name, such as Niranjanananda, this or that is the third spiritual identity that one can have. Swami means 'one who is master of himself. Of course it is an idea, which we try to approach in the best possible way - It is like obtaining a doctorate degree but you are given the degree first - okay, you can call yourself 'doctor' with hopes that you will now do your thesis.

The thesis that a swami has to do is a life long process of self-discovery in which he gains control over the body, the mind and the spirit, the actions of head, heart and hand, the emotions and the intellect.

So, no matter what state of experience you are in, whether it is full of tension and conflict; full of bliss, joy and happiness, or whether it is nothingness, you are understanding it as a swami. 'I am master of the body. I am not this mind, I am master of the mind, I am not the spirit. I am master of the spirit'. This concept leads to an understanding of transcendental awareness.

Somebody asked Swamiji whether it is possible to experience transcendental consciousness in this life. Swamiji simply said; 'No'. You might be thinking now, 'Then what is the purpose? What is the use?' You want to experience something. But Swamiji went further, he said, 'If the transcendental mind can be understood by our limited mind, then it would not be called transcendental. In order to experience the transcendental consciousness it is necessary to have a transcendental brain and a transcendental mind.' So the idea of being a swami is achieving this state. This is the first spiritual identity. From there we observe everything, we become the witness, we become the experiencer.

The second identity is of Saraswati. This is a tradition, an order to which the swamis and karma sannyasins belong. The symbolic representation of Saraswati is the goddess of learning, knowledge and wisdom. What does this mean? Never have tunnel vision. Always see everything. Never say one thing is right and everything else is wrong. That is against the principles of gyana (wisdom), because wisdom encompasses everything.

The third spiritual identity is of the name. The name which is given seems the most suitable one for our personality which is eh pressed outwardly now. For this expressed identity, the name symbolises the aim, the goal. For this body, for this head, for this action, we have a goal We have to experience this, whatever the name may be.

The fourth identity is of course the geru. This is the spiritual identity as well as the external flag of a sannyasi. It is the symbolic representation of fire. Fire can consume anything that you throw into it and yet remain unaffected. Of course if you throw in damp wood lots of smoke will come out through your ears and eyes and nose and mouth. Sometimes black smoke will come out, sometimes stench will come out, that is a different matter. Fire consumes everything - that is the idea. The mind, the personality, the attitude of a sannyasi or a karma sannyasi is of fire.

Remain unaffected. Consume everything, all the bad that the world throws at you, that your mind throws at you and all the good that the world throws at you, that your mind throws at you. There is no negation of one and no acceptance of the other. If there is negation of the bad and acceptance of the good then we are no different. Normal people get shaken up when bad things are thrown at them and they are elated when good things are given to them. If we remain like that even after we have taken sannyasa, if there is not going to be any change, then it is better not to be a sannyasi or a karma sannyasi. Therefore the awareness of fire becomes the fourth symbolic awareness of spirituality, the spiritual identity, these are the various states of experience of a karma sannyasi.

The sadhana of a karma sannyasin is the witnessing sadhana. Sit down comfortably and just observe. Observe what you are experiencing physically and consume it in the fire. Understand it, express it, transcend it. Even when you reach the spiritual level, that also you should understand, express and transcend. Sitting in meditative posture, with the eyes closed, one part of the awareness is separate and it observes everything which is going on in the other areas. Even if you are in a very stressful and tense situation or experiencing very deep conflict with conflicting samskaras, one part of the awareness should always be observing. No matter what you are experiencing or what condition in life you are expressing, always be observant. You are the seer, the drastha. This is the sadhana, for the awakening of a karma sannyasin.