Satsang With Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Ganga Darshan and Australian ashrams 1989

What is the meaning of Shanti Path, and why is it repeated at the end of class?

Shanti Path has two meanings. One is as a mantra for peace and prosperity, which is traditionally said at the end of every yogic or spiritual session to infuse the body and mind with positive feelings and vibrations. This is the main purpose of the Shanti Path. It also helps to remind the psychic personality, the personality which is influenced by vibrations, of a spiritual aim.

The yogis have always envisioned the human being as a spiritual being too. This is not just a concept; they say the spiritual being is experienced in the form of a body, and the mental being is experienced in the form of a body, in the same way as the physical being is experienced and perceived as the body. Whether you are Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Australian, no matter who you may be, the body is the same. Two arms, two legs, one head, two eyes; it is like a stamp of God which has been put all over the place. The height might be different, the colour might be different, there may be certain variations here and there, such as a bit more on the waist side, a bit more on the shoulder side.

In the same way the mind is also seen as having a body, and the eccentricities of the mind, the fatness or thinness, the tallness or the short stature of the mind is the individual personality. But mind also definitely has a shape unperceivable to us at present. In the same way, the atma, the spiritual body, also has a shape unknown to us at present. Just as we deal with intellect in the gross plane, the manifest plane, the spiritual body or atma interacts in terms of vibration, in the form of vibration. It understands vibration. In order to communicate externally, we use Hindi or English or any other language, but internally, in order to communicate, there is the language of vibrations, which is universal. Many people have felt it, too. In day-to-day life we may get a nice feeling from somebody, or a horrible feeling from another person, without speaking, just through the interaction of vibrations.

Mantras tend to influence and awaken the psychic vibratory field. Whether you understand them rationally, logically, or not is irrelevant. By chanting and repeating a mantra, some form of internal change is brought about which may not be experienced on the outer level immediately.

Each mantra awakens a particular centre. Apart from the chakras there are many psychic centres around the chakras which we understand in the form of chakra patterns. Each mantra can and does stimulate one of the minor centres and a combination of various sounds can influence, alter and induce a change in the total performance of the chakras.

So when we do the shanti mantras at the end of any yogic or spiritual session, a few things happen. After a session of yoga, after some discussion, satsang or kirtan, there is some change in the atmosphere around the body, within the body, around the mind, in the structure of the emotions and in the structure of spirit. At that moment, when we create a vibration it affects the spiritual body directly. One example can be given to roughly explain this state. If you are totally involved in some kind of activity and another person comes and asks you something totally different, you have to think for a few seconds. You have to divert the attention, divert the mind from one topic and start thinking of the next. For a few seconds you have to break the previous mould and start thinking along the other line. So when we do our meditation or asanas or pranayama or kriyas or satsang, kirtan, the mind is distracted from its natural pattern of behaviour and is attentive towards another pattern of behaviour and action. At that moment the mantra comes in, creates certain ripples, and then it dies down. Another session of yoga, again that same state, the mantra comes in, creates another sensation, and again it dies down. It's like sweeping a very dirty carpet. At first you don't get much dirt but as you keep on going over the same place again and again, even the most subtle dust right at the bottom is pulled up. So the Shanti Path is just a method of hitting the vibratory aspect of our personality again and again, over and over again. Eventually the vibrations or the sounds awaken those psychic centres which correspond with that vibration.

Of course, the translation of the mantra itself is quite nice if people can follow it and understand it:

Lead me from unreal to real
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
May there be happiness, peace,
well-being and contentment everywhere.

You don't only say it externally, but you also feel it internally, and that is the purpose of Shanti Path.

What is the meaning of karma sannyas?

Before we can understand karma sannyas, it is necessary that we understand sannyas; then we will come back to karma. In sannyas, we find two concepts. One concept is viveka, understanding or discrimination; and the other concept is vairagya, non-attachment (not detachment). These are the two principle ideas behind the tradition of sannyas.

Of course, traditionally sannyas has been looked on as something which is meant only for those people who are psychically or spiritually inclined, who have hardly any obligations to the world. They can dedicate themselves fully to spiritual sadhana for personal growth, and at the same time to seva, service; to swadhyaya, self-study; with full samarpan, surrender. You see, every idea related to sannyas begins with 's' in English and in Sanskrit also; study, selfless action and surrender, but the main concepts are viveka and vairagya, understanding and non-attachment.

In the tradition of Yoga, understanding is classified into many different groups, such as pratyaksh, direct evidence, and anuman, inference. There are many forms of understanding; we can think, we can imagine, we can see. We can try to understand one thing from many different angles and from many different levels, but to know which understanding and which action corresponds to this present situation and which is not harmful or detrimental to anybody's peace or health, this is viveka.

This is one of the toughest sadhanas that a Sannyasi can have because it requires total observation of one's personal limitations and hang ups and it also requires total understanding of the immediate situation one is experiencing right now. It also requires a total understanding of the people who are involved in this present situation and who are having a relationship with you as an individual. It is finding a middle path and not going to the extremes of destruction or of creation, where you build up high hopes and suddenly they are dashed to the ground; where you become so insecure that everything becomes dark and you can't seem to rise above this darkness. Just finding this middle path is viveka.

Then comes vairagya, to have all things but not to be attached to them. There is detachment, and there is non-attachment. Detachment is an advanced version of non-attachment. You can have everything and simply feel yourself as not having it. You can have everything and not consider it as something which is yours. There is no emotional link, no idea of mine-ness. To think that this is mine and nobody else can have it, this is attachment. When the idea of mine-ness, belonging or longing towards an object is not there, although you have it, whatever it may be, then this is vairagya.

Detachment is total cut-off. No, it is not for me! In detachment we are creating a rift between our desires and the other aspect, the objectivity, of the mind. But in non-attachment there is no rift. There is a desire, but at the same time there is an objective awareness of the desire. This applies to every life situation and it should apply in the life of a swami, and in the life of a karma Sannyasi. These two principles should apply in every situation and condition of life.

Then karma comes in; no-one in the world is free from karma, whether as a renunciate or as a social person. If you become a total renunciate what do you renounce? We may renounce external security, we may renounce food and just have simple greens and raw meals. To call ourselves renunciate is incorrect. We may renounce our car, our home, our family, but that is also incorrect.

Renunciation does not take place at all. Have we renounced our body, have we renounced the needs of our body? No! We still eat when we are hungry, we drink when we are thirsty, we go to the dunny when we have to go. So where is this renunciation? We have not renounced the mind. We do what we want to do, we look for something pleasant in life, we are following the mind. So what have we renounced? The craving? No. The craving is still there but in a different form. Nobody in this world is free of karma. Even if God comes to this planet He will be confined to the karmas of life, the karmas of the body, the karmas of the mind, the karmas of the spirit.

However, it is possible to find a balance in the karmas so that they do not shake us when they become intense, when they become powerful, when they become a very overpowering force. Therefore, in the book "Karma Sannyasa", Swamiji has very clearly spelled out that there is no need to renounce anything, there is no need to leave anything. You still remain what you are externally but there is a slight change. You gain an internal identity.

Just as the external body is known as John or Smith or Webster, in the same way the internal body is identified by a name which is Swami such-and-such Saraswati. Just as we fulfil the karmas of the external body by following a system, a routine, a discipline in external life, so we try to fulfil the karmas of the internal body by following a particular sadhana. We fulfil the karmas of the external body and the environment around the external life by creating certain desires, and the motivation and drive to achieve them. If I want to go from this place to that place every day I need some kind of transport, so a desire comes to have a car. Then I start saving to buy a car. Of course problems do come in between. It may take a long time to earn the money, while some people just get it. But there is a desire, there is a motivation, there is action, and we get it. In the same way, for the internal well-being there is a drive, a motivation, and an action. And this action, this drive or motivation for the internal life is the concept of viveka and vairagya, right understanding and non-attachment.

The ideas of 'Swami' and 'Saraswati' are truly fantastic ideas. Nowhere in the world can you get a diploma before doing a thesis, except in sannyas. Here you get the diploma first, a Ph.D. certificate, and you have to do the thesis afterwards. Swami means 'master of the self'. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the people do not achieve this; they are usually satisfied with the diploma. But 0.1% do try. You know, this is the ratio; 0.1% do try through resolution to become master of the self.

Saraswati is also one of the highest traditions, because Saraswati is the goddess of learning and wisdom. It is like a family tree, but those people who become narrow-minded are not fit to call themselves a part of the Saraswati order, because the main idea behind the Saraswati order is broad vision, a broad outlook, to know everything, learn everything and accept everything. But the mind is one, the spirit is one, the goal is one and the direction is one.

This is the concept of Karma sannyas in brief, and you may like to read the book "Karma Sannyasa" by Swamiji for more clarification.

What is the role of faith in the practice of a yogic lifestyle?

It depends - what is the definition of faith? Is faith only in God; is faith only in something we do here that links us with something up there? Or is faith having faith in ourselves? Which of these is correct?

In the yogic texts, faith has been described as shraddha, bhakti and Ishwar pranidhana. These are the three ideas which make up faith. Shraddha means two things, humility and simplicity. Bhakti means to have an understanding of some higher force which is beyond this particular dimension and which controls everything, a motivating force behind nature and existence. That is bhakti. Ishwar pranidhana means to surrender yourself to the energy that is within and which is immortal; 'ishwar' means 'immortal' (the reverse of ishwara is nashwar, not immortal). So you surrender yourself to the immortal force which does not die. This is the concept of faith in Yoga; humbleness, simplicity, awareness of higher realities and surrendering oneself to the supreme energy.

This is the apparent definition of faith, but in our yogic lifestyle we experience faith on many different levels. If you are involved, but you consider a yogic lifestyle to be only asana and pranayama, then you do not need this kind of faith. You just do your asana, just do your pranayama, and then get out. However if you are involved in Yoga for something deeper, more fulfilling and more satisfying, then faith is needed. This faith begins in the relationship that the student has with the teacher, and the disciple has with the guru. Faith in guru becomes the first step, for no matter what happens, if the link is there then the determination is there also.

You know the story of Milarepa; his guru Marpa was a horrible person. He was one of the most brilliant saints of Tibet in those days but his personal behaviour with Milarepa was horrible. He abused him right, left and centre; beat him right, left and centre. Every type of atrocity one can think of, he did to Milarepa. He starved him, punished him, beat him and made him work like a slave, but Milarepa had faith in him, and it was this faith that transformed Milarepa into a saint. When his guru pushed him down from the mountain, Milarepa did not think that he was going to die. He just thought of his guru, and before he was splattered in the valley thousands of metres under him, an invisible hand came and raised him and put him in front of the guru. Then the guru said, "This is it, you are now realised". This is the sadhana, this is the training that Milarepa received. Milarepa did not receive formal meditation initiation or mantra diksha or this or that, no!

So faith in guru comes first in the life of a disciple. Then comes faith in the self, in me. I know my limitations, I know what I can try to achieve. Just trying to bring out the best that is within us, is having faith in ourselves. It is not feeling down and depressed and saying, "No I can't do it." The sentence 'I cannot do it' does not exist when you have faith in yourself. The whole mentality, the way of thinking, the way of action changes to 'I will try to achieve it, I will do it!' Whether you succeed or fail is a different story altogether, but the conviction is there that 'I can do it'. 'I have faith in myself.'

Thirdly there is faith in God, the energy which directs and governs every activity of creation and of Nature. So faith, as exemplified in the three concepts of bhakti, shraddha and ishwara pranidhana, have an important place in the yogic lifestyle, and also In the life of any spiritual aspirant.

Is it necessary to wear geru clothing while staying in the ashram?

No, it is not necessary; it is up to you. Of course, when you put on a uniform there automatically comes a sense of discipline and responsibility. You may be a police officer, but in ordinary clothes you do not behave like one. Then, when you put on the uniform your whole attitude suddenly changes. The idea comes that 'I am representing Law'. In the same way, you might be a swami regardless of whether you wear the clothes or not. But in an ashram there are 50 or 100 people, all wearing geru. So by wearing it also, you absorb their vitality, their determination and their sense of discipline, because you become a part of them. There is a fusion of external personality, an identification which takes place whenever you put on any kind of uniform. But of course it is not a must; you are free to choose.

In the practices of kriya yoga, can devotion protect one from kundalini disturbances?

When we are dealing with yoga practices, more important than devotion is a system, a method, a technique which can help us out of any disturbing situations caused by kundalini awakening. Kundalini awakening takes place first of all in the pranamaya kosha, the sheath or body of pranic energy. This pranic force can only be channelled through intense mental power, and through the practices of pratyahara and dharana. So faith does not really play any role here. Faith is an emotional aspect, and this is more the pranic aspect.

The awakening of kundalini takes place on all five levels of the personality. In the annamaya kosha, the physical body, we experience various kinds of sensations such as trembling, heat, lightness, heaviness, sudden heat travelling within the spine, or feelings of tremendous cold in particular parts of the body. This is the manifestation of kundalini on annamaya kosha.

The effect of Kundalini on the manomaya kosha, the body of mind, is different. There may by sudden states of euphoria and very sudden depressions. Some people may even say that something has gone wrong 'up there' but this is not the case. It is very difficult to decide what mental experiences are taking place, and how they are related to kundalini awakening, because we undergo various states of altered consciousness every moment of the day, every hour of the day. However, the state introduced in the mind at the time of kundalini awakening has much greater intensity, much greater force, than normal experiences have.

We had a lady staying in the ashram. She had these tremendous experiences. She would be fast asleep and suddenly her whole body would jump. During sleep, her body would go into natural, spontaneous spasm. She was also acutely sensitive, and felt very much more than a normal person would, and it affected her mentally and emotionally. Suddenly at night, she would cry out in her sleep, "I am dying; save me!" and things like that, but after proper guidance, she is now able to overcome that state and just remain an objective witness to the things that are happening to her. However, she did experience this intense fear of the unknown, which unsettled her very much.

When the awakening of kundalini takes place, you are at the lower level of mooladhara or swadhisthana. The mind-stuff which is within us is bound to manifest consciously, and here faith is not going to help. A technique which can help you get out of this stage will be much more effective. Pranamaya kosha is totally changed. There is total change in the structure of energy and the chakras in the body.

Vijyanamaya kosha is the process of understanding; it is the body of intellect. This also undergoes a tremendous change, and we begin to perceive the world differently, in a different colour.

Anandamaya kosha is the experience of sublimation, unity and oneness. When kundalini awakening takes place in anandamaya kosha, you need the guidance of the guru, and it is here that faith comes in. No matter what happens at this stage, if the teacher says to do something, you should do it, in order to break the pattern of the mind which you are experiencing at that moment. Then there should be strength, and there should be the will to do it. So faith in guru is probably the most important thing here - and a system, a series of techniques which can help you out of the condition.

When the mind is restless what yoga practices are recommended?

For immediate relief from the restless mind, the practices of pranayama are very beneficial and they are advised. It is not necessary, if your mind becomes disturbed at the market, to sit down right there and start closing your nose. Practise psychic pranayama, mental imagination, observing the breath, awareness of the breath flowing in through one nostril and out through the other. You do not even have to close your eyes. For the practice of brahmari pranayama, you don't have to plug the ears, but you just start humming as if you are humming a tune - mmmmmmm. This will help very much to instantaneously break the state of restlessness and anxiety. And if the condition persists, then of course back home you can do other practices of yoga nidra, antar mouna and mantra meditation to untie yourself. All the practices of dharana and pratyahara will assist you in this process.

When teaching yoga, how important is it to know the Sanskrit names of the postures?

When you practise for yourself, it is not necessary to remember the Sanskrit names, but it is good to have an understanding of them. Take, for example, the cobra posture. In Sanskrit this is bhujangasana and we translate it as 'cobra'. But the Sanskrit name is a combination of the mantras bhu, jan, gata and each syllable, each word affects our chakras in its own way.

In the past, the Sanskrit names did play a very important role in the ancient system of Yoga. The yogis were able to perceive the problem in the patient and relate that problem to a particular chakra. For example, indigestion relates to manipura chakra; that is what our common sense says right now. The yogi would have felt that a particular chakra was being affected by an illness, a disease, a condition of body or mind. Then, by prescribing bhujangasana the yogi would have instantaneously given the idea to the patient, and to the teachers also, that this particular posture dealt with the awakening and rebalancing of certain minor and major psychic centres. So Sanskrit names did play an important role in ancient therapy.

Of course, with the advent of science, we have been able to refine the system of observation and treatment of illness, but the Sanskrit names have been retained, and we try to maintain them as much as possible. So it is good to have an understanding of the names and what they mean.

I am not talking about translating chakra as 'the wheel' or dhanur as 'the bow', no; not translation like this, but I am talking in relation to the chakras. This process is very simple. All you need is a dictionary of the chakras which shows which mantras belong to which chakras. In any book about kundalini you can find the bija mantras around the petals of the chakras. So you just say 'bhu', 'jan', 'ga'; 'bhu' is anahata, 'jan' is manipura, 'ga' is vishuddhi. Then you know naturally and spontaneously that this particular posture affects these particular chakras. Therefore we use Sanskrit names even though it is a dead language.

There was a student here, an Indian living in Europe. He had come to the ashram and we asked him "What do you do in Europe?" He said, "I am learning Latin." I said. "Oh yes, what for?" What other languages do you know? Do you know French, German, Italian, Spanish, English?" He said, 'No, no, no, no. I am just learning Latin." I said, "Yes, but Latin is a dead language nobody speaks it any more". He said, "Oh, I am learning to be an undertaker. I am learning Latin so that I can communicate with the dead!"

Why do people get colds when they come to the ashram, and others get sick? How can we overcome this?

Don't try to overcome this. This type of physical purification is quite natural in an ashram, apart from the climate, the food and the water. Many Indians too who live in Munger, find their noses running or something running in their body when they come to Ganga Darshan. Somebody asked this question to Swamiji and he said the same thing, that we live in a society where there is always some kind of tension. The tension may be very subtle, but it is there, and when we find ourselves in a different environment than we are used to, then somehow, something happens in the personality. The process of purification begins, even if it is momentary. It may happen just for ten minutes, for one day, three days, or ten days. It is all right. One should go through that process because it is not physical sickness. It is the adjustment of the mind from one environment to another environment. This adjustment creates a reaction in the body and of course we know what kind of reaction we might have in the mind. So it is good, and we encourage it.

In Swami Muktananda's book, "Play of Consciousness", he talks about a 'blue pearl'. How does the blue pearl relate to Tantra and Yoga as you or Swamiji understand it?

There are three states of consciousness. We are not talking now of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. These three states of consciousness in Yoga are known as the sthula sharira, sukskma sharira and karana sharira, which translated into English mean 'the gross body', 'the subtle body', and 'the causal body'. The idea of consciousness is represented in Tantra in the form of the shivalinga. There are three types of shiva lingam one is black; one is smoky or hazy; the third is luminous or transparent.

The first two chakras, mooladhara and swadhisthana, are represented in the form of the black shivalingam. Three chakras - manipura, anahata and vishuddhi are represented by a hazy linga known as the dhumra linga. The two major chakras up top, ajna and sahasrara, are represented by the jyotir linga.

The black linga represents the dense form of energy - matter, earth and water, the final states of creation, the aspects of Brahma, the Creator. The hazy linga, dhumra linga, represents the subtle elements of fire, air, ether. The concepts of preserving, maintaining and continuing are represented here - the aspect of Vishnu the Maintainer. If you are familiar with the concept of the Hindu trinity, then this will be easy for you to understand.

The experiences of ajna and sahasrara, the last two chakras, belong to the dimension of the spirit or atma - the subtle mind and the supreme consciousness. They are always represented by the quality of Shiva, the quality which is pure experienced knowledge.

So these are the three main states of consciousness according to the philosophies of Tantra and Samkhya. Samkhya talks of the awakening of the different areas of consciousness and it talks of the qualities of consciousness in relation to the chakras. Tantra also talks about the same thing. In terms of the process of the awakening of consciousness, or the purification of consciousness, whatever term we may want to use, the yogis have always viewed consciousness in the form of a linear experience, like a stick. Consciousness, awareness, is at one end of the stick, and unconsciousness at the other end. On one end we have the full faculty of the senses, on the other end we have the total cessation of the external senses. As we move from one end of the stick to the other the effect of the sensory perception and the sensory experiences becomes less and less until there is no external awareness at all, but when we reach the state of the so-called unconscious, other senses are experienced.

The best way to explain this process is by saying that on earth we walk upright, but if we leave the ground and jump into the water, do we walk on the water? No! In order to survive in this other element, we use the same body, but the movements become different. We start moving the hands also; we start kicking the feet and the legs, and we begin to swim. The body is the same but the activity has changed. Just as this physical activity changes when we shift from one element to another, so the experiences of the senses also undergo a change when we shift from consciousness to unconsciousness. But of course, since unconsciousness also represents total dissolution of the intellect, we have no rational memory of what is taking place at this end.

Tantra says that as we go deeper into ourselves, we become aware of the three states of consciousness symbolised by the linga. Finally, when we become aware of the jyotira linga, it may be experienced in the form of a luminous body, a transparent body, an invisible body, or a colourless body.

Now these people who have a particular trend of mental and psychic activity will experience this jyotira linga differently. Swami Muktananda experienced it in the form of a blue pearl, but the experience was of the jyotir linga. Other yogis may experience it differently, in the form of just pure light. Swami Muktananda is the only person who has so far experienced it in the form of a blue pearl. All the traditional texts say there is nothing but the experience of light, colourless light Samkhya says it; Yoga says it; Tantra says it; even Vedanta says the same thing. So it depends on the trend of our consciousness, the flow, the motivation, the force behind the consciousness, which can either make us experience this same jyotir linga in one form or another, but the experience of light is the most common experience. Another experience is of nothingness, whiteness, shoonyata. Buddha experienced this whiteness or shoonyata, and he gave it the name nirvana - where there is nothing. There is no attachment and there is no detachment; there is no happiness and there is no joy. So nirvana, or the experience of jyotir, or the experience of a 'blue pearl', or the experience of samadhi, in fact represent the same state of consciousness in which we experience our spirit.

What is unconditional love?

Whatever the definition of love, here we are defining 'unconditioned, and this term is best defined in the Bhagavad Gita. Conditioning is something with which we have lived since the time of our birth, and we will continue to live with one set way of thinking, behaving, acting, feeling, observing, analysing and criticising. It is a condition of the personality - the expectation, desire, or wish to be like this, or to be like that. We want to project this, we want to achieve that, and this conditioned state represents the 'I-ness' - me, the identity. If there is no identity, there is no condition whatsoever.

So this is the concept of the Gita. Whether it talks of Karma yoga, or Bhakti yoga; whether it talks of Depression yoga, Samadhi yoga or Karma Sannyasa yoga, whatever it may discuss, the ultimate thrust of the Gita is, 'Be free from the conditioning of life.' Don't have any expectations of what you are, and if you can just be what you are, and if you can establish yourself in the identity of the spirit and dissolve this identity of 'I', then automatically every experience and every action becomes unconditional.

Therefore, in the same scripture of the Gita it is said in regard to action, 'Perform an action but do not be attached to the fruits of the action. Have no expectation, but try to do everything with utmost perfection, no matter how simple the job may be. In relation to meditation also, in the Gita it is said, 'Give up the desire, give up the aim, give up the will to meditate.' It should not be 'I' am meditating. This concept is not there. There is simply awareness of the meditative stage in which we are internally and externally with the higher consciousness.

With regard to bhakti, it is also said that when you feel attracted towards somebody, when you feel attached to somebody, when you wish to love somebody, that has to be a pure thing. It is the concept of duality which has to be given up and the concept of unity that has to be achieved. If 'you' love 'me' or 'I' love 'you', there is this idea of 'me' and 'you', but if I see myself in you and if I feel you in myself, then whom do I love? Do I love myself? Do I give myself a pat on the back? I create a very solid, psychic rapport with you, which enables me to experience me within you and you within me. That is the concept of 'unconditioned life'.

You can, of course, include love in it, you can include action in it, you can include anything and everything in it. Therefore this is one of the most important trainings in Yoga, for those who are involved with Yoga sincerely. Rather than living on a high cloud all the time, when a person comes to you, in order to understand that person, in order to create a rapport with that person, just put yourself in that person's shoes. Become that person for five minutes, identify totally with that person for ten minutes, and you will know who the other person is, what his personality is like, how he thinks, how he behaves, how he or she acts. This fusion has to take place spontaneously, instantaneously, for a second. Then we can understand all the different personality types very easily. This type of quality, Gurus seem to have. Because, as a person walks into the room in their presence, this is exactly the thing a Guru does. He transfers the consciousness into the other person for just a split-second, and knows him or her. Then he can easily relate and you feel, "Ah, this person knows so much about me". That is an unconditional lifestyle.

In Swami Satyananda's 'Early Teachings' book, he talks about vajroli and certain kriyas in which the physical nerve connection is completely disconnected and the sex glands become inactive. Could you enlighten us on this, and also on moola bandha?

Mudras and bandhas both work on the same principles as acupuncture. By performing certain Mudras and physical locks, we are able to contact the flow of pranic energy that we are receiving and channel it as it enters and goes out of the body.

Practices such as vajroli mudra, ashwini mudra and moola bandha are meant to block the downward flow of energy. There are five pranas which manifest in the body. One of these is the apana force, situated between the perineum and the navel. It is a downward moving force, and controls mooladhara and swadhisthana chakras. That means control of the unconscious activities, deep rooted samskaras, inhibitions, desires, the sense of security, and the sexual urge. These are all controlled by the apana force.

In Kriya yoga and Kundalini yoga what do we try to do first? We try to reverse the flow of apana; we try to make the apana move up. When the apana begins to flow upwards then the natural, manifest tendencies of mooladhara and swadhisthana are considered to be under control. They have been transcended, purified, and brought under the observation of the consciousness. Until that happens, our samskaras, desires, karmas and our likes and dislikes are not under the observation of the consciousness.

In Yoga it is considered that in the region of the perineum, there are many nerve endings. There is a main nadi which is known as vajra nadi, and it corresponds to the sciatic nerves. Another nadi, brahma nadi, is located in the centre of sushumna. These two nerves are stimulated or acted upon when we practise moola bandha and more specifically when we practise ashwini and vajroli mudras.

We know about the three main nadis, ida, pingala and sushumna; these three are the important ones in Yoga, but in the centre of sushumna, in the tube or nerve of sushumna, there is another energy flow, and it is known as brahma nadi. Brahma represents creation, the creative aspect, the sexual urge, desire. So with the practice of vajroli and ashwini, the apana energy flow within the brahma nadi is reversed. All the psychological urges and desires, the physical desires, mental desires and emotional desires, are transcended when the apana is turned upwards.

Physically, vajra nadi is related to the sciatic nerves because it is located in approximately the same region. It comes up the legs and joins in the centre of the perineum, right at the region of mooladhara chakra, Vajra nadi is affected by the practice of vajrasana, and vajrasana is considered an effective posture for celibacy. When vajra nadi is pressed, every type of physical, sexual stimulation or urge is eliminated.

So moola bandha is practised to stimulate and alter the activity of mooladhara chakra, which represents the sexual urge, the karma and desire, the sense of security, the want and need of security in life at any level. The need for money, emotional security and family security - all these urges are transformed into spiritual energy.

This spiritual energy is of course a mental activity, as much as a physical one, because desire is also an activity of the mind as well as being physical. The sexual urge is also an activity of the mind as much as it is physical, and sexual experience is also as much an activity of the mind as it is physical. This is exactly what Tantra says, that in order to derive spiritual experience and spiritual knowledge from any kind of physical action - not necessarily sexual - there has to be a process of mental observation.

This is the concept of drashta (observer), the concept of the witness. Therefore in Tantra much emphasis has been placed on having one part of the mind always observing what the rest of the mind is doing and thinking. This is the concept of vajroli, ashwini and moola bandha.

What about where Swamiji mentions that the nerve connections are completely disconnected physically?

Cut it with scissors? Unless the question is specific it is difficult to explain.

We can consider that there is a change in the normal activity of mooladhara whereby the energy which has been moving down, attracted by the senses and the sexual experiences, is reversed. Then the sensual experience is naturally disassociated from that activity. So in my understanding that is the meaning of 'disconnection' here.

There are so many yoga practices; how does one choose the appropriate practice? Should the student ask the Guru for a sadhana and guidance?

There are two ways of choosing a yoga practice. If you are aware of the body and the requirements of the body and mind, then you can choose a practice for yourself that will be suitable for your physical and psychological condition. As this need of the body may change from day to day and from week to week, it is possible for the sadhana to change from day to day and from week to week. However, that is a very superficial aspect of sadhana.

If you want to involve yourself in some specific mental or spiritual area, then for that you need the assistance of the Guru, to select the right asanas to awaken a particular chakra, to select the proper pranayama for cerebral benefits which will release the beta and stimulate the theta and delta waves, and to select a proper practice of meditation which may not necessarily be according to your liking and choice, but which is required for your further development. So unless you are very aware of yourself, of your mind and your psychological and psychic need, the assistance of a Guru is necessary for the selection of those yoga practices which will give you mental and spiritual benefits.

If it is just superficial practices that you wish to do you say, 'I have half an hour and I want to do some yoga. Okay, what does my body need to do? It is a bit stiff here, some pain there, tight up there, the neck is a bit tense'. Then you do the necessary practices for the stiffness, pain, headache and neck pain. These you choose for yourself.

Do you or Swamiji give shakti pat? If so, how can I have the experience of it?

Well, let us talk only about Swamiji. I do not think that I have that much capacity, nor will I ever have it. And I don't want it either; it is too much of a problem.

What do you mean by shakti pat? Do you mean a touch? Or a transmission? I find this word is very misunderstood. Usually we consider shakti pat is somebody coming and touching the body, and bang! The big bang takes place inside, rather than up in heaven.

In Tantra there are many types of initiation. We have mantra diksha, sannyasa diksha, and karma sannyas diksha. In the same way, there is drik diksha, diksha by sight, and this is a form of shakti pat.

It is not necessary to be formally initiated with all the paraphernalia and practices. Guru can initiate anybody just through sight, through touching the psyche inside and not the intellect. Mantra diksha is touching the intellect, and sannyas diksha is through the agency of the intellect, but shakti pat, which comes in many forms, such as drik diksha, is a subtle and very powerful initiation.

Sparsha diksha, diksha by touch, is a particular form of initiation which people also consider as shakti pat. There is a transferring of the energy of the Guru into the energy of the disciple and awakening of the chakras, or consciousness, or energy.

Then there is door diksha, diksha over a great distance, which happens very rarely, but does happen. When the disciple is ready and is seeking a Guru, then the disciple is somehow able to link his or her mind with the mind of the Guru, then the Guru will manifest even if they are 100,000 miles apart. Guru will manifest in front of you either in the from of energy or in physical form. Even after the guru's death this type of astral diksha takes place if the link is strong enough and you are able to communicate psychically. Of course, we read about it, and since it is beyond our comprehension, we say it may be possible or it may not.

Then there is swapna dwesha, initiation in a dream, which is also a form of shakti pat. There are thirty types of diksha in Tantra and out of these thirty, only mantra diksha and sannyas initiation are actual physical acts between the Guru, or the agency of the Guru, and the disciple. The other remaining twenty-eight types of diksha are different forms of shakti pat which take place at different times in the life of an aspirant.

As a yoga teacher, how can I develop my creativity in my daily life?

The answer is very simple; it can be given in one word - observe. As a yoga teacher you should have awareness; you should observe yourself, and you should always try to improve whatever you do. Try to perfect; try to do it better every time. Develop ichchha shakti, which is the positive aspect of desire, of want; kriya shakti, which is the energy of action; sankalpa shakti, the energy of determination; also vichara shakti, which is the energy of positive thinking. All the positive qualities of life have to be developed more and more. This does not mean that you should negate anything and everything that you consider bad. No. Here you are beginning to observe; there is no negation of any type. If you want to improve yourself and become creative, happy and successful in life, take everything in life as a form of sadhana.

This is something that most of us have observed in Swamiji. We see that he has taken every activity, every situation, every problem, every difficulty, and every joy in life as a form of sadhana. Therefore even today, if we find him surrounded by difficult people or difficult times, he is totally at home with everybody, and if he is surrounded by good people and good times he is still at peace with everything and everybody. Every single moment of life becomes a form of sadhana, a moment of sadhana, a process of sadhana.

It is probably the hardest thing to do, but we can always start with observation, observing how we feel, how we react, how we behave and how we think; and observing how we can make ourselves better in thinking, in action, in behaviour, in feeling, in projection and in receiving. Even as a person in business it is possible, and also as a sannyasin it is possible.

If one becomes physically sick and requires medication is it better to have natural remedies and alternative treatment as opposed to traditional Western medicine, or is it better to maintain a balance between both types of treatment?

Regarding the treatment, I think you should decide. It should be your choice. Of course, natural therapies are definitely better. They do not create a state of physical imbalance, as tends to happen with medicines that contain different kinds of chemicals and hormones. So Yoga prefers the use of natural remedies, but sometimes the effect of natural remedies is slow in coming, and if one needs immediate relief from a problem, from an illness, then, at that moment, allopathic medicines can be utilised in order to get over the present situation. Also, different types of therapy can be tried simultaneously which may have a slow but steady effect on the body.

The concept of health in Yoga is to realise the natural stamina, strength and ability of body, mind and emotions. The closer we are to our natural self, the less imbalance in the system, malfunction of organs, imbalance in the nervous system, hormonal system, or emotional structure there will be. So just by correcting an imbalance, we can overcome the problem of disease. This approach seems to be more effective and beneficial for our physical health.

With constant practice of yoga, people find that they do not become sick easily. Of course it is natural to have runny stomachs and maybe diarrhoea, dysentery and constipation, but that would be the extent of the illness you would find in a practitioner of yoga. If we become balanced in our lifestyle, and remain at ease with ourselves, then there is simply no place for disease in our life. That is the concept of yogic health and the system of yogic therapy in brief.

Swami Muktananda would sometimes beat his disciples, even in public. He was quite severe with his students. Do you think this is necessary?

There can be many answers to this question. One answer can be that the Guru is the best judge of the abilities and capacities of his disciple, and if, in the process of training, he feels that beating is necessary, then it is his choice. Of course, beating is not really encouraged in society, and in Western society you are probably more aware of it than we are in Eastern society. However, this is a form of training, a form of sadhana, which some Gurus do utilise to create a type of understanding, an awareness, in a disciple. I am sure that Swami Muktananda had no ulterior motive.

There is a story that there was a gathering of saints in India in the 18th century. There was one saint known as Namdev, who was one of the great poet saints of India. Every day, at any time, he used to communicate with Krishna face to face and talk with him, play with him, joke with him and communicate with him at every level. During the meeting the saints who had gathered there decided to see who was the most balanced. So they decided to call on an outsider, and told him to hit everyone with a stick. The outsider started to hit all of the people present. Of course, some did yell and some felt pain but remained quiet. When Namdev was being hit, he became furious and he snatched the stick away and hit the outsider back. As Namdev hit the outsider there was a 'wireless message' from God. 'You may communicate with me, you may have a relationship with me, but you are still raw, because you have allowed the ego to manifest'. And as the 'wireless message' came, Namdev just started to cry and cry and cry. He realised his mistake. So even saints undergo trials such as this, but I am sure that if people can accept the beating of a saint as a blessing in disguise, then that particular event can totally transform their life, because it is an expression of their relationship; it is a form of communication between the Guru and the disciple.

As a karma sannyasin of some years, wishing to devote my life to yoga, should I continue to be a karma sannyasin, or become a full sannyasin? Or does this happen when the time is right, or when the Guru advises?

We always have this craving to become what we are not at present. We have an idea, an image of something nice and good and positive that we try to keep in front of us and try to achieve all the time. Karma sannyas is a sadhana. There is hardly any difference between karma sannyas and full sannyas. It is simply a question of initiation and letting go of responsibilities and dedicating oneself to a particular course. It is a question of initiation, commitment and involvement, but otherwise the sadhana of a sannyasin or a karma sannyasin or of a spiritual aspirant is just the same. So it depends. In the academic field, after completing the B.Sc., if you want to become an M.Sc. you can get another diploma, but in spiritual life there is only one diploma.

Karma sannyas is an external identity, but the sadhana which you receive at the time of karma sannyas, or at the time of full sannyas, is something internal. That remains the same and takes you always toward the goal, and not away from the goal. If you want to commit yourself as a full sannyasin without any social or family obligation, then you can decide to take full sannyas, but if you simply want to try full sannyas for one, two or three years, then really there is no purpose in doing so.

Regularity in sadhana is more important here, and if you are regular in sadhana you can be above many full sannyasins who do not have that attainment, that achievement. So, from my understanding I suggest that you should concentrate on the sadhana for your development and your growth, and forget about full sannyasa.

I have known many full sannyasins, who, when they heard that Swamiji was giving karma sannyas initiation, asked Swamiji for karma sannyas instead. There was even one swami who had seven years of full sannyas living in this ashram. He was a very beautiful person, but a total idiot at the same time. He came and asked for mantra initiation after seven years of sannyas.

So there are some people like him who feel that the more they are initiated the faster they will go! But it is not like that. You are given a vehicle. The vehicle is the sadhana and it depends on whether you go in first gear or fourth gear; the car is the same. It should be your inner motivation, your inner drive, that will carry you forward. This applies to karma sannyas and to full sannyas as well.

Does God exist, and if so, have you seen Him?

It is my belief that He does exist. Of course, I have not had the privilege of seeing Him yet; maybe in the near future. First we have to consider what His form is and whether we can see Him, through the eyes, or the senses, or what kind of eyes do we need to see Him?

There is a story that an Emperor once asked three questions to his subjects. The three questions were; 'Where does God stay?' 'What is His form?' and 'What does He do?' People tried to think but they could not come up with the answers.

Eventually, one little boy came forward and said, 'I can tell you where God stays, what His form is and what He does'. The Emperor became very happy. The boy said, 'In order to illustrate this I will need two items - milk and a candle'. The Emperor had them brought to his chamber. The boy asked the Emperor, 'Can you see the butter in the milk?' The Emperor said 'No, I can't'.

The boy called someone and told him to churn the milk. After some time of churning, the butter came out, and the boy explained, 'God exists everywhere. We can't see Him, but through a process of churning, as the butter becomes separated from the milk, in the same way cognition of God, the vision of God, can be separated from the illusory experiences of the world which is maya'.

To the next question, 'What is His form?' the boy replied, 'Light the candle'. The emperor lit the candle and the boy asked, 'Can you describe to me the form of the light which is being emitted by the candle'? The Emperor said, 'No I can't'. The boy said, 'That is the form of God. You can know it. You can see it, but you cannot describe it. If you light a candle in a dark room you can see the light which is being emitted by the flame. Don't look at the flame. Look at the light which is being emitted, because the flame is only an object, but the light which pervades the whole room, what is that? Would you call that an object? No you could not call that an object'.

In answer to the third question 'What does he do?' the boy told the Emperor, 'Well, it is a very complicated question. Before I can answer this, you have to become a disciple'. The king said 'Alright, I will become a disciple'. He made the boy sit on the throne and he sat on the floor, and the boy said, 'This is what God does. He makes Emperors sit on the floor and a poor boy like me sit on the throne. This is the work of God'.

To think of God as a person who can be seen and experienced through the senses, through the mind or intellect, or through the eyes, represents our ignorance. Just as you have to churn milk in order to bring out the butter, you have to churn your personality in order to bring out the divine, 'and it is this process which is known as 'sadhana, without which nothing is obtainable in spiritual life.

Instead of looking at God from a philosophical point of view, why don't you try to look at Him from the practical point of view? The three letters which make up the word 'God' represent God in it's full expression of the three gunas - sattwa, rajas and tamas. We also have the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - Creator, Preserver and Destroyer. And we have the three letters in the word 'God' which represent the aspects of generation, organisation and destruction. So generation, organisation and destruction are the three qualities of 'GOD' which we should try to understand in the framework of our lives. Once we do that I'm sure we will see God face to face.

I know it is important to put others needs ahead of our own, but how can we achieve this in a world where people get exploited for such selfless action?

I think only idiots get exploited. If one is sincere and true to oneself and the cause, simply being who one is, neither expecting to give nor to receive. Then there is no way that anybody or any power in this world can exploit one. I asked Swamiji this same question seven years ago, and the answer that he gave me was that if you remain yourself then nothing can exploit you. The difficulty comes the moment that we try to adopt different roles in our life for the satisfaction of our mind and emotions.

If we see somebody who needs help then we go to that individual with the idea that 'I am going to help', but our ego thinks differently; the ego is looking for recognition. If by helping another person we get recognition, we feel happy, contented and satisfied. So, right now in the normal frame of mind, if we try to help somebody, we are at the same time also seeking some food for our ego. Now this is difficult to accept, to understand or to put into practice.

If we can remove the element of ego from the service, from the seva, then if other people try to exploit us, they will be unsuccessful, because when my ego is not involved, then yours is not involved. When the ego is not involved then hopefully I can see everything in a clear perspective. If I find that somebody is playing funny tricks on me then I just say, 'Hari Om Tat Sat; find someone else to help you,' and find my own path.

So it is people who allow others to exploit them. It is I and it is you who allow others to exploit me or you, because of our ego-satisfaction. If someone stronger than me can impose his ego on my ego, then that is exploitation. So this is where viveka, discrimination, comes in, back out where necessary and go forward wherever necessary. If viveka is there, there is no need for suffering and pain. So, develop viveka.

Swami Niranjanji, Swamiji said, "What can I say to the people who do not understand the glory of Karma yoga?" What do you say?

We should try to understand the role of Karma yoga in the life of a sadhak. We can look at it from different angles because we already know the definition of Karma yoga - 'the yoga of action'. We know that we are required to act with the idea of not wanting any results, gain or fruits, not to expect the fruits of action, but to act with the idea of perfection.

In the life of a sadhak, Karma yoga has many roles to play. Number one, when there is too much introversion, when there is too much mental observation, meditation, contemplation, introspection, then at that time there is a tendency of mind to disassociate from the world and to remain confined within the limits of the mind. We feel it when we become introverted and when we become slightly depressed. We feel it when we are unable to come out of the state in which the mind is looking at itself. This is felt externally, physically, as lethargy, lack of pranic energy, lack of association with the external environment and object, lack of intention with the concepts of time and space.

Therefore, in the tradition of Yoga, in order to create a balance between mental experience and the association of the mind with the external environment, and in order to create this link between the mind and its association with the senses, the practice of Karma yoga has been prescribed. It is also said in the theory of Karma yoga that if one practises half an hour of mediation, a technique which allows one to look within, then that half hour should be complemented by a minimum three hours of physical, externalised activity of body, mind and emotions so that there is no hanging onto something that has taken place during meditation, and there is no disassociation in our life. So this is one of the purposes of Karma yoga - to create a proper awareness of the role that the mind plays in relation to the body, in relation to the indriyas, the sensory perception, in relation to the intellect, social life, family life or the individual personality.

There is another aspect of Karma yoga. When we are aware of the mental actions Karma does not simply mean action, but it means the whole process of activity that goes on. We think, and behind that thought is a reason why that thought has come. When we practise antar mouna we observe the thought process, we find the link in the thoughts and try to go deeper. That is mental Karma yoga. It is not an experience of a state but it is the experience of activity, the link which is binding the whole, the totality of our expression, thought, feeling and behaviour together. So Karma yoga is awareness of the full process, the total activity that is taking place either in the realm of the mind, the intellect, in the realm of the emotions or physically.

The process of observation which we called drashta the witness attitude, the seer attitude, is the keyword of Karma yoga. Observe what you are doing. It is not blind activity but it is activity with awareness and with a purpose behind it. So when this concept of observation, of witnessing every action of mind and every action of body, is slowly developed, then this leads to the expansion of consciousness. We are able to understand what is happening, what type of activity or action is taking place, and how we can improve that particular activity, that particular action.

With the awakening of this drashta awareness, the process of the seer, we naturally and spontaneously become aware of the conflicts that go on inside. We become aware of our likes and dislikes, our ambitions and our limitations. So there is a process of filtering out the negative from the positive and it is a process of rediscovering the personality. We become aware of our attachments, our likes and dislikes, through the process of observation. We are aware of an attachment we can have for the family, an attachment we can have for a material object such as a car or a television, and if those are broken we feel it because our money has gone down the drain. This attachment, which may be emotional, physical or intellectual, can be and is observed. The effect of the attachment which is detrimental to the growth of personality is filtered out, and the effect of the attachment or desire which is conducive to the growth of the personality is also filtered out. Therefore we will simply say that the elimination of ego takes place when we practise Karma yoga.

There are so many things that can be said about it. People say that in an ashram you should do Karma yoga. Yes, because you are doing it with objective awareness. It is only to give this understanding of objectivity that we emphasise the practice of external Karma yoga. Later on this feeling which we gain outside is transferred inside into the mind so that your sadhana your own practices of meditation and contemplation, can give better results and help channel the conflicting energies which come due to the attachments, which come due to the unfiltered mind-stuff that is passing through the psyche. This filtering out is the process of Karma yoga.

Karma yoga - could you please explain it in relation to yogic life and also to family life?

In the Bhagavad Gita it is said:

"Yoginahah karma kurvanti sangam tyaktwa dhananjaya"

The people who are aware, the yogis, do Karma yoga without attachment, with the purpose of internal purification.

In the same chapter, it is said that Karma yoga is practised through the mind, manas, through the intellect, buddhi, and through speech, vach. If it is true that Karma yoga can be practised in speech, that Karma yoga can be practised in the realm of the intellect, and mind, then naturally it becomes a tool for the purification of the atman. 'Atman', here, does not mean 'the soul' but the identity of an individual, the 'I AM'.

Here we can see the differences between the practices of Karma yoga which are utilised by internally aware people or yogis, and by people looking for sensual pleasures, the bhogis, because for one group of people there is awareness of mind, intellect and interaction. Here speech is just a symbolic way of describing interaction. For these people with awareness, Karma yoga becomes a process of meditation itself.

For the other group, Karma yoga is taken in its literal meaning of 'action' and it becomes a process of self-fulfilment, fulfilment of the desires, and fulfilment of the ego. This group develops a sense of greater security, of 'I own this or that,' a sense of affluence and selfishness. Everybody in the world is definitely selfish. Yogis are selfish and householders are selfish. There is nobody in the world who is free from this idea, this identity.

The only difference is in awareness. On one side you simply go headlong into the world to derive self-satisfaction and pleasure. On the other side, by doing the same actions, by leading the same kind of lifestyle, by doing the same kind of work and by living within the family situation, you try to find a balance within yourself. So if you want to know the difference between Karma yoga for the yogi and for the householder, it is only a matter of awareness and realisation.

Sangam tyaktwa atman shuddhiye: By renouncing the attachment, (sangam tyaktwa), for purification of the atman (atma shuddhi), the yogi performs actions, (yoginah karma kurvanti). Actions are performed through the agencies of manas, vacha and buddhi - mind, speech and intellect. Here again, they have included mind, intellect and interaction.

Intellect is the rational process which is going on inside the head of everyone - thinking, analysing and filtering. When it is developed creatively then we reach the state of vivek, right-perception or right-understanding, but when the intellect, the buddhi, is given a free hand and flows outward into the world, into the dimension of matter, then we find ourselves surrounded by avivek, wrong concepts.

The idea of right concept and wrong concept, of viveka and aviveka, has nothing to do with whether we think right or we act right. No! The concept of vivek is based on understanding the laws of Nature which govern the universe, (the macrocosm out there), and the body, the me, (the microcosm in here). It is living according to that law which is the idea of vivek. It is finding a balance between the laws of Nature which internally govern the body, emotions, mind and spirit, and those which externally govern the world, the universe. So by realising our abilities and our perceptions and by understanding The laws of Nature, we practise Karma yoga through the intellect. We practise buddhi viveka, and here again is the concept of expanded consciousness.

Secondly, we look at mind, which we dealt with briefly in the previous question. There is the ability to associate and the ability to disassociate; the ability to feel an intimate subjective feeling for something and the ability to observe it externally, objectively; the ability to create a desire and the ability to remove that desire. In the traditional Indian system, four stages of life are mentioned which each individual must go through before death. They are artha, dharma, kaama and moksha. 'Artha' means 'affluence', (social and individual), self-contentment and self-satisfaction. It also means economic affluence in terms of shelter and in terms of companionship. It is the whole process of life which is not in the sannyas tradition - taking birth, going to school, getting married, having kids, getting a divorce, becoming old, earning money, saving, living in an old-age retirement home and finding a permanent spot in the graveyard. This is life in general as accepted by society. Now in this life artha plays a very important role and dharma plays a very minor role. 'Dharma' means 'obligation', 'duty'; it is the internal religion, not the external one. It is the internal religion which unites this with that, the link which unites this identity with that identity. Kaama, or sensual pleasure, plays a very important role in social life. Moksha does not play any role; you know, we do not want to be liberated; there is too much attachment, too much stuff blocked in the mind.

For the social person, artha, affluence, and kaama, sensual pleasures, are important. In the life of a renunciate, dharma, knowledge of the link, and moksha, the concept of liberation, are important. If we are able to combine all four together, the artha aspect (affluence) with dharma, dharma with kaama, and kaama with moksha, then the mind is transcended. For we are utilising the dual tendency of the mind to create a third state of mind which is harmonious and transcendental.

There is a theory which I have named after myself. It is known as the SWAN theory. 'S' stands for strength and every individual has strength, determination, willpower, stamina and energy, but at the same time everyone has a 'W' too. We have weakness, insecurity, inferiority complexes and unawareness of our potential. This limits our progress. At the same time everyone has an 'A', ambition. We all want to become what we are not and we try very hard to do it. Whether we succeed or fail is another theory I will tell you about later on. Everyone also has an 'N', need. There are needs for physical satisfaction; when we are hungry we need food, when we are thirsty we need water. In the same way there is a social need for shelter, cloth and comfort. There is a mental need also, the desire for satisfaction, some purpose in life, the wish to lead a peaceful, quiet, healthy life. There is a spiritual need also, the need to feel unity within and not conflict. So we have potential, strength, and weakness, ambition and needs.

This SWAN principle is controlled by the mind. If you think you are weak you are weak. If you think you are powerful, you are powerful. Through a process of self-hypnosis we can become what we are not, either by going down or by going up. If we feel depressed we have the strength to come out from this state of depression but, since the mind is involved, it feels that it cannot draw on the strength to come out from it. We can feel ecstatic, joyous and happy, just bursting over, bubbling over, oozing through the nose and ears and eyes with happiness. Mind is involved in this experience also; it cannot draw its attention from one experience and keep it balanced. So since every experience, every ambition and every need of life seems to be governed by the mind, the best way to direct this particular faculty of mind is by giving this faculty the ability to associate and disassociate at the right time, according to the situation, the opportunity and the environment. This is known as Karma yoga for the mind.

Positive speech and interaction - we creatively develop this by being balanced. When we are able to control the negativity that we have inside, and that we feel at times, and if, by being balanced, we are also able to express our positive qualities, then this expression on the level of vibrations and on the level of physical communication, speech, creates a positive and uplifting impact on the other individual. You have experienced it when somebody or yourself projects some kind of negativity and you see what the reaction is.

There is immediately a clash of minds and an interaction which you have had, a friendship which you have built up, is suddenly destroyed on the spur of a negative moment. It happens to friends, it happens in families, it happens between husband, wife and kids. It happens between gurus and disciples. We have also experienced that when we project positive energy, balanced energy, even our enemies become our friends. So the balancing out of energy and the expression and interaction of this balanced energy with your energy is the third aspect of Karma yoga.

Once you have been able to deal with the mind, the interaction and the intellect, then the inner purification, the process of self-purification, atma shuddhi, takes place. So even as a householder, even as a sannyasi, a renunciate, you should try to achieve this balance through the practice of Karma yoga. It has been said by many people that Bhakti yoga in itself is not enough for moksha, it is only one aspect of life; Jnana yoga is not enough for moksha, and Hatha yoga is not enough, but if you combine any practice with Karma yoga, then it becomes a complete yoga.

What is the purpose of celibacy?

In Sanskrit, or in the Indian tradition, there is no such thing as celibacy. There is a term, brahmacharya which is connected with the idea of celibacy, but the literal meaning of 'brahmacharya' is 'one who follows Brahma'. Brahma acharya - one who follows the law of the Divine.

In the Indian system there has never been any place for celibacy. This is mainly because of the four concepts of artha, dharma, kaama and moksha. This is the tradition, but in course of time some renunciates came into the forefront of society who were different from normal human beings in terms of having no possessions or family attachments, and who lived a secluded lifestyle. So a general term was used for people who have control over their sensual pleasures; they are brahmacharies, or celibates. In the course of years this idea was attached to renouncing the sensual pleasures. If you can do that, well and good. If you can't do that, still well and good. Either way there is no harm, as long as the idea of who I am and what I am doing is clear in the mind.

The term celibacy, as it is used today, represents a state of no attachment to any kind of pleasure to which the mind is attracted. One of the most powerful desires in human life is kaama, sexual satisfaction. Those who can overcome this through some method, sadhana or meditation, actually are able to reverse the flow of energy so that instead of moving downwards, it begins to move up. You know the concept of prana as it is stated in the practices of pranayama, Kundalini yoga, prana vidya and Kriya yoga. In this understanding, one of the vayus, or pranic limbs, is apana, a downward moving force located in the region between the navel and the perineum. This aspect of energy controls the inherent and unconscious desires, ambitions, samskaras and the sense of security in every individual.

As long as apana is flowing downwards there will naturally be an attraction to sensual pleasures, because although you have been meditating for twenty years, the flow of energy has not changed and the activity of the unconscious, or the inherent activities of the personality, will continue to be the same. Even if you become a yogi, even if you practise yoga and meditation for thirty, forty, or fifty years, if the pranas have not changed then the mind will still run after the pleasures of life. This desire for satisfaction will continue to arise again and again from time to time-So the reversing of this apana flow is the actual meaning of celibacy according to Tantra and Yoga. It is used to transcend the natural programming of the human identity, personality and desire.

In 'Kundalini Tantra', at the end of the kriyas one visualises a golden egg. Is that before samadhi, or kundalini awakening, or is that the beginning?

It is the beginning of an end. Awakening of kundalini does not culminate in samadhi. Awakening of kundalini is simply an experience of another dimension of life where we can experience harmony and perfection. In this dimension, on the material plane, the concept of the golden egg is the concept of awareness of the transcendental body, the causal body or the jyotir linga, the linga of light in sahasrara. This golden egg is the seed of the spirit. The tantrics and the yogis have envisioned the human personality and the different dimensions of the human personality in the form of this egg. An egg represents the seed form. It has a shape, it has an identity. It represents the seed of consciousness, the source of consciousness.

Here we should discuss the three concepts of divinity known as nada, bindu and kala. 'Nada' is the 'vibration', the 'source of all sounds'. You know that wherever there is activity there is bound to be friction and vibration. Even if you move the hand in front of you in the air, there is friction between the hand and the air. If you could hear the sound of that friction, it would be like the sound 'whoosh'. Wherever there is activity there is bound to be vibration in very certain frequencies which are inaudible to us because our range of hearing is limited. The mind moves, and so within the mind also is the experience of nada. Wherever there is even the tiniest activity, there is the experience of nada, and the activity never stops in our lifetime. This nada governs every aspect of vibration and every personality in creation.

The next concept is 'bindu', the point, the source and cause of all creation. Externally there is the source, the cause, the reason behind any action, thought or feeling. Mentally there is a point from which all these feelings, emotions and desires, and even ego, manifest. Spiritually there is a point where we experience the atman, and even beyond that is a point where we experience the param atman, the divine consciousness. So the point that we find in infinity and at the end of infinity, if there is such a thing, is known as bindu.

Then there is kala, which is the different manifestations of matter, energy, the elements and other unknown elements beyond the range of human conception and awareness. There are different forms of manifestation - the spirit forms, the energy forms, the physical forms, the rock, the tree, the flower, the water, the stone, everything. If there is no manifestation then there is no creation.

So these are the three concepts of divinity: nada, bindu, kala. The divine being is above them, it is transcendental, but the awareness of divinity, the awareness of the supreme self, or consciousness, is experienced in the form of a golden egg. Contained within the seed we find these three things, the whole process of creation and the unfolding of consciousness and energy. Therefore it is related to the causal body, the body which controls the invisible, unknown perceptions, activities and dimensions of a human being.

The awakening of kundalini is the opening of various doors and dimensions within the personality which are represented in the form of the chakras, and as different elements. The known elements are earth, water, fire, air, and ether; they represent the known aspects of consciousness. Finally, the unknown aspect of consciousness is sahasrara, in the form of the thousand-petalled lotus. No-one has counted the thousand petals, it is probably just imaginary, but this thousand-petalled lotus is symbolical of the different manifestations, and it is here that we experience the golden egg.

Now there is a difference between samadhi and awakening of kundalini. In kundalini awakening we become aware of the three concepts of nada, bindu and kala; it becomes obvious. However, in samadhi we go beyond this seed awareness, and in the final stages of samadhi we transcend these three experiences. So it is not necessary, nor is it correct, to correlate samadhi with awakening of kundalini.

I feel a tremendous desire to understand things. What is it one 'stands under'? Could you talk about this in reference to the 'cloud of unknowing'?

You have answered yourself. One stands under things. If you have a desire to understand things, you stand under things. In reference to the 'cloud of unknowing', this question has also been answered when we discussed viveka.

It is natural for the mind to try to understand the different experiences that it is having. That is the only form of interaction between the mind and the world, between the mind and the senses, and between the mind and the inner world, but understanding of mind takes place on different levels. In English we define mind as being the conscious, subconscious and unconscious and that's about it. In Sanskrit the mind is defined as having four components. There is manas, the aspect of mind which thinks and contemplates. Chitta is the aspect of mind which sees and perceives. Buddhi is the aspect of mind which, through intellect, tries to find some kind of link between what is happening in here and what is happening out there. Ahamkara is the identity of 'I'. This is the concept of mind.

In the forefront is chitta, which does nothing but perceiving and observing. There is no process of filtration here; filtration of ideas comes much later. To give an example, we look around us and see many things through our eyes. If we talk to a person we are watching that person, but at the same time we are seeing other things as well. There is the door, the floor, the window, the chair, a tape recorder and other people sitting. So although we are observing everything, identification is only with one person. It is you, talking with somebody, unless something happens which diverts your mind and makes you aware of another event, or action, happening. There is a lot of noise too, and when we become aware of it we become aware of this, that, and so many different kinds of sounds and noises. So much information is being filtered out in the brain by the mind. Chitta only perceives, nothing else, and it does it through the agency of the senses. It does it through the agency of emotions and feeling and by vibrations, energy. It does it with the help of some external agency or some internal agency. There is no end to the awareness and the experience of the chitta.

Then after chitta comes buddhi. In normal life we try to understand things intellectually, understand experiences and create our own concept of something being either good or bad, positive or negative, detrimental or conducive. Then there is comparison with our own ahamkara, the 'I' identity in terms of likes and dislikes, ideas and ambitions, samskaras and karmas. In the meantime there is also the process of contemplation. Right now thoughts are going on in the mind but we are not aware of them until we decide to be aware of them, so the manas activity of mind becomes evident when we become aware of it, otherwise it is in the background.

So, in the externalised state of mind the inner perceptions and intuitions are blocked, cut off from the other forms of experience and awareness. With the awakening of viveka the blockage is removed and we are able to combine the intellectual with the intuitive, the external with the internal.

If you remember, many times Swamiji has spoken of a tree, kalpa taru, the tree which grants and fulfils all desires, answers all questions. In many of the 'Teaching' volumes you find this description of kalpa taru. Kalpa taru is a state of consciousness where we do not have to gain understanding or knowledge from outside, but the same understanding, the same knowledge comes up from within.

You see, we have come a long way from living in caves and wandering around with bone weapons in our hands (not washing the mouth and throwing foul breath all around) to our present state. We talk of the industrial revolution, of this revolution and that revolution. We talk of science, we talk of philosophies, we talk of many different things. It is all a product of a genius mind. Humanity has not changed, but the level of perception, the level of output of ideas and the knowledge, the vidya, has changed. Today we think in terms of atomic energy and space travel. Cave people could also do that if they had the same kind of mental or internal education. So everything has come from within, from the heads of a few people who have been able to tap the source of knowledge inside, like Newton who just by seeing an apple fall to the ground from a tree, discovered the concept of gravity.

So when the time is ripe and when the receptive faculty has developed to some extent, then an external event can stimulate something within the mind. The knowledge, the idea, the concept, comes up. This is viveka, balancing of the external awareness with internal, the intellectual with the intuitive. If you have to stand under anything it is this tree, kalpa taru, in order to understand things.

Can you explain how one roasts the seeds of one's karma?

One cannot roast the seeds of karma because I don't think they are roastable. You can roast the body in the cremation ground, you can roast your mind in the ashram, but you cannot roast your karmas either in the cremation ground or the ashram, because the moment you try to do that you achieve nirvana.

Because of karmas we are what we are today, and if we are identified as an individual then that is because of the karmas. The loss of total identity is the roasting of the karmas, and loss of total identity happens when we are able somehow, either in this lifetime or after a million years, to attain samadhi, to attain unified consciousness. In this unified consciousness there is no concept of duality, no concept of time, space and object. The 'I' does not exist. There is a continuity of total perception and you can go as far as you wish to go. There is no end to it. In this state of unity, we experience samadhi. We experience moksha, we experience nirvana and we experience the roasting of karma.