Sayings of a Paramahamsa

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

We come across many different paths, all of which claim to be the path to spiritual enlightenment. This creates much confusion in our minds. What can we do to clarify this confusion, to imbibe the true spiritual teachings and to progress on the spiritual path?

The question asked is, "Why are there so many roads to Delhi?" The roads have nothing to do with the ultimate destination, they have to do with the traveller and his starting point. The roads that terminate in Delhi have nothing to do with Delhi; the important thing is where the person lives. If you are in Bangalore, then you are not in Calcutta, Pune or Bombay and, therefore, you have to think about how to travel from Bangalore to Delhi. In other words, rather than looking for the destination or the path, you have to examine where you are now or to which category you belong.

Five categories of mind

Broadly speaking, spiritual aspirants belong to five categories. First come the idiots, the blockheads, the inert and the unapproachable. It is very hard to get into them. This is the lowest category, moodha. The second category is scattered, broken and dissipated. Their desires, passions, aims, accomplishments, actions, expressions, personality, choices, likes, hatreds and prejudices are all dissipated. They do not stick to one thing. Sometimes they want to become a film star, sometimes they want to become a cricketer like Kapil Dev, sometimes a tennis star like Navratilova, sometimes they want to become Indira Gandhi. Sometimes they want to practise kundalini yoga, sometimes swara yoga. Sometimes they want to enter into jada samadhi, dig a pit, get in and stop their breath. They are called kshipta; they have dissipated, unstable minds, with no centres. That is also a category of mind in psychology.

The third category keeps on oscillating like a pendulum. However, although a pendulum oscillates, it has a centre where it stops. Your mind moves about here and there, but then you do pranayama. You think about kundalini, about tantra, about this or that, then realize what you are doing and return to pranayama. When your mind is oscillating, it is running here and there, but you can bring it back to the centre. It has a central point to which it can gravitate again and again in spite of its oscillation. That is the third category of mind called vikshipta.

These three categories of mind are the very low categories of mind to which most of us belong. This classification of mind is according to yoga, Samkhya, Vedanta and also modern psychology, which has described and defined the mind in its own terms. Find out to which category you belong.

The fourth category is ekagra, one-pointed. You may eat, you may drink, you may do anything, but the whole mind is focused on one job. You are always obsessed with one idea, your mind is settled on one point only. Eka means 'one', agra means 'in front of you'. The mind comes back again and again to that one point. That is called ekagrata. In common language you can say it is a concentrated mind. I don't know if we can dare say that we belong to that category! Concentration is a higher state of mind.

There is a story about concentration that you may have heard during childhood. Guru Dronacharya was teaching archery to his disciples. He called them one by one and asked them all the same question: "Tell me what you see on the tree?" Duryodhana said, "I see the tree, the leaves, the twigs, the branches and a bird." Bhima said, "I can see the colour of the bird." Somebody else said, "I can see the bird on the branch of the tree." Then Dronacharya called Arjuna, the hero of the Bhagavad Gita, and asked him, "What do you see there?" Arjuna replied, "The small black spot, the eye of the bird." Dronacharya said, "Shoot it!" Arjuna shot and hit it. That was archery. If you have to shoot the eye of the bird, then you should focus the lens of your mind so it can only see that and not the tree, the twig, the branches or leaves, not even the bird, but only the eye. When you focus the lens of your mind, only one thing is visible, and that is ekagrata. Eka means only one. If you see the bird, the tree and the branches it is three, four or five. How can you say that to be aware of many is concentration?

The fifth state is niruddha, meaning 'under control'. Just as you step on the brakes to stop a car, in the same way to step on the brakes and stop the mind is known as niruddha. That is why in the Yoga Sutras Patanjali defines yoga as, Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah. Nirodha means blocking or stopping. It is the highest category.

Be honest with yourself

Therefore, in the practical side of spiritual life you have to deal with the mind. In order to deal with the mind you must know where you are starting from. If you suddenly begin practising kundalini yoga, you will fail. If you want to go to school, which class you join will depend on what you have studied previously. If you have not even passed primary class, you cannot go to university. The lecturer will not be able to explain anything to you, nor will you be able to understand him. So there is no use practising kundalini yoga, swara yoga or other different yogas unless you have examined yourself completely, and in order to examine yourself you have to be honest.

You have never seen yourself. You can only see your face with the help of a reflecting medium, either a mirror or calm water. So, first you have to know who you are. Do not say, "I am atma, I am God, I am Brahman, I am immortal." Say, "I am a rascal," and find out if you are or not. Tulsidas has written, "Who can be a greater cheat or a more crooked, wicked rascal and degenerate than myself?" First accept yourself and find out who you are. There are many methods to do this, not just one. You will need a mirror. A person who criticizes you is your mirror because he tells you something. He may be a broken mirror, but that doesn't matter. At least he can tell you what your complexion is, so never despise a critic.

Either way, a person should neither despise nor shun criticism. A culture should not despise critics. A nation, a committee or a community of people should always appreciate criticism. Sometimes it is positive and at other times it is negative, but nevertheless criticism is a mirror. If your husband criticizes you, don't defend yourself and if your wife tells you off, don't be aggressive. If you react, then later, when you are alone, think about what was said. Maybe she was right, maybe he was right. In spiritual life it is important never to underrate the criticism of others.

How can you know yourself? By self-investigation and self-introspection, atmachintan, by cogitating about yourself, and atmavichara, thinking about yourself. You never do it. Instead you say, "Oh, I am great, I am the best person in the whole world. If I were Prime Minister I would have done this and that." How big is man's ego? How unbreakable is the shell? It is like the castle of Tripurasura.

Three bodies of consciousness

Do you know the story about the castle of Tripurasura which Lord Shiva had to destroy? Tri means 'three', pura means 'citadel', asura means demon'. The story goes that the demon ruler of the three cities, Tripurasura, was very afraid of Shiva, so he secured himself by hiding in a city which was like a fort with several boundaries. First was a silver fort with silver boundaries, then golden boundaries and then steel boundaries. This concept of the demon of the three cities is metaphorical because Tripurasura also denotes the three bodies that we are made up of. I am speaking in relation to consciousness, not matter. You have a gross body, which means there is consciousness of the gross body, a subtle body, which means there is consciousness of the subtle body, and a causal body, which means there is consciousness of the causal body.

If you close your eyes right now, you are aware of your body. This is consciousness of the physical body, sthula sharira, or the gross body comprised of the five senses of action and the five senses of knowledge. Then comes the sukshma sharira, the subtle body, where the mind, consciousness, ego, manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara interact. You cannot see the subtle body but you can feel it. You know that you have memory, that you can think, discriminate, recognize, identify, permute and combine. That mind is the antah karana. Antah means 'internal', karana means 'instrument'. This internal instrument is the sukshma sharira.

When you are awake, you are aware of time, space and object, but when you go to sleep at night, for six or eight hours, you are not at all aware; you are disconnected from it. The concept of time, space and object is not just philosophical, it is also a concept in modern nuclear physics. Time, space and object is the formula for nuclear explosions; the scientific philosophy of time and space meeting at one point, which is the nucleus. That is why it is called the nuclear bomb. Just as you can explode the nucleus of matter if you know the formula, in the same way, you can also explode the nucleus of pure energy, which is the mind.

So, there comes a point when you are certainly there, but you are not aware of time, space and object, and there is continuity of your existence from the point when you fall asleep until the point when you wake up. When I ask, "How did you sleep?" you reply, "Very well." How do you know you slept very well when you did not know anything? Just think about it. It means that you were aware at that time when you did not know anything. That awareness of non-knowledge is called karana sharira, the causal body, where consciousness operates at the fringe. There is minimum self-awareness. This causal body is composed of total tamo guna. So, you have awareness of three bodies - gross, subtle and causal.

Now where do you start your sadhana? Well, where are you? Some people merely live in the gross body. I will give you an example. Many years ago when I was in Kuwait, I was invited to meet the editor of an important newspaper, who wanted to know what I was teaching. As he did not know anything about yoga, I began by telling him about concentration on the breath. He said, "But how do I concentrate on the breath?" I replied, "Breathe with awareness and you will find out." His thinking, knowledge and understanding were so gross that he could not understand what I was saying. His mind was such that he did not know what the breath was. He was an intellectual. So there are people who operate through the physical body and there are some people who operate through the causal body and the subtle body.

God's grace

Those people who want to find the right sadhana should remember that it is not like getting a job, or starting a business and earning money, or like purchasing a washing machine or car. You may want to practise sadhana and achieve something, but spiritual life, divine life, yogic life, is entirely dependent on God's grace, not on your personal effort. You can keep on practising yoga or rebirthing or whatever you like. There are many things you can do. Continue with it. It is a good occupation and pastime, but nothing will bring you close to Him. It is good to have the desire to lead a spiritual life. To do something you have to make an effort, but ultimately one day you will realize that we are dependent on God's grace.

I came to realize that we are dependent on God's grace after practising spiritual life and sannyasa life for many years. To know exactly what God means, you have to ask Him: "God, show me the path and be kind enough to lead me onto it. I have no mental, physical or moral strength. Unless you bless me I cannot even walk the seven kilometres from Rikhia to Deoghar." Now if I cannot even negotiate my way between Deoghar and Rikhia, heaven seems very distant. I have realized now that my own efforts will not yield anything. It will only be adding ego to ego. How do I surrender all my weapons? How do I surrender my ego? How do I become a zero? You just have to speak in this way: "I am nothing. You are everything. I am just a motor car, I need a driver. I am a chariot with ten horses, I need a charioteer. I am a machine, I need a mechanic to operate me." This is the only way. Ultimately I have realized that there is no use saying, "Swamiji, I am confused, there are so many ways." You are confused because you are full of rubbish!

You were born through the grace of God. You live by the grace of God. It is by the grace of God that you have started thinking about spiritual life, about how to improve the quality of your life in general. Only when you enter the furnace can you become gold. Sorrow and suffering are my friends, not my enemies. Happiness comes to destroy me. I am telling you from the depth of my heart that spiritual seekers must understand that God is the only source. God is the only support.

—Rikhia, December 1997