Satsang at Ganga Darshan

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What is the role of yoga nidra?

Yoga nidra is not only a technique of relaxation, or stress management, or for those who suffer from insomnia. If we look seriously at yoga nidra, we will find that it can play an important role in accessing the dormant areas of the unconscious mind. When there is a need, the information can come to the surface. There is a saying that there is nothing new under the sun. In the same way there is nothing new under the layers of consciousness. For example, people had always seen apples falling from trees, but nobody thought, “Why do they fall down?” Only Newton did and he came up with the theory of gravity. That seed is in each one of us, but Newton was able to access that information, which started a trend of reflection and analysis that led him to discover the law of gravity. Those people in whom the seed of information sprouts are known as geniuses.

Swami Satyananda has told us that his interest in yoga nidra was aroused by an incident when he was living with his guru in Rishikesh. His duty was to watch over a Sanskrit school where children were learning to chant the Vedas, which required him to stay awake all night. He would fall into a deep sleep at 3 am and wake up at 6 am. While he was asleep, the boys would be chanting, and although he never heard them, it was registered in his subtle body. So some time later when he heard the boys chanting at a function, it sounded familiar although he was sure he had never heard it or read it. That was the birth of yoga nidra. Paramahamsaji realized that sleep was not a state of total unconsciousness, that a form of awareness remained awake and alert to outer situations, and that this state could be utilized by training the mind.

In 1966, ten years later, I was his first guinea pig. I received all my learning in the state of yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is a technique that develops a particular quality of mind, which I call ‘mind-sight’ or ‘mind-vision’. If done in the right manner, it can open the door of creativity. And there is no limit to it. So we have to look at yoga nidra from a different perspective, not only as a technique of relaxation or sleep, but as a technique that can enhance one’s creative ability if done in the right manner and at the right time.

The right time to practise yoga nidra for creativity is at a young age when the intellect is not yet developed and consciousness is sensitive to receiving information from its own sources. Yoga says that the education we receive before we go to school remains with us throughout our life. After we go to school, the focus is on the intellect and sequential learning, not spontaneous learning. Spontaneous learning stays with us throughout our life. Whatever impression is planted in the subconscious mind will grow and enrich one’s life. Sequential learning can be forgotten after some time because it does not leave an impression on our consciousness, but becomes an input into the conditioned, sensorial mind, buddhi. Nevertheless, if you begin the practice of yoga nidra now, to sensitize your consciousness, changes can happen.

—November 2005

Can a mother become a catalyst for change in the routine and behaviour of her grown-up children?

As individual beings, we all have certain obligations and responsibilities to help each other. But instead we try to impose ourselves on other people. When we find that the other person has not really accepted what we want to impose, conflict occurs. The psychological disturbance creates a split and a distance between two people.

Parents have the biggest psychological problems in the world because they do not see their children as having their own destiny, their own karma and their own life. They see their offspring as an extension of their ambition, not as an extension of their life, and they try to give the samskaras of their ambition to their children from birth.

When the child is endowed with your samskaras, how can you say later that you cannot control your child, when you have given them that direction from the beginning? It is the parents who have problems, not the children. Parents can overcome their problem by learning to give the samskara of life to children, not the samskara of their ambition. When the basic foundation is correct, the building will be solid, but if the basic foundation is wrong, the building will crash one day.

How do you cultivate the spiritual samskara, the right samskara? First cultivate it within yourself rather than trying to cultivate it in others. Cultivate the quality of being a friend to your child. First make that change in yourself. Don’t be a father or a mother to your child. Be a friend. Develop that association and you will see that it can work miracles. It will give them the samskaras of life and not make them a carbon copy of your lost dreams and unfulfilled ambitions. So rather than worrying about how they can change their children, parents should be concerned with how they can learn to be a friend to their children.

—May 2006

Should we observe any restriction in the act of giving?

If someone wants to commit a bad deed, like a robbery, there will be a lot of planning before an attempt is actually made. The act of giving should involve four times as much planning. However, to do a good deed usually there is no planning, no thinking or rationality, just spur of the moment action. When the act of giving happens on the spur of the moment, it is not considered an act of giving. It is considered to be an act of ‘passing the buck’ – “I’ve done my good deed.”

Nobody understands how to give. Giving a flower, or money, or implements, tools, houses, and cows are not gifts. They are mediums through which something else is attained – encouragement, teaching, hope, and knowing that somebody cares for you. If we want to help someone, we have to plan the direction in which their life has to develop and evolve. Indiscriminate handouts will not make any difference to anyone in the long run.

The biggest example at present is in Rikhia. The act of giving in Rikhia, whether for one person or for 10,000, has a focus and a direction that will take the individual towards that aim. A farmer will become more skilful and more acquainted with the rules and techniques of farming. A labourer will become more efficient. A child will be more interested in learning. In this way, each life can be given a direction through the act of giving.

That constitutes the richest planning in the act of giving since each person is being directed on a particular path for their peace and prosperity. Whatever the external act may be, each person is fulfilling their own destiny and being trained to live in a dignified manner. Therefore, do not take the act of giving lightly. It can become a very powerful tool for peace and prosperity if there is proper planning, implementation and organization. The giver has to be organized in terms of facts and ideas. Swami Sivananda does not really advocate the act of giving for beginners. For him, giving comes third. First learn how to serve, then instead of giving, learn how to love. Until the idea of service develops and matures in you, unless the idea of love develops and matures in you, there is no such thing as giving.

—May 2006

What is the role of Sivananda Math?

Sivananda Math was founded by Swami Satyananda in 1984. After being active in Munger for eleven years, in 1995 it started activities in the Deoghar region, one of the poorest and most backward areas in India. Gradually, changes have happened. Today, Sivananda Math looks after the needs of about 50 villages and 27,000 families in the region, from clothing, bedding, grain, to education of the children, medical care and employment. Now everybody has a source of income. When people have nothing, crime increases, but now that everyone has something to look forward to, there is no crime. Prosperity has come in its place.

Many different projects have evolved. Sivananda Math is not an organization that does only one kind of work. We have not only built homes for the homeless, but have also given agricultural aid, tools and technical education. Where only one crop grew every year, three crops are now produced each year. We have provided water, pumps and sprinkler systems so that farms can be irrigated within a 10 kilometre radius. When you visit Rikhia, you will have the opportunity to participate in the work of Sivananda Math. This is an important experience in learning to cultivate compassion.

Our policy is not to give any aid directly to people, because we are not acting as a charity. Things have to been done in a systematic manner. If people beg for ten rupees, we tell them clearly that we are willing to spend 10,000 rupees if they are sick, but we will not give them ten rupees to waste. Sivananda Math is not a charity, but an organization based on the vision of Swami Sivananda. You have to respect that and erase from your mind the idea that it is charity work. We give everybody the same thing. The bundles each family receives contain everything they require. Therefore, the dignity of the vision has to be maintained, and not the haphazardness of charity.

One goes to Rikhia to become one with the vision of Swami Sivananda, to understand the culmination of spiritual life. The culmination of spiritual life is not realization. God-realization can be the aim of life for some people, but for the majority God-realization is a very selfish attitude. Look at the different traditions. Christ did not need to sacrifice himself. He did not have to come down to the masses. There was no need for Buddha or St Francis of Assisi to come down to the masses. But all the enlightened beings have ultimately come down and worked to uplift people. Only the selfish spiritual seekers have retired to the mountains and died unknown deaths. This is the reality which one has to recognize.

God-realization or self-realization is only a by-product of an expanded mind, expanded feelings or expanded connections with others. Our connections are not expanded. They are confined to those we consider our own. The suffering of a stranger does not affect us in the same manner as the suffering of a near and dear one because there is no connection with a stranger. Therefore, spiritual life has to be looked at as it has been lived by those ‘enlightened beings’, the ones who have become an inspiration for society. It is this vision of spiritual life that we need to cultivate in order to understand the progression of yoga, spirituality, beauty, compassion and love in life! Involving ourselves with all the best that God has given us and sharing all our best with others – that is the meaning of God-realization.

A candle burns in order to give light to others. If you follow the path of this spiritual vision, then darkness goes away. Darkness may have existed in a cave for thousands of years, but one strike of a match can dispel that darkness in one second. Apply this same principle in your life. Complexes, problems, difficulties, ignorance or darkness are all there. The tamasic nature is there, but the moment you are able to strike the match of sattwa, in one second the darkness which has existed for so long will disappear. That is the practical and dynamic teaching of Swami Satyananda in Rikhia.

—November 2005