According to vedic dharma each person is a composite of four main qualities: dynamism, emotions, mysticism and rationalism. Some people are predominantly dynamic, others are more emotional, mystical or rational. Every personality is an integration of these four essential temperaments.
Thus for the evolution of our personality we have to integrate the four corresponding categories of yoga sadhana into our lives. Sadhana is spiritual discipline or practice. Just as you train an animal, the personality must also be trained in order to be useful in this life. For the balanced development of our personality, we must practice an integral yoga sadhana. By emphasizing only one aspect of sadhana, our development will be lopsided. If we eat protein and nothing else, what will happen? Just as we carefully provide a balanced diet for the physical body, so we must supply a balance of nutrition to the spiritual body also. Thus in the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vashistha, Srimad Bhagavata, and other scriptures, an integration of the four systems of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga is recommended. Those who overemphasize any one aspect of yoga should remember that this results in one-sided development.
Through the practice of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga, we can train the whole personality. This is what I want to tell everyone, everywhere. It is easy to attain temporary tranquility through certain practices, but to train the mind is very difficult. To transform the entire consciousness into a creative instrument is not easy.
About five years ago a small research was conducted to find out the influence of kirtan on the brain. When we do kirtan for half an hour, we feel nice and relaxed. Why? What change takes place in the structure of the personality and in the hormonal make-up of the brain? It was found that during repetitive singing of kirtan, the brain registers the sound waves, nada, which influence all other wave patterns of the brain. These waves awaken alpha rhythms which immediately induce tranquility Thus by singing kirtan, we get peace of mind. This is all well and good, but maintaining that state of mind during our daily life is not so easy. The peace which we gain by practicing this technique does not remain with us through the complicated and confusing patterns of our daily life. Therefore, side by side with yoga sadhana which gives us peace of mind, we must also remember the necessity of transforming the very structure of our mind. But how?
When we drive our car into the petrol station to fill up the tank we find that petrol is of different categories: ninety-eight octane, ninety-six, eighty-six and so on. But when this petrol was extracted from the depths of the earth, what was it like then? Crude oil is so dirty but after refinement it becomes a remarkable agent of energy. When mixed with lead and other things it can even provide the power to fly an airplane. Similarly the mind or chitta which we have inherited from our previous incarnations still remains in its crude or raw state. In the mental body we have so many things which ought to be removed. When we become terribly angry or very tense, when we worry too much and pass sleepless nights due to family, business, social or political problems, then we feel the necessity of purifying the mind. We must free it from all these vrittis, those habits which we have formed in our personality from the present and previous incarnations.
We believe that the jiva or individual has undergone a process of self-incarnation in 8,400,000 yonis, or wombs. According to science, evolution has passed through a fantastic panorama of existence, but despite these millions of incarnations which our jiva has undergone, we still carry a very crude mind with us. This mind is composed of three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas. These are the essential manifestations of prakriti or nature. These three gunas are also used in a social or moral context because they indicate the personality of a person. Nature manifests as energy; in nature there are static (tamasic), kinetic (rajasic) and balanced (sattvic) energies.
If we want to make the mind infinite, we must cut and polish it just as we would a diamond. They say that tamas makes a man lethargic, rajas makes a man violent and sattva makes him balanced. Therefore tamas and rajas have to be overcome by sattva and this is accomplished through the process of dhyana yoga. Dhyana has been translated as meditation but actually it means awareness. Thus dhyana can be attained through raja yoga, bhakta yoga, jnana yoga, laya yoga, mantra yoga, and many other yogic processes.
The mind is not thought or emotion. Thought and emotion are patterns of mind. Happiness is a state of mind and so is depression. Mind is consciousness, awareness. Mind is a storehouse of energy, shakti. Pure mind is pure shakti. The mind can be purified and corrected through the practice of dhyana yoga by following the methods most suited to our personality. Those who are very strong can take up the path of kundalini and kriya yoga. For those who are not so strong and who haven’t yet developed much understanding of yoga, there are other ways like mantra yoga or japa yoga.
Mind is much more than thought or feeling. Mind is like an iceberg; only a small portion is visible, the remainder lies submerged under the ocean. According to modern psychology the mind exists in three spheres: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. In Vedanta we call them sthula sharira, sukshma sharira and karana sharira.
The unconscious mind is very powerful. The word ‘unconscious’ should not be misunderstood. The unconscious mind is like a storehouse. All disease, success and tragedy in life originate in the unconscious mind. The experiences that you have had in life, the important as well as the unimportant are all registered there. There they are stored in seed form. This process starts right from the time when the child is in the womb of the mother. From the fourth month of pregnancy, children have certain experiences which are embedded deep in the unconscious mind.
Every action, every thought, every place is an experience. A satsang is an experience. Even an ordinary experience can become very consequential in later life. There are so many types of karma. Charity is one karma and plundering someone’s property is another. Even if you don’t do these things, still you are making karma. In the Gita, it is said that there is not one moment of life in which a man is free of karma. Only in samadhi can you completely do away with karma, otherwise not. Modern psychology and yoga agree that even during deep sleep when you are not aware of time and space, name and form, your mind is still working. Remember the unconscious mind is the storehouse of all past experiences or karmas not only in this life, but in our previous lives as well.
The unconscious body is called hiranyagarbha, the golden egg. Through the practices of kundalini kriya and laya yoga, the unconscious mind can be exploded. By the practice of mantra sadhana we can penetrate it deeply and eliminate all kinds of karmas, one by one. That is why they say that by the practice of mantra one becomes free from the entanglements of karma.
Every action is born of a deep karma. Every thought, movement, success, failure is a re-enactment of one of our previous experiences. Simple childhood experiences can cause so many problems. Many good people suffer unnecessarily because they are unaware of their karmas and how they fructify.
During the practices of meditation, especially japa and antar mouna, a lot of things come up in the mind which would not come up otherwise. The usual response is to suppress these thoughts – a thought comes, we push it out, another one comes and we push it out. But this is incorrect. We do not want to avoid karma but we want to eliminate it. Therefore, it is necessary to observe each thought and let it pass of its own accord.
Over a period of months both significant and insignificant memories of the past flash into our mind. These memories should be seen very clearly if we want to purify our mind. Every experience which we have during mantra practice or meditation has an important bearing on our life. According to yoga and psychology, we must observe, analyse and respect whatever thoughts or experiences come into our mind while practicing japa.
The science of yoga aims at perfecting human life. Every ordinary person has extraordinary potential, but to develop this a strong and well-trained mind is necessary. Through the practices of yoga we can gain complete mastery over the body and mind. The West gave technology to the world and made life very comfortable, easy and quick. India can give yoga and spirituality and the whole world is crying for it. People in the West are fed up and frightened of technology. They want a science to allay their fears and give them peace.
Only the system of yoga which is still alive today in India can adequately fulfil this need. Yoga is knowledge, not miracles, witchcraft or superstition. Yoga is a science which can be studied, practiced, experienced, understood and explained by any educated and well-read person. And yoga can improve relations and create international goodwill.
I give free discussions on yoga everywhere I go because I am fully convinced of its effectiveness. My experience and experiments in life with thousands and thousands of people, East and West are my proof. Now it is the duty of those who know that yoga produces an integrated personality to acquaint themselves with all aspects of yoga. It is no use saying that bhakti yoga alone is enough. If it were, why are religious people lying ill in hospitals and taking so many pills? Why are they unable to sleep in their cozy beds? Religion is bhakti yoga. We need an integrated approach to life. Just adding salt to the vegetables does not make a tasty dish. We must combine many spices. Life is too complex for one aspect of yoga to suffice. With a comprehensive approach, life becomes rich.
—Gita Ashram, Liberia, 1977. First published in YOGA Vol. 15, No. 8 (August 1977)