Body and Mind

Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

In order to have the ultimate experience, one needs to be healthy in body and mind. What about the saints who were ill but established in higher experiences?

Saints are not affected by illness. They are not affected by pain and pleasure, they have transcended it. If you have an illness, it will become your neurosis. If you have a headache, you cannot think of anything else. If you have a slight stomach ache, you will stop all your practices. A saint won't do that, because a saint has transcended pain and pleasure. You have to maintain the body until you reach the stage where you have transcended pain and pleasure and where pain does not influence your life.

Adi Guru Shankaracharya had fistula, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa contracted throat cancer and Swami Vivekananda had diabetes, but they did not have these illnesses on account of any malfunctioning or impurity in their body. Saints have a different life and a different existence. They are able to take on the karmic influences of others and that may manifest as disease. However, nature also protects them because they have become an instrument of nature. The disease does not in any way stop their evolution or growth or alter their mental or spiritual frequencies, because it is not something which they have created or earned. They become an instrument, taking on the karmic influences and suffering of mankind.

Therefore, do not compare yourself to saints. You have to look after the body and mind because they are the vehicles which will take you to that higher experience.

—Harrogate, England, 16_19 July 2009

Is it recommended for people with mental imbalances to take mantra diksha?

Mental imbalance has many reasons, it may not just be a mental illness. Often the experiences of people who have been declared mentally insane are similar to the experiences of a mystic. It is hard to tell the difference. Somebody who is spiritually awakened may be put in a mental asylum.

When Swami Satyananda was six years old, he had many out-of-body experiences. He saw himself lying dead on the floor. His awareness left the body and he could see himself. As he was only six years old, he told his parents. In India, there is a wonderful system when something like this happens. First you have to take the person to a guru, because a guru can know whether it is a spiritual awakening or whether it is a malfunctioning of the mind. Many people in mental institutions are there wrongly. In certain societies, any kind of behaviour, which does not fit the norms is regarded as insane, and many people are suffering as a result of that.

Mad or mystic

The experiences of a mad person and the experiences of a mystic are similar. The only difference is that a mystic is able to integrate these experiences into his life and a mad person is unable to relate them to his life. A mystic is able to swim in the ocean of life, but a mad person drowns. You say that someone is crazy, if they hear voices or music, or say, "Look, look, somebody is standing there," when you look, nobody is standing there. If somebody in your family has this experience, after some time, you will say he is crazy and send him to the doctor. You are not going to say he is having a spiritual experience. Mental hospitals know they are incapable of dealing with the problem of psychotics.

Psychosis or neurosis

What is psychosis? When you imagine something which is not there, that is psychosis. What is neurosis? When you keep imagining the same thing again and again and you are stuck in a vicious cycle. In your spiritual life, many times an idea or a thought keeps obsessing you. You cannot get out of the obsession. However, if you know what is happening and if you have a guide, a person who has been there and has come back, then you can be protected from those dangers. If you don't know what is happening, you can go crazy. The experiences have to be integrated, and you have to be able to manage your surroundings.

Initiation

Therefore, initiation is a wonderful system, where a person who is having such experiences is not declared a psychotic, but his experiences are made socially acceptable. They are given sanction by a person who has an understanding of it.

Often you have experiences, but your behaviour is still all right. I may be hearing voices, I may be always in a different state of mind, but I don't misbehave with you. I do not beat you up or harm you. Many times people have experiences and are declared mad, but their behaviour is not mad. That is how you can know whether it is a spiritual experience or madness. The person who is having a spiritual experience or an experience of awakening gives definite indications, and the guru knows.

It is better to always take advice, instead of declaring a person mad. However, even if the person is going slightly insane, initiation will definitely help.

—London, England, 24 July 2009

What does yoga tell us about cancer?

Cancer occurs due to some deep emotional disturbance. We all get emotionally disturbed at some time or other, but the depth of it is not always great. We get disturbed and we forget it, but there are some emotional disturbances which we cannot forget, and they enter into our psyche. A person you love may die or fall sick, another person may hurt you emotionally and you cannot throw it off or eradicate it.

An emotional disturbance which enters your being and which you cannot discard or eradicate by any means can cause a genetic defect in you. According to yoga, it can alter your genes. In the course of time, the disturbance affects your mind and entire personality and it begins to affect you physically.

Therefore, people teaching yoga to cancer patients have found that the most effective tools in combating cancer are meditation and visualization. Of course, the cleansing and detoxification practices, the diet and yogic lifestyle are also important. However, it is most important to meditate and visualize and to be able to correct the emotional imbalance which has occurred.

Emotions are very powerful. They can make you commit suicide or murder. You may be very intelligent and intellectual, you may have good marks as a student and be successful in your work and business, but if there is an emotional disturbance, you have a breakdown. It overpowers you completely, and you cannot sleep, eat or experience happiness. Everything finishes. How to handle emotions is important and the training should start at a young age, so that the mind develops a type of protection. The diseases that we have are not only due to the bacterias and viruses which invade us. A thought can create a disease as well.

People have told me that they started practicing yoga after they were detected with cancer and the practices have helped them in the healing process. If you already have the disease, you definitely have to do yoga, but even if you do not have it, start doing yoga so that you create a protection. Yoga has been most effective, and in times to come it will perhaps be the only method that people will have. The present cures offered for cancer may of course help, but they often destroy the quality of life. It is hard to regain enjoyment in life and live with dignity. Yoga offers you a life of dignity.

—Brittany, France, 5 June 2010