Questions and Answers

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

What is tantra?

Actually tantra is the Om of yoga. From tantra, yoga has emerged. Tantra and yoga are inseparable. Tantra goes side by side with the yogic practices. What we want in life can be achieved by tantra and by yoga. Tantra awakens the psychic body, the kundalini shakti. Tantra is a system by which one liberates or separates the two aspects of consciousness and matter, Purusha and Prakriti, or Shiva and Shakti. Sometimes matter rules over consciousness and sometimes consciousness rules over matter. When consciousness rules over matter, there is spiritual vision. When matter rules over consciousness, there is creation.

These twin energies live and work together in total agreement with each other. As long as matter and consciousness are united, existence continues in a set pattern. However, by the practice of tantra, one can separate matter from consciousness, Prakriti from Purusha, or Shakti from Shiva, and awakening takes place.

What you are aware of within you is a combination of the two. You are aware of matter, the material body and mind, the 'I', the senses and the objects of perception. You are aware of all these sections at the same time.

By the practice of tantra the awareness is withdrawn from all sections and centred on one point – 'I'. That is the separation of Prakriti from Purusha and that is tantra. How do you practise it? There are many ways. The most important part of tantra is mantra and next comes kriya. With the help of mantra and kriya yoga, you can awaken the dormant potential power known as kundalini shakti. This is the prime purpose, the ultimate reality in tantra and in human evolution.

Do you practise yoga all the time?

Yoga is a part of life. Swamis live a yogic life for the evolution of body, mind and consciousness. We do not practise yoga all day long. The hatha yoga and raja yoga sciences are meant for householders and not for renunciates. We do not need to practise them. Yoga practices are for people who are under stress and strain, who are facing emotional, psychological and physical problems in their lives.

Yoga practices are mainly for people who live in the world, who have a worldly mind. They accumulate a lot of problems within themselves and when they are unable to eliminate all those problems, they take the help of yogasanas, pranayama, meditation, and so on. For swamis, yoga is not a practice. We live a yogic life within ourselves and for us life is all fullness. In the ashram we work, perhaps more than a householder does. Most of us get up at 3 a.m. and by 4 o'clock we are on duty.

Those sannyasins who work in the kitchen, office, printing press, report for work very early. For us, work is the most important thing in life, and the work we do brings us great peace and pleasure. We don't study or practise yoga for ourselves. Yoga practices are unnecessary for those who have accepted and understood the mind. Householders and people who live in the world have to practise yoga as a part of their daily routine in order to be able to face the situation of life, but once they are free from those situations, they don't really need yoga.

What does God mean to sannyasins?

We feel that God is within. God is the subtle or spirit body in everyone. When you have illumination within you, you do not seek it any more. God is a symbol for the beginner, but one who is illumined has found God within.

When you start school, you begin with the ABC. However, an older student who already knows the alphabet shouldn't't be put into kindergarten. For a beginner the symbol, a cross, flower, lingam, and so on, is necessary, but when awareness is deep, grand and magnificent, what need is there for symbols?

Everything depends upon one's awareness. If you want to enter into the temple of God, in the beginning of course, you can do it externally, but that alone will not bring you to God. Visiting temples is like going to kindergarten. The high temple, Shiva's real dwelling, is only found within. The outer temples only symbolize what is found inside. The external holy places and shrines are built of brick and mortar on the basis of the envisioned model that people have experienced within themselves. A Shiva temple or any outer shrine is only an expression of what is found within.

It is important to know the way to the inner shrine. Only by entering the inner shrine can one know God, the deity dwelling there. Once you have had a vision of the deity within your temple, which is not material, not brick and mortar, why go to outer shrines? Temples and shrines are necessary in the beginning, but there is a period when one has to transcend them because they are symbols. As long as you are aware of them, you are within the boundaries of the mind. In order to experience reality, one has to transcend these boundaries, because God is beyond the limited, finite mind.

In order to know God, you have to transcend the mind. There are many techniques that lead to the point or brink where you have to jump over the mind, but I don't think that anyone can teach us how to make this jump. Up to this point the yoga practices given by your guru, or any spiritual practice, can help you. Beyond this point, however, there is no spiritual practice, no yoga practice that can help you and no book has been written on it.

People have tried using LSD and ganja, but that is not transcending the mind, that is not jumping over the mind, that is not spiritual evolution. That is just escaping from the mind for the time being. These drugs dull the mind and that is all. Most of the people who come to me have taken LSD and other drugs, but their minds are very dull.

Only one thing can help us to transcend the mind and that is grace. What is grace? Nobody knows. It is like a helicopter. All our spiritual pursuits and religious practices only take us to the edge of this boundary of material consciousness. Up to that point everybody can teach you, but to go beyond that point surpasses all human power. You alone must find the way.

—21 February 1977, Residence of Nancy Housner, Kathmandu, Nepal