Be Honest With Yourself

From Bhakti Yoga Sagar, Volume Five, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

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.

Accept the mirror

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 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.

So 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.' I heard that from the mouth of a beggar once, when I was living in the beggars' huts in Benares. Now I remember how big man's ego is. 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 not speaking in relation to matter, I am speaking in relation to consciousness. 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 antahkarana, antah meaning 'internal' and karana meaning 'instrument'. This internal instrument is the sukshma sharira.

Exploding the nucleus

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 the 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, the gross, subtle and causal.

30 November 1997, Rikhiapeeth