Raja Yoga Yatra 3, 2018 – Q&A

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What happens when we remove prana from smriti?

Smriti becomes like a collection of all the old pictures kept in your grandfather’s trunk in the attic. You come across it one day and you don’t recognize any person. You don’t even know who they are though you look at the pictures of those old times. There is no involvement or participation from your side, you are only a witness. That is the stage you reach when you remove prana from smriti.

The image remains. The involvement, association and the feeling associated of hatred, anger, love, kindness or compassion comes down. The intensity comes down. The pictures remain as a good record of your journey in life, but they don’t take you back to the same moment to create the same condition.

You told us that pratyayas should be wiped out at once. Can the review of the day be a means for that?

Yes, that is the whole purpose of the review of the day practice. You identify those moments in your day when your mind was disturbed. At night, when you are able to relax and analyse these events without reacting, then you can say, ‘Okay, now get out of my head.’ So review of the day will definitely go a long way in clearing the daily pratyayas. Just as you clean your room every day, in the same manner, the mind has to be cleaned every day of the pratyayas by practising five or ten minutes of review.

Thoughts are stored in the brain in the form of electro-chemical signals, according to science. In what form do ahamkara, chitta, buddhi and manas exist? Do they have some physical existence at all?

All experiences are one in our body. If you mix sugar or colour in water, they will permeate every atom and cell of water, they will become part of water. Yet colour is not water, nor is sugar. They have become part of water, but they can be extracted through a process. In the same manner, manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara are part of the human experience, a totally integrated experience. Manas is not in the brain and it is not in the big toe. It is everywhere.

You think of the brain since your sight is located here. If your sight was in the stomach, you would be thinking that the brain is in the stomach. Therefore, everything is not defined and marked, for it is an integrated experience. Everything is contained and mixed in the water, yet you can see the colour, taste the sugar, smell the fragrance. In this body also you experience manas, buddhi, chitta, ahamkara, as they are contained in every cell.

No doubt they create some cerebral chemical reaction, some electro-magnetic impulse, but they are not dependent on the physical aspects to exist. Just as if you extract the salt from water, it will become separate; if you mix the salt in water, it will become one. If you remove the mind from the body, it will have a separate identity. The mind will not cease to exist because the brain is dead. It is the same with buddhi, chitta and ahamkara.

In the Asian traditions, people believe in the theory of reincarnation. There is an American scientist in Charlottesville University, Dr Stevenson, who had done some research on the subject. He recorded the past-life experiences of people from every culture, including the Christian and Islamic. After a thorough investigation, he came to the conclusion that we do carry the impressions of past lives in this life.

If everything was merely mechanical and cerebral, there would be no carry-forward of anything, there would be no evolution as such. If everything was limited to the brain only, there would be no communal evolution or social evolution. Evolution would always stop at the death of every individual. It does not happen in that manner. This indicates that there is a faculty which is one hundred percent integrated in this life, but which can be separated from the body and from other connections and links. That is how yogis have seen the subtle bodies.

You mentioned that during fear we naturally contract the shoulders, the stomach or the perineum. What kind of practices can help release the chronic contraction that was the result of a traumatic fear in the past?

Contraction in these three regions represents malfunction of the three chakras: mooladhara, manipura and vishuddhi. You experience the effect as tightening up of the body at the physical level. You feel the tension in the neck region, the abdomen, or in the perineum. However, beyond the body, these three chakras have been affected. Now you have to wilfully, consciously release the tension. If the perineum has contracted, you have to consciously release that contraction. When you become aware of the abdominal contraction, you have to force or push the stomach out. When you feel the shoulder contraction, you have to force or push the chest out.

Also do some practices, depending on where the contraction is, to release the tension from the three chakras. For the shoulder contraction, the neck exercises and shoulder rotation are effective. Not so much pranayama but you have to use more of asana to stretch the contraction in the opposite direction. That will gradually release and allow the pranas to flow once again.

Can you clarify the difference between the self and the drashta, the observer?

You are the self and you are the drashta. When you become aware of yourself moving, acting, you become the drashta. When you do that without awareness, you are the self who is only responding.

Any normal activity that you do represents the self; however, if you become aware of that activity then you become the drashta, the observer of that activity. So remain yourself, and when need be become the drashta. Become the drashta when you are facing a crisis in life. You don’t have to become the drashta when you are feeling peace in life, for peace is the natural outcome of overcoming a crisis. If you are the drashta at the time of crisis, then you find the ability to deal with the crisis more effectively and efficiently, rather than crying, “What do I do now?” If that sentence is uttered, “What do I do now?” it means that you are not the drashta.

You think that you have to be a drashta only during meditation with eyes closed. What do you watch then? Nothing, except some thoughts that come to the mind. That is only a training. The attitude, the drashta vision should be activated when you are facing conflict, confusion, crisis. It is only through that vision that you will be able to extract yourself from that confining situation. Therefore, don’t only be a drashta when you meditate, that is to train your mind, but make the effort to be a drashta when you are involved in the world. Be a drashta when you are active and facing situations that can disturb and distract you, and manage them by cultivating the aspect of observation.

In the practice of antar mouna when we are asked to create thoughts, can we project our aspirations about life?

No, you can’t. That you do anyway when you sit alone by yourself. Meditation is not moving into the realm of imagination and fantasy. If you start thinking about your aspirations in life, you might as well lie down and think about those aspirations. You don’t have to sit and meditate for that.

Your sitting down for meditation has a different purpose. It is not to go in the zone of fantasy; it is to observe and guide the behaviour of the mind. If you wish to ‘story tell’ yourself, then remember that is not meditation. If you wish to go on fights of fancy and imagination, remember that is not meditation. Even children do it lying on the grass, looking at the sky, seeing different shapes and images in the clouds. If you want to do that in meditation, that is your choice, but then remember that it is not meditation.

What are the methods and techniques to sublimate the six conditions into positive energies?

Only one: always smile, no matter what happens to you, and you will see that the six friends will never raise their heads again. A smile is the only antidote to anger, fear, hatred, jealousy. You don’t need a highly philosophical theory, just follow a simple thing: keep on smiling. All the six conditions will fade away to you won’t even know where.

16–23 September 2018, Ganga Darshan, Munger