In spite of all the difficulties, I have no choice: whether I like it or I do not like it, I must do it. Your maid-servant may not like to do the work, but she will do it, because she is paid for it.
Many times after Swami Sivananda’s samadhi, I have clearly felt his presence. I have heard his voice clearly, but even today I do not know how to contact him. If I want to contact him, I can’t because I do not know the way. Every time I had that experience, it was very clear, pleasant, calm and quiet. It comes to me when I want to kick everything I have created, whenever I want to close something. I do not like ashrams. I have always believed a swami should live a different life, but I am not able to do it.
In the year 1982, when I was in Puerto Rico I was feeling slightly dull and depressed because of the weather there. Although I was staying in a very good hotel, I did not like the weather. I was right on the sea shore. That was the last time that I felt his presence. He said, “You are now free from your ashram life.” He made me free. That is to say, a slave became free. He released me. That order was given in Puerto Rico in 1982.
At that time about eight or ten swamis from America, Colombia and Europe were there. Swami Niranjan also was there. I called him and said, “Now my plan is clear, I am not going to work with the administrative side of Bihar School of Yoga or any institution anymore. You cancel your trips in America and return to Munger as soon as possible.”
Therefore, as far as I can see, whatever I do is on Swami Sivanandaji’s instructions. I also make it very clear to you that my personal spiritual attainments are very insignificant. As long as he works through me, everything will be fine, but once he withdraws himself, I will be like a fan without an electric connection. I prefer that too because sometimes I have felt that one must live unknown and unheard. One must live a life unknown and unheard, and when you leave this body, there should be nobody to lament, nobody to weep. It does not even matter if there is nobody to bury you or consign you to the fire.
Many times I have imagined dying somewhere in the jungle and nobody knows. Let them search for Swami Satyananda. Animals will be eating me. That is the best death that a man must aspire for. Otherwise people think that when they die, many people will offer condolences and say, ‘Oh, he was a great man, and now we must erect a statue of him and now we must publish a book on him to glorify him.’ This is not the way a sannyasin should be.
Swamiji, why is karma yoga so important and how can it be practised by people who lead a worldly life?
Karma produces samskaras; karma yoga does not produce any samskara. Every activity in which you are involved should be done with a total sense of renunciation. It also means that you have to continue to do karma. Involve yourself in every action, discharge all the responsibilities as purushartha, duties. However, so far as the expectation of the fruits and the results is concerned – you should withdraw yourself emotionally and mentally, both.
This is the basic difference between karma and karma yoga. For instance, you work as a cashier in a bank, or you are a treasurer in a government office. The next morning when you go to the office, you come to learn that a few thousand rupees have been stolen last night by a band of dacoits. How worried do you get? Not at all, because you are not personally involved. But if you lose even twenty rupees from your own pocket, it worries you a lot because there you are personally involved. Your ego is involved there.
In karma yoga, there is no involvement of your individuality. There is duty and there is responsibility. The Bhagavad Gita says very clearly that for the purification of the mind and for the development of detachment, karma yoga is the best form of yoga. Householders or sannyasins are all supposed to do something in the family or in the ashram. In the ashram, most swamis and sannyasins do karma yoga and because of this they attain purity of mind and selflessness, they do not incur karma and samskaras.
All the swamis and sannyasins who work in the ashram do not incur samskaras for themselves because whatever they do, they do with a spirit of nishkama bhava, selflessness. If you ask them why they do it, they have a very clear concept. They will say, ‘It is Guru seva’. When there is the concept of Guru seva, then the consequences of the karma do not at all belong to you because you are not working in an ashram for your personal profit. The motive is clear. ‘I am a human being. I have incarnated as a jivatma. I have accumulated karma or sanchit karma. I have to work; I have to manifest my karma. I can manifest them in the form of Guru seva. When I manifest them as Guru seva, I detach myself from the accruing results or the accruing consequences’. It is a very simple philosophy.
The same spirit can be developed by every householder. Whom are you working for? You can say for the welfare of the family. Well, that is the nearest definition or philosophy you can develop. When you are working for the welfare of the family, you must also decide the intensity of your attachment with your family members because if your relationship with your family members is full of raga and dwesha, attachment and rejection, then even if you are working for them, the karma will rebound on you. If anything happens to your son, you will also be unhappy, and that is why the Bhagavad Gita says (2:47):
Karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana;
Your right is to work only, but never with its fruits.
Perform karma, that is up to you. You must do karma. So far as the consequences or the outcome of karma is concerned, it is none of your business.
What is karma sannyasa?
It is a concept. It is a way of thinking. It is not an external order. Sannyasa is a philosophy and if you think you can practise this philosophy, then you can stay with your family, with your children and at the same time, you can feel like a sannyasin. After reflecting on the Bhagavad Gita, I have introduced this idea of karma sannyasa. Many people like to be initiated into karma sannyasa because it brings them very close to a philosophy of life.
Many times people want to renounce, but after renunciation, where to go? We are not all Milarepas; we are not all Swami Dayananda Saraswat or Swami Vivekananda with a langoti, with the way we have been used to living, with the buildings and the cars, air-conditioners and attached bathrooms. It becomes very difficult to lead a family life, and at the same time you feel that you miss sannyasa because you cannot renounce these facilities. You think, ’Oh, I can’t take sannyasa. I can’t live like a sannyasin’. It is not true.
Many householders live family life as sannyasins. What exactly do they do? Do they have any interaction with their children? Do they have any interaction with their family duties? Yes, they have. Then how are they sannyasins? Do they still involve themselves with their family duties and responsibilities? Yes, they do. Then how are they sannyasins?
When you become a sannyasin, you are very aware of your limited participation. There is a point where you have to withdraw and that point is called asakti. In the Gita they call it anasakta yoga. Karma sannyasa is a very lovely idea, especially when you have seen life. You have enjoyed a bit of it and know what it is really going to give you ultimately. There is a saying in Hindi, "Gadha ko khilaya, na paap aur na punya” – feeding a donkey neither incurs sin nor virtue. That is the life of a householder, if sannyasa is not added to it.
Swamiji, can you say something about yoga nidra?
Yoga is a science in which we deal with the depth of the person- ality and not with the external mind, beliefs and intellect. I am talking to you now on certain aspects of yoga. You are understanding it with your buddhi, intellect. You know, you are missing a lot. Whatever I say is not getting imprinted. However, if you withdraw your mind a little bit and even if you do not under- stand what I am talking to you, everything will be imprinted.
Behind the buddhi, behind the mind there is atman, you may call it chitta. During yoga nidra, the chitta comes to the surface and whatever is spoken and instructed is imprinted on the chitta directly. This is the practice of yoga nidra.
I have done many experiments on yoga nidra with children, five or six years old. I give them yoga nidra and they sleep within five minutes. I give them instructions, “When you feel like urinating, please wake me up.” You instruct the child three times for four or five days. On the sixth day, the child will wake up in the night and he will wake you up.
I tried yoga nidra on dogs. I trained a dog with yoga nidra. Unfortunately, he did not survive because I did not take care of him and he died of paralysis. He was an Alsatian. I trained him with yoga nidra. I instructed him and he understood it and did it. Animals can be trained because animals also have certain frequencies. They communicate with each other through those high frequencies. If you understand the frequency, you can attune yourself with them. You can communicate at least with some.
I have trained one of my disciples in the Vedas, the shastras and other sciences, during yoga nidra when he was four, five, six years old. He did not get his education from outside and I have succeeded. If you allow me, I can take you anywhere I like in just three minutes. Of course I don’t do it because I don’t want to get into trouble. I have greater work to accomplish.
I am telling you that yoga nidra is such a powerful system to influence your mind, and why do we do it? When you want to plant a tree, you first prepare the soil. In the same way, if you want to achieve something in life which you are finding difficult, that is your sankalpa, resolve. Before you sow this sankalpa in your mind, you will have to prepare your mind through yoga nidra. In yoga nidra you arrive at a particular level of consciousness, and if you are able to manifest that level of consciousness then you should succeed in your sankalpa.
I have many friends and disciples in India, Australia and other countries who have dissolved a tumour in their bodies through sankalpa in yoga nidra. They have written many articles about their experiences in our magazines. A properly generated thought, when it grows properly can create a disease and can also remove a disease. A thought is very powerful. It can create an object. There is no difference between thought force and an object. Object and thought are the two stages of the same force.
You can create certain changes in your personality and in your physical body. In many families you find that certain members have very bad habits. For example, drinking habits. Hindu wives don’t like it and for them it is a very great problem. Sometimes they run away to their parents. It doesn’t work. They take all sorts of oaths and promises, it doesn’t work. They give a lot of love, it doesn’t work. They quarrel a lot, it doesn’t work. They try everything but they don’t try yoga nidra.
Just put the man’s head on your lap and teach him yoga nidra. After five minutes you can say, ‘Okay, you are not going to drink from tomorrow’. He doesn’t hear it, no, he should not hear it. He should not know what you have told him, but the samskara, the bija, the seed, has been implanted, it is imprinted. The seed has been put in: ‘Don’t drink from tomorrow.’ Do this day after day.
Yoga nidra is not a mechanical practice, it is a very systematic practice and for that you must also have the understanding of the different stages of the human mind. When you are experiencing different stages of the human mind, there are certain external signs. You have seen people sleeping for one, two, three hours. I have witnessed boys and girls sleeping for many hours and how they behave for the first hour, how they behave for the second hour, how they behave for the third hour. I can say exactly at what time children are getting into the yoga nidra mood.
Listen to me carefully. That condition of chitta called yoga nidra chitta comes only for a short time. It is not for fifteen or twenty minutes. The manifestation of chitta, which is a product of yoga nidra, is not a prolonged one. Sometimes it comes for two minutes, then again you go into nidra. Sometimes you are half asleep, sometimes you are fully asleep. Yoga nidra chitta is a state of mind which manifests only for a short period and at that time you are completely exposed. The teacher of yoga nidra must know when is the right time. It doesn’t come just by knowledge. You have to practise it and by practice you become an expert and experienced. When you become experienced, you know when is the right time and just teach the person.
Yoga nidra has the word ‘nidra’ which is inadequately translated as sleep. Nidra literally means relaxation. Sleep is sushupti. Nidra is relaxation. So, what is yoga nidra? When you are not sleeping, it is yoga nidra. When you are not awake, it is called yoga nidra. There is a poem about this by a Muslim saint which says:
Jahaan adhar daali hansa baitha,
Chugat mukta heer.
Adhar means in between; hamsa means chitta. The word hamsa or swan is used for the chitta. Calm mind, pure mind. Mukta means pearl, heer means diamond.
That is the state of yoga nidra. When you practise yoga nidra with your teacher, by yourself, or with a tape, please remember one thing that you will not sleep at all. Try your level best. If there is anything you have to avoid during yoga nidra, it is sleep. But at the same time, in yoga nidra, you do not know what is happening outside. Many times, you don’t even hear the instructions of the teacher. Sometimes you hear the instructions of the teacher, as if they are coming from some remote corner.
There is a lot to be said about yoga nidra. It is fantastic, it is one of the most powerful practices, if only you can understand the behaviour of the human mind and its different stages which can change from time to time. Although we say that there are three stages of mind, jagrat, swapna and sushupti, waking, dreaming and sleeping, these are very broad divisions.
Yoga nidra can help you in meditation, however meditation is entirely a different practice. In meditation you have to follow one point. In yoga nidra you have to follow one flow.
17 July 1983, Calcutta Ashram, India