If we want to teach yoga asana and pranayama to children, what would be the right age for them to begin?
It is very necessary for all of you to know that children are children of Nature. They follow the natural laws unless the parents interfere with them. Up to the age of seven children imbibe; they can learn more than anyone can. If you are practising yoga they will imbibe it; you do not have to teach them. After the age of seven, the practices of pranayama, surya namaskara and mantra chanting will begin – these are the three important practices for a child.
It is important to understand that children have a very important gland in their body called the pineal gland. It is situated at the back of the brain. This pineal gland plays a vital role in the proper control and expression of emotions. In short, it is the pineal gland which serves as a stop-cork on the wild behaviour of the pituitary body. The pituitary body is another gland.
In yoga the pineal gland is known as ajna chakra and the pituitary gland is known as sahasrara chakra. This pituitary gland has important groups of hormones, particularly in the post-side. The post-pituitary produces a series of hormones from time to time, chemical secretions of course, which produce emotions, passions and quite a lot of things. If these chemical secretions from the pituitary body are not properly controlled by the pineal gland, a child of eight can feel like a man of thirty-five. Just imagine if this child of eight or twelve years is thinking like a grown man, will he be able to maintain mental balance? No. I am sixty-six; if I begin to feel the emotions one feels at the age of nineteen, I will have a heart attack.
Therefore, Nature, prakriti, the natural laws have a system called prakriti vidhan and this natural law is unchangeable. According to vedic dharma, you cannot change it; according to the concept of mantra science, natural laws are not changeable. Matter does not change its properties. There could be a chemical reaction, that is all, but then the natural laws do not change and therefore the body of a child at the age of seven or eight is under the control of the pineal body.
After the age of seven the pineal body begins to decay and die. How does it decay? Just as the sex glands decay at the age of forty-five and fifty in the case of women when they undergo menopause. From the age of forty-two, forty-three, forty-five, they begin to decay and finally they die. There is no more ovarian flow, no more ovum. It is finished. That is called decay. In the same way the pineal body also decays. There are no secretions; there are no vibrations, no impulses, no radiations from the pineal body and once the pineal body decays the pituitary becomes independent, free, swatantra. Then a child becomes a boy or a girl.
As long as the pineal body is alive a child is a child whether male or female. The moment the pineal body decays, the pituitary body comes into full function without any control by the pineal body. The health of this pineal body should be maintained by three things – pranayama, mantra and surya namaskara. Upanayam became a religious ritual. What is the meaning of a karma kanda, ritual, if it is not associated with or related to your day-to-day patterns of life? If you cannot explain to your child what is the samskara, he will not do it. Why should he shave his head? Why should he grow a chutiya, a tuft? Why should he put on these three threads? This upanayam means ‘the second or subsidiary eye’ – upa-nayanam.
Up to the age of seven a child is free. It can play; it can do what it likes; there are no disciplines or systems for him. He is wild. At the age of seven he takes a vow, a vrata – ‘I offer my salutations to the sun every morning.’ It is very good for health. I do not have to prove that. Second vow, ‘I practise pranayama.’ Pranayama is very good for the lungs, the heart, the brain and nervous system. Third vow, the chanting of mantra because mantra purifies the tongue, ears, nervous system and the mind. If you abuse somebody by the name donkey, pig or owl, it has its effect. If you call anyone a donkey, I do not think that either you will be happy or he will be happy. In anger you have said it. A word can bring positive, negative, repulsive, attractive, vile and crude emotions; there is no doubt about it. If you repeat, Om Namah Shivaya in the morning it makes a difference. So mantra purifies: Mananat trayate iti mantrah. Mananat means repeating again and again. Trayate means that which makes your mind free. Iti means ‘so is’.
When the mind is pure these are the three functions which children must be taught at the age of seven. Do not push them into bhujangasana, dhanurasana or vrishchikasana, because children can do beautiful exercises. Their spines are so supple. Let a child do whatever his body permits him to do and what his mind inspires him to do.
During some of the practices we are asked to observe ourselves. Is there any difference between the observer and the observed? Are they not the same?
Ultimately the observer and object of observation are the same, but that is ultimately. During sadhana there is this duality between the seer, drashta, and the seen, drishya. The mind assumes certain vrittis. When you are observing yourself you are creating a pattern in the complex of your mind, the mind is building, or reforming, itself into a particular vritti. It is all right but you should also remember that the mind is divided into five vrittis: pramana or direct knowledge, viparyaya or wrong knowledge, vikalpa or fancy, nidra or sleep, and smriti or memory. These are the five vrittis according to the classic yoga: right cognition, wrong cognition, absence of cognition, past cognition and mistaken cognition.
This particular vritti which you are talking about is called the dhyana vritti. In order to overcome and conquer these five vrittis you have to create a new vritti. The Yoga Sutras mention various ways. One is described in (1:35):
Vishayavati pravrittihi utpanna mansaha sthiti nibandhani.
Or else the mind can be made steady by bringing it into activity of sense experience.
That vritti can be anything. You can concentrate on a great saint; you can meditate on light or you can meditate on the forms and patterns of your mind – it can be passion, anger, desire, fear, it can be anything. What do you do?
In tantra, you go to the burial ground. What happens? You observe fear. Fear is a vritti. When your mind has got fear it is one vishayawati pravritti; passion and anxiety are also vishayawati pavritti. Therefore, in tantra, in order to control the mind the vishayawati pravritti has to be controlled and thereby the mind is brought under control; but that is not the only way.
Lord Buddha, Mahavir and many other great mahatmas taught other ways. Kabir Das and the Upanishads said just concentrate on your breath, then on your mantra, then on the spinal passage, then on the lotuses, the chakras, then on the nadis, then on sahasrara. These are the grades and steps.
To observe yourself during ajapa japa, during vipassana meditation or preksha meditation is a general practice but it is much more than that. It consists of self-observation: you observe your fingers, the position of your arms, the position of your body, if your eyes are moving; if you are concentrating or not concentrating; if you are thinking or not thinking; if you are facing to the north or to the south; if you are on a cot or on a chowkie; if you have worn a dhoti or trousers; if you have worn a shirt; so many things you have to observe. You observe the palpitation of your heart, then you observe the silent vibration of your body.
As you go deeper and deeper you find that your body is not still; you feel it is still, but it is not. The physical body vibrates at a terrible rate, and you cannot see it; you cannot feel it. It is only by keen, constant and deep awareness that you can feel your body is vibrating. You do not know that your eyes move. It is only during medical examination that REM’s are noticed. It is only during deep meditation in samadhi avastha, savikalpa, that the eyes have no REM’s, rapid-eye-movements, but if you look on the machine the REM’s are seen. These eye movements control the movement of the mind.
The mind is not just psychological, mind is physiological as well – mastishk, brain. Mind and emotions are not just psychological. Emotions are as real, true, tangible as a chemical reaction producing smoke or gas. A thought is produced by chemical reaction. In our physical body there are chemical and pranic reactions. We have two energies in our bodies – mind and prana. These two great forces depend on the chemicals of the brain. It is true everywhere. You cannot just generate electricity. There are chemical reactions, chemical associations. The energy has to pass through certain chemical structures or formations and that is how energy, electricity is produced.
A thought is a very complex thing. A thought is produced not by mind alone but by mind plus prana plus the chemical reactions in your body. Therefore, in order to observe yourself you have to remember one thing very clearly: you are trying to have control over each and every function of the body. Lord Buddha used to instruct his disciples, “Bhiku, when your hand is half up you should know it; when you have raised your arms completely you must know it; when you are scratching your nose you should know it; when you have scratched the third time, ‘yes I have scratched the third time, fourth time, fifth time’.” The more you become aware of yourself the deeper you are going into your mind, your consciousness thereby controlling each and every emotion and chemical reaction.
What is mental conflict and how does it cause mental disorder?
When two opposite forces are against each other that is called conflict. The usual philosophical expression for conflict is dwandwa. Heat and cold are two conflicting forces in Nature; pain and pleasure are two opposite forces; birth and death are also opposite forces; respect and insult are also opposite forces; friendship and enmity are two opposite forces. That is the eternal dwandwa in life. In the Bhagavad Gita it is said that in order to be a normal human being, to have a normal human mind, you must be free from dwandwa. Dwandwatitaha is one who has transcended the dwandwa (12:19):
Tulyanindaastutirmaunee santushto yena kenachit:
Aniketah sthiramatir bhaktimaan me priyo narah.
He to whom censure and praise are equal, who is silent, content with anything, homeless, of a steady mind, and full of devotion—that man is dear to Me.
It is also said in the Bhagavad Gita (4:22):
Yadricchaalaabhasantushto dwandwaateeto vimatsarah;
Samah siddhaavasiddhau cha kritwaapi na nibadhyate.
Content with what comes to him without effort, free from the pairs of opposites and envy, even-minded in success and failure, though acting, he is not bound.
Conflict is a psychological process in the human mind and it is caused by many factors in life, not merely personal factors but social, cultural, political, philosophical. Every idea that you understand causes an impression and finally causes a conflict. That is why some of the religions like Islam, do not want any other idea. It is good, in a way, because it does not allow another thought to come into your mind and then cause a disaster or a conflict. A Hindu mind is full of conflict because it believes, ‘this idea is also good’, ‘that idea is also good’ and all the conflicting and contradictory ideas are in Hindu minds.
The Christian mind is also full of conflict. A Christian believes in chastity. The Bible believes in chastity, in purity but in their schools they are taught the philosophy and psychology of Freud. The religious mind believes in chastity and purity and that this is the way for salvation, mukti. What does Freud say? Just the opposite. He says that if you want to be happy, chastity is no solution; chastity is an unhealthy proposition. That is what he has taught. Therefore, the Christian has a conflict in his mind of two ideas: one idea is the racial, basic, ancient idea, which he has inherited from his ancestors, his religion, cult, background; the other is the intellectual, social idea of which he may or may not be convinced, but he likes it. There is a tug of war. The conflict is within the subconscious mind, in chitta, in the field of samskara, in the field of faith, not in the field of buddhi. That is precisely the reason why in western countries most people become abnormal because at one time they develop guilt.
Modern science does not believe in God, or in the theory of evolution. The natural theory of evolution of Darwin and other biologists say something else. They do not say that the earth was created in six days and that on Sunday God took rest, they do not believe it, but in the Bible they have read it in the Book of Genesis; in schools, colleges and the university it is just the opposite. Now what would be their state of mind because they have two opposite pieces of knowledge, two opposite faiths and beliefs. They are sure of neither. They do not know if the earth was created in five and a half days or six days or whether it is a slow evolution as Darwin has been saying. They are sure of neither. There is conflict when there is no knowledge and no faith. You should have atal shraddha, unflinching faith.
These conflicts about dharma, about maryada, correct and appropriate in any situation, where to draw the line, virtue, vice, duty, relationships are so complicated that an ordinary man cannot decide for himself. These conflicts sometimes become wide; the distance grows so much that the conflict does not at all relate to the two ideas. They become entirely, absolutely and totally different. That becomes schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is mad.
This dwandwa in the mind, antar dwandwa, can only be obliterated either by shraddha or jnana; not by book knowledge, shastra jnana, alone but by atma jnana. Conflict cannot be obliterated by psychoanalysis. With due respect to modern psychology I say this. Doctors are also giving pills, because they cannot help. They have to work out the problems by biochemical methods.
In the life of Sri Rama, in the Ramayana by Valmiki or the Ramacharitamanas by Tulsidas, you find so much conflict in the mind of Bharat, Kaikeyi, Kaushalya, Dasharatha, in everyone’s mind. There is only one person who is free from conflict, who is decisive, and that is Rama. He has decided that dharma is above bhavana—duty is above emotion; so personal relationships to the side, for my duty is this much and nothing else. No argument, no justification, no convenient logic. This is what I have to do. A man who has decided what he has to do without the least doubt about it is a jnani.
In the whole Ramayana you can find two persons who are so sure, confident and free from conflicts: Ravana and Rama. Ravana also has no conflicts in his mind. Perhaps in the last days when his powerful son Meghanad was killed there was a moment when he lost control of himself for a short period, but otherwise the conflict about his attitude for Sita, he did not at all repent. Therefore, Valmiki says in his Ramayana (Lanka Kand):
Rama Ravana yudyiorwa
The struggle, the conflict between the two great universal forces cannot be compared by anyone else; the battle between Rama and Ravana was incomparable and if it could be compared it could only be compared between Rama and Ravana, that’s all. It is also said in the Mahabharata:
Dharma se tattwa nihitam gohayam.
The essence of dharma is very mysterious.
Everything ultimately boils down to the mind. In our family, professional and daily personal life we have conflicts. Some have become aware of them and others have not. It is necessary for everyone, in order to have a healthy frame of mind, to dissolve conflict.
You see more psychological problems in the western world. What is the reason for this frustration?
It is not frustration; it is disillusionment. When you reach the mountain top there is a process of coming down, anti-climax. Western society has worked very hard for material prosperity, industrial growth and scientific and technical perfection and a perfect social revolution. Western society which followed the path of the Christian faith revolted against that very faith. They were not satisfied by the philosophy, the theology and the systems and also created pronouncements of religion about the universe, the soul, karma, virtue, the relationship between man and God. They were not at all satisfied and the material philosophers along with the scientists gave a new philosophy altogether for their society. They became very rich and prosperous with all the conveniences, employment, travel, research and sensual opportunities, bhoga.
When you are stuffed with everything, you ask yourself – what next? Before you wanted a car, now you have a car; before you wanted a home, now you have a home; before you wanted employment, now you have employment, before you wanted to talk to your brother five thousand miles away, now you can do it. Desire is an outcome of scarcity. Desires do beget desires. Trishna, craving, begets trishna, but only up to a certain extent. There is a process. Cravings do beget cravings; desires do beget desires, but after some time desires create vairagya, virakta, dispassion. It does not happen in the beginning; perhaps not for a very long time in a social process or even in the life of an individual, but it does happen.
When you, I or anyone at the age of twenty-one had desires, we fulfilled them. Another desire came, desire begot desire but after fifty there is a change. There is some sort of virakta, some sort of dispassion that comes in the mind of each and every one. As it happens with an individual, it also happens in the social progression. A society progresses through intensity of desire, craving, passion and intensity of aggrandisement and it goes on and on. Then the social progression changes and it has changed in the West.
It is not frustration. When a man is trying hard for pleasant things what is he wanting? What is he aiming at? He is aiming at paramsukha, total happiness; he does not want happiness to come to an end. Param means ‘total’, but he finds that this sukha, happiness, did not give him paramananda, total bliss. Therefore, he changes his experiment. When your wife, children, money or the opportunities do not give you paramananda will you still continue to milk them? No, you will search for another path. So the people who went to India, China and Japan, to the various parts of the world, brought back with them the message of spirituality, adhyatmikta.
Someone wrote a book Hindu Deva Sabha, the Hindu pantheon. It is a very beautiful book. Similarly, many adequate and inadequate books were written: the message of Ramakrishna and of Vedanta was spread by Swami Vivekananda, the message of karma yoga was spread by Swami Sivananda; the message of kriya yoga was spread by Paramahamsa Yogananda. Then the message of Vedanta was also spread by Swami Ramatirtha, to mention just a few luminaries. Today in western countries, particularly in America and Europe, you will find all the sampradayas, sects of India, particularly Hindu sampradayas of the vedic dharma. The pantheon of vedic dharma is represented in every country by one person or the other. You will find Neem Karoli Baba and Baba Ramdas disciples everywhere. When you want to attain paramananda and you are not able to attain it, you change the order.
The Christian religion is a very sober religion. It has many great saints of spiritual perfection. Those saints were exploited by political authorities for their political ends, whether it was Saint Francis or Saint Xavier, Saint Teresa or Saint John of the Cross. The Christian church does not believe in poonar janma, reincarnation; it is dogma. The Church decided in Constantinople (Istanbul as you call it) to declare transmigration a dogma. There was a big convention, but you cannot decide transcendental matters by a board of directors, by ballot and voting. If all of us decide that Rama was not God, it is foolishness. They decided that the theory of transmigration should be declared a dogma and therefore the Church does not talk about it, but everyone in western countries does.
Christianity has properly moulded the mind of a common westerner and on that moulded personality yoga has done a wonderful job. Yoga has succeeded in Christian nations and among the Jewish particularly because their religion has a good effect on their personality – the inner life. All the expressions are there. When we say ‘inner life’ they understand – adhyatmik; when we say ‘inner voice’, they understand what we mean by it. If we say ‘the voice of silence’, they understand exactly what we mean because it is there; they use these words – voice of silence, inner voice, paradise, nectar, ambrosia. They even understand chakras. Therefore, we should never say that western people are frustrated. They are disillusioned.
What about the hippies?
There is nothing wrong with the hippie movement. I don’t think so. The hippies were the heretics of America. If a cult has to change, a society, religion change, if the whole social process has to undergo a total metamorphosis, something like this has to happen – somebody has to revolt. If you go to dinner with a black tie, and I say, ‘I can go just like this with dhoti; if you say, ‘I take champagne and scotch’, and I say, ‘I take ganja’; if you say, ‘I can go and dance with this girl in the nightclub,’ and I say, ‘I can practise tantra with her’ – then that is the revolutionary tone.
The hippies changed the elegance, the so-called ‘show’, the smart dress, smart behaviour, smart way of talking, everything calculated, everything trimmed, whether it is ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’; everything is trimmed and taut, taught in schools and colleges. The hippies say, sit down anywhere, do anything, dress any way you like. Why play only one particular instrument; you can play the guitar and the sitar.
The hippie culture is a transitional culture. When revolutions break out in a society, if it is a political society, what will happen? What happened in Russia? Nihilists, Bolsheviks, Communists. That is an intermediate transitional society and politics. Russia and China have undergone an intermediate transitional political situation which will not continue for a long time, because communism and socialism are not man’s nature. Man is a capitalist by nature. In every religious society there is always a transitional point happening and that happened with the hippies. I do not think that it is wrong. I do not even think that there are any more hippies in the USA. That was a period and it is gone. Now there are no hippies but swamis, disciples of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Rajneesh, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda’s order, disciples of Swami Sivanandaji and of Sant Kripal Singh and the Bhakti Vedanta movement. There are so many disciples and they are doing a good job.
Quite a few of them are my gurubhais. Swami Satchidanandaji is my gurubhai. He is a Tamilian from Lanka. Now he is an American citizen and dadaji, grandpa, of American boys. People love him. There is another yogiraj, Amrit Desai. There is yogi Swami Rama, who has an ashram which is just like a university, the Himalayan Institute, with faculties of yoga. There are many Americans and quite a few Indians. All of them are well-educated people. They talk about yoga, meditation, the Vedas, Vedanta, Samkhya, Nyaya and the ashram is spread over five hundred acres. Can you start an ashram in India on five hundred acres? I do not suppose the Indian government will allow you. It will happen in India too because India is undergoing the same phase as America has undergone with the hippie movement but with a difference of coat, pant and tie. It is also having a hippie movement, a transitional movement, and most of you have had a glimpse of the hippie life, maybe in your personal life too.
What about the drug addiction in the western countries?
The alcohol industry in western countries is like any big industry, not a small one. The alcohol industrialists are multi-millionaires, billionaires. People may believe in drug addiction, but I know the truth because I am a travelling man. There is a big economic deal behind it when they talk about drugs. What drugs? Do you think that champagne is less harmful than ganja? Do you think that these modern medicines, steroids and antibiotics are less harmful than many other things? Why don’t you compare it? I don’t mind that you consume it. I don’t take it, I don’t preach it, but since you mentioned drug addictions, there is no drug addiction anywhere. All young children in western countries go through a period of experience. During that period of their innocence, seventeen to eighteen years of age, they experience quite a lot of things but they do not continue it; they become serious.