Daily Readings

Insights Inspirations - April

CYT - 1982 - ISBN 10: 0959069038 ISBN 13: 9780959069037

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

April 1

Is the Body Me?

This body is supposed to be 'me' or mine.
This is already a problem.
Is it me or mine?
There is a confusion between what is me and what is mine.
When you pinch the body, are you pinching me or what is mine?
Suddenly you realise that because you have considered this body to be 'This I am', it appears to be true.
Is this body mine? If it is, then I must be able to do what I like with it.
If I tell the body, "You are mine. You must obey me," and it doesn't want to, then how can I call it mine?
Then I see that if I am to die today, the body is left behind.
So it is not mine, it is neither me nor mine.
It is then that you begin to impersonally observe how this body came into being.
A cell from somebody's body fertilises another cell, then it divides and subdivides and so on; the rest of it being supplied by food.
So, it is merely a food chain which keeps going from parent to child.
This is the physical chain of immortality.
This is the body.
Then there is something within which thinks, which feels, 'This I am'.
The question is: Is there an entity prior to the thought 'This I am' which thinks 'This I am' because it is already there?
Or is it the other way around?
A thought arises 'This I am' and then there is a feeling 'This I am'.
(At least one mighty scripture, the Yoga Vasistha, adopts the second view.)
When you are asleep, there is no feeling 'This I am' at all, though the body exists and functions.
Because the thought 'This I am' does not exist, there is no personality - there is neither the world nor a thing called 'I'.
It is only when you begin to think 'This I am' that you come into being, the world comes into being.
This problem is insoluble until you attain enlightenment and directly perceive that only as long as the feeling, 'This I am', is there can 'I' be presumed to exist.
That is the declaration of those who have realised the truth.

April 2

Do What Has To Be Done

In sleep there is no world, and in sleep there is no 'I' either.
In sleep I don't exist and the world doesn't exist.
But when sleep comes to an end and consciousness begins to become aware of itself, 'I' arises, and at the same time the world arises.
In this awareness or consciousness there is total surrender.
This is what religious people have spoken of as surrender to God.
In that surrender we are enabled to realise the truth and play the role that God or this infinite consciousness has already allotted to us.
When that role is honestly played, then there is no sorrow or suffering.
We do what has to be done, without any predetermination or precondition.
If a log of wood is thrown into the fast-flowing stream, it does what has to be done from moment to moment.
Such a life is a blessing and in that life there is no ego-sense which says, "I am living, I am doing this."
Everything is done by God (instead of saying Cosmic or Infinite Consciousness, use a simple word - God.) Everything is done, ordained and motivated by God.
Everything is sustained by God.
The discourse in the Yoga Vasistha lasts eighteen days and at the end of the discourse Rama enters into deep contemplation.
But Vasistha shakes him and says, "This is not the time to contemplate. Come on, get up."
Rama says, "Yes, certainly I'll get up and do whatever has to be done." Why?
For the simple reason that the ego, which considered itself an independent entity, independent of the totality of the world, God, does not consider itself independent anymore, and therefore there is no desire to do something or not to do something.
He who says "I am talking here," is a fool, and he who says "I will not do this" is also a fool.
Both are arrogant.
But he who knows that it is the Divine that makes all things possible in this world, to him the world itself is the Self-realisation of God.
When that understanding arises, the ego does not exist as an independent entity, but as part of this game.
And he who plays this game knows its rules and knows what has to happen.
You and I are part of this world game.
Let us play our roles in freedom, in love and in harmony.

April 3

Disturbing Thoughts

I meditate and practise yoga daily, but often get strange, unpleasant, even cruel thoughts.
How do I deal with this evil which comes out of myself?
It is good you realise that they come out of yourself.
If you want immediate but temporary relief, you may substitute some holy or pleasant thoughts.
But these are all thoughts, and hence they offer no permanent solution.
The key to the answer is indeed yoga, the Path to Perfection which is a total integration.
But can one clearly understand what is meant by the word 'integration'?
When we talk of integration of the personality, we should not commit the error of assuming that the personality has somehow broken into pieces.
As Christian Scientists will tell you that disruption is but an illusion.
Those who have experienced nightmares, however, will assure you that the illusion is real so long as it lasts.
'Integration' refers to the disappearance of the illusion.
The violent thoughts are obviously your own; they are from you, they are part of you, they are you.
Can you run away from yourself?
Can you throw yourself away?
If, for instance, you eat some bitter fruit, the moment you realise it is so, you can spit it out.
But you cannot spit out your tongue or a sore stomach.
If your tongue or your stomach hurts, have you watched yourself, what you do?
You have to live with it; yet it hurts, it is unpleasant.
Therefore, you are extremely vigilant and cautious to ensure that you do not let it hurt you now.
In the same way, if you realise that the evil thoughts are in you, part of you, you, and you realise that they are unpleasant and disturbing, you will be ever vigilant to ensure that they do not arise in your mind.
This vigilance makes you extremely strong.
Perhaps that is why our Gurudev Swami Sivananda used to say, "In your weakness lies your real strength."

To try to avoid war is foolish.
People will die in any case, and everything will be destroyed, war or no war.
To wage war and kill is more foolish.
Why kill something which will die a little later?
The problem is how to live.

April 4

The Greatest Miracle

It seems that we really only live if this 'mineness' is gone.
Otherwise we are living in tension and frustration all the time.
Mysteriously, there arises a feeling in relation to this body, this 'I am', a mystery which you will be able to solve only when you are enlightened.
'I am this body' is a mistake more than a mystery and out of this mistake arises the next and deadly mistake: 'You are mine'.
If you examine it very carefully, everything that you refer to as 'mine' is related merely to this body, whereas in truth the entire universe is nothing but a whirling mass of energy, consciousness itself in motion.
Right, but "I don't see it that way, I can't understand it." That's maya.
That which is unable to experience and become aware of the omnipresent truth is maya.
This maya is incomprehensible to the human mind because the human mind is limitation, is maya, part of this confusion.
We regard God as some Being outside of ourselves.
We regard maya or Shakti as something outside of ourselves.
This is because by nature and by birth we have trained ourselves to look at everything outside and to look for everything outside.
We always blame somebody else for our errors and faults.
We always look for pleasure from some source outside of us, and we think our pain and suffering also come from somebody else.
This habit we have formed prevents us from becoming aware of something which is omnipresent.
Omnipresent means here, within me.
Never mind what that 'me' means here.
Turn your gaze within and then it is possible for you to peel off layer after layer of the 'me' and come to the direct realisation of the 'non-me': that which is beyond the 'me', whose shadow is me.
Then you don't fight with this 'me' - you don't fight with shadows - nor try to understand it, for all that involves misdirected effort.
Without fighting it and without fleeing from it you have still achieved the greatest miracle: the confusion and frustration are gone.
Your vision has not changed, you are the same.
The object is the same but something has happened, and that something did not change anything at all.
This is the most important factor.
Where you were frightened, frustrated, battling, you are no longer frightened, frustrated, battling, and where you were striving there is effortlessness.

April 5

Vigilance is Liberation

What are the characteristics of a person who has reached the understanding of the non-existence of the ego?
Actions will go on, but the ego-sense is not there.
When the self-glue has gone - self-glue is what we call ego-sense - you are forever satisfied.
What is the cause of your disappointment?
Your expectations!
Why is there this restlessness within oneself, this dissatisfaction?
Because there is a craving for satisfaction of a particular type.
When the 'I', the ego-sense, is there, it leans on something, otherwise there is no dependency, no identity, no identification tag.
If there is no destination, you never get onto the wrong road, you never lose your way!
If I have no destination, all roads are the same.
To one who has no destination, there is no destiny either.
Is one who is free from desire and hope and all motivations, an automaton then?
Does he automatically work to attain liberation? No.
But be careful.
It is not difficult for one to cheat oneself because as long as the body continues to live, apparently as an individual, the movement of energy in that space of consciousness is also there.
In an ignorant state, the movement of energy in this particular field of consciousness was regarded as an individual.
Now that there is a very clear understanding that 'I' does not exist and therefore 'I am liberated', the one that says 'I am liberated' is also capable of falling into another error saying 'I am So-and-so'.
Be careful, be free of hopes, of cravings and desires, but don't abandon attention, vigilance.
As long as the body lasts, as long as there is this movement of energy in that particular field of consciousness, there is also the risk of the same ignorance arising again in a moment of heedlessness.
When that attention or vigilance is vigilantly watchful to ensure that the ego-sense does not arise again, then the energy continues to move, the body continues to function without a confusion arising again.
When one has reached this point where the body functions by its own built-in energy, freed of cravings and hope, one is satisfied with whatever one gets effortlessly.

April 6

How to Dissolve All Conflicts

The Pious feeling: "There is conflict in the world and therefore I must fight the evil; or I should completely withdraw from all this and thus prevent violence, death and destruction," is irrelevant.
All the parties to the conflict (including the observer who might avoid it) are inevitably destined to die.
Death and destruction make no distinctions and discrimination.
It is possible that what appears to be violence and aggression 'outside' is not violence at all.
Fire and water are not enemies; they are complementary.
Inhalation and exhalation are not contradictory functions, but complementary functions.
Even the behaviour of predators may not be 'violence' or 'aggression' but natural and non-violent'.
It is the 'I' that creates conflict in all this.
Violence is in the 'I' and it reads violence in the behaviour of animals and even in the natural phenomena in order to rationalise its own violence.
It is the inner violence that recognises the natural external event as violence.
Hence violence is within and not outside.
This is not difficult to see either.
When you read the news of any conflict, look within and you will see that your own heart justifies one of the parties and condemns the other.
It is the 'I' that does it.
This violence is within yourself.
Attraction and repulsion are inherent in the material substances.
They are also natural to the physical body and the subtle senses.
They function spontaneously without creating conflict or aggression.
The hand pulls away from a hot-plate, but does not fight it.
When you know this, actions just happen, without creating a feeling 'I am doing this' and the corresponding feeling - either 'I must do this' or 'I must not do this'.
This is the state of equilibrium which is a 'sinless state'.
When the self-assumed, self-arrogating role of the ego-sense is seen to be fictitious and unreal, such unreality ceases to be viewed as real.
He who enjoys this state lives in the same world as you and I do, but without conflict.
The yogi neither assumes "I do this," nor does he defy nature.
He lives a dynamic life, without desire, fear or hate - his actions are spontaneous.
He 'enters his heart' into the Cosmic Being or God, in supreme devotion or self-surrender.
His contemplation is dynamic, for he sees the Lord in all.
In total surrender he realises that what appeared to be his own being (in common with all beings) lives and functions naturally in accordance with the divine will.
Life continues: enlightened life.

April 7

Living Means Action

Action is on-going; and since life means living, movement, motion, energy, expression of energy, there is another aspect to this doctrine of karma.
That is: you can't as long as you are alive avoid doing something - you have to do something.
When these two are read together, probably you begin to quake in fear and in excitement.
You can't help doing something all the time - physically, mentally, spiritually - and everything that you do is going to keep throwing up its own result.
Oh my God!
So, I am compelled to do, forced to be active all the time by the very nature of life.
But I am not forced to do 'this' and not 'that': I am not forced to respond to the environment in one way or the other.
Who determines that?
The factor called ego, which says "I want to be this, I want to do this.
I want to achieve, I want to succeed.
I want to be happy." With this motivation you do what has to be done, what you would have done regardless of motivation.
Life being action, you are helplessly doing something all the time.
This ego provides a sort of motivation saying, "I am doing this in order to gain that."
Do we always get what we want, even when we have done all that we think we should in order to get that? No.
Why is it so?
Because there are so many unknown, unpredictable factors in our lives.
So, while doing what has to be done, the ego steps in and says, 'I want to get something out of this."
If we achieve what we wish to achieve, we are distracted; if we do not we are frustrated.
That is our lives. Simple.
These are the two aspects in our daily lives.

April 8

Gurudev Sivananda

Often we come across descriptions of enlightened sages, yogis who had attained self-realisation and Jivanmuktas (they who had gained liberation while still living here).
Once you begin to think of Gurudev, remember Him, remind yourself of the way in which He walked and talked, the way in which He laughed and lectured, the way in which He smiled and frowned, your whole being is flooded with reminiscences which keep flowing as if a dam had burst.
Sometimes we are tempted to compare Gurudev with this or that holy man.
But truly He was incomparable.
In fact, He was indefinable and therefore unpredictable.
He had no stereotyped behaviour, set responses and rigid routines.
In Him contradictions were reconciled into a complete wholeness and the changes blended into an unchanging light that defied description.
There was no dogma in Him and yet He was not necessarily opposed to dogma.
He was not opposed to anything, not even to opposition!
He was incarnate love, and that love was unlike anything that you and I have experienced.
'Brahmavit brahmaiva bhavati', declare the scriptures: "He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman."
In him the ego ceases to be recognised as an independent entity.
When we speak of one another we are really speaking of the little ego - praising or condemning, affirming or denying.
But when we speak of Gurudev Swami Sivananda, we speak of Brahman the Infinite, in whom there was no ego to be thus described nor an (egoistic) state known as egolessness.
One can only say that if God (truth or love) walked the earth, it would be as Gurudev Swami Sivananda did.
His life was divine. It is. It shall ever be.
He exists and shines in your heart as your own Self.

April 9


How can I experience, discover 'I', 'I am'-ness?
It is like trying to stick out your tongue to lick it!
While anything takes place e.g. the eyes see a book, the seeing is all that is really happening.
But somewhere, somehow, there arises a thought: 'I see'.
Once this 'I' pops up as subject, the object (e.g. 'book') is also conjured up.
From this follows: "I love this" and therefore "I do not like that".
Dislike, repulsion and hate are born from love, attraction - products of the dualism of the ego-sense.
This is not part of nature, which knows no like or dislike.
The ripe apple does not fall because it 'hates' the tree or 'loves' the ground!
The fall of the apple occurs as a natural event at a given moment, just as the eyelids close when the eyes look at bright light or the arm withdraws the hand as it touches a source of heat.
In nature things happen - rain falls down, smoke goes up.
There is a going apart, a coming together as with the different poles of a magnet, without struggle or emotion.
If there is oneness there is no question of wanting one thing and avoiding or pushing away 'another'.
Hate only arises from 'loving' the opposite.
That is why one usually speaks of raga (liking) and dvesa (disliking) together.
There is no total, absolute hate.
In fact, I only start disliking something once I am attached to someone, somebody else, be it merely myself.
The truth is that there is attraction and repulsion (hatred, violence and so on) in me, in the mind.
It is not a question of suppressing either physical or mental expressions of dislike, resentment etc., nor indeed of attraction or its opposite.
The main issue is mental colouring, the conditioning of the mind.
Whatever the mind sees gets 'coloured' and we divide the world accordingly into 'black' and 'white'.
We can learn to 'see' anew, to decolour the mind.
(Not to discolour it in the sense of introducing yet another 'colour' to get rid of the prevailing ones.)
For this the sages teaching yoga introduced vairagya - the opposite of raga.
Vairagya or renunciation (dispassion) is not a discipline leading to suppression on the 'either-or' basis.
It recommends neither repressing the desires by running away from them or 'closing' my eyes to their existence in me, nor by heroic resistance biting my tongue so as not to give in to the attractions!
Neither shunning the world and its enjoyments, nor turning the back on places of worship can lead us to Truth and peace.
If God is omnipresent, why run from Him who is in every place and occupation?
All we have to renounce is the mental colouring.

April 10

Vairagya and Abhyasa

In sleep there are no problems except the one problem of ignorance!
From this ignorance issue the sources of our problems: individuality, likes and dislikes and 'clinging to life'.
Clinging to life is 'hope': hope is inseparable from fear.
Life brings the senses and particular objects together for a brief moment and then takes them away.
Pleasure and pain are natural to life, and neutral.
It is the mind, and not the senses, which registers the experiences, remembers, cherishes or dreads.
Then it pursues pleasure, it is afraid it may not get or lose it, it hopes it will get it and have it forever.
All these constitute vritti.
Thinking about them, thinking that they have disappeared, philosophising their nature and purpose (that they are part of nature, that they are karma or illusory) is futile.
They cannot really be suppressed; they will not be ignored.
Understanding alone is their (dis)solution or resolution.
One of the methods of understanding is the twofold abhyasa and vairagya.
Vairagya is related to raga (likes or cravings), which also means colouring.
Memory craves even in the absence of the object, and demands repeated enjoyment.
The Master suggests vairagya or uncoloring of the mind.
The first step is: if the memory revives the craving in the absence of the object, recognise the absurdity of such craving - the object is just not there and the craving is madness.
When the inner intelligence realises this, such irrational craving ceases, and the intelligence gains strength to deal with craving when the object is immediately present.
The second step: when the object is present, the intelligence enquires 'Is this normal?' - a natural part of the life-process (like hunger, thirst and so on) or is it a perverted craving which arises from the me(mory)?
If it is natural, the experience is allowed; if it is not, the craving is dropped.
The third step: the intelligence continues to enquire into the whole process of experience memory-craving.
What is the reality of these?
The non-verbal answer reveals the truth that all this is sheer movement of energy in consciousness.
To remain established in this truth is abhyasa.
The attempt to do so is also abhyasa.
However if the ego makes this attempt it is self-defeating.
The practice of the various limbs of yoga enables you to realise that which is beyond the ego.

April 11

The Meaning Of Meaning

We often take for granted that we know the meanings of the words and expressions we use.
Thus in our communication (or lack of it) we have constantly to explain, to retract or modify what we say.
In the field of philosophy and religion, herbs grow into weeds, mainly because of our lack of interest in the meanings of words and the expressions used.
The student of philosophy and religion is compelled to take them, and he takes them as he takes a bitter pill he swallows them.
The meaning is never understood.
Even the word 'artha' translated into 'meaning' does not mean the word 'meaning', but the 'substance' which the word denotes.
Yoga is integration, not just a morning exercise.
Sadhana is an attempt towards a possible siddhi which means, not psychic powers, but the attainment of what the sadhana aimed at.
Naturally siddhi is not perfection in any aspect of your life, but total perfection, since it is beyond the reach of the finite intellect; siddhi is the absence of all imperfections.
One uses a mantra in sadhana: and mantra not only refers to a special formula but a piece of wholesome advice.
It may come from a guru; but a guru is the enlightenment-experience which happens within oneself (though a human being, animal or other object may trigger it).
This enlightenment removes the darkness of avidya.
Avidya is not ignorance of a particular subject; avidya is ignorance of what says, 'I know this' or 'I do not know this', that is, oneself.
This oneself is asmita, not egoism or vanity, but the fundamental 'I amness'.
It is this asmita that is responsible for raga-dvesa: and these are not just likes and dislikes.
Raga arises because there is a conditioning in the mind, a colouring, in which something looks attractive (and therefore the other is disgusting).
The opposite of raga is vairagya, which is not physical repression or mental 'volte-face': it means de-colouring which is done by tapas.
Tapas is not self-mortification, but the burning fire of aspiration and enquiry, which burns up the conditioning and at the same time illumines the truth!

April 12


Sacrifice only means 'made sacred', and yoga is sacrifice in that sense.
An action becomes yajna or sacrifice only when there is jnana or understanding.
If the understanding is not there, the action becomes stupid and binding.
Action by itself is totally neutral, neither good nor bad.
If light shines on the shadow, that which appeared to be a shadow instantly becomes illumined.
Nothing came, nothing went.
The shadow became luminous, light.
That which I saw is not seen any more, but what there was still exists.
That is sacrifice.
Every action springs from the same source, from this Cosmic Being or cosmic consciousness, flows towards the Cosmic Being and cosmic consciousness and the flow itself is cosmic energy and cosmic consciousness.
In other words, action is natural here; whatever goes on goes on without any regard to what you or I would like.
The sole obstacle to a pure and natural life is the feeling or thought called 'I' - the ego-sense.
Life is natural and the only thing that seems to be non-existent and therefore unnatural is the egosense.
Yet one does not know why or how or what it is.
One cannot deny its seeming existence nor can one assert or affirm its real existence, like the shadow.
It partakes of the reality and of the unreality.
All the various ways in which the yogis have endeavoured to overcome this shadow of the ego-sense are called yoga.
And the vital aspect of yoga is the spirit of sacrifice, the spirit in which the Truth is seen and in which life becomes natural.
Wherever the ego-sense seems to function, in whatever aspect of our life or personality, it has to be sacrificed, turned into something sacred.
Sacrifice is completely different from what you and I have been taught it is.
Sacrifice is not merely cutting the throat of something, nor throwing something into the fire.
Sacrifice is when the sanctity or the holiness of something which has always been holy is restored into it.
So fasting can be a yajna, eating can be a yajna.
All kinds of sacrifices are indulged in by people.
I can use certain material substances which I can make sacred, and at the same time I can engage myself in great austerities, spiritual practices, and I can also be made sacred or sacrificed.
In and through all these practices our whole life is sacrificed, our whole life becomes sacred.

April 13

The Spirit of Sacrifice

In the Vedas we are given a beautiful vision of God.
They say that God has sacrificed Himself in this universe.
Thus, the entire universe is God's own sacrifice.
In scientific terms this is quite simple: cosmic energy has somehow condensed itself into the form of the universe by an act of sacrifice.
Sacrifice, in sanskrit, is 'yajna'.
According to the dictionary, the official meaning is killing something in order to propitiate a god.
But I feel that it means something that leads to Self-knowledge - sacrifice sounds like something sacred.
Thus, sacrifice is destroying something and also making sacred.
Perhaps the two are not contradictory but complementary.
Until very recently, in Hindu communities the sacred fire was kept in the house all the time and what was offered into the fire was cooked and uncooked food.
This is fantastic if you understand the significance.
A bit of food is offered into the fire; and a bit of that same food is offered into the gastric fire called 'stomach'.
Here it is digested and turned into the beautiful body which then lives for some time; and when the body dies it is cremated with that fire.
Now the two become one.
Thus the spirit of sacrifice was fostered.
In that spirit, you could see that nobody is free.
We are all interdependent and that interdependence means one sacrificing to the other.
The seed sacrifices itself giving rise to the tree; the tree sacrifices itself and produces fruit - food.
There is a chain reaction, an interconnectedness throughout the whole universe.
This marvellous truth is seen when the insight is fully awakened.
Then all the stupid ideas that 'I am independent of you', 'You are my enemy' and so on, drop away.
What you do affects me; what I do affects you.
We are completely and totally interwoven into the fabric of the world.
When that comes to light, the same spirit of sacrifice enables us to see enjoyment and suffering, indulgence and restraint, in very different lights.
Eating is not pleasure, it is an offering where some oblations are poured into the gastric fire burning within, and hunger seems to be satisfied.
In the same way all enjoyments are oblations poured into the fire of an urge that arises in you.
So your entire life is seen as a life-long sacrifice.

April 14

The Spiritual Adventure

The descent of light into the heart is the awakening of insight.
There is clear perception of the truth.
This insight transforms the world without touching it, transforms life without changing it.
In it you see the world as it is, life as it is.
You realise that 'you' are part of the world; the mind functioning in the body thinks, and thinks it has a mysterious relationship with the 'rest of the world' outside the skin of the body!
This relationship is of indivi(sible) duality.
With every event in this world, an experiencer somehow arises within the individual body; this experiencer begins to store some memories, giving rise to the 'me' (ego-sense).
The 'me' is the past. It has no future.
This understanding frees awareness from both the past and the future.
The 'me' has energy built into it - the past momentum (known as, prarabdha karma); it does not need further fuel (ambition or desire).
Ambition is unnecessary for life, in life.
The body-mind complex may be allowed to exhaust its energy: this leads to total freedom from the self or 'me'.
If the body (and even the mind) functions without additional fuel, there is freedom for awareness.
This awareness realises that the whole universe is sacrifice (both in the sense of destroying, and 'making sacred').
Everything comes into being and ceases before it takes another form.
Rising-setting is the order of creation.
All material objects, all thoughts and emotions obey this law.
But then, why not the ego - why does it not rise and set, without creating a perpetual problem?
It is this false 'surviving' ego that is to be sacrificed.
When its nature is thoroughly investigated, the ego is sacrificed; and in its place something sacred is realised.
This extraordinarily beautiful realisation is thus stated by Lord Krishna: "By this you will see all beings in the Self and in Me."
There is the realisation of oneness.
When the ego is thus sacrificed, only then does sin come to an end.
It is not the ego that sacrifices and gets rid of evil.
When the veil ('evil' spelt differently) is lifted, the ego is no more - no more an enduring entity.
It continues to rise and fall in common with all else in this universe.

April 15


Prana is not merely the 'breath', but it is the Power that makes us breathe.
It is in the air, food and drink we take in.
It is in every atom of existence.
Pranayama, in its true sense, means coming face to face with this prana and understanding its nature, its function.
Prana is in everything and does everything.
Prana is the energy of the life-force that sustains the whole world and all things in it.
It is even in the corpse!
Like electricity, prana has multiple functions.
It is in every form, odour, taste.
In objects that we enjoy, that invigorate us, it is the prana that does so.
The prana that is already in the body absorbs the prana from outside.
We do not really know what this prana is and how it works whether it is static or whether it flows or vibrates.
But we can say that as it vibrates or flows through the body, there is physical action, and prana flowing through the mind is thought.
As prana passes through the mind it makes you think.
One cannot really think about it, as it is that which enables thinking!
One cannot talk about prana as it is the energy that talks.
How can we know and control this prana?
When you are on the threshold - the middle path - you know what prana is.
When you hold your lungs empty you are neither knocked unconscious nor completely conscious in the normal way.
As the prana is the energy of the mind, there is an intimate link between it and the mind.
Understanding the function of prana you understand the mind.
The yogi who wishes to practise pranayama for spiritual progress does not only pay attention to the breathing as such, but to the whole of life, which should be balanced.
In our normal everyday life, prana is in constant motion.
There is constant income and expenditure of prana.
It is never absolutely balanced.
Sleep may be regarded as the greatest source of prana: here there is almost no expenditure of prana.
Prana, being dynamic, cannot be stopped, held back.
When you know what makes you breathe, what makes you hungry and demands food and digests it, what makes you thirsty and take drink, then you know everything!
Prana is ever vibrant, never absolutely quiet.
The energy of prana has to function, but yogis suggest that a life of moderation is most conducive to progress.
We find it hard to walk the middle path and tend either to go all out or to stop completely.
However, a life of moderation is pranayama!

April 16

Practice of Moderation

Prana is not merely that which makes us breathe, but that which makes us live.
How is our life span fixed?
Some yogis feel this is calculated in terms of breathing.
The theory is that if you can slow down the rate of breath you can live longer and that prana can be conserved.
From where do we get the prana?
In water there is some prana, so drinking water gives you a little bit of energy, and even walking near a river or sea or lake gives you tremendous energy.
Breathing gives energy, but even in breathing there is some expenditure of energy.
Prana is really derived from sleep.
That is where the 'battery' is charged with prana.
All forms of activity are expenditure of energy, but the sages mention two or three very specifically.
Eating is one.
They say that strangely enough food does not give you prana, so that when you eat you feel heavy - it is more expenditure of energy than income.
The food that we eat merely produces cells for the body, it is necessary for the replacement of the cells.
But when it comes to prana it is more an expenditure of energy.
Sex is another expenditure of energy.
Talking is also a colossal waste of energy.
All these may be essential or necessary for life, but the master says "Minimise them, make them moderate!"
If one is moderate in all that one does, then the practice of yoga becomes fruitful.

April 17

This is Prana

In order to understand what pranayama means we must understand what prana is.
In jnana yoga understanding is not important.
Understanding is not done in the brain but in something that stands under - in the heart.
Is it possible for us to relate our intelligence to prana without the brain?
Can I look at this prana without thought?
The sages who practise jnana yoga have no technique. just as you are looking outside, look within and find out what keeps you - this body and mind - alive.
That is prana.
But what do you do?
The very simplicity of it makes it almost impossible.
Then some masters come down a little bit and indicate something like a technique, using the following method which is found in the Yoga Vasistha.
As you breathe in and out normally, see if you can become aware of the exact moment when inhalation becomes exhalation and exhalation becomes inhalation.
In that meeting point you'll find prana.
There must be some kind of observation which is independent of thought and therefore of the ego.
That observation observes this movement of breath.
If you can do it, God bless you.
If you cannot do it, then the hatha yogi says, "Hit this prana."
The idea is to challenge this prana so that it becomes clear "This is prana".
The question that is asked is the same as in jnana yoga: "What makes me live?"
Here in hatha yoga the emphasis is on kumbhaka.
Kumbha means a pot and kumbhaka is making the abdomen like a pot.
First there is puraka (inhalation), which literally means filling this pot.
When you inhale you find you cannot go any further.
What makes you stop?
That is prana.
But because you are inhaling with force, that prana becomes more detectable.
Then comes kumbhaka - holding the breath as long as possible.
I should not exhale, prana should force the exhalation.
At that point, if the observation is keen, there is the direct understanding, "This is prana".
Unfortunately we usually don't reach this point at all; we hold for some time and then feel it is a bit uncomfortable and breathe out.
There is this cerebral activity again.
The mind begins to calculate.
You breathe out - which means the prana has not yet been challenged - and therefore this is not pranayama.

April 18

Importance of Pranayama

In order to come face to face with that which we call prana, Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras prescribes a very simple technique.
The text says: "Vomit all the air, then hold; exhale completely and then suspend the breath".
When the breath is suspended in this manner, thought comes to a standstill, and a different type of intelligence begins to function.
In that, the true nature of prana is seen.
My Guru Himself was very fond of pranayama.
Even when He could not do the yoga asanas because of so many factors, He continued pranayama.
In the same way, even if his students could not do the asanas, He recommended pranayama because pranayama purifies the nadis directly.
In the Yoga Sutras the benefits of the practice of pranayama are given in one sutra: "When you practise pranayama, the veil that covers the truth (the reality) disappears, so that there is clarity of perception and understanding. The mind and intelligence become clear, and the mind acquires the ability to concentrate easily."
In the Yoga Sutras kevala kumbhaka is exalted.
Kevala kumbhaka is suspension of breathing; that is without breathing in, without breathing out, the breath is suspended.
There is a feeling that the whole breathing apparatus is open.
Perhaps the air circulates without your having to breathe in or out.
The state of the mind is shown to be linked to the breathing.
If you want to diagnose the state of your mind, watch your breathing.
If it is steady and gentle, the mind also has these characteristics.
If the breathing is agitated, the mind also is agitated.
Therefore the Yoga Sutras insist upon the kevala kumbhaka state where the breath is suspended.

April 19

Pranayama and Meditation

Medical science wants us to believe that breathing is necessary for drawing air into the lungs and expelling it, and that the oxygen in the air purifies the blood.
But air contains more nitrogen than oxygen.
Moreover, a room with a couple of windows is 'well-ventilated' without the walls having to contract and expand, and such a well-ventilated room is capable of purifying itself!
There is perhaps more to breathing than ventilation.
Just as the eyes are the windows of the soul, breathing is a measure of nervous tension and mental activity.
Breathing, mind and nerves, and also blinking of the eyes are all somehow related to one another.
Agitation in one is accompanied by agitation in the others.
Perhaps 'breathing' was intended more to bring about relaxation of the nerves and calming of the mind than just ventilating the lungs.
This thought deserves serious consideration.
If you are absorbed in deep contemplation, the breath slows down, becomes finer and finer, and 'breath flows within the nostrils' as Gurudev put it.
At one stage, when you are absorbed in the Inner Silence, even a little movement of the breath is felt as a great distraction: it is then that kevala kumbhaka (spontaneous suspension of breath) takes place.
The eyes, even if they are open, have a 'faraway' look in them, and they do not blink.
Breathe in and out through alternate nostrils, and watch the character of the flow; you will know the state of your nerves and mind.
Watch: when there is tension, the eyeballs are agitated and tend to 'go up'.
By deliberately turning then downwards, you can check this, too - perhaps that is the purpose of 'looking at the tip of your nose'.
Practise this and realise the truth.

April 20

Is the Body Mine?

When the attention is turned within, the mind does not wander.
You need a key to enable you to become aware of the mind, of its restlessness.
Look at your own breathing: when you become aware of the breathing, you have performed a trick by which you are able to look within yourself.
For instance, if the word 'stupid' enters your ear, immediately there is a reaction.
That reaction will be seen by you.
You are self-conscious: you are going to worry about what somebody else thinks of you.
Observe the movement of that thought.
An important technique to achieve the mental equilibrium, in what is called meditation, is to become aware of the moment of distraction.
You are aware of your breathing until a distracting thought comes.
You are aware of it. It is only a thought; push it away, then the inner tranquillity is restored again.
Then something else comes along, push it.
But you can't push it.
A thought cannot be pushed out.
It comes in and if you do not pay attention to it, it comes in and floats around.
If this simple trick is mastered then you remain calm, the nerves are calm, the body is calm, then you function beautifully.
But the nature of the world is such that there is no static reality.
The body is not static.
Nothing is static.
Billions of actions are taking place in the body.
If you achieve some kind of equanimity, it is being disturbed.
At least 72 times a minute (pulse rate) your inner peace is disturbed, but that disturbance need not really disturb you if your awareness is constant, so that you can function in this world.
They invented all these techniques, physical postures and breathing exercises to enable you to find out the answer to this famous question - 'Is the body mine, is the mind mine?'
You can say neither this nor that, but you can arrive at your own understanding of what the body is and what the mind is.

April 21

The Trick of the Mind

The effect of the physical exercises is not difficult to see and to experience; but when it comes to meditation and satsang, people are disappointed if they do not experience something extraordinary.
The disappointment is greater in satsang because they do not seem to achieve something.
Yet, they who have understood the meaning of meditation and satsang realise that they are more vital than the yoga asanas.
They do not look for achievement, but for the source of the desire for achievement.
That desire is the mischief-maker.
Enlightenment is pushed away by the very desire for enlightenment.
Desire for liberation is the perpetuation of bondage.
Shall we drop the desire for liberation, then?
Oh no, for then there is desire for other things.
Such desire is the source of sorrow in this world.
It is here that one sees the genius of yoga.
The yogi sees that desire for pleasure and possession externalises the mind and thus subjects it to the experience of sorrow.
The yogi is asked to abandon such desire and cultivate dispassion, so that his attention may be focussed within to observe the arising of desire itself.
This focussing of attention is meditation and it is constant, though one has to learn it and practise it as an exercise.
The attention thus focussed reveals a wonderful truth.
Desire for the object arose because the object was seen as the source of pleasure.
Surely, the object seemed to be attractive because the ego-sense, 'I', thought so!
In meditation the yogi discovers that he cannot see what the 'I' is.
When the unreality of the 'I' is realised, the object of experience (whether it is called worldly or spiritual) drops away.
One's own normal every-day life becomes enlightened or divine life.

It is arising of this 'I am this body' idea as Truth which is known as asmita in yoga.
This arises in ignorance.
This is ignorance.
There is no difference between what is known as avidya and what is known as asmita.
Avidya is unwisdom, ignorance - and asmita is 'I am this body'.
Avidya is said to be the cause of asmita.
But what is the cause of water vapour? Water.
That is, the cause is always found in the effect.
Once you learn to look at it this way, then you have understood the entire vedanta.
The effect is non-different from the cause.
The effect is the cause.

April 22

Creating the Atmosphere

In the Yoga Sutras we are given three words which together mean meditation - dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
Dharana is focussing the mind.
If we hold a magnifying glass either very close to or very far away from the ground, the glass is transparent.
It is just a glass and the light which passes through that glass is spread out.
In our case the mind functions like that - the rays of the mind are dissipated, the attention is spread out.
But when you hold a magnifying glass in such a way that the light is concentrated and there is a pin point of light on that spot under the glass, we find that there is tremendous light at one point and all around it is dark.
That is what Patanjali refers to as dharana.
The attention is completely and totally focussed upon the meditation subject.
When it comes to the use of a mantra in japa, you make sure that the whole of your attention is listening to this mantra.
The space around is completely 'dark', and the attention is not dissipated, wasted.
We are not unfamiliar with concentration, but in our case the concentration is brought about by external circumstances, attraction and repulsion.
When you see an interesting face you are terribly concentrated. Your concentration is triggered by that external object, the 'switch' is not with you.
The yogi merely wants to make sure that the switch is with him - not because he thinks he can meditate, but because he can avoid the distraction.
I want to have the switch in my hands so that I can avoid distraction.
When I prevent distractions from arising, then I have created the atmosphere or field conducive to meditation.
In that favourable atmosphere it is possible for meditation to happen.

When you have to make a decision:
1. Deflate all values - both the choices are equally valueless!
Then anxiety ceases.
2. Make the mind calm and with that calm mind look within for the decision-maker.
Who is it?
You will see there is some craving that pops up to claim that chair!
Dismiss him.
"I want to decide - not let a craving decide for me."

April 23

Dhyana - Meditation

The yoga text describes dhyana as containing all thoughts within the framework of whatever holds your attention, without allowing them to stray away.
For instance, repeating a mantra in meditation demands all one's concentration upon the mantra, and observing what happens within oneself during the repetition.
This is good exercise.
However, you do not need a special room or church or temple to meditate.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, should be done in a state of meditation.
The last stage is called samadhi.
This has been wrongly translated as 'trance' and associated with loss of consciousness, strange visions or other extraordinary phenomena.
In search of this people take drugs, smoke marijuana, etc.
According to the yoga text, first there is concentration i.e. the attention is focussed on a particular area.
Then, whatever mental activity goes on, takes place within that area.
Eventually, you become one with that on which the mind is focussed.
The 'I' does not exist; only the 'object' (if it may be called so) of your attention exists.
When this happens, there is samadhi.
The intelligence is steady and tranquil - which is what samadhi implies.
When you rise from your meditation seat and engage yourself in worldly activity, let this inner feeling continue.
Practise meditation in this way every morning, without forgetting that it is only 'a practice' - not the real thing!
Real meditation is to do everything throughout the day in a state of meditation, with your whole being harmonised and focussed upon whatever you are doing from moment to moment.
Please remember that this concentration, this meditation, this samadhi are life itself and not a 'part' of life.
Perhaps 'life' is part of this samadhi!

April 24

Touching the Infinite

Meditation cannot enter into me, I must enter into meditation.
The whole of my mind, the whole of my self, everything, must enter into meditation, as if 'I' does not exist.
That is when 'samadhi' happens.
Samadhi is real meditation; or you can say that all the three - concentration, meditation and samadhi - combined is meditation.
One cannot really say when concentration ends and meditation begins or when meditation ends and samadhi begins.
It is very much like morning and evening - you cannot say exactly at this point day-time ended and night-time started.
One flows into the other, and therefore the three are regarded as one unit.
When you are in deep meditation you are touching the infinite.
Meditation will certainly happen if the ground is ready and the distractions do not arise.
That is, in the initial stages we are battling with these distractions all the time.
At one point we realise that the battle itself keeps the distractions going.
Then we abandon our attention to these distractions and focus all our attention upon the mantra or the object of meditation.
That's all we can do.
The rest of it has to happen by God's Grace.
Once this has happened, it is possible that this spirit of meditation continues throughout the day.
Whilst you were sitting and practising this as an exercise, the mantra or the form of God was the object of meditation.
As you come out of your meditation room, whatever you do at the moment becomes the object of your meditation.
So meditation is not to be confined to a certain part of the day nor to a certain part of the house.
That is where I learn the simple art - how to live totally.
And that spirit continues throughout the day.
The attention may shift from one object to another, but every time there is total attention to that single thing.
The whole being is harmonised and focussed upon that one object.
Then one leads a divine life.

April 25

Self Discovery - The Magic Of Yoga

Please try this: sit and listen to the breathing.
You can even produce a little bit of sound in order to turn the mind within.
Once that is done, keep repeating the mantra, linking it with the breath.
Then starts the most important part of meditation.
You can take up any thread of enquiry that you like. e.g.
'Where does this sound come from?'
'Who is sitting in my body repeating this mantra?'
'Where is it done?'
But that enquiry must be full-blooded, not dull and drowsy.
In meditation the mind turns to look within without any effort - the less effort the better - but without going to sleep.
One has to be tremendously alert - like walking on a precipice.
Buddha gave this hint: "Live in this world as though you are living with a cobra in the room."
Suppose you go back to your room, tired, you want to lie down and sleep, you hear a noise, switch the light on, and see a cobra sitting right on the doorstep.
What would you do?
You would sit there one hundred percent awake, all sleep gone! No-one need teach you concentration at that time, and meditation will come by itself.
The cobra at that time is truly like a mantra, your whole mind is nothing but a cobra.
You would not be able to think of anything else!
That is called meditation - when your whole being is filled with one object.
You must be keenly interested in discovering this truth.
Otherwise the attention will be easily distracted.
While you are repeating this mantra you probably hear an external sound.
It seems as though all these things are happening remotely, you are not involved and so you are quite happy.
Then the sound of a lawnmower becomes insistent, setting, in motion a trend of thought.
After about 10 minutes of drifting away you suddenly 'wake up'.
How and why did that happen?
In the beginning it is a very interesting exercise, if you can treat it so, to watch and discover the distinction between a thought that is not of great interest to you, and another thought which seems to fly away with you.
If you are watchful, vigilant, then you are able to avoid either of these taking you away.
This again, needs a lot of diligent, vigilant practice.
It is not a great miracle or magic - there are no miracles or magic in yoga.
Self-discovery is the greatest and the only magic in yoga.

April 26

Raja yoga

There is another aspect of my personality, and that is the spiritual.
I am practising yoga, I am worshipping God, I am loving all, I am serving all; but I have still not understood who this 'I' is.
I have still not actually discovered that there is this Divine Presence in me, though I accepted it in the beginning as a doctrine, as an axiom from a teacher, from someone who knows.
In order to discover this inner reality or truth they evolved what is known as raja yoga or the meditation techniques.
Through deep meditation we enter into the innermost self to discover that something which is beyond the 'me', beyond the egosense.
It is at the level of this ego-sense that there is a thought that 'I am different from you'.
However much I struggle with what is called karma yoga, or bhakti yoga, I am still only speculating or intellectually rationalising that you and I are one.
I have not actually experienced that.
That experience is possible only if I am able to transcend the ego-sense and get into my innermost self to see there that this is the truth.
If that is the truth there, then the same truth exists in you.
This transcendence of the ego is the crux of the whole yogic process.
If that has not been achieved, nothing has been achieved.
All the rest is exercise.
So they evolved this beautiful system called raja yoga which blended with all the others.
I cannot meditate unless I love God.
I cannot love God, I cannot love you unless my heart has been purified and I have learnt to serve all of you in the faith that you and I are one in God.
That faith which enabled me to serve you now leads me deeper within myself into the innermost recesses of my being, to discover the faith as truth, as reality.
That is raja yoga.

April 27

Divine Will versus Self-effort

A correspondent has written about reconciling 'choice', 'self-effort' and 'God's Will'.
This difficulty arises because we have an image called God's Will.
How do we know what God's will is if we do not know Him?
Funnily, if we enquire 'Where does this image of God's Will arise?', we shall discover that obviously it is in the self, in the 'me'.
And where do the concepts of choice and self-effort arise?
Also in the 'me'.
Thus they are reconciled.
But seriously, "I do not know what God's Will is.
But I am aware that I have a choice in almost every situation and I am aware that that choice is put into effect by self-effort."
Self-effort being action, where does action arise?
Choice being an activity of the mind, where is the mind?
When we look into all this, we discover that the 'mind' thinks it has a choice and it thinks, too, that it can do and not do.
The mind is a shadow cast on the wall on account of the play of 'light and a substance' - the light being God and the substance being His energy (Shakti), together forming Chit-Shakti.
While everything in the universe takes place on account of the play of the Chit-Shakti, the mind merely thinks 'I am the doer', 'I make the choice', and so on.
If all that is only intellectually clear, there is the danger of the mind itself posing to be enlightened and leading us astray into greater darkness.
But if the truth is realised, the shadow (the mind) vanishes.
This is total self-surrender to the Divine Will: from there on there is no choice.
If there is self-effort it is seen as such only by the observers; for 'I' does not exist and all actions proceed from God (Chit-Shakti).
There is no 'I' even to question, "If all is done according to His Will, what is the point of self-effort?"

April 28

Awakening of Intelligence

'Knock and it shall be opened unto you.'
But how does one get to the knocker?
The first requisite is a resolute determination not to blame others or oneself for the problems that plague the ignorant life.
This fault-finding prevents fact-finding enquiry.
Secondly, any cosmetic remedial measure must be seen to be worse than useless.
Killing pain is immobilizing the warning system. A danger.
Escape from sorrow leads to the tragedy of drug-addiction and moral and spiritual death.
Sorrow points to the ego: what hurts and is hurt is the ego.
In this sense it is noble.
But if you regard sorrow as a trap and run away from it, you will walk into a worse trap.
When all life is seen as an inescapable trap, and the mind sees no sense in struggling, it (the mind) is still.
This stillness is not of death, nor of inertia or unawareness.
It is undivided awareness in which there is no movement of either acceptance or rejection, and neither the euphoria of imagined transcendence nor the depression of doom.
When the mind is still, it is 'no-mind'.
Dehydrated water is no water.
Stillness itself is the antidote to the ills that a restless mind creates.
Muddy water, if left alone, clears up.
There arises clarity.
It is possible to look within with intense clarity.
This is the awakening of intelligence.
It is this awakened intelligence alone that is capable of asking the right questions in the right manner and finding the right answers.
The mind does not know how to ask, what to ask and whom to ask!
It generally raises some silly questions, provides comforting answers and feels quite satisfied - all this is waste of time and futile.
The awakened intelligence realises that sorrow is the fact of all unexamined life, and does not seek a remedy but endeavours to understand it by proper investigation.

April 29

Wake Up and See What is Real

There is a trick in logic which is called the circular argument or begging the question.
One such is the statement, "Gods dwell in heaven and demons dwell in hell."
Why is it heaven?
Because Gods dwell there.
Why are they Gods?
Because They dwell in heaven.
Why is it hell?
Because demons dwell there.
Why are they demons?
Because they live in hell.
A neat circular argument, unbeatable.
I am not saying there are no demons or Gods.
I am not saying there is no hell or heaven.
Maybe all these things exist.
But our problem is a very simple one.
We are living a life of frustration brought about by just this one word: 'mine'.
Not whether there is hell or heaven, nor whether there are gods or demons, nor whether you and I are heading towards heaven or hell.
Our present problem is whether it is possible for us here and now to live without being enslaved by this sense of possession.
We are not to abandon something which is real - such a renunciation is very difficult.
We are asked to investigate, to see if 'I' is real.
I cannot say "I don't exist".
Therefore, to abandon the self is impossible.
We are not asked to do that.
The master asks "Is 'mine' also real?"
Have you investigated it, looked into it?
If you are quite certain, after investigation, that what you think you possess you do possess, then don't abandon it.
That is called realisation, whether Self-realisation or God-realisation.
See what is real and in the process of this investigation what is not real just drops away.
Where do we start, especially in this 'mine'?
It really is a mine.
If you put your foot down it explodes to the right, to the left and in the centre.
The worst of all the explosions is the resistance to investigation.
We are put to sleep and we are not allowed to wake up and look.
Sleep, not in the physical sense - that may be necessary for you and me - but sleep in the deeper, spiritual sense.
In part of that sleep are dreams and that's what's going on.
In that dream which you call the world, these relationships exist: "I am yours, you are mine".
When you wake up the whole thing is gone, because it wasn't there in the first place.
When we are caught up in this long spiritual sleep, how do we wake ourselves up?
We need Grace.
Whatever be the name you give to it, we need divine intervention in order to wake up from this spiritual sleep.

April 30

Seeking the Source of Wisdom

What is the source of wisdom?
Jesus said: "The kingdom of God is within you," but that was Jesus' realisation, not yours.
It is not enough simply to believe this.
'Tat tvam asi' (that thou art) is the Guru's realisation, not yours.
The Master's realisation must become your realisation, otherwise it is not real.
Until that time the sources of wisdom are the scriptures and the guru.
In the Gita, Krishna says: "Therefore the scripture is your authority."
We can possibly depend on the scripture alone, but that is not easy.
You read the scripture and your own mind interprets it.
Shankaracarya in Viveka Cudamani says that for the wise and for the idiot scriptures are of no use.
The Bhagavad Gita says that truth can be known if you resort to a Guru.
What does the Guru do to you?
He teaches you, converses with you.
So, the scripture is a visual source and the teacher is an audiovisual source.
There is something more: non-verbal communication.
Together all these form our sources of wisdom
Since we cannot draw upon the source of wisdom within ourselves, we look outside.
Who is it that looks outside for wisdom?
Me! 'I' want wisdom.
What is the nature of that 'me'?
Who is I?
What is seeking that wisdom?
The receptacle of the inspiration for the arousal of this inner wisdom is what matters most.
It should be uncluttered and uncoloured.
That is why the great masters insist that the preparation for Self-realisation is more difficult and more important than Self-realisation itself!
Hence Krishna insists: 'Yoga should be practised for self-purification - atma suddhaye."
Meditation and yoga practice purify the inner receptacle so that the inspiration is undistorted.
The inner receptacle is called buddhi, awakened intelligence.
It is not wisdom itself, it is not yet capable of rising to those heights where you see just oneness alone in all diversity.
That is wisdom or jnana, which is practically non-different from the awakened intelligence - but one step ahead, perhaps.

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