Yoga and Your Soul

[Recorded on Nov 18, 2014.]

A student asked Guruji about Kriya yoga.

Guruji replied: “I will give you the definition in one sentence: You will be able to make your conscious mind unconscious, and your subconscious mind conscious. When that happens a new world will open up! This is the climax, or the biggest achievement of Hatha yoga. No other system in the world comes even close. This practice will always remain a mystery, and open only for very sincere seekers.

“Who cares for their own soul? They are ready to give it up.  Both God and the Devil are after your soul; nobody is telling you to keep it. As a yogi, I say it is the only immortal substance you have; don’t give away your soul. Make it your friend. It can tell you so many things from the other side! No religion in the world, not a single one, actually tells you or teaches you who created your soul.

“In Gorakhbodh, in the conversation between the two great gurus of yoga, Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath, Guru Matsyendranath made a fantastic statement: A state will come when the soul becomes the guru and mind becomes the disciple. Then the real journey will begin. So, I can guide you to that level and after that your soul will take it further.

“No religion talks about the origin of the soul. Only our line of yoga teaches you to how make your soul your friend. And it may start liking you and tell you its secrets. Why? Because only friends share secrets. The world says you are my disciples but I consider you my friends. Why? Because only friends share secrets. A friend is a friend.”

Genius and the Story of a Hen

The following phone conversation was recorded on Sep 5, 2006 around 8:30pm PST.

I asked Guruji what is the right definition of genius. My friends and I had a long debate about it in the afternoon and I thought only Guruji can resolve it. His answer was not only spot on, but also gave us a new perspective to think from.

Guruji said, “A genius is someone who has unlimited vision or imagination, who has awakened their consciousness way more than ordinary people. See, imagination is the strongest force of the mind. A genius is one who has the super combination of intellect and imagination, and the capacity to realize it.

“Another thing to consider: All scientific truths that are being discovered today, they have been around since forever. The laws of physics or the rules of mathematics or arts, they have always existed. We were not aware, so we were not able to understand them. The genius who discovered a scientific truth had a developed mind, and he became aware, or conscious, of it and was able to express it. It depends on the level of consciousness. To be stupid or a genius, it’s all in the mind. Whatever our mind conceives, that’s how we behave and express in our lives. When someone says ‘blessing from above’, it really means their own mind.”

I asked Guruji if it is the same as when we sit idly and let our minds wander.

Guruji said, “Idle imagination is not the same thing. That is building castles in the air which never materializes. The fundamental principle is that when the mind comes across a truth or a fact, like an object or a specific form or some event, which triggers some thought, that will lead to real imagination. The Yoga Darshan principle applies here, ‘what the mind attaches to, it absorbs its essence.’ It fires up your imagination, that this is possible and that is possible, and you keep following that to reach the truth. And see, only that person advances in life who can think through a problem from all angles. A man should not be like a hen. Most of them are.”

I asked, “How so, Guruji?”

Guruji then told me an amazing story how he found this wisdom. “My brother kept a poultry farm in Gwalior of White Leghorn chicken,” Guruji said. “One day a veterinarian doctor was visiting. He showed us this experiment. He put a hen on a table and drew a line in front of it with white chalk. Then he touched her head and beak to the line 3-4 times to make sure she has seen it, and then released her. He claimed that the hen will not move; she will keep seeing the chalk-line and think that she is confined in it.

“Even though it was not a wall – it was just a chalk-line and she could have easily walked over it and moved about – the hen stood there for hours. I was shocked! Isn’t that what is happening with all of us? In our society, religion? In our minds? Whatever lines we have drawn we feel confined in them. We are open on all sides but we never explore that. That’s why I say, open your mind, change your point of view and then everything will be okay. Most people live their lives like that hen; their beak has touched the line and now they can’t cross it.”

“Wow!” That’s all I could say.

Guruji continued, “It was an amazing experiment. And the hen literally stood there the entire day and didn’t move. She could have easily flown away. But she got trapped behind that line. Just like we get trapped in our mental limitations. What is bondage? Which limits our freedom to explore the great world. It’s like that story: A man called on his neighbour, ‘Did you know that Neil Armstrong went to the moon?’. The neighbour replied, ‘Even I might go somewhere if I could get a moment free from the daily grind.’”

Guruji laughed and said, “Now I am surrounded. Vakeel Sahab has come for reporting.” Vakeel Sahab is Guruji’s lawyer who would come in the morning and discuss events and plan for the day over a cup of tea. That would usually be the end of our phone conversation. I said Pranam. He said, “Khush raho.”

Senses, Sadhus, and Sanyāsīs

Q: “Guruji, in the fight between viveka (discrimination) and mana (heart), does mana always win?”

Guruji: “You can say in the conflict of heart and mind, the heart always wins. Viveka is but a part of the mind.”

Q: “Isn’t mana (heart) a servant of the senses?”

Guruji: “No, it’s the commander.”

Q: “Then why do people say that it got entangled in senses?”

Guruji: “Those people now look like idiots to me. You are a computer specialist. Tell me this: There are so many buttons on a computer. Are they all useless? When god made senses, why did he make them? Truth is that people are not able to command the machinery of the body, or master it, that’s why they keep complaining. They are scared about what will happen if the wrong button gets pushed. That’s why should learn control of the entire body, how to use it. These are useless talks about senses and mana, etc. Ultimately it’s the mind which is working. When you wiggle your toes, does it wiggle by itself or is it by a command from your brain?

“Let me tell you an incident: A sadhu came to visit here. As soon as he entered, he saw dīdī [Guruji’s sister – Mataji] and covered his eyes. We later found out that doesn’t look at women. Everywhere he goes, women are first removed from his path, then only he proceeds further. I told him never to come back. Instead of removing women from your sight, why don’t you just gouge your eyes out.

“In this fervor to not ever look at any woman, he must have developed a negative attachment towards them. He must be careful all the time that he doesn’t accidently look at any woman. He will never be normal again. And it’s not like his father gave birth to him! And let’s say even if he did not see the face of a woman his entire life, what did he really accomplish with that? He wouldn’t even realize what he lost. It’s the height of stupidity. Now he’ll claim ‘I have controlled my senses since I haven’t seen any woman.’ So what? There are many blind people who don’t see them.

“I feel that all the later religions, which formed world over after the so-called dark period, they all somehow went into negation. Judeo-Christians say you are born in sin, so everybody is filled with guilt all the time. Or some say you should have non-attachment. If you are not attached to anything, then what’s the point of doing anything? The old vedic way of life was very natural. We should be totally down to earth.

“I have also seen some idiots – I was going to use a heavier curse word but there are people sitting here – some idiots who even quarreled with their mothers saying ‘You are
(illusion). You’ve destroyed me by giving birth to me!’ This is all stupidity and nothing else. If there were no senses, man would go insane.

“It’s just a part of business. First create confusion among people, and then preach them their entire lives. If you don’t create confusion, nobody will ask how to get out of it. Eventually you’ll be in an important position, since you can teach people how to get out of confusion, and so on. Then will come saints and bishops and mahaṁtas (abbots). And the common man, who was leading a simple life, these people twist and bend and shred his life into a thousand pieces and drain it down the toilet. Generally people are happy before meeting sadhus and
sanyāsīs (renunciates).

“That’s why Lahiri Mahasaya used to advise people to stay away from sadhus. Also, as I’ve discussed this many times, sanyāsīs remain expelled from śmaśāna (cremation grounds). Śmaśāna is Shiva and Shakti’s place, and only a worldly man has entry. Sanyāsīs are either drowned in rivers or buried in earth. And those who are not allowed in śmaśāna, what’s the guarantee that they’ll achieve emancipation or not? Actually it’s a fact that they don’t. If Shiva-ji has refused them entry in His house, how can they be free? The become ghosts and wander around. I’ve seen hundreds of ghosts of sadhus in Rishikesh and Vrindavan. Those sadhus who are buried usually become ghosts.

“Always remember Ghalib’s words:
जन्नत का राज़ कुछ और है ग़ालिब, खुदा की बात कुछ अफवाह सी नज़र आती है |
(‘The secret of heaven is something else. The god concept now feels like made up.’)”


Manifesting the Immortal Substance

Q: “Guruji, are mana (mind), buddhi (intellect), viveka (discrimination) the same or different?”

Guruji: “In totality it’s the Mind. Just like hands, legs, head, etc are different organs of the same man, similarly buddhi, viveka, etc are different parts of the mind. Mind is basically one.”

Q: “Then why do we have conflict in the mind?”

Guruji: “It’s actually a mechanism induced by Nature inside us to gain knowledge. How will you draw a conclusion if you don’t think from different directions? Without friction there’s no energy, and every conflict is created by nature to generate energy. Without conflicts we’d all be leading a vegetable life.”

Q: “Does that mean conflicts are induced from outside?”

Guruji: “It just means that the mind is processing what you are experiencing. Those who don’t understand that get worried about the conflicting thoughts in their mind. See, as soon as you see or hear anything, you are mentally involved. The mind will store and process the information, and until it reaches some conclusion there will be conflicts appearing in the mind.

“Quiet mind doesn’t mean an inert position. Einstein said when an object travels at the speed of light, it is in the perfect rest condition. Those who appear quiet, may be the speed of their mind is way too high. This means that their mind is working or vibrating at a rate which is beyond our imagination, so we think it is inert, but it is too fast for us. When we say that someone has become inert in samādhi, it may mean that they have gone in the perfect rest condition, and their consciousness has gone beyond the light-speed and is vibrating in a very high realm. This is exactly what happens.

“It is like the story of the caterpillar and the butterfly. Caterpillar is not trained to see the butterfly who will fly away leaving the cocoon behind when the time comes, while the caterpillar mourns for the cocoon. Life is a deep thing.”

Q: “Sometimes there are conflicts between different actions as well, which has different results. For example, should I eat tasty food or do some exercise.”

Guruji: “Instead of hankering after the memory of food, it’s better to eat it and be done with it. You should also remember that taste doesn’t fill your stomach. So fill taste, but not stomach. Stomach will fill only with bread, not with chocolate. This is a proof of the advancement of human civilization that we invented chocolate: No bird has been able to make omelette even though eggs come them them only. Similarly no cow can make yogurt or ghee even though it produces the milk.”

Q: “It makes sense. But sometimes I wonder if such processing actually means we are going from natural to unnatural.”

Guruji: “In a way it is not, as I’ve already said that to make ghee is like going from mortality to immortality.”

Q: “How?”

Guruji: “Here’s how: People say that the soul is omnipresent, and everybody has a soul which is immortal. But even though we have an immortal substance inside us, we still die. What is immortality then? Somebody asked me that so I gave them this answer:

“Cow gives milk. Milk has ghee in it, but in the raw milk it is not visible. And despite the presence of that immortal substance, the milk goes bad or sour. The process to extract ghee from milk is like a yogic discipline: first you heat milk then cool it off, then turn it into yoghurt, then churn the yogurt, then take the butter out, then heat the butter, and then the substance which comes out, ghee, is immortal. Pure ghee doesn’t go bad even in hundreds of years. Similarly, soul is in everybody which is immortal. But those who don’t go through this process, through yogic austerities, they’ll never realize its immortality nor will they ever experience their soul.”

Q: “Wow!”

Guruji: “Mind blowing, isn’t it? The soul is omnipresent, but to reveal it or to manifest it we have to do tapasyā. Just like ghee comes out of milk after so many transformations, similarly, with yoga sādhanā after so many transformations a man reaches his immortal substance, which was always inside him. But to bring it forth, he has to go through through these transforming processes.

“Anybody could wag their tongue that the soul is omnipresent. Yes, we know it’s omnipresent; who doesn’t know that? (laughs) But how to catch it, how to realize it, how to make it appear? That will not be possible without tapasyā. Everybody has a body and a soul; every cow gives milk. But here a realized master, a man of knowledge, a guru is needed, who knows how to extract ghee out of the milk, who can tell you everything about the body and it’s potential and how to transform it. Those who mislead people into philosophy shouldn’t be considered as gurus.”

Q: “This also proves why tapasyā is necessary for everyone.”

Guruji: “Tapasyā is only necessary for those who want to do it, who have understood. For someone who is beginning to understand his divinity, who is beginning to realize, ‘how I look is not really everything I am. I could develop to a much more sublime height, I could even be immortal. All the necessary ingredients are within me. I should learn all the processes for this development, and I am ready for all the physical and mental transformations as a result of these processes.’

“It takes time to understand these things – took me years. In the beginning, everybody repeats the common words: self realization or god realization. That’s all! But ‘self realization’ describes this exactly. God realization is a vague thing, but self realization is closer to the reality.”


About Hope, Mind, and Experiences

Guruji: “The feeling of hopelessness has two very different meanings. One is, a person had some setbacks and he lost hope. This is called getting hopeless on the way of pursuing something. The other one is, the person didn’t carry any hope in his endeavor right from the beginning. This is beginning hopelessly, but there was faith that propelled him to move forward. The latter can take a person to great heights, because whatever will happen with him will be unexpected and thus will bring more joy in his life!

“An old Hindi poem describes this feeling of hopelessness most beautifully! It goes like this:

चिंता क्या है धरती टूटी उड़ने को आकाश बहुत है
जाने क्यूँ तुमसे मिलने की आशा कम विश्वास बहुत है
(Why worry if the earth breaks, there is unending sky for my flight
Don’t know why but to meet you I have very little hope but a lot of faith)”

Q: “So that means faith is more important than hope.”

Guruji: “Undoubtedly! Hope is only our imagination. Though I agree that hope helps a person ride through the gravest of the situations, but ultimately it also causes a lot of pain. A person should have faith in himself, and should not let hope control his life. We should all have a general plan of our lives in our mind.”

Q: “Is that what the sloka in Gita ‘Karmanye vadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana’ refers to?”

Guruji: “I think it is described somewhere in the second or third chapter in Gita, about hopelessness. Read it in detail, it’s simply amazing.”

Q: “Yes it’s written here, chapter 3, sloka 30:
अध्यात्म चित्त से समस्त कर्म मुझमे अर्पित कर निराश और निर्मम होकर संताप रहित हुआ युद्ध कर ।

(With a spiritual resolve of mind, offering all karmas unto me, with hopelessness and detachment (nirmam), without being infuriated, go fight the war).”

Guruji: “Nirmam means a state of mind when the feeling of I, me, myself, or mine is not there. It doesn’t mean being cruel. Try to break down the word and then read its meaning. Mam means ‘mine’, and so nirmam means something that’s ‘not mine’. This word has no correlation with cruelty, but in general Hindi it is used for cruelty and barbarism. But the truth is, to be cruel is one thing, and to be nirmam is another. I feel that by just dissecting the words in a language carefully, we can understand a lot of things on our own.”

Q: “Guruji, I wonder what should we do about our mann (mind or heart). It just keeps controlling our lives forever.”

G: “Mind is itself a form of the divine (bhagvatswaroop). Its task is to control our lives. And the reason behind it is that its destination, the plan of its destiny, is already fixed. That’s why the mind should be observed along with our habits. There are two kinds of minds – the outer mind and the inner mind. One should always listen to the voice inside. This will always guide you according to your true capabilities and the plan of your destiny, and will bloom the flowers of dreams and desires in you to propel you towards your destiny.

“Don’t ever believe anybody who claims that he has controlled his mind and let go of his desires. And I can say so because it’s mentioned in Gita itself that mind is Time only! How can anybody control or kill Time? If we proceed according to the plan Time has for us, it will guide us to our destiny and mount us to the peak of success. It’s not possible to kill your mind. If you kill your mind, your existence will cease. And then again, as our nature is built in such a way that the existence of even the tiniest molecule remains forever. To cease existence of mind is not possible at all. No annihilation!”

Q: “In that case, if a person’s heart is stuck in something, say mountaineering, can they never become a yogi?”

Guruji: “Mountaineering is not something a person will do all his life. It’s just a temporary frame of mind, an ambition for when you are young and healthy, like Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest once and then he was done with it. He didn’t climb it everyday. Ultimately it was a training and experience for his mind. He wished to climb mountains and so he conquered the highest mountain in the world. But what next? Now he is sitting idle. But, he’s also accompanied by a huge amount of satisfaction. And his achievement needed him to be extraordinarily skilled, with a fine tuning between body and mind, a strong body and quick reflexes. It is because of these attributes he was able to become a mountaineer. That he was a mountaineer is just a small reflection of his personality. But try to imagine the depth his entire personality must have achieved after going through these experiences. What he must have felt when he set foot on the peak of Mount Everest is something that only belongs to him. We hear his tales but we can’t feel what he felt at that moment. For most of the people, it was just an act of climbing up and down. But I totally believe that Edmund Hillary before he climbed up and Edmund Hillary when he climbed down were two completely different personalities.

“The root cause of all problems is looking at life in various different pieces. Why, are mountains not a part of our existence? So why not climb them?”

Q: “Guruji, how can a person distinguish between the voice inside and superficial desires?”

Guruji: “Think of it this way: A kid loves to play with his toys. He can play with his toys for hours but that is his superficial desire. When his inner desire takes over, he forgets about the toys and remembers his mother. And with increasing maturity, i.e., with the development of his mind, his reflections, likes, dislikes, and reactions will go on evolving or changing. A kid keeps running to his mother for milk, and after growing up, just the feeling of sitting near her keeps him warm and happy. The inner desire means the dormant feelings that have grown so much that they start showing up on the surface very clearly.

“Always think of and about life in totality. Whether you do scuba diving or mountaineering or anything else, ultimately it’ll just add something to your mind and persona.”

Q: “You mean any activity?”

Guruji: “These activities are also experiences. And once you’ll do them, the excitement will die and you won’t feel like having the same experience again because you’ll have its flavor inside you.”

Q: “But sometimes Guruji, when we don’t feel like doing anything, we just stay seated for hours. Is that also an experience?”

Guruji: “Those are contemplative times. There is something going inside your heart. The mind in such situations withdraws itself from the normal day to day life and reflects on something – whether consciously or subconsciously. That’s why the outside activities appear still or slowed down. You should feel these times as well, remaining seated and letting the mind have its silent time. Once all the inner batteries are charged, you’ll be out of this phase and feel more rejuvenated than ever. So once in a while it’s okay to experience this kind of a state.”

Q: “I keep evaluating myself and sometimes i have a strong desire to perform, and sometimes I feel laid back.”

Guruji: “Let this be an important lesson. Over-evaluating also leads to a lot of tension and complications. You can’t always remain in one particular mood. If you are experiencing some mood, enjoy it, and after a few days when you come out of it, look back and reflect on it. It’s very difficult to understand a mood in its beginning phase. Only after it ends can you fully understand it.

“Sometimes it’s not about any mood but it feels good to sit idle, because the mind also gets tired and needs some rest. Your work doesn’t involve any physical stress, it’s all mental as you have to concentrate for long hours at a stretch.”

Q: “The evening exercise routine that you’ve told me is wonderful! It takes away all the mental stress and also relieves my eye strain.”

Guruji: “Oh! About that, even our avatars (divine incarnations) have said ‘if you are mentally tired, exercise’. And if you are physically tired, then indulge in some mental exercises. Both are very much connected. If you physically exert your body through exercising, your mind will automatically become happy and active. There are many references available on the various harmones that get released with exercising, that reduce stress, rejuvenate your mind and body, and also help you sleep better. Exercising also adds to an overall feeling of well being due to which our reflections gets better and clarity of mind sharpens. Ultimately it has a major effect on the performance of a person. And what else is there in life except performance? Life itself is a performance. After death even Yamraaj (lord of death) judges you by your performance in life.

“A man should always be practical in life. By being practical I mean he should always be down to earth. Have you ever laid down in mud? No? Is there some facility of mud-bath in America?”

Q: “Yes, there are a lot of mud-bath spas around here.”

Guruji: ” Then you should try it. You’ll really enjoy it. Mud is a direct connection with earth. There you’ll have to pay for it, otherwise here you can just lie down on the ground anywhere during rains. It’s a natural mud-bath. But you’ll definitely feel something immediately. After all, mud is mud.”