Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Question: Can one start to practise meditation without having practised any preliminary stages?
Answer: If you are able to sit quietly for ten minutes without any problem in the body, then you can start meditation directly.
Question: In what way is meditation different from hypnosis?
Answer: Meditation belong to the state of spiritual consciousness, whereas hypnotism belongs to the state of mental consciousness. In hypnosis you withdraw the mental consciousness and the mind undergoes a state of rigor mortis. There is no expansion of mind, but there is a lot of drama. In meditation, it is just the opposite; there is no withdrawal, there is expansion of consciousness. The consciousness which was subject to time, space and object expands beyond the borders of the mind and beyond the frontiers of name, space and form.
In hypnosis the inner consciousness does not become effulgent, whereas in meditation the inner consciousness is full, complete and homogeneous. It is total. In hypnosis the process of knowledge comes to a point of cessation, but in meditation, the process of knowledge begins. Another important point is that a person who comes out of hypnosis is a subject, whereas a person who comes out of meditation is a guru, a master. That is the very fundamental difference.
When you come out of hypnosis, your qualities are dormant and you are a suppressed human being. You cannot do anything with conviction and confidence. Unless your controller tells you to do something, you can't do it. You are in under developed personality when you come out of hypnosis, and therefore, hypnosis can also be responsible for mental retardation. On the other hand, when you practise meditation, your soul becomes effulgent; your conscious expands. You develop confidence and conviction and you become a master of the process of the mind. You are in control; you are the master of the situations of your life and it is you who makes all the decisions, not somebody else. Even your guru becomes a second entity because you become the guru of your own self.
Question: Apart from the relaxation and health benefits, is there a deeper purpose of practising meditation?
Answer: The purpose of meditation is to develop super awareness, which should take charge of all the affairs of life, replacing the mind just as in presidential rule the Governor takes charge of all the affairs of the state when the cabinet does not function. In the same way, when we know that, this mind is not able to conduct the affairs of life properly, when it is creating torture, agony and suffering, we say, 'No, the mind is not a good director. the limited mind must be replaced by a super power, super awareness, but the problem is that there is no super awareness. Therefore, we practise meditation to develop intuitive awareness.
Question: Is position important in meditation?
Answer: In the beginning you can practise in a chair or any posture, but when you are regular with meeditation and when you are practising it for longer periods of time, then you must sit in padmasana, siddhasana or siddha yoni asana. Siddhasana is for men and siddha yoni asana for women.
During intense meditation, when the mind is dropping and when tranquility is coming fast, coronary behaviour slackness, blood pressure drops and the nervous tensions and impulses decrease. This is good, but only to some extent!. The blood pressure should not fall too much, otherwise there will be depression in the nervous sytem. So, to prevent this you must practise siddhasana or siddha yoni asana. In siddhasana the perineum is pressed. This influences the level of the testosterone hormone in the body, which in turn regulates the blood pressure and controls the impulses of the nervous system, ensuring that nervous depression will not result.
So serious practitioners should master padmasana first and then become adepts at siddhasana or siddha yoni asana.
Question: Why do sanyyasins sit on a deer or tiger skin for meditation?
Answer: There are many reasons why these skins are used for meditation and any aspirant may sit on them. Firstly the skin represents the animal nature of man. Hence, sitting on the skin symbolizes sitting over the controlling one's animal tendencies.
Secondly, sanyyasins used to practise long hours of meditation in the forests where they were exposed to all sorts of wild animals and insects. They sat on an animal skin because it had a powerful scent which warded off animals, snakes, scorpions and other creatures.
Thirdly, the tiger is a very powerful animal. If you look at one, you will feel its powerful magnetism. The skin retains some of the magnetism and if you sit on it, you are automatically enclosed in its electro magnetic field.
Fourthly, when you sit in meditation for long periods, the heart rate and the circulatory system slow down, the inner body temperature drops, and in particular, the lower part of the body becomes cold. The skin acts as insulation, keeping the body, especially the lower part, warm.
Beginners can start their meditation practices by sitting on a simple cloth and then as they progress and extend their periods of practice, they can use a deer skin. Once they are able to sit in meditation for hours, they can use a tiger skin. However, in India the tradition is that those who do not practise yoga regularly use a grass or cloth mat for meditation, householders who are involved in yogic practices use a deer skin and sanyyasins use a tiger skin.
Question: For how long one should practise meditation each day?
Answer: For meditation I recommend minimal practice since I believe in quality not quantity. One small bomb can do the work of ten big guns! Therefore, you can accomplish in five minutes as much as you might accomplish in one hour if you practise with total integration of the different faces of your personality.
If you have many attachments to life, if you have plenty of commitments, and if life is what you want then the period of meditation should be short. But if you have perfected your detachment, if life has no attraction for you, and if your mind has become comparatively quiet and tranquil, then you can practise as long as you want. I have been teaching yoga for the past thirty five years and I think that ten minutes is the right time for everyone. As one evolves and throws off the material attachments, he can increase the period.
Question: What is the importance of kaya sthariyam?
Answer: "Kaya" means body and "sthariyam" means stability or steadiness. When you sit for meditation, the body should not move. It should become immobile like a statue. This is the first sadhana one has to practise.
Many people come to me for spondylitis or back pain, and often I just tell them to sit perfectly motionless -- first day for one minute, second day for two minutes, after one week seven minutes, and so forth. Keep repeating to yourself, "No movement, become like a statue." This is the simplest way to get rid of many diseases of the back and spinal column.
What happens when you make the body very stiff?
The heart becomes normalized because you relieve the pressure The nervous system, ida and pingala are harmonized. During the period of immobility, the flow of prana and consciousness throughout the 72,000 nadis is not required for the functioning of the body at any particular point, so it is withdrawn. This helps in meditation. Kaya sthariyam is the first thing that the meditator must acquire. The best position for this practice is siddhasana, then padmasana, bhadrasana and finally sukhasana.
Question: What is the difference between the states of consciousness caused by drugs and meditation?
Answer: Drug induced experience totally deprives one of any control, one is helplessly tossed about by the emotions. Meditation, however, is a creative process which converts the chaos of uncontrolled feelings, thoughts and volitions into a center of integrated psychic faculties in life depth of consciousness.
Moreover, the deleterious physiological and psychological effects result in deterioration of mental powers. Meditation is impossible unless you are ready for an expansion of consciousness, and not every person is ready. Drugs, however, can induce an experience for which one is not ready. The experience depends on the contents of the individual mind. The same drug may give one person a wonderful new experience, and another a very frightening experience which overwhelms him.
Yoga is the safe and sure method of attaining mystical experiences, for it initially cleans and remoulds the whole mind and personality. It is based on the rich experiences attained by yogis throughout the ages, as well as modern scientific research.
Question: What is the most powerful meditation practice?
Answer: Well, it is very difficult to say which is the most powerful practice. You must try them all one by one and find out which is the best for you. But if you ask me which is the easiest, that I can say. Slow and steady wins the race. Just close your eyes, fix the mind on the nosetip and follow the breath. That's all. Do it a number of times during the day, whenever it is possible.
Question: Please explain the difference between a yogi and a philosopher?
Answer: Was Socrates a yogi or a philosopher? Socrates was not a philosopher, he was a yogi, a knower of the truth. I also have a philosophy but I am not a philosopher. The word "philosopher" we mean a person who teaches one system and says "This is this", but Socrates was a seeker of truth; he was a yogi.
The yogi is experiencing the truth and the philosopher is trying to explain the order of the realization of the truth. Just like a politician, he plays politics. He doesn't necessarily know anything; he is a statesman. But a political philosopher gives an explanation, organization and interpretation of the system of politics and his whole philosophy revolves around that. Whereas Socrates was a yogi. Plato was a political philosopher and Marcus Aurelius was a yogi who had a philosophy.
Question: What is the relationship between the ancient sciences of ayurveda, rasayana and tantra yoga?
Answer: In India we have four Vedas and these are accepted as the oldest written books in the library of mankind. They are estimated to have been written 5,000 years ago. The last Veda; chronologically, is known as "Atharva Veda". This is very rich Veda containing so many different sciences, not only Ayurveda, Rasayana and Tantra, but archery, siddha yoga, medicine and so many more. It also contains the sciences of hypnotism and magic. All these sciences form an integral part of "Atharva Veda.".
Ayurveda means the science of life. It is not the science of medicine. Our modern science is known it medical science because it studies diseases and talks about medicines and drugs that can be used in their treatment. However, ayurveda talks not of medicines and diseases, but of the lifespan itself and how to enhance it. "Ayur" in Sanskrit meas life. If I am sixty years old, they will say my ayur is sixty. It means that life I have gone through in sixty years.
"Veda" means knowledge or science. The purpose of ayurveda was to give man a science to improve his life at every stage. This science developed and evolved in India over many centuries. they picked up the knowledge of an infinite number of herbs from the Himalayas, and those herbs are still used today. they utilized the ashes of herbs and plants as well. Then, somewhat later, they began to burn metals like gold and silver, and they used their ashes therapeutically. This particular branch of ayurveda turns metals into bhasma. this was a very special science in ancient India, and even today it is very much alive. It is a secret but very simple system in which no electricity or modern appliances are needed. First an earthen vessel is prepared, just as refractory bricks are used in furnaces today. Into that vessel the gold is placed and then the whole thing is sealed and put into a fire for a number of hours. When they remove the vessel and open it up, the ashes are ready.
What is the use of taking gold ashes internally?
Well, gold is a most beautiful and enduring substance. It is non-reactive, it will never tarnish, corrode or decay. Gold is an immortal, ageless metal. If you can wear gold for beauty, then perhaps you can eat it also!
SCIENCE OF RASAYANA
The science of rasyana arose as another system capable of beneficially influencing the health of mankind. This is the system of basic chemistry in each and every thing, and this science is still known to this day.
At the same time, the Indians came to understand that diseases often live in this body and they are not from the body. The diseases originate from karma. Certain diseases originate on account of your nature and temperament. Others stem from emotional reactions. For example, inherent fear can create a physical disease like tumor. In the same way anxiety can kill a man due to heart attack, jealously can create hyper-acidity. the origin of disease is a subtle and complicated study that is often difficult to pinpoint with complete accuracy.
It is true that some physical diseases are due to deficiencies in the body, but that alone is not the end of the story. Therefore, the science of Tantra was gradually discovered and evolved. It provided a means of overhauling the whole inner mind and inner body. As time passed, Hindus came to know more and more about the real nature and origins of man's sufferings. They realized that thee was not just one but seven bodies, gross and subtle. Now if you have only one body, ayurvedic medicine will definitely suffice to make you disease free. But you have more than one body and each has its own nature of disease.
Supposing I have lost my beloved, my nearest and dearest one, and I don't sleep by day or night. What can poor ayurveda do? This is why modern medical science has failed, and this is why drugs and medicines often prove inefficacious. It is because the other bodies are sick. The problem lies beyond the realm of the physical body.
So tantra is the basic science of all man's bodies. It takes care of them all. Therefore, ayurveda, rasyana, siddha yoga and tantra are all supplementary and complementary sciences. As such, we do not believe in comparison. We believe in the complementary. If this is good and that is good, and both are combined, good plus good will be even better.
What are the spiritual methods for relieving tensions of the mind?
If the tension is too acute, one should leave home for some time and stay in a peaceful environment such as that of an ashram. This is the first step.
The second is Satsang. When something is wrong with your car you take it to a garage and leave it with a good mechanic for a few days. He will find out what is wrong with the car and clean and service it. Likewise, when there is a lot of tension in your mind the best thing to do is to put your car into the hands of a good mechanic. Satsang is the best way. If the tension is not acute, then a few asanas, pranayama and the practice of yoga nidra can be undertaken.
Tension are threefold - muscular, mental and emotional. If the muscular tension is due to over exercise you need to rest a little more. If it is due to lack of exercise then you have to make yourself more active. If your tension is mental, due to a lot of thinking and day-dreaming, then you should work hard through karma yoga to give direction to your mind. Mental tensions arise when you have too much time to think. Emotional tension, due to love, hatred, death, etc., are more difficult to eliminate and have to be handled with accurate precision through bhakthi yoga. For the relief of these threefold tensions one has to follow the spiritual path.
Question: Can one reach the goal of self-realization through the paths of jnana or bhakthi yoga?
Answer: Self-realization cannot be reached by any yoga because it is not a distance. It is a state of mind, a state of consciousness which is here even now. You don't have to go a long way. Karma yoga, bhakthi yoga, raja yoga or dhyana yoga do not lead one to self-realization.
Karma Yoga purifies the chitta or mind; bhakthi yoga eliminates distractions of the mind; jnana yoga removes avidya or ignorance; hatha yoga removes the possibility of suspension of mind and raja yoga helps to integrate and concentrate the wandering tendencies of the mind. That's all.
Even after you have attained these states, self-realization cannot be assured because these yogas are negative practices. Here I am using the word negative in a very positive sense. These different paths of yoga purify the mind but you must know how to get in.
In the Bhagavad Gita there is a verse which clearly points out that no yoga or no way even lead you directy to the point of self-realization. Why? Because all the sadhanas belong to the realm of the mind and the state of self-realization, atman, is not a mental state. How can a mental practice lead you to non-mental state? Jnana yoga, nada yoga, mantra, dharana and dhyana are practised through your mind.
In the Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, "After you have practised yoga, after you have perfected yoga and come to a certain point of evolution when the mind has been rendered subtle and and pure, then I will give you buddhi yoga. This buddhi yoga is a grace. It is not intellectual yoga. It is not intelligence or the normal buddhi or mind through which you know right and wrong. Here buddhi means a yoga which is in the form of enlightenment.
There is a higher point of termination in yoga, when a certain vision or revelation is given to the sadhaka. It is not due to yoga. Yoga has cleaned the mirror so that in its purity it now reflect the light for you to see. With the experience of that enlightenment on an absolutely purified mind, then you come to me. Self-realization does not depend on the practices of yoga. If you can believe in me, then you can drop all sadhanas. If you can understand that sadhana and self-realization are two completely different subjects and if you can convince yourself that even without sadhana you can have self realization, then you will have it.
Source: Excerpts from the book "Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Bihar School of Yoga, Mungar, Bihar, India.