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- PRASNOTTARA VAHINI: ANSWERS TO SPIRITUAL QUESTIONS
Prasna means 'question'. Uttara means 'answer', and Vahini indicates 'a stream'. This book is the stream of the questions that have evoked answers from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Among the tasks that Bhagavan has assumed while incarnating, He has declared as basic, the one which He calls, "the clarification and purification of the religious scriptures of mankind". Every Vahini emanating from Him has done this service to some aspect or other of the spiritual upliftment of man.
This Vahini is one of the earliest in the series, since it seeks to elucidate the fundamental concepts and precepts of religion, especially the technical words and expressions that seek to concretize them. Hitherto published as an Appendix to a single Vahini, the Gita Vahini, it is now placed in the hands of seekers as a key publication, helpful for readers of all the Vahinis.
The Ancient Wisdom (Sanathana Dharma), the Perennial Path has been communicated to posterity in words, that have suffered distortion, devaluation, dilution and denigration through the efflux of time and the controversies among commentators. Varna, Ashrama, Yoga, Sanyasa, Yajna, Karma - these are interpreted by dialecticians and practitioners of varied schools and sects, in confusing and contradictory versions.
Bhagavan has resolved these tangles. His exemplary love and patience sweeten not only every answer but every question too, for, He has, by posturing as the interrogator, made the clarifications full and fruitful.
N. Kasturi, 14 January 1984
I. The Body and the Indriyas
Q. Why is this human body said to be composed of the Five elements, the Panchabhuthas?
A. Since it is a product of the Five Elements.
Q. What exactly are the Five Elements?
A. Akasa, Vayu, Agni, Jala and Prithvi, which are usually referred to as ether, air, fire, water and earth.
Q. From where did these originate?
A. Each subsequent element originated from the previous one.
Q. Which is the cause of the first and therefore of all the five?
A. Brahmam, the unmodified, the fixed, the Basis.
Q. What is the relationship between these Five Elements and this human body?
A. From Brahmam originated Yathna and Mahath (Effort and Cosmos); from these was born Akasa, from Akasa was born Vayu, Agni; from Agni, Jalam; and from Jalam, Prithvi. The human body is the result of the combination of all these five.
Q. In what form do these elements persist in the body?
A. Each element has again become five-fold and has gone into the composition of the body.
Q. The first - Akasa, what are the five which it has become?
A. The cogniser (Jnaatha), manas, buddhi, ahamkaram, panchakam.
Q. Speaking as "in the body" how are these indicated?
A. They are recognised as the "inner senses".
Q. Now, what are the five forms of the next element Vayu?
A. Samaana, Vyaana, Udaana, Praana, and Apaana.
Q. And, in the body, what are they called?
A. The Pancha Praanas, the five vital airs.
Q. And Agni? - the Fire element?
A. That element became the sensory organs: the ear, the skin, the eye, the tongue, the nose.
Q. And how are they demarcated?
A. As Jnanendriyas, the organs of knowledge.
Q Tell me, what are the Jalapanchakas, the five which the water-element became.
A. Sabda, Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa, Gandha (Sound, Touch, Form, Taste and Smell).
Q. Have they too any special name?
A. They are known as Pancha Thanmaathraas - the Five Subtlenesses.
Q. The Earth-element remains out of the Five. How does it appear in the body?
A. The vocal organs, hands, legs, genitals and the excretory organs.
Q. And they are known as ?
A. As Karmendriyas - the organs of action.
Q. Instead of considering this human body, constituted in this manner by the elements as a single unit, the Vedanthins say there are many units in it! Is that true?
A. There are not "many", but three. Some say, there are four!
Q. Oh! What are they? What are they called? The third and the fourth?
A. Sthula deha (the gross body), Sukshma deha (the subtle body) and Kaarana deha (the causal body). Some aver that there is a fourth called, Maha Kaaranadeha (the Super-Causal Body) also.
Q. What exactly is meant by Sthula deha, the gross body?
A. It means the body constituted of the 25 elemental principles mentioned by me already.
Q. What then is the Sukshma body?
A. The 5 Jnanendriyas, the 5 Than-Maathras, the 5 Praanas, the Manas and the Buddhi - these 17 categories combine to constitute the subtle body.
Q. Is this called Sukshma deha only or has it any other appellation too?
A. Why should it not have? It has. It is known also as Thaijasa.
Q. And is it marked off as belonging to any state or Avastha?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. And what is the name of that?
A. The Dream State.
Q. Do you mean to say that the Gross Body has no state assigned to it?
A. Of course, it has.
Q. Tell me the name of that state.
A. That is the wakeful state, the Jaagrath.
Q. What is the Causal, the Kaarana deha?
A. There, the Chiththam or Consciousness is in association with the Knower, the Knowing Principle, the Jnaatha.
Q. What is it known as?
A. The Praajna.
Q. And the state?
A. The state is Sushupthi, Deep Sleep.
Q. Tell me also, what they mean by the Super-Causal Body, the fourth.
A. The Pure Consciousness unmixed with any Thathwa or elemental principle, the Witness Eternal, the Self Luminous. They refer to it as the Maha Kaarana Deha.
Q. Has it a name, like the rest?
A. It is known as Hiranyagarbha.
Q. And the state?
A. It is stateless, it is beyond all states of consciousness and so it is described as A-kshara Purusha.
Q. Coming back to this Gross Body, what are the specific products attributable to the Five Elements that have united to form it?
A. Of the Earth, bone, skin, flesh, veins, hair.
Q. Of water, Jala?
A. Blood, urine, saliva, phlegm, brain.
Q. From Fire?
A. Hunger, thirst, sleep, sloth, comradeship.
Q. The element Vayu produces .?
A. Activity, movement, speed, shame, fear.
Q. The element Akasa in the body must be responsible similarly for some consequences.
A. Yes; for lust, anger, greed, pride and envy.
Q. Man has many travails, is it not? Do these consequences of his composition have anything to do with his travails?
A. You seem to have some doubts. The reason for all his agony is this group of gross qualities. The travails, too, are not many though they may appear so. They are only of four types. They are called Vasanas.
Q. What are the four Vasanas?
A. The body, the mind, wealth and sex; though there are others, all are ultimately based on these.
Q. Man in his pride struts about blindly; what is this egoism that prods him on? How many varieties of egoism are there?
A. There are four types: vanity of clan, vanity of wealth, vanity of youth and vanity of scholarship. Though there are other types too, they can be grouped under these.
II The Fourteen Lokas
Q. I have heard it said that the Lokas are all in the body of man! Some experienced persons and some men learned in the Sastras have said so; is that true? What are those Lokas? Where are they situated?
A. Yes. They are: Bhu-loka in the feet, Bhuvar-loka in the genitals, Suvar-loka in the navel; Mahar-loka in the heart, Jana-loka in the throat, Thapo-loka in the brow centre and Sathya-loka on the crest of the head. These are called the Upper Lokas, they are all situated in the body of man. There are Lower Lokas, too.
Q. What are the Lower Lokas? Where do they exist?
A. Athalam in the soles of the feet, Vithalam on the nails, Suthalam in the heels, Thalaathalam in the hip, Rasaathalam in the knees, Mahaathalam in the thighs and Paathalam in the anus.
Q. If all Lokas are in the body - the five elements being the components - what has happened to the Saptha Samudras, the seven legendary seas? Are they too in the body or in the mind?
A. When the body is the residence for all the Lokas, how can the seven seas alone have a separate existence? They too are 'in' the body. Lavana or Salt Sea (urine), Cane juice Sea (perspiration), Sura or Sea of Wine (senses), Sarpi or Sea of ghee (semen) Dadhi or Butter-milk Sea (mucus), the Sea of Milk (saliva), and the sea of Pure Water (tears).
Q. You spoke of several types of Agni or Fire; what are they? How are they named?
A. They are called Panchagni, because they are five in all: Kaala-agni, the fire of time; Kshudha-agni, the fire of hunger; Seetha-agni, the cold fire; Kopa-agni, the fire of anger, and Jnana-agni, the fire of knowledge.
Q. Where do these reside?
A. In the feet, the navel, the stomach, the eye and the heart.
Q. Besides these, there seem to be varieties of Naada or Sound, too. I have heard some talk of them.
A. Yes, there are.
Q. Are they too in the body? How many types are they? And their names?
A. There are ten types; all in the gross body itself: Laladighosha, Bherinaada, Chancenaada, Mrudanganaada, Ghantanaada, Kalanaada, Kinkininaada, Venunaada, Bhramaranaada, and finally, Pranavanaada. These are the varieties of Sound.
Q. If all creation is subsumed in this composite of the five elements, the body, what are Anda-anda, Pinda-anda and Brahma-anda?
A. Anda-anda means all this creation, liable to evolution and involution; the movable and immovable Nature, as it is often called. Pinda-anda is the name for the Inner Principle of all this duality, the seer and the seen, the doer and the deed, etc. It is the Duality that produces birth after birth, according to the karma of the janma. Brahma-anda means the collection of Mahabhuthas or the Inner Forces of the Five Elements: Atma related to the Akasa, Jivatma connected with Vayu, Prathyagathma arising out of Agni, Chaithanya-Brahma associated with the Jala element and Paramathma, attached to the Dharani (earth) element are all covered by that conception of Brahma-anda. It is this Force that makes the elements operate; beyond them is the Avyaktha-Brahma, the Uncognisable Absolute.
Q. Swami! I do not clearly understand this rather complex subject. Please explain it to me by means of some simple illustration.
A. Well, Anda-anda is the black retina of the eye; Pinda-anda is the inner circle within it; Brahma-anda is the light that shines therein. The splendour of that Light is Brahma.
III The Four Asramas
Q. In this cosmos which is the human body, what is the best Dharma to follow? Which Asram is most conducive for that Dharma? How many Asrams are there in all?
A. There are four Asrams in all; if you know about them, you can yourselves decide which Asram you are to fulfil, examining your own achievement, progress and aptitude. Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vaanaprastha and Sanyaasa are the four Asrams.
Q. Different explanations are given by different persons for the word Brahmacharya and the stage it denotes. I wish to know from you the real significance of that stage.
A. Very well. It is believed that all who have not become Grihasthas are entitled to be called Brahmacharis. This is very wrong. Only those who keep their minds away from the delusions of the world, who are constantly engaged in the thought of God, who do not see or hear light or merely entertaining stuff, who pursue good taste, who do not yield to joy or grief, who keep their mind, intelligence and self-consciousness in good trim by unremitting contemplation of the Brahmathathwa - only such deserve the name, Brahmachari.
Q. What exactly does Grihastha mean?
A. Being married and living with the wife and children do not constitute Grihastha Asrama as most people think. Without giving up the duties assigned to one's caste and status, the person has to treat all with equal consideration - kinsmen as well as others. He must be aware of the rights of the elders and the obligations of juniors; he has to be full of sympathy and willingness to help; he should treat with loving kindness all those who are dependent on him; he must grow wiser with each new experience of the world; he should acquaint himself with the Sastras and be alert to do Dharma and avoid Adharma; he must foster and protect his wife and children with a sense of responsibility; he has to trample down the Eight Egoisms, the conceit that develops from family, wealth, character, personal beauty, youth, scholarship, native place and even accomplishments in austerity. Conscious of the four goals of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, with no pride in material possessions though he might have them in large measure; utilising a portion of the day in the service of others; with no designs against any other household; himself deserving the trust of his wife and having a trusted wife, each understanding the other and having full faith in the other; such are the ways in which the Grihastha manifests.
Q. What, then, does Vaanaprastha mean?
A. At that stage, man feels that all dualities are untrue and baseless. He gives up all desires; drops all attachment to the world; dislikes living in crowded places; is anxious to achieve victory through Manthrajapa and so leads a life of austerity, eating only uncooked food, mostly fruits and leaves, in moderation; moves in the company of sages and maharshis; listens to their teachings and moves unfalteringly on the path of realising the Lord. The Vaanaprastha must get the approval of his wife when he moves out into solitude for the life of Sadhana and he must make sufficient provision for his children also. If however, the wife is willing to accompany him, he has to take her in his spiritual journey. They must hence forward live as brother and sister and not as husband-wife. Provided this new relationship is maintained, life in the home too can be transformed into Vaanaprastha. On the other hand, if the old life is continued, life in the forest does not constitute Vaanaprastha. The Vaanaprastha must not stay in the residences of married people. He must observe the vows prescribed for each season of the year. He has to brave the rain, the sun and the cold during the seasons. He must be vigilant against being drawn towards physical pleasures by fickleness of the mind. He must seek and find pleasure only in the contemplation of the Lord and in dwelling upon his Glory.
Q. What does Sanyaasa mean?
A. Sanyaasa is above and beyond all promptings of sensual and objective pleasure. The Sanyaasi deals with the contemplation of the Lord as the very breath of his life, an essential necessity always and at all places for sheer existence itself; he derives joy only from this contemplation. He knows that wealth and kinship, affection and attachment are all momentary and liable to decline and end. He discards the external reminders of even caste-status and samskaras like Upanayanam; he wears the ochre robe of the mendicant; he does not live in populous places; he lives on whatever little food he gets; he does not decry the place where he does not get food; he does not eat twice in the same place or sleep two days in succession in the same place; he even conquers the temptation to sleep and eat; he cares little for the rigours of the seasons; he is ever joyful and happy in the company of the Lord whom he invokes by his Dhyana.
Q. Nowadays, there are many ochre-robed people moving about as Sanyaasis. Are they all equipped with the disciplines mentioned by you now?
A. There is, of course, no paucity of people who are so equipped. But it is not possible to say that all are like that.
Q. There are many who, though Sanyaasis, establish Asramas and get themselves established in worldly affairs and worldly possessions and struggle for worldly pomp and power. What is to be said of these?
A. For genuine Sanyaasa and for detachment from all mental agitations, institutions like the Asramas you mention are great handicaps. For those who should give up all purposeful effort, the effort for the upkeep and progress of the Asrama is an obstacle in the path. I need not tell you by what name such Sanyaasis are to be called. I can only say they do not deserve the name, Sanyaasi.
Q. Swami, how can the growth of the Asramas, which help people like us to know the means of Liberation, be a bondage? And how can Asramas get on without money? I hope it is not wrong to accept help, voluntarily offered.
A. My dear fellow! It is theft if the lock is broken and valuables are taken away, or if they are removed through an opening made in a wall; it is theft, if by soft words in open daylight a person persuades you to part with your valuables. If a Sanyaasi casts his eyes on wealth, whatever the motive, it is harmful for his spiritual progress. He should cast all such tasks on some trustworthy devotee and be an unconcerned witness only. His duty is to see that the persons who seek Aasraya (Succour) are assured of spiritual help, not to help the Asrama to rise and prosper. The flames of desire to make the Asrama grow will rise into the bonfire of self-seeking egoism and burn out all that is commendable in the Sanyaasi, especially his Atmaananda. The fire will destroy not merely the Sanyaasi, but also those dependent on him for guidance. The feeling "I" and "Mine" are such destruction-causing sparks. Man must attach himself to guides who are devoid of these. But once the Asrama becomes the prime factor, the so-called "guide" has to attach himself to men! It should be the other way. He must not be dependent on the world; he must be free from all dependence. That is the mark of the Sanyaasi.
IV Moksha and Karma
Q. They speak of Avadhuthas also. Who are called so? What are their qualifications?
A. Like the Vaanaprasthas and the Sanyaasis, they too have to be free from all attachment and hatred; they do not take any interest in their surroundings; whether it is a forest or town, they are not worried in the least. They have no relation with others. They pay no heed to past, present or future. They move about on thorn and stone, silent, smiling to themselves, ever joyous, ever alert, seeking no comfort and no shelter, seeking no place to sleep or take food; for Ananda is their Ahara (food). There are Avadhuthas even today in the Himalayas, in silent caves, immersed in their own inner Atmaananda. Not all can see them. Only good luck can bring you to their presence.
But there are many who pretend to be Avadhuthas and who go about with that name. The genuine ones would not seek men; nor appear in public. Even if they miss their way and come among men they just slip away silently lest they draw attention to themselves. When you find an Avadhutha freely moving in company and mixing with human affairs, take him to be a Yamadhutha, a monster!
Q. How long is one bound by the Deha-dharma, the obligations and duties related to the body?
A. As long as the Jivatma is not cognised. When that is discovered and known, there is no more need.
Q. How long is one aware of this Jivatma itself?
A. Until the stream joins the sea. Till the stream of Jivi reaches the source from which it came, the Sea of Paramatma.
Q. What is Moksha?
A. Moksha is Liberation from all that binds. That is to say, the attainment of the ever-existing, ever-stable, ever pure Atma-thathwa; getting rid of the ever-changing, ever unreal, impure Deha-thathwa.
Q. That attainment is not for all, is it, Swami?
A. Why do you say so? Every one who equips himself can attain it; those who make the effort are attaining it. Everyone who is ill is entitled to the medicine; you cannot say that only some among them are. Yet, if the drug is costly, only those who can afford it can benefit by it. The Lord's Grace is hard to get; you have to pay a heavy price. Pay the price, that is to say, earn it by Sadhana and the Grace of the Lord will save you from this Bhavaroga (the disease of worldliness).
Q. Who are those that most need this Sadhana?
A. All who yearn to be saved from the flood of "birth-death" which is now sweeping them along.
Q. Baba! What is the cause of man getting born?
A. The impact of Karma.
Q. How many varieties of Karma are there?
A. Three! Bad, good and mixed; some add a fourth, the Karma of the Jnani which is neither good nor bad.
Q. What is bad Karma?
A. It is called Dushkarma. All acts done without the fear of God or of falling into sin; all acts done while under the influence of the six enemies, Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and Maatsarya; all acts that reveal the beast in man, that do not indicate that he is possessed of Viveka, Vichakshana and Vairagya; that are devoid of Daya, Dharma, Sathya, Santhi and Prema - these are Dushkarmas.
Q. And the Sath-Karmas?
A. All acts done in the fear of God and of sin; all acts done with Sathya, Dharma, Santhi, and Prema; these are the Sathkarmas.
Q. What are the Misra-karmas, the mixed ones?
A. They are an interesting lot. Though the acts are good, though apparently they are prompted by fear of God and of sin, still, they reveal impulses that are quite the opposite. People start rest-houses and water-distributing centres, for example, but they do not pay the servants regularly and well. Their aim is just to win some fame. They give to the poor as alms only useless clothes and worn coins. Whatever they do, their purpose is to get publicity.
Q. You also spoke of Jnanakarma, Swami.
A. Yes; Jnanakarma is the name used for all acts done to learn from sacred scriptures or elders or teachers the way to escape from the bondage to duality and to the falsity of the world and to develop faith in the values of Sathya, Dharma, Santhi, and Prema; all acts that lead to the merging of the individual in the Universal Absolute.
V Vidya and Bhakti
Q. Swami, I have heard people use the word, Amanaska often. What does it mean?
A. This entire creation, when it is realised as but Seen by the eternal See-er, the Witness, simply disappears, as fog before the Sun. That stage is known as Amanaska.
Q. What happens to the knowledge?
A. Even that disappears!
Q. This Witness that you spoke of, where does it reside in the dream-stage?
A. It is in the Jivi; it not only witnesses but it also weaves and creates everything it sees.
Q. And during deep sleep?
A. It is in the Full (the Modification-less) Reality.
Q. And, in the fourth stage, the stage beyond deep sleep, the Thuriya?
A. It is merged in the Iswara-sthana, this changeless Entity.
Q. What is meant by the term, Paramaartha?
A. Parama Artha, that is to say, beyond and above this world limited by the body and the senses.
Q. They talk also of Parama-pada. How will that be?
A. It will be devoid of Nama-Rupa or Name-Form and Kriya-Rupa or Deed-Form.
Q. Swami! Is God transcending the Universe or immanent in the Universe?
A. He fills the Universe and is also beyond it; so there is no place outside Him; all places are inside Him; all Names are His; no Name is alien to Him.
Q. How is the Godhead who fills the Universe to be referred to?
A. He can be called by various names: Paramapada: the Limitless Open, the Paramaartha, the A-sarira (the Not-Body), the Paripoorna (the fullest Full), the A-vaabg-manogocharam (the Un-graspable by word or thought). He has many names.
Q. Is this Sath, this Entity, ancient or new, Sanathana or Nuthana?
A. Of course, it is Sanathana, not Nuthana.
Q. Which is the ultimate Purushartha?
A. Why, Moksha, of course.
Q. When talking of Vidya, Swami, I have heard people mention Four Vidyas. What are they?
A. Yes; they are Aanveekshaki, Thrayee, Vaartha, and Dandaneethi.
Q. These names are all new to me. What exactly is Aanveekshaki?
A. The Vidya by which one is able to discriminate between Atma and Anaatma.
Q. And Thrayee ?
A. The Vidya by which one can attain Swarga or Heaven through the appropriate rituals and Karma.
Q. What does Vaartha teach?
A. Agriculture and other productive efforts.
Q. What does Dandaneethi mean?
A. The rulers and guardians of society rule and guard, according to this Vidya; it is essential for earning and enjoying riches and crops.
Q. Which of these plunge man into the cycle of births?
A. All, except the first, the Aanveekshaki.
Q. The mastery of the mind is held essential for spiritual victory. But to purge the mind of all evil, what are the virtues which we have to cultivate?
A. There are four chief virtues: Maithri, Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha.
Q. I must trouble you Swami to explain these too.
A. Comradeship and the company of the humble and the good; affection for the Name and Form of the Lord - these are included in Maithri; Karuna is the kindness one feels towards the afflicted.
Q. What is the virtue called Muditha?
A. Muditha is the joy one feels when meeting people who are charitable, who serve others, who help those in distress, etc.
A. Non-involvement; the feeling of unconcern at the wicked; neither loving them nor hating them.
Q. Just like these four virtues, they also talk of four types of Bhakthi; what are they, Swami?
A. My dear man, all the multifarious types can be included under four categories; the Aartha, the Arth-aarthi, the Jijnaasu and the Jnani. The Aartha is the person who is tormented by agony or distress.
Q. What does Arthaarthi mean?
A. Those who desire Artha or wealth or spiritual power and for that sake, worship God and pray to Him for than boon.
Q. Jijnaasu, you said. Who are they?
A. Those who seek liberation steadily and strongly, and go in search of the Absolute.
Q. And the Jnani?
A. He who has escaped from the dual consciousness, the Dwandwa bhava; who has known his identity with the basic Truth of the Universe.
Q. Tell us the names of some who have achieved fame through these types of Bhakthi, Swami. Then it will become clearer to us.
A. Oh, there are plenty of names. Among Aarthabhakthas, I can tell you of Droupadi, Prahlada, Sakkubai; among the Arthaarththis, Dhruva, Arjuna and others; among the Jijnaasus, Uddhava, Radha; among the Jnanis, Suka, Sanaka, and others.
VI Obstacles to Moksha
Q. Even those who proceed along the path of spiritual progress towards the goal of Moksha have, it seems, big obstacles, Swami.
A. Yes, the past, the present and the future obstacles.
Q. What are they? What is the obstacle from the past?
A. Recollecting and remembering the past and getting affected by it.
Q. And the obstacle from the present?
A. That itself operates in four ways! Vishaya-aasakthi, (attending more to the peculiarities of textual criticism than to the sense of the teaching), Prajnaa-maandyam (dullness of the intellect which prevents one from grasping the words of the elders and of the wise), Kutharka (crookedness) and Viparyayaduraagraha (justifying one's own statement as correct, through an exaggerated conceit).
Q. What is the nature of the obstacle from the future?
A. The future creates obstacles since you anticipate troubles and worry about them even before they come.
Q. I have heard people speak of four types of beings; but I am not quite clear what they are.
A. Andaja, Swedaja, Udbijja and Jarayuja.
Q. What do these words mean?
A. Andaja means egg-born; Swedaja, sweat-born; Udbijja, earth-born and Jarayuja, mammals. Birds are good examples of the first group; lice etc. of the second; ants, plants and trees of the third; and men, cattle etc. of the fourth.
Q. Well, Swami! Among these who are theists and who adore God, are there special types?
A. Of course! There are four types among them too.
Q. Their names?
A. Dwijas, Munis, Alpabudhdis and Vidithatmas: the Twice-born, the Ascetics, the Dull-witted, and the Knowers of the Atma.
Q. Why are they called so? What is the special feature of each type?
A. The twice-born recognise God as in the Fire they revere; and with that conviction they worship Him.
Q. The Munis?
A. They recognise God in their hearts.
Q. What about the Dull-witted?
A. They require images, pictures or some other visible representation of His Beauty and Glory. They worship such.
Q. And the knowers of the Atma?
A. They recognise God as immanent in the Universe and see only Him wherever they turn.
Q. May I ask who among these are the greatest?
A. Each is great in the stage he may have reached; but naturally, those who can experience the Lord everywhere at all times are the greatest.
Q. Swami! What are the traits of character that we have to avoid, that is to say, which are the obstacles in the path of one who seeks Liberation from the cycle of Birth and Death?
A. The six, the Ari-shadvarga: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and Maathsarya; these are to be avoided.
Q. What exactly is Kama?
A. Desire for riches, property, honour, status, fame, children; why list the lot? Attachment to all things of this sensory world, this false, temporary, impure world.
A. Yearning to harm others and cause ruin to them.
Q. And Lobha?
A. Determination that no one else should partake of even a small fraction of what one has earned or what one has; also, that even in times of distress, one's possessions should not be diminished by use.
Q. What is the meaning of Moha?
A. The delusion that some people are nearer to one than others and the desire to please them more than others, leading to exertions for earning and accumulating for their sake.
A. Mada means the swagger that develops when one feels that he has either scholarship or strength or riches or fame, more than others. Even when one has not got these, Mada makes men move about without reverence for elders and consideration for others' feelings and craving only for one's own comfort and security. Mada is extreme egoism.
Q. The last that you mentioned is Maathsarya.
What does that mean, Swami?
A. When others are as happy as yourself, Maathsry makes one miserable; one cannot tolerate it.
Q. There are certain other traits too called Dambha and Darpa. What do they indicate?
A. Dambha prompts people to do Yaga and Yajna, to give away vast sums in charity, in order to win the applause of the world. Darpa is the pride that haunts man when he is rich and happy.
Q. What is the meaning of Eershya?
A. The desire that others should get the grief, the misery and the worry, which one is suffering from.
Q. So, it is different from Asuya?
A. Yes. Asuya means thinking always of doing evil to others; the preparedness to put up with any trouble in order to satisfy this desire to harm others. All these are called Inner Foes. So long as man is caught in this net of delusion spread by these Foes, the yearning for liberation will not dawn in his mind.
VII The Panchakosas
Q. How then can this delusion disappear?
A. Why, Viveka and Vijnana will make it disappear.
Q. For the Jivi reflected in the Buddhi and the Kootastha have they any superimposition, one upon the other?
A. Though there may be no superimposition for all appearances, the superimposition exists.
Q. How is that?
A. the Kootastha is unattached, unmoved, unaffected, ever-free. Still due to the superimposition, it appears differently. This is the result of their co-existence.
Q. Some elders say that "That and Thwam" are the same, identical; how is that? What is its meaning? Please enlighten me.
A. Take the pot, the house and a picture. They are distinct, is it not? They are not identical. But the Akasa that is in all of these is the same. When the Upadhi or Condition or Limitation is removed, the Akasa in the pot (ghata), house (mata) and picture (pita) all merge with the Akasa that is unconditioned, unlimited. Light too is like this. The light inside and the light outside merge.
Q. Well, Swami. You have said that the human being in this body composed of the five elements has to realise the Atma encased in the Panchakosa. What is Panchakosa, exactly?
A. Kosa means a sheath, a case, a cover. A sword is put into a scabbard. Money is kept in a treasury or kosa. You must realise that the thing kept in this five-fold case, is the real 'I'. To see one's own truth one has to remove the five cases, the Panchakosa.
Q. Which are these five, Swami?
A. They are called the Annamaya, the Praanamaya, the Manomaya, the Vijnaanamaya and the Aanandamaya kosas.
Q. What does Annamaya mean?
A. This body grew in the womb of the mother with the help of the Anna or Food taken by the mother. Besides, even after birth, it has grown and is being sustained by food alone. After death, it becomes part of the Earth which produces Food. So it is called Anna-maya.
Q. Of what importance is this Annamaya kosa?
A. It is the Sthula Deha, the gross body, which suffers grief and exults in joy.
Q. Is that the only name it has? Or has it any other name?
A. It has. It is called "Bhogaayathanam."
Q. The Praanamaya kosa; what does that mean?
A. The sphere of the five senses, the five Pranas; they form this cover.
Q. Swami! It seems there are not only Pranas; there are Upa-pranas also?
A. There are. They are called: Nag, Kurma, Gridhra, Devadatta and Dhananjaya.
Q. What is the action of each of these?
A. Naga causes belching; Kurma causes blinking of the eyelids; Gridhra is responsible for sneezing; Devadatta causes the yawn; Dhananjaya fills the body and causes it to grow fat. Even after death, these affect the body and cause changes in the corpse.
Q. What does Manomaya kosa mean?
A. The sphere of the five Jnanendriyas, plus the mind, of which they have become the instruments. It is inside the Pranamayakosa.
Q. You say often mind, mind; please explain what that mind is.
A. That which makes you feel you are the body and feel all things related to the body as "Mine"; that which runs out through the senses to the objects, in order to experience the pleasure therefrom. It is thus rendered very unsteady; always flitting from one object to another.
Q. Swami! How is man to realise that he is separate from, beyond and above the Annamaya-kosa?
A. The body is not evident before birth or after death. It is seen only during the intervening period of time. The body has a beginning and an end, growth and decay. Such things are 'products', 'effects', and effects are conditioned. So the body too is limited, conditioned thing. The wise man tells himself, "I exist always: I am not material; I have no cause and effect, I am separate from this gross body. So, I cannot be this Annamaya-kosa. I am the knower of the Annamaya-kosa; I am the witness." When this knowledge is well established, he knows the truth. He must realise that he is beyond the Annamaya sheath.
Q. How is one to realise that he is beyond the Pranamaya-kosa?
A. At night, when the individual is asleep, the Pranas, or vital airs are moving; but one does not know what is happening in him or around him. He does not fight if enemies come during his sleep. He is inert and inactive like a log. But "My nature is not this inertness. I am the ever-conscious witness. I am separate from all the sheaths," thus he must discriminate, reflect and know.
VIII Yoga and Moksha
Q. We commit many sins and do many meritorious deeds with this body and this mind, Swami! They bring about grief or joy; now, this "I" of which you are speaking, is it the doer, consumer of the grief or joy?
A. Not for a moment. He who does is the doer; doing is a modification. Doing is producing a modification, is it not? So the person appears as if he is modifying. But the "I" is modification-less. He is the fixed, so he is not affected at all. Doer-ism is the quality of the Anthah-karana. So, the "I" takes on the appearance of the doer and the gainer of the fruits of the deed.
Q. If so, how can we know about the entry into this world and the exit from this world into another?
A. It is the Anthah-karana, the Lingadeha, that moves from this world to another, from one birth to another, according to the accumulated merit. It is the limited Lingadeha that has the entries and exits. You who are like the sky, omnipresent and unaffected, have no arrival into this world or departure to another. You are not of that nature.
Q. Then what is the means of gaining Moksha?
A. Vijnana is the means.
Q. Some great men say that Yoga is the means. Is that true?
A. That is also true. There can be two roads to a place, isn't it?
Q. Which is the better road? A Both are good and important. Both take you to the same goal; only, you cannot travel on both at the same time. People can choose the road which suits their inner promptings and do the sadhanas of that path. Both release the sadhakas from bondage.
Q. Swami! Is Jnana acquired by Yoga or is Yoga acquired by Jnana?
A. Yoga gives Jnana; that Jnana confers Moksha easily. This is the correct position.
Q. What is the effect of Yoga? How does it benefit?
A. Yoga is like fire; that is why the word "Yogagni" is used. It burns all sins away; so the Anthah-karana is rendered pure. When that happens, Jnana is born there. The splendour of that Jnana dispels the darkness of ignorance and delusion; that is Liberation.
Q. Has Yoga got so much potentiality?
A. Why ask if it has It has. However learned a person is, however great his detachment, however deep his wisdom, unless he conquers his senses, he cannot qualify for Moksha. Without Yoga, all these cannot rid themselves of sin. Unless they clear themselves of sin their Anthah-karana does not become pure. Without a pure Anthah-karana, Jnana cannot be acquired; and without Jnana, there can be no Moksha. So, Yoga is the very foundation.
Q. This is rather hard to follow, Swami! Give me some illustration to make it simpler, even for the unlearned.
A. When a storm is blowing, can any one light a lamp? So too, when the sensual desires are blowing strong, the Jnana-lamp cannot burn; it will go out soon, even if it is lit.
Q. What are the gains from Yoga?
A. It destroys all impulses and urges towards the sensual world. It puts down the mind and its agitations.
IX Jnana and Yoga
Q. You have been saying that Jnana is essential; well, what exactly is the function of Jnana?
A. Jnana makes you realise the Atma-swarupa, that is to say, your own Reality.
Q. And Yoga? If a person has no Yoga, what happens?
A. He is like a lame man.
Q. And, if a person has no Jnana?
A. He is like a blind man.
Q. They say that Yoga destroys all blemishes, removes all faults. How does that happen?
A. Can rice become eatable unless it is boiled over a fire? By Yoga and other disciplines, the Chiththa becomes soft. It is called Thapas, heat; it becomes Thaptha, hot. Moreover, Yoga and Jnana are like oil and flame. The oil is Yoga and Jnana is the illumining flame of the lamp.
Q. Swami! Pardon me for asking this. There are so many teaching Vedantha, now; have they all realised truth, experienced this Reality?
A. How can this be said? You can yourselves judge them. See if they have purity of heart, purity of thought, purity of mind, knowledge of the inherent and immanent Paramatma; only such have the right to teach Vedantha, for they alone can experience the Vedantha.
Q. The teaching by those who have no such qualities, will it benefit to a certain extent at least?
A. Fine descriptions of the various delicacies and tasty dishes will not satisfy the hungry man. The Vedantha which stops with words is like that. It has to be experienced in order to satisfy. Again, listening without eagerness to learn, is also ineffective. Unless the teacher has detachment from sense-objects, his teaching is but parrot talk. Those who come to listen, without desire to learn and benefit, are only engaged in showy demonstrations.
Q. Baba! You say that purity of heart, purity of mind and knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Paramatma are essential. Then, of what use is Sadhana done through the body, composed of the Five Elements? Is it not enough if one acquires the Jnana of Swa-swarupa?
A. Wonderful fellow! Simply because the rudder is essential, can you take it that the boat is unnecessary? How can you cross the river with the rudder alone? Believe that the Lord has conferred upon you the body as a boat to cross the sea of Samsara, and Chiththa as the main thing in it. That is the first step in Vedantha. Swaswaarupajnana is the rudder really. But that alone is not sufficient; physical habits and disciplines have also to be attended to. To attain the ethereal eternal stage, the disciplined body is important.
Q. Another doubt afflicts me, Swami. Talking of physical disciplines, may I know whether Brahmavidya makes any distinction between male and female?
A. Well, my boy! This boat has no such distinction. Brahmavidya and Chithasudhi do not depend on sex at all. All who are ill have the right to the drug that cures, is it not? So too, all who have the illness of Bhava (birth and death) have the right to Brahmavidya, the specific that will cure it. It may be that not all can afford to have access to that wonder drug; but you cannot argue that some have no right to it.
Q. Why, Swami, some Vedantha scholars themselves say that women have no authority to learn or practise Brahmavidya! The boats are not of the same nature, it seems.
A. My child! As I said, both have equal right to the specific. But both have to follow a regimen in order that the drug might act upon the system. Brahma-bhavana or the contemplation of the essential basis of oneself, is the drug; along with it the regimen of Jnana and Vairagya has to be rigorously followed. Women may not be able to observe this disciplinary regimen as rigorously as men, since they are weaker. Perhaps, the reason for those people denying women the right of this drug is this weakness. But all, whether men or women, who can observe the restrictions and regulations, have an equal right to benefit by the drug of Brahmavidya. That is my verdict.
X Brahmavidya and Women
Q. You were talking of strict regimen; men too should follow this, is it not?
A. Of course! They too are flesh and blood, bone and marrow; they too are afflicted with illness. Each and every person who is afflicted with birth and death and suffering from this cycle is in need of this medicine. And, whoever helps himself to this treatment has to follow the regimen too. Man or woman, whoever neglects the regimen, cannot get rid of the illness. Men cannot afford to say that they are free from it; they have to stick to it closely and observe it strictly. Even if they have had Brahmopadesam (initiation into the spiritual path of Brahma-realisation), if they are devoid of virtues like Sama and Dama they cannot save themselves, whether they are men or women.
Q. But then, Swami, why do many scholars learned in the Sastras declare that women have no right for acquiring Brahmavidya? What is the reason?
A. There is no reason at all in declaring that women are not entitled to Brahmavidya. Vishnumurthy taught Bhudevi the glory of the Githa; Parameswara taught Parvathi the Brahmathathwa through the Guru-Githa. That is what the Guru-Githa means when it says, "Parvathi Uvaach". What do these words mean? Besides, Easwara initiated Parvathi into Yogasastra and Manthrasastra. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mentions that Yajnavalkya taught Maitreyi this very same Brahmavidya. This is a well known fact. Now, you can yourself judge and draw your own conclusion whether women are entitled to Brahmavidya or not.
Q. There are some others, Swami, who declare that women are not entitled to Brahmacharya and Sanyasa. Is it true? Do the Vedas prohibit it?
A. The Vedas have two sections: Karmakanda and Jnanakanda. The Karmakanda is for beginners, for the undeveloped; and the Jnanakanda is for the more advanced, the developed intelligences. There is no reference to men or women in connection with these. The beginners are worldly; how can they understand the immortal message of the Jnanakanda about the Atma? In the Brihadaranyaka we have mention of Gargi and Maitreyi who shine in the spiritual splendour of Brahmacharya and Sanyasa. In the Mahabharatha also, we have Subha Yogini and other women who are ideal women, full of virtue.
Q. Can women win Brahmajnana, even while leading the householder's life?
A. Why not? Madaalasa and others were able to get Brahmajnana while in the Grihastha stage of life, the house-holder status. You must have heard of these from the Yogavasishta and the Puranas, how they attained the height of auspiciousness, Brahmajnana itself. Then again, do not the Upanishads declare that Kaathyayini, Sarangi, Sulabha, Viswaveda and others were adepts in Brahmajnana?
Q. Swami, are there any women who have attained Brahmajnana while in the Grihasdtha stage? And who attained it while in the Sanyasa stage? Or any who realised it while in the Vaanaprastha stage? Are there women who got it in the Brahmacharya stage of life?
A. Do not think that there are no women who have realised Brahmajnana while in any one of these stages. Choodaala attained it while a Grihastha; Sulabhayogini won it while a Sanyasini; Maitreyi attained it while in the Vaanaprastha stage of life; and Gargi got it in the Brahmacharya stage. There were other great women of Bharath who have achieved this height. Why, there are even today many who are of this great category. I simply mentioned some four names because you came up with that question now; so do not in the least lose enthusiasm. There is no need for loss of heart.
Q. When we have so many examples of women who have attained Brahmajnana, how is it that so many argue against it? Why do they impose limitations on women?
A. It is sheer absurdity to deny women the right to earn Brahmajnana. But in worldly matters, it is necessary that some limitations are respected by them. They are laid down only in the interests of Dharma and for Loka-kalyana. For the sake of the upkeep of morals and for social health in the world, women have to be bound by them. They are too weak to maintain certain standards of life and discipline; they have some natural handicaps; that is the reason for these limitations.
This does not mean any fundamental inferiority. Why, even Pundits and men learned in the Sastras acquire their Jnana through the reverential homage they pay to the Feminine Deity, Saraswathi. The patron Deity of Vidya, as well as of Wealth and Jnana are all three feminine. They are Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi. Even in customary correspondence, when women are addressed, they are referred to as, "To...who is equal to Lakshmi" etc. You always speak of Maatha-Pithaa, Gowri-Sankara, Lakshmi-Narayana, Seetha-Rama, Radha-Krishna etc. The feminine name comes first and then the masculine. From this itself you can gather how much reverence is paid to women here.
Q. The distinction between man and woman - do you condemn it as Mithya-jnana or do you value it as Atma-jnana?
A. My dear fellow! The Atma has no such distinction; it is eternally conscious, pure, self-effulgent. So, it can only be Mithya-jnana; it can never be Atma-jnana. It is a distinction based on the Upadhi, the mask, the Limitation. The Atma is neither masculine, feminine nor neuter; it is the form that limits and deludes and that wears the names.
XI Asramas and Varnas
Q. Swami! Of the four Asramas, the Brahmacharya, the Grihastha, the Vaanaprastha and the Sanyasa, which is basically important?
A. As all living things are dependent on the Pranavayu (life-giving breath), so are all Asramas dependent on the Grihastha. It is he who provides food and drink to the rest and fosters them. He promotes the study of the Vedas; he guards the scriptures. So, the Grihasthasrama is the most important. In the Sruthis, the Narada Parivrajakopanishad and in the Manudharmasastra, it is declared that a Grihastha who strictly adheres to his Asramadharma is worthy of the greatest respect.
Q. But Swami, some people say that the Sanyasi is superior to the Grihastha; how far is this correct?
A. Whatever be the Asrama, if the person follows the Dharma laid down for that stage and carries it out in practice and steadfastly yearns for Liberation, he can get it; there is no doubt. To win Atmajnana, one need not prefer this Asrama to that; all are capable of securing it. There is no superior or inferior. It is only conduct and character that can be labeled as superior and inferior.
Q. Swami! They say that the Grihastha-asrama binds while Brahmacharya and Sanyasa liberate. How did that opinion arise?
A. I will not agree with that. Why, he who earns money by lawful means, he who honours his guests, who serves and pleases his fellowmen, attains liberation along with those learned in the Sastras and those who are well established in the fundamental philosophy of the Spirit. No one can cross the ocean of birth and death because he is a Sanyasi or Brahmachari. High ancestry, attainments in asceticism, the status of a monk, profound scholarship - nothing will help, by itself. There must also be the faithful and steady pursuit of Swadharma, the study of the scriptures, like the Veda or the Bhagavadgitha, and a disciplined spiritual life of Japam and Dhyanam.
Q. Swami! What virtues should persons in each of these four Asramas cultivate in order that they may be saved?
A. There are ten virtues which together comprise the basic Dharma of the aspirants: Daya, A-stheya, Dhee, Vidya, Sathya, Indriya-nigraha, Soucha, Kshama, Dhrithi and A-krodha; these ten all persons must cultivate, whatever their Asrama may be. They are enough to save you, wherever you are. And if one has not acquired them, his life is a waste, whatever be his Asrama. The daily routine of his life is the essential thing and it should reflect these ten qualities. It is this very thing that Lord Krishna told Arjuna, in reply to his question.
Q. Swami, you said that this same question about the importance of Nithyakarma observed with the ten conditions was asked by Arjuna; what was the reply that Krishna gave?
A. Krishna said: "The highest stage of liberation that is attained by Sankhyayogis, adepts at Jnanayoga, is also attained by those who are adepts at Nishkama-karmayoga; both yield the self-same result. Know that this is the Truth. There is no difference in this between the Grihastha and the Sanyasi. What is needed is unremitting practice and sincere endeavour. This requires the renouncing of desire; the giving up of egoism and the sense of possession, even the discarding of active thinking; and single-pointed contemplation of the Brahmathathwa. For one who has achieved this, there is no grief, for there is no shade of ignorance. The wise man who has won this height can never be deluded by the false and the temporary. Even if at the last moment of his life one is able to realise this Jnana, he is certain to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Q. Then why were these castes, these Varnas, established?
A. They relate to the physical aspect of man; they cannot affect the spiritual aspect at all. They indicate physical make-up. Of course, 'physical' includes the intellect, the mind, the Chiththa, the Anthah-karana etc. Unless these are trained and regulated, the Atma-dharma cannot be understood. Jathi, matha, dharma are all to help in regulating and sublimating the instincts and impulses of man. That is the reason why wise men accepted and honoured these. The Atma is Sath, Chith and Annada; those are its nature, if somehow it has to be indicated. This can be realised only by purifying the heart, mind and intellect of man. Persons who have that purity, whatever their Varna or Asrama, can attain Moksha; that is what the Sastras declare. When a person is beset by attachment to some and hatred towards others even in the solitude of the jungle, he will meet only evil. Even if one is leading the Grihastha life in the midst of the family, if he has achieved victory over the senses, he is a real Thapasvi. Engaged in Karma that is not condemned, he is entitled to become a Jnani. For one who is un-attached, the home is a hermitage. Then, even by means of progeny, of activity, of riches and of Yajna, Yaga and similar rituals, Liberation can be achieved. What is wanted for Liberation is just freedom from the impurity of attachment. Attachment is the bondage.
XII The Sastras and Sanyasa
Q. Swami, you say that one has to do some things; that one should not do certain other things. How are we to know which is which? What is the authority?
A. The Sastras are the authority. The Manusmrithi itself declares, for example, that Varnas and Asramas are only for physical purification and that they do not affect the gaining or losing of the Highest.
Q. If that is so, why all this bother of Varna and Asrama, and the rules and regulations binding them?
A. Ah, they are required until you become free from attachment or Raga. Until then and for the sake of that, the regulations, limits and rules have to be obeyed to the very letter. The medicine has to be taken, so long as the illness persists. Each type of illness has a special medicine for cure, is it not? And a different course of diet and a special regimen. After one has got rid of the illness, one can partake of a feast with the rest. Without accepting this, if the well and the ill both demand the same feast, it will lead to calamitous consequences. The Varnas and the Asramas are as medicine prescribed for those who suffer from this Bhavaroga, the ills of worldliness and worldly attachment. Raga (attachment) is the roga (illness) and roga can disappear only by regimen, strictly observed. Unless you get well you cannot be liberated. This is the true meaning of Vedantha; he who knows this, whatever his Asrama, attains Mukthi.
Q. Swami! Have any great souls achieved Moksha or Liberation while in the Grihastha Asram, the House-holder stage?
A. Janaka, Aswapathi, Dileepa - these are examples of persons who gained Moksha as Grihasthas.
Q. Swami! Is it not necessary to follow strictly the injunction of the Sruthi, which enjoins on man the duty of completing the Brahmacharya stage and then, after passing through the next stage of the Grihastha, to enter Vaanaprastha and observe all the limitations and regulations of that stage, before ultimately taking on Sanyasa, the life of full renunciation? Or can one take Sanyasa even without going through the other steps?
A. Yes, whenever one gets detachment from objects, one can take Sanyasa. Unless such a chance is seized, man is bound to fall. Whatever may be the stage or Asrama you are in, when you get full renunciation, you can enter upon the Sanyasa stage from that very moment. There is no iron rule that you must live through the three earlier Asramas or stages. This too is the injunction of the Sruthi. The reason is: such a pure soul has undergone the training available in the other stages - the purification - in the crucible of life in previous births. His destructive tendencies have been rooted out and the progressive ones, the uplifting ones, have been developed in past births themselves.
Q. How are we to know that such transformation has already been earned in the past births? Are there any signs by which we can discover that such and such an Asrama or stage can be skipped. If there are, please tell me.
A. The fact that a person has no inclination for the three Asramas, that he has no attachment or attraction towards them is a clear sign. If detachment has developed in the past birth, the inclination will be absent. Since awareness that the Atman alone is real has dawned, the person is unattached to the three earlier stages of life. When renunciation has appeared, one can give up worldly life, even though the series have to be over-stepped. This is approved by Sruthi. But the person who confers Sanyasa must examine fully and convince himself that the person on whom he is conferring it is devoid of sensual impulses and attachments. Sanyasa should be given only to one who has no agitation in the mind, or Vrittis as they are called; only such can be said to be unattached. The candidate too should examine himself and see whether his inner consciousness is free from the Gunas, dull, active or even progressive. If it is not so free, he will not only break the vows of Sanyasa and be outcast, but he may even break down under the burden and meet a calamitous end.
Q. Is Sanyasa of one kind or are there different kinds?
A. There are three types of Sanyasa. They are Dehasanyasa, Manosanyasa and Atmasanyasa.
Q. What does Dehasanyasa mean?
A. Sanyasa in appearance, so far as the outer body is concerned. He wears the ochre robe, assumes the name, appears in the form, but, he has no awareness of the Atma; he wanders amidst all the objective desires clinging to external things. He is like ordinary men, for all intents and purposes.
Q. And Manosanyasa?
A. In Manosanyasa, he gives up all decisions and desires; he has the mind under strict control; he is not guided by impulses or agitations; he is ever calm and collected.
Q. You mentioned Atmasanyasa as the third.
A. Here, he breaks through all thoughts about things that are unrelated to the Atma, for he is ever immersed in the contemplation of the true reality, "Aham Brahmaasmi". He is steady in the consciousness of his being Atma. His Ananda is continuous, Akhanda. This is called Amrithasanyasa. The thickest darkness can be destroyed only by the light that emanates from the splendid solar orb; similarly, without the splendour of Atmasanyasa, ignorance cannot be dispersed - the encasements that hide the heart cannot be shattered and the Atma cannot shine in its own glory.
Q. How are these types attained? What are the signs that they have been attained?
A. Dehasanyasa is attained by discrimination between the eternal and the temporary, the evanescent and the everlasting. Manosanyasa is reached by conquering the waywardness of speech, of the senses and of the mind. Atmasanyasa is won by filling oneself with the principles of Vedanthic thought. When these educative influences become strong and you are well established in these virtues and attitudes, then you can get liberated as a result of the combined effect of these stages.
Q. Who among these are really fortunate, their lives being spent in a worthwhile way?
A. Well, he who like the bee sucks in silence and in great bliss the honey in the flower, who is intent on uninterruptedly tasting the nectar of Atmic bliss; who ignores this world as but a 'scene', a Drsya; he indeed is the most fortunate; his life is the most worth while.
Q. Then, Swami, what is it that is spoken of by the elders as attaining Sathya, Nithya, Nirmala and Santhi? How are these - Truth, Indestructibility, Purity and Equanimity - to be attained?
A. As I said already, he who does not attach himself to the "scene" but who is engrossed in his own Atmic bliss; it is he who attains Sathya, Nithya, Nirmala and Santhi. Or even if he attains one of them it is enough; for one includes all.
XIII Manthra and Japa
Q. Is there any Manthra or Japa that will give us this Santhi state that you spoke about just now? If there is any, which is the important one?
A. Manthra and Japa are essential for all types of men. What is a manthra? 'Ma' means 'manana' and 'thra' means 'saving'; so 'manthra' means that which can save you if you meditate on it. Manthra will save you from being caught up in the coils of this worldly life which is infested with death, grief and pain. Of all manthras, the Pranava is the highest and the best. It is the very head and crown of all of them.
Q. Suppose each one does the Japam of the name of the Ishtadevatha according to his own light; I believe it is not wrong. Or is it?
A. You mean that however savage or foolish a man may be, he cannot but call on the Lord! Well, if the name is recited along with the Pranava, it is bound to be beneficial. Just as the waters of the ocean are raised into the sky by the rays of the sun and then, falling as rain, they form rills and rivers and rush towards the ocean to become once again the waters of the ocean, all sounds and manthras that were once only Pranava, reach the Pranava through the Japa and other disciplines and rites. They all get merged in the Pranava, their source.
Q. Swami! Some elders have said that the more bija-aksharas a manthra has, the more effective it is. Are such manthras to be preferred to others which have only a few bija-aksharas?
A. I don't agree with the view that when the number of bija-aksharas diminishes, there is less chance for concentration in Dhyana. Sadhakas would be benefited more if they repeat the Panchakshari or Ashtakshari with the Pranava added in the beginning. When they have proceeded some distance thus, they can give up even the words and concentrate on the Form depicted through the sound and transform the Manthra into the Devatha Himself. That is why the Sruthi says, 'Nissabdo Brahma Uchyathe' - "Brahma is Silence, absence of Sound."
Q. How are we to create a vacuum of sound? How can that be Brahmam?
A. The Sruthis declare that this objective world, this Prakrithi, is Maya; they also say that He who has all this Maya under His control is Eswara. So, try to have all this creation under control and become Eswara yourself. The stage when, so far as you are concerned, the objective world has come to naught, is the stage when you attain Brahmam. Until that is set at naught, you cannot attain Brahmam; that is certain. Like the snake that discards its skin and assumes a new skin, the Sadhaka discards the old skin, puts on the skin of the Deity indicated by the manthra that he concentrates upon.
Q. Pardon me, Swami! I cannot understand all this. Make it clear through some more examples.
A. You have seen an egg, is it not? When the bird sits on the egg for some time, the chick grows inside it to its full stature and then, when the shell of the egg is broken, it emerges and assumes its real form. In the same way, when the Sadhaka, with purified consciousness dwells on the manthra and its meaning, and revolves its significance in his mind without break, the vision grows in his mind without break, the shell of Ajnana breaks and he shines in the splendour of the Divinity that he has formed in his consciousness.
Q. All things originate from Pranava and all things finally merge in Pranava, they say. Then why is it that the very elders who say this declare that some can pronounce this and some cannot?
A. What is Prakrithi, except the commingling of the Five Elements? The Pranava is the very life of all the elements and so it is the life-breath of Prakrithi itself. The roar of waters falling down a cliff, the beating of waves on a promontory of the shore, both repeat the Pranava only. The sound of inhaling and exhaling breath is itself the Pranava, is it not? Whether they know it or not, the heigh-ho of the men who carry along a palanquin on their shoulders, the heave of those who lift weights, the heehoy of those who beat clothes on slabs by the riverside; all resound with the Pranava. Repeat it with a full knowledge of its inner significance and you will soon be relieved of the burden of this world's worry. The Pranava of the breathing process is also the saviour from grief. It is meaningless to argue that some have the right to utter the Pranava and some have not. Those who do not breathe may not have the authority to utter it; but all who breathe are reciting it already in the process and so there is no sense in denying it to any one. When Arjuna asked how one should remember the Lord at the point of death, do you not know the reply that Krishna gave? He said that he should recall to his mind the Pranava which is undifferentiated from Him. Such a Bhaktha will, He said, attain the highest goal. So every one has the right to this great manthra, the Pranava.
Q. How can the goal be reached through the Upasana of Pranava? How can the person who meditates become transformed into the thing meditated upon? Please make this unequalled manthra and the way it helps us clearer to me by means of easy illustrations.
A. Very good. Pranava is the bow; the Atma is the arrow; Parabrahmam is the target. So the Sadhaka must, like the practitioner of the art of archery, be unaffected by things that agitate the mind. He should pay one-pointed attention to the target; then the bowman is filled with the target; he becomes the thing meditated on. In the Kaivalyopanishad, the Mundakopanishad and in various parts of the Sruthi, the Pranava is extolled in various ways. Therefore this manthra which liberates man can be recited and meditated upon by all. All can practise the Pranava Upasana; you need have no doubts on this point.
Q. Can one realise the Atma and merge, as You say, in the Pranava with this material body composed of the five elements? Can the Atma be isolated from the body? How is that done?
A. Man can, by Dhyana and other disciplines, by the recital of the Pranava manthra, discover the Atma and isolate it from the body. It is something like getting butter from curds, oil from sesame, water from the sub-soil, fire from wood. Churnig, squeezing, crushing, boring, turning - these processes are needed, that is all. What happens is the separation of the Atma from the body, the disappearance of the belief that the body is the Atma or the Self.
Q. Swami! Many elders and sages say that we should visualise the Jeevatma as Paramatma, that we should cultivate that feeling, that conviction. How is that possible?
A. Why do you think it is difficult? Is it not easier to speak the truth, than to speak falsehood? You are now declaring a falsehood as true and so all kinds of difficulties arise; accept the truth that the Jeevatma and Paramatma are the same; then things become easy. First, recognise the Atma, the "Jeevatma" unrelated to the body; you can do this by Dhyana, etc. As scent is separated from flowers, sugar from cane, gold from rock, thus separate the Atma from the physical body. Then by means of Nidhidhyasana, etc. single-pointed reflection and meditation, you can visualise the Jeevatma as one with Paramatma. That is the consummation of Thapas, the final Nirvana.
Q. What exactly is Thapas, Swami?
A. It means the end of the activities of the senses; one must be the master of all of them. There should be no trace of craving or appetite. It involves effort to attain Brahmam, incessant yearning for that end; it must be expressed through moderate food and sleep: it means agony to realise the Principle. Such Thapas is called Sathwic.
Q. What then is Rajasic Thapas?
A. Those who simply starve the body and make it weak without curbing the senses and controlling the emotions are doing only Rajasic Thapas. They do not study or meditate upon the Atmathathwa; they lay emphasis on physical asceticism.
Q. There must be Thamasic Thapas also.
A. There is. To propitiate the Gods for favours and then, with the favours as instruments, to desire the exploitation of the world - that is Thamasic Thapas. Only that Thapas is proper which has as its aim the attainment of God, the realisation of Brahmam, the achievement of the highest Wisdom. That type of Thapas alone is approved by the Sastras. All the rest will lead you astray, away from the Goal. Only the Thapas approved by the Sastras deserves that name. The others are Thamas, not Thapas. Thapas means 'heat'; the heat burns out sin and reduces all Karma to ashes.
Q. The Sastras say that the Rishis had in their Asramas things like the Chinthamani jewel, the Kalpavriksha and also the Kamadhenu, which gave them whatever they wished for. I cannot understand why they should do Thapas at all. Please make this clear to me.
A. Think about it well. Then you will know that Chinthamani is not a jewel, nor Kalpavriksha a tree, nor Kamdhenu a cow. They are all names for the fruits of Thapas. They are powers that automatically accrue to a person as a result of Thapas. He realises all that he wishes for. It is called Kalpavrikshasiddhi. When he subdues all desire, it is called Kamadhenusiddhi. What is the Chinthamanisiddhi? It is the stage when you have no Chintha or worry or mental agitation, a stage when all sorrow is kept afar. When Chintha ends and the supreme Ananda is won, it is Chinthamanisiddhi. Chintha must disappear from thought, word and deed.
Q. They also speak of mental Thapas. What does that mean?
A. Observe control of speech, cultivate purity of feeling, practise humility. Let your thoughts be always on the Brahmathathwam. Then you can be said to be in mental Thapas.
Q. And physical Thapas?
A. That too is good, in its own way. Revering elders, spiritual teachers, saints and sages and God make for purity. Non-violence, sympathy with all beings, straightforwardness, all contribute to physical well-being, health and wholesomeness. Mental Thapas leads to the purity of the mind. Verbal control or Thapas leads to purity of speech. By these three, the precious possessions of Kamadhenu, Kalpavriksha and Chinthamani are attained. They are attainments, not just cows, trees or jewels.
Q. Are there any who have attained Brahmathathwa and Dharmathathwa with the help of their success in Thapas? Who are they? Please tell me.
A. Kapilamahamuni attained Brahmathathwam, Jaiminimahamuni attained Dharmathathwam, Narada became a Brahmarishi, Bhagiratha brought the Ganga down, Gouthama persuaded the Godavari to flow on earth, Valmiki realised the force of Ramamanthram and was enabled to compose the Ramayana, Gargi was established in Brahmacharya and Sulabha in spiritual wisdom - all through Thapas alone. Why go on quoting examples one after the other? Through Thapas, even Brahma and Rudra become one's collaborators.
Q. Swami! In order to reach this high stage, do you say that birth in a high caste is necessary? Or is Sadhana of a high order enough?
A. Caste without character is meaningless; it is just an empty label. Sadhana, without the base of character, is like the journey of a blind man. Morality, virtue, character - these are vital. On the basis of these, if Sadhana is done according to the scheme laid down for the path one has selected, then there is no doubt of success. But you must take note of a caution that is essential. You must not give place to sloth, simply because Jaathi or birth is not important. Neethi or moral standards accrue according to Jaathi also; and so, to foster them, the consciousness of Jaathi is helpful and important. But, if through the accumulated merit of past births, one has the treasure of goodness and virtue, then one need not attach much importance to Jaathi. Only those who practised Yoga in previous births and who could not complete the process will have that type of excellence. The main thing is to acquire the Neethi that is prescribed for the Jaathi, foster the Jaathi with Neethi, and make yourself fit and full, with a high status in life. For some distance on the path of Sadhana and spirituality, both Jaathi and Neethi will help. The Gunas will be sublimated through these two.
Q. Therefore, there must be some who, through the merit of previous lives, have attained Godhead. Give some instances please.
A. My dear man! You should not seek to discover the source of a river or the ancestry of a Rishi. They may be quite unimpressive. You should be satisfied with their services. Their experience is what is most valuable; be inspired by them, be led by them to similar efforts. If you go in search of the beginnings, you lose the vital core. Still, since you have raised the question, I shall tell you. Vyasa was born of the fisherman caste, Sounaka was of the Sunaka clan; Agasthya was born in a pot; Viswamithra was a Kshathriya, Sootha was born in the fourth caste. In addition, we have among those who were virtuous and good, who had their eyes always on the moral standards of their Jaathi and Neethi, who renounced all and stuck to the ideal of liberating themselves from the bondage of birth and death and the illusion of physical values: Sanjaya, Sathyakama and many more. My dear man! Self-effort, Viveka, Thapas - these qualify man to attain the highest status. Without purity of the inner instruments, no man, however high his caste, can reach the Highest. If inferior copper is added to gold, the alloy loses in value. Just as pure gold becomes an alloy through contact with copper, the Universal, the Viraat-rupa, gets the inferior ego added to it in this Samsara. The Viraat-rupa becomes transformed into the Jeevi. Now, what has to be done to get back the real gold-thathwa? Through Thapas and Vratha, through polishing and cleansing the Buddhi, the original stage has to be regained. You wash the feet after walking through the mire; the mind too has to be washed of the mire of attachment to objects. Jnana alone can burn the seeds of attachment so that they may not sprout again. So, if a person has the treasure of Jnana, he gets liberated easily.
XV Ashtaanga Yoga
Q. To get the fortune of escaping birth and death, elders say that Yoga is very important. What is that Yoga of which they speak?
A. Yoga Sastra declares that certain Asanas have to be utilised in order to remove the ever-widening circles of mental agitations and purify the mind; also to steady faith, to establish Jnana and arouse the Kundalini Sakthi latent in man.
Q. It is said that Yoga has certain Angas or auxiliaries. How many are they and what are their names?
A. They are eight in all, Ashtanga, in fact - Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Prathyaahaara, Dhaarana, Dhyana, Samadhi - these are the names of the eight.
Q. If Mukthi is to be attained, have all these to be practised to perfection, or is any one of them enough?
A. Oh, Mukthi can be won if the first two, Yama and Niyama, are mastered. Why, the universe is maintained by just these two, Yama and Niyama!
Q. When we speak of Yoga, do we mean only this particular Yoga with the Ashtanga, or have we many other Yogas too?
A. Yoga is not just this one; there are four in all.
Q. Which are they? What are their names?
A. Their names are popularly given as Manthrayoga, Rajayoga, Layayoga and Hatayoga.
Q. What Angas or auxiliaries have these four, in their turn?
A. Silly fellow! For all the millions of humans, the two eyes are the instruments of vision, are they not? So too, for all the Yogas, Yama and Niyama are the eyes; without them, nothing can be visualised. Purity of mind is essential for every Yogi. And for that, Yama and Niyama are indispensable.
Q. What do you mean by Yama and Niyama? Have these also, by any chance, auxiliaries, Angas, or characteristics which mark them out?
A. Of course. Each of them has ten such. It is only when you are well established in all these that you are liberated.
Q. Tell me the ten included under Yama.
A. Ahimsa, Sathya, Astheya, Brahmacharya, Daya, Aarjavam, Kshama, Dhrthi, Mithaahaaram, Soucham; all these ten are included in Yama.
Q. May I know the ten included in Niyama?
A. Thapas, Santhosha, Aasthikyabuddhi, Daana, Iswara-puja, Vedanthavaakyasravana, Lajja, Mathi, Japam, Vratham, these ten form Niyama. These are the very foundations of the Mansion of Moksha; all Yogis must be well established in these; in Yama as well as Niyama.
Q. Yoga insists on Aasana also, you said. What exactly does that mean?
A. They are very helpful for Atmajnanis and Yogis.
Q. Aasana too must have many varieties, is it not?
A. Yes, they too are many. But the chief are Sidhaasana, Baddhapadmaasana, Sarvaangaasana. Besides, there are Aasanas like Mayura and Paschimothaasana.
Q. What are the benefits that result from these Aasanas?
A. They give hardihood to the body and enable the mind to concentrate for long.
Q. Swami! Now tell me about Pranayama also. How many types of Pranayama are there?
A. There are many types but since in this present world most types are impossible in practice, only those that help Dhyana have to be adopted. They are Laghu-pranayama or simplified Systems of Breath Control.
Q. Simplified Systems? How are they beneficial?
A. Like metals purified over fire in the crucible, the slag of Karma is removed by Pranayama and the Mind is freed from contamination. This and Kayasuddhi are both brought about; the mind and the body are both rendered pure. There are two types of Pranayama: the one with Manthra and the other without it. Without Manthra, it can at best transform the body only, but with Manthra, it transforms the mind also.
Q. Swami! How are we to practise it?
A. Two seconds long Purakam (inhaling), four seconds long Rechakam (exhaling), eight seconds long Kumbhakam (holding the breath). Pranayama has to be practised carefully for three months: later, the duration of Purakam, Rechakam and Kumbhakam can be doubled. When six months are spent in this steady practice, the activities of the senses are laid low. If practised with faith and feeling, Pranayama will tame the agitations of the mind; otherwise, it becomes mere physical exercise, improving just physical health. Pure food, Brahmacharya, living in solitude, moderate speech - these conditions too have to be strictly observed.
Q. Swami! The next one you mentioned is Prathyahara. How many are the methods of Prathyahara?
A. Three: Saakaara, Niraakaara and Atmabhava, depending on the purpose for which the senses are controlled and the mind concentrated. If it is for Saguna upasana, it is Saakaara; if for Nirguna upasana, it is Niraakaara; if for realising the Sathyam-Jnanam-Anantham Paramatma, then, it is Atmabhava.
Q. And, Dhaarana? Swami! What is meant by that? How many types of Dhaarana are there?
A. My boy, Dhaarana is of only one type. The wise man steadily established in the awareness of his Ishtadevatha or Brahma-consciousness, like the earth carrying a mountain - that is Dhaarana.
Q. The next one is Dhyana, I believe. That must be of many varieties.
A. No, no. this also is one and only one. Whether of the Formful or the Formless, if it is one-pointed, devoid of deviations, it is entitled to be called Dhyana.
Q. Lastly, there is Samadhi. What does that mean?
A. Samadhi means the fixing of the mind, free from all impulses and agitations, on the Lord, or on one's own Reality. It indicates the state in which one is in one's own real nature. Samadhi is when one is free from all duality. The mind will be unshaken by dual experiences; it will shine like a flame in a wind-less room. It is nis-chala, unmoved, un-movable.
Q. Swami! That type of mind, how will it behave? Make it clearer, please, by some examples.
A. My dear fellow, when you have to thread a needle, you have to be intent on the job and the end of the thread has to be kept straight and pointed, is it not? Similarly, to enter the Grace of God, which is subtler than the subtlest, the mind has to be steady and the eye and the senses have to be concentrated on the same process.