OF MA ANANDAMAYI'S TEACHINGS
For more Conversations with Swami Vijayananda, click here
For more Conversations with Swami Vijayananda, click here
Texts Collected and Presented
by Dr Jacques Vigne
ARTICLES ON MA ANANDAMAYI
Introduction To The Articles
Ch I My First Impression
Ch II Ma Anandamayee: An Introduction
Ch III Faith And Doubt
Ch IV Two Incidents
Ch V Mother's Physical Aspect
Ch VI One Aspect Of Mataji's Teaching
Ch VII Mother And The Supernatural Powers
Ch VIII Three Stories
Ch IX Some Incidents During Birthday Celebrations (Part A And B)
Ch X On The Teaching Of Shree Shree Ma Anadamayee
Ch XI What Mother Is Not
ARTICLES ON MA
These articles on Ma Anandamayi were mostly written in the 50's by Vijayananda. He was a French doctor who met Ma in 1951 at the age of 36 and decided to stay with her. He never went back to France. One can follow the evolution of his experiences with Ma through the pages. These texts were primarily written for Ananda Varta, a quarterly devoted to Ma Anandamayi. Its readership was composed of people already acquainted and attracted by Ma, hence the spontaneity of Vijayananda when expressing his love and veneration for Ma; he knew that the readers would feel immediately of what he was talking; still, for the people who does not know Ma much, the sincerity of the author and the account of his first hands experiences with Ma will be impressive. In his articles as well as in his conversations he does not need to quote often Ma's words inasmuch as he has become one with her teaching.
The second chapter is a general introduction to Ma Anandamayi which was written later, in the 80's. Chapter four, Faith and Doubt, expresses the hesitations of the beginner. Chapters twelve and thirteen are especially meant for Westerners wanting to better understand practical Hinduism. Chapter fourteen was not written for Ananda Varta, but represent excerpts from Vijayananda's notebook and an attempt to circumscribe important laws of spiritual psychology. He finally gave up this project thinking that the ones who know them did not need to read them, and the ones who do not suspect them will not benefit of reading about them. This is a point of view…
MY FIRST IMPRESSION
It is a difficult task to try and give a reader who often is only curious, if not indifferent, an idea of that which for you is the most precious thing, the jewel of jewels.
There are two dangers to be avoided : The first is to let your heart run away with you, to write an account so enthusiastic, so extravagant that the reader gets the impression of having before him the product of an unbalanced mind or at least of a rank sentimentalist, and consequently hurries through the article with an amused smile full of ironic pity.
The other danger would be to endeavour to remain completely cold and detached, to write like an impartial observer. This would be even worse, because one cannot speak of Her, who is the very embodiment of Love Divine, as if one were dealing with a scientific problem. I shall, therefore, try to restrain my heart, without however reducing it to complete silence.
It is bad taste to talk about oneself, but all I can do, is to relate the story of how I got in touch with "MA". For it is impossible to describe Her objectively: She is different for every one of us. "I am whatever you think I am", She has often said.
It was on the 2nd of February , 1951, at about six o' clock in the evening that I saw Her for the first time in Her Ashram at Banaras.
Having "provisionally" placed a substitute in charge of my medical practice, I had left France in quest of spiritual guidance in this country, which since time immemorial has illumined the world.
Landing in Buddhist Ceylon, then proceeding along the East coast of India I had arrived in Banaras the previous day. Tired and disappointed, almost convinced that my journey had been in vain, and determined to return to France, I had already reserved a berth on the "Marseillaise", which was to sail from Colombo on February 21st.
I am frequently asked what was my first impression of Ma, what made me decide to leave everything-family, friends, country, profession, wealth-to follow Her. Why I have clung to Her like a shadow for the last 11 months, suffering torments whenever I am unable to see Her for a few hours. Why, though I cannot understand what She says, I spend hours at Her feet, without taking my eyes of Her.
It is very difficult to reply to these questions. Not because language lacks words, but because a word has not the same meaning for different persons, unless they all have experienced the sensation corresponding to that word. Thus one may well try with the aid of comparisons to make a child in France realize what exactly is the flavour of a mango. Even if one spent hours over it, he would only get a very vague idea and that also most likely false.
All the same, having made room for all these unavoidable limitations I shall now make an attempt.
What then was first impression ? It was in the evening of the 2nd of February, I found myself in the presence of a woman of 55, looking younger than her age, still beautiful. But at that moment I did not notice Her beauty, it was only later that I became aware of it. I still see Her, focussing Her eyes on me with that strange gaze that seemed to embrace my whole destiny.
That same evening, at about ten o' clock, She had granted me an interview which lasted for about 20 minutes. She was supposed to answer my questions, but I had nothing to ask. I simply desired to make a spiritual contact. She seemed to divine thought. It was She who put the questions, clear, precise, going straight to the heart of things, raising exactly the points which interested me. But Her words were only a play on the surface. In those 20 minutes She had infused something into me, which was to last for a long time, which still continues. I returned to 'Clark's Hotel' after having secured Her permission to come back the next day to live in the Ashram.
I was in a strange state-my heart swelled with jubilation, with joyful exaltation-the state of one, who has just found what he has always yearned for in its most secret recess. Her image did not leave me anymore, even at night, and the very thought of Her drove tears into my eyes.
What exactly had happened to me ? My critical sense, which had been submerged by the first wave, awoke on the 3rd or 4th day. "Take care", it told me, "you have fallen into the hands of a great magician. She has cast a spell over you to make you her obedient slave." And I began to be on the defensive, to struggle against Her influence-rather feebly, I confess, for how can one fight Love; there is no power in the world mightier than Love.
But what kind of love was this ? It is not directed towards the woman. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the love one may feel for a woman. As by strange alchemy my entire potentiality for affection, all that one can love and admire in the world was transferred to her. But at the same time this love became so pure, so sublimated that it merged into, and greatly intensified the call for the Absolute that I had always felt. All worldly attachment lost its attraction and the spiritual ascent became easier, since she had donned me the wings of Love. For these eleven months that I have spent near Her have given me the conviction that She is the Lord Himself, incarnate in the body of a woman.
I thought that this Love (I am obliged to use this word for want of a better one, though it does not express exactly what it stands for) would disappear or at least dwindle with time. The very contrary has happened : It has only grown in intensity. For it is like with those ancient cities buried underground; as one delves deeper, ever more new marvels are brought to light.
Something that has struck me from the very first day is the atmosphere of the miraculous in which one moves when one is with Her. Let me explain : In Europe (and no doubt here also) by the word "miracle" one conceives of a breaking away from the laws of nature, something that strikes one as impossible, as absurd. But this is only its crude, objective side. Its subtle, subjective aspect is quite different. What does it matter to me if a certain yogi has walked across the waters or flown through the air ? The real miracle is, when that which one needs, which one desires keenly or feebly, comes at the very moment it is needed. And still better when it comes, not only as one desired it, but as one would have loved to see it in the innermost depth of one's heart. It has been for me as if I were guided on a path beset with obstacles by the hand of the most loving Mother -an all-powerful Mother. As you advance She removes all which must be removed, She even lifts you across in Her arms. And all circumstances adjust and adapt themselves with a marvelous precision, without hurt. "Coincidence", I thought at first. But a coincidence that goes on repeating itself daily cannot be called so anymore. And all this happens without apparently violating the laws of nature - for the Lord has no need to break any laws: He is the Law. Should I give examples ? No, for those who do not know Her will not believe me and those who have lived near Her have already understood.
She is like the Ganges -Her very touch purifies. In Her presence one feels oneself getting better all the time. Not by the suppression of one's faults : The very fault is sublimated and becomes an aid in the search for the Divine. She does not seem to notice or does not notice the dark sides of the individual. She only sees our luminous aspects, enhanced considerably by Her Divine mercy.
All the Jivan-Muktas, all the emanations of the Divine, give in broad outline the same message; and Ma Anandamayi does not make an exception to this rule. Yet there is an aspect of Her which no other Sad-Guru has ever before presented (not to my knowledge at least) except perhaps Sri Krishna : I am referring to Her power to attract human hearts. It seems to me (this is an entirely personal opinion) that the first contact She makes with those who come to Her, is essentially a contact of Love. Instantaneously She recognises the dominate note in the individual's emotional nature and it is this aspect in which She appears to him or her.
For some - for the great majority- She is a Mother, full of love and tenderness, to others a friend and elder sister or even their child. For others yet, who are spiritually more advanced, She is the Guru or an aspect of God : Durga, Krishna, etc. And is not only in the imagination of the bhakta that She represents these various aspects ; Her physical appearance, Her behavior, Her voice are actually transformed and adapted to the part She wishes to play. To illustrate this I would like to mention a striking little incident that I witnessed. It was during the last Janmashtami festival (Sri Krishna's birthday) at Banaras. She had been dressed up as Lord Krishna and we were all allowed to go and see Her. I went with a certain reluctance and with a slight irritation, for I do not like disguises. But when I beheld Her, I understood that there was no question of a disguise. Her face, though one could still recognize it, was completely transformed. It shone with a Divine beauty, with a truly super-natural calm and sweetness. She had really become one with Sri Krishna Himself. This is only an example among a thousand.
I have often seen Her features assuming entirely different aspects within a single hour. According to the person who questions Her, She appears at times like an old Mother with a sweet face, her features drawn and tired; a few minutes later the radiant face of a young girl of twenty emerges. At another masculine, countenance of the Guru, a little later again Her laughter, Her caressing voice, Her tender look conjure up those of a child.
This contact of love or affection becomes in some way the lure that will entice him, who has had the great good fortune of getting in touch with Her, away from attachment to worldly things. For it will be transmuted and turned to the Divine.
What else can I say about Her ? But have I not promised to limit my effusions ? Perhaps it would have been better, had I acted like the friend who, when asked to write an article, replied : "All I can say is : Ma, Ma, Ma,. "
May these few lines be not altogether unworthy of Her.
They have been written not from any ulterior motive, but as a humble testimony of the love, the veneration and the gratitude I feel for Her. And may they induce some readers to come and quench their thirst at that source of Life Eternal which is Ma Anandamayi.
In the following article, Vijayananda describes again shortly his arrival in India and his first meeting with Ma in slightly different terms, and continues with the evocation of other events and further reflections on her. It completes the preceding text.
Miracles still happen nowadays, and sometimes the most wild dreams become true ; and this is what happened to me when I met Sri Ma Anandamayee for the first time on the 2nd of February 1951 at Her Varanasi Ashram.
I had come to India in search of real Guru. Not just a teacher, but one of those mysterious great beings, who can by the their mere presence awaken in us the inner power which makes real Sadhana possible.
I knew about nothing about Sri Ma Anandamayee. The first time her name was mentioned before me was at Aurobindo Asram in Pondicherry. One Canadian lady who was coming from Northern India advised me to visit the Asram of Sri Ma Anandamayee beautifully nestled on the bank of the Ganges, and to have the darshan of Sri Ma It did not awakened in me any interest. Nevertheless, I noted down Her name among other things worthwhile to be seen at Banaras Anyhow, I had already lost any hope of finding the sage I was looking for and my passage back to France was already booked on the 21st of February from Colombo.
I reached Varanasi on the first of February and got my accommodation at the Clark Hotel, near the Cantonment Station. The next day in the afternoon a young man (I had an introduction letter from his uncle) accompanied me to Bhaidani area of the town. We crossed a narrow lane, entered through a small door and found us all of a sudden in a vast majestic ashram overlooking the Ganges with a breathtaking view along the Ghats. It was the Ashram of Sri Ma Anandamayee.
My first idea was to have a look and go away. But Sri Ma was just coming out from the Kanyapeeth building. My companion introduced me to Her. They were talking in Bengali. The young man told me : " Ma says you are good". She was looking at me with this strange look which is so familiar to me now. She looks at you, but also far beyond, in your past, your future, your whole destiny.
Can I recollect my first impression ? Surprise, I believe. I expected to see an old lady with white hair but I found myself before a person looking fairly young with Her jet black hair falling on Her shoulders ; but surprisingly, I did not notice Her beauty at that time.
But the real happening was inside me. How to explain this ? It was like somebody throwing a lighted match in gun-powder. You know that something extraordinary is going to happen, although it does not happen at the very moment. In that moment, I felt something strange which I could not define. But, indeed, a few hours later after I had gone to my hotel the explosion occurred - a feeling of unearthy joy and happiness : "I have found the Guru I was looking for". There was no shadow of doubt about that in my mind. What gave me this conviction ?
People will call it "Love". But the English word is misleading for this wonderful relationship between Guru and disciple. The Guru is not only dearer than a Mother, a father or a friend. All the shades of love and veneration are contained in this relationship. Any wordly love - however pure and sublimated it may be - ever ends in disillusion and sorrow. But the love of the Guru purifies the mind and liberates him from wordly attachment. It is like a flawless mirror which reflects our own higher Self, and leads to the discovery of the eternal source of peace and happiness which is inside ourselves.
It is through this love that one can renounce all of a sudden the comforts of luxurious life and devote oneself entirely to the search of the supreme. It is through this love that one gets the strength to conquer kama, krodha and lobha (lust, anger and greediness ). This is Guru-kripa.
To sit at Ma's holy feet was not only a source of peace and bliss it was also most powerful sadhana. Her very presence purified the mind, loosening age-old fetters. Without saying a word she could open the way of the nadis, granting one in a few minutes what would have taken many years of hard strenuous Sadhana.
My relation with Ma was that with a Guru. But She was much than this. She was doubtlessly a Divine Being. Sri Ma had told us that she had not come on earth as result of some prarabdha karma and that she had no previous birth. Was she an Avatar ? or the embodiment of the Divine Mother ? or a perfect sage who had come down to help humanity ? Much has been written or speculated about it. What is certain is that the lady we called Sri Ma Anandmayee was a vehicle for an immense power of infinite Love. Once, as I had complained to Her that She had built a boundary around Her against foreigners, She told me: There is no question of any boundary : I and you are one: this (showing Her body) is only an appearance. I am all-pervading". She had only an elementary schooling, and had read no scriptures, but Her wisdom bluffed the greatest of pandits. In a few words, she could resolve the most intricate philosophical problems and one was left wondering how simple it was.
There was no path of Sadhana which was unknown to Her and She would advise everyone on the path which was best suited to him. What struck me specially was Her extraordinary skill in opening and closing (when needed) the nadis of sadhakas without any effort, just playfully.
I traveled with Ma at first for 19 months without a break(except one day) for, after having found such miraculous being, how could I have left Her: travelling with Ma was not just travelling; it was an unique experience. One was moving in a world of miracles. By "miracle" I do not mean something which strikes imagination as a disruption of natural laws (although this too happened sometimes) but the fulfillment of a wish or a desire at the moment one has desired it, and just the way one would have liked it. We know that whatever might happen "Ma will arrange", that we were under the protection of a great being for which the word "impossible" does not exist. Of course, this was not only while traveling, but wherever Ma was and for all those who had some connection with Her. And it happened in such a simple, spontaneous way that at the moment, one was hardly aware of it.
For example, it is well known among Ma's devotees that whenever She distributed fruits or sweets, there was always enough for all those present whatsoever might have been the number or fruits and the number of persons. In this connection one instance comes to my mind when I was personally involved : it happened at Ma's Ashram at Vrindavan. One day, it might have been late in the evening, may be l0 p.m., I went to Ma's room to tell Her that I would like to leave the next day for Almora and secure Her permission and Her blessings. In the ground floor of Ma's building there are two rooms; the first room fairly big which serves as a reception room, and another on the back for Ma's private residence. When I came, Ma was sitting in the front room, near the door of the second room. The room was filled to capacity by many people standing close to one another. It was not possible to enter the room or to cross the dense crowd. So I stood outside together with other people. Ma was distributing oranges and that was why the crowd had assembled, everyone being eager to get prasad from Ma's own hands.
There was a basket of big oranges (perhaps the Nagpur type) before Ma. But however big the basket might have been, it could not be enough for so many people: I decided not to take an orange for myself. Anyhow, I had not come for this but for having a talk with Ma before starting for Almora and Daulchina. To be certain that she would not notice me, I hide myself behind the people; and as I knew she could feel my bhava, I made my mind completely blank.
After some time the distribution was over and, surprisingly, everyone got his orange. Then Ma asked "Sabko mila" ? (did everybody get ?). All over the assembly one could hear satisfied Yes, yes, yes." I kept quiet and hid myself much more behind the people. Then I heard Ma's voice telling : "Ek ko nahi mila" (One did not get). As soon as She had uttered these words, the dense crowd split itself in two as if by magic leaving open a way straight towards Ma, and I was sucked inside this way almost against my will until I came up to Her, I made pranam, and She gave me a big orange with Her wonderful happy smile.
But the most striking miraculous power displayed almost daily by Ma was Her astonishing skill of attracting people through Her love, and transform unbelievers into religious people and sinners into religious men. Her power of attraction was indeed legendary. She would at once find the dominant affective feature of the individual and appear to him in the aspect which was the dearest to him. To some, she was the Mother: to others a daughter or a close friend, some again would see Her as Ishta, Krishna, Durga, Shiva, etc... , or their Guru. But to the great majority of people, she was "our Ma", the all powerful loving Mother ever ready to help and protect Her children whatever caste or creed they may belong to.
I remember a Peruvian South-American) boy who had come for the first time to Ma. He did not know any English but could converse in French, and I was the only person in the Ashram to whom he could talk directly. On one occasion we were both sitting in satsang in the presence of Ma, fairly apart from each other. At one moment, he was so stunned by what he had seen that he got up in the midst of the satsang and came to the place where I was sitting. His face had an expression of utter amazement when he told me :" Oh! She looks just like my Mother :"
Sometimes, on special occasions like during Kali-puja and Janmashtami, etc..., Her features, Her behavior, Her bhav would be so transformed as if She had become the embodiment of the deity worshipped. I had myself the great fortune of witnessing such a transformation. It was Janmashtami (the birthday of Krishna) at night and the Kanyapeeth girls had dressed Sri Ma like Krishna. She was in a small room in the upper store of the Kanyapeeth building (religious school for girls in the compoud of Shri Shri Ma Anandamayee Ashram at Varanasi.) and we were allowed to go up and have Her darshan (usually, males are not allowed in this building). I went rather reluctantly feeling rather annoyed that Ma had been dressed in what, I thought, was a disguise. But when I entered the room, I stood in awe, before bending to make pranam. There was no question of disguise. Her features had a majestic luminous beauty almost masculine. Her attitude, Her way of sitting conjures those of a royal sage receiving us with his benign smile. She was really identified with Krishna.
When the Lord has come on earth to play with us the wonderful play of love, which leads to liberation from worldly bondage, how can one forgo even for a short time his divine presence. But Ma did not encourage sole attachment for Her physical form. It was a stepping stone for discovering the all-pervading Ma and finally the Divine which is seated in our own heart, and which is our Real Eternal Being. Ma used to say : " From moha(attachment) to this body (Ma), all other moha will vanish" . And also : " To know Bhagavan is to know one's Real Self and to know one's Real Self is to know Bhagavan".
With Vijayananda (as She had called me) She did indeed try to wean him away. She had a hard time but finally succeeded. (This episode is told as the first of the two incidents described in Chapter IV)
Ma had told once : " Whoever has loved even once this Body (Herself) will never be able to erase it from his mind, however hard he may try". Almost six years have elapsed since She has withdrawn "this Body", who was so dear to us, from our sight. But Her love is ever present. Tears come in our eyes when we think of Her. These are not the bitter tears of sorrow, but tears of love, which keep alive the eternal link we have with Sri Ma Anandamayee.
MA ANANDMAYI-AN INTRODUCTION
I. Birth And Beginnings
Can one talk of the birth of someone, who in her lifetime itself, was a legend ? Human beings (and everything that has a name and form), are born, live and die, and then are reborn, according to the inexorable law of 'Karma'. Our thoughts and actions fashion our future lives, and the physiological and social conditions in which we are born, are the result of our past life. This, to use a technical term, is the prarabdha karma. However, nothing of this holds true as far as Sri Ma Anandamayi is concerned, because, as she has expressed many times, she did not have any past life and if she took a human form, it was not to reap the fruit of any karma but in response to a collective aspiration of human beings.
Nonetheless, if we limit ourselves to the empirical aspect of things, we will say that she, who later became Ma Anandamayi ( a name given to her by Shri Jyotish C. Roy, better known as Bhaiji, one of the main disciples of Ma) was born on the 30th of April 1896 in the village of Kheora in the district of Tripura (in East Bengal, now Bangladesh). Her father Sri Bipin Bihari Bhattacharya, a Brahmin of the renowned Khasyapa clan, was loved and respected for his spirit of detachment. Her mother, Srimati Mokshda Sundari Devi had all the noble qualities which make the Hindu women the guardian of ancient tradition. Before and after the birth of the child the mother often dreamt of gods and goddesses coming to visit her humble dwelling and illuminating it with their splendor. Curiously, the infant on coming into the world, neither cried nor made any sounds that newborns make. On this subject, Ma later remarked laughingly, " What reasons did I have for crying? I was looking at the mango-tree through the cracks in the wall" (that is, the spaces in the bamboo wall of the hut). Ma also recalled something which took place some days after her birth, which has been verified. This allow us to conclude that she was born with full consciousness of her self. The newborn infant was named Nirmala Sundari. While growing up She proved to be quite an extraordinary child, never telling lies and obeying her elders so scrupulously that they were quite disconcerted at times. Her kindness and tact earned her the friendship of everyone. Her chosen hobby was the chanting of religious hymns (kirtan) with her father. She was married at the age of thirteen to Sri Ramana Mohan Chakravarty, from the village of Atpara (in East Bengal), who later came to be known as Baba Bholanath. It was an unusual marriage because the husband realised very soon that his spouse was not an ordinary being, and his rapport with her was one of veneration mixed with fear. Later she gave him initiation and he became a sannyasi under the name of Tibhatananda.
I put the word "sadhana" in inverted commas because the term is not proper as far as Ma is concerned. She had affirmed many times -and so categorically that there was no room for doubt- that she has always been the same since childhood and that the changes in her demeanor were only superficial, not in any way affecting her real state. As for "sadhana", Ma after used the phrase "sadhana ka khel" (a game of sadhana), that is, an attitude similar to that of an actor consciously playing a part, or that of a doctor who takes the B.A. examination to amuse himself. For the game to be complete, as Ma herself said, it was necessary that her mind be covered momentarily by a veil of 'agyan' (ignorance), but which never affected the state of perfect realisation in which she always lived.
This "sadhana" began with a ' diksha' (ritual initiation) on the night of Jhulan Purnima (the full moon preceding Krishna's birthday). Ma described all the details of this initiation which resembled completely, to the minutest ones, to the ritual of ancient India. However, it was done at a very subtle level, visible only to those endowed with an astral vision and the Guru was none other that the invisible and omnipresent Divine Power. Then commenced a sadhana of such hallucinating and vertiginous proportions that even the most daring among yogis would not have been able to sustain it. Ma told us that all the methods of sadhana, ancient and modern, from their alpha to their omega i.e., to their culmination, were practiced by her, some over a period and others, like a film moving at a dizzy speed, in the space of a few seconds.
The reason for these astonishing spiritual acrobatics ? Ma gave it to us : No matter who the ' sadhaka' (practitioner of a spiritual path) was who asked her for advice, no matter what was the experience he described to her, she could help him and direct him like a guide who indicates to the traveler the landmarks of a route that he knows perfectly. Over several years, all kinds of extraordinary manifestations appeared through the person of Sri Ma Anandamayi : Bhakta (state of ecstsay), yogic powers and the states of samadhi. These appeared mainly when she was listening to kirtans (religious music). It then seemed that a Divine Power was taking possession of her body and making it move with a supernatural grace. She danced, ran towards the place where the kirtan was being held, sometimes animated by an undulating movement, at other times with a speed almost impossible to follow with the eyes. Sometimes her body rolled on the ground like a leaf being blown about by the wind. Again at other times she stood balanced on tiptoe with an extraordinary grace, or danced. She often used to become unconscious of the external world and to remain immersed in the happiness of samadhi for hours.
It was during this period that her yogic powers, which seemed to defy all natural laws, manifested themselves. One day, her body retracted to the point of becoming a minuscule mass of skin covered by clothes; at other times, her stature took on excessive proportions. One day she was surrounded by a luminous halo which dazzled all eyes, etc... Towards 1925 began the regimen which restricted her food without her health undergoing any change. For example, during a certain period she took only three mouthfuls of food on Monday and Thursday and for the remaining week she took just nine grains of rice. Then, during another period of several months she took just one gain of rice per day without her losing any weight.
All these astonishing, indeed disconcerting (to a Western mind), manifestations seemed to enter into the "sadhana khel" which Ma Anandamayi spoke of. I met Ma only at the beginning of 1951 that is at a time when these extraordinary manifestations were over. I have described them by hearsay, according to what I have read and to the declarations of Sri Ma herself. But the most extraordinary manifestation of the personality of Sri Ma was also the most touching : she was perfectly natural, and human... Supremely human.
III) Her Personality
When I use the term 'Personality', it is more as a concession to common language than in the actual sense of the term ; because to have a personality, one must also have an ego, something which was totally absent in Sri Ma Anandamayi. Then again, it is a question of describing an apparent personality, that is, what it seems to be from the point of view of the spectator still immersed in duality. But this is not as simple as it seems at first because, when the impersonal takes on the aspect of a person, it varies according to the spectator who imposes on it his limitations, which he has drawn from conscious or subconscious aspirations. In other words, it is not a question of describing here the apparent personality of Ma Anandamayi in an objective manner - which is impossible but of describing her as she appeared to be in the eyes of the person who writes these lines. Imagine thus, a lady of 80 years (but who looks much younger), with long black hair falling over her shoulders when not tied up in a chignon at the top of her head, and who is always dressed in an impeccably clean, white sari. To say that this woman is beautiful, would be an offence to her as she insisted so much on the evanescence of all things of this earth. It is true, however, that in the days of yore (as is evident from photographs and my own memories), her extraordinary beauty evoked the beauty of Beyond. Perhaps it is for this reason that her followers - who like many Hindus, think that physical beauty is one of the attributes of the Divine when he descends to the Earth - saw the incarnation of the Divine Mother in her. There was something remarkable about the fine, aristocratic face with eyes that looked straight at you. No one I knew could sustain that look for long without lowering the head because it expressed a gentleness in which there was not the slightest trace of weakness or compromise, and it evoked the immutable consciousness which is the source and the goal of all our aspirations, and also the terror of our ego. It is not just that 'look' that I wish to speak of, nor is it just that expression of the lower lip which revealed an indomitable energy and which was in marked contrast to such a feminine face. I wish to speak of something else, too. Ever since my first contact with Ma, I was struck by her extraordinary ability to alter the features of her face. Sometimes, it seemed that through some kind of miming she identified herself with her interlocutor. At other times as if, in the wink of an eye, she guessed the fundamental affective chord in a disciple, she appeared to him in the aspect that was most dear to him. Sometimes, I have seen her take on the bearing of a young, radiantly beautiful girl of 20, then a quarter of an hour later, the wrinkled and tired visage of an old woman, or the virile expression of a young man or, yet again the face, the gestures and the silvery laugh of a child...
She spoke often without economizing on words. Her voice, with its musical timbre, went well with her personality in which everything spelt harmony. For those who "had the ears to listen", she only spoke a few words, each one of which was of profound importance and one had to know how to weigh them. For others, she sometimes spoke with an abundance of words. She had only elementary primary education, and yet she could discuss very difficult metaphysical subjects with the great pandits of Banaras. In a few simple words she could solve complicated philosophical problems, and often her answers carried the conviction of an evident fact because her wisdom did not come from books, but from a direct vision of the truth. What was most striking about the personality of Sri Ma Anandamayee was the radiance of love, a love pure and luminous that ennobled all whom it touched divinizing them, and giving a new meaning to individuals and things.
But better than that, she knew, through I know not by what mysterious alchemy, how to let flow the fountain of divine love that is within each of us. For those who had been touched by her grace, the spiritual path became very easy to follow, for she gave them the wings of Divine love, without which even the Vichara marga (the path of knowledge) is nothing but a sterile intellectual exercise. Another remarkable feature of the personality of this great Being was her extremely refined psychological sense and her extraordinary ability to manage human beings . She knew how to pull the strings of the human puppets that we are, yet the strings responded to a hand which knew divine compassion and which wanted to transform the puppets into free and conscious beings.
Sri Ma was born, brought up and continued to live, surrounded by the rites of an ancient Hindu Tradition. She recommended and advised their practice to those whose spiritual practices were supported by a religious life. But she herself soared majestically above all rituals like a mountain eagle soars above the plains. She did neither puja nor meditation, nor did she take part in any religious practice, unless it was an exceptional one in which she participated like a Mother pretending to be interested in the plays of her children. In fact, she could do all that because she took a firm support from the immutable rock of the Absolute.
IV) Her Teaching:
The outsider is not satisfied until he can classify a great sage in some category - "That one is or had been a bhakta, this one is a jnani, that other is a Karma-Yogi, etc... but the sage who has attained the summit, rests on a terrain where all the parts fuse together... and if he takes the support of a particular way for guiding his followers, it will, by preference not compulsion, be the one which he has already traversed for attaining the goal. But Ma Anandamayi, as she often declared herself - and strange as it may seem to us- had never been in the state of ajnana (ignorance) and the state of perfection had always been her natural state. To try and classify her in any category would thus be a futile exercise. Her teaching was directed towards an extreme variety of individuals. In her entourage were ' sadhakas' who practised the Vichara marga (the path of knowledge), bhaktas, shaktas, karma yogis, people, who lived in the world and practised a spiritual discipline, spiritually advanced sadhus along with people learning the ABC of the spiritual path, Hindus, some Jains, Christians, Jews, Europeans and Americans. She was before everything else, the Mother, and she did not limit her teaching to some individuals, but wanted to save as great a number of people as possible. Her teaching was also adapted to the level of evolution of each individual: to the 'adhikari' (the 'sadhaka' who has reached maturity), she advised the path of advaita, to simple people the adoration of an image, 'japa' etc. In her verbal teaching, however, she strictly adhered to the ideas of ancient Hindu tradition, the 'sanatana dharma', and always returned to the central concept of advaita, She often said - 'To know Bhagavan (God) is to know oneself, and to know oneself is to know God.
Her originality lay, not in the teaching itself, but in the fresh, lively and spontaneous manner in which she put forth the ideas. Because what she said, even though it was in perfect accordance with the scriptures, was not taken from books, but was a direct expression of the Truth. She used simple language no high sounding words. She did not give a speech, but answered questions which individuals put to her. The conversation was always lively; one never felt the boredom that is so often associated with philosophical discussions. From time to time, an amusing story awakened the interest of those who were not capable of reaching the level of a philosophical discussion, and a touch of humour or a burst of laughter reminded us of what she was talking about - joyful knowledge -le gai savoir as they used to say in the French Middle-Ages!
V) Her Methods:
Esoteric teaching cannot either be enclosed in words, or codified in formulae, because it is alive and varies according to individuals and circumstance. Besides, the verbal teaching of a sage is far from being the essential element in his role as a guide and guru. But was Sri Ma really a guru ? She did not give official initiation, that is, the transmission of a 'mantra' accompanied by a ritual. Then again, if one goes according to traditional rituals, no one (except her husband) can pretend to be her disciple. When this kind of initiation was necessary or was demanded, she either entrusted it to her Mother (Didima), who had taken the vows of 'sannyas ', or sent the aspirant to another guru, (in the last years of her life, however, the initiation was given by the brahmacharis of the ashram in the presence of Ma). In fact, for playing the role of a guru, some traces of ego have to persist, and ego was totally absent in Sri Ma.
However, a large number of individuals received regular instructions from her, concerning their spiritual practices. Even if she didn't give official ' diksha' she transmitted spiritual power, and that is true initiation. The people whom she guided were directed towards the flowering of their own spiritual inclinations, not those imposed upon then by a guru. One can not say that Ma had any particular methods or techniques of her own. However, she did use one 'technique' (if I can use the term) which characterised her and specially marked her teaching. From the first contact with Ma Anandamayi, one could not but be struck by her extraordinary power to draw people, recognize the dominant affective note in someone who approached her, and, entering into the game, become the person who could fill the void in that person's heart. To some she appeared as a Mother, as a friend to others, and to others, yet again, as a child. "I am your grand daughter," she used to say to elderly people who came to see her. She thus forged a bond of Love with those who came to seek refuge at her feet. This bond is often very powerful, and all mundane attractions pale before it and wither away, one by one. Because this pure and luminous love gives a joy which no pleasure of the world can equal. She directed this love towards the Divine, because it came from the Divine.
VI) In Everyday Life
"Intense activity, and at the center of this activity, an eternal calm". This is how one could define Sri Ma's attitude in daily life. The organisation which bears her name, and which she directed, comprises about 30 ashrams, as well as the constructions put up for Ma's use in private houses. She rarely stayed at one place for more than a month. She traveled ceaselessly, as did Buddha and Shankaracharya in ancient times, taking her kind words and radiant love to those who needed them. Everywhere she went, there were immense crowds, surging around to get her 'darshan'. To her they were not anonymous crowds, because she knew how to recognize the Divine in each individual. No one was unimportant for her, and each one who approached her received as much of this Divine manna as he was capable of absorbing. When she traveled -which was very often - she was accompanied by a large number of sadhus and brahmacharis. There was the hustle and bustle of the railway stations, there were the crowds of distracted and enervated people pressing forward before her compartment at almost every station, there was the tiredness of nights spent in the train, but through it all she always had that infinitely restful smile ... and the great, eternal calm.
Her days were so charged with activity, that one wondered how a human being (but was she really a human being ?), no matter how ingenious, could sustain it without flinching. One day she presided over the inauguration of a temple or of a great religious festival (Durgapuja or Shivaratri etc...), another time she was invited by a mahatma and agreed to a tight, overtaxing schedule, yet another time it was 'Bhagwat saptah' or the annual 'Samyam saptah', if not the tiring ceremonies on the occasion of her birthday, and many, many other things. But never did one see her lose her sang-froid, not even for a second, nor get distracted. She was always infinitely kind and gentle, and had that great eternal calm.
She often stayed for a fortnight or more in one of her ashrams, whether at Benares or Vrindavan, Dehradun or Calcutta. Some of them were imposing structures with several houses. Only sannyasis and brahmacharis lived there, because absolute chastity was a condition sine qua non for being admitted to these ashrams. But do you think Ma rested here when she visited ? Even when she did, which was rarely, it was only 'rest' in relative terms; because there was always the enormous correspondence to be taken care of, the problems of the ashrams, the darshan for the visitors etc. That a person can withstand, with no apparent fatigue, such intense activity, is astonishing. But what is even more astounding is the fact that not only did she concern herself with the minutest details of everything, but whatever she did bore the mark of perfection: whether it was the details of a puja, or the instructions for the construction of an ashram or temple, or just a delicious dish she had prepared herself. She never forget anyone, even in the crowd of thousands of people. She was very particular about her appointments - a visitor who came to see her was received and bid farewell to, at an exact moment; a private interview was granted at a convenient time etc... She seemed to completely identify herself with each circumstances, and lived intensely in the present moment. Each individual who had a request received her complete attention, as he alone existed at that particular moment. If someone had any problems, she was entirely at his service solving those problems.
Thus she showed us that in daily life, one could engage oneself perfectly in activity, while always resting within the Supreme. Ma has left her physical body, but her presence is always there within us. Those who have been touched by her grace will never be able to forget her.
FAITH AND DOUBT
Excerpts from Vijayananda's diary
Shradha, faith in the Guru, faith in the efficacy of spiritual practices is a qualification which every aspirant on the spiritual path must have. For the great majority of sadhakas this faith is centered in the Jnana murti, the physical aspect of the Guru.
But this confidence must not be mistaken for what is called "blind faith," that is a belief based on the convictions of other people parents, teachers, friends, etc, - with the resolve not to abandon it even if it does not tally with actual facts or is against sound reasoning. Nor can faith be founded only on reasoning, on the process of the intellect; buddhi, intelligence is the creator of our whole mental world and its creations are based on delusion and are liable to break down like a house built without a strong foundation. The faith which comes through direct perception is no doubt the real one, but of course far beyond the reach of the sadhaka.
The faith we have in the Guru, in Mataji, has for most of us begun with some intuitive experience revealing to us the supernatural in Her. This experience is usually the starting point, the seed of the 'tree of faith'. In some cases this first experience is so overwhelming that it immediately gives a firm intuitive conviction against which the doubting processes of the mind are quite powerless. For others, this experience, although having given a strong impulse to the mind, has not silenced the doubting processes nor the critical attitude. For a third category of aspirants, the first contact with Mataji has nothing spectacular but simply awakens the interest in further inquiry. For such persons it takes a very long time, sometimes years, until their faith matures; nevertheless it penetrates and permeates the mind slowly but steadily. In fact, whatever the approach, there are three elements that must combine so that the average sadhaka may be established in shradha. The first and most important one is the intuitive experience. No matter what be its nature and intensity, it is based on the recognition of our real nature, reflected through Mataji's physical aspect. Generally it is 'kshanik' (momentary) " as a twinkling of an eye" and cannot be expressed on the discursive level of the mind. Sometimes it may even be forgotten. But as its source lies in the Eternal, it can never be wiped out and remains very powerful in the subconscious depths. The second element is supplied by our emotional nature which tries to translate the inexpressible and unique experience into terms of our experiences of the past. This is why the intuition of the real gives rise to the attachment we have for Mataji, as a Mother, a Guru etc. Thirdly, the discursive mind furnishes the cementing element in this building up of our faith for we can finally accept only what is reasonable, has been thoroughly thought out and is not contrary to what we have heard and learnt from elders and by personal experience.
Everything in the manifested universe moves under the sway of the pairs of opposites and the three gunas (the three qualities of nature). In other words the growth of faith is subject to fluctuation, depending on one of the three gunas predominant at a particular time. That is why doubt-the opposite of faith- will arise automatically and test whether our faith is built on unshakeable foundations. If it is not it must break down; but if it is genuine it will stand storms and trials and emerge ever stronger. When our mind delights in sattva (harmony) doubt has no access, for everything is then clear and self-evident; doubt comes only while we are under the influence of some emotional (rajasic) impulse or our understanding is clouded by the stupor of tamas.
An old diary written in 1951-52 ( I had my first darshan of Mataji in February 1951) gave me the idea to write this article. That diary was written with the spontaneity with which one converses with one's own self, when one can be certain that nobody else will read one's effusions. I have now translated some quotations from it from French, trying to remain as true as possible to the original. I feel it may serve as an illustration among thousands of how our faith in Mataji awakens, has to pass through severe storms and cross fires of doubt and finally emerges victorious.
Patna, 10th Feb. 51
"This Diary has been interrupted for over a fortnight. I take it up again at Patna ... What happened to me on February 2nd is far more interesting than anything I may have written about before.
"I was coming from Calcutta intending to pass through Banaras hurriedly, to stay a few days at Sarnath and then if I had time to visit Rishikesh or else leave straight via, Kanhangad for Colombo, from where I had to sail back to Enrope on February 21st ... my guide took me to the Sri Anandamayi Ashram. It is a wonderful site right on the banks of the Ganga.... " Ten minutes later Sri Anandamayi Ma appeared at the door of Her room. She speaks in Bengali and Hindi. I could understand Her only with the help of an interpreter. She was standing at the entrance of Her room. I can still see Her focussing Her eyes on me with that gaze I have come to know so well now. That seemed to embrace my whole destiny. At about 9:30 p.m. the kirtan was over. Mataji said that she could give me a private interview immediately.
"B.S acted as an interpreter. I was supposed to ask some questions, but as a matter of fact I had nothing to ask, I only wished to make a spiritual contact. It appeared as if Mataji had divined my thoughts. She herself asked the questions. They were clear cut and precise, and it seemed as it she had guessed what I wanted to know. The interview took about 20 minutes. I went back to Clark's Hotel in strange state. I began to understand what this wonderful being had infused into me: it was divine love, a love which from now on would bind me by indestructible ties - the love one has for the guru..."But I was afraid that this feeling would not last. Mataji had to leave for Vindhyachal, then Patna. I asked Her permission to accompany Her."
(In this case the initial experience was very powerful and the intellectual doubting process was therefore silenced. But doubt is bound to raise its head sooner or later.)
Banaras, July 25th, 1951 "... Sometimes a terrible doubt gets the better of me: "This immense love, is it really so different from the love one feels for a woman? Of course there is not room for any unclear ideas. It is an absolutely pure love - and yet it is still personal and limited. Nevertheless, it is something as a perfume emanating from its bottle, it seems to pervade all being and merges it into the quest for the Absolute . How far have I deviated from the firm resolutions of my earlier life, which had until now been the main principles of my behavior: absolute freedom in oneself, to be one's own refuge, one's own law.
"This freedom I have lost. I have become the disciple of the most wonderful of all Gurus, but a disciple all the same.
"Sometimes a longing for the mountains gets hold of me again and I feel like going to a solitary place in the Himalayas and concentrate my mind on the pure Absolute to the exclusion of every things else.
"But at other moments the certainty of being on the right path is so conclusive that no question can arise. All the same these are all states of mind and I have decided to write them down so as to become clear about myself."
(Here is good example of faith and doubt alternating according to the fluctuations of the gunas. When sattva prevails there is evidence of being on the right path and questions seem an absurdity. When rajas gets the upper hand. The ego raises its hood and laments at its lost freedom. When tamas dominates one doubts the degree of purity of one's love for the Guru)
Bhagalpur, July 29th, 51
"... My love and veneration for Mataji are so great than I should like Her to be like a perfect diamond, that may be examined through a magnifying glass from every angle, without one's being able to detect the minutest flaw. But who am I that dare to judge this giant of spirituality? Only a Jivan mukta is able to judge a Jivan mukta. And alas! I am very far from that
"One day when I was under a spell or doubt, Mataji said in reply to someone else's question (I myself had not expressed my doubt nor asked any question) that is was impossible for the shishya to judge his Guru, just as a student is not able to judge the learning of his professor. I feel sure that she is right."
Hazaribabh, Aug 1st 1951.
(Sometimes the guru, to test how far we have progressed brings about circumstances that shake the mind violently right down to its foundation.)
When I came to India I was following the Buddhist Theravadin path, which lays much stress on self-reliance and does not admit the necessity of a Guru.
These lines had been written at the end of the storm.
"I am beginning to think that the whole of this inner tempest has been willed and created by her, like the great magician that she certainly is. 'The ego has such subtle devices for winning back the command that has been snatched from it. Only the Guru can release one from the clutches of the ferocious tiger which the sense of I-ness is.
Banaras, 13th August 31.
(Again the clouds of tamas have darkened the horizon).
"I have written to S.; my resolve to go away becomes more and more firm.In fact I am like a pilgrim in the mountains suddenly enveloped by heavy mist. I do not know anymore whether I am in the right and whether I may not be pushed down into a precipice. This path is indeed as perilous as a razor's edge."
Banaras, 14th Aug 51.
"Doubt is a terrible thing. It has raged in me for about three weeks, a very long time. If I can not regain confidence, it will be better for me to go away...."
Banaras, 17th Aug. 51.
"The crisis is not completely over. In fact what exactly is the matter; some incidents frequently repeated make me doubt whether Mataji really is what I believed Her to be, namely my Guru, someone earer than one's own heart.
"Alas! Where have fled the complete surrender, the absolute faith which possessed me only just one month ago ?"
Banaras, 25th Aug. 51
"The crisis of doubt has entirely disappeared as if by magic, without any special event happening.
"For, in reality there is something, which when it occurs and it occurs quite frequently, does not leave any room for doubt or argument. It has the unquestionable evidence of things experienced by direct perception. What I speak about here is difficult do describe, in fact, undefinable."
(The gunas have changed: sattva has chased away tamas and with it all its mists and obscurations.)
Vindhyachal, 22nd Oct. 51
"Again doubt assails me ...
"This rope in which I had full confidence with the help of which I was going to try to cross over the abyss, I shall test its strength; I shall pull and pull and see whether is breaks and if it is does break I shall have escaped from the great danger. If the tie that binds me to Mataji is the one which links Guru and shishya (disciple) then it is indestructible and will resist all attacks, storms and cyclones ... " For one can not be separated from one's own self."
Banaras, 30th Oct. 51
"When doubt appears it signifies a downfall, a descent to the plane of discursive thinking. If I ever keep my consciousness in the present, doubt will not be able to arise."
Rajgir. 18th Dec. 51.
"I just read what I wrote on Oct. 22nd - I could have written it today, for it exactly pictures the state of mind at this moment. "All this is very difficult to understand. I am moving as a blind man stumbling in the dark, ever in danger to fall down."
Rajgir, Dec.25, 51
"Whenever it seems to me that the tension is so great that I shall have to leave Mataji, it somehow is put right again, as if by magic."
(The change of the guna which rules the mind for a certain period of time modifies the mind completely: quite different aspects of the personality come to the surface at every change.)
Rajgir, Dec.27, 51
Mataji's love, is it not pure Divine grace and nothing but that? This grace is a rare thing to obtain, one can not gather it like a fruit from a tree, one has to become worthy of it. Once it has been received one has to learn how to hold it, to sustain it and watch over it like a precious jewel: for it can be easily lost and may be stolen by the demon of doubt in an unguarded moment. A mere glance back towards worldliness makes it fly, away like a frightened bird."
Puri, 26th Jay. 1952.
"When I read my diary I realize that it gives the impression that I am doubting Mataji most of the time and I am ever on the point of leaving Her. But actually doubt comes fairly rarely, as an exception, so to say, the rule being periods of intense faith and love. But during those spells of deep happiness I do not feel the need of writing; usually I write only when I am depressed, doubting or despondent."
Anandakashi, April 20th, 52
"When I read these notes I ask myself: how was it possible that I should have been so greatly deluded by blindness and stupidity? Her influence cannot be explained in any other way : she is Divine Grace, the lord Himself......But when one sees the sun shine constantly one is apt to forget that it is he who gives us light and warmth; that it is he who makes the plants grow and grants us life; that every creature on earth depends on him. Sometimes one even gets annoyed with the sun for sending its burning rays and making us feel hot and perspire, or worse than that, through one's own carelessness one may even get sun-stroke. But when the ice-cold nights of winter come, then one understands how stupid it has been to blame even for a short while the giver of life and well-being.
"What I owe to Mataji cannot possible be expressed in words. She gives everything out of pure generosity, without ever a motive. To give boundlessly without ever expecting anything in return -this is Her nature. If blindness and foolishness should ever again succeed in veiling my understanding, may I read these lines and remember. Then I shall wait calmly until the black clouds blow over and the sun shines again."
We have frequently heard Mother say that she does not go anywhere; yet we see her travel from place; being all-pervading and therefore everywhere at all times, her body and its movements have significance only for us. Mother has assured us that she will never leave us no matter where we may go or what we may do. I feel convinced that she is the all-pervading divine consciousness for whom there is no limitation of space and time; for whom the word 'impossible' has no meaning. However, for most of us, this knowledge is only on the level of the spoken word. Many just repeat it from hearsay. But those who have for a longer period of time lived under Mother's guidance, have experienced in a variety of ways the benediction of her presence and are able to understand that her blessings and her divine love are the same, whether we are far or near her physically. But our mind is like a stupid child that has to be taught his lesson again and again, because he keeps on forgetting it, until it is hammered right into his brain. On occasions something happens that impresses deeply on our foolish minds the evident fact that Mother is ever with us, seated in our own hearts, guiding us constantly, removing obstacles, saving us from dangers. It is to this that I want to refer here.
In 1954 Mother's birthday celebrations took place in the Almora ashram. I was then staying at the Varanasi ashram and proceeded to Almora to attend the function. Already for three years I had enjoyed the good fortune of living under Mother's direct guidance. During the first half of this period I had constantly traveled with Mother, accompanying her wherever she would go. To leave her even for single day was a source of almost unbearable mental suffering to me. This is how Mother has first attracts us towards her physical presence, in order to wean our minds from all worldly attachment. Love for Mother - although it is still moha(illusion) -purifies mind and heart, awakens and greatly increases our yearning for the divine. What may be achieved after long years of struggle by the practices of pranayama, japa, or self-inquiry, is accomplished within a short period of time, effortlessly, as it were, by pure and intense love for Mother. In fact, intense pure and selfless love for Mother is in itself a most powerful sadhana. This love has then to be expanded progressively to the all-pervading presence. Thus Mother leads us stage by stage.
Some temperaments may actually feel Mother nearer while far away from her in space. This may sound a paradox, but can be explained as follows: when we are with Mother physically, her sweetness, kindness and childlike simplicity makes us at times forget her divinity. While far away, if the mind is capable of rising beyond the physical aspects, we have perhaps a greater chance of grasping that which abides in the heart.
When talking of Mother's divinity, it may not be out of place here to draw attention to some misunderstanding, not uncommon with Westerners. For people in the West, grown-up in the belief of one of the Semitic religions, to worship God in the form of a human being is considered a great sin, a blasphemy. In the Occident, it is the dualistic doctrine that prevails, God being worshipped as the Lord or creator of the universe, while the individual soul in conceived as remaining ever separate from Him. In India on the other hand, the doctrine of advaita is accepted commonly by the educated. According to the advaitic teaching, the ONE, who is beyond all thought and description, is the 'Being par excellence', the substratum of everything; without him nothing can exist; in fact, he alone really exists, the phenomenal world being but a surface play, like the waves of the ocean. In a perfect being, this Divine consciousness, this eternal one is present in his full effulgence, without any covering veil. Therefore is quite natural to look upon such a being as the Divine incarnate.
But let me again take up the thread of my story. During the second half of the three years that I had spent travelling with Mother, I could bear to remain without her for short intervals; but never (as far as I remember) had I been without Mother's darshan for more than a month. When I came to Almora for the birthday celebrations, the yearning for Mother's physical presence had come again, even stronger than before. The infinite love of the Guru is quite different from what is usually called 'love'. Real love knows no weakness. It may even appear hard and merciless on occasions. The grown up child was clinging to the toys of the body, and Mother most probably knew that the time had come for him to shake off the habits of the infant.
Mother's skill in seizing the psychological moment is well known. At such a moment I was made to promise to remain in the Almora Ashram for one whole year, without travelling anywhere. One whole year without seeing Mother! It seemed like eternity to me. Previously, even after fifteen days of separation, I would count the days and wail for Mother's return, like the well-known chatak bird for the rain.
Mother stayed for more than two months at Almora that summer. Whilst she was there, a number of improvements were made in the Ashram, which thereby became a place provided with modern comforts, such as electric light, tap water, etc. Only too soon the inevitable day of Mother's departure came. I was standing by the road side, looking at Mother's car that was ready to start. It was beyond my imagination that Mother, knowing my state of mind, could leave me behind for such a long period of time. Before starting she called me, gave me her blessing and uttered a few kind and soothing words. The car began to speed down to Kathgodam. I followed it with my eyes until it vanished out of sight. All kinds of childish ideas flashed through my mind. I thought that Mother was just testing me and soon would send back someone with a message for me to join Her. But the time passed and nobody came. My mind was overcast by sadness, as the sky by dark clouds. I felt helplessly despondent and depressed. Of course. I was not compelled to stay on. (I have never witnessed Mother exercising compulsion over anyone). I could have easily followed Mother to the plains; she would probably have laughed the matter over, as had in fact already happened on a former occasion, and waited for a better opportunity to make me stay in solitude. But then I had given my word and moreover, my mind having matured in the meanwhile I understood that it was necessary for me to practice sadhana and lead a secluded life. I thus tried to divert my thoughts from their painful one-pointedness, keeping, myself engaged in some work or other. During Mother's sojourn at Almora I had temporarily occupied a room near the tank of the Patal Devi temple, since the Ashram had been overcrowd. Now I had to shift to the Ashram. So I began to pack and arrange my belongings. But my sorrow would not leave me. I was slowly ascending the narrow path leading from Patal Devi to the Ashram. The sky was spotlessly blue, the air fresh and light. In the plains, I mused, there must be broiling heat, heavy with dampness. Here at Almora was the clean stillness of the Himalayan mountains with their majestic beauty. In the plain I would have been in the midst of the bustle and noise of the towns. Travelling with Mother means to endure all kinds hardship and inconveniences. Here I had every facility, almost as in my own home. But of what value were the beautiful scenery, the bracing climate, physical comforts and all the rest, when the main thing was lacking - namely the happiness I found in Mother's presence. It was a happiness that did not depend on any outer circumstance.
With eyes veiled by tears, I was gazing at the gorgeous range of mountain peaks in the direction of Kasar Devi. All of a sudden something extraordinary happened. My whole being was flooded with joy. Mother was there! Here, present before me! Yet, not in Her physical form ......... but how to describe what cannot be put into words? There was no form, yet I could clearly see her long black hair floating along the mountain. There was no face, although I could distinctly perceive her divinely sweet smile filling my head with inexpressible joy and peace. Glued to the spot I stood like a small child gazing in awe and wonder at her majestic features. She was outside and also inside of me, verily, she was my life force, my prana having taken shape, nay, she was the prana of my prana. No sound could be heard, but in the depths of my heart I understood the meaning of Her silence. It was telling me: "why do you lament, O fool? I have not gone far away from you; ever present in your heart, I am your Real Self;" This experience lasted for a few minutes only, but it sufficed to disperse the clouds of my misery, to chase away the heavy mists that had obscured my understanding.
Not only in times of distress is Mother present; she is ever watchful, even where the small details of our daily routine are concerned. The following is an instance of how we are sometimes made aware of this fact.
It happened at the Varanasi (Benaras) Ashram. That Ashram, apart from its sanctity, is one of the beauty spots of the city. Even tourists often come to see it. It is situated right on the banks of the Ganges, built on an elevated foundation, overlooking the river. The terrace and the roofs command an extensive and inspiring view over the Ganges here, perhaps more than elsewhere, the Ganges has a great natural beauty. In the rainy season it becomes flooded and gives the impression of a huge lake. To the left the crescent of the ghats up to the Dufferin bridge spreads out. In the dark of night the funeral pyres may be seen burning at the manikarnika ghat, standing out like sign posts, to remind us in the eternal city of the impermanence of all that is born; to the left, on the opposite river bank, is visible the small but picturesque town of Ramnagar, with the palace of the Raja of Benares. Opposite Ramnagar lies Lanka and the Hindu University. At the time of which I am telling, the Ashram was much more charming than it is now. Its beauty was enhanced by semi-circular terrace, protruding over the river, with two small, finely built temples on either side. The spacious hall below the terrace was used for religious gatherings such as kirtans, devotional singing, discourses, discussions on religious and philosophical topics, and so forth. To the right and left of the hall were a few rooms to accommodate ashramites or guests. The whole Ashram front with the terrace, the hall, the exquisite little temples and the guest rooms had to be demolished a few years ago, since they were in danger of collapsing, due to damage caused by high floods.
At the time to which my story refers, some threatening cracks had already appeared. The hall could not anymore be used for public gatherings, and visitors were not allowed to go downstairs. Only a few inmates occupied some of the side rooms. I happened to be one of those fortunate ones. I say 'fortunate,' for I enjoyed the great privilege of living in solitude, right in the midst of that crowded Ashram. My room, facing the Ganges, was near "Anandamayi Ghat". In the stillness of night I frequently would sit in the hall near a window that opened out onto the river.
Next to the Ashram, on top of the ghat is a small shrine, dedicated to Sri Ganesh. Every year the community of fishermen who live in the vicinity, organizes a function that continues for five days. The celebrations begins on the fourth day of the bright moon of the month of margashirsha (November-December). On this occasion a raised platform is erected over the ghat, while the lower is supported by wooden pillars. A canvas roof and canvas walls are pitched over the platform and beautifully decorated. Every evening, when their day's work is over, the devotees assemble in the pandal, where kirtan, devotional singing and the recitation of scriptures continue until late at night.
During one of those nights; I was as usually sitting in the hall, looking down at the river. Mother was not at Varanasi at the time. I could distinctly hear all that was being said or sung at the function on the ghat. Frequently, sadhakas who start engaging in regular spiritual practice and live a secluded life, become very sensitive to the vibrations of their surroundings. This was also the case with me at that time. But the loudness of the function did not disturb me at all, so long as it was of a religious nature. On the contrary, I listened with great joy and appreciation to the Nama kirtan and the bhajans, but all other kinds of sounds or noise would sometimes considerably upset me.
That night I could observe that the mood of the people on the platform was gradually changing. Although I was unable to understand the words of their songs, yet the tunes and the laughter of the audience gave me the impression that the celebration had taken a worldly turn. It was perhaps quite harmless and moreover my impression might have been wrong; but that night I seemed particularly sensitive and felt quite disturbed. In prayerful mood, I said mentally : "In holy Kashi, on the banks of the Ganges, next to Sri Anandamayi Ahram, how can one possibly indulge in vulgar songs ? They should at least sing the (illusion (illusion mahamantra !"
No sooner had this prayer taken shape in my mind than I heard a mighty sound - I could even say that I 'saw' the sound. It is a well-known fact that sound and form are intimately connected. There is a level of perception where the two mingle. The sound I heard was not uttered by any human voice, it had its own living personality. It came like a huge wave from the terrace of the Ashram, flowed down into the hall and finally enveloped the platform where the function was in progress. Although the wave had no definite shape, I somehow felt that it was connected with Mother's physical presence. The sound wave was uttering once only "Hari bol" (which means "repeat the name of the Lord"), but not in the tune in which Mother usually sings these words. Here the voice was mighty and stern, like a rebuke or severe command. No sooner had the wave engulfed the platform, hen the people present stopped singing instantaneously. A blank silence prevailed for a few minutes. Then, without any transition, they began to chant : "Hare Ram, hare Ram, Ram, Ram, hare, hare", which is the first verse of the mahamantra. They continued with this for some time, without singing the second verse (Hare Krishna etc). Later they sang "Sitaram, Sitaram" and as far I remember the remaining part of the night was spent in Nama kirtan.
My prayer was a childish one and hardly deserved such a supernatural response. But very likely it was one of those psychological moments, a moment of conjunction, brought about by the interplay of various factors, in which the lesson so frequently forgotten, could be hammered into the mind of the above-mentioned child.
MOTHER'S PHYSICAL ASPECT
The physical aspect through which the inscrutable Power that we call Sri Sri Anandamayee Ma manifests Itself, is only a tiny part of It, and probably not the most important. Mother has frequently repeated that She is all-pervading, that She never goes, nor comes anywhere, that She was never born and so on. Thus, it is evident that She is not the physical body, which seems to be only an instrument, representing the link between us and the Divine Power : Mother's physical frame, although looking apparently as one of us, is in essence completely different. It is an aprakrita, supernatural manifestation which has not come according to natural laws, and is not subject to them.
In her early life, Mother has on many occasions shown Her independence where natural laws are concerned. All Her devotees have read or heard about the shrinking of Her body which became like a small heap and its becoming unnaturally big at other times. For long periods Mother could stay without food or with a very tiny quantity of food or water without any change in Her physical aspect; pain of any kind does not seem to affect Her in the least. On many instances the laws of gravity appeared to have lost their validity with regard to her body. As for example the body becoming as light as a feather or revolving at an extraordinary speed like a dead leaf carried along by the wind. All these things I have not witnessed but only heard or read about. But surely, the most amazing thing I find, is that She behaves in our natural way as an ordinary person. It is very difficult for those who are under the sway of natural laws, to reach a stage where one is able to reverse these laws and be their master to a certain extent. Much more difficult is it to ignore nature completely and identify oneself with the Eternal Witness, unruffled by earthly troubles. But extremely rare are those sages for whom there is no difference between the highest states of illumination and ordinary life; for them the Supreme is revealed even in what we call the trivialities of daily life. A fixed span of life has been allotted for the life of every human being including the ' jivan-mukta'. The duration of the body is subject to 'prarabdha'. Not so in Mother's case : She is free to leave the body at any moment or to keep it for the whole kalpa (era) if this be Her 'kheyal'. But Mother has no desire to act in one way or another. It is the yearning of Her devotees which keeps Her, through the fetters of Her own infinite love just as an affectionate Mother is bound by the cries of her baby, who although helpless is nevertheless all-powerful because of his Mother's love.
Some people may ask : What is the use of such a limiting adjust as a physical body, if Mother's power is all-pervading beyond space and time and as many people have experienced, helping as well when near by as when far off, no matter at what distance ? Besides would not the attachment which so many people feel for Mother's physical presence be delusive, a kind of ' moha '? First of all, let me answer that people who are to already free from every kind of attachment, who are ' nirmoha ', are in fact realised sages. For all others, attachment to such a Being as Mother is the highest possible attachment on earth, and will burn in due time all other kinds of moha. "By moha for this body (meaning Herself) all other kinds of moha will vanish" I have once heard Mother say.
Now a Divine Incarnation is of tremendous benefit to all embodied beings. This help manifests itself in many ways. I shall write only about a few of these of which, from my limited angle of vision I have been able to get a glimpse. I don't intend to speak here of Her main function self evident to everybody, that is to say Her enlightening words on spiritual topics, Her guidance and precious advice to sadhakas, neither of Her action as a guru, which does not depend on Her physical frame. But only of some other aspects not so apparent, although of great importance.
In the realm of the 'ahamkara', the ego, where almost all of us are living, there is no real love. What is nearest to love known to 'ahamkara' is 'moha', attachment. Real love would presuppose the ego's dissolution, its end. The root of all its actions is the instinct of preservation. All its thoughts revolve round the protection of its body and its welfare. In order to free oneself from the clutches of this ego, one has first to resist its tendencies and for this purpose cultivate the pure qualities, the daivi sampat.
We have all read in books about satya, ahimsa, etc., and listened to much talk and good advice about these. But to actually see these qualities in a living being expressed in the details of his daily life, is surely quite another thing. Through Mother's physical frame, all these qualities shine to their utmost perfection. If it were not so why would so many people be attracted by Her ?
How rare it is to come across somebody completely free from any kind of fear : abhayam is indeed only possible when one does not anymore perceive anything different from one's own self. Even the Gods are subject to fear. Through fear Agni burns, etc. says the Upanishad. For about seven years I have had the good fortune of living under Mother's guidance, I have never been able to detect in Her features the slightest trace of fear. What a joy it is to admire such a countenance!
Ahimsa, non - injury to any living being is more common. Mother shows us by Her own example how it can be practiced in daily life and brought to perfection. Not to kill any living being is a self-evident duty for a sadhaka. But not to cause harm to anybody, be it through words, action or abstention from action, even by one's mere presence or in thought, is certainly much more difficult.
On innumerable occasions we have witnessed with what delicacy Mother behaves in order to avoid causing the least harm or offence through Her own person or through that of a devotee. Even dogs must not be harmed. I remember once in Solon having seen Mother changing the usual path of Her evening stroll in order that a dog lying in Her way may not be disturbed. One day an attendant who had chased away the animal was rebuked : " Why do you chase it away ?" said Mother, " it enjoys the cool earth." One several occasions Brahmacharis who had beaten, or even intended to beat a dog were requested by Mother to do 'pranam' to the animal, in order to ask forgiveness from the Lord dwelling in the dog.
Satyam, truthfulness I have heard Mother say, means, not to utter any lie be it in words, by signs or by abstention from words. She added that if one could practice such truthfulness for a period of twelve years, whatever one uttered would become true. Mother lays great stress on the importance of speaking the truth under all circumstances. Needless to say that She Herself gives us a living example of how Satyam can be brought to its utmost perfection. Apart from Her Almighty Power, this alone would suffice to make all Her utterances come true.
As to akrodha, absence of anger, surely there is no need to say that Mother never gets angry. Not even the slightest sign of irritation or impatience can ever be detected in Her
Mother comes in contact with hundreds and thousands of people of all kinds of temperaments and social levels. It naturally happens from time to time that some people behave in a manner lacking in courtesy or that they utter words one wouldn't expect to hear in the presence of such a great Being. But the cruder these peoples conduct themselves the more radiantly Mother smiles and the more She responds with kindness and love. She frequently gives to such offenders greater attention than to other people. It looks as if She behaves as a good doctor who takes better care of patients who are severely ill than of those suffering only from slight cough or cold. As everybody knows, Mother does not deliver discourses or lectures ; but She replies to questions that are asked on spiritual topics. Most people listen with rapt attention to the words of Divine Wisdom falling from Her lips. But sometimes people, giving way to their urge to speak, interrupt Mother's talk by remarks of their own or some silly question. Mother, not only does not rebuke them, but She never shows the slightest sign of impatience. She generally cuts short Her own explanation and after hearing with interest and a loving smile the words of the foolish interrupter, tries to clear up his doubts with infinite patience and love, which surely are not to be found in any human teacher.
What else should I say about the divine qualities revealed through Mother's physical frame, this embodiment of Wisdom and Love. "pure like the sun" ? If I continue, there will be no end of writing.
The path of sadhana is indeed not an easy one ; "like the edge of razor", say the sages. The main difficulty lies in the fact that the right way is very hard to find and much more to keep to, while false views or half-truths are often easy and attractive. Naturally it happens frequently that the mind of the sadhaka goes astray. Of course he can always ask Mother's advice. But frequently he is not aware of the fact that he has gone in a wrong direction. Furthermore there are many things that cannot be explained in words. But there is some special quality of Mother's physical presence. The shadows of the night do not persist before the rising sun. By Her mere presence many people have found their mental problems solved. The despondent person regains confidence in himself; he who is afraid finds renewed courage to face the battle; another one whose mind has been tainted by worldliness becomes purified as after a bath in the Divine Ganges; someone else stagnant due to lack of energy feels the impulse of an unnatural increase of power; sometimes an obstacle on the path melts like ice before the sun. What was crooked becomes straight, confusion is cleared up, impurities are washed away. Such is the Power radiating from Her Physical Presence.
The results of our previous actions, our 'Karma Phal', sometimes goes and blocks the road to further progress, or if the road is not completely obstructed, the progress becomes very slow as that of a horse carriage advancing with great difficulty due to excess of load. Sometimes we are able to overcome the Karmic obstacles by our own effort. But frequently the task is too great for us, and stagnation or even a downfall might become our fate if Mother's Divine Grace did not intervene.
Mother's physical frame has, as stated above, not come into existence due to 'Prarabdha Karma', nor is it subject to it. She is able, if She so wishes, to use Her body for the purpose of absorbing part of the Karma of others. The fatality of Karma does not lie in the totality of the favorable or unfavorable circumstances, to which we are subjected. In all circumstances there is a central kernel which consists in the change of the pranic vibration and manifests fundamentally as pleasure or pain. The outer conditions and our mental reactions, that is to say the whole Namarupa are illusory and depend mainly on our belief in their reality. He who knows this, and has fully mastered it, can reduce the Karmic effects to their minimum, that is to say, to some temporary physical or pranic disease. We of course are not able to do this. But Mother can and also far beyond this, where our imagination cannot reach. Mother being egoless, can identify Herself with anybody, and take away from him part of the Karma he would have to suffer according to the natural laws. As said above, the root of the Karmic effect lies in the Pranic vibration. As in the case of Mother there is no ahamkar to brood around it and make of it a huge affair (as usually happens with us), the Nama rupa is reduced or translated according to the case, to a disorder in the subtle body, or if the Karma is heavy to a physical indisposition or illness. This, it seems to me, is one of the main reasons why Mother gets ill from time to time. I have no doubt that, when we behave or think in an unworthy manner the reaction is felt in Mother's health.
A sadhaka, if he wants to succeed must become 'Nishanga', free from all human attachment. The attachment we feel for our relatives and friends must be replaced by an equal sympathy for all living beings. At first consideration this may look fairly easy. But we soon become aware of how powerful the emotional part of our personality is, and that its roots reach very deep in our subconscious mind. In fact the emotional nature has not to be destroyed, but must be directed in a proper way. It then becomes a help to our spiritual ascent. To understand that this emotional urge is nothing but our yearning to get back to the natural state, our Real Nature, is surely the highest kind of bhakti. But only a very few are able to sustain this attitude of mind. Most sadhakas require an outer object for their devotion, that is to say a name or form as a symbol of the Eternal One.
The Ishta Deva and the Guru are of course excellent objects of devotion. A great number of Mother's devotees regard Her as an embodiment of their Ishta or as their Guru, and worship Her in that spirit.
Westerners and Westernised minds are very reluctant to tolerate the worship of a living sage or saint. The reason is, it seems to me, a misunderstanding around the word "devotion". In almost all Western religions, God is worshipped as a perfect Being, eternally different from the individual soul. The attitude of the devotee, is of course, that of love, but also of veneration mixed with more or less awe. But in India it is quite different . Almost all the orthodox schools hold that the individual soul is or of the same nature as God. Even the hardest dwaitist agrees that God, the "Antaryamin" abides in the heart of all beings, that He is nearer to us than our own ego. The consequence is a devotion without awe or fear, almost as intimate as for one's own father and Mother. Moreover, the educated Hindu understands that devotion to the Personal Aspect is only a temporary stage, a stepping stone which will ultimately enable him to realise the Oneness of All. If taken in this spirit, any symbol may lead to the Goal. However it seems to me, that a realised sage, the embodiment of Divine Consciousness, is the most appropriate object of worship, if such an object is required.
I must say that Mother does not at all encourage the worship of Her physical frame. On several occasions I witnessed how She diverted a Puja of this kind trying to awaken the understanding that the object to be worshipped is the ONE residing in the hearts of all. Mother lives in the "Yatra Naanyat Pashyati' where one does not behold anything but the One Self where there is neither a worshiper nor any object of worship. But from our point of view, whatever we think She is, She will actually be for us (as She Herself has pointed out on many occasions). As pure gold can be shaped in any form, but ever remains the same gold, so the Divine Consciousness, manifesting Itself through Mother's body, can be thought of in any form, without ever losing its Primeval Aspect. In whatever way our relationship with Mother may begin, it will lead us sooner or later to the realization of THAT whish IS.
A few months ago, in Dehradun some of us feared that Mother might leave Her physical frame. She is free to do so or to keep it for any length of time. May she in Her boundless compassion, keep the flame of life in this gross manifestation of Her for a long time. May all Her children offer to this flame only the pure oblations it demands, stainless and unselfish devotion, pure action and thinking, as well as intense yearning for the Divine.
ONE ASPECT OF MATAJI'S TEACHINGThe way of imparting spiritual knowledge (paravidya) is fundamentally different from that of eaching secular knowledge (apara vidya). The latter does not go beyond the realm of words and forms and remains within the boundaries of discursive thinking . Talking, reading, hearing, reflecting, committing it memory and assimilating it intellectually, are the means to master it. But where spiritual knowledge is concerned things are quite different.
"Yato vacho nivartante aprapya manasa saha " form where all speech turns back and also the mind, having been unable to reach it, says the Taittiria Upanishad. The purpose of spiritual instruction is to reverse the outgoing current of the mind and turn it inwards to its source. On the path to self knowledge the aspirant has to advance stage by stage, penetrating deeper and deeper, starting from the most superficial level until he reaches the firm ground of the Great Silence. The deeper levels are the bases and contain potentially the more superficial ones just as for example several leaves grow on a twig of a tree, several twigs on a branch, and so forth. Consequently the deeper one penetrates the more concentrated and efficient will the mind become. Instructions received by mere verbal explanation will carry much less conviction. At the deeper levels things bear the evidence of direct perception and appear much than the arguments of discursive thinking.
This is why almost all religions make extensive use of various kinds of symbols idols with human or animal features, (murtis), geometrical designs (yantras), sounds (bija mantra) etc. in order to appeal to ever deeper layers of the mind. The greater the depths which the disciple reaches the simpler will be the symbols he needs.
Probably all great teachers have made use of that way of conveying truth without the help of the discursive thinking aspect. Mataji in Her daily contact with her devotees quite frequently seems to impart some of the precious teachings in a similar way. But alas often we fail to take full advantage of this divine dew: at times because of our lack of awareness, but also because it appears so simple to us that we do not make an effort to grasp its real meaning. Mataji's infinite kindness sometimes makes us forget who she really is: that Her sayings are teaching of the Holy Scriptures; the words uttered by Her lips like mantras; Her gestures mudras and Her facial expressions the images of the Divine with form. Like most of us I have been able to catch only a few isolated drips of this divine dew. It is from my own limited angle of vision that I take the liberty to write about this very profound teaching of Mataji. The few examples that follow will give only a faint idea of it.
Let me begin with something that appears most insignificant. ... Mataji frequently asks people: "How are you ?" Are you well ?" etc. When returning to Varanasi after a journey she usually would ask me and others this question. In the beginning, although I was glad to receive Mataji's attention, I did not attach much importance to this. Later, however, I came to observe that she put this question in many different ways and on definite occasions. Once I was in a stage of despondency, feeling that I was not progressing at all with my sadhana, maybe that I was even moving in a wrong direction, while as a matter of fact, as I understood later, exactly the reverse was true. During that period Mataji asked me on two occasions: "Tum bahut achhe ho?" meaning "You are very well?" She used a slightly questioning intonation and spoke with a loud voice as if she wanted to impress something on my mind.
At some other time I was thinking that I was progressing fast and quite unconsciously was getting a little puffed up with pride. But this attitude on the spiritual path is indeed the surest way to downfall. When Ma come to Varanasi, She asked me: "Tum achhe ho, na ?" meaning: "You are all right, aren't you ?" but word by word: "You are all right, no"? This question drew my attention to the weak point and I corrected my attitude of mind.
The following example although not concerned with any teaching is an interesting illustration of how an apparent defect in Mataji's voice can have a very good reason.
Once after the rainy season I got a pain in my tonsils which lasted for one and a half months without my being able to get rid of it. Mataji had just arrived form Hardwar, I believe. She set down on the veranda in front of the Annapurna Temple; we were about twenty people sitting around her. She looked in my direction and said: "Tum kaise ho ?" I was not sure whether Her question had been addressed to me and kept quiet, wondering. Mataji repeated the question looking straight at me. This time her voice seemed hoarse, as if she had a sore throat, although actually Mataji's health was quite all right that day. At that moment I had forgotten all about my aching tonsils and answered: "I am all right." The next day my throat was completely cured.
3) An Apparent Mistake.
Once I went to see Mataji at Vindhyachal and it was decided that I should remain there for some time after her departure. Mataji said "you may stay in the cave at the "bhajanalay" (a place to do sadhana) you are "Bhajanananda" (a short form for felicity of sadhana). When pronouncing that last word Her voice choked as if she had wanted to utter my real name, which is 'Vijayananda,' but a wrong word had come out by mistake. My first reaction was a slight displeasure to hear Mataji call me by a wrong name; but immediately after and much more so later I grasped the deep meaning of Her apparent mistake and the blessing it contained.
4) Change in Mataji's countenance,
Our facial expression is of great importance in our relationship with one another. Everybody can to a varying degree interpret the meaning expressed through the mimicry of the face, although with most people it is half unconscious and obscured by a great deal of discursive thinking. Our facial muscles are almost constantly moving and expressing various ideas. But this movement revolves round a central image which will be prominent for some hours or sometimes even days, and which represents the temporary personality with whom we are identified at the moment. This central image has its origin in the movement of the vital force. Most of the time, however, we are fully identified with this central image and therefore completely unaware of it. If we could watch it as a spectator a great deal would be achieved as regards the control of our mind. Mataji has many ways of helping us to this awareness. Sometimes She acts as a mirror, reflecting for a short while through Her countenance our state of mind, or its opposite or its complement. If we could keenly observe the changes in Mataji's countenance with an attitude of love and reverence, we should greatly benefit spiritually. All the modifications in the facial expressions happen with full consciousness and have a definite meaning. The pure sattva that shines through Mataji's body is in itself a potent upadesha (spiritual teaching).
5. A bud opens spontaneously
Sometimes Mataji brings about circumstances that strike our mind just at the psychological moment and impress it much more than a long discourse could possibly do. One evening at Varanasi Mataji was walking on the terrace facing the Ganges. I was leaning against the small shrine of Shiva situated at the back of the terrace. That day I felt greatly depressed thinking that I was not progressing enough. I looked sadly at Mataji and told Her mentally "Ma! Vijayananda has not yet got 'Vijaya' (victory) !" While thinking these words I had quite mechanically picked one of the flowers of the Akand tree that grows in the courtyard of the Ashram near the Shiva shrine. It was only a bud and still completely closed. I took it in my left hand and touched its top slightly with one finger of the right hand. As soon as I touched it the bud opened slowly and spread its petals up to full blossoming . I had not exercised any pressure, but just touched it lightly. Neither was this due to any pranic force flowing through my body; I afterwards tried several times to reproduce this feat again, but never succeeded. It was no doubt Mataji's response to my complaint and in this original way it was impressed on my mind at that very instant. The answer was, clear enough, what Mataji usually replies to a complaint or query of that sort. "It may happen even now at this very moment !' namely self-realization.
6. Ripe or unripe mango?
Once in Dehradun Mataji was sitting in the kirtan hall of the Kishenpur Ashram after the silence that is observed daily from 8:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Some devotees had brought a few mangoes, but there were not enough for a general distribution and so Mataji gave them only to the children present. Those mangoes were slightly yellowish. Among the lot there was one green-one, apparently unripe. Mataji threw it to me saying: "Kachha hai, bahut kachha" ("Unripe-very unripe!") Mataji's prasad given with Her own hands is a rare and precious thing, whatever it may be.
Mother and the Supernatural Powers
Many people are attracted towards the spiritual path or eager to come in contact with saints and sages by the lure of psychic powers. Frequently we have been asked by outsiders whether Mother performs miracles. This childish attitude towards the 'beyond' generally changes when people become more familiar with spiritual things. All miracles are within the realm of the illusory world (maya) and thus subject to relativity. For example to fly in the air, a normal thing for a bird, becomes a miracle when achieved by a human being. In any case, the Power that has brought into being this relative universe can also alter its details or the whole of it : and this Power resides in all living things and by its mere presence constantly performs the miracle of dynamic life.
But let us examine the problem from the ordinary (vyavaharic) point of view in order to reply to the question whether Mother performs miracles. It is a well known fact that at a certain stage of development Yogis are able to accomplish all sorts of feats that strike the imagination of the ordinary man. This is brought to its culmination in what is called the state of hiranyagarbha, when one has mastered the cosmic prana and is identified with it. But this is by no means the final goal; all sages insist that psychic powers are only obstacles on the way and that to make use of them would block the road to further progress.
Great bhaktas also are able to perform miracles. Their personal will having been completely surrendered to God, they are not bound by psychic powers. In their case a miracle may be wrought by the Divine Will sometimes even without their being aware of it. As regards the full blown Jnani, who is perfectly established in the Real, there is no reason for him to be interested in changes within the illusory world that is to say in substituting one kind of illusion for another.
Mother cannot be called a Yogini, although during the period of Her life when She played the role of a sadhika, She passed in an extraordinarily short span of time through all the stages and varieties of Yoga, right to their final perfection. Nor may we call Her a bhakta, although this too has been part of Her lila of sadhana, for in the state of Oneness there is no worshipper nor any object of worship. Moreover from the point of view of Her devotees She is Herself the object of worship.
She is no doubt a perfect Jnani and a liberated being, but not in the ordinary sense of these words. For to have attained to Jnana one must first have been in ajnana, to be liberated one must first have been in bondage, except as a matter of play during a period of Her lila of sadhana. An M.A. who plays at appearing for matriculation does not thereby cease to be an M.A. As regards miracles it seems inappropriate to say that Mother has supernatural powers : for Her there is no difference between the natural and the supernatural and what we style as miracles comes to Her as naturally as to us eating or walking. Many saints and sages of the past have performed miracles in a spectacular manner in order to convince people of their spiritual attainment or their divine mission. Nothing of this kind has ever been noticed in Mother's case.
When asked about some supernatural happening She looks unattached and almost unconcerned. The reason I believe to be that She considers psychic feats as what they really are, trifling things. Further more it is my own (no doubt limited) opinion that Mother does not perform the miracles Herself. Let me make this clear: Mother, who is now near to our hearts is the same Mother as that Being spoken of in the Scriptures : free from the taints of birth and rebirth, all knowing, all powerful pure Consciousness, etc. This Consciousness does not act by Itself, but through the medium of Its maya, Its Shakti ; it is not Mother who performs the miracles, but Her Shakti, at Her slightest wish or indication as king has just to say one word or make a sign to his minister and he knows that the work will be done to perfection, he may even ignore the details and the way in which it is being done.
But let us leave the field of speculation and see how in daily life Mother plays with the so called supernatural, for no other purpose than our spiritual benefit and from no other motive than Her infinite mercy.
Curing diseases is the first thing a layman expects a sage to be able to do. Amongst the crowds surrounding Mother one might discover a good number of people who have come in the hope of being relieved from a disease which doctors have failed to cure. But let people approach Her from any motive, in whatever way their relationship with Her may begin, it will sooner or later lead them to the right path.
When an unperfected Yogi uses his power to heal, he may possibly create a disturbance in the patient. Diseases sometimes prove helpful to spiritual progress or else protect the aspirant from some other greater evil. Besides they happen by the law of Karma and if removed the reaction will be felt in another way. But Mother knows the source of everything and when someone is cured by Her grace as it frequently happens the results of the Karma (Karma phal) are cut out by their roots. Almost each one of Her devotees will be able to relate at least one case where Her grace has relieved him from some illness, be it a most severe disease (in the case of the leper cured in Ambala in 1951) or perhaps just an ordinary rheumatic pain. Sometimes when the disease is likely to be helpful She may shift it to a period when the individual will be able to bear it more easily and get the maximum benefit out of it.
Even the Angel of Death has to obey Her. Only quite recently I heard about a devotee who was to die while on tour in America. But by Mother's grace his death was postponed until he returned to his family in India, where he finally expired. I am told by a reliable person that Mother has confirmed this fact.
What first strikes people who come in contact with Mother is Her extraordinary power to captivate human hearts. Some sadhakas, especially those following the tantric path acquire in the first stages the power to charm people. This power is rooted in the vital being. Others in whom the sattva guna predominates, attract people by a natural charm emanating from their body. But Mother's attraction is of quite a different nature. It is the reflection of our own true Self, the Atma that shines through Mother's physical frame.
As soon as we come in contact with Mother, at the first glance She sees our minds from the most secret subconscious level up to our superficial social personality, as easily as we may read from an open book. Whenever we come into Mother's presence She immediately knows our state of mind, why we feel worried or pleased etc. It often occurs that someone having asked Mother a question mentally, will get the reply either uttered audibly by Her or in any other way, depending on the circumstances. To tell Her a lie or to try to conceal something from her is to act like the ostrich that hides its head in the sand. All this has been said from the ordinary point of view, for in reality Mother has no need to read our minds She is ourselves.
Ma had the quality of seeing and hearing from a distance. She has Herself said : " Just as at a flash of torch light your faces gleam forth in bold outline, all your facial expressions appears in my mind when you meditate on me or talk about me or pray to me." Many of us have experienced that prayers addressed to Mother mentally and from any distance receive a response ; that She has an amazing knowledge of what we do most secretly. As regards our sadhana for instance She at times discloses in private or public things which we believed nobody could possibly know.
Our thoughts, our attitude of mind, our moods at certain periods which may last for several days are based on definite types that have their root in the flow of the pranic energy (life force) in our bodies. Mother can at will change that root and thereby our whole attitude of mind.
The world that we perceive with our senses is only a part of the manifested universe. The sages say that there are other planes, six higher than the physical plane and seven nether worlds. Mother has often told us how beings invisible to ordinary eyes come to pay their respects to Her. In the life of the Lord Buddha it has also been recorded that devas came into His presence.
Sometimes, if necessary, Mataji may manifest Herself far away from Her physical body, in a subtle body. Some of Her devotees have actually felt Her presence in sukshma (subtle form).
We read in the Bible how Christ performed the miracle of feeding a multitude with a small amount of food. On several occasions, when Mataji was distributing prasad a small quantity was found sufficient for a large number of people. It happens, while distributing fruit for example that the number of fruits tallies exactly with that of the persons present. In some cases when there appeared to be shortage of one fruit, it was found out later that one person had received a double share and that this had a special significance.
Everything that Mother does is infallible (amogha) and bears the touch of perfection even to the slightest detail. Suppose She cooks some food, it is always most delicious-not the best cook would be able to equal it; if She distributes fruits and sweets they are of the best type and according to the taste of the recipient; if She presents us with some cloth it will be just at the moment we need it and exactly the kind we were wanting; when She sings, it is always in perfect rhythm and tune. I have never seen Mother play a musical instrument except once, a few months ago, when She took a pair of cymbals (kartal) into Her hands and began to play with such skill and perfection, as no human being would be able to do. The atmosphere of the miraculous around Mother has impressed me ever since the very first day that I have met Her. It is a daily experience in our relationship with Mother.
Mother can call down rain or stop it at will. When She toured South Indian in 1952, Madras Province had been suffering from acute scarcity of rain for a prolonged period. I was present when a delegation came and prayed to Mother to bring about rainfall. No sooner had Mother and Her party crossed over the area of South India on our way back, it began to rain in great abundance. This was reported in the newspapers.
Almost everyone of Mother's devotees will be able to recount at least one or two miracles that Mother has wrought for him or in his presence. But the most wonderful miracle that She performs and the least apparent is that of the purification and transformation of our minds and hearts. Mother has repeatedly declared that in actual fact there is no need for us to "become" liberated: we are already free. The only thing that has to be done is to remove the obstacles that veil Reality, namely to purify the mind. many aspirants can bear witness as to how Mother helped them on this 'razor edge' path not only the way every Guru does, but in a miraculous way, obliterating in a few days obstructions that would normally have required long years of strenuous efforts to be overcome. Sometimes even, identified with the sadhakaa She may carry him across an obstacle, like a Mother lifting her child up in her arms. The miracle of inner transformation is the true miracle for this alone we should pray to Mother.
We frequently heard a saying that MA is all pervading. Her action was not limited to Her physical body, and She could hear our prayers at any distance. But these things are difficult to believe until one has actually experienced them. To strengthen our faith MA sometimes provided us with this experience. Every devotee of MA could tell at least one happening to this effect. The three following stories are an humble contribution in that direction.
I) The Poem of Tagore
This happened in Ma's Ashram at Varanasi, perhaps between 1953 and 1959. I do not remember the exact date. I was staying in a room on the second floor of the Ashram and doing hard tapasya. As it happens to many sadhakas on such occasions one day my mind got into a mood of despondency. Why ? Perhaps lack of progress in Sadhana. Or may be some shrinking away from the difficulties and the dangers involved. Ma was not at Banaras at that time. But anyhow to whom could I look for help if not to Ma. Her photo was on a shelf in my room (it was my Puja photo) and I addressed my prayers through that image. While I was engaged in this pious mood somebody knocked at my door. I opened. The person handed me over a magazine from France. It was Buddhist Journal I was receiving every three months. I opened it absent-mindedly still engrossed in my inner mood. It was written in French, but a few lines in English from the editor's columns attracted my attention; it was a few verses from Tagore:
"LET me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.
LET me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.
LET me not crave in anxious fear to be saved, but hope for the patience to win my freedom."
I was stunned ! This was just the right answer to my prayer. How mysterious are Ma's ways ! I cut out these few lines from the Buddhist Journal and put it under the frame of my Puja Photo. It is still there.
II "Ma Eshechen" (Ma has come)
My first DARSHAN of Sri Ma was on 2nd February 1951. The next day, through Her infinite grace, She accepted me in Her Ashram at Varanasi. After that I was constantly with Her during 19 months (except one day when She had sent me with an advance party) travelling in Her compartment, frequently in Her car, and of course in Her room whenever it was possible ; that means many many hours. At that time the rule was that whenever the door was open we could enter Ma's room and sit at Her feet .
What a joy it was to sit silently near the Embodiment of the Divine Mother, and of partaking in some measure of the Bliss of which She was the embodiment. But it was not just an idle enjoyment. Her very presence was a teaching. Without telling a word She was bringing about a radical transformation of one's being ; opening the nadis, loosening the fetters that were binding us since many lives, purifying the mind etc. etc... . Actually most of my sadhana in the early years was done while sitting at the Holy Feet of Sri Ma. My attachment for Ma's physical presence was so great that a simple delay or shortening of the darshan used to fill my mind with anguish. Of course this was too much and Ma in Her wisdom tried to wean me away. I was then asked to stay at Varanasi Ashram even during Her absence. But in that period She used to come (come back, for it was the head-quarters) to Varanasi very frequently, at least once a month. On one occasion Sri Ma went to Vindyachal from Banaras, and I did not accompany Her. She was supposed to stay sometimes at Vindyachal to enable Her to get some rest. No date had been fixed for Her return to Varanasi.
My room was on the 2nd floor of the main building of the Ashram. Every evening toward sunset, I used to sit outside, mostly on the upper terrace of the Ashram from where one had a breathtaking view of the ghats up to Manikarnika and trying to do some meditation.. and thinking. But of what could I think if not of Ma. On one occasion I started a mental conversation with Her. She had just left one or two days before and my yearning for Her was not so great. Nevertheless as a kind of play with myself - I was telling Her how I would be glad to see Her again; how much I was longing for Her darshan. I had no intention to call Her and it didn't just occur in my mind that She might hear me. Any why should She pay attention to my idle talk ?
While this mental conversation was going on, I heard all of a sudden a soft voice telling me very clearly in Bengali "akarshan bad na hoi" (if there is no impediment). The rest of the sentence was conveyed mentally. It meant "I will come tomorrow evening". I took it as a play of my imagination. Even if Ma did actually hear my mental talk (and I doubted She did) why should She take the trouble to reply, let alone to come ? And the whole matter went out of my mind. The next evening, I was sitting in my room preparing (or perhaps eating) my light evening meal. It must have been about 7:00 P.M.; it was already dark, it was a short winter day. Suddenly I heard a voice coming from the Court of the Ashram. It was the voice of Mukti Baba. He was shouting "Ma eshechen ! Ma eshechen " ! (Ma has come). Mukti Baba was a man full of humour and did not mind to play occasionally some pranks. My first reaction was to take it as one of Mukti Baba's jokes. But then I had a second thought. "Ma may actually have come ! What is the harm in going down and checking if it is true or not ?" And I left my meal and went down.
Ma had actually come ! Before I could make pranam She had already vanished in the Kanyapeeth building . She seemed to be in a stern mood and did not even look at me. The next morning She returned to Vindyachal without telling me a single word. I was very sorry and ashamed to have been the cause of such inconvenience for our beloved Mother. But the lesson was brought home. Wherever we are, whatever we may think, was known to our beloved Guru. What a wonderful thing to be under the protection of such a Great Being.
III The Red Lotus
In the year 1980 (if I remember well) the celebration of the Durga puja festival was scheduled to be held at Bombay, Vile Parle, in the presence of Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi. A few months before the celebration Sri Ma was at Kankahal. She had the Kheyal that similar celebration should be held also at Kankhal Ashram in grand style although She Herself would not be there physically. A Pujari had to come specially from Calcutta with his own party. Before leaving Kankhal Sri Ma worked out all the details with Shri Ram Panjwani and others. I do not know the reason why Sri Ma had suddendly this kheyal, but I was convinced that as she had taken so much interest for the arrangement of this puja at Kankhal she would be present at that time in some subtle form. When the time of the Durga Festival was nearing a very beautiful Durga Murti was brought to our Ashram through the kindness of Shri Ram Panjwani. The Pujari came from Calcutta with a big party. There were only a few ashramites as most of them had gone to Bombay with Sri Ma.
The Puja started at Kankhal. There was an excellent atmosphere, that kind joyous festival feeling which is so familiar to those who have been present to functions with Shri Ma's physical presence. (Although it was not so intense as when Sri Ma is there in Her physical body.) Myself (as I rarely leave my room in the morning) used to come in the evening for the Arati and for the sandhi puja.
One evening (perhaps Ashtami or Navami) during the Arati I was looking at the Durga Murti it was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen, and seemed full of life. Was it Ma's presence or some divine presence or simply my imagination ? this was the kind of thought in my mind at that time. " After all", I thought "it is only an image of clay. Perhaps it is my imagination that gives it life". Then I decided to make some test. Looking at the Murti I started a conversation with HER:-
"Mother! If you are really alive, and not simply an image of clay, grant me a boon". And I asked for a boon, then: "if you really hear me, and if you grant me the boon, please give me a sign." Which sign to ask ? It flashed in my mind: "Let Her show me a red lotus." There was no reason why I asked for this special sign and I had no idea how the lotus could or should be shown to me. (Later I came to know that red lotuses are very rare at Kankhal, and that the Pujari had brought a few from Calcutta.)
As soon I had asked for this sign - perhaps in the very moment- the Pujari picked up from somewhere a red lotus (which I could not have seen as people were standing for the arati) and started waving it before Durgaji: then he put it high above his head and waved it quite a time and I could see it easily although I was behind many people standing. I thought:"This is really extrordinary; the Divine Mother has answered at once. But after all, I continued, it may be a coincidence", then I resumed my conversation with the Murti: "if I am not deluding myself, and you are really hearing me then you should actually give me a red lotus".
When the Arati was over we all went to sit down for hearing the kirtan. As soon as I sat down a young man called Deepak who was an assistant to the Pujari came near me and asked me with much kindness if he could give me some prasad. I explained to him that I did not accept anything except from Sri Ma's own hands. That this was a rule I was following since many years. But as he was for me a newcomer and I was afraid he would misunderstand me and get offended, I added (in Hindi) phool de sakte (flowers, you can give). He replied abhi donga (I will you immediately). He entered the enclosure where the puja was held and brought a red lotus. I was surprised but very happy that the Divine Mother had removed my doubt so rapidly. She not only gave me the red lotus but also granted the boon I had asked for ... But this is another story.
I kept preciously the red lotus on my puja table as it had been given to me. I believe by the Divine Mother Herself. Unfortunately it started losing its petals one by one. And towards the summer I had to put it away. In the month of May Sri Ma's Birthday celebrations were held at Kankhal. The day after the Tithi Puja (the lunar date), Shri Ma called me and gave me with her own pure hands a large amount of fruits. She frequently used to give me fruits, but very rarely flowers or garlands. But this time after having given me the fruits she said a few words to a brahmacharini who went inside and brought back a flower which Shri Ma gave me with her own holy hands. It was a red lotus!! I put it on my Puja table replacing the one which had lost it petals. It is still there, now after more than 4 years, almost the same. It had dried up but does not lose its petals.
I felt as if Shri Ma would have been telling me "You see! What the Mother of clay has given you (the flower and the boon) it transient; but what I give you will last for ever".
SOME INCIDENTS DURING THE BIRTHDAY
CELEBRATION AT AHMEDABAD
Early morning at 3.a.m. on May 3rd the first Puja of Mother was celebrated. The huge crowd gathered gradually during the following days and therefore only a few people, perhaps about 50, were present at that ceremony. Mother as usual on these occasions was laying absolutely still, apparently far from our manifested words. Some outsiders utter on such occasions 'Mother is sleeping', a notion we need not discuss, as it may be dismissed straight away.
Some learned people say Mataji is then in the state of 'nirvikalpa samadhi' no doubt she may be in that state. But it seems to me that she does not have to go in to any particular state, however exalted, as Her natural and continuous state is one which is beyond all states as she herself clearly declared on many occasions, as far as I can understand. Besides in the state of nirvikalpa samadhi the phenomenal world ceases to exist and there is then no Mother and no children craving for her blessings. It is Mataji's mahakaruna (great compassion) that makes her remain with us rather than resting in the Supreme Bliss of nirvana.
Needless to say I do not venture to infer about Mataji's state on those occasions: that is far beyond our power of grasping. A man who was born blind might just as well discuss colours. But I wish to draw the attention of the reader to a small detail I noticed on that blessed night. During the whole time while lying down, Mataji's hands were folded in a most graceful manner in a beautiful mudra. My description can give only a faint idea of the beauty of her gesture. Her hands were folded in a way so as to express giving with full hands. The reader who is familiar with psychology of Yoga to some extent at least will know the deep significance of gestures or mudras. In man's thought processes they occupy a deeper level than mere conversation in words. Moreover in Mataji's case the full awareness in which a mudra is done and the direct relation of this action to the Primal Source imparts to the gesture profound meaning and efficacy.
Therefore (this is of course but my personal and necessarily limited opinion) during the Holy Night it occurred to me that Mataji was embodying the power showering blessings and spiritual strength on us, indeed it is not enough to say that She was giving with full hands nay, She was identified with the power of giving.
One night a mahatma who had come especially from Vrindavan, after delivering a lecture, requested Mataji to sing a song. He asked especially for "Radhe, Radhe". Mataji began to sing : " Radhe, Radhe, Pritama Radhe". There was something almost masculine in the quality of Her voice that conveyed extreme sweetness and love. Her face changed as She sang. Her features were as noble and calm as they always are, but different. Her hair seemed to fall over Her shoulders not in the usual way, but it reminded me of the pictures representing Lord Krishna. I got the impression of Lord Krishna Himself calling out to his beloved Radha.
Almost everyone who has come in contact with Mataji has been struck by Her unique way of singing kirtan and other religious songs. I have heard many kinds of singers in many places. Almost all of them have one particular kind of voice with a register more or less large depending on the capacity of the singer. Some are able to use their voice in two different ways, head voice and normal. But with Mataji it is quite different. Her voice seems to change completely according to the subject of the song. It is as if it were not the same person that is singing the various songs. One wonders how for example the sweet and delicate, almost child like voice singing "Hridayaduara aji" can come from the same mouth as the sonorous tune vibrating with intense spiritual emotion with which She repeats " Hari bol, Hari bol". But then Mataji is not a person and one cannot really say that She is singing. I feel that it is the Shabda Brahman that manifests Itself in this way.
Western people do not know anything about neither do they believe in what is called in India. "Ashraya-Gune" of food. Whoever prepares or touches food communicates to it some of his qualities, be they good or bad, usually both good as well as bad. The three aspects of manifestation anna (matter), prana (energy) and manas (mind) are in fact one and the same substance just as ice water and vapor are not essentially different from one another. The mental and emotional wave of the person while cooking will pervade the food and in the digestion of the food a mental and emotional wave of the same quality will again tend to make its appearance.
Whatever food is to be given to Mataji is prepared with the observance of the greatest possible purity by pure people ; and when Mataji has partaken of some food or even touched it, it becomes prasad. The pure and intense Sattva emanating from Mataji's body is imparted to the food by Her contact and will burn away any impurity that might be there. Mataji's prasad increases the sattwic vrittis. No harm can come from eating Mataji's prasad even if it happens to be a kind of food that does not otherwise agree with one physically. I should like to recount an experience to this effect I had at Ahmedabad.
One day a friend of mine came from Bombay for Mataji's darshan and we had our meal together. I asked for Mataji's prasad which was brought to us most generously in abundance by our host. The next day, my friend having left, I again cooked my own food as I usually do. At about 1 p.m. some fruit and sweets were brought to me, probably the prasad of some Puja. Since I was keeping silence that day I could not make any inquiries about it. The lady who had handed the prasad to me said she would return at about 2 p.m. and I thought it was in order to take away the empty plate. I finished my meal as well as eating all the prasad I had been given and then felt that I had perhaps slightly overeaten. But at 2 o' clock the lady came back with a plate full of Mataji's prasad, which in itself would have been sufficient for a full meal. I was much moved by the delicate attention of our host, who having noticed that I was eager for Mataji's prasad, had sent plenty of it once again.
I must mention here that my digestion is very delicate and gets upset by the least overeating. I could not say anything as I was keeping silence, neither could I throw Mataji's prasad away or keep it for the next day in the broiling heat of May. Mataji's prasad is sacred and not one grain of it must be wasted. So I ate up bravely the contents of the plate including even a chilly which it contained. I was prepared (although I had full faith in the virtue of the prasad) to fast on liquid diet the next day and probably on rice and curds the two following days. But to my utter amazement I did not at all feel that I had overeaten after finishing the prasad. On the contrary I felt light and very harmonious and peaceful throughout the afternoon and, as I found out afterwards, having eaten such a large quantity of prasad on a full stomach in a hot climate had no adverse effect whatsoever on my health.
The Invisible Power
In such a huge gathering round Mataji one can hardly imagine what a lot of arrangements have to be made : providing accommodation and food, receiving the guests and cars, endless small and big things that have to be seen to when a crowd has gathered. The strange thing that many people have noticed is that there is apparently no organization, no manager to give orders and no staff to carry them out. Yet everyone is co-operating, not following orders but under the banner of love, as in a huge family. What is still more strange is that everything works out smoothly. Never once did I hear that any one of the numerous visitors could not get food or had to leave for lack of lodging facilities. Suppose someone is coming from a cool place and feeling rather afraid of the long journey in the heat. But the day he is travelling it happens to rain and so the temperature is pleasant. The train one has to take is reputed for being always overcrowded. But by some special good luck one is able to secure sleeping accommodation for the whole night. Having reached one's destination, one does not know in which locality Mataji is putting up. Lo and behold a stranger comes along and gives one detailed information. At last one has got the right address, but it is very late at night. How and whom is one to ask for quarters? But one finds Swamiji standing at the gate and he at once assigns a room to the newcomer and provides for a good dinner. But oh, what a pity at this time of night Mataji's darshan is of course impossible because She must be resting and one shall have to wait till the next morning. But no : Mataji has just come out of Her room for a stroll ! The next day one has to go to town to make purchases, but does not know the way. A devotee whom one has never met before, who is returning home, offers you a lift in his car. And so on and on. This cannot be written down or explained one has to experience it. How circumstances dovetail perfectly, just at the psychological moment can be understood only by him to whom this happens.
It is as if some Invisible Power were moving from within all those who are present at the gathering : a Power of love and harmony, not only concerned with the spiritual uplift of everyone, but also with the smallest details of their welfare.
There are other articles details about the functions of Ahmedabad. Let us hope that Mataji will bless us with many, many more celebrations of this kind.
(Just below, we give another text of Vijayanada on Ma's birthday celebrations)
My intention is not to give an account of the celebrations this will probably be done by persons who are better qualified for the task myself ; I just want to write about a few points that struck me on that occasion.
Many people have noticed and some have even complained that there is apparently no organization to see to the welfare and discipline of the people who take part in the large gatherings around Mother, as we saw in the last article. How can this be possible ? If we look round and watch the actions of our daily life and the ways of Nature, we shall find that there are two different methods of working, that actions can be performed in two different ways : the way of the human mind and that of Nature. The former has its origin in the intellect, the ego fully conscious of its possibilities. Let us consider for example the building of a house. The plan of construction has been devised by the mind of the architect. Before starting on the building work, every detail has been thought out and calculated : the amount of the various materials needed, their cost, the number of workmen required, etc. etc. The architect's calculations are done with extreme care, for if the house collapsed it would be disastrous.
All this shows the functioning of a power namely that of the ego conscious of its capacity no doubt, but aware also of its limitations ; a power capable of perceiving only its small circumscribed sphere of activity, but not its relation with universe. The way of Nature is quite different. Let us take for example the growth of a mango tree. If we go into details we can notice that branches, twigs, leaves and so on are growing without symmetry. There may be a huge branch on the one side and a very small one on the opposite side. Some branches yield an abundance of flowers and fruits, others almost none. Thousands of blossoms fall down that will never bear fruits. many unripe mangoes are shaken off by the wind ; and when finally the fruits have the chance of producing a new tree ? Very few indeed although, this is surely the ultimate aim of the fruit. In this way a power acts that is conscious of its infinite wealth, of its omnipotence. The apparently irregular growth of the tree puzzles the intellect used to geometrical forms and to symmetry. But the ultimate result is the majestic beauty of a gigantic tree. The huge waste is the token of a power that has a storehouse of infinite riches at its disposal. In actual fact there is no waste, but only circulation of matter within the oneness of the universe. The flowers and fruits that fall from the tree are not lost. They will enrich the soil and help other plants to grow, or nourish birds and insects. The power that causes the mango tree to grow does not only see this limited part of its functioning, but knows its relation with the Whole.
A higher aspect of that very same power arranges for the welfare of the hundreds of people who collect around Mother. It is the power that pervades all beings and moves them from within. This power is aware of the needs of every single individual and knows the measure of his capacity to receive according to the results of his Karma. It is conscious of the relationship between all being and of the Oneness behind the appearance of diversity, whereas the power of the ego sees only the superficial diversity, the splitting up into individuals.
During the last night of Mother's birthday celebrations (or rather in the early morning) at the end of the Tithi Puja everyone is allowed to go near Mother to do obeisance and offer flowers or anything else of his choice. This can only be done one by one and as hundreds of people are present it is bound to take a good deal of time. The mind would naturally wish that there should be some efficient organization keeping people in a queue and making them recede by a different way after doing their pranams. But in Mother's presence discipline and organization from outside may be out of place and perhaps even harmful, or by it the free play of the Divine Power might be hampered through the rigidity of the human will. In fact on most occasions, without any organization, people walk up to Mother one by one in perfect order and in complete silence, but on this occasion in Dehradun this was not the case.
I was present during that holy night at Kishenpur, and as everybody else, I also tried to approach Mother when the Puja was over. On that night Mother usually lies on a couch, absolutely still and to all appearance far removed from bodily consciousness. As soon as She returns to the normal state, offerings and salutations are stopped and Mother is led back to Her room.
I had brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers, intending to offer it to Mother. I tried first to follow one queue, but another one had formed from a different direction. After several unfruitful attempts I at last managed to come near Mother with only three or four people in front of me. But at that moment a few ladies rushed in and we were obliged to stand back. I then reflected that one should after all take things as they came on all occasions and thus remained aloof.
At that very moment Mother sat up. A human semicircle was formed around Her to protect Her from the crowd offering and salutations had to stop. It looked as if the bouquet I had brought would not fulfill its purpose of existence. A few minutes later Mother rose. On those occasions it takes some time until She fully recovers body-consciousness and She is led to Her room, supported by several persons. Two human walls are formed on both sides of Her way to enable Her to walk, undisturbed by the intruding crowd. Strangely enough, the spot where I stood aloof was just on Mother's way and between the human walls. Mother advanced, facing exactly in my direction. I deposited the bunch of flowers at Her feet, made obeisance and stepped out of Her way. When afterwards I mused about this incident, I realized that in that holy night, notwithstanding the dense crowd and the apparent confusion, I had the chance to present my offerings to Mother in a unique and exceptional way, in fact in precisely the manner that I preferred. Probably many other persons had similar experiences.
During that holy night I had the good fortune of being able to observe closely Mother's countenance almost immediately after She got up from the state of absolute stillness. It is well known that during the Puja of the last night of the celebrations, She usually lies with Her face covered entirely or almost entirely by Her sari. She appears to have left body consciousness. I do not know whether anyone has until now been able to ascertain whether Her pulse and breathing stop on those occasions. The reverence we all feel for Mother, keeps us from attempting such investigations. But even if pulse and breathing are not completely suspended, they must at any rate most likely be almost imperceptible. The state in which Mother appears to be on those occasions is of course quite beyond the range of our understanding. Many people believe that She enters Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In that state, the empirical world ceases to exist and consequently there are neither the Mother nor Her children yearning for Her blessings, but only pure, unbroken, blissful consciousness. Mother is and has ever been free to remain constantly in that supreme and exalted state. It is Her boundless love that makes Her play with us the play of duality. It seems improbable that in the holy night of Her birthday when so many people have gathered to implore Her blessings, She should retreat into the Great Void. I take it that, rather on the contrary, She very likely assumes a state in which Her benediction can pour down on us at maximum abundance and where She can absorb as much as possible of the bad Karma of Her children.
The first birthday celebration of Mother that I attended took place in 1951 at Ambala, only a few months after I first met Mother. During the Tithi Puja I sat not very far from Her. She was lying down straight, as usual on those occasions, apparently far removed from this world. I thought She was in nirvikalpa samadhi and looked sadly at Her, thinking : "Mother has gone far away from us !" While this thought was revolving in my mind, Mother awoke, sat up and opened Her eyes. Her first glance fell straight on me. It was a long and deep gaze full of significance, which I clearly understood to mean : " No! I have not gone far away from you; I am ever, ever present with you, very, very near you!" This year at Dehradun when I saw Mother rise after the Puja, it seemed to me that She bore the expression of one who had just carried away the heavy load of our miseries.
The night of the anniversary of Mataji's birth is for most of us a vigil. I myself took rest for only a few hours before the function began. In general when my sleep is cut short even slightly, I feel drowsy during the next day. But I have experienced this year as many times before that when we forego sleep for Mother's sake, not the least inconvenience will be felt. I returned from the celebration at about 6 a.m. feeling fresh and rested and immediately got busy with my daily routine.
A conversation with a friend from Calcutta, an old and fervent devotee of Mother attracted my attention to one of the most extraordinary features that have been observed by many people in connection with Mother. The crowds round Her may consist of thousands or tens of thousands - yet She will never forget any single person. If one asks Her for a private interview, She will grant it in due course and at the most propitious moment. If a request has been made to Her, the response will come without fail. If someone wishes to take leave of Her before going away, he will be received at the right time. She knows where and how everybody has been accommodated. If one encounters a difficulty, She is always there to solve the matter. When She talks to people about their personal problems, She gives the impression of knowing every detail. Not only this ; the living interest She takes in every individual gives him the conviction although it may seem absurd at first thought that Mother's attention and care are fully focussed on him and on him alone, just as if he were the dearest of all Her children. Many people are convinced of this and although it sounds almost ridiculous it is nevertheless true. How can this be possible ? Mother has no ego consciousness, no limiting personality of Her own She is one with the pure, blissful, impersonal, Chaitanya (Consciousness). When Her attention is drawn towards one individual, the center of conscious focussed on him. She identifies with him, even more, with his own Self. And there is nothing dearer than it : "Indeed, it is not for the love of all that all are dear, but it is for the love of the Self that all are dear", says the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad.
On the Teaching of
SHREE SHREE MA ANANDMAYEE
What is Sri Sri Anandamayi Ma's teaching ? This is a question one can often hear, for it is put by most newcomers. All who are close to Mataji must of course have been present at some of the meetings in public or in small groups when Mataji with profound wisdom replies to questions on religious and spiritual subjects, often displaying a keen sense of humor. Many of these discussions have been recorded, noted down and published by men far better fitted for the task than myself. It is not this teaching that I want to talk about in the following few lines, but rather another aspect of Mataji's teaching, much simpler and more direct, which has nothing or very little to do with big philosophical problems. In fact this side of Her teaching might well appear to be commonplace and as such often pass unnoticed ; although in my opinion it appeals to a much deeper layer of our being and can therefore be extremely helpful in our spiritual search, if only we will listen to it and open ourselves to the Divine Blessing that pours down on us constantly in Mataji's presence.
To be in Mataji's company almost invariably brings us in touch with people of every psychological type. In Western countries the saying that the face is the mirror of the soul is quite proverbial. Actually all our thoughts are reflected in our countenance. The slightest mental vibration produces a contraction of one or several facial muscles. I have watched a great many faces and never, not even for a fraction of a second, have I seen reflected in them the state " beyond desire and fear." Swiftly the thought waves follow one another just like the billows on an expanse of water agitated by the wind. But in Mataji's face the mouth expresses a state of completeness, of wholeness in which everything is included. Never can even the slightest trace of fear or irritation be detected in Her eyes. They ever radiate the same love, the same sweetness, regardless of the most trying circumstances. This is real beauty. What a great joy it is to contemplate such a countenance ! To watch and lovingly remember it will unconsciously make us try to imitate its expressions and these will in due course lead us to the attitude of mind to which they correspond.
A reader who has never had Mataji's darshan might perhaps imagine that Her features are always set in a static expression of peace.In fact emotions pass over Her face like ripples which a light breeze produces on the surface of a quiet lake, while the immutable calm of its depths remains ever undisturbed. Mataji plays with feelings, but never Herself becomes their plaything as most of us do. An intelligent observer will soon notice how She mirrors the emotional states of Her surroundings without ever really being affected by them like a crystal that assumes the colours of the objects entering its field of refraction.
Mataji's conversation about trivial everyday matters is never trivial. For those who know how to listen, it almost always contains some profound teaching. On several occasions, both in public meeting and in small gatherings, I have remarked how Mataji suddenly utters a sentence that appears incomprehensible to us and sometimes perhaps even beside the point. I have repeatedly been able to discover afterwards that this sentence was meant for someone in the audience in reply to a query that had been tormenting him, or that it represented the solution of a problem that until then had seemed insoluble to him.
Last summer at Solan after the celebrations of Mataji's birthday. She was one day as usual taking her evening stroll just outside the Ashram veranda. At that hour a dog used to come and beg for prasad from Mataji. The entrance of the Ashram veranda is guarded by two wooden tigers, realistically painted with their laws wide open, ready to bite. Jokingly Mataji placed the sweets that were meant for the dog into the tiger's mouth. Everyone was highly amused to see the poor dog standing in front of the tiger, torn between the desire to snatch the sweets and the fear of being bitten by the wooden beast. Mataji then made a remark of which I do not recall the exact words. Its meaning was that the fear which keeps a man fettered to the world was just as illusory as the dog's fear of the wooden tiger. Apart from the general teaching this statement conveyed, it was meant for a particular person present. Like an infallible arrow it hit the center of the target and did its work.
It happens frequently that people coming to Mataji with distressing questions, problems or difficulties find a clear and simple solution. Merely by sitting in Her Presence the solution presented itself quite naturally, convincingly and with obviousness. For, what a great Sage, a real Guru brings about spontaneously is not only to clarify the mind and to transmit power, but above all to disperse the mists that hide our true Self, our Eternal Being, and to put us in communion with THAT. Once this contact has been established, it is THAT which advises and guides us with unfailing certainty.
Many of those who live near Mataji have probably like myself experienced that when we approach Her with questions concerning our sadhana, She most assuredly replies with wisdom and kindness, yet often only briefly, in a detached manner, as if it were a matter of secondary importance. When on the other hand we become the actors in some little incident of everyday life and display anger or quarrelsomeness, etc., She seems to take great interest . She summons those involved in it, inquires carefully into the details and sometimes spends hours over the solution of some apparently petty difficulty.
Spiritual practices such as meditation, japa and so forth are undoubtedly of great importance. Nevertheless, as I have heard Mataji point out on various occasions, their sole purpose is to assist us in removing the veil that conceals Reality from us. That veil is made up of desires, anger, fear etc. and it is in one's daily life that one has the chance to study these obstructions as they arise, to bring them into the field of one's consciousness so as to get rid of them.
One day, for some insignificant reason, I lost my temper in Mataji's presence. Impetuously I blurted out a few irreverent words, of which I repented immediately afterwards. She replied, as She always does with great gentleness, although it appeared to me tinged with a shade of irony. I felt ashamed ; the same evening I asked for a private interview in order to apologize. I was naturally anxious that the whole matter should be forgotten as quickly as possible and that nobody should mention it anymore. But Mataji on the contrary dwelt on it at length, minutely examining the details and questioning the persons involved, which made me the more deeply ashamed.
A competent surgeon does not feel satisfied by merely making an incision when treating an abscess, but cuts a wide opening so as to be able to drain the sore completely, straightening out the folds in the skin and carefully removing any hidden trace of pus. Similarly Mataji does not merely settle a particular difficulty, but penetrates to the root of the evil and deals with it, so that it may be destroyed with all its ramifications and never sprout up again.
Later I came to understand the psychology of what had happened that day. The rage that had been smouldering within me was bound to explode against someone or other. Mataji Herself had deflected it towards Her own person, so as to direct its karmic results. This is how, again and again, She arranges things for our good. Many of Her devotees must have had similar experiences. I am told that She said : " If you must be angry, be angry with me, for you will not be able to keep it up for long." And also : " By moha (strong attachment) for this body (meaning Herself), all moha will be destroyed."
Wrath or affection felt for an ordinary persons must inevitably produce a reaction in that person and set in motion a whole series of karmic consequences. Whereas if the object of one's anger or attachment is a perfect Being, the waves of the emotion will find no resistance and therefore exhaust themselves and die away like fire that has nothing to consume anymore.
Anyone who wishes to remain with Mataji for a lengthy period of time, will have to spend a good part of his life at railway stations and in trains for Mataji rarely stays in one place for long. The agitation of a railway station, the mental fever that usually accompanies the preparations for a journey are difficult to bear. Most people are unconsciously carried away completely by the current of excitement surrounding them. A few will now and again have bright moments in which they may be able to observe their own and other people's reactions ; but those who in the midst of such mental whirlpools can stand aside and watch as disinterested spectators are surely exceptional. As to Mataji Herself, She is ever calm, unperturbed and cheerful, like a rock that no storm can affect. However when travelling with Mataji things automatically arrange themselves : the train that one was afraid to miss arrives an hour late the carriages are packed and it seems impossible to find a place, but somehow, as if by miracle, everything is managed ; one feels exhausted and longs to lie down and sleep, but lo and behold, just then a berth becomes vacant. All the same, it is human nature to wish to direct every thing by one's own strength, while it would be so much simpler to let oneself be guided by the invisible Han of the Divine.
Yet sometimes Mataji calls us to order: once for example we were waiting for a train that would in all probability be overcrowded. We were to reach our destination only the next day, which meant passing the whole night in acute discomfort. I had purchases an interclass ticket and was, as it were, lying in wait for the train, ready to jump into the first compartment and occupy a berth if possible -an attitude of mind no doubt quite unworthy of a sadhaka and even more so of one who had been travelling with Mataji for some time. At the very moment the train came into the station Mataji passed in front of me and, pointing to a large heap of luggage, requested me with a peculiar smile to see it safely into the train. Patiently I stood and waited until the last of the numerous luggage had been stored away in the compartment, imagining in advance the sleepless night I would have to pass amidst the dense crowd. In the meanwhile everyone had boarded the train and I thought I might deem myself fortunate if I could se cure sitting accommodation of some sort. But exactly where I was standing and guarding the luggage there happened to be an Interclass carriage. Someone whom I hardly knew had reserved an upper berth for me and helped me to get in with my bags.
These few lines will give the reader but a vague and limited idea of that which I call Mataji's direct teaching. It is in Her presence that one has day after day to experience for oneself Her Divine radiation. All one has to do is to see with one's eyes, to hear with one's ears and to understand with one's heart. It is related that after God had created the universe and assigned their rightful places to all creatures, Sin approached Him and asked : " Where is my place?" The Creator replied : Where God's name is not, there you may reside ; your dwelling place is with the man who does not pronounce the name of the ONE, who does not cherish the remembrance of Him."
WHAT MOTHER IS NOT
What Mother is in reality is perplexing question that has been voiced frequently and to which to this day nobody has been able to find a satisfactory reply ; for the simple reason, it seems to me, that no adequate answer to this enigma exist. The full solution of the mystery can come only after complete spiritual Realization.
In this article, however, I intend to deal with a problem which is not quite so far beyond my limited possibilities. Among certain people false ideas are prevalent concerning Mother and Her teaching. These ideas are held by persons who have either met Mother only casually or else have merely heard or read about Her. Such wrong notions are to a certain extent excusable, for it is very difficult to find out along what line Mother actually teaches. A vedantist for example, when talking to Mother for the first time, will feel convinced that She is a pure advaita vedantin ; a shakta may very likely say that She is an incarnation of the Divine Mother, advocating the cult of Shakti ; while a Vaisnava will see in Her a great bhakta, and so on. It is only after having known Her fairly closely and for a long time that one become aware of Her innumerable facets and of Her extraordinary universality. But let us examine one by one the incorrect or partly incorrect views about Mother that I have come across.
Is Mother a Tantrik Guru ?
( I shall refer to the world 'tantrik' not in its etymological and true meaning, but in the way it is commonly under stood expecially by Western people, namely as the path of sadhana that makes use of sexuality in its practices.)
When I first came to India I was told by a young Westerner that he had been warned against Mother as She was supposed to be a " yogini directing 'shaktis'(female lovers)". This opinion can of course he held only by one who has never seen Mother and probably not even talked to any of Her devotees ; who is completely ignorant of the fact that strict brahmacharya (chastity) is one of the main requisites for admission into Mother's Ashrams, that moreover not only physical abstinence is necessary, but absolute purity of thought and emotion is aimed at. Says Mother : " It is the pure undefiled flower that finds a place at the feet of the Lord and nowhere else. Take great care to spend your life in spotless purity, worthy to be dedicated in worship to the Lord. " ('Matri Vani' No. P85.)
As to Mother's own person it is needless to say that the name given to Her by Her parents, namely Nirmala (immaculate) is more than justified : Such absolute, flawless purity cannot be found in any earthly or even heavenly being.
Is Mother a magician or hypnotiser ?
It has come to my ears that there are those who believe that Mother attracts people through magic or hypnotism with no other motive than to play with them. Someone from Europe who came to see me, related to me, he had been given to understand that there was a French doctor (the writer of this article) staying in Sri Anandamayi Ma's Ashram, whom She was keeping under the spell of Her hypnotic power. Someone had even been advised to try and rescue me.
To such deluded people we can only say that Mother is indeed a great divine magician, attracting to Herself innumerable men and women, who are under the spell of the terrible and powerful magician called Maya and hypnotized by the countless ties of mundane life. By the charm of Her divine love Mother hypnotizes them away from worldliness and with Her infinite patience gradually leads them " From the unreal to the Real, from ignorance to the Light of Wisdom, from death to Immortality."
Is Mother a Shakta?
I have read an article about Mother in which the writer referred to Her as 'a child of the Divine Mother'. The author had obviously the best intentions and felt deep reverence for Mother, but he evidently failed to recognize Her true greatness. Mother does not worship any aspect of God, being Herself the embodiment of THAT, from which all gods and goddesses emanate. It is of course true that Mother often speaks of Herself as little child and calls all married people Her fathers and mothers. But so far as I can understand, She is the kind of child to whom Sri Aurobindo refers when he writes that the Lord is an eternal child, playing an eternal play in an eternal garden.
Is Mother Shakti Herself ?
In Shakti worship, devotion is directed towards the Divine in Its dynamic aspect, putting less stress on the static, transcendental consciousness (Shiva). The personifications of Shakti as Durga, Kali, Sri correspond to different methods of awakening kundalini, the creative power slumbering in man. These deities possess a relative reality. They represent certain aspects of the Divine condensed into name and form. Mother says it is like water in ice. But what manifests through Mother's physical frame is THAT in which all deities have their source. To say that Mother is an embodiment of Durga, Kali or any other deity, may be true, but it is only fragmentary truth. Says Mother : "The visions of gods and goddesses occur in accordance with one's inherited dispositions (samskaras) I am what I ever was and shall be. I am whatever you conceive, think or say," (Mother As Revealed to Me, p, 6.7.) and : " ...Thou art the embodiment of all gods and much more. Thou hast come out of me and I am the epitome of the created world..." (Id.p. 51-52).
Is Mother Recommending the Cult of Shakti ?
The first nucleus of devotees that gathered around Mother were Bengalis of the upper classes who in their great majority are Shaktas. At present also there are quite a number of Shaktas among Mother's bhaktas. It is easy to understand why the worshippers of the Divine Mother are attracted to Mataji. Her followers often greet one another by exclaiming : "Jai Ma" and are fond of uttering the word 'Ma' in connection with pranava. These are mantras used by Shaktas. When kirtan is sung in the asrams the word 'Ma" can be frequently heard and also hymns to the Divine Mother. This is why people who are not well acquainted with Mother and Her ways may get the impression that Her teaching is based on the cult of Shakti. But those who have had the chance of becoming more intimately acquainted with Mother and Her surroundings know that among Her followers are not only a great many Vaisnavas, but also Vedantists, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Jews and Mohammedans, The kirtans held in the ashrams are of Rama, Krisna, Shiva as well as of Devi or simply of 'Bhagavan' and some are purely advaitic, consisting of mantras from the Upanisads. The recitation of portions from the Bhagavad Gita, the Durga Saptashati, the Upanisads and the Bhagavata Purana forms part of the daily routine of the ashrams.
Is Mother a Great Bhakta ?
I have seen it in writing by authoritative hand that Sri Sri Anandamayi Ma is a great bhakta. Before coming to India I myself was under the impression that Mother was advocating bhakti marga (the path of devotion) and probably many people abroad as well as in India still hold this view. My wrong idea about Mother was based on the following facts :
1. The bhavas.
I had heard and read that in Her early days a great variety of extraordinary raptures and divine ecstasies had been observed in Mother, especially when She listened to devotional music. But nowadays things have evidently changed. For the last nine years I have been with Mother, yet have never once witnessed any state of this kind. Those who live near Mother cannot help marveling at Her wonderful poise and balance, which is quite unshakable. Behind the superficial emotions that are but a momentary identification with the people who happened to approach Her, She is ever in a state of undisturbed, profound joy and peace, far beyond emotion. Sometimes while singing kirtan, Her features seem to express deep religious feeling ; but no sooner has She stopped singing in the twinkle of an eye, She resumes Her calm and serene countenance. Obviously, She has merely played with the religious emotion, perhaps to give an example to devotional people.
As regards the bhakta of Her early life, I suppose they occurred in response to the expectations and desires of the devotees of those days and were nothing more than a play on the surface. Mother can often be heard to say that She has ever been the same since Her infancy, notwithstanding all the apparent outer changes. As the pure crystal takes on the colour and reflects the object placed before it without actually undergoing any change itself, so Mother appears to be different according to Her surroundings.
2) The kirtans.
Mother greatly encourages the singing of devotional music. kirtan before sunrise and after sunset forms part of the daily programme of the ashrams. Wherever Mother happens to be kirtan is performed as a rule. She Herself sings off and on, even during public gatherings. But at the same time Mother also encourages other spiritual exercises, such as japa, dhyana (meditation), etc. in the case of those who are able and willing to engage in those practices. For many people kirtan is a simple and effective method of luring the mind from worldliness to divine things through the medium of music.
3) The devotees.
Quite a lot of the people close to Mother are of the devotional type . Bhakti marga, being the easiest path, is followed by the majority of aspirants. But among Mother's devotees all other types of sadhaka is are also to be found, namely those whose approach is by karma, yoga or Jnana marga, etc.
Is Mother a Vedantist or is She extoling any other school of thought ?
Without a doubt Mother teaches the highest truth as found in the Upanisads. "This body presents the matter from the standpoint of the Rishis and Munis, from the line of approach that they choose." (Ananda Varta, Vol. V/3, p. 205). But Mother does not belong to any sect, creed or school of thought. The 'Real' which She embodies and teaches is THAT from which all things emerge and in which they are rooted; but "THAT" itself is beyond caste and creed, beyond religion and philosophy. It cannot be described in words, nor measured by the mind in terms of name and form. However, for the sadhaka, the individual on the path, a line of approach through the channel of the mind is necessary. Says Mother :"In fact seekers after Truth are made each in a particular way, different from others as well as from one another, but in any case they have to pass through the gate of Truth." (Ananda Varta, Vol. V/3, p. 204.) and "When discussing creeds and paths one has to remember that it is only while on the way that one speaks of various paths........." "But where there is no question of my doctrine nor of controversy, there is He at the root -He who is present in all these innumerable guises." (Ananda Varta, Vol. V/3p. 205)
The seers saints and yogis who attained to Self-realization have almost all followed a definite line of approach. After becoming spiritual preceptors they lead their disciples along the path they have themselves trodden, although it is true that some of them are able to guide aspirants by a few other lines of sadhana as well. But most of them prescribe a definite method by which Truth will be apprehended, as for example Self inquiry, or japa, or self surrender and so on. The consequence of adhering to one particular line of approach in preference to all the others is that only aspirants of a special type are able to get the benefit of such a Guru's guidance. But the divine power that manifests through Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi is characterized by an extraordinary integrality and versatility as regards the knowledge of spiritual practices. It seems quite unfathomable that a being should exist to whom no path of sadhana is unknown.
In her early life, during a period of about six years, Mother played the role of a sadhika. It was nothing more than play, for Mother had never been in ignorance or bondage. Says Mother: "Let me tell you that what I am, I have been from my infancy. But when the different stage of sadhana were being manifested through this body, there was something's like a superimposition of a Jnana (ignorance)." But what sort of a Jnana was that ? it was really Jnana masquerading as ajnana."
(Mother as Seen by Her Devotees, p. 143)
As a rule, it takes a whole like or something lives to master one line of sadhana. But Mother in the short span of six years traversed untold spiritual paths will al their stage and states up to perfection. Every avenue to Truth has been explored and mastered by her. Some of those sadhanas are extremely difficult and perilous. Only exceptionally gifted and bold aspirants are able to use them. The few who succeeds reach only after long and strenuous efforts and after a great many ups and downs, whereas Mother accomplished all those practices without the least strain exertion, just as a matter of play and in an incredibly short spell time. The following utterances of Mother about this topic are quoted from Amulya K Datta's diary, translated by himself from the Bengali original.
"I may tell you that this body has not followed only one particular line of sadhana, but has covered all the known lines. It has passed through all the different varieties of practices referred to by the sages of ancient times. This body has successfully gone through nama sadhana, hatha yoga with its various asanas and through diverse other yogas. One after another, in order to attain to a particulars state along one of those lines of sadhana an ordinary individual may have to be born again and again; but in the case of this body it was a ratter of a few seconds...Moreover the different forums of sadhana that this body has been to practice, were not meant for this body, they were meant for all... When you relate your spiritual experience to me, I often say that this body had those experiences and this is why it know what they are. Not only that: if anyone disclose to this body a special line of sadhana, it can describe in minute details the various stages of that very line."
We may conclude that Mother is able to guide every type of sadhaka, no matter what his avenue of approach or his level of attainment. This is why in Mother's ashrams there in an astonishing diversity of seekers after Truth. Those who follow Jnana marga live side by side with those who practise bhakti yoga or karma or hatha yoga, etc. In general, the sadhaka is required to mould oneself according to the pattern given by the Guru. But Mother guides him along the line he is already following and indicates the one that is best suited to his temperament and conditioning. She bestows on him knowledge and power. A knowledge and a power that are not imposed from but come by bringing to the surface the satvic mind, the higher self, which will in due course lead to the revelation of the Real Self, the ONE.
CH XIIRUBRIC FOR WESTERNERS
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH INDIAN SURROUNDINGS.
A great number of Westerners have already come in contact with Sri Sri Ma Anandmayi, and more and more are most probably still to come. Almost all are deeply impressed; many are eager to keep up the contact with Her -some even venerate Her as their Guru. A few have devoted their life to Her and live under Her guidance. But most of them find it more or less difficult to adapt themselves to Indian surroundings -a few complain of lack of understanding. A few are obviously not adapted and even in conflict with their surroundings. The reason is, it seems to me, a confusion of different levels of thinking. This confusion is quite common, for the whole illusion of the mind is built on mistaking one thing for another. But Westerners coming to India in quest of spirituality are not quite common people, and we may expect that they will behave accordingly. Those who, for the sake of the Supreme, have left their family, their country, a comfortable life in a suitable climate to stay in environments where all details of what is a natural and comfortable daily life for others, require a painful effort of adjustment, are surely not ordinary people.
Let us then examine where this confusion of planes of thinking lies. Our relationship with our human surroundings can be said to be simultaneously on four levels(1) The atmic sambandha -the relationship of oneness in the universal self,(2) The paramarthic sambandha, the link between the devotees of the same religion, or the worshippers of the same deity, (4) The Jati sambandha or blood relationship. These planes are of course not completely separate and interpenerate one another. But what is true on one level, may be false on the other. All men are one in the atmic sambandha , the relationship in the Universal self. This can hardly be called a plane of thinking. It is the final goal of all true spiritual seekers.
From the absolute point of view, there is only One consciousness which abides in all beings. The obvious differences of names and forms have only a transitory reality, or even as some say are quite unreal and illusory. Of course when one has realised this supreme Truth, no conflict or opposition can arise with regard to anybody or anything. This exalted consciousness is the one in which Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi lives, speaks, acts under all conditions, without any break, by day and by night since the very moment She has assumed a physical frame. For Her, there are no differences of race or nation, caste or creed. In Her eyes all are the manifestations of the same Divine Consciousness, nay her very own Self, as she has Herself stated on many occasions and in many ways. If it appears to us sometimes that she behaves differently with different people, it may be due to two reasons. First it may appear to us so from our limited angle of vision. As one advances on the spiritual path, one can understand progressively how the intellect of which we are so proud, and in which we have put all our faith, makes mistakes and deludes us continually. The second reason is that Mataji is not only a great realised being but also a great Guru among the greatest and what she does aim at awakening us to our true Nature. As regards Her attitude towards social customs and so on, it may be due to the above noted reasons. Further more a realised being is not a reformer, nor a founder of a new religion. He wants only to remind as of the Eternal Truth. "THOU ART THAT". Concerning social customs and so on He may take things as they are and use them as a lever to lead us to the recognition of the source of all suffering which is unawareness of our own real nature. To change the details without having penetrated to the root will not bring any real relief. But for us who have not realised our true nature it is not possible to live in this elevated state of consciousness. Let us then consider the paramarthic which is nearer at hand.
There is a deep kinship , a mystic brotherhood between all true spiritual seekers in the world, which can be felt at the first contact. By "a true spiritual seeker", I mean not those who have come for name and fame, nor those aiming at the development of psychic powers which will only increase their bondage; nor even the worshippers of deities who expect a reward here or hereafter; but those who have dedicated themselves
to the supreme, the Eternal Self abiding in all beings. It is of this relationship that we think when we call one another "Brother"-it is in this spirit that we have come to India in order to claim our right of inheritance to this immense treasure of wisdom, the Atma Vidya transmitted since the days of yore by the great Rishis, the great saints, the great sages of India among whom Sri Sri Anandamayi is one of the greatest among the great. Nobody in the world has ever expressed the highest Truth in such clear and sublime language as the Seers of India. No land has ever been blessed by so many Great Beings succeeding one another probably without any break for thousands and thousands of years. The flame of this wisdom has ever been kept burning brightly notwithstanding the invaders and the calamities in the country –much more, every saint, every seer, every sage has enriched this Divine Treasure by his own personal touch.
Our brothers of India generously open for us all the storehouses of the treasure. Every facility is given to Westerners coming to study the Wisdom of India. Indeed I have been moved to see how much interest and kindness our brother of India show to Westerners who have even a slight interest in spiritual matters. What then to say of the great sages who are much more eager than we ourselves are to bring us on the path leading to the knowledge of our divine Nature. It is with the great sages and above all, with the guru that the paramarthic sambandha finds it culmination. The guru is not only a teacher. No one who has not experienced it himself can possibly imagine the deep relationship that unites Guru and disciple. The tender love of the most affectionate Mother, the deep and manly affection of a father to his son, the faithfulness of the dearest friend, all these are contained in, and transcended by the love of the guru for the disciple. Nothing and nobody on earth or in heaven can ever break this relationship. It is stronger even than death. It finds its end only in the eternal Atman where guru and shishya merge into one.
Although Mataji does not give mantra diksha, formal initiation, a great number of people venerate her as their guru. Such a great being has no need to go through the ceremonial of a formal initiation. The shakti, the transmission of power, which is in fact the real initiation, can be given in many ways, as for example by touch, sparsha diksha, by mere sight, drishti diksha and even from a distance. The paramarthic sambandha unites the spiritual seekers, the guru and the disciple, and the disciples of the same guru(guru-bhai) in the deepest relationship one can ever have on earth, much more than blood relationship which pertain only to the physical body.
The paramathic sambandha is frequently mistaken for the dharmic sambandha, the religious relationship. And it is there that lies the knot of the misunderstanding. Although these relationships frequently go side by side, they signify two quite difference things. By dharmic sambandha I mean here the relationship between the member of the same religion; Catholics, Protestants, Jews, or the relationship between the worshippers in India, the vaishnavites etc.
In the West we think that man can change his religion, become a convert of another one if he so desires, but in India it is quite different. To every average cultured Indian it is self-evident that the religion in which we are born, is a part of our nature, as much our race, caste etc. the question of changing over to another religion does not arise. We are born is one or another religion according of samksaras, the impression left by our previous lives. Some Westerners coming to India with the idea of becoming converts of Hinduism are rapidly disappointed; this becomes an important point of friction with their surroundings and many misunderstandings may thus arise. Due to different habits of thinking deeply rooted in the subconscious mind, it is very different to grasp the point of view of another. Religion or in other words the approach to the supreme through the personal aspect by the medium of name and form, can be a great help to spiritual realization. But this name or form, must be deeply rooted in the subconscious mind.
Some exceptional Westerners who in reality are Indians born in the West only for a temporary sojourn, are able to adjust themselves to the worship of an Indian deity. But this can be effective only after advice by the guru. However, what is wanted is not to change one's religion, but to find the common ground where all religious have their source :the eternal one residing in the hearts of all. It happens frequently that Westerners get offended when not allowed to take part in a puja (worship festival) or to enter a Hindu temple. Orthodox Hindus are not idol worshippers as one imagines in the West. All images and name are for them merely different aspects of the "One". A particular form or name is used only to provide a focus for their devotion. This is not only the view of a few philosophers, but every average cultured Indian knows this as a fact.
Ever since I have come in contact with Indian culture I have been struck with admiration, seeing how profound and elaborate the science of worship is in India. It is not merely as one might think an outpouring of devotion, or religious emotion. Every detail of the image worshipped has its significance. The expression of the face, the colour of the skin the attitude, the gestures of the hands, the ornaments, all have a definite symbolical meaning. The worship is done by a qualified Brahmin. The words he uses in the worship are mostly mantras that have to be modulated with mindfulness in a certain way aiming at establishing a communion between him and the divine power. His movements are mudras, ritual gestures. The whole process of the puja (worship) is to the minutest detail arranged in such a way as to invoke one's inner response to the Divine Power.
In some temples this has been done without any break for generations and has created a very powerful religious and spiritual atmosphere in those place. The Hindu devotees coming to visit such a temple vibrate in harmony with this atmosphere, for the whole texture of the subconscious Indian mind has for thousands of generations been in the habit of responding to it. Whereas our subconscious mind, although we may be very sympathetic to Indian culture and religion, responds in quite a different way. The subconscious impressions one has acquired through early childhood education cannot be wiped out. The mental vibrations we would bring to such a place would not be in harmony with the atmosphere. It is just as if a non-musician sat in a symphony orchestra and played in his own rhythm and tune. Almost all religions have a code of regulations regarding the purity of food. The Hindu religion is one of them and much stress is given to the idea that pure food produces as its consequence a pure mind.
The defects in food can be of three kinds :
-Jati dosha -due to the unwholesome nature of the food itself (liquors, meat etc.).
-Nimitta dosha -due to uncleanliness (insects, hair, dirt etc).
-Ashraya-dosha -In Hindu religion it is believed that whoever cooks or touches cooked food transmits to it a part of his qualities -good or bad. For this reason orthodox Hindus are allowed to eat only food prepared by members of their caste or a higher one. There are many deep reason why these rules and the caste system which is related to them are a part of the Hindu religion. A religion is a like big temple where every stone, every pillars has its part to play. If one pillar is removed, the whole building may be in danger to collapse. It is under the shelter of this huge banyan tree of Hinduism that so many Rishis, Sages and Saints could grow up : it is the support of their spiritual culture. If this tree were to perish it would be a great loss to humanity.
The blood relationship, the Jati sambandha (family, nation, race etc.) can hardly provide a field for misunderstanding. It is evident to every thoughtful mind. But there are two more difference between the Western conception of blood relationship and the one recognised by the East. The first is that the Eastern sages think that it is not by mere chance that we have been born in surroundings of a particular kind, but as a consequence of our action and desires in previous lives. The second is that in the East, specially in India , race and religion are not separate as in the West, but are almost one and the same thing. The blood relationship is transient and does not last beyond the physical body. It is through Divine grace that the Western sadhakas in India have been uprooted from their natural soil. The manifold ties of blood relationship and the so subtle fetters of formal religion and rituals which bind fast so many aspirants, have by the Lord's grace been cut off all at once for them. Only the way of the Oneness in Universal Consciousness has been left open. Let them be grateful for this to the Divine Guide residing in the hearts of all.
Hindu Temple and Worship
This article takes again and develops a few themes from the preceding paper:
Westerners are frequently puzzled by the multiplicity of Hindu gods thee apparent complexity of worship in the temples. Some of those who begin of understand the underlying unity behind that multiplicity and that the seemingly inextricable maze of the worship is but a sophisticated ritual, the fruit of thousands of years of experience, in which religious emotions are harnessed and discipline, would greatly like to participate in the worship and to gain recognition from orthodox Hindus as genuine admires, nay devotees of their religion. But when they are rejected, forbidden entrance into the temple or given to understand to defilement, they feel deeply disappointed, and go back to their country with resentment.
In the book In The Steps Of The Yogis [whose most part if not all will be on line soon in this very domain and has been published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai], the author, himself a Westerner, expresses his feelings when he came across these problems. The following are a few excepts in which this matter is dealt with.
At first glance the average Westerner might conclude that Indian sects from an inextricable confused tangle. In the West we like to have everything clearly classified, set out in order, lucid symmetric. Our religions have their well established dogmas, their leaders and their clergy organized in a patterned hierarchy. Hinduism is completely different and that is because the Hindu and the Western minds are in many ways utterly dissimilar. The average Hindu is much closer to natural springs than is his cultured Western counterpart.
If we watch nature in her operations, the growth of a tree, for instance, we see that the process is slow, unhurried, tentative almost. The branches spread out in no symmetrical pattern, and leave and flowers appear in apparent disorder. Geometrical shapes, even if they are suggested, are always imperfect. The final effect, however, if of the majestic beauty of a mighty tree. Like one of these great Banyan trees, Hinduism has grown in a seemingly anarchical fashion so that, at first sight, it might appear to be disconcertingly baffling, but a thorough study makes it clear that, despite their often extreme diversities, all Hindu sects are parts of one unified whole and that Hinduism is 0ne religion single and complete.
One may well ask what possible connection can exist between the dualism of a Madhavacharya and the absolute monism of a Shankaracharya, or between the Naga who does not even possess a garment to cover his nakedness, and the religions layman who lays out a fortune in a mahayagya (big fire-sacrifice). But is all becomes clear when one recalls the principle of the adhikari bheda, so often repeated by the wise men of India. It is difficult to translate the term literally. It indicates the distinction between the man who is ready and the man who is not. The differences between individuals on intellectual and moral levels of achievement cannot be denied. The same principles, the same dogmas, the same religious objective are not equally valid for men. Hinduism takes these differences into account, and makes room within its framework for every human type. From the illiterate peasant to the most highly evolved intellectual, all men will find, within it, the rites and the teaching most suited of their needs. The man who is ready, the adhikari, can devote himself directly to the quest for the brahma Jnana, the knowledge of the self. For others, there are intermediate stage from which they may begin to advance towards perfection each according to him own capacity. No one, after all, would require a child at kindergarten to begin by learning to read and write until he finally reached the stage when he would be able to undertake the study of the philosopher's works.
Western religions hold that truth is one and absolute and that to teach otherwise is a very serious fault, "an intellectual crime". And if this is indeed so, why do the wise man of India teach or tolerate imperfect doctrines? But, as the unhappily celebrated Roman asked, "what is Truth" ? Absolute truth transcends metal categories; it can neither be explained nor taught. But it is possible to "realise," through direct perception, that there is only one great sea of "existence -consciousness". The world as it appears to us, is an illusion, a "prismatic chimera" which assumes it various forms only because it is refracted upon the screen of our mental structures. The mind may be said to be a magician who brings the phenomenal world into being and conceals the Real, and it is only by reducing the mind to complete silence that Truth may be apprehended. It follows therefore that everything that can be understood within the framework of thought and words is, by definition, false.
The wise man of India hold that the purpose of religious teaching is not to expound the Truth, for the Truth in any case con not be grasped by the mind. The purpose or religious teaching, in their view, is to make the illusory personality receptive to an attitude which will make possible its annihilation in confrontation with the Real that transcends thought and word. And the shell within which this illusory personality is enclosed, the ego, maybe broken open in innumerable different ways, depending on the mental organization of each individual. That is why Indian sects should not be regarded as separate religious factions opposed to one an other. It is quite unjustified, for instance to make a parallel between Sivaism and Vaisnavism on the one hand Catholicism and Protestantism on the other.
It is true that at different period and in different parts of India some hostile rivalry seems to have existed between religious factions. This is proved by certain historical events, such as the battles between sects at the Kumbha-Mela in Hardwar, or by the well-known account of the famous twelfth century Vaisnava reformer Ramanuja. At the outset of his career this saint lived and preached in Sri Rangan in South-India. The ruling monarch Kerikala Chola of the Chola dynasty was a fanatical Shivaist who decreed that all his subjects should practise the cult of Siva. Ramanuja refused and the king gave orders to have him arrested. Ramanuja fled towards Mysore and one of his disciple attempting to cover his flight by appearing before the king, had his eyes put out by the cruel monarch. Reaching Mysore, Ramanuja was hospitably received by the Raja of the state, Vitala Deva, who at the time, was a Jain by religion. Ramanuja won the confidence of the king by curing his daughter who was believed to be possessed by a Brahma-rakshasa (a very powerful evil spirit). Raja Vitala Deva then became convert to Vaisvism and assumed the name of Vishnu Vardhana. Twelve years later, having heard of the death of his persecuter, King Chola, Ramanuja returned to Shi Rangam. Today however, religious intolerance between Hindus seems to have disappeared completely in India.
In cultured circles it is not infrequent for devotees to render homage to Shiva as well as to Krishna, to Rama and also to Kali.
In many temples if, for instance, the temple is consecrated to Shiva the central lingam may be surrounded by images of other deities. In kirtans (the community singing of religious hymns) the names of the gods of other sects are glorified impartially. Certainly there are bigots, jealous in the worship of one particular god, but even their particular point of view rests content with the occasional launching of an ironic in the direction of rival sects. The great teacher of India have made formidable achievements in reconciling different sects to each other. From Sankaracharya down to Ramakrishna and his disciple Vivekananda in more modern times, they have always taught that all deities are merely different aspect of the divine which is one and unique.
In happens in many families, that each individual, if he is sincerely religious, generally choose as Ishta-deva (his tutelary deity), the form which most completely satisfies his own aspirations. It may well be, for instance, that the husband prays to Shiva, his wife to Krishna, and one of the children, perhaps, to Durga or Kali, without this becoming a cause of family friction or embarrassment. In fact, it may be said of the various sects today, not only that they dwell in a state of peaceful coexistence, but that they are all interpenetrated by each other within the framework of the sanatana dharma (the eternal religion" one of the names of Hinduism).
I must say that I have consistently refrained from entering the Hindu temples or even visiting them. This is not due to any aversion of hostility on my part towards the gods of India and their rituals. Far from it, I have considerable admiration for the quasi scientific manner in which the Hindus have elaborated their cult of deities. Nor is it due to fear that I may find myself in a situation analogous to that the devil who fell into a font of holy water. True, the sacred precincts of most temples are forbidden to the non Hindu, but compromises with Heaven are always possible and in my sadhu's robe I could easily gain admittance if I so wished. Moreover, the law in modern India compels most temples to permit free entry. The reason for my restraint is quite otherwise. The fact is that the orthodox Hindu, even if is no quite conscious of this, feels that his sanctuary is polluted by the penetration of a Westerner; and to violate religious feeling of any kind whatever is something of which I strongly disapprove.
It may be remarked, too, that that brahmans are not entirely mistaken in their belief that the presence of a stranger creates a disturbance of some sort in the atmosphere of their temples. Like so many other mental attitudes of the Hindu this is difficult for a Westerner to understand, for such understanding requires knowledge of a psychological texture fundamentally different from our own. As I have already pointed out, the Hindu is much closer to natural beginnings than we are. The "umbilical cord" connecting his thought to the collective unconscious has not been cut as it has in the case of most Western minds. The Western mind is centered in a powerful intellect, a clear, logical consciousness bent on shaping the world around it in its own image. By contrast, primitive man in a traditional civilization, does not seek to dominate nature or to wrest her secret from her. For him the highest art lies in making his own like vibrate in harmony the whole complex of the cosmic like, like the movement of a wave fitting organically into the great movement of the waves of the ocean. On the lower levels such an attitude produces herd men, dumb driven cattle. But on the higher rungs of development the have becomes a centre of consciousness open to cosmic forces and to intuitive perception which transcend logical thinking. When the ordinary Hindu goes in to a temple, he "feels" something as direct perception which he cannot formulate in words because the discursive aspect of his mind is not very highly developed. This something is a combination of inner peace, and of the joy of the harmony which is experienced (in degrees varying with the individual) when contact is made, even in only for a split second, with the cosmic life. The mechanism through which this contact is achieved is complex the believing Hindu comes to his temple in a receptive state of mind. This is spontaneous and demands no conscious effort, for ever since childhood, his mind has been steeped in ideas and beliefs about the deity before which he has come to prostate himself. The temple too is generally very old, or has been constructed on an ancient site and is generally surrounded by an aura of legend and miracle. This atmosphere of sanctity which goes back to the time of its construction is kept alive by the daily puja (religious service) with in most cases has been performed uninterruptedly over centuries. The puja is an act of ceremonial magic which must be performed by a qualified Brahmin. Then again the religious fervour of numerous worshippers serve to increase even further the sense of sanctity so that it is hardly surprising that in certain temples the powerful religious atmosphere is almost palpable. The Hindu who comes to visit adds his own little drop to this sea of religious feeling, for the temple is part of an entire natural pattern into which he integrates harmoniously. The Westerner however, even though he may have strong sympathies for this pattern, everything he hears and sees will rouse within him associations of ideas very different from those of the Hindu. Thus for instance, the deafening clang of the gongs and cymbals of the arati (the conclusion of the religious service) which, for the Hindu, marks the climactic moment of religious fervor will, to the Westerner, be only an aggravation din. The sight of the idol will rouse ideas which, very often, will be irrelevant to what the image is supposed to represent and there will be many other disturbing factors too, stemming from the confrontation between two basically different cultures.
All this, the average Hindu understands instinctively. Moreover, the Indian, no matter how uncultured he may be, accepts it as a self-evident truth that the surface level of our mind is not what counts, that we are in fact worth what our samskaras are worth. The samskaras are the impression of experience, actions, beliefs and so that lie latent in our unconscious like innumerable seeds ready to germinate and bear fruit immediately if favorable circumstances offer. These impression derive not only from our lives since birth but also from the numerous pervious lives which we have lived. "You do not have the samskara which would enable you to harmonize with Hindu rituals." This is the single explanation which would be given by a cultivated Hindu.
The average Westerner believes in the possibility of an individual changing his religion, becoming a convert but in India, where religion is a living thing, any talk of conversion of Hinduism is met only with a smile; for religion is believed to be an organic part of the individual's being like his race and the caste into which he has been born. However this may be, "religious feeling," religious fervor", the love of the divine", all these are archetypes common on the entire human race. It is only the ritual details, the names and forms which set up the barriers, " the iron curtain" but most human beings find these useful for they act as sign posts along the road which leads to the realization of the infinite.
Time and again while walking along the streets of Benares, of Hardwar or Vrindavan, or while joining in a Durga Puja or a Shiva ratri (night of Shiva, an important festival), I have felt the intense religious fervor as an almost palpable thing; but at the same time I have understand how absurd it would be to attempt to integrate myself or to participate even if only in thought, in the details of the ritual. And yet, how I have longed to hold out hand to my brothers on the other side of the iron curtain.
Vijayananda took these notes at Benares, as well as in the Himalayas, during periods of very intense ‘sadhana’. He gives an idea of meditation, viewed at from the interior, in an attempt to unravel and specify the psycholophysiological processes of which the meditator should be conscious in the course of his practice
It is almost impossible for us to believe in the death of our ‘self’. Deep down within ourselves, we ‘know’ that, as far as consciousness goes, we are indestructible. This fundamental belief in the reality of ‘self’, is more powerful and more convincing than any intellectual argument or mathematical proof.
The child knocking at the door, when asked who it is, replies, "Me", and if one asks him who ‘me’ is, he gets irritated and cries, "But It ‘s me .... me!" It is so clear, so evident to him, that he cannot imagine being asked to explain its meaning.
Control of the mind, rests, to a large extent on the faculty of being able to dissociate oneself from the instinctive consciousness. In this context, there is a word of Turenne to his own body which is noteworthy (Turenne was a famous general in France in the 17th century): -
"You tremble, your poor carcass, "he was saying himself on the battlefield. "But you will tremble much more, if you knew where I want to lead you!" But that did not prevent him from being an exceptionally brave and remarkable general.
The teachings I received from the Guru, or from other great sages (and there were many), were rarely transmitted through the medium of speech. It was as if the guru, or the sage, entered within me, or, to be more precise, within that part of the universal consciousness which I call ‘myself’, and revealed directly, without words being necessary, an important truth, indicating the path to be for taken at the cross-roads, mysteriously releasing a source hidden within, an even sometimes directly showing a monster that had to be destroyed, hidden in the corner of the mind.
The goal of the sage is to show the path that leads to wisdom, and not to explain what wisdom consists of. The vision of truth that he has obtained, is a direct vision, beyond words. Should a person born blind, but who regains his sight, explain to others who are born blind, what he sees, or should he rather indicate to others, the means of recovering their sight? The basis of the relationship between the sage and others, therefore, has to be confidence and faith : what he is saying is not a lie, his experience is authentic, he is not mistaken. All scientific work is carried on the same basis, is it not? The doctor, the chemist and the scholar do not begin their work at zero, with a ‘clean slate’. They take into account a considerable number of experiments which others have carried out before them, without verifying them.
In our effort to escape from the circle of an universe based on sensations and corporal needs, we are forever enlarging, widening and sublimating this circle, thus creating innumerable false paths, innumerable shackles, and constantly incarcerating ourselves in new mental prisons.
Should the bee give up its efforts to soar towards freedom, fresh air, flowering trees and the gentle morning breeze ? Certainly not. But it must try and avoid breaking its head against a windowpane. Quite obviously, the period between abandoning a vain, search, and the discovery of true happiness, is from time to time a painful; one but is it not worth with standing the pain for some time? Besides, one realizes very quickly that, in reality, this intervening period is not quite as painful as one would think. To begin with, there is the joy of directing ones mind towards a search which is no longer futile, and which is really worth the trouble one takes in undertaking it. Then, gradually, one begins to perceive that happiness does not flow from sensory objects, but from reactions towards these objects. Once their reactions are controlled, one can always be happy, with or without sensory objects.
People in this world are like the fish out of water in a fish - monger’s shop. The rituals and ceremonies, like the fish need some water, from time to time, to survive. But for those already living within God, these rituals and ceremonies are not only superfluous, they also form an obstacle to spiritual evolution, a kind of strait - jacket which has to be discarded.
Human relationships are always in the nature of a conflict, because they involve a clash of egos, and because the nature of the ego is to take and not to give; even when apparently it gives, it does so only in the hope of getting back much more!
There is something touching about the behaviour of an adult, who, although he is mentally mature, conserves, in his deportment and his face, something of the child. Our hearts open out to him easily, although our minds cannot recognize precisely why we open our hearts to him, or why we are indulgent about his weaknesses.
The ascetic presses on the brake; the debauchee on the accelerator. The ascetic, or rather the apprentice - ascetic, searches for peace by rejecting sensual pleasures, but the conflict continues. The primordial force, which ha only retreated partially is always there , ready to counter-attack with double force, at the slightest sign of weakness. The debauchee always wants to live life without fear, without scruples, through this world and the next, yes, always! Isn’t it strange that the debauchee and the perfect yogi speak the same language? The extremes touch each other; yes, this is the happiness of Self, but the debauchee has not escaped the conflict. Deep within himself, he knows he is not happy, that he is deceiving himself. In moments of solitude he senses something terribly sad, terribly despairing, at the core of his being." "He has sold his soul to the devil," as the saying in Middle Ages went. There is some truth in it. He has renounced true happiness of Self.
The body has its consciousness, which I shall call the instinctive consciousness. The consciousness is a fabric of sensations which surrounds and clothes the body. More often than not, this fabric is constricting, uncomfortable and painful. The instinctive consciousness is constantly trying to make itself comfortable, to change painful sensations into pleasurable ones, and to relax by easing its tensions. It juggles with sensations, in the hope of attaining perfect equilibrium, an equilibrium which seems within its grasp for a fraction of a second, but which he is always losing. This fabric of sensations, I will call the tunic of Nessus (Hercules wore this tunic which started to burn him so much that he had to jump on a puyre in the hope to be released. He ended his days in this way). Like the tunic of Nessus, it makes us suffer, and obliges us to make an effort to get rid of it. This clothing does not have a fixed form, it changes constantly with the state of our bodies. The waves of strength and weakness, the feeling of uneasiness, the moments of exuberance experienced after a good meal, the bitter taste in the mouth caused by an excess of bile, the anguish of a difficult breathing, the irritation caused by infections of the respiratory tract, as well as all those maladies which well bred person dare not mention, even to himself, such as problems of gas, constipation, and genital infections - the instinctive consciousness concern itself with them all. Its role is to watch over the proper functioning and the entirety of the human body, which it does even more zealously than a mother watching over her child. For example, it takes only a simple incident like a thorn in a finger, for our entire consciousness to concentrate, as if magnetized, on that particular spot, and to try and remove the thorn. The control of the mind consists mainly of being able to dissociate oneself from this instinctive consciousness.
We have created a false dichotomy between the self and the world, between the exterior and the interior, etc ... This is useful only at the empirical level.
The Conversations of Kankhal
Introduction To the Conversations
This collection of questions answered by Vijayananda are composed of three series of satsangs (daily evening meetings with Swamiji in Kankhal ashram which cover a duration of twelve years, from about 1987 to 1999. In the first part we put also his written answers for the French quarterly Jay Ma written in the same period of time. About half these answers have been published in France with the title : ‘Un Francais dans l' Himalaya’ (A French man in Himalayas ) . We have organised them in three parts, starting by questions about Ma, then on sadhana and eventually on the relationship between yoga ,Vedanta and the West .The French version of the present book has been prepared during the year of birth centenary of Ma Anandamayee (1995-1996). It is also online but contains around 30% less material than this English version.
Vijayananda has been Ma’s disciple since 1951 .After a very religious child hood he had become an atheist during his adolescence but had been impressed when he read Vivekananda’s ‘Raja -Yoga’ , his first book on yoga ..He has been a general practitioner in a small town in South France for eight years and began to be more and more interested in Theravada Buddhism and Vedanta .He left for a spiritual and discovery trip of Sri Lanka and India in the end 1950, and met Ma whom he did not know before Feb. 1951 .He asked her if he could stay a few days in her ashram and she said Yes : he never came back to the West . First he spent more than eighteen months with Ma constantly, accompanying her every where , then he stayed eight years in Banaras Ashram on the banks of Ganges, nine years in all in the small and peaceful ashram of Patal Devi in Almora and seven years of complete solitude in the hermitage of Dhaulchina ,on the top of a wooden hill with a view of the Nanda Devi Range and of its peak nearing a height of eight thousands meters .He was coming down only a short time during time winter when there was snow in his hermitage. In 1975, he came to Khankhal at Ma’s request. He could see her rather frequently until she left her body in 1982.He is respected by Ma’s devotees as a member of Ma’s inner circle and he has reached an unity with her which enables him to transmit her teaching with out opening the inverted commas to quote her words as it is often done by others. The interviews included in this book took place near Ma’s samadhi in Kankhal, mostly in these peaceful hours which follow the evening puja. The ones who were asking questions were mostly Westerners, sometimes Indians, either short term visitors or people who were in retreat in Khankal for several weeks, months or even years as I have been before going myself for periods of retreat in Dhaulchina .
The majority of the answers have been written down by those who received them, and later re-read by Vijayananda to eliminate mistakes. The main series of answers were revised for the English by Shanti and Anna Hall, and the lat one by Rakesh from Canada and Daniel Stein. The answers are spontaneous, and adapted to the person asking the question. However, many of them are of general importance which is why they have been included in this work. Other answers have been drafted by Vijayananda himself, and have appeared in ‘Jai Ma’, a quarterly paper devoted to the teachings of Ma Anandamayi. Besides this, and replying to personal letters, Vijayananda has almost not been writing anything for almost the past twenty years.
As the objectives of the following text is to speak of Ma and Yoga, it does not fully take into account the spontaneous manner in which Vijayananda intersperses these subjects with conversations about daily life. The readers, not being present at these meetings can hardly realize, how exactly Vijayananda’s attitude corresponds with the spoken or unspoken queries of the visitor. He can also only partially sense this aura of truth and authenticity which emanates from his answers, and which is evident to those present. On this subject, he must have at least the minimum faith in the present testimony.
The answer which are given here are adapted to Westerners'mind frame while keeping in line with Ma’s teaching . His inner experience of unity in fact helps him to appreciate the multiplicity, the diversity of nationalities and personalities coming to him. I have evoked when necessary these personalities, for Vijayananda does not speak like a professional preacher , but rather answer questions when they arise in the manner of Ma herself. In fact he is averse to the idea of being a guide and considers himself simply as a friend who answers questions . The general ambience of the meetings with him is more like a natural conversation, hence the title of this book .We speak on many subjects which may not seem spiritual at first sight .It allows the visitors to feel at ease and to practice what was called in the French Middle Ages the gai savoir, i.e., the ‘joyful knowledge’. There is also behind that an underlying metaphysical reality. The physical and spiritual are one, the Buddhists would say that samsara and nirvana are not separated.
Vijayananda’s sense of humour helps the sadhaka to develop his spiritual perception, even his spirit of detachment, with pleasure. This is an important aspect of satsang . True, in comparison with the living contact, thoughts written in a book are like fresh mangoes in comparison with dried ones. However even if they are less tasty , they are nourishing especially for those who have enough inner experience to assimilate them well . There are two factors which make the quality of an answer, even beyond the spoken words. First the energy of presence based on the experience and sincerely of the one who answers and second, the relevance of the answer according to the circumstances, the level and the emotional state of the one who asks. One must acknowledge that all this is difficult to render in a book even if one feels it well while in Vijayananda’s company. When he is asked about his spiritual level, he usually answers that he has reached the level where he is through Ma’s grace .
I have not transcribed some answers when I felt they were too linked to a particular situation or person .As I said above, I have included some written answers given by Vijayananda in a small quarterly on Ma in French ‘ Jay Ma’ which has been published now for more than ten years. The form of question and answer may seem at time somewhat artificial, we could have put directly Vijayananda’s thoughts on various subjects, but it corresponds nevertheless to a reality: he is there to answer questions. He often comes back to the same themes in a slightly different way. This ‘style in spiral ‘ permits one to integrate the idea more easily to his meditation than in the case of a linear style. We eliminated some repetitions when composing this book, but maintained some others, because in spirituality it is permitted to turn around the same kind of ideas several times in a slightly different way in order to better assimilate a topic. Spiritual truths are simple, but they should be meditated upon enough to have a transforming power. In this manner, they are more likely to be integrated. I also hope that the reader will not forget the difference in a scale of time; he will read in a few hours answers that I have been collecting for twelve years which changed my life and which correspond to a Yoga practice started sixty years ago by Vijayananda including forty-five years in India.
It happens that this book concludes on a story of Hakuin, showing how the sage is beyond praise and blame. This was also the ultimate advice that was given to Vijayananda by Ma .The French version of this book has been presented to him on the 45th anniversary of his spiritual birth, which means his first meeting with Ma. The reader will probably also rejoice this birth which allows him now to read pertinent answers on various spiritual subjects .I have transcribed them ,and Vijayananda has reread and corrected them . The English versions of Vijayananda’s texts on Ma and answers were prepared in the end of 1999 for his 85th birthday
The conversations collected in this volume occurred in shadow of this temple of white stones which is Ma’s samadhi. Given that moreover the sun of India has a rather generous nature, one will not be surprised if I say in conclusion that the shadow of Ma’ s samadhi is particularly luminous ....
I) Ma and spiritual transmission
Q- it is usually said that a spiritual teacher should wait for the awakening of a real spiritual need in the disciple .But does a sage not have the power to induce this awaking?
V- True, a teacher should wait for the real question to arise in the disciple. Preaching or teaching to those who are not receptive equals to sowing on a rocky soil; but the sage is able to transform this rocky soil in a fertile one. For some, he can do it all of sudden, for others he will go progressively; but he usually does not to do that with words or oral teachings .A single look from a sage is sufficient to change an atheist into a religious man, a libertine into a yogi . That was the daily miracle that Ma was able to do it, but this transformation was by the awakening of the divine power which is latent in everyone . Once this awaking is realized, there will be a fertile soil for verbal teaching, if this is still needed.
Q- Does the awaking of the inner energy given in some cases by the guru lead sometimes to an increase of ordinary desires?
V-When inner energy, that is the power of Kundalini, is awakened by the power of guru or by yoga exercises, or even spontaneously, the first effect is indeed an intensification of desires and even of the basic desires .Ma one day told me: Kama (sexual desire), krodha (anger) and Bhagavan ki Shakti,(divine energy the term by which Ma use to designate the power of Kundalini ) move side by side. And with both fingers she showed me how both movements were intimately intertwined, but going in different directions. What we are looking for in reality in the satisfaction of our desires is the bliss of the self; but by trying to obtain this bliss in the sense objects, we are going in the wrong direction, because these objects are only a reflection of the bliss. This is similar to a child who is ready to embrace his own image which he is seeing in a mirror. Then what is necessary is to reverse the dynamic of the process and to bring it back to its source which is within ourselves. When the guru awakes the inner energy, he gives intensity to this double movement. It is up to the disciple to choose its own direction: towards the top or towards the bottom. But the guru will only awaken Kundalini when he is tested many times the disciple to be sure that he will be able to master the violent passions that this awakening might produce in the beginning. There is a whole process of preparation towards that goal. Apart from the moral discipline, the effort for self control ,etc .... there is a whole technique for the purification of the psychic channels (nadis); only then will it be possible for the disciple not to be taken away by the tidal wave that the awakened Kundalini may produce.
Q : Why are teachings related to Kundalini traditionally kept secret?
V- Kundalini is a primordial power which goes beyond spoken words .When she awakens, the sadhak dresses her up in some ways with the thoughts stored in his unconscious. For example for a Hindu, she will take the form of his chosen deity (Krishna ,Durga, etc....) for a Christian, it will be Jesus or Mary ,etc.... It depends of course if the person is a true sadhak and has already attained a degree of mental purification, because an accidental or forced awaking of Kundalini without the help of a guru can lead to a catastrophe .You are asking why the teaching of Kundalini is secret : to be honest there cannot be a teaching of Kundalini because they cannot express with words what is beyond words and if we try to do so the disciple would interpret the words according to his own mental frame. It would be similar to the story of Ramakrishana where a man who was born blind wanted to be explained the meaning of the words ‘white as milk’: a friend explains to him that milk has the color of the swan ,and to make him feel what a swan is, he shows by gesture the shape of the swan’s neck; the blind man touches his friends arm and happily goes around telling others "I know the meaning of ‘white as milk’" and he starts showing the gesture made by his friend ‘... It is the shape of a bent arm’
Q- On a meditation path, be it devotional path, be it devotional or non dualistic, You have mentioned the existence of ‘Kriyas’ that is to say meditation exercise that are spontaneous and found by oneself and practiced for a period of time .Can you be more specific about this notion?
V : Kriyas are exercises (which are most often pranayama which can be associated or not with the mantras ) designed to facilitate the meditative state when we cannot obtain it right away . They are very useful for most sadhaks, but there are necessary only for those to whom a meditative state does not come right away. They are very useful for those sadhaks , but there are not necessary for those to whom a meditative state comes spontaneously or with out much effort. One day, in a private interview with Ma, she gave me a few kriyas . I do not know why, I said a low voice as if talking to myself : "to want to do something , that is precisely the obstacle". .Immediately, Ma said: ‘kriyas are useful to fight sleepiness’ However when the guru has given you kriyas, they must be practiced ,whether or not you deem them you to be useful, out of veneration for the guru, out of love for him. As far as spontaneous kriyas are concerned they have been mentioned by Ma during what she said to call her ‘sadhana ka khel ‘the play of her sadhana .They were mainly meditation postures, either asanas or mudras, which came spontaneously .They at times take place with the ordinary sadhaka during the awakening of Kundalini .But in this case, they have little interest and may produce pathological deviations if we get too attached to them .
Q- Ma used to give yoga or meditation exercise to some of her disciples or visitor. When she was alive, she asked then to be kept secret, but now she has left her body ,why we do not write them, like for example one has written the ‘Six yogas of Naropa ‘ after his death?
V: Ma used to give kriyas to some of her disciples and she asked this teaching to be kept secret and not be communicated to anyone .It is difficult to know if she asked for secrecy from all the people who had received these instructions, because probably there are certain people who have received them and will not even speak about it .That is why I can only speak with certainty of my own case. When she was teaching me a kriya, she was always telling me at the end: ‘kisi ko mat bolna’ ’you can’t tell anyone’ .One time she even added: this is a secret kriya. You asked me if now that Ma has left her body, these secret instructions could be written down and published. I do not think that it could be possible. The recommendations of a guru does not lose its authority when the guru leaves his body .Anyhow, the guru is ever present even if he has left his body .If one of his disciple has attained realization himself and has disciples, he could then communicate these instructions to them, but that would probably be done also under a vow of secrecy.
Q. How can it be, and is it true, that Ma had to surround herself by pure people, purity providing her nourishment ?
V. This is like saying that the doctor must be surrounded by healthy people, because that is the way he earns his living. Ma had taken a physical form, mainly to help people in their search for the Supreme Being. This search can only be undertaken through mental purification. Ma was surrounded by people who needed to be purified. She did not have anything to do with perfectly pure people, because they did not need Her. Of course, the people surrounding Her were not (except in rare cases), vicious individuals, because these kind of people do not wish to entrust themselves to a sage. It is true, nevertheless, that those who served Ma had to be capable of observing certain rules of physical purity : chastity, pure food, personal hygiene etc ... but if Ma kept them by Her side, it was because they needed Her help for the purification of their minds. Ma used to say that it was our good conduct that would keep her in good health, but alas!, she fell ill quite often. It is also true that Her body was an extremely sensitive instrument. If she had assumed a physical form, it was not to protect her body, but to absorb the bad ‘Karma’ of her devotees. And it is astonishing how much that body could absorb, and yet maintain a relative equilibrium.
Q. Bhaiji says that the Name of Ma is a unique Mantra, but he also says that the Mantra should be learnt from a teacher, and should be pronounced correctly in order to bear fruit. It seems that the result can be obtained by faith (the Name of Ma), or knowledge (the correct recitation of the Mantras). Which of the two is it?
V. There are two elements in the Mantra. One is its intrinsic value as a word of power, the other is the faith that the disciple has in the force of his Mantra. These two elements strengthen each other mutually. That is, the more the disciple has faith in the Mantra, the more he is infused with power, and vice versa. If a Mantra is known as being a source of power, the faith of the disciple will come naturally. More so, if the Mantra has been passed on by a guru one loves and venerates. When a Sadguru gives a Mantra to his disciples, he passes on spiritual power to them at the same time. Then the repetition gives power to it. Thus the repetition of the Mantra and the awakening of the power will be completely linked. But the essential part is always the faith and the spiritual intensity of the disciple. Any form can lead to Realisation, if the sadhaka firmly believes that it is a powerful Mantra. For those (as in the case of Bhaiji), who are intensely devoted to Ma, just saying her name is enough to evoke her presence, and it will lead them towards an union to the Sadguru personified by the physical form of Ma. However, for the ordinary sadhaka, it is preferable that he repeats the Mantra given to him by the guru during of his initiation. By repeating his Mantras assiduously, true faith will come to him, and his spiritual intensity will progressively increase.
Q. Some people say that the saint sees good because there is not evil in him. It seems to me that he sees good and evil in the same light, being beyond both. But all the same, should there not be some discrimination, or else he might find himself in unfortunate situations ....
V. One must distinguish between a saint, that is, a very evolved being, whose mind - has been identified with pure ‘Sattwa’ and a perfect sage who is beyond all ‘gunas’. The saint sees evil, but his love for all allows him to concentrate on the positive aspect, because evil is never totally bad, and even in the most vicious acts one can find and element of light. As for the perfect sage who has gone beyond the ‘gunas’, the distinction between good and evil has no significance for him. He sees the play of the Divine everywhere, in the sage and in the fool, in the saint and in the sinner. When one watches an actor that one loves and admires, what one admires, is his talent, no matter what role he plays, and one always gets involved in the role. If he plays the role of a sage, one listens to him attentively, if he plays the fool, one laughs at him, if his role is that of a thief, one either has him sent to prison or one has him pardoned, etc. without ever forgetting that it is Him, always Him, behind all these multiple disguises.
Q. Is it possible that saints include us and our families in their meditation, even as we beg to be included from a distance?
V. When we meditate we enter or try to enter into contact with universal consciousness. Those who are at that moment, in our field of consciousness, will automatically benefit from it, whether they have entered through an act of ours or on their own, even if we are not aware of their presence in the field of consciousness. When you sit in a bus, the driver takes you to your destination, whether you are his friend or his enemy, and whether he is aware of your presence in the bus or not. The simple fact of having climbed aboard the bus is enough. But in the case of the meditator whose contact with Universal consciousness is intermittent, it is not easy to realize the coincidence. It is much simpler establishing contact with the perfect sage who is constantly united with Universal consciousness. Even in the absence of a physical presence, a photograph or a reading of his teachings is enough.
Q. The internal guru is present in everyone, isn’t he?
V. Yes, he is present in everyone, but he is veiled, that is, in a state of torpor, and it is the main duty of the physical guru to awaken him. The internal guru is the Sadguru (or God), and the only thing which we have to do is to progressively remove the impurities in the spiritual life as well as in the material one. In fact, from the point of view of ‘Sadhana’, there is no difference between the two. Daily life is as important (because of the lessons that can be learnt from it), as the hours spent in meditation.
Q : What can the guru give, some techniques or power ?
V : The guru gives a power, he can facilitate the awakening of Kundalini, but that is just one stage of sadhana. He cannot give us realisation, but he can help remove the obstacles which veil this realisation already present in us.
Q : What is the meaning of surrendering to the guru ?
V : With Ma, I used to always answer immediately any of her suggestions. If we did that, we could be freed from certain consequences of our precious acts. If we did not obey, Ma would say : ‘Yes, it’s OK, do as you like’ but at that time, we became subjected to the karmic consequences of our actions. There was in fact no question of obedience towards Ma, since obedience implies more or less fear. I felt love, veneration towards Ma, never fear, because of that, I could follow her practical advice, even it was not really adapted to the situation, from time to time, for she had not very well visualised it. However, I never surrendered to her my freedom of mind. The ‘surrender of the mind’ was not for me. What I was looking for in Ma was a direct transmission of power to help me in my sadhana, and she gave it to me in abundance.
Q : We could easily interpret certain words of Ma as if nothing had to be done. Is this a balanced vision of her teachings ?
V : The teachings of a sadguru are not authoritarian teachings; they are adopted to each individual, to his intellectual level and his spiritual development, and even for a given individual, the teaching offered by the sage will vary along with the disciple’s progression on the spiritual ladder. Most often, the words of the sage are like road signs on the way. These signs are useful, not to say vital for those who are travelling on tat road; but distributing leaflets or copies of these indications will not be so useful. Therefore, Ma’s words should be placed back in the correct context. Otherwise, they could seem contradictory. For example, to some individuals, she would advice to renounce the world; to others, she recommended to live a householder’s life. All that depended of the level of the individual who asked the question. It is true that in the end, there is nothing to be done to reach the Supreme, since it is always there, present within us, but there are many things to be undone, that is to say the impurity, the complexes, the false believes which hide the Real. ‘To do nothing’ right away for an ordinary being is an impossible task; simply ask Mr. Such and Such to stay five minutes in a chair without moving any finger, and not even the eyes. And I do not even mention the incapacity to stop the flow of thoughts. Thus it is necessary to learn not to do anything, starting by efforts to slow down the movement, and that is what we call a sadhana which must finally lead us towards the perfect stage of Non-Action.
Q : It is said that Ma’s path was that of purification, vishuddha marga; can you be more precise?
V : Ma used to say that the path she was teaching was that indicted by the Rishis and the Munis of ancient times, that is to say the sanatana dharma, the classical path of India which was transmitted by the Vedas and the Upanishads. That is also what we call vishuddha marga, the path of purification of the mind. The mind is the veil which masks the Real. This veil is made of three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas. When the tamas predominates, the veil become very thick. It is like black clouds which mask complexly the sky; the rajas is activity, frenetic agitation, it is like the waves which prevent one to see the bottom of the lake; as for sattva, it is purity, a state of contentment etc… the mind is not yet dissolved but the veil which mask it is transparent. The vishuddha marga consists in increasing the sattva guna while decreasing the raja and the tamas. Sattva is purity. Purity starts with cleanliness of the body, that is a daily bath, and of the food; vegetarian food which is less spicy . and then follows the purity of the mind with the five yamas (rules as they are told Pantanjali in the Yoga - sutra : brahmacharya, that is chastity; satya, truth ‘ asteya, honesty; ahimsa, non - violence and aparigraha, absence of greed. In addition to this, it is good to occupy the mind with divine thoughts, meditation, etc… When the mind is filled with the sattva guna and the rajas and the tamas have almost disappeared, it dissolves spontaneously into the Supreme.
Q : Is it possible to say that a guru seduces his disciples to bring them to God?
V: In a way, I think that we can answer : yes in spite of the fact that the word ‘seduce’ can bring about some confusion. We should rather talk of ‘emotional transference’, a method which is well known by psychoanalysts. The ordinary man is bound by all sorts of attachments and worldly affection. He loves his wife, his children, his worldly possessions without even mentioning his own body and his own comforts, and all this because he finds a few moments of temporary Happiness in all that. All these attachments attract the mind towards the outside. To discover the divine which is within each one of us, we must change the direction of the mind and bring it back inside. But it is extremely difficult, that is the moment when the grace of guru comes up. It awakens in the heart of the disciple an attachment so intense that all other attachments lose their power of attraction. At the beginning, it is love for the physical aspects for the guru; but it is also love for a being which is symbol of the omnipresent divine; and the disciple, by the grace of his guru, soon will discover the divine which is in the own heart and will understand that sensual pleasures drive us only because they are temporarily enlightened by a reflection of the divine.
Q: Why does the body of a sage, which is satvic, fall prey to illness and death?
V: Just as an ordinary man is identified to the physical body ,the perfect stage is identified to tattva, this imperishable substance made of Satcidananda. That is his actual body. As far as his physical bodies concerned, it is a part of prakiriti which is nature ,and it is subject to the laws of nature ,which means birth ,growth, maturity ,decay and death .For the sage ,the physical body is an instrument which allows him to come into contact with individuals who are bound by the laws of nature and help them to free them selves from them .The sage is no more identified with his physical body than a rider to his horse or a driver to his car .
Regarding the diseases which appear in the physical body of the sage, they are according to the nature of the things .Whatever is part of perishable must by the law of things degenerate and eventually die; but as far as great sages are concerned ,some of the diseases are also due to the fact that they absorb the bad karma of their disciples. However their are also yogis who have not yet attained to perfection but whose aim is to perfect the physical body and to protect it from diseases.
Q : People often speak of Ma's look, that she used to gaze at some people for a long time; or did she not need that to impart what she wanted to?
V : A look is a full part of a facial countenance. It can communicate more clear and direct messages than verbal phrases because it directly expresses bhava (basic mood or spiritual state). That is why Ma, like other great sages, often used this medium to transmit a teaching or even simply to communicate a remark without needing to use words. Of course, Ma did not require to look at someone to give him a spiritual awakening. She could do it while being apparently busy with someone else or even from a distance.
In the beginning with Ma, I did not know any Hindi or Bengali (Ma did not speak English) and I used to communicate with her by look or simply by mental transmission. To take an example, I remember the first celebration of Ma's birthday which I attended. It must have been in Ambala, a big town of Punjab. At that time, the function was still very simple. Ma was lying on a small wooden bed and seemed to be in a state akin to deep sleep. Her devotees used to say that on these occasions she was entering nirvikalpa samadhi. In this state, empirical world has disappeared and an ocean of Bliss-Consciousness is left. At that time I was very attached to Ma's physical presence and I would have liked to have her near me always. I was sitting in front, at a short distance from Ma's bed. I was feeling quite bad that Ma had escaped into samadhi and said to myself: 'Ma went very far from us into nirvikalpa samadhi'. Almost immediately, Ma sat on her wooden bed, opened her eyes and intently gazed at me. It was a very long look full of tenderness which clearly conveyed that: 'No, I'm not far away from you, I 'm always present in your heart'.
Q: You say that when we concentrate on Ma, we will be able to see her in front of us. This concentration probably requires a certain practice; is it not the result of our own mental projections.?
V: The concentration on Ma (as concentration) on an ishta - devta, an image of the deity) is one of the methods which are advised to calm the mind .The mind naturally runs towards what it likes, pleasure ,foods Sex etc.... each disperse itself in various directions .When we direct it towards a divine object, we can keep it away from its wordily endeavor .In fact when devotion for the guru ,for Ma is deep ,concentration is easy ,and we can bring back the mind to a state of happy peace without much effort .But, in addition to that, in the case of a great sage like Ma who has left her residual presence ,we can get in contact with this presence .And this contact can become a considerable aid in our spiritual pursuit. The guru can transmit the power and he can do so even after he has left his physical form, There is also another benefit which can be obtained by this concentration .When you think about Ma ,You automatically invoke her qualities ,her virtues ,her compassion etc... Then a sort of transference takes place and we absorb some of her qualities, even if we do not feel is consciously.
To see the image of Ma actually facing us requires a lot of practice, as you say and only those who have strong capacity of visualization are successful in it. But it is necessary to see her really in front of us . Simply thinking about her with devotion is sufficient. What matters is our mental reaction of love and devotion; the image is only a means to produce a reaction.
Even if we can see here it is only a form of sought as you suggest it, but this form of thought is a support of all pervading divine whose center, for us resides in our subtle heart .When we have succeeded in fixing our attention straight away on the omnipresent divine, on universal consciousness, then the support is not necessary any more.
Q : Does not the attachment to the physical form of Ma constitute a veil shadowing the light that Ma gives us?
V : The attachment to the physical form of a perfect sage or sadguru is very different from the one we can have for an ordinary being. The sadguru is called, the embodiment of knowledge. His very form is in some way a crystallization of the omnipresent Jnanamurti, consciousness-bliss. A relation of devotion to this form leads sooner or later to the omnipresent, the attachment to a form is not necessary. But to those who have experienced the wonderful love for the guru, the transition from personal to impersonal takes place very naturally. Personal love towards the guru will only disappear when there is a total fusion with what the guru symbolises. The love for the sadguru can never be erased. Ma herself used to say : ‘Those who loved this body ( speaking of herself) even once will never be able to forget it, however hard they may try to eradicate it from their heart.’
Q : You have said that what Ma would most like during this year of Centenary would be for each one of his disciple to choose a yama and to agree to observe it perfectly during the whole year. Can you develop this point?
V : The five yamas represent the first steps in asthanga yoga, the yoga in eight steps as described by Patanjali in the yoga-sutras. These are the foundations spiritual life. They are non-violence, truth, honesty (asteya), absence of avarice and chastity. These yamas lead to moral perfection because they must be observed all the way to the most subtle level. For example, saying mean words to someone is an act of violence, or a simple expression on the face which tries consciously to hide can be considered as a subtle lie. Patanjali states that, apart from the purification of the mind, the observation of each yama brings psychic powers. Then, if we observe truth perfectly for twelve years at lest, we attain what is called vak-siddhi: each word we pronounce becomes true. If ahimsa, non - violence, is strictly observed, no one will be able to harm us and ferocious beasts will be like sheep in front of us. The five yamas, if perfectly observed, can by themselves lead to Realisation because of the mental purification they produce. To Ma, the strict observation of these moral rules was very important, and I thought that if some of her close disciples could make the vow to observe perfectly at least one of these yamas, it would be the best proof of love and veneration one could give Ma for this Centenary.
Q : Do the five yamas make one, being interrelated ?
V : The yamas are moral rules, of course, but they are part of the satvic personality, that is to say a person whose mind is very satvic will spontaneously follow the yamas without any effort. In this sense, they are related. Always telling the truth can bring a conflict with the vow of ahimsa, because certain truths ma sometimes create a great deal of harm. In the Ordinances of Manu it is said that one should always tell the truth but it is better to refrain from talking than to tell someone harsh words. Moreover, to be honest, to refrain from lying is necessary since a dishonest person will automatically have to lie to hide his robbery. And stealing is harming someone, therefore it is an act of himsa.
Q : Ma's birthday centenary came to an end (May 1996- May 1997). It enabled us to remember temporal aspects of her life, its important events and so on. Now, how does one meditate on her timeless aspect?
V : Ma said that she came among us because there was an appeal which had attracted her on our plane of existence. We suppose that there was a group of spiritually advanced people with an intense devotion towards the female aspect of the Divine who made this appeal; but in reality, from where did she came? Of course, these matters cannot possibly be conceived by mind. However, roughly speaking, we can say that there is a mass of Consciousness-Bliss which has neither form nor place but which is the support and basis of everything which exists. Modern scientists come near to this when they speak of a unified field which is the basis of every atom, molecule, etc.
So, what appeared to us in the physical form of Ma was somehow a crystallization of the Omnipresent. Thanks to it, we could contact the Supreme in an easier way. The physical form has been removed from our visual field but the Supreme of which she was the condensation is still the same. It (or She) will always answer our call if we do it with a devotion which is intense enough. Of course, most people cannot directly contact the Formless and need a visual support. For those who were touched by this divine apparition which Ma Anandamayi was (even if they did not meet Her personally), a photo, reading a book or a meditation in front of her samadhi (tomb) can produce the necessary intensity so that the call might be effective.
Q : As we are reaching Ma’s centenary, how do you see the future of the ashrams and of the Sangha which have been established around her ? How do you see the development of her teachings in India on one side, and in the West on the other side ?
V : The religious organisation called ‘ Shree Shree Ma Anandamayee Sangha’ is relatively new (around 1952) compared to the long established organisations like Ramakrishana Mission for example. As long as Ma was physically present, nothing was done without her consent and her advice or suggestions : she never gave orders. These suggestions were always obeyed without discussion by her close disciples and were accepted as coming from a divine source. She had a series of temple constructed, at least one in each ashram. Since these temple must be taken care of daily without interruption by a qualified brahman and as much as possible by a brahmachari belonging to the organisation, she has created in this way a solid infrastructure which ties the disciples to their ashram. This infrastructure is somehow the skeleton which gives its solidity to the organisation. Ma left her body in August 82, the administration of the Sangha takes place according to democratic principles. That is to say that decisions are made by the Governing body according to the opinion of the majority of its members. This committee has forty-two members of both sex. Half of them are lay members which are elected by secret ballot by the assembly of the Sangha. The other half of the body is made of the ascetic members, that is brahmacharis and monks of both sexes living in the ashrams. These are appointed, and not elected , by the Committee of direction. This Committee is now the supreme authority and its decisions cannot be revoked only in very special circumstances and with a complicated procedure. For religious and spiritual questions, we have a sadhu Committee composed of nine members, recently augmented by two, chosen among the most eminent monks and brahmacharis of the organisation. This Committee, however, does not have executive power. It presents its conclusions to the Governing body which makes the final decisions.
For the financial point of view, the Sangha is firmly established although its incomes come mainly from donations. One can then say that the Sangha is in good hands and that it will continue for a long time to function to spread the message of Ma. Regarding the development of the teachings of Ma, it is wholly based on the ancient tradition of the Vedas and on Hinduism, or rather the sanatana dharma, the eternal religion as Hindus call their own religion, in its traditional and orthodox aspects, The structure of the ashrams and temples creates a sort of fortress destined to protect these teachings. The culminating point of this teaching, its living centre, is Vedanta, and it is this part of sanatana dharma which is destined to Western disciples.
Q : How can we develop sincerity in our sadhana?
V: A young man who is trying to seduce a woman he loves, or someone who works to gather wealth, do they need to develop sincerity in their efforts? Certainly not: that is because they are absolutely convinced that their effort is worth it and they are ready to use all their physical and mental energy to attain their goal, although what they may obtain, if ever they do so, is ephemeral, trivial and disappointing : but what we obtain with a sadhana is eternal bliss, immortality ,a bliss which gives you a thorough satisfaction without a trace of bitterness. In addition to that if we have entered the spiritual flow by the grace of the guru, we are certain to reach the goal, if not in this life, at least in future birth. When we think about that sincerity develops little by little. Also, by meditating with perseverance, one day will come when the vision of the bliss of the Self will appear like a lighting in a dark sky; then the sadhana will have same intensity than the one which we had when we were running after worldly pleasures and successes.
Q: How do you classify the experiences of meditation as such in the general frame of spiritual progress?
V: All this depends on the type of experience one has. If they are visions, such as colors, images, or sounds, that show a progress. That is to say that the sadhaka has already attained a level which is deeper than the one dealing with discursive thought, and this is an encouragement for the mediator showing him that his effort is going to bear fruit .Of course, we must not feel that we have attained the goal and especially we should not make the pleasure or a game out of out of it, which would risk blocking the evolution at this stage and preventing us from going further. But the experiences which give you a state of peace and bliss are much superior, especially when they come along with a complete absence of sensations coming from physical body. There are also the experiences in which one goes out of the subtle body; they are dangerous, but they can be very useful if the guru is guiding and protecting you. Nevertheless, the true test of progress lies in behavior during everyday life, that is to say that we have mastered negative emotions such as anger, lust etc... and that we are in harmony with our environment.
Q: Ma says that we should not try to return to a former state of meditation that we have experienced in the past: however, those who know how to meditate can easily entered in a deep state and remain in it . So, is not a certain ability to go back to given states of consciousness necessary to the meditator?
V: It all depends on the type of meditation one has : if there are states of consciousness such as bhavas or visions, the hearing of sound of other marginal experience, we should not try to reproduce them if they do not come spontaneously because the attachment we experience, the pleasure we find in them may prevent any ulterior progress. But if these states are part of the technique of meditation we are following, which has been indicated by the guru, we should try to reproduce them because there are part of a successful meditation. For example, if someone sits down to meditate on pure consciousness, he will have to follow, if possible, the technique which was successful during the previous meditation and at first he must attain ekagrata, the exclusive concentration on that; but if it is vision accompanied by a state of joy, he should not reproduce it and even if it comes spontaneously, he will have to try to go beyond it.
Q : a) Can you explain to us the difference between concentration and meditation?
b) Is not the quiet state through concentration an illusion, a selfish act while meditation - which receptivity- leads to oneness without exclusion?
c) Is there an opposition between concentration and meditation?
V) Those two terms have in many texts and also in common conversations a similar value. But Krishnamurti makes a marked difference between those. One is concentration, and he considers it somewhat harmful, because it distorts the mind , and the other, meditation which he recommends .and it is most probably what you are referring to in your question. By concentration, he means the art of fixing the mind on an object according to the recommendation of most sages. For instance, one can concentrate on light, on a red lotus in the heart, the image of a deity ,etc...It is true that these methods only bring a temporary calm and do not deal with the fundamental problems of the structure of our mind and the way it functions. But they are basic methods. A sculptor, the guru in this case, when he is in front of a block of stone, cannot start sculpting facial expressions right way. He will have to perform a refining process before he can start working seriously . The best of course, is what Krishnamurti called meditation: it is a panoramic view of our mind. It is looking at it fully without any intervention, in order to get to know the way it functions .The final goal in all spiritual discipline is to make the mind quiet: in the classic yoga - sutras, Patanjali says : ‘Yoga is the extinction of mental waves’.
We can attain this result through what Krishnamurti calls ‘meditation’ that is to say the path of knowledge (vichara marga). When the mind is known completely, down to its most intimate root which is in the ego, the silence naturally takes place as we recognize the illusory nature of our egocentric thoughts. The ego being dissolved, the mind as we know it ceases to function. That is which is called manonasha, the destruction of mind . This method is very difficult because it requires a constant mental awareness and also a satvic mind, but we can also reach a temporary silence of the mind (manolaya) by different methods almost all based on concentration. We concentrate on our mind on a precise point such as image, mantra , etc...until it becomes the only mental wave left in the field of consciousness. This is dharana .In the next step, this concentration must flow naturally without effort (dhyana). Finally, even this mental wave must disappear and what is left is the great silence, the samadhi. This silence is temporary and the mind start to function again when the yogi gets out of samadhi. Krishanamurti rejects these methods which he considered harmful as if some mental clutches to whom one becomes attached, or some drug.
It is true that they are clutches but if they ask a paralytic to walk straight away without clutches, it is most probable that after a few unsuccessful attempts he will accept self defeat and remain in his state. Why not allow him to walk with clutches which he will be able to discard when he has gained confidence in himself ? Is there a danger that he will get used to the clutches and that he will not be able to walk normally? Perhaps! But better to be paralytic who walks with clutches than a paralytic who does not walk at all. That is the reason why methods based on concentration are recommended by most great sages. Once the mind has been one-pointed by a long practice of concentration, once it is purified, it will be proper to turn to a practice of meditation in the sense of Kishnamurti. In any case, both paths go together. When we are trying to fix our attention on a point (a mantra for instance), the mind escapes to another direction .One can then, when we still continue to repeat the mantra, observe it and get to know its nature. There are many path which leads to the Supreme. Each one should be able to choose the one which best suits his temperature and capacities.
Q: How can we say for someone if he should concentrate on the heart chakra or the sahasrara? Is it sufficient to say that a person with an emotional tendency should work with the heart chakra? Could not this increase his emotional tendency?
V: In reality, the beginner does not meditate on a chakra. In its centre the main nadis, ida and pingala fuse . The result is the sensation of peace and happiness : The yogananda, the bliss of union. The mind become quite and the self is revealed . That is the source of this bliss. This union can take place in any of chakras, but it is much easier in heart chakra and in ajana chakra between the eyebrows, especially because associations of ideas which are taking place in these chakras are satvic
.With the inferior chakras, we can get lost with the associations of ideas they evoke, and it can become dangerous .What is important is the mental attitude during meditation and the focal point on which we meditate is secondary. In any case it is the guru who should decide on which point the disciple should meditate. More or less we could say that the heart centre is related to love and the one between the eyebrows to superconsciousness. As for Ramana Maharishi , he used to say that the Self , i.e. pure conciousness, is the heart, it is however true that he would place it on the right and not in the heart chakra itself. In the path of Bhakti ,the devotee sometimes visualizes his ishta devta in the centre of the forehead with love. Working on the chakras, that is to say working to open them, is a special sadhana which is mostly a part of tantrism : it is a progressive way which tries to reach more and more subtle states of consciousness until one reaches the pure consciousness of ajna chakra ,but these meditation should always take place under the supervision of an experienced guru. But again, whatever might be the focal point of meditation, what is essential is the mental attitude and the sankalpa , that is to say the aim which we have chosen at the beginning of the meditation.
Q: What are the signs of the awakening of the sahasrara chakra
V: I do not know .I have never heard Ma advise to meditate on this centre and I do not think that other great gurus have done so .The top of the head is a point of exit into the subtle body and eventually into the cosmic body.
Q: In meditation is it important to have any sort of will or expectation?
V: For one who is on the spiritual path and even in every day life, he must certainly make an effort to master the negative emotions and even the positive ones that may carry him away. Keeping away from any kind of will and expectations is only possible for those who are very advanced on the path; one is then in harmony with the divine power (the power of the other) and it is this power which directs his thoughts and actions. In this situation, an act of will brings about the ego and creates an obstacle to the harmonious current of divine will; but that is extremely different from the lack of will of the ordinary man. To be in harmony with the divine power and to preserve this harmony is only possible when the mind has been purified and is capable of maintaining a constant superconscious state. Likewise a good swimmer will let himself be carried by the flow of the river; he will adapt his movements to the different changes of the current without being carried away, and that is clearly different from someone who does not know how to swim and who would be taken by the flow.
Q: (by a French lady psychiatrist ) How can we make the distinction between intuition, divine inspiration and unconscious desires.
V: it is very difficult to distinguish between true intuition and desires coming from unconscious. Our mind is very good at presenting an unwanted desires in a form which is more or less acceptable. It often happens that sadhakas are convinced that some of their action are dictated by a divine voice coming from within while in reality they follow a desire from which they thought they were already freed. How can we distinguish between them?
1) First of all, we must have a good dose of humility and know that we are not beyond mistakes and it is also important to remember the many time when we made mistakes.
2) If we have the slightest doubt, it is important to ask ourselves if the mind is really telling us to act according to the dharma (that is what is righteous) or to adharma (that is what is unrighteous) and to always choose the path of dharma whatever the cost may be.
3) If we are not capable of distinguishing between both, we should then consult a spiritual guide or a friend or an elder whom we trust.
But there is a state in which intuition are unmistakable. That is when the inner guru (the Christos of Gnostics ) has awaken in our heart. Intuition then appears as divine inspiration and is as obvious as a sense perception.
Q : What is the best time for meditation?
V : In general, the hour of Brahma (brahmamuhurt) is recommended, that is to say the two hours before sunrise; but it al depends on one’s rhythm. If you want to practice at that hour, you should make sure not to fall asleep sitting down. Sitting down at sunrise or before sunset is good too. These are times when the circulation of the nadis changes direction; there is therefore a brief or long moment, according to the know-how of the mediators, during which prana penetrates into sushumna, the central nadi. During this period, the mind is still. Midnight is also a good time to meditate.
Q: Is it better to meditate at a fixed time by disciplining one's body and mind or to meditate when we feel the need?
V : At he beginning of a sadhana, it is very useful to set a clear program for oneself and to meditate as far as possible at the same time and at the same place. One should sit during the duration which was decided on even if one does not feel like meditating. In this way, a habit will be developed, a good habit which will become a need, almost an addiction,just like coffee, and you cannot get rid of it and it is good that way. Habit originates in tama-guna (the force of inertia) and from there comes its strength. The power of tamas lies in the fact that it is the inverted image of the Supreme: immutable, active, ever at rest. Hence tamas is such a considerable obstacle. But it is possible to use this force by creating good habits for oneself; and the habit to meditate regularly is one of the best. This does not prevent one from meditating at any time whenever one feels like.
Q : (A Spanish young woman whose family is from Avila, the town of Saint Teresa): Is not all this activity to earn one’s livelihood and in final analysis to feed the body excessive?
V : It is certainly necessary to feed the body and to keep it in good health, even when we have renounced worldly life. And to feed the body, one must work. But what is important is not to let oneself enchained in a number of imaginary needs which force you to work from morning to night to meet both ends. A simple life with few needs allows you to work less and to have time to improve your spiritual life. In this way, one manages to go beyond physical consciousness and its needs. Then, nature or God will take care to feed this body.
Q : If this question is not too personal, what is your spiritual level?
V : I am not a guru, not even a sage, but simply a sadhaka who has reached a certain spiritual level, however, by the grace of Ma Anandamayee.
Q : What about Karma Yoga ?
V : The final goal of Karma Yoga is to reach the dissolution of the ego. The ego is this illusory form which makes us believe that we are a separate personality totally different from the rest. When the ego is dissolved, we understand in fact that there is only the omnipresent Consciousness which animates all beings and all things; but a fundamental principle of the ego is false belief that there is an I, a personal will which acts (in fact, the Sanskrit word for ego is ahamkara which means literally ‘I do’) but in reality it is the power of the Other that acts (the nature, prakriti, the divine Power). The ego is indeed a whirlpool, an obstacle in the flow of the river. It is why the karma-yogi will try to liberate himself from this false belief by changing his mental attitude in all the acts of his everyday life. What matters is not the act itself, but the mental attitude with which it is performed.
The methods of Karma-Yoga very according to the level of development of the sadhaka. At the beginning, he will be advised to do service without remuneration: social service, to take care of the diseased, etc... or even better the service of his guru if he has one. This service must be performed by love for humanity and sadhaka must not differentiate between praise and blame, that is equanimity. Later on, when the mind will have been sufficiently purified, he will be able to go to the next step ... It is always the mental attitude which counts. Every action should be performed as a gift to the Divine which resides in every being. If he is married, his wife will be for him an aspect of the divine Mother, and his children beings that God has put on his path to awaken the divine sparkle which is in them. At the office, in the suburban train, etc .., he will be grateful to those that God has put on his path to help them.
Finally, when the quality sattva predominates in the sadhaka's mind, he will be able to start the real Karma-Yoga which is one of the hardest sadhanas. What ties us to action and consequently keeps the knot of egotism is the desire to obtain a result, a reward for our action. It will then be necessary to do our work without expecting any fruit, any reward, simply for the pure joy of doing a work which is as perfect as possible. In the beginning, that seems dry and difficult. But we will soon realise that it puts us in harmony with the divine, cosmic current. The river of the divine current flows across us effortlessly and makes every action perfect. This requires a certain vigilance, for we must know how to distinguish between the great current and the whirlpool of the ego. Succeeding in this bring great happiness and a deep sense of inner peace.
Q : In the path of bhakti , should the emotions be expressed or should they be mastered ?
V : The path of devotion is useful for individuals in whom the emotional part of the mind is more developed than the intellectual. Such individuals will have difficulties observing the mind and following what is called vichara marga, the path of discrimination. They will be better off if they use their emotions to progress on the spiritual path. These emotions need to be purified and transformed into love for the Divine. When this love is very intense, it culminates in the mystical union. Then the ego dissolves into the Divine. When there is no more ego, there is no more ego, there is no more mind either because ego is the root and the source of the mind. Therefore bhakti does not mean the letting go of uncontrolled emotions. We must know how to play with our emotions, but never let them play with us. We can let an emotion grow in intensity, but never to the point where we will loose control. I remember seeing once in Vrindavan a pandit who followed the path of bhakti and who performed a show in the presence of Ma just to demonstrate to us what was real bhakti : he could let himself go into the most intense religious emotions and then suddenly stop them point-blank and shift to another emotion. This requires a very great control of the mind, much difficult than to repress an emotion.
Q : In the Upanishads, rasa, the essence of happiness is mentioned as motivating all our actions and thoughts; can you develop this point ?
V : Sanskrit words often have various signification according to the context in which they are used; so it is for the word rasa. But in the Taittiriya Upanishads, this word is used with a special meaning (II, 7) Rasa her is the substance of which the rasa is made. Rasaveisa,’ this in truth is rasa’ In all objects of our desires, what we are looking for is the pleasure they give, that is to say the rasa, the taste of these objects. These pleasures are only reflections of the supreme rasa. ‘He who get this rasa, says the Upanishads, becomes happy (ananda bhavati). All of our movements, all of our thoughts, even our breathing is moved by this supreme Bliss which pervades all space.
Q : For a sadhaka living in the world and aspiring directly to moksha, liberation, is there not a tension between his aspiration and his real capacities ?
V : Moksha is not for everyone, moksha, or complete liberation, is for those who have completely renounced the world, that is to say the sannyasis, or those who have mentally renounced without having taken the cloth of a sannyasi. To those living in the world, there is another path, that of progressive liberation or krama-murti. Through his devotion for the ishta-dev, through the ritual, the daily puja in the Indian context, the bhakta or devotee, if he is successful, will reach the cosmic Brahma at the time of death. At the end of the cycle, when this one is dissolved, he reaches the Absolute, or complete liberation.
The direct path of immediate liberation (sadhya mukti), is for the sannyasi. Buddhism distinguishes between the abrupt path and the progressive path, between Zen, for instance, and the devotion to Amitaba, the Bouddha of compassion. In the progressive path, the prana comes out form the top of the head at the time of death. But the fourth stage of life, the sannyas, breaks with this progressive liberation and the practices which lead to it. The sannyasi wants immediate realisation, or at least liberation at the time of death, when he separates himself from the body. One of the Upanishads mentions the one who is liberated while alive in this way : ‘na tasya prana utkramanti’ ‘he whose prana does not go up (at the time of death)’. As he is already identified with the omnipresent consciousness, death is not a change for him at the level of consciousness.
In the West, the best way is karma - yoga : ‘Do your work the best you can, do not worry about the outcome.’ If work is successful, it is good, if it is not, it is good also. Performing action for the pure joy of action is the way. For those who are intensely devoted to the guru, to Ma for example, there is another path which is to offer all of his actions as a sacrifice to Ma with the perspective that at the time of death, they will be met by her and they will merge into her being. It is said that when one is very devoted to the guru, he appears at the time of death.
Q : What is the relationship between marriage and spiritual life?
V : For those who want to reach the top of spiritual life (moksha, nirvana, illumination, Self-Realization), perfect chastity is a necessity, but those who can and want to reach this stage are very rare. The path of celibacy remains an exceptional one. This is why great sages have established and taught progressive paths leading an ordinary person from one stage to another until he or she has enough maturity to face this great problem which is the discovery of Supreme Reality, and marriage is one of these stages. Sexual energy in a common human being must be channeled, then sublimated and divinized. Relationships between a man and a woman are part of nature, but of the inferior aspect of it (apara prakriti). A level exists where this union occurs on the plane of pure consciousness without physical contact. In the usual marriage, man should consider his wife as an aspect of Divine Mother and the wife should see in her husband a manifestation of the male Divinity. Thus a relationship of mutual love and respect will develop which will eventually lead to the genuine love which is impersonal. And sexual relationships must be as rare as possible so that sadhakas might be prepared to reach the Supreme when the time comes.
Q : May we consider anger as an addictive drug? How does one overcome it?
V : The psychological mechanism of anger is as follows: the departure point is always a sensation of discomfort coming from our body which makes us ill at ease. The instinctive tendency is to free ourselves from it as quickly as possible and to come back to a state of euphoria. This sensation is not generally in the field of clear consciousness and mind tries to find a cause in the outer world to which it could attribute this feeling of being ill at ease and by destroying this cause it hopes to regain its balance. If an individual suddenly comes and abuses you or has rude behavior, that's it! He is the one which is the cause of your uneasy feeling!
Mind then calls on this basic energy which is always present in muladhara and transforms it in a destructive force which is called anger. It directs it towards its enemy. Uneasiness, being projected outward, disappears from the field of clear consciousness. The energy which was temporarily freed gives him a pleasant feeling of power but when the fit of anger subsides, it is changed into a depression and the uneasy feeling comes back to the fore.
Another fit of anger and the same process takes place. An association of ideas is established between uneasiness and this anger which relieves it for some time. Then for certain people an addiction to the fits of angers occurs. They find an impression of power and a relative euphoria in them. Naturally, there is all the bad karma which is created by these fits of anger and which will have to be repaid by other sufferings. How to be cured from anger? First, seeing clearly this mechanism of projection of an uneasy sensation toward an outer object. And also understanding all the sufferings imposed on others and oneself when we get angry. As Scriptures say, anger is one of the doors to hell.
Q : What is the real nature of the ego?
V : Ego is this entity (ahamkar in sanskrit) which makes us believe that we are a different personality from others, which gives us the feeling of 'I', 'I am'. It is also the root of our mind on which the whole superstructure of our thoughts and emotions is based; but it is only an empirical reality and exists simply as long as we have not yet discovered the play of illusion which created it. Our mind is a very complicated machine, but has no consciousness by itself. The uppermost part of the mind is buddhi (intellect) which decides and discriminates between what should be done or not; but intellect is deprived of consciousness if left alone. It becomes animated when pure Consciousness, Atman, reflects itself in it. Then it becomes this composite entity called ego. It participates in the nature of Atman, i.e., Consciousness-Bliss, but with the limitations which its support, the mind, as well as the pranic and physical body, impose on it.
Q : Is there no danger in constantly controlling mind?
V : Everything depends upon the method which is employed. It should be done skillfully and by adapting oneself to the variation of one's mind. This is similar to the way a rider behaves with a horse which he wants to tame. He or she should strike or hurt him as little as possible. Suppression of emotions should be avoided as far as one can, but this ought not to be taken as an axiom because there are cases where it is necessary. There are circumstances where it is morally or socially harmful to yield to an emotion or to a forbidden act. In these cases suppression is a must, but on the other hand there is no danger at all to constantly check the mind. Danger would be in loosening the control. The best would be to consider one's mind as a child that we love and to make him understand what is for his own good. Mind ever looks for happiness and peace because it is its intimate nature and it is conscious of it; but it looks for happiness in the wrong direction, in reflected images like in a mirror. One should explain this error to it. And once it has understood, it will behave as a friend and will put all its attention in the good direction.
Q : But who really controls the mind?
V : Control of mind and extinction of the thinking process should be distinguished. Control of mind consists of having under his sway negative emotions such as fear, sexual desire, greediness, anguish, anxiety, jealousy, etc. These emotions are part of the tamasic and rajasic mind. Hence one should cultivate satvic states of mind like serenity, softness, goodness, inner peace, thoughts going towards the Divine, etc. This work is accomplished by a purified intellect, i.e., a satvic ego. Ego is used to root out negative emotions. If a thorn went into our flesh, another thorn may be used to take it out. Once this is done, both thorns may be disposed of. When mind is purified, what is left is a satvic ego through which one can see Reality like a transparent veil through which someone can be seen. This satvic ego must also be dissolved so that we might be identified with the Real, because the joy and satisfaction in being a pure and saintly person is also a golden cage which imprisons you. Generally, by Guru's grace only this last bondage can be broken.
Q : Can we indirectly dissolve ego without going through the control of the various layers of mind?
V : Yes, this is possible but in those cases mental layers manifest themselves while we progress. For instance, in the path of devotion the ultimate goal is dissolution of ego in the Beloved; but before reaching that final stage, many obstacles will arise and they will do it from a mind that we must learn to know and master.
In Karma-Yoga, we attack ego at the root right from the beginning. This root is the wrong belief that it is 'I' who acts, 'I' who reaps the fruit of actions. We will have to get rid of this illusion by performing actions only for the joy of a work which is well done, without caring for results, i.e., being indifferent to success or failure. There again, obstructions built by mind will oblige us to know it and to master it. In the Path of knowledge -if one follows instructions given by Ramana Maharshi- one directly tackles the ego by wondering 'Who am I in reality?' But before being able to find the solution of this problem, facing the storms of mind, knowing it and mastering it, will be necessary.
Q : In the Upanishads, one speaks of rasa (the essence of happiness) which motivates all our actions and thoughts. Could you elaborate?
V : Sanskrit words have different meanings according to the context where they are used. It is so for the word rasa; but in Taittiriya Upanishad this word is used with a special meaning (II,7). Rasa is there the very substance out of which Divine is made. Raso veisa, this in truth is Brahman. In all objects of desire, what we are looking for is the pleasure they give us, i.e., the rasa, the 'taste' of these objects. These pleasures are only a reflection of the supreme Rasa, he who gets this rasa becomes happy ananda bhavati the Upanishad says. All our movements, all our thoughts, even our respiration is moved by this supreme Happiness which pervades space.
Q : (An Italian visitor) Where can bliss be found?
V : Bliss, Ananda is everywhere, it is the basis, the essential motivation for all our actions, in fact of our life. Taittiriya Upanishad says: Who then would act, who would breath if this bliss was not in space? This base of all existence, the unified field of physicians is made of an undivided mass of Consciousness-Bliss, chidananda. We perceive it through the thick veil of our mental agitation. Clouds hide the sun, but even the black colour is visible because the sun is behind them.
Q : Sometimes, you say that one must face up to one's fears, and even one's desire and at other times that it is better to look the mind on the side. Is that not contradictory?
V : Yes, the right method to look at the mind is 'from the side' by concentrating attention on a support (mantra, image, etc.) because if we look at the mind face to face, there is the danger that it will create artificial formations; his nature is indeed to swell when we try to analyze it. I said that we must face a fear, this was because if we try to run away from it, it will only intensify; but in this case what is required is looking at the object which produced this fear and not to the thought of fear. One should not focus on the feeling of fear, it would most probably intensify it, but on the cause of this fear. By facing it, it will be vanquished.
Q : If someone close to you is not doing well but does not want to listen to what could help him, what is to be done?
V : Ramakrishna used to say that there was four kinds of spiritual masters just as there four kinds of doctors:
Q : It is often said that the relationship between guru and disciple is beyond the personal level; but would not it be more exact to say that the relationship is first very personal and then only it reaches the impersonal?
V : The relationship between a real master and a genuine disciple is something wonderful. One must have lived it to understand it. It is basically a relationship of mystical love, which is very different of human love which looks for physical contact. Mystical love is at the level of pure Consciousness. The spark of divine Consciousness which is in the disciple is attracted like a powerful magnet by the omnipresent Divine who radiates through the physical form of the perfect Master.
But in the beginning the disciple confuses or rather limits the Divine at the physical form of the Master. A personal relationship is then created, but it exists only from the disciple's point of view. This relationship is useful in the beginning of a sadhana because it creates an affective transference and enables one to be freed from worldly attachments. When the disciple reached a certain maturity, the master liberates him from personal attachment by having him discover the Divine which resides in his own heart and which is one with the omnipresent Divine.
Q : Most Westerners inspired by Ma do not do puja to her, while this practice is very common among Hindus, be they in ashrams or at home; do they lose something?
V : Real puja is a mental attitude. Ritual is there to awaken this attitude of love and veneration. Westerners do not need to use the same rites as Hindus, but when one is about to start meditation, it is beneficial to establish a contact with the master, Ma in our case, so that she imparts the required spiritual energy to you. And for this, a certain form of puja may be useful: reciting a few mantras, lighting an incense stick, making a pranam, etc.
Q : Ma said time and again that she was not 'this body'. Is not the cult of her samadhi around her body a regression from a lofty vedantic teaching to a form of cheap popular devotion ? Is it not a depressive attitude from those disciples who cannot mourn the link they had with Ma when she was in her body?
V : The tomb of a great sage and over all that of Ma radiates beneficial vibrations which grant peace of mind and make spiritual life easier. What people come to find near Ma's samadhi is their own inner resources; of course, not everybody is at the same spiritual level. Some people can find there a reminiscence of the days spent near Ma; but if it helps them to get peace of mind, where is the harm?
Q : Sometimes, you say that a firm posture is necessary for the yoga of the awakening of energy (kundalini), but that japa or observing the mind can be practiced in any position. Yet, does not these two last forms of meditation requires a good deal of energy?
V : Everything depends upon what mean by the word energy. In kundalini Yoga, you want to develop a super-energy to go towards realization at a quicker pace. This energy is sublimation (or rather a divinization) of a power which is usually wasted in sexual relationships among ordinary people. To follow this yoga, one must then follow a life of complete chastity and of reclusion. When kundalini awakens and rises in the central channel, a bad posture may block its ascension. In any case, when this rising up happens, the spine becomes straight spontaneously.
Regarding the methods based on japa and the observation of mind, they are preleminary techniques to purify mind and prepare it to the possibility of an awakening of Divine power. They may be practiced in daily life. They are still in the field of verbal thinking. When the vital force penetrates the central channel (that is to say when kundalini ascends in the sushumna nadi), mind becomes silent and the question of vichara, of observation of the mind does not arise any longer.
Q : How were you led to leave everything for the supernatural ?
V : Imagine that you are walking on the road during a long trip by foot with a heavy bag on your back which, you believe, is full of precious things. At a stop you open the bag and you realize it is full of rags and useless things, and you throw it away: what a relief! All the same, what I have left were transitory pleasures and riches, without lasting value, which would have died anyway with the death of the body. The supernatural which you are talking about is the most natural thing. The search is that of our own self. What is more simple than our most intimate Self? Where is the risk? Can we cease to be ourselves? Being firmly established in the supreme Self is the goal of spiritual effort.
Q : To someone who wanted to take ‘Sannyas’:
You wish to take ‘sannyas ’? But what exactly do you understand by it? Is it just the corresponding mental attitude, or is it the ceremonial initiation of the ‘sannyasi’? It is the corresponding mental attitude which is important and which really counts. ‘Sannyas’ literally means ‘total renunciation’. It comes when we understands, deep within ourselves, the futility of all worldly activities, no matter what they can be and we sets for ourselves the sole goal of attaining the Realization of the Supreme Truth which will liberate us from the ceaseless process of death and rebirth, and which will lead us to eternal life, and to a happiness which no person or thing can take away. As far as the ceremonial initiation to sannyas goes, it is an integral part of the Hindu religion. For the Brahmins (and others of the superior castes), it is the culmination of their religious life. It is the last of the four ashramas : the first being brahmacharya, where youth is dedicated to study and to a pure and chaste life; the second being that of the grishastha, in which a man marries and starts a family in order to pass on the knowledge he has gained to his children; the third is vanaprastha, in which, all duties towards the posterity being accomplished, he retires to the forest, often with his spouse. Cultivate the mental attitude of sannyas , wherever you live, "like the leaf of the lotus which lives in water without getting wet".
Q : Can we say there are different degrees in the inner silence?
V : Indeed, there are different degrees of inner silence which correspond to different levels of our mind. More or less, we could say there are three different levels in the structure of the mind : the first one is that of the spoken thought. It is this nearly constant inner talk for the majority of people and when we have tried to stop it we know how difficult it is to make it stop. This is the first object of meditation. When we have succeeded in silencing the spoken thought, then appears a deeper stratum equivalent to thoughts in images and sounds, that is to say that forms and colors as well as subjective auditory perceptions appear in field of consciousness. If we manage to eliminate these subjective perceptions, what is only left then is the affective color of the mind, or bhava, which means the mental state of euphoria and depression, etc..... which are based on sensations coming from our body consciousness or to be more precise from the movement of the vital force in our organism.
When the bhava has become silent, and that is only possible when we have managed to go beyond physical consciousness, one is identified to ‘samarasa’, an uninterrupted experience of bliss - consciousness, and that is called the true Silence, the three levels of the mind interpenetrate one another. They are not isolated, but the superficial levels hide those which are deeper, as for example the waves on the lake prevent us to see the bottom.
Q : What is the function of long solitary phases in the life of a sadhaka ?
V : Complete solitude is good for an intensive sadhana, but it is temporary. For example, when you prepare an exam, you lock yourself up in your room until you have passed it, then you can go out. But complete solitude which is extended to very long period of time is not good. To cut yourself off from others and to close yourself off in your ivory tower, gives false realisation; you create a tension, and because of that you cannot find peace of mind. Wherever you might be, there are surroundings. Even in my hermitage in Dhaulchina, there were the boys tending the cows, the visitors, the village people : I was in very good terms with them. They considered me as a member of the family. We must always be in harmony with our surroundings, even if this only consists in trees or crows, that is very essential. We should try not to create a barrier made of conflicts. People at the ashram ask me if they must observe complete solitude, complete silence: I advice them against it. Of course, for those who are working who are constantly surrounded by people who ask them hundred of questions, who speak to them, that is a distraction, and it is better to stay away as much as possible.
We must distinguish between solitude which is a mental attitude and physical isolation : the latter is useful for a while, because it slows down the process of thoughts. But mental isolation, such as : O want to cut myself off from others, I do not want to see anyone is not good. Whatever one may be doing, one should always make an effort to be in harmony with surroundings. However, there are some particular cases where a relationship must be broken, it is difficult to generalise.
Q : You talked about solitude in order to pass an exam : what is the level of this exam?
V : Even if the sadhaka comes out of his physical isolation, he should not give up his sadhana to preach before he has attain realisation.
Q. If original desire had not existed, creation would not have taken place. Can one live without desire? If there is no Love, there is no existence.....
V. Love and desire are two different things. True love arises from a plentiful, interior wealth. It wants to give, always give, without asking for anything in return. Desire is a state of need, of suffering. The person who desires, feels that he is lacking in something, and if he succeeds in obtaining that thing, he will be able to experience peace and happiness. But he is always deceived, one desire gives rise to another as he tries to find satisfaction. Desire nevertheless has its utility in an inferior kind of creation. It transforms a state of inactivity (tamoguna) into a state of movement (rajoguna). This movement is the result of two opposing forces - on the one hand, there is the hope of pleasure and enjoyment, and on the other, there is the terrible fear of suffering and relapsing into the inertia of the brute.
Q. And if by desire one understands the ultimate desire, the thirst for the Divine, that which Ramana Maharishi calls the real need ...?
V. Primordial desire, which has created the manifestation of the world, and the thirst for the Divine, are two movements in opposite directions. Primordial desire has a tendency towards multiplicity, with creation of more and more secondary desires. The thirst for the Divine tends towards the Unity, which passes through the extinction of all desires.
Q. The spirit of service towards others is an inherent part of my nature, yet life has kept me away from every one, living alone, as I have done for almost forty years; and although living only for ‘Sadhana’ and for realization, it sometimes appears frustrating to me.
V : The spirit of service to others helps to purify the mind. The greatest service that one can render to humanity is to work towards the realization of the Self. Those who need your service will naturally come across
Q : How can humility be compatible with saying, as in Vedanta : I am the Self ?
V : I had asked a similar question to Ma at a time when I felt very attracted by the path of Advaita; I was feeling that this practice might inflate the ego. Ma had answered by a facial expression that was more clear than words. It meant that there was no risk and that anyhow the guru was there to make sure that it never happened. But of course, meditation on ‘I am the Self’ must be done correctly. The Self is not the ego. The ego is only the shell which covers the Self, the Self is pure consciousness, this consciousness which is within us is also within the others, within every being. Since we are all equal at the level of the Supreme consciousness, of the real Self, there is no longer room for a superiority complex, and certainly not for pride. Humility finds its place when the ego recognizes what it is in reality : a whirlpool of desires and fears, and also of pettiness. Then it moves out of the way leaving its place to the supreme Self which is our true nature which is omnipresent, beyond humility and pride.
Q : Certain meditators seem to be sad; what do you think about that ?
V : The one who begins a sadhana is not yet a saint. He goes through all kind of difficulties and even at times through painful states. He has the right to be sad when he experiences a defeat or a strong fall. Sadness can also reflect an intense desire for Realization or a feeling of nostalgia towards the Beloved which is called ‘viraha’ on the path of devotion. The sadness is a good sadness -so to say. The ‘bad’ sadness is the one where we regret the pleasures and comfort of the world we have left. However, a sadhaka must cultivate a state of inner joy independently of what happens to him and even if he does not succeed, he must make an effort to put on a smile when he sees others and not to disturb them with a sad face.
Q. For the meditator, it is believed that the moment he really loses his ego is a terrifying one. What do you think about that?
V. : Certainly, when we come face to face with the terrible moment when the ego must let itself be dissolved, or cease to exist, one must be very courageous. The death of the physical body is frightening, but it is not a complete death because the mind continues to exist along with the feeling of individuality; but from the point of view of the individual, the dissolution of the ego is a complete death. Nevertheless, this dissolution rarely comes right away. It takes place after longs years of preparation. In the Jnana marga, a long period of discrimination between that which is real and that which is false has given the mind a sufficient maturity to face the great event. In Bhakti, the love for the beloved deity goes on increasing until the devotee reaches total union and his individuality dissolves in the ocean of the beloved just as the salt doll becomes dissolved in the ocean according to Ramakrsishna’s simile.
Q : Meditating in the right way, is it learning how to die?
V : Yes, It can be said that meditating is learning now to die well. Those who follow the path of Kundalini (which corresponds to what is called the Holy Spirit in Christianity) in which the vital force enters the central channel succeed in sublimating the animals instincts until the individual consciousness merge into the Divine. At the time of death, consciousness leaves the physical body by the top of the head and is absorbed by the omnipresent Divine. A more elevated state is that nirvikalpa samadhi (ecstasy with extinction of the mind). The vital force is then immobilized in the superior centre and the Yogi is one with the ocean of Bliss-Consciousness. In this state, the world including the chakras and the central nadis, disappear like an illusion. The yogi who has this state has no need to leave the physical body at the time of death. The body falls like the dead leaf of a tree. The tree, which is the omnipresent Bliss-Consciousness, is not affected; but in the state of supreme Realization, the sage, after experiencing ecstasy comes back to the world and marks it with the seal of supreme Reality. He lives with the Divine which is the same in the state of ecstasy and in the manifested world. The immutable depth of the ocean and the waves are nothing else than water. Therefore he sees that all is made of the same divine substance; in this state of realisation, death has no longer any significance.
Q. Why is there suffering? A real mother can not tolerate the suffering of her children.
V. Yes, would it not be wonderful to live in a world of only joy and happiness? Why has God, whom we imagine as being full of love, created a world so full of suffering? But what is this creation? At the beginning there was the only one, who was absolute peace and happiness. When the only One involved himself in a game of multiplicity, then there appeared what one calls the universe, the Manifestation. This universe is characterized by diversity. All the elements of this diversity form one block, and are inseparable from one another because they all originate from the one. For example, when the white light of the sun appears as a rainbow in the sky, all the seven colours are inseparable. One cannot demand that the rainbow have only the colour that one prefers. To return to the unity, the seven colours have to merge together. It is the same in our world; the opposites - well-being and misfortune, pain and pleasure etc- are not separate from each other; they are only two facets of the same, like the two faces of a coin. If we accept pleasure, we must also acknowledge its twin, suffering. The only way of escaping from suffering is to go beyond pleasure and pain, in this place where all that is present is the only One. Who is he then, who suffers? It is Him, the Supreme Being, who plays the dual game of pain and pleasure. He has made the rules and He plays by them. In fact, from a more down to earth point of view, suffering is perhaps the best element in this game, because it reminds us, sometimes harshly (as when one shakes hard a man sleeping in the snow), that this game is transitory, that one day there will be death, then a rebirth full of new and unknown suffering, and that we must make haste to escape from this whirlpool.
Q : The vibrations of Love calm the mind. Sometimes, only the word ‘Love’ is enough to instill, in a body, its centrifugal force. Then where does the enormous emptiness, the solitude, come from?
V : Love is that irresistible tendency because of which we have to return to our primordial state of unity. We sense, either consciously or subconsciously, that we are lacking in something, that we are incomplete and we go in search of the other the fusion which will lead s to our natural state. What the majority of human beings know and call ‘ true Love’, is the love between a man and a woman. Everyone dreams of loving and being loved. But this limited, personal love cannot lead to happiness, because it is ephemeral, because it is tainted by jealousy, by a sense of possession, and because it sometimes changes into hate and always ends in disappointment. But if one knows how to sublimate it, to transform it into love for the Divine, or for the guru, it can lead one beyond suffering and death. Even this is only a step which can and should lead us, by the grace of the guru, or the grace of the Divine, to an impersonal love, which is true love. This love extends to all beings, without discriminating between the good and the bad. It is like a flower which spontaneously gives off its perfume to anyone approaching it.
As long as we do not experience this perfect love, there will be up and downs. When one is engulfed by the wave of love, one is supremely happy, when it recedes, everything seems sad and empty. That is in the nature of things. Joy is always followed by sadness. It is only when one has attained perfection, that one is beyond the ‘gunas’ and the ‘dwandwas’ (pairs of opposites), that one is not affected by these fluctuations.
Q. It seems easy to feel a oneness with the song of bird, or a beautiful landscape .... but obtaining this unity with solitude and suffering does not seem very clear. Witnessing a state of solitude is not enough to dissolve it, why?
V. Listening to the song of a bird, or looking at a beautiful landscape are pleasurable aspects of our experiences. Unity with solitude and suffering presents the painful aspects. Going in search of pleasure and trying to escape from pain is a fundamental tendency in all living beings. This is the powerful bond that binds us to the circle of life and death. To be free, therefore, one must go beyond all pleasure and pain. How ? At first glance it seems easy to be "one with the song of a bird", but it is actually more difficult. Just to savour the joy which it gives you, is hedonism. What should be done is to use this moment of joy for living the present fully, with a mental silence, without either naming it (Oh! How beautiful! What a lovely bird, etc.), or superimposing on it any past experience, or projecting this experience into a similar future. If one is capable of doing this totally, then the Real, which is underlying all our perceptions, will reveal itself.
Witnessing a state of suffering, that is, facing it bravely, is certainly difficult. It is difficult mainly because our mind superimposes a host of thoughts on this suffering. One must face the very fact of this suffering, as it is, at the present moment, with a mental silence, and free it completely from the memory of what happened yesterday, or the day before, and of the fear of what will happen in the moment to come or tomorrow. After all, the past is only memory, and the future is just imagination based on our past experiences. That is, the past and the future only exist in or thoughts. The present moment only has an empirical reality. All this is certainly very difficult, and one can succeed only after numerous tentative efforts and failures. But once one has succeeded, the pain will get re-absorbed leaving behind only a residue of some unpleasant physical sensations. Nonetheless, this method is strewn with pitfalls, and it is easy to be led astray. If one wishes to practice it, it is preferable to do so along with the classical disciplines.
Q : Does the sage not have a double personality being identified on one hand with the Absolute beyond everything and on the other, respecting the small and great conditioning of daily life in society?
V : There is no contradiction, it is like water and ice. The omnipresent I freezes like a crystal in the form of the individual I, as a personal image to be able to talk to other personalities. The body, for the sage, is an instrument which he chooses. During nirvikalpa samadhi, he is identified with the immutable base of the being, with the whole ocean and he forgets what is changeable; but it is not the supreme state; the supreme state is to see at the same time the depth and the surface (sahaja samadhi). In the imperfect sage, there is a contradiction between the moments of samadhi and the moments when he forgets that he is the Absolute and he identifies himself to the personality.
Q : How to find the right attitude between effort and surrender ?
V : Total surrender is very difficult. I will tell you a very beautiful definition of this attitude by Nisargadatta Maharaj; of course it is total surrender: "Of course, when there is complete surrender total relinquishment of all concerns with one’s past, present and future, with one’s physical and spiritual standing, a new life downs full of love and beauty" but who is capable to have such an attitude? We make all kind of efforts to protect our body and our mind, for social position, etc ... These efforts must be redirected towards the spiritual quest, meditation, and so on ... This is called purushartha, the effort towards the Divine. This effort must be performed the best we can, but it is important to know that or power is very limited and that it is the Divine, or the guru, who will complete this effort; it is only when we have used all our capacities for effort an we realise we are incapable to obtain its fruit, that detachment from this effort comes.
Q : Some only see in Vedanta dry intellectualism. In which way are Vedanta and love tied together ?
V : It is a problem which has often been associated with those who practice exclusively the path of Knowledge. In this path, the intellectual element is utilised as much as possible by practising discrimination between what is transitory and what is real, by observing the mind and returning to its sources, our I, and also by the quest for ‘Who am I?’, as the great sage Ramana Maharshi used to teach it. But limiting oneself only to the intellectual element is false Vedanta, it is trying to fly with only one wing; one needs two wings to fly, and the second wing is the emotional element which is bhakti. The practitioner of Vedanta usually does not adore a personal God, although there is no interdiction to do so. His love is directed towards the guru, not the physical person of the guru, but towards the one who is Jnanamurti, the incarnation of Knowledge, the one who leads us to the supreme Omnipresent, the formless, the akshara Brahma who is our own real Self. For the true practitioner of Vedanta, the love he feels is directed through the guru to this eternal, omnipresent, imperishable being which is not affected by anteing, even the final dissolution. This love is of a very high quality and it must have been experienced in order to be known.
In reality, there are not two different path, the one of knowledge and the other of love. Jnana and bhakti are both aspect of the same sadhana. With some, Jnana is on the surface and bhakti deep inside; with others, it is the opposite.
Q. Is the ‘I am’ a finality? Can one function in the world after the dissolution of ones individuality ?
V. The ‘I am’ is present in everyone, even in the ordinary person. But for the ordinary person, the ‘I am’ is his body and the personality which springs from it. Following the path of knowledge (the Jnana Marg) the ‘sadhaka’ starts from this idea of ‘ I am’ and seeks to dissociate himself from his physical being. On this path he goes through more subtle stages of identification - with his astral body. With the light etc... but it is always a very circumscribed ‘self’. But when he can sustain himself on the pure ‘I am’, that is on pure Consciousness that is limitless, then his individuality dissolves itself in the ‘Universal Self’, the ‘Chidananda’.
In the path of devotion, the universal self becomes the Power of the other : God, the Eternal Beloved about whom this self meditates with love until the individual self dissolves itself in the Ocean of the Beloved. The final result, in following either of the two paths, is the same. The great sages like Ma Anandamayi and Ramana Maharshi, for example, are channels through which the Divine Power works for the welfare of the world. Whatever they do is done spontaneously, without any volition on their part. As for reformers and founders of religions, they are at a more inferior level, because they have to maintain a certain ‘sattvik’ individuality. They are inspired by the Divine, but these inspirations are interpreted by a refined mind. Divisions between sects and religions are necessary for the world, but they do not have any significance for a perfect being. In any case, just through his presence, a sage works for the good of the world. Even if he lives in solitary retirement, the beneficial rays of his presence will be felt.
Q. How do we know where is our true place ?
V : From the point of view of the Atman you are omnipresent and there is no question anymore about place. As far as the individual consciousness, or jivatma is concerned, it is always resting within itself, is always the same, whatever the modification of the mind, the body or the surroundings might be. The question of our place only arises when the mind starts to function and believes it can direct all events. In reality, it is the divine power which acts, and makes us go from one place to another. Our true place, then, is to consciously surrender to the divine power without losing our responsibility. It is similar to the situation of a good swimmer, who lets himself be carried by the current without ever losing his initiative.
Q : In the last issue of Jai Ma you said that the culmination of the teachings of Ma is Vedanta. Can you develop on this more specifically?
V : The teachings of Ma can be summarised with one sentence she often repeated : to find Bhagavan (God), is to find your own self. And to discover your own self is to find Bhagavan. That is to say, if you start your quest for the divine by the path of devotion,, you will end by finding that this divine resides in your own heart, and that it is of the same nature as the omnipresent. If you start the quest with "who am I?", which is the path of knowledge, the divine will reveal itself as being your true nature. To reach this knowledge there are numerous paths, and that is what we call a sadhana. And Ma used to guide each and every one on the path which was best suited to him or her. She did not impose a particular line of sadhana. But the final goal was the discovery of the fact that the individual soul is no different from the divine omnipresent. And that is the essence of Vedanta.
Q : What is more or less the action of a sage ?
V : Thousands of people came to meet sages like Ramana Maharshi or Ma Anandamayee with their personal problems. In their presence, all these problems were resolved, at least temporarily. The action of a sage is like a flash in darkness which allows you to take a photo of what lies inside you and to understand it exactly. There is no good or bad guru. There are only those who are guru and those who are not. An artificial tree, made form paper, is not a tree. It does not have the good effects and vital force of a tree.
Q : Did ma easily give her time to visitors and disciples ?
V : Once, after I had talked with Ma, I told her, "Now you can go and get some rest", and she answered, "but right now, I am already getting some rest."
Q : How do we develop a consciousness which is beyond experiences ?
V : In every experience, there is the experience itself and the subject who lives this experience : this duality between the one who sees and the object seen exists in all our sensations and experiences, even those very basic. Indeed, according to Vedanta, there is not only two but three : the one who sees, the eternal Witness, the object which is seen that is part of prakriti, nature, and seeing which ties both. These three factors are called triputi. By discrimination and intensive meditation, we understand that the three indeed are one, and that our belief in their separation is illusory. There is one unique underlying consciousness under this process of fission into three, it is what is called the triputi nasha, the destruction of triputi.
Q : You sometimes refer to a stage is beyond the distinction between the person observing and what is observed, when we are one with action. Krishnamurti also talks about it. Can you be more precise ?
V : For the ordinary man, there is in every perception three elements, as we have just seen. The mistake comes from the fact that we believe in the existence of separate individualities, the I, or ego, or ahamkara to use the Sanskrit term. This ego projects another which becomes an object of perception and the relationship between both becomes the act of perceiving. The effort made to escape this vicious circle is what is called sadhana. The goal of all sadhana is to perceive this whole, what is Real, where all the elements dissolve into the great unity. This real is veiled by the movement of the mind. It is comparable to the waves which prevent us to see the bottom of the lake. When the mind becomes silent, totally calm, all the way to the deepest levels, the Real manifests itself since it has always been there, as the sun which is present always however thick the clouds might be. The goal of all sadhanas is to bring the mind to silence. Krishnamurti, since you mention him in your question, is referring mainly to methods of observing the mind. In the classical method, that is Vedanta and others, it is advised to take the attitude of the witness towards the movements of the mind, to observe the mind as if it were someone else. But as we do that, we break down the mind in two parts : one part which observes, because the observer is part of the mind, and another part which is observed. That is why Krishnamurti advises (if I have well understood) to let oneself be carried by the movements of the mind while staying intensely conscious. In this case, there is no question of a witness to observe and thing to be observed, but there is only a mental current which flows naturally. This method is of course the best, but it is not for the beginner who risks being taken away by the current of thoughts.
Therefore, for the average sadhaka, it is better to take the attitude of witness and to observe the movements of the mind. Still here, one should not observe directly or try to study the mind, because it is able to create all sort of things when one attempts to study it : it is a bit like a mother who observes her son playing. If he feels himself being observed, he will play all kind of tricks. She will have to watch him on the side without showing it too much and continue to work. It is the same for the mind. One should use a base point (mantra, observing the breath, etc . ) and observe the mind from the side.
Q. Krishnamurti has said : " Consciousness is the content. There is no centre. Wherever there is a centre, there is a prison (sometime even given the name of Brahma) .... Nisargadatta says," ‘I am’ is the center of consciousness." Does that mean that Krishnamurti speaks of a level which is above that of the ‘I am’?
V. The word, ‘consciousness’ is used by different sages to signify different things, and sometimes the same sage gives it a different meaning, depending on the question asked, and the context. For example, in the book on Krishnamurti by Pupul Jaykar, I read on p.165: "Consciousness is the thought of the moment before, and the moment after. Can you not see, that consciousness is never in the here and now, never in the present? Then on page 167 : K -"Can one study consciousness by proceeding from the centre?" Rao "Is it there a centre ?"K -"The centre only exists when one fixes one’s attention. The centre is formed by a point on the periphery. The periphery is our possessions, our fame, our spouse." Here, he is referring to individual consciousness which only exists acting in place of the universe which we create around us. On page 376, Krishnamurti defines consciousness thus : "Consciousness is the totality of life. Not just your life and my life, but the life of the animal, the tree. The totality of life." Here, evidently, Krishnamurti is speaking of universal consciousness.
On page 429 : "The consciousness of a human being is his content and the entire movement of thought learning a language, beliefs, dogmas, rites, solitude, the desperate feeling of fear - all this is consciousness. If the movement of thought ends, consciousness, as we know it, ceases to exist." Here, he is referring to that aspect of individual consciousness which only exists in place of the movement of thought. In the sentence you have quoted, it is difficult to make out what meaning Krishnamurti wants to give to the word ‘consciousness’. The sentence must be read in its context. As far as Nisargdatta is concerned, he expressed himself in Marathi, and the words he used were probably taken from Sanskrit. Here again, one must read the sentence you have quoted in its context to understand what exactly he means by the word ‘consciousness’.
Q : Is there a risk that Buddhist meditation which is based on the observation of the sensations of the body reinforces attachment to the body ?
V : Observing the sensation of the body is one of the method used in the path of Knowledge, and it is not specific to Buddhism, the movement of the mind can always be taken back to a sensation, which has been the starting point. Once we are familiarised with these sensations, it can become a considerable help to know and master our mind. I do not believe that this method can reinforce attachment to the physical body. The discovery of what our own body is in reality, a factory of decomposition and of putrefaction should ever lead to a disgust of our physical frame, but this method should not been advised to psychopaths or hypochondriacs who find in themselves all kind of imaginary diseases. As a general rule, psychopath and individual with serious mental diseases should not have access to serious spiritual practices.
Q. Swamiji, tell us something about this Joy beyond all joy and pain.
V. But it is totally beyond all thought and words, and I cannot express it through speech. It is the same joy which manifests itself imperfectly, in mundane things. But the pleasure of the senses leads up towards the exterior, while this joy is a purely subjective, internal joy. These are two opposite directions. Just as in the case of a balloon which cannot fly until all the cords that are attached to it are cut, so also the Joy is not revealed as long as there exists a single worldly attachment.
VI) YOGA AND THE WEST
Q. What do you think of those schools of thought of Western psychology, which believe that a psychologically healthy person must assert his ego?
That depends on the type of personality : if someone shy or lazy is asked to efface his ego, he will remain sleepy. It is better to get him to assert his ego. If, on the other hand, a person has a ‘rajasik’ personality, he should be asked to keep his ego in check. Destroying the ego does not mean the destruction of everything; because the ego is only a shell around the Self. But one must not ‘throw out the baby with bath water’, as the saying goes. It is more like dissection allowing the shell to be pulled back, so that the self can appear. One has to be ‘sattvik’ in order to be able to destroy one’s ego. An ordinary person, who wishes, at the outset, to destroy his ego, is in danger of turning into an idiot.
Q. One can ask oneself, if by destroying the ego without trying to improve its worth, one is not impeding the many splendid facets of the flowering of our existence?
V. When the splendid flowering of our existence occurs, this is never due to the ego. This unfolding is possible only when the ego lets some of the glory of the Atma (the self, the Eternal), filter through the thick veil surrounding it. All that is Light, Beauty, Joy and Power, comes from the Atma. The ego only acts to deform them. This light glows with undiminished brilliance within a sage who has no ego any more. It is not a question of killing the ego. The ego is only a shadow, and one cannot kill a shadow. When one learns to discriminate, one discovers that the shadow has no real existence, and it soon disappears into nothingness. Counterbalancing one’s ego with humility may be useful in certain cases, but this is also an aspect of the ego itself.
Why do we try to improve our worth, to be flamboyant? Why do we search for beauty, joy, wealth, power, health? It is because that is our real nature. It is the glory of the Atma trying to reveal itself. But we are associated with the complex body- vital forces and mind which makes us try for immortality in that which is mortal; for happiness in that which is subject to illness and suffering, for power in that which is vulnerable, and for beauty in that which is unstable and forever changing. It is a mistake. One does not fight against a mistake. It is enough to recognize it, to be able to get rid of it.
Q. In the West, the word ‘fusion’ always creates the impression of regression. It would seem that our mystics have all gone through psychological difficulties, and that the search for the Divine is only a sublimation. What is it?
V. Certainly all, or almost all mystics have to go throughout considerable psychological difficulties, because the path that leads to the Divine is a very difficult one, and there are very few who can overcome these difficulties. The sublimation of inferior emotions is only one step on the mystic path. It is , in fact, a sort of ‘affective transference’, to use a term of psychoanalysis. The attraction, the love which one feels for mundane things, is directed towards an aspect of the Divine, or towards a guru, when the guru is perfect. But, ultimately even this sublimated love must disappear, and the mind must become totally silent and empty. In this emptiness, the Supreme is revealed, the Supreme which one cannot name or describe, because He is beyond all mental conception.
That which you call "fusion" is the union with the Divine. In a sense, from the psychoanalytical point of view, one can say that it is a return to the life in the womb, to one’s origins as an individual distinct from others. Because, in order to achieve this fusion with the Divine (which is in fact, our Superior Self), it is necessary to go to the origin of our mental formations, and then achieve the great silence.
Q. Psychology totally refutes the idea of losing the person. However, Ramakrishna often gave his disciples the example of a figure of salt which dissolves in the ocean, did he not?
V. The "depersonalisation" referred to in psychology is a pathological phenomenon which is found in psychotics. The example, of the figure of salt which melts in the ocean, given by Ramakrishna, alludes to the fusion of the individual self and the Divine or cosmic Self, the fusion of the individual consciousness and the ocean of ‘chidananda’. The individual should merges in this ocean of Happiness and returns to its true nature, just as the figure of salt dissolves and merges with the salt of the ocean.
Q: Jung applies the term ‘Atma’ to describe the realisation of the self at the central level of the personality, encompassing both conscious and unconscious (as against the ‘me’, centre of the conscious). But what he then calls the "process of individualization", does it correspond to the ‘Atma’, the Self of the Hindus? Isn’t the realization of the ‘Self" of Jung closer to what Aurobindo calls the psychic being, or the felling ‘I am’?
V. Jung is psychoanalyst, and there is a fundamental difference between psychoanalysis and the study of the mind as taught by spiritual disciplines, although the two might seem similar at first glance. Both, in fact, wish to study the mind and to analyze it. But the aim of a psychoanalyst is to cure a mentally ill person, to make him nol, so that he can function in a modern social milieu. The objective of the analysis through spiritual techniques is to lead the mind to a total silence, to its very roots, which takes us to the core of the ego. To the psychoanalyst, the mind is a tool which helps us to lead a normal social life; but for the sage, the mind is a veil which masks the Real, and he has to tear this veil apart.
The word ‘Atma’ has different connotations in the sacred Hindu texts. Sometimes it just denotes the person, the individual. At other times, it is used to indicate the individual self, and finally, this term can also be used to denote the Universal Self which is present in the heart of each person. This last meaning is generally accepted in the translation of these texts into Western languages. I am not sufficiently familiar with the work of Jung to be able to answer your question, but I doubt very much, if the ‘process of individualisation’ corresponds to the Realisation of the Self. Because in the Realisation of the Self, the individual is no more. It is an impersonal state of omnipresence, the centre of which is everywhere and no where. I also do not think that one can find similarities (other than superficial ones), between Aurobindo and Jung, because spirituality and psychoanalysis are two fundamentally different disciplines.
Q. How can we I differentiate between the childlike state of mind of the saint, and childish state of mind of an immature being ?
V. The mental state of the child has two facets, positive and negative. The child has a mind which is still to develop. For example, he lacks the ability of discrimination, and this makes him say and do silly things. His faculty of concentration is weak, his attention gets diverted easily, and his understanding of even slightly difficult things is poor. You cannot make a little child understand a mathematical problem or a philosophical doctrine. Besides, he still has to adapt to his social milieu, and he makes blunders which one laughs away. All this is the negative aspect of a child’s mentality. The positive aspect is the simplicity and spontaneity of a little child. He has not yet learned to hide his thoughts. He says what he thinks, and thinks what he says. Besides, a child is without cares and happy (when he is in good health). He has no obligations, no family to provide for, no work, no duties. He only thinks of playing.
In the sage, one does not find the negative side of a child’s mentality, because he is supremely intelligent, and because his love for all will not allow him to hurt anyone through words or deeds. What he does have in common with a child, is the simplicity, the frankness, and the freedom from worry about the morrow. For him life is a continuously amusing and joyful game, no matter what may befall him. As for an individual with a childish state of mind, he is mentally retarded, stupid. He does not generally have the spontaneous joy of the child, and his ignorance of social norms often makes him indulge in unlawful acts.
Q. What is the place of Art in ‘Sadhana’ ?
V. Art is, or should be, essentially an expression of Beauty. Beauty being an aspect of the Divine, painting and sculpture can be utilized as a ‘Sadhana’; that is by moving away from objective Beauty, and trying to discover the transcendental Beauty, which is the Divine Himself. Once one has discovered the essence of all beauty, objective beauty seems noting but a pale shadow and losses its attraction. Perhaps, in some cases, when a sage has been an artist before, he could transmit something of his experience through painting or sculpture, but I do not know of any examples.
Q : Should we expect the guru to listen to the mind in details like a psychoanalyst ?
V : The guru and the psychoanalyst have quite different functions although at first sight they seem to be similar . The psychoanalyst is dealing with a psychopathologic subject, that is to say whose mind is out of balance, someone in general who does not have the ability to master or know his own mind and who needs someone he trusts to show him what is wrong in his head. But the sadhaka cannot be a patient, because he would be disqualified to do a serious sadhana. He must already have the basic qualities for the guru to accept him as disciple: he should intelligent, already have a certain control of himself, discrimination and the strong determination to see what is beyond the illusion of the mind. The task of the guru will then be to transmit the power to him to give him the intensity he is missing; to allow him to be conscious of his weaknesses by placing him in situations where these weaknesses come to the surface with a painful intensity. It is only very rare that the guru will explain to the sadhaka the details of the functioning of the mind. He reject the sadhaka on himself, forcing him to discover by himself how is mind is functioning
Q : Can we seriously believe those who support reincarnation, while a deepening of the subject and the evidence shows that there is not such an identity who is capable to decide to be born again . It seems to me that it is sufficient to look for the origin of the personal Self idea to rid oneself of any theory about reincarnation . I feel that the teachings of Ma have not been constant regarding this subject and they depended of the person she was talking to. Could you explain that?
V : It is correct that from the point of view of absolute reality there is no reincarnation . The Atman, the Self, is pure, omnipresent, and is always the same. The individual I is an illusory form which has no reality, but this is from the point of view of a perfect sage who has attained realisation. For the ordinary man, there is an empiric reality which follows its own course. When the self identifies itself with the physical form, a personal entity is born which is called the ego, or the individual I. This ego is something constantly moving while the self, the Atman, is very static. This movement is due to a lack of equilibrium. The Atman sees itself in its own reflection in the body, it identifies to this reflection, but the imperfect, painful, mortal, etc…while the Atman is perfect, immortal, it is bliss etc.. Identifies to the body, the Atman has lost its primordial nature and it tries to reproduce it by mistake through the body. Happiness therefore becomes an object, something that we try to get through the body and the sense organs. This quest for happiness in the projection on objects is called desire. The illusory entity which is called ego can be compared to a whirlpool; this whirlpool will continue to move as long as it is animated by its prime mover which is desire, the and its friends which are fear and anger. When then physical body dies, the whirlpool of the ego continues to move and will take another form in order to fulfil the desires which have not been satisfied. It is this whirlpool made of desires and frustrated longings which is reborn.
Q : You know Hebrew well; did you study Kabbalah?
V : I do not want to mix particular symbols of Kabbalah with those of Hinduism. Generally speaking, the symbols we have, the better.
Q: When you say : The less symbols we have, the better it is’, I have difficulties understanding. Too many concepts, yes, too many words, yes, but too many symbols?
V : The goal of all sadhana is to lead the mind to silence. When the movements of the mind have come to a standstill, have completely ceased, the real is revealed by itself, because it is always present behind this veil which is made up of mental agitation. To reach this silence, we could say there are two possible paths:
The first is the path of Knowledge which consist in observing the mind and recognizing its functioning both in a conscious way and in the depth of the unconscious. When we reach the areas of the subconscious and unconscious mind, we must often face terrifying experiences and the sadhaka risks loosing his mental balance. And even if he succeeds in going beyond the difficulties he meets, he will finally be faced with the possibility of the complete dissolution of his individual I, something which is more frightful than the physical death. This path is very difficult, few people are capable of following it. It is similar to trying to cross a river on a narrow rope-bridge above an abyss. I would call it the path of the open eyes.
The second path, that is the path of the blindfolded man, uses symbols to cross the gate of the unconscious. The difficult passages are in the path of devotion for example, as trials sent by the Divine, the ishta - devata whom we adore. The dissolution of the mind then becomes a union with the beloved. In Tantrism, numerous symbols have been used because they are useful to cross difficult passages, but we must know how to get rid of them when we arrive to spiritual maturity and we have reached the capacity to look at the facts as they are in reality; but that is to say that all these symbols have only an empirical reality and are only mental clutches. And if we cannot walk right away without clutches, it is best to know how to give them up as soon as possible.
Q: What can we do free ourselves from fear resulting from a very strong emotional disappointment ?
V: We should not try to forget it. Here, we cannot go along with a bandage as we do in psychology. Do not try to get rid of the scare. It is because we do not know how to see its liberating potentials that suffering seems to be negative. The divine power gives us a shock to wake us up as a friend would do if he saw us falling asleep in the snow or in a dangerous forest. If the first shock is not strong enough, you say: ‘I prefer to sleep’ and you fall asleep again; but if your friend is a true friend, he will shake you stronger till you become completely awake. There is no need to try to get read of such memories : they act as a thorn in the mind to lead you towards detachment. They can be used to reach the source of all suffering, which is the false believe that we are separate individuals, separate from the great whole.
Q : Is not the habit to link everything which occurs to the guru or to the divine a kind of interpretative delirium ?
V : We cannot prevent the mind from interpreting : better interpret in a good direction.
Q : How to protect ourselves from outer influence if we feel that they are not helping us ?
V : The real coat of mail is the dharma : constantly, even for small details, we must ask ourselves where is dharma and where is adharma and then always go in the way of the dharma, whatever the price may be. Then, nobody will be able to harm you, you will be invulnerable.
Q : In meditation, we understand the importance not to be identified with negative emotions; but should we follow the positive ones ?
V : Yes, certainly. Bliss is the true nature of man. We must however distinguish between quiet happiness which comes with sadhana and pleasure which comes with excitement and sooner or later will bring the opposite. We must control the latter. The ego always feels miserable, the real Self is always happy.
Q : Should the sadhaka try to go beyond nature?
V : Certainly. The ordinary human being is like a buffalo or a bull which let himself be frighten by a small girl with a stick or who is afraid not to get its truss of hay. If the bull were smart, he would hit the small girl with its horn and roam freely in the forest. Nature chains us the same way. It is the Law of the stick and the carrot. We are afraid of suffering and also afraid to miss our small pleasures. To get free from the slavery of nature, we should face up to suffering and not get ourselves attached to pleasures. Then, we will able to discover the true happiness of the Self beyond pleasure and pain.
Q : In Hinduism, a member of a couple is allowed to take sannyas even if the other does not agree; this is tolerated. Does not this custom represent an ethical problem inasmuch as marriage, as in Christianity, is considered as a life-long commitment?
V : According to the general rule, sannyas should not be taken if the spouse does not agree, and it seems to me that a master will not give initiation to sannyas if he knows that the wife or husband disagree; but there are exceptional cases. When the spirit of renunciation is very intense, nothing counts anymore. The situation becomes similar to one who escapes the flames of a burning house.
Q : Kumbha-Mela is going on in Hardwar (March-April 1998). What is your position regarding this form of Hinduism for the masses?
V : Kumbha-Mela is a big meeting (I would almost say a fair) who occurs every twelve years at four different dates. It attracts huge crowds of pilgrims and sadhus (one says sometimes ten million or more). Tradition makes it a duty for sadhus to come out of their retreat to attend it. Hence, this represents an opportunity to meet sages who would be inaccessible the rest of the time. And even if one does not meet them, their vibrations mixed with the religious fervor of big crowds create a marvelous spiritual atmosphere which permeates you even if you do not want it. This is an important chance to meet them and to perfect one's spiritual life either by vibrations or even by practical advice if one is lucky enough to meet a great sage. In addition to this, the bath in the Ganges at the sacred location and at the auspicious time reputedly gives liberation (post mortem) from the cycle of birth and death or at least purifies the most serious sins.
Legend says that in the beginning of creation during the churning of the ocean of milk a jar, kumbha, full of nectar of immortality, amrit emerged among other wonderful things. A greast fight started between gods and demons, everyone wanting to take possession of this jar. During the row, a few drops of the precious liquid dropped at four places in India: Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik, and Kumbha-Mela wants to celebrate these events. The intense faith of pilgrims and monks creates a very strong spiritual atmosphere which influences even those who do not believe in these legends. And this impregnation may be a departure point for a spiritual life, or intensify the practices of those who are already on the path.
Q : Un Français dans l'Himalaya (A Frenchman in Himalaya) has just been published at Terre du Ciel. Knowing the French people from France inasmuch as you see every week some new ones passing by, on which point of the book do you expect to be well understood, and on which other not?
V : This book is a patch of most variegated texts written from 1951 until recently. The biggest part, the articles on Ma, was written for a very limited readership, that is to say the group of ardent devotees who was with Ma at that time, Hindus, mostly Bengalis, and very few Westerners. Those who follow a spiritual discipline will nevertheless find in this work bits of useful information.
Regarding the questions and answers, the most recent part of these writings, they were mainly meant for Western visitors and corresponds, every time, to the level and the mental attitude of the one who asks the question; but as all the answers are from the field of spiritual life, a sadhaka will be able to discover in them some useful advice.
Q : In rich countries like France and Sweden, the suicide rate is much higher than in India : why is it so?
V: The person who commits suicide does so to escape a suffering which may be physical but most often is mental. A person who is going to do it (except if he or she is already a well-known psychotic) has reflected for a long time before taking this decision. They usually are atheists fed with existentialist philosophy who think that after death is only the great nothingness. This type is common in the West while in India real atheists are very rare. Every Hindu has somewhere in his subconscious the belief in a divine Power or at least that every action produces a karma and that there are future lives which are conditioned by the action that heperform. Suicide is considered a crime and is reputed to produce quite untoward rebirths. The one who committed suicide is said to become a preta, a very miserable ghost who is ever hungry and thirsty and who has too small a mouth to satisfy his needs. When these beliefs were inculcated in you right from childhood, you think twice before putting an end to your life.
Moreover, people in the West have explores all kinds of possible pleasures, saw that they did not lead anywhere but have nothing to put in their place. People who know how to discipline themselves always maintain hope, and hope makes one live.
Q : Nowadays, the term spirituality is so often used that it seems to loose its intensity. How would you define it?
V : Spirituality, the genuine one, is this mental attitude which allows one to reveal the eternal Divine who resides in each of us and who is indeed our most intimate Self. This Divine is veiled by negative emotions and by the tendency of the mind to look for Peace and Happiness in a reflection of the Self on sense objects. Thus, what is needed is to reverse this mental movement towards the subject. As Kathopanishad says, this is avritti chakshu, looking inside.
given at the daily evening satsang in front of Ma's samadhi
1) ABOUT MA AND VIJAYANANDA
a)Ma’s relationship with people
Q : Who is Guru?
V : There is only one Guru, God. Ma often used to say that, but now only I completely realize what it does mean. Physical Guru may have defects, the body always has defects, but the Guru is an instrument, a canal of the Divine. There are bad conductors, good conductors and super-conductors. Ma was a super-conductor.
Q : Does this view help the disciple not to see the guru in a personal way?
V : Ma said that even if a disciple should fall in love with the guru, if the latter is a sadguru, he would be able to transform this love and to redirect it towards the Divine.
Q : Was Ma imparting instructions through discourses?
V : No, Ma did not make speeches, but she used to give clear-cut advice individually during private interviews. By the way she could also give practical suggestions to people; if they were able to catch them, they could escape the result of a bad karma of the past, an accident for instance. Ma could also make disciples' kundalini ascend and descend in a single look, in quite informal a way and without appearing to do so. Sometimes, it was important to be able to take down those who had been awakened too quickly and could not face the sudden inflow of energy.
Q : Could Ma perform miracles with everyone?
V : No. The one who performs the miracle and the one who receives it must be in perfect harmony like a couple of dancers. Even with Christ, it was like this. Those who had no faith could not be saved. When Ma was old, I had a dream, but those images which I saw where as vivid as in reality. I was with a group of visitors, mainly foreigners, on a verandah in charge of keeping Ma's door, and she passed by. I asked them Did you see Ma? They answered me No. When Ma was young, everyone was enthralled by her contact. Afterwards, she was more inside and only those who had intensity and great faith could perceive her power directly.
Q : Could Ma have stayed longer in her body?
V : Yes, of course, but she was fed up. People had not enough intensity to make her stay.
Q : Yet, crowds seemed to have been galvanized during her kirtans!
V : It was excitement, not real intensity.
Q : Some people say that Ma was a tantric.
V : Tantra corresponds to the worship of Divine Mother. How could she have worshipped the Divine Mother while she was herself this Mother? From another viewpoint, for Ma as well as for any advanced sadhaka, all the paths merge in one single Yoga, the synthesis of Yogas if one can say. This is a total Yoga where all the ways are understood and integrated. Only in the beginning are the paths separate.
Q : Was it often that Ma was cured by herself?
V : Once a doctor had prescribed her high doses of turmeric (haldi, a yellow powder which is the basis of curry). Afterwards she developed a paralysis in the legs and told me, I think this because of the excess of turmeric. At that time, I could not agree with her, because it was not in the knowledge of western medicine that excess of vitamin A -contained in big quantity in turmeric- could give peripheral neuropathy, i.e., paralysis. It was discovered only later
Q : Was not there many jealousies around Ma?
V : Yes, many, but she saw in all that the lila, the play divine.
Q : Do you think that the disciple can become completely independent from the guru one day?
V : Jayananda, the young American who at the beginning was with me near Ma told me a story that first I found stupid but that later I found very deep. A small boy had total confidence in his father; one day, he put him on the table and told him, jump into my arms! The child said, but I will fall! The father answered: Don't you trust me? Come! Jump! He jumped, the father moved back and the poor child fell on the floor. The father said, it was to teach you that you should not trust anyone except yourself! Likewise, Ma could be very hard with me; but one time nevertheless, she gazed at me with a great love, as if I was her only beloved on earth. It was because she was taking the bhava, the mood of Pannalal who liked me very much and saw in me the model of mystical love.
Q : To a young woman who went through a phase where she was strongly criticizing her guru:
V : If you want a perfect guru, take a photo and she will tell you what you want to hear; but with gurus in flesh and bones, you find shortcomings in them at every corner. How many times I was crossed with Ma!
Q : A great many people say that Ma used to teach mainly bhakti. What do you think?
A : From time to time, Ma used to give advice on bhakti, but se always came back to non-duality, Advaita. She was firmly based on Advaita.
Q : It seems that Ma had difficulties with a number of her disciples regarding their evolution. Why ?
A. Spiritually speaking most people tend to stay where they are or fall, and people like Ma tend to push people into an ascending current. The action of such sages towards the masses was to push the greater number of people into the current so that sooner or later they would reach the goal. That’s what we call krama mukti, progressive liberation after death, which allows one to evolve trough the different subtle levels and towards the final liberation or mosksha. On the other hand, Ma also had an inner circle of disciples whom she could work with in depth. This circle was according to the spirit, and did not necessarily correspond to her immediate, physical entourage, which sometimes included impossible people, or bhutas, bad spirits, as we used to call them jokingly. Ma used to keep these people close to her because they were too weak to take care of themselves alone, or because they had a desire to become gurus without having the necessary maturity, therefore Ma could handle them better by keeping them close.
Q : Ma gave the impression to worldly people that she could materialise all their desires. Is that true ?
A : Each man has within himself a desire which is the strongest. But in the centre is the Self. Ma used to reactivate the Self. But worldly people superimposed their materialistic desire on that.
Q : Is it true that Ma was less smiling and less happy in the second part of her life ?
A : I once told her that, and she answered me : " I am always the same, only the body is getting old." It is true that she looked more severe later. Perhaps it was also to show that she wasn’t always in agreement with a certain number of people and attitudes around her. When a sage comes, he lowers himself from a very high level. For him, to be blissful is so easy. Bliss is always there. He doesn’t understand why people try so hard to be unhappy. Little by little he realises the level at which people are. At the beginning, Ma used to laugh a lot. She only wanted trees as an ashram. Later, Bhaiji, Didi and other disciples insisted she accept the existence of ashrams, and finally she was forced to take care of them, to avoid the risk of corruption.
Q : A number of Ma’s disciples were afraid of Her in the eyes. Why was that ?
A : May be it was because they felt that Ma could see their shortcomings directly. But as far as I am concerned, I have never felt afraid of Ma. One time I was with her in Vrindaban. I was just finishing a period of six or seven years during which I hadn’t talked to, or even looked at the face of a woman. For a few days I had had to take care of a young and pretty American. And from the outside, It could have looked like I was attached again. Suddenly, Ma looked at me, with the kind of look that could create real panic in most people. But I looked Her straight in the eyes because I knew I had done nothing wrong. She began giving me a huge smile, as if relieved. If Ma could seem tough at certain times, during others she could be sympathetic to the slightest emotion of the visitor. In the Hindu scriptures it is said regarding the Divine Mother that she is hard as thunder and sweet like a flower.
Q : You often mention the fact that Ma didn’t have any ego, and could adapt to any environment. If she had been born in the West, how would Ma have adapted to the situation ?
A : I think she couldn’t have adapted to that situation, and that is the reason why she was born in India. Western people are too intellectual for a sage to be able to flourish. He or she needs to be surrounded by people who have a capacity for direct trust.
Q. Can you tell us a fundamental word of Ma, which would be like a mantra ?
A. Yes. there is one is like a mahavakya, a great saying from the Upanishads, similar to 'I am that'. 'Amaratman amarpantah svayam' 'the etemal soul, the eternal pilgrim are He only.
Q. Could you feel the presence of Ma?
A. How many times have I clearly felt, even from a distance, that Ma was thinking about me!
Q. You say that Ma during her birthdays was not in samadhi but in omnipresent consciousness, completely in the hearts of her disciples. Can you be more precise?
A. Yes, it is true, why would she have been in Nirvikalpa samadhi, completely cut off from the outside world, while everyone had come to see her? I had the proof of this at the beginning of my association with Ma. At that time, there were not many crowds for her birthday. I told her mentally, probably in Hindi, it's sad you are so far away from us'. She gave me a look which meant: 'no, I am not far, I am always with you.
Q. A teacher of transcendental meditation explained that the siddhi of levitation consists in making jumps in the lotus position.
A. Regarding meditation, I am going to tell you of an experience which I haven't mentioned to anyone yet. In Almora, Ma had told me to be far away from her. I was desperate. I was lying down on my bed. All of a sudden, I found myself rising up, too high, and for too long a time for it to be considered a jump. Moreover, my body was very quiet. At that time, my emotion was so strong I did not realise that it must have been levitation..
Q : Was Ma conscious of helping others?
V : I do not know. She used to be in a very elevated state of being, and the simple fact of her paying attention to a person, and listening to him, resulted in circumstances turning out for the better for him. This could be at the material level, or at the level of the physical health of the person, but it was above all, at the level of his inner evolution. Often, almost nothing happened outwardly, yet a complete revolution was experienced inwardly. Ma’s action was like that of a king. It is enough for the king to tell his main servant that a stranger was his friend, and everything is promptly provided for this friend : lodging, food, service, etc........... Can one say that the king is conscious of all the details?
Q. What was the life-style of Ma like?
A. It was a very normal life-style. When she was young, she used to go through states of ecstasy an of samadhi which was, doubtless, in response to the demands made by the Bengali public, who loved such things. But all through the years that I knew her (since 1951) she had a very normal demeanour. She ate enough, and sometimes slept quite late into the morning, if she had missed sleep. Some people said that Ma never really slept, but according to me, having been able to observe certain details, she did. She had a very feminine way of doing things. Whenever she was in the presence of pandits or mahatmas, she used to make them answer the queries of people, instead of providing the answers herself. I had never seen her directly provoke the least suffering among her disciples. Indirectly, yes, she could provoke very strong reactions. She had the capacity of reversing the negative attitude of people towards her, in the twinkling of an eye. For example, one of the sons of a senior Indian official was not interested in gurus. When Ma visited his family, he did not even wish to go and see her. At his family’s insistence, he agreed to go and greet her. The meeting left an impression on him, thus it was not a superficial change. Ma was very flexible as far as certain Hindu customs were concerned.
Q. Do you think the guru can take on the karma of his disciples ?
V. Certainly. It happened very often in the life of Ma. Either she directly took the sickness of a disciple, in a milder form, on to herself, or she cured the disciple without being visibly affected herself. The psychic power of sages is very strong. It cannot be disturbed by disciples; but the trouble is transferred towards the bodies of these sages. Once, at Benares, I had had, for some days, a rat-bite which had got infected. I tried not to let Ma see it, but Atmananda ( a Western sadhu, who used to be with Ma), ‘denounced’ me. Once Ma looked at it, the infection practically disappeared within twenty-four hours. The guru cannot ‘give Realisation’ to his disciple, but he can ‘carry’ the disciple during a difficult period in his ‘sadhana’. Perhaps it was because of the disciples that Ma used to be ill so often. That also may be the reason why Vivekananda, who did not protect himself from his followers, and hardly took any care his physical health, died young.
Q. Why is there no great figure, it seems, in Ma’s immediate surrounding.
V. Arnaud Desjardins once asked me this question, and I had answered that Ma’s method was to keep by her side only those people who could not take wing on their own. The others, she sent them far away to mediate. Besides, it is very difficult to transmit Realisation: they say that even in Buddha’s entourage, there were only two disciples who succeeded in attaining it. In my case, at the end of a year in India with her, I asked her if I could meditate alone. But she kept me by her side for two more years, before letting me go for one year of solitary meditation, and after that for about twelve years of meditation in the Himalayas. Ma didn’t need a second person to help her. Whatever she had to do, she did alone. These are the main reasons in my opinion, why there are actually no remarkable people in Ma’s ashrams. May be they are hidden.
Q. When you traveled with Ma, did the people around realize that they were with an extraordinary being ?
V. Yes, Ma was very beautiful, but more than that, she used to be in a state of intense joy, and she communicated this joy to those who approached her. It was not the usual kind of joy; it was a joy without any excitement, experienced with a complete control of one self. Ma used to say to Didi, that when she grew old, she would be veiled. Later, she had the body of an old lady, and her personality seemed to follow suit. One had to search for that intense joy hidden behind the appearance. There were many ways of meeting and discovering Ma. One day, we took someone who had a fracture to a well- known surgeon in Calcutta. When the surgeon saw Ma, he must have thought that she was the wife of one of the members of the group, and shouted at her, "You, get out"! She left. Later, someone explained to him that she was the famous Ma Anandamayi. He finally became one of her most faithful disciples.
Q. Did Ma show that she could read the minds of her visitors when she met them, or did she just ask those questions which one normally asks while wanting to know something about a stranger?
V. She asked absolutely ordinary questions. Ma was most simple and natural in her contact with people, and therein lay her greatness. It was after having met her and through the effect which the meeting was producing that one realized fully her power as a sage.
Q. Ma used to take into herself the emotional state of the people in order to free them from it. But doesn’t everyone who enters into a relationship take on the emotional state (bhav) of another person by simple imitation, without being able to liberate him?
V. No, unless one is very in love with a person, one does not take on his emotional state. Rather, one is either constantly opposing it, or trying to defend oneself from it. One has to be a sage like Ma, to be able to take on completely the emotional state of someone else.
Q. What did Ma see of the interior world of her visitors?
V. She used to see the emotional state, the fundamental ‘bhav’, but not the details of their minds. Sometimes in case of an emergency. she could change their ‘bhav’ for a while, but it was up to the visitors or disciples to understand the functioning of their own minds, and to change it in a more durable way.
Q. Did Ma sometimes ask her disciples, "What am I, in your eyes ?"
V. No, she used to immediately sense the opinion that people had about her. For example, I considered her my guru, and with me she always behaved like a guru; quite a few times she used to make clear allusions as to what she was. She often said - "As you play the instrument, so you will hear the sound." If, for example, there were some parents who had lost a child to whom they had been very attached, Ma really used to become that child : she suddenly had the face, the voice, the gestures of a child, something which affected the parents very deeply.
Q. You say that sometimes Ma was ‘ too nice’; what does that mean?
V. In her speech, she was always very kind. But, in reality, if one was not acting according to her suggestions , sooner or later, he was to suffer the consequences. Not because she had a wish to punish, but because she could see clearly in advance, the false step which one was about to take, and she tried to prevent one from taking it. If one knew Ma, he could do as he wished. One just had to go to her and say, " Ma, I don’t feel too well today. I have a stomach ache." "Don’t do the work I had asked you to, " she would say immediately." Go and rest." She responded to one’s emotional state, but when one went to see her, it was not easy to change that state, even if one wanted to.
Q. Kabir actively criticized the caste-system, Ma did not. Why this contradiction between two realized beings?
V. I spoke about it to Ma many times, for hours on end. In the beginning, Ma did not take the rules of caste into account. But gradually, there was more and more pressure on her to do so. Finally, on day she said, "what is coming today will decide." Then one pandit who came, I guess it must have been Gopinath Kaviraj, must have said something to Ma, to the effect that, "This time, when we are in the middle of ‘Kali yuga’ when everything is decadent, the rules of castes have to be maintained. They form a barrier against immorality". From that moment, Ma started following the rules very strictly. In any case she was not a reformer. She always said, "Whatever has to happen, will happen". If she had been born in the West, I am sure she would have adapted herself completely to our ways. In this respect she was different from Swami Ramdas who, used to say that he was ‘militantly’ against the caste-system.
Q. How did Ma view the differences between the main religions?
V. Once at Vrindavan (Krishna’s village, and an important place for the followers of Vaishnavism), I acted as the interpreter between her and a Trappist monk. When asked, "Do you not find it tiresome when people of other religions come and discuss with you?" She said, "According to me, the difference between Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are like the differences between different sects, like the Mahaprabhus, the Ramananda, the Nimbarkas and so on, that one finds here. All the differences are of a similar kind."
Q. Did Ma sometimes ask for money?
V. I had heard that she asked for money only once. It was at Naimicharnya, a sacred place in the plain of Ganges, near Lucknow, where, it is said, the ‘Puranas’ were written. When Ma was there, it was realized that a complete collection of the ‘Puranas’ was not available. Suddenly Ma spoke, "We must start collecting money for buying this collection" she said, voicing the general sentiment. Afterwards, an Institute of Puranic Studies was established there under the aegis of Ma, and it is still functioning. Ma did not allow her disciples to ask for money, and she used to keep reminding them of this rule. She did not even touch money. She asked her assistants to do it. She did not treat financial transactions in any special way. Pointing to a visitor, she could say to one of her disciples, "give him ten thousand rupees", in the same way as she would have said, "give him an apple," or a glass of milk... It was given judiciously but treated exactly like everything else.
Q. Are there any disciples of Ma who became gurus?
V. Yes, many. In fact, what is lacking is not gurus, but true disciples.
Q. Do you think Ma suffered ?
V. It is difficult to say. She always appeared to be in a constant state beyond suffering even if she was ill. However once, in Delhi in 1980, I really felt that she suffered a great deal. She was very ill and I thought she was going to die. There seemed to be apparently at least, a kind of veil around her. But when I went to see her again, the veil had disappeared, and she was once again in her normal state.
Q. Certain groups like the Malavati Sufis, or the Aghori Hindus behave in a way that is quite the reverse of the generally accepted deportment of spiritual seekers. They want to keep people away, perhaps to protect themselves from beginners who are incapable of looking beyond appearances. Did Ma sometimes have that attitude?
V She did not need to.
-Achim, a former German disciple of Ma, told us, during an evening satsang, of his first meeting with Ma : 'It was Christmas eve in 1969 in Nitoyda's house in Kankhal (the kernel of the present-day ashram), I was waiting with a friend to see Ma, I had come from Rishikesh for that. Many people were present, and we were told that we would be called. Melitta Maschman, a German lady living near Ma came and asked us whether the brahmacharinis knew our names. We answered negatively, she started laughing and said, 'You believe in Santa Klaus!' and went away. Two minutes later, a brahmacharini came at the door, pointed out both of us in the crowd and introduced us near Ma. It was our first private audiencewith her.' Vijayananda adds that in Bhimpura in 1980, the same kind of episode also occurred. Melitta had announced that Ma was much too sick to see anyone, and soon afterwards, as if to contradict her, Ma called Vijayananda and the visitors.
Q : On the occasion of Gurupriya Didi's birthday centenary, who had been Ma's assistant during most of her life, Vijayananda was asked to say a few words on her.
V : I used to speak very little to women, thus I have seldom been in contact with Didi. What I can say is that she worked for Ma ceaselessly, she slept very little. A divine incarnation does not come alone, but with an entourage who helps him or her in his or her mission. Didi's role was to protect Ma, she was the mount, Ma's vahan, like the tiger is Durga's mount.
Q : What motivates a sage when he accepts to be come a guru, and decides to help others ?
V : Pure compassion. The sage has nothing to gain, and much to lose by becoming a guru. In fact, it is not very funny to be in this position. Of course, there are some who do it for money, for fame or for the pleasure of having people prostrating themselves before them. But the true guru knows that he has to bear the burden of the suffering of others. He acts out of pure compassion, and he is happy when a disciple overcomes his difficulties by following his advice.
Q. Is it possible to make the ego disappear by oneself ?
V. The one who does the sadhana is also the ego. Therefore it is very difficult to make it disappear. Ramana Maharshi compares this situation to the chief robber becoming the chief of people. He will be able to catch all the other robbers, but he will not be able to catch himself. A guru is necessary, because it is only when you surrender to the guru that the ego can disappear completely. However, sadhana is an important means to diminishing the ego. When the mind is completely satvic, it dissolves within itself, or it becomes at last so transparent that it is only a very thin translucent veil, which barely hides the Self.
Q. How can a sage be recognised ?
V. First, a sage has compassion, real like bowing before him, and yet, he stays totally humble. There are also many other criteria. But it is necessary to stay near the sage for a while to really understand his level. A spiritual seeker can only take care of other when he is dis-identified from his body. A sage acts like a lighthouse. He lights the path for solitary navigators who are travelling away. The latest may benefit even more than those who are sweeping the stairs of the lighthouse, they are not necessary well located to see the light to the lighthouse.
Q. Can we observe silence while speaking ?
A. Yes, if we speak only when it is necessary, and if we keep the mind silent when we are not talking.
Q. Is it all right to go from one sage to another ?
A. The beginners, who are seeking a spiritual master can do it, just to assess the situation. But when you have become a real disciple of a guru, you become a part of his body and you can never leave him. It would be a diminishing of energy to go like a butterfly from one to the other simply to see. Indians understand that very well. But Westerners have difficulties with it.
Q. Why do some sages die very early ?
A. They have come to accomplish a mission. They consider body a burden. In their opinion, the sooner they get rid of it, to melt with ananda (bliss), the better. Thus, as soon as they that have finished their missions, they leave their bodies.
b) Ma with Vijayananda
Q. How did your relationship with Ma unfold during the course of the thirty years or more that you knew her ?
V. At the beginning for nineteen months, I was constantly with her, except for one day. We often traveled together at night in the same compartment, or in the same car. The English have a saying - ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’. In my experience with Ma, it was the opposite. At the beginning, when we were in the same compartment, I had the habit of occupying the upper berth, above Ma. But once I understood better who she was, I used to lie down on the floor. We had a very simple relationship. We used to eat together. But after some pandits remarked that this contravened the rules, we discontinued the practice. In the initial years I did not speak Hindi, and my communication with Ma was always silent. I asked her questions, and received her replies, all within myself. I also learnt through direct observation.
The first few times, when I had to leave Ma for a long period, were terrible. One day, during one of these difficult periods, I wrote to her, half jokingly: "Ma, this is very hard, can’t you do the sadhana in my place?" Perhaps she did not sense the humorous tone of the question, and she replied - " A sadhaka should, first of all, learn how to master patience, he should enter within himself, and realisation will come. At certain times, Ma let some tension develop between us, no doubt to lessen my attachment to her as a person. At the beginning when I wished to perform the ‘kriyas’ (yogic practices), she sometimes gave me very complicated ones to perform. Later, when it seemed as if I was no longer interested, she smiled - " I know what you want". What I wanted was her ‘Shakti’, the direct transmission of her power, and she gave it to me very generously. Ma was not an ordinary being. I knew a doctor in Almora who did not like her. In spite of this he admitted the fact. According to him, she ought to have been a goddess, to have the kind of influence that she did.
Q. Did you ever have doubts about Ma ?
V. Never any doubts about the fact that she was a fully realized being. On the other hand, I did have doubts about her capacity to teach Westerners. She was so hundred percent Hindu ... Once, there was a Westerner who was really ill-treated by the people of the ashram, under the pretext of rules which had to be followed. I went straight to Ma and complained. "Ma, you have created a barrier between yourself and Westerners," I said, "There is no question of a barrier, " she answered. " You and me, we are one. This (pointing to her body) is only an appearance. I am Omnipresent".
Q. Did Ma give you your name ?
Q. When did Ma give you the ochre of sannyas?
A. In 1956 I was doing intense tapasya in Vindhyachal, on the Ganges not far from Bananas. I went to see Ma in Banaras, and we were three or four on the terrace. Ma saw the dark brown robe that I was wearing; it was the only one I had, and it was a bit torn at the back, but I hadn't noticed it. She started laughing, and tore it completely while I was doing Pranam to her. I told her 'Ma, you gave me sannyas! and she smiled. She had me give her a dress, more or less orange. Before I received the ochre clothes, I was always careful not to use a colour which resembled it, however, one day, after washing it, my brown robe came out sort of orange. I asked Ma if it was O.K., and she said, 'it is the gerua' (that is to say of the ochre colour that is reserved for sadhus) 'which is inside, that is coming out.' In 1971, she asked that a white shawl she had worn be dyed ochre for me. In 1976, for her 80th birthday, she gave me some cloth, to make a complete ochre dress. By myself, I would never have taken the ochre robe. I would either have dressed like a Westerner, or I would have worn simple and discreet Indian clothes. The ashram people as well as Ma considered me as a sannyasi. One day, she said, looking at me, 'I don't make a difference between a sannyasi and than turning towards Bhaskaranada and another, who were on the other side, 'and a brahmachari.'
Q.Did Ma teach you hatha-yoga ?
V. I practised, hatha-yoga during the early years of my sadhana. I was able to do almost all the postures. I had a neighbour who was very good at it, but I did not learn from him, I learnt it from books. From time to time I used to show Ma the postures, and she sometimes corrected me. Ma had a great deal of energy. When she walked, one had to run to keep pace with her, when she swam, she swam like a fish. But at the end, before her death, she had difficulty in moving from one place to another, and she had to be carried in wheel chair.
V : She was for me, a father, a mother, a beloved everything together, and much more. I had felt that from the beginning.
Q. Did you have a very personal relationship with Ma?
V. Yes, especially in the beginning. Afterwards, it was a more impersonal relationship, though it was just as intense. I had also noticed that when my meditation was proceeding well, Ma used to be cold and distant; but wen my meditation was not going too well, she was warm and gentle. Meditation ultimately leads to a realisation of the impersonal, but a personal relationship helps a great deal in achieving that stage.
Q. What can the guru give, techniques or power ?
V. The guru gives a power. He can help in the awakening of the ‘kundalini’, but this is only one stage of ‘sadhana’. he cannot give Realisation, but he can help to overcome the obstacles which veil this Realisation, already present within us.
Q. One day, when you had wanted to leave Ma and return to France, you met her. She was very gentle with you and said, at the end of the meeting : "If you’ ve fed up with this face, you can go away!" Finally you stayed on. Was this not an excessive attachment to the physical form of Ma?
V. It is true, that at that time I used to be very attached to Ma’s physical form. I must have needed this attachment. But Ma liberated me from it. When a real guru creates an attachment for a specific reason, he also has the power to liberate you from it.
V. With Ma, I tried to respond immediately to the slightest of her suggestions. In this way one could be liberated from certain consequences of his previous acts. If one didn’t obey, Ma used to say - "Yes, this is also right, do as you think best." But, at that moment, one had to suffer the ‘karmic’ consequences of ones acts. In fact, for me, it was never a question of obedience, because obedience presupposes fear, to a greater or lesser extent. What I felt towards Ma was love and veneration. I was thus able to follow the practical advice she gave me from time to time, even though, sometimes this advice did not correspond to the real situation, which she had not been able to visualize very well. On the other hand, I never surrendered my freedom of mind to her. This surrender was for me. What I was seeking from Ma, was the direct transmission of a power that would help me in my sadhana and this she gave to me in abundance.
Q : Did the effect of your first meeting with Ma last?
V : This extrordinary bliss that I felt the first night after meeting Ma lasted for a year and a half with the same intensity; afterwards, it became more quiet.
Q : Have you been helped by the fact that Ma was a women and was considered as the mother?
V : Yes, in this sense that I detached myself completely of the need of other women. However, I did not see her as a woman, not even as a body, right from the beginning I saw the divinity as well as the guru in her.
Q : It must have been difficult to renounce all of a sudden when you met Ma.
V : Quite the opposite, it would have been difficult not to renounce everything once I met her.
Q : Should we test the Guru?
V: We should pull the string to see whether it breaks. I did this often with Ma, and the string held well.
Q : Is it possible to see Ma in the subtle body?
V : For the first time in Raipur (near Dehra-Dun) in the beginning of my stay with her I felt her presence which was extremely strong. Then in Almora in 1954, I saw her image as well. At that time I was upset because she had asked me to stay a full year far away from her physical presence. I knew it was she anyhow because of the intense bliss which overwhelmed me. Indeed, she was both ouside and inside. This phenomenon happened so that she might teach me a lesson: I am omnipresent, you need not be despaired by my departure!
Q : Can we see the subtle body of the guru in our dreams?
V : Generally speaking, no. For years, I was dreaming of Ma every night, but it was my mind which was playing back memories. Sometimes, nevertheless, she appeared to me with great intensity: then, we could say that it was Ma's subtle body. The main element is formless, this is the awakening of kundalini. It is an intense impersonal force which is later dressed with the samskaras, deep conditionings of the sadhaka.
Q : Once Ma left her body, were you still able to communicate with her subtle body?
V : I am often asked this. I am in contact with Ma as an omnipresent and formless Consciousness, but not as a subtle body. Before, Ma could awaken someone lukewarm whose demand was not so serious, but now this demand must be intense and then it will get its answer. Ma's photos for instance help.
Q : Why did you spent so much time near Ma?
V : In fact, I am the Westerner who stayed the longest time near Ma with the exception of Atmananda who worked a lot to translate Ma's private interviews with foreigners and the books. Several times I tried to go back to the West but things did not materialize. Ma wanted me to stay in India while she used to let other Westerners go away. I had definitely a strong link with her.
Q. Did you invoke Ma during your ‘sadhana ‘ ?
V. Rarely, I did not want to come here any inconvenience, even at a distance. I chose to go to the limits of my own possibilities. You know the story of Roland to whom Charlemagne said , " If you need help, sound the horn. " But the emperor knew how proud Roland was, and when he heard the horn of Roncevaux , he exclaimed :" Roland has sounded the horn , that means he is dying ! " Although one can call to the guru before reaching his limits, the determination to find his way is important. Evidently, it is the reverse for those who follow the path of Bhakti. They see God everywhere. It is God who does the ‘sadhana’ for them, all that they have to do is to pray to him all the time. The goal is the same, but the path is different. Now that Ma has given up her physical form, she is completely one with the Divine power. I ask her questions from time to time. I generally get the answers, either immediately, or in the days that fellow. But I don not do it too often, because as they say, one should not ‘try God too much’.
Q. Do you feel complete oneness with Ma?
V. For some years I could distinguish between the interior impulses that came from myself and those that came from Ma. Afterwards, I could not distinguish any more.
Q. What is happening to her group in the ashrams, now that Ma is no longer present in her physical form?
V. In the beginning, I had thought that everything would break up rapidly. But that did not happen at all. There is always a lot of activity around the samadhi of Ma. The people who come say that they sense her presence. We, who stay there, are so used in it that it is difficult to get a clear idea. Basically, Ma had already become identified with Absolute, before she left her physical body. Now that she has left her body, identification with the Absolute is the only state she is in. Weather she has left any traces, subtle or otherwise, is a very delicate question.
c) Vijayananda on himself
Q. Can you rapidly see the personality of the person who comes to visit you ?
V. Yes, as directly as a gardener can determine which tree is in front of him, whether it is an apple tree or a pear tree. For that it is not necessary to analyse any detail.
Q. Why don't you tell people more often to meditate ? Even through meditation is the basis of sadhana, and it has represented and still represents for you the largest part of your life, it is unusual to hear you push the visitors to do more meditation.
V. I don't feel I have the soul of as teacher, and I am very careful with this type of ego. Besides, I don't want to talk and for people to be bored with me, as if they were at school. Moreover, if we tell someone who doesn't like to meditate to do it, he will be upset. In my eyes, spiritual knowledge is happy knowledge. During a conversation with me, people extract what they need, if they really feel it. All comes spontaneously. I feel that I am not the one who is talking. Real spiritual teaching is way beyond words, even though sometimes word are important. What I least like are discourses. People feel that they are doing a good action, satsang, when they come to listen to them, but in fact, we say all kinds of common things that everyone already knows. People can have the behaviour that they wish, I do not disturb them, but if they ask me for my advice, I give it. Sometimes, I happen to intervene. But it is not as a guru, it is more as one who would shout 'be careful', if he saw someone in the street about to walk in to a hole that he hadn't seen. It happens at times that people get too close to a hole, and I tell them.
Q. Do you feel that living in an ashram was helpful to you ?
A. Ma's ashram, as well as other religious institutions, are inhabited by human beings. At the beginning, when I had an impure thought, I would immediately chase it, because I believed that everyone around me was pure. But later on I realised that I was in fact one of the purest.
Q : You started your sadhana during the war when your life was constantly in danger and afterwards, when all the horrors which happened came to be fully known. Have you not been disturbed then?
V : No, not even while it was happening. I took it as a game, the ones running after others, it was like playing cops and robbers. And after the events, as the past has no reality, there was no reason to be disturbed ether.
Q. What factors make a sadhaka start to attract disciples ?
A. There was a time in my sadhana when I clearly understood how to attract numerous disciples, and how to become famous. But I firmly pushed back this temptation. The majority of gurus cannot give shaktipat (which is the transmission of energy). Therefore, they are not true gurus. Moreover, they cannot resume intensive sadhana. There are some, however, who have been able to renounce the ashrams they have built, for instance Satyananda, a disciple of Sivananda.
Q. (A Californian phychotherapist rather extroverted) Vijayananda, why don't you open your heart ?
A. The heart is the most secret thing. We don't open it to everyone. You don't show your naked body to everyone, but only to your husband. And the heart is much more important than the body.
Q. Do you believe in telepathy ?
A. A person who has a guru knows that they can communicate with him or her from a distance. To receive a telepathic message, one must have a silent mind, otherwise, even if we perceive it to a certain point, we start to confabulate around it. When I was in my hermitage in Dhaulchina, I had a problem regarding whether the grocers would be open when I went down to the village, or if the person who was providing my ghee (clarified butter) actually answer me yes or no.
Q. Do you remember the names of the people who come to see you?
V. No, not really, because, in fact, I respond to their states of consciousness. It is these that find an echo in me. If the people could have modified these states of consciousness, they would have received different answers. But it is not easy to change ones state of consciousness.
Q. Do you practice any particular Yoga with your dreams?
V. What ordinary people consider reality is actually a dream. The dream is thus a dream within a dream. What is important is to arrive at reality. Evidently, sometimes, while meditating one is in a state between slumber and wakefulness, with images of dreams re-surfacing. But it is a conscious process, which is different from that of night dreams. I do not attach any special importance to such dreams. From time to time I hear music, sometimes I dream of Ma, but in the morning I forget the content of dreams, only remains an effective impression. It is merely an additional manifestation of mental activity.
Q. In the forty years that you have been in India, do you not feel that you have lost your French roots?
V. No, I do not think so. As you can see for yourself, I speak French without an accent ... What I have done is to take from India all those things which were useful for spiritual evolution, but I do not think it is desirable, or even possible to forget one’s origins, or what one calls, ‘samskaras’ in yoga.
Q : Do you practice mantra?
V : When I do my daily chores, like cooking, etc., I recite it almost constantly; but when I sit to meditate, I leave it.
Q : A visiting lady : when I go to someone's place and see plants which are badly cared for, it is as if I could hear them cry.
V : I too do not pluck a flower, not even a leaf, for I would have the feeling of provoking a suffering to the plant. At Calcutta in the beginning of my stay in India, I had a special relationship with a tree in the ashram. I used to go to caress it everyday. It had a dried branch. One day, I had the idea to say to myself while caressing it, If God will, buds will come on this branch as well! The next day, they actually came. The interesting fact is that a few days later they had disappeared, someone must have probably torn them away. It was as if I should not have the possibility to boast of having performed a miracle.
Q : Does voluntary relinquishment of material goods help sadhana?
V : When I was staying in Banaras Ashram, Arthur Koestler, the well-known writer, came to visit me in my room. At that time I had no bed and he mentioned it in his book. By reading this later, the ashram manager, Panuda, realized it and came to me protesting, Why did you not say that before? We could have given you a bed!' and finally he gave me one. I am not prone to ask. Ma herself used to live very simply.
Q : do you lie in bed sometimes due to disease?
V : Very rarely; for half a century or more I never lay in bed, only in 1993 I had to be hospitalized in Delhi for serious dysentery. By remaining in bed I feel I would acknowledge my defeat in front of the disease. Sometimes, if I start a cold or a fever, I may sleep a ten hour night and it is usually enough to nip it in the bud.
Q : How does it feel to grow old?
V : This is a very nice experience: when you put your house in order well, you can immediately find what you need. This is similar with mind when you have worked on yourself. Moreover, if you were very intense in your sadhana, this intensity might have been an obstacle. With age, it diminishes and this allows you to actually pass the obstacle. Of course, I do not fear death at all. This also helps me to enjoy my old days. In addition to that, due to my old age, I can communicate with young and pretty women without the slightest trace of ambivalence. Another advantage is that I am also in the same state when I meditate as well as when I am with people.
Q : Someone who has been close to Vijayananda for many years: 'I would like you to write maxims of wisdom.
V : A sage will not write maxims of wisdom, it would be too pedant. What is possible is that his disciples note down his words.
Q. Vijayananda are you a guru ?
A. Cavour, the remarkable diplomat who was able to restore unity in Italy in the XIXIth century, was asked the secret of his success. He answered: 'I tell the truth, but no one believes me!' The same for me. I say that I am not a guru, but I am not believed.
Q. You must be in a permanent state of bliss.
A. No, I am a very ordinary man. However, I do not have negative emotions. No anger, no sexual desire- this desire which is so difficult to master-I don't have any attachment, not even to my adopted daughters, whom I love very much. Of course, during meditation I have bliss but to maintain it permanently, in daily life, is much more difficult. That corresponds to the summit of spiritual evolution, or sahaja samadhi, which is spontaneous samadhi.
Q. We feel a lot of love in you ?
A. I don't know. When I speak to someone, I am completely concentrated on him or her. I observe his reactions, his gestures, what he likes or doesn't like. Mostly people, when they talk to someone, are concentrating on themselves.
d) The future of Ma's teaching.
Q : Why was Ma attracting less people than gurus or religious leaders involved in large-scale social work?
V : Ma had a very high spiritual level. She spoke of Self-realization and of renouncing the world. That did not attract crowds like helping people and performing social service. Ramakrishna said there were few people in the shop where diamonds are sold while there are plenty in the vegetables one.
Q : Why there were not more realized people around Ma?
V : The vocation of a sage like Ma or Amma is not to 'give' realization to such or such disciple. In any case, a disciple who gets a complete realization is very rare. Even around Buddha, it seems that only two of them have got it. Great souls came to put into the current as many people as possible. After, their devotees cannot come or fall back. Even if they do not reach realization in this life-time, they can merge into Ma's cosmic form at death or obtain rebirth in superior worlds. And this question has another aspect: should there have been a great number of realized disciples around Ma, they would have stayed within themselves and who would have preached Ma's teaching? Perhaps they would also have fought with each other for Ma's succession. She wanted probably that her advanced disciples reach the direct realization of the union of samsara (the world) and nirvana, which means the sahaja (spontaneous) samadhi without risking leaving the body for good during a nirvikalpa samadhi (a state of complete enstasis with loss of consciousness of the outer world) which is too long. Moreover, a disciple feels that he or she is realized when he or she has attained his or her guru's level. When the Guru is Ma Anandamayi, it takes time.
Vandana mataji is a nun in between chrsistianity and hinduism; she was disciple of Father Le Saux (Swami Abhishiktananda) and currently lives in Rishikesh a semi-eremitic life. She came with a small group in Kankhal and asked Vijayananda to speak of Ma to them.
V (after a long silence) : silence is the best way to speak of Ma. In this manner, her presence is realized.
a) Usefulness of Guru and the main directions
Q. Who has the qualifications to become a guru?
V. He who leads a pure life.
Q. Do you think that, taken as a whole, Indian guru are credible ?
V. It is not very difficult to become a guru in India, you know. One must have a gift of the gab, a head for business, and this is important - an orange robe, if possible, and a beautiful gray or white beard like mine...
Q. What is the importance of this transmission from guru to disciple, which is a basis of Hinduism and of Yoga ?
V. The advantage is that the flame of spiritual experience stays alive.
Q. Can one ask a guru questions about his personal life?
V. That depends on the guru. If he still has an ego, he might feel ill at ease. But if he has not ego anymore, can he feel uneasy about personal questions, because at the stage where he is, there is no ‘person’ any more. That was the case with Ramdas. You could ask him any question about his private life. He always answered you simply, like a child.
Q. What do you think of what a guru once told me - " I do not concern myself with ‘shaktipat’ (the descent of power brought about by a guru). I do not transmit power to my disciple"?
V. If he does not transmit power, it means that he is not a guru.
Q. Sometimes, a ‘mantra’ that one recites constantly, is associated with events in life that are not positive. Would it not be useful to change the ‘mantra’ from time to time, in order to liberate oneself from all associative memory.
V. No, because when you recite a ‘mantra’ in a state which is a priori negative like anger, this mantra cuts the chattering which is at the basis of the anger, thus cutting away the anger itself. In this way, there are no negative associations. In my opinion, the main action of the ‘mantra’ is to put an end to this chattering, so that the more profound zones of intuition can be attained, and the awakening of kundalini facilitated. The ‘mantra’ is not just a practice for old ladies and illiterates; it can lead to Realisation if it is practiced with intensity and ‘vairagya’ (detachment). The only time that tradition recommends that a mantra be changed is at the time of taking ‘sannyas’.
Q. The constant recitation of the same ‘mantra’ the continuous concentration on the same goal, can these not make the mind dull?
V. No, because to maintain that level of concentration, one needs intelligence. Some one who is stupid is always distracted and cannot really maintain the concentration. The intelligence of the illiterate sage can, of course, come from the traditional education he has received orally; but it comes, above all, from the awakening of the ‘kundalini’. It is this awakening which really and immediately confers to the mind of the ‘sadhaka’ its acuteness.
Q. In the path of Yoga are a guru and initiation indispensable?
V. That is the rule, The sages who have had neither one nor the other, are exceptions which prove the rule. In fact, in the initiation to sannyas, which is the ultimate initiation, the guru prostrates himself before the disciple to show that they are equals, that they are the same. Afterwards, theoretically they do not need to see each other again. Practically, however, they often stay in touch, as the new ‘sannyasi’ has not yet attained the level of vedantic unity where is his guru. In yoga, the guru is the tap of the pyramid of manifestation. He is the last bridge which will lead to the non-manifest.
Q. Ma was not in favour of ‘sadhakas’ preaching, unless they were professional monks, and needed it to earn their living. Why?
V. It is better not to brain wash people. One should rather wait for their demand to ‘give to eat to he who is hungry, and to drink to he who is thirsty’. Then, if one poses as a preacher, sooner or later, there is the temptation of wanting to be taken for a guru, before having the competence for it, something which would be very harmful, as much for the ‘sadhaka’ as for his prospective disciples.
Q. Some people say that guru and disciple can communicate internally, even at a distance. Is this a myth or is it a reality that you have experienced ?
V. I have experienced it many times with Ma. For example, sometimes, when we were sitting face to face, I decided to see if she could perceive the questions that I was asking her. I used French, a language which obviously, she did not speak. In the minutes that followed, in the course of her conversation, she answered the questions I had asked, but in a general in a non - specific way, answering the spirit of the question. Should I ask my question in Hindi, she answered very specifically and exactly, either immediately afterwards, or after some times. To give another example - I was in my hermitage in Dhaulchina. One morning, no sooner had I sat down to meditate, than I had the intuition that I had to go immediately to the ashram at Almora (about 20 kms away) As quite a bit of the journey had to be done on foot, I had to go down to the village at Dhaulchina to get some porters. As soon as the arrangements were made, I left for Almora. Hardly had I arrived at the ashram there, than I heard a voice speaking French. It was a Frenchman who had been sent by Ma, and he knew no other language except French. Naturally, I attended to him immediately. The next day (or the day after, I don’t exactly remember), I received a letter from Ma, addressed to Almora (she knew yet that I was in Dhaulchina), asking me to look after the Frenchman and to give him all the help necessary. It often seemed to me that I received an internal impulse coming from Ma, but it was difficult to be absolutely sure. Maybe it was the creation of my own mind; but like in the case I have just cited, the relationship with Ma was incontestable. One could write an entire book on it. Communication at a distance is not unique to realized beings. A sadhaka, who is beginning to learn how to calm his mind, can very well experience it.
Q. What do you think of the story of the guru, who made his disciple swallow a kilo of ‘rasgullas’ (an Indian sweet) to free him from the craving for sweets?
V. I remember that story: it must be understood and interpreted correctly. The disciple had a small craving for ‘rasgullas’ (nothing very serious), and a great deal of fear - fear of falling into the sin of greediness. This fear intensified his desire, because our desires are always made up of a complex fear-desire, the fear and the desire mutually intensifying each other. The guru saw this and liberated the disciple from fear by allowing him to satisfy a small desire. But, for the people of the world the proportion is exactly inverse : they are full of great desires, and have very little fear about them. If they try to exhaust their desire by satisfying them, they will only open the door to greater desire, and will never be able to extricate themselves from this vicious circle. By trying to satisfy their desire, they will only be adding fuel to fire. Ordinary people think that the yogi ‘tightens his belt’ . They cannot imagine that there exists a happiness far greater than that which they experience in satisfying their desires. What they can do, is to wish for the yogi the only kind of happiness they know. But he does not need their wishes. He is like the mother of the family in the following story:
"The mother of a family received a sadhu and fed him with a lot of affection. To thank her the sadhu said " I wish you to have ten sons". "No, no!" exclaimed the mother immediately. "I do not want your blessing. Please take back your blessing! " What! you dare to refuse my blessing ?" shouted the sadhu, and he went away, furious. On the way he complained about it to a villager. The villager then explained to him - "Your hostess already has twelve handsome sons. Blessing her with ten sons was like saying that two were going to die soon".
Q. Can you tell us about the experience of Yoga?
Q. How would you define a mystic ?
V. A mystic is someone who is introverted, but who, at the same time, has compassion for others, and shows kindness towards them. Of course, there are mystics who get angry sometimes. But if they lose their tempers too often, they have little chances of becoming true mystics.
Q. (A Spanish young lady, whose mother's family is from Avila) I am back here after a year, as if not a single day had gone by. Why is it so ?
A. This is the place where "God alone is enough", (like in the famous poem of St. Teresa of Avila).
Q. Is it normal to protect oneself when one does ‘sadhana’ ?
V. Yes, because one becomes very sensitive. The guru does not need to protect himself. He is there for everyone. It is his role to take on the ‘karma’ of people. But the ‘sadhaka’, at certain stages of his practice, attains such sensitivity that he reacts physically, in the form of brief illnesses, to the physical and mental disturbances of those that approach him. It is normal for him to protect himself. The rules of purity followed by the Brahmins were nothing but steps to protect the people who were engaged in intense ‘sadhana’. But nowadays the majority of them do not practice intense ‘sadhana’, and their rules resemble a battalion which protects a bank whose coffer are empty.
Q. There are numerous experiences and ‘sadhanas’ possible - sounds, light, the contemplation of God in a specific form, the observation of breathing, skin sensations, the question, ‘who am I ?’, the ‘mantra’. What is to be done ?
V. It is not good to do too many ‘sadhanas’ at a time. It is better to adhere to a single one; but through this ‘sadhana’ you can have different types of experiences which come naturally; for example the experiences of sound and of light if you practice observation of breathing etc... Many experiences may come about spontaneously, which is good. This does not mean that you are mixing up the ‘sadhanas’.
Q. (In tears) I am not sincere enough in my sadhana ?
V. Sincerity is a question of discernment and understanding not of effort. If you feel that sadhana is the most central thing, then you will find it. For me it is not an effort. If you have a taste of the experience of true meditation, that will help you a lot. But while you wait for that experience, try to practice regularly. Sometimes, flashes can come, even outside of meditation. I had one when I was a student. I felt it was that was the only interesting thing.
Our inside space is like a pierced bucket. One should obstruct its holes so that it might fill. We should observe well the places where the mind is drawn outward, 'leaks' and then plug up the holes, that is the purpose of yamas and niyamas. We know here a spiritual aspirant who was extremely attached to her dog; after the death of this one, her desire for marriage became very intense and again after it her craving for children became still more intense. Should she have been able to direct her intensity towards the Divine, she would have been a great saint.
Q : A young lady-visitor who follows the path of bhakti: 'It is said that there are two means to open a closed door: either to break it or to prostrate in front of it.'
V : A Jewish sage said that God loves those who break the doors; the Self is a castle with many openings, but a time comes when the best is to break the doors open.
Q : Is not the best way of sadhana telling oneself repetitively that one does not lack anything?
V : Yes, but once one has the awakening of the inner happiness, before that, such declarations are only words.
Q : Should we go to extremes in sadhana?
V : In general, one should follow the middle path; but in one's desire to consecration to God, the Guru, going to the extreme is good. It is told that when Ramatirtha was a young professor of mathematics, he was searching the solution of a problem: he went one evening on the terrace of the house with his razor and said to himself: 'If tomorrow I have not found the solution to this problem, I will cut my own throat!' And the next day when the sun was about to rise, he had not yet found the solution…he seized the razor to end his own days, but at that time he got a kind of illumination and the solution came. People who like Ramatirtha are very intense succeed in their sadhana.
Q. What are the signs of progress in Sadhana ?
V. The experience of a great inner bliss.
Q. Isn't it selfish to spend my time doing sadhana with the intention of gaining bliss for myself ? Shouldn't we be trying to become selfless and spend time trying to serve others to make them happy ?
V. In the end, Realisation destroys the ego. Even if at the beginning the motivation for starting sadhana was selfish, the practice purifies Regarding serving others: it is like a student in medicine. He has to spend all his time for several years studying so that he can become a doctor. During that time, he does not have time to spare for helping others. But after that period, he comes back and is able to treat people, which he wouldn't have been able to do if he had not studied.
Q. Why is the mind, and people, so difficult to change ?
V : Tamas is the strongest force in this world. That is because there is this reversed quality which is the symmetry of the Self, that change is so difficult The Self is also a base which doesn't move.
Q. (A member of a French group passing in the ashram for a sort visit): Can we combine worldly pleasures with the spiritual path ?
V : (Vehemently) No! God is jealous, as it says in the Bible. We must consider that it is only the spiritual path which is really important. That's why I'm here. However when we are in this world, the spiritual path consists of acting with as little ego as possible and in offering the result of one's work to God.
Q. There is a spiritual teacher who says there are seasons for sadhana. A season to gather, for instance, and a winter season, to rest. What do you think ?
V. There is no season to rest in sadhana. We must always be ready to work for spiritual progress.
Q. Are there some paths in Sadhana which are shorter than others ?
V : The paths in sadhana are like those in the mountains. The one that seems the shortest can in fact be the longest and the most dangerous, because we could be facing cliffs and insuperable obstacles. It is better to follow the beaten track when we see that the grass has been walked on so much in one place. This means that many people have this way, and that the path leads somewhere.
Q. How to realise our shortcomings ?
V. Spiritual seekers usually have trouble realising their shortcomings. If we help them, by telling them, they can get angry with us, sometimes for life. The guru puts them in situations where their hidden defects come to the surface. The very fact that you are conscious that you have shortcomings is itself a rare quality. But let go your inferiority complex. In the end, it is only you who can change your inner self and dissolve your defects.
Q. What is the relationship between ritual and devotion ?
V. The more rituals there is, less devotion there is. Rituals are not ends in themselves. They are only there to awaken, to intensify devotion, and of course they are useful in that sense; but people forget that and they act automatically. The true prayer is done from within, in a completely unified state, just as Moses did when he asked for his sister to be cured from leprosy. He said only five words, of one syllable "EL NAH REFA NAH LAH" "my God, make her be healed', and his prayer was granted.
Q : What is the place of meditation in sadhana?
V : People who have a spiritual experience know that meditation is one of the last stages of the eightfold Yoga of Patanjali, and that henceforth a very firm basis is needed to practice it fully. Even rather advanced sadhakas do something more corresponding to dharana (which is usually translated by concentration). Genuine dhyana is rare, it is almost the samadhi. The hippies of the second wave, those who along with the intake of drugs had an interest for spiritual things were the ones who floated the idea of meditation as an universal panacea, but it does not work like this.
One should certainly meditate at a fixed time but this does not mean that one has to force oneself. One should rather give to our body the good habit to sit regularly. It is said that our prarabdha karma, which means practically our destiny, is not reckoned in number of days to live but in the number of breaths. So those who breath peacefully will have a longer life. Several times in my sadhana I found myself facing a wall and said mentally, This is impossible to cross! But I did it and then it was quite easy: impossible is not in the dictionary…Of course in day to day life one must know how to adapt and to go around obstacles.
Q : A young woman being in the process of remarrying after a divorce: how to manage relational problems?
V : One should make it a habit to see the Divine in the other
Q : When we love them, this is too easy
V : Not so much, we should see them beyond their personal aspect, which means without attachment. For those whom we do not like, better to keep them away, except if we are already at a very advanced stage. If this is impossible, being near them should be taken as a sadhana.
Q : How to be introverted without being egoistic?
V : By realizing that the Self at the core of oneself is not different from the Self at the core of others. At that time, love for others becomes completely natural.
Q : Question of a resident of the ashram before the departure of someone who spent several months there: 'You say that past is an illusion and has no reality at all. Does it means that if someone goes away one should forget him or her? Is not the very basis of love the capacity to remember the ones who are absent?'
V : First, someone who leads a life of a brahmachari in an ashram should not have love with attachment for another person. In addition to this, when I feel someone who thinks of me, this gives me joy inside. That comes in the present, not in the past. What is required is keeping away from mental constructions on past events. People constantly change, if one is attached to an image of them from the past, he will certainly be disappointed.
Q : Should sadhana in the world be spontaneous or the result of a persevering effort?
V : During sadhana, we should be able to go through hard times: there is the following hassidic story: one day two children came to visit a great sage who gave them beer to drink. The elder did not say much, but the junior who was perhaps only three or four years old exclaimed: This is bitter but good! Immediately the sage concluded : This boy will become a great spiritual person!' And it happened to be so.
Q : A young girl came back from an ashram where she heard the guru say that the state of marriage and that of consecrated celibacy are the same, in both of them one can have the same spiritual life.
V : I do not agree! If one is already married and remains so while developing a spiritual life, this is good, but if one is not married and one gets committed in a householder's life, at that time this is a failure and a regression.
Q : A father whose daughter still is not married although she is not so young anymore: 'Its is a problem for a woman to marry late'
V : On the contrary, it is good to marry late, in this manner the number of years that one spends with couple problems is less!…Some take the pretext that they live in the world to say that they have no time for sadhana. But one can create a favorable surrounding for that: a room for the puja and the meditation, not meeting people indiscriminately, satsang (being together with spiritual people) and if this is difficult, at least the reading of books on or by saints and sages. In any case, if one has the intense desire to find favorable conditions for sadhana, circumstances will be arranged by themselves.
b) Basic qualities
Q. Is it really useful to follow completely the yamas, niyamas and the monastic rules ?
V. If we follow the rules, we must follow them completely, otherwise it is like a leaking dam, it will end up breaking down. In this case one may as well do left-handed tantrism, vamachara. All the rules are inverted. But we are taking about a very dangerous path that must be followed under them direction of an authentic guru. Just by following the yamas niyamas we can obtain a purification of the mind which is such that it can lead us to liberation.
Q. Wanting to tell the truth under all circumstances, isn’t that being too scrupulous?
V. Telling the truth is a fundamental quality in Hinduism. The motto of India is "satyameva jayate", Only truth will gain the victory. In the Bible, this is not the case. Abraham more or less lied to the Pharaoh in letting him believe that Sarah was not his wife. Jacob deceived his father Isaac, by making him believe that he was his brother Esau. Behind this veneration of truth at all cost, there is among the Hindus an understanding of the mechanism of spiritual power. They often express the idea that someone who tells only the truth for twelve years, will then see all his words come true. The utility of this complete respect for truth is clear as far as spiritual transmission is concerned. Internal experiences are very difficult to evaluate from outside: it is very easy to make someone believe that one has achieved a certain level of realization, when actually it might not be true. The only ways to protect against this is the complete honesty of the person undergoing these experiences. The more advanced a ‘sadhaka’ is, the more the smallest details become important. What is not a fault in an ordinary person, becomes one in an advanced spiritual aspirant; just as a vulgar word would not seem shocking if spoken by a clumsy, dull witted servant but would sound quite ugly if spoken by a well bred person. This idea is very well expressed in one of the Jataka tales.
"One day, Buddha, who was then just an ordinary monk, sat down to meditate under a tree which was opposite a beautiful lake full of lotus flowers. The fragrance of the flowers permeated the air all around. Buddha got up to smell one of these lotuses.
"Thief !" he suddenly heard. It was the spirit of the tree calling to him.
"What have I stolen ?" asked Buddha
"The fragrance of the Lotuses. None gave it to you!"
The monk stayed still. A little later came a stout peasant, who entered the lake and plucked all the flowers.
"Is he not a thief ? " asked Buddha.
"No", replied the spirit. "Because he is a lout, for him it is not a sin, but you, you are a spiritual aspirant".
Q. The following is Vijayananda's response to a sadhu who was criticising some members of the ashram.
A. Do not criticise others, because in the end, you do not have a bond with them, you are not their guru. You can at the most criticise children or brahmacharis who are under your responsibility. As long as we are not realised, we should not criticise anyone. And when we are, we act from within, and therefore we don't have the need to criticise either. We should not criticise others, because we can not really put ourselves in their place. They usually have motivations which we do not see. There was a Jewish sage who lived not long ago and who wrote a whole book against criticising others. His work is based on the beginning of a psalm which we could translate with this : "Where is the one who desires life? Prevent your tonge from saying evil and your lips from calumniating people". Once, when the author was going to speak at a conference in a neighboring town, he was travelling with a man who did not know him and who was actually going to listen to the author talk. Out of humility the author started to criticise himself without saying who he was. As a result, the traveller became furious and spat in this face. When they reached the conference, the traveller realised who he was, and apologised. He concluded that one should not criticize anybody, not even oneself. There is another story of the same sage. A student, who was a friend of the Rabbi had been arrested by the Tsarist police. The sage went to the police station with so much fervour that the police suspected him of being an accomplice of the student and arrested him as well. At the time of judgement, the barrister told the judge that he had heard the following story about him. A thief was running away from his house with his belongings. The sage ran after him saying: "I'll give you everything you have taken, please, don't have a bad conscience". The judge asked the barrister: "Do you believe this story?" "certainly not! And you? Do you believe it?" "I don't know. But what I do know with certainty is that such stories are not told about you and me. Liberate the suspect."
Q. Vijayananda was asked to give his blessing to a lawyer.
V. The best blessing his to follow dharma completly. Don't lie. There are different levels in the observation of yamas niyamas. There is the story about Buddha in one of his previous incarnations, when he was a sadhu. One day, he was meditating under a tree, facing a beautiful pond with lotus flowers. He got up to smell one of the lotuses, but the spirit of the tree rebuked him, saying: "If you do this, you are stealing something from the lotuses." So the sadhu sat back down. A little while later, a peasant came, and going into the pond took all the lotuses, tearing them all out of it. The sadhu was astonished, and said to the tree spirit: "Why don't you say anything to him?" the tree spirit replied, "What at your level would have been a very big fault, at his level is not a fault at all".
Q. Ma once said that one must avoid anger completely. Someone then remarked that the ‘rishis’ (sages of the Hindus scriptures) often became angry. Ma had replied that to be a ‘rishi’ was not only one stage on the path to Realisation. What do you think ?
V. As for ‘rishis’, Ma used to say that if a ‘rishi’ had the power to curse (to destroy), he also had the power to bless (to create). A power that one obtains through the practice of truth can be used in a negative, destructive manner. Anger and sexual desire represent the two major deviations of the ‘kundalini’ which starts waking up. These two forces dissipate the energy and one misses what is really important - the door that could lead us to the next room. One then has to wait for some time before conditions are favorable again.
Q. How can one transform anger into a positive sentiment, as they advise in some tantrik sadhanas?
V. It is a very specific and difficult yoga. The first thing is to control anger.
people. When one has really renounced the world, one can look at it with pleasure.
Q. Subjacent to asceticism, is there not a kind of hate of the body ?
V. It is amusing to see how many of their own problems the people of the world can project on to ascetics! Hate of the body is a bad affective transfer of anger redirected against oneself. This is false spirituality. It is not a question of hating the body, it is a question of dissociating oneself from ones body, like one dissociates oneself from ones car, without wanting to destroy it. As far as fasting is concerned, if some one is very greedy, missing a meal every week may be a good idea, but that is all. For achieving Realisation what counts is not the suffering of the body, but the understanding of the mind. At an advanced stage of ‘sadhana’, fasting, could be for some people a way of completely dissociating themselves from their bodies, but this is only a very short phase.
Q. (A beginner in meditation had started meditating 6 hours a day and was experiencing anger)
A. We shouldn't meditate too intensely if we haven't previously purified the mind. Meditation intensifies everything. We must look at the root of the emotions. Ultimately, what is anger but a swelling of the ego?
Q : To someone who was living a householder life, who thought that he was never angry and was wondering whether it was normal or a sign of suppression:
V : (after speaking more with the visitor) In the beginning suppression is not so bad, it is much better than to let one's anger be vented through harsh words, even violent acts. You don't observe brahmacharya, do you? For those who practice it, anger is not a small matter as far as its mastery is concerned, because it basically comes from frustrated desire. Anger creates wounds in the pranic body. If repeated, it may lead to somatic diseases. (Speaking of a sadhu in the ashram whose sometimes undisciplined behavior invited strong criticism): people reproach him with slight madness but he must have a certain spiritual level because he never answers the criticism with anger.
Q : (A German man who had visited a few vedantin gurus): to get rid of ego, I observe my anger and all my emotions and I say to myself that in the midst of all that, there is no ego.
V : These are mere words. Where there is anger, there is ego and where there is no anger there is no ego. However, it is true that we should not try to 'kill' an ego which anyway does not have any essential existence. It would be like taking a stick and trying to kill a shadow by giving it a good thrash.
Q : Is contentment an essential quality of sadhana?
V : Yes. There was a hassidic sage who was asked to explain contentment. He answered by saying: Better go and see Zisia. Zisia means in Yiddish soft, like süsse in German. He was a very poor man and, according to worldly criteria, he had had all kinds of problems and sufferings in his life. When visitors started hinting at this, he began laughing and said: Ask this question from someone who suffered. As for me, I have never had sufferings! He was mad for God, that which others considered a misfortune was not so for him. Once, people beat the living daylights out of him, but instead of defending himself he was laughing. He was among these great devotees of God who could perform a miracle just by one word.
Q : What is the role of humility?
V : If someone is arrogant you can be sure that he has not reached a high spiritual level. (Speaking of a guru who was annoyed that his name had been omitted in a program where he was invited): the more gurus or religious leaders are high in rank, the more they are sensitive to contempt. They expect to be cared for, while on the contrary if you send away a child he just will not worry. There will ever be reasons to be annoyed, so why should one be annoyed at all? And why should a sage be arrogant? His body is subject to a good deal of diseases, his mind produces all kind of non-senses and his Self indeed is not personal, it is the same in each and everyone.
Q : Is the vow of silence useful?
V : I indeed know the best way to keep silent: being silent when you do not speak. It seems a joke, but in fact it is the sign of a high spiritual level: briefly telling what one has to say, and afterwards having a mind which is completely blank.
Q. The Greek Fathers advised tears to fight anger ?
V. Yes this is the behaviour of the helpless child, one who depends completely on the mother.
Q. How do we know if we are progressing in meditation ?
V. By seeing how we have mastered the main negative emotions, It is, for example, more important to master anger than to go through hours of intensive meditation. Meditation is only a means to a goal, the control of the mind. If you are interrupted in meditation and you get angry, it is best to stop meditation. There is the story of the samurai who went to see master Hakuin and asked him questions about heaven and hell. "who are you?" asked the master. "A samurai" he replied with some pride. "A samurai? But nobody your services to fight". Furious, the samurai went to take his sword. "Your sword ?" Said the master, "but it is made of wood." Further angered, the samurai brandished his sword threateningly in Hakuin's direction. Hakuin looked at him and said, "Here opens the door to Hell." Stupefied by the perfect quietness of the master, the samurai fell to his knees in front of him. "Here opens the door to Paradise" said Hakuin. (this story was also put in the last part with other spiritual anecdotes or tales)
Q. What place does fearlessness have in ‘sadhana’ ?
V. Fearlessness is Realisation. This is what Janaka was tole by Yajnavalkya in the Brihad-aranyaka Upnishad. Learning to be fearless is a sadhana in itself. Fear comes from duality. Fearlessness resides in Unity. When I was isolated in my hermitage in the middle of the Himalayan forests, I was in danger of being attacked by wild animals like bears, as well as by brigands. There, I was able to work on the mastery over fear, not just in all its physical manifestations, but also in the slightest of its mental traces. The important thing is to confront the cause of the fear instead of avoiding it. At the beginning , Ma tried to make me afraid, to see if I was impressionable : she used to put on her airs of greatness, but I ‘overreacted’ and she did not continue. Fear vis-a-vis certain factors is, however, useful for a ‘sadhaka’. The spiritual aspirant has to protect himself against all kinds of influences, if his energy is not to be dissipated. Ordinary Brahmins lives in constant fear of impurity, of contamination : this is a stage in their ‘sadhana’. However it is important for them to know that Realisation is beyond all fear. Thus an equilibrium is created between the fear of the beginner who wants to do everything well, and the complete fearlessness of the realised being.
Q. You said we must face fear. But can we face all our fears ?
A. Yes of course, we must face all of them.
Q. It is possible to do sadhana and still enjoy wordly pleasures ?
A. Its question of intensity. It is like two children on the way home from school. One is not in such a hurry to see his mother, so he looks around him on the way, and stops to gather flowers. The other is eager to see her, and runs straight home.
Q : What is spiritual psychology?
V : This is silence.
Q : Is not feeling the best leading thread to follow for meditation?
V : Usually this 'feeling' corresponds to a bunch of superimpositions, of projections, but when we succeed in quieting the mind and have a really pure perception, we are very close to the Absolute.
Q : When we have closed eyes in meditation, is not the only pure perception that of body?
V : Perhaps, but body perception is indeed completely deformed by the representations which we have about it. When the complete stoppage of mind is reached, there is not even sensations to be perceived.
Q : Is this the direct perception of being?
V : There are not even perceptions, there is pure subjectivity only.
Q : If past has no reality, what is left of Tradition?
V : Tradition is indeed experienced in the present, when we follow what our guru tells or told us to do. From the relative and empirical point of view, the question of past and its heritage arises, but in sage's experience, this kind of questions does not arise. If you ask them, it means that you still are on the empirical plane.
Q : How does one differentiate between mental and vital being?
V : To know the mental being of a person, one takes the help of his face and voice; to perceive his vital state, it is enough to be physically close to him or to take his hand for some time. The yogic body is realized when there is the union of the male and female forces inside. The causal body is so called because it corresponds to that part of the ego which migrates from one life to another and thus represents the cause of rebirth. There is a stage in sadhana where the subtle body is felt as a wonderful coat that nobody should touch; but this is pride, one should go beyond. All that is a question of experience.
Q. Are there citations in Hindu scriptures which seems fundamental to you for sadhana ?
V. Yes, for example in the Upanishads it is said that when the knots of the hearts are untied, the mortal becomes immortal. And it also tells about the eye which turns within itself to look within. This is the very definition of meditation. In the Bhagavad Gita also we find some precious help: for example, it is written about the qualities of the sage:' beyond praise and blame, in silence'. I interpret this juxtaposition as a key to really go beyond praise and blame, by silence. In another place it is said, ‘beyond pleasure and pain, to be in the self’, this is an indication to do sadhana.
Q. How can I calm my mind ? It seems impossible.
V. Its not that difficult when you know how to take care of it. It is because you think it is impossible that it becomes difficult. Nisargadatta Maharaj says that the mind is like the hands or the feet. We must be able to let them rest when we don't need them. Another way is to recite the mantra very rapidly without any interruption, as mother Krishnabai used to say. Also visualising dissolving oneself in the light of the divinity. Silence is also a great help. Especially at the beginning of sadhana, when we must learn how to counter the waves of emotions. Otherwise we panic, and we feel we are drowning. We try at lot of varied techniques, but when we have the beginning of an awakening, we realise that our own emotional attitude or bhava is what provokes uncontrolled movements of angry. We try to master them by force, which creates a counter wave, which only contributes to agitating the mind more and more.
Q. What is the more important, effort or grace ?
V. Ma used to say that we are rewarded to the extent of our effort. We must do all we can, and them whatever happens, happens. On the other hand, there is also grace without cause, which depends on nothing, but comes spontaneously.
Q. Can too intense a desire become an obstacle ?
V. Yes, that can happen. There is a story of Ramqtirtha : a man had invited a friend to his house for a feast. He waits for him at the door, and when the friend arrives, he is so happy to see him he stands there hanging him and talking to him and forget to invite him into the house. In the end, the friend is not able to get inside. However, there is no need to be afraid of the emotions. It is like a storm on a lake. If we try to calm that waves with our hands, instead of letting them become quiet by themselves, we will only create more waves, and it will become a vicious circle that never ends.
Q. Is there place, in Yoga, for going beyond a repetitive mental state in order to achieve change ?
V- In psychology, one in is against a repetitive state of mind, and one seeks change. In yoga, there is only one real change - Realisation. From another point of view it can be seen that the state of the mind, if one observes it attentively, is never exactly repetitive, it is always changing, fundamentally impermanent. And even if one has the impression that is repetitive, where is the harm ? One can use the insight, that this repetition provides to dis-identify oneself completely from it, and to be absorbed in that which is beyond the mind.
In its search for the pleasant, and its attempt to escape from the unpleasant, the mind is like a small fly constantly knocking itself against the same window- pane. The role of spiritual effort is to take this fly through the door which had always been wide open, but which it had been unable to see. Spiritual effort creates suffering, not for the sake of suffering itself but to stimulate consciousness. When suffering has been able to come back to the surface it can no longer be avoided by an escape into base happiness, the individual is forced to ask himself why he suffers; he thus finds, more rapidly, the cause and the remedy of this suffering. Frustration is inevitable in ‘sadhana’, but it is temporary. As for the body, its desires and fears create a constant agitation which one feels strongly. It is like the tunic of Nessus in the ‘Tasks of Hercules’ it is a tunic which burns you, but which you cannot take off. Thanks to meditation one can "take off the tunic , and dissociate oneself from this constant movement.
Q. If one wants to rid oneself of some repetitive thoughts that disturb meditation, thoughts of attachment or of anger, for example, how can it be done ?
V. Observe, and then return to the body. There is no disturbance of the mental state that does not have its origins in bodily discomfort. This discomfort involves a disturbance of ‘prana’ or energy, which in turn, is projected as mental images of fear or desire. If you calm the body, you remove the main link in this mental chain. For leading the mind away from the body, the techniques of concentration like the observation of respiration, and the ‘mantra’ are very useful. But when one is well - established observation in the disidentification from of the body and of from the mind, he does not need these techniques.
Q : Can we say that samadhi is a form of sleep?
V : I found a way of being completely conscious while body is as if asleep, for instance when I remain lying in the early morning or even sitting. This is nevertheless not samadhi, because in the latter there is intense joy. Near death experiences are not really experiences of death but give a feeling of happiness and light as we may have in deep sleep.
Q. Can one observe the mind directly ?
V- It is very difficult. It is better to be supported by a ‘mantra’ or by the attention to breathing, and to observe the mind from the corner of the eye as it were. The mind is like a child : if a child sees that you are watching him, he starts playing a game just to attract your attention. Otherwise he will play normally. If the mind (Which is malleable to a great extent, is observed directly, it will undergo artificial distortions.
The meditator will believe that he has found the way, when all he has found are his own footprints; like a traveler lost in the desert thinks that he is on the right path, when all he is doing, is going round and round.
Q. I sometimes feel I am regressing in my sadhana. What can I do?
V. Be likes Saddam Hussein - celebrate the victories and forget the defeats. Progression in the sadhana is rather through a series of ups then downs than a continuous line upwards.
Q. (An adolescent) What should I do if I commit a fault ?
V. First, you must ask for forgiveness, Second, you must try to repair it if it is possible, Third, you must take a resolution never to do it again. Fourth, and this is probably the most important, you must forget all about it.
Q. How do we go beyond fear and depression?
V. Since my childhood, I got into the habit of facing danger. During the period of my hermitage, there were dangers in the form of ferocious beasts and bandits, but I had developed the habit of not letting the vibrations of fear even appear in my mind. During the war, soldiers know that a good way to fight fear is to attack. As far as depression is concerned, the best attitude when it comes up, it just to observe it. What causes perturbation in this type of emotion is that we think it is going to last forever. We think, the depression will never leave us, and we will be depressed during our entire life and have to continue in this condition. But you must remember that this is all part of the play of the three gunas, and that tamas will pass after a few days, so do not worrying about it more than necessary.
Q. What is the best encouragement for sadhana ?
V. It is to come back to the fact that realizing the self is an incredible fortune. When through discrimination, we understand that it is the only thing that is worth annything, and that we have eternity in the front of us, then even if success takes a thousand years, it doesn't matter.
Q : Why some people meditate but do not seem to progress?
V : This reminds me of what Laënnec (a famous French professor of medicine in the 19th century) used to say regarding the treatment of the acute pulmonary edema: Start emptying the car before lashing the horses. This means that one should begin by bleeding the patient before giving heart stimulating drugs, for in this way the work that it will have to do will be less and it will not risk collapsing completely. Likewise in the beginning of sadhana one should first eliminate many negative tendencies before starting to stimulate the energy by intense meditative practices. Otherwise there is the risk of an 'acute heart failure', which means that nothing will work any longer.
Q : Why do you not give kriya to people so that they might purify their mind more quickly?
V: Not by breathing exercises can people purify their mind, but by changing their lives. There is a difference between the simple relaxation practices which are in the field of psychology and the genuine kriya which gives a great intensity; to teach these to someone, one must know what he will do with his or her spiritual energy
Q. What is the rapport between Karma and free will ?
V. Karma does not signify fatalism. On the contrary, the notion of Karma means that one is fully responsible for whatever befalls one. The supreme lesson is to accept what is, without reacting. But it is a very delicate lesson to teach : If one says this to the ordinary man, he will become lazy, and will only aggravate his state. By ‘action; Hindus often mean ‘action for a result either religious, social, or for the physical well being. Action which is completely disinterested, unselfish, does not create Karma. Free will exists in the ‘bhava’ or the mental attitude with which an act is accomplished. It is the ‘bhava’ which created future Karma-that is the karma which we are obliged to undergo; but if we can undergo this Karma with an indifferent mind, we do not create new Karma.
Q. One of the Desert Fathers used to say, if you are tired of eating the same thing everyday, eat less. What is your opinion ?
V. This is a clever saying, but too much austerity is not good. One day, the Hassidic sage Bal Shem Tov talked to someone who was too much of an ascetic and who wanted to become his disciple. He said: start first by letting go of the reins, then the horses will be able to run.
Q. I notice that sometimes, the children of people interested in mystical life appear disturbed, why ?
V. There is mystical and mystical. The ones you are referring to are more people following esoterism or occultism. A real mystical person will attract the incarnation of special souls into his family. In the West, 'mysticism' is considered unconventional. It can therefore attract people who are not well balanced. In India, mysticism is much more accepted. The question of opposition to society is not raised as much, so there is less trouble in this area.
Q. (A student of psychology from Paris) I would like to ask an important question. At least, it is important to me!
V. Whether or not a question is important or unimportant depends on our perspective.
Q. If Rembrandt or Van Gog hadn't suffered at the level of their little 'I', would their work have been as intense?
V. Good sadhakas are those who have a certain amount of suffering. It is like an irritating thorn that wakes them up, otherwise they fall asleep. The oyster needs a foreign body to make a pearl, but not all oysters give pearls. It must be special kind of oyster. Similarly, all people who experience suffering do not come to spirituality. Some believe that all people who take on the spiritual path must have faced great suffering in the world. But that was not so in my case. I was very happy in my work as a doctor, and I was respected and loved by the population of the small town where I was practicing. But I felt all that was very small and insignificant.
Q. Should we meditate on suffering ?
V. In true meditation, we forget the sensations of the body, we go beyond the consciousness of this body and we go towards a consciousness which is beyond body and mind. An argument which reinforces the fact that our fundamental nature is bliss is that when we feel intense suffering, there is a part of us somewhere which feels happy. What weighs on people is the banality of each day. Great suffering brings about a change, and we have something important to tell. On the other hand, we can use catastrophes to progress spiritually.
Q. What can make a ‘sadkaha’ take his ‘sadhana’ seriously, apart from having suffered, or actually suffering at a particular moment?
V. A deep understanding of the futility of the world, of its evanescence. Nothing is permanent. You love a woman, she leaves you. You succeed in marrying her, she ages and becomes ugly. Many people realise the truth as they grow older, but since they do not have knowledge of anything other than their world, they cannot see light at the end of the tunnel; they become depressed, pessimistic and bitter... The ‘sadhaka’ sees light at the end of the tunnel. He realises that there is something permanent, which is beyond all change, and which cannot be cut, broken or destroyed.
Q. In spirituality, does missionary activity have a meaning ?
A. If Buddha, for example, sent his disciples to preach, it is not because they were realised, or because they wanted to start a new religion, it was only to show that there was a way out of suffering. Most people do not know that, and they resign themselves to it. They even attach themselves to suffering, as if it were some sort of security. If there is a spiritual truth to communicate to people, it is the possibility of a way of suffering.
Q : What does 'opening the channels of energy' mean?
V : When I was in Almora in 1954 I worked on the opening of nadis, channels, for a year continuously. Thanks to that I knew that I could gain a perfect chastity without inner conflict and suppression and also an immunity against diseases. The opening went in different stages. Once I heard that Ma was saying to her mother in Bengali: khulyatse, 'it opened'. I had felt something important. It is useful to read books such as Tibetan Yoga by Evans-Wentz. It gives an intellectual and traditional basis to these experiences which we may get. Otherwise we interpret them in a personal way and it may lead to strange results. The advantage of very accurate methods of meditation as Tibetan gurus teach is that their disciples are secure that the are following a trodden and safe path.
Lateral nadis open on the side of the heart. One should first well establish their awakening, then that of the central channel will occur, corresponding to a complete silence of mind. Tradition speaks also of the awakening of kurma nadi which facilitates a steady and well erect posture. Generally speaking one should identify those practices which lead to the silence of mind and follow them fully. If we decide to take the energy down to the muladhara, one should already have a good purification of mind to sustain the sexual awakening which it produces, and this without regression in our sadhana.
We should distinguish between left and right when we deal with nadi awakening. Their rasas, tastes, are different. This is a psycho-physiological experience which is clearly felt and which corresponds to a mental state as well. Energy may also be blocked in its ascension of nadis. When they are open, better to live in solitude. Sexual relationships become impossible.
Q : In this case, why doesn't the guru open the for a maximum number of people?
V : He does not do it because if he awakens energy in a disciple who does not have the mental purity, it will be directed towards disturbing emotions or be deviated toward a search for powers. Those who have a complete sincerity for sadhana are very rare and even those who have even a beginning motivation for it are also rare.
Q : Does this opening correspond to a conscious practice or is it spontaneous?
V : Intense emotion is indeed the factor which pushes energy into the nadis. It may be anger, but the best emotion is an intense love for the Guru. Sadgurus like Ma could 'open the tunnel' like a giant would pierce a mountain in a poke of his thumb and say afterwards to the workers, finish the small work by yourself. As long as one has not obtained the opening of nadis, he is not a real sadhaka, he is only preparing himself to be so. In the beginning I had difficulties to open a nadi when the corresponding nostril was blocked, but later the two phenomena became independent. At some point I stopped to work on nadi opening to practice vedanta, it was more comfortable, there was less emotional intensity; but Ma reproached me with that. One day she told in satsang with a side glance at me, nadi khulne se kitna labh he, by opening the nadis how much benefit comes. Thus, I resumed my practice of nadi opening. All these phenomena of nadis are not theory, I see them as if they were in front of me. By their opening, one can experience the rasa, the best of every experience at will, but there, one should not be lead astray, it would be an obstacle to samadhi that Patanjali calls rasavada. One should experience a first phase of coming back from the object of pleasure for instance to pleasure itself which is still a localized experience, and then come back to the one who feels this pleasure, and thus reach the level of pure subjectivity.
Q : Is nadi opening necessary to obtain samadhi?
V : Yes, samadhi comes from the union of the two currents of energy which we could call positive and negative. When these two currents merge, an intense bliss occurs and this is samadhi.
Commenting on a photo of Ma where she is young and has the head inclined on the side, in ecstasy:
V : This is not samadhi, it is a bhav (a spiritual state, but temporary and less deep than samadhi). In samadhi, the spine is erect, following the vertical axis, it favours the passage of energy up to the ajna. There is a loss of consciousness of outer world. By putting the head on the side, that is by leaning on one of the two lateral nadis, one keeps away from this loss of consciousness and one remains at the level of the bhav.
Q. Does the awakening of the Kundalini come from yoga practices or from the grace of the guru ?
A. More from the grace of the guru. The satguru can open nadis (channels). We then feel and intense happiness which allows up to completely give up sexual desire. It is the nature of the mind to seek happiness. Therefore it is necessary to have that opening, to be able to give up the ordinary sources of pleasure. Some gurus are able to give a momentary of void to the mind, for instance by looking at people in a certain way. But it is not a true awakening of energy.
Q. Where are the sadhus who have obtained this opening of the nadis ?
V. Around Ma, they were more common, but this does not mean the awakening was permanent. One must be a very good sadhaka for the opening to remain permanently. However, it is only the first initiation on the path. when the nadis are in the process of opening, one must stay a bit isolated. If the sadhaka mixes easily with people, it is either because he is very advanced, or he has obtained nothing. But what is most important later in sadhana is the opening of the nadi itself. The mistake many Westerners make is to think that sexual experience help the spiritual experiences. In reality, they go in two opposite directions. The subtle physiology of the Kundalini shows this precisely. As long as consciousness stays in the lateral nadis, one is at the mental level. The awakening of the lateral nadis, ida and pingala, helps in stabilising the mind and sublimating sexual energy. But it is only when Kundalini enters the central nadi, sushumna, that the mind becomes totally silent. One of the effect of this control is the awakening of charisma. Some people believe that because something is tickling them in the back, the Kundalini is awakened. But that is not the case. All those sensations in the back, as well as trembling, may on some preliminary signs. We must remember that Kundalini is omnipresent. It is not reducible to a given sensation or position in the body. When it awakens, the practitioners dress it up according to their cultural context. For Ramakrishna it was Kali, others will call it Krishna or Jesus. It is possible that Freud might have had a certain awakening of the Kundalini, and dressed it up as a theory according to the taste of his time, the so-called psychoanalysis. Otherwise, he couldn't have seen the importance of libido and its role in the psychic regions which seem so removed from it. He also developed a certain charisma: when the Nazis came to arrest him in Vienna, he looked at them in the eyes, and they turned around and left without doing anything.
Q. Can Hatha Yoga help with the awakening of the Kundalini ?
V. When we look at it closely, almost all the asanas of yoga represent a reversal of sexual union, that is probably why sadhakas who are sufficiently advanced and who follow the Indian tradition assume not do these postures in front of members of the opposite sex. But the goal of yoga is an awakening of the Kundalini.
Q. How to know if the Kundalini is awakened ?
V. It is an event which is has so much impact that there is no doubt about it. If you ask whether you have received it or not, that means that you haven't received it. One experience feeling of joy, strength and consciousness that are not of this world.
Q. Where is the best place to start with the awakening of the Kundalini ?
V. The guru first opens the lateral nadis. As far as the awakening of the power of Kundalini is concerned, it is best not to talk about it, out to leave it to the guru. When the right nostril is opened, it corresponds to the stimulation of the left hemisphere. The mental tendency is more active. It is advised for a brahmachari to lie on the left side in order for the right nostril, pingala, to open, which will result in an improvement in sexual control.
Q. When I meditate on the ajna as my guru recommends, I sometimes feel tension. Should I continue ?
V. Ma used to say that concentration on ajna could bring about anger, and that one must have a good mastery over it. If you feel that are not successful, you can concentrate for some time on the heart.
Q. Gopi Krishna wrote that when Kundalini awakened in him, he could understand all languages, and write poetry with great facility. What is your opinion ?
V. Those are siddhis. We must avoid them, otherwise we will be blocked at this level. In reality, the awakening of the Kundalini is not the problem. The problem is to know what to do with it.
Q. Is Kundalini spoken of in the Vedas ?
V. The Hindu Vedics used to awaken Kundalini not through sexuality, which must be a pre-Vedic practice, but through fire sacrifice. They were trained in the practice of brahmachari and fire sacrifice. For them the symbolism was very powerful. In the early Upanishads the place at the top of the head is much discussed.
Q. Why are Indian sages wary, in general, of Tantrik gurus? (By Tantrism, the questioner meant the vamachara, the left-handed Tantrism)
V. Because, having an understanding of instinctive and emotional functioning, these gurus have developed the faculty of being able to influence this functioning in others, without having developed the necessary purity of mind. Spiritual seekers do not realize that these two aspects may be dissociated one from the other, and thus let themselves be exploited, financially, psychologically and sometimes, sexually. Tantrism seeks the immediate awakening of the kundalini. For some rare persons, this could lead rapidly to Realisation, but for most, it is very dangerous. It is like teaching someone how to accelerate, without having taught him how to brake or how to turn the steering wheel. It is possible that the presence of a instructor, the guru becomes indispensable, almost a question of life and death, because he has to prevent all those accidents which could happen. In the path of mental observation, as for example in Jnana - Yoga, or in Buddha’s way of meditation, the awakening of kundalini is the final stage. Buddha had his awakening of kundalini (symbolised by the temptations of Mara, and the sexual ideas re-activated by the visit of Sujata and her two servants), just before his Realisation. At the moment of his Realisation, he was fully prepared to face up these temptations.
Q. Don't sadhakas project the mother onto the guru as then used to do with Ma Anandamayee and now do with Mata Amritanadamayee ?
V. A women guru awakens Kundalini in her disciples and they interpret it as a sexual force directed towards her. To fight that, they try to transform this impulse into a mother-child relationship.
Q. (An elderly man) Is Kundalini necessary to obtain sahaja samadhi ?
V. There are different paths. Kundalini is an experience, while sahaja samadhi is beyond experience. What is kundalini ? It is sexuality and anger which have been sublimated.
Q. I think I am too old for that! I don't have sexual appetite anymore, and my level of anger is very low.
V. Do you know the story of one of the 84 Mahasiddhas, Tantric sages of the Middle Ages? One of them was called Jalandhari. One day he asked for hospitality in a big mansion. The owners of the place, who were not very generous, told him to go and sleep in the stables. There, sleeping in the straw, was an old man, who told him that he was the father of the people living in the mansion, but they had excluded him because he was too old. The sage had compassion that her father had become a mystic. Latter, he became himself one of the eighty-four Mahasiddhas, and helped a lot of people. Once, Ma used a gesture which gave me a whole way of practicing sadhana. She put her two index fingers in opposite directions and told me: "On one side is sexual desire and anger, on the other is divine energy : they go together, on the same axis but in opposite directions". It is possible that the anger of Krishnabai and Nisargadatta Maharaj towards their disciples when they were older was because they couldn't awaken the energy in them through sexuality so they used anger instead to awaken that energy.
Q. When we meditate, on which part of the body is it best to concentrate?
V. At the beginning, concentration on the chakras can help. But later we start to fell the limitation of this practice. When we are better at meditation, we can go towards the absolute by starting from any point within the body.
Q : Does the Yogi visit subtle worlds?
V : There are seven superior worlds, Brahmaloka, Satyaloka, etc. This is linked to the sadhana of the seven chakras, at every level one gets visions, one wanders in subtle planes, to put it in a nutshell one has good fun…However, in Jnana, one does not consider these subtle worlds.
Q : Among Yogis, is there variations, rhythms of vital energy?
V : Yes, this happens to me rather regularly. There are three days in a polarity, either negative or positive and then, quickly enough, sometimes in a few minutes or hours there is an inversion. What is most interesting to notice is that there is usually an outer catalyst to this change; even in solitude you may have a visit, or a small problem, etc… If we are not conscious of this rhythm, we will project onto the outer problem the origin of the change of mood; but if we are conscious, we will just observe this phenomenon of dvandva, of pair of opposites which is part of the laws of the body, or they would say in India, part of our prarabdha karma. By not reacting to it, we do not create a second karma which would compound the first.
Q. In some Christian mystical treatises, it is said that we should be careful with experience relating to bliss in meditation, as these could be traps.
V. Spontaneously, I would say that an experience of bliss in meditation is always good. These experiences start causing problems because they don't last. Even then, they remain an encouragement. Perhaps what the authors of these treaties meant was that the excess of emotional religious feeling should be avoided because they can disturb the psyche, but they probably weren't criticising quiet bliss, in Sanskrit, [gaudium in Latin]. Bliss is the fundamental nature of Man. Whatever we think, we become. So it is not advisable to concentrate on a man of sinful nature. The bliss we can feel during meditation is a million times greater than what we can feel during sexual union.
Q. What is said about ananda in the Upanishads ?
V. Without happiness, nothing would be possible. Bliss is the very substance of the world and of the sage himself. We cannot say that the sage has the experience of bliss, but he is bliss itself. On the other hand, Therevada considers joy as a quality of sadhana, certainly indispensable, otherwise who would go and start spiritual practice if this joy wasn't there? On the other hand, this is inferior to the state of nirvana which is neutral, and lies beyond joy and suffering. In the Gita there is a distinction made between pleasure and suffering in general, and bliss. A distinction is also made between tamasic pleasure, which starts with satisfaction and ends in frustration, and satvic pleasure, which goes the opposite way. Sexual pleasure is of a tamasic type. For people who do not engage in intense spiritual practice, marriage and family life are still the best way to get out of the narrow circle of the ego. Celibacy centered on spirituality remains an unusual path.
Q : Sometimes I succeed in pacifying my emotions for a little while but then they start again with full strength!
V : Reaching a kind of intellectual peace is not enough. We should give to the basis of mind what it is longing for, i.e., for instance an intense rasa, taste of joy so that it might really be attracted and stabilized. When we are in the emotions we are carried away. When we go beyond them, the emphasis is on pure consciousness along with bliss.
Q : But is not joy an emotion too?
V : No, in this case, the joy of pure consciousness is steady while other emotions are changing. However, there are days where we do not have emotions to direct towards the divine, then we may practice atma-vichara, the Who am I for instance. If that even does not come properly, there is something that you can do to still your mind at least temporarily: stopping your breath with empty or full lungs as you feel. Gather all your energy in the heart and stay like this as long as possible. One can also perform one's usual practices of meditation with concentration on different chakras but visualize them in a kind of subtle body before oneself, at a distance of one or two meters.
Q. What does Nisargadatta Maharaj mean when he says that he has a consciousness that goes beyond experiences ?
V. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is stated that the rasavada, the taste of experience, is an obstacle one must go beyond. At a certain point, I wanted to experience rasa, this intense savor of psychic phenomena, which can come abundantly when we are progressing. Ma told me, "Don't, that still pertains to the do main of experience." i.e. those are by-product of meditation and one shouldn't dwell on it. It is better to ask oneself, "Who is it who experience these phenomena? We then reach a very subtle sensation, which corresponds to consciousness itself.
Q. Isn't there a danger in thinking that we are a divine channel as it is understood in the devotional path ?
V. For an ordinary person it is best to content oneself with doing one's duty the best way possible. One must be a very advanced sadhaka to be able to discern between what comes from God and what comes himself. When we say 'I' am instrument of the divine', it is already not true, because the 'I' is there and it blocks the current. Those who are truly instruments of the divine are so naturally. In bhakti, it is good to see the action of God on everything that happens to us, as long as we have good discrimination. In this sense the famous story of Ramakrishna has great value: a guru recommended for his disciple to see God everywhere. So when the disciple saw a mad elephant running towards him, and heard the elephant's master shouting at him to move out of the way, the disciple thought : 'Why should I move, since God is everywhere ?' And the elephant ran over him. The next day he went to complain to his guru. The guru answered him: "Haven't you yet understood that if God is everywhere, he is also in the elephant's master, who told you to move ?" God is always used as an excuse, he has been used as a pretext for murderous wars.
Q. Is seeing everything as coming from God essential in all spiritual practice, or is it a method practiced only on the path of devotion ?
V. In all religions there is this practice which consists of bringing everything back to divine actions But after a while, we realise nothing happens by chance. The best example of this in Hinduism are Swami Ramdas' books 'In Quest of God' and 'The Vision of God'.[published by Bharata Vidya Bhavan]
Q. How do we understand grace ?
V. We have already seen that aside from the normal result of our efforts, there is an uncommon type of grace, grace without cause, without reason. When we take one step, God takes ten steps. The difference between bhakta and purushartha, the one who realises the supreme by himself, is more a question of words. The latter receives grace from the inside, the former from the outside. What we must do is prepare ourselves to be a receptacle to received the water which pours down . All that depends on how you understand the term grace. When you call what you consider to be the personal God, there is an echo which comes back to you and which is not in fact different from yourself, but it is beyond your ego.
Q : Can we live without desire?
V : For most people, desire is necessary; this is what may take them out of tamas. Everything depends upon people's levels. We can not live without love. Mystical love is the only one where total merging is possible. The fusion of physical love does not last.
V : (to an elderly man who was suffering from glaucoma) For you, the best is to concentrate on the heart rather than on ajna; but this is only a stage, a footstep to be able to later visualize energy in the heart of every other human being and still later throughout the whole universe. At that time you merge into the Formless.
Q. Sometimes I feel that my heart is open as it would be during a surgical operation. What to do?
V. See the joy of the experience. To stabilise the opening of the chakras, it is better to avoid deep breathing, which moves the energy to the sides, and it is better to keep superficial breathing, because it helps to gather the energy in the middle line. As far as the ventilation of the lungs is concerned, that resembles a once told me in English regarding this subject : 'lungs don't breathe'.
Q. What is the usefulness of deep breathing ?
V. To push the prana in a different part of the body; for example it is advised after a meal to open the right nostril, which has a heating effort, which favours digestion. We can see easily if one nostril is open or closed by breathing rapidly and comparing with the other side. To open a blocked nostril, e.g. the right one, we can lie on the left side. People who have practiced can open a nostril by direct concentration.
Q. I practiced my mantra during an extensive period of time, but I felt this was superimposed upon my personality.
V. When one recites a mantra, one must do it with love.
Q. Where does the power of a mantra come from ?
V. There are three sources. First, there is the faith of the disciple, then is the energy the guru puts into the mantra, if he is capable, and finally with a Vedic mantra, there is power which is inherent to the mantra, as a result of generation of recitations by Rishis....
Q. Is there a relationship between mantra and nada, the inner sound ?
V. While reciting the mantra, there are three stages. Words with their meaning, the sounds of the syllables themselves, and finally a continuous Om, as a kind of vibration. To hear the sound is easier when we do meditation in solitude, especially in a cave. The first noise is that of the ocean, then the other nine are, as described in scriptural tradition, for instance in Nadabindu Upanihad. We can integrate the mantra to this sound if we repeat it indefinitely, like a tape recorder. It sounds easy to transform these inner sounds which are discontinuous in one continuous sound, but it is in fact very difficult. When we have reached the continuous sound, we have reached the silence of the mind.
Q. What is bhakti ? Is it simply to merge in emotion, or is it more than that ?
V. Several times Ma did something to make me merge completely in emotion, dissolve in it. But I didn't want to. In fact, I don't know what would have happened if I had let myself be dissolved completely. But that was precisely the question, I didn't want to let myself be carried away in a direction where I had no power to control my mind. Perhaps if I had let myself go, I would have been a great sage… However, be it for a bhakta or jnani, it is not good to let oneself go completely. In sadhana one has much more intense emotions than in ordinary life. But that is only the beginning. Real experience in yoga go well beyond the emotions.
Q. Some people say that the spiritual field is beyond the emotional and intellectual fields. What do you think?
V. It is true, but one cannot directly enter the spiritual field. One has to proceed from where one is, from what one knows, that is from the emotional and intellectual field. ‘Jnana’ (knowledge) and Bhakti (love) are completementry to each other. At the end of the road, the two paths merge, but from the beginning it is better that they are associated with each other in one way or another. Love and devotion without knowledge can lead to an emotional maladjustment which can go to the extent of madness. Knowledge without devotion is dry intellectualism. It is an error to teach the practice of knowledge without a trace of devotion, as some teachers in the West tend to do. One must not destroy emotions. Within a ‘bhakta’ hides a ‘jnani’, and within a ‘jnani’ is hidden a ‘bhakta’.
Q. What is the role of emotions in sadhana’ ?
V- They are important. They give impetus to ‘sadhana’. They just have to be controlled, sublimated, and directed inwardly. What is the root of emotion ? It is the intense desire for happiness, which is itself a reflection of the ‘Self’. From one purification to another, this emotion can lead the ‘sadhaka’ to the Self.
To a ‘sadhaka’ who, before leaving for sannyas, explains some of his recipes for meditation and asks for his opinion, Vijayananda replies :
Meditation is like a battle, you know. One makes a lot of god plans in advance, but in reality, in action, what one had foreseen never happens. One has to keep finding solutions from one move to another.
Q. Isn't Vedanta, which doesn't include a personal God, a form of atheism ?
V. In reality, true atheists are unusual, because each one usually believes in his own existence, or in the existence of the outside world. So finally, everyone believes in the Self, because God is existence.
Q. How do we get rid of the ego ?
V. It is only through complete realisation that we can get rid of the ego. As far as what is the best path to follow, that depends. If we have a very strong ego, it is better to say, I am That, because everything is part of the divine, even the ego. If instead one has a weak ego, it is better to follow the path of devotion, and say I am nothing, there is only God.
Q : Should we see the world as an illusion, or as reality , or as Divine Mother's body?
V : Ramakrishna had a vedantin master called Totapuri who had reached nirvikalpa samadhi. Ramakrishna himself had not been able to get it at that time, but he could see the play of the Divine Mother in the entire world which was rejected by Totapuri as illusion, Maya. Each of them taught to the other what he missed. Ramakrishna had been able to make the link, to come and go between the world, samsara and samadhi. Vedanta means the culminatiion of Vedas. In India, this represents the metaphysics for the fourth ashrama, sannyasa, which is itself the crowning of the three first ones. It is the result of a whole training of behavior and of bhakti practices during the stages of student, householder and vanaprastha, i.e., retreat in the forest. Vedanta does not consist of endless and somewhat psychological talks as it is believed in the West. Westerners do not like the idea that 'the world is a dream'. It should be understood that this is only a stage, afterwards we find again a reality to the world, but from another angle, in the sense that we see in it pure consciousness only. Zen says so: In the beginning mountains are mountains, then they are no more so, and afterwards they become again mountains. If one tries to concentrate on pure consciousness directly, he falls asleep after some time. This is why in meditation an affective element, a joy, a love are necessary.
Q : It seems that there is a good deal of 'positive thinking' and affirmations in vedanta. For instance Ramana Maharshi used to advise his disciples to read the Ribhu-Gita which repeats ceaselessly 'I am the Self, the infinite, the limitless' What do you think about it?
V : This is for beginners. For those who are more advanced, observing mind without countering it is sufficient, this is the best way to quiet it.
Q. Isn't Vedanta a bit too simple ?
V. Some say, the theory of Vedanta, but its practice is difficult, while the theory of bhakti, especially Vaishnavism, is complicated, but its practice is simple. In Vaishnavism, they have a number of theories on the different paradises, etc.... but their practice is simple, it is japa. On the other hand, the theory of Vedanta is very simple, and can be expressed in single sentence : 'Brahman is real, the world is illusion, the individual soul (jivatma) is one with the self (Atma),' but his practice is difficult, because it is not easy to observe one's own mind without any support.
Q. How can one know if one has reached realization ?
V. When the ego has completely disappeared, when there is no one left to say 'I' am realized: in the Upanishads however, certain Rishis say :"Vedam aham Purusham aditya varnam" : "I know that Supreme person (shining) with the colour of the sun". In Taittiriya Upanishad. Trisankhu summarizes the knowledge in this way :
"I am the support of the tree!
My fame is like a mountain peak!
Exaltedly pure, like the excellent nectar in the sun
I am a shining treasure
Wise, immortal, indestructible" (Transl. D. Hume)
There are two possibilities: either the Rishis who were saying 'I' in this manner were not completely realized, or they were giving these sayings to their disciples as a sort of mantra to meditate. Ramatirtha (a Vedantic sage of the XXth century) used to say : 'It is a sin to believe that we are not God'.
Q. How to break the ego ?
V. Why tacking this question in a negative way ? Consider this matter in a positive way : why is the ego so strong ? Because it has its roots in something universal, in an ultimate basis of bliss. Become this foundation.
Q. A lady visitor reminds us of Swami Ramdas' answer to the question : 'what is the sex of God ?' 'God is neither he nor it : it is mystery.' Vijayananda is asked : 'What about your experience regarding this ?'
V. The Absolute is like a stone which occupies all space; there is a crystal of this stone in our heart; it is indestructible, imperishable, immortal; it is ananda (bliss); we should become attached to this ananda. Nevertheless, this Absolute may take any form and play the game of being female or male or both together.
Q. How to develop self-confidence ?
V. By being disentangled from the body and mind which are changing and by becoming identified to the immortal basis which does not change. What gives its aspect of permanence to the impermanent body is the Self. People believe that this consciousness, this Self is so subtle that it is almost nonexistent, but it is harder than diamond. This diamond is made of chidananda, consciousness-bliss, but all that should better be experienced by oneself.
Q. In following the path of Jnana - Yoga, and in repeating, I am not this, I am not this’ isn’t there a risk of losing touch with reality?
V. The real risk in practising the ‘Jnana - Yoga’ is arrogance. I have seen many Westerner becoming arrogant and believing a little too soon that they had achieved identification with the Absolute. The Hindus ‘sadhakas’ are more humble. On the other hand, when ‘Jnana-Yoga’ is practiced well, it is the best way of returning to reality, because it helps to lift the veils that hide this reality.
Q. In samadhi, does breathing stop ?
V. Breathing stops completely or becomes very superficial, leading to the prana stopping