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Chapter Two: Conversations of Sri Gajanana Maharaj

I

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One day a man who was very proud of his shastric learning–which was only superficial–came to Maharaj and began with the words, “Maharaj, having heard about your great renown, I have come to you with the full hope that all my doubts and difficulties will be dispelled and solved by you. I have firm faith in you. Two or three days ago I came here, but on that day you were ill. Hence I have come today.” Maharaj intently looked at his face and at once understood that the man must have been directed to him by someone with the object of making him non-plussed and an object of ridicule.

Maharaj said to him, “My good sir, who told you that I am a Maharaj? Everybody knows that I do not know anything about the shastras and that I can never explain anything from the shastras. How can I solve your difficulties? You said that you have firm faith in me. Did you see any miracle performed by me or did you get any special experience so that faith was generated in your mind? Or were you a relative or a school fellow or a very dear friend of mine so that the previous relationship unwillingly attracted you towards me?

“You see at present I am often very ill. Through the grace of my guru I have been seeking to know the nature of death, and in doing so I have actually approached it. Once I know what is death, I shall then find out God by means of the mantra Soham. I shall then know who I am and will begin to enjoy the bliss of the Self. The whole world will then appear to me as nothing but Brahman. Then only through the order of my guru shall I be able to explain all the shastras. Until I reach that stage, how can I, an ignorant and uneducated man as I am, presume to tell anything to a learned pundit like you?

“What I think, however, is this. When a person, whether educated or ignorant, wants to go to a saint for the purpose of obtaining from him success in the accomplishment of worldly objects or any guidance on the spiritual path, he should first of all make full inquiries regarding the conduct of the saint in his dealings with the world, and after being fully convinced that his conduct is pure, should go to him. He should not merely depend upon hearsay reports regarding his great spiritual powers.

“He should also read carefully the lives of the great saints of the past and ponder deeply over them. He should then think things out for himself and come to a conclusion regarding what is right and what is wrong. After that he should approach a saint with a feeling of due humility, after purging his mind of all pride of learning, of all doubts and of all misgivings. If this is done then the Siddhi Vinayak (Ganesha, the Lord of all Powers) will grant him all happiness in worldly life as well as spiritual bliss in his own Self.

“This is my candid opinion, which I have arrived at through the grace of my guru and of my own inner Self. A person gets pleasures and pains in this world according to the good or bad actions of his previous lives. Though saints and mahatmas have all powers, still everyone has to suffer the results of his own previous karma. Saints do not interfere with the working of this law. Their mission in this world is to point out the way leading to everlasting happiness and thus to make persons going to them blessed in the real sense of the term. They pay very little heed to worldly pleasures and pains which are after all of an ephemeral nature.

“The great saint Tukaram, who had realized God, has proclaimed with a loud voice in words worth their weight in gold his great anxiety regarding worldly people who are groping in the darkness of ignorance. He says with deep feelings of love and care, ‘I cannot bear to see all these people floundering in the mire of ignorance and hence my heart overflows with pity. I shall try to save all these souls.’

“Oh, my good sir, you are learned in shastras. I request you to leave off the reading of the shastras and giving dry advice to others, and especially to leave off trying to ridicule saints who should be approached with feelings of reverence and humility. You appear to be about sixty years old. Merely performing sandhya, worshipping gods with flowers and garlands and marking your forehead with sandal paste will be of no real use to you. You must have a real feeling of devotion and learn to see the one God in all these various external objects. My earnest request to you is that you should go to a real saint and learn how to obtain this kind of devotion at his feet.”

These words of Maharaj had a great effect on that man’s mind, and he said, “Maharaj, you have really swept off all dirt from my mind with your broom of Soham, and I am now thoroughly satisfied. I had indeed come to make you non-plussed and then to ridicule you. I had once before seen you and at that time formed an unfavorable opinion about you. Hence I had come today with the fixed object of putting you to ridicule. But you understood this state of my mind and gave me this sincere, excellent and disinterested advice, for which I am deeply grateful to you. I accept your advice with bowed head. What is the use of advanced age? I am sure that you will be a real guru and will save many people like me by initiating them into the path of spiritual knowledge.”

Maharaj replied, “You are a learned Brahmin. It is my duty to pay you respect. You are like a guru to me. I tell you one last thing. Whenever a person, big or small, male or female, feels the want of anything, whether worldly or spiritual, he approaches God and begs Him for granting his desire. We go to a temple. The idol there is of stone. But we, through faith, attribute to it the divine powers of Sri Rama or Sri Krishna and pray to the idol to grant our desires; and we get the fruit of these prayers at some time or other. This is true in the case of all human beings. Whenever a person entertains a desire to obtain some worldly object or to attain spiritual progress, he obtains the fruit of his desire as a result of his efforts in this life or of his karma in previous lives, or owing to fate or destiny–call it anything you like. No astrologer or saint or God is required for that.

“Men and women go to a saint, whether a true one or a false one, for getting their desires fulfilled. Some want employment, some are in want of progeny and some want the curing of their diseases. An aspirant on the spiritual path desires to obtain the bliss of the Self or the vision of God. I wish to say with all the earnestness at my command that every person should internally repeat the mantra Soham and should bear in mind that he himself will be able to fulfill his desires. Only it must be borne in mind that he must keep his conduct pure, should have at least a little vairagya and should have firm faith in Soham. When once a person obtains this self-confidence, he is sure to get Self-experience and will meet with his real guru. Evil thoughts will then cease to rise.

“One thing regarding this japa must be remembered. The japa of Soham must be repeated continuously in the mind. It should not be allowed to be known to others that you are repeating the japa. If such a person then prays to this God of internal light to grant his desires, he can be absolutely sure of his prayers being granted.

“This method is a hundred times superior to that of praying for favors to God who is outside ourselves. Not only will the desires be granted, but either in this or in the next birth according to the person’s present efforts and previous karma, a person is sure to attain the highest bliss of the Self. But if all my brothers and sisters will do as I have just told you, they will be able to enjoy real happiness and will never fall into the clutches of false saints. Well, my good sir, I hope that you will spread the knowledge of what I have just now told you among others and so make the lives of many happy and contented.

II

One day a gentleman came to Maharaj for his darshana, having come to know about him from someone. He was a well-read man and had visited various saints. The following discourse then took place between him and Maharaj, which we give below as it throws light on many interesting points in religious and spiritual matters.

Maharaj: You are referring to the shastras. Will you please tell me what religious books you have read?

Gentleman: I have read the Upanishads, Yoga Vashishtha, Panchadasi, Bhagavad Gita, Jnaneshwari and others.

Maharaj: I have not even heard the names of some of these, nor have I read any of them. But will you tell me whether you understood them and whether these books solved all your doubts and difficulties?

Gentleman: No. I then began to think that all this reading is useless without guidance from a sadguru and put these books aside.

Maharaj: I think you did a very good thing. When I was in school I learned a verse to the effect that life is too short for studying what is contained in all the shastras. Well, I now know that you have read a good deal of Vedanta. Have you read the lives of any of the saints?

Gentleman: Yes. I have read the lives of Sri Ramdas and of Swami Maharaj of Akkalkot. I have also read the life and letters of Sri Gulabrao Maharaj and some of the books written by him which have been published. I, however, remember only a little of the principles explained by Sri Gulabrao Maharaj in his letters and books.

Maharaj: All right. Do you remember that Sri Gulabrao Maharaj has dealt with the subject of “dosha-drishti” (faultfinding tendency) and its different kinds? And will you be able to tell me what you remember of the subject?

Gentleman: I do not remember anything about it.

Maharaj: All right. I shall tell you about it. Sri Gulabrao Maharaj has divided the tendency to find faults into three categories: (1) Individualistic; (2) Social; and (3) Scriptural. He says that if a father tells his son that he is going to get him married, the son will be pleased no doubt, but this pleasure is quite of a different nature from the pleasure which he will get from the actual marriage to a wife. The same sort of difference is that between a jnani, one who has realized Brahman, and a vadi, one who merely discusses Vedanta. A blind man delivering hundreds of lectures on the different colors, red, blue or green, would be but an object of ridicule in the eyes of a person who can actually see the colors. To talk about Vedanta without any real Self-experience is equally ridiculous.

That guru alone is a true guru who will lead a disciple to the path of Self-experience. But many aspirants fall into the clutches of pseudo-saints who tempt them by holding forth before them the bait that they will get Self-experience, but ultimately they are disappointed. They then leave off all Vedanta and religious matters and remain content with merely ordinary morality. Their angle of vision of looking at things and persons entirely changes and they begin to see faults in almost every person.

In my opinion the tendency to find faults is bad from one point of view and good from another. This tendency will be very useful for the purpose of not getting entangled in the snares of hypocrites and pseudo-saints. But if it leads a person to find faults even in real mahatmas, it is certainly reprehensible. Even food, if not properly taken, may act like poison and do harm, while even poison properly administered in minute quantities sometimes acts like a tonic and cures diseases.

Before trying to find faults a person must make himself sure that he has acquired a correct insight and acumen to find out real faults. He must make himself sure that he will not mistake apparent faults for real ones. If a person while examining rice throws away a grain of rice mistaking it for a grain of sand, he cannot be called a wise person. Hence a person must acquire clear insight; otherwise while trying to find out faults, he might discard virtues also, mistaking them for faults.

To consider everything which is against our ideas as a fault is what I mean by the individualistic tendency to find faults. This tendency is very bad and leads to disastrous results. It is at the root of all disturbances in domestic, national and religious life. A person in fortunate and affluent circumstances looks down even upon a virtuous man who is in adverse circumstances, and considers him as full of faults. This is the result of this individualistic tendency. A false saint having obtained vast sums of money from others under false pretenses, feeds thousands of people, makes a show of his charity and looks down upon a real saint who passes his days in calm contemplation in solitude apart from the haunts of men, and taunts him about his poverty. Thus it will be clearly seen that this individualistic tendency to find faults is very bad and leads to ruin. Wise persons should, therefore, take scrupulous care not to fall a prey to it.

The second kind is what I call Social. It is good to a certain extent, but on the whole it is more bad than good. Whatever is opposed to the views of a particular society or community is looked upon as a fault by its members. But as the constitution and the underlying principles of every society are different, it is but natural that every society is considered as full of faults by other societies. Besides, every individual has some faults in the eyes of his society. Some sociologists tried to make an equal distribution of property among all the members of the society but these attempts signally failed. If a person models his actions on the principle of sacrificing his interests for the good of the society, he is blamed by the members of his family; if on the contrary he looks too much to the interests of his family, he is blamed by the society. Hence the angle of vision, which I have called Social, is very nebulous and puts an individual into a very awkward position–on the horns of a dilemma as it were. This method of finding faults, however, affords opportunities to some persons for posing as social workers and philanthropists.

The third kind I have called Scriptural or Shastric. This is the best, and it conduces to the real welfare of a spiritual aspirant. It consists in considering anything which is opposed to the shastras as bad. A person who has acquired this angle of vision will never fall a prey to the machinations of self-seeking hypocrites and pseudo-saints, will never allow himself to be overpowered by his society and will ultimately attain the real goal of human life himself and will also help to raise the moral and spiritual standard of the society of which he is a member.

Merely by reading the shastras or by carrying on discussions regarding them, a person can never ascertain what is opposed to the shastras and what is in consonance with them. If a person reads the shastras merely in the light of his own reasoning and views, it is but natural that he will accept only those sayings in the shastras which are favorable to him or interpret them so as to be conformable to his own views. Suppose a prostitute reads the Bhagavatam and draws a lesson from the account given of the gopis there that the shastras permit unchastity on the part of women, is there any hope of the character of the prostitute being ever improved by this sort of reading? If the shastras do not make a change in our views and angle of vision, how can they be said to teach us anything? If guests are served with stale food can it be said that they are treated as guests?

Hence it is necessary to learn what is told in the shastras at the feet of a sadguru. It is, however, difficult to know who is a real sadguru. We find that even many educated men have fallen into the clutches of self-seeking pseudo-saints. The ways of outward conduct, too, of even really great saints differ on account of the difference of surroundings and of prarabdha (destiny). Hence superficial observers are not likely to recognize the greatness of even real saints. Some persons posing as saints are very clever in giving learned and impressive discourses on Vedanta, while internally they are seeking opportunities to cheat their gullible followers. Real aspirants meeting such saints are ultimately disappointed, because they find that they asked for bread and got a stone instead. They had wanted real Vedanta and instead they had as it were a lecture on the science of sexual love.

Hence it has been said in the Yoga-Vashishtha that without the grace of God it is not possible to meet with a real sadguru. Even to get affectionate parents entirely depends upon the favor of fate. Instances of mothers selling their children for obtaining money for drinking liquor, though rare in India, are not quite uncommon in other countries. A sadguru must teach yoga not merely by words but must lead an aspirant to the path of Self-experience. The disciple, too, must know what questions to ask and how to ask them, otherwise everything will be futile. This is in short what Sri Gulabrao Maharaj has said, and I entirely agree with him. A great poet has remarked that it is very difficult to understand the minds of great persons because they are sometimes harder than adamant and sometimes softer than flowers. 

Now I shall tell you in brief what Sri Gulabrao Maharaj has said regarding raja yoga. You might say I am not telling you anything of my own, but only what has been said by other saints. My reply to that is that it is so. My guru did not teach me Vedanta and the principles established by it and the arguments adduced in books on Vedanta to establish them. He only gave me the mantra Soham and showed me the path leading to Brahman which is beyond all Vedanta and arguments. He made me realize the truth of Tat Twam Asi (Thou Art That) and said that nothing else was required to be told. Hence I am telling you what other saints have said. It might be even said that my guru is speaking through my mouth.

Look at it from another point of view also. It has been said that whatever has been said by any one else in the three worlds has been borrowed from Vyasa. If that is so, then what wonder is there that an uneducated and unintelligent person like me should borrow from what other saints have said? I have read a few books on spiritual subjects and tell others a little out of them. I possess no power of words but my real strength lies in understanding the true sense behind the words. Saints like Tukaram and Eknath also did not possess the power of words to an eminent degree, but their strength lay in their thorough grasp of the sense behind the words.

Regarding raja yoga, Sri Gulabrao Maharaj says raja yoga is the best of all yoga practices. The practice of raja yoga can control the impressions produced by a person’s ignorance and negative experience and wipe them out. All this controlling is possible only through two things (1) practice and (2) vairagya (detachment). A person who merely carries on practice without having vairagya, does not go to the end and has to leave it in the middle, because every now and then he is attracted by sensual objects and he gets tired of trying again and again and leaves off the practice. Perfect control can be accomplished only with the help of both practice and vairagya.

The tamasic power (shakti) is brought under control by carefully reading the principles of Vedanta and contemplating upon them. This is known as shravana, and forms part of yogic niyama. Through the practice of yama and niyama, the rajasic power of the action of the organs is controlled. Asana (posture) leads to the steadiness of the limbs and through pranayama all power of motion is controlled. When this stage is reached the mudhawastha–the state of infatuation–of the mind disappears. The state of distraction is controlled by dharana and dhyana and the sadhaka then enters the state of samprajñata or savikalpa samadhi by concentration. This state later on develops into nirvikalpa samadhi.

This in brief is the full course as described in the Yoga Shastra. But this requires great preparation of the mind. Only those who have left attachment to sensual objects can be the recipients of this knowledge. He alone who first of all subdues the desires of the mind regarding sensual objects, understands their comparative importance or unimportance, keeps his mind in a state of quietude even when enjoying pleasures allowed by the shastras and ultimately leaves off all sense of enjoyment of pleasures, succeeds in ascending to the summit of yoga. He who understands how to dispel thoughts which arise in succession in the mind, he who understands what particular thoughts must first of all be subdued, so also he who understands how to contemplate upon Brahman alone succeeds in arriving at the end of yoga and becoming a master.

Many persons think that bhakti (devotion) is easier than yoga, owing to the fear for the body which the yogi has to conquer. But Sri Jnaneshwar says, “Is there anything as easy as yoga?” I also think that bhakti which depends upon some external object, is not so easy as Yoga which depends on one’s own Self. If a person thinks on these questions deeply and gets explanations for himself, and then leaves off contemplation of things which fetter him and contemplates upon the opposite, he will succeed in putting an end to all pain and obtain the highest bliss. He should fix his mind upon and thoroughly grasp the principle of the Sankhya Shastra that the Self is absolutely free from attachments, and then by means of yoga he should practice meditation.

Ordinarily no one likes pain, hence every one desires to end it. We ourselves are dearer to us than any other thing. Things which come in the way of our happiness are disliked by us. We, however, have never any dislike respecting ourselves. Hence it is clear that real bliss lies in ourselves and not in any extraneous thing. Sri Gulabrao Maharaj has also said something about how to subjugate the mind and ultimately to annihilate it. He says that Sri Vashishtha mentions two means of annihilating the mind. One is to control thoughts of the mind by yoga and the other is to observe ourself by ourself being the observer. This second is a little bit difficult. The thoughts of the mind can be controlled by the practice of yoga and by vairagya. Vairagya can be obtained by getting into the habit of looking upon all worldly things and pursuits as full of faults and troubles.

Suppose a person sees a rope in the darkness and thinking it to he a serpent, runs away from that place. He will not then be able to see it, but the impression will still remain upon his mind that he has seen a serpent. If, however, he stays at the place, brings a lamp and satisfies himself that it is a rope and not a serpent, all fear vanishes and no impression of the fear remains on his mind. Thus knowledge alone is capable of dispelling the fears of worldly existence. For obtaining this knowledge it is necessary to read religious books, to listen to discourses on them, then to think over them in solitude, and when the mind is thoroughly satisfied about the truth of the principles, to ponder over them again and again. The realization of Brahman is to be obtained only by the method of Self-experience.

If some people say that they cannot put any faith in yoga, they may be asked why they then put faith in morality, because morality also does not conduce to success in this worldly life. Its fruit also is to be obtained not in this life but in a future life.

Well, my good sir, as I have not been educated and have also very little natural intelligence, I have to borrow from the sayings of other saints and learned men, who are far superior to me in knowledge and erudition. If I explain things in my own simple way as inspired by my guru, people will not put faith in me. Hence I tell people a little of what has been told to me by others or of what I have read myself. To listen to it or to give any importance to it entirely lies with those people. I myself am not a Maharaj, but an ignorant fool.

Looking to the sayings of great saints, I am absolutely convinced that it is not at all necessary that I should perform miracles or that people should call me a saint. Hence I say to my friends that if anybody censures me in their presence, they should not be pained. A story is told regarding Tukaram Maharaj that a widow in the village became pregnant and the fatherhood of the child was attributed to him. So he was made by the people to sit upon a donkey with garlands of old shoes round his neck and taken in procession through the streets, and he was abused and censured by many people. I have not as yet been put to that test, but through the grace of God I wish that I might be. I do not know when this desirable event will happen. I am waiting for it.

III

One morning Mr. Ambadas Gopal Paithankar went to Maharaj’s house. Maharaj was then ill and was lying down. Mr Paithankar related the conversation as follows.

Maharaj: Whom do you wish to see?

Myself: Yourself.

Maharaj: What is your business with me?

Myself: I have not any particular business. I only wanted to have your darshana.

Maharaj: Do you ever practice meditation or worship any particular deity?

Myself: I do not worship any particular deity or meditate upon any. For about three years I worshipped Sri Ganapati, then for about two years the Goddess. For some days I was trying to concentrate my attention on a particular point (bindu). Then I stopped that also. As I had no desire to obtain any particular object in doing all these things, I naturally quit them in the course of time.

Maharaj: How is it that you worship one deity for some time and then leave it for another and then leave that for a third? Are you going to do so till the end of your life? And are you going to continue this process in your future lives also?

Myself: I can’t fix my mind anywhere. I have got to look after my family and children. I have also to work as a priest. Hence I cannot fix my mind on a particular course or deity. Therefore I have come to a saint like you. The desire to have your darshana might have been generated in me by the good company of my father, or perhaps it might have been generated by some sudden rise of faith in my mind through God’s grace. Although I cannot account for it exactly, I have come to you and I earnestly request you to confer your grace upon me. I have not come to you through mere blind faith because it is not in my nature to put such blind faith in anyone. I have tested my feelings on the touchstone of deep thought and it was only when I was fully confident of myself that I ventured to come to you.

Maharaj, I am now thoroughly convinced that a knowledge of the shastras only teaches a man to enter into endless discussions and to raise innumerable doubts. I now firmly believe that the only true shastra is that of Self-experience. Maharaj, will you grant me the vision of God?

Maharaj: Just see. Suppose you have a lighted lantern in your house and I ask you to bring its light and show it to me here. Will you be able to bring the light here and show it to me?

Myself: No. The light cannot be brought here.

Maharaj: Then you would say to me, “I shall at the most be able to tell you what particular means are required and what particular action is to be done in order to generate the light.” You would ask me to purchase a lantern, fix a wick in it, put kerosene oil in it, to strike a match, to ignite the wick, etc. Then there would be light.

Paithankar, similarly it is not an easy thing to show God. I may tell you in what way you should conduct yourself. When you will be endowed with all the four sadhanas [(1) the discrimination between eternal and non-eternal things; (2) disinterestedness regarding enjoyments in this as well as the next world; (3) possession of self-control, peace of mind, etc.; (4) a keen desire for liberation or moksha], or when your desires have vanished, or when you are full of devotion, or when your mind is fully detached from all worldly objects and you get knowledge of spiritual matters, you will be able to realize the presence of God who is really without form. You will then be able to see the light of the Self and be one with that Reality which is Self-existent, which is Life and which is Bliss. That is the real God.

God is not an external object which can be shown by simply pointing a finger towards it. A person must get instruction from a sadguru by obtaining his grace. Then when he gets the internal sight, he can see God–not by the physical eyes but by this internal sight which is known as the eye of knowledge. A person’s egoism must entirely disappear, his desires must all vanish, he must have complete vairagya (detachment) and he must feel that he is one with God. Then quite naturally he attains everlasting peace and joy. His whole worldly life will be nothing but Brahman. He will go beyond pain and pleasure.

I shall give you an everyday illustration. Suppose some night you get very sound sleep. When you get up next morning you say to others, “For the last month or so I did not get good sleep. But last night I got such a sound and deep sleep that I was greatly delighted.” Now just see. If you were in deep sleep, how can you say that you got sound sleep? Who was awake in that state? Had you seen who was awake in that state? Who enjoyed the bliss of sleep, and who is now describing his feelings in that state?

Myself: I myself.

Maharaj: This “I” is present in each and everything, even in the minutest atom of dust. It is your Self. Know it. Through continuous meditation on Soham be one with that Self which itself is the Supreme Self. I cannot tell you anything beyond this. This God is in my heart, similarly he is in your heart also. When through the grace of guru and through the japa of Soham you will get the internal sight, you will be able to understand everything.

Myself: Maharaj, I see in you what I have never seen before and I hear things explained by you in a manner never heard by me before.

Maharaj: What you say is true. Move aside the curtain of fear. Leave all doubts and misgivings and fall at the feet of saints with feelings of taking entire refuge. If an ignorant and uneducated man goes to a saint of Self-realization, he quietly turns towards him and becomes one with him. That means that his jiva quickly merges in Siva. He recognizes that his own Self [jivatman] is nothing but the Supreme Self [Paramatman] by continuous practice of meditation, and experiences unlimited bliss and joy.

The case of a learned and educated man, on the other hand, is different. There are many doubts and arguments warring in his mind and he takes a long time in becoming one with Shiva. He is doubtful whether this is true or that is true. His mind is, therefore, fickle. If, however, he turns from all doubts and practices with intensity what has been taught to him by his guru, he also without difficulty will attain everlasting happiness. In that stage all distinction between an educated and an uneducated man disappears. This distinction is there as long as doubts and misgivings are there.

Myself: I have an intense desire that you will confer your grace upon me and instruct me and take me under your protection.

Maharaj: Through the grace of my guru I got the Soham mantra and I am at present in the sadhaka state. I am not authorized to advise Brahmins like you. But my guru speaks through my mouth. The words that I utter are not really mine.

My sadguru told me to repeat Soham internally and then to get Soham merged into the Supreme Self and enjoy eternal peace and joy. If that was done I myself would become one with the self-existent, eternal and blissful Principle (Tattwa) and experience the presence of that Supreme Self everywhere. I would then become perfect, leave behind all egoism and realize the true “I.”

I have been ordered by my guru to instruct anyone, educated or ignorant, rich or poor, fit or unfit, who happens to come to me, to preach openly in the presence of all and at any time. He told me that I would meet different kinds of souls having different desires and different impressions (samskaras) from previous lives, but all would be benefited by me in spiritual or worldly matters according to their attitude and their faith, without any conscious efforts on my part.

Even if I know everything, I have been ordered by him not to allow my thoughts to dwell upon the knowledge but to keep myself entirely detached. I have, therefore, laid all pain and pleasure at the feet of my guru. I, however, tell what I know to those who come to me and I do that according to the orders of my guru. If a sadhaka practices dhyana yoga with intensity, I am sure that in this very life he will reach the state of perfection through the power of the Soham mantra.

(Mr. Paithankar continues:) I was listening to these nectar-like words of Maharaj with avidity and rapt attention. My mind experienced a feeling of deep calm. Two days later Maharaj granted me the Soham mantra and took me under his protection. Since then I go for Maharaj’s darshana almost every day. Having a curiosity to know many things, I have asked Maharaj various questions and he has given very lucid explanations regarding them. Some of these discourses are given here as I found them very instructive.

Maharaj: When a disciple gets initiation at the hands of his sadguru and begins to practice meditation, he sees various visions which are as it were sign-posts on the path of Self-realization. As he proceeds he goes beyond these visions and realizes the infinite Brahman which is behind these visions.

Myself: We many a time see people calling themselves raja yogis. My idea of a raja yogi is that his mind has turned inwards and he is full of bliss in every state, whether he is in a state of contemplation or is doing external worldly and physical actions. Please tell me your ideas about this point.

Maharaj: What you say is quite correct. At present, however, raja yoga has been given an altogether different meaning. This is a typical instance of how things are misinterpreted. Present day saints obtain vast amounts of money from ignorant people through various pretexts, build bungalows for themselves, acquire estates, wear costly clothes, eat sumptuous dishes, are surrounded by groups of beautiful female devotees–in short, indulge in unrestrained behavior and call themselves raja yogis. I can only say that it is a sad misfortune of the people that such persons of reprehensible conduct pass off as raja yogis.

Myself: Maharaj, I am thoroughly satisfied with the explanation given by you. I wish to ask a question regarding the practice of meditation. Books propounding methods of the practice of meditation lay down that an aspirant should bring before his mind’s eye Sri Krishna or Om or a small point and worship it mentally.

Maharaj: What you say is true. But this direction is given to mere beginners. I have explained this subject to many of my friends up to this time and the topic is not a new one. Still I must satisfy you and solve your doubts. Many non-believers used to ask the same sort of questions to some of my friends who, not being well read, could not answer the questions satisfactorily. My friends had real experiences, but got rather non-plussed by such questions and used to come to me for the solution of the difficulty. I told them that if any one asked them such questions they should keep quiet saying that they did not know anything or should leave the place, but that they should not allow their minds to be disturbed or confounded by such questions.

Now the real answer to such a question is this. It is true, no doubt, that deities which have been imagined are perishable. They will disappear after some time. All these visions, even though seen by the internal sight, are after all a play of ideas. The aspirant needs to enter into the state of nirvikalpa samadhi. All ideas are absent in that state and the object of dhyana yoga is to acquire this state in which ideas or thoughts are entirely absent. When all ideas stop Brahman is experienced. There is then no necessity of making any further conscious efforts but this state is automatically reached.

The following illustration will give you a clear idea of what I say. As long as the musk-deer does not know that the musk is in its own navel, it runs here and there trying to find the source of the fragrant smell. If the deer would meet someone who would point out that the source of the smell is in the deer’s own navel, would the deer then run here and there? Similarly, ultimately the internal visions also disappear, the aspirant gets the experience that he himself is Brahman and becomes merged in the bliss of the Self.

The ignorant human soul takes its birth and questions, “Who am I?” But originally this human soul was full of knowledge and was one with the Supreme Self. A sadguru gives the answer to the human soul’s question, “Who am I?” by telling him the mantra Soham (I am He) which, having thoroughly convinced the human soul that it is one with the Supreme Self, takes the human soul back to its original state of knowledge and bliss.

Myself: Maharaj, all my doubts have now been solved.

Maharaj: Paithankar, now go on practicing meditation as you have been told. Do not, like the musk-deer, wander about seeking outside for what is really in yourself. Do not ask any further questions. You have now only to get Self-experience by carrying on the practice of meditation steadily. If, however, after practicing meditation as told by me, you do not get any experience, you may go to any other guru who might be able to give you proper guidance and help you attain the goal of human life. I only want to urge that you should now leave off all doubts and begin to practice meditation.

Myself: Maharaj, on the very day on which I came to you, I decided to make you my guru. That decision still holds and is not likely to be changed.

Maharaj: Paithankar, I have firm faith in my sadguru and I have got full experience in this very body of the power of Soham. I, therefore, never tell any of my friends to bring the forms of deities before their mind’s eye, but give them the mantra Soham and turn their minds inwards, owing to which all ideas become merged in the sahasradala [the sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain]. Maharaj for some days made me sit near him and practice meditation.

While going towards the sahasradala, some visions in the form of light do manifest themselves. All these visions appear without any effort and they are full of light. After some time all these visions merge into the Self and the aspirant gets for a short time into the state of samadhi, and experiences great joy. Saints of old like Jnaneshwar, Eknath, Tukaram and others and comparatively modern saints who had all realized the Self, enjoyed the state of sahaja samadhi even while carrying on worldly actions. My friends experience the same state of sahaja samadhi, though for a short time, for a minute or two. As the practice of meditation increases in intensity, this state of samadhi lasts longer and longer, and ultimately becomes continuous without any limitation of time or space.

Myself: Do all your disciples to whom you have given the mantra of Soham see visions of light?

Maharaj: Some do see them while some do not. Those who repeat Soham with very great intensity become at once merged in the sound of the inner repetition of the mantra. Hence they are unconscious of any visions of light. Some of my friends, therefore, who get merged in the sound do not see any visions. If you do not see any visions, you should not on that account entertain any doubts regarding the efficacy of Soham. For this purpose I have made this point clear.

Myself: Among all your disciples, who are the best?

Maharaj: Paithankar, I can only say that as I do not consider myself as anybody’s guru, I do not look upon anyone as my disciple. Some of my young and old friends, owing to their merit acquired in previous lives and owing to the practice of meditation have reached the state of samadhi. But I do not consider any of them as my disciples.

When a real mumukshu who is thoroughly disgusted with the worldly existence will come to me, I shall be his guru and he will be my real disciple. At present, however, through the grace of my sadguru, I simply give the mantra of Soham to my friends and ask them to practice meditation.

Myself: Supposing that through the reading of religious books or through some other cause a person gets the actual darshana of Sri Krishna, or of the Goddess or of any other deity, is it of any benefit to him?

Maharaj: It is not of any real use. As long as the mind is not turned inwards, and as long as desires have not entirely vanished, these external appearances are of very little use. All these appearances are illusory like a mirage. So even if a person actually sees Sri Krishna or any other deity, it is merely an appearance and not of much use. Paithankar, carry on the repetition of Soham. It will be sufficient for you.

Myself: Maharaj, I have read about Sat, Chit and Ananda. But I have a great desire to hear an explanation of these three terms from the mouth of a saint like you. Your explanations are so very simple and clear that I understand them very easily and they also get fixed in my mind. Besides, whatever has been written in the shastras should, in my opinion, be got explained by saints who really know the shastras.

Maharaj: Well done. It appears that you are well versed in the tricks of priests and pundits and have caught me in my own words. I have been telling all that I am an uneducated person and that I am just approaching the state of a siddha through the stage of a sadhaka. But as you are my friend and have faith in me, I have to tell you. Although I am not a siddha but merely a servant of humanity, still, whatever I tell you will be beneficial to you owing to your faith.

Sat means that which is never destroyed, which always exists. It is nothing but Brahman. Chit means that it is self-effulgent as consciousness in all the three states, the waking, the dreaming and the sleeping states. Ananda means bliss. A thing is dear to us not for the sake of that thing but for the sake of our Self, which is the real object of all our love and is therefore the only entity which is dear to us. The Self is, therefore, bliss: Ananda. You are the Self and the Self is essentially Brahman. This principle should be thoroughly grasped by means of arguments, the authority of the Vedas and lastly through Self-experience.

Some Vedantins say that “I” (i.e., the Self) is present always at the time when passions rise as well as when there are no passions. This principle, “I,” exists independently of the passions. Hence the “I” is really not fettered but is mukta (free). But the true Vedanta doctrine is that at the time of death only all ideas become entirely merged in the Self. This sort of merging of ideas cannot be brought about by merely self-control. If that is so, then how would the doctrine, that the “I” is present both at the time when passions rise as well as when they are absent, help a sadhaka in catching hold of the Self which can be grasped only when the flow of ideas has altogether stopped? On the contrary when the sadhaka is in the waking and therefore in the discriminating state, he will surely be conscious of the existence of “this” and “that.”

Myself: I know that concentration is absolutely necessary for spiritual progress. Will you kindly tell me how a sadhaka should try to get the habit of concentration?

Maharaj: Although the mind has always a tendency to leave the object of meditation and run away to other things, the only remedy is to bring it back again and to fix it on the object of meditation. If we try to give a bend to the branch of a tree, in the beginning as soon as we remove our hand from it, it again becomes straight and assumes its original position. But by continuous efforts of bending it and also by tying the bent parts by means of a rope, etc., we succeed in giving it a permanent bend. Similarly, if a person while repeating his japa finds that his mind has wandered away, the only remedy is to forcibly bring it back and to fix it again on the japa. This must be practiced for some days at least.

Control over the mind is not obtained merely by such practice. Vairagya (detachment) is also necessary. The mind naturally runs towards those objects for which it has an attraction. By abhyasa (practice) the fickleness of the mind may be controlled. But its attachment cannot be done away with by mere practice. Pranayama may help towards concentration, but undue importance should not be attached to it. Pranayama, too, will only be useful in removing the fickleness of mind. It cannot remove its attachment.

The saying, “As long as the breath is moving or unsteady, the mind is also unsteady,” is not an absolute truth. The vice versa is also true. Breath becomes unsteady when the mind becomes unsteady. In grief or anger breath becomes more quick. It is not, therefore, safe to expect that mind will be brought under control when the breath is controlled. Hence mind-control and breath-control must be carried on side by side. Hence it has been said by Sri Krishna in the sixth chapter of the Gita: “Wherever the fickle and unsteady mind runs away it should be brought back therefrom and made to fix itself on the Self” (verse 26).

Myself: It is so. I have asked all these things in order to make it clear that in coming to you I was not actuated by any blind faith. I came to you because I was convinced of the great unseen powers which you possess.

If through the force of some karma in the previous life a sadhaka commits a sinful act in this life, what would be the result in his case?

Maharaj: If a sadhaka commits a sinful act once, in a way it might be explained away as the result of his karma in a previous life or lives designated as prarabdha or sanchita. But if such sinful acts are committed over and over again, and he tries to explain them away by attributing them to his prarabdha, he should certainly be considered as a base man.

Just consider a homely illustration. Suppose there is a live charcoal. You see it, and although you are warned by your friend not to place your foot upon it you, out of a feeling of pride and arrogance, do not heed the warning and place your foot upon it. You are sure to suffer pain. This is something like prarabdha. But would you ever again place your foot upon a fire even if you are asked to do so by a friend? No. Where has prarabdha gone now? That means that when a person is full of repentance, he does not commit the sin again, nor does he quote shastras and the doctrines of prarabdha and sanchita for justifying the commission of the sin.

A sadhaka, therefore, should exercise his powers of reasoning and discrimination at the time of doing acts. Gradually all his fetters will fall off as he progresses in the practice of meditation.

Look at our present-day “saints.” Their jivanmukti consists in not doing anything for their maintenance. They have, therefore, to practice tricks for getting their livelihood. They practice more deceits and do more low acts than persons who maintain themselves by labor ever dream of doing. These so-called saints have thrown off all social restrictions.

If I, for instance, find some other saint is more respected as a guru and has more disciples, I am sure to spread scandals about him among my disciples and his disciples also. Even if these saints do not know anything they can conceal their ignorance by assuming an attitude of being above discussions and arguments and of being merged in everlasting tranquility.

I therefore say that in my opinion there is no class of scoundrels in this world worse than such saints who profit themselves by deceiving their followers. Whenever such saints are actually observed doing a sinful act, they attribute their sin to their prarabdha and seek protection under its wings. This “prarabdha” many a time saves them, because they do not suffer for their sins in this world. Of course, the punishment meted out to them by God hereafter will be beyond the knowledge of people in this world. All this argument of prarabdha has been trotted out from the inexhaustible store of Vedanta. All actions which a follower of Charvaka [see the Glossary] would do can safely be done by these saints on the authority of the doctrine that saints are beyond sin and virtue, and that they are above all principles of morality which are meant for ordinary people. The only wonder is that these saints have learnt no real lessons from reading works on true Vedanta. I do not mean to say that Vedanta is to be blamed for this. I should not be considered as belonging to that class of social reformers who have attacked Vedanta and have attributed many of the evils in our social system to its doctrines.

What I want to say is this. Without performing the duties of his varna [caste] and ashrama [stage of life], without devotion and without acquiring the four sadhanas, a person can study books on Vedanta like a school or college student and repeat its doctrines like a parrot. What is the use of all this? But perhaps I am wrong. If a person acquires all the four sadhanas and then begins to think about Vedanta, a sentence or two from all these works will be quite sufficient to illuminate his mind and to enable him to attain moksha. Then where would be the use of all these big books? Who would read them and save them from oblivion? Such persons who merely read all these books must therefore at least be credited with a desire to save these works from oblivion. They, however, only partially follow the doctrines of Vedanta as explained in these books. Many of the present-day saints are similarly followers of Vedanta only partially.

Now if we look to the doctrine of samata (looking upon every thing equally), even an ass may be credited with following this doctrine as it rolls in the dust. Even a dog may be said to follow samata as it has sexual connection with its mother or sister; even a fly may be given credit for following the doctrine because it eats good food as well as dung and is equally delighted with both. These creatures also are partially followers of Vedanta! Most of the present day so-called saints have in them some external characteristics of jivanmuktas and thus fall into the category of one or other of the above-mentioned animals.

A story is told in the Chandogya Upanishad of a sage who asked a king for his daughter in marriage. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is a story of a sage who had two wives. These stories perhaps go to show that even sages and Vedantins are fettered by prarabdha. But these sages clearly admitted that they were victims of certain passions. It is quite a different matter that notwithstanding this admission many people put their faith in these sages. But the present day saints conceal the fact that they have passions and remain unmarried. When, however, their passions are exposed in the case of the sisters or wives of their disciples, they explain them away and give them a garb of virtue by resorting to the argument of prarabdha. They represent that that particular woman was their wife in their previous life and that it had been predetermined by prarabdha that they should have sexual connection with her.

Those who are real followers of Vedanta, however, are always sorry for any sinful action that occurs at their hands, even though it might have been brought about by the force of prarabdha, and they are always prepared to make a full admission of their faults. They always pray to the Almighty that they may be freed from the clutches of their passions without being required by prarabdha to do bad actions. They generally never find fault with others who might have succumbed to their passions. If, however, they blame others, they also blame themselves.

Although it is very difficult to define in words as to who should be regarded as a saint, still it can be very easily understood that a person who comes forward as a guru must at least not be a man whose actions are without any moral restrictions.

If saints are of different sorts and their external actions are also of different kinds, it is but natural that people also should treat different saints in different ways. If a saint’s outward actions are morally bad, there is nothing to complain of if people blame him or treat him with disrespect. The present day saints pose as if they are like Sukhadeva [a sage who was the embodiment of purity] as long as their passions are not exposed, and when they are exposed they represent that they are, like Sri Krishna, beyond all moral restrictions and that they are quite detached from all sense of enjoyment.

Myself: Maharaj, I want to ask a question regarding the light I see. Now I see a big circle of light around you. I saw it for the first time at Mr. Bhat’s house. There I saw your form encircled in a halo of light. What is this light and how is it seen? Can an ordinary person see this light?

Maharaj: Every person since his birth has a circle of light surrounding his body. It is known as the “aura.” It is slightly bluish in color and is oval in shape, broader towards the head than towards the feet. When a person is in good health and his intellectual powers are keen, this circle appears more distinct and more blue. Electricity or a magnet produces no effect upon it. Hence it cannot be supposed to be made of any material substance. The intensity of the light and its colors differ in different individuals according to their spiritual, moral and intellectual progress. Even in the same individual the intensity and colors change from time to time according to the state of his body, mind or intellect.

The scientist Bagnal at first doubted the very existence of this light-circle or aura, but after many experiments he was convinced of its existence. He was convinced that these circles of light surrounding human bodies were not phantom images, nor could they be explained as the result of fluorescence or phosphorescence. He, however, thought that these circles of light were quite natural and that there was nothing mysterious or spiritual about them. He explained why they cannot be seen by the ordinary eye by saying that they are made up of ultraviolet rays. He has also mentioned the method of how to nullify the activities of certain nerves in the retina and to quicken the activities of certain other nerves in order to be able to see these circles of light. With all these experiments, however, he was later on convinced that his guru, Dr. Kilner, possessed clairvoyance as he could see these circles of light without having recourse to any method of nullifying and quickening the activities of any nerves.

This clairvoyance or divya-drishti [divine sight] is possessed by some great personages from their birth, while some get it by their own efforts, by tapasya and meditation. Although these circles of light are natural, they are not made of inanimate electricity. Those great-souled personages who have an extraordinary quantity of this light can impart some of it to others who possess less and can cure them of bodily and mental ills. It, therefore, appears that your divya-drishti has been opened and hence you have been able to see this circle of light.

There is however, another kind of light which is actually seen by sadhakas who practice dhyana yoga. They see it in themselves by the internal sight. It is the light of the Self and it cannot be seen unless the power of internal sight has been awakened by sadhana.

IV

The following are words of Sri Gajanana Maharaj spoken to Mr. Vaman Keshav Mahegaonkar at various times.

You have seen many visions, and more will come. But ultimately there is only one Chitshakti (Consciousness and Power of the Ultimate Being), which is without any form and constant. That is where you should become steady. Continue to practice.

See every being as the same, this is what we profess.

Conceit or pride, happiness or sorrow, are the states of consciousness in this physical body. We do not need them at all.

If you think that your physical body is “I” then you are doomed. Then you will go through lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of birth cycles, just due to the infatuation for this body. Therefore forget the attachment to this body and concentrate on Ultimate Being. That is how you are going to cross over this material world. Then you will know the Almighty. You will worship him with faith. You will have happiness in the mind which will be always immersed in unwavering happiness.

The physical body and such material things are not the Atman. The life of the body is you, the Atman. When you realize this then you will become one with The Ultimate Being. You will comprehend the nature of Self-realization. You will see the entire world as your Self. The illusion of dwaita (duality) will be banished. You yourself will be Brahman.

With meditation alone, you will understand everything one after another. No other effort is required. This alone is the practice you need to continue.

You do not need to go to the mountains and forests, and do not need to hold your breath till you are uncomfortable by doing pranayama. Do not get confused by such things.

The Atman residing in your heart is great, he is always filling the universe. He can be seen only with the inner eye, as you can experience for yourself.

The chitshakti (power of mind) is not understood by the ignorant. Other gurus may tell you differently, but you will realize by yourself who is this “I”?

You have to ask your own mind this question: Since the “I” is neither the physical body, neither the prana, nor the trishudhi (the combination of mind, intellect and body), then who is this “I”? This has to be searched out first. The one who has created this body, made the breath work, gave vision to the eyes–who is he? The ears are enabled to hear, the tongue made capable of speech–similarly our other organs are made to perform predesignated functions with whose power?All this is not done by us. The one making this happen is within this body itself. It is his power, he is the doer and the one getting it done. How much more need I tell you? The Indestructible Power is this. It does not have any color or shape. That is atma swarupa, the form of the Self; you need to understand this. That is the mother of the five elements, space, earth, fire, wind and water. She is the one who creates, maintains and destroys this universe. She is all-encompassing. That is chitshakti, the power residing in the mind. Understand this. Now what remains? She is the mother of universe; if you understand her then you are Brahman. You will not be separate from anything else. THAT will be God. That will be Sadguru. He will reveal Aham Brahman–I am Brahman. Therefore concentration comes first. Steadiness of mind and other elements come later. You will acquire it gradually. Repeat Soham within your mind.

You have to comprehend the One Principle in all this. You need to concentrate either on saguna (with form) or nirguna (without form). Consider everything as the Atma Tattwa, the Principle of the Atman, whether saguna or nirguna. This physical body is the temple of God. The prana is the form of Lord Shiva.

Leaving behind all remaining ignorance, just repeat Soham. In the eagerness of your mind, desiring Soham experience [Soham Bhava], you want it right now. But that is not appropriate. A great deal of practice is required for this. You will have to follow a great deal of strict discipline. That kind of tapasya is very difficult to carry on. “If you want to be in the state of Brahman then you have to endeavor intensely,” is very easy to read, but to bring it into reality is a very difficult task.

You might say, “If there is the blessings of the guru, then that person can achieve anything.” But there is no shortcut to the practice. The importance of practice is that you will get experiences gradually and in the right order. This cannot be achieved in just one birth without spiritual merit from previous births.

All the accumulation of good or bad karma, has to be enjoyed or suffered by all beings. Your accumulation of some good karma was there, therefore you have come on this path. You know all this. Then why are you harboring doubts? You need to just practice the path of Soham that I have shown you. This is the path which will take you across the sea of samsara; you will get what you wished for. You have to keep this this in mind for sure.

With meditation, all anxieties and doubts vanish. With meditation comes peace. With meditation, knowledge becomes pure. With meditation the intellect (buddhi) becomes pure.

Take the lamp of knowledge of the Self (atmajnana) in your hand. You are neither any god, goddess or any other being. You are the Original Form (Adi Rupa). You are yourself Brahma Prakash (Brahman in the form of light). Brahman does not admit of any differentiation. This is the play of Atma Sukha (Happiness of the Self). No one apart from you is playing this. It is a constant, pure Essence. That is Adi Brahman, the Ultimate Being. To realize the Atman you need the inner sight.

Come to your senses. Understand my words. Store them in your mind. Become fortunate. First you must follow the path. The path to Brahman the Source is full of mind-boggling insights. You have to be steady, so make the resolve to be so.

The Absolute is knowable. Yogis become immortal by always repeating Soham. Holding the Soham Sudarshana in mind, regain your true form: the Self. Through this Soham you will be able to attain Self-realization. You will easily hold the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna in your hand and control them. If you can control them by one hand (i.e., easily) then you will attain Self-realization as surely as the sun shines in the sky.

Go after the Soham Sushumna [the Sushumna awakened by Soham japa in time with the breath]. Having taken a human birth, this is the bhakti (devotion) you should be pursuing. There is just one Atman (Self) which is same in every being. If you are holding the chakras, then you will easily be freed from the cycle of birth and death.

While in the material world repeat and meditate on Soham, which will save all beings provided they constantly remember it.

Absolutely unparalleled and unequaled is this Soham Yoga, which makes the material world disappear from the mind and the Self appear. When you use other means like rituals and asceticism they do not give you what you wish for.

(Thus the sadguru blessed me, lit the lamp of knowledge within me and erased my ignorance by giving me knowledge. Thus he taught me, and it became etched on my mind.)

The following paragraphs are translations from a poetic form known as Ovis which Mr. Mahegaonkar wrote for inclusion in Atmaprabha, a book of Sri Gajanana Maharaj’s reflections on spiritual life. (See Part Two of this book.) They embody the teachings he was given by Maharaj.

Be attentive and understand the six centers (chakras or plexuses) in which the Sudarshana Chakra is revolving twenty-one thousand and six hundred times (in a day). [A human being breathes approximately 22,600 times in a day. The breath to which the Soham mantra is joined in time with its inhalation and exhalation–So when inhaling and Ham when exhaling–is the Sudarshana Chakra referred to here. Editor’s note.] You should take the Sudarshana Chakra of Soham in your hand and conquer the six enemies (the six passions). …and the Paramatman will bless you with His darshan.

You should at once begin to tread the path of Soham and Sushumna. This is the path of real devotion, which everyone who is born as a human being should follow.

Concentrate your mind. If you steadfastly stick to the mantra Soham, you will yourself be one with the Paramatman. Soham tells you how to acquire the nirguna state. Soham reveals that everything is Brahman.

Soham is the Shabda Brahman (Brahman manifested in the form of sound). It itself is the Paramatman, it itself is the Megha-Shyam (God). It is nothing but the “I” pervading everywhere.

The real greatness of Pandharpur [the famous Vithoba (Vithala) Temple of Lord Krishna] resides in Soham.

The four Vedas are nothing but Soham, which is the expression of Brahman in words. Soham is the pure Sudarshana, which removes all distinctions and gives the experience of unity in diversity.

Soham is the Nirguna Brahman, Soham is the Saguna Brahman,

If a person obtains Soham samadhi, he gets complete Brahmajnana. Death itself bows before it. It is the original seed of Shunya (Void). God Brahma and God Vishnu worship really this Deity. You should meditate upon this Soham Brahman. Thereby you will be one with it and will attain perfection.

Soham gives salvation (mukti). Soham is the Brahman described in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata.

Soham gives Brahmajnana and the main teaching of the Gita is nothing but Soham.

Soham is punya (virtue).

When the mind becomes unmana (loses consciousness) in the contemplation of Soham, the unmani state is reached. Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma have obtained the samadhi state through this very meditation. All troubles cease when this stage is attained. So this Soham is the secret test of all.

By the contemplation of Soham attachment to sensual objects is destroyed, the effect of karma (actions) is nullified, the chain of births and deaths is cut off and a person becomes immortal.

Soham is the Atmatattwa (the principle of the Self). To obtain realization of this Soham, great merits accumulated in many lives are required. Rishis, munis, siddhas, Sri Dattatreya, Gorakshanath and others always contemplated upon this Soham.

The Nine Nathas (the first Siddhas of the Nath Tradition) contemplated upon this Soham and transmitted their knowledge to the Eighty-four Siddhas.

Soham is the seed which later on sprouts into the tree of samadhi, oneness with, and the realization of, God. All the Siddhas meditate upon this, which is obtained only through great merit. They become holy owing to this and obtain the ultimate liberation.

The ajapa japa is automatically going on in the breath (So in taking the breath in, and Ham in giving out). When one repeats this japa of Soham consciously then it is called ajapa japa. If one fixes his attention on the sound (of the japa of Soham) in time with the breath, the three nadis–Ida, Sushumna, and Pingala–become free in their actions.

The yogi as it were plays (sports) in the Turiya in the company of the three nadis, Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna, to the accompaniment of the sound of Soham.

The yogi hears the sound of Soham and gets merged in it.

The practice should be continuously carried on keeping the attention fixed on Soham. Complete and unchangeable bliss then envelops the sadhaka quite naturally of its own accord.

V

The following are words of Sri Gajanana Maharaj spoken to Mr. Vishwanath Gopal Vaidya at various times.

Disciples ask the guru, “Where is the ‘Soham Sudarshana’? Please explain it to me.” Listening to the disciple’s query, the guru says, “The Soham Sudarshana is in the breath, which eliminates the three types of anxieties, namely: those pertaining to this physical body, those pertaining to this material world and those pertaining to the attainment of moksha. Soham Sudarshana is when the mind is moving in the interior ajapa by the repetition of Soham in time with the breath.

When the jiva, the individual Self, and Shiva, the Supreme Self, merge inwardly through the japa of Soham, that is the means whereby you can become immortal when perfectly established in that state. Understand that this Soham Hansa (Swan of Soham) state is the ultimate state in yoga.

Meditate on the sounds of the inner, mental repetition of Soham until they reveal the Self.

Listen to my words with full attention. Soham is a Purna [complete, All-encompassing] Mantra. With this you will become a Self-realized person, an Atmajnani. Soham is Brahmajnana [knowledge-experience of Brahman]. Soham is the Nirguna Brahman. Soham is the Only Guru. Everything is Soham Brahman, Soham Shabda, Soham Atmaram [Self], Soham Vishnu, Soham the All-pervading, Soham Shiva, Soham Shakti, Soham Krishna, Soham Brahma, Soham Veda, Soham Shabda Brahman, and Soham Sudarshana.

One who attains Soham Sudarshana is the same as the Lord Krishna.

The Shastras have been expounding the Soham Sudarshana for ages.

Soham Sudarshana is Nirguna (without attributes) and Saguna (with attributes).

Soham is the state of an Avadhuta.

Soham Brahman is attained by practicing meditation on Soham.

Attain Soham Brahmajnana, and even death will prostrate before you.

Soham is the essence of ritual worship.

Meditate with the Soham Brahman.

Soham is the Muktidata [one who gives Moksha/Liberation].

Soham is the Brahma Bhagavad Bharata [the Divine Scripture for India].

Soham is the giver of Brahmajnana [knowledge of Brahman].

Soham is the meaning of the Bhagavad Gita.

Soham is the Gayatri.

Soham is all that is sacred.

Soham Sadhana is complete in itself.

Meditating on Soham makes the mind still, and in that stillness is the first stage of samadhi. This meditation is itself samadhi.

Soham eliminates all obstacles.

Soham meditation should be done quietly and privately.

Soham meditation will eliminate all desires and karmas and will break the cycle of birth and death.

Soham meditation makes you imperishable and immovable.

Soham is the Self, and one learns of it only after many births.

Soham is the seed of Self-realization.

All the siddhas meditate on Soham.

With Soham meditation, one is purified.

Soham meditation gives the ultimate state of moksha.

Through Soham the adept sadhaka is able to do anything and abide in Self-knowledge.

To what I am going to tell you, listen carefully. Keep your awareness within the head [the brain, the sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petalled lotus]. There you will find the Gurupada, the feet of the Inner Guru, the Self. Be absorbed in the subtle sound of your mental intonations of Soham in time with the breath. [In Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self, there is a citation in the third chapter from a talk by Swami Muktananda in which he speaks of this very same teaching of the Nath Yogis about the Gurupada in the sahasrara. Editor’s note.]

Meditation Yoga is mild and clear.

The world, Brahman and the Self should all be merged. That is the true Brahmajnana, there is nothing else besides this.

When [the sense of] “you” and “him” merge, that is the real Veda.

The main factor in sadhana is the sattwa guna. Understand that through practice.

Yoga is primary. Understand that as the truth.

A Self-realized person thinks nothing of the material world. “I” and “You” does not touch his mind.

A Self-realized person escapes from hundreds of thousands of birth and death cycles. A Self-realized person attains liberation from rebirth. That, too, through and in this physical body.

Make this as your routine: meditate at least for an hour or so. Thus you will quickly have experience.

By right behavior, right thoughts, philanthropy and reading spiritual books, understand what is truth and what is not.

Consider anyone as a child of the Almighty; salute them lovingly and create for yourself peace on earth.

Do not have attachments in the material world, and restrain all attraction. Then there will be no differentiation between people, and your mind will be centered in the Self.

This concludes the teachings of Sri Gajanana Maharaj as recorded by Mr. Vaidya. What follows are the words of Mr. Vaidya himself which I include here because of his worthy character and attainment as a Soham Yogi.

If you desire permanent bliss, then attain spirituality without blemish. Experience the Self and the Almighty merging into each other without doubt. This is the permanent indestructible bliss. Other types of happiness are false and destructible. What seems happiness to the mind is the root cause of sorrow. There is absolutely no happiness in the material world. You struggle for happiness, but happiness and sorrow is predestined by your karma, so why do you get entangled in this illusion on a daily basis? 

There is no true happiness between birth and death. Therefore do such deeds as will certainly not propel you into rebirth. It is birth that is difficult to get again, then why have sorrow over death? Therefore be intent on the path to spirituality, for by this road only can liberation be attained.

Without the blessings of a sadguru the path to permanent bliss is not to be found. Who is a sadguru? How can you recognize him? He is the one who will help you to break the most difficult attachment to this material world.

Guru or initiation need not always be visible. This is not an exam of a school class. He is the one who will help you attain Self-attainment.

Someone may be wearing tilak (marks on the forehead), strings of beads, be smeared with bhasma (sacred ashes), wearing gerua clothes, and having a big jata bandhan (tied-up uncombed long hair), but his mind is polluted and not pure or spiritual. Some [grihasta gurus] have sacred images, pictures of saints and deities, and small temple shrines in their household; they worship and give mantra and ashes. They will tell stories and sing in praise of the Lord, but all this is done only for gaining money. Many ⁠are affluent, they have excellent clothes and even jewelry, and call it Raja Yoga and cheat the rich.

All spiritual people are absolutely pure. Their heart is always pure. No vested interest can ever be there for them. For them the Self is the only Almighty which is present in every being, and to It they render service.

There are many types of gurus in the world. They also have various kinds of initiations. They accumulate many disciples. And through that they become famous.

Some gurus have good intellects, some have vast learning, but all are greedy for money. There are many such sadgurus.

Some are “oceans of peace,” are soft-spoken and show dignity in their manner, but inside there is ego. There are many such sadgurus as this.

Some do tapasya. Some acquire some stages in yoga but have desire for fame. There are many such sadgurus.

Some will do pranayama (control of breath), will sit always in Siddha Padmasana yoga posture and will claim themselves as having knowledge of past, present and future. Many pose such illusions.

Some will gather disciples comprising youths, young women, widows, etc. They just want their desires to be satisfied. But inside they are never pure.

Some will create temples, will call them the kingdom or world (loka) of a certain deity, will keep elephants, horses, palanquins–but are actually enjoying all that wealth personally. Nowadays there is a wave of such Babajis becoming gurus for personal gains. Therefore the path to spirituality is lost, or becomes difficult.

But even though this is true, those who yearn for spirituality, who are completely ascetic in discipline, who have conquered the inner enemies such as desire, can achieve real spirituality.

As pure drinking water is always filtered, similarly search for a peaceful, loving, unaspiring and compassionate guru. For such a guru as this, you will have to search. Whoever can show the true path to spiritual attainment, who opens the seekers’ eyes to real spirituality, who can help them attain Self-realization while in this physical body itself–consider him as a sadguru. Then through his instructions and your diligent practice you will see the Self within and make it permanent by practice. The knowledgeable will understand.

The Self is very deep. The Self is very valuable. It can encompass the entire universe yet be beyond it. Yet all of it is also a form of the Self. There is nothing other than the Self. With true jnana this can be understood.

Visions can be seen, but with the practice of sadhana even that will disappear. This is the experience of diligent sadhakas. At first in their practice they may see visions, but because they are eager to reach the Goal such things cease and they enjoy the bliss of the Self in meditation. Such is the true Raja Yoga method which gives complete bliss. It cannot be explained in words. There the mind does not exist, it is unwavering, that is where happiness knows no bounds.

Next: Chapter Three–Spiritual Experiences of Various Disciples

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Chapters of Light of Soham: The Life and Teachings of Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik

About Light of Soham: The Life and Teachings of Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik

Foreward by the Editor to Light of Soham

Appendix One: Soham Meditation: An Introduction

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