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Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly

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The world and its inmates think that the all-consuming intensity needed to find God is insanity. The ideal teacher of this divine madness was Sri Ramakrishna. So here are his words on the subject:

“If you have to turn mad why should you do so for the things of the world? If you are to turn mad be mad for God.

“I said to Narendra [the future Swami Vivekananda], ‘Look, God is the ocean of bliss. Don’t you feel like plunging into this ocean? Just imagine that there is a cup of syrup and that you are a fly. Where will you sit for drinking the syrup?’ Narendra said, ‘I will sit on the edge of the cup and sip the syrup stretching my head.’ I asked him, ‘Why so? Why should you sit on the edge?’ He said, ‘If I venture to go too far I will drown and lose my life.’ Then I said, ‘But, my child! There is no such danger in the ocean of existence-consciousness-bliss. It is the ocean of immortality. No one dies plunging into it. A man becomes immortal! A man does not lose his head by becoming mad for God.’”

Some years later Vivekananda quoted Sri Ramakrishna, saying: “My Master used to say, ‘This world is a huge lunatic asylum where all men are mad, some after money, some after women, some after name or fame, and a few after God. I prefer to be mad after God. God is the philosophers’ stone that turns us to gold in an instant; the form remains, but the nature is changed–the human form remains, but no more can we hurt or sin.’”

One of Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual teachers had told him regarding being mad for God: “My son, blessed is the man upon whom such madness comes. The whole of this universe is mad–some for wealth, some for pleasure, some for fame, some for a hundred other things. They are mad for gold, or husbands, or wives, for little trifles, mad to tyrannize over somebody, mad to become rich, mad for every foolish thing except God. And they can understand only their own madness. When another man is mad after gold, they have fellow-feeling and sympathy for him, and they say he is the right man, as lunatics think that lunatics alone are sane. But if a man is mad after the Beloved, after the Lord, how can they understand? They think he has gone crazy; and they say, ‘Have nothing to do with him.’ That is why they call you mad; but yours is the right kind of madness. Blessed is the man who is mad after God. Such men are very few.”


Yogananda used to say that everyone in this world is crazy, but people of the same craziness get together and call their craziness normal and say that those who are not like them are the ones that are crazy. Blessed are those who drop earthly craziness to find the only true wisdom in God-realization.


Intelligence is given to us for the pursuit of spiritual liberation (moksha). Certainly we should use it for practical matters in the world, but those who occupy their intellect (buddhi) day and night with things of the external world and never give a thought to the inner world where alone reality is to be found, waste this precious resource and exhaust the positive karma which brought it to them.

The truth is that everything about us–body, mind, intellect and spiritual faculties–is given to us for the primary purpose of attaining spiritual enlightenment. Human birth is intended for the pursuit of evolution of consciousness. To not do so is to be dead while seemingly alive.


Ignoring the life of the spirit is spiritual suicide, though most of the world blithely engages in it. I grew up hearing that being “too religious” could drive you crazy. But the really crazy people I have seen in my life are those without living roots in their own spirit and the Supreme Spirit. Spiritual awakening alone is sanity.


The vision of God is the only real cure for the wrong kind of madness, and that comes only through yoga sadhana which produces the right kind of madness. We continually come across people who insist that since they are the Self they need do nothing but just be the Self, that any kind of practice affirms a false identity and is a denial of their real nature, and therefore an obstacle to realization. But how can anything be an obstacle to the Self? Whence comes their fear of delusion if they are nothing but the Self and need do nothing?


We may have two perfectly good eyes, but if our head is wrapped around and around in veils, we will be unable to see. Yet all we need to is remove the veils and we can see. That which prevents sight must be taken away.


A lot of nonsense is spoken under the cloak of “advaita” and “non-dualism.” For example, Sri Ramana Maharshi is held up as an example of someone who “did” nothing but entered into enlightenment spontaneously. Not so. Only after he intentionally went through the process of methodically experiencing death did he gain awareness of the Self. So he “did” something just as much as any yogi. Since he was obviously born either enlightened or only a step away from enlightenment, that was all it took. But he did take that step, and so must we whether it be a single step, a mile, or a million miles. And by the way, he did not stay at home and live a “normal” life, but fled to Arunachala.


People have all kinds of reasons and justifications for running here and there. How noble so many of them sound! And how wise and even scientific. It is amazing how people claim that indulging their whims and addictions is actually good for them. For example, a “true Freudian” will tell you that Freud claimed that sexual abstinence caused neurasthenia, when in reality he said that sexual indulgence produced neurasthenia, and was himself a strict celibate in the latter part of his life, having told his wife that sexual activity was inconsistent with the accomplishment of any great work.


The changeability and consequent instability of the “wanting” mind is a tremendous and a continual torment.


The material world and our misperceptions of it not only delude us, but addict us to the delusion.

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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