In 1943 and 1945 Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik was asked by devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai to attend the birthday celebration of the Maharshi in Bombay, or send a message on that occasion if he could not attend. Both times he sent messages to be read to the assembled devotees. As time passed, he ruminated on the messages and expanded on them while disciples wrote down what he dictated. His words were printed in 1948, two years after the mahasamadhi of Gajanana Maharaj, with the title Atma Prabha (Light of the Self). The spiritual counsels following this biographical sketch are from that book, as are some of Maharaj’s instructions on Soham sadhana that are found in Chapter Three of this book.
A brief life-sketch of Gajanana Maharaj
The birth name of Sri Gajanana Maharaj was Gajanan Murlidhar Gupte. He was born at Yeotmal, Maharashtra, in 1892. Not long after this, both of his parents died within a month or two of each other. At the time of her death, his mother asked her widowed sister, Balubai, who was living with them, to become his second mother and to take him the first chance she might have to meet a saint and lay him at the saint’s feet for a blessing so by the blessings and grace of that saint, Gajanana’s life would be happy and blessed.
When Ganajana was ten or eleven years of age, his entire family went to a village named Antri to meet a famous saint, Sri Narayana Saraswati, who was staying in the forest there. Upon seeing Gajanana, the saint told his aunt, “This boy is a yogi of the Nath Pantha and has practiced Dhyana Yoga in his previous life.”
The next day before dawn, Gajanana had a vision in which he was given instruction in the Soham mantra by Sri Matsyendranath, founder of the Nath Yogi Sampradaya. When he told his aunt about the vision, she immediately took him to Narayana Saraswati who, when the vision was described to him, declared that Gajanana was a true yogi, saying: “Oh Gajanana, many aspirants on the spiritual path will be benefited by you, and you will always experience great joy and peace of mind.”
After remaining with Sri Narayana Saraswati for two months, Gajanana and his family returned to their home. Gajanana had very little formal education since he refused to continue attending school. But his real, spiritual education was continued by the miracles and teachings of many saints with whom he came in contact through the years, and he succeeded in experiencing the bliss of the Self.
In time, when he was about eighteen or nineteen years old, miracles began occurring around him spontaneously without any intention on his part. They all happened among his friends and were not revealed by them. On the contrary, efforts were made to keep them secret. Later on these miracles began to occur even in other places, when Gajanana Maharaj happened to visit the houses of acquaintances. Maharaj would tell them, “I do not know anything about these miracles. I am not conscious of them. How can I then say anything regarding them? I do not know what these miracles are, and why they occur. You know more about them. I sit at one place in a state of meditation. How then can I throw light on these things?”
The members of Maharaj’s family did not know anything about these miracles, and no one told them. When he was sitting in meditation once, he saw a vision in which it was made clear to him that such miracles often occurred in the case of yogis unconsciously without any effort on their part and there was no reason for becoming uneasy on account of them. When this elucidation was vouchsafed to him, Gajanana Maharaj became free from anxiety and was greatly delighted.
After this Gajanana Maharaj’s practice of meditation went on smoothly and he got the darshan of Riddhi and Siddhi (goddesses, who are presiding deities of the powers acquired by yoga practice), and of several saints who gave him their blessings and said, “Your yoga is now complete. You will now be in a state of meditation ceaselessly. You have now become a siddha (a perfect yogi). Whatever instruction you will give to a spiritual aspirant, it will be attended with success. If you will touch an aspirant, he will make progress on the path of yoga.” Then the saints disappeared.
One night as Gajanana Maharaj sat in meditation, Sri Narayana Saraswati (who had left the body some time previously) appeared to him and said, “The real truth is your Self, your devotion and faith. You yourself are the real bliss. Enjoy this bliss!” Having said this, he disappeared.
The character of Sri Gajanana Maharaj
For more than twenty years Sri Gajanana Maharaj lived in the holy city of Nashik, and yet not even twenty people knew him! Even those who lived very near his residence had no knowledge of him, since he avoided all publicity. Toward the end of his life it was estimated that he had only instructed fifty or so people in Soham sadhana, but nearly all of them attained very high yogic states. In contrast to popular spiritual figures, none of his students were people of wealth, nor was he surrounded by female admirers.
Gajanana Maharaj never considered those he instructed in sadhana his disciples, but called them his “friends,” just as did Jesus (John 15:14-15), who was also a Nath Yogi. As one of his students wrote: “There is not even the idea of any dependence on him. Rather he makes us independent and free. It is the raising of the Self [Atman] through self-effort.”
Maharaj dressed as a simple Indian man, with no marks of a sadhu or yogi. His personal expenses did not exceed the amount of ten or twelve rupees per month. He never asked for money and usually refused any that was offered to him.
He never performed miracles, though sometimes miracles did take place in his presence, without his effort or intention. He refused steadfastly to do healing, make prophecies, bless people to gain money or social advantage or have children–the coin in which false saints throughout India deal in daily. When not instructing or counseling others in meditation practice and its results, he spoke mostly of general topics, though he would answer philosophical questions addressed to him. But his brilliant intellect was obvious to all those who spoke with him.
He lived in a simple room in the back of a house, and except for some photographs of saints no religious symbols or trappings of any kind could be found there, nor were religious ceremonies or devotions were performed there.
Humility and absence of egotism were outstanding traits of Maharaj. He spoke openly and cordially to all with no kinds of affectation whatsoever. Because of this people often mistook him for an ordinary man; but on closer contact with him, his due worth and merit stood out prominently and were recognized. His sense of humor and original wit were always evident. But since he was by nature selfless and unassuming, he shunned the limelight of fame and publicity and liked to work out his mission in secret.
As one student said: “He is himself enjoying the bliss of the Self and is teaching aspirants how to make progress in the spiritual path without leaving worldly life, in a natural and easy manner without tribulations to the body, only following a course of practice suitable to every one’s capacity.
“Maharaj is passing his days in joy and peace. He is calm, witty, affectionate and acts towards all like a friend. He does not give any sign of his greatness. He has no sense of pride and acts the same with all, young and old, rich and poor, of high or low caste.
“Maharaj says, ‘If others act like me and try to obtain real experience, they too will experience joy like myself.’”
A dozen or so people around Maharaj was a very rare occurrence. As a rule no more than one or two people at a time would be found with him. He also rarely visited any student’s house. And he was insistent that none of his students ever needed to live near him in the same town.
Maharaj used to say, “If a person has any defects, the responsibility for them lies upon him. You may come to me or not as you like. I do not insist on your listening to my advice and acting according to it. It is a matter which should be left to everybody’s conscience.”
Another disciple said: “The only thing Maharaj persistently lays stress upon is that a person should day and night repeat Soham in his mind and direct all his senses towards it. He will then become one with it.
“In his external appearance and mode of life, there is thus very little in him which would indicate a great yogi hidden within. In fact, nearly all those who come in contact with him receive the first impression of his being an ordinary person with worldly habits and earthly ideas. It is only more intimate contact with him that convinces others of the presence of a mighty Self residing in that frail body. Not that there is any dubiousness about him, but it is all due to his instinctive virtue of self-effacement so characteristic of him since his childhood.”
In Guru Shishya Vijnana Deepika, one of Maharaj’s students wrote: “Sri Gajanana Maharaj is a great personality and knows worldly as well as spiritual matters thoroughly well. If any one bows to him he bows to him in return. He addresses old men as fathers, young men as brothers and women as mothers or sisters calling himself their child. His words are full of affection. He does not treat anyone as his disciple and does not accept service from anyone but loves one and all.”
Sri Gajanana Maharaja left the mortal coil of his physical body and entered into mahasamadhi at Nashik on the 28th of September, 1946.
Spiritual Wisdom of Sri Gajanana Maharaj
If a sadhaka thinks that seeing of divine visions is the ultimate goal, that it is Self-realization, that he has attained the highest stage, and nothing further remains to be done or achieved, it is sheer ignorance on his part. Because as long as there is duality, the flow of pain and pleasure continues unabated, and everlasting happiness is as far away as ever. If you think carefully, you will see that whatever is seen and heard is bound to disappear. But the knowledge of the Self is permanent and imperishable. This argument, I think, will appeal to all whether they are theists or atheists. Seeing of lights or visions and hearing of divine sounds, do not indicate the achieving of Atma Sakshatkara. To realize that the One Eternal Being on which these visions and sounds play and move is none other than our own Self, is the real Atma Sakshatkara. To be one with the everlasting Being is the real Sakshatkara.
When a person attains this oneness, his mind entirely becomes devoid of sankalpa (desire) and vikalpa (doubts), and it becomes absolutely indifferent. It goes beyond pleasure and pain. Actions are then automatically performed according to the prakriti dharma (promptings of nature). He becomes absolutely fearless, and is entirely devoid of egotism. When this state of mind is attained, then only can it be said that there is Atma Sakshatkara or Atmajnana. He is, as it were, merely sporting as a child while doing any actions. He is entirely detached from them. This is what is known as Sakshi Awastha (the state of being merely a witness of one’s actions). Progress means the gradual attainment of this state of mind. We can ourselves get a clear idea of our progress. There is no necessity to ask anyone else about it.
In that state, although passions may be there according to the original nature of the aspirant, still the passions come and go automatically, without taking effect in the form of wrong actions. Right actions are naturally and automatically done. This state is known as Atmajnana. When this stage is reached, never-ending bliss and peace are attained. This is what is known as the sahaja state. This is merely another word expressing the same idea as Atmajnana. Merely defining Atmajnana, Brahmajnana, bliss, or samadhi is of very little use.
In my opinion, there are three kinds of great men in the world. I do not say that there are no real saints at present. Some perform miracles by making use of their siddhis. People take them to be great saints and bow before them. These saints obtain some powers by the practice of hatha yoga and perform miracles. As ordinary people in the world want the fulfillment of some desires, or the averting of some calamities, they naturally go to such saints and become their followers. These great men, if they are at all great, are of the lowest order of the three kinds mentioned above. Just as in a village where all other people are illiterate, a person who has learnt to read and write is considered wise and learned, similarly these saints are respected by worldly people who themselves know nothing about real spiritual matters. The happiness obtained through such siddhis is transitory. These siddhis merely create a false show of happiness for a time, and then disappear leaving the saint completely bankrupt.
The second kind of great men are those who being filled with the desire to serve mankind, shine as great leaders of men and patriots. Their ambition is to make all their fellow beings or fellow-countrymen prosperous and happy. They sacrifice their personal comfort, and sometimes even their lives, in trying to achieve the good of their fellowmen. They try to weld all their countrymen into one homogenous whole, preach to the people the good which is derived from unity, arouse the consciousness of their rights as subjects, and make them worthy of putting up a fight for their rights and for the redress of their wrongs. Their lives serve as an ideal for ordinary people to follow, and they represent in their lives the sum total of the good qualities of the world. These great men at least do not mislead people by exhibiting miracles by means of siddhis. But these great men are of no use to a human soul striving to attain Self-realization. It does not lie in their power to grace human beings and to lead them to the path of realizing the highest bliss.
The great men who can do this are different. They are the great saints who take pity on all troubled souls who are floundering in the mire of worldly pains and pleasures, and who are at a loss to find a way out. They call such persons their own. They do not lead them to the search of worldly happiness which is illusory, but show them the path which will ultimately take them to the source of all happiness, the path which will clearly show to them the real nature of their Self, and illumine their whole being with the all-pervading light of Self-knowledge. They say to the human soul: “The source of happiness is within you. The treasure is hidden within you. Only you have forgotten the place where it is hidden,” and they point out that place, and show the way to reach it. Such great men are the real mahatmas, and they are the best of all great men. Sometimes miracles happen at the hands of such mahatmas also, but they happen naturally. They themselves are not conscious of having wrought them. They are always immersed in the atmic bliss, and whatever actions happen at their hands are natural and automatic.
God sends real saints into this world with the mission to save sincere aspirants and devotees of sattwic disposition. False saints, however, deceive and mislead other people–ignorant as well as educated. Real aspirants should not be led away miracles performed through the force of siddhis, because as Sri Krishna has said, “All actions are useless without the real knowledge of the Atman.”
People should quietly and persistently carry on the japa of Soham on their own initiative, instead of running after every saint, true or false, whom they happen to hear about. In this way they will not be deceived, or misled.
All human beings are the children of God. and it has been said that if a human being makes strong efforts he can even become Narayana (God). It has been said by a Western philosopher that God is what man can be. If it is so, how can you condemn yourselves as sinners?
A person should should with firm determination follow the path of truth and keep firm faith in the final goal by following that path. He should not allow any scope to doubts regarding the length of time which will be required to attain the goal. He should firmly believe that sooner or later he will certainly attain the state of everlasting bliss, and fearlessly carry on the practice. While carrying on the practice, he should try to drive away from his mind doubts and misgivings which assail it, and try to concentrate on Soham and to become one with it. I say from my own experience that if you do so, your efforts will surely be crowned with success.
[That which is known as Paramartha is the highest attainment, purpose, or goal in our life, for it is itself the Absolute Reality.] To obtain this Paramartha is the goal of human life, and you can obtain it by your own persistent and honest effort. Efforts are necessary to obtain any object in the world. Are we not required to make strong efforts to obtain money or learning? And are our efforts always crowned with success? But do we on that account abandon efforts to obtain these things? Similarly, we must continually make strong efforts to obtain the realization of the real “I.” The various difficulties and obstacles which arise in this path must be removed by following the advice of experts, just as we do in worldly matters. Hence Saint Ramdas has said, “First a person should learn to make his prapancha (worldly life) all right, and then should have recourse to Paramartha. Oh, thoughtful persons, do not be careless regarding these important matters.”
To make his prapancha all right does not mean that a person should try to secure a monthly income of a thousand rupees or should keep a motor car. It means that he must devote careful attention to each and every detail of worldly life, must have faith in the efficacy of his efforts and the advice given to him, and should have recourse more to policy than to force in his dealings. These very qualities are also extremely useful in spiritual matters. The answer to the question as to whether a person’s prapancha is all right or not will depend upon the angle of vision which we adopt in looking at his life, our own attitude towards life in general, and the stage of mental development at which we ourselves have arrived. Hence, how can any general standard be fixed for all? Thus it should be clearly borne in mind that the solution of worldly things should be sought for by worldly means, and of spiritual matters by spiritual methods.
The state of samadhi or concentration can be compared to that of sleep. In the state of sleep there is real concentration. When we get up we say that we got very good sleep, that we were entirely unconscious of the world and that our mind was completely merged in the Self. Our Self alone was present as the Seer. Still we often see that sometimes even in sleep we dream and find ourselves taking part in the dream world. That is to say, we leave the state of concentration and again enter into the world of thoughts. If this is so even in the state of sleep, then how much more difficult would it be to go into a state of concentration in our waking state? Hence it would not be proper to abandon the japa on the ground that one cannot concentrate upon it.
Some people think that if they carry on the japa they may get into a state of [continual indrawn or abstract] concentration, and then it would be difficult for them to carry on their worldly duties easily. This idea also is false. Soham is our real nature. If we become one with it we will, on the contrary, be able to carry on our usual worldly duties more efficiently.
An atheist might say, “I cannot understand all this. God and the Paramatman are all ideas and guesses. What have I to do with them?” Let us for the sake of argument admit that what he says is true, that these are all ideas. Now let him answer the following question: “You know that these are all ideas. Who is it that knows about these ideas and is conscious of their being mere ideas?” A person sometimes says, “I am ignorant.” Let him consider who is the knower of his ignorance. A person sometimes says, “I do not want this, I do not want that.” Even though he might say that he does not want anything, still the “I” would always remain. This “I” is Soham, and eternal peace is its nature. A person might say that he does not want all this bother about God, dhyana, devotion, faith and concentration. All right; but let him say whether he wants peace, calmness and happiness or not. Even if he thinks that these ideas about God, etc., are false and illusory, still he must admit that there is somebody inside him who thinks them false and illusory. This knower inside us is the Self and that Self is Soham.
Pure love is the real “I.” It is the real sadguru. When a person becomes an embodiment of this pure love, he has really conquered the whole world. The same thought is expressed by Sri Tukaram when he says, “He who humbles himself before all creatures holds the unlimited (God) within himself.” If you have unqualified pure love in your hearts you will really be blessed with this sadguru’s grace. This love should be absolutely pure without the least malice towards anyone. A typical example of this love in worldly life is a mother’s love. If that love which a mother feels for her child is felt by us towards all creatures, then God will surely come to dwell in our hearts. This love is awakened in our hearts by the words of saints and by coming in contact with them. It is this idea which Tukaram has expressed in the following words: “The nature of pure love is such that it loves without any motive of self-interest.”
Maya was born from the Avyakta and the world was born from Maya. You may also say if you like that the world was born first and then Maya was born. It is just the same. Saints have said in their imperishable words that Maya is Brahman and Brahman is Maya. A sadhaka has to get an understanding of this principle at the feet of saints. When he does this, his whole samsara (worldly life) becomes full of bliss. Whatever actions he then does, his mind is always steeped in bliss. That action may be sakama or nishkama. He becomes absolutely detached. In that stage the thoughts expressed by him are of great benefit to all, whether they are ignorant or learned. If people listen to these thoughts and act to bring them into practice, they become full of love for him. Then, their egotism, kama, krodha and lobha (avarice) become as if dead. Their kama, krodha, etc., produce no reaction in others or in themselves.
This is the true path of progress for a mumukshu. A mumukshu must carry on this practice with great devotion and selfless love for at least twelve years. He will then be able to reach Self-realization. This faithful sadhaka then reaches the stage of vijnana. If a sadhaka feels true and selfless love, he later on reaches the stage when his own Atman (Self) becomes his guru. This love was born from the Avyakta; saints were born from love. Maya was born from the saints and the world was born from Maya. In order to reach the Avyakta we have to go back by the reverse process. God is enshrined in the hearts of saints who are full of love. It is the saints alone who teach how to look upon samsara as Brahman, and Brahman is nothing but Atmic bliss.
To trouble the saints regarding our worldly affairs is detrimental to our spiritual progress, because this shows that we attach undue importance to them. And when our worldly desires are not fulfilled, our faith in the saints becomes shaky. Some persons come to me and ask me to remove their worldly troubles. “I have incurred a debt of four thousand rupees. This makes my mind uneasy. Kindly shower your grace upon me and make me free from care.” Such are some of the complaints which are often brought to me by people. They desire that I should ward off their difficulties and troubles. A real saint will never do this.
Therefore when people come to me for the redress of their worldly troubles I plainly tell them that every person must patiently bear the troubles sent to him by his fate, and that the best way of solving worldly difficulties is to follow worldly and practical methods.
There are some persons who come to me solely with the object of achieving their worldly objects. They have nothing to ask in spiritual matters. To such I say, “This is not my business. You should go to those saints who happen to possess such powers.” It is the mission of real saints to point out the path which leads to sure and everlasting peace and happiness to persons who, being extremely harassed by worldly troubles, are in urgent need of finding out a way which will take them out of all troubles and establish them in everlasting peace. Real saints have this power of granting boundless happiness and complete peace of mind.
Let us consider the subject of the Unmanifested (Avyakta). We have to designate all things by some word. This necessity of using some word to designate things is felt by all, whether saints, learned persons or ignorant people. When a child is born, it does not say that it should be called by a particular name such as Govinda or Gopal; but people give it some name. The same is the case with the Unmanifested. A child was born from the Unmanifested and the saints called it Maya. From time immemorial saints have come out of the Unmanifested, assuming a saguna form and having bodies–embodiments of light–in order to teach human beings and to spread spiritual knowledge in the world.
Every human being is sent into this world for the purpose of enjoying the bliss of the Self, while doing worldly actions in a detached spirit, and of realizing the Godhead. We must not to get entangled in the nets of sex and money [lust and greed: materialism]. Thus, our ahamkar will be sattwic and not tamasic. It is the tamasic ahamkar that makes the world so full of misery. If we want to make our whole worldly life full of bliss, we must meditate on the Self through the mantra of Soham.
Now let us see how a man should act in worldly life so that he may progress spiritually while leading a life in the world. To him I say, “Continue to do your worldly duties as you are doing now. Only begin the practice of Dhyana Yoga and carry it on and stick to it with perseverance. You can thus kill two birds with one stone. You will be able to lead a worthy worldly life and also to progress spiritually. Try it and you will be convinced of the truth of what is said above from your own experience.”
Now let us see how this can be accomplished. No human being can ever escape from the necessity of doing actions. There are, however, two different ways of doing these actions. In the one, we do all actions with the desire of achieving some object as a consequence of those actions. If our object is fulfilled, we become happy and full of joy. If, on the contrary, we fail in achieving our object and are unsuccessful, we are cast down and we become full of sorrow. Thus we see that the real cause of our happiness or sorrow is not the actions themselves, but the object or motive behind them. If we then abandon the object and do not pay any attention at all to the consequences of our actions, but do them from a sense of duty only, we shall never fall into the clutches of sorrow and our peace of mind will never be disturbed. Actions done with the desire of achieving some object are known as sakama and those done merely from a sense of duty without any object in view are known as nishkama.
Now if we cast a glance at the worldly experiences of our own and of others, what do we see? Do we find that all our actions are successful and that our desires are in every case fulfilled? Do the actual results of our actions correspond to the expectations entertained in our mind regarding them? No. On the contrary, we find that in the majority of cases we are unsuccessful and have to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment. There are various obstacles which intervene and frustrate our desires. We sometimes overcome some expected obstacles and triumph over the difficulties. But almost always we succumb before unexpected obstacles and difficulties. In such circumstances we get confounded, and getting submerged in the slough of despondency are completely at a loss to know what do. We are sometimes quite tired with our life and wish that it were ended. Why is it so? It is because when we do actions with some object in view, all our attention is directed towards the object, and once that is frustrated the equanimity of the mind is entirely disturbed and we become a prey to sorrow and despondency.
If on the other hand we do actions merely from a sense of duty without paying any attention to the result, and taste the fruit of those actions quite naturally as it comes, we shall not be affected either by joy or sorrow and our peace of mind will never be disturbed. This is because vasana (desire) which is the root cause of all sorrow is nullified. To do actions in this manner is known as Nishkama Karma Yoga. If a person follows this method while leading his life in the world he will surely attain Self-realization. Such a person need not renounce the world. Only he must follow this method with great perseverance and firm determination. He must only have the will to do so, and his efforts will surely be crowned with success.
All actions, therefore, which are done by us without any desire of obtaining the fruit, and simply from a sense of duty, are nishkama. Such a person is known as a Nishkama Karma Yogi. He easily achieves success in spiritual matters, and in course of time attains the bliss of the Self.
While practicing Nishkama Karma Yoga or Raja Yoga, many a time various miracles take place at our hands. This stage is known as the stage of siddhis (powers). There is a danger at this time of our becoming either afraid or triumphant or proud. Very great care must be taken at this time. Otherwise we shall become as blank as we were at the beginning of our spiritual career. If we make use of these powers for obtaining fame or wealth, our spiritual progress will be entirely stopped and we shall stray away far from our goal of acquiring the knowledge and realization of the Self. If we however consistently maintain the attitude that we are not the authors of these miracles, we are not responsible for them and they happened naturally, these siddhis will not operate as obstacles on our path and we shall easily attain our goal and gain complete peace and happiness.
I therefore humbly request you all, whether you are mumukshus or sadhakas: Think of all things with an independent and unbiased mind, through practice root out all likes and dislikes and acquire a sense of complete detachment. With Nishkama Karma Yoga carry on your worldly duties, and through meditation and practice become one with the universe and enjoy everlasting bliss.
The aim of all yogas is the realization of the Godhead. The state is known by various names such as Sayujyata, Soham, Aham Brahmasmi, or Sakshatkar. To reach this goal, firm faith, persevering effort, complete devotedness, concentration and a capacity to persevere are necessary. If a sadhaka carries on practice in this manner, he is sure to reach the goal of Self-realization sooner or later, according to the merit acquired by him in previous lives.
As an illustration of comparing Dhyana Yoga with other yogas, let us take the case of the nine-fold path of Bhakti (Devotion). In this all the organs [jnanindriyas and karmindriyas] have to be utilized in the service of God. In the repetition of mantra or the contemplation of God, however, only the mouth, ear and mind are utilized. It is not necessary to make a comparison with all the other yogas. This illustration will convince anyone why Dhyana Yoga is by far the easiest. In the Yoga Sutras 1:28 we find: “Its japa and fixing one’s attention on its meaning.” Patanjali makes clear the method to be followed.
Supposing you try to keep your mind pure and by continuous contemplation a feeling of detachment grows up in your mind. Still the question remains whether you, the sadhaka, can be said to have progressed. You can get a very satisfactory answer to this question.
Every aspirant must, with perseverance and firm faith, carry on the abhyasa (practice) until he becomes fit to be the recipient of the final experience. His progress will depend upon his practice in this life. But it goes without saying that he is sure to attain the goal sooner or later.
Just look back retrospectively. Consider what was the tendency of your thoughts before you began your practice, what were your defects and what were your merits then, and observe the tendency of your thoughts now. See whether your good qualities have increased and your defects have become less.
The following are some of the characteristics that accompany the stage of the realization of the final experience. Desire, hate, attachment and fondness for sensual enjoyments are conspicuously absent. A feeling of complete detachment reigns. The mind is, as it were, nullified. All disturbing waves of thought subside and the deep calm ocean of peace pervades everywhere. The real object of getting this human life is fulfilled. The real nature of “I” is thoroughly understood. The continuous practice of dhyana and japa leads to this stage. In that stage, the dhyata, dhyana and the dhyeya–the contemplator, contemplation and the object of contemplation–become one, and thereby the real object of devotion is fulfilled.
As the sadhaka progresses, he gets certain powers (siddhis) in the natural course. He, however, must not be attracted towards those powers, but must carry on the practice with firmness. If he allows himself to be attracted by them, he becomes their prey and various obstacles then arise in the path of his progress, which sometimes is altogether stopped.
If you want to realize the sweetness of sugar or the bitterness of quinine, you must taste it yourself. Any amount of description in words will never make you realize it. Self-realization is similarly a matter of experience, and firm faith alone will enable one to get that experience.
Every human being is ceaselessly trying to acquire happiness or to increase his share in it and to avoid pain, or at least to lessen it as much as possible. But the experience is just the contrary. He is ever feeling the lack of something and is always plunged in misery. Things which are pleasant in the beginning end in sorrow, and misery is always on the increase and gets the upper hand. As man does not really understand wherein lies his happiness, he passes his days in the vain hope of securing happiness some time or other. Death catches him in its grip while his search for happiness is still going on. People do not profit by the example of their companions and fellow-beings, and so continue the same search and follow the same path. They, however, do not stop to think wherein lies real and lasting happiness. A man, if he thinks deeply about this, will come to know that all things in this world which appear pleasant are perishable and false like a mirage. They either cause pain or increase the pain which is already there. No one, however, acquires this insight. On the contrary, everyone is entangled more and more in this snare of misery and finds it difficult to see a way out of the maze.
It is therefore necessary that some royal road should be pointed out so that people going by that path might root out this unending sorrow and pain and reach the destination where there is everlasting peace and happiness. I am putting before the world my experiences in order that people might find an easy, short and sure way of reaching this goal of everlasting happiness. When you get experience for yourself, you will be sure that you are on the right path. You will yourself enjoy full, complete and everlasting happiness and also lead other forlorn and miserable fellow-beings to the same path.
There is a simple and royal road to obtain real happiness and bliss–a road which does not require the abandoning of worldly life and of our usual worldly activities. This path is known as Dhyana Yoga or Raja Yoga or Karma Marga.
If you follow this path you are sure to reach the goal. The series of difficulties which a person has to undergo in this worldly life, in due course awakens a desire in him to find out this path leading to unchanging and everlasting happiness. He then tries his utmost to discover this path, but he is almost always groping in the dark. The main object in my writing this is to shed light in this darkness, and to illumine the path for the sake of these struggling human souls.
To thoroughly understand the “I,” to seek for It and to catch hold of It, is the goal of this path. For a human being, whether man or woman, this is not an easy task. A keen desire to find out this “I,” a firm determination to carry on the search for It, great perseverance in sticking to this pursuit and firm faith–these are the steps which an aspirant has to ascend if he wants to reach the goal. Once you reach the high pinnacle you can sit and cast a glance on the panorama of worldly existence spreading out below you.
A person who feels this urge to find out the “I” and thus to enjoy this unrivalled empire of complete and unchanging bliss, is known as a mumukshu [a seeker after liberation–moksha]. To complete this search and to be in the enjoyment of this everlasting happiness is known as obtaining moksha. The path which leads to this moksha is known as yoga. This yoga is merely a means leading to the end. There are different paths leading to moksha which are the different yogas and are known by different names. But the paths other than the one described here are difficult to follow.
Q: Is seeing visions a sure sign of real self-knowledge?
A: No. Seeing visions is not the knowledge of self, but these visions are as if sign-posts on the path of knowledge leading to God. While one sees them, one comes to know that they are not the real Being. In this manner all those visions slowly disappear, in other words, they are understood to be illusive and false. Ultimately there is the realization that all this (Universe) is nothing but Brahman and the seeker merges in the Supreme Self. That is the real joy, that is the real peace and that is the real highest Being. Saints have said, “You have got your own being with you but you have forgotten the place where it has been kept.” This is the place where it is to be found.
Blind faith is harmful in Raja Yoga and is contrary to its principles. If a guru or a saint merely asks you to put your faith in him and he does not make you realize some experience in your Self, you should tell him plainly that there is nothing secret in Raja Yoga, which is not a mysterious science. All its practices are open. Those who merely rely on their guru without trying to get any self-experience, weaken the power of their Self and will find themselves deluded in the end. Those who say that Yoga is a secret lore are either deceivers and cheats or imperfect yogis and it is better to keep at a distance from them, because they bring a stigma on that celestial science and contribute to its decadence.
Thousands of years have elapsed since the birth of this Yoga-Vidya in this blessed land of India. Since then various sages have dived deep into it and given it the form of a definite science and explained it openly to various aspirants. In comparatively modern times, various modern learned men have written commentaries on the Yoga-Shastra. But these latter commentators have covered the Yoga lore with mystery and created an atmosphere of difficulty about it. These later commentators instead of explaining all things more openly and on a scientific basis, have made the Yoga-Shastra a bogey and rendered it more incomprehensible. The only advantage they got from doing so, was the absolute power which they could exercise over their disciples, in their capacity as so called “gurus.”
Dear friends, I urge upon you to practice meditation and get actual experience. If after practicing for some time you do not get any experience then say that everything is false.
There is a song composed by a well-known Saint, Devanath, to the following effect:
I alone know that I have obtained obtained the gift of inner sight.
I alone know that I have been made to drink of the cup of immortality.
I alone know that all form has become submerged in my own Self.
And I alone know that I myself am the Guru and also the disciple.
[Devotees] often say that the body is the temple and the soul is the Lord. But only those will know the truth of this statement, who will try to get inner spiritual experience.
Leave off learning shastras and do not entangle yourselves in discussions. If you merely learn shastras and try to acquire mere learning, you will spend lives after lives uselessly. You might get a reputation for saintliness and deceive others and yourselves. But in your innermost soul you will know your real worth and will have to wander through cycles of births and deaths.
It does not matter whether you can do external actions correctly or not. If you really enter inside, your real guru who is inside will automatically lead you to the right path.
The real mission of great saints is to teach ignorant persons how to turn inside, towards their real Self. They make the human soul realize that he is not insignificant and without value, but he is really the beloved child of God.
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.”
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 self or the vision of God.
Saints of old like Jnaneshwar, Eknath, Tukaram and others and comparatively modern saints like Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa or Vivekananda 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.
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. I simply give the mantra of Soham to my friends and ask them to practice meditation.
Q: Supposing that through the reading of religious books or through some other cause a person gets the actual Darshana of Shri Krishna, or of the Goddess or of any other deity, is it of any benefit to him?
A: 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. Similarly if a person actually sees Shri Krishna or any other deity, it is merely an appearance and not of much use. Carry on the repetition of Soham. It will be sufficient for you.
Q: 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 explained to us by saints who really know the Shastras.
A: 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-shining 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, i.e. Ananda. You are the Self and the Self is Brahman. This principle should be thoroughly grasped by means of arguments, the authority of the Vedas and lastly through Self-experience.
The advice that I give to others is not given in the capacity of a guru, but in that of a friend.
Chapters in the Soham Yoga, the Yoga of the Self:
- Preface to Soham Yoga
- Chapter One in Soham Yoga: Yoga
- Chapter Two: The Practice of Soham Yoga Meditation
- Chapter Three: Soham According to the Scriptures and the Masters of Yoga
- Chapter Four: The Yogi’s Subtle Anatomy
- Chapter Five: Points For Successful Meditation and Its Purpose and Philosophy
- Chapter Six: The Foundations of Yoga
- Afterword: It Can Be Done
- Appendix One: Spiritual Wisdom of Sri Gajanana Maharaj
- Appendix Two: Breath And Sound In Meditation
- Appendix Three: Jesus, a Nath Yogi
- Soham Yoga Meditation Glossary