The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari: A Commentary on the Mystical Poetry of the Great Yogini of Kashmir by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke)
Lalla Yogeshwari, also known as Lalleshwari or Lad Ded (Mother Lalla), was a great fourteenth-century yogini of Kashmir. She created a form of mystic poetry called Vatsun or Vakhs (from the Sanskrit Vak, which means Speech) that were the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language. Swami Nirmalananda’s commentary of these Vakhs mines the treasures of Lalleshwari’s mystic poems and presents his reflections in an easily intelligible fashion for those wishing to put these priceless teachings on the path of yogic self-transformation into practice.
Part 2 – Vakhs 31-61
O embodied One, dote not upon your body thus,
Embellishing it, adorning it, providing luxuries for it.
Even its ashes will not endure.
This is the way of true understanding and wisdom. The body is nothing, the spirit within it is everything. Since the body is the container or vehicle of the spirit it is certainly valuable, but its value comes only from its use by the spirit. When the spirit is not the focus of our minds and hearts, then we are utterly worthless even to ourselves. Therefore the wise adorn the spirit and give it comfort, for eventually even the dust of the body will be blown away and its existence will be totally forgotten, for it will be of no use to man or God.
Should you, in this body, seek
The Supreme Self that dwells within,
Greed and illusion soon removed,
A halo of glory will surround this very body of yours.
This is a profound and marvelous truth. Throughout the world in all religions the phenomenon of incorruption of the body after death has been observed. This is because the spirit, the true Self, when revealed immortalizes and divinizes even the body, for everything is ultimately part of The One. I know this to be true, for I have touched the bodies of living and departed saints in India and America and experienced the spiritual power they imparted. But that will be of little use if I do not seek and become one with the Supreme Self.
This counsel to the body give, O Soul:
Wear only such clothes as ward off cold;
Eat only to satisfy your hunger;
Devote yourself with all your heart to the knowledge of the Supreme Self.
Consider this body to be food for the forest ravens.
This counsel to the body give, O Soul. The inner being must be the master and teacher of the outer being. The spirit must become the instructor and guide of the mind (intelligence). Therefore the wise yogi looks to the Self to be its illumination.
Wear only such clothes as ward off cold. Eat only to satisfy your hunger. This is very difficult for those of us who have passed years of our life being bombarded by the “big is better” and “more is better” philosophy on which an out-of-control and obsessed economy is based. The uncontrolled idea of continual growth and expansion must lead to eventual economic disaster. We have become addicted to Thingism and lose all perspective in the Give Me and I Want race for more, ever more. Fundamental discontent is both the cause and the effect of such an outlook.
In my late teens I met a man who worked in the automobile industry and consequently was forced to join a union which never stopped demanding more money and benefits. Every payday he returned the part of his salary which he considered was overpayment and to accept it was to rob his employer. This completely bewildered everyone involved, but he refused to change his policy. Such a person was rare indeed–he would not sell his soul. But his happy tranquility was a beautiful sight.
Devote yourself with all your heart to the knowledge of the Supreme Self. Consider this body to be food for the forest ravens. [Consider this body meat for jungle crows.] The destiny of the mind (buddhi-intellect) is knowledge-perception of the Self and the yogi’s consequent liberation. The destiny of the body is death and decay and destruction in a myriad ways, including being eaten by vultures. So set the mind to work on its destiny and let your body move forward to its destiny. Both are inevitable.
Let not your body suffer from hunger and thirst,
Feed it whenever it feels famished.
Fie on your fasts and religious rites;
Do good: therein your duty lies.
These words show that Lalla, surrounded by the universal insistence on severe asceticism and torture of the body to be a viable spiritual practice, was truly “a voice crying in the wilderness.” As the Gita tells us, “Tapasya which is practiced with deluded notions of the Self, and self-torture, is declared to be tamasic [of darkness]” (17:19).
Let not your body suffer from hunger and thirst. Feed it whenever it feels famished. In his autobiography Paramhansa Yogananda said this about his guru, Swami Sriyukteswar Giri: “Master was cautious of his body, while withholding solicitous attachment. The Infinite, he pointed out, properly manifests through physical and mental soundness. He discountenanced any extremes. A disciple once started a long fast. My guru only laughed: ‘Why not throw the dog a bone?’”
There was a Zen roshi who worked miracles, much to the delight of his disciples, who boasted of it to a disciple of a non-miraculous roshi. The disciple went to his roshi and told him about it. The roshi smiled and said, “This is my miracle: I eat when I am hungry and I sleep when I am tired.” Case closed. The wise yogi does the same. Hunger and thirst are signals that the body needs food and water. What virtue can there be in ignoring the body’s innate wisdom? It is the hunger and thirst of the ignorant and deluded mind which we must totally restrain and deny.
Fie on your fasts and religious rites [vratas–vows of abstinence]. Do good: therein your duty lies. And the greatest good–and therefore our greatest duty–is to realize the Self through sadhana. There is no other way.
Do not let loose your donkey-mind
Lest he damage others’ saffron fields.
For none will bare his back to suffer
Sword cuts and blows for you.
Do not let loose your donkey-mind lest he damage others’ saffron fields. When we let the stupid and lazy donkey-mind roam as it pleases and cause us to do stupid and lazy things instead of wise and spiritually enterprising things, it will damage both our and others’ life-fields.
For none will bare his back to suffer sword cuts and blows for you. For no one else will be willing or able to suffer the karma and damage of such neglect but ourselves, and the donkey-mind will suffer as a consequence.
Who slays the highway robbers three, Greed, Lust and Pride,
And yet, in utter humility, serves his fellow-men–
He truly seeks out the Lord,
Disregarding as worthless ashes all other things.
Who slays the highway robbers three, Greed, Lust and Pride…. Those who walk the highway of this world, to which Jesus referred with the words “broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13), will be set upon by three robbers: greed, lust and pride (egotism). They cannot be simply driven away, for they always return. They have to be eliminated entirely through diligent Soham sadhana, for sadhana alone can “slay” them.
And yet, in utter humility, serves his fellow-men…. The service humanity needs is deliverance from the Three Robbers, so only those who can show them the way to slay these thieves really serve others. And each one must slay these enemies himself–neither God nor his saints will do it for him.
He truly seeks out the Lord, disregarding as worthless ashes all other things. What a beautiful idea, however ugly it may be to the distorted minds and hearts of those who love and seek the world and its ways, for “the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). To seek God above all and to consider all else as worthless ashes is the way to the gain the wealth of Life Eternal. We need not waste our time “hating” or “despising” the world, for that would be to fix our minds on the world. Rather, we ignore the ways of the world as the lying mirages they are and seek for the only truth: Self-realization.
Slay the murderous demons, Lust, Anger and Greed;
Or, aiming their arrows at you, they will surely shoot you dead.
Take care, feed them on self-restraint and discrimination of the Self.
Thus starved these demons will become powerless and weak.
Slay the murderous demons, Lust [Kama], Anger [Krodha] and Greed [Lobha]. Kama is desire, passion and lust; krodha is anger, wrath, and fury; and lobha is greed and covetousness. They kill those who harbor or tolerate them in any way. Once they have arrived they cannot be driven away, they can only be slain.
Or, aiming their arrows at you, they will surely shoot you dead. There is no compromise with such enemies!
Take care, feed them on self-restraint and discrimination of the Self. When these evil impulses arise, counter (“feed”) them with the discipline of self-restraint and the wisdom of the discrimination of the Self from the not-self and all that wars against the realization of the Self. Do not fight them or “touch” them in any manner. “Feed” them the salutary remedy of Soham sadhana and you will be healed and they will be dissolved or transmuted into spiritual vigor.
Thus starved these demons will become powerless and weak. Experience the truth of this for yourself through Soham sadhana.
They may abuse me or jeer at me,
They may say what pleases them,
They may with flowers worship me.
What profits them whatever they do?
I am indifferent to praise and blame.
This is an expression of what has been called Holy Indifference, meaning that when someone is immersed in the consciousness of his true nature as the Self, nothing moves or distracts him. “He rests in the inner calm of the Atman, regarding happiness and suffering as one.… He pays no attention to praise or to blame. His behavior is the same when he is honored and when he is insulted” (Bhagavad Gita 14:24-25). For when the yogi possesses and unbrokenly lives in the consciousness of the Self nothing else matters. When I was young I often sang a song with the refrain:
That wicked one toucheth him not,
That wicked one toucheth him not;
He keepeth himself in the love of the Lord,
And that wicked one toucheth him not.
After reading the Gita and becoming a yogi I really knew the meaning of these words. For it says:
“Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman” (Bhagavad Gita 2:49).
“Burnt clean in the blaze of my being, in me many find home” (Bhagavad Gita 4:10).
“Devote your whole mind to me, and practice yoga. Take me for your only refuge” (Bhagavad Gita 7:1).
“He who takes refuge within me only shall pass beyond Maya: he, and no other” (Bhagavad Gita 7:14).
“Know me to be your only refuge. Be united always in heart and consciousness with me” (Bhagavad Gita 18:57)
“The Lord lives in the heart of every creature.… Take refuge utterly in him. By his grace you will find supreme peace, and the state which is beyond all change” (Bhagavad Gita 18:61-62).
Let them mock at me and call me names.
If a true devotee of Shiva I be,
I shall not feel distressed nor hurt.
Can a few ashes a mirror befoul?
Whatever the external insults or misfortunes may be, those who are devoted to the Shiva-Self that alone is real and true will not be disturbed even in their inmost being. Not identifying with the ego and its mayic personality, the yogi cannot be shaken or altered in any way, just as a silver mirror cannot be dirtied by a few ashes falling on it. Just a puff of the breath and the mirror is as before. In the same way, just the reorientation of the mind through japa and meditation of Soham will restore everything about the yogi to its original purity and right order.
Though you are wise, be as a fool;
Though you can see, be as one blind;
Though you can hear, be as one deaf;
Patiently bear with all you meet, and politely talk to everyone.
This practice surely will lead you to the realization of the Truth.
Three times in the Bhagavad Gita the yogi is advised to live a solitary life.
“The yogi should retire into a solitary place, and live alone” (6:10).
“Turn all your thought toward solitude, spurning the noise of the crowd, its fruitless commotion” (Bhagavad Gita 13:10).
“When a man seeks solitude,… that man is ready for oneness with Brahman” (Bhagavad Gita 18:52-53).
This does not mean that he should be anti-social, but definitely he should be non-social to a marked degree, for he must be independent in mind and self-sufficient. Those who are continually socializing become externalized, influenced by and even made dependent on others, often drawing their self-image from their associates. “People who need people” are truly the most unfortunate, weak and dependent people in the world, lacking self-reliance, self-respect and self-awareness.
Therefore Lalla tells the aspiring yogi to keep aloof from people, and when he cannot avoid being with them to be as though he were a blockhead–to not react to or be drawn into worldly conversation with them and become a part of their samsara-oriented and dominated ways. This is not snobbish; it is the way of the wise. Whenever Swami Sriyukteswar Giri, Yogananda’s guru, instructed someone in yoga meditation he would ask them if they knew anyone who was a yogi. If they replied that they did, he would tell them: “Good. Make them your only friends.”
Naturally, what I am saying does not mean a yogi should sever ties with his close family members and certainly not with his spouse and children. But with others it is good to be aloof. And they will usually separate themselves–just disappear.
One of my first yoga students who had many social attachments several times said to me: “It isn’t good to hurt anyone’s feelings, is it?” This was because he had many friends whose ways were utterly incompatible with the yoga life, the type about whom Jesus was speaking when he told his disciples about those who would demand from them conformity to their ways: “Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept” (Luke 7:31-32.) About such people Saint Peter wrote: “They think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (I Peter 4:4). I told him, “Meditate and elevate your consciousness and you will go out of their world and they will forget you even exist.” He did not believe me, but he did meditate–and they did forget his existence, never once contacting him after he became a yogi. This is the way of the world, to which we should be “strangers and pilgrims” (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11).
The ocean and the mind of man are both alike:
Under the ocean’s bottom lies the destructive fire, vadvaagni;
And in the breast of man doth rage the fire of wrath.
When the fire breaks out, its flames of angry, abusive words, sear and scorch and burn.
But if one ponders unruffled and calm, and weighs the words, though angry they be,
They have no substance, no, nor weight.
The ocean and the mind of man are both alike: under the ocean’s bottom lies the destructive fire, vadvagni; and in the breast of man doth rage the fire of wrath. It is said in the ancient scriptures of India that there is beneath the ocean floor a terrible form of fire, vadvagni, which would destroy the whole world it it were to burst forth from under the ocean.
When the fire breaks out, its flames of angry, abusive words, sear and scorch and burn. The mind itself is a potential fire, wounding both us and all around us if we let it go unchecked. It is a wild thing that needs taming, Soham yoga being the best means to tame it.
But if one ponders unruffled and calm, and weighs the words, though angry they be, they have no substance, no, nor weight. If we calmly weigh the words and ways of the samsaric mind in the experience of the divine Self, then all the other words and ways of illusion and delusion are seen as worthless, “weighing” nothing morally speaking. They are nonsense, but poisonous nonsense that leads us astray. Soham sadhana is the scale in which we should weigh all things.
Ill or well, whatever befalls, let it come.
My ears will not hear, my eyes will not see.
When the Voice calls from within the inmost mind,
The lamp of faith burns steady and bright even in the wind.
Ill or well, whatever befalls, let it come. Whatever comes to us in life is nothing but the force of our own karmas, positive and negative. Their coming is an absolute destiny, there is no way around it. So we need to adopt the motto: Ill or well, whatever befalls, let it come. For come it will. Nothing can prevent or hold it back.
My ears will not hear, my eyes will not see. That is, my mind will not respond or react to what is heard or seen. But it will remain in the calm of the Self.
When the Voice calls from within the inmost mind, the lamp of faith burns steady and bright even in the wind. When through Soham sadhana the inner Voice is heard (experienced) arising directly from the Self, the resulting clarity and illumination of mind will not be shaken or dimmed by any outside experience or force.
When can I break the bonds of shame?
When I am indifferent to jibes and jeers.
When can I discard the robe of dignity?
When desires cease to nag my mind.
When can I break the bonds of shame? When I am indifferent to jibes and jeers. I have never known the “sticks and stones” platitude to work. That is because it is an intellectual concept which never touches the emotions of the offended or wounded ego or leads to the inmost Self. The way to become indifferent to either praise or blame, admiration or mockery, is to know who/what we really are: the Self. Then external opinion means nothing: we know what we are and what we are not. The secret is establishment in our core being, described by the Gita as “he whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within” (5:24), “contented in the Self by the Self” (2:55), “content only in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self, who is pleased only in the Self” (3:17), “absorbed in the Self alone, with mind controlled, free from longing, from all desires” (6:18), and “restrained by the practice of yoga, beholding the Self by the Self, he is content in the Self” (6:20). “As a lamp in a windless place flickers not: to such is compared the yogi of controlled mind, performing the yoga of the Self” (6:19).
When can I discard the robe of dignity? When desires cease to nag my mind. One of the noble delusions of the ego is the insistence on “self-respect,” “self-worth” and “self-confidence” which cloaks the desire for personal attainment and gaining the high opinion of others.
When the fire of desire is extinguished in relation to ourselves we will experience the description Krishna gives of the wise in the Gita: “His attitude is the same toward friend and foe. He is indifferent to honor and insult, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. He is free from attachment” (Bhagavad Gita 12:18). Disillusionment and disappointment can create a false and momentary detachment, but since it is unreal nothing positive results from it. But the yogi knows that the fire of desire is put out by resting in his own Self. “What God’s Will gives he takes, and is contented. Pain follows pleasure, he is not troubled: gain follows loss, he is indifferent: of whom should he be jealous? He acts, and is not bound by his action” (Bhagavad Gita 4:22).
I have worn out my palate and tongue reading the holy books,
But I have not learnt the practices that would please my Lord.
I have worn thin my finger and thumb telling the rosary beads,
But I have not been able to dispel duality from my mind.
Duality cannot be dispelled from the mind because the things listed are based on duality and affirm it by their very nature. We read scriptures to supposedly find out the mind and will of God. We “do good” in order to please God. We wear out ourselves banging away at mantras whose object is separate from us and therefore an entrenchment in dualistic consciousness. Since God and the sadhaka are essentially one, though not essentially the same, only that which affirms and reveals that unity is worthwhile or even real. The real sacred truth of unity is not found in scriptures, nor in “doing good” and attempting to “please” God. It is not in fixing the mind on external “deities” by mantras that assume duality and not unity. Only one thing solves Lalla’s dilemma: the realization of Soham–I Am That–through Soham Yoga.
It is easy to read and to recite;
It is hard to practice what one reads,
And, reading seek out the Self within.
By constant practice, not by books,
Conviction grew in my heart
Of God, Who is Consciousness-Bliss.
It is easy to read and to recite; it is hard to practice what one reads, and, reading seek out the Self within. It is not only hard for the samsaric mind–it is distasteful and offensive. The effort required to realize God is very small compared to the effort that human beings put forth to evade God and exalt their egos and desires.
By constant practice, not by books, conviction grew in my heart of God, Who is Consciousness-Bliss. Sadhana–Soham sadhana–alone establishes us in the knowledge of Satchidananda: Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.
I practiced what I read, and learnt what was not taught.
From its jungle abode I brought the lion down as I,
a jackal would;
From pleasures of the world I pulled my mind away.
I practiced what I preached, and scored the goal.
The true scriptures are based on the realities of God and the individual Self. They exhort us to seek the reality of ourself which is God. Those who do this learn far more than the books contain, for scriptures are only hints. Real yoga is the journey of discovery of the Infinite. It is going into the jungle of the mind and slaying the lion of ego and illusion. Then separation from attraction to the ways of the world can be accomplished, and living as though God is real through yoga will guarantee our liberation into Spirit.
You will not know peace of mind if you a kingdom gain,
Nor will you gain content or rest if you give it away.
Only the man, free from desire, will never die.
Only he has true knowledge
Who, though alive, is as one dead, dead to all desire.
You will not know peace of mind if you a kingdom gain. Just the opposite: the duties and anxieties of ruling an entire kingdom will ensure that you will have no rest and no peace. So to desire a kingdom is to desire measureless discontent and frustration. Being a king means nothing if no one pays attention to him or even recognizes him as king. He will have to keep asserting himself again and again without any respite.
Nor will you gain content or rest if you give it away. This is because the mind will not let it go. And watching another make mistakes in ruling will create the desire to reclaim it and rule according to your ideas. And then you will be back where you started. Unhappy with a kingdom and unhappy without a kingdom. The mind will not let go whatever the outer conditions may be.
Only the man, free from desire, will never die. I remember an architect friend of our monastery that once went with us to look at a house we might have a use for. As we walked away from viewing it, she said with real fervor: “My mother would have died a thousand deaths if she had seen that house!” So to die is much more than losing the body. Every disappointment, failure and frustration is a personal death. As long as desire is present this will be the case, whether we are a beggar or an emperor. To desire nothing is to have everything, for desire comes from a feeling of need or deficiency which can never really be satisfied–or only temporarily. As the Bhagavad Gita says: “Renunciation brings instant peace to the spirit” (12:12). Of such a one the Gita further says: “He does not desire or rejoice in what is pleasant. He does not dread what is unpleasant, or grieve over it. He remains unmoved by good or evil fortune” (Bhagavad Gita 12:17). “He knows peace who has forgotten desire. He lives without craving: free from ego, free from pride” (Bhagavad Gita 2:71).
Only he has true knowledge who, though alive, is as one dead, dead to all desire. This seems contradictory to the previous statement, but it is based on a different meaning of “death.” This sentence is saying that if while the samsaric individual is “alive” to samsara it can transfer its awareness into its real nature of spirit-consciousness and “die to the world” it will attain true knowledge and come to know its true Self. Therefore Saint Paul wrote: “ I die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31).
I have to suffer the consequence of whatever I do, even if I work for others’ gain.
But if, with mind from attachment free, I dedicate all works to God,
It will be well for me wherever I be, here and hereafter.
I have to suffer the consequence of whatever I do, even if I work for others’ gain. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is not Newton’s Law, it is divine law. Therefore, however unselfish and altruistic an action may be, still karma accrues to the one doing the action. I have no idea why Lalla felt this needed to be said, but perhaps at that time some noble sentimentalist was claiming that noble deeds produced no karmic seeds. Anyhow: they do.
But if, with mind from attachment free, I dedicate all works to God, it will be well for me wherever I be, here and hereafter. For action in relation to God–including seeing or considering those involved in the action as essentially divine–becomes divine karma, a force for the ultimate Self-realization of the yogi.
Why do you grope thus like the blind?
Pray, doubt not what I say to you:
If you are wise, enter within
And see the Lord Himself is there.
You need not search Him here and there.
Those who do not see with the inner eye of spiritual consciousness are blind, and their entire life is only groping in the darkness. But the wise heed the counsel of the enlightened and become, like them, established in the inmost awareness of the Self. For God is neither “here” nor “there” but within each one of us. When we find and know our own Self then we will find and know the Self of our Self–Brahman the Absolute.
He who can direct his prana aright, is not troubled by hunger or thirst.
And he who can do this unto the end is born fortunate in this world.
He who can direct his prana aright, is not troubled by hunger or thirst. This has three meanings, all of which I am sure Lalla intended. First, thinking of prana as life, there is the principle that those who orient their life toward the highest consciousness will never hunger or thirst in their inmost being, for “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Second, those who can direct their pranic life force into the higher levels and centers of awareness within will likewise not hunger and thirst, having been “filled” with Life Itself. Third, those who direct their breath aright by joining the mantra Soham to it as mentioned before, will certainly become untroubled even in the midst of external troubles. Such is the yogi.
And he who can do this unto the end is born fortunate in this world. His life here has been fruitful. For “he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22) through the attainment of liberation: moksha.
The steed of mind speedeth over the sky.
And, in the twinkling of the eye,
A hundred thousand leagues traverseth he.
Yet a man of discrimination can control the curvetting steed,
And, on the wheels of prana and apana, guide his chariot aright.
The steed of mind speedeth over the sky. The chitta is the subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and therefore the higher mind, the field of consciousness itself. It moves in the chidakasha, the expanse of the subtle etheric realm, like lightning. One of its common movements is the leap or flash of intuition.
And, in the twinkling of the eye, a hundred thousand leagues traverseth he. Through illumined intuition, to the inner eye of the yogi measureless distance is traversed in a moment.
Yet a man of discrimination can control the curvetting steed, and, on the wheels of prana and apana, guide his chariot aright. The adept yogi knows how to tame the movements of his outer and inner life forces, to direct them into the inner sky or space and establish them there by yogic processes and thus into the pure, limitless consciousness of the Self.
As he seizes the horse by the bridle of self-realization. Although secondary processes affect the secondary aspects of our being, the chitta is fully tamed and corralled only through Self-realization. Then all movement is at an end and only pure awareness of the Self remains. Soham yoga sadhana alone accomplishes this.
Keep your mind intent upon the path that leads to immortality.
Should it stray from the path, it will fall into evil ways.
Be firm with it and have no fear;
For the mind is like a suckling baby, which tosses restless even in its mother’s lap.
Keep your mind intent upon the path that leads to immortality. For Lalla the path that leads to immortality was the japa and meditation of Soham. Whatever the activity, the serious yogi does his utmost to keep the inner repetition/experience of the Soham mantra in his awareness at all times. It is worth the effort, as you can discover for yourself.
Should it stray from the path, it will fall into evil ways. The mind devoid of the presence of the Soham mantra will certainly stray into evil ways. Not terrible crimes or hideously evil thoughts, but the “death” of a consciousness devoid of the divinizing presence of Soham in the awareness.
Two of my Indian friends upon their retirement went to live in the holy city of Haridwar where there was an ashram for married couples. Though accustomed to wealth and luxury, they lived in an apartment of two small rooms–one of them being living room, kitchen and dining room combined. On the wall of this room was a framed motto: I REMEMBER RAM AND I LIVE. I FORGET RAM AND I DIE.
It is the same with Soham. To remember its invocation is to live and increase our life, but to forget it is to lapse in the half-life we lived before we learned of it.
Be firm with it and have no fear; for the mind is like a suckling baby, which tosses restless even in its mother’s lap. A baby often crawls around getting into things and trouble. The mother, involved in her work, yet has to keep bringing it back into safe territory. Although we wish our minds did not stray and lose hold of Soham, they will anyway. So we keep bringing them back to where they belong–in Soham awareness. “No matter where the restless and the unquiet mind wanders, it must be drawn back” (Bhagavad Gita 6:26). For just as it is the nature of the baby to be restless even in its mother’s lap, it is the nature of the mind to wander away from or be distracted from Soham, even though Soham is the very essence of the yogi’s consciousness and life.
Who dies? Who is slain?
He who forsakes God’s Name,
And gets involved in worldly cares.
It is he who dies. It is he who is slain.
This certainly needs no comment, but it needs to be taken to heart and kept in mind. Speaking of Soham japa and meditation, Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik said the following (from Light of Soham): “My sadguru had me drink the nectar [amrita] of Nama [Name of God] and I tell you the same Nama, being ordered by my sadguru to do so. I am approaching the stage of perfection. If you also wish to come with me, you should repeat that Nama, Soham, in your heart with firm faith. One must remember that the Siddha Name of Soham alone will be useful in easily crossing this ocean of worldly existence and ending the cycle of births and deaths. This Siddha Nama is a power; it is like a mother to the universe, and it is the entity that is calling itself ‘I’ in the body. It is a flame of love.”
Most words, even names, are designations–nothing more. But Soham is different, for as Gajanana Maharaj further said, “He who makes that Nama his own becomes one with the universal power. His words acquire the force of truth, and hence are full of power.” This can be the experience of anyone who applies himself to Soham Yoga.
He who has faith in Guru’s word,
And with true knowledge for the rein
Guides aright the steed of mind,
And holds his senses in control,
’Tis he enjoys the peace of mind.
He will not die, nor be slain.
Lalla has given us here the formula for immortality: faith in the words of the spiritual teacher and the true knowledge that comes from the following of those words which include the perfect control of those elements in our makeup that tend to run away and create havoc in the runaway mind that carries us into peril over and over by its instability and weakness. The Gita has the following verses about the mind that should be taken very seriously.
“A serene spirit accepts pleasure and pain with an even mind, and is unmoved by either. He alone is worthy of immortality” (Bhagavad Gita 2:15). “Even a mind that knows the path can be dragged from the path: the senses are so unruly. But he [the yogi] controls the senses and recollects the mind” (Bhagavad Gita 2:60-61). “The wind turns a ship from its course upon the waters: the wandering winds of the senses cast man’s mind adrift and turn his better judgment from its course. When a man can still the senses I call him illumined. The recollected mind is awake in the knowledge of the Atman” (Bhagavad Gita 2:67-69). “The senses are said to be higher than the sense-objects. The mind is higher than the senses. The intelligent will is higher than the mind. What is higher than the intelligent will? The Atman Itself. You must know Him who is above the intelligent will. Get control of the mind” (Bhagavad Gita 3:42-43).
Lalla and the Gita do not tell us to pray to God and ask him to do all these things for us. Knowledge that does not show us how to do these things is not knowledge in the highest sense at all. “This true wisdom I have taught will lead you to immortality. The faithful practice it with devotion, taking me for their highest aim” (Bhagavad Gita 12:20).
Sure and steady the mill will turn once you propel the wheel.
Mind is the pivot, it should know how best to turn the mill.
And once it turns, it will grind fine,
And grain will find its way to the mill.
Reality is beyond the lower mind of mere intellect, but the highest faculty of the mind, intuition developed through yoga meditation, rises and comes to see the way. Such a “mill” grinds the seed-grains of karmic force coming from our past actions and thoughts (samskaras) and ensures they will never sprout and manifest in our minds or in our lives. The mind learns “how best to turn the mill” through the practice of meditation.
Shiva abides in all that is, everywhere;
Then do not discriminate between a Hindu or a Mussalman.
If thou art wise, know thyself;
That is true knowledge of the Lord.
This is not about considering all religions equal. It is about social discrimination between the adherents of differing religions. Both Hindus and Moslems liked to give each other derogatory names and to treat each other like unclean and untouchable beings. Very cruel words and deeds resulted, each blaming the other for the problem. The spiritually wise on both sides tried to rid their fellow religionists of this prejudice and hatred, but that usually resulted in their own side turning against and rejecting them, too! So Lalla counsels them to forget reforming the ignorant and put all their energy into gaining Self-knowledge, and thus coming to know God as a consequence. There never is much use in trying to reform others, but reforming ourselves is possible–especially if we are yogis.
I taught my mind to see the One in all my fellow-men.
How could I then discriminate between man and man,
And not accept the food offered to me by brother man?
Being greedy, the “don’t touch me” Hindus and Moslems usually displayed their prejudice in matters of food and drink, refusing to eat or drink anything touched by the other side as being polluted and polluting. Faced with this attitude himself, Guru Nanak wanted to spend his inheritance on building both temples and mosques, but the Hindus and Moslems howled at the thought and threatened him if he should do such a thing. So he spent the money on building public toilets instead. “They can both understand and appreciate those,” he commented. And they did.
O fool, right action does not lie in observing fasts and ceremonial rites.
O fool, right action does not lie in providing for bodily comfort and ease.
In contemplation of the Self alone is right action and right counsel for you.
This is quite clear. The only real and true right action is meditation and living out its resulting insight.
First feed the Five Bhutas on the grain and delicacies of Self-awareness;
Thus fed, offer these fatted rams as sacrifice unto the Lord.
Then you will know, O restless one, the abode of the Supreme.
Ceremonial rites and pieties will cease to be binding on you;
And even the left-handed practices will bring no harm to you.
Each one of us lives in the world of five elements–earth, water, fire, air and ether. And we also possess five bodies formed from them–the physical/material, pranic, mental, intellect and intuitional bodies: annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, jnanamaya and anandamaya koshas. We should feed all five of them on Self-knowledge (Atmajnana) drawn from yoga sadhana. Then they will be fit offerings unto God.
When we then come to know ourselves as the highest temples of the Divine, external religious observances will cease to mean much if anything to us. And any actions, even if “left-handed” in the sense of wrongly or defectively done, will only bring us good, not harm.
(Some think that “left-handed” refers to left-hand Tantric practices that will not harm the sadhaka even if worked against him. It positively does not mean that the sadhaka can engage in such practices and not come to harm. No one can perform evil or unclean deeds and not create and suffer the negative consequences.)