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Random Counsels: Soham Sadhana and More

Soham Sadhana

Random counsels from a letter written to a yogi friend in India.

The problem with all exoteric religion is that it eventually leads back to bondage in this world. I am very thankful that I came from a very religious family, but in time that was not enough.

Certainly the knowledge of yoga is a supreme blessing. As Paramhansa Yogananda often said: “Yoga is the beginning of the end.” And Sri Ramana Maharshi said: “Soham sadhana is the last step on the journey to Self-realization.”

Unless there is really loud or distracting noise, there is no problem with external sounds when meditating. Soham meditation is much too effective to be hindered by some outer sound. Only those who practice fake yoga claim that there can be absolutely no sounds or distractions. But that is because their false practice is weak (and worthless).

The meaning and the consciousness

It is only incidental that Soham means “I Am That.” It is the internal, subtle sound of your mental intonations of Soham that matters. The meaning is in the realm of the thinking mind, which is of not much value in meditation. We are looking for consciousness in meditation. The internal, mental sound of Soham will lift you to higher awareness. But your experiences will be nothing like these yoga cult people claim with astonishing, theatrical and therefore coarse and semi-material experiences.

First, they will be beyond description right away, and they will not delude you into thinking that you are enlightened. You will have a very realistic view of yourself, but also optimistic. The section “Soham Yoga Sadhana in three sentences” that is in the beginning part of Chapter Two of Soham Yoga gives the right perspective. So just listen to the sound of Soham japa and discover that it is much more than anyone could possibly guess. Only those who practice will know its effect and value.

Jesus and Soham

Jesus being a Nath Yogi, the essence of his life was Soham sadhana and its effects. When Moses asked God about His Name, He told him: I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14). That is the exact translation of SOHAM ASMI, which the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4.1) tells us was the first “speaking” of God. It is not just a mantra, it is the Consciousness, the Soham Bhava, to which the mantra leads.

Soham literally means “I Am THAT,” “That” being the only reasonable designation of God (Brahman) who is beyond all concepts. Soham is both Christ Consciousness and God Consciousness. For they are essentially one.

Do not worry about having to be “focused” on the intonation of Soham. Just relax and listen. Your breath and the sound of your mental intonations of So and Ham as your breath naturally goes in and out are the only things you need bother about. Naturally memories and all kinds of silly stuff will appear to be arising, when in reality you are experiencing the inner mind where they are continually buzzing around. So this is a mark of progress!

The symbolism of the Book of Revelation

The twentieth chapter of Revelation (12-15) says:

“I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

This is not something to be scared about like the ignorant think. This is the experience of the yogi as the necessary purification and transmutation take place. There is a lot for the inner mind and heart to vomit up! Just keep with Soham and you need not be concerned. And the last thing you want is to stop it. Rather, you want to clear it all out and be free of it. The crucial thing, though, is to make certain that you just observe it and do not “touch” it in any way or allow it to “touch” you. It is no more than movies: boring, ugly, silly and even seemingly threatening. Always remember: “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). And all these distractions and annoyances are “the world” that we foolishly “ate” and now are having to puke up. Our indifference will be our protection and assurance. Soham Kevalam.

In our hearts we should be alone with God: with our inner intonations of Soham. All that comes from without is nothing and we should turn from it by ignoring it and fixing our awareness on the Soham breath.

Wise and foolish virginsA parable worth studying

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matthew 25:1-12)

The lamps of the foolish are the external religious life and the lamps of the wise are the internal life of the spirit. The foolish only have lamps, but the wise have both lamps and vessels of oil. They have both the external ways of righteousness and the inner light of spirit consciousness. They alone go in to the Bridegroom. Saint Methodius of Olympus, a martyr-bishop in the fourth century, wrote a dialogue on the subject of spiritual wisdom. And at the end the wise who won in the discussion stand in a circle and sing: “Chastely I live for Thee. And holding my lighted Lamps, my Lord, I go forth to meet Thee.” This is the way of the yogi.

Meditation and Prayer

Again, do not worry. Just be absorbed in Soham and that will do everything. And don’t expect it to happen overnight. But it will begin happening and will continue, as you will discover.

Prayer is one thing and meditation is quite another. It is good to calmly pray for those in need. Before meditation I pray for all beings in all the worlds. Praying for specific people is all right, as long as it does not get you caught in spending your meditation time in prayer. That can be a trick of the mind. But a few minutes does no harm and is good.

Please don’t let seemingly spiritual imaginings or daydreams about the possible future waste your time. NOW is the accepted time, the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2). Not the future. So meditate now and let the future be what it will. The present creates the future, so meditation will ensure future spiritual development.

The outer and the inner

Spiritual life has nothing to do with external conditions. Tens of thousands of miserable, ignorant, and frustrated men are wandering around India with their minds, hearts and lives a spiritual wasteland. They thought that all they needed was to walk out of the house and put on gerrua and get a Sanskrit name and away they would go to Nirvana. But instead they went to hell. And do not know how to get out.

It is where your mind lives that matters. You can be in God right in the middle of Connaught Circus while numberless “sadhus” in the Himalayas are living in their unhappy egos. “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).

Remember the advice Ram Gopal Mazumdar gave to Yogananda: “The Himalayas in India and Tibet have no monopoly on saints. What one does not trouble to find within will not be discovered by transporting the body hither and yon. Are you able to have a little room where you can close the door and be alone? That is your cave. That is your sacred mountain. That is where you will find the kingdom of God.”

“Jesus said, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Even now you must “give away” everything and follow Christ. But in your mind and heart. This is impossible without the meditation and continual japa of Soham. There is no conflict if you love God above all, and all in God. Again, this is a matter of consciousness.

Once our Swami Satyananda gave a slide show of his trip to India at the Hollywood Ramakrishna Mission. After it, Swami Swahanandaji, the head of that center, spoke to the people there and said: “Do not expect to go to India and have the same experience Swami Satyananda had there. For if you don’t have it here, you won’t have it there.”

Sri Ramakrishna said: “If you can weigh salt you can weigh sugar.” So weighing salt can become the training for weighing sugar.

External conditions can please us or make us superficially “happy,” but only anubhava and atmasakshatkara can really satisfy and fulfil us. Anubhava is the direct personal experience of the identity of the Jiva with Brahman. Atmasakshatkara is direct perception of the Self; realization of the true nature of the Self; Self-realization itself.

Certainly your dilemma about contact with exoteric Christianity is a difficult one, and something that you must resolve on your own by the intuition gained through meditation. When I was a fundamentalist Protestant, the sermons were usually so boring or worthless that I would start making up my own sermons on the subject as I sat there!

May your sadhana increase and your resulting spiritual insight become your guide. The important thing is not to worry. Even now you and God are one, only you must realize that truly and not in fantasy–as is the nature of most religion. Gorakhnath wrote: “By birth I was a Hindu, but by maturity I am a yogi.”

Further Reading:

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