Ananda Ashram Retreat, US June 2009 - Part Five
Question: Can You advise on proper diet and physical asana practice?
Generally My Master did not try to impose any particular food because He felt all over the world different cultures, different practices, different availabilities, weather conditions and so many things are there. So He said, “Just strongly practice meditation and slowly you will know what suits you, what does not suit you.” Ultimately every person has to become a doctor for themselves in this aspect.
So try to take a limited amount of food, meaning instead of one heavy meal you can break it into two to three meals of a little, little amount. A little bit so that your body remains fresh and does not become very sleepy in the daytime, that way you can sit down and practice meditation. That helps the body's liver and digestive system also to enhance the life span also. When you take a little, little quantity of food, that would be better. Take all such food which can easily be digested, no wind, or such acidity, all such should not form. Because whatever food you take, that has to become blood and get supplied to the brain along with oxygen. So depending on the quality of the blood, the brain's reflections also might happen. Certain things you will have to learn which may not suit you. If you eat in the night time you might be getting some horror or bad movie type of dreams, all might be happening. The brain creates and goes into an ugly type of moods; that might be happening. So you can learn by watching yourself so that you are always fresh and your brain's reflections are fresh and good in that way. That will be helpful.
With respect to Asanas, you can sit in any comfortable posture that you are used to. Try to keep the back and neck straight so that you do not develop any back problems. If needed you can sit onto the wall taking a cushion so that you remain upright. That is one thing. In ancient times they taught the lotus posture so that you can keep your body erect. Sometimes when you go to deeper Samadhi, the body can be falling down so you can avoid such things in this posture. But we do not prescribe that. It is very difficult for everyone in this world to adopt such postures. So instead of getting, thinking into the thoughts, “I'm unable to take this posture and I cannot meditate”, just go on meditating in any posture that you can sit comfortably. Meditation is much more important than the posture itself.
Question (same questioner): I also meant to ask about the yoga exercises that we all do?
That will definitely be helpful, you can always learn. To keep the body as healthy as possible is equally very important, because if the body is not healthy you cannot sit for meditation. So you can undertake all such exercises, learn them and practice thoroughly. Then meditate also. Don't give up the meditation. Keep the meditation as priority and try all other adaptations which can be helpful in meditation.
Question: Regarding meditation I was just curious what Your thoughts are on finding your soul's purpose and the reason why you came here. Is it all just karma or are there other things you can do to find your path?
The reason for you coming in this world means? Definitely spiritually whatever you are in the present is all your previous resolutions. You see some clues are there. Based on your attitude of the mind only this world appears to you. So every time when death happens to the physical body, whatever habits that the mind has picked up, whatever it is habitually into, it always visualizes and the intensity of thought forms. Accordingly it assumes the next birth, next incarnation; such circumstances, such things of visualization, it picks up such attitudes. For example, if parents have several children, two or three or four, they will try to look after all children equally, without bias, according to their capabilities. Yet different children might pick up different temperaments, basic natures. Meaning observation, understanding, all these capabilities may differ from child to child. So all these things are being carried from previous lives, so many times, that is how it has happened.
So we need to find the purpose. Purpose means we need to ponder over the permanent thing, the entity of Existence, and achieving the highest which is what we are looking for. What is it that we need?—Happiness and peace. Knowingly or unknowingly everybody is looking for happiness and peace. So try to go for the highest, utilizing this human birth which is a rare gem and very rarely obtained. You can be born into any species also as the soul consciousness based on your own imagination. That is why a human life has come, means it is a rare opportunity. You have a well-developed brain, so you need to apply the wisdom and try to see what is real, what is unreal, what is permanent, what is impermanent, what is the real nature of your existence. Like Ramana Maharshi taught: “Who am I?” So this is what can form the importance of the life's purpose.
Question: I just have a question about the role of long pujas (worship) in attaining the goal of Enlightenment. Can You speak about how the ritual aspect fits with meditation?
Rituals are taught, like worship or prayer, as a preliminary round exercise for attaining the focus and the single-pointedness of the mind. Because, like for example, a brief history is that in very ancient times in India people used to sit for meditation and do Tapas and achieve Samadhi. Then one Sage thought, “It is so difficult for everyone to sit and meditate and remain in Samadhi.” He evolved the fire sacrifice ritual and then he tried to simplify: “No, fire sacrifice also may be difficult for each and everyone; every household has to learn all the chants and be doing.” So they tried to simplify more: “Try to worship, if you have some flowers just offer the flowers, offer some aarati, something like that, whatever is available.”
So based on these rituals, the concept needs to be understood that the idea of all these rituals, that along with that ritual karma, your mind has to be applied. That is important. Then you will be benefited, eventually it will enhance the focusing power in meditation. The meditation silently can serve as the highest to become one with the Divinity. Before that, all these things can be helpful if you adopt the mind. That's why I always tell, “If you are doing a ritual here, aarati or a bhajan, but if your mind is running somewhere like a monkey on the road, that ritual would not reach God.” God wants your mind and purity of heart. That is important.
Question: Coming to the Indian culture, where there are thousands of deities and they're taken as very real, is very unusual given my Judeo-Christian background. You're talking of it as bhakti with imagination, and You're saying that it all has to do with the intention and is a method or a form for helping focus concentration. If I understand that correctly, it is very helpful. At the same time, when I go into a Hindu temple these dieties are taken as very real. Ganesh is thought of as real, and Hanuman is very real, and from my point of view it's like it's very hard to grasp. Is the worship of these deities all just for focusing, or is there some reality to them? Have these beings really manifested and materialized and do they exist in some material form on some plane?
See the important thing is, actually different things are there. I will try to explain. However it would be very difficult to tell anything conclusively, how really it happened, why it came. Based on some study and observations and in Tapas experience, what I talk is: some were the personalities who were born in this Earth, like you and Me, and who became Realized Souls. And along with the Realized Souls they worked in this world for the welfare of the society. And along with these personalities always there is one story of their existence, perhaps a reality. Along with this reality myths also built up, that's what happens. That is the nature of humanity, to spread the rumors and to fabricate the things. Like in one of the jokes I read in a small magazine as a child, the small boy asked his friend, “Hey, does the snake grows even after its death?” The other friend is puzzled, “Why do you ask so?” “You see long ago my father killed a snake. Every time he explains it to his friend he increases its length: 'I killed a ten feet, I killed a twelve feet.'” So this type of myth always gets built up.
Several personalities are quite possible they were born in this world, like Hanuman, Rama, Krishna. They were all born and got Enlightened. Many people easily know the Rama who killed the demon king Ravana, but hardly anyone would know that Rama, how He became Enlightened. At the age of fourteen, Rama went on a pilgrimage of the kingdom of Ayodhya. When he came back, it happened almost in the same way that it happened to Buddha when he went around. So when He saw the life, good, bad, right, wrong, Rama felt very much depressed for a while, detached from the world also. He stopped eating and he stopped smiling and playing with the people of the palace. At that tim
e Vishvamitra comes to the court to take Rama and Lakshmana, to protect the fire sacrifice that He was doing. First Dasharatha refused, “They are children, they cannot do, I will come with all my army.” But Vishvamitra gets irritated. Then Vashista the Guru of that royal clan advises, “Please send Rama and Lakshmana, they are very powerful, they can protect the fire sacrifice, you need not worry. Then Dasharatha expresses his apprehension: “Shri Rama is supposed to be crowned as the crown prince but he does not talk, does not eat properly, he does not smile at anyone; ever since he has come back from the pilgrimage I don't know what has happened to him.”
Then Vashista summons Shri Rama to the court. There the dialogue goes on between Rama and Vashista. Vashista serves as the Guru, Rama as the disciple. Rama in the chapter on his detachment explains, “What is the purpose of life?” One fine thing which created an impact on our mind is, he says, “It seems that everybody is struggling to earn a livelihood throughout their life. If we do not give food to this body it dies. But as we go on giving food also it seems one day we are going to die. What is the fun in this? What is the purpose then? Who am I, from where did I come?” All these questions he asked. Then Vashista goes on explaining about the same philosophy that it is all the mind's creation, mind's imagination, how time and space are simply imagination. If this mind can be brought back into the quietness, it merges with the Self. What remains is one single Self. That is how Shri Rama became Enlightened actually, but because of their massive work in this world, they are considered as 'incarnations.'
Incarnation really does not have meaning. That All-Pervadedness cannot become simply one personality and come. Every Enlightened person is considered by their devotees as equivalent to God. That is totally another thing. Like Ramakrishna Paramahansa tells, “All these men, Enlightened, are gods or goddesses in human form,” He tells at one point of His teaching. So that is how these things have come up. Hanuman would have lived during the time, and in Yoga Vashista, Vashista mentions Hanuman also as a Realized Soul who remained in the dasya bhava as a servant to Shri Rama in spite of His Realization. Shri Krishna also became Realized. So all these things have happened.
So it is very difficult to conclude exactly how and why and what would have happened. That is what it is. One truth is that God is One who is All-Pervaded, and everything can be a concept, different forms. Forms cannot be a reality because this body is not going to be there at all times. Shri Rama dropped His body, Shri Krishna also dropped His body; they became One with the Divinity.
During the end of His life, Shri Krishna spent His life meditating in the forest. After the Mahabharata war—just for a brief introduction—they came back to Dwarka because there was no war, there was peace throughout the subcontinent. Pandavas were ruling, Mahabharata war had ended, all the Yadava army of which Shri Krishna belonged to, they came back and they had no war at all, they were spending, they had earned enormous wealth. Slowly they became alcoholics and womanizers, started fighting with each other.
So then Balarama, elder brother of Krishna, was very much pained. He tells Krishna, “You did so much to this subcontinent, You were always considered like an incarnation, you helped us Yadavas to become kings. Why don't You help Your own brethren now, they are fighting and killing each other? Why don't You use Your miraculous powers?” Then Krishna tells, “It is their prarabdha, because they never considered Me as a Guru, they took Me very casually like a brother or a relative or as an uncle, they never tried to learn the philosophy that I wanted to teach them, they simply wanted the wealth and they got the wealth. And today that wealth is destroying them. Before our own bodies claim us, let us go on and spend our time in Samadhi.” So He takes Balarama out of Dwarka, goes to the forest. Balarama also practices Samadhi and drops His body in Samadhi. Shri Krishna also went on doing meditation. When He was in Samadhi that one arrow was shot at Him by an unknown hunter who thought His legs to be some animal's eyes, so much of aura was there. So then the body got dropped.
So this is the story of these things, but so many myths also get built up. If that becomes popular it becomes very difficult to argue with people and make them understand. So God cannot be one personality. If there were different personalities like Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, they all would have been fighting for supremacy. One God—so many names. That is why all religions are equal and honorable; there is no difference. Simply terminologies differ. If you go to the root of every religion, the same thing has been taught. Just for example, Jesus also always spoke of the Father and the Kingdom. He said, “That kingdom will not come as you visualize, that is in a different way. So if you purify your heart, if you knock the door, the doors will be open”. So like that the same thing has been taught in the ancient Rig Vedic era. If you read the teachings of Adi Shankara, Astavakra Samhita, Vivekacuḍamaṇi, Ramana Maharshi's teachings, then the closer to the Truth you come to know.
Question: I don't know if it's appropriate or not but what happens to the sexual energy when you're Enlightened? Can You talk about that?
You see, that is one of the body's urges. A thirst and distraction can happen even when you get attracted to a small chocolate also. Means it sucks the mental consciousness so much, so that is how this happens. But if you set the priority and set your goal and mental attention towards the Divinity, so you can give up and you can overcome all the body's urges, because they are all the temporary things which show. So if the mind is totally contented, always its attention is towards the Divinity, it cannot afford to feel sorry for itself and it cannot pay attention to any of the body urges. It does not happen for a Yogi when you become Enlightened. So you have achieved the Highest, you have tasted the Highest, the most Happiest, there is nothing else more Supreme than that one. Once you taste that one you wouldn't like. So once you taste the best quality chocolate you are not going to go for the lower quality things. That is how these things work out.