Question: Do different sadhanas suit different people? In other traditions some emphasize pranayama rather than meditation. I know in your tradition the meditation is central. Does it vary from person to person?
It can vary from person to person. That's why, as Yogis, we do not try to impose any one method. We give them a choice, we try to encourage that all methods are equal and honorable. Simply we try to tell the technicalities. If your idea is eventually you want to pursue and go towards the Self Realization, then you have to abandon one day everything and the mind has to totally become quiet. However, some people are inclined to do other methods; some might be inclined to do bhajans and singing and service. That's why in our philosophy, through every method, one can go to the reality, the Ultimate Truth. But, method needs to be adopted properly.
Suppose you want to remember by doing japa also, your mental concentration has to be totally there. Hundred percent concentration is when you are repeating the mantra, only the mantra is there and not even you exist for yourself. That type of hundred percent intense concentration has to happen. Then the meditation will be successful, eventually.
So breathing also is the same way. You see, if you are restless at any time in your life, take a couple of minutes, sit down quietly, take a long inhale and exhale. Your restless mind becomes a little restful. So based on this technique only, concentrate on the breathing, so your mind can become better concentrated. But if the mind stops on the breathing only, what next? It cannot go introverted and achieve the Self Realization. Then normally either the Guru would guide you to abandon that also, or the Divine Itself will take some shape and will guide you so that you abandon all such things.
If you all have read about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's life, he started his life by devotion to Mother Kali. He wanted to see God. That is how He used to bang His head, "One more day has passed without Mother appearing in front of me." But He did amazing great Tapas which is very, very difficult in this age. He did such a great Tapas. So eventually the Divine worked out. Totapuri Maharaj came to Him and taught Him the Nirvilakpa Samadhi, how to abandon everything, all imaginations. He came and told "I want to give you sannyas and teach you the Nirvikalpa Samadhi."
Ramakrishna was very innocent. He said, "I need to talk to my Mother and take her permission." Totapuri ridiculed Him and said, "What a child's play! Go, go and talk to your Mother." He went into the temple, stood in front of Mother Kali's idol for five minutes, then comes out and tells, "Yes, my Mother has told that I can learn from you, there is no problem." So He makes Him to sit in lotus posture, asks Him to concentrate here [the point in between His eyebrows] His mind and sight. Then afterwards He opens His eyes, saying "I am able to withdraw all my senses, but I am unable to remove my Mother's picture here. She is always standing here, I don't know what to do."
Getting annoyed, Totapuri is said to have taken a sword and cut the wooden idol of Mother Kali to pieces and said, "Your Mother Kali is dead, I have killed her. Forget about her. Now come!" Then he took a small piece of glass and pierced it in between Ramakrishna's eyebrows. Then Ramakrishna goes into Nirvikalpa Samadhi for several days. Even for Totapuri it was amazing how great aTapasvin that he was.
So that is how it can happen. So however, the Divine will definitely grace and bless, if anybody wants to take any other method, it is no harm.