Question: Can one use intoxicants like alcohol or smoking while starting the practice of meditation?
Spiritually it is totally prohibited. No type of intoxication should be taken. Even some monks out of misguidance, they use a crude form of opium, called bhang. That's also totally wrong, because all these things curtail the nervous system and suppresses the brain waves.
As I was trying to explain, mind is your conscious energy, brain is the biological organ in the body. Brain and mind have a peculiar connection with each other. One is active because of the other. So, if one takes alcohol or any such drugs, they experience some amazing bliss - that's what we hear from such people. But what happens at that time, like during the sleep state, the brain's reflections get suppressed by this medicinal effect, so the mind does not have anything to catch, and it gets kicked off the brain temporarily. But the mind itself does not get cleansed; its acquired habit remains. So once this medicinal effect on the body goes away, the brain's reflections jump back in a double speed, more excited. So it gets into such speeds, stubbornly, and the mind gets sucked into it again.
So unfortunately, what happens is that the physical health is being lost, brain's health is also being lost, so the meditation can never happen to such people. I have seen such monks who use this bhang, but they have not at all progressed in any way. Their attitude, their patience, their composure, their knowledge, wisdom - nothing has progressed. It's a very sad thing. So one must remember, no intoxication should be used. Otherwise, all sleeping people, whoever used to go to sleep and whoever has alcohol would have easily become Yogis. There would be no need to do such hardship Tapas.
In the spiritual exercise called meditation and Tapas, this is a natural process. Without trying to harm the health of the brain, you are taught to skillfully withdraw the mind. Mind is your conscious energy; if you exercise some will power, then you can withdraw it. That is the technology that is taught. If you do not analyze the reflections of the brain, then the mind gets withdrawn. If you staringly watch the reflections of the brain without trying to think, like you are forced to watch a movie, and the Guru asks, "Try, not to analyze this movie, just watch it." It is so difficult. The mind gets sucked into it, you start analyzing the good, bad, every effect, and you start watching yourself into the movie, all good, bad, fearful, everything happens as if it is happening to you. Your voice might be choked with pain and fear, all these things. So if you gain the ability to keep withdrawn, then the meditation becomes successful.
Question: Babaji, just going back to what you were speaking about, drugs and intoxicants. There are people who suffer from clinical depression and, I think, in Western medicine if it's diagnosed by a good quality psychiatrist or psychological doctor, they will always advise the patient not to get addicted to any one particular medicine. For a while they might prescribe a tranquillizer or some such thing. For a long time, if you go on doing that, the brain becomes addicted, and the mind's things never get cured. So other methods need to be used.
See, the mind, either it needs to be kept engaged, or it needs to be kept quiet. Keeping quiet is the most difficult thing in this world, so it needs to be kept engaged. The old saying you all remember is, "The idle man's brain is devil's workshop." If a person is not ready to work properly, if you keep yourself so much engaged, you won't have time to feel sorry for yourself in this world. That is one thing which can cure this depression also.
Depression is a state of the brain that happens. Proper food that can be easily digested should be adopted also, or else wind and acidity can happen, and dullness and heaviness in the head also.
Of course, if a serious ailment happens in the body, then also one can get depressed by disappointment, thinking "Now what after that one?" Other psychological lessons that can help people are: always we have to be courageous until the last breath of life, it is worthwhile to put in efforts. Like in philosophy, if we put in efforts of meditation or any such prayers, even if death happens for some reason of physical ailment, it will continue in the next life. Because the rebirth happens based on the intensity of the thoughts. You see, based on the intensity of thoughts only this world appears to you. To some it may be beautiful, to some it may be dreadful. Whatever the mind imagines, that same thing happens. A foe might appear as a friend, a friend might appear as a foe; this is what happens. So all such other methods need to be adopted and try to overcome the depression.