|YOGALife - Spring 1998|
|Table of Contents|
|·||Memories of Swami Vishnu-devananda|
|·||Yoga Behind Bars|
Om Namah Sivaya.
How are you all?
What did you forget today?
The one thing you forgot is: tomorrow will never come. There is no such thing as tomorrow or future.
Swami Sivananda used to sing, "Time sweeps away kings and barons. Where is Napoleon? Where is Nehru?" Where is Queen Elizabeth, not the present Elizabeth. The previous Elizabeth. Where is Kennedy? And Gandhiji... where are all those people? Just like a flash on the screen, they came and they've gone. All those great presidents, generals, field-marshals, dictators and rulers. Just like mosquitoes they just came and went. Time sweeps away kings and barons. Everyone just disappears.
And we all forget this, all the time. I think that I am the great Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder and president of all the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, author of the "Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga," world-renowned expert on Hatha and Raja Yoga, etc., etc. But the last time I visited London, I was in a wheelchair with a broken knee, suffering from frostbite.
Time sweeps us all away. You think that you are always going to be beautiful, you are always going to be healthy. But life is going on non-stop. Even if you do asanas daily and eat the best organically-grown foods, your life is burning like this candle. Now you can see the candle as being very big and beautiful, but what you don't see is that it is getting smaller every moment. Every moment it is getting shorter, but can you see it? No, you can't even measure it. You can't measure even the moment itself. A moment is the time it takes for the future to change into the past. As the future changes into the past, that's the present moment. And that present moment you cannot catch. Before you can catch it, it's gone into the past The past is gone forever. The past can never come back to the present.
Yesterday I was in India. We had a big procession in Trivandrum with elephants and drums. Thousands of people were in the streets. They gave me a big reception. Just like a dream, now it's gone. I'm here ... and tomorrow, where will I be? Things are moving very, very fast, like a movie. Only a Viveki, a man who has discrimination knows this. Most of us forget constantly. We think tomorrow is going to come. We'll get married, have children and grandchildren, lots of money, a big bank balance. But we're just like children playing on the beach. Each child makes a beautiful sandcastle. And one child says, ‘my castle is bigger than your castle.' And they start to argue about who has the biggest and most beautiful sandcastle. And as the children are fighting, what is happening? The tide is rising, but they can't see it. Moment by moment, slowly it's rising. While they are quarrelling, all the sand-castles disappear. They're building castles in the air.
Our mind also creates castles. Hundred-story buildings, palaces like Buckingham Palace. Prince Charles thinks he's going to be king one day. I don't know if he's praying for that. But at this very moment what is happening? He's getting older, but is he also getting wiser? If he's wise he'll be like Buddha.
Buddha was also born as a prince, Prince Siddhartha. His father wanted to make him the emperor of the universe. As soon as he was born, the royal astrologers met, as is the custom in India.
Prince Siddhartha's horoscope was written immediately and the royal astrologers reported to the king, many astrologers, not only one. Most predicted that this prince was going to be the emperor of the universe and so on. Everyone had his prediction. Then one old Brahmin got up and said, "It is possible that this child is not going to become an emperor. If he sees suffering he'll take to the begging bowl and become a sadhu. "
This was a shock to the king. He felt great anguish from this prediction and again asked, "Is it true my son is going to become a beggar?" According to this horoscope it is, if he sees suffering. So there is an 'if'. There is a loophole in the prediction. So the emperor thought, "I am going to prevent him seeing any suffering."
A royal proclamation was issued, "This child must never, ever see any type of suffering in his life." Siddhartha was brought up only by healthy and beautiful maids; he was surrounded by young, handsome men. "No sick person may come near to this child, also no mental agony or suffering should be shown to him." The king issued every type of detailed proclamation. And so Prince Siddhartha was brought up experiencing only one thing, pleasure. He was surrounded by every possible happiness, every pleasure. The child grew up, became a young man, married a beautiful princess and had a beautiful little son. Life was all pleasant. But, one day as he was riding in his royal gardens with his attendants, suddenly he saw an old man shaking, his body full of arthritis and drooping. He could hardly walk. And his face was all wrinkled; he couldn't see things properly. Prince Siddhartha had never seen an old person because of the royal proclamation. He thought everybody was young and healthy. He had never even heard about old age. So he was shocked to see this figure before him and asked his attendant, "what is wrong with this man? Why is he not walking like us? Why is he not able to step properly? Why is he shaking like this? Why can't he see things? Why is the hair gray? Why are these things happening?"
The royal attendants said, "Sir, this is called old age. A baby grows older and becomes a youthful person like you. And this youthful person will eventually become old."
"Even me, I am going to be emperor soon. Even my body also is going to be like that?"
"Yes, Your Highness, that law even you cannot change."
Siddhartha was in agony to learn that even the great doctors in his country did not know how to stop that old age. As he rode further, he saw a funeral procession. Someone had died and they were carrying the body to the funeral fire to cremate it. Siddhartha asked, "Why are they carrying that person? Why he is not moving? Why are people crying?"
"Sir, this is called death."
Siddhartha had never heard the word death, nor had he seen a dead body. So he asked, "what is that?"
"Sir, you saw the old man with the wrinkled face and arthritis and leaning like a question mark. The body will not stay even in that condition. It goes back to that state where it can't even breathe, not walk, it won't see. It has no emotions, no pain, no pleasure. It's just gone."
"And what are they going to do with that body?"
"They're going to put it on the fire."
"There's no pain from the fire?"
"No sir, what is called self is gone. The sense is gone. This body is a nonsense, made up of matter, made up of food. Earth will go to earth; ashes to ashes. That body came from the elements and must go back to the elements. Temporary body will change and go back to the food chain."
That was sufficient for Siddhartha. He went back to his palace, with all its luxuries and ornaments, beautiful maids, his own young wife and beautiful child. He looked at all those things, and he was frightened. "I am disillusioned by this great illusion. My wife and all these young people surrounding me are one day going to be wiped out by time. I myself am caught in this great prison; I am imprisoned here."
He could no longer stay in the palace. Viveka, discrimination, had dawned in his mind. At midnight, as his beautiful princess and young son were sleeping, he crept over the palace wall. He didn't want to wake anyone. He didn't even say good-bye. He just crept out of the palace and escaped from that prison and took to the begging bowl as predicted. He wanted to find the answer: how to escape from old age, disease, death and all suffering. "This body may spend a few years as emperor," he thought, "but it's meaningless like a dream. I don't want to be caught in this dream." And he searched to find the answer from many rishis, munis, mahatmas. He wandered, tried different practices, but still could not find the answer.
At last he sat under the famous Bodhi Tree, vowing "I will not move from this spot until I see the Truth. Nothing can shake me until I merge into the Truth and find the Truth." Temptations started coming, horrible figures, demoniacal types of figures tried to stop his meditation. But he was determined, "even if the whole world disintegrates, I will not move. I will focus only on that one ideal." So those demoniacal figures could not change his mind. He was in a deep one-pointed state. Nothing could distract him. Thunder, showers, even earthquakes, nothing could shake his mind. Then everything became peaceful. He saw beautiful gardens, flowers, beautiful damsels all with different types of clothes in various stages of semi-nakedness, full nakedness etc. So tempting, so wonderful. Beautiful music, soft gentle breeze, all calm and beautiful. A moment before he was in the horrible, demoniacal hell; the world was just breaking down. Now everything was so beautiful, so pleasant to watch. He said, "no, no, no that's all just a big dream. I will not move even for these beautiful things. It's only to distract me. I will not move." And he entered into a vacuum. There was nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to smell, touch or feel. Through this he came to understand that infinite, all-pervading peace and then he transcended that point also. He got illumination.
Suffering exists only in the mind, because we cannot discriminate. Most of us rush through this illusion, accepting these phantoms to be real. When you are a true viveki, you have true insight. You understand that the infinite Brahman, or God, is shining within yourself. You are Satchidananda–Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute. You realize that all the happiness is within.
The purpose of satsang is to remind us that we are living in this illusory world. Husband and wife, children, my house, my husband, my wife, my children; mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. All the time you are attaching so many mines, the mine field. You know the purpose of the mines? To blow you up.
Suppose I say that this glass is mine. It is not an ordinary glass, you know. It's a special glass; King George the hundredth drank wine in this very glass. And I got it in an auction for ONLY 10 million pounds. Now I can't go to sleep. I'm so afraid that I put a fortress around this whole place that no one will steal my glass. Machine guns are everywhere; guards left and right to guard this glass. Everyday I'm looking at this glass and drinking wine from it. Suddenly all the drinking has gone into the liver. Achh . . . I choke and die. King George the hundredth's glass will not help me, nor the amount I paid.
Or suppose that one disciple is sitting next to me. Of course he is my great devotee, but he is not thinking of me. He's only thinking that when Swamiji dies, he'll get this glass. Every day he'll serve me, look after me, praise me.
But he is still looking at what? It's the glass. He's planning that when I die he'll get it. But now he's thinking, how can I make Swami Vishnu die a little faster? All his life he's been practicing Yoga asana, pranayama, it's all going to prolong his life. And it's going to take a long time before I inherit that glass.
Just as Prince Charles is waiting; he's got to wait quite a long time before the Queen goes. I don't know maybe she'll never give as long as she lives. It's her own son, but you see her attachment, "I-ness" and "mine-ness." She'll continue holding onto her position.
My disciple also is waiting, thinking, "Swamiji is getting healthier and healthier. He even went to the Himalayas, got frostbite and still he's alive." So he is praying now, oh Lord, make him die a little faster. But I knew his intentions so I give him the glass, although it's very painful to part with it. Ah, he is so happy. Now he will not even think of me, because he is busy with his glass. Before he used to come morning and evening, sit at my feet. Now he starts giving excuses; now he's got all the activities of the world.
Even his wife, she repeats the words, I love you honey, I love you honey. Day and night she's repeating the mantra I love you honey, I love you honey, but she's eyeing what? The glass. But he knows that his wife used to love him but now she loves him because of this glass. So he puts more and more guards.
And if the glass is broken, what will happen. Before when I said, "It is my glass," I would be crying? Now I gave it to him. Now who's crying? He is. What's the difference between me and him? I renounced it; I'm free. He is attached to it; mine, the mine bomb is planted. If the glass breaks, the mine explodes. And he's not only crying; he is suffering agonising pain. It is like that with everything. Who is your wife? Who are your children? Today she is your wife; tomorrow she goes with somebody else. Today you'll sacrifice everything, bring flowers and prostrate before her. And tomorrow you are ready to sacrifice her. Where is the Truth in this universe?
That's why Sankaracharya says,"Where have you come from? Where do you go? Who is your mother, who is your father, who is your wife, what are your children? This is all just a dream. Repeat God's name; escape from this Maya, this illusion." Something must remind you again and again, because you keep forgetting. As soon as you leave here you'll see beautiful hot dogs and pubs. You'll drink champagne; though it makes a chimpanzee out of you. Who wants to realize the inner Self? They all want to drink this champagne, wash with this soap, use that hair oil, go to this party, wear that type of ornament, get this and get that. You are constantly bombarded by messages that make a fool out of you. You are already fooled by your own mind, and the whole world is increasing the foolishness, is it not? If you put on this dress, you look like a king. This week Prince Charles is wearing that fashion. And all the children need a Diana doll, and so forth. You run after this instead of striving for infinite heaven, infinite power, knowledge and immortality. They make you forget this and just get a Diana doll. But people like Buddha see that it is just a fool's paradise.
So come to satsang again and again to keep reminding yourself that time is short. Everything is moving, the tide is slowly moving and suddenly your castle is gone. Your wife, home, children, bank balance are all just a sandcastle. This is MY beautiful wife - and by that time she's now got wrinkles. This is MY lovely child - and he has gone and taken a gun and started to fight somewhere and maybe become a terrorist. And this is MY home - and suddenly a bank came and took possession. All this gone. Even your own body, of its 100 years, 30 years you spend in sleeping and dreaming. Childhood is gone like a dream, you don't know what you did. Soon you sit in a wheelchair with an intravenous tube and oxygen mask. You feel pain . . . and soon you die. Is that all there is to life?
You take this world as reality. You are trapped in your quest for money, power, position, name, fame etc. Satsang helps you to escape from this. Do not forget that Immortal Self, "I Am", that God. Repeat His name, OM NAMO NARAYANAYA, for the world's peace and for your own peace.
September 8th 1987 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Swami Sivananda. On this holy occasion I invite you to join me in a living Shanti Mala (a Garland of Peace). Let us hold hands and chant OM NAMO NARAYANAYA to unite the whole world and radiate spiritual energy.
Radiation does not recognise national boundaries. Today all of humanity is threatened by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and atomic power plants. A nuclear war, nuclear accidents or act of nuclear terrorism could unleash enough radiation to cover up our planet and destroy all living things, plant, animal and human. A nuclear Sword of Damocles holds humanity hostage. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, viewing the ghastly power of the first nuclear explosion at Los Alamos Gordas quoted the Bhagavad Gita: "I am the world destroying time, now engaged in destroying the worlds."
At this moment in history we would be wise to recall India's spiritual legacy from the ancient acharyas like Sankaracharya to the great modern saints like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo Gosh, Ramdas, Mahatma Gandhi and others who have kept the spiritual light burning brightly throughout the ages. Their writings and disciples have spread India's spiritual greatness all over the globe.
At this point in time, we need this spiritual strength. Now I am talking about the mess we are in today. Recently, so much radiation was released in Chernobyl that 10,000 mothers aborted their children. Many more people will die in a few years due to cancer caused by that radiation. You all know these things. But this not the first time we have this type of thing happening. There was a great culture in India 5,000 years ago, when people in Europe were living in the caves. We hear of the Mahabharata war, the ancient world war, when Arjuna fought against the negative forces led by Duryodhana. During that war, Krishna was charioteer for Arjuna. You know the story.
Arjuna's guru Drona, taught him to handle all the special, mystical missiles, including the Brahmastra that had no counter weapon. It was like a multi-megaton weapon. Also there were Supiastra and Varnastra, different types of missiles that they used in those days. Suppose they sent an Agniastra, a missile would come and rain fire on the cities. It could be counteracted by Varunastra, water weapon, having the energy of water. Water, of course, neutralises the energy of fire. They had different types of Nagastras, containing poison like the various types of gases we use today, chemical and biological warfare. They also used those types of missiles, but they had counter weapons to neutralise them.
In those days Brahmastra was the only weapon that had no counter weapon. You couldn't neutralise its energy, it was very powerful. Drona, Arjuna's guru, did not teach certain missiles, like Brahmastra, to all. He only taught it to Arjuna and not even to Duryodhana, his other disciple, his counterpart when they were all young. They were from the same royal family, but Duryodhana was not the right person to give this great power.
But Drona's son Asvatthama begged his father to teach him the Brahmastra. Because Drona loved his son, he taught Brahmastra energy, how to use this missile. But he only taught one half of it, how to discharge it. He never taught him the other half: how to withdraw it, how to put it back, to return it to its original state.
For example you know that a nuclear bomb is nothing but converting mass into energy using the formula E=mc2, the mass of energy multiplied by the square of light and multiplied by itself, Einstein's theory.
If you take one pound of uranium and convert that into energy using the formula, you've got enough power to destroy the whole of London, vaporize London. That's a nuclear bomb. We know how to do that. We have learned the technique of converting mass into energy, but no scientist knows how to convert the energy back into mass. Once you convert you cannot return it to its original state; you destroy everything.
So Drona taught one half of the thing to his son, Asvatthama. He taught him how to convert mass into energy. The Brahmastra was worse than our modern missiles. It used sound energy, not just the energy of chemicals as we do. It was more powerful than nuclear energy.
Drona must have known that his son was not evolved enough. In extreme danger to his own life he wouldn't care if he destroyed the whole world. So Drona taught Arjuna the other aspect, in case anything happened. Drona knew that Arjuna was very wise; he would never use that weapon, even in the biggest war. After all, what is the purpose of using a weapon to destroy the world; what are you going to rule afterwards?
It's like our leaders today They have got enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world how many times? 40, 50? Can you destroy the world 200 times? And yet they are still building more weapons.
During the war Asvatthama wanted to please his boss, Duryodhana, so he went to where the Pandavas' children were sleeping, five of them, and killed them all in their sleep. It's against any code of war. In ancient times they fought wars according to certain rules; warriors were only permitted to fight with equals. But, on that dark summer's night Asvatthama brought the heads of those children to Duryodhana to please him.
When Arjuna heard, he took a vow that by sunset he would kill Asvatthama. Knowing that he could not escape from Arjuna's wrath and death was certain, Asvatthama used the ultimate weapon, Brahmastra. He didn't care if it destroyed everything; he was a selfish person. He discharged the Brahmastra. It was like a multi-megaton bomb destroying everything in its path. Arjuna asked Krishna, "Oh Lord, what is this world-destroying thing?" just like the words of Oppenheimer. Remember that this Brahmastra had no counter weapon. It could only be neutralised by releasing another Brahmastra. When they meet, they neutralise each other.
It was exactly like two modern missiles meeting in the stratosphere, and destroying each other. Exactly like that, thousands of years ago this happened. Arjuna managed to neutralise the Brahmastra and withdraw its energy. But already the radiation had destroyed many things. Just as radiation destroyed many unborn children in Chernobyl, thousands of years ago, this energy destroyed Uttara's womb. She ran to Lord Krishna and prayed, "Oh Lord please save my baby."
Immediately Krishna's energy entered Uttara's womb. His Sudarsana Chakra neutralised the radiation. This is not an ordinary discus; it's a powerful energy that can neutralise anything, the highest weapon only Lord Krishna possesses.
Arjuna had many weapons. He did special penance and also got the great celestial weapon known as Pasupatastra from Lord Siva. In fact Arjuna had all the celestial missiles. He was the only person who knew them all. But Sudarsana would not go to anybody, only Lord Krishna. And Krishna used that energy again to enter Uttara's womb, through His Yogic power, and remove that radiation. He brought Parikshit, the unborn child, back to life. Years later, when Arjuna and the Pandavas left for the Himalayas, Parikshit was installed as the emperor. This story of nuclear radiation and missiles took place 5,000 years ago. So there was a time when this same thing happened and the destruction took place. So I thought, let us invoke OM NAMO NARAYANAYA, the Ashta Akshara mantra. Ashta means eight letter. Let us invoke Lord Vishnu's Sudarsana energy to escape from the threat of nuclear disaster. In ancient scriptures we hear of the unswerving devotion of Uttara that caused Krishna to save her unborn son Parikshit from the deadly radiation of the Brahmastra missile. Let this story inspire us to invoke the Sudarsan energy by chanting OM NAMO NARAYANAYA.
If we can join hands and chant OM NAMO NARAYANAYA, what a power it will create! This is my idea, the biggest dream of my life. I want to make this a blueprint; you can join in any way.
At least write OM NAMO NARAYANAYA, write one page everyday. Then we will collect it and take it to Gangotri, where our OM NAMO NARAYANAYA bank is situated.
In 1957, my Master Swami Sivananda sent me to the West. Since then my mission has been to awaken people to the ancient traditions of Yoga and help them to find a way of attaining inner peace and thereby world peace. If even a microscopic minority of people attain inner peace they will radiate this to the entire humanity. Large scale political changes without an accompanying inner transformation is absurd. Just as cotton cloth is made up of individual threads, humanity is made up of individual beings like you and me. If we want to change the world into a silk cloth called universal peace, we have to change every individual by showing them inner peace.
In 1971 I flew a small twin-engine Piper Apache across the Suez Canal with one of my students, Bren Jacobson. We 'bombed' both sides with flowers and leaflets calling for an end to violence.
In Belfast it was actor Peter Sellers who flew with me, dropping flowers and leaflets. Later we both walked through Catholic and Protestant areas chanting for peace. In Washington, London, Jerusalem, New York, Belfast and other major cities, I have led students in headstand demonstrations for peace symbolising the topsy-turvy condition of the world. In September 1983 I flew a small ultralight aircraft over the Berlin Wall from West to East to demonstrate the need for barriers between people to be broken down. To fly as birds fly without regard for borders or boundaries. Join me in working for world peace.
Swami Sivananda's Song of Immortality
Is there not a nobler mission than eating, drinking and sleeping?
It is difficult to get a human birth,
Therefore try your best to realise in this birth.
How can you expect real Shanti,
If you waste your time in cards and cinemas?
In cards and novels? In scandal backbiting? In idle gossiping?
When your throat is choked at the time of death who will help you for your salvation?
Time sweeps away kings and barons.
Where is Napoleon? Where is Nehru?
Time sweeps away presidents, vice presidents.
Where is Gandhiji? Where is Kennedy?
Be up and doing Yogic Sadhana,
you will attain immortality.
Be up and doing japa and meditation,
you will attain supreme peace.
Be up and doing asana and pranayam,
you will attain supreme health.
Eat a little, Drink a little, Talk a little, Sleep a little.
Do Asanas a little, Pranayama a little,
Do Japa a little, Meditate a little.
Meditate a little, have Satsang a little,
Read a little, Sleep a little.
1) Drop flowers not bombs
2) To cross borders with love not guns
3) Break national and emotional barriers
4) Unite the world and become global citizens.
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