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Sivananda Yoga, Talk-IV

by Swami Venkatesananda

In this Integral Yoga, is these a goal? Is there some way by which I can know, or I can reassure myself that I am on the right path, that I am progressing, that I have nearly reached the goal, that I have reached the goal, or I did reach the goal the day before yesterday! How does one know? How does one ever know whether one is on the right track or not? We never discussed this with Shri Gurudev himself, but on rare occasions he gave some kind of a hint that what is called Self-realisation or enlightenment is neither for the mind to describe nor for speech to describe, that one who has reached Self-realisation is touching Brahman. He didn't suggest that this is the goal. He didn't even suggest whether such a person would have special vision or other such phenomena. We started these talks by narrating an incident where Gurudev said, "One who is enlightened or who has Self-knowledge is ever in bliss, and in peace," which again is not easy to understand. What does peace mean to us? Does peace mean a state of inertness, dullness, stupidity? What is the distinction between tamas and sattva? Once again you are at a loss. Such expressions as, "One must have peace, one must have bliss," raise more questions than answers.

When you forget all this and look at his life, what sort of clue do we get as to the state of a siddha, a perfected, being, one who had reached siddhi? It was obvious that in his case there was this cosmic vision-a vision in which there was no division. What does this mean? Does it mean that a sage does not know that this is a towel and this is a key? Would he try to open his door using a towel, and start wiping himself with a key? What does it mean? There is an expression in the Bhagavad Gita that has been grotesquely interpreted to mean that the sage wouldn't know the difference between a stone and a nugget of gold. I'm not sure it means that.

I've watched Shri Gurudev very carefully, and I have seen him pick up clips and pins from the roadside and put them into his bag, and I have at the same time seen that he took theft, cheating, calmly, as though nothing had happened. Great loss meant nothing, but one pin or a clip lying on the roadside had to be picked up. If someone cheated him of ten thousand rupees, that's all right. So there again, did he walk with his eyes turned into his eyebrows as though he were not interested at all in life? No, he was deeply interested in life, and that again is the Bhagavad Gita's definition. Saarva bhutahi divata. He would not even allow his own devoted disciples to kill the bugs that were keeping him awake at night. When we were using some insecticide Gurudev said, "No, no, don't do that, take the can, put it in the forest. Let the bugs go away, but don't kill them." So once again we are where we started.

What are the signs of enlightenment. Are there any signs at all? What are the signs of total egolessness? Are there any signs at all? If there are signs, they must manifest themselves, and not be produced by the sage. Is that right? 'If this person is egoless, he is not going to produce signs and proofs for you to admire and give him a testimonial.' He is not interested in all that. And so, whenever they who were very close to him were watching him, occasionally they would get glimpses of what egolessness may mean. But then before you tried to grasp and admire it, it changed.

I don't know if I must submit for your consideration that the surest sign of an enlightened person is unpredictability, which does not mean that all unpredictable characters are enlightened. There is a description in some scriptures of the sage. "The sage behaves like a child, or a madman or a goblin," but that does not mean that all madmen are sages. In his case we found this unpredictability. That is, there was no ego-sense to determine or predetermine an action, and direct the action towards the attainment of a certain goal-the people's admiration, more and more disciples, more and more name, more and more glory, and so on. When that goal is set up, it is easy for you to guide your life in such a way that that goal is reached. There was one swami who didn't belong to Gurudev's ashram but stayed there doing tremendous tapasya. What was the goal? He said, "I am going to have rajas and ranis as my disciples. That's all I want." He had rajas and ranis as his disciples. He did achieve that!

So the goal-oriented practice of austerities, of yoga and meditation is easy. Then it is possible to know that this is the goal and this I have reached. I know also how far I am from that goal and when I have reached that goal. But in this practice of yoga that we have been discussing, whose aim is aimlessness and the total eradication of the ego-sense, what are the signs? Practically none at all. Now comes the crux. Since there are no goals, there is the continuing goal, which is to be vigilantly watchful for any sign of the resurrection of the ego. And here Gurudev used to insist upon this vigilance: be vigilant till the end that the ego does not come up. The ego-sense shouldn't start to play again, whether that play is superficially diagnosed as worldly or otherworldly, sacred, secular or even spiritual.

Spiritual vanity is as good or as bad as vanity of wealth or pedigree. It's all the same. "I am so and so" is the devil, is the obstacle. Can that be kept away? How? When can I be sure that, 'I am' has been eliminated? It is an absurd question! Therefore this inner awareness or intelligence has to be kept constantly awake. "Utthisthata Jagrata." Utthisthata is probably fairly easy. To be awakened is fairly easy, but to be alert is not so easy, because the mind and the ego have this wonderful habit of adapting themselves to changing circumstances. "I have given up the world, I have taken sanyasa, I have changed my name, I have shaved my head, and I don't touch this and I don't do that." The ego is capable of adapting itself to this new environment, to this new nomenclature, to this new situation. Ego hasn't changed. One may say that this is subtler, more refined, but it is of no real and serious value to a good spiritual aspirant.

There is one definition found in the Bhagavad Gita that may be regarded as some sign of enlightenment. This definition may be applicable to Shri Gurudev, which was not of course the only criterion. What is yoga? "Having attained which, he longs for naught else." This we saw in Gurudev. There was no longing; there was no eagerness to do this, to do that, except that if there was an opportunity to serve, that opportunity was taken. Even that opportunity was not deliberately sought, but when it came along it was taken. But there was no eagerness to excel, no spirit of competition in him, that I must be better than, greater than, my ashram must be better than, greater than, more prosperous, none of these things.

Even right from the days in Swargashram there was never a wish to imitate somebody else. There were quite a number of yogis around him in Swargashram. There was a great Sanskrit scholar, Tapovanandaji Maharaj, there was a great hatha yogi, Yoganandaji Maharaj, and there were bhajan experts in sankirtan and all that. He was not tempted to imitate them, he was not tempted to excel them, compete with them.

There was a Maharaja called Shahinsha, I think he was a swami, but he was greater than a swami. Gurudev went to his ashram once. He was an old man, much older than Gurudev. He told us a story. It seems that when Gurudev was still living in Swargashram, this Shahinsha noticed during a conference that here was a young swami, very alert and dynamic, who could speak only English, and this Shahinsha thought that if only he were to learn a little bit of Hindi, he could stir and thrill the whole of North India. It seems he got hold of Gurudev, took him to his tent and said, "Come on, stay with me, I will teach you Hindi in two or three months, and then you can take the whole of North India by storm." A marvellous ideal, a beautiful carrot dangling in front of him. It seems Gurudev slipped out of the place late at night without telling Shahinsha, and afterwards he didn't even see him. There was no eagerness to acquire more talents in order to outshine somebody else - what for?

If people went to him in Swargashram, saying, "I would like to learn Sanskrit." Gurudev would say, "There is Tapovan Swamiji, please go and learn". Some young man comes to him and says, "I want to learn kundalini yoga." "There is Swami Yoganandaji, please go and learn from him." Even in Rishikesh he used to do this. You want to study Vedanta? Go to Krishnananda Swami. You want to study some asanas and pranayama? Vishnudevananda Swami. So he was really a director in the ashram. One who directs people to go to this room or that room. There was no desire in him to excel anyone else.

'All these are manifestations of my self.' When a person has gone beyond the ego-sense, you are himself. Why must I make a distinction between this person called Swami Sivananda and another person called Swami Tapovanandaji Maharaj? You can go to him. I am he. Soham. Incidentally I should mention that when the arati was being sung, "Jays Jaya Arati Satgurunatha, Satgurunatha Sivananda," he also used to sing it! You are singing "Sivananda." Why must this ego-sense arise and identify this body and this mind with that name, and have pride over this? He was quite satisfied, totally and permanently satisfied, and that satisfaction was never disturbed by whatever happened. "Having attained which, he longs for naught else." This definition given in the Bhagavad Gita is only fifty percent of it.

The second half is a bit more difficult. "Being rooted in which, the yogi is not disturbed inwardly even by the greatest calamity". One calamity that was almost constant was financial crisis. There used to be a financial crisis, in the best of days, at the rate of once a year and sometimes twice a year. Secretaries and auditors and accountants would go in a deputation and say, "Swamiji, we are broke:" "Ah, is that so! What can be closed? The kitchen can be closed. Why? Because we can beg for food in Rishikesh. We will do a little bit of work. Even the postal expenses can be eliminated, we won't send any parcels of free books hereafter." One might ask, "But aren't you concerned that your life work is ruined?" That is not treated as a calamity. It is treated as another event in this procession of events that we call your life or the life of the ashram. It is as important or as unimportant as the greatest or most hilarious event.

This is another event, its characteristics being that we are financially broke. So let's immediately take the necessary steps. We will close the free book-dispatching department. You don't have to lock the shelves containing books. People can help themselves. We are saving postage. If someone comes and finds that he likes that book, let him take it and go! Packing and postage are saved. Keep all the doors and windows open, let anything happen. And so the financial crisis passed away. If the financial crisis passed away, that's also alright! "Yaminstito na dukhena." ("Even in the worst of all calamities the yogi remains unmoved.") There was even a mischievous joy, as if he was eager to enjoy even that situation. It's disaster in your eyes, not in my eyes. Here is something funny, let us enjoy it.

I should like to describe two last incidents, one that threatened his life and one that almost threatened the life of the ashram. There was a swami, a brilliant man, exceptionally dynamic. And Gurudev had great confidence in him, and therefore he had been entrusted with all sorts of departments. He was the postmaster, the cashier, the treasurer, the secretary; he was everything. And in addition to all these dynamic activities he was also engaged in another dynamic activity that was revealed half an hour after he had suddenly left the ashram. There was no money in the ashram! No one knew how much he had embezzled, how much he had taken away, and how much he had sent to whom, where and how! No one knew anything. All that we knew was that there was no money in the ashram, the banks had overdrafts, and since he was the postmaster, there had been some pilfering there also.

Everything had gone. For once there was an ultraserious financial crisis; it was not merely an ordinary financial crisis. Then we were broke; here we started with a minus balance. Naturally the police had to be called, and all sorts of enquiries made, because the postal monies were also involved. But Gurudev was calm and laughing. "Abyaa, hum, that's wonderful, is that so," And whenever somebody went to him to complain about this man he would say, "He was a good worker, wonderful, a very able worker." This man had compiled two books and published them - Self-Realisation and God-Realisation. First class titles. And Gurudev kept those two books by his side throughout that period, so that if someone came complaining, "Oh, he was a brilliant man, he produced these two books!" It doesn't matter how much he stole or how thoroughly he robbed the ashram. Nothing mattered, not even what happened to the reputation of the ashram-including its financial credit. Even the shopkeepers in Rishikesh said, "Please hereafter will you pay money before you buy your goods." Never mind all that.

Meantime a small miracle was going on. There were quite a number of visitors in the ashram, and everybody was getting ready for a diet of nothing but roti and dal - but strangely, or not so strangely, everyday without knowing what had happened, someone came and said, "Today I would like to donate for a bandhara, a feast. We were broke, completely, utterly broke, and insolvent. And everyday we were having khir and sweets, not at the expense of the ashram. So for ten or fifteen days in succession we were having feasts. And this old man was sitting there and laughing. That was the beauty. Even then he was not moved at all, not bothered at all. They even said, "Shall we employ a C.I.D. man to trace this man?" and Gurudev said, "Ah, forget it, somehow we will make good the amount that he has stolen, forget it!"

Another incident was an attempt on his own life. This happened in 1950. There was no electricity, and the only illumination in the satsang was the little wick-lamp burning at the altar and a hurricane lantern which used, to be turned off and put away as soon as the reading part was over. In the Bhajan Hall, at the central entrance, just on top of the steps, Gurudev used to sit on one of those little mats. The reason why he sat there he described himself. "You know I am a diabetic and I've got loose bowels. I may want to get up and leave, or I may come a bit late to the satsang and I don't want to disturb anyone." Never once was he late, and never once did he get up during the middle of the satsang to go to the bathroom or anything like that. So that was his seat.

This happened on the eighth of January. Somebody had been waiting for him. Later we learnt that this man was waiting for him in the morning. Gurudev used to walk alone up the hill from his kutir. It was winter. And I believe this man was sitting on one of the hilltops ready to roll down a stone as Gurudev walked up. But that morning Gurudev missed coming up. The whole morning he was repeating, "I don't know what happened, I overslept today." He was repeating this the whole morning as if he had committed a great crime by not coming to attend the morning meditation in the Bhajan Hall. So he escaped. At night he would come and sit there. He had a big turban made of his own shawl, a black shawl, tied as a turban. And as soon as he came and sat down, he would take it off and put it by his side.

That night he forgot. Thank God he forgot. And this man had come into the bhajan hall, axe in hand. He aimed a blow right on his head, missed, and the handle hit the turban, so that the head didn't receive even the handle. The man realised that he hadn't hit Gurudev, so this time he was a bit nervous, and he lifted the axe again, but only hit a picture hanging above Gurudev's head. That gave another warning, and by the time he recovered he had been overpowered, and then the people in the Bhajan Hall knew that there had been an attempted assassination. Two swamis came running down. Some of us were working in the office, and this swami was so excited that he couldn't even convey the news properly. He wanted to run to the police station to get the police. Then two of us went up.

Now this is the most important thing I want to bring home to you here. As we were coming up the hill, half-way there we heard, "Om sarvesam swasti bhavatu Om..." The whole congregation was singing, "Sarvesam shaanti bhavatu." I said, "Swamiji is alright". If something had happened to Gurudev, nobody would be there to say, "Sarvesham swasti bhavatu." As we entered the Bhajan Hall he was very nicely chanting, "Om purnamadah..." Visualize yourself in such a situation. Even if you had escaped unhurt, even if you were young, your heart would still be palpitating, your voice wouldn't be steady. Yet there he was steadily continuing with the satsang, and here was not a trace of disturbance. He had brought the petrolmax lantern. People got hold of the would-be assassin and started hitting him, and it was Gurudev who saved him. "Don't beat him, don't beat him!"

Later on Gurudev gave him a wonderful send-off, worshipping him with flowers and fruits. Here we saw two things together. One was the comic vision. In the Yoga Vashishta there is a very specific mention of the enlightened person's behaviour. Someone comes to worship you and at the same time another man comes with a dagger, ready to kill you. Is your mind undisturbed by this as well as that? Then the ego is gone. There is no need, no desire to live longer, and there is no craving to die. Neither this nor that. That seems to be the simplest sign by which others can recognise an enlightened person. Whether even these meant anything to him or not I don't know, because I don't think Gurudev even referred to this incident later. To him it was something natural; there was nothing extraordinary about it to boast about. It was nothing. It was immediately forgotten.

The egoless person does not even know his own egolessness, just as the sun does not know that it is a luminous body. Its luminosity is valuable only in contrast to other non-luminous, inert, dead bodies. When there is no contrast, there is no awareness of one's own glory, one's own uniqueness, of one's own saintliness, of one's own enlightened state, of one's own egoless state. Is there a mark? The mark is only discerned by one in whom ignorance still pervades. The enlightened one is enlightened, and there is nothing more.

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