Monday May 3, 2021 NYC
Editor’s Note: Pranavadipa Volume 77
“Sanatana Dharma—Eternal, Universal Truth”
“Spiritual Discipline and Prayer”
Pranavadipa Volume 77 was published on April 8th, 2021, the day that officially marks the celebration of Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela, the Grand Ceremony of the Divine Manifestations. One of the Satsangha that is part of this volume’s content was held one day before the celebration took place in April of 2019. Below are Shri Mahayogi’s words in response to a request to teach us about Sanatana Dharma. Shri Mahayogi graciously offered further insight into the purpose of this celebration itself, perceiving the question came from the sincere wish to have the mind properly prepared to attend the celebration of Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela the next day.
“Sanatana means eternal. Dharma here refers to the teaching of Truth. Truth, of course, is eternal. It is not swayed or affected by the characteristics of an era or a culture, or any condition whatsoever. It is the Truth that continues to exist without change, transcending time. This Truth abides as the essence within all living beings and the entire universe. However, the human mind—due to not knowing this, and rather to the contrary, having a mistaken concept—comes into contact with this world and chases after transitory freedom or fake, vain happiness in the world. The result is miserable suffering.
However, when people are about to forget this Eternal Truth, then that Truth Itself incarnates, and appears on this Earth to remind people once again. For such Beings their Existences are beyond time and space, unbounded by it, yet, whoever it is that performs this work within this world limited by time and space—that Being is called the Avatara, translated as an incarnation of God—for such an Existence needs to manifest from time to time. That was Buddha, and in the modern era, Shri Ramakrishna; and for this truly important, precious and sacred Truth and Existence, let us [recall and] renew [our thoughts and gratitude toward them, along with] our intention [of aiming toward the state of Truth which the Avatara demonstrate through their life and live accordingly] once again.”
—Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa, Kyoto, April 2019
As the title of this Satsangha in Volume 77 suggests—“Sanatana Dharma—Eternal, Universal Truth,” which took place in Kyoto in 2019—the content is very timely, and with another Satsangha following in this same Volume—“Spiritual Discipline and Prayer,” which took place in Kyoto in 2006—the message that Shri Mahayogi seems to be bringing us, from many different angles and in response to many different questions is to see only Atman (the true Self) within everything by training the mind to focus only on the Truth, and act for the sake of Atman within all by following the work of the Avatara. That is, to practice karma yoga, which is to act “for those who are in pain and sorrow, for people, animals, living beings in such difficulty, [and] try to remove that suffering.”
Many questions arose from disciples trying to understand further, to move closer, to see and act upon the Truth while they go through the process of actually applying the teachings in their lives, bringing practical topics that reinforce the establishment and development of the spirit, teachings and actions needed to transform oneself.
To continue from the excerpt about Sanatana Dharma shared above, in the first Satsangha Shri Mahayogi also speaks about how it happens that the Avatara come time and time again, detailing specific examples, like that of Buddha, Jesus and Shri Ramakrishna, along with the historical contexts in which these occurred, and the importance of what each established during their respective times; he teaches about eternal time in Yoga; renunciation through discrimination versus the giving up and letting go of surrendering; bhakti yoga; the restraint of the mind through various means (raja yoga, jnana yoga, and bhakti yoga) and what it comes to be filled with; and Sat Chit Ananda, the enjoyment free of emotion which is the state of Joy or Bliss and the resulting lila (divine play). And in addition to that, as one attendee inquires into how to approach her work in education, where there is a lack of a guiding standard of faith in the curriculum that is coming to be centered around ethics and morality, Shri Mahayogi teaches about the universality of Yoga, and the universal preciousness of all life that goes beyond all notions of differentiations and discriminations and encourages us to learn the universal fundamentals of human beings through Yoga as our own base. For this time in which the world seems to be ripe with troubles caused by constant differentiation, this teaching—with universality at its core—seems to be ever-more important for each and every one of us to take to heart.
The second Satsangha of Pranavadipa (Vol. 77), “Spiritual Discipline and Prayer,” begins with the questions of a young man from Canada who has been practicing Buddhism and is traveling in Japan. He expresses that he knows that he needs to transform his mind but is struggling with repeated endless reactions of habitual thoughts and actions, and is finding it difficult to find faith while being under the influence of these. The reader may find familiarity in his question, as this can be a common state for many spiritual practitioners. Shri Mahayogi’s response and guidance may be simple, and it could be seen to some readers as a similar type of answer that Shri Mahayogi gives many times over, yet we would like to share his words here again, because if we take his straightforward answer to our hearts and really follow it, then surely we will know how powerful his answer really is:
“The [level of] devoted service that can eradicate all karma (cause and effect of actions) and sanskara, requires the level of intention where one is willing to exchange one’s own life for it. That intention is the beginning of the search for the Truth.
And what must be done next is to find the right Master and the right teachings. Then one has to ardently apply the teachings in action and apply the practice of disciplines given by the Guru (Master). This, of course, requires not only learning the Truth from the scriptures or the mouth of the Guru, but the application of the disciplines of practice using one’s body is also indispensable.
In Yoga, asana and pranayama (the method to control the breath or energy) fall under the category of the discipline of practicing through the body. Furthermore, one must work to carefully and watchfully control one’s daily actions.
In this current age, no matter what kind of occupation you have while living in society, you can realize Yoga. The more you continue, the more purified the mind becomes, and devoted service will be heightened more and more.”
After speaking these words, Shri Mahayogi further goes on to talk about sitting positions for meditation, prana and removing sanskara (latent impressions from past experience); and while Shri Mahayogi is giving this young man an overall teaching of Yoga, disciples ask questions that are centered around daily life activities and the ways of practicing and cultivating discipline in daily life. As he carefully responds considering the circumstances and conditions of each individual, Shri Mahayogi effortlessly raises our minds and hearts to again and again look towards and focus on seeing Atman in all, and directs us toward Atman, the essence of Eternal Existence, the true Self. Indeed, the bringing of ourselves to meet and align with the most pure and straightforward essence of Truth is always at the core.
We can see this very clearly in the following example, in which Shri Mahayogi responds to a practitioner who is asking about how to improve his communication and interactions with others.
“The common reason why human interactions often fail, is because you see differences in others; it’s this sense of differentiating oneself from others. A person who is favorable to you, or not favorable to you, a person you love, a person you hate, a person beneficial to you, a person of no benefit to you…various differentiations make your relations to others increasingly uneasy, troubled and confused.
What Yoga teaches is to remove these kinds of differentiations. The people and situations in front of you are inevitably in these conditions or situations, whether it’s family, colleagues or friends. Therefore, without making differentiations, you proactively act on what you think will be best for them—simply, that is what you can do. Then, do not be attached to the results, whether your actions go well or not. [When it comes to action,] the action has the other person as its object, but in actuality, there is only One—this can become possible by seeing the Atman within each and every one, whether it be strangers or children.”
Beyond directing us to look towards the core essence of Atman and the heart of all existence, through a conversation with one of the disciples, Shri Mahayogi also teaches about the meaning and origin of the word Atman—which ultimately has no proper translation into the English language that captures its true meaning—and how it ultimately came to indicate the “true Self.” It is fascinating to learn about and certainly can be a helpful tool for anyone who is trying to deepen understanding about what really is Atman, what really is the true Self.
Additional content of this second Satsangha includes the meaning of solitude through Shri Mahayogi’s experience of it, the true meaning of prayer, and where to focus one’s efforts in spiritual practice—particularly in relation to Yoga, the teachings of Buddha, the form of Buddhism that has developed and become popularized after Buddha’s life, and how the origin of Yoga and the realization and subsequent teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha are, at their core, of the same content, whereas the content of Buddhism has strayed from that original teaching of Buddha—his exceedingly clear analysis is something that is remarkable and exceptional.
We are amazed with Shri Mahayogi’s clear understanding of the core content and the distinction that he makes for us when it comes to choosing the path that will lead towards concrete transformation of the mind! And as Shri Mahayogi responds to each attendee, truly the worldly concerns that tend to busy and worry our minds seem to pale starkly with the Truth and fall away, losing their power, as Shri Mahayogi, with precision and from many different directions, raises up and shines the light on the simple Truth that is ever right in front of our eyes.
“Where do people go after death?”
When I first encountered a person’s death and witnessed the consciousness leave the body, this was the question that arose within me. For a brief moment, the mind became still and tried to go inward. However, the trivial matters of the world easily made me forget this essential question.
“People get sick. And eventually die. There is no one who can escape death.”
These words of the Buddha were very obvious facts, yet still so shocking. Because up until that moment, my mind had been devoted only to the happiness I can get in this world and the actual results I can achieve, I had tried not to look at the significant fact that death is inevitable to all. But by facing death head-on, whatever I had been chasing up until then crumbled so easily. No matter how much wealth or how many accomplishments I gain in this world, no matter how happy my life is, death will surely put an end to all of it.
“Then, what is the meaning of this life?”
“Am I this body that will eventually die, or will I continue to exist after death?”
Here again, this essential question came up. Yet this time, it wasn’t about others’ deaths, but the urgent matter of my own death. If I see myself as being so important, then I must answer this question. There is nothing more pointless than simply living day to day without finding a purpose to live for.
In this world, various religions preach about Heaven and Paradise, which is the world in which there is an easy life after death. Nevertheless, even if one can reach such a paradise after death, the issue of whether it is endless, whether death will arrive again, will continue to follow you like a shadow. This will get me nowhere, for this is simply replacing the issue with something else. (Pranavadipa Volume 77)
This heart-quenching search is how the Testimony in this month’s Pranavadipa (Vol. 77) begins—it is the translation of an article written by Yogadanda, a disciple of Shri Mahayogi in Japan. After introducing this very personal yet very universal inquiry, he then gradually starts to introduce the rishi (holy sages) of long ago, who unraveled these universal inquiries and their answers in the ancient verses of India called the Upanishad.
This Testimony includes the Prologue to some articles about the Upanishad that Yogadanda wrote later on, and the Testimony also includes one of these, which centers on the “Teaching of Uddalaka Aruni,” coming from the Chandogya Upanishad.
The uniqueness of this article is that through Yogadanda’s Testimony, not only are we introduced to the pristine teaching of Truth coming from the Upanishad, but how he has come to learn about this teaching through the presence and guidance of Shri Mahayogi, who grasps the core essence of what the rishi were originally expressing.
The particular teaching of the Upanishad which is written about in this article, is the story of a young man who, after studying 12 years and learning all there is to know, learns the true teaching of the knowledge that cannot be known, sitting at the side of his father. As Yogadanda introduces this teaching, he breaks it down for us in the way that he has learned from Shri Mahayogi, and draws a clear link between the way the Truth was taught in the story of this teaching and the way Shri Mahayogi teaches us today.
Through Yogadanda’s Testimony, it feels that we too can feel the Upanishad come to life, right now, today! And the universal message that is being heralded in the age of the Upanishad and right now, by Shri Mahayogi, is the powerful message to bring our minds only to the Truth—there is nothing else to know other than Truth, the Truth is the essence of each one of us and of all things, and there is no other base upon which to found our lives, except That!