Questioner: Is the practice of Yoga always conscious? Or, can it be quite unconscious, below the threshold of awareness?
Maharaj: In the case of a beginner the practice of Yoga is often deliberate and requires great determination. But those who are practising sincerely for many years, are intent on self-realisation all the time, whether conscious of it or not. Unconscious sadhana is most effective, because it is spontaneous and steady.
Q: What is the position of the man who was a sincere student of Yoga for some time and then got discouraged and abandoned all efforts?
M: What a man appears to do, or not to do, is often deceptive. His apparent lethargy may be just a gathering of strength. The causes of our behaviour are very subtle. One must not be quick to condemn, not even to praise. Remember that Yoga is the work of the inner self (vyakta) on the outer self (vyakti). All that the outer does is merely in response to the inner.
Q: Still the outer helps.
M: How much can it help and in what way? It has some control over the body and can improve its posture and breathing. Over the mind's thoughts and feelings it has little mastery, for it is itself the mind. It is the inner that can control the outer. The outer will be wise to obey.
Q: If it is the inner that is ultimately responsible for man's spiritual development, why is the outer so much exhorted and encouraged?
M: The outer can help by keeping quiet and free from desire and fear. You would have noticed that all advice to the outer is in the form of negations: don't, stop, refrain, forego, give up, sacrifice, surrender, see the false as false. Even the little description of reality that is given is through denials -- 'not this, not this', (neti, neti). All positives belong to the inner self, as all absolutes -- to Reality.
Q: How are we to distinguish the inner from the outer in actual experience?
M: The inner is the source of inspiration, the outer is moved by memory. The source is untraceable, while all memory begins somewhere. Thus the outer is always determined, while the inner cannot be held in words. The mistake of students consists in their imagining the inner to be something to get hold of, and forgetting that all perceivables are transient and, therefore, unreal. Only that which makes perception possible, call it Life or Brahman, or what you like, is real.
Q: Must Life have a body for its self-expression?
M: The body seeks to live. It is not life that needs the body; it is the body that needs life.
Q: Does life do it deliberately?
M: Does love act deliberately? Yes and no. Life is love and love is life. What keeps the body together but love? What is desire, but love of the self? What is fear but the urge to protect? And what is knowledge but the love of truth? The means and forms may be wrong, but the motive behind is always love -- love of the me and the mine. The me and the mine may be small, or may explode and embrace the universe, but love remains.
Q: The repetition of the name of God is very common in India. Is there any virtue in it?
M: When you know the name of a thing, or a person, you can find it easily. By calling God by His name you make Him come to you.
Q: In what shape does He come?
M: According to your expectations. If you happen to be unlucky and some saintly soul gives you a mantra for good luck and you repeat it with faith and devotion, your bad luck is bound to turn.
Steady faith is stronger than destiny. Destiny is the result of causes, mostly accidental, and is therefore loosely woven. Confidence and good hope will overcome it easily.
Q: When a mantra is chanted, what exactly happens?
M: The sound of mantra creates the shape which will embody the Self. The Self can embody any shape -- and operate through it. After all, the Self is expressing itself in action -- and a mantra is primarily energy in action. It acts on you, it acts on your surroundings.
Q: The mantra is traditional. Must it be so?
M: Since time immemorial a link was created between certain words and corresponding energies and reinforced by numberless repetitions. It is just like a road to walk on. It is an easy way -- only faith is needed. You trust the road to take you to your destination.
Q: In Europe there is no tradition of a mantra, except in some contemplative orders. Of what use is it to a modern young Westerner?
M: None, unless he is very much attracted. For him the right procedure is to adhere to the thought that he is the ground of all knowledge, the immutable and perennial awareness of all that happens to the senses and the mind. If he keeps it in mind all the time, aware and alert, he is bound to break the bounds of non-awareness and emerge into pure life, light and love. The idea -- 'I am the witness only' will purify the body and the mind and open the eye of wisdom. Then man goes beyond illusion and his heart is free of all desires. Just like ice turns to water and water to vapour, and vapour dissolves in air and disappears in space, so does the body dissolve into pure awareness (chidakash), then into pure being (paramakash), which is beyond all existence and non-existence.
Q: The realised man eats, drinks and sleeps. What makes him do so?
M: The same power that moves the universe, moves him too.
Q: All are moved by the same power: what is the difference?
M: This only: The realised man knows what others merely hear; but don't experience. Intellectually they may seem convinced, but in action they betray their bondage, while the realised man is always right.
Q: Everybody says 'I am'. The realised man too says 'I am'. Where is the difference?
M: The difference is in the meaning attached to the words 'I am'. With the realised man the experience: 'I am the world, the world is mine' is supremely valid -- he thinks, feels and acts integrally and in unity with all that lives. He may not even know the theory and practice of selfrealisation, and be born and bred free of religious and metaphysical notions. But there will not be the least flaw in his understanding and compassion.
Q: I may come across a beggar, naked and hungry and ask him 'Who are you?' He may answer: 'I am the Supreme Self'. 'Well', I say, 'suffice you are the Supreme, change your present state'. What will he do?
M: He will ask you: 'Which state? What is there that needs changing? What is wrong with me?
Q: Why should he answer so?
M: Because he is no longer bound by appearances, he does not identify himself with the name and shape. He uses memory, but memory cannot use him.
Q: Is not all knowledge based on memory?
M: Lower knowledge -- yes. Higher knowledge, knowledge of Reality, is inherent in man's true nature.
Q: Can I say that I am not what I am conscious of, nor am I consciousness itself?
M: As long as you are a seeker, better cling to the idea that you are pure consciousness, free from all content. To go beyond consciousness is the supreme state.
Q: The desire for realisation, does it originate in consciousness or beyond?
M: In consciousness, of course. All desire is born from memory and is within the realm of consciousness. What is beyond is clear of all striving. The very desire to go beyond consciousness is still in consciousness.
Q: Is there any trace, or imprint, of the beyond on consciousness?
M: No, there cannot be.
Q: Then, what is the link between the two? How can a passage be found between two states which have nothing in common? Is not pure awareness the link between the two?
M: Even pure awareness is a form of consciousness.
Q: Then what is beyond? Emptiness?
M: Emptiness again refers only to consciousness. Fullness and emptiness are relative terms. The Real is really beyond -- beyond not in relation to consciousness, but beyond all relations of whatever kind. The difficulty comes with the word 'state'. The Real is not a state of something else -it is not a state of mind or consciousness or psyche -- nor is it something that has a beginning and an end, being and not being. All opposites are contained in it -- but it is not in the play of opposites. You must not take it to be the end of a transition. It is itself, after the consciousness as such is no more. Then words 'I am man', or 'I am God' have no meaning. Only in silence and in darkness can it be heard and seen.