The following dialog took place between Vimala Thakar and Yoga teachers from all over the world in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India on the 11th of September, 2000.
Question: What are the most difficult obstacles that a sadhaka has to overcome during his spiritual path?
It becomes very difficult to break the silence and touch the space with words; words feel very shy to encroach upon the emptiness of silence. The science of consciousness, atma vidya has been the field of study, investigation, exploration, experimentation and verification through the act of living in Ancient India. Naturally all the literature about atma vidya, adhyatma -Spirituality is in ancient Sanskrit language, so the students of yoga come across the Sanskrit words and terms when they study Yoga Sutras or Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga etc.
You have used the term “sadhaka” in your collective question. But the investigation does not begin with sadhana. Investigation begins first on the theoretical, academic, verbal level. One has to know with the help of words about what one is going to do as sadhana. .
This phase of investigation, this study through travelling, through reading books, through seminars, you may call it intellectual sadhana, but we call it jignasya the urge to enquire, and one who does that is jignasu.
When a person living In Europe and America or outside Asia comes to know through scriptures on Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or even Islam, when the person comes to know that there are different ways of living, where freedom from the prison-house of thought and from the clutches of the mind is possible, then the desire for liberation is born in the heart. When he knows through that verbal investigation that a different way of living is possible, that people have lived that way, that it is possible for anyone and everyone to be liberated from the grip of the mind and the prison-house of thought structure, then the desire for liberation is born in the heart. The desire for liberation is called mumuksha – the desire for moksha. Moksha is liberation. Mukti, moksha, these are the Sanskrit terms. One who has the desire for moksha is called mumushu.
So the jignasu becomes mumukshu. First he only wanted to know; now he says I have known that It IS possible, so why should I continue living as a slave of the thought and the mind. If there is a consciousness beyond, if there is a life beyond, well let me explore. So jignasu becomes a mumukshu; a person charged with the flame of enquiry, of exploration. So he turns to those who have taken the pilgrimage, those who have followed the path of liberation and freedom. He comes across such persons, sees their lives and he says that I want to educate myself in that way of freedom, in that life style of freedom, so he becomes a sadhaka.
A sadhaka is one who launches upon the extensive project of education, learning, discovery. Sadhana is the process of education, the process of learning, a personal discovery of truth. One who does that sadhana is called sadhaka. So jignasu; mumukshu; sadhaka. When the process of education is gone through at the physical level, at the verbal level, at the mental level, at cerebral level, and in the movement of daily relationships, then he becomes a siddha. The education is completed, now it is mature. Sadhana – sadhaka and then siddha.
Because you have asked the question and have used the term sadhaka one must know the background. Sadhana, sadhaka is the third phase. After verbal investigation, comes the phase where one is charged with the desire for liberation from mind and thought. If that desire is not there, if the urge is not there, then one does not become a Sadhaka. The Sadhana is for mukti, moksha, liberation, enlightenment. That is the top priority; that is the first priority. The person is willing to do anything and everything for that discovery of freedom and living in freedom. So the Sadhaka is the student of life, learning and educating himself. If the urge for liberation is not there, then you may do yoga asanas and pranayama for 20 years, they will give you health, they will give you symmetrical body, it is a physical and cultural education, very necessary -but that by itself does not lead you to freedom from the mind. Yamah-Niyamah will give you a disciplined life, even pratyahara can give you a disciplined life. There will be a disciplined life at the physical level, at the verbal level. You will be speaking Truth -Sat yam, you will be non-violent –ahimsa, there will be shaucham– cleanliness at the physical, the mental and the verbal level and modesty, humility. So the yamahs and niyamahs will create a very orderly, disciplined person. Asanas, pranayama will change the quality of physical life and bring about a different freshness in body-brain complex but that by itself is not the totality of sadhana, it is only a part.
Many people have a misconception when they turn to Yoga; they think that yoga asanas, pranayama and yamah – niyamah, will naturally lead them to dhyanam and samadhi. But that is a different education because with yamah- niyamah, asana-pranayama, pratyahara, dharana you have to exercise the physical, the verbal, the mental, the cerebral, you have to make an effort, you have to create an order in the chaos, in the disorder. The “You”, the centre, the monitor is there, the method and techniques of doing away with disorder and creating order: that is there. Yamahs and niyamahs give you direction for the asanas, which must be done correctly, a Mantra has to be pronounced correctly, in the proper accent, intonation, punctuation, and articulation. Even in dharana, the science and the art of concentration, there is still something to learn – concentrate on the breath, concentrate on the movement of breath, concentrate on an idol, concentrate on the flame of a candle and so on, there is the centre, the knowledge, the direction of effort, the methodology of effort.
People find it easy up to there. Education can go on smoothly up to the step of dharana, if the person is really sincere and really very serious about changing the way of living. It is an alternative way of living. It is an alternative culture. It is an alternative dynamics of relationship with your body, with nature, with human beings with non-human species. It is a holistic change in the way of living, up to that it is comparatively easy and many serious, sincere students of spirituality in the various countries of the world have taken the journey up to there, but then comes the point of dhyanam or meditation.
You say what is the most difficult obstacle? I will not call it obstacle, but a difficult point that you have to cross. If you convert it into an obstacle it can become an obstacle, otherwise it is something that you have to cross, to go over. What happens is, up to Dharana, the ‘I’, the self, the me, the Ego, the Monitor whatever you call it, can assert itself, can make an effort, can see the result, the product, the result of its effort in time, it can even manipulate the result, so it is satisfied -I have done this, I have progressed. And naturally through yoga asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, the dormant energies in the body, in the biological organism, in the psychological structure which were not tapped before, they are stimulated. The manifestation of those activised powers is called vibhuti. Siddhi, vibhuti. So up till there, the enthusiasm of the ‘l’, the ‘Me’ is tremendous, because it is doing something, it is getting something, it can measure it, people can see what you have achieved and you can teach it to others. But then comes the point of dhyanam, where the mind and the brain are to be educated in relaxation of all movement – that is the difficult point. The body has to be steady, the speech has to go back into its source, and the mental movement and the movement of the brain have to voluntarily discontinue. You cannot make them stop, because you are a part of that, you are a part of the past, of the thought structure, the conditionings, you are one of it, you are its product so you can not change it, the ‘You’, the monitor which up till now has been very active has to voluntarily discontinue its movement.
The difficult part comes now of educating the mind and the brain to voluntarily discontinue its movement in every direction. If you tell the mind there is nothing to know, nothing to experience, nowhere to go, no experiencing, it runs back into the past. Wants to chew into the memories of the past pleasure, of the past pain, or it wants to jump towards the future that is unborn, that is not here. It does not give up easily its addiction to motion. It has been moving, changing itself, changing others, getting something. It has been busy with the acquisitive movement- acquire knowledge, acquire money, acquire experience, acquire powers, and people acknowledge you, you get social respectability and you can earn money by teaching them.
This part of self-education is a very tough part, because there is no doing. You have to be with yourself whether you sit down, you stand up, and you walk. No books, no reading, no knowing, no experiences. One requires tremendous patience with the cerebral organ, which has been sharpened. It has been made very sharp and sophisticated and you have purified it through your Yamah -Niyamah etc. It is very sensitive: one hundred times more sensitive than any of your electronic gadgets. So when you sit down with yourself or spend some days with yourself, you notice that immeasurable velocity, that tremendous, fantastic momentum with which the thoughts come and go, the emotions come, the memories come up and the Seer has to be there just seeing it, not looking at it. Looking is the activity of the monitor, the ‘I’, the ‘Me’, the mind. Seeing is the energy principle of your life. You don’t see because you want to see, but because you can’t help it. It IS an involuntary action. It is not a movement like thinking, feeling, willing. It is an instantaneous action. So be with oneself, be with the total human past contained in your body, not even to watch it, to observe it, but just be in the state of seeing. The seeing, the hearing goes on but you are not listening. You listen to something when you have a motivation, but hearing goes on, you can’t help it, if you are awake, the auditory nerves respond to the sound, the optical nerves respond to the light, to the shape, to the colour of the objects.
To be in that austere state of seeing is the toughest part. When the seen, that is the past, the known, the conditioned gets exposed to that seeing energy it gets exhausted, that is to say, the seen energy is not unlimited, it is vast, it is gigantic, but it has had a beginning and it can have an end. One needs patience in educating oneself for being in the state of seeing without looking, without listening, without comparing, without evaluating, without passing a value judgement on what is seen. Nobody will know, but you go on doing that inwardly. So no value judgement, no comparison, no seeking pleasure out of it, no feeling pain out of it. The seeing is unrelated to that which is seen. It is not a relationship, it is co-existence of the seeing energy and the seen energy -the drashta, drashtutvam and drishya.
The body, the movement of the pranas, your breathing, the movement of the mind, the movement of the brain -all these are seen, they are not your existential essence, they are not the essence of your being. The seeing energy is the essence, which you might call atman and chaitanya. You might give a variety of names to it, It is just an energy, where seeing and understanding are rolled into one. It is a perceptive sensitivity. Looking is an activity, a joint activity of the mind and the optical nerves, but seeing is unrelated to that which is seen, because one did not want to see it, wish to see it, expect to see it, it is there, therefore it is seen. That is the toughest part, but if that is gone through, then the seen and the seeing energy subside into their sources and there is maunam or silence or emptiness.
So the seeing and the seen are replaced by infinite silence of emptiness. It is still tougher to be in that state if at all a sadhaka has patience and humility to be in the state. Nothing happens, no experiences, you come out of silence after 2 or 3 hours and somebody asks you” what were you doing?” “I don’t know, nothing”. But you were sitting there with your closed eyes for 3 hours, what happened?” “Nothing.” “What did you get out of it?” “Nothing.”
The immeasurableness and indescribable-ness of that emptiness! How can you describe emptiness? You can describe an object. So the ‘I’ consciousness, the Ego that had gone voluntarily into discontinuity jumps back. It wants to claim and say “I have had an experience of silence”. The ‘I’ can never have that experience, the ‘I’ can have experience of quietness, of abstinence from speaking, it can have an experience of non-motion but silence is something that cannot be experienced. Nothing happens to the chemical or metabolic or nervous system.
What is the obstacle on the path of a sadhaka? – This nothingness and nobody-ness. To go through that period of solitary silence is difficult especially for those who are living in big cities, they have jobs, they have families. Unless they move away from their working place and family atmosphere for some time this education from the doer, the experiencer to the Seer, from the Seer into the Silence and then into Meditation, this education cannot happen. Devoting an hour a day while living in the family, while working at a job is easy, that can be done, but for the revolution to happen, for the mutation to take place, the Silence has to crystallise. It is only when the silence crystallises as the normal dimension of consciousness that the mutation, the quantum jump into the state of dhyanam occurs. It is not the result of any human effort. You cannot bring it about as the result of your action. It occurs, it happens if this period of being merged into or being immersed into the ocean of Emptiness is gone through.
You may call it in your language the most difficult obstacle. As I see it, it is a tough phase in education, because it is going beyond mind, it is going beyond brain into another dimension of consciousness -dhyanajam anashayam (Patanjali Yoga Sutras IV. 6). Out of meditation is born a chitta which has no content of thought, emotion, feeling, which has no past, which has no conditionings. The prakrit chitta disappears with meditation and dhyanajam chittam anashayam emerges. Chitta, which is emptiness, emptiness as a dimension of consciousness, gets born. In the beginning it lasts for say few hours and when you are busy in movement of relationships you feel it is slipping out, because that is a period of puberty from one dimension to the other -a touch and go, it slips back into the mental or the cerebral, it becomes aware of it, again gets back into the mental or the cerebral, it becomes aware of it, again gets back into the meditative dimension and then there is a growth into samadhi, the dimension of invincible equipoise, invincible peace, invincible relaxation. No action can damage the relaxation. No speaking for hours can affect the inner state of silence and no relationships which one has to go through in society can even touch the solitude of the consciousness.
So it seems to me that the tough period begins in sadhana or the difficult period or obstacle period, begins when one is busy educating oneself in dhyanam.
There is a very well known sadhaka poet in India, he is still living, he wrote to me that it is better to be in the dimension of the known where you know how to handle thought, emotions, reactions, defence mechanism, patterns of behaviour. It is much better to be there and safer to be there, than to get transported into the unknown where everything is unknowable. So the idea of psychic security, by which one has lived, has a strong hold over one. Even in the study of Yoga, in the subconscious there is that sense of security with the known – the known place, the known people, and the known activities
Meditation –dhyanam is a romance with the unknown. I do not know if I have responded to your question, but this being the last meeting of this year, I thought: let me share with you the journey from jignasa to sadhana – sadhana as a process of education –self-education, mutual education, group education. How you do it is secondary, but it is an educational process. Not academic education, which gives you a degree and a job at the end of it. At the end of this education there is the maturity of samadhi, it is the consummation of human growth. It is not an acquisitive movement but it is a movement of constant discovery of the different nuances of truth and reality, a discovery of the different nuances and shades of that cosmic energy which is playing even in your body.
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