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Darshan with Swami Krishnananda
by Swami Krishnananda

15. Removing the Ego

(Darshan given on August 9th, 1995.)

A visitor: I want to remove my ego.

Swamiji: What method are you adopting?

Visitor: I am watching the mind and the thoughts, and then it goes deeper, deeper, deeper.

Swamiji: Have you any problem with the ego?

Visitor: Yes. I don't feel free. I feel like I'm in prison.

Swamiji: Why are you feeling like that? Ego means the consciousness of your personality. That is called ego. Now what is the trouble?

Visitor: I feel two parts in myself. Sometimes I feel free, and another part I feel like I'm being manipulated by something.

Swamiji: You require a guide. In matters of this kind, you require a guide, a superior who understands things clearly and who also knows your mind. Such a person should be your guide. You should not handle your mind independently in an unsystematic manner. It is a great science, very precise and systematic. You cannot simply think whatever you like and imagine the ego is going. Who is your guide, who is your Guru, who is your teacher?

Visitor: Ramana Maharshi.

Swamiji: Have you seen him?

Visitor: No. I don't need to have seen him.

Swamiji: You said something about your method: watching the thoughts, going deeper, but Ramana Maharshi's method is not exactly like that.

Visitor: I know. I feel what he said, but I cannot do exactly what he said.

Swamiji: Why you cannot do it? Follow that method. His method is very good, and if you think it is suitable, follow that method.

Every person in the world has an aim in one's life, a final aim. You are sitting for some purpose. That must be clear first.

Visitor: My purpose is to be free.

Swamiji: You're saying ‘free' means ‘free from ego'. That is what you mean?

Visitor: I want to be myself.

Swamiji: Very good. But you cannot do anything like that unless you have got a guide. You are treading a dangerous path if you go independently, so don't meddle with yourself like that. You can meddle with others, but in meddling with one's own self one has to be very cautious. It may take you anywhere. Like a wind blowing, it may go this way or that way. One should not handle oneself in a haphazard manner. It requires a Guru. You said Ramana Maharshi is your Guru. If you think so, you follow his method.

Visitor: That's what I'm doing.

Swamiji: You are not doing that. Your method is something else.

You are going inside yourself, and not into the mind, if you have understood Ramana Maharshi properly.

Another visitor: What is satsanga?

Swamiji: It is a Sanskrit word. It contains two words: sat and sanga. Sat means Existence, Pure Being, Eternal Existence. Sat means God. Sanga means company, friendship, close contact. So close contact with God, that is satsanga. Also, sat means a saint or a good person. A saintly, good person also is sat, so friendship, company with a saint, also is satsanga. So it has two meanings. One is company with God; another is company with a saint or company with good people. It is a very big word, full of meaning, and very sacred, very holy, and wonderful. That is satsanga.

Visitor: What is yoga?

Swamiji: When yourself and God join together, unite, you become one with God. Yoga means coming together, union, joining, becoming one. That is yoga. So when your soul becomes one with God, that is high yoga.

Visitor: Swamiji, can you explain what the word hatha means in hatha yoga.

Swamiji: It has got several meanings. One meaning is that it is a forceful exercise to make the body yield to certain positions which actually are not the position of the body. Normally, we do not adjust our body as a yogic exercise. We behave as we like. But in hatha yoga we apply a special force on the body to yield to a particular position only. So actually, hatha means a kind of forceful effort. In ordinary language, hatha means obstinacy: You are very obstinate that you must do this. In ordinary language, when a person is going on insisting on one thing only, we say he is doing hatha, persisting in one thing only.

Another meaning is esoteric, secret. Ha and tha mean the secret names of two nerve centres operating through the two nostrils, and by these exercises we try to bring these two processes of breathing into a union of a single act of breathing.

And a third meaning is, ha means inspiration, tha means expiration, and so the union of these two processes is hatha. So this is actually what hatha yoga means. It is a preparation for raja yoga. The final aim is raja yoga only. That is the answer to the question.

Visitor: In yoga when you say God, are you referring to one thing or a variety of gods?

Swamiji: It can be one thing or a variety, both.

Visitor: So is God one or is God many?

Swamiji: Humanity is one but people are many, so do you consider humanity as one or many? A person is one, but there are many parts of the person such as eyes, nose, hands and feet, and so on, so can you say the person is one or many? The many gods are only parts and limbs of the one God, so you can meditate either through one god to the whole God, or you can directly meditate on the whole God. Since it is difficult to conceive the total God, the mind is given a little slower prescription of contemplating on lesser gods. But if you have got the strength of mind to contemplate the total God, you can directly do meditation on that.

It is like the government. The government is one, but officers are many, so there is no difference. Both mean the same thing. When a person puts on one uniform he is called a judge, and when he puts another uniform he is a policeman. Now, which is the correct one? One person can do many functions.

Visitor: Is it possible to cure illnesses by hatha yoga?

Swamiji: What kind of illness?

Visitor: It is not a particular disease. It is a chronic weakness in the knees.

Swamiji: If it is due to a disease such as polio, it cannot be cured so easily like that. You can mitigate the pain caused by chronic diseases, but they cannot be removed by physical exercise, though doing the exercises will do much good. Chronic diseases may not go completely, but you may not feel the presence of these troubles by regular exercises, especially breathing. Many of the troubles are due to shallow and irregular breathing. Shallow breathing is due to not paying sufficient attention to one's health, and irregular breathing is due to disturbed emotions and desires, and so on. The breathing exercise should not be practised if the mind is disturbed or the emotions are in turmoil. Some sort of calmness of mind is necessary before engaging oneself in breathing exercises. Shallow breathing can be rectified by sitting in a particular posture and breathing slowly. Take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. First you expel the breath. When you breathe in, push the chest forward. When you breathe out, press the stomach inside. The stomach goes inside when you breathe out by a little pressure. As much as possible breathe deeply, with all strength. If you do that for a long time, the carbon dioxide that is accumulated in the lungs will come out. If the carbon dioxide is not expelled properly, you yawn because it has not gone out completely, and so the lungs are pushing out all the unwanted breath.

There is a little more technical exercise called alternate-nostril breathing. [Swamiji demonstrates.] You have to do it several times, some fifteen minutes at least. But if your health is good, you need not do all these things. Merely a simple intake and expulsion is sufficient – inhalation and exhalation for at least fifteen minutes a day. And when you take the breath inside, stop the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale.

Carelessness in the way of living, in diet and in other behavioural patterns contributes to the coming of disease, which should be avoided by normal thinking, normal behaviour, normal diet, and as far as possible, a happy mind.

Visitor: Concentration is very difficult. The moment I try to concentrate, my mind goes from one thing to another. Is there any guidance?

Swamiji: What is the trouble that you are facing in life?

Visitor: I am not facing any particular difficulty, but I am not able to concentrate.

Swamiji: There are two reasons. One reason is, you do not believe in the value of meditation fully. Secondly, you believe in the validity of thinking other things which you consider as more important than the value you attach to meditation. That means to say, you finally do not know what meditation is at all. The meaning itself is not clear.

Meditation means total thinking. It is not one kind of thinking; it is total thinking in which every other thought is merged together into an integrated whole of thinking, so that the mind cannot go here and there. The other thoughts, which are actually distractions, should be brought together into this total which includes the distracting minds also, so that you have one big universal integration of one huge thought, and that thought includes every other thought which you are considering as distracting. Do you understand the point? It is difficult to think like that. It is not easy because finally there is only one mind in the whole universe, a vast sea of mind, and our minds are little drops of that universal mind. So you must put forth some effort in the direction of uniting this mind with the universal mind, which includes everybody's mind also. That is what I mean by ‘total mind'. It is finally the universal mind, or you may say God's mind. On that you think deeply because since that includes every other mind, naturally there is no scope for the mind to go here and there.

All this is very difficult to entertain in the mind unless you devote at least three quarters of the day thinking like this again and again, again and again, again and again, and mutually discuss all these points. Don't talk nonsense and go here and there, and have distracting ideas. Go again and again to this only, read books on this subject, and when you talk to people also bring this point so that you will have a collective cooperation of exercise in maintaining this total thought.

Your heart should have deep love for this exercise of meditation. It is not a routine and a mechanical action. Your heart is fully filled with it. Unless you love it, the concentration cannot come.

All this requires a teacher and a constant guide.