(Given on April 18, 1982.)
Question: What are the seven lokas? What leads the soul to each of these lokas? How, why and when does inter-loka transmigration of souls take place?
Swamiji: Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka are the seven planes of existence. They are subtle layers of being. Gross objects are made of molecules, inside the molecules are atoms, inside the atoms are electrons, and then there is the electromagnetic, pervasive universal continuum which the scientist calls something or nothing, and so on. Likewise, we have in this very place, in this very spot where we are seated, all the planes of existence, just as in the very same object you can see the molecule, the atom, the electron, and even its connection with the whole cosmos.
No one can enter all the planes of existence at the same time, in the same way as each person is a citizen of only one country at a time. You are a passport holder; how can you enter all the countries? I am not wholly acquainted with all these laws, but maybe a member of the United Nations may enter all nations. A person who belongs to everything can enter into all things. If you are a friend of everybody, you can enter into the house of any person, but if you are not such, you have to be cautious to guard yourself against such entries.
When a person dies, that person, that jiva, that soul, that discarnate spirit is said to enter into some subtler realm; it may be Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka, etc. Ordinary mortals who are bound souls will not go to the higher regions such as Janaloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka, etc. They may go to the astral world, the next higher world, and sometimes not even go there. They will come back to this world due to their strong attachments and affections, and so on. Your capacity to enter a higher realm depends upon your unity with the structure of that realm, which is done by becoming more and more universalised and spiritual in your being, rather than being locked up in personal consciousness or physical consciousness.
Question: In meditation we are told to still the mind and meditate. There is a group called Silva mind control where they work the mind, and obtain a lot through the use of the mind.
Swamiji: Even controlling the mind is working the mind only. It is not making the mind sleep. On the other hand, the so-called control of the mind is an intense activity of the mind. Perhaps the mind is more active in concentration than it would be in ordinary circumstances. It does not matter whether you call it Silva or anything else; whatever is the name that you give it, the mind becomes intensely active in a novel way when it is concentrated. You can burn things and break walls, as a ray of the sun can burn objects when it is concentrated or focused through a lens.
Stilling the mind does not mean allowing the mind to sleep. The word 'stilling' is a very unfortunate word. It is not stilling the mind; it is making the mind more active than it would be ordinarily when it is in contact with objects. When it is in contact with objects it is dully operating, not actively operating. Your love for the objects of sense is shallow; therefore, it is not active, really speaking. But when you really discover the object of your love, it will bounce up immediately and it will be more active.
Hence, yoga is not stilling the mind. That is a wrong notion. It is making the mind more active in a larger sense, in a universalised sense, by which it can work miracles. It is an activity which is like karma yoga. It cannot be identified with the ordinary work that you perform here, though it is also a kind of supernatural activity. Yoga is not stilling the mind in the sense of not thinking anything. It is a high vibration of the mind, a supersonic and super-intelligible activity of the mind wherein, due to its intense rapidity like a fast-moving fan, it looks as if it is not moving at all. Hence, both are the same.
Question: It is said that sirsasana, sarvangasana and paschimottanasana can cure all diseases. Sirsasana is a panacea for all diseases. If so, can't it cure diseases like low and high blood pressure? If not, what is the asana for these diseases?
Swamiji: Low blood pressure, high blood pressure, etc., are caused by many factors, and one should not take to a stereotyped method of curing an illness—any illness, for the matter of that. Sirsasana is good, but when there is a problem with blood pressure, sirsasana should not be practised. When there is hypertension, if the person starts practising sirsasana under the impression that it will cure it, he may collapse at that moment. First of all, one must find out the causes behind hypertension, high blood pressure, etc. The causes may be psychological, emotional, social, etc. They may not be purely physical. Sometimes they are aggravated in a physical way, but their causes may not be. Mostly they are not physical; they are something else, though partially they may be due to the deterioration of the body due to old age, etc. Sirsasana can be practised when there is no hypertension, when the blood pressure is normal. When it is carried on in a very intelligent and disciplined manner, it may prevent a further occurrence of hypertension. But during the occurrence of the hypertension, asanas should not be practised, except savasana.
Question: What is the difference between Ishvara and Brahman, or the Absolute, and Hiranyagarbha? What are the seven planes such as Svarga, etc.?
Swamiji: Brahman and Ishvara are the same. They are not two different things. When Brahman is considered as something related to this universe, it is called Ishvara. When it is considered as something existing independent of the universe, it is called Brahman. So Brahman plus the universe is Ishvara, and Ishvara minus the universe is Brahman. Ishvara is only our interpretation of Brahman through the universe. There are no two persons, here Ishvara and there Brahman. It is only our reading of one and the same existence. Somehow or other, we are not able to free ourselves from the notion that there is a world before us, and because we see a world, we think there must be a creator. Because we first imagine that there is a world, we have to imagine that there is a creator also. That creator is Ishvara. But if the world is not there, if the whole world is absorbed into its cause, or if you want to think of reality before creation, you may call it Brahman.
Virat, Hiranyagarbha, Ishvara and Brahman are the stages conceived of the descent of Reality in the process of creation. This is explained in an analogy in the beginning of the Sixth Chapter of the Panchadasi of Sage Vidyaranya. He explains this truth in this way: Imagine that there is a clean piece of cloth. This will be compared to Brahman. Then you stiffen it with starch to make it into a canvas. This is Ishvara, where the pure, undiluted, clean whiteness of the cloth is stiffened for a certain purpose. That purposive transformation of the pure background of the cloth is the canvas that is Ishvara. Hence, Brahman with a purpose is Ishvara.
Now, why do you stiffen this cloth? Because you are a painter, you want to draw something on it, so you draw outlines of the intended painting. That outline is Hiranyagarbha, where the universe is like a dream in an outline form only, not fully visible. Then the painter fills the outline with colour, and we have the fully manifest gross universe which is Virat. So Brahman, Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat are something like the clean cloth, the stiffened, starchy cloth, the outline and the well-filled, colour-filled painting which is the completion of the art. This is the way in which we have to understand the descent of the Universal into grosser forms of creation.
Question: It is said that God is the master of all beings and sits in their hearts. He moves them as toys. If so, why did Lord Krishna ask Arjuna to be instrumental and surrender completely?
Swamiji: Lord Krishna wanted Arjuna to realise that he is only a vehicle which is driven by Lord Krishna, so there is no harm in the fountain pen writing, because the writer is somebody else. The question is an answer to its own self. There is no contradiction between these two things. When Lord Krishna does everything, where is the point of Arjuna, who is only the fountain, pen saying, “I will not write”? He is not writing anything; he is not doing anything. Hence, the statements “I will do” and “I will not do” have no meaning because he is only an instrument. So why are you grudging, why are you complaining, why do you say this or that? The instrument has no reason to say anything. Sri Krishna is doing everything; God is operating. Shakespeare was writing the plays with a pen. The pen was not writing the plays, so why should the pen get the credit? Just as neither the credit nor the discredit goes to the pen, neither do we get the punya nor the papa when God does everything, provided—underline the word 'provided'—we are conscious that this is the fact. But if you think that you are the fountain pen itself—“I am writing, I am doing”—then God is not responsible. It is your consciousness of yourself that is the cause of your sorrow, and it is your consciousness of yourself in a different way that is the source of your freedom.
Question: The other day Swamiji said that knowledge comes instantly, just as a sleeping man wakes up. Nothing can be said about this; it just happens. If it is so, where is the necessity of doing sadhana?
Swamiji: You need not do any sadhana. Why are you doing sadhana? There is something in you which tells you that you must do it. That something is the great mystery that is operating in you. You are again thinking that you are outside this mystery. The great trouble is not leaving us. You are asking, “Why should I do?” So again this 'I' is persisting as a separate thing from that which works. “When everything is happening automatically, why should I do?” Now, where do you come into the picture? Why you are butting in with this 'I'? You have already made a mistake by thinking this question. This question should not arise because you have already committed a blunder in imagining you are there. Well, if you are there, do it. There is a mistake in the question.
Question: Swami Vivekananda said, “So long as even a dog is hungry in India, my religion will be to give it food.” If this is to be accepted, how it is to be reconciled with the practice of religion in personal life?
Swamiji: Well, you have to give food to all the dogs, and you can try your best. But, you are also one of the dogs, unfortunately, and that you should not forget. You cannot save one dog and kill another dog. Suppose you give all the food you have to one dog or a hundred dogs; then you, who are also a dog, will die. So there should be a commonsense point of view. You see, killing another is himsa; killing yourself also is himsa. Suicide is as culpable as murder. You cannot say that murder is an offense and suicide is not an offense, because you are as valuable as another, and others are as valuable as yourself. So you have to use your discretion in understanding what amount of service you can do to humanity or the world.
What Swami Vivekananda has said is perfectly correct. You are not supposed to hold wealth and property. You can keep only the minimum that is necessary for you to exist, because you should not die—unless, of course, you have a higher consciousness, which is called higher wisdom. It is difficult to explain here. That is something with which you are not acquainted, and you cannot identify with that high state of Christ or Buddha or Mahatma Gandhi. Normally speaking, you have to lead a very simple life of minimum requirements, which is the life of tapasya, unless you are fired up with the higher consciousness of serving others by parting with every property that you have got—even the last penny that you have got, though it may be the death of yourself. But this consciousness must be spiritually motivated, not motivated by any political causative factor, etc.
So common sense is wisdom. You have to serve other people—all the dogs, all the poor people—and you can do it only to the extent you have the capacity. Of course, beyond that you cannot do. So you are right. This sentence of Vivekananda should not be taken in a literal sense. The dogs are not only in India; they are in the whole universe. You cannot go on feeding all the dogs in the whole cosmos. You do not know how many are there. This is an instruction which has to be taken in its spirit, and not in the letter. Do you know how many are suffering in this creation? You cannot even know them, and if you go on counting the number of people who are suffering, you will become mad in one second.
The idea behind it is the formation of a spirit of self-sacrifice and service to others by consciously abandoning the attitude of holding, grabbing, exploiting, and selfish enjoyment. If you can get on with a few morsels of rice, be satisfied with it. The rest you give to others. As Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to say, if you can get on with one or two coats, have two coats. Why do you have ten coats and ten wristwatches, five cars and a ten-story bungalow? It is not necessary. It is called exploitation, a kind of theft.
Thus, the commonsense answer to this question is, keep for yourself the minimum that is necessary to keep your life going in a reasonable manner, and the balance must be given to others—to dogs, horses, poor people, whoever they are. This is something where you have to exercise your reason.
Question: Should we recite Jai Ganesha, Durga Stotra, Shantipad daily before meditation?
Swamiji: It is good if you can, but if you have any other sadhana, that is also good. There is no comparison. Jai Ganesha kirtan is a tradition that is followed in this ashram, and in other ashrams this tradition may not be followed. It does not follow that the other traditions of other ashrams are wrong. It is a question that you have to decide for yourself. If you have some other mantra into which you are initiated, or you have a family tradition of your own, that is also equally good. But if you are enamoured of this system here, well, follow this system. There is no compulsion, but it is a useful thing if you have no better method.
Question: Fast and vigil disturb the daily sadhana routine. Should I observe them?
Swamiji: You have to fast and observe vigil in such a way that they do not disturb your daily routine. It is up to you to understand how it can be done. You are not supposed to suffer. Sadhana is not a suffering. It is a satisfaction and a joy. It is a very important point that you should observe fast and vigil only in a controlled manner so that the other duties which are also important and which you cannot avoid are not hindered in any manner. Balance is yoga—samatvaṁ yoga ucyate (B.G. 2.48)—not going to extremes.
Question: It is a common anxiety in the mind of seekers, sadhakas, as to what is beyond, what is after the great passing. Your noble ideas have given us food for thought. That is okay, but what compels me to ask you is that if God is mysterious, it does not mean that you should be so. With all the respect and love to you, I pray to you to enlighten us on this subject.
Swamiji: You serve me for 12 years; then I will tell you. Or fast like Nachiketas. Do not be too anxious. Too much is bad. You will get it in proper time.
Question: I am not satisfied with your answer, so I am putting the question again with adoration. How can one find the proper Guru?
Swamiji: God will bring you in contact with the Guru. You cannot find a Guru. You cannot see the Guru because he is superior to you, but you will be brought in contact. Your coming in contact with the Guru is also one of the mysteries of the world. But you will have to be conscious that you take advantage of that Guru. You should not go on experimenting with your Guru. Nowadays, disciples seem to be superior to the Guru; they experiment with the Gurus, and want the Gurus to behave in a particular way according to their predilections. So it is a useless question, and it appears to me that you cannot find a Guru because you want to be superior to the Guru yourself by judging him. Unless you are prepared to completely self-efface yourself, give up your egoism and not judge Gurus, you will not find a Guru. But otherwise, if you are sincere, honest, and open in your heart, I am sure you will be brought in contact with a Guru. For your practical purpose, not to elude you very much, I give the simple answer. You might have seen thousands of people in this world. One person must have attracted you. That person can be regarded by you as your Guru for the time being until you find another one later on.
Question: After that, how can I ascertain that a Guru so found is perfect?
Swamiji: Again the same question comes. You are superior to that Guru. Such a person need not want a Guru. He can mind his business; that is better. A person who is wanting to find out whether the Guru is perfect does not need a Guru, because he is himself a Guru.