Sivananda Yoga FAQ
Q 1: Swamiji, how did Maya arise?
A: This is an Ati-prasna or transcendental question. You will find this question coming up to your mind in various forms: When did Karma begin? When and why was the world created? Why is there evil in the world? Why did the Unmanifest manifest itself? And so on. The same question is asked by Rama in Yoga Vasishtha and Vasishtha says: “You are putting the cart before the horse. You will not be benefited by an enquiry into this question at all. Meditate and realize Brahman. You will then know the answer to this question. The problem itself will have dissolved by then”. No one can answer this question. When Knowledge dawns, the question itself vanishes. Therefore there is no answer to the question at all. The Brahma Sutra says: Lokavat Tu Lila Kaivalyam. It is only to pacify your doubt. It is really not an answer; for, there can be no answer. Yet, the question will arise in the case of every seeker after Truth. You cannot help it. You will have to use your discrimination, pacify the doubt, and then through intense Sadhana and meditation, realize God. Then the doubt will vanish. A great Yogi and Jnani was worried with this doubt for twelve years. Then he told me: “The worry is over now. It troubled me for twelve years. I could not find an answer. So I have given up that pursuit and have taken to meditation, Japa and Kirtan. Now I find peace and progress”. Faith in the Guru, in the Grant Sahib, Kirtan, Japa, meditation and practice of righteousness — these will enable you to progress in the spiritual path and will take you to That where there is no questioning possible.
Q 2: How was it possible for Sri Sankaracharya to have devotion to Sakara Brahman when he was an Advaitin and his philosophical treatises prove that he believed in the nameless and formless One?
A: It is because Jnana and Bhakti are essentially the same! Look at the various Stotras that he has composed. They indicate clearly that he had developed devotion to a very high degree. Atmanivedan or self-surrender leads to Jnana; and Jnana is synonymous with Para Bhakti. People nowadays condemn Bhakti and think that it is inferior to Jnana Yoga. They have no understanding of Bhakti. They think that they can jump at once to Jnana Yoga Sadhana. They have really no faith in God. They just acquire some intellectual conception of God. This does not serve them. Jnana Yoga without the necessary preparation is of no use.
Q 3: Does purity of food lead to purity of mind? Is non-vegetarian food not Sattvic? We have in the Mahabharata instances of people taking the meat of goats sacrificed to the Lord.
A: Yes, purity of food leads to purity of mind. Aharasuddhau Satvasuddhih. Take a dose of champagne and sit for meditation. Take a dose of orange-juice and sit for meditation. You will know the difference. Different foods exercise different influences on different compartments in the brain. By taking champagne, meat and garlic, the mind will be confused and will become restless when you sit for meditation. By taking milk and fruits, you will get good concentration. Our Rishis lived on fruits and milk. The Chhandogya Upanishad says, “Pure food leads to purity of mind and then one attains Moksha”. You should have dietetic discipline.
Non-vegetarian food is not Sattvic. It is not good for a seeker. Live for a month on milk and fruits and see. Give up meat for one month and see. Let us be practical. Practical experience will tell you that meat-eating is bad for the mind.
Every child has a life-force within. Give them opportunities to express themselves. – Sri Swami Sivananda
The greatest obstacles to Self-realization are desire for property, desire for wealth and desire for name and fame. Desire is born of ignorance. The fundamental desire is for a mate. Destruction of desire is destruction of ignorance. – Sri Swami Sivananda
ATMAN-NIVEDANA – self-surrender
Atma Nivedana self-surrender is Absolute Love for God exclusively. There is nothing but God-consciousness in the devotee. Even against his own wishes, the devotee shall become one with God and lose his individuality. This is the law of being. The Highest Truth is Absoluteness and the soul rises above through different states of consciousness until it attains Absolute Perfection when it becomes identical with God. This is the culmination of all aspiration and love.
In Vishnu-Sahasranama it is said: The heart of one who has taken refuge in Vasudeva, who is wholly devoted to Vasudeva, gets entirely purified, and he attains Brahman, the Eternal.
The devotee offers everything to God, including his body, mind and soul. He keeps nothing for himself. He loses even his own self. He has no personal and independent existence. He has given up himself for God. He has become part and parcel of God. God takes care of him and God treats him as Himself. Grief and sorrow, pleasure and pain, the devotee treats as gifts sent by God and does not attach himself to them. He considers himself as a puppet of God and as an instrument in the hands of God. He does not feel egoistic, for he has no ego. His ego has gone over to God. It is not his duty to take care of his wife, children etc., for he himself has no independent existence apart from God. God will take care of all. He knows how to lead the world in the right path. One need not think that he is born to lead the world. God is there who will look to everything which man cannot even dream of. He has no sensual craving, for he has no body as it is offered to God. He does not love or adore his body for it is God’s business to see to it. He only feels the presence of God and nothing else. He is fearless, for God is helping him at all times. He has no enemy for he has given himself up to God who has no enemies or friends. He has no anxiety for he has attained everything by attaining the grace of God. He has not even the thought of salvation; rather he does not want salvation even, he merely wants God and nothing but God. He is satisfied with the love of God for by that there is nothing that is not attained. What is there to be attained, when God has sent His grace upon the devotee? The devotee does not want to become sugar but taste sugar. There is pleasure in tasting sugar, but not in becoming sugar itself. So the devotee feels that there is supreme joy more in loving God than becoming God. God shall take complete care of the devotee. I am Thine, says the devotee.
There are innumerable verses in the Bhagavadgita and the Bhagavata establishing the truth that self-surrender is the only way to attain the Supreme. Krishna teaches Arjuna that self-surrender, total and exclusive, alone can give him peace and relieve him from all sins.
One who studies the Bhagavadgita and the Srimad-Bhagavata will come to know what great importance is stressed upon total self-surrender. For self-surrender is the annihilation of individual consciousness and the attainment of Absolute Consciousness. This is equal to Nirvikalpa-Samadhi or Brahma-Sakshatkara. The devotee flies to the state of the highest Mahabhava and merges himself in God. The wave subsides in the ocean. The spark becomes one with fire. The ray is absorbed into the sun. The mind merges in the Atman. The individual loses himself in the Absolute. The devotee becomes one with God. Worldly consciousness vanishes into Universal Consciousness. Man becomes God and the mortal becomes Immortal.
Whatever belongs to God becomes the belonging of the highest devotee. All his sins are destroyed. He has no duties to perform. He is mere Apta-Kama or perfected soul. He is the most blessed. To him the whole world appears as mere Bliss. There is only the manifestation of Supreme Love.
The Gopis and Bali Chakravarti practised this love. The Gopis lost themselves in Krishna. Bali, the king, offered his self to the Lord. The Gopis lost themselves in God-consciousness and attained the Supreme.
Bhava or mental attitude is more important and not the object on which you meditate. – Sri Swami Sivananda