On Breathing Completely, Practicing Silence (Maun) and Service (Sewa)

(The following is the translation from Q-A session held during the Shivratri Sadhana Camp, February 2012. Maharaj Ji first reads out a question presented to him (which are all written down by devotees prior to the session) and then proceeds to answer them. Four questions are addressed below. The first concerns the science of breathing fully, the second on the way of practicing silence, the third on purpose of creation, and the fourth on the amount of time to be spent on sadhana.

 <Invocation and Surrender to the Divine through Mantras>.

There are two diverse questions today. The first one is, “What is the obstacle that prevents us from breathing fully?”

There is no such thing as an obstacle. The body itself is built in such a way. An obstacle would imply that it is different for different people. Someone may just be starting; someone may have advanced on expanding his consciousness within. If someone wants to find water from the ground, he will have to dig. What is the question of obstacle there? The water itself is beneath the earth, that’s all. It is not a matter of obstacle; we have just not begun to dig. We have not walked the path. Yes, when we will start walking then we can go on talking about the path also. So do not give space to notions of obstacles.

The first thing is: What do we mean by a complete, full breath? We will say two things in this context. A yogi is someone who will breathe completely. That means that when he will breathe it would be so deep that his breath, stimulating the prana, will merge into the cause of the pranaparamatma. That is, he will breathe and go into samadhi. What is meant by samadhi? It means that the yogi took a breath and merged within i.e. the breath ceased to flow outwards. This is what is meant by full, deep, complete breathing. This is just like the flowing Ganges merges into the ocean and becomes ocean itself. This is indeed an extraordinary state. This can be the goal.

Second, even a child breathes fully to a great extent. A newly born baby, though he does not enter into samadhi as he breathes, yet he breathes completely enough so that his entire body pulsates as he/she breathes. There is not much strength in a baby’s body. He cannot stand, he cannot speak. But there is great strength in his prana. A child breathes 40 times a minute; if a normal person tries that his head will reel. So a child breathes completely to a great extent, and therefore there is so much power in his prana. It is because of this that he grows only on a few drops of milk. A child is albe to breathe completely, because his mind is not entangled outside. His mind is not outside because his eyes cannot see outside, his senses have not developed. If you place your hand before his eyes, he cannot see it. His eyes, senses, and consciousness are active inside in a sense because they are not active outside. It is therefore, that his breathe is full. The lungs are immensely active and because of that the blood rush is kept stimulated.

Now we define a normal being as someone who is totally healthy, though his senses are fully active in the outside world, he is not entangled outside, is simple-minded; the breath that such a person takes is to be considered full too, as far as a normal standard of complete breathing is concerned. The earlier definition of complete breathing is possible only in a yogi, and to some extent in a child. But this redefinition should be possible for all. Hope it is understandable! But the difficulty is that in the common man even this much is not realized. As a result, there is stress, a lack of peaceful sleep, diseases of the heart etc. If we can breathe completely, even to the extent as redefined for a healthy person, our body too will become totally freed of bodily diseases.  This is what we are trying to do in the kriyas done in the morning and the evening in this camp. Even if we learn to breathe completely, it will be significant. It may take someone one month, someone two months, and someone even a year – to correct his breathing.

We will now talk about the characteristics of a complete breath (for a normal healthy person).

The breath enters through the nostrils, and going through the windpipe enters the lungs. There is a simple sutra to make the lungs totally active; which is to flatten the diaphragm as one inhales. Begin filling the body with breath from below. The diaphragm will flatten, and the chest will expand to the front. Try that the chest also expands sideways and then ultimately upwards too. So while inhaling, the chest should expand on all the sides. If this much can be achieved, then we would have begun to breathe completely. Intellectually this is simple to understand, but harder to carry out in practice. The muscles have gotten positioned and conditioned in a particular way. They have become rigid over time. So even though one may understand it intellectually, yet even after much practice success may not be gained. In youth, success can be attained early. But as ones ages, stress and rigidity in the muscles also increases.

There is another thing to be noted. When a bucket is filled, it starts filling from the bottom upwards. And it empties from the top. It works much the same way for breathing also. We know that there is a power at the base of the spine. The center of prana is there. So breathing from there, the diaphragm gets flattened. As a result the belly will also expands outwards. But you do not have to consciously expand the belly. We have to expand the lungs and the chest; the diaphragm must flatten. In the process the belly will expand a little to the outside on its own; not voluntarily, just on its own. The chest and lungs have to be expanded. At least try this much, that when inhaling, the belly should not go to the inside. But this exactly what ordinarily happens, the belly moves inwards while inhaling. This is incomplete/wrong way of breathing.

<Maharaj Ji demonstrates. The sign of incomplete breathing is that while inhaling, the belly goes towards the spine and the diaphragm contracts into the chest instead of flattening downwards.>

When the diaphragm has contracted, that means the available volume in the lungs for the air has also decreased. Then only the small upper regions of the lungs are utilized breathing. The blood is not completely detoxified. We are not able to exhale fully, and if do not exhale fully, how can we inhale fully as well! Therefore, gradually, toxins accumulate in the body, and the body goes on becoming stiff and rigid.

So, there is no question of obstacles. It is our own doing. What is the reason? Our brain has become too active. It keeps on thinking so much. There are so many worries. This/that should not happen. It is fearful. It is tense. Instead, relax totally. The face shows everything. If we look at the face, we will see how much tension there is. The face does not lighten up. So because the brain is so tense, the breath is not complete. Consequently, toxins accumulate and then the fire in the navel gets weak. What we eat is not digested fully. The cleansing too is not complete. And ultimately one is forced to be reminded:

Motte motte kule motte motte pet, Nahin re putaa guru syon bhent.

<Those whose bodies are obese, cannot me the Guru>.

Obesity is a sign that the fire in the navel has weakened. Awakening of the Kundalini – are things that are quite far-away. These are signs of disease. Yes, if someone’s body is uniformly expanded, right from the chest to the belly – then that is different. What we are talking about is that the chest is totally sunk within, and the belly has expanded outwards quite disproportionately. And the reason is simply the failure to breathe fully. So breathe, that the chest may expand fully, the diaphragm flattens and the belly comes out on its own accord. This is the complete breath as far as a normal healthy body is concerned. For this, regular practice is required. It is not an intellectual exercise, not something to be read. It is a matter of regular practice. A young person may accomplish this soon. A child may accomplish this on hearing itself. And it may take time for some. But if we do not do this, the situation tumbles down out of our control. Then the situation arises where it will appear easier to eat a medicine, or go to a doctor. But that has so many side effects too.

There is so much energy in the atmosphere. Breathe completely and at least gain a totally healthy body. The sleep would be deep. Whatever is eaten will be digested. So do not underestimate it.

After this we come to the breath of a practitioner, a sadhak. In him the vibrations of breath would go so deep, that the areas towards the backbone would also start getting pulsated. The lungs would expand towards the back too. Otherwise, these regions remain closed in a normal person. The throat opens towards the neck. This opens new avenues of growth within the body of the practitioner.

We have already said that in a Mahayogi, one inhalation is deep enough to unite his consciousness with the Divine within. As a practitioner advances towards this goal, many new avenues open up in his body. This happens not only at the pranic level, but even in the gross body many changes take place. Though outwardly the body of a Mahayogi may look like that of an ordinary person, yet from within, his body is totally different. But for now we do not have to focus on this. All we have to do is to concentrate on the practice, so that we learn to breathe fully. This practice is a very important sadhana in itself.

It is said to recite the mantra with the breath. But as long as the breath isn’t deep, its force is to the outside, how can it help to recite the mantra with the breath! The question asked was about obstacle. There is no obstacle; the thing is that the path has not opened yet. We have not yet begun walking on the path of sadhana. As the consciousness enters within, the knots in the path open. The consciousness enters the sushumna, and the power awakens within, and rises to the top into the head.

There is another question by Devkant Ji, who basically has asked the following, ‘If we practice external silence, the mind keep on chattering. And while practicing, the mind keeps on thinking’.

This is a natural condition. There is nothing wrong in this. Let us talk about the way of practicing silence. What is the meaning of silence? If we just restrain the tongue from uttering words, that is not the correct way of practicing silence. The meaning of silence is not to utter false statements, wrong statements, and not to utter something that is different from what we are actually thinking inside. Usually this happens, we welcome the guests, but within we are cursing them for coming. These are little things. Ladies go to a shop to buy cloth. They inquire the price but then say, “The other shopkeeper is giving it for much less.” And this they say, from their own, having never gone to any other shop, just as a matter of bargain. Now what happens by this? When the tongue utters something in this way, the vibrations of the sound cannot enter within, into the prana and the mind, because we have withheld something in our minds. Whatever we say, the vibrations of that simply dissipate outside. As a result, the very composition of the tongue gets polarized to the outside and that is not good. When the internal working of the tongue has so become polarized to the outside, then the vibrations of the “Name” uttered through it too would not enter within.

Now in such a state, if we simply stop the activity of the tongue, then we are neither going outside nor within. In such a state, whatever is buried inside will come to the surface. So this is not practicing silence. It too can be done, say once a weak. That will give some rest to the mouth. But at such a time, whatever we had held within ourselves, all that we had not wanted others to know, what we had repressed within, will start coming to the surface.

What is true silence then? True silence implies speaking correctly. Speaking with love, as if the other is our very own! Speaking for the benefit for the other, even though, one may have to occasionally use bitter words for that. That too wouldn’t be as bad as using false words of flattery, trickery etc. They would do us greater harm. So, this is one meaning of silence.

The other meaning of silence is to motion the tongue inwards. We have stopped its activity from the outside, not it should be motioned such that it becomes active to the inside. For that do keertan. In what way is keertan to be done? It is to be done to make the God residing within listen to our singing. Do japa, to awaken the word within. For this various kriyas can also be used, like singing of vowel sounds. All that is to open the throat! In the process, if the throat feels rough, there is no harm. Right now, it is closed. Through these kriyas we are opening it. In this way, all these kriyas would become practices of silence itself.

And there is one more little thing in the practice of silence. You may not be able to do this kriya for long, but try this. Position the tongue in the space within the mouth in such a way that it does not touch any part of the mouth. Let it just hang there, in the space within. Make is utterly relaxed. And then place (focus) your mind on the tip of the tongue. Keep the eyes gently closed. With the attention thus focused on the tip of the tongue, take the mind inwards, via the tongue itself, to the base of the tongue. The tongue is totally steady. No sound is being produced. This is practicing silence. Make the tongue very steady. It should not vibrate. Do this for even five minutes and with this the mind will get rest. The ceaseless thoughts would be pacified.

Then there are many other kriyas. We were doing some in the morning session. There is Khechari Mudra etc. too. So just go on giving the motion inwards.

What we mean by silence is not to speak bitterly, in a conceiting manner. Otherwise, everything would keep getting suppressed within. Then what kind of sadhana would be possible! So practice this form of silence, and practice the kriyas mentioned. Do japa, keertan, sing and dance with great joy. In this way go on taking your consciousness within. The silence practiced in this way would also help pacify and silence our mind.

There is another question, which is not related to sadhana as such, “Saints say that the objective of human life is to merge with God. If this is so then why did God separate us from Himself?”

Now this is a philosophical question and many answers can be given for this. But none of these would be helpful in the practical aspects of sadhana. The Mahatmas explain this in the following way. A man is resting under the shade of a tree. Suddenly a snake falls into his lap. Now if he thinks, why did this snake fall into my lap; where did it come from; is it poisonous or not; will it bite me, now is there any need to seek answers to these questions? Simply, throw away the snake. Similarly, to think why did God separate us from Himself, what is his purpose? Instead, meet God. It is clear to us that our mind is disturbed, it is in a state of misery, and if we indeed believe that God is all-powerful, then our duty should be to meet God. And if we meet God, then we will also come to know why he separated us from Himself. So the question should rather be: How can we meet God? Isn’t it? Hope it is understandable. And about that we have been discussing. We have talked about breath, about silence. Scholars keep on thinking about these things. But all of us here are practitioners and it is better to ask questions of the same nature.

Next is Ravi’s question: How much time should a sadhak necessarily devote to sadhana?

Now what is the issue of ‘time’ here; we have to go beyond time! Isn’t it Ravi? He means to ask, how much time we should sit with closed eyes and so on. We will say this: all activities like preparing chappatis in the kitchen, consider them to be sadhana also. You are brushing the floor – consider that also to be sadhana. Any kind of service, consider that to be sadhana. You are talking to someone, make that a sadhana too. And when you are sitting closed eyed, this is also sadhana.

We repeatedly go on saying that service and meditation, sewa and simran – these two things are totally indistinguishable from each other. It cannot be that someone only keeps on meditating, believing that now he does not need to serve, work. It cannot be believed that I will gain samadhi by only sitting closed eyed, that I have no need of serving – this is not possible. And to believe that we will only go on serving and with serving only, God’s grace will dawn on us; we needn’t bother about meditation – this is as wrong as the former.

We walk with two feet. When one is ahead, the other one follows. When the other is ahead, the first one follows. So sewa and simran are the two feet of a sadhak. We keep on saying about meditation. But we must also mention some things about sewa. The significance of sewa never diminishes in the life of a sadhak.  To cook is sewa, but to eat can also be a sewa. Understand this as follows. In the ashram a bell is sounded at the time of meals. Now to arrive on time to eat is also a sewa accorded by us, to those who are serving the meal– they’ll get free from their duty on time. This is such a small thing. Otherwise, if we are not on time, people just keep coming as and when they like, then the one who serves will simply go on serving and it will take him/her a long time to finish. Coming to eat on time in this way makes the one who serves also happy and he gets time to do his practices too.

Now, suppose someone is given the duty to clean the utensils. Other people should at least bring their plates etc. to the washing sink, in fact, the smaller ones you can clean yourself. If you have cooked something in the kitchen, then replace the things back on the shelf from where you had used them from. Such small things! But they are things of great significance.

When cooking on festive occasions for hundreds of people, we plan a lot. We prepare the things very carefully. Now, cooking on a normal day, for say two guests, we should be equally careful and diligent.  In marriages we take so much care that everything is prepared beautifully. Do the same when cooking in the kitchen at home. Why so? Because at all times we are serving none, but God!

This is the very essence of sewa. Though we may be serving people, but through them we are serving none but God. Yes, it is important to assign duties for no single person can look after everything. But this does not mean that we become concerned with only our duty and turn a blind eye to all other concerns.

We remember, once Sheikh Raunki Ram was sitting in a park. He saw two men. One of them was digging out the earth, and the other one was filling the same back with earth. Sheikh was confused by the scene. He went to the men and asked, “What are you doing?” “Hello, we are doing our duty?”

“But what kind of a duty is this: One digs a hole and the other one fills it back.”

The first man replies, “Sir, we are government employees. Usually there are three of us. The first one, me, am supposed to dig a hole. The second one, who is absent, is supposed to sow a plant there. And the third one fills the hole back. Now the second person is absent today. But we are diligently doing our duties.”

Such kinds of duties do not constitute sewa. My duty is to cook chappatis. And his is to cook daal. Now, I am not concerned with how much daal he is making. I am just to cook so many chappatis. One should indeed do things assigned to oneself. But then one must also synchronize with the other parts of the work. If someone is in the need of help with his duty, one should give help. If we will work as a unit, then love flowers among us. A feeling that we are all sadhaks gets strengthened. It is all a part of serving together, practicing together. It is better to practice together, rather than alone. It is better to do keertan together, rather than all alone. Just in the same way, serve together – whether in the kitchen or anyplace else. All this discussion carries over to homes also; the son and the father, the wife and the mother – all working in harmony, helping each other. Serving through the means of each other, God Himself! Sewa done in this way is never found wanting to meditation and sadhana.

There is little time left now. We will give an example, an old one. Tansen was the courtier of emperor Akbar. He was the chief musician and was greatly loved by the emperor for the quality of his music. However, once Akbar fell wondering, “If Tansen’s music is melodious, how melodious must be the music of the man from whom Tansen has learnt!” Akbar mentioned this to Tansen, who replied, “Indeed, the music of my Guru is unparalleled. I stand in no comparison to his depth and feeling.” Akbar’s heart yearned to listen to such a man. “Why don’t you call you Guru here? Send the chariots and we can have him here.”

“No,” replied Tansen, “He would not come. He never goes anywhere. He lives at Vrindavan and lives in permanent ecstasy there, being absorbed in his music.” But Akbar was now totally gripped to listen to the music of one of whom Tansen spoke so highly. “Ok, then let us go there to hear him.” Thus, Tansen brought Akbar to Vrindavan. It was Haridas’, the Guru’s routine to sing to the accompaniment of the Veena in the morning. Akbar and Tansen, hid themselves outside the hut, while Haridas plucked the first strings of the Veena. As the notes rung in the atmosphere, they melted it. Haridas went on with tears in his eyes, vibrations of ecstasy emanating from his body, a great yearning in his voice. He was singing to the great Father, the great Player. Akbar was touched by the music as nothing had ever touched him before. He lost all sense of time and when Haridas finally stopped, Akbar returned to the ordinariness around. Akbar couldn’t help but go inside and pay his homage to the man of had just entranced him so much. Haridas gave them his blessings. Later, Akbar asked Tansen, “Tansen, I am now wondering, you are gifted too, you have so much skill, you have learnt from this man, and it does not seem he must have hidden something from you and yet your music stands in no comparison to what we heard today. Why is that?” Tansen said, “If you will forgive me, I can reply to your question…My Guru sings in the love of the One who is the emperor of all these worlds, who rules the uncountable Universes that he has created, and I sing to please you, emperor. What is the glory of Him, the Great Ruler, and where do you stand in comparison to Him, and where do I stand!”

So, this is the richness that service, love and devotion bring. And this richness enters when we serve keeping the Lord in the forefront, serving Him. The meaning of sewa is that I am a sewak. Then even picking up a straw, cleaning a piece of metal or anything else becomes a great means of cleansing the heart. The mind of a sewak thinks, “Let me do all these works…” Not that no one else may do them, but that not one moment may go in vain, when I am not serving my Lord! So this is the meaning of sewa and it should not be seen less than meditation/sadhana in any respect.