What is there to meditate, let’s learn to die

Q-A Session; Shivaratri Sadhana Camp, 2012.

Yesterday’s question alluded to the saying,

Jap tap mein kya rakhaa hai, marnaa seekhein

(What is there in meditation and austerity, learn to die)

What is this dying that is being talked about? There are other questions related to this.

Deepak has asked, “In the Gita it is written that the state of the mind at the time of death, determines the hereafter.” The question he asks is “If a practitioner ends up leaving his body, while meditating upon Atman or Brahm, though his time may not have yet come, would be attain liberation then? Even though, he may not have yet attained the state of manonaash and vaasnakshya?”

Another question is of Varun from Ahmedabad, “Why did Bhagwaan show his cosmic form to Arjuna as is told in the Gita? Was it meant to deepen Arjuna’s surrender to the Supreme?”

Another question is by Baldev Ji, “Even after death, does the consciousness keeps on evolving in the subtle body? Or is it necessary to again come to a physical body for further evolution. Is a gross body mandatory for spiritual practice?”

Another question is from Ashish, “What is the significance of various little things like ones asana, the direction one faces, the place where one sits to meditate for practitioners who practice staying in their homes?”

Another question is by Baljeet Ji, “When we keep on practicing in our own slow steady way, then there is always a motivation to keep going on. But when one tries to take a wholehearted deep plunge, then it has an adverse effect on the motivation for practice. While at home, there is a yearning to be at ashram and practice, but once at the ashram, why does then the desire for practice becomes mild? What is the reason for this?”

We will answer the questions step by step.

Varun asked the reason behind Bhagwaan showing his grand form to Arjuna. Was it meant to strengthen Arjuna’s devotion to Himself? No, it is not like this. Bhagwaan does not need our devotion. It is not Bhagwaan’s need. It is the answer to Arjuna’s need. Arjuna was shown the grand cosmic form, because Arjuna had become deserving (adhikaari) to behold that form. There were some questions, some doubts of Arjuna, which he could not find an answer, despite having complete faith, despite utilizing all his intellect, despite being inward drawn. Arjuna was the manifestation of Nara, and through this character, all questions that can arise in the life of anyone have been raised and consequently been answered. We shall not talk about what those questions were. But we shall say about how Arjuna became deserving to behold the grand cosmic form of the Lord.

It was through Vishaad Yoga. Today, we are aware of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga etc. but the very first chapter of the Gita is Arjuna Vishaad Yoga. The Gita begins after that. But we want to bypass all that and suddenly arrive at the cosmic form. The world is filled with suffering, terrible suffering, with Vishaad. Terrible circumstances surround Arjuna, so much so that even a splendid warrior like him is sweating, is unable to stand. His turmoil has pervaded not only his mind, his prana, but even his body. His hair stand on their end from fear. The body is burning. He is collapsing. Why? Because, he cannot understand what should he do.

Arjuna is the custodian of the law; a representative from Yudhishtra to punish Duryodhana and his fellow-conspirers in crimes. In normal circumstances, the thief runs from the law and the police, but in such circumstances as Gita presents, the cruel says, “I do not care about you. Do what you will, I disobey you.” In such circumstances, it is the duty of the custodians of law to restore order. Arjuna is to carry out this duty.

But the problem was, when Arjuna saw who all he was to punish, he got baffled. There were his teachers who he had to punish, to kill.  There is terrible confusion, there is immense fear in him. So confused did he become, that he went to the sanctuary of Bhagwaan and said, “Now, you alone show me the way.” He wanted to retreat into the forests, so afraid had he become. These days also sometimes, people retreat from courtrooms from the agony of standing against their loved ones. With Arjuna it was proportions higher. But he said to the Lord, “You show me the way. I will do as you say.”

The Lord did not command him to fight straightaway. He enlightened him step by step: You are the Atman, indestructible. He preached the doctrine of Nishkama Karma to him. Still, Arjuna was not totally satisfied. The fear of the destruction that would be soon unleashed kept on troubling him. Duryodhana would die, and Arjuna would be the culprit, the sinner for bringing about so many deaths. In such a circumstance, Bhagwaan showed him the cosmic form. It is clear, even that cosmic form which he showed Arjuna, was a fragment of the Lord’s Infinite form – the fragment which would be useful for Arjuna. Which could make him understand that Arjuna was not the doer but

Nimit maatra bhava Savyasaachin.

The goal of showing the cosmic form (Vishwarupa) was to impress upon Arjuna that the doer, and the cause of doing was the Lord, but Arjuna, would have to carry out and engage in his actions. Arjuna was to become a channel for the Lord to act. In this way he would become free of sin. So it was not to strengthen Arjuna’s devotion and surrender to Himself that Lord showed the cosmic form, but to make Arjuna understand that the Lord was the doer and Arjuna was a means. There are further levels to the form of the Lord that Arjuna saw. This form that Arjuna saw, showed how Kauravas and Pandavaas were being swallowed by death.

Our purpose of saying this is that developing faith, devotion, practicing etc. is all in our hands. And whence one has done one’s utmost, when one has exhausted all there is to be exhausted, when one has tried to the extreme of action, when one has thought to the pinnacle of thought and still finds the goal unachieved; and it is bound to be this way, for never is this goal attained merely by one’s own efforts; then, when one has reached ones limits, then embrace the Lord, as Arjuna did.

We say to God that you do not come, but we must understand that we have to work, practice for the sake of our growth. Just as if a teacher passes the pupil just because pupil requests him to do so, though he may not study anything, that would imply that even upon passing the class, the student has not learnt anything. Similarly, it should be understood that if God merely comes to us, without us having worked, that would result in our not growing. We would not have gained anything. If without doing total bhakti, sadhana, if one were to get the glimpse of God that one would be driven mad. The brain would burst. The Lord is ready to give his darshan. But we have to do sadhana to deserve it, to prepare ourselves for it.

We next come to the question asked by Deepak. He has asked, if a sadhak dies while in dhyana, while practicing, would he have to come back? There is no doubt, that if a sadhak dies while meditating, then he would attain a very good state after death. Though it is a different matter that he voluntarily gives up his body in meditation – that is dying of one’s own free will, and it is an extremely rare state, it is not common. If one’s time has not yet come, and still if one has given up his body in meditation, then he has also attained manonaash and vasnakshya. If he has given up the body through Dasham Dwara, then that means he may go on evolving in the higher lokaas, without having to come back. If one gives up his body through a sense-organ, though in mediation, he will come back and once again resume his sadhana.

There is another question, “Does the consciousness evolves after death also, without being in a body?” Yes, there is evolution, but it is very slow. The intensity, the force that sadhana gets while living in the body, the same does not remain once the body is left behind. Otherwise, what is the purpose of heaven and hell. There too the consciousness evolves to some extent. But this evolution also depends on the force that we had attained while in the body. There are two levels in this. Someone who is not totally liberated while leaving the body, but has risen above the confines of the physical body, though there may still be some samskaras, albeit pure; he will go straight to the four higher realms. We believe in seven realms: bhu, bhuva, svaha, maha, janah, tapa, satya. He can go straight to maha, and from there evolving to satya, he finally gets liberated. The sadhana done in the physical body will keep on evolving further. But it is slow. And if, while living in the body itself, he has attained manonaash, vasnaakshya then his prana leave neither from the senses, nor Dasham Dwara, then his consciousness expands deep within the body, and he attains Godhead right here. But this state is extremely rare. Within the body itself, he will find the Brahmaloka.

It all amounts to saying that evolution happens even after leaving the body, but it is best to make supreme efforts while still living in the body.

Then there is the question, “How should the body be given up? What is the meaning of giving up the body? What happens while leaving the body? What happens after leaving the body?”

There are so many questions. If we talk in detail, then it will take us many days. But we will talk about small things of a subtle nature. The first thing: we talk to only those who believe that my existence does not end with the body, that I was there when the body wasn’t there and will be there when the body is no longer there. We are not taking about them, and for them, who believe that once the body finishes, everything finishes.

Both birth and death are not within the control of a being. They are only under the control of a Maha-Yogi. We talked about Will-ful death, dying of one’s own will in response to Deepak’s question. That is extremely rare. If it be said that a man had predicted his time of death and he died at the very same time – but that is not dying of one’s own will. For there would be no one in the world who does not get a hint of his coming death. It is such a huge occurring. Even before sleep comes, we know about it. When even this little thing becomes known to us prior to when it has happened, then why anyone won’t come to know about his coming death; when the prana are to rise from the body in their entirety. But owing to the attachment with the body, entanglements outside, hope that we may not die, hope that doctor’s medicine, the oxygen cylinder would work, that some miracle would happen – and in all this hope, the body dies. For this reason one may not come to know that death is coming, because one does not want to go. One who is even a little inwardly tuned would gets signs that the time of death is nearing.

About voluntarily shedding off the body, there is the case of Nagan Baba in Jatana. He declared that he would give up the body on ekadashi. Devotees gathered on the day, knowing that today he would die. But seeing the throng, he was puzzled for he had not meant that particular ekadashi but some other one, which was still to come. And when that day arrived, he really died.

Swami Mewapuri Ji in this tradition had willed to die at Haridwar. He was more than 100 years at the time. People would say, how would you reach Haridwar? There are no means to go. Cars, trains etc. were not running at that time. He said he would go walking. It was 250 miles. People would say what if you died on the way. He would reply, “If one doesn’t even know, where and when to die, then what kind of fakiri did one do in life.” And in that ripe old age he walked to Haridwar. It was Kumbh at the time. By March, while it was nearing its end, he announced the day, when he would give up the body. Soon the day arrived, and then he declared the time. At the set hour, he and his disciple Kambli Wale, along with other sadhus walked to the Ganges. Mewapuri Ji walked further into the mainstream. At that time, Kambli Wale said that he too would be unable to remain in the world without him. Mewapuri Ji offered, saying that if he was so detached from the world, then he could face him, and he would also be freed from the body. But after a moment, he added it was better if he did not do it, for many people were to be benefitted through him. Moreover, after three days, Mewapuri Ji reappeared in a divine form before his disciple too.

All said, leaving the body is not within the will of the common man.

The question is about the way the body should be left behind? It happens through the grace of Para-atman. At the last time, the Kundalini, the Divine power rises within the body. This draws the consciousness within, for the gross body has already withered away. The consciousness merges with the power risen within, and the grace of the Lord then raises it and ultimately, the body is left behind. But this is influenced by our karmas, our desires, our entanglements. Where would we wish to go, according to that will we be reborn in one of the many realms hereafter.

As the consciousness rises through the body, the body goes on dying, and then the consciousness reaches the throat-centre. This is the place where the pinda and brahmanda meet. The more this centre is opened, the greater one rises into the higher realms. Someone whose throat centre is totally opened, from all the sides, his consciousness would enter directly into the head, and piercing the Dasham Dwara, it will leave the body. In whom, it is not totally opened, his consciousness will leave the body from the centre which had been most active during his lifetime. Some people are attracted more towards form, their eyes are more active, for some it is the ears – they like to hear all kinds of things, for many it is the tongue – delicious foods. There are five objects – sound, touch, form, taste, smell – to whichever one has been most drawn, from the corresponding centre, the prana leave the body, because that centre is has been the most active and is most open.Still, it is not as straightforward as it sounds, for it also depends upon the precise location on a particular centre from where the consciousness leaves, and that can result in many permutations.

When the Divine power rises at the last time, all ones samskaras, the ones deep in the subconscious are awakened, the future course is decided by the most predominant samskaras.  It is like the resulting sum that remains, after the cashier has calculated the transactions of the entire day. During this process, one becomes unconscious. It is common to hear, ‘He left the body, consciously. He was talking till the last.’ But no one leaves the body talking, one becomes unconscious.  It is different in the case of a Jnani. Even in the process of leaving the body, he is fully conscious.

<Q. Can a man be reborn as an animal?>

We need not discuss much on that. But just to clarify, an animal is unconscious, especially compared to man. Man whose intellect has developed so much, how can be become an animal again! It is true, that if he will use his intellect in a negative way, he will reap the fruits in hell.  Man can be reborn animal-like, but not in an animal body.

So it all boils down to, what have we to do? It is said

Jap tap mein kyaa rakhaa hai, marnaa sikhein.

The first sutra is this and it is quite simple: do not be afraid of dying. That means, this life that we have, our property, attachments, these are not all. Even after death, existence remains. You will leave India, you will go to America! If the body has worn out, it is diseased, one cannot use it, it is rather good that it is left behind. At least one will get a fresh, healthy body. We remember a joke here.

There was a lady and his husband disappeared. She went to the police station to have the case registered. Her friend also went with her. She began describing to the policeman: “Six feet tall, broad chest, handsome, eyes like roses…” The friend said, “What are you saying? Your husband was 5 feet, black, skinny…” “Shhh!” The lady said, “Atleast, they’ll find a better one.”

So, we wish to say, that the police of God will only give a good body. Why do you worry about the old, worn out body? Pray to God, that you get a good sound body, a divine body even.

The second thing to recognize is: through the course of life, practice good actions. For the sake of greater wealth and material prosperity do not accrue sin. Because if negative actions are done, then the wealth earned through them will certainly remain here, but the impressions of those negative actions will go along. Under their influence, the body will be left from one of the sense organs and one will be pushed again in the cycle of heaven and hell, birth and rebirth. So practice good actions. Practice japa, practice meditation. Open the throat centre while still alive. For that there are kriyas. While exhaling it is easy to produced sound from the throat, but the same should be practiced while inhaling also. That will open the throat to the inside.

The attitude which says, ‘O God! Now I want to die. Please kill me’ – is a very wrong attitude. The body is a gift from God. While in the body, whether it be healthy or diseased, practice sadhana, sewa with all your might. Earn this wealth. Instead you should ask, “O Lord. The body has become diseased. But still give me power to do sadhana.” That a diseased body becomes a means of vairagya in the body, in the sense pleasures is all right, but to pity that one may be freed from the body is not right. Withdraw your mind from its entanglements outside. Vairagya means eat less then. By eating less, the body will gain health. The prana would get greater force. There is no need to worry that by eating less, the body will decay, death will come early.

And if one has totally ascertained that the time to leave the body has come, then live only on water. There is a very good tradition among the Jainas, it is even mentioned in the Puranas, and many rishis have left their bodies that way. The body will be left only when the time has come. And if the time has not come, then instead of being left behind, the body will be cured of its disease. It will become healthy. And in that case, you can resume taking a little food. Those who want to leave the body by their own choice, can even leave water.

By decreasing the intake of food during one’s last, the force of the prana to the lower organs decreases. Then as the power awakens within, meditate, in case the path is not already clear within. There is a tradition of burning a lamp. But that much light will not do. Surya sadhana is highly recommended during these times.

Withdraw your attention from the outside. Leave the thought, ‘What will happen behind, after me?’ And if one has really withdrawn ones mind from all objects of the senses, then there is a great chance that the consciousness will enter the centre of the head and leave from there. Then he is liberated. He will go through the stages of kramic-mukti (liberation through various stages).

There is another question concerning the asana, direction that one should face in meditation, the place of meditation. It should be remembered that the most important asana is the body itself. It is good if the other factors can be fulfilled, but they at most can have a little overall effect. Make the body stable. Make it healthy. Take the consciousness within the body. From the perspective of the body, the outside is the east, the back is the west, below is the south and up is the north. The direction is to take the consciousness inside. Focus to the back, to the depth, to the north up – within the body. And what is the place? Any place where the mind comes home! Practice anywhere, whether silently, dancing, doing keertan. At all places the God resides. Therefore, going inside the body is the real thing.

There is this last question, that when at home one feels like coming to the ashram, when in the ashram, the intensity in the practice decreases. So, do both. That is the simple answer. Yeah, when you have come to the ashram and feel that one should go home then return home. While, at home if you get vairagya, then come to the ashram and go on repeating this. It is to happen this way only. Otherwise even great saints go to the mountains and then get a wave of awakening people and come down. And once amongst the people, they feel, ‘Where have we gotten stuck! Let us go the mountains again.’  They do the same thing on a larger scale. But the thing is as follows. If one has to learn swimming, then he starts from shallow water. But in that, he will not really learn swimming. He would also have to enter deep waters. But if he starts drowning there, then he goes and practices back in the shallow water. This is human nature. And when one has learnt to swim, then it matters not whether one is in shallow water or deep water. One can then save and help others to swim also. So every now and then, practice satsanga, and then the test of satsanga happens at home. Have you heard about the fight between the snake and the mongoose? The mongoose, if it finds that it is unable to kill the snake, recedes and goes to the forest to eat a particular herb. Charged up, it comes back to fight again. And he keeps on doing that, until he is able to kill the snake. So you come to the ashram, eat the herb and go back to Grihastha to pass the tests. So that one can do sadhana in ashram and home also. So go on walking this way, gradually.