Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Guidelines for Spiritual Living

by Swami Veda Bharati

(Written as 'Pandit Usharbudh Arya' before becoming a swami — Ed.)

A transcript from the Series: “Training on the Spiritual Path I,” The Meditation Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. 1976

I have some spiritual advice for this group also. Would you like me to give it?  I’ll give the advice only if there are enough people to follow it – or even if there is one person to follow it all the way through. There are in all disciplines little practices which help you gauge the depth of your other practices. I’ll give you some of these very simple things.

One: Take half a day of total silence every week. Total silence means also mental silence. Half a day of silence a week.

Two: intentionally skipping a meal once a week – not for pregnant women. Intentionally skipping. not because you are too busy, but doing it on a pre-planned basis. Each one of these things are done on a pre-planned basis, not because of external circumstances. When you do it because of external circumstances, that is like giving a donation to The Meditation Center to get a tax deduction – which is not a donation; it is a convenience. See. So, half a day of silence once a week, and skipping one meal once a week.

Three: setting for yourself a special time once a week dedicated to extra meditation or japa.

Four: omitting from your life some one item of comfort. It could be a soft bed. It could be a pillow. It could be a plate – anything. Not omitting something without which would make you sick, but omitting something that you can omit, that you can leave out. So omitting from your life some one source of comfort, some one item of comfort.

Five: Set at least one night in the week when you definitely will not have sexual thought. Wednesday night is good for that because Thursday morning you come here for meditation – those who do. And I didn’t say “sex,” I said sexual thought.

Six: Once a month, take a day of only fruits and juices.

Seven: Check on your habits, and drop one unnecessary habit by a firm resolve. And when you no longer have that habit, then go back to it. That way you will not become a fanatic. I did that with coffee. I like coffee. I don’t like tea. One morning suddenly the ashram people said, “No coffee?  Today you didn’t ask for coffee.”  I said, “No, I don’t need it.”  Now I take it, or don’t take it; it doesn’t matter. So take one habit and drop it. Watch yourself for a while, and then go back to it without a habit. It could be a habit of speech. It could be a certain manner. It could be a habit of thought. It could be a certain type of emotional reaction that you are used to – any kind.

Eight: Resolve for one year to learn to control one of your emotions, and watch it with care. For that one year you work on that one, and after you have succeeded, go back to it as a tool. After you have succeeded in controlling it, then go back to it as a tool which is under your control. Well, if it’s really a bad habit, then you have no reason to go back to it. But no habit is altogether bad. Let us say anger, you see. You stop learning to bite, but you don’t stop hissing – if you are a snake. You know the story? 

Once upon a time there was a snake, and the snake used to go around biting everybody in the village. So one great saint, sadhu, yogi, came wandering into the village as they do and saw that everybody very morose and worried and so on. He said, “What’s the matter?” They said, “Sir, we have a snake in this village who goes about biting everybody in the night.” So the saint said, “Oh, that’s nothing. That’s alright; we’ll take care of that.”  So by his mental power he called the snake. In India they have special mantras by which snake poison is controlled. It is so. It’s known.

So he called the snake up and petted the snake on the head and said, “Snake, it’s no good. You shouldn’t bite” – like St. Francis telling the wolf. So the snake went his way and bit no one.

The saint was returning back to his ashram after nine months, and this time this miserable looking creature of a snake comes crawling up to the saint’s feet. And the saint sees his body, bruised and broken and bleeding, and he says, “Snake, what happened?”  He said, “Sir, what happened?  I took your advice and that’s what happened, see. After you went away, everybody said, ‘This snake doesn’t bite.’ So all the little kids of the street, they pick me up and they wrap me around their necks, and they pull me, and they make little balls of me, and throw me against the walls. And this is what you have done to me.”  So the saint said, “What did I do? What did I tell you?” He said, “You told me not to bite, so I don’t bite anymore.”  “So,” the saint said, “but Snake, did I ever tell you not to hiss?”

So you watch your habits.

Nine: Keep a diary. Now there are three kinds of diaries people keep:

  1. Diaries of events relating to others. Some people keep those kinds of diaries: “Someone did this today.” “Someone did that today,” and “The roses are blooming, nice.” It’s fine. Those diaries-of-interest are of interest to your great grandchildren once they get into the attic after many, many, many years – “Hey, grandmother’s diary! Let’s see what she did.” “Oh, the roses were blooming nice.”  “They are blooming nice even now.”
  2. The second type of diaries people keep are the diaries of their emotions, those are the diaries of lonely people. How I felt, how I felt miserable: “Dear Diary, I have no one to talk to, so I talk to you, dear Diary.” “When is my misery going to end?”  “Today for a change, I felt a slight happiness, but it wasn’t long lasting.”

[Responding to a comment.]  Yes, those are also the patients of Dr. Rudolph Ballentine. Those diaries are advised to be kept for therapeutic value – that you write them down and then destroy them. Those are letters written to yourself, to bring out your emotions and say, “Okay here.”  I have been talking about that kind of diary in the psychology course that I’ve started.

  1. Then there is a third kind of diary, and that is the diary of a sadhaka, a spiritual aspirant. Do you know this word sadhaka?  A sadhaka is one who is practicing sadhana. And one who has finished practicing sadhana becomes a siddha, a master. So a sadhaka is an aspiring practitioner of sadhana, an intense devoted practice of anything. It could be sadhana of archery. It could be the sadhana of a mantra. A sadhaka is one who is aspiring to perfect it and is putting his whole being into it. And when he has done it, then he is a siddha, an accomplished, adept, a master. So the third kind of diary is the diary of a sadhaka. And the diary of a sadhaka is a careful record of his progress, his failures and his successes in his spiritual and emotional progress. It is called the diary of introspection. It is called the diary of self-examination. And every person who has the long range goal of self-realization and self-improvement should keep such a diary. And you watch yourself, and you learn to recognize all the hidden motivations – where your ego is active, where you did something good apparently outwardly, completely unselfishly, but where deep in your mind you know it did not bring the desired result, it did not bring a positive response because somewhere in your mind there was a hidden motive. Or that you had resolved to do something or that you had resolved to overcome a certain habit, but here you have not succeeded.

From time to time you may declare your weaknesses to others. As a result, when you write your diary, you try to find your own ways of how you may improve. One of the ways is to expose your weaknesses deliberately to others, to declare your weaknesses deliberately to others. They will take advantage of it. You do that with that knowledge, and you leave yourself defenseless. That is one of the ways of karmic expiation.

There are many other ways. I have a friend, a very, very close friend. He’s just like a brother. I have no brother, but from my teenage years he has been like a brother to me – by only one year’s difference of age. We are completely opposite in temperament, but are still very fast friends. He is a total atheist, and I am totally devoted to God, but we are still the closest friends That’s possible in the world because he is completely honest – and atheists are the most honest people I have ever met in my life. I have great respect for an atheist. Not for an agnostic. For an atheist I have a great respect, and I have always had that respect – and then I heard my Master say that too. He said, “I have great respect for an atheist. He has some firm belief and is honest about it.” And they are! Atheists in their personal lives are very honest people.

So anyway, you know every language has curse words. Now in India an owl, unlike in the west, is regarded as a symbol of foolishness because he can’t see in the light. The Goddess of Wealth is said to have the vehicle called the owl – She can’t see whom she goes to, deserving or undeserving. So to call somebody “the son of an owl,” would be like you’d like to call somebody “the son of a donkey” or something here.

So my friend, this young man formed the habit of just using this curse word, “son of an owl” – “Where is the tape recorder?  Son-of-an-owl!”  And he and I used to speak from the same platform. He used to live in a building much larger than this, which was a place of worship. And one day in the middle of a lecture he used that word, and everybody was shocked! And he came upstairs, and I said, “What are you doing?  Why don’t’ you drop this habit?” 

So he used to write the diary too, and I used to write my diary also. I wrote a regular diary up to the age of twenty-three, but then after that, I didn’t feel the need for it. So he said, “Alright, I’m going to drop this habit. And every time this word comes out of my mouth I’m going to slap myself.”  So he watched himself carefully, and next time, next Sunday he sits down on that stage and he is giving a lecture, and in the middle of the lecture he says “son of an owl,” and he suddenly slaps himself, and everybody looked. “What happened?”  But he never used that word after that. So there are all sorts of ways. If you have basic humility, you have no problem overcoming your bad habits or your ego. You always learn to compensate for your ego by some special honest act of humility and modesty.

Ten:  japa. There is nothing like japa – and people are avoiding japa. People are avoiding to undertake the 125,000 repetitions of the mantra. They are avoiding it. They have no knowledge of their own strength. They have no recognition of their own strength. They are avoiding it – not aspiring for that which will come after. If you cannot undertake 125,000 initially, start with 11,000, or 15,000, or 21,000, or 25,000, or 27,000, or 33,000 or 41,000, or 51,000. Give yourself a chance. Set a date, make a resolve, take a good morning shower, practice the previous night celibacy, and say to yourself truthfully, “For my purification and for the pleasure of my guru, seeking no other benefits, I undertake this resolve.” And when you have completed that resolve, you will find that “Hey, I did it, and it was good, and I have completed it.” Give yourself a little time, and then undertake a bigger resolve. Go to it slowly if you don’t want to jump at it.

You will come across rebellions of the mind at different stages of the resolve to do japa. You will come across these rebellions of the mind – all kinds of emotions arising, all kinds of thoughts arising, the desire to get up. If you have undertaken japa of 11,000, by the time you have completed 1,000, you will say, “Ah well, it’s not doing me any good. How much of the mala is left?”

Treat your mind like a child that is having a tantrum. People ask me at times what should we do to bring forth a beautiful, aspiring, spiritually developing child?  For pregnant mothers, all the other exercises are very difficult, but japa, japa, japa – see? My mother, when I was expected, did fifty malas of Gayatri every day.

So japa is the secret of purity. Japa is the secret of aspiration. Leave out all other techniques. Do nothing. No relaxations are necessary. No concentrations are necessary. Perfect your japa and you’ve got everything, you see. All the other things should be helpful, but japa is the core. And you perfect your japa to a degree where each heartbeat is mantra. I counted this way for five minutes tonight. I just counted my heartbeats – each heartbeat a mantra, each heartbeat a mantra. When you have done five minutes of that unbroken mantra with the heartbeat, you have done five times 72 repetitions of your mantra. So, I said, “Everyone here has done over 450 repetitions, see. So, do it with a resolve, do it with an undertaking.

You can count this as the eleventh step or you can count this as the first step, with all the rest after – you do them with a resolve declared to yourself beforehand, not at random, because at random you will not follow through. It will not give you recognition of your strength. Do you follow?  And that is one thing. Set the date, set the time. You understand?  Set the date, set the time, and keep to it. On the other hand, don’t’ be a fanatic. But on the other hand, don’t try to find excuses for your laziness.

So there is a careful balance of personality. When your child is falling down the steps, are you sitting doing japa?!  Your husband has driven for twelve hours coming from out of town. He’s hungry and tired, and you are sitting doing your japa?!

So, balance it. Watch it. A little failure is not bad. Remember that. A little failure is not bad. And only one who can break a rule gracefully can observe the rule gracefully. Only someone who can break a rule gracefully can observe the rule gracefully. Otherwise you become guilt-ridden. That is always a problem. And you will have all these ten rules in front of you, and then you will say, “Panditji told me to do this!” – and all the harm that comes from fanaticism, all the harm that comes from legalism will come to you. Do you follow?  So don’t do it with fanaticism, don’t do it with guilt, don’t do it with legalism, but do it.

Do you want me to give you some more general thoughts in life?  These things I have said before, but I’ll repeat for you.

[A question is asked.]  Okay, what’s the breakdown on 125,000?  How many a day?  Watch your capacity. You decide how long, how many months you want to take. You sit down and do a mala and see how long it takes you.

Now you might want to watch the mala on three different levels. You do a mala with the breath. Exhale the mantra, inhale the mantra, and watch how long that takes. Then you do a mala with the ordinary repetition that you do; many people do it somewhere between the mouth and the mind. Do it on that level. Then try doing it at the deepest possible level where mantra and the heartbeat are one, mantra and the pulse beat are one. Work out how long it takes you to do the mala at all those three levels. And then you decide at which level it is most convenient for you and how much time you have available every day. So if you have one hour available and it takes you fifteen minutes to do a mala with the breath, you are only able to do four malas a day. See. On the other hand, with the heartbeat or something, it takes you – what? – one and a half minutes to do a mala?  So you decide how much time you have available every day, and then how many months it will take you to do. Alright?  Traditionally we start these kinds of good observances on Mondays or Thursdays, the day of the Moon or the day of Jupiter.

[A question is asked.]  Okay, how do you count 125,000?  You count one mala as one hundred, and forget the eight. Those eight you give away because you are likely to skip a bead somewhere … at least one. The mind wanders off. Before you know, eight or ten repetitions are gone, and you haven’t repeated the mantra, you’ve only moved your hand. See?  So, give away eight. At least eight you just don’t count.

[A question is asked.]  Okay, the question asked is this: “Sometimes the repetition gets so fast that the hand won’t move fast enough; so can we count three or four repetitions for one bead?”  The answer for a very good reason is “No,” although at times everyone goes to a finer level in the mind where the hand cannot move fast enough. Those occasions are few and far between, or at least are not regular. And what we do – and I’m saying this from experience. I had this problem myself at a certain time, and then I found that it was best if I did it on a slightly slower speed and firmed that up and made that my plateau so that that would become absolutely natural. See? Later on someday you will rise from that plateau to a higher ground. So, firm that up. It’s fine! It’s good to do it that way.

Now, do not count the malas that you do while traveling around, sitting around doing other things. When you do japa as part of the resolve, you do it sitting down at a fixed time and a fixed place. Okay?

Now you should remember also that you should not go home tonight and suddenly sit down and say, “I resolve, number one this, number two this, number three that, number four, number five, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, resolves all at once,” and next Thursday, next Wednesday morning you say, “I haven’t been able to keep that up. I don’t think I’ll go to The Meditation Center this Thursday night.”  It’s unfair to you. Start with something that you can easily handle. Put this in the first page of your diary: You may do it one at a time – even one resolve a year.”  Firm that one up, complete that, perfect that – See? – and when you find that you are able to handle more, then you add. Don’t over extend your psychic strength, don’t over extend your psychological power; work slowly. Whatever you choose to work with, work with that perfectly. And once again I’ll repeat, a little failure is not bad. Let it go. Give that one away too, gracefully give it away. But don’t keep giving it away, you know; keep coming back to the right thing.

There are other things also which are not part of this kind of a discipline, but the beauty of a spiritual person lives in the joy from within here. Just surging joy, happiness for no reason whatsoever. His happiness does not seek a reason. Just be happy here, arise from in here inside. “What are you happy about?” What do you mean? If I had to have something to be happy about, I would never be happy because there’s always something missing. Happiness is from in here. It’s a joy, a surging joy – ananda, which has no antonym. There’s no reason at all in the world to be unhappy. The problems you have those are over there in the outside world; handle them there. Don’t bring them in here. And one more principle: this is happiness here; this is just surging joy from the heart for no reason whatsoever. You see?  Laugh! Sing! 

And always try to find opportunities to make yourself small. Always try to find opportunities to make yourself small before others in humility, mental humility – not always trying to assert your bigness, not always trying to assert your thought that “I am right!”  Say, “I’m wrong.” Then you will grow. “Yes, I’m wrong, my mistake, my fault. Yes, my fault.”  And sometimes say this even if it is not your fault.

There is the story of an Indian king, a mogul king who was one of those people who never took anything for himself from the treasury. So, even though he ruled over a whole empire, he made his living by copying manuscripts. In those days there was no printing press, so books were just manuscripts. And so you used all the art of calligraphy to copy them.

And one day he was sitting in the court and a great scholar came. And the great scholar came and picked up the book he was writing in. You know, people have a habit of coming in and just picking up something on your table and looking – can’t keep their hands to themselves. So he started looking and said, “Oh, excuse me, Sir, this passage here. It shouldn’t be this way; it should be this way.” 

So the king picked up the correcting fluid that they used at that time – that was very essential for calligraphy – and he corrected the passage.

And the scholar was very happy – he has corrected the king! The scholar went his way, and the king picked up the book, put the correcting fluid there, and replaced the scholar’s correction with the original.

Doing that didn’t harm him any – and it made somebody else happy. That is a fine art. So find the opportunities of making yourself small provided thereby you are not going to do any harm to anyone.

Or you can do something philanthropic or something that is for the good of others. See. Another principle is give away ten percent of your time, or wealth, or resources, or strength, or money, or words, or something – ten percent, give it away. Give it away in such a manner that you derive no income tax deductions from it. That alone is giving. The rest is not giving. Do you understand?  And I don’t mean give money to The Meditation Center. But give somewhere.

Another principle: if someone is present, do not eat without offering food, even if you have to live on half of what you need. Do not eat if someone is present. Do not eat without offering, sharing beforehand – or, if someone is likely to be there, save some food for him or her. And then leave it and be happy – and forget it. Do you follow?  Be happy about it and forget it. Forget that you did it. Forget that you didn’t eat enough because you have to leave food for somebody else. This also applies to other things of comfort in your life. You have only one comfortable mattress and the other is a lumpy one. Use the lumpy one for yourself, and give the comfortable one to the other person, and you will be happy. And don’t make the other person feel that you did it. And you can work out other similar principles. Watch around you. What needs to be done for someone?  Forget about this: “My growth, my knowledge, my improvement, my success.”

Okay, we didn’t go into deep Vedanta philosophy. I had promised to teach you various techniques of the art and science of contemplation. Shall we postpone that for the next time?  This is not time wasted, is it?  And whatever we have done here, watch. Do it slowly. Absorb it. Assimilate it. Understand the reasons for it, and then move towards it.

And don’t be afraid of discomfort and pain in life. Don’t be afraid of discomfort and pain. The majority of your emotional problems arise because you are running away from discomfort and pain. Face your discomforts fairly and squarely, and go through them. It’s like meeting a ghost at night. You know, people see a ghost – “Ghost! Ghost! A spirit!” – so they run. They turn their back, and they think the spirit is following them. But you go towards it, and all there is is some cloth hanging. So go towards it. Examine the cause of fear.

Fear is nothing but weakness in the energy-field called the mind. Do you understand what I am saying? Mind is an energy-field. When it is not tuned up, then it says, “I am not capable of handling this,” so I run away; I am afraid. So people are afraid of responsibility. People are afraid of taking the blame. People are afraid of failure. People are afraid of guilt. People are afraid of all kinds of imaginary things from others – all the paranoia! 

People are afraid of death. You know I told you that I just understood, about two years ago, that there was a thing called a guilt complex. And this last week Wednesday I understood that there is such a thing as really fear of death. It was at this class that I just finished teaching at the Minneapolis Athletic Club. And a week before that, I just mentioned in passing that meditation is also like sleep, and that it is also like death. “Ah!” The reactions!!!  I don’t know who was more shocked, I or they. I never realized that the word “death” could bring such a response. I suppose in a system of beliefs were there’s only one life, it must be a horrible thing to die – and it’s like people hide away from death. But how can you hide away from it?  It’s there all the time. You are going towards it. Every minute that is passing you are going towards it. So people are afraid of death. They have all kinds of fears, imaginary fears.

When you have an object of fear, walk towards it. When you have a discomfort coming, walk towards it. Choose it with your own right hand, and juggle with it, and watch yourself juggling with it, and get the feel of it, and handle it. A conflict, a crisis, a difficulty, a difficulty with a relationship, a difficulty with a process – handle it, juggle it, go to it, examine it: “What is in it that is scaring me? What is in it that is frightening me.” Go and throw it away, and you will march happy. You’ll be surprised. Once you have handled this kind of discomfort or pain or conflict or difficulty in your life that you were going to run away from, once you’ve handled it, your expertise, your skill in handling those things increases. See.   Next time another discomfort comes, another pain comes, you don’t run away from it. Now you have greater confidence, and you know you can handle it. See?

So consider these principles of life. Consider them, go over them in your mind over and over think about them. Really think about them. See what you can assimilate. Don’t leave it here – “Oh, I attended an initiate meeting, and it was a nice lecture.” That’s not the idea. Then there’s no point to giving all these lectures. Giving lectures – once I sat down to count all the lectures I’ve given in my life. If you count thirty five years, on the average of one lecture a day, what’s the use of all of those words, verbosity unless somebody picks up an idea and uses it. Okay?

I can’t suggest a book on this subject but consider, consider. You see this is karma yoga; this is the yoga of action. And pick a few things at a time

You don’t have to remember all the meditations conducted. But I will say do three things. One is be regular with your meditations. Two, is to watch – if you follow nothing else. No technique is necessary. No relaxations are necessary. They are useful. They are helpful. Do them. And don’t say tomorrow “Well, Panditji said not to do anymore relaxations.” That’s not what I am saying. But all the techniques come under one heading, and that is – watch. Learn to watch yourself. Watch. What are you watching now?  What is more there to watch?  What is there to watch?  What is it you are not watching?  Search out what you are not watching in yourself, find that. If you are watching your outer skin, are you also watching your blood flow?  If you are watching your blood flow, are you also watching the state of your skeleton?  If you are watching the state of your skeleton, are you also watching the state of your stomach? Are you watching your digestive tract? Are you watching the taste in your mouth? Are you watching the smell in your nostril? Are you watching the state of your eyeballs? Are you watching the brain, what is happening in the brain? Are you watching your diaphragm? There is always more to watch. This body is a galaxy. There are more cells in your body than there are stars in the galaxy. And some cells are dying. And some cells are being reborn … by billions right now at this moment. Watching is no easy matter.

So watch more and more and more. And that watching alone will take you to the mantra. When you are doing the mantra watch yourself doing it, watch your mind doing it. So do the japa. Let the japa come that’s the third thing. Do the japa. Let the japa come through that watchfulness. Okay!  So just watch yourself.

And God bless you all. Thank you.

Editor’s Note:

To make inquiries about recordings of Swami Veda Bharati’s talks, contact Himalayan Yoga Publications Trust at [email protected]

Thank you to Michael Smith. We are also grateful to the members of the Transcription Team and the work they have been doing over the years.



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