Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

A Weekend with Swami Tat Sat

by Dirk Gysels

A weekend with Swami Tat Sat Bharati on: ‘The effect of our actions. How to live, die and prepare for the future?’ Biezemoortel, the Netherlands, 28-29 February 2017.

It felt like homecoming. After so many years I was back at the rustic old monastery where I had spent unforgettable Silence Retreats with Swami Veda. 14 years ago, I remember vividly Swamiji initiated me in the Tradition at a spot not far away from this monastery. One of the participants at that time was an exuberant, joyful Aikido teacher from Berlin who was asked by Swami Veda to demonstrate his skills. And now, he was sitting in front of us, cleanly shaven, a monk drenched in serenity and silence, but still carrying that joy and lively energy.

Over the years our lives had crossed a few times. I was around when he was performing a full week of silent fire-offerings at the Sadhana Mandir in preparation of his taking the vows of swamihood. Then Silke and I visited him a few times during the Christmas period in Berlin, attending his seminars on Yoga Nidra and Bhuta Shuddhi.

And now, here at this retreat in Holland, Swami Tat Sat intended to guide us through the intricacies of the karmic processes as they were cognized by great seers and yogis. It was loosely based on some of the key verses of Chapter II of the Yoga sutras.

‘First of all, we must realize we have limited knowledge. At the same time, we are here only for a short period of time. Swami Rama used to say: this earth is really only an airplane. This planet is not our home. Very few people have moksha as their goal. They are too attached to their body, their mind, their belongings. But moksha is a vast subject. Please realize, if you do not have full control over all aspects of yourself, moksha is not possible! We have to master ourselves on all levels. In yoga there are two main streams, one is meditation, the other is devotion or tyaga. This is the fastest one. The other paths are karma yoga, selfless action. But karma yoga can never give moksha. For moksha, one needs (experiential knowledge). Only true knowledge can overcome ignorance. But for this, one also needs devotion. So in reality all paths go together.’

With this clear exposition of the background of his teaching, Swami Tat Sat started off the seminar.

‘Control’, a too simplistic translation of the Sanskrit term ‘nirodha’ was one of the concepts he used the most.

‘One important domain of control is control over our fears. We have to lose the bondage of losing the body. For this meditation is the path. Then one realizes, I am not the ‘annamaya kosha’ –the ‘food body’, I discover the subtle body. In this process, one overcomes the fear of death.’

‘But actually the very first step in overcoming our karmas is taking responsibility for one’s own actions! We blame others, our parents, etc. But no: see that you yourself are responsible. If you don’t realize that, transcending the bondage of karma and reaching moksha is not possible’.

Swamiji spend quite some time in explaining sutra 12: ‘The domain of karmas has ‘kleshas’ or afflictions as its roots. It is experienced in this life or in a future life.’

The concept of ‘karmashaya’, the ‘bankaccount’ of our karmic impressions, was quite new to many people but it was well explained. As Swamiji stressed again and again: to wash away the inner pains and disharmonies, the kleshas, so that they do not ripen into painful karmas, one has to know and control the mind-field AND the ‘pranamaya kosha’ or pranic field.

‘The control of prana by means of pranayama is necessary to bring the mind in a concentrated state. We need the control over the pranamaya kosha in order to bring stability to the deeper layers of the mind in meditation.’

‘Swami Veda used to tell the story of a Bangaluru swami who could lift up a buffalo with one hand. Once, during a lecture I attended Swami Veda suffered from a heart-attack. He stopped very briefly, did something with his prana force and resumed the lecture. THIS is control over prana.’

Somebody wanted to see a demonstration of mastering the pranic field. Swami Tat Sat called him up in front. He asked him to use his entire body-force to bend Swamiji’s outstretched index finger. The finger did not budge! But with the same finger Swami Tat Sat could bring the strong sadhak to his knees! Then came the most important practical lesson: ‘While trying to bend my finger, you were holding your breath, never ever hold your breath, let it flow! ‘

Swami Tat sat emphasized that this is the level of mastery, control, ‘nirodha’ one needs to straighten out the pranic and mental bodies and to remove its kleshas or stains.

(I am not going to repeat all the things Swami Tat Sat spoke on these terse verses. After all, Swami Veda himself has written a masterful commentary on them.)

Swami Tat Sat laid a lot of emphasis on self-responsibility. One has to practice continuously, one hour is not enough. The trick is to start with the 4 primitive fountains: sex; sleep, food, self-preservation. When one masters food, sleep and the sexual urge, so much time and energy becomes available for practice! ‘Swami Rama always said: if you cannot regulate them, and I don’t say suppress, liberation is not possible.’ A great thing to start with is to consciously lengthen the exhalation.  2:1 breathing is recommended.

When Swamiji started expanding on sutra 13 speaking of the maturation of karmas in future lives, one person objected that this implies reincarnation and that this is beyond anyone’s experience. Swami Tat Sat responded that he himself has some clear memories of a former life in Tibet and, of course, so had Swami Veda and Swami Rama. But the trick is to go beyond the surface layers of the mind…..He beautifully spoke on the sensitivity one has to develop for the pain inherent in worldly pursuits, quoting the poetic simile that for a yogi on the way to Freedom, every stain is felt like a hair on one’s eyeball…This sensitivity leads to ‘avoiding suffering which has not yet come’. It sharpens the buddhi (inner intelligence) to avoid further karmic entanglements. This is what we have to cultivate. ‘As Swami Veda said: every enjoyment contains suffering for oneself and the persons responsible for our pleasures. So be sensitive!’

Time and again, the Swami extolled the wideness and depth of the Himalayan Tradition of sages as custodians of this wisdom. He lamented that a well-known tradition of Hatha Yoga is not practicing Hatha at all, only gymnastics. Moreover, ‘no-one, literally no-one is practicing true pranayama in the Western world! Real pranayama starts when the breath naturally falls away. One needs a special place, a very strict diet to only think about practicing pranayama because the practice is that powerful. Yes, of course, wholesome practices like nadi shodhanam or kapala bhati can be taught. But even then… one day one person showed up, claiming to practice this cleansing breath since decades. When he showed me I had to tell him that his practice was wrong because it was started from the nose and not from the navel. So it is extremely important to exercise the muscles and more importantly to RELAX the musculature in order to start even the most simple practices.’

The last morning, the Swami opened the well-known Tibetan Book of the Dead about the different bardos and the art of dying. Swami Tat Sat said something that was a real eye-opener to me. The Clear Light or ‘dharmata’ that dawns, however briefly, during or after the transition is not the deepest ground of our being, it is not the Self, it is the sattva of Buddhi. Pure Buddhi indeed is sheer luminosity, that is why the Yoga Sutras give it the utmost importance. In Sankhya and Yoga sutras, the Self may reflect in pure Buddhi and then Buddhi has served its purpose.

Yogis die a different death than ours. Swamiji retold the story of an old lady who was guided through death by Swami Rama. The few persons who were in the room could literally feel the fontanelle opening. Indeed yogis leave through the brahma-randhra, the Crown of the Head.

So, the Swami said, it is not that unusual that machines could still detect energetic processes going on at the top of Swami Veda’s skull, even 3 days after his samadhi….

‘Even if we don’t reach moksha in this life, we can still train the body and the mind to be healthy. When a person reincarnates, it enters the embryo at about 4 months. Then the incarnating mind-field imprints its flaws on the genetic material of the growing embryo. A nice example of this was the German born Lama Anagarika Govinda. He discovered that his former incarnation suffered from tuberculosis. And also in his present life, he suffered tbc.’

These are just a few gems of the teaching of Swami Tat Sat, and as with every genuine teacher in this Tradition, it was not just a teaching, it was a transmission……

So we were very happy to hear that he will come back to Holland next year. But in the meantime, he invited us all to his dojo in Berlin, it is not that far away…

A last word on the organization. Swami Veda’s motto is: ‘Let all feel loved’. This quality of acceptance and love was strongly upheld by the organizers. Also Ute’s ‘joints & glands’ session in the morning was like a calming and strengthening wave in this ocean of love.

Thank You all!


(Photos were taken by Kelly Dutry.)



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