Satsanga with Brother Mitrananda
Excerpts from a talk at 2003 Convocation
Remember, satsanga – talking – is okay, but we can get trapped in the mind with questions and answers. Meditation and intuition are beyond the mind. Love, peace, joy – they are experienced with the intuition, not with the mind.
Q: There seem to be differences between the various scriptures. How does one get beyond the judgmental language of the Old Testament?
A: Language doesn’t always serve us. What those words meant in that time was addressed to different issues in a different time period. Master said Moses came to bring the law – the laws of life, of existence, the law of karma, of cause and effect – meaning we are responsible for what happens. God isn’t doing it to us - we can make choices. Moses gave the Ten Commandments – and one of them was, “Thou shalt not kill thy neighbor”.
Then Jesus came and he said that’s not enough – we must love thy neighbor. And now we’ve gotten even more radical – You are your neighbor! Oneness, non-duality – that’s quite a shift in consciousness! The truth is there are no strangers - we are all One. This is a major, major movement in a short period of time. We are ready for a new testament in a new age.
Master was a premavatar - an incarnation of love. Our guru never reduced himself to worry. For him nothing was a difficulty – it was a challenge! Guruji came to Boston in the 1920’s. Think of it! - His ship landing in a conservative land of Protestant, oldworld thinking. He brought such new ideas, new concepts, and he did it with such love! He was always fighting the odds in this work. Master tried to shock us – shock us into rethinking our core beliefs.
Master said, “You may want to believe, you may think you believe, but if you really believe, the results will be instantaneous.” We must learn to use more of our divine power.
The guru knows our karma – he knows everything about us - and every lesson that comes to us already has his stamp on it. Our karma - it’s all gone through him. We will never be tested beyond our abilities. And Master gives us the tools to take the next step. Take prayer, for instance: he gives us more responsibility. Master said, “Every begging prayer, no matter how sincere, limits the soul.” Typically we enter into prayer with an attitude of “Give me solutions to my problems, give me this, give me that, gimmee, gimmee, gimmee.” And God says, “You all ready have it, you already have it, you already have it.” Every devotee must establish that this is their birthright.
Master said, “You don’t know who you are!” He refused to accept certain vocabulary. For instance, if anyone said, “I’m tired”, he would say, “No, you aren’t!” Will comes down to motivation. If we don’t have something it’s because we don’t have enough desire for it – we don’t want it bad enough.
Master wrote: “One way we can test our power over our habits is to command the mind to like or dislike a certain food at will. When I first arrived in America, I was served at a dinner — some Roquefort cheese and crackers. No sooner had Mr. Roquefort touched the palate and its arrival became known to the cerebral cells ...then the habit lords rebelled and were about to upset the honored guests in my stomach. I didn't enjoy this sudden embarrassment, and saw that everyone else at the table was greatly enjoying this particular cheese. I strongly urged my senses to immediately elect the Roquefort-cheese-enjoying habit. I liked the taste at once and do so to this day.” So here was Master, looking around at everyone else and they were all enjoying this rotten cheese. Master looked upon it as a challenge – he commanded his stomach to like it and not to be nauseated, not to throw up.
Master said, “You are your own savior.” He places the ball in our court. He named his organization “Self-Realization”, not “God-Realization”. We don’t have the vocabulary to explain what “Self-Realization” really means. In the lower ages the concept of God became a judgmental God who was to be feared.
What is reality? Yogis talk about energy – about learning to control it going all the way down to the causal level, where willpower becomes a huge thing – it’s the next step in our evolution. Recognize it’s not a process of self-discovery – it’s a process of self-creation. So what is reality? Reality is whatever you create in your own consciousness.
Master said, “Thoughts are things.” Our thoughts, our doubts, our dreams, our hopes, our desires, are all being projected out – we are co-creating it all the time. And we are here on this path now because we thought it was time for an upgrade. Master said, “You will not have to fight alone.” When we meditate, there are veteran occult soldiers coming to our aid in the spine. We are not alone.
Q: How do I know if something is intuition or just my projected desires?
A: To gain intuition, you must act first, and then you will come to understand. Daya Mata said, “Control the five senses; then you will begin to control the sixth.” Behavior and attitude are the pillars - then we start getting intuition – then those whispers from eternity will start giving us hints. And it’s very personal – it’s a different experience for each one. Master used to call people, the devotees around him, “intelligent idiots” – because we think we know reality, but we don’t.
I once saw a bumper sticker: “Meditation is not what you think.” Patanjali said the only thing the mind can do is understand, misunderstand, imagine, sleep, and remember. Meditation is not easy because it’s scary. We don’t know what lies behind closed eyes – what’s behind our shadow side. And we may be afraid to look – it all seems a little scary.
The problem is that when we placed total reliance on the mind and senses, we lost intuition. We already know everything because we are the soul – the image of God. The mind starts to form habits by age three, and gradually you accept someone else’s reality. Now we have to deprogram. Yoga goes beyond the mind. Zen challenges the mind to go beyond itself – beyond what the mind can understand - to push us beyond the rational mind. It’s a process of deprogramming, unlearning. The currents in the spine, which are not yet acknowledged by scientists, will help us to deprogram – will help get us beyond the mind – beyond our accepted reality. The yogis say, “Don’t go searching for the truth. Just let go of your opinions.”
Q: I don’t feel love, I don’t feel devotion. What to do?
A: We all go through dry periods. Try to get out of the mode of seeking. And don’t lay down a layer of guilt. Just accept the non-peace. Make a total surrender to what is. “Let go and let God” seems so foreign because we are in a super agendaized Yuga. But letting go doesn’t involve the mind. Patanjali said, “The mind cannot control the mind.” That’s where yoga comes in – yogic techniques of control of the breath – and just like ‘Alice in Wonderland’, the breath takes us to a different dimension. Control of the breath is a way to interrupt the mind. The techniques of Kriya yoga are not kid’s stuff – they work!
Q: If the soul is eternal, what is it that dies and is reborn again?
A: Trying to look at reincarnation through the mind is a paradox. The mind can rationalize anything. When we think about anything, it’s a paradox. Reincarnation – or anything else for that matter – if you are believing in it, it’s true because we create our own reality. Reincarnation was accepted in original Christianity. Not until the fourth century, when the institution of the Church was ripe for political intervention, was the concept of reincarnation declared heresy. It is interesting to note that the word ‘heretic’ means “one who is able to choose”. Heretics were considered too self-reliant.
Q: The saints talk of a personal aspect with the Divine and practising the presence. Psychologists talk about being present in the moment. What’s the relationship?
A: In yoga, the first goal is to become conscious of what is going on in the present moment in our mind. For instance, if we have an unfounded fear, once we can look at it – once we can identify it – we can challenge it. We need to learn to stop the incessant mind – stop the ball from rolling – and ask, “Do I have a choice here? What might it be? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What’s going on here?” A whole Pandora’s Box opens up when we start thinking that way. Our current human consciousness centers around fear and human limitation.
Master said about unfulfilled desires, “What you don’t own, owns you. Most people don’t live their lives; their life lives them.” This thing called “time” – scientific proof now exists that time and space are the same thing. Forget the past. Forget the future. They are beyond your reach. Being in the present is ending the pretending. The present is the only time that anything can be real. Why is it so hard to be in the present? It is because we think that if we stay in the ‘present’ it won’t be interesting – we think it will be boring. Now, did you ever ask yourself what’s behind boredom? I think it’s a type of fear. We need to challenge it and make a choice. If you always think of God as the nearest of the near, dearest of the dear, you will encounter many blessings.
Q: I am turning fifty years old soon. I’ve heard from others that ‘life begins at fifty’, but I fear old age.
A: Victor Hugo said, “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” Usually for the first fifty years we are living someone else’s life. ‘Consciousness’ is a new word – it is what we are, and consciousness does not get old. But we can get wise. Master said that old age is when your mind becomes “hardboiled” – accepting the limitations imposed by body-consciousness and closing its doors to creative thinking.
In the higher ages in India there were four stages of life. Children at age three were taken out of the home and put into a monastery for spiritual discipline. We need that kind of discipline in order to recognize that the truth is within us, not without. Youth is always looking without, but it’s a game that cannot be won. The truth and everything we are looking for is within us. At fifty, finally, we start turning within.
Q: Please talk about addictions – I know they are subtler than we think.
A: Master preferred the word ‘habit’. Habit is when the mind believes it cannot get rid of a particular thought. It is akin to ‘samsara’, which means “to flow with” – to take the path of least resistance. We start giving up our conscious choice and it becomes automatic. If you put frogs in a pan of boiling water they will immediately jump out. But if you put the frogs in the pan first and then slowly heat the water, they will just cook! That’s what maya is doing to us!
Herb Jeffries, a famous performer and devotee once asked Master, “Sir, is it really okay to come see you and then continue with smoking and drinking and carousing?” Master replied, “Of course you can, but I can’t guarantee you that if you continue to meditate you will continue to want to do those things!” And soon, like autumn leaves on a tree, his habits just fell off. Now at age 92, Herb remains a robust example of the spiritual life. Change is difficult. It takes energy to change. But anyone can do it – you just need to ask yourself, “What do I want?” In between wanting to change and not wanting to – that’s the time of the most pain. Once you turn fifty, it gets a whole lot easier. The goal is to “die daily”. Die to this, die to that - try to die to something – a bad habit - even if just for a while, and see what happens.
Q: I can’t help thinking about the future of the world and worrying that it is going to destroy itself. What is the proper attitude?
A: Don’t buy into those who say it’s a dark time – it is so un-yogic. We will always have wars, depressions, turmoil. There is no duality – there is no future - unless we believe in it. How much energy do you want to put into tomorrow, into the future? It’s a fantasy – it’s a lower-age belief system. There are no good times. There are no bad times. Whatever is happening is right and perfect. The yogi always asks, “What can I learn from this?” no matter what is happening. Detachment is going within . Go to love - and you will see that there you have nothing to do with war and peace. Environmental conditions or any other outside conditions, whether good or bad…. take the attitude of St. Francis who said, “The weather is always nice, but in different ways.” We’re only a breath away from going within. It’s so simple. But the mind makes it so complicated, so complex. The mind is always flickering. Learn to say “Ahh, what’s happening?” Get rid of the judgment. Ask, “What can I learn?” Take full responsibility – be a god!
These notes are not an official publication of SRF. They were taken by the devotees during talks given by the monks and nuns. Please be aware that there is a degree of human error involved in taking and transcribing notes.