100. Understanding leads to Freedom
Questioner: In many countries of the world investigating officers follow certain practices aimed at extracting confessions from their victim and also changing his personality, if needed. By a judicious choice of physical and moral deprivations and by persuasions the old personality is broken down and a new personality established in its place. The man under investigation hears so many times repeated that he is an enemy of the State and a traitor to his country, that a day comes when something breaks down in him and he begins to feel with full conviction that he is a traitor, a rebel, altogether despicable and deserving the direst punishment. This process is known as brain-washing.
It struck me that the religious and Yogic practices are very similar to 'brain-washing'. The same physical and mental deprivation, solitary confinement, a powerful sense of sin, despair and a desire to escape through expiation and conversion, adoption of a new image of oneself and impersonating that image. The same repetition of set formulas: 'God is good; the Guru (party) knows; faith will save me.' In the so-called Yogic or religious practices the same mechanism operates. The mind is made to concentrate on some particular idea to the exclusion of all other ideas and concentration is powerfully reinforced by rigid discipline and painful austerities. A high price in life and happiness is paid and what one gets in return appears therefore, to be of great importance. This prearranged conversion, obvious or hidden, religious or political, ethical or social, may look genuine and lasting, yet there is a feeling of artificiality about it.
Maharaj: You are quite right. By undergoing so many hardships the mind gets dislocated and immobilized. Its condition becomes precarious; whatever it undertakes, ends in a deeper bondage.
Q: Then why are sadhanas prescribed?
M: Unless you make tremendous efforts, you will not be convinced that effort will take you nowhere. The self is so self confident, that unless it is totally discouraged, it will not give up. Mere verbal conviction is not enough. Hard facts alone can show the absolute nothingness of the self-image.
Q: The brain-washer drives me mad, and the Guru drives me sane. The driving is similar. Yet the motive and the purpose are totally different. The similarities are, perhaps merely verbal.
M: Inviting, or compelling to suffer contains in it violence and the fruit of violence cannot be sweet.
There are certain life situations, inevitably painful, and you have to take them in your stride. There are also certain situations which you have created, either deliberately or by neglect. And from these you have to learn a lesson so that they are not repeated again.
Q: It seems that we must suffer, so that we learn to overcome pain.
M: Pain has to be endured. There is no such thing as overcoming the pain and no training is needed. Training for the future, developing attitudes is a sign of fear.
Q: Once I know how to face pain, I am free of it, not afraid of it, and therefore happy. This is what happens to a prisoner. He accepts his punishment as just and proper and is at peace with the prison authorities and the State. All religions do nothing else but preach acceptance and surrender. We are being encouraged to plead guilty, to feel responsible for all the evils in the world and point at ourselves as their only cause. My problem is: I cannot see much difference between brain-washing and sadhana, except that in the case of sadhana one is not physically constrained. The element of compulsive suggestion is present in both.
M: As you have said, the similarities are superficial. You need not harp on them.
Q: Sir, the similarities are not superficial. Man is a complex being and can be at the same time the accuser and the accused, the judge, the warden and the executioner. There is not much that is voluntary in a 'voluntary' sadhana. One is moved by forces beyond one's ken and control. I can change my mental metabolism as little as the physical, except by painful and protracted efforts -- which is Yoga. All I am asking is: does Maharaj agree with me that Yoga implies violence?
M: I agree that Yoga, as presented by you, means violence and I never advocate any form of violence. My path is totally non-violent. I mean exactly what I say: non-violent. Find out for yourself what it is. I merely say: it is non-violent.
Q: I am not misusing words. When a Guru asks me to meditate sixteen hours a day for the rest of my life, I cannot do it without extreme violence to myself. Is such a Guru right or wrong?
M: None compels you to meditate sixteen hours a day, unless you feel like doing so. It is only a way of telling you: 'remain with yourself, don't get lost among others'. The teacher will wait, but the mind is impatient.
It is not the teacher, it is the mind that is violent and also afraid of its own violence. What is of the mind is relative, it is a mistake to make it into an absolute.
Q: If I remain passive, nothing will change. If I am active, I must be violent. What is it I can do which is neither sterile nor violent?
M: Of course, there is a way which is neither violent nor sterile and yet supremely effective. Just look at yourself as you are, see yourself as you are, accept yourself as you are and go ever deeper into what you are. Violence and non-violence describe your attitude to others; the self in relation to itself is neither violent nor non-violent, it is either aware or unaware of itself. If it knows itself, all it does will be right; if it does not, all it does will be wrong.
Q: What do you mean by saying: I know myself as I am?
M: Before the mind -- I am. 'I am' is not a thought in the mind; the mind happens to me, I do not happen to the mind. And since time and space are in the mind, I am beyond time and space, eternal and omnipresent.
Q: Are you serious? Do you really mean that you exist everywhere and at all times?
M: Yes, I do. To me it is as obvious, as the freedom of movement is to you. Imagine a tree asking a monkey: 'Do you seriously mean that you can move from place to place?' And the monkey saying: 'Yes. I do.'
Q: Are you also free from causality? Can you produce miracles?
M: The world itself is a miracle. I am beyond miracles -- I am absolutely normal. With me everything happens as it must. I do not interfere with creation. Of what use are small miracles to me when the greatest of miracles is happening all the time? Whatever you see it is always your own being that you see. Go ever deeper into yourself, seek within, there is neither violence nor non-violence in self-discovery. The destruction of the false is not violence.
Q: When I practice self-enquiry, or go within with the idea that it will profit me in some way or other, I am still escaping from what I am.
M: Quite right. True enquiry is always into something, not out of something. When I enquire how to get, or avoid something, I am not really inquiring. To know anything I must accept it -- totally.
Q: Yes, to know God I must accept God -- how frightening!
M: Before you can accept God, you must accept yourself, which is even more frightening. The first steps in self acceptance are not at all pleasant, for what one sees is not a happy sight. One needs all the courage to go further. What helps is silence. Look at yourself in total silence, do not describe yourself. Look at the being you believe you are and remember -- you are not what you see. 'This I am not -- what am l?' is the movement of self-enquiry. There are no other means to liberation, all means delay. Resolutely reject what you are not, till the real Self emerges in its glorious nothingness, its 'not-a-thingness.'
Q: The world is passing through rapid and critical changes. We can see them with great clarity in the United States, though they happen in other countries. There is an increase in crime on one hand and more genuine holiness on the other. Communities are being formed and some of them are on a very high level of integrity and austerity. It looks as if evil is destroying itself by its own successes, like a fire which consumes its fuel, while the good, like life, perpetuates itself.
M: As long as you divide events into good and evil, you may be right. In fact, good becomes evil and evil becomes good by their own fulfilment.
Q: What about love?
M: When it turns to lust, it becomes destructive.
Q: What is lust?
M: Remembering -- imagining -- anticipating. It is sensory and verbal. A form of addiction.
Q: Is brahmacharya, continence, imperative in Yoga?
M: A life of constraint and suppression is not Yoga. Mind must be free of desires and relaxed. It comes with understanding, not with determination, which is but another form of memory. An understanding mind is free of desires and fears.
Q: How can I make myself understand?
M: By meditating which means giving attention. Become fully aware of your problem, look at it from all sides, watch how it affects your life. Then leave it alone. You can't do more than that.
Q: Will it set me free?
M: You are free from what you have understood. The outer expressions of freedom may take time to appear, but they are already there. Do not expect perfection. There is no perfection in manifestation. Details must clash. No problem is solved completely, but you can withdraw from it to a level on which it does not operate.