I certainly don’t have to tell you that these are strange and difficult times. Our hearts go out to all those who are afflicted by the virus.
The Australian government has acted swiftly and sensibly and, in accordance with its guidelines, The Ashram is closed to the public. It is sad not to be able to be with the beloved members of our satsang shining with love and Shakti.
Nonetheless, the ashram programs continue, and due to the great efforts of our satsanglive team, they are being streamed online. I am learning to pay more attention to the camera during programs!
Please join us online. I look forward to seeing you in cyberspace during the current period.
Keep well, be intelligent, wash your hands and remember God.
Register for Online programs at satsanglive.com.au
Below are two suggestions from Swamiji’s books for dealing with health issues.
The first is from ‘I can’t hear you I have a carrot in my ear’ (page 208-9) and the second is from ‘Self-inquiry’ (page 192-193). The first suggests some questions that can be asked to investigate health issues. The second is a Buddhist meditation on detoxing, not only yourself, but others as well.
Question: In recent years l have had a lot of physical problems. Could you talk more about using Self-inquiry in the area of body and health?
Swamiji: There is no fundamental difference in method, no matter what area of life we are investigating. Inquiry should be direct and to the point, moving closer and closer to the truth. As you get closer to the truth, your inquiry releases energy.
With regard to health, you might ask yourself where you feel pain or weakness in your body. When you find significant areas, inquire into the cause. Is it related to diet, substance abuse, negative emotion and so on? Ask what you need to do. You may get an answer like ‘Change your diet’ or ‘See a doctor or acupuncturist’. The main thing here is to confront the sensations directly. Out of that confrontation, information will come. As I’ve mentioned, remarkable results come from specialized group inquiry—attending a group that focuses on health issues would be worthwhile.
You can call on your immune system to stand up and defend yourself. You can call on the healing power of the Divine; you can send love and energy to various organs or areas of the body. You can try saying the word ‘health’ on the inbreath and dispelling toxicity on the outbreath. Use your imagination and always look for the upward shift. Don’t forget that universal Shakti or prana is the greatest healing force. Prana contains all the vitamins and proteins in the universe. All animals and plants depend on prana for their lives. How powerful, then, must prana be?
Now I will tell you the greatest healing meditation I know. Imagine that God has created the perfect medicine for your condition, knowing exactly what’s wrong with you and what you need. This medicine is healing, nutritious, life-positive and full of life force. Now imagine that medicine is mixed with your breath, and when you breathe in, you are breathing that medicine in and it fills your body with its perfectly intelligent healing power. Some of you may prefer to use the outbreath for this exercise, but either way, I think you will have good results.
I don’t want you to get the idea that I am a Christian Scientist. No, you should consult medical practitioners, but along with that, you can use inquiry in the area of health.
A NOTE ON ACCEPTING OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS: THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN
As you pursue Self-inquiry, you become more sensitive and aware of your own and other people’s feeling. You risk falling into the disempowering syndrome of excessive fear of others negativity. Some people are more afraid of bad feeling than of almost anything else. When they think about the possible loss of a loved one or the failure to achieve some goal, what is most frightening is not so much the event itself, but how that event will make them feel. They think that having such a feeling will annihilate them. But feelings are only feelings. Maybe we are not as great as the ocean-drinking Lord Shiva, but we should be able to interact with others in a robust way. Inquiry should make you less fragile, not more.
In my Learn to Meditate course, I give a meditation technique involving the breath. I ask my students to breathe in, imagining they are drawing energy from outside into themselves. Then they breathe out, imagining they are eliminating toxins and releasing them outside.
This is a good meditation and is in harmony with our usual common- sense view that wants to draw energy into ourselves and send toxicity away from ourselves. The Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen dramatically reverses this normal state of affairs. Tonglen practice asks us to draw all negativity and suffering into ourselves, while sending out love and blessings. This counter-intuitive or anti-egoic practice turns out to be immensely powerful and liberating.
The yogic scriptures declare that human beings are in the thraldom of raga and dvesha. The ego looks out at the vast world and considers the range of events and possible outcomes that are relevant to it. Some of these outcomes seem favourable and enhance the power, authority or safety of the ego, and others seem unfavourable and threatening.
The ego, therefore, wants certain outcomes (attachment) and wants to avoid other outcomes (aversion). This drama of attachment and aversion creates a tension and increases the suffering of the individual ego. While the ego desperately yearns for favourable outcomes and desperately hates unfavourable ones, the rest of the universe is indifferent. Thus, is created a life predicament that is essentially hopeless: no one, as the Buddha noticed, can escape disease, old age and death.
Tonglen practice frees the ego from its bondage to raga/dvesha in a single, brilliant stroke. Rather than tensely avoiding the unpleasant, the ego consciously draws it to itself. And rather than tensely seeking the pleasant, it wantonly sends endless blessings to all others. By so doing, it discovers that negative experiences cannot hurt the ego and that the blessings at its command are endless. The ego self stands revealed as the infinite Self of all.
You may have noticed a relationship between tonglen and the technique of proxying. Both of these methods compassionately allow the psychic poison experienced in another to enter us. Tonglen is even more proactive than proxying, because it actively seeks the negative. In the phone conversation I described in which I was recoiling from Chip, if I were to use tonglen, I would actively try to suck all of Chip’s poison into me. When you recoil from another person, your being contracts and you become weakened. When you open to another
person and embrace them completely, you are powerful and fearless. Tonglen may appear like an act of almost lunatic compassion and altruism, but in reality, it is one of the most empowering techniques a person can employ for their own welfare. If you do happen to get in trouble doing tonglen, you can use proxying to clear the feeling.
CONTEMPLATION: THE GREAT-HEARTED PRACTICE OF TONGLEN
Think of a person who is difficult for you. Because you find this person’s traits or ways disagreeable, you withdraw and recoil from them. In this contemplation, you will go in the opposite direction. As you breathe in, let all of this person’s negativity, bad qualities and suffering come into you. With the outbreath, breathe out love, blessings and good wishes to that person. If you watch carefully, I think you will find that the inner energy will be delighted by this practice.
If that is too difficult, try this version. Think of someone you love and with your in-breath, draw in that person’s pain and suffering, and with your out-breath, send them love and blessings.
The practice of tonglen will make you preposterously strong. You will be able to go anywhere and encounter anything. Fearing nothing, you will engage life unabashedly. You can use an outer form of tonglen in the midst of life situations when the tendency to recoil and withdraw arises.
There are two main strategies in life: one is the Vital strategy of seeking the pleasant, seeking fulfilment through objects, and the second is the Solid strategy of avoiding the unpleasant through separation and simplification. A lot of yogis have written about the problems with the first strategy. Endlessly seeking fulfilment of all your desires creates many difficulties. But equally unsatisfactory is the strategy of avoiding the unpleasant. A yogi wants to feel free and open in life, not contracted with fear of engagement. A yogi is a hero, not a coward.
The methods of proxying and tonglen empower the yogi to avoid recoiling from life, and, rather, face everything with courage.