Excerpts from:

The Sahaj Marg Companion

by Clark Powell



by Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari

Informal talk given 5 September 1987 at Bonascre, France

For the past three days we have been having interviews with abhyasis. Francois will confirm that wherever the interviews were delayed, the people came back and said they had already found the answer in meditation, or from inside. I mean, there were so many cases yesterday, today, day before yesterday. So the real source of the answer is here inside us. What makes us ask questions and suffer until we get an answer is our impatience. So the basic problem about these questions is our urgency as we conc eive it, you see. I have a question now, I must have an answer now, and I refuse to wait. So this is the problem, and if we are wise you know the old English saying, Sleep over it! The answer comes. So, don't unnecessarily be worried about these quest ions; most of them have no relevance to our existence. We must remember that human beings have lived for hundreds of thousands of years, and for most of that time nobody asked any questions. They just existed.

This business of questions and answers is a phenomenon of the intellect. A typical modern disease, because we don't know even what questions to ask sometimes. Because there are vital questions and there are irrelevant questions. What is a vital questi on? Well, if you take a primitive society when a man had to kill something to eat, the vital question was where to find the animal and how to shoot it or kill it, not about how the animals came and, you know, Genesis. I think that old saying that "Satan finds mischief for idle hands to do," can be rephrased for modern times, "Satan finds questions for idle minds to ask"! Because when we are fully occupied we have no questions. It's a fact. We all know it. Very often I have found, in the time of my Master and now, it is the people who don't meditate who want to know how to meditate. It is the people who don't clean themselves who are worried about blockages and grossness.

So the true answer to our questions is not answers, but doing. How to cook: suppose your daughter asks how to cook. You don't give a lecture on how to light the fire and put the vessel on the fire and put water into it and pour barley into it; you do it and show her how to do it. So practical questions can be answered by doing things for you and showing how it is to be done.

That is what the Master does. He delays the answer, gives you the time to meditate, does a little cleaning and removes the question from your mind. It is not that you find an answer - that is not quite correct. The question ceases to interest us. Very often people come and say, Oh, I found the answer this morning in meditation. It is my experience that the answer was a change in the abhyasi's condition. This is what you have all found when you were with Babuji Maharaj; that we went with volumes and volumes of questions to ask, and when we went into his presence we forgot all the questions. Most of us didn't remember to ask any questions until we came back, then we said, Oh, I had so many questions to ask, but I didn't ask any of them!

Now, why didn't we ask those questions? Because when we were there, in the presence of the Master, it was like wet cloth drying before the sun - the questions evaporated. Our condition was changed, and it is like the cloth which says, "Oh, how did I be come dry? I just came to become dry, and I became dry." This is the problem with questions, you see, that they come from the intellect and trouble us because we seek understanding rather than results. What is the use of a sick person understanding his disease? What he wants is a cure. You know, often you find troublesome patients in doctors' clinics. They not only want to be cured, but they want to know all the answers. They waste the doctor's time.

So we must make sure that we get what we need, not what we ask for. Not because we have no right to ask for, but because we don't know what to ask for. So Babuji always used to say, "Please ask only practical questions."

He was always amused when people came to him and asked, "Does God exist?" He said, "What a funny question these people ask." Because philosophy also says, if it was not existing, you couldn't ask of a thing whether it exists or not. The fact that you can ask the question, "Does God exist?" proves that God exists.

So Master used to advise: "Don't waste your time asking foolish questions, try to realize His presence." That is why he was against the phrase "searching for God." Because you can, only search for something you have lost. God cannot ever be lost. God is not something like that. We may have lost Him, you see, in the sense that we have become isolated in our consciousness, and are suffering because of that isolation. It is like a man shutting himself up in a room and saying, "There is no air, there i s no air!" Open the windows!

So all that we need to get answers to our questions is to open the windows of our soul, you see, and receive, not answers, but grace. So please remember this for the future regarding questions.

The second thing is, in the last two days I have had a host of people coming to me with the complaint that there is a blockage in their heart. Now there is one thing we must understand. There cannot possibly be anything inside me which some outer or ex ternal agency has put inside. We must have done it ourselves. Now, if it is not a physical thing, like bad food or bad water, it must be mental. So most of these blocks that we feel are mental blocks. So we have to clean and remove it. Then they say, "Oh, it is so bad, I am not able to even meditate." It is as if ... what shall I say ... as tragic, as comic, as a sick man saying, "I am too sick to take medicine." It has got to be done. And very often people come and say, "Oh, you know, I haven't been able to meditate for one year, and I have no results." This is an even bigger contradiction, that we expect results without doing anything. I mean, these are all the experiences of the last two, three days, and it is causing me much, what should I say, sorrow. That abhyasis don't meditate for two years, and then complain that they have no results!

When you ask them why they don't meditate, they say they feel blocked. How did this block come? "Maybe I did something wrong." Are you continuing to do it wrong now? "Yes, unfortunately." (laughter) Why do you continue to do it? "Because I am not meditating." (laughter)

You see it goes round and round in circles. So what should we do about these things? After all, we are asked to meditate a maximum of one hour in the morning; 30 minutes cleaning in the evening and 10 minutes prayer at night. We don't have the time fo r this. Or we don't have the inclination for it. One abhyasi came and told me that every time he wanted to meditate he found something else to do! Now, how is it possible to find something else to do, when you have something to do already? It only mea ns the mind is not on meditation. So the only remedy was to advise him, "Please do it."

So you see how ridiculous this situation is, that we create all these problems by misunderstanding, by misapplication of the will. Because there is one thing which Babuji always used to emphasize: that if you have the willpower to apply at all, to anyth ing, it must be applicable to anything that you want to do. So if you cannot do one thing and can do another thing with the same willpower, it only means that you want to do one thing while you don't want to do the other. The will power is not lacking a nd is not to be blamed.

So you see, essentially the inability to meditate is not really an inability to meditate, but an unwillingness to meditate. Babuji has told so many abhyasis in my presence, "If my meditating for you could benefit, I would do the meditation also for you gladly." But it is as silly as saying, "If I could eat for you, I would eat for you." You must eat. So please try to understand this: that whenever we say we can't meditate, we don't want to meditate. Because there is nothing in nature which can oppos e a determined will. And what is necessary is to reassign our priorities, and do the meditation. If you do this, you will find there are no more questions, the path to the goal becomes smooth and progress is assured.

The second thing about questions I have also referred to in the past is that they are generally desire-based. So whichever way you look at it, a question has no meaning. That is why we try to avoid answering questions immediately. And intellectual answ ers have no relevance to our life. I remember Babuji once answered a young man who asked him the question "Does God exist?" Babuji asked him, "Suppose I say, Yes. Will you accept it?" Then I said, "Why do you ask him this question?" He told me, "This boy must have asked this question of a hundred people already. And whether I say, 'Yes, God exists,' or 'No, God does not exist,' it conveys nothing to him." So you see the fact that a question is answered need not convey anything to us automatically.

One man came to me, who was a troublesome prospective abhyasi, very argumentative. He asked me a question. He said, "Are you a fool?"

I said, "Yes, of course I am." (laughter)

Then he said, "How can you answer like this?"

I said, "When you ask me a question, I answer the truth."

He said, "No, no, but you are in this position in which your Master has placed you, how can you give such an answer?"

I then asked him, "What answer did you expect?"

He said, "I thought you would say, 'No, I am wise' and I would have said, 'You are a damn fool.'"

So I told him, "I have saved you that trouble." You know, the surprising thing was that he was so impressed he became an abhyasi. So what was it that impressed him? What was it that impressed him with the answer? A twist of the intellect, that's all.

Why I am giving this example is to show you another facet of human behavior. The questioner is not necessarily impressed with the answer. They are generally impressed with the way in which it is answered. That is why if somebody asks, "Does God exist? " and you say, "Yes," he gets up and goes away. But if you sit for three hours and talk of Kant and Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and all this nonsense, without answering his question, he is very impressed. So they don't want answers, they are really testi ng your knowledge.

A Master has a right to refuse to have his knowledge tested. Or at least you should be capable of testing it in the right way. So I think generally these Masters like my Master, Babuji, or Lalaji - it is not that they don't want to answer our questions . They are waiting for the right question to come, which will really prove to them that here is a man who can test my knowledge, test my capacity, test my spiritual approach. And then they will probably hug us and accept us.

It is said, "Know a man by the questions he asks." That is why Babuji used to be disgusted with people who asked very lewd questions, low questions, you know, at the lowest level of existence - questions about sex and this and that. He was disgusted no t because he was a prude, or because the subject is dirty. He was sad that a human being who should think of something high is thinking of something so low. That you should go to a Master and ask such questions this was his sadness. I know many people misunderstood it and said, "Aha, these Hindus, you know, they have a closed mind about sex." It is stupid. I have said, I think in another context in another place, that if you want to really know about sex, go to a Hindu. The Europeans don't know even the first thing about it yet. I mean, the Hindus have written books thousands of years ago about sex which haven't been discovered here yet. So it was not prudery. It was not any sort of unwillingness to talk about this subject. It was sorrow. It would have been like going to Einstein, for instance, and saying, What is two plus three equal to? Or going to God and asking for a packet of peanuts.

So that was my Master's sorrow; not unwillingness to answer questions or to be asked questions, but the tragedy of his own existence in that here is a storehouse of divinity, and people come with nothing more than the interest like rats have to nibble at a piece of cheese. Of course, I don't suppose that tragedy can be easily removed. Because they (people like the Masters) are from such a high descent it would not be, perhaps, possible to find any single questioner who could ask them the question that they are waiting for. So that is why I have referred to a Master's life as a tragic life in this sense. Those of you who are parents know how delighted you are when your child asks an intelligent question. Why are you delighted? And why are you annoyed when the child asks a stupid question? It is the same thing that happens to the Master. We are all his children and he expects at least once in a way an intelligent question from us. But, unfortunately, such masters are doomed to disappointment, I think most of the time. Even Einstein has said that it's not necessary to know the right answers, but it is necessary to know the right questions.

So if you want something from the Master, know what to ask for. And I will assure you it is one of the most difficult things on earth, because it is not a matter of knowledge, it is not a matter of search, of the intellect, of race or consciousness or a nything like that. It is a question of the yearning of the heart. When that yearning is there, you know what to ask the Master. Not what I want, what I want to change, how to get rid of my headache, how to get this done, whether I should move my house or not.

But such a person would go straight to the Master and say, "Master, I have one thing to ask of you."

And the Master may say, "Yes, what is it?"

And this man should be able to say, "I want you."

That is the only thing.


What does "Sahaj Marg" mean? What is Sahaj Marg?

The Sanskrit sahaj may be translated as "natural," "simple," or "spontaneous" and marg or marga means "way" or "path." Sahaj Marg means the "Natural Path," or "Simple Way."

Sahaj Marg is a way of life designed to give the direct experience of Realization in the midst of daily life. Sahaj Marg emphasizes that Realization is for everyone, not just for monks or nuns. Indeed, family life in one's own home is an excellent mean s of learning real lessons about sacrifice and love. Sahaj Marg suggests that the highest spiritual attainments can be realized by anyone at any time in any place and does not accept the romantic notion that to realize God or Self we must renounce societ y or adopt arduous practices. Divinity dwells not in the Himalayas, but in the human heart. Sahaj Marg says that God is simple, and may be approached by simple means.

What is the goal of Sahaj Marg practice?

We respectfully submit that the goal of Sahaj Marg is the goal of human life.

This Goal has been given many different names by the great spiritual traditions, yet it does not matter what words we use to refer to the one Goal they all share. Whether we choose to call it "enlightenment," or "moksha," or "becoming one with God," we are finally attempting to describe the indescribable, a stage far beyond the limits of any language.

The actual possibility of becoming one with God or Self is thought to be the highest imaginable attainment for any human being, and with God's grace, it is actually attainable by all His children. Whether we realize it consciously or not, all of us have taken human birth so that we might realize and express our Original Nature, which is Divine. There is no purpose for human life beyond this. In Sahaj Marg the means toward this end is meditation, which regulates the mind, and cleaning, which removes the past impressions and clears the hurdles in the path, made possible by the indispensable divine grace which the spiritual guide or Master pours into the heart of the practitioner through pranahuti or transmission.

Why must there be a "goal" for a spiritual practice? The Buddhists say that the yearning for enlightenment is itself a bar to enlightenment, and didn't even Lord Krishna say in the Gita that we should act, but take no thought for the fruit or reward of that action?

This is correct. In Sahaj Marg, we do not think of the Goal as some kind of external reward to be achieved, or faraway destination to be attained, or boon to be awarded by some Guru to those who have met a set of conditions or passed a test. Desiring a "goal" or some "other" state of being in this way is indeed a mistaken idea for any spiritual aspirant, and as the second line of the Mission Prayer indicates, ironically misses the whole point of the practice of Sahaj Marg.

Nonetheless, we do practice, just as Buddhists and Karma Yogis do. The State or Goal we approach is within, and has always been with us - it is none other than our own Original Nature. It might be said that practice is not for attaining something we do not already possess, but for removing that which blocks our realization of the Original Condition which we have forgotten, but which has always been ours. But mere intellectual appreciation of this goal-less Goal is nothing like the full Realization of it to the depths of our being; it is the difference between, say, holding a blueprint of an ancient and vanished palace and living as a king in that palace. Thus, we practice.

And our practice simply makes us more adept at journeying. The difference between one who practices and one who does not is like the difference between a traveler and a lost person. The first has an idea of where he or she is going, and the best way to go; the latter is aimlessly wandering and, beyond a vague misgiving, may not even realize he or she is lost.

Finally, Sahaj Marg understands that this ultimate Goal has the nature of Infinity, and really speaking there is never any "reaching" of such a Goal. Even Lalaji, the Samarth Guru Mahatma Ram Chandraji of Fatehgarh, is said to be still "swimming toward the Center." As Lalaji expressed the View from the pinnacle of superconsciousness: "The search for God and Soul...is imbecility. This fantasy is cured by another fantasy who is Guru."

But isn't going to Heaven or liberation from rebirth the goal of human life?

As for going to Heaven when we die, this is a matter for religion to debate. Sahaj Marg takes the view of Christ, that the kingdom of God is within. Union with God is far beyond popular notions of heavens and celestial paradises, and as the Lord's Prayer of Christianity hints, when the Father's will is done, this union may as possible on earth as it is in Heaven.

Though some may find this surprising, Sahaj Marg considers liberation from rebirth to be a rather low attainment in the spectrum of human possibility.

But how does the idea of Grace play into all this? Do we attain by our "own effort" or by "other effort"?

Both are necessary. You cannot be given a Gift if you refuse to open your hand, and you cannot receive Grace if you refuse to open your heart. All we can do is open the door of our hearts to the Lord, our own Self, whom our ego has kicked out and who now must stand outside knocking on that closed door, closed heart, closed hand, and closed mind. We open and then we wait. Grace will be wasted if it is poured into an unprepared heart, just as milk would be wasted if it were poured into a vessel that had been used to hold gasoline. So some work, some cleaning, is necessary. We prepare our hearts to receive the Lord as we would clean our homes to receive a guest. If you have your back to the sun, Babuji used to say, all you need to do is turn around.

Yet Grace by definition can never be earned; even our tears and love and repentance cannot buy us Grace. Characteristically, Babuji clarified this ancient paradox of Work-versus-Grace with direct simplicity: "Liberation is to reveal oneself before God.

Realization is when God reveals himself. Liberation can be attained by doing abhyas. Realization He may give or not; it is His prerogative."

How long does it take for one to achieve this Realization?

Realization takes an eternity and comes in an instant. It is, as Babuji hinted, a matter of Divine Grace. Though a capable Master could bring someone to the highest level in a matter of days by the force of his full transmission, such an act is forbidden, since it would destroy the physical body of the unprepared recipient. So the gradual practice or sadhana takes place gently and naturally for most over a period of months and years. It is like birth, which happens in an instant, but only after a time of gestation. Premature elevation in spirituality for an abhyasi is as undesirable and dangerous as is premature birth for a fetus.

But when the time is ripe, Grace descends and Realization occurs, as Lalaji said, "in less time than it takes for a tear to come from the eye." Or as Babuji once remarked, "It is only a matter of turning one's head from one side to another." Lalaji is said to have reached this moment after only seven months of practice, yet for Babuji, the sadhana continued for 22 years. The length of time is irrelevant, given the ultimate attainment. Time as we understand it has no relevance in the path of Realization.

Are other motives acceptable in practicing Sahaj Marg? For example, will it cure my physical illnesses? Will it help me with depression? Will it have a positive effect on my career and earning potential? I'm not sure about this "Self-Realization" stuff; I just want peace and relaxation. Is this acceptable?

It is fine to begin practice with all sorts of hopes, goals, and expectations other than the ultimate Goal just discussed. In time, as we evolve in our spiritual practice, our ideas of what is desirable will also evolve. Lesser goals drop away as we become aware of the real goal of our lives. Eventually as we advance we will develop the focus and single-pointedness of mind essential to success in this highest of all human quests, and will begin to understand why our Masters consider the things normally prized by spiritual beginners (peace of mind, wealth, health, worldly power, and so on) to be mere toys compared to the realms possible to the human spirit.

It is a fact that many who have begun Sahaj Marg practice have experienced relief from physical and emotional distress, often in ways they consider "miraculous." Such testimonies abound among Sahaj Marg abhyasis, but they are rarely mentioned in public since it could generate a craze of seekers after miracles or corporeal changes which have little to do with Realization. Such blessings are given by Master to an abhyasi only if they are needed for his or her spiritual growth.

Sahaj Marg is a way of life guided by an inner spiritual purpose. A spiritual practice must give one the ability to face whatever life may present with clarity and equanimity. Thus it often happens that an abhyasi may begin Sahaj Marg only to find that all sorts of difficulties, physical and financial, begin to appear in his life! Worldly difficulties become "divine blessings" as we learn how they can help us in our spiritual goal. Lalaji used to say that three things were necessary in the making of a saint: a little financial difficulty, a little criticism, and a bit of ill health. Such difficulties remind us of the pain of desiring what is impermanent; they cure us of complacency and delusion; they spur us on toward the Real. As Lalaji said, "Afflictions are boons from God. There are many secrets in them." We have only to look to the examples of Lalaji, Babuji, and Chariji to find that even Masters are not exempt from the pains and difficulties of human life.

So while we might begin the practice of Sahaj Marg for other reasons, the sooner we come to appreciate and accept the only real Goal we have been born to realize, the less time we will waste. Meanwhile, our Master, the very embodiment and demonstration of the goal of Sahaj Marg, will patiently wait for us to cease tarrying with diversions and distractions and pursuing impermanent and useless fantasies, to have done with lesser things and seek what is Real.

How can we tell if we are progressing toward the Goal?

Chariji has said that a growing lightness of mind and spirit is the surest test of spiritual progress. No one has said that the journey is without difficulty. Along the way we experience doubts and pain, and it is the not unusual for most of us to feel like quitting the practice a hundred times as we move toward this Goal. This is why a Master's help is so welcome and so necessary. He is there to guide us past the difficulties we create for ourselves, and to show us that our Goal is not far, but near.


How does Sahaj Marg compare with other systems?

It does not. It is against etiquette to rate or compare different traditions, religions, and methods. Sahaj Marg makes no claims other than it is an effective path, simple and direct, that can be tested by anyone willing to try it. Sahaj Marg cannot testify for the efficacy of other paths.

I am a Christian. Does this mean I am converting? Should I stop going to church? Can't one be Christian or Hindu or Buddhist and also be an abhyasi? Must I give up my religion?

Taking up the practice of Sahaj Marg does not mean we are converting from one religion into another. Sahaj Marg does not require any of us to give up the external trappings of our religion. We may keep whatever is essential and necessary for our journey. Abhyasis around the world have come to Sahaj Marg from many different cultures and religions. The process of finding a connection with Divinity is internalized in Sahaj Marg, and we should not become afraid if after some time we find that desires to resort to external forms of worship or ritual begin to drop off. What is Real will remain Real, and the essence of our religion will always remain with us. As Babuji said, "Where religion ends, spirituality begins."

I am an atheist. Must I believe in God to practice? What does Sahaj Marg say about reincarnation? Is it necessary to believe in reincarnation to do this practice?

The practice of Sahaj Marg does not require a belief in God, nor does Sahaj Marg require a belief in reincarnation, since the focus of our sadhana is on this life, on the here-and-now.

In fact, Sahaj Marg has no credos, no dogma, no tenets. Sahaj Marg is experimental and experiential in its approach, and so abhyasis are asked not to simply believe what we hear or read, but to observe what we discover within; not to trust the claims of Sahaj Marg, but to test them as thoroughly as we can. Practice is something we do, not something we ponder. Until we realize for ourselves, all the claims of any spiritual practice are only secondhand information - even the testimony of the Master. Again and again, Babuji urged people who came to him to actually see for themselves: "Read and enjoy," he would say. "Do and become!"

What is the relation between Sahaj Marg and Raja Yoga?

Sahaj Marg is Raja Yoga distilled and simplified. Those acquainted with Patanjali's Yoga Sutras will be familiar with his classical Ashtanga, or Eight-Limbed, approach to Raja Yoga. The eight steps are yama and niyama (the moral and ethical limbs), asana (posture), pranayama (movement of energy through breath), pratyahara (withdrawal from senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). These have often been viewed as sequential and consequential stages of development, rather like climbing the rungs of a ladder.

Whether Patanjali ever intended this is debatable, but Sahaj Marg takes a simultaneous and global approach to the practice of Raja Yoga and begins directly with dhyana or meditation, the so-called Seventh Limb. Contrary to some notions, Sahaj Marg says that meditation is simple, and points out the obvious: the only way we can ever learn to meditate is to start meditating! The tree of Raja Yoga with all its limbs can grow naturally from this seed. So the image of the ladder of steps does not fit the practice of Sahaj Marg, which is more like a sphere expanding from its center, the heart of the Light realized in meditation.

What about Karma or Bhakti or Jnana Yoga?

Though Sahaj Marg is usually presented as a refinement of Raja Yoga, it must be understood as a synthesis of the other primary yogas as well. As outlined in the Bhagavad Gita, the four essential yogas are Karma Yoga (work and service), Jnana Yoga (discrimination and wisdom), Bhakti Yoga (supreme and dissolving adoration, love, and devotion), and Raja Yoga (the so-called "yoga of the king," as it involves the mind or "king" of all senses and the direct, experiential perception of the Absolute). Experience proves that the four yogas are not rigidly exclusive, but that after a certain level they intersect and blend, and ultimately arrive at a state where all paths end and such distinctions are of no consequence.

What about Hatha or Vinyasa Yoga?

Currently popular, Vinyasa is one the many schools of Hatha Yoga, which is by far the most well-known form of yoga in the West. Hatha Yoga focuses on breath and body postures or asanas. It is fine for physical well-being, but for approaching the spiritual depths, across the centuries, the great yogins have considered Raja Yoga as the most direct path.

It is only natural for the Sahaj Marg abhyasi to respect and care for his or her body, to get proper rest and nourishment and exercise. But we should not become obsessed or fixated on the body, which, after all, is not permanent. No matter how flexible it becomes or what remarkable feats it can be trained to accomplish, the body is finally fated to die and drop away. For sensible physical exercise, an abhyasi may do whatever is helpful - walking, jogging, swimming, or whatever - as long as these activities do not take time from the spiritual practice. Doing Tai Chi or Hatha Yoga for the purpose of physical well-being may be harmless, but since these practices often go beyond simple exercise, the abhyasi should always be cautious about mixing energies. "When in doubt," as Master likes to say, "don't."

What about Nada or Taraka Yoga, Kriya Yoga, and Tantric or Kundalini Yoga?

There are dozens of yogas in the East and the West, and if you feel attracted to these forms, you should go to a proper teacher of that tradition. Some abhyasis do have experience of the inner sound or shabda of nada-yoga, the various light-visions (lakshya) common to taraka-yoga. Though kundalini may be awakened in Sahaj Marg practice if Master deems this to be necessary for an abhyasi's appointed work, kundalini as such involves power and has nothing to do with spiritual realization.

I am already practicing some meditation; why can't I just do both Sahaj Marg and another practice?

Just as it is unwise to mix and take different prescriptions from two or three doctors, so it is dangerous to mix spiritual practices. Such a question might suggest confused, restless, or even a greedy attitude. Only one boat is required to cross a river; straddling two usually results in capsizing, not arriving. Dabbling and flirting among spiritual paths may be like drilling one well only a little way, then giving up because the work is hard and the water doesn't come, then moving to another spot and drilling again. Such work is not only wasteful, but fruitless, for all we end up with is a dozen or a thousand shallow holes. Better to gather all that scattered effort and sink a single well deep - for all we need is but one well that goes all the way and we can then draw from an entire reservoir.

In short, once you have shopped around among various traditions, it may be wise to choose one method and follow it wholeheartedly - with ekagrata, the clear and single-pointed focus deemed essential for spiritual practice. Entrants to any spiritual path should take up that practice fully and purely. This is why we are advised to put our former practices on hold while we are giving Sahaj Marg a test.

How does the Master compare with Masters in other traditions?

Speaking of when he was an abhyasi under Babuji, Chariji once said, "I never compared my Master to other Masters. I only compared myself to my Master." This says much in few words.

Along these lines, Babuji recorded that Lalaji gave him certain directions to be observed during bhandara (spiritual gatherings), one of which is: "There should be no differentiation between the gurus or disciples of other institutions and one's own." These words also invite deep contemplation.

One last point: Eager disciples of various traditions often squabble and dispute about the superiority of their path over all others, or the primacy of their guru above all others, but this is not the case among genuine and true Masters, who must smile at such childish behavior among the devotees of supposedly competing camps. One of the first things we learn in associating with our Master is that at the higher levels, all beings work in harmony, and that no incorporeal being or human guru, hidden or revealed, works without Nature's permission. The Masters form a harmony across time and space and also across all traditions, taking the work that is appointed to them by Nature. Only their less mature disciples, who do not yet see the grandness of Nature's whole panorama, foolishly argue for this guru or that guru as the "greatest."

Then Sahaj Marg is not the "only way" to God Realization?

Sahaj Marg rejects the notion that there is "one true way" for every person everywhere. Just as a mother might prepare a dish in different ways to please her different children, so has God created many paths to suit the needs of Her children in their particular situations. The paths we choose at given times in our lives are thus more a matter of suitability or even our karmic destiny. The ancient Vedic principal applies here: "Paths are many; Truth is one."

And yet there is another level of understanding (see invertendo, page 123) regarding this question of paths. Babuji once said, "There is only one way to attain God. Had there been several paths, even thieves would have reached Him by a secret path." The truth is, no matter what tradition or method we adopt, in essence there is only one way to realize God.

Though the surface instances vary, all human beings are essentially born in the same way, and all die in the same way. Just so, regardless of our language or culture or belief system, we all sleep, dream, and awaken in the same way. And we all enter the turiya, the "fourth consciousness," in the same way - that is, we simply drop our delusions and awaken to Reality. How many ways are there to drop a burning ember from our hands? As the ancient sages used to say, "The paths to Hell are many; but to God there is only one Path." In that path to God, no matter what external words, rituals, or techniques are used, the inner Process for all is single, eternal, and universal.

Finally, the spiritually mature individual recognizes the beauty and validity of other paths, but he or she is not fickle-minded and does not confuse this appreciation with an inability to commit to a given practice. Generally speaking, regardless of our chosen path, three qualities are essential for all spiritual travelers: Tolerance or appreciation of all paths is, according to Sahaj Marg, the beginning, not the end, of spirituality. Viveka (insight or discrimination) is a second prerequisite. Intense longing (mumuksha) is the third.

I already have a Guru. May I still practice the method of Sahaj Marg? Must I give my old Master up? I feel grateful to him/her.

If people find their practice or current guru to be satisfactory, Chariji encourages them to follow that path to its furthest reach. By the same token, if someone feels that he or she can receive no further benefit from a practice or guru, then it is his or her right and duty to try to find a more effective path. Chariji has said, "But please, only one Marg at a time!"

To this we might add, "Please, one Master at a time." Ultimately the Way and the Guru are inseparable, for as it has been said, "A teacher points the Way; the Guru is the Way." Thus we may have many teachers, but we can have only one Guru, once we really understand the role of the Guru in the life of a disciple. Trying to serve two masters is a disservice not only to our former guru, but to ourselves as well.

In another way, to the degree that a former guru has taught and assisted us, none of us ever has to "give up" such benefit. We may be lucky enough to have learned from many wise teachers or upa-gurus (secondary gurus), and should always feel gratitude and respect for them. When we graduate out of high school into college, it is not an act of betrayal to our high school teachers, but a normal process of growth and expansion.

True gurus exist to serve us, not the other way around. Babuji has written: "I hold it to be the birthright of every man to break off from his Guru if he finds he has made a wrong selection or had misjudged that Guru's capacity or worth. He is also free to seek another Guru if at any stage he finds that his Guru has not the capacity to take him beyond that which he has already acquired. On the other hand, a conscientious Guru must himself, under the circumstances, direct his disciple to seek another more advanced and better qualified, so that the disciple may not in any way suffer progress. This is the sacred duty of a true and selfless Guru. If, however, permission to break off, sought for by the disciple, is denied by the Guru on account of his selfish motives, the disciple is at liberty to break off from him at once and seek another. No moral or religious law ever forbids him from doing so."

What does Sahaj Marg say about Jesus? I think Jesus is the only Way. Jesus said, "For one is your Master, even Christ." (Mt. 23.10)

As we have already said, if you feel that Christ or anyone else is your Master, you should stay with Him.

It is the view of Sahaj Marg, however, that Representatives of God are born in different times and places to give people an approach to the Divine that is suitable to their current situation and condition. Masters appear in ordinary human form, go through the troubles all of us must endure, and then return to the Source that sent them forth. There are reasons why the Divine must take on various human forms to appear as Masters to different cultures and races and times, and Christ Himself gave a hint along these lines when He said: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9.5) When Jesus spoke of the reincarnation or return of the Christ - "For as the lightening cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be," (Mt. 24.27) - He added: "Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." (Mt. 24.44 and Luke 12.40) Will we be ready to recognize the Master when He appears before us? The appearance of our Master may not be during an apocaplypse: all Jesus says is that the Master will appear before us unexpectedly, perhaps in a form we never anticipated.

Chariji loves to tell the following story. It is a story about a group of very religious Brahmins begging for a visit from Lord Krishna, who was to them what Christ is to others: the only true full incarnation of God. Lord Krishna spoke and told the Brahmins that He had heard their prayers and would come have supper with them at midnight. Overjoyed, the Brahmins performed all the necessary ablutions and said the proper mantras, and under a pandal or canopy in a holy grove laid out a wonderful repast. Then they waited. Suddenly at midnight a wild pig burst out of the underbrush and began rooting and snouting through the food they had laid out for their Lord. Horrified that an unclean animal was polluting the Lord's supper, they began to beat the pig and drive it away. A strange thing happened, as the story goes: Every time they hit the pig, they felt the blows on their own bodies as well! Finally they drove the pig ran squealing back into the forest, but the food was ruined and Krishna never appeared. The next morning, the Brahmins glumly performed their rites and then demanded that Krishna explain why He had broken His promise to come and have supper with them. This time Lord Krishna did appear before the Brahmins. "I did come," he told them, "but obviously not in the form you were expecting!" Then He turned and the Brahmins received a second shock. Their Lord's back was covered with the stripes and bruises they'd given to that pig!

Buddhist and Hindu scriptures also agree that spiritual Masters appear in every generation to assist humanity and do the work of nature. Some are known, but many choose to remain hidden. Of those who are known, some become jagat-gurus, or world-teachers, and are worshipped for many centuries. If their teachings are deep enough, and true enough, eventually they may crystallize into a scripture and produce a religion. All religions begin with the realization of a single individual, and the original experience of its founder remains the bedrock of each religion. Whether that founder is Christ, Buddha, Rama, Krishna, Mohammed, or someone else, this standard holds true, and to the degree that the founder's followers can partake of that experience themselves, their religion continues to be valid and transformative rather than degenerating into a set of mechanical rituals or a dry body of social obligations.

Sahaj Marg respects the Masters of all religions. This brief book is not the place to go into depth about the harmony of the words of Christ and the practice of Sahaj Marg, but a deep parallel study of the Gospels and the works of Sahaj Marg Masters might dispel apparent or superficial conflicts. You may bring your conflicts directly to Chariji, or to a knowledgeable brother or sister, if you wish, but your practice itself will provide the ultimate verification. After some time, you will know the truth directly for yourself. As Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within." Just so, Sahaj Marg advises us only to meditate and look within our own heart. The definition, the description, and the destination of meditation was never expressed so well as in Psalms 46.10: "Be still and know that I am God."


What qualifications or requirements are necessary for one to begin the practice of Sahaj Marg?

Anyone who is at least eighteen years old and who is willing to make a sincere commitment to try the practice for three to six months may begin.

Why must one be at least eighteen years of age to begin practice?

Sahaj Marg recognizes the fact that all humans must grow and develop in a natural way at a natural pace. As we mature, we first learn to crawl, then walk, then talk, then read, and so on. Just so, with spirituality, children should be allowed to grow and play and develop in a natural way. They must not be forced into meditation before they have the maturity to understand something of what they are getting into, and can make an independent decision for themselves, apart from the pressures of parents or peers. Granted, some individuals mature early, and others seem to never mature, but the age of eighteen has been selected as an arbitrary time when most of us are first able to consider choosing a spiritual path. Master sometimes allows individuals to begin sadhana before they turn eighteen, but this is rather rare.

Are any fees or "donations" required for spiritual training under Sahaj Marg?

No. How can you be charged for having restored to you that which has always been yours? Sahaj Marg holds that spirituality cannot be sold any more than the sky can be sold, for no one owns it.

I have too many bad habits to start a spiritual practice at this time. Much as I might like to, I'm afraid that I cannot leave my vices.

Sahaj Marg is not for perfect people, but for those who are willing to become perfect. We all have vices which may seem horrible and special to us, but which are almost always quite commonplace, as Dr. Varadachari used to say. These weaknesses, inclinations, or compulsions do not disqualify us; in fact, they are the very reasons to take up a spiritual practice. In Sahaj Marg, we do not battle directly with our desires - such an attack only makes the desires more strong, as anyone who has ever made a New Year's resolution will know. Rather than focus on our faults, in Sahaj Marg we simply make progress in the good and allow habits to drop away by themselves. There is no force, no rush. The process is quite natural and happens when the time is ripe.

Sometimes the samskaras (the subtle impressions that give rise to habits) are removed very quickly, and change is almost effortless. At other times, the abhyasi must work again and again to manifest externally the internal cleaning that has been given by the Master. As Master says, some samskaras are removed only with the abhyasi's cooperation in the form of consistent effort, with perhaps many failures, before the result becomes an abiding condition. The difficulties are sometimes left in place by the Master to help the abhyasi develop character. In other instances, habits that once seemed impossible to escape can be cleared in a way that seems truly miraculous. Whatever is necessary for an abhyasi's progress will be given.

Once a group of men came to Babuji and said, "Sir, we admire your system very much, but we cannot start." Babuji asked them why not. These fellows were unusual in that they were not shamed and secretive, but came right out and told Babuji about their shortcomings as a way of explaining why they felt themselves to be unsuitable candidates for spiritual practice. "Sir," they concluded flatly, "we cannot leave our vices."

Babuji laughed. "I am telling you," he replied, "do not worry about leaving your vices. They will leave you!"

I think I might like to give the system a try, but at this point I cannot promise that I will stay with it forever. Is this acceptable?

Of course. This is essentially what Babuji meant when he used to say that the only requirement to begin Sahaj Marg is willingness. Much is contained in that single word, for the proper beginning is one made not just from the level of the emotions, which may fluctuate with every change of circumstance, but also from the deeper level of the will. For this level to remain engaged, we must remember the purpose and destination of our lives. Like a sailor holding a true course, it is this one-pointedness of mind that will carry us through the cross-winds of desire amidst the clamorous attractions we see all around us, and also through those doldrums, momentary despairs, or simply the lack of interest that inevitably beset every spiritual voyager from time to time.

How do I begin Sahaj Marg? What exactly is to be done?

The first step is to meet with a preceptor. (For names and addresses of the preceptors nearest you, please contact one of the centers ) You should be given a minimum of three individual sittings from a preceptor before attending group meditation. Ideally, these sittings should occur over two or three days. The second sitting should come within 24 hours of the first.

What is a "sitting"? What precisely is done during the introductory sittings?

The term "sitting" is used in Sahaj Marg to describe a meditation in which the Master or a preceptor meditates in the presence of a group or with an individual to clean the subtle body and transmit prana. This is normally done while sitting face to face - or more precisely, heart to heart. The introductory sittings are devoted mostly to cleaning the system of the beginner. Subtle obstacles are removed and the way is prepared for open-hearted meditation.

It should be noted that three introductory sittings is the minimum. Sahaj Marg does not treat human beings as if they were assembly-line products, and recognizes that the condition and capacity of each individual is unique. So you should not be concerned if the preceptor requests more sittings - it does not mean that your condition is exceptionally gross or, on the other hand, that your capacity is especially great. What it means is that the preceptor wants to give you as firm a beginning as possible, and if you are willing, he or she would like to give you more than the bare minimum of sittings. Babuji once gave 22 sittings to a person beginning the practice.

Why are we asked to devote three to six months to test the practice of Sahaj Marg?

A reasonable length of time is necessary to give the results of the practice time to manifest. This is true not just with Sahaj Marg, but with any spiritual practice. The time period of three to six months is somewhat arbitrary, in that often these changes can be felt much sooner, and sometimes a greater amount of time may be necessary, particularly as the work advances and grows more and more subtle.

How exactly are we supposed to tell if the practice is working? What changes should we expect?

Master has said that the surest test of the effectiveness of a spiritual practice is a growing sense of lightness. Now this "sense of lightness" is by definition a subjective condition. It might be compared to a daughter asking her mother about the experience of falling in love. "How will I know when I have fallen in love?" she might ask her mother. And the mother will smile and say, "Don't worry. You'll know."

Just so, though this sense of spiritual "lightness" may difficult to describe, it is one that can be easily recognized when it is experienced. Even after a short time of practice, many abhyasis often report a dropping away of complexities, a sense of peace, a heightened intuitive ability, a sense of focus and direction.

When Reality is perceived, the response is awe and gratitude. So whether we feel as a kind of background to all we experience a sense of abiding gratitude (or its reverse, resentment and bitterness) can be another sure test for the clarity of our contact with the Real. The one is light, clear, open and free; the other - resentment - is dark, smoky, closed, and bound.

But the most simple and honest way to describe how we have found our chosen path is that after some time, it simply feels right. That for us, no matter that we may continue to doubt and struggle and argue, Sahaj Marg is a "path with a heart."

But understand that whatever conditions arise, whether they are agreeable to us or not, all such conditions will change and pass on. In our spiritual yatra or journey toward the Ultimate, peace will come and go, pain will arrive and depart, until we at last come into what Babuji has described as the unchanging condition, the non-bliss blissfulness, the peace beyond "peace."

Finally, regarding expectations, however, a word of caution: it is almost a rule of spiritual practice that one of the first experiences that comes along is the realization that our expectations are in themselves hindrances and obstacles (as the second line of the Mission prayer suggests) and this realization usually comes when our hidden expectations are revealed precisely because they are not met! We may expect a guru to look and act in a certain way, and the genuine guru will often disappoint and frustrate those expectations. So it is best to simply do the practice and observe whatever arises, including our own expectations. For what we expect to happen will condition (and therefore limit) what actually does happen. This is a truth with any spiritual practice.

So what to expect? Expect nothing. Expect anything. Do, and see for yourself.

What are the suggested guidelines for this trial period?

To sum up, perhaps the following suggestions will of some use:

  1. Do the practice for a reasonable length of time to allow the subtle changes to begin to flower. Even for physical training, we could hardly expect to see results from only one or two workouts in a gymnasium. Three to six months should suffice as a minimum provisional commitment to any new method of spiritual training. There are many terrains in the geography of the inner world, and we should not be surprised or discouraged when we hit dry places and valleys, just as we should not get elated by the first view from the mountains.

  2. Do the practice fully, as it is meant to be done. To extend the metaphor of working in a gymnasium, we could hardly expect to see any results even after the three or six months if we had only worked out a few times each month. In Sahaj Marg, this means doing the daily practice, attending satsangh once a week, getting at least two individual sittings from a preceptor each month, writing in our spiritual diary, reading, and so on.

  3. Do the practice without adding to it and without altering it. We can hardly evaluate the results of one practice if it is mixed into an eclectic stew of other practices. When we have practiced Sahaj Marg honestly, singly, and thoroughly for three to six months, then if we find it does not suit us, our former practices will always be there for us to take up again. But we must be willing to put them "on hold" while we are testing a new practice.

    A century ago Swami Vivekananda likened the enthusiasms of Americans to a fire of straw - "quickly ignited, but quickly extinguished." Only when the novelty of the practice and the initial "honeymoon phase" is gone does the work begin in earnest. Unfortunately, this is when many leave the practice, and move on to something else or drop the effort altogether. Such a pattern has been aptly described as an "addiction to attraction," whereby people either fear commitment or become fixated with novelty, wishing to sample a bit of everything in love or life or spirituality without diving deeply. We must be more mature than this, and see how limiting the restless gravitation toward "novelty" can be and the opportunities it may deny. Then, though we may appreciate other ways, still we can dive deeply in the tradition we have chosen - or as some say, has been chosen for us. The Source of all paths may remain illusory as long as we keep skittering from surface to surface, but may be perceived when the depths are sounded. Only then can true appreciation for all paths begin to develop. So, Master says: "Dive deep!"

I have noticed that many of those who begin Sahaj Marg in the West do not even stick with it for the initial three months. Why do so few stay with it?

This question could have as many answers as the number of individuals who begin the practice but for some reason, drop off - indeed, often before completing even the trial period they agreed to observe. It is not fair to broadbrush all those who make such aborted beginnings as fickle-minded or flaky. In fact, preceptors usually feel that they are the ones who have failed in such cases, not the individuals who came to them for instruction and transmission.

Traditionally, those who wished to learn from a guru had to pass certain tests before they would be accepted for instruction. The guru would ignore the aspiring disciple or even attempt to drive him away. Stories of severe testing of an applicant's seriousness of purpose by the guru abound in dharmic literature. Bodhidharma is said to have accepted the disciple who was to become the Second Patriarch only after the fellow got his attention by cutting off his own right arm and presenting it as evidence to his Master that he was indeed serious about his own evolution. This used to be symbolically represented in the Zen Buddhist tradition, where candidates were expected to wait outside the monastery walls for days, knocking and begging to be admitted - but it also was more than symbolic. Garbage would be dumped on these poor souls and insults hurled at them; they might even get beaten, and be ordered to leave. Finally, those who could not be driven away would be admitted.

There are no such traditional dramas or external tests of the applicant in Sahaj Marg. Beginning the practice of Sahaj Marg is very easy. It is democratic and open to all, regardless of creed, gender, maturity, education, financial situation, race, or religion. All anyone has to do is profess a willingness to begin and take three introductory sittings from a preceptor. Nonetheless, in Sahaj Marg the testing of the applicant's sincerity and fortitude is just as real as in the old traditions, and it comes just as quickly - only here, the one who does the testing is the also one who is being tested, namely, the applicant himself.

One wishes the best for those who decide that Sahaj Marg does not suit them after they have given the system a sincere effort for three to six months. Indeed, as already mentioned, Sahaj Marg does not hold the view that everyone must follow one spiritual path, for as the Vedas observe: "Truth is one; Paths are many." Still, it is regrettable when a practice is rejected before it has been properly tested. We may have carelessly thrown away a jewel without even knowing we once held it in our hand.

Chariji once asked Babuji why he could not use his powers as a Master to make people stay with the practice, because even if they couldn't recognize the fact, this was what they needed more than anything else in life. Babuji replied, "Yes, it could be done, but it is not allowed. Man is not an animal that he can be tied up." No matter much how God may yearn for reunion with his children, apparently He will never force anyone to come to Him. We must each come of our own will. And each day we stay, it is because of our will, until the day finally comes when God's will and our will are one.

It has been said that no one should begin the practice of yoga unless he or she has the same intensity of purpose and singleness of will that a person whose hair has caught fire will use in putting that fire out. Everything else - family, career, food - is eclipsed in the bright fire of that mumuksha, or desire for liberation. Few of us have that degree of yearning for Realization, but if such restlessness begins to develop in our practice, we may count ourselves blessed, for Realization. will follow such a pure intention as the light follows the rising sun.


What does the term "Master" mean in Sahaj Marg?

In casual usage, "Master" is merely the appellation used by most abhyasis in referring to the gurus of the Sahaj Marg lineage, and in particular, to the living Representative. Truly speaking, however, the external Master or Guru can be described as the reflection of our own inner Teacher. This is true not only for Masters of Sahaj Marg, but for the Masters of all the great traditions. Along these lines, the words of Tibetan Lama Sogyal Rinpoche can hardly be improved upon: "The master whose human shape and human voice we come to love with a love deeper than any other in our lives is none other than the external manifestation of the mystery of our own inner truth. What else could explain why we feel so strongly connected to him?"

Officially within the Shri Ram Chandra Mission (SRCM), the Master is the spiritual Representative announced by his Master, who carries on the spiritual duties as guided and instructed by his Master. As such, there is only one living Master at a time, who also accepts the responsibilities of President of SRCM.

But Chariji has often explained that the use of the word "master" in Sahaj Marg has nothing to do with some external hierarchical relationship, in which one person acts like a "boss" whose every order must be obeyed, and all others are mere lowly slaves.

In fact, Sahaj Marg Masters rarely give direct orders to others, and then only to advanced abhyasis, or when absolutely necessary. Instead, they tend to give subtle hints or general suggestions. Masters, as Babuji always insisted, come not to rule, but only to serve. The most striking characteristic of our Masters are their utter ordinariness, their lack of self-consciousness, their playfulness, and their genuine humility.

For example, Chariji has answered the question "Who is the Master?" in many different ways, depending on how he feels, and on who is asking, and why, and when, and where.

He has replied: "A Master is not who you think he is."

Or: "I would say that the Master is nobody."

Or: "The Master is someone very much like you!"

The hint here is that the "Master" is not a riddle to be solved or a definition to be settled and set away, but is a mystery best approached with wonder. It is a mystery in which the "Master" is both a human being and yet not a human being, but something beyond, as Babuji hinted:

"I started practice at the age of 21 when I did not know what is surrender and so I never tried for that. To me my Master was all and all, because I got such a Master. If there was any surrender on my part unconsciously, it was to the Master alone. Really speaking, the frame of the Master is not God, but what is behind it is Divinity. So I submitted to that Divinity and not the physical being. If you invite into your view the whole frame of the Master, the Divinity will lag behind. (It was for me alone. I never say for others to do it.) So it was not submission to the Master but to the Real Being. But now my own experience wants that our associates may read the benefit of my experiences."

So the "Master" may be viewed as either an incarnated human being or as Being itself, prior to and beyond any incarnation. But really the Master must be seen as both. The "frame of the Master" and the "Divinity behind it" cannot be separated, for just as we cannot separate water from the abstract concept of "wetness," so we cannot divide the temporal Master from the eternal Divinity the Master embodies.

Two more things can be said. Chariji has explained that in Sahaj Marg, the word "master" can refer to a person who has mastered himself or herself. Most of us will admit that this is no common feat. As already suggested, it is this mastery over self, not mastery over others, that makes one a true master. Secondly, in the living tradition of Sahaj Marg, a Master is one who has the ability to transmit from the center of his own existence to the center of another's existence, who can thus awaken and nurture the Master in others. In short, a Master is able to create not just disciples, but others like himself, that is, another Master. But this work can be done only if a fit disciple appears and is willing to undergo the work and fulfill his own part of the bargain. Sadly, few have the faith and courage to accept this reality, for as Babuji used to say, "Rare to find a Master of caliber, but even more rare to find a disciple of caliber!"

How does one recognize a Master of caliber?

In sum, by becoming a disciple of caliber.

Chariji has said that if we have one Goal, the highest goal in mind, it is easy to find guidance, and Babuji has attested that a sincere prayer will bring the guru to our door!

Babuji goes into some detail to help us in our search for a genuine and capable Master: "It is very difficult to find such a person, but they are there, no doubt, in this world. I will tell you an easy method of finding them out. If you sit beside such a person, never mind be he a sannyasi (renunciate) or grihastha (householder), calmness, the nature of self, will remain predominant and you will be care-free for the time being. You will be in touch with the Real thing so long as you are with him. The effect is automatic, even if he does not exert himself.

"If you really want to search for such a person, what you have to do is only to look to your own heart and note the condition of your mind. It becomes comparatively calm and quiet, and the different ideas that have been haunting your mind and troubling you all the time are away so long as you are with him.

"But one thing is to be clearly borne in mind, that mind should not in any way be taxed and there should be no heaviness. Because this effect (keeping off the ideas and bringing the mind to a stand-still) can be brought off also by those who have mastered the baser science of hypnotism. The difference between the two is that in the latter case heaviness, exhaustion, and dullness of mind and physique will be felt, while in the former case the person will feel lightness and at the same time calmness prevailing all over. It is possible that you may not be able to judge it at first glance, but constant company with the person will surely offer you clear hints and indications in this respect."

What is the role of the Master?

As indicated, the Master's duty is to awaken and nurture the Divine in all who seek such assistance, and thus fulfill his pledge to his own Master. The Master in Sahaj Marg takes complete responsibility for the abhyasi's total well-being, but only when the abhyasi allows this through intelligent surrender to Divine will. What is meant by "intelligent surrender" is not that we surrender our intelligence, but that we surrender because of our intelligence.

I feel that the idea of a Master somehow comes between me and God. Why must we have a Master? Can't everyone go to God directly, without any intermediary?

Babuji wrote, "God is the real Guru or Master and we get Light from Him alone. But as it is extremely difficult for a man of ordinary talents to draw inspiration from God directly, we seek the help of one of our fellow beings who has established his connection with the Almighty. It is quite evident that if a man comes out as a guru or master he has usurped the position really due to God and as such it is nothing but mere blasphemy. [The guru] must, therefore, treat himself as the humblest servant of God, serving humanity in the name of the great Master."

It is true that we can indeed go to the Source directly, without any assistance from a fellow human being, and we are welcome to try whenever we like. But we may come to understand why such a feat is very rare in the long history of the spiritual traditions of the world, and why most agree on the desirability, indeed the necessity, for a Realized Master in human form to assist most seekers in finding their way Home. If we honestly examine the sources of our desire to "go it alone," we may find the very thing that stands between ourselves and reality - namely, the subtle pride in accomplishment and the fear of surrender that are the signatures of ego. It is this ego, not the Master, that "comes between me and God."

But I still do not like the idea of having to depend on some external authority figure and giving them power over me?

This question betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the guru-disciple relationship, which is one of mutual love and respect. A true guru exercises no more "authority" over a student than a grandfather does with a grandchild. In this kind of love, such bristling over authority does not arise in disciples any more than it would among grandchildren.

And yet the Guru is more than a loving grandparent. If we truly realized how difficult the path to Reality before us actually is, how fraught with a thousand subtle traps, wrong turns, dead ends, false "realizations," self-deceit, and outright delusion, we would rush to find a competent guide! Of course, as long as we are happy to remain in the familiar neighborhood of the social religion we were born into by an accident of geography, we need no Guru - we can easily make do with the local priests or rabbis or mullahs, or with our own little lights, for that matter. But if we hope to climb the Himalayas of human possibility, it is a wise idea to find a sherpa! If you wish to know the way, says the old proverb, ask the one who goes up and down upon it.

If you prefer, think of the Master as a spiritual trainer or coach, and try to accept the services he offers in the way you might accept the services, for instance, of a dance instructor. It would be difficult to learn to waltz if we only read manuals about waltzing and never listen to waltz music or see the dance performed. Much simpler and faster to find a dancing master, who can show us in a few steps what we could never learn even from years of reading. The Master embodies the Goal, just as a dancer embodies the dance - and how can we imagine a dance apart from a dancer?

Finally, as for the reluctance to "give another person power over us," do we not already do this almost daily? When we fly in an airplane, we trust our very lives to the pilot, airplane mechanics, air traffic controllers, and others we have never met. We completely surrender ourselves to the care of surgeons when necessary. The same life-and-death trust occurs every time we even drive a car -we must trust every oncoming driver to be skillful and stay in his own lane. Other examples of the necessity of provisional but complete trust are everywhere, from going to barbers to aerobics instructors. Our entire existence is one of interdependence, and if we honestly look at all the aspects of our material life, we would see that there are really no areas in which we can claim to wield complete autonomy or independent determination. So why must we insist on "independence" in our spiritual journey?

But what about all the abuses of unscrupulous gurus?

Sadly, it is true that charlatans or sincere psychotics often attract large followings who honestly consider them to be true gurus. This is as true today as it has been for centuries; it is part of the Dance. The existence of failed or counterfeit gurus does not imply that the genuine article isn't out there somewhere for these tragic figures to imitate, since travesties are impossible without the already established reality of an original. That authentic Rembrandts exist is not negated by the forged copies that surface; indeed, his mastery is confirmed by the counterfeits - for what fool would try to pass off a forged copy of something that was of no value, or never existed in reality? It would be like making counterfeits of pennies or of 25-dollar bills. Gloating over false teachers and tragically deluded cults may be comforting for us, since it allows us to remain in our cynical easy-chairs and do nothing about our own spiritual journeys, but is a bit too facile to dismiss the possibility that living gurus exist based on the behavior of a few sensationalized poseurs. As someone said, it is like refusing to receive money because there have been some forged notes floating about somewhere.

If I am uncomfortable and shy about the idea of accepting someone as my Master, can I still do the practice of Sahaj Marg?

Absolutely. In fact, Chariji himself practiced Sahaj Marg for months before he even found out that there was a Guru behind the system, and only later did he actually meet Babuji face to face. Chariji has said that no one can be expected to love someone he has never met, much less accept that person as his Master. So when we first begin the practice, and no one is expected to do this; in fact, no abhyasi is asked at any time to accept Chariji or anyone else as his or her Master. The relation with a Master is a very personal matter and develops at first just like any other human relationship. It usually requires time to deepen from polite respect, to friendship, and perhaps ultimately to love, awe, and wonder.

Traditions from all over the world and across hundreds of centuries agree: Knowing a true Guru is the greatest delight and the most fortunate experience that can come to a human being. Many abhyasis come to understand that there exists no experience more wonderful and endlessly fascinating than to enter into the relation with a worthy Guru. It is a relationship which gradually expands to fill the entire universe, and is a mystery which embraces all other possible human relationships - mother and infant, father and son, friend and companion, mentor and student, lover and beloved.

But no one has to accept this to practice Sahaj Marg.

How is a Master chosen?

It is said that the Grand Masters select the successor to the present Master. For example, Lalaji selected Chariji as Babuji's successor. Similarly, Babuji might select Chariji's successor. This also would introduce another and most important element of impartiality and deservingness to this system of Spiritual Inheritance. Of course, the mysteries of succession are finally the responsibility of the Masters, and are outside the scope of the work of an abhyasi - even, one might add, that abhyasi determined to become the successor to his Master!

Is Master an ordinary human being, or is He Divine? Can a Master make mistakes? Does he ever change his mind? Is the Master growing and changing like the rest of us?

Master is both human and divine, as are we all. He is no less human than you or I, and he is no more Divine than you or I. As an analogy, we might think of water. Whether it is in the form of a vast ocean, or a great cascade like Niagara Falls, or a small pond, or even a fetid sewer, the water is always the same. A Master might be likened to an ocean where we might be a pond, or (alas!) perhaps a sewer. But the water, even if it contains dirt and filth, is still water. All that is required is cleaning and purifying. Just so, our essential nature is and has always been Divine, nothing needs to be added to the Original Divine Essence. A Master merely expresses greater purity and amplitude of this Essence than most beings.

Yes, a Master can make a mistake. In fact, Babuji used to joke that a Master was greater than God, because a Master could make mistakes, whereas God cannot! (This might also be one explanation for Babuji's mysterious remark, "God is limited, but Master is unlimited.") Like all human beings a Master changes his mind, learns new things, grows, and evolves. Asked if he is still changing and growing, Chariji looked surprised that the question would even come up. "I hope so!" he replied.

Chariji has said that he himself disagreed many times with his Master, but that he did not ever disobey Him. This is an important distinction, and invites contemplation.

Chariji has also warned that a seeker should beware of any system headed by a supposedly changeless and "perfect" guru: "It indicates that everything beneath the guru is also frozen in place, like a stone pyramid." In Sahaj Marg, a Master is perfect in the way that the sky is always a perfect sky.

Why must a Master have a human form?

The Divine takes on human form because this is the form through which the rest of us all experience the Universe. A Master faces the same problems we all face - earning a living, getting married, raising children, sickness, old age, death. God in His Heaven does not have to deal with these things, or with the treachery and deceit and pain and folly we find all around us in this world, and so God can give us no finer example than a Master in human form. By observing how a Master lives and works and plays, we can begin to see what is possible for us as human beings.

As Chariji once explained: "You see, so many of us are obviously so intensely interested in the spiritual life, but the difficulty is the very abstraction of the Goal and an even more potent difficulty is that we are unable to experience or to evaluate ourselves. Then I realized the importance of the Guru. Even though the Goal is an abstraction, indefinable, not locatable in space or time, yet we have before us a Guru, whom we believe sincerely and wholeheartedly to be an embodiment of all those virtues and qualities and he becomes a sort of sheet-anchor to direct us away from an abstract Goal to a concrete Goal, which is the Master, which is Divinity itself, so that this hiatus between That which we aspire for and the unknowability of That which we aspire for is removed in one stroke."

Secondly, a Master must have a human form to take on the samskaras of others and to remove their karma. This is one reason why saints and Masters often suffer ill health and other calamities beyond what may come to them naturally, for when they have finished with the bulk of their own karma, in their great love they are able to absorb and erase the karma of others.

Why can't we just rely on our inner voice? Also, couldn't we benefit from an ascended master, or from a great teacher in the past, like Christ or Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed? Why can't we learn from the great scriptures? Or for that matter, I feel that everything and everyone should be taken as my guru; why not learn from life itself?

As for taking the inner voice or a departed soul to be our guru, Babuji has observed: "The practice of seeking inspiration or guidance from gods and demi-gods or from some departed soul and treating it as Guru or Master is in most cases very dangerous. Similar is the case with those also who seek guidance from their inner voice as they call it. I have come across people who lay great stress upon their inner voice which they think to be the real guide in all controversial matters arising in the mind....Most of those who seek guidance from a departed soul are really following the dictates of their own unregulated and undisciplined mind. It is mere hallucination. If we develop this vicious habit we are lost forever. It leads us to constant mental worry and harassment....The inner voice is in fact the voice of the mind in its perfectly pure state. Unless the mind is cleared of all its pollutions and is brought to a state of perfect Peace and moderation, it can never reflect the inner voice. In fact, for one whose mind is pure, it is his inner voice alone that always speaks and the impulse from highly developed souls continues to flow to him continuously. The practice is thus evidently very dangerous and in most cases leads to disastrous results."

Babuji's words may seem strong, but they are backed up by teachers of many traditions. So our sense that we can be led by the "inner guru" is actually correct, as Babuji said, though such guidance can come only when we have stilled the mind to the degree that the Inner Voice even can be heard. Then we are able to proceed from sure inspiration or intuition, not from whims and impulses born from a still thriving ego. At best, we must admit that our so-called "inner guru" is an uncertain mix of Divinity and desire, Self and ego - and to verify the inner Voice, the assistance of an objective and experienced guide is invaluable. With such help, soon we gain experience and can tune out all the ego-static, discern the real Voice, and distinguish between illumined intuition and mere impulse.

Also, as Babuji suggested, the practice of taking ascended souls for our guru is often used to avoid the real difficulties of discipleship. The American scholar and Yoga practitioner Georg Feuerstein has made a similar observation: "The New Age craze of channeling is symptomatic of this approach, in which conveniently 'ascended' masters give all kinds of advice, which is usually quite innocuous and makes precious little demand for actual change. 'Dead gurus,' Da Love-Ananda once stated bluntly, 'can't kick ass.'"

Alas, this applies to the founders of the great religions as well: Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Rama, Krishna and all the great Masters of the past are now, let us admit it, principally encountered in books. Even if we commune with them in meditation or prayer, we cannot observe them living in our own world of traffic jams and laundromats, not in the way that their direct disciples could witness them living in the worlds of centuries past. And noble as their teachings are, no book can take the place of the living presence of those masters as they lived with their disciples: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory," recorded John. The Sufis understand this, too: "Ten minutes in the company of the Friend," they say, "is better than ten thousand years in a library."

As for the notion that "everything, every situation, and everyone around us is the Guru": Again, this is true - but again, only after Realization. Before this, we may surely get guidance, and have many teachers, but we should not consider these as gurus (as Ram Dass observed, "Teachers point the way; the Guru is the way"). Vivekananda was typically fierce about this romantic dodge: "'Sermons in stones, books in brooks, and good in everything' is all very true as a poetical figure; but nothing can impart to a man a single grain of truth unless he has the undeveloped germ of it in himself. To whom do the stones and brooks preach sermons? To that human soul the lotus of whose holy inner shrine is already about to open. And the light which causes the beautiful opening of this lotus comes always from the good and wise teacher. When the heart has thus been opened, it becomes fit to receive teachings from the stones or the brooks."

Even in so-called "teacherless" traditions like that of Krishnamurti, which emphasize techniques over teachers, one could argue that ultimately those teachings are legitimized and embodied in the example of the teacher. The Buddha at his death told his disciple Ananda that not he, but his teachings would now "be the raft," yet the Buddha's teachings are drawn from his own experience and would have no value if he had not set an example and practically demonstrated the possibility of Realization for all of us.

So let us accept that a proper guide is essential if we wish to approach the highest reaches of human potential. And let us conclude with the words of Swami Vivekananda that are as pertinent today as they were when he spoke them to some American friends in 1895: "Be grateful to books and teachers without bondage to them, and worship your guru as God, but do not obey him blindly. Love him as much as you will, but think for yourself....Nothing can be done without a guru. In fact, great danger ensues.... There is no reason why each of you cannot be a vehicle of the mighty current of spirituality. But first you must find a teacher, a true teacher, and you must remember that he is not just a man. You may get a teacher in the body, but the real teacher is not in the body. He is not the physical man; he is not as he appears to your eyes. It may be that the teacher will come to you as a human being, and you will receive the power from him. Sometimes he will come in a dream and transmit the spiritual ideal to you. The power of the teacher may come to us in many ways. But for us ordinary mortals a human teacher must come, and our preparation must go on till he comes."


What is Transmission?

Transmission is the utilization of Divine energy for the transformation of man. In Sanskrit it is called pranahuti - from prana (life-force) and ahuti ( to offer, to infuse). Chariji has spoken of it this way: "Transmission is Pranasya Prana - the 'Prana of Prana.' The Prana of the Divine is poured into your prana." This can be accomplished by an adept closely connected to the Source, one who has the ability to transmit from the center of his or her existence the "life of life" to the center of existence of another individual.

Long before Einstein's well-known equation e=mc2 established a relation between energy (e) and matter (m), yogic science had studied the interplay of energy (prana) and matter (prakriti). Prana enlivens the Universe and congeals as prakriti. Even though we cannot detect certain radio wavelengths or ultraviolet vibrations without proper instruments, still it is said that these energies are always flowing everywhere and at lightspeed (denoted as c in Einstein's equation). Just so, though only a few may consciously be tuned to send or receive prana, this flow of Divine Grace is also unceasing and omnipresent. A Master can direct this flow in the most subtle manner for specific work not only on individual human beings, but also for the purposes of Nature across the multiverses - the inner universes and the universe or universes without.

Among the many things Babuji has said and written about the wonderful discovery of pranahuti is this: "Power of transmission is a Yogic attainment of a very high order by which a Yogi can infuse through his own will-force, the Yogic energy or Godly effulgence within anyone and remove anything unwanted in him or detrimental to his spiritual progress. He can exercise this power not only on those assembled around him but on those, too, who are away from him. The power can be utilized in any way at any time. One who has got command over this power can, at a glance, create temporarily or permanently, a condition of the mind which is far ahead of the existing condition of the mind of an abhyasi and which otherwise will require a lifetime to be achieved. It is not a vain assertion, but a bare fact and may at any time be practically verified by anyone who pleases to do so. Sages have often through the power of transmission changed the entire nature of a man at a mere glance. The wonderful examples of the great sages like my Master, Samartha Guru Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj of Fatehgarh, Swami Vivekananda, and others offer ample proof of it."

So others besides the Master or Sahaj Marg preceptors may transmit?

Of course. In a way, every one of us transmits. As Babuji said, if you sit next to a madman or a murderer, even an insensitive person will begin to experience uncomfortable feelings. If we sit next to a saint, we will feel peaceful and calm. The same holds true even for places and inanimate objects: we will feel the atmosphere of a slaughterhouse differently than the atmosphere of a cathedral. Granted, this is not pranahuti as it is understood in Sahaj Marg, but what Babuji described as the radiating vibration of paramanus, or subtle particles. If the atmosphere or "aura" of a place is like the light of a candle, then transmission may be compared to a beam of laser light. Though few may have consciously experienced direct transmission, many have felt the inexplicable "vibes" in the proximity of certain people or places.

Nature's work is done only by permission. As indicated earlier, the highest saints and sages work harmoniously as a group, and are far away from the little sectarian squabblings of their followers. This is why obedience is an essential aspect of training, because work done at the highest level must be in accordance with Divine decree. It is one thing, for example, for a small college radio station to transmit to three or four blocks around the campus, and quite another for a 100,000-watt clear-channel superstation to transmit across several states. You might say that a kind of Celestial Regulatory Commission is in operation to keep the transmissions on the proper channels, and not conflict with other vibratory levels! Those beings who are permitted by Nature to transmit prana across the widest range and broadest scope must be absolutely trustworthy, given the enormous capacity at their command.

How is pranahuti different from other traditions of the transference of energy called shabd or abhisheka or shaktipat or diksha, or even the giving of mantrams?

Babuji has further described pranahuti as a "forceless force" or "powerless power" not because it brings no result, but because of its absolute subtlety, in that pranahuti is not tinged with materiality. In fact, Babuji knew that in spirituality what is most subtle is most effective. Pranahuti is devoid of all attributes, including even the shakti or power that informs shaktipat, or the vibrations of light and sound associated with the shabda of the Siddha Yoga tradition. Nor is the transmission from Master equivalent to what is called diksha or abhisheka in other traditions, since pranahuti does not confer or imply any kind of initiation by the Guru. Indeed, abhyasis frequently have experiences of power and divine light or splendor and the ajapa of hearing "soundless-sound" of the Universe as a reaction to pranahuti, but these experiences are just that - experiences. Wonderful as they may feel, they come and they go, like all experiences, and have little to do with real progress in spirituality. As such, these experiences are considered irrelevant and unnecessary in Sahaj Marg, and though we may have wondrous visions or develop other siddhis or paranormal powers in our practice, abhyasis are advised to let them all drop away, and to move on towards the Center unencumbered by even these samskaras!

The desire for powers or conditions like "peace" and "bliss," or attempting to repeat some wonderful experience we once had in meditation only delays our progress. These tendencies or desires pull us away from what is happening right here and right now. Pranahuti is the flowing of Divine current. As such, it is unceasing, very gentle, and so fine and subtle that even the most sensitive recipient will not actually feel pranahuti itself, but only its effects as they gradually unfold in our lives.

Then is the method of transmission in Sahaj Marg a new one?

Yes and no. The technique of transmission is said to have existed for some 10,000 years, far before even Lord Rama's time in Bhaarat, presently known as India. It fell into disuse as generations passed, but is said to have been rediscovered by Lalaji Saheb as a perfect technique for our time. Babuji further refined the daily practices of Sahaj Marg, and passed the art of pranahuti on to Chariji.

Are the introductory sittings not considered initiation? Does initiation exist in Sahaj Marg? If so, why does Master initiate some abhyasis and not others?

The introductory sittings are just that: an introduction to the practice. By definition, you can become an abhyasi only by following the practice or abhyas yourself. Introduction does not mean initiation.

Initiation traditionally has implied that there is a lifelong or even eternal bond of responsibility established between the Guru and his disciple. Suppose initiation does occur these days in Sahaj Marg. Should we not leave it to the Master to decide when we are ready? Initiation is the prerogative of the Master, not the disciple. A four-year-old child may declare that she is ready to get married, and her father will smile and suggest that perhaps she should wait a while.

A second understanding of "initiation" might be the beginning of the movement of the soul, or yatra, in Point One of the heart region, indicating a shift to a new level of consciousness. This initiation happens when sufficient interest is developed in the spiritual pursuit, and the spiritual heart of an abhyasi begins to soften and open to the Master's grace. Initiation in this sense happens when the time is right, whereas introduction is what happens when we start Sahaj Marg with three sittings.

Please describe this "yatra" or journey. How do we know our position or approach, that is, at which Point we are supposed to be?

Please see Babuji's Towards Infinity for a discussion of the yatra. As far as knowing our own "position," we cannot, just as we cannot see our own faces without some external help. For this, the Master can serve as our mirror.

Knowing "position" or "approach" is of no use for most abhyasis. Chariji has said himself that he never bothered about it when he was an abhyasi; for him it was enough that he was obeying his Master! It is fine for us to take an interest in the spiritual process and try to verify as much as we are able to for ourselves, but anxiety or pride or disappointment over their so-called approach has proved disastrous for many abhyasis. The Source has no Points, no chakras. At that stage, there is no yatra, no moksha, no delusion, no enlightenment, no "master," no "abhyasi," no human, no divine, no samadhi, no maya, no Sahaj Marg, no Shri Ram Chandra Mission, no past, no present, no future.

Try to imagine that Stage.