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What is Sahaj Marg?
Radio interview with Shri P. Rajagopalachari by Diane Shooman in Vienna, Austria, 24 April, 1994
Q: Could you please tell me, what is Sahaj Marg?
PR: Sahaj Marg is a way of life in which we try to incorporate the spiritual and material lives together, giving each one equal attention.
Q: What is the Sahaj Marg system of meditation?
PR: Meditation means to think about something continuously, constantly. It is nothing esoteric. We are always thinking of things constantly. When people are in love, the boy who is in love is thinking of his girlfriend all the time. He is meditating on her, in a sense. People who want to be successful are meditating on success all the time. The old law says, what you meditate upon you will become - become in the German sense of getting, and become in the English sense of becoming something, too.
So, Sahaj Marg is trying to bring about a new way of life, where we have lost neither the material half nor the spiritual half. Even in India, we have made the mistake of renouncing the material life and only doing the spiritual part of it, so India is materially a poor country. In the Western world mostly, spirituality has been thrown away, and the material life exists in very good perfection - good science, good technology, good standards of living, good transportation, good communication - but the inner communication is lost. So, Sahaj Marg is trying to bring, I can say, a marriage between the material life and the spiritual life, so that there is now a unitarian existence in which we are balanced in both.
Q: How does this meditation bring this marriage about?
PR: The meditation by itself doesn’t bring it about. The meditation gives us the ability to think of one thing constantly, which means we are able to concentrate. So, the mind becomes a perfect instrument that can concentrate on any object upon which it is put. This is how great seers are developed: they don’t study and they don’t educate themselves. But the mind is trained to concentrate, and concentration is the instrument of revelation.
Q: What is the object of concentration?
PR: The object of concentration is precisely to have what you look at revealed to you in all its essence. So, by itself, it is not spiritual. Meditation by itself is only this. Then we have the second aspect, which is cleaning away the past ignorance and, you know, all that we have accumulated by wrong thoughts, or even right thoughts, because they form what we call a barrier of superstition, of even perhaps knowledge itself. If you read the history of scientific discoveries, often you find people have stopped at a particular spot and said, “Beyond this, nothing can be known.” Einstein did it! He said, “Now, science is finished. There is nothing more to be discovered” - the great Albert Einstein himself!
So you see, knowledge itself becomes a barrier. “I know everything. There is nothing more to be known.” But we believe knowledge is infinite. It goes on and on and on and on, like the sky goes on and on and on and on. Can you ever say, “I have reached the limit of the sky”? It is not possible. So, the mind has this function. The cleaning removes these barriers that we create for ourselves, by thinking, “I know everything. I am everything. I have done everything. Nothing more is to be done.”
Now comes the third part, which is the most important, that by these two processes we begin to have, first belief, then trust, then faith in the one who is guiding us whom you call the Master. And then we are able to give over to him the responsibility for our progress because he has already taught us so much that we would never have learned. So now, we trust him absolutely. This is called surrender.
So, these three things are necessary together in Sahaj Marg.
Q: These three things, once again?
PR: Meditation, cleaning, remembrance of the Master, which produces love. Because my Master said, “What we love, we remember.” It can be reversed in such a way that what we remember, we learn to love, also.
Q: You said that meditation is concentration on one thought. In Sahaj Marg, what is that one thought?
PR: No, not concentration on one thought. Meditation is learning to retain one thought in the mind, which is concentration. In our meditation, we use the thought that there is divine light filling the heart and illuminating it from inside. It is an abstract thing, because again, if you read the old esoteric philosophies, if you meditate on gross matter, the result is gross. So, meditation must be on as subtle a thing as possible, and in Sahaj Marg my Master says, “Light is the subtlest, even though it is still material.” It cannot be weighed, it cannot be tasted, touched, felt, but it is there. So, it is the subtlest form of material existence. At the same time, light illuminates, so when we think of light illuminating our heart inside, in a certain sense, spiritually speaking, we develop the ability to see that which cannot be seen.
Q: How is the method practised?
PR: We just sit comfortably, close our eyes - comfortably, because the body should not disturb us during the course of meditation, which is one hour long - and then continue to hold this thought that there is divine light in the heart, illuminating it from inside. If the mind wanders from this thought, gently bring it back-not to fight with it, because if you fight, it fights you back. Action and reaction are equal and opposite.
Q: How is the cleaning carried out?
PR: The cleaning is by suggestion. We sit as if we are meditating, imagine the grace of the Master flowing through you and washing out everything from behind, the day’s, what shall I say, whatever is there - good, bad, indifferent - because everything becomes the seed for the future, so we remove it, day by day. The past, what has been accumulated and solidified in what we call samskaras, the preceptors of the Mission, or the Guru, he does it himself.
Q: Master, could you please tell us from what tradition has Sahaj Marg come?
PR: Sahaj Marg comes originally from the system of yoga called raja yoga. Raja yoga deals only with the mind. You see, there was a rishi called Patanjali who lived about five thousand years ago, who codified all the existing systems of yoga and made it one system which he called ashtanga yoga, or the yoga of the eight paths or eight aspects. Unfortunately, people have come to misunderstand that all eight are necessary in raja yoga. Raja yoga means the king among yogas, and it deals only with the mind. Hatha yoga is a lower part of it, which is dealing with the physical and the psychic systems. For instance, is hatha yoga necessary?
My Master said, “Yes, but not for spirituality.”
Because, in the old days, rishis used to meditate twenty-four hours at a time. They had no time to jog, they had no time to walk or swim or do anything, but by changing the position according to a certain formula, of what you call asanas today, the psychic, the circulatory systems were kept in perfect order, so that without exercising, they had exercise while they were meditating.
Q: Could you also tell me, can Sahaj Marg be integrated into Western life? I mean, in practical, everyday life.
PR: We are doing it. You are seeing the evidence here, right in Austria. It is a small beginning. Also, you know, we believe that human beings are the same everywhere. As we say in India, ‘You prick a man, the blood is red!’ Whether he is Western or Eastern, Chinese or Indian, doesn’t matter. West and east are only directions. You see, if I go to Japan, even India is west! Isn’t it? So these are relative things; they have no meaning, really. All these things are for our understanding, because human beings need to communicate, need to travel. So you say Greenwich Mean Time, because the British were powerful in those days, so they said Greenwich Mean Time, zero degrees longitude, and you could measure hours and time and longitude from that place. East is east longitude and west is west longitude. Now, suppose Berlin had been the capital of the world. The zero longitude could perhaps have passed through Berlin. So, this is a question of who is in power and what he does! It is arbitrary.
Q: But why would someone raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition turn to or seek this meditation?
PR: Precisely because people who are raised in the Judeo-Christian religion have not found what they seek in that religion. People raised in the Hindu religion have not found what they seek in that religion. People even in other religions, like Buddhism, have not found what they seek through religion. So, we have come to this common understanding that we have to go beyond religion, whichever religion it may be. Therefore my Master says, “Where religion ends, spirituality begins.” Because spirituality is no more religion, though it is from religion that it grows. Like you find that in Christianity you have the saints, who could not be said to be Christians any more. You have in Islam the Sufis, who are no more Muslims, though they say they are Muslims, because otherwise they would be persecuted. In India we have the rishis, who are no more Hindus, but they were rishis. They transcend religion and become yogis or meditators, or whatever you call them. Therefore, where religion ends only spirituality can begin. So, it is not a criticism of any religion, but all religions are like the roots, which bring into the one trunk of the tree, which is spiritual.
Q: What does spirituality offer that religion cannot offer?
PR: Religion, in general, puts God somewhere out in a Heaven where we don’t know where it is, which we say is extremely difficult to reach. Spirituality puts God right inside yourself, basing this truth on the fact that God is all-pervasive, omni-pervasive. He must be everywhere, in everything - not outside. The Judeo-Christian religions believe that it is like as if, you know, a boy makes a clay doll - so God created the world or the universe, and He said, “Let there be light.” They are putting God outside of our existence. Spirituality puts it inside you. So, we have a God who is now within me, who is part of me, who is in fact, my Self - not myself - my Self.
Q: Self with a big ‘S’.
PR: Yes. And so He guides me now from inside. Meditation is the way of, in a sense, establishing contact with Him, seeking His guidance and you know, like when you light a candle, the light goes out from the wick. Similarly, divinity must go out from the heart. So, there is no journey here involved. I don’t have to go to Jerusalem or to Mecca or to Benares. Sitting where I am, I can do it.
Q: What do people experience in this meditation?
PR: That, I suggest you ask our abhyasis who are here, so many of them. They all experience different things, because each one is at a particular level of development, and according to that, experiences differ, although the thing is the same. Then you find that as they develop, you know, like a cone reaches the apex, which is only a point now, there is no more surface, similarly you find as we advance, the experiences also become more or less similar in nature. In the beginning, everything is different.
Q: Why does it become more similar as time goes on?
PR: Because the filters, which we call the samskaras, are no more there. If I look through green glass, I see green. If I look through red glass, I look at red. But the thing — what I see is the same! So these filters are removed, which are within ourselves as samskaras. You know, like prejudices - some people say, “Oh, I don’t like his nose.” Why not? Some people say, “Oh, those eyes are beautiful.” What is beautiful with these eyes, which is not beautiful with these eyes? God did not create anything ugly. We are trained by culture, by tradition, to look upon certain things as good, certain things as bad, certain things as ugly, certain things as beautiful. A peacock is beautiful; a crow is ugly because it is black. But these are our creations.
Q: What distinguishes Sahaj Marg from other forms of meditation?
PR: Sahaj Marg, I think, is the only system where we have this system of cleaning. I do not think it exists anywhere else. And that makes all the difference, because, to take an example, if you have a bottle in which you have stored spirit, you have to clean it before you put milk in it again. Otherwise the milk is spoiled. So, cleaning is of paramount importance in Sahaj Marg, and I have not come across it anywhere, either in literature or in practice, in my fifty years of spiritual interest.
PR: There are several answers possible to this question. The first is priorities. What are my priorities in life? If I have to catch a plane, even if my best friend comes, you know, and I am in a hurry, I say, “Oh, Ralph, I’ll see you tomorrow. I am in a hurry,” and you rush off, and you don’t even think of whether your friend is going to be angry or not. Isn’t it? So, that is number one.
Number two: a very senior, I think it was a minister of the government of India who asked Babuji, my Master, this question. He said, “Babuji, I am so busy. I have no time. How can I do it?” So Babuji said, “Is there anybody who is more busy than you?” He said, “Of course, there are so many people who are more busy than me.” My Master said, “Tell me one example.” He said, “The prime minister! He is much more busy than I am.” So Babuji said, “Give me the difference between his busyness and your busyness! There is some time.”
Q: Do you think there is a link between spirituality and art?
PR: In the opinion of my Master, there is only one real artist, and that is God, because He creates originally. His every creation is original. No two leaves are the same. No two animals are the same. Nothing is the same. Everything He creates is new. Human beings create by putting together things from God’s creation. In that sense, human art is only a reflection of the true art, which is Divine art. In that sense, there is a connection. But the purer this connection becomes, the more near the Divine creation our art can become.
Q: In the beginning, art maybe was a kind of dialogue with God.
PR: It is possible, but it depends on what we call art, because even speaking is an art. So, if I know how to speak to my God correctly, without insulting Him, without calling Him names, you know, it is an artistic approach through speech. We have this idea that God has no form and no name and no attributes - the Absolute. So, we cannot have pictures of God, which is what Islam says. We cannot have pictures of God, because God has no name, no form, no attributes. The Jews, on the other side, say He has no name, but He can have a form. At least the son of God, as Christ, had a form. So now, is name an art? Is form an art? Are colours art? It is for us to see, you see, because we can have art as sound, we can have art as feeling and a sensory idea, we can have art which is heard, like the beautiful harp we heard yesterday (our sister who played beautifully), and when we have a purified vision, we see everything as art.
So, we begin with a limited sense of art, saying that painting is art, sculpture is art, music is art, and then we get into the wider and wider and wider aspects, where we find that everything is art, or at least artistic, aesthetic, beautiful. A sunset is beautiful. We may paint it, but we didn’t create a sunset. In that sense, the more pure the human being becomes in his heart, the greater his glory and the glory he finds in the art of this world.
Q: If I compare the consciousness of art in India, there is still a small link to spiritual things. Here, a lot of people come to art because they seek something, like spiritual things. Do you see this difference, too?
PR: Yes. The difference is there. For instance, even in Europe, you see the Renaissance art. It is different from the subsequent art. In a sense you can say, I mean, the use of the word ‘decadent’ is wrong, perhaps, but in the opinion of many people, philosophers of art, especially, the later eras of art were a decadence from the spirit of the Renaissance art. But I don’t think that art, by itself, can be holy. Just because you have a representation of something that is holy, it does not become holy art, any more than when I speak of God, it becomes a holy speech!
Q: What’s your personal relationship towards art in your life?
PR: I love art. You know, as I told you, I wanted to paint. I did do some painting but I was too shy and I gave it up. I did not like anybody to look at what I am doing. Later on I started music, and I almost became a professional flutist in the Indian way. But then my family opposed it. They said, “What is this music as a career? Why are you thinking of music? You are intelligent. You should be able to do so many things,” and they diverted me away from music. I love dancing, I love music, and I have no inhibitions about liking anything that is good. I like Japanese music, Chinese music, oriental music, European music. For instance, one of my most favourite things is Faure’s Requiem, to which I like to listen almost every day. So, in a sense, my taste is very catholic, though I am not a Catholic myself!
Q: The last question, a stupid question: You spoke about music. Do you think some art form is more spiritual than the other, like music goes very deep...
PR: No, I don’t think so. I think that, like a rose gives the perfume of the rose, but the perfume of the rose need not be a rose itself - you can have it in a bottle. Isn’t it? So, as I said, just because I sing about God, it doesn’t have to be holy music. The holiness is manifest in the spirit with which I sing, with what comes from the heart. The words may even be dirty, it doesn’t matter. But people will still hear it as holy because it does something to them. This is the way of communication where the words don’t matter at all. For instance, when I hear the Requiem of Faure, I don’t understand a single word of what it says, but it does something to me. And what it does is something that is more than mere human feeling. It is something transcendent. Sometimes it makes me weep. So, I think it is a very wonderful music. There are other forms of music where they only create the erotic tendencies in you. It may be talking of God, you know, but it’s useless, because the feeling it creates in me is the opposite of what they are trying to convey.
So I believe, again, to repeat what I said in the beginning, as we grow purer and purer inside, everything that we do becomes holy — not only art but even science, music, dancing, walking. We say, “Christ walked on this planet, and the planet was made holy.” But you and I are walking for all our lives, and it doesn’t seem to make any change! So, whose footstep is impressed that makes it holy? It was a holy man who made a holy step. The step itself was not holy. If I retrace those steps, I cannot become a Christ. By sitting under a bodhi tree in Gaya, I cannot become a Buddha.
So you see, it is difficult to replicate in ourselves the results by merely following the external forms of what they did. I must go deep within myself and do inside myself what they did inside themselves — then I can become what they became.
Q: Thank you very much.
PR: Thank you.