Shakti: You promised me that you will answer my queries. I approached you several times and you have not bothered to answer me.

Shiva: You must understand one thing. Everything is predetermined by kālapuruṣa (time factor). Now it is time for us to talk and I am willing to answer all your queries.

Shakti: Many people are asking me to explain how to realize you fast. Many of them feel that they have not reaped the benefits of their sādhana even after many years of performing pūjā and japa. Can you kindly guide them please?

Shiva: I have explained this already. Now I will teach a small exercise on breathing. As I have already said, only through prāṇa, mind can be controlled. You may ask why? When prāṇa is properly maneuvered, resurrection of the body happens (this is known as prāṇa-utthāna; utthāna means resurrection). Controlling breath leads to active body and active body leads to composed mind and composed mind stops too much of distraction and a mind without too much of distraction makes one’s consciousness closest to the purest.

Shakti: What is that exercise?

Shiva: This is the exercise, which anyone can practice with ease.

Inhale by expanding your abdomen and slightly pushing your head back (count between 4 and 6) - hold the breath for a few seconds (may be you can count between 6 to 9) within - exhale slowly by contracting your abdomen (may be you can count the same 6 to 9) and bring down your head close to chest - do not inhale and hold inhalation for a few seconds (may be 2 to 4). This completes one round. Now let us calculate.

At the lowest numbers 4 + 6 + 6 + 2 = 18

At the highest numbers 6 + 9 + 9 + 4 = 28

At the lowest numbers your breathing rate would be 3.30 per minute

At the highest numbers you breathing rate would be 2.14 per minute

You can modify the numbers to suit your comfort zone. There is no need to follow these numbers as they are only illustrative in nature. During this practice, please ensure that your breathing does not exceed 4 per minute.  

At the time of exhalation, you have to visualize that you are exhaling through your spine. When you visualize this, you will feel pressure from your heart chakra onwards, towards sahasrāra.  

This is perfect prāṇāyama.

Shakti: How many times one has to practice this?

Shiva: Why everyone is concerned with number of times of practicing this or that? For example, take the case of number of repetitions of prāṇāyama. Number of times for repeating a mantra, number of times of prāṇāyama, number of times for doing this or that; please do not go with the number of repetitions. Go with the mind. Mind will tell you what is right and what is not right. When mind is in conjunction with intellect and consciousness, it is called conscience and this is more to do with practical reasoning. Conscience is not always the same. It is related to the environment, perception, lineage, etc. If one learns to develop a perfect conscience, through practice, many of these questions can be easily resolved.

Shakti: What is conscience to do with spiritual sādhana?

Shiva: Many human activities are controlled by conscience and therefore conscience is to be understood in right perspective. It is the voice of mind, duly influenced by intellect and consciousness. Conscience has the influence of the mind to the extent of moral standards at any given point of time; influence of intellect to the extent of evaluating kula dharma (lineage) at any given point of time; and above all, an aspect of extended consciousness beyond existence related dispositions, searching for truth. When all the three major subtle aspects of human existence work on conscience, you can understand how powerful one’s conscience is. One has to go with what one’s conscience says and it never fails you. But you must always remember that conscience is different from mind. No one should get deceived by the influence of the mind and one’s conscience should not be confused with the mind. One has to be extremely careful on this. Even when the mind is made dysfunctional, conscience will continue to guide.

Shakti: I understand. But my question is how conscience is related to spiritual sādhana and in particular about the number of recitations of mantra japa or practicing prāṇāyama?

Shiva: This cannot be decided by mind alone. Mind by nature makes one lazy. Even after a few counts, mind will try to wander away, towards the material world such as hunger, thirst, bodily discomforts, etc. But conscience will not let go anyone that easily and continue to prompt him or her that sādhana is not enough. When sādhana is perfect, conscience will say so. Therefore, one should never think about whether 10 counts are sufficient or 100 counts are sufficient. One’s conscience should be satisfied with the number of counts. It is not the counts that matter, but one has to satisfy his conscience.  Psychoanalysts believe that part of the unconscious mind acts as conscience and I have dealt with unconscious mind elaborately. As you know 90% human mind is only unconscious mind and hardly 10% forms conscious mind.

Shakti: You have explained to me almost everything. Can you please tell me in a nutshell how one can attain you for the purpose of realization and liberation.

Shiva: I have been saying this regularly. For the purpose of realization and liberation, one has to work with one’s prāṇa (breath), manas (mind – conscious mind and with the help of conscious mind unconscious mind) and consciousness (awareness). It is not the mantra initiation alone that is important. Mantra should be initiated properly. It is like sowing a seed. It is the job of a Guru to prepare a mantra after performing ten saṁskāra-s. Without performing these saṁskāra-s, a mantra will not work.

Shakti: But I hardly find anybody doing these saṁskāra-s for any mantras.

Shiva: I know and that is why you do not see many realized persons nowadays. One should not end up with realization. The ultimate goal is liberation. Realization is realizing you first and then with the help of you I am realized. Liberation is merging with me; only former leads to the latter; liberation is not something that can be attained independently of realization. The seed of realization is sown by a spiritual teacher. The seed has to be implanted properly and the teacher should guide the aspirant in the path of sādhana. When sādhana is perfectly practiced, you shower your grace on the aspirant in the form of Śakti Pāta, which is nothing but my own grace; but you are instrumental to shower my grace and the choice is yours and hence it is called śakti pāta. This, in combination with efficacy of one’s sādhana, makes one to realize you first. This is the stage, where you remove inherent spiritual ignorance called māyā. Once the veil of māyā is removed, my true nature is revealed and this revelation is called Self-realization. One’s sādhana does not end here. Self-realization happens in the arena of mind; in other words, it happens in the microcosmic plane. The next logical step would be realization at the macrocosmic plane. This is one of the highest spiritual practices and needs lot of patience and perseverance. Once macrocosmic realization happens, there is one more step known as liberation. To get liberated one has to have highly purified consciousness. As in the case of macrocosmic realization, liberation also happens outside the body. It is the travel of one’s consciousness towards the great void known as mahāśūnya, known as great vacuity. It is the state of no-matter and no-mind. This is the point from which I create the universe. When this point is realized, one’s spiritual journey comes to an end. He or she lives as a jīvanmukta; this practitioner is emancipated and continues to live to exhaust his karmas. At the time of his death, his soul merges with me. That is it for him; he is liberated. He becomes one with me. But always remember that one can only merge with me; but never can become I.

Shakti: Are you going to conclude your teachings now?

Shiva: Yes, I am now concluding. I have covered every aspect of realization and liberation. There is nothing more I can reveal. It all depends upon one’s capacity to practice. Divine grace does not come that easily. One has to work through his mind. Now it is time for us to go. Come, sit on my lap and let us shower our grace on all those who love fellow beings, who take care of their parents during their old age, who perpetually stay connected with us, who help others without expecting anything in return, who teaches ways and means to attain us without material considerations, who never get into deep pits of śāstra-s and wasting precious time of their existence (Adhyātmarāmāyaṇa – Bālākāṇḍa – verse 51 says, “….Let those who are devoid of devotion to me, roll in the abyss of śāstra-s. This is neither knowledge nor emancipation even through hundreds of transmigrations.”) and all those who think and do good for a prosperous and happy coexistence.

This series is concluded.