Guru: It is a long time since we met.

Disciple: Yes, I was doing lot of things. I have hectic schedule in my office. I have no time to do my regular pūjā and meditation. My whole attention is towards my office work. Am I doing something wrong in ignoring my daily rituals?

Guru: No you are not wrong. We live in the material world. As long as we live in this material world, we have to align ourselves with the material world. Otherwise, you will be a fish out of water. Your involvement in your office work is known as karma yoga. If you don’t discharge your duties properly, who will feed you and who will take care of your family?

Krishna says that salvation is possible through two methods. One is through jñāna yoga (yoga of knowledge) and another is through karma yoga. Without properly discharging your duties, you cannot reach the state of inactivity.

Disciple: What is inactivity? Is it the state of meditation?

Guru: What is meditation? It is only about the level of your concentration, your momentary level, annihilating all your thought processes. Inactivity refers to the state of your mind. Mind is to be cut off from all thought processes. You should literally make your mind dead for a few minutes. Only those minutes are known as meditation. There are different stages in meditation which are known as different stages of samādhi. As I have already told you, it is not the duration of meditation, but it is the quality of meditation that counts. If you meditate for an hour, the best part of meditation could be only a few minutes. You have to increase the duration of those minutes over a period of time. In fact, every day you have to increase this time at least by a minute. Those minutes are the stage of inactivity and this is what Krishna refers to, in His Bhagavad Gītā, as the stage of inactivity. This is called sādhana. There are several stages in sādhana. You begin with a mantra and end with no mantra.  This is the point when you can move on to advanced stages of sādhana. We have discussed about this earlier.

Disciple: Suppose I skip my sādhana for a few days, is it all right?

Guru: It depends upon under what circumstances you skip your sādhana. In general if you skip sādhana, it will take time for you to settle down again with your sādhana. In particular, women should not suspend mental sādhana during their monthly cycles. If you are talking about mantra japa as sādhana, there is no question of skipping it, as you have already aligned your breath with the main mantra. What is the sādhana you are referring to?

Disciple: Many things I do in the morning. I almost spend an hour in various rituals starting from abhiṣeka (bathing idols during worship) and ending with mantra japa.

Guru: It depends upon the level of your mind. You should not stop rituals without advancing in your spiritual path. If you do that, it means you are lazy. But if you continue only with idol worship, you could be wasting precious time of your life. You have to progress and transform from one stage to next higher stages. But you have to make a beginning somewhere. Your will power, faith and love for Divine are the three important factors in your transformation. Once you stop idol worship, you should not develop guilt feeling. If you develop guilt feeling or if you think that God will punish you for not offering abhiṣeka or naivedya, it means that your mind has not yet attained perfection. The point we are talking about is transformation from dualism (Dvaita) to non-dualism (Advaita). This point is extremely significant in your spiritual life.

Maitreyī Upaniṣad says, “The one who aims at liberation, idol worship is a hindrance and makes him to be reborn again. Renunciation can be done only through the mind. Such a person should give up all types of rituals.” (Maitreyī Upaniṣad (II.26) of Sāmaveda).

Disciple: In your opinion, I am in which state? Am I ready to stop all my rituals? As you know, I do not have time to perform these rituals. If I want to perform all these rituals, I have to get up very early in the morning and I feel very tired in the office and I am not able to do justice for my job. What is your advice for me?

Guru: You have answered your question. You want to stop rituals merely because you do not have time. You want to stop rituals not based on the evolution or transformation of your mind towards higher levels of spirituality, leading to emancipation.

Disciple: Earlier you said that one has to move away from rituals.

Guru: Even now I say this, but this has to happen, based on your spiritual evolution and not at your convenience.

Disciple: What should I do now?

Guru: Gradually decrease your rituals. For example, you can cut down your time on arcana (offering flowers or kumkum or akṣata). There is no necessity to offer abhiṣeka daily. If you have idols, always keep them clean and shining. If you can’t do that at least once in a fortnight, then you should not keep any idols at home. That is why ancient Scriptures say that we should not have idols bigger than our thumb. Now having bigger idols at home has become a fashion. Use that time to do more japa. What is japa? It is the combination of certain bījākṣara-s, for example Bālā mantra, Pañcadaśī mantra or Ṣoḍaśī mantras. These are Śaktī mantras. Śaktī means the Power of Brahman, His Absolute Power and Krishna calls this Power as His Yogamāyā (Divine Potency - Bhagavad Gītā VII.25).

Disciple: Is there any difference between Yogamāyā and Māyā?

Guru: Yogamāyā is the cause of Māyā in an individual. Yogamāyā is the Divine Potency, which causes spiritual ignorance in an individual known as Māyā. The difference is the same between macrocosm and microcosm. Māyā is the psychometric test for an individual to evaluate his quality and love for Divine. If Brahman can be called as masculine, then Māyā can be called as feminine. In reality these gender discriminations are meant only for the purpose of understanding. If Brahman is father then Māyā is the mother. It is only the mother who reveals a father to their child. The child first understands its mother and then only comes to know about his father. Similarly, unless you know Māyā first, you cannot realize Brahman.

Disciple: Is this the reason that so much importance is attached to Śaktī worship?

Guru: Yes, you are right. Only due to this reason, there are many mantras in Śaktī worship. In fact, you should stick on to one mantra and realize Her. Moving from one mantra to another mantra will take you nowhere.

Disciple: But I have seen aspirants receiving many mantras and their Gurus tell them to repeat all the mantras daily. I find that none of them repeat these mantras with concentration. They repeat three times or so. Is it right?

Guru: No, it is not right. If you have more than one mantra, you cannot attain your goal. It could be waste of your precious time. Many will not agree to this. If they don’t agree, it shows their spiritual ignorance. I am saying spiritual ignorance because they have not read and understood Upaniṣad-s.

You might have heard about this common saying. “mananāt trāyate iti mantraḥ मननात् त्रायते इति मन्त्रः” This means that by repeating a mantra, your mind is protected from material afflictions, at least during the time of japa period. When your mind is protected from desires, attachments, you gradually get disconnected from the pleasures of material life.

Disciple: How this happens? Suppose my mind is protected and cleansed of desires and attachments, how do I lead my life and how do I sustain my family?

Guru: I have already discussed this with you. Now I will explain this to you from a different angle.

When you practice mantras, your mind becomes focused. In the initial stages of mantra sādhana, you are with certain combination of bījākṣara-s, which subtly works on your psychic chakras. Attaining perfection in these mantras cleanses your psychic chakras. Each of the bījākṣara-s of these mantras work on various subtle aspects of your psychic body. When your psychic body is completely purified, you enter into the state of Bliss and in the ultimate stage of your Bliss, Divine Grace (Śaktipāta) descents on you. From this point onwards, you move to the ultimate mantra “OM”. There is no superior mantra than OM and your realization happens in this stage. Chāndogya Upaniṣad says “OM is as good as Brahman. Recite this OM, with mild sound as part of your sādhana.”

Disciple: But people say that mantras like Ṣoḍaśī lead to liberation.

Guru: Yes, it is perfectly right. They lead to liberation, but they do not liberate. As you know, leading to liberation and liberation are two different aspects. Liberation is absorption into Brahman and you are not reborn after liberation. Leading to liberation is removal of Māyā and liberation is mokṣa or cessation from transmigration. When liberation happens, your individual soul will have no trace of karma, also known as imprints of your subconscious mind.

Disciple: Has Nirvikalpa samādhi anything to do with liberation?  

Guru: A lot to do. It is the ultimate stage of samādhi. This stage of samādhi can be accomplished, only if multiple energies operate on your mind to subdue it. I am not referring to your body, but to your mind. I will talk to you in detail about this when we meet next time.