May I answer that by Swami Sivananda

  • By Swami Sivananda
  • November 2003

‘Courtesy and Copyright The Divine Life Society P.O. Shivanandanagr – Dist Tehri-Garwhal, Uttarankhand, Himalayas, India’

‘Editor: I came across this book by chance. Had gone to the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan bookshop to buy the Adi Granth Sahib when I saw this book. The earlier books by Swamiji that I read like the one of Naturopathy were very interesting, simple & easy language. Courtesy & copyright is The Divine Life Society. The book has 272 questions I have tried to select the best & share.

Swami Sivananda, whose name is all too familiar to spiritual aspirants, was born in 1887 in Patthamadai in Tamil Nadu. Initially he studied medicine and migrated to Malaysia where he served as a doctor in the rubber estates. Constant contact with human suffering made the doctor introspective and study of philosophical literature further whetted his appetite to get at the truth of things. Soon this inner urge became all consuming and the doctor could carry on with his hospital work no more. He left his post and turned homeward. Back in India, he went to Kashi and Pandharpur. After wandering for a while in the Maharashtra as a mendicant, he went to Rishikesh where he met his Guru who gave him Sannyas and the monastic name Sivananda. Sivananda now plunged into austerities of various kinds and after years of sustained self-discipline saw the Light of God.

Keen to share his newfound wisdom with seeking souls, Sivananda now founded the Divine Life Society and started writing. The specialty of Sivananda’s writings is their practicality. Couched in lucid language, the books abound in detailed instructions on spiritual practice. The words come alive with a force that carries conviction.

The Master attained Mahasamadhi in 1963, but the Divine Life Society founded by him, the disciples trained by him and the books written by him continue to carry the torch of spiritual wisdom to all corners of the globe in ever-increasing measure.

For your convenience have divided the FAQ into five chapters. 'Excerpts from the book May I answer that by Swami Sivananda'

1. Q1-42. Note that not all questions are included meaning 1-42 would be say only 10 questions.
2. Q43-86.
3. Q87-122.
4. Q123-169.
5. Q173-272. ’


Q1. Why should we believe in God? 
Belief in God is an indispensable requisite for every human being. It is a sine qua non. Owing to the force of Avidya or ignorance, pain appears as pleasure. The world is full miseries, troubles, difficulties and tribulations. The world is a ball of fire. The Antahkarana charged with Raga, Dvesha, anger and jealousy is a blazing furnace. We have to free ourselves from birth, death, old age, disease and grief. This can be done only by faith in God. There is no other way. Money and power cannot give us real happiness. Even if we exercise suzerainty over the whole world, we cannot be free from care, worry, anxiety, fear, disappointment, etc. it is only faith in God and the consequent God-realization through meditation that can give us real, eternal happiness and free us from all kinds of fear and worries which torment us at every moment. Faith in God will force us to think of Him constantly and to meditate on Him and will eventually lead us on to God-realization.

Q3. What is Brahmamuhurta? Why is it eulogized by the Rishis? 
4 a.m. in the morning is termed as Brahmamuhurta. Because it is favorable for meditation on God or Brahman, it is called Brahmamuhurta. At this particular hour, the mind is very calm and serene. It is free from worldly thoughts, worries and anxieties. The mind is like a blank sheet of paper and comparatively free from worldly Samskaras. It can be very easily molded at this time before worldly distractions enter the mind. Further, the atmosphere also is charged with more Sattva at this particular time. There is no bustle and noise outside.

Q5. What is the difference between Japa and meditation? 
Japa is silent repetition of the Name of the Lord. Meditation is the constant flow of one idea of God. When you repeat Om Namo Narayanaya, it is Japa of the Vishnu Mantra. When you think of the conch, disc, mace and lotus flower in the hands of Vishnu, His ear-rings, the crown on His head, His yellow silken Pitambar, etc., it is meditation. When you think of the attributes of God such as omniscience, omnipotence, etc., it is also meditation.

Q6. The Lord’s grace will do everything for me. Why should I do any Sadhana? 
This is wrong philosophy. God helps those who help themselves. God’s grace will descend only on those persons who exert. The Lord’s grace will descend in proportion to the degree of surrender. The more the surrender, the more the grace. You cannot expect the Lord to do self-surrender for you. Be up and doing. Strive. Plod. Persevere. The Lord will shower His grace upon you.

Mira abandoned everything. She renounced kingdom, husband, relatives, friends and property. She remembered her Lord Krishna whole day and night. She shed tears of Prem. She sang His praise with single-minded devotion. She gave up food. Her body got emaciated. Her mind was ever absorbed in Lord Krishna. Only then did Lord Krishna shower His grace upon her.

Q8. If God is beyond the reach of the senses, He should be a non-entity, a mere void, a negative concept, a metaphysical abstraction. Something beyond the senses? How could this be? I cannot believe such things. I am a scientist. I want accurate laboratory proofs. 
You want laboratory proofs? Very fine indeed! You wish to limit the illimitable all-pervading God in your test-tube, blowpipe and chemicals. God is the source for your chemicals. He is the substratum for your atoms, electrons and molecules. Without Him no atom or electron will move. He is the Inner Ruler, Antaryamin. He is the Niyanta. Without Him the fire cannot burn, the sun cannot shine, the air cannot move. Without Him you cannot see, cannot talk, cannot hear, cannot think. He is the maker of all scientific laws. The law of gravitation, the law of cohesion, the law of attraction and repulsion, etc. He is the lawgiver. Bow to Him with faith and devotion. You will have a thorough knowledge of the Science of sciences, Brahma Vidya, through His grace and you will attain Moksha.

Q10. How can Kundalini be awakened? Would Japa alone be successful in awakening the Kundalini? 
Kundalini can be awakened by the practice of Asan, Pranayam, Mudras, Japa and by the grace of a Guru. Refer to my book “Kundalini Yoga”.

Yes. Japa alone is quite sufficient to awaken the Kundalini. There is no doubt of this. Sri Samarth Ramdas awakened the Kundalini by doing Japa of the Mantra Om Sri Ram Jaya Ram, Jaya Jaya Ram thirteen crores of times by standing in the river Godavari, in Takli Village, near Nasik.

Q12. How to make the mind subtle and pure? 
Do Japa. Do selfless services. Pray to God from the bottom of your heart (Antarika). Have Satsang. Meditate. Read the Gita and the Upanishads. Live alone. Live in seclusion for six months. Take Sattvic food. Give up meat, fish, eggs, liquors, chillies, oil, black sugar, onions and garlic.

Q17. I am in earnest search of a Guru who can emphatically say that he has realized Brahman or the eternal Truth or God. Can you give trace of such a man? May I take the liberty to ask you whether you have realized Brahman? 
The queries you have asked are quite common to all sincere aspirants in the spiritual path.

Suppose I tell you that a certain “X” is a realized soul, how can you verify my statement and how far will you be benefited by him?

Realized souls are not rare. Ordinary ignorant-minded persons cannot easily recognize them. Only a few persons who are pure and are embodiments of all virtuous qualities can understand realized souls and they only will be benefited by their company.

There is no use of running hither and thither in search of realized men. Even if Lord Krishna remains with you, He cannot do anything for you, unless you are fit to receive Him. Realize this point well and purify yourself by Nishkama Karma Yoga, Charity, concentration, meditation, Japa, Brahmacharya and control of senses.

Testing a Guru is highly difficult. Don’t use your intellect here. Have faith. The real aspirant is quite free from such questions and doubts. You will be miraculously helped if you believe in my words.

Q21. How are people benefited by a pilgrimage? 
This question has to be answered by each pilgrim for himself. The spiritual benefit always depends entirely upon the heart’s faith. Faith is the life-breath of the spirit in man. No spiritual endeavor can be fruitful without it. With it, no spiritual achievement is impossible. If a pilgrim heartily believed, was convinced, and was certain-at-heart that all his sins would be washed away, that he would attain Moksha and get beyond the wheel of Samsara, there is absolutely no reason why it should not actually prove to be so. A pilgrimage like Badri-Yatra can wish off all your sins and enable you to take great strides towards the Great Goal-Self-realization - if you have firm faith in its glory. But, remember, the test of this faith is what you are after you return from the pilgrimage; if, after the pilgrimage, you prove that you have been thoroughly purged of all your sins, that all the evil Samskaras have been washed away by the holy waters of the rivers you have bathed in, and that you have been filled with the spiritual vibrations of the sublime atmosphere you have sojourned in, and if you live a pure life of righteousness, devotion truth, love and purity, you have certainly been liberated. The pilgrimage has served its supreme purpose.

Some pilgrims do rise to such spiritual heights, though their number may be small, and though they may not advertise their achievements.

Q25. A man doing a wrong thing argues that he is doing it because of his Karma; and he does not even try not to do it, because it gives him immediate happiness. How to impress upon him not to do it?  
Karma does not compel a man to do wrong actions. Samskara does, to a certain extent. But God has bestowed free will on man, with which to make or mar his career. Man has no Bhaga-Svatantrata or the freedom to enjoy or suffer, which factor is governed by Karma. But, he has got Karma-Svatantrata or freedom to do good or evil. He can substitute good Samskaras in place of the old vicious Samskaras by Vichara-sakti, will power and continued practice of good actions.

That evil seems to give immediate happiness is the greatest temptation and the greatest obstacle to the cultivation of virtues; and it can be removed only by discrimination and experience. Contemplation over the ultimate and permanent damage done to the very soul of man by the evil actions, and the harm he is causing to the entire society itself by his evil, ought to compel a man to desist from evil action-however pleasant it might appear superficially. There is no short cut to this really serious problem; the wicked heart will not yield easily. And therefore our ancient have exalted Satsang. Constant association with the wise and spiritually evolved persons alone can remove these wrong notions from the mind of the wicked one.

Q28. Does purity of food lead to purity of mind? Is non-vegetarian food not Sattvic? We have in the Mahabharata instances of people taking the meat of goats sacrificed to the Lord. 
Yes, purity of food leads to purity of mind. Aharasuddhau Satvasuddhih. Take a dose of champagne and sit for meditation. Take a dose of orange-juice and sit of meditation. You will know the difference. Different foods exercise different influences on different compartments in the brain. By taking champagne, meat and garlic, the mind will be confused and will become restless when you sit for meditation. By taking milk and fruits, you will get good concentration. Our Rishis lived on fruits and milk. The Chhandogya Upanishad says, “Pure food leads to purity of mind and then one attains Moksha”. You should have dietetic discipline.

Non-vegetarian food is not Sattvic. It is not good for a seeker. Live for a month on milk and fruits and see. Give up meat for one month and see. Let us be practical. Practical experience will tell you that meat eating is bad for the mind.

Q31. When the grace of Guru and God is there, why is the mind still not controlled?  
There must be Purushartha also. Only when you do Purushartha, the grace will come. A professor will not answer the questions for you and make you pass. The Gita says, “Uddharet Atmanatmanam”. One should raise oneself. Grace only helps one to raise oneself. Everybody should work out his own salvation. You may ask, “What is grace then?”. If an aspirant gets letters from his preceptor, clearing his doubts, that is grace. If an aspirant comes here, takes Ganges bath and hears the lectures here that is grace. Many people are thirsting, even crorepathis (those who possess crores of rupees) are thirsting to come and bathe in the Ganges, but all do not get a chance of coming and having their wish fulfilled. If good books are available for Svadhyaya (study), it is grace. If one enjoys good health for doing Sadhana, that is grace. If God so wishes, He can give Mukti to the whole world in an instant; but He does not do so. Grace descends only when there is Purushartha.

Q36. Who is a righteous man? 
A righteous man is he who is pure in thought, word and deed and who OBSERVES Yama & Niyama to the very letter. He sticks to Dharma even in the face of a bayonet. He never moves astray for the sake of paltry gains and selfish ends. He is ever pious, God-fearing, Self-centered and selfless. He has cosmic vision and a broad outlook. He is equanimous and tolerant towards all. He is a mine of all virtues like charity, nobility, sincerity, humility, renunciation, serenity, simplicity and so on. No egoism, no lust, no greed, no crooked-mindedness, no vanity can find a place in him. The righteous man is ever the object of adoration to all. There will be no enemies to him at all, for he loves all friends and does equally.

Q37. How can a person perpetuate the period of youth?  
The Yogic method excels all other methods. It is the best and the cheapest of all prevalent systems of treatment. Take to intense Pranayam and Asans. Both these help a lot preserving Veerya (semen) and converting the vital energy into Ojas. Practice Sirshasan, Sarvangasan, Matsyasan, Halasan, Paschimottanasan, Padahastasan and Yoga Mudra coupled with Bhastrik Pranayam. Practice Pranayam till the stage of Kevala Kumbhak is reached. When there is no necessity either to breathe in or to breathe out, Veerya becomes steady; that is, there will be no discharge or emission in any form. The Ayurvedic preparation “Chyavanaprash” is a wonderful one in enabling the regular user to preserve youth for a very long time.

Q39. What is Nadi Suddhi in its technical sense? How to feel that one has attained perfect Nadi Suddhi? 
Nadi Suddhi means purification of the nerves (Nadis). Nerve is not the correct English term for Nadi. There is no appropriate word for Nadi in English.

Complete fast, preferably without any liquid or solid food, practice of Asana and Pranayam, and intense physical exercise-all go a long way in the elimination of fat and other unwanted matters and in the overhauling of the system to confer the benefit of Nadi Suddhi. Asans and Pranayam can purify the nerves, if done with the correct technique.

When one attains Nadi Suddhi, the body becomes light. Stool becomes scanty. There is agility in movement and activity in demeanor. No trace of slothfulness or indolence can be detected. While walking, the body appears to be floating in the air. The tone of the voice changes from hoarseness or gruffness to mellifluence. Hopping, jumping and dancing while at work can be observed in one endowed with Nadi Suddhi. Something inexpressible forces the person to do this and to achieve something grand in his lifetime.

Q42. Was Srimad Bhagavad Gita actually recited by Lord Krishna in the battlefield or is it the imagination of the poet? 
Yes. There is no doubt about the Gita having been recited by Lord Krishna in the battlefield. It is not a mere composition of Chiranjivi (eternally living) Vyasa. Recall to mind the following two Slokas, which can be found in the Gita Mahatmya:

Gita Sugeeta Kartavya Kimanyaih Sastravistaraih
Ya Svayam Padmanabhasya Mukhapadmadvinissruta

Bharatamritasarvasvam Vishnorvaktradvinissrutam
Gitagangodakam Peetva Punarjanma Na Vidyate

The Gita is not a human composition at all. Have the conviction as such. without the usual questioning intellect. Remember all the Avatara Purushas like Sri Sankara and Sri Ramanuja who had written commentaries on the Gita. Lord Krishna Himself says to one of His lady-devotees named Lilabai that He and the Gita ate identical and that worship of the one is adoration of the other. Study Slokas 68 to 71 of the Eighteenth Chapter of the Gita to infuse in yourself the necessary faith and love towards the holy scriptures.

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