My spiritual journey began very early in my life. I was born in a spiritual family. My parents were initiated by a spiritual Guru, Sant Kirpal Singh ji Maharaj of Radha Soami lineage. I grew up attending satsang, (a spiritual gathering) and listening to discourses on spirituality, though I could not understand much at that age. My father used to devote lot of time for Dhyan (meditation). I also tried to practice meditation but I never enjoyed it but I came to know the basics of meditation at least. When I left my home- town and family to pursue for higher studies at Delhi University, my interest in spirituality declined. While studying Physics at college, I lost the faith in God because I needed evidence to believe in the existence of God. I remained Atheist for 30 years. The belief in God was restored after passing through a stressful phase of life.
I was working for a project named Indus-I. I had completed my subsystem well within the time, but the project was delayed due to many other reasons known to everyone working on the project. But I was made scapegoat and held responsible for delaying the project. There were serious differences between me and higher authorities who were looking after the development of the project. There was a lobby who was working to sideline me. The stressful situation continued for years leading me to the depression. My doctors referred me to a psychiatrist and a psychologist for counseling. The psychologist taught me relaxation exercises to calm down my mind. I practiced the relaxation exercises religiously for two years, but my mind did not calm down a bit and there were continuous streams of thoughts that weakened me emotionally and physically. I was very strong and active person earlier, but the depression made me sick. My breathing was going out of control and chocking episodes became frequent. Once a food stuck in my wind- pipe and I could not breathe for few minutes. I saw death very closely. Then I decided to take charge of myself to come out of this trauma. By now I had realized two things, first the culprit of this situation is the continuous streams of thoughts and second, the relaxation technique is a sort of meditation that is lacking many things and I need to know more about it. I began searching books on meditation. I reached out to a book shop that is known for having varieties of book other than academic ones. Finally, I chose a book on Meditation by Christina Feldman. I went through the book slowly and carefully but nowhere the issue of controlling the involuntary thoughts was discussed. Then I turned to many books of meditation by great spiritual persons of India but to my surprise, no one had addressed this problem of overcoming the involuntary thoughts. I was a in a fix, why nobody is talking about this important issue where the thoughts are draining my Vital energy (Vital energy is discussed in a later post). Then came an episode in my life when I began to think about the destiny or something that controls our life.
It was the day when India was celebrating its 50th Independence Day. Normally, I used to be filled with enthusiasm on this day and I had never missed any celebration of this day and always attended the celebrations at my work- place and also at school of my daughters. But this time I was feeling very depressed and didn’t have energy to go to anywhere for flag hoisting ceremony. My younger daughter, who was seven at that time, came to me and asked me to come to her school as a book exhibition would be organized after the Independence Day celebration and she wanted me to buy books for her. It was a tradition of my family to visit any book exhibition that was held at any part of city. I refused her saying that I am not feeling well but she didn’t listen to me and insisted hard to come with her. She held my hand firmly and dragged me. I started walking with her as school was at walking distance from my house. I do not know from where I got energy to walk as I was lying life-less in the bed since morning.
After reaching the venue of book exhibition I began looking the books for my daughter. All of a sudden, I caught sight of a book titled “How to win in life” by Norman Vincent Peale. I bought the book without delay. Normally I take time to read about the author and remarks on the back cover of the book before purchasing a book. I spent whole night reading the book. I got the solution to my problem. The writer had explained that the mind wanders in search of a solution to problems we face in life and if an appropriate solution is suggested to mind, it stops wandering. Next, he discussed that our mind works like a computer, and it can be programmed to get the desired results. He further explained the concept of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and NIP (Neuro Imaging Programming). When I applied this idea whenever my mind distracted during Meditation, it really worked. I felt remarkable improvement within a month. The continuous stream of thoughts began to slow down and even stopped momentarily. I had an enjoyable feeling of High. It was a mystic experience that I read in the books of Meditation. In addition to it, I was feeling energetic as before. My health began improving in magical way and without a doubt, I was getting rid of very old health issues like migrane, severe asthma, frequent throat infection with fever. I stopped taking many regular medicines prescribed by the doctors including Alprax. The improvement was so fast as if I have got a panacea. This inspired me, as a scientist, to explore the science behind this dramatic change. My carrier as a scientist at RRCAT was at stake. My section was scrapped and staff working under me was taken away after I completed and delivered my project, and I was put in loop line. But the thought of discovering a new and very useful research field made me full of energy. I began to study Neuroscience, Physiology, Molecular Cell Biology and Psychology to prepare myself for new field of research.
After practicing meditation for few years, I felt that the progress in meditation has slowed down. I studied the book by Norman Peale once again and this time I found that the author referred to spirituality very often. He was a minister in a church and believed in the teachings of Christ. I was not able to digest it because I had turned Atheist long time back. Again, my mind became turbulent, and I was not finding the way out. I decided to explore the new field of spirituality of which I had some faint ideas. I chose to read Swami Vivekanand because of his knowledge about the science. I also knew that he introduced Yog and Vedant to West during his tour to America and participation in Parliament of World’s Religions organized at Chicago in the year 1893. The book of Swami Vivekanand on the commentary on Patanjali Yog Sutra (PYS) proved a milestone in my spiritual journey. In his book “Yoga-Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnan(Knowledge) Yoga, he explained the spirituality and Yog in terms of scientific concepts. After studying this book, I became interested in spirituality and I also began the study of Bhagavad-Gita and Brahma Sutra Bhasya by Adi Shankaracharya, the only authentic text on Vedant.
After studying Patanjali Yog Sutra, I was surprised at the fact that while Norman Peale gave the idea for controlling the mind 100 years ago, the text of PYS, written 3000 years ago, is all about the control of mind. Patanjali Yog Sutra begins with the sutra (aphorism) PYS-1.2, which in the simplest words, means that Yog is a practice to control the wandering of mind. Rishi Patanjali further describes different kinds of thoughts, origin of thoughts, ways to control the thoughts and to focus the mind. There is a technical word “Samadhi”, for the degree of concentration of mind or the degree of control over mind, in PYS. After reading and understanding PYS, I was convinced that the mind cannot be controlled without resorting to the spirituality.
There are two sutras, PYS-1.12 and PYS-1.23 that describe spirituality completely. The former sutra is about non-Attachment which has been interpreted wrongly by Hindu and Buddhist monks. They advocated renunciation because the cause of wandering of mind is the involvement in worldly life and too many desires for worldly things. Adi Shankaracharya had a different and realistic view on Non-Attachment. According to him, “Attachment” means, “Attachment with our thoughts” or the attachment with our Ego. When we abandon or sacrifice our Ego, the thoughts begin to slow down. The later sutra is about surrender to Ishwar, the Nature God and a firm belief in the power of Ishwar. It implies that things are not in our controls, and it is fruitless to think much over an issue and leave it to Ishwar for a solution.
I got stuck here because I had turned Atheist 30 years back and to revive the faith in God was a challenge to myself or to my Ego. By this time, I had realized that we form an opinion or the mind-set without a rational thinking before adopting a thought. According to Swami Vivekanand, “We, the intellectuals, gain a little information by reading books and feel proud of knowing everything and so we never think out of box.” This, I came to know from a sutra of Patanjali Yog Sutra also. To know the truth about God, I read about personal life of Max Planck, my favorite scientist. I found that he was very spiritual person. I was influenced very much by his quotes on spirituality and science. Similar views were expressed by Swami Vivekanand and Dalai Lama. Albert Einstein also believed in Spinoza’s God, another name for Ishwar or the Nature God. My experiences during the practice of meditation also corroborated these views and I did not take much time to revive my faith in God. But I still do not believe in any religious God. The bottom line is that the practice of meditation can never lead to complete control over mind because it is not based on spirituality. It is only the practice of Yog based on Patanjali Yog Sutra, that can lead to attain a completely thoughtless state of mind. In spiritual literature, this state of mind is known as the state of pure- consciousness because when there are not thoughts in mind, what remains is the consciousness or the Chitt. In Patanjali Yog Sutra, this state is known as the lowest Samadhi with a name “Sabeej Sampragyat Samadhi”
When I continued the practice of Yog further, Samadhi became stronger meaning that mind would not distract easily in spite of problems in life. This is the next level of Samadhi with a name “Nirbeej Sampragyat Samadhi”. During this Samadhi, a feeling of crawling begins at the pelvic floor, which in spiritual literature, is known as “Kundalini Awakening”. But in Patanjali Yog Sutra, there is no reference to the phenomenon of “Kundalini Awakening”. Many spiritual Gurus and scholars of spirituality boast too much of Kundalini Awakening and equate it with a sort of Energy that remains dormant at Pelvis and according to them, Kundalini Awakening is the activation of this Energy that does miracles. Many religious gurus equate Kundalini with Goddess of Power. My experiences during Yog do not endorse such claims. The feeling of crawling does take place and it does rise upwards also, but it is nothing more than an intermediate stage in the practice of Yog which lasts for a couple of weeks only. According to my experience, the “Kundalini Awakening” is a physiological phenomenon that marks the beginning of “Yogic breathing” which is explained in detail in my book on Yog Science. In advanced stage of the practice of Yog, Samadhi strengthens further, and it becomes very stable, meaning that mind would not distract even in the worst condition, such as the demise of a beloved one. This is considered as the final Samadhi with a name “Nirbeej Asampragyat Samadhi.” According to Vedant, this is a state of Moksh (A state of complete liberation) and the Kaivalya in Patanjali Yog Sutra. Similar to Kundalini, Moksh has also been interpreted differently in different Hindu Philosophies. The most common interpretation is the liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. There is a disparity again. According to Vedant, Moksh can be attained while one is alive but in Sankhya and Buddhism, Moksh is attained after death only. Thus, we find that there is diverse opinion on a single concept in Hinduism. According to Swami Vivekanand, a great scholar of Yog “Do not go into arguments, do not believe anyone, just practice the Yog and experience the truth yourself.” Most scholars refer to Yog as a philosophy but after practicing Yog for 25 years and getting the results as described in Patanjali Yog Sutra, I came to the conclusion that Yog is not a philosophy, it is a science, backed by a theory. The concepts presented in theory of Yog can be verified by experiencing them while practicing Yog. There were no instruments in ancient times and the effects of Yog were only experienced subjectively. Now, the technology is available to record the effects of the practice of Yog on body and these effects can be recorded by instruments. This made it possible to transform a subjective practice into a scientific practice and I could present Yog as a science, that I have described in detail in my book:
Yog Science, Theory of Mind and Atman
This is the theoretical implication of my spiritual journey. The experimental or the practical implications of spiritual journey are tremendous and of great importance for the mankind. An ultimate physiological effect that takes place when the mind is fully focused is that brain generates oxygen in sufficient amount, and it is possible to survive without environmental oxygen. It is an effect and also empirical evidence of the existence of Vital energy. When Yog is practiced, mind begins to focus, which is a subjective phenomenon and behind this subjective phenomenon, there is a cause. According to Yog science, the focusing of mind is the result of the concentration of Vital energy, that leads to generation of oxygen in brain. Prior to this stage of Yog, when mind is partially focused, the Vital energy gives rise to many physiological and psychological changes that are responsible for myriad of benefits of Yog. In the next post I will discuss in detail, what is the vital energy and how vital energy brings out so many positive changes in a person by Yog.