This Chapter taken from The book ‘Crumbs from His Table’ by Ramanananda Swarnagiri
Obstacles and Hatha Yoga
D: People practising meditation etc., are said to get new diseases; at any rate, I feel some pain in the back and front of the chest. This is stated to be a test by God. Will Bhagavan explain this and say if it is true?
B: There is no Bhagavan outside you and no test is therefore instituted. What you believe to be a test or a new disease resulting from spiritual practices is really the strain that is now brought to play upon your nerves and the five senses. The mind which was hitherto operating through the nadis to sense external objects and thus maintaining a link between itself and the organs of perception is now required to withdraw from the link and this action of withdrawal naturally causes a strain, a sprain or a snap attendant with pain, which people term disease and perhaps tests by God. All these would go, if you would but continue your meditation bestowing your thought solely on understanding your Self or on Self-realization. There is no greater remedy than this continuous yoga or union with God or Atman. There cannot but be pain as a result of your discarding your long acquired vasanas.
D: Hatha Yogic practices are said to banish diseases effectively and are therefore advocated as necessary preliminaries to Jnana Yoga.
B: Let those who advocate them use them. It has not been the experience here. All diseases would be effectively annihilated by continuous Self-enquiry.
D: What about pranayama?
B: What about it? While I do not speak about it in terms of the well-known phraseology of purakam, rechakam and kumbhakam and of their matras (inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath in units of time) I have said that it can be used. Mind and life-breath spring from the same source; if you stop the course of one, you have automatically stopped the course of the other. Control of mind is easier than control of breath. The latter resembles the forcible milking of a cow and the former the cajoling of the cow by a feed of grass and caressing it by gently patting its back.
Sri Bhagavan one day told an anecdote from the life of Prabhulinga while speaking on the subject of Hatha Yoga, etc.
Prabhulinga, the founder of the Lingayat sect (now mostly prevalent in Mysore State only), was touring the land for the uplift of the spiritually minded. He met the famous Yogi Gorakhnath in Gokarnam (a famous place of Hindu pilgrimage on the West Coast of India, a few miles south of Goa). The Yogi welcomed him respectfully but was proudly conscious of his own extraordinary powers over the elements. He considered his guest more or less his equal, expressed pleasure at meeting him and on his greeting him asked him who he was.
Prabhulinga replied that he only who had destroyed his ego, root and branch, and realized “himself ” could know who he was and wondered what he could say to a nonentity, a person who clung to his perishable body.
Gorakhnath, who identified his body with his Self, replied: “That person alone who has gained the immortality of the body by the favour of Shiva and consumption of Gulikas (Gulikas are some medicinal herbs, supposed to be available on the Sahyadri hills near Gokarnam and which, some people allege, the famous St. Xavier, whose body still remains unperished in Goa, had taken, and the properties of which are supposed to so energise the body as not to let it perish for hundreds of years.) will never die. Therefore one who has not gained such immortality dies.”
Prabhu observed: You speak as if existence in an imperishable body is your real existence and the death of the body your death. Evidently you appear to think that the body itself is your Self. You can only be matched by the ignorant masses (i.e., you are no better than an ignorant person, though you are a famous Siddha, a yogi). If the body be yourself, why do you say “my body”? Everyone speaks of his possessions as “my clothes, my gold etc.” Tell me if anyone identifies himself with the clothes, or the gold, etc., and says “I am the clothes, I am the gold, etc.”
Gorakh replied: Men say ‘I think’, ‘I walk’ etc. Please tell me what the ‘I’ signifies in such instances.
Prabhu: ‘I think’ signifies association with the faculty of thinking. Similarly also in other instances, association with the body, the senses and the faculties is meant. If, on the other hand, ‘I’ be identical with them how many I’s are there? You are mistaking a superimposition for the reality.
Gorakh asked Prabhu to explain what is meant by saying “I lose my life”. Is there one life to lose another?
Prabhu said: Life-breath is the real meaning of the word ‘life’ whereas the Self is also referred to as ‘life’ figuratively. Why do you seek your own ruin by identifying yourself with the perishable body composed of flesh, blood, bones, fat etc., notwithstanding the scriptural statement that the SELF is EXISTENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND BLISS? One who, disgusted with this body, the thing responsible for the interminable recurrence of births and deaths, is intent upon obtaining freedom, will look at this body with the same disgust as one who has unwittingly trodden on loathsome offal on the path.
While the Wise pray to Shiva to free them from taking a body any more, just as a man would take medicine to rid himself of a malady once and for all, is it not a matter for wonder that you should seek to perpetuate the body by divine favour? Does not this correspond to a sick man taking medicine to perpetuate the malady?
Has even one such glorified body ever been born which has not met with death? There never was a case of a stone thrown up that has not come back to earth. So also anything having a beginning must also have an end, some time or other. Only if there was anything that was not born could it remain without death.
You have based the immortality of your body on the use of drugs and divine favour on no other assumption than that the days you would live with this body are interminable. This assumption is untenable. Oh! You who are great in penance! Desire at least hereafter to obtain salvation.
Gorakh could not be persuaded and would not budge an inch from his ground; he challenged Prabhu to try cutting his body, handing him a sword, long, bright and sharp. His body could not be cut, nor was Gorakh able to touch an atom of Prabhu when he was, in turn, challenged to injure Prabhu, in spite of Gorakh having been told to call to his aid his own strength and that of his relations(Obviously the strength of the qualities of lust, anger, passion, etc. which alone are born with one.) Gorakh, who was surprised at this, acknowledged Prabhu’s superiority and begged to be taught Brahma Vidya.
Prabhu then expounded to Gorakh Brahma Vidya as follows:
“Gorakh, conceive not your body as your ‘Self ‘. Seek the In-dweller (the cave-dweller) and you will once for all rid yourself of the disease of birth and death. The cave is only your heart, the In-dweller thereof is called God and ‘I am That.’”