More doubts? Here you have my answers:
What is your opinion on the practice of mantra-s?
I will share not only my opinion but also my experience as I was informally initiated with the mantra “Om̐ namaḥ śivāya”. Next, I was formally initiated with the mantra “Haṁsa”. Besides, I chanted hymns in Sanskrit for so many years. I even taught other people how to chant them properly in Sanskrit. Anyway, my path has never been that of mantra (i.e. Mantrayoga). I repeated mantra-s for so many years, but in the end I found it easier to realize the Self directly, without any intermediary. Of course, many people will have to use mantra-s for long in order to attain Self-realization. It is a valid and powerful method to accomplish that difficult mission but, I repeat, it is not for everybody.
Once you have received a mantra from your spiritual teacher and determined that it is your method, the key to success is its proper pronunciation. For the most part, spiritual aspirants pronounce mantra-s in a horrible way. I have direct experience of that. If you pronounce a mantra in a horrible way, the fruits of such repetition will not be available as fast as you would like. The stone in the shoes is always the same: ignorance in relation to Sanskrit. Some people affirm that “Love is the only thing that is necessary while one repeats a mantra in Sanskrit”. First of all, most spiritual aspirants are not repeating mantra-s in Sanskrit, but they are only emitting noises which, obviously, do not sound like Sanskrit to my ears. Secondly, if love is the only thing necessary, why repeat a mantra in Sanskrit then? They could repeat its translation in their respective languages and that is it. Therefore, they had better say that their ignorance about Sanskrit is as never-ending as the universe itself instead of excusing their awful pronunciation with foolish pretexts. Sometimes, laziness also plays its role. Studying Sanskrit is hard. Well, at least they should learn how to pronounce their short mantra rightly. If they cannot even accomplish this simple mission, I wonder how they are supposed to accomplish the extraordinarily difficult mission of realizing the Self?
At least, one should make sure that he is uttering his short mantra in a precise way before setting out to conquer spiritual ignorance. The task seems to be easy but believe me, most spiritual aspirants I have seen so far don’t know how to pronounce, for instance, Om̐ namaḥ śivāya adequately. Let alone write it at least in proper international transliteration. Even supposed spiritual teachers write that mantra in an incorrect manner. This all-pervading ignorance is so strong that even the act of correcting errors related to Sanskrit is practically wasted time. Therefore, let them continue to pronounce their mantra-s as horribly as always. Someday, I suppose, the Self, His ears completely broken, will give them spiritual enlightenment in order for them to stop repeating and chanting mantra-s. Just as a pianist should know how to play the piano before giving a concert, those people should, at the very least, learn how to pronounce their short mantra before starting their journey to Self-realization.
What is your opinion about Haṭhayoga?
Haṭhayoga is the most insignificant type of Yoga. You can attain Self-realization without its help. I am absolutely sure of that. Anyway, if you combine the few postures taught to have a right sitting position (e.g. lotus posture) with meditation, supported by strong philosophical teachings, your journey will be easier because your body will be more comfortable in the process. Only the sitting postures are necessary. The rest of postures, locks, seals, etc. can be discarded if you wish. Even if you consider Haṭhayoga not only as postures, locks, seals, etc. but also as containing the six actions and all the respiratory exercises, it is insignificant anyway. I practiced it with relative intensity from 1983 through 1994. I even taught it for three years (1992-1994), so I know it perfectly. The only useful thing I still keep is the lotus posture. The rest can be easily abandoned. I have not practiced it for 17 years by now, and I feel no loss. Self-realization is not about acrobatic exercises that make your ego bigger but about spiritual wisdom. If your body is stiff, you can practice any other method to keep it flexible and healthy. Therefore, I can affirm that Haṭhayoga, except for the sitting postures such as the lotus posture, is totally unnecessary with reference to achieving spiritual enlightenment. If I spoil somebody’s business with my teaching, my apologies, but this teaching is about Self-realization and not to supporting businesses. After almost 28 years in Yoga, I’ve never seen anyone attain Final Liberation through Haṭhayoga. This kind of Yoga is secondary then.
In the West, most people mistake Yoga for Haṭhayoga. This is a serious error, especially if one keeps in mind how insignificant Haṭhayoga is compared to other more powerful types of Yoga (e.g. Rājayoga). As always, spiritual ignorance will encourage the practice of Haṭhayoga more than that of Rājayoga. Consequently, you will have classes crowded with people performing Haṭhayoga postures instead of by people realizing their Self through the powerful knowledge of Rājayoga. It is always the same sad story in this world. As with Sanskrit pronunciation, this mistake of assigning to Haṭhayoga the name of Yoga is so massive and foolish that even trying to correct it is wasted time. Let them keep performing their postures and calling that “Yoga” then.
Why is fear of death so strong?
Because one hasn’t realized the Self yet. Fear of death is one of the five afflictions known as “ignorance, ego-sense, attachment, aversion and will-to-live”. The last affliction (will-to-live) is fear of death. It is based on the false belief that one ceases to exist when the body dies. When even the mind does not cease to exist during death, how is it possible for the person to cease to exist? But, as always, this misconception is widespread. When death strikes, most people will experience extreme fear of it.
After Self-realization, death is no longer relevant. When the Self is apprehended as He essentially is (Eternal, Joyful, Free, etc.), death stops being an obstacle. The Self and His Power never cease to exist. If they happened to take a holiday, the entire universe would cease to exist immediately. As those two constantly exist, the universe keeps existing too. All that is not the Self and His Power “as they essentially are” is sure to die sooner or later. For example: body, mind, world, time, space, etc., all of them cease to exist sooner or later. As a matter of fact nothing ceases to exist but only remains in the Core of Reality. When the body of someone dies, that person remains in the Core of Reality till the moment he takes another body here or in a higher/lower world. In the case of people who achieved Final Liberation, they will not have to take another body forcibly, i.e. they could take another body at will. In order to do this, some other requirements are to be met. Well, a complex subject I will explain someday.
The important thing here is that the fear of death looks unbeatable while one has not come to realize his Self. Once he realizes the Self, fear of death vanishes thoroughly.
Do other worlds exist?
YES. There is a strange concept here, which you might not understand perfectly now. It all depends on your level. People usually say: “Well, that does not exist”. They speak like that regarding many things, from witches to extraterrestrial beings, etc. What they generally do not notice is that once something is delineated in thought, it does exist. I mean, if you think of something, it is possible because His Power took that form of thought. Once His Power did so, that thing does exist. This is why one cannot deny the existence of all that the mind generates. If something appears in the mind, it does exist. Therefore, when people say that something does not exist, they mean “that thing does not exist as a material reality perceivable to everybody” and NOT that it does not exist in the absolute sense. Why? Because nobody can deny the existence of something that does not exist in the first place. One can deny something only from the moment it started to exist. If it never existed, no denial would be necessary. Hence the presence of a denier affirms the existence of what is denied. This is very difficult to understand, but that’s the truth.
This is one of the reasons, for example, why it is often said in spirituality that the presence of an atheist affirms the existence of God. If my memory serves me well, that expression was written by the great Master Śaṅkarācārya. So, those who believe in the existence of the Supreme Self should not worry about the presence of atheism. Atheism is made of people who are constantly reaffirming the existence of the Supreme Self. In fact, unknowingly, they are devotees of God. This is one of His best jokes. Nobody can deny the existence of something or somebody that never existed in the first place. All in all, atheists are the first ones to establish the existence of the Self and His Power.
As for the existence of other worlds, a person who is in search of the Self will have, in the process, direct experience of many worlds. This will dispel all his previous notions about the nature of Reality. There are astonishing worlds to visit. One does not need a very expensive spaceship. NO. His Power will take you from this planet to so many impressive worlds that you will not believe your eyes. These journeys will occur naturally. Anyway, if you are advanced enough, you can travel at will by the following method: chant some relatively long hymn in Sanskrit (e.g. Gurugītā, short version). That takes about 45 minutes. After that, take a nap and try not to fall asleep completely. There is a state between wakefulness and normal sleep known as “yogic sleep”. The act of chanting a hymn in Sanskrit allows you to enter yogic sleep much easier.
Yogic sleep is a state similar to trance (the state where the Self is realized in different degrees). When you succeed at entering into yogic sleep, you can travel through the worlds in the vast space of Consciousness (the Self and His Power). These journeys will remove the fatigue produced by the spiritual practices. If you are a serious disciple, you will practice for several hours every day. Over the years, all that accumulated merit and experience will tip the balance in your favor and Self-realization will be more likely to occur. Besides, these journeys will expand your viewpoint. Before such journeys you might think that this world is the greatest manifestation of the Supreme Self. After visiting some of these amazing worlds, you will realize that this world is close to worthless. You will realize that what most people call “having a life” is nothing but dust. This will be shocking to a spiritual aspirant. Hence, only genuine spiritual aspirants will have such experiences. The rest of people who are not genuine spiritual aspirants cannot experience this for their own good. Imagine yourself here thinking that your life is absolutely awesome and that these landscapes are fabulous, etc. Next, you travel to a world where our plant’s beauty by comparison becomes almost nil. You will collapse if you are not ready for that.
Nonetheless, although such journeys are jaw-dropping and very necessary in order to expand your viewpoint and remove your fatigue, Self-realization is by far the most awesome experience you will have. Self-realization can be attained not through yogic sleep but through trance. The trances don not necessarily happen with closed eyes. NO. There are trances with open eyes. In fact, they are the most advanced ones. Someone who can remain in trance while his eyes are widely open is extremely advanced or even enlightened. During Self-realization you do not see anything special, you do not travel either and so on. You recognize your own Self as He essentially is. This recognition starts with waves of Bliss flowing through your system. After a long period of experiencing blissful trances, the Self will suddenly reveal Himself to you. At the time of His Revelation, Bliss experienced before (as waves flowing through your system) comes to a stop. You will experience immense indescribable peace and your thoughts will immediately recede. After some seconds, as it were, when the Self is fully revealed to you, you will completely realize that you are Him and only Him. What happens to your body or mind is irrelevant from that point on. All your attachments and aversions will totally cease. You will keep wondering: “What was I doing before?” You were living in spiritual ignorance, that’s the answer. Self-realization means Absolute Freedom. The experience of His Freedom is the most incredible experience you will ever have, and I am completely sure of it.
See you soon.