[This has been published in the January 2018 edition of the AHYMSIN Newsletter.]
As the keynote speaker at the plenum closing session of the inaugural Yoga summit conference in Beijing, Swami Veda Bharati delivered a lecture to the conference participants via life video. This was likely his very last public lecture before dropping the body in July 2015. The transcription below is based on a recording made by the event organizer.
I pay homage to Swami Rama of the Himalayas and all the gurus of the lineage. I pay homage to the Buddha, to Lao Tzu, to Confucius. I pay homage to Kāśyapa Mātaṅg and to Dharmaratna [being the first two recorded Buddhist masters of the 1st Century BC traveling to ancient China and whose remains were buried at the White Horse Temple] of Luoyang. I pay homage to Kumārajīva [a monk of 4th Century AD from Central Asia who alone translated massive volumes of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese], to Faxian [of 4th Century AD], to Yijing [of early 7th Century], to Xuanzang [of 7th Century], [the latter three being Chinese monks who traveled to India and brought back and translated scrolls and scrolls of Buddhist scriptures]. I pay homage to Bodhidharma. I pay homage to all those in both civilizations who have communicated with each other in silence for thousands of years.
Yoga which unites everybody in silence and meditation now unites the people of China and people of India. Walking on the footsteps of all those great immortals to whom I have paid homage, I come to you to revive in you that tradition of discovering the inner serene silence through yoga. Yoga is not a system of physical movement. It is a system of silence and stillness from which the movement expresses itself. It is this yoga to which I invite you to enter within yourself. It is the subtle yoga, not the yoga of the body but the yoga of inner self.
I will first take you through five minutes only of the entry way into the chamber of inner silence. First you will discover your spine. Your spine is a center of all your energies in teachings of the Taoist masters of China and the yoga masters of India. As you discover your spine you will begin to sit straight and you will begin to sense the subtle flow of energy in your spine. And then your senses will naturally want to close. Your eyes will close to look inward into a chamber of silence. Then, as you enter that chamber, your spine will remain erect but all your muscles and joints remain relaxed.
Relax your forehead. Bring your mind’s attention to your breath. Only observe how your breath is flowing. The source of your breath in the energy centers in the spine, the source of serene flow of breath. Simply observe and feel your breath flowing. As you observe your breath will slow down.
Now, feel the flow and touch of your breath in your nostrils. Breathe gently, slowly, smoothly. Just feel the flow and touch in the nostrils. No jerk in your breath. No break between breaths. Let your entire mind become absorbed in feeling this energy stream.
Now the word I give you will not come to your mouth, only in your mind. While you are feeling the outward flow and inward flow of your breaths, count in your mind in your own language: one — two — … Breathing out, one… Breathing in, two… Continue to feel the breath with the count of one and two… No break in the flow of the breath. No break in the count. Observe how the mind, the word and the breath are flowing together in a single energy stream of your conscious mind. Without the feel of the flow gently open your eyes, but let the flows continue even with the eyes open.
Resolve in your mind to calm the mind in this way many, many times during the day. This way is the very first step we teach in our ashram in our yoga tradition. It’s only the first step. But even with this step you will join the great disciples who for thousands of years have sat at the feet of masters and the immortals. The count of one and two is for those who do not wish to believe in any Guanyin, Buddha, religion, Vedas and the masters even. It is a perfect system for the atheist scientific societies. However, if you wish to follow a different system you will have many alternatives.
Those who wish to follow the Heart Sutra, as is shown on the screen written in the Siddham script. The entire Heart Sutra cannot be done in one breath – unless you are already an immortal. So for those who are dedicated to the Heart Sutra you may use “bodhi svāhā”. With each breath you use those words flowing in the mind.
For those dedicated to Guanyin you may use the mantra that’s dedicated to Guanyin in all of China, or to Dölma in Tibet, to Tara in India and to all these lands in Asia, two and half billion people are united by this mantra of Guanyin: “tāre tuttāre ture svāhā”. It is the same mantra that is recited to mother Tārā at my ashram here in Rishikesh by the holy river Ganga. The entire mantra again cannot be done with one breath. So meditation with the breath you may use only the word “tāre”. Breathing out, feel the breath in nostril and think in your mind: “tā – re –”. Breathing in, feel the breath and think in your mind: “tā – re –”.
However, in the yoga tradition, in India commonly, the masters of the Himalayas, they use another word. When Xuanzang brought thousands of scriptures from India and he established the pagoda in Xian, under the patronage of Tang emperor, called the Haṃso Pagoda. Why did he choose to call it Haṃso? That is the word which the yoga masters teach to every beginner to start the practice of meditation.
Now in the honor of Xuanzang, join me, feel the breath in your nostrils. Be still and breathing out think “ham –“, breathing in think “so –“. Continue in silence with your mind, hamso and the breath flowing together.
Many years ago, nearly ten years ago, I had the honor of making the pilgrimage to the temple in Qinling Mountains where Laotzu gave his teachings. I had the honor of sitting with a Tao master who was the abbot there. He talked about the Tao path of energy in the spine. I talked about the Yoga path of energy in the spine. He talked about the bifurcation of the energies in the base of the skull and I talked about the bifurcation of the energies in the base of the skull. He talked of the great masters and immortals leaving the bodies consciously from the top of the head. And I talked of the great yoga masters leaving the body consciously from what we call here brahmarandhra, the opening to Infinity.
I did not bring any offering to the abbot but he gave me, out of his spontaneous love, this Chinese calligraphy that hangs on the wall in my room to this day. Also hanging in my room are the portrait of my master, Swami Rama, and the painting of Guanyin. This is how the traditions unite us.
And I am so joyful that you and I, though apparently thousands of miles away, are united today in yoga. Here in India we have kept the language from which the masters like Xuanzang translated. For example, I have here (holding up a scripture) the Lotus Sutra in the Sanskrit language from which Kumārajīva translated in the 4th Century, seventeen hundred years ago and we are teaching them in our ashram.
I had the honor of visiting the chamber where Xuanzang’s skull was preserved. And I was permitted to enter that chamber. There I recited the original Heart Sutra from which Xuanzang had translated for you. I am sure that his spirit accepted my love offering.
There are yoga and yogas. The paths of yoga have been offered to followers of many cultures. If you do not believe in any religion just use the count of “one –“ and “two – “ with your breath. If you are a Christian you may use the name of Yesu. There is a Christian yoga. There is also a Muslim yoga. And there is also a Buddhist yoga. Now to add a little humor - there is also a “Hollywood yoga”!
But I have no sense of humor and the only yoga I enjoy is the Himalayan yoga. This Himalayan yoga is not the yoga for powers. It is the yoga for purity and serenity. Learn to move as though you are not moving – that is yoga. We have a beautiful text here in India called the Bhagavad Gītā, the Divine Song. It says, “He who knows action in inaction and inaction in action knows the meaning of action.” [around 47:30 SVB stopped briefly in the middle of a sentence, said “Excuse me” and remained in silence for around 30 seconds before continuing citing the Gītā]
[At this point the video connection was interrupted. After resuming the connection Swami Veda continued.] I hope our minds remained connected. Through your silence and through your serenity you can connect to the minds of all the teachers and immortals.
As I was saying, the Divine Song, the texts in Sanskrit says, “He who knows action in inaction and inaction in action knows the meaning of action.” Lao Tzu also says, “A warrior who in the middle of battlefield is not fighting is a true warrior.”
So do not do only postures. Learn to lead such a yoga life with a yoga mind. What was it that the great Himalayan masters were doing in their mind sitting years and years in silence in the caves? They were not pursuing a path of powers. They were pursuing a path of purity and serenity. When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree for 49 days and 49 nights absolutely still, what was he doing in his mind? When Bodhidharma sat in front of the wall for so many years that his shadow was imprinted on the wall, what was he actually doing in his mind? Do not only honor the founder of yoga, or the Buddha, or Bodhidharma. Do not only honor them. Be ambitious. Learn to do with your mind what they did with their mind.
I have a wish for you – that you become someone that anyone who comes in your presence, any time, feels that he has entered a realm of peace. To have that ambition is yoga. I wish you to be ambitious.
Please accept my thanks to Yin Yan and Mohan for organizing this event for us. I thank the honorable Prime Minister of India and the honorable President and Prime Minister of China for having brought us all together here under the banner of yoga. This union in the yoga transcends all political boundaries as it has done for thousands of years in the past. I pray that someday I welcome many of you to come and sit in silence meditation with me here. In the meantime, please make a resolve that you will calm your mind many, many times in the day by following the harmony of mind with one single thought and the breath for however many minutes it may keep you in enjoying your own inner peace.
Yin Yan would you kindly convey my sincere thanks to his excellency, the Ambassador of India. I shall be grateful.
[Yin Yan: On behalf of all the participants here, I thank you, Swamiji, and I shall bring our students to your ashram to study meditation with you.]
Thank you, Yin Yan. Thank you all. Now before you all go, once more, enter your inner realm for one minute. Just relax your mind and feel the flow and touch of your breath in the nostrils with “one — two—“or with “ham— so—“. Just sit for a minute in silence.
With all the love of my heart, with all the power of action in my hands, with all thoughts and intellect in my head, I honor and worship the pure serene spirit within you. May that always be your own source of peace.
Are there any questions?
Question: Whenever I sit in meditation I would be in tears. Why is that?
Swami Veda: You have many emotions stored up inside you. When you relax they begin to flow out. Make your emotions a flower offering to Guanyin, to your inner spirit, to whomever divine mother you believe in and they will accept your offering. Your tears will turn into a very serene feeling. After some times when you let out your emotions as an offering, after some times, it will stop flowing and you will be calm in your meditation. Just accept it. Accept it and keep coming back to the feel of your breath and the word of your choice. Just keep doing it again and again.
Question: I want to know how meditation can benefit us and what’s the connection between meditation and the āsanas we do in hatha yoga?
Swami Veda: First, my advice – do not practice meditation for its benefits. What is the benefit of smiling? What is fun of smiling? What is the correct method of smiling? What is the benefit of being calm and being in peace with yourself? If you smile for its benefit, is it a smile? So practice being at peace just for the sake of being at peace. Now, you carry a lot of load of emotional tensions in your body, in your muscles. That also makes your breath very short, very shaky and very jerky. Through hatha yoga in postures you release these stored up tensions, stress and so forth so that your body may calm down and be relaxed so that your breath may begin to flow gently and smoothly. In fact, when we teach hatha yoga we teach that the postures being done with a smooth movement, gentle and unjerky flow of the breath. If your body is full of tension and stress it will not let you sit still in meditation. It keeps shaking about. In fact, as I have been taught by my master and as we have been teaching in our ashram, we think of hatha yoga as a form of meditation not separate from meditation. These are explained in my book the Philosophy of Hatha Yoga. So hatha yoga is one of the forms of meditation when it is done with a serene mind with even flow of breath and relaxed movements.
Question: What is samādhi? Is it a way to calm our mind? And let’s add one more question, does God exist?
Swami Veda: What is samādhi? In February 2016 we are doing a 6-day program and the topic is: Can I have samādhi? But I do not promise that you will enter samādhi by doing this – even the Buddha had to sit for 49 days and 49 nights. Samadhi is being that what you really are. You are not your eyes, ears, hands and feet. You are not your breath, your emotions, your disturbances. You are a serene form of conscious energy that is total and pure knowledge and absolute joy. Samadhi is returning to that self-nature. Once you have RE-discovered that self-nature you will never lose it again.
Now to the question: Does God exist – why do you want to believe my answer? Find out for yourself. That is what my master taught me – find out for yourself. You will not find it out by asking intellectual questions. Go to the most serene, quietest place inside you and there find out if there is a God. You will come back from there and tell me if God exists. Find out for yourself.
Shi Hong provided this transcript and also acted as translator of Swami Veda when Swami Veda gave the talk.