Love, Serve, Remember

Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Yoga and Buddhism

Part 1

[This is Part 1 of 3. This is a transcript of the first lecture by Swami Veda Bharati given in Bangkok, Thailand, 2012. Transcript provided by Shi Hong. A video of this lecture can be seen online by clicking here.]

namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsamBuddhassa
namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsamBuddhassa
namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsamBuddhassa

Sit comfortably as you would like to sit. Keep the mind at rest. Keep silence of the mind. Keep all the limbs and organs of your body relaxed. Sit comfortably. Be aware of the position in which you are sitting. With that relaxed mind listen.

akhaṇḍa-maṇḍalākāraṁ vyāptaṁ yena carācaram,
tat-padaṁ darśitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ.
śrī-gurave namaḥ
śrī-gurave namaḥ

Meditation is a path of silence which is a path of what we call in Pāli upasama, pacification. In the Bhagavad Gītā we read:

śāntiṁ nirvāṇa-paramām,

one attains peace the highest peace which is nirvāṇa or nibbān.

We keep that goal in mind when breathing — we remember that goal; when sitting — we remember that goal; when walking — we remember that goal; when eating — we remember that goal — through all āhāras, the 4 kinds of āhāras described by the Buddha, 4 kinds of intakes. We remain aware. That awareness is called anusati. In the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali it is called anusmṛti. The Sanskrit and Pāli words mean mindfulness, awareness, remembrance.

What is the path to that, that is described in the Bhagavad Gītā, śāntiṁ nirvāṇa-paramām? What is the path to that deep inner peace, the highest peace which is nirvāṇa? There are many paths but these paths are not in conflict with each other. All the paths unite in majjhimā paṭipadā, the middle path. In this middle path all the paths are included. No path is denied. No path is rejected.

When the great masters appeared on this earth, they do not come to destroy the teachings that were given by preceding preceptors; they come to fulfill. Jesus Christ said, “I have come to fulfill the law.” The Buddha did not contradict the path of the ancients. What these great masters do is that they are not followers They question the truths of what had been taught in the past and then they take to the path of deep inner spiritual exploration. And by that exploration they experienced it personally. And by that experience they know what was taught by the ancients was the truth, which truth also has come through deep inner experience This was what were taught in the Vedas, what was taught in the Upanishads, what was taught in the Bhagavad Gītā, what the ṛṣis had been teaching. The Buddha experienced that. When you speak from your experience it becomes original teaching; it is not a copy.

Jesus spoke from his inner experience of being. The Buddha spoke from his inner experience of being; and he taught others to experience it for ourselves. He said, atta dīpo bhava, be thou candle to yourself. When you go on the path of being a light to yourself someday you become the Buddha yourself. You become one with Christ. Christ consciousness comes in you. The path of meditation is the path of discovering that — that consciousness is all the time within you. You go to that path to seek that santi, śānti in Sanskrit, a quietness of silence and peace within.

Many people ask us, what path is it that we are teaching. It is the path of all the Vedas, path of the Yoga Sūtras, path of the ṛṣis, path of all the Buddhas. The Buddha referred to 24 Buddhas before his time and he was teaching the same things that those Buddhas had taught. The place where the Buddha gave his first sermon is called Isipatana in Pāli or Ṛṣipatana in Sanskrit, meaning the town of the ṛṣis. He chose to teach at the same place where ṛṣis had been teaching. Here in Thailand you have a very strong tradition of veneration to the ṛṣis. In places like Sukhothai, in the area like Sukhothai, I was told of the places where the ṛṣis sat to do their spiritual practices. In teaching the path of yoga meditation we are teaching the path of those ṛṣis.

The Buddha spoke of the ṛṣis. He spoke of the 24 Buddhas before his time. From the birth of a Brahmin called Sumedha to prince Siddhartha who became the Buddha there were 500 incarnations. Many times he spoke of the teachings he had given when he was a ṛṣi. Many times he spoke of the teachings that the previous 24 Buddhas had given. Many time he spoke of the teachings he had given during the 500 incarnations since he took the vow that someday he will become the Buddha.

Here in a country of very open hearts, the country of Thailand, people are very open. Some follow Christian path. Many, many follow the path of the Buddha. Even those who follow the path of the Buddha go and pay homage in the temples to Śiva and Umā. This is the beauty of the tradition of the ṛṣis — that it does not contradict the paths; that it supports all the paths and still stays to the middle path. So walk on the middle path and not saying this path is right that path is wrong.

When you go to countries like Bali and Nepal, you hear Śiva is Buddha, Buddha is Śiva. When you go to the path of Mahāyāna Buddhism there Śiva and Buddha become combined and they become Avalokiteśvara, the divine being looking down on us in deep compassion. In the path of yoga and meditation we gave the spiritual meaning of the words like Śiva and Umā. Śiva is the supreme divine consciousness in you. Umā is the kuṇḍalinī śakti in you. And you perform the worship to this Umā when you practice the yoga of kuṇḍalinī on the path of meditation.

So in the mind of a yogi there is never a question as to which method is right which method is wrong. Śiva is Buddha. Buddha is Śiva. Umā is kuṇḍalinī. Śiva is the supreme divine consciousness within us.

Many times people ask, when you are teaching the yoga meditation, are you teaching the path of samatha or vipassana? We are combining both. It is not that we are combining them – they are always combined.

natthi jhānaṃ apaññassa paññā natthi ajhāyato
yamhi jhānaṃ ca paññā ca sa ve nibbāṇasantike

This verse in Pāli is from Khuddaka Nikāya, one of the Tipiṭakas, in the Dhammapada section. I do not know how many of you have read the Dhammapada. You should read it every day. And the verse I have recited for you in Pāli which means: one cannot have jhāna, meditation, without the awakening of wisdom that is paññā; and paññā natthi ajhāyato, there is no awakening of wisdom without meditation; yamhi jhānaṃ ca paññā ca, the one in whom meditation and wisdom are combined; sa ve nibbāṇasantike, he is very close to nibbāṇa. This is the teaching.

If you read the teachings of the Buddha closely you will find that many places he quotes from the Vedas. He recites the same verses that we read in the Mahābhārata. In the Ṛg Veda there is a prayer:

mo ṣu varuṇa mṛnmayaṃ ghṛhaṃ rājannahaṃ ghamam
mṛḷā sukṣatra mṛḷaya

Oh king of the universe may I never again enter this house of clay
Soothe me and lead me to that state where I no longer enter this house of clay

The house of clay is the body. So remembering this prayer of the ṛṣi from the Veda when the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree for 7 times 7 days and nights absolutely still. And finally the perfect saṃbodhi came to him, enlightenment came to him then he opened his eyes. The first two verses he uttered:

gahakāraka diṭṭhosi
puna gehaṃ na kāhasi

I spent many lifetimes searching for the one who makes this house for me
Ah, maker of the house! I have seen you now
You will never again make me this house

So the prayer from the Vedas “May I not enter this house of clay” — that prayer is fulfilled. “Oh housemaker I have now seen you. Never again will you make me a house.”

So the Buddha by not contradicting the ṛṣi of the Vedas he was supporting and he was fulfilling.

When we teach the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali we teach there is a Sanskrit verse:

prajñā-prāsādam-āruhyā aśocyaḥ śocato janān
bhūmi-ṣṭhān-iva śaila-sthaḥ sarvān prājño’nupaśyati

When one has reached the top of the palace of clarity of prajñā, paññā, then there is no grief in him no sorrow;
and he looks at the grieving people in the world as someone on the mountain top, looks as those who are still walking in the plains below

This verse is from the commentary on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Now we read the words of the Buddha. The verse was prajñā-prāsādam-āruhyā. Now we read in the Pāli language:

paññāpāsādamāruyha asoko sokiniṃ pajaṃ
pabbataṭṭho'va bhummaṭṭhe dhīro bāle avekkhati

When one has reached the clarity height, the clarity of prajñā, paññā, that he is free of grief, free of sorrow he looks at all the sorrowful people in compassion;
pabbataṭṭho'va bhummaṭṭhe, like someone standing on the mountain top and looking down so does he look at the childish people wandering around who need to be guided

When Jesus Christ rose from his grave he came to the disciples, and the Bible says, “he breathed into them.” We experience that with our master Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Someone is sitting by the river, facing the river — we have the river Gaṅga in Rishkesh — and this person does not know Swami Rama is coming behind her. Swami Rama comes and stands quietly behind her. Such a sweet subtle flow of breath begins and she is surprised where does this come from. Then you understand the meaning of the Bible. You want to understand the meaning of Buddha’s experience, you want to experience the meaning of the Bible you have to go inside to the path of yoga meditation. And all those statements they have made, they will become real to you. I will tell you more tomorrow.

Now you cannot sit for 49 days and 49 nights under the bodhi tree. If you can sit for 49 minutes you will have made great accomplishment. If you can sit for 49 seconds you still have made great accomplishments. The Buddha said — if you make this sound (snapping of the fingers) —within this much time, your mind is absolutely still you have great accomplishments. The Buddha said if you made this sound ten times, if you can sit in silence with full breath awareness without any disturbance of the mind, you have come closer to nirvāṇa. This “time” in Pāli and Sanskrit is called choṭikā. For ten choṭikās, for ten seconds.

Make a sankappa — Pāli sankappa, Sankskrit saṅkalpa — make a sankappa:

for those 49 seconds, no forms no rūpa
for those 49 seconds, no sensations no vedanā
for those 49 seconds, no other imprint of consciousness no sañña
for those 49 seconds,no processes no saṅkhāra
for those 49 seconds, no other consciousness no viññāna

You rise above rūpa — you know those? — vedanā, sañña, saṅkhāra, viññāna.

For 49 seconds can you do that? You will do that with your breath awareness

Do it now, 49 seconds only, just feel the breath in your nostrils. I will tell you more about it tomorrow.

Do the sankappa, do the resolve, “for this 49 seconds I will not have any of those thoughts and sensations; I will only feel my breath.”

And now begin.

Continue with the same awareness and slowly open your eyes. Many, many times in the day drink this cool water of upasama, of total inner pacification.

Om namo buddhebhyaḥ
Om namo gurubhyaḥ

[This Part 1 was also published in the March 2021 edition of the AHYMSIN Newsletter.] 

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