The discussion between a questioner and Maharaj begins with the question of whether the practice of yoga is always conscious, or if it can be unconscious, below the threshold of awareness. Maharaj responds by stating that for beginners, the practice of yoga is often deliberate and requires great determination. However, those who have been practicing yoga for many years, are intent on self-realization all the time, whether they are conscious of it or not. Unconscious sadhana is most effective, according to Maharaj, because it is spontaneous and steady.

The questioner then asks what the position of a person who was a sincere student of yoga for some time and then got discouraged and abandoned all efforts is. Maharaj responds by saying that what a person appears to do, or not do, can often be deceptive, and their apparent lethargy maybe just a gathering of strength. The causes of our behavior are very subtle, and one must not be quick to condemn or praise. Maharaj reminds the questioner that yoga is the work of the inner self on the outer self, and all that the outer self does is merely in response to the inner.

The questioner then asks how the outer self can help, to which Maharaj responds by saying that the outer self has some control over the body and can improve its posture and breathing, but over the mind’s thoughts and feelings, it has little mastery, as it is itself the mind. The inner self can control the outer self, and the outer self would be wise to obey.

The questioner asks why the outer self is exhorted and encouraged if the inner self is ultimately responsible for a person’s spiritual development. Maharaj responds by saying that the outer self can help by keeping quiet and free from desire and fear. All advice to the outer self is in the form of negations because the outer self cannot grasp the reality of the inner self. The inner self is the source of inspiration, while the outer self is moved by memory. The mistake of students consists in their imagining the inner self to be something to get hold of and forgetting that all perceivable is transient and, therefore, unreal.

The questioner asks if life must have a body for its self-expression. Maharaj responds by saying that the body seeks to live, and it is not the life that needs the body, but the body that needs life. Maharaj explains that love is life, and life is love. What keeps the body together is love, and desire is the love of the self, while fear is the urge to protect. Knowledge is the love of truth.

The questioner then asks about the repetition of the name of God in India and whether there is any virtue in it. Maharaj responds by saying that when a person knows the name of a thing or person, they can find it easily. By calling God by His name, a person can make Him come to them. The shape in which God comes depends on a person’s expectations. If a person repeats a mantra with faith and devotion, their bad luck is bound to turn, and steady faith is stronger than destiny. A mantra is primarily energy in action and acts on a person and their surroundings.

The questioner asks if the mantra must be traditional. Maharaj explains that since time immemorial, a link was created between certain words and corresponding energies and reinforced by countless repetitions. It is like a road to walk on, and faith is the only thing needed. However, for a modern young Westerner who does not have a tradition of a mantra, the right procedure is to adhere to the thought that they are the ground of all knowledge, the immutable and perennial awareness of all that happens to the senses and mind.

If they keep this idea in mind all the time, they will break the bounds of non-aware the mantra becomes less and less important until it is given up altogether. But even then, the state of pure being, of pure awareness, remains. It is like a silent witness watching all that happens, without being affected by it. This is the goal of all spiritual practice, to abide in one’s true nature, beyond all concepts and ideas.

Q: How does one know if one is making progress on the spiritual path?

M: Progress on the spiritual path is not measured by external achievements or by comparing oneself with others. It is a matter of inner transformation, of becoming more aware, more present, and more conscious. It is a matter of letting go of all that is false and limiting, and of abiding in one’s true nature. The signs of progress are increased peace, joy, love, and compassion, as well as greater clarity, insight, and wisdom. But ultimately, there is no need to measure or compare oneself, for the goal is not to become something but to realize what one already is.

Q: How can one deal with negative emotions like anger, fear, and jealousy?

M: Negative emotions are a result of identification with the mind and its conditioning. They arise when we believe our thoughts and feelings to be who we are. The first step in dealing with negative emotions is to become aware of them, to observe them without judgment or resistance. This creates a space of presence and stillness in which the emotions can be seen for what they are, temporary movements of energy within consciousness.

The second step is to question the thoughts and beliefs that give rise to negative emotions. Often, they are based on false assumptions or limited perspectives. By questioning them, we can see through their limitations and open up to a wider and more inclusive view of reality.

The third step is to allow the emotions to be, without trying to suppress or control them. This means acknowledging them fully, feeling them fully, and allowing them to pass through us without resistance. This can be challenging, but with practice, it becomes easier and more natural.

The fourth step is to cultivate positive emotions like love, compassion, and gratitude. These emotions are not based on identification with the mind, but on the recognition of our true nature as love and consciousness. By focusing on them, we can shift our attention away from negative emotions and towards a more positive and uplifting way of being.

Q: Is it necessary to renounce the world to attain spiritual realization?

M: Renunciation is not a matter of outer circumstances, but of inner attitude. It is the renunciation of attachment to the false and limited sense of self, not of the world itself. One can be fully engaged in the world and still be detached from it, still, be rooted in one’s true nature as consciousness. The key is to be aware of one’s true nature at all times and to act from that awareness rather than from the conditioning of the mind. Renunciation then becomes a natural and effortless expression of one’s true nature, rather than a forced and artificial discipline.