Resources of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition

The Vasu-deva Principle

I would like to extend again the invitation to continue living in the Vasu-deva principle, the principle of the In-Dweller, the single In-Dwelling Deity, the In-Dwelling Force. How do we go about doing this? All these years we have prepared for this step. And what is that step? The very, very first step in yoga. This year we shall introduce yoga into our lives, the first step in yoga, consciously.
As you know, that of the eight limbs or steps on the ladder of yoga, the first one is Yama , the interior spiritual disciplines. And the very first one of the five Yamas is Ahimsa , or non-violence. And we want to introduce this principle into our lives. How do we introduce this principle into our lives? I'll share some thoughts with you. When we live by the In-Dweller principle, we know that Spirit in all beings is one. We must not be satisfied by merely paying lip-service to this principle. We must live by it in our relationships with all beings.

Much is being said about ecology these days: "Oh, how the species of wildlife are becoming extinct. Oh, we have to save the earth's biodiversity." Why? Because it is good for human beings, which means it is of long-term commercial benefit. This is nonsense. That is not how our ecology is going to be saved. There are religious and spiritual traditions in the world among which, for the last twenty-five or twenty-six centuries and longer, any direct or indirect killing of any living being is forbidden. Why is that? Because we know we live by fear. We are shaken with fear at all times in our lives. The Yoga-sutras define fear as violence. It is not fear of violence committed by others towards us; it is the recognition of the violence within us: I know within me that I have hurt living beings. 'Living beings,' I am saying, not human beings. I have hurt 'living beings.' I have visited death upon them. I believe I said this last year from my hospital bed. We are living in this fear at all times. While you are asleep, thousands of living beings are being killed so that you may eat them for breakfast. Every morning you are served dead corpses to eat. And the sigh that goes out of those living beings when they face extinction is the same fear that make you tremble at the thought of death - that you want to push it away.

The other day my son Angiris and I went out for a walk into a little village of mud huts on the other side of the Ganges. And there were all these goats roaming free around the house, not needing to run away because they knew that those were their homes. And we picked up the kids and held them in our arms and the kids' mothers (the ewes) came to greet us. And I said in my mind, "How is it possible that people can bite into these and eat these?" In all spiritual traditions of the world there are days without meat. The question was even brought to St. Paul: Romans 14.

So for these 40 days extend your non-violence to all living beings, and refrain from partaking from anything as food that has been killed. That includes fish. No, you're not doing anything special for them. It is not an act of compassion towards them. It is a recognition of the oneness of the In-Dwelling Spirit. Every act of murder is a suicide because that other is also I, the Universal Self. Please remember that: Every act of murder is a suicide. There is no distinction between the two.

I, myself in my life, have never killed a fly. No, literally so. Mosquitoes I have killed. I do want to reach that stage which some yogis have reached where they do not need to kill mosquitoes because the mosquitoes would not bite them. No, this is also true. I have seen it with my own eyes. But it takes time to reach that state of spiritual development where mosquitoes would not bite you. But let us start slowly. So this is one step towards non-violence. Now, don't give me the "carrot argument:" "What about carrots?" Let us start with cows first, or goats, or sheep. We will come to carrots some other time when we no longer need to eat anything.

As I have said at times in the past, you have a kitchen garden, and a guest comes. You are very proud of your kitchen garden, and you take him or her for a walk around your kitchen garden and show the best carrots you have produced, or the tomatoes. Have you ever taken your friends for a walk in a slaughter house? Well, why not? So that should show you the difference between eating carrots and eating corpses.

The second step along with that is that all anger is anger at yourself. Frustration at one's own inadequacy in love is anger. I am not saying, forswear all anger right now. Again, there are questions about just anger, anger against injustices, anger where I am indeed right and the other party is indeed wrong, and so forth. Let us start working on the periphery, and not solve all the moral dilemmas right now. Let us make an experiment in life for these forty days. Cultivate a sweet sentiment. Again it is not an act of compassion, nor is it a repression; it is an act of cultivating a beautiful sentiment. For if the in-dwelling spirit is one, at whom am I being angry? Ask yourself that question, and that would help you to overcome the strong urge towards violence. Violence of speech, for instance. Violence that exhibits itself in a loud voice, in a screaming and a stamping of feet.

Just curbing it for a period in your life. If, however, you have a clinical depression and it is caused by suppression of anger, then I am not recommending this practice for you. Then I am simply recommending cultivating the thought of the one, in-dwelling spirit.

A story I have told you elsewhere before of the great sage Vyasa, who composed the epic Mahabharata : His only son, Shukadeva, was an enlightened being, and - it's a long story - finally Shukadeva decided to renounce the world and enter the final moksha , the final liberation, and drop his body in the state of highest light. He walked away, and Vyasa, so attached to his son, ran after him through the forest, calling, "Shukadeva, Shukadeva, my son! Shuka! Son!" It is said in the scriptures that Shuka had become so one with the in-dwelling spirit, that every blade of grass, every tree, every vine, every flower, the very mountains, valleys and rivers, contained his spirit. And when Vyasa called for Shuka, it is said that the entire forest resounded. Every flower and shrub, every vine and every tree cried out, "Here I am, Father!" It is said that when Shuka finally sat on the mountain top to leave his body, he left his body with such a light that the mountain was split by the force of his light and energy.

We are not there yet, but make a start. So conquest of the urge to use other living beings for your pleasure. Conquest of the urge to use others as your safety valves. Both are violations of the principle of the one, indwelling spirit. And I don't believe any of these theories of the survival of the fittest and all that nonsense. These have been created to justify what the world wanted to do in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The third practice - and I am sharing this with you because I have gone through this myself, and I still undertake it sometimes. Up to the time I married at the age of twenty-eight, I used to make many of these experiments, and I continue to make experiments of this sort. Sometimes, for weeks, I would take the vow of walking with my eyes glued to the ground: "Where I'm I stepping?" So that, like the monks of the Jaina tradition, I have watched to see if I might be crushing an ant under my feet. I suggest that each day during these forty days that you take a walk for about ten minutes and watch where you are stepping. And then when you come upon an ant or a bug, know the oneness of the in-dwelling spirit. Let your heart be filled with love and compassion. Carry some sugar in your packet and bend down and feed the ants. Walk for ten minutes, watching so that you are not crushing any living being. Not only that, but you are seeing every living being as your kith and kin - lovable. And after you have thrown some sugar to the ants, you will have such a sense of satisfaction.

Think over it. Don't argue with me unnecessarily. Let this be an experiment in your life. You know what it will do you if you practice this non-violence? It will help you to conquer the fear of death; for fear of death, as I said, is nothing but the unconscious recognition of the fact of "how many times I have visited death upon others; may it not rebound to me."

Do not do these as a word of law. Get the spirit of it. Absorb and assimilate the spirit. There is a vast desert area in one part of India called Rajasthan. But then there are some areas within that desert which have not become desert, which are full of trees and rare species of deer and animals. These are villages belonging to one particular religion called the Bishnoi - not a well-known religion. And in that religion this principle is important: to honor all living beings. And out of that sense of unity has resulted this continuation of mutually dependent existence among the living beings in those areas. You read much about violence in India. There is no question about it; the old values are dying out, and I am no defender of what is going on anywhere in the world politically. But about 25% of the population, 25% of 800 million people (200 million people in this country) are still strict vegetarians. And everybody allows birds to make nests in their windows. The birds come so close, especially in predominantly vegetarian areas like here in Rishikesh. Let your love flow to all living beings, no matter in what form they exist. Experiment with it. Read once again the Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Try to find arguments in favor of your opponent's actions, for you are he; you are she – two waves of the same ocean, two rays of the same sun, two flames of the same fire. Contemplate, and let your contemplations become your sentiments, and let your spirit soar to realize the unity that is the uni-verse. I think of this world at times as one single poem, and that is how I think of the word uni-verse . Let your life be a poem. Let your world be a poem to you.

And one thing more, in my usual habit of tolerance I have said, "Well, you decide the level of relationship you feel with the guru lineage." But let me tell you one thing: unless that relationship deepens, all these practices will lead you nowhere. Find ways of deepening the relationship. I pray for you, pray for your serenity and love in your life. Blessings.

(From The Spiritual Festival of 1992)

This Self is all of the universes that have ever been, that have ever been created, that have ever been sustained, that have ever dissolved back into their origin. In all of those universes — countless, myriad galaxies as though bunches and bunches and bunches of fruits hanging on this upside-down Tree, whose roots are in the transcendent and whose branches are downwards below. The Tree in which universes hang like fruits, and at certain seasons the fruits appear, grow, sweeten and ripen, and drop off. And again at the next seasonal cycle fresh fruits appear, grow and sweeten and ripen and drop off. So that Tree of Brahman, the Expansive One, whose expanse cannot be fathomed, that Brahman is the Supreme Self. The same very One is the one we speak of as the One dwelling within me. That Brahman becomes Vasu-deva [the In-dweller].

We have spoken of this Vasu-deva principle in our Spiritual Festival of 1991. We had dedicated our Spiritual Purification Festival of 1991 to observing, understanding, contemplating the Vasu-deva principle, the principle of the In-dweller Lord, the In-dwelling Deity, dwelling within each entity, dwelling within each being, in all states of being, in all beings, within every cell and every sun, and all interstices in between, all spaces interior and exterior, minute and expansive. The Transcendent, having donned the robes of immanence, having put on us as his robes — Ah! How many clothes does He wear? All of us are nothing but His clothing, and we think this clothing to be ourselves. Our mental personalities He wears. Our prana He wears. Our bodies He wears. She does. It does. When we have understood the Vasu-deva principle, the accuser is the accused. The tormentor is the tormented. The one to whom you speak the harsh words is you. The one whom you hurt daily, the one other than you, the alien, is also you. So Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "They hurt Me who am dwelling within them and within all beings." In other words, it is not possible for you to express your anger, irritation and frustration to others, for there are no others. And those whom you anger, whom you irritate, whom you cause pain, whom you insult, upon whom you visit your vengefulness, are your own selves.

So let us understand this principle of Self. Never, never in your spiritual seeking use the word self to mean the body — physical body: No! — subtle body: No! — causal body: No! Neti, neti. 'Not this, not that'. Never use it to mean your prana. Never use it to mean the condition of your weakening eyes or your insensitive ears, or a trembling body or a feverish skin. Or a feverish mind, or your anger, or your mental satisfaction at small things. Nor your greed. Nor your conflicts. Conditions of the body, prana and mind are not you.

We begin to get an understanding. All these different species of jivas, of living entities. They are in relation to Brahman — piyo rashay rivo maya — like the waves upon the surface of the ocean. Dipa divam arichya — like rays from a candle flame. Jyolitagni kara eva — like a grains of fire from a conflagration. Like strings of flowers upon the coral tree. Like the moonlight coming in waves from the full moon. Inseparable. The waves inseparable from the ocean. The rays inseparable from the candle flame. The sparks inseparable from the conflagration. The strings of flowers inseparable from the vine. The moonlight inseparable from the moon. The beauties of the branches of a tree inseparable from the tree. For the bangles and the bracelets and the anklets and the earrings and the necklace — what are they? All nothing but gold. Like spray, water-drops being sprayed from a waterfall. A jar, tray, a hole in the door, a house — nothing but enclosed space. The quality of space within a jar, within a house, or between two planets, between two galaxies is indistinguishable, cannot be separated. Their separation is merely an assumption. When a jar breaks, neither the space within the jar that was enclosed nor the space that was enclosing the jar, is broken. Neither can it be shattered with a shattering jar. Nor does it fall in shards. Nor can it be picked up and put together and made whole with glue. So it is, as the waves of water on a mirage — nothing but the rays of the sun, so it is that we, the jivas, have attained a selfhood. Tad jalanati shantu upasita — One who has pacified himself knows it is from that One that we have arisen; it is in that One that we are sustained; it is into that One that we subside. From that One we come into existence. In that One we subsist. Into that One we subside. Inseparable. As bracelet made of gold never ceases to be gold. As ripples and waves and whirlpools never cease to be separate from the water. And whirlwinds never cease to be wind itself.