“Though there are many paths, there are mainly only four: bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion), karma yoga (yoga of action), jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge) and raja yoga (yoga of controlling the mind and senses). The purpose of all yogas is control of the mind, which means thoughts. Whatever may be the path, attainment of the goal is possible only if the vasanas (habits) are attenuated. It cannot be said which path is best because each one is great and unique in its own way.”
“All paths lead to the same goal, and all paths incorporate devotion or love as essential to the practice.”
“All yogas aim at samatva bhava (attitude of equality). What is known as yoga is samatva. There is no God beyond that, whatever may be the path. That state should be attained.”
“Any spiritual path, whichever it may be, involves renunciation. Without practising renunciation, the desired benefit will not be obtained.”
“Whatever the path is, sadhana should be performed and should be known through experience.”
“The field that is the mind should be irrigated with the water of devotion, so that the seed of knowledge can be sown. Then we can harvest the crop of liberation.”
Q: Which Path Should I Follow?
“Which path to follow depends on the spiritual disposition one has inherited from the previous birth. This birth is a continuation of the previous one. Whatever path you follow, the mind should flow spontaneously towards it. Love is necessary. To approach a perfect master is another way to find your path.”
“You cannot simply adopt any path that you feel like. Each one will have a path, which they followed in the previous birth. Only if that path is followed will one progress in one’s practice.”
“Different people’s experiences cannot be the same. They can only happen according to each individual’s unique mental constitution, the path he follows, the amount of effort he or she puts forth, and the samskaras he or she has inherited from previous lives. What you experience now is not a beginning; it is a continuation of the past. Also, you must remember that the Guru gives only what is needed, and that whatever he gives is for your own good.”
Which is the Best Path for Westerners?
Question: “Amma, which path is the best for Westerners?”
Amma: “Whether it is in the East or in the West, one’s spiritual path can only be indicated according to one’s inherited spiritual disposition and mental constitution. One path cannot be announced in a public address as the one and only path for all. The advice given is particular to the individual. Each person is a patient with a different disease. Some people are in the beginning stages of a disease while others are in the middle stages. In addition, we find people with chronic diseases and still others who are half-cured. Therefore, the treatment for each person cannot be the same. The medicine will be different and the dosage will vary. But generally speaking, the path of devotion is the easiest and least complicated. While anybody can love, not all can do pranayama (breath control) or hatha yoga (yogic postures). Only certain people endowed with a certain mental and physical constitution can do these. But love has no prerequisites. Whoever has a heart can love, and everyone has a heart. To love is an innate tendency in human beings.
“The path of love, otherwise known as the path of devotion, is the best path for Western children. Of course, this is a general statement. In the West, society is such that people, even from early childhood, are intellectual and take an intellectual approach to everything. It is the product of their ‘modern’ education. They are fed with all kinds of factual information about the empirical world, and the emphasis is on science and technology. So their analytical minds are well developed, but their hearts are dry. In most cases, the hearts of people in the West remain underdeveloped and imperfect. The head is big, but the heart is shrivelled up and dry.
“The path of bhakti teaches love. First, you develop one-pointed love towards God. When that love becomes the centre of your life and as the devotional practices become more and more intense, your vision changes. You come to understand that God dwells as pure consciousness in all beings, including you. As this experience becomes stronger and stronger, the love in you also grows until, at last, you become That. The love within you expands and embraces the entire universe with all its beings. You become the personification of love. This love removes all dryness from you. This love is the best cure for all emotional blocks and for all negative feelings. Therefore, Amma thinks that the path of love is the best for Western seekers.”
Which is Superior, Bhakti or Karma Yoga?
Question: “Which is superior, bhakti or karma yoga?”
Amma: “We can’t really say that bhakti yoga and karma yoga differ from each other, because a true karma yogi is a real devotee, and a true devotee is a real karma yogi. Every action isn’t necessarily karma yoga. Only those actions performed selflessly, as an offering to God, can be called karma yoga. Neither does doing four circumambulations, raising your arms, and offering salutations to the deity qualify as bhakti. Our minds should dwell on God, and our every action should be a form of worship. We should see our beloved deity in everyone, and offer them our love and service. We should surrender to God with all our heart. Only then we can say we have bhakti. A true karma yogi keeps their mind on God while engaged in each action. We should have the attitude that everything is God. Then it is bhakti. On the other hand, if we think about other things while we are doing puja (ritual worship), then the puja cannot be considered bhakti yoga, because it is just an external action and not real worship. But even if our job is cleaning lavatories, if we chant the mantra while working, with the attitude that it is God’s work, then it is both bhakti yoga and karma yoga.”
Why does Amma place so much importance of the path of devotion?
“There are many reasons why we should consider the path of devotion the most suitable path for most people. First of all, it gives much contentment to the practitioner. A contented person will have enthusiasm and vigour. Such a person will be very optimistic and endowed with an adventurous mind. Their attitude is that life and everything that happens in life is a gift, and this gives them immense patience and strength. Unlike those who pursue other paths, such a one does not believe that happiness is a right to which he or she is entitled. As far as they are concerned, there are no rights, there are only gifts. This attitude helps them to accept everything as a gift, both good and bad, and also instils them with courage and faith. Such a person will have a loving and compassionate heart, a childlike innocence and a pleasing nature. Not wanting to injure anyone or hurt anybody’s feelings, he or she cannot harm anyone. They will also have the power to renounce comforts and pleasures for the happiness and peace of others. He or she will experience the same problems in life as everyone else, but he will have the mental ability and balance to remain calm and quiet when adversity arises. He or she practices acceptance, for such a one’s attitude is that life and everything that happens in life is a gift, not a right.
“Children, as far as Mother is concerned, the path of devotion is the best and the easiest since most people are predominately emotional in nature. Not only that, bhakti marga (path of devotion) has no complications like the other paths. There are no harmful techniques or complications involved in love. Simply love the Lord. Love is not aggressive; it is a constant flow. ”
“Jnana is intellectual knowledge while vijnana is transcending the intellect, negating even that as untrue, and affirming pure experience alone as the Supreme Truth.”
“It is hard to become established in jnana without devotion. With gravel alone we cannot build anything; we need to add cement as well, and make concrete. We cannot build the steps leading to God without adding the binding quality of love.”
Question: “Does Amma have the opinion that the different names and forms of gods and goddesses are real?”
Amma: “What Mother would like to say is that names and forms are needed for people like us with the kind of mental calibre that exists today. It will help our spiritual growth. Do not say that ours is the best path and all other paths are wrong. If a person’s choice is tea, have it, fine and good. Let those who do not like tea drink coffee, lemonade or plain water. Why should we bother our heads about people’s personal preferences? Why should we say that tea alone is good and all other drinks, bad? The purpose is to quench the thirst. Therefore, whether it is meditation on the Supreme with attributes or the Supreme without attributes, the goal is to attain perfect mental peace in any circumstance. Give up all such doubts about gods and goddesses and do your sadhana.
“Look children, Amma knows very well that all names and forms are limited and that God is nameless, formless and attributeless. Still, the sweet and blissful feeling that one gains from singing the glories of the Lord is an incomparable and inexpressible experience.
“All the names and forms, whatever they are, are only creations of the mind for one who has gone beyond the mind. But this is not the case for one who has not reached the state of perfection. He or she may say that all names and forms are unreal and that Brahman alone is true and real. However, if they have not experienced perfection, it is meaningless to go around declaring the unreality of forms.
“Everything is Brahman, that is right. But have you realised That? It is like a blind person saying that there is light everywhere. Why do you talk unnecessarily about some thing that you have no idea about at all? You constantly experience the world and its objects, but you talk about something which you have never experienced.
“Advaita (non-duality) is the state in which there is only One. It is the state in which you spontaneously see everyone as being the same as your own Self. It is not something you talk about; it is a state to be experienced.”
“When we worship Rama, Krishna or Christ, we adore the eternal ideals which manifest through Them. If they were mere individuals, nobody would have worshipped Them. When they are worshipped, a true seeker is not adoring a limited individual but the same all-pervading cosmic intelligence which you believe is the only Truth.
“For a person who has gone beyond maya (transitory world of names and forms), everything is Brahman since he or she constantly experiences It. But for a person who lives in maya it is not so. He or she has everything around them. Thus, he or she must put forth a deliberate attempt to come out of it. He or she should try to convince themselves that the world and the pleasure-giving objects are flickering and dreamlike.”
Comment: “There is no Rama or Krishna”
Amma: “Everyone ultimately reaches the same place, but you need an upadhi (limiting factor) for doing sadhana. How can you say there is no Rama or Krishna? Even if you don’t see Ochira on a map of India, can you say there is no place called Ochira? Our sense of Advaita is just limited to our words. It is not possible to bring it into our experience without devotion.”
Tantric Sadhana is the most misunderstood path
“Amma would say that tantric sadhana is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted paths. In the name of tantric sadhana, people start drinking, engaging in sex and other licentious and irresponsible behaviour. What is involved in tantric worship is an offering. The fact is, the principle behind the worship is what is to be offered. This offering is not external; it is internal. You offer your individuality, or your ego, to the Divine. Furthermore, the references to sexual union in the worship are not to be taken as something to be done by a male person and a female person. It is the final union, the union of the jivatman (individual self) and the Paramatman (the Supreme Self). It is symbolic. It symbolises the union or the integration of the feminine and masculine qualities, the union of Purusha and Prakriti, the merging of the mind into the supreme reality. It is the attainment of a perfect balance between the inner and out natures of the sadhak. It is the experiencing of and becoming established in all-pervasiveness, which ensues from the union of Shiva and Shakti.”