Param Para: Answers to Questions on the Spiritual Path  
by Swami Amar Jyoti

Seeker: Do you see or feel any basic major movements in this country toward trying to find one’s True Self and a change in religious directions?

A movement toward getting to know the real Self is already visible in thousands and thousands of people. It is another matter when and how many will get to it, but the movement is there. Not only are more people trying to find their True Self but the level of consciousness overall is rising. Some are consciously seeking; some are unconscious. But most are searching for their True Identity. There are pitfalls, there are wrong doings, there are evils in a sense, but that is always a part of evolution. In the process of discovery we are bound to slip and stumble. One thing that I am encouraged about in America and in the West is the basis of freedom and scientific inquiry. This helps us to be free from sentimentality, blind faith and blind beliefs. Scientific inquiry doesn’t lead directly to the Truth, but through scientific inquiry we reach some truths with small “t.”

Yoga as a system is very thorough and scientific, not blind sentimentality. Although yoga started in America with physical postures, eventually in the 1970s it began to move to the next stage, a more matured search. The younger generation of America in the 1960s and 1970s may seem to have destroyed the current culture, whether religious or otherwise, but whatever they did, ultimately something beautiful will come out of it. While scientific background in the West gave rise to rationality, rationality in its culmination comes to devotion. I am not talking about blind devotion but devotion in its true dedicated sense.

In order for relaxation to lead to fulfillment, I understood you to say there must be some effort or will. Could you elaborate on that, because the application of will seems to me to be counter to relaxation?

We have to start where we are. At this moment let’s say you are using your will or desiring in various fields. Now when I say, “Will to relax,” you are gathering up that scattered will to use for practices leading to relaxation. When you achieve the purpose of gathering up the will to relax, the will naturally drops. For example, when you drive a stick shift vehicle, you begin in first gear, but you do not drive the entire distance in that gear. The first gear is like the will. When the car begins to move faster, you no longer need the first gear. When you achieve relaxation, the need for the will is over.

Because the will is scattered in so many things, you need to apply will to gather back to the central point of relaxing. After you have gathered up your will on that one point, then you give up the will also, but not before it. How are you going to give up the will all of a sudden? You have to consolidate it first before you can give it up.

During meditation I am able to relax my mind only ten or twenty percent of the time. The rest of the time I am thinking about something at home or at work. Should I apply a strong force of will to gather up those distractions and throw them out the window?

Gathering up your will and applying it helps to some extent - if you are successful - but not to the final point. Ultimately you have to come to surrender, merging, relaxing into oneness. In the meantime you may apply your will. If you can surrender right away, you do not have to use your will. God will use His will through you.

Should we breathe deeply when we meditate or just breathe naturally?

In one method, if you are meditating properly, your breathing will go on slowing down naturally. Another method is to go on breathing in a smooth, rhythmic way, such that your breath goes on reducing its span. It works both ways: through the breath you achieve good meditation, and through meditation your breathing becomes slower and slower. If you go by the breathing method you are a hatha yogi, and if you go by meditation you are a gyana yogi or raja yogi. Either way is  fine; whichever is easier for you. Some people cannot directly meditate so they take the help of breathing to slow down the mind.

Purity is necessary before you do any breathing techniques. If your body or nervous system has not been sufficiently purified, doing techniques can create ill health. Therefore you need an adept teacher. An adept teacher will  first test you and your motives, and give you techniques to purify your nervous system. When that is done, then breathing techniques are taught. If impurities have not been removed, if your motives are not clean, and you achieve, for example, breathlessness, you will misuse or abuse that power. Or you will harm yourself. However, if breathlessness happens naturally in your meditation, that is  fine. At that moment you are qualifed.

© 2011 by Truth Consciousness. Excerpted from the Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti: Noble Thoughts From All Sides (N-16), The Source (N-8), and Our Five Basic Instincts (N-9). For further information on the audio Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti please see